Tag Archives: ukc

The Dog Who Could Do All

This is probably one of the hardest blog entries to write right now because it means the finality to the loss of one amazing shelter dog who crossed the rainbow bridge barely twenty four hours ago. This story, however, is one of the main reasons that we work on putting high drive dogs into working homes with people who can handle a dog like this – to give them that job that they crave and need to be canine ambassadors.

Nubs came from a local shelter near where his owner, Cindy Coffman, lives in 2007. He had been surrendered after his former owner had joined the military. He sat there and waited for three months before Cindy happened upon him after letting her past APBT mix, Carter, cross the rainbow bridge. Despite the fact that Nubs didn’t have an amazing tale of battles fought before finding the perfect home, he was still burdened with the battles of being an under-socialized adolescent dog. Cindy definitely had her hands full from the beginning.

Despite the uphill battle the pair faced, Nubs showed he had what it took to be a budding sport dog. He had all the right drives and he, thankfully, had landed in the hands of someone with the crazy dedication needed to turn Nubs into a performance dog – the blood, sweat and tears type of dedication that many can’t or won’t provide.

Nubs was UKC registered as DM’s Nutter Butter Nub and that redhead fit the name to a T – right down to his best feature, a docked tail that furiously wiggled at the thought of getting to do something with his owner and “doggie mom.” He did well in anything Cindy asked him to do until the fateful day that changed it all and not on the weightpull track as many naysayers to the sport would have you believe but on the lure course field.

Nubs had torn his ACL. It’s not an uncommon injury in high impact sports, unfortunately, but given the fact that Nubs was an incredibly active dog proposed a problem or two for Cindy after having it repaired once the cause was isolated. Unfortunately for Nubs, he never returned to what he once was pre-injury and was never truly able to return to what he loved to do and so he was forced into an early retirement.

This didn’t stop Nubs from enjoying life as a pit bull breed ambassador as his “mom” and “sister” kept him doing small, low impact things to keep his life fulfilled as he aged. His little sister, Peanut, even succeeded him as a working dog by getting certified as a SAR K9 with the MISAR team and his newest little brother, who is also a rescued pit bull like Nubs and Peanut, is following in her footsteps too.

As with all good things though, there is an end. Nubs was diagnosed with CHF and had to go on medications to help his heart and continue to give him a good quality of life until he told Cindy it was time to go and join Carter. This was all good until a few days ago when Nubs took a turn for the worst and told Cindy it was time. He spent the night before his last ride cuddling and enjoying his time on this world – with many of us who had known him sending kind words to his Mom. This was no easy task to look forward to as Cindy and Nubs had been one helluva team for so many years but it was the right call and he was ready.

We lost a good dog. We lost one helluva sport dog and pit bull breed ambassador. In the end, no matter of papers or accomplishments mattered but he sure put some large paw prints on the world and the hearts of those whose lives he touched and those he will continue to touch with his story of rags to riches and landing in world that needed him.

Rest peacefully, Nubs.
A heart may heal slowly but you will NEVER be forgotten.

The Good, Bad and Ugly: Puppy Hunting

When I finally made the leap into hunting for a dog from a breeder, I knew it would be a long and tedious process.  I made myself a list of things I wanted to do with the dog as it grew up, what characteristics I wanted and what look I wanted the dog to have.  Looking back, that was the easy part.  The two years that followed were agony because I couldn’t have my puppy right then and because there was so much that I had to do to find “the one.”  Ultimately, it was worth all of the headaches, sleepless nights and research because I got not only the dog I wanted but the dog I needed.   (And yes, I still made a ton of mistakes but those mistakes still blessed me with some very wonderful dogs despite my naive and ideal thoughts.)

Since I took the leap 6 years ago, I’ve gotten two more dogs from breeders and have learned to fine tune my requirements and limits to what I won’t put up with.  Admittedly, I’ve become even pickier as I’ve grown from experience.

Breeder Code of Ethics

Every responsible breeder should have a strong set of ethics and morals when they breed or plan a litter.  These two things are what separate these individuals from the puppy peddlers in the world and set the offspring they produce apart from every other “breeder” advertising puppies on Craigslist or the local street corner.  For the American Pit Bull Terrier, these should be fine tuned because of the state that this breed is in because of over breeding and the breeding of sub par animals that should have been altered in the first place.

Some of the things that I personally look for when I start looking at breeders for a new prospect are as follows:

1.)  Health Testing – This breed is prone to a lot of health concerns from cardiac issues, luxating patellas, hip dysplasia and so forth.  When picking a breeder I would prefer to see some level of health testing on the stud dog and the bitch with a minimum of hips and heart tested through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and/or PennHip.

Health Testing Available for the APBT: Hips (OFA/PennHip), Cardiac, Elbows, Patellas, Thyroid, Ataxia, CRD2 (Dayblindness), CERF (Eyes – annual test).  Hips and elbows are done at 24 months through the OFA and hips can be done as young as 16 weeks through PennHip.  The rest of the above health tests can be done at 12 months.

2.)  Conformation and Performance Titles – While I personally put more strength in performance titles overlooking conformation would do the breed an injustice since form must follow function, in theory.  Since the original function is no longer valid for the APBT, performance venues like weight pull, agility, obedience, rally, dock diving, etc. have been birthed to fulfill the need to showcase the versatility of the breed.  The ideal minimum, in my opinion, is a conformation Champion title in the dog’s respective registry and a working title of some variety – preferably not an entry level title.

3.)  Temperament – Let’s face it, these are terriers and terriers are supposed exude confidence.  A shy or reserved dog around people is not supposed to be a common trait in this breed but it is becoming more and more common coming from certain bloodlines and breeders. (The scary thing is some of these breeders seem to try and justify this behavior and continue to breed offspring from siblings of dogs who have shown temperament flaws like shyness.)

4.)  Knowledge of the Breed – You want to go to a breeder who knows these dogs, their traits and behavior traits – like the common occurrence of dog/animal aggression that is common in most terrier types and especially true in the APBT because of its founding history as a canine gladiator.  This doesn’t mean that you discount someone because they haven’t been breeding for X number of years or have only produced X number of litters in so many years.  Most good breeders breed infrequently and typically when they want to hold something back for themselves. Be very wary of breeders who have an excessive number of litters a year.

There are so many more things you can nitpick for when you look for a breeder but the ones mentioned above are the critical ones.  There is a premade Code of Ethics out on the web that gives more in-depth criteria.  It can be found here.

We will say, for theory’s sake, that you’ve picked your ideal parents and now it is down to the nitty gritty with the breeder.  (Contracts, co-owns, pricing…oh, my!)

We’ll start with co-ownership and what it entails.

Co-ownership is the process of two (or more) people sharing ‘ownership’ of a dog.  Co-owning a dog can at varying levels.  It can be for the purposes of retaining breeding rights, ability to show the dog in the bred by class or even just outright controlling behavior.  If your breeder wants to do a co-ownership make sure that you get everything in writing that is expected of you, the breeder and the dog.  Often times co-owning a dog comes at a reduced price for a show quality dog so this may be a bonus if you can live with the intrusion of the breeder into your plans with the dog.

Now, since I mentioned getting everything in writing we’ll get into the contract.  There are some breeders that will sell (or even give) you a dog without a contract but they are few and far between.  A contract is almost a staple when purchasing a show/sport puppy.  A contract should protect the buyer and the seller but most importantly, the puppy.  A contract will let you know what you should get/expect from the breeder and what you, the buyer, are required to do or maintain, co-ownership requirements from both parties and finally the clauses designed to keep the puppy from harm.  When you purchase a puppy and a contract is to be involved make sure you have a copy of it with the breeder’s signature and yours and keep your copy in a safe spot.

Finally, what are you willing to pay for your puppy? Price is a relative choice.  For many show breeders, $1,000 is the standard price for a show quality dog but it can go much lower or higher depending on who you talk to.  Personally, I think anything above a grand for a show-quality puppy is asking a bit much since the puppy is unproven even if his/her parents are titled up the ying-yang.  The personal preference is yours there and what you feel you can afford but remember that a puppy is a gamble and that puppy may or may not turn out.

Once you have that squared away and figured out, you only have to wait until your puppy is born and ready to go home.  The eight weeks following the birth of your puppy will drive you batty and you will probably call (or visit if you’re lucky!) your breeder a million and one times and beg, grovel and hunt for photos of the puppies – I know I did!  It is well worth it once you have found the right breeder for you.

Good luck and happy puppy hunting to those who choose to go the breeder route.  Please remember when you do find the breeding of your dreams that the likeliness of your breeder turning into a total witch can happen. Don’t buy from a breeder that you wouldn’t want as a friend because they are typically with you for 15+ years. Buying from a good breeder is like expanding your human family.

The Dog Show Thing

I get asked occasionally by friends who have “pet only” dogs why I got into showing purebred dogs when I am an incredibly staunch rescue and spay/neuter advocate.  Truthfully, I have no real heroic, save-canine-kind answers.  I honestly just wanted to.  It’s a rather selfish reason but it is my reasoning.  I wanted for myself and I vowed that I would never become one of the people who gave purebred ownership (and breeding) such a derogatory name and feeling amongst the rescue community.

Getting into the dog show community was the easy part.  I attended a few shows and talked to people for a few months before the puppy search began.  Most of the people I was blessed to speak with were friendly, down-to-earth and realistic about the work that lay ahead of me. (I did meet a few not-so-nice people, but they were definitely the minority!)  I knew and fully expected the work (and the rewards that went with it!) ahead of me but these kind individuals really put it into perspective and helped me make my first baby steps into the conformation ring just a tiny bit less frightening.

Once I had my questions on what to expect when I finally found the “dog of my dreams,” the search began for just such a mythical puppy.  It took nearly two long years of breeder hunting, researching, asking questions and pulling out wads of hair in frustration to find my first real show dog but it was well worth the wait (though I could have gone well past the puppy messes, chewed furniture and lost sleep!).

The tale doesn’t end here, though.  This is just the tip of the iceberg that set my experience and time in the conformation ring across three registries.


Small Steps: Competing with Dog Aggression

I don’t claim to be a world renowned dog trainer or have umpteen years in training dogs (though I’d like to think I’m pretty good and always willing to try something new…).  The reality of the matter is I’ve only had a passing interest in canine sports in the last seven-ish years or so.  I’ve done my share of pet obedience prior to that and always had easy dog … one that was compliant and had no real issues to speak of.  That all changed six years ago when I was given Ryker.

Ryker started off as an easy dog.  He got along with everyone.  He has drive in spades.  He enjoyed learning and being challenged with new tasks and goals.  He is also dog aggressive/reactive.  For anyone who’s ever had to deal with this issue, they know what a challenge it is doing competitive sports that involve being in close proximity to another dog.  The worry that passes through you when you’re training – especially in off leash scenarios with a dog that is relatively reactive can be excruciatingly nerve wracking.

For years I was terrified to compete in competitive obedience with Ryker because I was worried he’d go after another dog.  We trained and socialized and then trained some more.  I was never quite comfortable enough to take the plunge into obedience.  It caused me to falter on more than one occasion.  I would fall up short when working with dogs that he was comfortable around because they’d get too close and I would tense up and then he would react.

The reality was becoming more and more apparent that it wasn’t so much a dog problem.  It was a handler problem.  I was the issue.  My body language and reactions set him up to fail when he knew exactly what he was supposed to be doing.  After all, we’d done this all for years and he was a pro at this and so was I.

With the help of some very close people in my life (you guys know who you are), I finally gave in and we attempted our first leg to obtaining his United Companion Dog (AKC Companion Dog equivalent).  We NQ’d during the off leash heeling pattern.  Why?  Well, a previous dog who’d run the course before us had hiked his leg on a pole and having an intact, domineering brat of a dog…well, Ryker had to follow suit and let that dog know it was his turf. (Little did I know that this little action would come back to haunt us at other obedience venues too.  *headdesk*)

Yes, they really did take a picture of him doing this.

My heart sank because I knew I’d NQ’d.  The judge, however, allowed us to continue through the rest of the trial and he was beautiful – even the recall over the jump that we’d only done once prior.  We finally got to the part that made the butterflies start fluttering around like they were on crack in my stomach – the group sit.  I wanted to run to the bathroom and throw up my lunch.  My hands were shaking and I reflexively kept changing positions on the leash.

My friend Jen and her boy, Icon, were with us and I continued to nervously eye up the Novice A – both of them had NQ’d also when they blew off every off leash exercise known to man.  Neither of them wanted to stay when their handlers left them.  It smelled like trouble in my book.  The judge, seeing that neither dog wanted to listen to the handler, asked them both to remain with their dogs – on leash.  I let out a big sigh of relief.

We did our group exercise.  Ryker was placed in a sit/stay next to Icon – a dog he had trained with for many hours and was comfortable with – on one side and a very calm Novice C dog who completely ignored every attempt at stink eye he shot at the strange dog.  We finally left our dogs.

It seemed like an utter eternity standing across the ring willing Ryker to keep his furry fanny firmly planted on the ground and to not get snarky with his neighboring canines.  It was finally all over.  The judge released us to return to our dogs.  My boy had done it.  He finally did it.  I was elated.  I was beyond proud of him.  I didn’t care that we’d screwed up and didn’t actually qualify.  He had done what I felt to be the impossible.  He had helped me overcome the biggest gap in the bridge of our training – my fear.

I knew, right then and there, we could do it and get his UCD.  I knew that all that we had worked for, trained for, socialized for…it was all a reality.  It could be done.  Above all else, I was proud of my dog.  The dog I never thought could do anything that involved having another dog in the ring.  I knew that he -the dog that looked at another dog and puffed out his chest and barked his fool head off at – could do it and that I helped him get there even as much as I’d held him back.

Consequently, there was a second trial that weekend.  I signed us up for it.  The butterflies returned but not so furiously.  Now they were big, beefy beasts that were proudly strutting their stuff and proclaiming that we could do it and they were my cheerleading squad.  We were on a mission and we went in and owned the ring.  We managed to wrangle in our first qualifier – even if we squeaked by with a 178.  I was on cloud nine.  We had done what I thought was the impossible and made it possible.  I truthfully owe that small victory to the dog who never failed to amaze me and the people who knew we could do it.

It’s not much, but we did it. We’re still battling with his loathing of other dogs but each small step makes me realize that we will get through it and we can do anything we set our minds to with a little bit of elbow grease and a good old-fashioned kick in the pants from friends when I start to doubt our foundation as a team.

Now we have one down and two more to go.  Here goes nothing!

Back In The Saddle Again

The last time we weight pulled we attended the K9 Fanciers/AABC UKC pull.  As I blogged about prior, UKC altered their rules to limit how much a dog can actually pull.  For a dog like Ryker, who pulled this past weekend, which is an incredibly hard thing to do.  Limiting a dog that has been conditioned and trained to continue to pull well above the 20pt rule – which is only 35x his body weight on the surface we pulled (wheels).   Ryker has pulled well above the 20pt pull with UKC on wheels and has taken many Most Weight Pulled (MWP) and Most Weight Pulled Percentage (MWPP) placements in the regular and Grand classes (when they were offered – they have since been discontinued).

We have not pulled competitively since the weight pull rule change, that is, until last weekend.  We had a chance to get out and pull with the NWDA (National Working Dog Association) for the first time.  Their rules are very similar to the APA (American Pulling Alliance) in that there is one foul and then the dog is done (versus the UKC where you have two fouls), but you are only able to pass two weight increases before you must pull again (APA is unlimited passes).  It really was, in my honest opinion, the best of both the UKC and the APA pulling rules.

Ryker weighed in at a fluffy 51lbs – about four pounds more than I usually pull him at when he’s conditioned specifically for dog sports.  Since we have been out of commission for competition for the last few months, I expected him to be heavier since we had worked to put weight on for the cold Michigan winter.  He outdid what I expected him to do since I went there just to have a blast and work with my partner and my friend.  He pulled 2,078lbs on Saturday for 40.74x his body weight and 2,180lbs on Sunday for 42.74x his body weight.  He took 2nd place in his class against our favorite ‘nemesis’, Jake. (And no, we really don’t think Jake is our nemesis.  He’s a phenomenal pull dog and it’s a pleasure to pull against him.)

The same camaraderie that used to be present at the UKC pulls was there in spades.  It was nice to see some familiar faces, but even more to see a lot of the newer weight pullers who had been training at Currey’s Family Pet Care and were incredibly new to the competition aspect.  Those of us who are ‘old hats’ at this have a lot to look forward to with our new ‘competition’ this coming season and I, for one, can’t wait to attend another NWDA pull.  Thank you, NWDA for giving me and other weight pullers another place to work our dogs!

The Fate of UKC Weight Pull

I am a weight puller. My dogs and I enjoy the bonding that we get to do when we are out on the track together. The competitive nature that goes with weight pull – beating other dogs to work for that title-of-the-day of Most Weight Pulled or Most Weight Pulled Per Pound (also known as the Pound-for-Pound/Percentage) – is a personal humanoid rush. The dogs, at the end of the day, don’t give a darn if they got it. They just know they worked so hard for me and that I cheered them on as the weights got higher.

Unfortunately, the UKC has eliminated all of those things. They have eliminated class placements. They have eliminated working to achieve better working ability by training a dog to work harder and longer. They have eliminated those ‘title of the day’ awards that were there to reward the hard work of handler/dog teams have done to become ‘the best dog/handler team’ of the day.

Why have they done this? Because the human end of the spectrum got petty. The human aspect of the sport decided that it was more fun to lodge complaints and cause petty drama that has now hurt dogs that are competitive in weight pull – my dogs included. I don’t train for a ‘buy here, pay here’ title. I train my dogs to continue to improve. To push past that threshold of doubt in myself and the peak of greatness that I know, deep down, my dogs are capable of. The title just adds a little bit of justification for all the work I put in that the dogs earned, but it’s a piece of paper in the end and the time I spent with the dogs is far more important.

I must admit, when I first got news of the official changes after the probationary period, I was angry and I was hurt (probably to an extreme in the eyes of many UKC weight pullers). I felt that they should have canceled the program for what they did to it. That the program was/is a shell of its former self and still do to an extent. I guess it’s the competitive nature that I still hold close to my heart – the desire to continue to pull against myself and against others and push my dogs to become the greatest in their own rights.

There are rumors that this is just a probabation. That UKC will continue to make changes to bring weight pull back to what it once was and eliminate the problem children. I hope this is true and not just empty rumors. Until it happens, I’ve put my two best weight pullers on temporary retirement with UKC and will continue to pull the youngster (Mika) and the not-so-adept Lyric there to work to improve form and have a good time together.

UKC Premier – 2010 All Star Invitational

It’s been a busy past few weeks, but one of the highlights of that was the 2011 United Kennel Club Premier and All Star Invitational. Ryker and I were invited after competing in numerous weight pulls over the 2010 weight pull season. Ryker came in #5 in the Top 25 American Pit Bull Terriers for that year (with the Top 5 dogs being Michigan dogs!).

Ryker took 5th overall at the Invitational and we’re incredibly happy with how well he worked. He pulled 1,836lbs (36.72 times his body weight of 50lbs) and gave me everything when I asked – especially considering wheels are not his finest surface. He’s definitely more of a snow or rail surface lovin’ dog.

Regardless, we had a wonderful time. We stayed until Saturday to root on friends and other APBT competitors in the show ring and then went to the Showdown In Motown APA weight pull that Saturday where Ryker took 3rd place overall in his class and Luna took 4th place.

I’m so incredibly blessed to have my home filled with some of the sweetest and most hard working dogs imaginable. These dogs have filled my heart with joy and shown ethic I couldn’t imagine having in any other dog.

Weight Pullin’ Fools

After a week of recovery, the dogs have decided it’s time to drive me batty. We had a wonderful weekend at the Carnation City Kennel Club UKC-sanctioned show doing weight pull, sprint races, conformation showing and Canine Good Citizenship testing. It was brutally hot outside, but everyone worked together to make sure that all of the dogs were taken care of, hydrated and kept cool.

Unfortunately, since this was our first trip out to the venue, we didn’t even think to check if it was indoors or out! Next time, we will definitely remember to bring an easy up tent for our own dogs. Thankfully, however, we have wonderful friends who shared theirs with the four monsters who came with us.

Poor miss Mika was shut out all weekend in conformation, but she did have a good time of it. She had a good time romping with our crew in the hotel room and being a good little ambassador for APBTs. I wish there had been another CGC evaluator there because I’m sure she would have had an easy go of it this weekend!

Ryker was only shown in conformation once on Sunday in show two. He took the Reserve Champion ribbon, however, he chose to give a no pull that day like a goober. He did give us a nice pull the day prior and took Most Weight Pulled by pulling 1,300 pounds in 10.56 seconds for 24.53 times his body weight of 53lbs. He was quite the chunky monkey this weekend since he is normally around 47-49lbs during the nicer months when he’s conditioned for it.

Our little princess, Lyric, finally got her United Weight Puller (UWP) title this weekend when she pulled 520lbs in 11.06 seconds for 12.68 times her body weight of 41lbs. On Sunday, however, Lyric decided she had better things to do and only pulled 370lbs in 7.53 seconds for 9.02 times her body weight. Weights following she decided she didn’t want to pull and went on strike.

We’re absolutely proud of our little black minx – even if she was definitely the heaviest she has weighed ever. She normally is between 33-35lbs, but we’ve kept her heavy for showing in the UKC this year. Thank you, Cheryl Caragan, for giving us this incredible little girl. We think she’s finally ‘got it’ and will make a weight puller eventually!

And the best part of the weekend? Our little princess turned eight years old on Saturday and she pulled 970lbs in 9.4 seconds for 23.10 times her body weight – which gave her Most Weight Pulled (MWP) and Most Weight Pulled Per Body Pound (MWPP – which is based on percentage for weight pulled overall – this is most often won by smaller dogs who pull less, but weigh tons less than the larger dogs). We were so ecstatic that she got those…and on her birthday no less!

She finished the weekend with a bang, though, and didn’t quit there. She pulled 1,120lbs in 32.50 seconds for 26.66 times her body weight (she was 42lbs all weekend) and took home yet another Most Weight Pulled ribbon (but she got her but kicked for MWPP by a smaller dog…hehe). Way to go, baby girl!

We will be headed back down to the Carnation Kennel Club for their July show to do Canine Good Citizenship testing again and have another grand time. We can’t wait to head back down and see new friends and old friends. This is a phenomenal show for anyone who shows UKC. They make sure that a lot of wonderful events for all levels of competitors. Way to go CCKC.

Next weekend, we’ve got the Great Lakes ADBA Club’s first fun show and all breed weight pull. We are getting super excited because this show is going to provide a lot of fun for dogs that aren’t just registered, papered dogs, but valued members of the household – even if they came from a rescue situation. We’ve got a phenomenal raffle planned and another special raffle for some vintage pit bull goodies. This is going to be a GREAT adventure and we can’t wait to have fun on Saturday, June 4th.