Competing in Dog Sports with a Non-Traditional Breed

I don’t remember much about my first herding trial with Bear, but I remember one thing with absolute clarity: Someone looking at Bear and exclaiming something to the effect of,

“Ooh a Rottweiler, is he having mutton for lunch!?”

Fortunately, when you own a Rottweiler, you get used to people making assumptions about your dog so you collect great comebacks for these moments so I replied,

“Not likely, I fed him a big breakfast today.”

The other thing I distinctly recall about that herding trial is that Bear qualified in all of his runs, and the lady who made the comment? I saw her dog grip out at least twice in the take pen.

There began my experience participating in a dog sport with an breed of dog not usually seen in that venue.

In each dog sport, there is generally a small number of breeds that are highly represented, a smattering of breeds that are reasonably represented, and then other breeds that maybe only have a handful of active competitors in the country. Those breeds that are measured in the handfuls are what I would call ‘non traditional’ breeds for that sport.

In my experience there is a huge amount of satisfaction in doing a sport that I love with a breed that I love, but it does not come without the following challenges not experienced by those with more traditional breeds for the sport.

1. People may qualify any/all of your accomplishments. “That was a great run…for a, <insert your dog’s breed here>!”

2. Not all trainers will know how to work with your dog. While the basic concepts are the same when training dogs, what one dog or one breed might find reinforcing will vary as will their responses to various training styles.

A textbook example of this is that rottweilers, generally do not respond to pressure from humans or livestock in the same way a Border Collie, or Kelpie might. I once had a clinician put too much pressure on Bear by waving his stock stick. Bear’s response was to run at him and grab the stock stick out of his hand. This clinician was smart and has experience with rottweilers so he acknowledged his error and figured out another less confrontational way to get the point across.

3. Not all trainers will WANT to work with your dog. Depending on your breed, some people may flat out refuse to work with you. Either because they know your breed requires experience they don’t have, or because they do not believe your breed can or should participate in a particular sport. I can respect the former, the latter is always a bit of a struggle for me. If you approach training with the goal of keeping things safe and fun for the individual animals and humans involved, I think anyone should be able to participate. This may mean you choose a reduced jump heights for your basset hound in agility, or take extra precautions to keep your bulldog cool, or put a jacket on your Italian Greyhound to keep him warm, even at indoor trials.

4. People may flock to the ring to watch your run. This can add stress and anxiety to a trial experience, but in my experience it’s generally curiosity that brings people to watch. I actually have heard someone say “We can’t go yet, I want to watch this rottweiler run.”

5. You may find yourself doing a lot of breed education. Having people watch your run is a great opportunity to show that your dog is a dog, just like any other and provide the public with some education.

6. Judges may have different expectations. In a perfect world, all dogs would be judged equally, however, the world is not perfect. Some judges may score your barking Rottweiler differently than they would score your barking Shetland Sheepdog. Some obedience judges might choose to excuse your anxious German Shepherd on the exam, but not an anxious Papillon. You are not obliged to show under these judges. If you choose to continue to show to them, you can try to train for behavior you know they will expect in the ring, or you can take your deductions.

7. People will tell you that you need to change breeds to succeed. This one is the one that frustrates me the most. You start a sport with your breed of choice because you love it and once you show that you are a capable trainer some people will tell you that if you want to ‘go far’ that you should get a <insert not your breed here>. My sassy comeback is usually to gasp in horror and ask, “Why would I do that!?”

If I’m feeling less snarky, I might say something like I love the sport because people with different breeds can participate, and that Rottweilers fit my lifestyle perfectly. I’d probably also add that my dogs have their share of titles, high in class, high in trial and high combined ribbons in many sports, so I’m not convinced getting a more traditional breed will ensure success.

Now that you’ve heard some of the challenges folks with non-traditional breeds in Dog Sports might face, here are some suggestions for how you can support people showing and trialing non traditional breeds in your sport.

  • Learn as much as you can about their breed by asking them questions!
  • Speak up and share the knowledge you have acquired when you hear others making judgmental comments.
  • Compliment the owners and handlers of non traditional breeds. No need to lie here, just be kind and honest. What do you love about their fog or their performance?
  • Sponsor Awards for Non Traditional Breeds at trials and tests you attend

Need more ideas for how to support owners of non-traditional breeds? Check out my post, 9 Ways to Welcome BIPOC at Dog Shows and Trials. The strategies covered in this post are perfect for being kind and welcoming to people of all kinds, not just BIPOC.

7 Questions to Consider Before Using a Demo Dog in Your Class or Seminar

A recent discussion with a friend about the difficulty of teaching a class with a demo dog got me thinking about the use of demo dogs in the dog training world.

I’ve taken a lot of classes with my dogs over the years and attended many seminars and clinics. Demonstrations have been part of many of these learning opportunities, but some demos have been more useful to me as a learner than others. As a dog training instructor, I have occasionally used a demo dog, but not for every class.

Below are 7 things I ask myself before using a demo dog in any given class or seminar.

1. Are the dogs in this class likely to react to my dog? Demo dogs are useful in environments where learner dogs are likely to be confident and well managed by their owners. I would not, for example, reccomend a demonstration dog for a ‘Reactive Rover’ type class.

2. Will the humans in this class be able to absorb the demonstration? I find that human students are better able to absorb demonstrations when they have the skills to keep their dogs calm AND watch the demonstration.

3. Do I have the right dog? A demo dog needs to be confident. They need to be able to work with the distraction of other people and dogs and they need to be able to wait when not demonstrating without disrupting the class.

4. Do I have a plan to use demos in my class? Having a plan for demonstation, allows you to make the best use of your short time with your students. Most people come to class to work their dogs, and they will likely want to work their dogs more than they watch yours. Having a plan that outlines when, where and how long you will use your demo dog will help you keep that working to watching ratio fair to your students.

5. Where will the dog be when not working? How will you ensure your dog’s comfort and safety while not demonstrating? Is this an easily accessible and reliable option?

6. Does the dog know the behavior I want to demonstrate? Again, depending on what you are demonstreating, this will matter more or less. If you want to demonstrate a complex agility handling sequence, you need a dog familiar with the obstacles AND the handling moves. If you are teaching a beginner tricks class, it may be helpful to demonstrdate how to train behaviors with a beginner dog, or with a dog that can demonstrate the more completed finished behaviour.

7. Is this helpful? Finally, ask yourself, how will the demo help your students learn? Are you using a demo dog to show off your dog’s skills? To show your students the finished behavior or to demonstrate how to teach a behavior? In my opinion, while it can be fun to show students your dog’s amazing skills, it doesn’t always advance their learning and learning should always be at the forefront of your mind when considering any new strategy for group classes.

4 Tips for Combatting ‘Just-one-more-itis’

If you’ve ever had a fabulous training session that ended poorly because you chose to ask your dog for ‘just one more’ repetition of a behavior too many times, you are familiar with the affliction I call ‘just-one-more-itis’, or JOMI.

It usually happens because we humans are highly reinforced by sucess in training. A friend and I recently discussed how sucessful training is addictive and that jolt of dopamine we feel when our dog gets it right, is something we often try to chase a little harder than we need to. Dogs are beings with finite attention, and physical capacity and in every training session that goes too long, there’s a point at which the dog’s behavior begins to degrade. As trainers we should be actively trying to avoid that point, but sometimes, we are victims of dopamine.

Fortunately for you, I am well versed in this affliction and here are 4 things I do to keep it at bay.

1. Make a plan

We know that the most efficient training involves a training plan. Sometimes those plans might be written, sometimes those plans might reside in our heads. Either way, having a specific training plan for a session, and even better yet, outlining when and how we’ll end the session can help us from automatically falling into the JOMI trap.

2. Set a timer

Using a timer can help prevent JOMI by making you more aware of how much time you have been training for. In the past, I’ve used inexpensive kitchen timers, and my smart watch timer function to remind me when my time is up and I need to end a session. Generally I set my timer for 1-2 minutes as that’s generally enough time to get in quite a few repetitions of a specific behaviour without overtaxing a dog.

3. Count out your rewards

If you count out your rewards before a session and train until those rewards have been given to your dog, you’ll be forced to stop the session to reload. If you put your container a few steps away from your training area, you’re forced to break for more than a few seconds. Another way to do this is to cheat for this grab as many treats as one hand will hold and train until those treats are gone. I call this training in handfulls. Whichever strategy you choose, limiting the number of rewards on your person will give you a break between sessions to evaluate your progress against your plan and stop JOMI in it’s tracks.

4. Record your training sessions

I sincerely believe that recording and reviewing my training sessions makes me a better trainer. Why? Because I can use a video camera as an electronic accountability partner. After I’ve made my training plan, grabbed a handful of treats and trained my dog, I can review the session instantly to see if that session met the goals I set in the training plan. Finally, in my experience sometimes, just knowing I’m recording something for review helps me be more rigorous and conscious when it comes to carrying out my training plan.

40 Unconventional Food Reward Ideas for Dogs

If you are using positive reinforcement to train your dog, chances are that you are using food to reward your dog. The reason most of us use food is that you can reward multiple repetitions in a short amount of time, compared to tossing a ball or playing tug.

When looking food rewards, a lot of people go out to the local pet store to buy ‘Dog Treats’, but did you know that younmight be limiting by only shopping at the pet store? There are a bunch of other foods out there that you can reward your dog with and they can be found in your pantry, freezer or local grocery store.

If you are finding your dog doesn’t seem to be enjoying their ‘Dog Treats’, or you’d like to mix things up a bit for them, try one or two of the suggestions below. Your dog will thank you!

  1. Meatballs
  2. Blueberries
  3. Hot dogs
  4. Vienna Sausages
  5. Beef Jerky
  6. Pepperettes
  7. Popcorn
  8. Sliced carrots
  9. Chickpeas
  10. Peas
  11. Bread cubes
  12. Croutons
  13. Peanuts
  14. Banana chips
  15. Yogurt
  16. Cream cheese
  17. Cheese whiz, peanut butter
  18. Baby Food Purees
  19. Baby puffs
  20. Baby melts
  21. Cream Cheese
  22. Liver sausage/pate
  23. Puffed Wheat
  24. Cheerios
  25. Pretzels
  26. Bits & Bites
  27. Mandarin Orange Sections
  28. Canned whipped cream
  29. Cottage cheese
  30. Goldfish crackers
  31. Macaroni, cooked al dente
  32. Cherry tomatoes
  33. Hummus
  34. Green beans
  35. Shrimp
  36. Quail eggs
  37. Rice cakes
  38. Fish Sticks
  39. Edamame
  40. Life Cereal

35,000 km: 2020 in Podcasts

Despite having fewer show and trial opportunities due to COVID-19, I still managed to log a decent number of KM on the Kia Rio this year. During those long drives, I rely mostly on podcasts and e-books for company. Below, are my 15 favorite podcasts of 2020, in no particular order.

Drinking From The Toilet – A behind-the-scenes look into the reality of dog training, behavior, teaching, and learning. We love our dogs, we love our jobs, but sometimes it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes at the end of the day, you just need a drink and friend who gets it. We’ll keep it fun, and keep it real.

Cog Dog Radio – Dog trainer, blogger, competitor

Bananas – Kurt Braunohler and Scotty Landes discuss the strange, fascinating, and just plain bananas news from around the world.

The Daily Zeitgeist – There’s more news and less comprehension today than any historical period that didn’t involve literal witch trials, and trying to stay on top of it all can feel like playing a game of telephone with 30 people, except everyone’s speaking at the same time and like a third of them are openly racist for some reason. From Cracked co-founder Jack O’Brien, THE DAILY ZEITGEIST is stepping into that fray with some of the funniest and smartest comedic and journalistic minds around. Jack and co-host Miles Gray spend up to an hour every weekday sorting through the events and stories driving the headlines, to help you find the signal in the noise, with a few laughs thrown in for free.

The Science of Success – The #1 Evidence Based Growth Podcast on the Internet. The Science of Success is about the search for evidence based personal growth. It’s about exploring ways to improve your decision-making, understand your mind and how psychology rules the world around you, and learn from experts and thought leaders about ways we can become better versions of ourselves.

True Crime Garage – Each week Nic and the Captain fire up the true crime garage flying ship fueled with beer, great discussion and listener participation. The garage covers a new case each week from headline news to local real life horror stories. Discussions about Serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and BTK, cold cases like Jonbenet Ramsy, OJ Simpson and the Zodiac, disappearances, missing persons and unsolved mysteries are all on tap along with craft beers from all over the world. If you like to kick back and have a little fun with your true crime than this show is for you and your friends. Remember don’t take yourself too seriously because if you do, nobody else will.

Scientology: Fair Game – Leah Remini and Mike Rinder’s new podcast, Scientology: Fair Game will take you behind the facade and expose the terrible truth about scientology’s Fair Game doctrine. It’s been used for 5 decades to destroy anyone they label an enemy — former scientologists, media, government officials — anyone they think is impeding their objectives. Leah and Mike are covering new ground, digging deeper than ever into the shocking documents, facts and stories that will make you wonder how any of this is going on in America today.

Court Junkie – Imagine being wrongfully convicted for a crime you didn’t commit, or imagine your child’s killer is still on the loose even though there’s enough evidence for an arrest. I want to help shine light on the injustices of our judicial system. I delve into court documents, attend trials, and interview those close to the case to help me tell their stories.

Feminist Survival Project 2020 – A podcast for feminists who feel overwhelmed and exhausted by everything we need to get done in 2020, and still worry that we’re not doing enough – hosted by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, authors of BURNOUT: the secret to unlocking the stress cycle.

The Missionary – A young missionary named Renee Bach left her comfortable life in America to start a malnutrition program in rural Uganda. Folks back home and in
Uganda praised her as a model missionary — an example of the healing power of God’s message. But
a decade later she’s accused of masquerading as a doctor and rumored to have killed hundreds of
children in her unlicensed clinic. How did Renee Bach end up here? Is she a case of good intentions gone
wrong…or a predator posing as a saint? Hosted and reported by journalists Rajiv Golla, Halima Gikandi and Malcolm Burnley.

The Upgrade by Lifehacker – Each week, Alice Bradley and Jordan Calhoun of Lifehacker bring in all-star guests to tackle the stuff that matters—like how to be happy, how to buy a TV, how to be less bad with money and how to tell if you’re dating a psychopath. Look, you’re doing great, but quite frankly we think you can be a little better. All your friends do too. It’s time for The Upgrade.

All In The Mind – ABC RN’s weekly podcast looking into the mental universe, the mind, brain and behaviour — everything from addiction to artificial intelligence.

You’re Wrong About – Mike and Sarah are journalists obsessed with the past. Every week they reconsider a person or event that’s been miscast in the public imagination.

Ologies – Volcanoes. Trees. Drunk butterflies. Mars missions. Slug sex. Death. Beauty standards. Anxiety busters. Beer science. Bee drama. Take away a pocket full of science knowledge and charming, bizarre stories about what fuels these professional -ologists’ obsessions. Humorist and science correspondent Alie Ward asks smart people stupid questions and the answers might change your life.

Behind the Police – How did American police get so violent? The answer to that question goes back centuries, to the earliest days of this nation. On this special podcast miniseries hosts Robert Evans and rap artist Propaganda (Jason Petty) draw a straight line from the darkest days of slavery, to the murder of George Floyd and the mass violence American police meted out to their citizens this summer.

9 Ways to Welcome BIPOC at Dog Shows and Trials

I’ve been thinking and talking alot lately about the lack of color diversity in the dog world.

A couple of weeks ago, after a very long discussion about life, dogs, racism, and the general state of the world, my friend Perri asked me what she could do help a person of color feel welcome at dog show.

What a great question!

We’re talking alot about systemic racism and changing policies these days, but we all know that if we wait for policy change to start changing our behaviour, we might be waiting forever.

What can we do instead of twiddling our thumbs while we wait? We can start changing our own behavior at the most basic level in our communities, the interpersonal level.

If you notice a person of color at your next show or trial, here are some free and easy ways to make them feel welcome.

  1. Make eye contact, smile, say ‘good morning’, or ‘hello’. This sounds ridiculous at first, until you consider how much we cling to routines, getting set up, staying in our comfort bubble and never actually connecting with others at these events.
  2. Give an honest compliment. If someone has an awesome shirt, a cute dog, cool equipment, or spectacular handling, an honest compliment goes a long way towards making people feel seen, and welcome.
  3. Watch their run. Bonus points for clapping or cheering.
  4. Offer to videotape their run, or take pictures. If you are traveling to a trial alone, it can be really hard to get video of yourself for review. Also, who doesn’t like photos of working with their dog!?
  5. Ask them to join you at the canteen for lunch, or a restaurant for dinner. If you see them sitting alone, ask if you can join them.
  6. Ask questions that show you are interested. This doesn’t need to be an interrogation, but if you find speaking to strangers difficult, here is my advice as an extrovert: The easiest topic to discuss with dog people you don’t know is Dogs! Ask them about their specific dog and where it came from. Ask them about their breed, ask them about where they train. Ask them how long they have been in the breed or sport. If you run out of dog talk, ask them where they are from (Don’t be weird about this and assume they are from overseas because they are not white). Ask them about their family, or their work. These topics should carry you through a meal.
  7. Offer assistance. Helping people is a really easy way to make anyone feel welcome. Helping can be as simple as holding a door or offering to take a dog back in the ring. Helping can be giving them good restaurant reccomendations, or letting them know a good place to walk dogs. One caveat about helping, it’s probably wise to stick to offering non dog related help until you know someone better, especially if your idea of helping is offering unsolicited advice on dog training and grooming. I can attest that there is absolutely nothing worse than a random person who doesn’t even know you offering training advice the second you leave the ring after losing, or not qualifying.
  8. If you are a judge, steward, secretary or member of the host club at an event, thank them for attending. No one is obliged to attend your event. This person chose to spend their time and their hard earned money on you/your club. The least you can do is thank them.
  9. If you witness racist behavior from other exhibitors, intervene. Intervention can be telling the offender that their behavior is both unacceptable and evidence of poor sportsmanship. Intervention can be filing a complaint about the behavior to the show/trial superintendent. Intervention can also literally helping a victim to get out of the situation and to a safe place. We are often so stunned by people’s hatred that we freeze. Regardless, we CAN NOT allow racist behavior to happen without consequence at our events and people of color need to SEE us denounce it to know they are welcome.

If you have gotten this far, you might notice that here is not really a super secret way to help people of color feel welcome. You don’t need to quote Malcom X to show them you’re an ally. You don’t need to share your black history trivia skills. You don’t need a diversity course. All you need to do is treat them the same way you should treat any newcomer…and intervene when you witness racism.

How to Support your BIPOC Dog Training and Dog Sport Friends

A Brown Woman in an outdoor Conformation Dog Show ring presents her Rottweiler to a white male judge
I am often the only person of colour at a dog show, or trial. Have you ever wondered what that’s like?

There has been some conflict recently in a dog training community that I consider myself a part of. I know I know, what else is new, right?

This time, the source of this conflict was a seemingly innocuous question. Someone observed that the dog training/dog sports community appeared to skew towards white women, and wondered how we might make the community more welcome to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). Some of us were thrilled that this person bothered to ask this question. Others felt this community was not the place for this kind of discussion.

I have considered posting this response within that community but I have concerns about my voice getting lost in the mix. I also worry my comments will disappear as has happened with the original post asking this question.

At this time, I feel safer posting here on my own blog, so here are some ways you can support the BIPOC Dog Trainers and dog sport competitors in your life.

  1. Listen to us: When we find the courage to tell you about our challenges. Sit down, and listen. We don’t need you solve our problems, we don’t need you to tell us it will be okay. We certainly don’t need you to change the subject because you are uncomfortable. We need you to bear witness to our pain.
  2. Show up for us: We need you to show up for us and perform some of the emotional labour involved in combating racism. This means challenging racist beliefs, actions and policies when you see them. At home, at work, in the dog sport community, and in your professional organizations.
  3. Increase Our Visibility: In order to feel welcome in a community, we need to know that we are not alone. How many people of color do you know in YOUR dog sport community? What are you doing to promote them or highlight their success? Increasing our visibility can be as simple as liking a business page and commenting on a post, or referring someone to a qualified BIPOC trainer in your area. It can be as large as recommending a BIPOC as a presenter at your next industry conference.
  4. Increase our opportunities: Providing educational opportunities to BIPOC, provides a way to encourage us into your industry. You can do this on a small scale by offering a free or discounted class to a BIPOC. You can do this on a larger scale by offering professional training to BIPOC at a discounted rate.
  5. Pay us: If someone has dedicated their time and energy to becoming qualified to provide you with a training or behavior service, we deserve to be paid for our work. Do not ask us for a discount, do not ask us for free behavior advice.

I am sure that as I process things, I will have other things to add here, but I believe this is a good start.

FREE Rally Obedience Course – May 1, 2020

Course Details

Level: Novice (CARO)

Space Required: 50’x65′

Designer: Ayoka Bubar

Comments: Big challenge in this is course is the changes of pace at 15, 16 & 17. In some cases, handler cues were late at 16 causing dogs to forge ahead. In other cases, the handler did not change pace within the required distance of the sign.

Download this Course: CARO 50′x 50′ Course – Novice (T12-060)

DIY Rally-O Sign Holders

I saw this shown somewhere on pinterest as an idea for table assignment cards at a wedding, and thought it would be great for Rally-O signs!

You can make these sign holders with a few easy to find items.

  • 16 oz. Plastic Cups
  • Die Cut Numbers
  • Glue (glue tape, spray adhesive)
  • Thick tape (hockey tape, duct tape, gorilla tape)
  • Ruler
  • Box cutter
  • Scissors

STEP ONE

Cut a small hole in the top of your plastic cup

STEP TWO

Use your scissors to extend the box cutter hole across the diameter of your cup and down the sides of the cup approximately 1.5″

STEP THREE

Use a 1″ to 2″ piece of hockey tape to reinforce the inside of the cup below the cuts you have made.

STEP FOUR

Apply adhesive to the back of your numbers, and stick them to the plastic cup. Remember to apply the numbers parallel to the cut you have made.

Your sign holder is now finished!

If you prefer a video tutorial, I’ve got on here for you. Enjoy!

FREE Rally Obedience Course – April 1, 2020

Course Details

Level: Excellent Team (CARO)

Space Required: 50’x65′

Designer: Ayoka Bubar

Comments: There are some good opportunities to practice working around exciting obstacles in this course.

Download this Course: CARO 50′x 65′ Course – Excellent Team (T12-054)

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