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Monthly Archives: September 2013

National Dog Week

For the past 85 years, the last week of September has marked National Dog Week. Conceived by Silver Star recipient Captain William Lewis Judy in 1928. Captain Judy was an avid dog lover and, after returning home from serving in the U.S. Army through World War I, Judy launched a publishing house and produced multiple works centered on dogs. After purchasing Dog World magazine—the largest dog publication in the world—and creating the Dog Writers Association of America, Judy proclaimed the fourth week of September National Dog Week with the hopes of honoring both military service dogs and the dogs that provide companionship to individuals and families across the world.

Honored with the 1936 Ellie Sheets Memorial Trophy and the 1949 Man of the Year prize for his influence in the dog world, Judy was called “an icon in the sport” of dog shows and his name is still synonymous with exceptional performance at a prestigious obedience competitions. In his introduction to The Dog Encyclopedia: A Complete Reference Work on Dogs, Judy expressed the following sentiments about dogs,

A kinship between man and the lower animals surely exists, for the good God who made us also made them as part of the order of creation.

The barrier between the two has been the impossibility of communicating the thots [sic] of each other’s mind. Of all the dumb creation, the dog most nearly communicates with man. He can discern the moods of man, whether of gladness or sorrow, anger or pain, contentment or want, and can enter into these moods.

More than any other animal he has given to man loyalty, companionship and usefulness. He aids in the quest of securing food and guards what is his master’s. All that he cares to know is whether the stranger is friend or foe.

 Gratitude is his abounding virtue; for a bone and a kindly word he will render loyalty at the danger of his life.”

May those thoughts guide us as celebrate both National Dog Week and its founder, Captain William Lewis Judy. As you reflect upon and spend time with the dogs in your life, may you see them with renewed appreciation for their loyalty, their companionship, and their faithfulness.

National Chicken Month

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Before we turn the calendar pages to a new month, we would like to pause for a moment to honor September as National Chicken Month. With over 25 billion chickens in the world, they outnumber any other species of bird and are one of the few living creatures that can trace their ancestry to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Here are some amazing facts about our feathered friends:

  • Most of us know that chickens can’t fly; however they can travel up to nine miles an hour! The longest recorded distance flown by a chicken was 301.5 feet and the longest flight was thirteen seconds.
  • Chickens are highly inquisitive and are considered by many to be as smart as dogs and cats.
  • Chickens have an extremely diverse set of calls they use to communicate with each other. The dominant male will make a sound similar to “took, took, took” when he finds food. If a predator is approaching, a different call is used, telling the other birds not only what type of predator it is but whether it is flying, walking, or hiding.
  • The color of a chicken’s earlobe often determines what color their eggs will be. Rhode Island Reds lay reddish brown eggs while Ameraucanas lay eggs with a greenish-blue hue. Colored eggs take on their tinge during the last five hours of shell formation.
  • The hen’s diet dictates what color her yolks will be. The carotenoids found in corn or grass make her yolks yellow; if she eats more red peppers and naturally red fruits and vegetables, her yolks will be more golden.
  • A hen lays between 280 to 300 eggs a year!
  • To produce a dozen eggs, a hen must eat about four pounds of food. As omnivores, chickens love to eat bugs and seeds as well as mice and lizards. They can taste salt but can’t detect sweetness in their food.
  • Chickens are extremely playful. They love to run, jump, and spar as well as watch television and listen to music. They often have individual preferences about the style of music and types of shows they enjoy too.
  • In addition to be playful, chickens are empathetic. A mother hen will cluck to her chicks within their shells and they will chirp back to her. Once they are born, hens spread their wings over their chicks to protect them from weather and nearby predators.
  • Chickens have an incredible memory! They can remember and recognize more than 100 other chickens and can even learn from others examples. If you want a chicken to lay an egg in a certain location, placing an egg in the designated location can encourage others to follow suit. However, if you have one chicken who displays bad habits (like eating eggs) they should be removed from the flock. Their tendency to mimic behavior could be detrimental.
  • Chicken waste is some of the best fertilizer available. Not only that, the waste produced by one chicken could supply enough electricity to run a 100-watt light bulb for five straight hours.

We hope that these facts have given you a newfound appreciation for chickens. If you’d like to learn more about these fascinating creatures, we encourage you to check out the following resources:

http://www.backyardchickens.com/

http://www.mypetchicken.com/about-chickens/

http://chickensoncamera.com

Dog School: Training Options

The vast array of dog training options are truly amazing, going far beyond the basic obedience classes. Our third and final article in our dog school series focuses on advanced ability and agility training.

Many owners stop obedience training after their dog masters basic obedience commands like come, sit, stay, heel, and down. There is still much more to learn though! Intermediate obedience classes are a great way to build on the foundational skills your dog knows with new lessons on off-leash training, long sits and downs (often in the midst of distractions), obeying out-of-sight commands, and some trick training. Depending on what your dog learned in basic class, they may add some additional commands to their repertoire, including back up, leave it, drop it, give, speak, crate up, and even growl or attack.

If you’re considering competing in obedience trials, advanced obedience classes will enable you and your dog to focus on more challenging skills as well as work towards one or more American Kennel Club designations. The American Kennel Club offers multiple training programs including AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy, Canine Good Citizenship, Companion Dog, Utility Obedience, Open Obedience, and Rally Obedience. Visit the AKC website to find an American Kennel Club trainer in your area.

Rally obedience has grown in popularity over the past few years and is a great bridge between obedience competitions and agility courses. Progressing at their own pace, both dog and owner work as a team to navigate through 10-20 stations and perform some kind of command or exercise. The exercises range from jumping, fronting, backing up, and walking on two legs. To learn more about the AKC Rally Obedience classes, check out their online guide to getting started in Rally.

Agility training is one of the most fun and challenging aspects of dog training. Exercising both body and mind, agility requires that owners use only voice commands (no treats or toys) to navigate through an obstacle course. This type of training can strengthen the bond between dog and owner as the courses are designed so that the dog relies upon his owner to direct him through the maze of challenges including tunnels, hurdles, tires, seesaws, ramps, tables, and poles. Both dog and owner race through the obstacle course, jumping, climbing, weaving, and maneuvering through each item in proper order to obtain the most points possible.

From the building blocks of basic manners to the competitive arenas of agility and obedience events, there is a training class to suit the needs of every dog—and owner. No matter which path you choose, make sure that you’re practicing your newly learned skills and lavishing praise on your dog for all his hard work. The more consistent you are with the rules and rewards, the more your dog will work to please you.

Have you participated in advanced obedience or agility training with your dog? We would love to hear about your experience.

Dog School: Finding the Right Fit

In our last blog we answered some basic questions about obedience training classes. Today’s blog focuses on the different venues for training and the features, advantages, and disadvantages of each.

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There are three basic types of classes: group lessons, private lessons, or board and train programs, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. As you think through your decision, a few questions can help guide the process. First, what are your training goals and your dog’s needs? If your new puppy needs to learn basic commands and socialization, a group class may be the best option. However, if your dog is eliminating in the house or eating your Toms, private lessons might fit the bill. Secondly, what is your training budget? While you don’t want to make training decisions based on money alone, it can be a driving factor. Knowing what your range is from the beginning can help steer you towards the right choices.

Group lessons are the most common type of obedience classes and can be structured in a variety of ways, with classes based on age group, skills, or even focused on a particular breed. The group setting can be a great environment for pets (and their owners!) to build necessary social skills, learn the basics of training, and share experiences with one another. Being surrounded by other dogs can help some puppies pick up appropriate dog behavior more quickly as well as learn how to deal with distractions in a positive way.

Often the most affordable format for training, group classes are best suited for straightforward obedience and training. Generally structured in sixty to ninety minute sessions each week, group members will focus on the topics chosen by the instructor, just like in a typical class, and therefore individual instruction is a little more difficult. Seeking out classes with low dog to teacher ratios (ideally twelve dogs to one instructor or less) will ensure the instructor has enough time to assess each student and provide constructive feedback throughout the class.
To truly master the concepts, whether you’re in group, private, or even a board and train program requires a true commitment on the owner’s part. You need to practice these skills with your dog on a regular basis in order for them to become habits. Without that practice, the obedience training will lack effectiveness.

Private lessons are usually given at the owner’s home and fall into two main categories: short lessons to focus on one particular skill or issue or a series of longer lessons that focus on the typical obedience skills taught in a regular group class. In addition the convenience factor, these classes are tailored to your training desires and your dog’s personality, needs, and behaviors. Bringing the trainer your dog’s turf can increase the effectiveness of the lessons and make it easier for the trainer to identify behaviors and patterns that you may not even be aware of. Without the distractions of other dogs around, like in a group class, you and your dog can focus completely on the training at hand. While private lessons do tend to be more expensive than group lessons, the advantages of one-on-one attention and convenience often outweigh the expense.

Board and train programs are a third training option. The most expensive and often, extensive option, board and train programs are often used as either a last resort to deal with extremely aggressive behavior or to provide specialty training in hunting, protective service, or another concentrated area of emphasis. This type of program involves leaving your dog at a training facility or residence where they will receive intensive training, often concluding with several private lessons to instruct you on how to retain their skills or handle your newly trained dog.

Choosing the right training for your dog is an important decision. Armed with the right details, you can wisely choose the format that best suits both you and your dog. Check back soon for our third and final obedience school article focusing on the different kinds of training available for your dog.

Dog School: Choosing an Obedience School for your Dog

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With back-to-school sales and storefront displays stocked with supplies, it’s easy to gauge when it’s time for the kids to start school. With our dogs, however, it is not always so clear—often leaving us with more questions than answers. We may wonder, “Does my dog need obedience training? When is the right time to attend? How do I find the right trainer? What questions should I ask?” Today we start a multi-part series to answer your questions about dog obedience school.

Early and Often
The best time to start obedience training is when your dog is a young puppy, as early as eight to twelve weeks old. If you wait until they are older, as often is the case, you will be working on undoing bad habits as much as you’re working towards training good behavior. Also, just like children attend school every year, dogs also benefit from annual or biannual training classes. The repetition allows them to better retain the new skills and behaviors that they learned, as well as continue to work on more advanced skills.

Finding the Right Fit
Your veterinarian is the best place to start your search for an obedience school. Their familiarity with you and your dog allows them to make recommendations that are best suited for your particular situation and temperaments. Once you’ve gathered recommendations, invest time researching the different options. Here are some questions to help you gauge whether this school or trainer is a good fit:

1. What are their credentials? As a largely unregulated industry, virtually anyone can say they are a dog trainer. Find out what certifications they’ve pursued and what experience they have.

2. What is their training philosophy? Some trainers will use positive and negative reinforcement; some will only use rewards to encourage desired behavior. Find out what their philosophy is and make sure that it lines up with what you’re comfortable practicing at home. Consistency is key.

3. Will they provide you with former client references? It is great to be able to talk to someone who has recently attended a class and find out what their experience was like. If a trainer is unwilling to provide you with names of their recent clients, that should raise a red flag.

4. Can you observe a class prior to enrolling? Most trainers and schools are willing to let you sit in on a class without your dog to get a feel for the structure and format of a class.

5. Have they worked with your particular breed (or with the issues you may be experiencing with your dog)? While no two dogs are alike, it’s helpful to know whether a trainer has dealt with similar situations or not. A smart trainer will refer you to someone else in the field if your scenario is out of their field of expertise.

6. What are their rates? Find out all the details you can about what the program or training includes, what supplies you will need to purchase, and what discounts they may offer if you continue to seek additional training.

Our next blog is going to focus on the different formats available for obedience training as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each one. In the meantime, we’d love to know what your experience has been with dog obedience school.