Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to Get Your Pup in Line: Advice from a Professional Sheepdog Trainer

Amelia Smith has been training working Border Collies since 1992. In 2001, she purchased her first sheep trial dog and her career began in earnest. Her dogs qualified for the 2001 United States Border Collie Hander's Association National Nursery Finals, and soon became successful on the open field as well. In this post she talks about what made her a successful dog trainer and how what she learned can apply to everyday dog owners:

When asked for training tips and advice, I always reply with the one that means the most to me, resolve.When I intend for a dog to do something, not do something, or learn something, the effect and time it takes to accomplish is directly related to my commitment to the results. The condition of my dog, his age, temperament, intelligence, all factor in, but I believe that I am more important to the equation. How strongly do I feel that I can get results? What am I willing to do to get results? How long am I willing to wait?

There's also the questions about training implements, namely what kind of tool do you use as an aid in training your dog? Leash? Extra long leash? Rattle paddle? Rake? Rope and rake? Lunge whip? Shock collar? Rolled up newspaper? Lengths of garden hose? Bean bags? Treats?

I'm going to suggest that while tools are useful, the more you rely on your tools, the less you believe in your ability to get results and the lower your resolve. If you are not engendering respect from your dog, you are begging, or you are forcing. Dogs respond just to my direction when they respect me, and they will respond willingly regardless of excitement and external commotion. You will never find the perfect tool that will solve problems with your dog. It is inside of you.

The first year I had real success at a big sheepdog trial, my dog began by ignoring my directions. I remember thinking; "I only have one chance to make the final round, it's slipping away from me and I will stop that." As a result of my determination, I distinctly remember feeling as if my feet had left the ground when I blew my whistle and directed my dog. It was powerful and rewarding to see my dog take my flank whistle, and it got easier after that. In the same way he was convincing the wild ewes, I was convincing him.

Find your inner resolve. Mine is in the middle of my chest, somewhere in the area of my diaphragm, and it seems to me that I have never needed the full extent of it. I can literally summon it up, and it is a physical feeling. We all have it. Sometimes it only shows up in our darkest hour. Sometimes it doesn't show up at all, but it's there. Start with something small. Identify something your dog does that you don't want him to do and determine to stop it. I'm not advocating force, or punishment, but to some degree, these things may play a part. That depends on you and your relationship with your dog. If you start with something easy enough, you will have success and you will build on that. Nurture your intention and you will surprise yourself

Amelia Smith is the owner of BorderSmith Stockdogs. Currently, she raises and trains working Border Collies at her ranch in Southern California. In 2008, Amelia began publishing The Real Time Canine, a weekly subscription based digest sent by e-mail each Sunday describing in words and pictures the real life and training of a puppy. For more information, visit Amelia's blog at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Canine Vet: Which One's Right For Me?

This is a Guest Posting

Your vet is a pretty significant figure in your dog’s life – and also in yours. Hopefully, you’ll only ever need him or her for routine checkups and preventative procedures. But you never know, so it’s worth taking the time to develop a good relationship with a suitable vet before you need their services.

Where Do I Look?

Sure, you could just pick a vet at random from the Yellow Pages or from an Internet search, but having the right canine vet is crucial to your dog’s health and happiness. Think about it this way, if you were trying to choose a doctor for yourself would you be happy to just select one at random from an impersonal list?

Probably not. The best place to start looking for a canine vet is by word of mouth. If you have any friends or relatives who take good care of their dogs, then that’s a great place to start looking for a good canine vet. Ask them who they’d recommend and why.

This one is particularly important, because everyone has different priorities. For example, perhaps they like their own canine vet because he/she is a specialist in their own particular breed; or they don’t charge very much; or the clinic is only five minutes’ drive. Their priorities are not necessarily yours, so it’s a good idea to make sure that your values coincide with the person giving the recommendations. Once you have a list of canine vets that you’re interested in pursuing further, all you have to do is call up the clinic and explain that you’re looking to find a regular vet for your dog(s) and if you can come in for a quick chat, introduce your dog, and have a look at the premises.

Things to Ask the Vet

While you’re at the clinic, you’ll want to be assessing your potential vet’s overall attitude and approach to health care and animals; and you’ll also probably want answers to some specific questions.

Here’s a list of useful questions to help you on your way:

What kind of testing and analysis capabilities does the clinic have? If they have to send away to a lab for this kind of stuff, it means that the results are going to be delayed. If your dog is very sick, time is an important factor, its best if the clinic has at least blood-analysis testing on hand.

What after-hours services are available?
A lot of clinics close the doors in the evenings and on weekends, which means that if there’s an emergency you’ll have to go somewhere else – and subject your dog (and yourself) to an unfamiliar canine vet. If you don’t mind this, then that’s fine. But be aware that in a high-stress situation when emotions are running high, it’s reassuring for your dog and yourself to deal with someone familiar.

And of course there’s the issue of money: What’s their price range? How are payments made? Do they have payment plans in case of unexpected vet bills? The payment-plan option is particularly important. Even with pet insurance, vet bills can sometimes be astronomical – and not everyone has the resources to deal with large vet bills right away. Ask the clinic how they cater for situations like that.

Making the right choice

When you choose a canine vet, you’re balancing convenience and quality. There’s no right or wrong vet for you and your dog – which is partly why making the choice can be so confusing. There are lots of canine vets to choose from and they’re all different! A good vet knows how to take care of you as well as your dog. The relationship that you have with your vet will hopefully be one that’s based around a healthy mutual respect and positive energy - there should be very little room for misunderstanding. When the two of you see eye to eye, it makes caring for your dog that much easier.

Now off you go, your dog needs some exercise.

T.F. Jackson writes product reviews and articles on dog obedience training and on dog health issues. You can learn more about the wonderful world of dogs by visiting his weblog K-9 Corner:

A Great Solution for Dog Owners in the Snowy North

My mother became increasingly worried this winter when she let the dog out without a leash, especially at dusk. Her dog, Gussie, is a Jack Russell Terrier with a white coat. Gus likes to wander around and in the winter it's impossible to keep an eye on him... until now. Mom bought Gus a Reflective Vest made by Snoozer and her problem is gone. This picture shows the dog in low light, as you can see, his fur blends in but the vest nearly blinds you. This is a great product for anyone with a light colored dog, especially if you live with snow 6 months out of the year.

Check it out! Snoozer Reflective Dog Vest

Jumping Foxes

Who knew foxes were so playful... I always just thought they were sly.