Best in Show – what you need to know about the 2018 Westminster Dog Show

 

Westminster
Catch up on the 2018 Westminster winners before Best in Show tonight.

By Cara Armour, Founder of Active Paws Inc and marketing manager of ProPetHero

I can almost smell the hair products from my comfy sofa, and my eyes are squinting from the bright lights shining off the sequined clothing of the dog handlers – it’s time for Westminster!

The 142nd Westminster dog show is upon us and a quiet quarrel among the mixed dog-owning company I keep is brewing.

I live on both sides of the dog world, with one foot in rescue, and the other directly in dog shows. I volunteer as a foster home and dog evaluator for the Boxer Rescue and I own, breed, show, and enjoy AKC dog sports with my three Boxers (Debbie, Walter, and Phoenix).

There are a few more people like me who successfully hang out in both worlds, and I wish we had a bigger voice. I wish we could help to educate the world that there is enough room for rescued pups as well as purebred dogs. There doesn’t need to be a divide. In fact, both groups have the same mission: to eradicate the puppy mills.

But both sides of the coin also share the fundamental issue of irresponsible placement of dogs, and whether you rescue a dog or purchase a purebred puppy from a breeder, the obligation falls on both the provider and the acquirer to do right by the dog. It’s the responsibility of the breeder to make sure the puppy goes to the best possible home (and to take the puppy back if it doesn’t work out, whatever the reason), and it’s the responsibility of the adopter/owner to take care and control of the sentient being they have chosen to bring into their home.

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Me, with Phoenix.

Both rescues and purebred dog fanciers have events that, in essence, showcase the dogs they want so badly to place in the right homes. Rescue organizations have regular adoption events; Westminster is that event for the purebred dog fancy. It’s the time to appreciate the breeds preserved through selective breeding, careful selection, and extraordinary amounts of time, energy, and money. The dogs on parade at Westminster are the ideal representatives of their breeds and are the there to represent the top breeding stock. So in theory, the best puppies come from the best winning dogs. To get one of those puppies, you’d better be a great home, because responsible breeders don’t let their animals go to just anyone who wants a [fill in the breed].

While I do show my dogs, I don’t have a dog that is considered ‘a special’ (in show world lingo), but all of my dogs are extremely special to me. I do hope to one day to have a dog that is ‘a special’ so that I can showcase it at Westminster (wearing something spangly). For now, I spend my time trying to achieve that goal and, most importantly, searching for the right home for the dogs that I helped to lovingly bring into this world.

What Is the deal with Westminster?

Just about every dog owning (and even non dog owning) person in the US and many other countries knows about Westminster, but why is it so prestigious – and, really, what does it matter?

A little history

According to a newspaper article titled, “The Dog Show, 125 Years of Westminster” written in 2001 by Maxwell Riddle, “Westminster gets its name from a long gone hotel in Manhattan. There, sporting gentlemen used to meet in the bar to drink and lie about their shooting accomplishments. Eventually they formed a club and bought a training area and kennel. They kept their dogs there and hired a trainer.

“They couldn’t agree on the name for their new club. But finally someone suggested that they name it after their favorite bar. The idea was unanimously selected, we imagine, with the hoisting of a dozen drinking arms.”

Westminster is the second oldest sporting event in the country, after the Kentucky Derby.

Westminster kept growing

Much like the city of New York, the Westminster dog show began to grow in popularity, eventually becoming the multi-evening televised event it is today. (Think about it – how many non-human competitions get this much air time on a sports channel?) 

Unlike any other dog show, not just any pup can be entered. Dogs must be invited specifically to enter Westminster because they are the top five ranked among their breed, or they must have won at least one major show (meaning they garnered three, four, or five points from a win at a previous show such as a local AKC-sanctioned kennel club show or even the AKC National Championship Dog Show held every December in Orlando, Florida).

In essence, Westminster is a fancy parade celebrating the historical preservation of the breeds we have come to love. I’m not sure if we’ll see the two new breeds added to the AKC this year  – Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen and the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje – but we’re bound to see some beautiful dogs.

If you enjoy purebred dogs in all their glory, tune into Fox Sports 1 between 8-11pm on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 to enjoy the final group choices and Best in Show winner. The group winners picked thus far are:

Hound

  1. Borzoi – GCHG CH Belisarius JP My Sassy Girl (Call name: Lucy)
  2. Bloodhound – GCH CH Quiet Creek’s Limited Edition
  3. Beagle – GCH CH Windstar’s Magnum Opus
  4. Whippet – GCH CH Pinnacle Tennessee Whiskey

Toy

  1. Pug – GCHS CH Hill Country’s Puttin’ On The Ritz (Call name: Biggie)
  2. Pekingese – CH Pequest Feel The Burn
  3. Affenpinschers – GCHS CH Tamarin Tailback
  4. English Toy Spaniels (King Charles & Ruby) – GCH CH Clussexx Paddington Of Flivverway

Non-Sporting

  1. Bichon Frises – GCHP CH Belle Creek’s All I Care About Is Love (Call name: Flynn)
  2. Poodles (Standard) – GCH Hightide Stormsurge
  3. Boston Terriers – GCH CH Sabe’s Simply Invincible
  4. Keeshonden – CH Skyline Summerwind Order In The Court  

Herding

  1.  Border Collie – GCHP CH Majestic Elite Clever Endeavor (Call name: Flick)
  2. Cardigan Welsh Corgis – GCHP2 CH Aubrey’s Tails Of Mystery
  3. Old English Sheepdog – GCHB CH Bugaboo’s Let It Go Blu Mtn
  4. Pyrenean Shepherd – GCHG CH Eclipse De La Petite Ferme De Wihr

Catch up on the winners here. 

Those official breed names are so fancy, and so much fun to say out loud. They represent the pedigree of the dog, derived from this formula: [grand champion or champion title] [breeder’s kennel name] [registered name]. So this year’s Toy Group winner’s name, GCHS CH Hill Country’s Puttin’ On The Ritz, is translated as:

  • GCHS: Grand Champion Silver – a grand champion who has won 200 grand championship points
  • CH: Champion – has acquired 15 points, including 2 majors, won under different judges and at least one point under a third, different judge
  • Breeder kennel name: Hill Country
  • Registered name: Puttin’ On The Ritz
  • His call name is “Biggie”.

If you want to learn more about the prefixes, suffixes, titles, and abbreviations for purebred dogs, you can check out the AKC website here. It’s a great crib sheet for watching the show tonight.

Agility is for All-American dogs

If purebred dogs just aren’t your thing, you can enjoy the Westminster Agility Championship that took place on the piers on Saturday February 10, 2018. It aired on the regular Fox network, but can be caught on replay and is bound to hit YouTube shortly. AKC agility not only permits the All American (aka, mixed breed) to participate, they even provide the dog a special award for competing, and winning, against the purebred counterparts.

agility westminster
Westminster Master Agility Champion Winners, courtesy of Bill Chiarchiaro. Overall winner Jessica Ajoux and 20″ Fame (front rear, holding the biggest ribbon). From left, Howard Carr with Pink won 8″, Laura Dolan with Pre won 12″, Jennifer Crank and her [also named] P!nk won 16″, and Amber Mccune with Kaboom won 24″. Liz Buckner won the overall All-American with Jefe.
Whether you’re #TeamFancy or #TeamAllAmerican, grab your remote and your unbathed pup to watch the fur fly and the couture sparkle. Tonight is going to be BIG. While I’m always going to root for my own beloved Boxer breed, my heart would be happy to see Biggie the Pug take home Best in Show.

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Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 12.40.42 PMVisit our Facebook page for a chance to win Put your guess for Best in Show in the comments, and the first one to get it right wins a free Breeds course! (A $30 value.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gluten-free peanut butter dog treats

 

micaeatstreat

Here’s another tasty homemade dog treat from the folks at The Chopping Block! These yummy tidbits are gluten-free, so they’re perfect if your pup is on the sensitive side or if you’re going to be giving them as gifts.

Ingredients

  • 1 can sweet potatoes, drained and mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup peanut butter (you can use other nut butters, if you prefer; make sure it’s not sweetened with xylitol.)

Directions

  • Step 1 – mash the sweet potatoes.
  • Step 2 – mix eggs, peanut butter and oats until combined.
  • Step 3 – use an ice cream scoop to scoop out your treats. Pick a size appropriate for your dog. (If you don’t feel like scooping a ton of little tiny cookies out then you can also break them into smaller pieces as you dole them out to your dog.)
  • Step 4 – take a fork, dip it in water and smash the treats down like you would a peanut butter cookie, partly because it looks cute, but mostly because these cookies do not spread on their own.
  • Step 5 – bake at 350 degrees until the treats really dry out so they don’t spoil. Feel the bottom of the cookie and make sure it isn’t soft at all; if it is, bake it longer. If they seem to be browning too much before they are hard, turn the oven down. The baking time will depend on what size scoop you use and how much you flatten them. These take about 40 to 45 minutes, so figure on 30 minutes for very small treats and maybe an hour for larger ones.

recipe

This recipe was originally posted on The Chopping Block blog. Their next Homemade Dog Treats class will be offered on Saturday, February 24, at the Chicago-Merchandise Mart location. Register here.

 

How to keep the fur from flying

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By Sandie Lee

We love our canine companions, but we don’t love those doggy-generated fur-bunnies scooting across the living room floor, clinging to our furniture or sticking all over our clothes. Plus, who hasn’t found a stray piece of dog hair in their dinner? Unfortunately, when we have the dog, we also have to take the shedding hair; it comes with the territory. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to combat all that flying fur.

Start with a high quality diet

The old adage “you are what you eat” can be said about our dogs as well. Nutrition plays a huge role not only in your dog’s inner health, but in its outer [hair] health as well.

If your dog’s food is primarily comprised of fillers such as corn, wheat, and by-product meals, then your dog will most likely have dry, flaky skin and lots of shedding hair. One of the ways to combat shedding in dogs is to feed them high-quality dry kibble that has real meat as the first ingredient. By incorporating a good quality canned food to your dog’s dry kibble you can up its moisture content by 78 % (dry food only has 10% moisture). This is an excellent way to ensure your dog stays hydrated. Plus, make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water.

A good balance of essential fatty acids and oils in the diet is very important. They can help your dog with the dry skin that often accompanies a dull coat and shedding problems. A high-quality dog food will already have EFAs in the recipe, but your vet may recommend other supplements such as fish or flax seed oils. If you’re adding liquid oil supplements to your dog’s diet, start slow! Adding too much oil at once can lead to digestive upset.

Giving your dog an occasional treat of people food can also help his coat. Good healthy choices for your pooch include eggs, carrots, apples, lean cooked meat, all-natural peanut butter (make sure it isn’t sweetened with xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs).

Regular grooming is key

All dogs need to be groomed on a regular basis. This not only nabs those loose hairs before they fall out, but it also stimulates the circulation and distributes the natural oils in your dog’s skin to help keep its coat shiny and healthy.

Designate at least one day a week to brush your dog, and spend enough time to get all the loose hair, untangle the matted bits, and check for any skin abnormalities. Don’t know what brush or grooming tool to use? Here is a short list of the basic brush types:

Bristle brushes look similar to the brushes we use. They are best for short-haired and smooth-coated dog breeds such as chihuahuas and greyhounds.

Slicker brushes have tiny, tightly-packed, short wire pins, usually set onto a rectangular base with handle. These are good for many dog breeds with medium or curly hair, including retrievers and spaniels.

Rakes also contain pins and should be purchased with pins roughly as long as your dog’s fur to ensure that it adequately thins the undercoat. The rake works well on dogs with long hair and thick undercoats, such as collies and German Shepherds.

Deshedding tools are specifically designed to get rid of the excess undercoat. These come in various forms and should be used on heavy-coated breeds at least twice a year.

Giving your dog a bath can be a huge help when it comes to controlling shedding, as the hair is loosened and whisked away by the water and by the post-bath rubdown. However, too much bathing can irritate your dog’s skin, dry it out, and actually lead to more shedding. Ask a professional groomer or your vet about the appropriate bathing schedule for your dog’s breed or breed mix.

Then, there are the fleas. These nasty little critters can not only spread like wildfire throughout your entire home, but the itchy bites also do a great job irritating your dog’s skin and adding to the amount of hair that sheds. Make sure to treat your dog for fleas in the spring and fall to prevent them from using your dog as a feasting ground.

“Love me, love my dog…”

The vacuum cleaner is your best friend

Most house guests probably don’t appreciate that layer of dog fur on their clothes after they leave your home, unless they themselves have a shedding dog. To keep the furballs to a minimum, invest in a good quality vacuum, preferably one that specializes in pet fur (they tend to have extra suction power).

Grandma may have had the right idea when she covered her furniture in plastic; the pet hair slides right off. However, today we may cringe at the thought of the sticky, sweaty covers that made sitting on Grandma’s sofa a challenge. The good news is that now there are many nice furniture protectors that are designed for the wear and tear of having a dog. Even a nice throw blanket on Fido’s favorite spot can prevent lot of hair from getting on your sofa; plus, it can be easily laundered or shaken out when it becomes a mess.

Don’t forget car seat covers! How many times have you been embarrassed when you have to unexpectedly give someone a ride and they end up sitting on your dog’s “hairy” seat? This isn’t fun, so invest in some cool seat covers (or even just a giant beach towel) for your car.

One last tip: this may seem obvious, but getting rid of the hair as soon as you spot it can save a lot of time in the future. Keep a few pet hair removers scattered throughout the house so you can always find one when you need it.

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sandie-lee-writerSandie Lee has been in the writing industry for over 20 years. She hails from a small city in Ontario, Canada where there are two seasons – winter and not winter! Her husband and pets, Milo and Harry, make sure she is diligently writing each day to help bring awesome content to her readers.

 

Winter activities, part 4: Rally

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

In part three of my Winter Activities series, I talked about Nose Work and how much fun scent work can be. In part four, I am going to talk about the sport of Rally.

I loved working on Rally courses with Bailey. It was a great way to see what commands we needed to work on; it provided treats for her, which she always loved; and allowed us time together, which I always loved.

Rally is another registered AKC sport and any dog six months or older can participate. A Rally course is set up with 10 to 20 stations and is set up differently by every judge. Each station has a sign with instructions on the skill that should be performed. An example of instructions could be, “sit stay”, “call front – return to heel,” etc. The handler can use any verbal commands, hand signals, talk to their dog as much as they want and use any means of encouragement (except treats). The handler cannot use physical corrections or touch the dog. The idea is to complete the course correctly.

I love Rally because it is a great way to work on some basic obedience skills with your dog.

Whenever you work with your dog, you are also working on building a relationship with them, so it is a great bonding experience. And who doesn’t like a dog who knows basic obedience and practices polite behavior?

Another reason I love Rally is because you can practice anywhere. You can make up a course in your house, backyard, park, etc. You can practice inside when the weather is horrible or outside when it is lovely. And any dog can benefit from this sport. I love to keep dogs working. It tires them out, and gives them something more productive to do than getting into trouble. And as I said before, creates a great opportunity to bond with you.

Rally has become very popular, so it is very easy to find a program near you. Classes are fun and create a great way to meet other dog lovers and competitions are a hoot. Handlers and dogs really get into the competitions and they are a great way to spend a cold afternoon.

If you are interested in finding a Rally class or learning more about it, check out the official website.

Have you tried Rally? What was your experience?

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Erin Schneider 250x300rin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

 

Winter activities, part 3: Nose Work

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

In part two of my Winter Activities series, I talked about barn hunt and the fun that can be had for all. In part three, I am going to talk about the sport of K9 Nose Work.

I LOVE K9 Nose Work. It is probably my favorite dog sport. My dog, Bailey, and I participated in Nose Work for years and she was probably at her happiest when she was working the course. Bailey loved food. She would do anything to get food, so searching for food was just about the most fun thing she could do.

Nose Work is described this way on the official K9 Nose Work websites: “Inspired by working detection dogs, K9 Nose Work is the fun search and scenting activity for virtually all dogs and people. This easy to learn activity and sport builds confidence and focus in many dogs, and provides a safe way to keep dogs fit and healthy through mental and physical exercise.”

If you decide to take a Nose Work class, you will see the room set up with a course filled with boxes. Each dog has to be in a crate while they aren’t working (this ensures that any dog, no matter what their temperament, can participate). While in the course, your dog will be on leash and there will be a treat hidden within a box. The goal is for your dog to sniff around and find the treat. Once they find it, the course is rearranged and another treat is hidden.

Once your dog is confident with the boxes and finding treats easily, everyday objects are added to the course. The goal is to work up to finding scent (usually it is birch) in the course and then to finding scent in open course settings, such as outdoor and cars.

Nose work is probably one of the best activities you can do with your dog.

Any time you can get your dog using their nose the more tired they will be. Any dog can participate in a class. I have worked with dogs with all temperaments, all physical conditions, all ages, sizes, etc. I especially like it during the winter because you can do it anywhere, even the smallest of apartments. All you need is a few boxes and some food. And if you don’t have any boxes, you can always use everyday items. And classes are offered all over the country, so it is very easy to find a location near you.

There were many times I was holed up in my condo during the winter months and I had to find a way to exercise Bailey. K9 Nose Work was guaranteed to get her excited and guaranteed to tire her out. Plus, I never had to leave the comfort of my warm, dry house.

If you are interested in finding a K9 Nose Work class or learning more about it, check out the official website.

Have you tried K9 Nose Work? What was your experience?

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

Christmas holiday safety tips

dog-xmas-5By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

I am officially in the Christmas mood. The day after Thanksgiving, I turned on the Christmas music, my family and I picked out our Christmas tree, and I am just about done with my Christmas shopping. I am definitely feeling the spirit.

Since my husband and I had kids, we have decided that Christmas will be at our house. Since we no longer travel for the big day, we have an open door policy. We love visitors and welcome friends and family to stop by and celebrate with us. I encourage both two and four-legged visitors, but with kids in the house, I have some rules in place. Because I want the day to be fun and relaxing, I ensure that safety is top priority.

No matter who you celebrate with or how you celebrate, it’s always wise to ensure your dog is set up to enjoy the festivities. Whether you are hosting or visiting, below are some tips to help your dog survive this festive holiday.

Keep presents away: My dog, Bailey, could have cared less about wrapped presents. But as soon as the paper was off, the paper was hers. But some dogs believe that anything on the floor is theirs. If your dog is more like the latter, keep presents up or behind a gate to avoid any disasters.

Pay attention to your décor: I love to decorate the house for Christmas, but I try to be aware of what I decorate with. Tinsel can be very enticing to dogs, but they are a safety concern (if swallowed, they can get tangled in the intestines). Poinsettias are beautiful, but they are poisonous to dogs. And I love lights on the Christmas tree and all around my house. If you do too, just make sure that your dog can’t get to the cords and chew on them. Basically, just use common sense when decorating.

Watch your dog around kids: Christmas is a big holiday for kids. All the presents under the tree, a visit from Santa, cookies, and such can bring a lot of excitement. Because they all might be a little more excited than usual, it is best to keep kids and dogs separated as much as possible. No matter how much your dog enjoys kids, not every kid will feel comfortable around your dog, and your dog might not appreciate the extra chaos that the holidays bring. No matter what, it is better to be safe than sorry, so just keep dogs and kids separated.

Keep a leash on your dog: When your dog is out and about in the house, it is wise to keep a light leash on them. Leashes are a great tool to help keep your dogs away from the Christmas cookies and appetizers, prevent them from jumping up on people, and it doesn’t allow them to escape when the door is left open after Aunt May is welcomed indoors.

Gates, crates, and more gates: Every dog needs some down time, so it is best to have your crate set up in a quiet room. I like to put on some relaxing music or white noise to drown out the noise of party goers and give them a bone or Kong filled with their favorite treat. If you don’t have a crate, set up a small room such as a bathroom or laundry room (make sure there is nothing that they can get into), put down their bed or towel, give them a treat and put up a gate. Make sure that they will be left alone and can have time to relax. If your dog is super stressed and needs to be around people, set up some gates so they are near the commotion, but can’t get out to get into trouble. This also ensures that kids can’t get to them.

Remember, Christmas should be a day of relaxing, sharing memories with friends and family, and letting kids revel in the magic. Pets are such an important part of our lives, so safety is key while we make special holiday memories to make.

No matter how you celebrate the season – Happy Holidays, and stay safe out there!

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Be sure to watch the FetchFind webcast – Safe Holidays are Happy Holidays – Jamie Migdal, Aracely Cordes, DVM, and I talk about how you can keep your pets and family safe during this busy and sometimes overwhelming time of year.

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

 

Winter activities, part 2: Barn Hunt

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

In part one of my Winter Activities series, I talked about agility and the great exercise it is for your dog. In part two, I am going to talk about the sport of Barn Hunt.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was not a big fan of being out in the cold for long periods of time, trying to give my dog some exercise. So I was always trying to come up with new ways to exercise my dog without freezing to death. Barn hunt is another great way to stay indoors and out of the cold.

Barn hunt, to put it simply, is a maze made out of straw bales. Within that maze are plastic tubes containing live rats and mice and the goal is for the dog to tunnel through the maze to find the live rats all in a specific amount of time.

I know what you are thinking. “Poor rats! I can’t believe they allow dogs to run after rats.” Let me specify, no rats or mice are hurt during this course. They are safely protected within the plastic containers. Barn hunt allows dogs, specifically terriers, to practice what they were bred to do, which is to find rats.

“Terrier” means “earth” in Latin. Terriers were bred to hunt vermin and even though many don’t have a need to hunt vermin these days, they still have that instinct, so a sport such as barn hunt is great for them. But terriers aren’t the only dogs that can participate. Any dog over six months in age and able to crawl through an 18-inch bale-height tall tunnel made of straw, can participate.

The reason I love barn hunt is because it gives dogs plenty of exercise. They have to run through a maze. They are using their nose, which is great for burning energy, and they are doing something that they were bred for.

There are plenty of associations around the country to join, so you can participate in classes with your dog. If you decide to compete, there are competitions all around the country as well as “fun trials.” If you are interested in competing take a look at the Barn Hunt Rule Book and website.

No matter what you decide to do, barn hunt is a great way to bond with your dog and get some exercise.

Have you tried barn hunt? What was your experience?

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

How to find a good dog trainer

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Whether you want to teach your new puppy basic commands or help a rescue dog become more comfortable in his new home, it pays to do your research before hiring a trainer. With so many options out there –  big box stores,  boot camps, boutique trainers – trying to make that decision can make your head spin!  Here are some tips to help make the process easier:

Evaluate. What kind of dog do you have? A 10 week old Lab puppy will have different needs than a 10 year old rescue Chihuahua.

Start googling. Find trainers or training companies near you and see what they have to offer. Keep in mind that in-home trainers, whether they are independent or affiliated with a company, have specific service areas and if you’re too far away you probably won’t be able to book sessions.

If you’re feeling confused by the different types of training philosophies, such as positive, balanced, clicker, etc., click here for more information.

Check the qualifications. Most reputable dog trainers will have formal education and official certification. If you see CPDT-KA after their name, you know they’ve put in the hours to become a respected professional.

Get reviews. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates, start checking the online reviews and social media outlets; you should also ask your friends for their recommendations or for references from the trainer.

Trust your gut. If you’ve done all of your homework and you just don’t like the trainer after you’ve met them, move on. If your dog shows unusual signs of stress or fear, take his word for it and find a new trainer.

Enjoy the process! Learning with your pooch is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your best pal.

Winter activities, part 1: Agility

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

Winter is going to be here for real before we know it. I don’t know about you, but I did not enjoy walking my dog, Bailey, in the freezing cold. Of course I did it, but I liked to keep it short.

She, on the other hand, could stay out in the cold all day. She loved the cold weather. Since I am not covered in fur, I had to find ways to exercise my dog without freezing to death. That is when I came across indoor sports.

In this multi-part series, I am going to discuss the magical world of indoor dog sports, which are especially great during the cold months.

I’ll begin by talking about agility. Agility is one of my favorite sports. It has really picked up enthusiasm over the years, so it is pretty easy to find a facility that offers classes in your area.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with agility, Wikipedia defines it as “a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy.” Some of the obstacles consist of the following: A-frame, weave poles, tire jump, jumps, tunnel, dog walk, seesaw, pause table, etc.

Agility is a great way to tire your dog out. It requires a lot of running and mental stimulation. You, the handler, also do some running, so it is best if you are physically able. You can either take agility classes for fun or if you get serious about it, for competition. I only participated with Bailey for fun. She wasn’t the best at it (she got distracted very easily), but she loved the treats and extra attention at the end of each course.

For those of you that decide to compete, you will have to work at it. There are rules to follow and time to keep perfecting. But competitions are a lot of fun. There is a great atmosphere and a lot of camaraderie. If you are interested in competing, take a look at the Agility Rule Book and website from the AKC.

No matter what you decide to do, agility is a great way to bond with your dog and get some exercise for both you and your four-legged companion. And it will keep you out of the cold for an evening, which is reason enough for me.

Have you tried agility? What was your experience?

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Erin with baileyErin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.