Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We speak frequently of our bond and loyal friendships with our canine companions, but there is another type of friend that is so important in our lives - that of the human variety. I call them my "dog friends", which basically translates to dog-loving friends. I have formed my deepest and longest lasting friendships with my dog buddies; those that love dogs; those that work with dogs through volunteer work or as part of their job; or those that show and/or train dogs. These friends understand my dedication to this amazing species, because they also have the same respect and love for them. I have so many wonderful memories going back the last fifteen years from spending time with my "dog friends". I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon on Monday with my dear friend Shirley. I practiced my photography skills to get a good shot of her and her canine family. Here is her picture, with Pete, Lucky, Bobbi and Red.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Noah!

My dear old boy Noah turned 15 today! The most gentlemanly of all dogs, I feel so incredibly blessed to have him in my life for this long. He has been my BFF since I got him as a puppy and has devoted his life to taking care of me. He's beginning to show his age on the outside, although he still gets a bit frisky now and then, but his heart is as big as ever. I love you Noah, you're a good boy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A free weekend!

No football games, no appointments, no meetings! A weekend at home with "nothing" to do (besides the long list of regular chores of course). I'm looking forward to getting out and tracking, doing some agility training and taking walks with the dogs.

Utility training with Noel has been going well. Scent articles have been great except for one day where she ran out and tried to retrieve every article in the pile. Thankfully that didn't last. We worked this morning on directed jumping. I started moving her more toward center position, as well as me gradually moving more toward center position on the other side. She was 100% this morning but we have a little distance left to go. We've also been working regularly on attention work during signals. This is something that I had worked hard on with Paige several year ago and it paid off in the ring, and it is something that I always tell my students. I reward attention before and in between signals as much or more than I do the signals themselves. I want watching me to be Noel's default behavior when she's nervous or unsure. Attention work is something that we work hard on in all level of our classes, especially reliable off leash. Not so much in the context of formal competition work, but just teaching the dog that looking at mom or dad is always a good thing. So by the time they get to competition level classes their attention on their handler is already distraction proofed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Companionship of Dogs

I drove to LaCrosse, WI today, to meet an old friend for lunch, and along the way realized (again) how much the companionship of dogs means to me. I took Noah, Paige and Noel along for the ride since the temperatures were mild. I never feel alone when I'm traveling with one or more of the dogs. I used to make the hour drive to LaCrosse weekly to teach dog training classes and at least one of the dogs always accompanied me. I recall one week when my minivan (aka dogmobile) was getting repaired and I had to borrow a family member's car, a particular family member that does not allow dogs in her car, so that week I made the trip without one. I remember feeling surprisingly alone on that drive, especially coming home at 10:00 at night. I feel less lonely and much safer having a dog around. I'm sure this is a pretty common phenomenon among dog lovers but sometimes it takes being without to realize how much we appreciate their companionship.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Busy Sundays

I though Sundays were supposed to be for relaxing... That never seems to happen at our house, it's usually catch up day. Noel and I had a busy Sunday together. Yesterday morning I started jogging again (trying to lose baby weight - that what I'm blaming it on anyway), and of course I need a dog to go with me. My other two dogs are 15 and 10 so Noel was the obvious choice for a running partner. I came home exhausted, she wasn't even panting. So much for wearing her out. After our run I took all the dogs for an off leash walk in the field. Was she tired yet? Nope, not really. She's a Rottweiler, a high energy one, but still, a Rottweiler. This may make it easier to understand why someone who buys a Siberian Husky or a field bred Labrador and takes it for a walk around the block every day for exercise, is having a lot of behavior trouble. High energy dogs need regular exercise, or they and their owners will go insane. Noel finished off her day running a track. Now that we're working on TDX training I've been aging her tracks between 4 and 5 hours and she's definitely having to work harder to keep the scent. I think she was actually tired by the time we finished the track. Mission accomplished.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Parade picture

Here is a picture of Jack, Paloma and Paige getting ready to start the Luther Homecoming parade last weekend, with students from the Animal Allies group. Paige was getting a butt rub (her favorite) so couldn't possibly look at the camera...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Foster homes needed

I am helping to establish an expanded foster care program for the Northeast Iowa Humane Society. Currently there are 4 people doing all the foster work, with most of that landing on three people! We desperately need volunteers to foster dogs until they find their forever homes. Please contact me at if you are able to volunteer.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Parade dogs

Saturday was the Luther College homecoming parade and although we missed it, our dogs didn't! The new Animal Allies group at Luther (which Scott is the director for) thought that they might receive more attention during the parade if they had dogs with them. Of course they were right! Paloma, Paige and jack got handed off to Luther students at the start of the parade and we picked them up after. They were all a hit but Jack got the most attention. Not surprising, everyone loves a Pug.

This weekend Scott and I attended our third herding clinic with Kent Herbel of OK, held in Spring Grove. As usual it was an intense learning experience for both the dogs and us. Paloma and Paige attended, since Noel had come in heat two weeks ago. Stock dog work is so difficult (do I sound like a broken record?). Just when I think I have something figured out it all goes to heck. But that's the name of the game and I refuse to quit. What I love about working with Kent is that he teaches the handlers and dogs to do it correctly right from the beginning. I not only learn about handling my dog but I learn about livestock at the same time. And the dogs learn to think and figure things out, rather than become obedient robots. I go home mentally exhausted everytime, but can't wait to get out and practice again!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rottweiler torture

Here is a picture of Noel in her hula costume from last weekend. A few seconds after the picture was taken she stood up, shed the hula skirt, ducked her head and got rid of the flowers and then lied down in relief.

Tracking season

Some of things I love about fall: leaves changing, a hot drink on a cool morning, walks in the woods, Halloween, fresh roasted pumpkin seeds still hot from the oven, cooking , and tracking season. Tracking with dogs is one of my favorite activities. It's absolutely amazing the abilities that dogs have to scent and tracking gives people a way to be a part of that. Yesterday Noel and I tracked for the first time in a year, since Eva was born. Well, actually that's not entirely true - we followed a 12 hour blood trail from a deer a few days before, in training for tracking wounded deer for hunters. But yesterday was our first day back at competition tracking. We are preparing for the Tracking Dog Excellent test, which is a 1/2 mile track with 7-9 turns, 4 articles of clothing to find, and between 3 and 5 hours old. The most difficult part of tracking is finding the time necessary to train for it. I laid a track through some thick rough cover, with 4 turns, 4 articles, and aged a little over an hour. She is trained to lie down when she finds an article and only did that once yesterday, the other articles I had to give her a verbal command - she paused at the articles but then wanted to keep tracking. Something for us to work on. Because of the difficult cover we got tangled up on small trees constantly, but it was good practice b/c this can easily happen during a test. She did great finding the start direction and didn't have any trouble tracking in the thick cover. There was one solid dirt area that she had a little trouble on, so that's another skill that we will need to work harder at. It was also at 5 pm in the afternoon so everything was very dry and more difficult to scent. Overall she ran a nice track and it was a good first practice back. I'm looking forward to our next opportunity to get out again. Note to self: never wear sweaters when tracking through tall thick cover - it's going to take me hours to pick all the stickers off my sweater.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halloween fun match

Last Saturday was our annual Halloween fun match. The weather was cool but nice and we had a great turnout. For the first time ever our entries were fairly evenly divided between agility, rally and obedience. High in match agility was Beth and her sheltie Chance, high in match rally was Lynn and golden retriever Rummy and high in match obedience was Kristie and sheltie Trace. After the competition we had our annual costume contest which is always hysterical. The winner this year was Wendy and her lab Franken"Thunder". Noel was dressed as a hula girl and Scott had China dressed as a bumblebee and Sula as a bride. You can view pictures of the costume contest on the Good Dog Center website ( on the Fun Photos page. I did a rally run through with Paige and a novice run through with Noel. Both did well although Noel was initially distracted by all the new dogs in "her" training building.

Today is Paige's 10th birthday. Happy Birthday Paige! Time goes too fast - it seems like only a year ago that my brother in law picked her up for me in Colorado and delivered her to Decorah when she was 11 weeks old. She marched right into the Good Dog Center building like she owned the place (maybe she knew she partially did). She has had quite a successful competition career that is nearing an end: two National High in Trials, multiple all breed and specialty High in Trials, top obedience Collie in the country for 2003 and topped off her obedience career with an invitation to the AKC National Obedience Championships in 2009. I'm so proud of Paige and everything she has accomplished. She deserves all the ribbons and awards that cover our walls and I'm grateful for everything that she gave to me. Other than a little bit of agility and rally competition, she's taking it easy these days. Just for fun I took her herding last week and she'll attend the herding clinic that we're involved in this weekend. She has earned her fun!