Spooktacular Scents - October 20th, 2018

The date is a day late, but that’s because I didn’t get home until late last night. Too late to start writing a note. 

Caoimhe and I competed in our first scent trial yesterday, and we came home with some nice bling :) 

I’ve said before that the bling doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t. Our dogs don’t ask to go to trials, and they don’t care about ribbons. They care about the time spent with their owners, doing something they love together. They care about your joy. This is why it is so important to that you always give your dog a win. More on that thought another time. 

The car was packed on Friday, and Saturday morning we were up and gone way before dawn. We arrived at the site for 7:30. We got a good parking spot where we could easily crate out of the car, and I had time to check out the grounds before General Briefing. Our first class was scheduled to start for 10. 

We began with Buildings and ended with Speed. It was a “Spooktacular Trial” and was decorated accordingly. Caoimhe found the decorations to be interesting, and a bit nervy at times, but she worked through it. We came away with four Qs, and two third-placings. 

Today she’s doing a lot of flopping and dropping as I make a turkey dinner at my parents’ house. She follows me everywhere, but instead of standing or sitting she’s lying down and fast asleep wherever she drops. She’s precious, and I adore her. And this was an amazing start to our competitive career. 

October 1st, 2018

I’m thinking about “C” names again… 

Pet homes have a hard time understanding a breeder’s numbers. I remember when I first started talking to breeders that I was fluxomated by their having 5+ dogs, some as many as 12! For the most part these were house dogs, and I just couldn’t imagine having that many dogs in the house. Well, jokes on me now, because those numbers are staring me in the face. 

I was sitting at a friend’s kitchen table on saturday evening, talking about our dogs and where we both want to take our programs. She also has more than the average pet home numbers, and we were talking about management, specifically of our bitches. It’s interesting for us because our bitches are all similar ages (Chaos is 5 years old, Chelsie is 18 months, and Hazel is 6 months) so we compare notes a lot. Pack dynamics are fascinating. 

I am still looking for a home for Storm, and I’m also considering a Guardian home for River. There are some other changes in the works as well, but that is for another day. 

In the meantime, Fall is here and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve got fresh straw in the backyard, and it’s finally cool enough to enjoy the outdoors again! Time to get in some camping with the puppies before winter gets here. 

September 15th, 2018

Over the last two days I’ve put through a whole lot of changes and updates on the website. If you notice any kinks, please let me know. I have more formatting to correct, and hopefully that will get done over this -what is hopefully our last- hot weekend. 

In the meantine, stay cool my friends. Keep your dogs out of the sun, and be mindful that they have enough water to drink. This is a great opportunity to try out stuffing Kongs, if you haven’t already. Give your dogs a cool treat to enjoy. 

July 16th, 2018. Some new letters

        We did it! No pictures, because I was running around like a mad woman, but Caoimhe got her Herding Instinct, AND all three Target Odours over the weekend. 

        It’s about more than letters. Caoimhe and I have been working on Performance Scenting since January. I hadn’t originally planned to go after our TOTs at K9 Sport Fest because I volunteer at a booth and it keeps me very busy, but once I got there I thought “what the heck!” and put my name on the list. Same with herding. 

        Anything you do with your dog is about the relationship and the journey. The titles, ribbons, and bling are just the fancy prizes. I had to take a step back and trust my dog; that she knew what she was doing. I couldn’t have done that in January. But there I was, giving her the cue and letting her cross the starting line away from me. I’m proud of her! Not only because of how she performed, but how she handled the weekend. We haven’t camped since last year, and it was brutally hot this year. I sometimes forget that she’s still just a puppy at 15 months old, but she works her heart out for me. 

        Now, off to get some more sleep. The heat and a summer cold have me drained, and it’s back to a full work schedule starting this afternoon. 

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More insight into the mind of a Breeder

        "One of the toughest things a breeder can go through is to have their views changed. When I was asked to raise this litter it took some convincing. I’ve known the breeding on this litter for more than fifteen years, but this is not a CKC registered litter. I’ve had to do a lot of reading and a LOT of research, and I’ve found that what I’ve been told (and spouted myself) is not actually true. The Animal Pedigree Act does not require CKC registration for purebred status, only that the animals be registered and have a permanent identifier. At the end of the day it’s what you do that counts. I am raising this litter as I raise all my litters; raw fed, Puppy Culture, etc. This is a litter bred for performance and work, but I also expect them to make excellent companions for active owners.

        That was on the bottom of my Chaos x Bowser page, back when I first posted about them. It is still something I struggle with for many reasons. I come from a family of dog breeders. My grandmother bred Pomeranians, and had purebred Boxers and Basenjis. Even though she passed on when I was young, she laid the foundations for me about the importance of temperament; that no matter how good a dog looks, if they don’t have the brain to support it, don’t do it! She started me on the journey to raw feeding, and much much more. She brought me up on stories about her litters of puppies, how they whelped, how she trained them and raised them. She was WAY before her time when it came to dog psychology; she was doing her own version of Puppy Culture back in the 60s and 70s, impressing everyone with her puppies that went home house trained and already understanding how to “ask” for things. She had absolutely nothing against a shelter dog - she volunteered and donated to the local shelter regularly - but she put value  in the known quantity of a purebred dog from a responsible respectable breeder. 

        I know it’s been more than seven months since I posted last. I’ve made some updates to the site, but I’ve been reluctant to put my thoughts to the page - so to speak. I’ve kept very quiet, for no reason other than I was afraid what people would think. All I wanted was to be able to have fun with my dogs and my litter, but the Big Brother atmosphere of Social Media made that feel impossible. I have watched long-time breeders rip people apart because they dared to raise a litter that they didn’t aprove of (and it wasn’t their dogs or their breeding!). I’ve seen people new to the breed and breeding be absolutely swarmed and verbally assaulted for asking inocent newbie questions. What kind of an environment are we trying to foster here?! 

        One of my families is quite young - early 20s - and they couldn’t get anyone to give them the time of day. Another family doesn’t have a fenced yard, but leash walks their puppy several times a day. Yet another family has no competitive plans for their puppy - oh the horror! - and that’s okay with me - though they did not get the high drive puppy in the litter because that would not have been an apropriate match. Some of my homes plan to feed kibble, and some are taking a more standard aproach to their dog’s vet care. I advertised on Kijiji, because that’s where the Public goes to look. My point is, we all have a story and a role to play in this game called Life. I decided early on what constituted a good home, and I stuck to that. I turned away a lot of people - some of which were/would have been very good homes -  and some of them got quite upset about it, but they were not the right fit for my puppies. I’ve been there several times being denied a puppy that wasn’t the right fit for my home, and I get it, it sucks. You have all these stars and dreams, but this is a living breathing being, and their breeder wants the best for them. 

        So the rest of this year is going to be different. My professional life has taken on a big change by way of fulltime work, and I’m still busy with the business. For the time being I’ve set aside the Grooming and Training sides of the business, though I do plan to offer/host a few Scent Detection workshops through the fall and winter. I’m really going back to my roots, why I got into dogs in the first place. I have a goal in mind, but it’s life changing. And that’s not just daunting, it’s terrifying. Sometime soon I will be starting a jounal of sorts to keep myself on track, and periodically I will post pieces from it. 

        So, my parting thoughts. Stay true to who you are. Don’t change for anyone, and don’t expect others to change for you. Know who you are in and of yourself. Know your value and where you build it from. Self-efficacy vs self-esteem. 

December 5th, 2017

Wow! Time to take a deep breath! The holidays are quickly aproaching, and I realized I hadn’t posted a blog post since June. I’m not sure how that happened, exactly, but it did. 

My little girl is not so little anymore. She’s eight months old, and looking so very grown up. We’ve been to handling classes, and are starting something totally new in 2018. 

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There’s a new girl in my life!

My course work was done, and I’ve walked across the stage. Whatever was I to get myself for a graduation present? 

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I think I did a good job! 

What a day! The first ever Relay-Day at Guide Canine

Important lesson to learn here; when your cousin calls you up and says “hey, do you want to go to this relay thing in a few weeks?” Make sure you have all the details! 

Our team! Joanne with Happy Feet, Linda (my cousin) with Ace, and Faith and I. We were sponsored by the company Joanne works for, so we were Team Telemode. 

The Relay-Day consisted of Barn Hunt, Rally, Cani-cross, Agility, Scent detection, and Disc. We had a blast! Here are a few pictures to show how we did. 

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I’m very thankful Linda (my cousin) didn’t choose the moment a few seconds later where I face-planted after catching my shoe on a tree root. Nothing harmed but my pride… It has motivated me to get back into canicross, which I haven’t done since I lost Cuyler. 

This girl is a crazy fool for disc. She had a blast, but her favourite part was all the leaves on the ground that she could make fly. 

I’ve never done scent detection before, but it was something I always wanted to try. After this experience, we will definitely be doing Scent this fall. I went in the arena with a plan to follow the pattern through until she alterted to a box. I wasn’t sure what that alert would look like, but I was sure I would know. I couldn’t have been more wrong… Faith walked in with me, and after we had our instructions we moved to the first box. She sniffed it, then dragged me to the back row of boxes, smelled the second one in quickly, then moved to the third box from the left (which we are in front of in the photo). Again, I had my plan, so when she sniffed the box and looked up at me I kept moving to the next box and the next box after that; there were twelve of them to get through in three minutes! A few boxes later she wasn’t even giving them a good sniff; she was bored and done and I was thinking that she hated it. I made some comment to that effect, and the person marking said that no, she had already found it and showed me. Very clearly, actually. So I thougth about it for a second. 

She had taken me to the correct box. It was the third one from the left. She looked up at me, perked her ears, and I completely missed it. Bad Mom. We ended up with a time of 1:13, but it would have been under 20 seconds if I had gotten out of my own head and listened to my dog. 

Sorry it’s blurry, but this was us in Rally. As usual, Faith enjoyed it. And she was a rockstar. 

Agility is not our sport. But we had fun, and that’s what the whole day was about. 

There’s not much more that a girl can ask for than a day with family and friends, doing the sports she loves. We were all tired when we got home, and I had a few hours of studying to do before I could call it a night, but it was well worth it. 

Comprehensive exams are in just two days, and I’m barely surfacing from the books to do anything other than see to the basic functions of life, but it was so worth it to take a day off. But, here’s to hitting the books again! 

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Ready, Set…

Do you ever feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day? That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. The end of the semester is looming, and I have two additional courses to complete on top of my regular course work. To say life is busy is an understatement, and I just can’t wait for August when everything will be done for a few weeks. 

So how are we dealing as a family? I spend a lot of time planning my essays and assignments while I hike. Faith and I have new walking partners (a lovely Shar-Pei named Happy, and her human). Tonight will be the first night we get out together. 

Some insight into the mind of a trainer...

        What’s this? Two posts in a week? Yes, I’m on a roll... But you might not feel that way for long.

        As I’m nearing the end of my program I have been reflecting on the past two years, and there’s something that is sticking with me, and the more I think about it the more I see it reflected in myself as a trainer. So here goes.

        When I was applying to the nursing program I was excited. I had spent the last few years of my career as a massage therapist, just looking for the joy; I wasn’t in to it anymore. Ask anyone who’s been self-employed for long and you will hear many times that our time is not our own. We don’t get a regular 9-5 life, even if that’s the hours that our businesses run. I love having grooming and training and selling raw, but running two businesses being self-employed was just too much. I needed some security in my life again.

        So, I was excited. My mother knew I was applying, but that was it. I hadn’t told the rest of my family, and I hadn’t told my friends; I was afraid of the “what-ifs”. A few years before I had applied to the Midwifery program at Laurentian, and hadn’t gotten in (3000 applicants for 30 spots – not surprising), and because I chose not to reapply the following year there were a few people that saw that as a drastic change in direction; It wasn’t. I’m just plotting a new course to get to the same goal.  After that experience of people being so nosey in my business (ie. well, WHY didn’t you get in? WHY aren’t you applying again!?), I decided it was none of their business until I had firm plans. Shortly after applying to the nursing program I was speaking with a family member and telling her about my plans to go back to school; she berated me, and scolded me. I’m sure she thought she was telling me “positive” things, but it was painful to hear, and I ended up leaving much earlier than planned that day.  The result of that few moments of conversation has been the dissolving of thirty years of a close relationship. I no longer trust her, and while I am civil –nice even- at family gatherings, I don’t go over to her house or seek her out any longer. I hope that we can repair the relationship, but it will take time. I’m sure she thinks she knows all about my life from what I post on Facebook, but that’s another matter for another day.

        Now, I promised you this would be about training, and it is. I talk a lot about the relationships we have with our dogs, but as an instructor I’ve never given much push to how our actions affect these relationships. Every action we take with our dogs has consequences. We get to choose how that plays out based on what our actions and reactions are. We can spend a lifetime building trust, but it only takes a single action to break that.

        We’re human; we screw up. But before you correct your dog for something they did or didn’t do, ask yourself if you’re sure they understood you. Did their physiological needs override their training (ie, if they voided in the house, or chewed something because they haven’t gotten the exercise and mental stimulation they needed)? Is cleaning up a little pee worth damaging your relationship with your dog?

        I want to see my students succeed, no matter what we’re teaching. We all try to do the best we can with the knowledge we have, and we can’t live in the past. If you’ve made mistakes –and we ALL have, - learn from them, and move on. Forgive yourself for not understanding your dog’s needs in the moment. Make a promise to them that you will better learn to listen to them, and most of all, give your dog a voice.

        We can spend a dog’s life supressing their voice, or we can spend their life learning to listen and understand that voice. I choose to teach my dog an appropriate way to ask for things, and room to show me their loves and discomforts.

        What will you choose?

© Shari Joanisse 2018