Category Archives: Uncategorized

Handling 360 Video

Our entry in this year’s Handling 360 video contest can be seen here. Handling 360 is an agility handling system developed by Susan Garrett, a very successful agility handler and amazing dog trainer. H360has worked very well for me and the Clever Hounds- check out the video for some fun PBGV agility action.

The Clever Hounds on Television!

Last month Maya and I had the opportunity to appear on the Dog is Family Television Show, hosted by Barb Emmett of Godfrey’s Welcome to Dogdom.  Also appearing were Cathy and Mark Blimline with their fabulous Golden Retriever, Gideon.  (a breed very near to my heart) ❤️.

The show was a nice opportunity to share information about PBGVs and positive training for dog sports.  Thanks Barb for this great experience!

 

Fall Classes at The Clever Hound LLC!

Group Classes are now offered at The Clever Hound LLC!  See class descriptions for locations. The cost for all classes is $110 for 6 weeks.  Discounts are available for multiple dogs or classes.

Wednesday Evening Indoor Classes at 501 Darby Ave, Temple, PA (formerly Muhlenberg Swim Association). All classes begin October 25

5:30 pm: Introduction to Scent Work is for dogs eight weeks and older.  We will introduce the dogs to the odors and searches that will be used in the AKC Scent Work program.  No previous training is required.   There is a $10 materials fee for an optional but highly recommended odor kit for practicing at home.

6:30 pm: Star Puppy/ Clever Dog 1 is for puppies between eight weeks and twelve months and adult dogs with no previous training.  We will introduce basic obedience cues like sit, down, come, and leash walking as well as introducing the puppies and dogs to new socialization and body awareness experience.  This class will give a great start to your dog’s training, whether he is destined to be a dog sports star or a great family companion.  Graduates under 12 months will earn the AKC Star Puppy Award.

7:30 pm: Clever Dog 2 is for graduates of Star Puppy, Clever Dog 1 or dogs with some previous training.  We will expand upon the skills introduced in earlier classes, with the goal of Graduates earning their Canine Good Citizen and Novice Trick Dog titles.

Clever Dog 3 is for graduates of Clever Dog 2 or dogs with equivalent training. We will begin to prepare dogs for formal obedience and rally competition, with the goal of Graduates earning their AKC Community Canine and Intermediate Trick Dog titles. (combined class)

Monday Afternoon Classes at Godfreys Welcome to Dogdom, 4267 New Holland Rd, Mohnton, PA beginning October 30.

4:00 pm: AKC Rally Novice is for dogs 6 months and older who can reliably sit, lie down, and walk on a loose leash.  We will focus on training the behaviors and handling skills required for AKC Rally Novice, with course work included each week.  The foundation behaviors required for Rally Advanced and Excellent will be introduced as well.

5:00 pm: Clever Dog 2 is for graduates of Star Puppy, Clever Dog 1 or dogs with some previous training.  We will expand upon the skills introduced in earlier classes, with the goal of Graduates earning their Canine Good Citizen and Novice Trick Dog titles.

Clever Dog 3 is for graduates of Clever Dog 2 or dogs with equivalent training. We will begin to prepare dogs for formal obedience and rally competition, with the goal of Graduates earning their AKC Community Canine and Intermediate Trick Dog titles. (combined class)

Outdoor Classes at The Clever Hound LLC, 769 White Oak Lane, Leesport, PA

Wednesday 4:00 pm: Progressing Your Agility Skills is for dog preparing to compete in Novice. We will focus on sequencing and solid obstacle performance to prepare teams for competition.  Class will begin on November 1.

Thursday 10:00 am: Clever Dog 4 is for graduates of Clever Dog 3 or well socialized dogs with equivalent training. This class will include field trips to dog friendly locations in the community to help students to generalize their dog’s skills. Graduates will have the goals of earning their AKC Urban Canine Good Citizen and Advanced Trick Dog titles. Class begins October 26.

The Clever Hound Tracking group meets on Wednesday morning at 9 am, weather permitting, at various locations. This is a drop-in program only. Cost is $25 per session. No previous tracking experience is needed, but please email Cleverhounddogtraining@gmail.com if you plan to attend.

Please email cleverhounddogtraining@gmail.com for more information or to sign up for classes.  Class sizes are limited so that you and your dog will receive individualized attention.  All classes are taught by Megan Esherick CPDT-KA CTDI using positive reinforcement.

If space is available, drop-in spots are permitted for most classes. Drop in spots are $25. Please email Cleverhounddogtraining@gmail.com for availability if you would like to do this.

Group classes are intended for dogs who are comfortable learning and working in the presence of other dogs.  If you feel that this would be a challenge for your dog, private lessons are always available.

If you are interested in a class but have scheduling challenges, please contact us to see if an additional class can be added for you.

 

Eukanuba Performance Games

Last weekend we attended the very first AKC Scent Work Competition, which was held in conjunction with the Eukanuba Performance Games at Roberts Centre in Wilmington, Ohio.  This is a fabulous dog show venue, with an attached hotel and restaurant along with brand new RV hookups, which were a pleasant surprise when we checked in.  This facility would be a terrific venue for a national specialty, as many events could easily be held on site.

The Performance Games, which were held for the first time, included Scent Work, Agility, FAST CAT lure coursing, dock diving, disc dog, and barn hunt.  Each activity also had a “try it” option if you wanted to introduce your dog to it to see if the sport seemed like a good fit.  We took advantage of this opportunity to let Spice and Silk try the FAST CAT, which both of them would like to do again sometime soon.

I was excited to learn that Maya had made the draw for the Scent Work trial, but also a but nervous.  We’ve been training scent work for about 3 years now, but because of the extreme difficulty in getting into NACSW trials, had only competed twice.  Maya just turned 11 and while she still makes frequent therapy dog visits, she was been mainly retired from competition for quite a while, so I also worried about her having the endurance for 5 searches daily on 4 consecutive days.  As it turns out, we were fairly well prepared and had a good success rate, qualifying on 15 out of 20 searches and earning titles in exterior, containers, and handler discrimination.  Maya’s experience in other sports and good physical condition allowed her to take the long days and chaotic environment in stride.  In fact she had her only placement of the weekend in the large Novice B class (44 dogs), with a 3.61 second container run on Sunday afternoon.  If anything, she got faster and more confident with each search.

I did find a few areas to work on/ consider.  I had only ever trained buried hides outdoors and with sand.  Mulch was used in the containers, which worked ok, but 2 of the buried searches were held indoors and Maya struggled with those.  She did well on the 2 outdoor buried searches, so I think I need to drag the buried hide containers into the house for a while and hope we don’t make too much mess.  Interiors were also a challenge for her.  We had 2 NQs were she was close to the hide and clearly in odor, but not close enough.  The odor concentration in AKC is very high compared to NACSW and I’ll admit to sometimes not refreshing my odor kit often enough- guess this was a motivation to be more careful about this.  Handler discrimination went really well for us, despite boxes that sealed pretty tightly.  This was exciting, since this was a brand new skill that Maya recently learned.  Exteriors went well for Maya all four days, but there were many peeing incidents in the grassy search areas.  One of the days we ran last on this element and all I could smell in the search area was Nature’s Miracle so I was glad that Maya could sort through that to find the birch.  This made me wonder what it will be like to trial my intact boys.  I don’t think they would pee first, but getting them to not over-mark will be tough.

As I hoped, it seems like AKC Scent Work will bring more trial opportunities.  Maya and I are looking forward to testing her skills in Advanced at Wine Country and Juno is entered in Novice a few weeks later.  Here are links to my head mount Go Pro videos from all of Maya’s searches this weekend:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

In addition to Scent Work, the hounds had a great time running agility on Saturday and Sunday. It was a lot of fun attending an event with so many opportunities to compete in different events and to see the great dogs of so many different breeds competing.  It was fun t be among the first dogs to title in AKC Scent Work.  With her “new letters”, Maya is now GCH CH TDCH Gebeba Clancy Poetic Justice VCD1 RAE OA MXP AXJ MJP T2BP TKP PCMH SEN SCN SHDN NW1 L1C RHX2 CGCA

 

Senior PBGVs

PBGVs have often been described as a long lived breed that ages gracefully.  This has certainly been my experience, having had many hounds live active lives well into their teens.  In the past, many national specialty winners in our breed have come from the veteran class and it’s been a common occurrence for the top obedience and agility PBGVs to be well over the age where they would be considered veterans as well.

In my own household, I don’t feel that this has changed at all.  I currently have two “double digit” PBGVs, 12 year old Chili who recently completed MACH6 and 10 year old Maya who is a very active therapy dog in addition to competing in scent work.  Chili’s 9 year old daughter Salsa is in her prime, running better and faster than ever in agility.  Recently, though I’ve heard comments from others in the breed about longevity and what should be expected in a PBGV’s senior years that troubled me.  I understand that a dog’s show and breeding career is likely to be concluded at a relatively young age, but the idea that a 7 or even 10 year old PBGV is a senior citizen who shouldn’t be expected to have an active life is a concerning attitude, especially for those in a position to make breeding decisions.  It was recently widely accepted a major breed event that a dog who was clearly lame should win a major award because he was a veteran, even though others in the veteran class were still sound and in excellent condition.  To (probably slightly mis-) quote Temple Grandin, “when bad becomes normal”, it doesn’t look promising for the breed going forward.  If the show ring is really an evaluation of breeding stock ( which it’s no secret that I seriously doubt), shouldn’t the veteran class be a showcase for a breed’s longevity?  For that matter, shouldn’t longevity be a factor that is given serious consideration when selecting breeding stock?

Ranting aside, here are some things that I think are worth considering to give your PBGV, or any other breed, as long and happy a life as possible:

  • First and probably most important- do things!  Your older dogs deserve to be maintained in as good physical condition as your young superstar.  This means the chance to run and exercise, not just life in a fenced yard.
  • Second and probably just as important- mental stimulation!  Walks and hikes (dare I say off lead?) allow a scent hound to sniff and explore, which is a huge source of information and excitement for them.  Dinner in a puzzle toy or hidden throughout the house is much more interesting than a bowl.  If your dog’s life and routine are exactly the same day in and day out, he doesn’t have much to look forward to or get excited about.
  • Training never ends.  There are many sports out there that are totally appropriate for older dogs, but teaching new skills or tricks around the house are just as valuable.  My older dogs are often the guinea pigs for new training ideas or techniques because I don’t have the pressure of potentially causing confusion or stress in the younger dogs who are just learning or of “breaking” a behavior right before a competition.
  • Common sense health care and lifestyle.  Not just following vaccine and parasite control advice blindly, but doing research and being honest with yourself and your vet about your dog’s lifestyle.  Feeding a really high quality food.  Minimizing exposure to substances like lawn treatments and (yes, I am going to say this) chemical styling products.

Why are you still reading?  Go take your older dog for a walk!  Take some treats and do some training while you are out.

 

 

 

Recallers Video

The most important thing to do when training any dog is to build a strong foundation, establishing a relationship, and teaching the dog how to learn.  The foundation training I use with my dogs, both my own and my clients’ dogs, comes from Susan Garrett’s Recallers Program.  Every year, there is a video contest to show when the online program opens for registration.  Here  is our video for this year.  Enjoy, feel free to share, and consider the Recallers Program if you would like to build a stronger working relationship with your dog.

Welcome Home Winston!

Every responsible breeder places puppies with the understanding that if a home doesn’t work out at any time for any reason, they can always come back.  Last week, I had an adult dog returned to me for the first time.

Winston is a young male, out of Muse’s 2015 litter with Skycastle Yuengling.  He had been placed with a family in North Carolina who had a PBGV in the past and were excited to have another.  Over the past year, Winston’s family found that having a young dog in their lives wasn’t the right fit for their family so they recently contacted me to return him.  I was sad to hear this, but so glad that they reached out to me first when they realized that it would be best for Winston to find a new home.

Last Tuesday, I picked Winston up at Philadelphia airport.  Luckily, the weather was cool enough to allow him to fly up from North Carolina safely.  Like a typical PBGV, he came out of the crate wagging and happy to see me, although he hadn’t seen me since he was 10 weeks old.  We’ve spent the last week getting reacquainted and helping him adjust to his new surroundings, which included a weekend in the RV.  Winston most likely won’t stay with us forever, but I want to get to know him well enough to ensure that we find the best possible home for him.

We’ve learned quite a bit about Winston so far:

  • He isn’t that excited by food, although he really should gain some weight.  He seems to prefer to eat in the evening rather than the morning.
  • He really doesn’t enjoy grooming.  He came needing quite a bit of work, but this is happening in 5-10 minute sessions daily to keep his stress level down.  This means he is still a bit more unkempt than I would prefer, but he’s not matted and is more comfortable.  Luckily, Winston has nice coat texture, which makes things easier.
  • He is a really good boy in a crate and to walk on leash.
  • He comes when called in the house and in the fenced yard, although he really loves to run in the yard.
  • He enjoys the company of other dogs.  We currently have girls in season, so we are doing a lot of rotating of dogs, but Winston is good with the spayed girls and likes to play with his half brother Gromit, even though they are both intact boys.  (Once Winston puts on a few pounds he will be able to be neutered).
  • He likes to beat up stuffed toys, shaking and barking them pretty roughly.
  • He likes to steal dish towels and hide them in dog beds.
  • He is reliably house trained.  I expected some marking given the raging hormones that are currently circulating in our house, but have seen none.
  • He drools some in the car, but Bonine helps.

Overall, a really sweet young PBGV who needs a bit of training.  Hopefully Winston will find the perfect place where he can reach his full potential, but I’m glad that he found his way home in the meantime.

Coming Soon to The Clever Hound LLC!

Group Classes are now offered at The Clever Hound LLC!  All classes will be held outdoors in a securely fenced area in Leesport, Pennsylvania.  The cost for all classes is $110 for 6 weeks.  Discounts are available for multiple dogs or classes.

Star Puppy is for puppies between eight weeks and twelve months.  We will introduce basic obedience cues like sit, down, come, and leash walking as well as introducing the puppies to new socialization and body awareness experience.  This class will give a great start to your puppy’s training, whether he is destined to be a dog sports star or a great family companion.  Graduates will earn the AKC Star Puppy Award.  Classes are held on Thursdays at 1 pm and 5:45 pm, beginning in July 13.

Clever Dog 1 is for dogs twelve months and older.  No previous training is needed.  We will cover behaviors such as sit, down, stay, come, and leash walking as well as some fun behaviors.  Classes are held on Wednesday at 2:30 pm beginning July 12.  Evening classes may be scheduled.

Clever Dog 2 is for graduates of Star Puppy, Clever Dog 1 or dogs with some previous training.  We will expand upon the skills introduced in earlier classes, with the goal of Graduates earning their Canine Good Citizen and Novice Trick Dog titles. Classes are held Thursday at 2:15 pm, beginning July 13. Evening classes may be scheduled.

Introduction to Dog Agility is for puppies and dogs 12 months and older with a reliable recall.  This is primarily a foundation skills class, but age appropriate introduction to equipment will be included in the later weeks.  Classes are held Tuesday at 1 pm, beginning in August 1.

Progressing Your Agility Skills is for graduates of Introduction to Dog Agility or dogs with equivalent experience. We will focus on sequencing and solid obstacle performance to prepare teams for competition. Classes are held Wednesday at 4 pm, beginning August 2.

The fabulous Chili-dog is my teaching assistant for the online tricks class.

AKC Rally Novice is for dogs 6 months and older who can reliably sit, lie down, and walk on a loose leash.  We will focus on training the behaviors and handling skills required for AKC Rally Novice, with course work included each week.  The foundation behaviors required for Rally Advanced and Excellent will be introduced as well.  Classes will be held on Wednesdays at 5:15 pm, beginning June 28.

Introduction to Scent Work is for dogs eight weeks and older.  We will introduce the dogs to the odors and searches that will be used in the AKC Scent Work program.  No previous training is required.  Classes will be held Thursdays at 7 pm, beginning June 29.

The Clever Hound Tracking group meets on Wednesday morning at 9 am, weather permitting, at various locations. This is a drop-in program only. Cost is $25 per session. No previous tracking experience is needed, but please email Cleverhounddogtraining@gmail.com if you plan to attend.

Please email cleverhounddogtraining@gmail.com for more information or to sign up for classes.  Classes sizes are limited so that you and your dog will receive individualized attention.  All classes are taught by Megan Esherick CPDT-KA CTDI using positive reinforcement.

If space is available, drop-in spots are permitted for most classes. Drop in spots are $25. Please email Cleverhounddogtraining@gmail.com for availability if you would like to do this.

Group classes are intended for dogs who are comfortable learning and working in the presence of other dogs.  If you feel that this would be a challenge for your dog, private lessons are always available.

Visit our booth at All About Dogs Day, hosted by the Berks County Kennel Club, on June 24 from 10 am to 3 pm at 836 Ruth Street, Sinking Spring, PA.  Meet The Clever Hounds, sign up for classes, ask training questions, or have your dog evaluated for AKC and Do More With Your Dog Trick titles.

Dog Sports and Hip Dysplasia

Over the years I’ve been really lucky to have dogs who have had long and mostly injury free sports careers.  Even though PBGVs aren’t built like typical agility dogs, they are a long lived breed, especially if they are in good physical condition.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been so lucky with Juno the GBGV.

From an early age, Juno displayed subtle hints that her hips were going to be problematic at some point.  These were small things that could have easily been missed or written off as training issues, like reluctance to sit by the end of an obedience class, her flat out refusal to jump sixteen inches (her “real” agility jump height) more than once in a session, or her ongoing struggle to stay in the weave poles.  Particularly since Juno isn’t the most biddable dog in the world (okay, so she’s possibly the least biddable dog I’ve ever met….), sorting this out took some detective work.  However, it was clear that her sits were okay when she wasn’t tired, she was totally willing to jump twelve inches (preferred height), and she could weave just fine for about a week after a chiropractic adjustment.  Hmmm, maybe throwing more cookies at these issues isn’t going to fix them.  (We won’t even discuss how a traditional trainer might have dealt with these challenges.)

As it turns out, Juno does have a valid reason for many of her ongoing performance issues- significant hip pain.  In some ways her lack of drive for sports may have prevented further damage, because her sense of self preservation overrides her desire to please.  This doesn’t mean that she can’t do dog sports or other activities, but it has made a big impact on her training and competition schedule.  For now, we are still working in obedience but I keep practice time short and only show one day on the weekend.  She knows the open exercises well and will retire when (if?) she completes her CDX.  Since Grands are on the list of breeds that can jump 3/4 of their shoulder height, the jumping requirement as much of a problem as the many sits required.  We aren’t doing much agility, because I don’t feel comfortable training and competing frequently with a dog who needs to see a chiropractor before every event.  Juno will probably do one last Invitational this year, but I don’t know that we will trial otherwise.  Instead she is learning nose work, which gives her a job but can easily be adapted to her physical ability.  Keeping Juno pain free is my primary goal, even if she never competes again, but having a training schedule encourages her to be more active and remain more mobile.

I want to stress that Juno is the result of a breeding of two dogs with good hips.  Her breeder did everything right- sometimes bad things happen anyway.  Hips are a polygenetic trait with some environmental influence, so hip dysplasia will probably never be completely eliminated in dogs.  That being said, Grands are not small dogs and a GBGV with poor hip structure is probably going have problems that will impact quality of life at some point.  Juno’s issues would not have been apparent at the age when most dogs are shown or bred unless she had been x-rayed.  Many Grand breeders are doing a good job of ensuring that all of their breeding stock have appropriate health clearances, including hips, but this is not happening universally.  If you are considering adding a GBGV to your life, ask about hip results for as many of the dogs in the pedigree as possible.  If the x-rays weren’t sent to OFA for some reason, digital copies should be made available on request.  X-raying hips is a routine procedure in Europe as well, so the information should be available on imported dogs and litters also.  Breeding only dogs with good hips is not a guarantee, but dogs with hip dysplasia do not belong in the gene pool if the goal is to produce sound puppies.

Even though hip dysplasia is a complicated trait, it is not impossible to make significant improvement to a gene pool.  During the ten years that I managed a service dog breeding program, we were able to make a dramatic reduction in the number of puppies released because of hips.  This was accomplished by doing PennHip x-rays on every single puppy in the program at 8 months.  Yes, doing so is very expensive.  However, the knowledge that can be gained this way is huge.  Not only can the best dogs be selected, but overall trends can be seen that might easily be missed in the typical show litter, where only the best 1-2 dogs are health tested and considered for breeding.  PennHip has a advantage over OFA scores because every dog gets a distraction index, which is a number between 0 and 1 showing how much laxity is present in the hips.  This is a more specific and objective rating system than OFA offers.

I know there are some in the GBGV world who blame Juno’s hip issues on the fact that she has had a more active lifestyle than many others of the breed.  Yes, I’ve asked more of Juno than you would ask of a show dog or couch potato pet.  But Grands weren’t bred to be couch potatoes- if you really think Juno’s life has been too physically demanding I would encourage you to spend more time watching hounds hunting.

 

 

The Role of the National Specialty

I’m writing this post in the RV at the United States Australian Shepherd Association National Specialty at Purina Farms.  Yup- the wifi in the RV area is so good that I can write a blog post, stream Netflix, pretty much do what ever I want.  Did I mention this is the best show site ever? But I digress.

This is the first time we have attended Aussie nationals in many years, but the PBGV national is on our schedule pretty much every year.  What is it that is so important about a national?  To me, first off a national specialty is a celebration of the breed and all of its qualities.  A parent club’s role in any breed is important- to protect and promote all of a breed’s qualities- type, structure, health, temperament, and working ability.  The national specialty is a chance to celebrate and support all of those qualities with health clinics; educational seminars; companion events like obedience, rally, and agility; and breed- specific performance events like hunt tests or herding trials.

Unfortunately, those events can be overlooked by some clubs, who feel that the national specialty needs only to be a dog show to promote the breed to people already in the dog show world.  Companion and performance events can be viewed as frivolous, especially in breeds that aren’t traditionally competitive in those sports.  However, being able to try out a sport like agility or rally in the supportive environment of exhibitors who really get why certain things are harder (or easier) for your dog can go a long way to attracting new people to these sports and to our breeds in general.  I found it fascinating that there were more PBGVs competing in triathlon at this years’s specialty than there were Aussies in the Most Versatile Aussie competition, despite the fact that Aussies are a much more popular breed in general.  I don’t think this could have happened without the support of the PBGVCA for offering specialty events like agility and hunt tests even when it wasn’t convenient.  Really,  if you build it, they will come………

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned conformation at all in this article.  Honestly, I think attracting anyone new to the dog show world is a hard sell.  As the “sport” of conformation has been overtaken by advertising, professional handlers, and ranking systems it’s really much more of a game for the ultra-wealthy than a legitimate means of selecting breeding stock.  Like it or not, companion and performance events are the future for purebred dogs and it makes sense for clubs to encourage participation by people interested in their breed, rather than closing doors to those who don’t want to play along with the theater that the breed ring has become.