Doggedly Obedient

By Marilyn M. Miller

  • Monday, August 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    Training the Novice exercises are entirely different than I remember when I  trained Luckee Fella and Mandi Ming for their Companion Dog titles 16 years ago. Even more changes since Baby Ming Squeezicks, CDX  (my first obedience Lhasa) trained years before that. Our trainer Ms. Hill has us  break down all exercises into  small parts and eventually work up to the complete exercise. 

    Every class begins with heeling. Short steps at first, then a halt. Hopefully the dog's attention will be on the handler  and not sniffing the  floor. Small dogs take more time keeping focused as they are so low to the ground and their noses pick up all the smells. When Blaze's nose starts to sniff the mat, I give a slight upward tug on her leash. When she looks up at me I praise her. Left and right turns are also done with just a few steps in between. Over time these steps are lengthened. Walking on tape on the floor that hold the mats together keeps me walking in a straight line. If I am walking straight  my dog should be also. We incorporate the slow, fast and normal in our class heeling exercises. Eventually an about turn is introduced. At home when we practice on the back deck I use a crack in the wood (between boards) for a straight line to  heel on.

    Ms. Hill suggested I use a long wooden spoon on my about turns to lure Blaze. I put peanut butter on the spoon and stick a piece of cheese or chicken on it and hold it under her nose when making the turn. This saves on my bending over considerably. The spoon extends the length of my arm. I also use the spoon to lure Blaze on the outside turn around the cone on the figure 8. What a  simple yet ingenious idea !

    We have worked on "set ups" in class for when we enter the ring and set up. We practice this by setting up around a cone. We have worked on heeling toward the cone and doing a left or right turn around the  cone and halt. At home I practice each direction around the cone three times. This is  also to "cue" Blaze in to which direction I will make the turn and to get her used to my footwork. This was our first step toward an off leash heel. We set up, walk a few feet to the  cone off leash, turn around the cone  and halt. Every time I have Blaze set up she gets a treat.

    Our sits and downs are improving. This  week  I  am to bring a long line to class.  Ms. Hill thinks (because she is so young) Blaze needs me on the end of a  line for security. Blaze just turned 8 months old on  July 9th. Still a baby.  At home I  can  test how  far I  can go beyond the end of the line. Blaze is doing much better with the long sits and downs. We practice this  exercise every day, preferably  when she is  tired in  the  late afternoon. We also do a little heeling every  day. All the other exercises we practice on alternate days. This week instead of my  heeling "inside" the group in class, I will join the mayhem and  heel right along with  them. At shows there may be practice areas for dogs at  all levels of competition to warm up and Blaze should get used to being in the  middle of  chaos. In all  the years of shows I entered I remember extremely few warm up  areas. Maybe this is something new since I last  showed Mandi three years ago.

    The last week Blaze and I have been working on  the "wait" command. In class we are taught to give the dog a treat and say " wait". Leave the dog (holding on to the leash). Walk a few feet, looking over your shoulder several times to  make sure she does  not move. Over time increase your distance away from the dog. Return to the dog  and treat. This exercise eventually leads up  to leaving the  dog for a recall . The dog might be able  do a great recall and front, but if she gets up when you leave her it will be a  NQ. I  will use  the long line on this  exercise in future  classes until Blaze does a reliable stay. In class we also  work on fronts. Both  straight fronts and fronts off to the  side. Blaze knows both the right and left finishes, however, only  the left finish is  practiced in class. With a left  finish  the dog does not go  around behind you facing distractions as with the right finish. We are not adding the  finish to any  fronts yet. They are being taught as separate exercises.

    I have decided that the clicker is more of a hindrance than a help. I can get out  the words "good girl" faster than I can find the button  on the clicker. I don't have enough hands to hold the leash, clicker, treats etc.

    Our second set of four classes begins tomorrow evening. We will build on what we have already learned. For example, people will replace the cones for the figure 8. The class will  take turns giving other dogs the stand  for exam. We will work more (with  longer distances) on off-leash heeling. Blaze likes the class, the trainer, and being around other dogs. She has two friends in particular in  the class:  a one year old Golden Retriever and a young King Charles Spaniel.  Blaze really  seems to enjoy learning which is  a  huge plus for both of us!

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  • Wednesday, June 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    April 21st was the last class in our group Beginner Novice series in Hampton. The trainer was going to take three weeks off before the next set of classes would begin. I did not want to wait three weeks to continue training Blaze. A friend recommended a trainer in Kittery who is giving her private lessons  with  her year old Golden Retriever. I called Ms. Hill and made a date for  a private lesson for Blaze and I. Our first lesson was on April 28th. The trainer wanted to see what Blaze could do. We began with heeling . No Heel command. just "Let's Go". With a treat held under Blaze nose I would walk a  few steps (no  more than 10 steps) at a time. Then I would stop. and when Blaze sat I would click  and treat. The  number of  steps were to be increased in small increments every time we worked on  this exercise. The command "Heel" would be added at a later date.

    We practiced the sits. down and  stands on a grooming table, which I also do at home. It saves on a lot of  bending over and an achy back. Stays were practiced on the table also. The leash is held tight up close to the  collar and the stay hand signal is used. Just a few seconds at first and slowly increase the length of  the  stay over time. With the down we practiced getting the dog's front end  down before  the rear end. This would be  necessary for the  drop - on - recall. For the recall I was instructed to call Blaze's name repeatedly. No "come" or "front" words were to be used yet. The thinking behind this is  that it is too  soon to introduce the command words to a young puppy. For the dog to come to front, I make a "V" with my feet. Hold the treat low, between my legs and have the dog come in. This was taught 30 years ago when  I was training my first obedience Lhasa, Baby MING Squeezicks, CDX.

    When we are out for a  walk, or in a training building and Blaze is  not  paying attention to  me (sniffing the floor or interested in  other dogs) I get up close behind Blaze tug on the leash, back up a few steps and call  the dog's name.

    Ms. Hill discussed using eye contact with Blaze (for attention). We could do this while relaxed sitting  on the  couch. Say the name Blaze, click  and treat when she  looks at  me. I can hold the treat off to  the  side of my face, but only click  and  treat when Blaze makes eye contact with me. Blaze thrives on praise so  I must use lots  of  it. Also I vary the treats on  different exercises and on different  days. Ms. Hill suggested giving Blaze 2 - 3  ten to  fifteen minute  practice sessions per day. Generally puppies cannot retain much if pushed to a longer time. Ms. Hill was extremely surprised that Blaze kept working for  almost the entire hour lesson. She noticed that Blaze enjoys the class and learns quickly. We had play breaks during the hour.

    On May 5th we had our second private lesson. Again we worked on the sit, down, stand and stays on the  table.This time I was to lure Blaze with a  treat while holding the leash tight near the collar. I would gently pull the leash forward and  hold Blaze back with a  hand on her  chest. I would  keep saying  the  word "stay". When she kept the position I  would  click and  treat. A slight tap on the chest along with the click would become a  release command.

    We worked on finishes next.  Blaze had the  basic idea on how to  do both  left and right finishes as we had been practicing at  home. I did need some  help with  the  Right  finish. Ms. Hill suggested I have a  treat in  each hand (plus  the leash and the clicker). This is a lot to handle and coordinate. With the dog  in the front position, I lure Blaze as far to the right as I can turn and give her the treat. When she comes around behind me into  the heel position and sits, click and give her  the  second treat. I repeat this several times. The Left finish  is much easier as it involves one hand and one treat.

    We  even started some work on scent articles. I told Ms. Hill I have no interest in doing Utility work again. My goal for Blaze is to earn a CD title  and her Canine Good Citizen title. Possibly a CDX. I think Blaze would make an excellent Therapy Dog. I  did take Lilly's old wooden dumb bell with me. Blaze did  retrieve it for me. She loves to retrieve balls  and rope toys on our back deck. We worked on holding different dumb bells to the clicker. If Blaze showed any interest in the  dumb bell (like sniffing it) then I would click  and  treat.

    Apparently  the idea of training today  is to start with  the hardest exercises (Utility) then work  your  way down  to Novice exercises. This way when it  is  time to show in  Utility the dog will not be  too old to earn the title. Her joints and body will  still  be in good enough  shape to do the jumps. Her mind will  be sharp also. When I got home from this  class I looked in the basement for  Lilly's scent articles. All my training equipment for Utility work was there. If nothing else, working with the articles will be good mental stimulation  for Blaze. She thinks it is  all a game which is a good  thing. As soon as I get home from any  class I  write  down in detail what we  learned  that day. Before any training session I look over my notes. One day we practice two or  three exercises and the next day we do  others. We try to work on every exercise at least three days a week.

    Blaze and I are having fun working together and that is what counts !

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  • Sunday, May 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    The puppy play  group that Blaze was in for  four weeks improved. The second week  she came out of her shell  and played with the other  puppies. Being the smallest puppy she got pushed around a  lot  and rolled over, but  she dove right back into the fray  for more. The two large puppies were put into a play class the next hour. The last play session was Easter Sunday morning. It was held in a basketball court so there was lots of room to  play, work on heeling and recalls.

    On March 31st Blaze and I  began a Beginner Novice 4 - week class at "My Dog's Mind" in Hampton, NH. The time is perfect for me - noon on Thursdays. I have not taken a novice class with puppies in 15 years when I began training Mandi and Luckee Fella. A lot has changed since then. The first week there were six puppies in the class, all larger than Blaze of course. Terrence Kirby is the trainer. The first thing he looked for was a training collar on the dogs. I had a snap-together collar on Blaze with  her name and phone number stitched on it which  would be allowed in the show ring. Blaze was the only puppy without  a chain collar. Mr. Kirby let it  go as she is so small. I said the chain would break her beautiful coat. Most people brought clickers which he recommended, but were not  mandatory. I never got  into clicker training. I have a couple of clickers which I  have had for 20 years and never used. I did  take one to the second class with me. I was willing to give it a try.

    The first week  we worked on eye contact, learning how to use the clicker and recalls on a 30' line. When the dog comes in to you, hold him under the collar, then click  and give the treat. Do  not lure the dog in with food. We rotated chairs so the dogs had different distractions around them every time we moved  to a different chair. Eventually each person sat in the chair facing the group. We worked on sits and downs with eye contact. I learned a good  trick for getting the dog to down and that is to squeeze gently on  the dog's back (around the shoulder blades) and at the same time pull  the leash forward. We also worked on the command "back away" so that the dog learns to give the handler some space. Blocking them with our feet seemed to work.

    On April 7th (the second class) we worked on clickers again.  Mr. Kirby said the dog can learn a lot faster by clicking. When he hears the click for performing the command correctly  he know  a treat will  follow. The click is instant praise. You can also teach the dog that a click is a release command. My clicker is in the shape of a frog that fits on my  finger. It takes some getting used to coordinate the click at the right  second. After one lesson using a  clicker I seem to be getting results with Blaze. "You're Free" or "O.K." are also good release commands and the dog knows she can take a break.

    On recalls we called our dog, threw a treat between our legs and had the dog go through. While the dog was eating the  treat we would turn around and have the dog return to us. This is preparation for  a  nice straight front. It is also to teach the dog not to be afraid of going  through  narrow spaces. We used 30' lines for recalls and if the  dog ignored us, a light tug on the leash would get their  attention. We worked on Heeling and walking on a lose leash. Two rules that were emphasized are " never follow the dog" and "never allow your dog to pull you". When the dog is not by your side you do not  have his  attention. Turn around when the dog ignores  you and click when she  is by  your side. Reward for distractions such as other dogs or treats on the floor (click and treat). I use toys at home as distractions on the floor. We also used a hand signal for "sit" while walking the dog. We walked a few steps then gave the "sit" hand signal. Then click and treat. We repeated this a few times. Any position of sit is allowed  to begin with, then later we would work on a good straight sit. I try  to get a good sit right away  as it is hard to correct a sloppy sit once it has been allowed. The hand signal we learned for  the sit while walking is more like the one used in Rally for "get back 3 steps".

    We also covered sit and down - stays, keeping our foot on the  leash to  keep the dog in position. Gradually increasing the length  of time of the stays and using the stay hand signal. As the time is lengthened, click  and give a treat, wait a few seconds, then click and treat again. Don't forget to verbally  praise your dog.

    I  am finding this class interesting and Blaze seems to enjoy it also. We are both learning and looking forward to the next two sessions.

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  • Sunday, May 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    Rally. It’s a sport that I love to watch when well done, and one I really enjoy competing in with my dogs. It is not treated with the respect it deserves by some folks in the obedience world who think it’s much too easy for correctly trained obedience dogs; but neither is it taught with respect by many instructors, and the students only know what they are shown.

    Some have forgotten that the original intention behind Rally was to collect all of the cool tricks that top trainers have used for years to teach fronts, excellent heeling skills, body awareness that helps make turns and pivots acts of beauty, and accurate command discrimination, and offer them to new trainers on a silver platter. When Rally skills are taught TO THE DOGS thoroughly, a rally run is a thing of beauty to watch, and the more traditional obedience exercises are much easier to teach because so many of the building bricks are in place. In the name of making it more fun than traditional obedience, extra cues and commands and cheerleading is allowed. But somehow, the focus in most classes is on showing handlers all of the many things that THEY could do to steer their dogs through a course, and NOT as much on actually teaching the DOGS the skills to do the various exercises WITHOUT all of the extra coaching. Eventually this became problematic. Begging, pleading and repeated efforts on every sign led to L O N G days for judges, and frankly, I saw a lot of teams NOT having fun because the dogs were so confused by all of the varied commands and signals their owners were throwing at them non-stop, and they just gave up and sniffed the ground, unless they believed the air cookie maneuvers. The changes in the regulations that stopped allowing overt luring was a good one, but one that freaked people out because they knew their dogs could not succeed without the high level of herding.

    So here is what I BEG Rally instructors to do: STOP teaching with so much focus on running courses. STOP focusing on handler tricks. TEACH HANDLERS HOW TO TEACH THEIR DOG HOW TO DO THE ACTUAL SKILLS! If the dogs are taught how to do their skills, all of the handler dances can be minimized. In my mind, folks would be better served with focus on two or three signs in a class, with individual help offered on how to teach the dogs to do the exercises well. Running a course is a lot easier if you don’t have to deal with recognizing the signs AND remembering the four things you need to do to herd or lure the dog through each sign.

    Keep the training motivational, and let folks in on the secrets to consistency, such as how to use chutes to teach dogs to do straight fronts without the two-handed swoop to guide the dogs to front. Demonstrate how the side step can be used as an attention getter as well as a rear end awareness exercise and a heel position recognition exercise. Show people how looking in the direction of their turns rather than down at their dogs will help their dogs know whether to speed up or slow down to maintain heel position. Show them how cool it is to do pivots whilst standing on a paper plate and seeing how well the dog can move around the handler when he is made aware of what his body can do. It’s a perfect opportunity to explain how clear consistent cue sets are so much less confusing to dogs than all of the arm waving, changes in posture, and changes in voice tone or actual words when one word doesn’t appear to work. (Hint: It’s not the word that isn’t working; it’s the inaccurate or non-existent association!)

    Now Rally specialist competitors, who say they have no intention of doing obedience because it’s so hard, kind of confound me, because many of them spend JUST as much time practicing and go to classes JUST as often as the most devoted regular obedience competitor. So it’s not the time investment that is the problem. But when I asked a few folks recently how they trained between classes, they told me about meeting friends and setting up courses and taking turns running the course. There was no mention of isolating the front exercises, or focusing on the turn exercises, or perfecting the pieces of the pivots. The handlers are practicing running courses, not actually training the dogs how to do the skills. So it’s up to instructors to show them how to train the dogs, and make sure the handlers understand the difference. Instructors need to make that information as much fun and as interesting and as do-able as possible so that folks will have success in short order with each skill. It’s time to remember the purpose of the sport, and respect it.

    Sometimes in some organizations the Rally instructor is the one who inherits the first wave of dogs right out of rather vaguely-taught beginning classes, and it’s the Rally instructor’s lot to help people work through the process of achieving actual command discrimination skills. Well, just as you do with your own dog, you have to do what is best for the students in front of you. It’s not fair to dumb a class down for advanced students, but it’s also not fair to throw teams into the deep end without the skills to succeed either. Consider structuring your Rally program with a more primary layer called Rally Skills, in which you focus on achieving clean command-and-response skills for the basic sit, down, stand, front and finish skills. This would be a place to talk about fronts with information about dog body awareness and front target recognition, and use the one-step fronts to work on it without so much hand steering. There’s a good chance that you will need to define heeling just a bit more exactly and help people achieve better consistency with straight-line heeling. It’s the place to teach turns as individual skills. And don’t forget to tell people that the heeling between signs IS judged! They should know how to do it correctly, and teach attention to their dogs.

    Mastery of those skills is the pre-requisite for students to move up to Rally Course Work. If there is not a time slot allowing such a division, then you can layer the classes, with the first few moments devoted to command discrimination and skill refinement work which never hurts anyone to review. Then you can set up 2 or 3 signs for the dogs who are not really ready for a whole course, but are ready to chain a few of their skills together, and spot the teams for consistent communication. Then the more experienced teams can run the longer course, with spotting for changing cues rather than requiring obedience to the original ones, or handler actions that are distracting their dogs from the actual cues and causing confusion. Less experienced trainers will learn a lot from observing the more advanced work, and that can inspire better homework so that they can move up to the longer course work faster.

    Cheerleading doesn’t make Rally, or anything else, “fun” for the dog if the dog is confused. Clarity in communication and confidence from the handler lead to ease and frequent success for the dog, and that is fun for both members of the team. The randomization of the order of appearance of skills inspires interest in the work itself, rather than just on paycheck rewards, and that is an approach that many obedience fanciers do not use enough in their training. Rally is the place for people to embrace randomization as a concept that goes beyond cookie / no cookie, or cookie vs. toy.

    Regardless of what we teach, we should all approach teaching with the intention to inspire, support and inform. We should think as though we are the only sources of information for the students in front of us, because for some of them, we are. Classes should motivate change and progress. Rally classes should constructively prepare teams to smoothly move on to regular obedience if they choose, and not create a situation where there is so much handler dependence on the herding skills that they discover that they have to retrain everything for the regular classes.

    If you are an instructor, be aware of the impressions you create about obedience when you speak. Try not to teach people to dislike what you might consider the stringent rules of regular obedience before they have discovered what their dogs are truly capable of doing. Regular obedience is NOT harder than correctly taught Rally; it’s just quieter, and requires that the dogs know their jobs without quite so much handler input DURING an exercise. Try to avoid making disparaging comments about “those OTCh people”. Remember that a lot of dog trainers are introverts, and they gravitate to their familiar friends; but most of them will respond to a smile and a “good morning” from a new face, and that’s the first step to building familiarity. Remember that experienced obedience trainers know that an exhibitor who has a rough day MIGHT appreciate help, but just as likely might not welcome unsolicited criticism or advice from complete strangers, so experienced trainers mind their own business. It isn’t that they are unwilling to help IF ASKED. Teach your students some trial etiquette, such as not allowing their boisterous dogs to wander to the end of the leash and push their faces into crates or other dogs’ faces like they might do at a dog park. Teach people about where to find the rules and regulations, and discuss those sometimes. Teach them about the value of crates at trials. My hope is that new trainers will see Rally as the first stepping stone in an obedience career rather than a separate sport. But first impressions are lasting, so the responsibility for that attitude lies on the shoulders of the instructor.

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  • Friday, April 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    Teaching a new puppy the world around them is like taking baby steps. One step at a time. A step can be a huge accomplishment. For instance, Blaze was afraid of our back door  and did not want to come up the ramp into the house. After a few days of having to be carried inside, she walked in the back door without thinking about it. The same goes for walking in and out of the scarey garage. We are trying to make the vet's office a less frightening place by making short visits to have the office staff fuss over her. Now we just have to get over the motion sickness she has in the car. Our vet suggested an over the counter medication today to give Blaze 2 hours before the next car ride. Hopefully this will help and she will out grow this problem.

     Glenn gave Blaze her first bath a couple of weeks ago and I dried her under our professional groomer's hair dryer. She was pretty good dealing with both for the first time, but soon after just crashed for four hours. I checked on her once to make sure she was still breathing. Very stressful for this little girl !

     Blaze and I are practicing walking on a leash without tripping me up. She likes to walk back and forth in front of me or in between my legs.

     Playing "keep - away" on our enclosed back deck got very tiresome for me, especially when it was 10 degrees and I was out there with her at 5 am in my nightie freezing, making a stab at house training. She is very fast and extremely hard to catch. Blaze thought this was great fun. We tried snaring her with a large beach towel, but she caught on to that quick. Glenn finally cut an old puppy leash in half and every time she goes on the deck we attach the leash to her harness. When we want her to come in we just step on the leash. That problem was solved.

     I thought it would be a good idea to sign her up for a "puppy play group" since she has no dogs her age to play with. The Piscataqua Obedience Club in Kittery, Maine had a play group beginning the first Sunday morning in March for 4 weeks so we signed up for that. I had never entered any dog before in a puppy play group. The idea was to get Blaze used to other dogs before I enter her in any obedience classes. We attended our first session last Sunday. There were 6 puppies in the class. Of course, my Lhasa was the smallest puppy. Two of them were enormous compared to the other four and had no business being in the class. The trainer realized this and put the two large puppies in a class one hour later each Sunday beginning next week. The class was a free for all. Blaze was very frightened. I was not happy seeing her rolled and stepped on or having her hair yanked and the teacher knew it. Either I or the owners pulled the bullies off Blaze. The one thing the class was good for was the socialization with the adults. Blaze went up to each person (or hid behind them) and wanted to be petted. If someone picked her up Blaze gave them kisses. Everyone there handled her and she loved it. The last 15 minutes of the class, the trainer had us sit with our puppies and calm them down. We also did a lot of handling of the ears and feet. Those who wanted to put fingers in a mouth with puppy teeth did so. I will wait until the adult teeth come in. Next Sunday I will need to take a squeaky toy and more treats for Blaze.

     I will give the class one more try next Sunday. If I think it is be too rough for Blaze and may traumatize her, that will be it. I don't want her scared for life or for future classes. Maybe she will just have to mature a lot more before we attempt anything else. She is only 4 months old after all. Some dogs can handle the training this early and some cannot.

     My exercise coach asked me why I signed up for the puppy play class ? I had never taken a dog to one before in the 30 years I have been training my Lhasas. I thought about the question and could not come up with an answer. My coach answered for me. It is because I never had just one puppy before. I started with two Lhasas, then had the litter of three, then the litter of seven. All the dogs always had at least one other puppy their age to play with. This time is the first time my puppy does not have a playmate. Luckee, at age 15+ is not interested in having Blaze in his face.

     I don't know why these dogs were not divided into separate classes before the first one began. The breed type of your dog was asked for on the registration form. I wish I had known to ask before I signed up. Live and learn. I just hate to do it at the expense of my puppy.

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  • Tuesday, March 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    Our news paper is not delivered on Saturdays, so some weeks I buy a Boston Herald for Glenn. In the Jan. 2ed paper there was an add for 2 dog breeds. One was for Cane Corso puppies and the other was for 2 female Lhasa Apso puppies. Glenn showed me the add which surprised me as we had decided not to look for a puppy at this time. He just left the add out the next day when he went to a gun range with a neighbor. Of course he knew I would call the number which was in Quincy, Mass.

     The Breeder, Andus, and I had a long conversation. He had been breeding Lhasas for thirty years. I told him we had done some breeding ourselves and had owned the breed for almost as long. Also that I had earned many Obedience and Rally titles on my Lhasas. He agreed to let us have one of the females. I could choose between the "laid-back" snuggler or the extremely active litter mate. We chose the active puppy in case I want to train her for obedience competition. Andus called me three times every day that week. I was getting nervous because I felt that he was torn about selling her. We agreed to meet on January 9th at the Square 1 Mall in Saugus, Mass. in the kitchen department of the Sears store. Andus had a blue tote bag with him and out came the most adorable little puppy. She is grizzle in color with a dark face but should lighten up. She also has a "blaze" of white hair across her shoulders. The puppy was two months old. Andus gave me papers from his vet on the puppy's check up. Also information on what he had been feeding her her, how much she weighed (4.2 lbs.) and when to take her to our vet. He was adament that she not be given any shots until she was at least 5 lbs.

     We tucked the puppy in the Sherpa bag and headed for home. Andus had warned us that she liked to play in her water bowl and knock it over. That would be fine outside in the Summer, but not in the house on a hardwood floor. The first thing Glenn did when we got home was put her in the exercise pen he had set up in our living area and trained her to use the rabbit bottle he had attatched to the pen. Within five minutes she was drinking out of the bottle. Andus had told us she was a very smart little dog. Her presence took Luckee by surprise! He kept his distance, not wanting anything to do with the intruder in his home. He would not even set foot into her half of the living room for the first couple of weeks.

     Choosing a name took us awhile. We had to get just the right one. We decided on BLAZE, as it represents both the blaze of white across her shoulders and her very vivacious personality . It is also a good call name. Six days after bringing Blaze home she weighed 5.6 lbs. and was able to have her first set of shots. Everyone who worked for the vet came out to meet and fuss over her. I want her to be handled by as many different people as possible. The technician cut her toe nails and said how good Blaze  was for the first time. We had been feeling her toes and pads a lot to get her used to it.

     Blaze is good at entertaining herself. She loves to race around our large back deck (which is enclosed by exercise pens). She has balls and rope toys out there to play with. In the house she plays with toys, old socks, nylabones, and newspaper in her ex pen. She also loves chewing on the metal gates.We have gotten her used to wearing a harness and having a leash attatched to it. She needs to be larger before she wears a collar. Her neck needs to be stronger. We are trying to socialize her as much as possible. We have had many people come over to see Blaze and play with her. Both men and women. Everyone who has come to meet her has brought a gift: either puppy treats, a new leash, or some kind of toy. Well, she is a new baby.

     One day this week I took Blaze to meet my exercise instructor and the two owners of the studio. Eric had bought a toy for Blaze and the three adults got down on the floor and played with the puppy for a half hour. She loves all the attention. The next day she went to our hair dresser and Jessica was on the floor with Blaze also. A couple of other people having their hair done wanted to pet Blaze. The one thing we need to work on is riding in a car. The couple of times she has been in the crate in the back of my wagon she has cried.

     Luckee is interested in her. We do not let them physically get together as she is way too busy and too little to be in his face. After all Luckee is 15 and a half years old. I don't want him tormented. However, he gets closer to me all the time when Blaze is on the couch with me. He checks out her pen when she is not in it. This is good as it gives Luckee something to think about. He also knows he is not the only dog in the house when Glenn and I are out at the same time. Hopefully when Blaze matures a little she and Luckee will become good friends. It is all about baby steps. Five weeks ago I would never have dreamed I would have a puppy. Sometimes good things just happen.

    To view more articles please visit our Members Page!

  • Monday, February 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    The Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) was established on Feb. 13, 1935 during a meeting at the Westminster Kennel Club in New York City. The club began with eight dues-paying members. Sports writers, journalists, and other writers who covered dog shows for the sports pages of newspapers were included. There are now close to seven hundred members. One mission of this organization is to encourage quality writing about different dog events and the benefits of the companionship of dogs.

     Members write about all aspects of the dog world. These include: training, showing, health issues, behavior, performance events, and the animal-human bond. In addition to journalists, photographers, artists, mystery and fiction writers are now eligible to become members. Also veterinarians, poets, and historians. David Frei has been a member for years and always appears on the televised Westminster Kennel Club  Dog Show as a commentator. Other professional interests members enjoy are social networking, videography, website production and blogging.

     I have been a member of DWAA since 1992. When I applied for membership I had to submit three articles that had been published in three different publications in the same month. I sent one article from "Dog World" magazine, one from the "Winthrop Sun Transcript" (for which I wrote my weekly "Dog Gone It!" column for twenty years) and one from "Front and Finish".

     For several years I attended the WKC show as a member of the working press. I had my official press card, press badge, access to the press box at the show and free entry to the press room and hospitality suites where judges, handlers, owners of the champions, and  dog writers could socialize. The hospitality suites were also where new friendships were made.

     The last three years I was asked to be one of the judges for the annual writing competition. Three judges evaluate each category. There were 48 categories this year and many hundreds of entries. Non-members may enter also. I have been able to choose the categories I want to judge in the past which are obedience work, Therapy Dogs, and Rally. This year I was assigned to judge Reference Books. I had six books to read. It was interesting for a change of pace. Some of the categories included: Rescue, Dog Art, Behavior and Training, Health or General care, and Newspaper and Magazine articles and columns. Any dog-related article may be submitted. Other items which are judged include humor, poetry, short fiction, video, radio or tv broadcasts. Club publications, article, club special publications and books. The list goes on and on.

     There are also "Special Awards" with cash grants given. A few of these are: the AKC Club publication Excellent Award, AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Public Service Award, "Angel On A Leash"  Award for a Therapy Dog article, the Designated Dog Award (Service Dogs), and the Captain Haggarty Award for the Best Training Book or article, etc.A banquet is held every year in NYC where the coveted Maxwell Awards are given out to the winning writers and publications.

     The Maxwell Award is named after Maxwell Riddle, former president of the DWAA who helped found the organization in 1935. The DWAA Banquet is held every year the Sunday before the WKC Dog Show (the day before). This year the banquet will be a day long event (for the first time). A new seminar will be included along with a banquet lunch instead of the usual dinner. This will be held at the Hotel Pennsylvania, directly across the street from Madison Square Garden. Some of the sponsors for the dinner and awards include: AKC Star Puppy, Angel on a Leash, Planet Dog Foundation, Designated Dog, Canine Good Citizen, Purina Pro Plan, Dog Wise, Merial, North Shore Animal League and Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

     Unfortunately I will not be attending the Banquet or the WKC Dog Show this year, but it is an honor for me to be a member of this organization whose entire membership focuses on the same interest as I do - DOGS !

    To view more articles please visit our Members Page!

  • Friday, January 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    Therapy Dogs were first used in mental health facilities in the 1700's. The American Red Cross used them in convalescent care after World War Two. The idea really took off in the 1900's.

     My Lhasas and I have been doing Therapy Dog  (TD) work for thirty years. I first read about this in either "Dog World" or the AKC "Gazette" magazine. My first thought was that Ming CDX would make a great Therapy Dog. Ming and Pong began visiting the Bay View Nursing Home (in the late 1980's) in Winthrop, Mass. where we lived. Both dogs had basic obedience training and Ming had his CD at the time. We visited Bay View once a week. Once inside I let the dogs off leash and they ran right to Pauline's room, their favorite patient. Pauline always had treats for "her babies". She depended on our visits so much that Glenn and I felt guilty when we went on vacation and missed a visit. Her world revolved around seeing the "boys".

     Ming put on shows at my Mother's retirement center in Connecticut where he performed his CDX exercises. Ming's performance was billed "Watch Ming do his Thing"!

     The Canine Good Citizen title is a good stepping stone to becoming a Therapy Dog. There are also courses to take to become a Therapy Dog, but they are difficult to find. However, the CGC courses are given regularly. Dillon, RE and I took the 6 - week CGC course in Kittery, Maine and passed the test and earned the title at "It's a Dog's World" in York, Maine. The steps a dog must pass to earn the CGC title are:

    Sitting politely for petting                 

    Good Appearance and Grooming

    Walking nicely on a loose leash       

    Walking through a crowd

    Sit and Down on command and Staying in place.

    Coming when called                          

    Reaction to another dog

    Reaction to a distraction (such as a loud noise)

    Supervised Separation away from the owner.

     The two organizations I have had my Lhasas registered with were: Therapy Dogs Int'l in Mass. and Therapy Dogs Inc. in N.H. This test must be conducted by a certified evaluator. Jet, CD, RE and Lilly, UD passed the test under AKC Utility judge Sally Alexander in Mass. Jet was the best TD I have had. He lived for his visits to see his "friends". He shook with happy anticipation of his visits. Jet and I visited the Don Orient Home in East Boston and the Haven Health Care Center in Hampton, NH. Different institutions have different requirements for allowing dogs to visit. Some facilities are quite lax in their requirements and others make you jump through hoops to be accepted:  Such as what training classes you have attended, what titles you have earned, references from different trainers and class mates, etc.  Also proof of the Rabies vaccine and yearly physical. There is no Tester/Evaluator near us in NH, so all the paperwork had to be filled out for Jet and Luckee Fella, CD, RAE. I also had a booklet to read on TDI and a take home test to fill out on that material. All of this information had to be typed and a check for $20.00 included. Additional dogs are $10.00 more per dog. A certain number of visits per year are required to keep the certification current. Luckee Fella and I visited for several years. The residents loved to see our obedience exercises.

     Today Therapy Dogs include Hearing Dogs, Guide Dogs, Mobility Dogs, Psychiatric Service Dogs, Alert/Response Dogs, and Autism Dogs.  "Soldiers Best Friend" provides US military veterans suffering from combat - related PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury with a Service or Therapeutic Companion Dog. Most of these dogs are rescues from local shelters. The Veteran and dog train as a team to develop a trusting bond.

     The little Tibetan Spaniel, " Bailey," started our friends Gene and Georgette on their " Therapy" career. Bailey had no titles or  AKC ribbons but the joy he brought to his friends was unmeasurable. When Bailey passed away last May he received his "Wall of Fame" plaque from an elementary school where he helped first graders in reading programs for seven years. Bailey was the first dog to receive this honor. There was also a grand tribute for Bailey led by the principal of the large school.

     The Therapy Dogs and their handlers are much appreciated and it is a rewarding experience for the team. If you have not yet tried Therpay Dog work, maybe now is the time.

    To view more articles please visit our Members Page!

  • Tuesday, December 01, 2015 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    I recently asked friends, Stacey and Frank, how they became interested in hunting and how they chose Brittany Spaniels as their hunting companions. Frank was a hunter first and when the couple married and moved to Maine Stacey became interested in bird hunting. They began on their own, without dogs which proved difficult. After speaking to a game warden at the Fryeburg Fair, they decided on Brittany Spaniels. Brittanys usually weigh between thirty and forty pounds which makes them easy to transport. They have a good temperment which was needed for their two small children. They make nice family dogs. This breed needs daily exercise to prevent boredom and destructiveness. Apartment living is not recommended for them.

     The names of the couple's two Brittanys are "Cooper" and "Abby". They primarily hunt Grouse and Woodcock and occasionally released Pheasants. The dogs are trained with Quail or Chuckar which are raised and not native to Maine. Stacey and Frank hunt different types of cover. Woodcock is usually hunted in wet areas along rivers or streams. Woodcock follow water sources as they migrate which occurs in October through early November. The hunting season in Maine is October 1 - November 14. The Grouse season is October 1 - December 31. Grouse, otherwise known as Partridge, do not migrate.

    Training the dogs to hunt on their own proved difficult and a trainer was needed. Their breeder worked with them, however, after a short while they realized Obedience training was necessary before seriously starting work with birds, A reliable recall, heel command, and "whoa" commands were a must. The recall command is especially necessary for the safety of the dog. If a bird flies across the road, your dog must come when called to avoid disaster. The heel command is necessary to keep control of the dog when walking to and from the field. The "whoa" command is used when you want the dog to stay still when he is on point. A true test of this command is when the dog scents a bird, as their natural instinct is to stalk then pounce and flush the bird. The whoa command tells them to stop. They must learn they are working for you and the gun. The dog must not move when the bird is flying but "stay steady to wing". They must also "stay steady to shot" which means stay still until the bird is shot and on the ground. When this happens the dog is allowed to retrieve the bird which is their reward.

    Brittany's have a soft mouth which is necessary to retrieve an intact bird. There are training methods to correct a hard mouth if needed.Getting the dogs used to the sound of gun fire is another part of their training. Stacey and Frank began with a .22 starter pistol. They shot away from the dog, then evaluated the dog's response. The dogs are fed and praised while the shooting is going on. This associates the noise of the guns with good things. Once this is accomplished the .22 blank starter pistol is introduced with birds.

    It took a couple of years to train "Cooper" and "Abby" to be good gun dogs. Much patience, work and consistency were involved. Stacey was training the dogs in AKC obedience at the same time. Luckee and I were showing in the Rally ring in Acton, Maine several years ago and Stacey and Cooper were showing in the Open ring. Stacey and Frank worked with the group NAVHDA (North American Versitile Hunting Dog Association). They learned different training techniques from other members of the group which met one to two times a week. The dogs were also tested in the NAVHDA Natural Ability Test. This evaluates the dog for it's natural hunting ability. The test involves finding and pointing birds, water retrieves, tracking a Pheasant and obedience work. Cooper and Abby were tested in AKC hunt tests and earned their Junior Hunter titles.

    This proves that basic obedience skills are the foundation of any other canine sport, whether it be gun dog training, Rally, Agility or Flyball.

    To view more articles please visit our Members Page!

  • Sunday, November 01, 2015 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Marilyn Miller

    When I rescued Moonpye's Matt Dillon over 12 years ago I was able to get his pedigree. One name jumped out at me and that was "CH Light Up Red's Alert" the #1 producer of Lhasa Apso Champions. Dillon was four months when he came home with me. He had missed his important socialization period.

    Dillon was the only Lhasa we have had that liked water. As a puppy he splashed around in the large water dish. Then he graduated to a child's pool in the backyard. He never minded a bath. His favorite toy (for 12 years)  were two tennis balls on a rope. Dillon had a very stubborn streak as some Lhasas do. On occasion I would call him to come in and he would stand several feet away and stare at me. He would not come for the word "cookie" but when I called "brush - comb" he came flying in the house. Of course, then I had to brush him as it is never nice to lie to a "puppy".

    Dillon loved his morning walks. He would let me know which direction he wanted to go. Either "down your street" or "around the circle" ? He would lead me in either direction. He liked to share bananas with me, lick the inside of a tuna can, and he was a great couch snuggler. He was very good at playing "hide the cookie" and the "find it" game. He would give me his paw when I asked for it. He could not wait for me to go to bed so he and Glenn could play with his toys. That was a special time for them both.

    Dillon earned his CGC title at a young age and Rally Excellent title on Sept. 26' 11. He was always good with the other dogs in his classes.

    Dillon died Sept. 27' 11. Two days before he refused his food and his walk. The vet's xray and ultra sound showed a massive tumor on his spleen which was leaking blood into his stomach. Our vet said "if we chose surgery (and Dillon survived) he would only live another 3-6 months at most."

    Now Moonpye's Luckee Fella, CD, CGC, Th'd, RAE (the first Lhasa to earn the RAE title) is the only Lhasa left in the house. Luckee is 15 years and has never been the only dog. He has never been home alone before when Glenn and I are both out.

    Dillon and Luckee got along great for nine years, then something happened. We don't know what and there after they had to be separated at all times. Even though they did not get along, Luckee knew there was another dog present in the house. We give Luckee as much extra attention as we can. He also has more freedom to roam the house. Luckee spends a lot of time in Dillon's house (crate) which he could do when Dillon was on the couch with me. The gates are down and Luckee now has freedom of the kitchen and family room at night. Glenn put a special nite light in for him and he has two "houses" to choose from, or he can just sleep on the floor. He has access to water and a snuggly bed in there also. Luckee spends more time with me in my computer room. He gets treats there and knows he has my undevided attention. He seems happier and sleeps longer in the mornings.

    Luckee no longer cares for walks, so to make sure he gets enough exercise, I walk him around our large backyard, using a cookie as a lure. I don't want his legs to stiffen up. I also do some obedience and rally exercises with him on our back deck. He likes that a lot.

    Glenn mentioned getting a female to keep Luckee company and take his mind off being the only dog in the house. When we moved to NH seven years ago we had seven Lhasas. Luckee lost his litter mate, Moonpye's Mandi Ming, CD, CGC, RAE (the 3rd Lhasa to earn the RAE title) last December.

    After thinking about getting another dog I decided against it. I want Luckee to have all my attention for the first time in 15 years. He achieved everything I wanted him to do and that is the least I can do for him. The answer to the question is : "There will be no other dogs at this time".

    To view more articles please visit our Members Page!

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