BetCo Jan/Feb 2018 Newsletter
!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018 !!!

Hello ,

Important news and reads in this issue:

1) South-Central Alaska Dog Lice Epidemic

2) Class Openings to Fulfill Your New Year Resolution

3) Monthly Training Tip: Suggestions for Loose Leash Walking with Your Dog

Don't we all wish to spend more time with our dogs? One New Year Resolution could be just that!

Maybe you can cut down on social media time and just take 10 extra minutes daily to play with your dog? Teach your dog a trick or refine the obedience - it's all fun and tricks for our dogs! YouTube is full with so-called "Rainy day games" and instructions on how to teach specific tricks. We have our next Trick Dog Class already scheduled for April 2018!

Maybe signing up for a class gives you the extra push needed to get out and spend quality time with your dog? Besides improving your dog's manners in the CLASS course, Grade School or Junior High, we're also starting sports classes again like K9 Nose Work® and Agility.

Maybe you would like to walk your dog more often, but the pulling makes it no fun and walks have become that dreadful chore instead of an enjoyment? Read our monthly feature below for some tips to bring the fun back into walking your dog!

Monthly feature at the end of this newsletter:
Suggestions for Loose Leash Walking with Your Dog

All clickable links in this newsletter are in PURPLE.

Enjoy life with your better companion,


Here is my dog Luce, leash-walking with me through the woods, with a lot of dead-fall. She had to pay close attention to go around, over and under trees with me, so that the leash wouldn't get tangled. This walk was so tiring for her (mentally more than physically), she even rested once during the 1 hour walk!
1) South-Central Alaska Dog Lice Epidemic

It appears that veterinary clinics in South-Central Alaska have seen a steep incline in cases of lice in dogs lately. Our facility has not been hit in a manner of lice being present in a high percentage of dogs, but we have heard of occasional cases, one last July, one in September and one more recent. Even though all owners have been diligent in not bringing their dogs to our facility as soon as they knew the cause of the itch, we feel it necessary to inform you about this epidemic. BTW, lice are species-specific and will not transfer to humans.

We want to avoid spreading these parasites in our facility, especially where dogs are in close contact like during our daycare, play times and the classes where puppies play with each other. Even though we don't feel it's necessary or warranted to require a prophylactic spot-on treatment, we'd like you all to keep a very close eye on your dogs and watch for any signs of lice.

The most significant but not always obvious signs are the lice themselves and their nits. Chewing lice will move around a bit, but can't jump like fleas. You sometimes see them as you comb through your dog's hair against the grain. Sucking lice are more stationary like tiny ticks, because they embed themselves into the skin to get to the blood. You might be able to feel them as you weave through your dog's coat all the way down to the skin. The nits are glued to the hair, white and look like dandruff. The difference is that you can wipe or shake the dandruff off the hair, and the nit will stay glued on and is almost impossible to remove from the hair shaft.

Other clinical signs are:

  • Scratching and itchiness
  • Rough, dry, or matted coat
  • Hair loss, specifically around ears, neck, shoulders, groin, and rectal regions
  • Small wounds or infections from bites by sucking lice

Heavy infestation can even lead to anemia, and occasionally lice can be carriers of other diseases.

In a multi-dog household, it's possible that one dog is heavily infested and scratching, while other dogs don't show any symptoms. Don't let this fact fool you! We recommend to treat every dog in the household, even if only one of them shows symptoms.

If you or your veterinarian do find lice on your dog, please contact us and let us know when and where your dog was in contact with other dogs at our facility. Is your dog a daycare or play time participant? Which class(es) has your dog attended recently? How likely did your dog contract the lice at our facility, or at another place where your dog interacts with other dogs? We'd like to inform the owners of the other dogs in these groups specifically via email about this (their dogs could have been the ones that unknowingly brought the lice upon your dog or gotten infected from your dog).

Your veterinarian will be able to tell you when it's safe to return to class or play times. Our main concern is that it's not contagious anymore. Participation in a class without direct contact of the dogs might be possible much earlier than returning to daycare or play times. If your dog participates in a class that includes play times (Puppy 1 and Puppy 2 only), your dog could maybe already return to class earlier and just not participate in the play times yet.

I'm getting itchy just writing this! :-)

And now go and give your dog an extra scratch, with your eyes peeled for any signs of lice!

2) Class Openings to Fulfill Your New Year Resolution

Classes that start every month:

Puppy 1 - Preschool, Puppy 2 - Kindergarten, Foundation Class, Grade School;
Click HERE for the full schedule.

January classes:

K9 Nose Work® - Beginners starts Sunday, January 7 and has a few openings! Already a Beginner graduate? Then join K9 Nose Work® - Intro to Odor! Even if your Beginner graduation was quite a while ago, if your dog was ready to advance back then, s/he still is!

CLASS-BA - course starts Wednesday, January 10. C.L.A.S.S. stands for Canine Life And Social Skills, a program offered by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. The focus is on applying dog obedience to real-life situations, de-cluttering our cues to the dogs and reducing treats as a reward and replacing them greatly through praise.

Agility classes of all levels start Saturday, January 13. As we're trying to be as flexible as possible to accommodate everybody, we might double up a class or combine classes instead of canceling them. This could impact the times of other agility classes before and after. The earlier we know that you want to join us, the better!

February classes and events:

A CGC® -Test is offered on February 1, at 6 PM. This event has been created especially for our CGC-Prep class graduates, but also for anybody else who'd like to test their dog's obedience in public through this program offered by the AKC (American Kennel Club). You and your dog will go through a series of 10 test items, e,g, loose leash walking, visit by a stranger, stay, come and calmly walking passed another dog. There are no treats and no anti-pull devices allowed during the test.

Rally Practices are back on Thursdays, starting February 15!!! We finally found a pretty secure spot to offer Rally Practices for our Rally College graduates and anybody who's already trialing in Rally. The instructor (with the help of the students it'll be faster) will set up a course challenge, then after walking the course together the students will take turns to run the course with their dogs. Dogs will wait for their turn either in the car, the waiting area or in a crate that can be set up either in the waiting area or maybe even inside the arena, depending on space available

Treibball Intermediate class starts also on Thursday, February 15, right after Rally Practice. If you have attended our earlier Treibball Beginner class (recently or a while ago) or if you have already attended a Treibball Intermediate class, you're welcome to join us!

Preview for April and beyond:

Trick Dog Beginners in April
CGC-Prep School in May

Here's what one of our clients had to say after taking the Treibball class:
"[The greatest benefit was] ... "

Read more testimonies HERE!
3) Monthly Training Tip:

Suggestions for Loose Leash Walking with Your Dog

I want to give you a collection of brief tips and ideas, not a long protocol on how to teach loose leash walking. I'm sure this list isn't complete, as there are many ways to end with a slack leash between you and your dog. These suggestions are not in any particular order. Pick the ones that could work for you!

You'll also find little applications of these tips, especially as I'm now in the same boat with a lot of you, having Luce, a young Husky-Border Collie mix, in my household. All suggestions given here have been tested by me first! :-)

- Consistency is the key: even if you mix different methods and suggestions, it's important to stay consistent with the one rule of "if you pull, you will not get there"

- Use different gadgets for different occasions: regular collar when you really can take the time to be consistent and work with your dog; anti-pull devices like a head halter or front clip harness to make it easier to be consistent; a pull harness for when you don't care if the dog pulls or don't want to train while your dog is on leash.

I use a Gentle Leader® head halter when I want to get faster from A to B but still have enough time to stop if my dog leans into the leash, a collar if I know it's only for a short distance AND I'll take my time to stay consistent; and I have a Buggy Harness for times when I want to just walk with friends and don't want to have to stop when she pulls. The Buggy Harness (pull harness) also works for handing the leash to somebody else who doesn't care about dog training but wants to walk my dog.

- Connection - Dog: if your dog is mentally connected with you, it's almost natural not to pull. A pulling dog is usually disconnected from the handler, so get the connection back and the pulling will diminish.

If I feel the connection to Luce is gone, I wait for her to look at me before she can walk on. I might only get one step at a time that way, but it pays off in the long run. Now she often keeps at least an ear with me while at the end of the leash, and sometimes the leash doesn't get tight for 50 feet in one stretch.

- Connection - Handler: as much as the dog should stay connected with you, you also need to stay connected with your dog. Observe your dog, adore your dog and be mentally with your dog. Don't answer your phone and don't chat/text while you're in training with your dog. You can only expect from the dog what you can expect from yourself, too.

- Play: Stop and interact with your dog, ask for little tricks like Sit or Shake, pet your dog, play tug with a tug toy (not the leash) or hide treats along the side and encourage your dog to find them.

Here is what one of our clients had to say about that:
"When I first got her (only a year ago), when we went for walks she just walked briskly and never stopped to sniff at stuff like other dogs, but since we've started nose work [K9 Nose Work - offered here at our facility] she is really enjoying all the smells when we walk. I love that."

- Training opportunities: The harder your dog pulls, the higher is his/her motivation to get there! Use that motivation as a reward, and here is your greatest training opportunity. No treats needed; the forward motion will be the reward. One of the best examples is when you come to our training facility and your dog wants to get to the door or gate. Just plan enough extra time to get from your car to the door.

I used to sigh when we saw a rabbit hopping away while I tried to work on loose leash walking with my Luce on the short way from our house to the facility. There go all my efforts, and no food reward can bring her mind back to me ... Then I decided to change my attitude and used the rabbits as a training opportunity! "If you want to go there and check it out, you'll have to maintain a slack leash AND look at me after every time the leash tightened and I stopped". Her loose leash walking has improved quite a bit since then. She doesn't hit the end of the leash anymore like throwing out a fishing lure on the rod and now divides her attention between me and the rabbit. The rabbits have lost a little bit of their importance, and aren't as much of a nuisance to me anymore.

- Pick your battle: If you aren't in the mood to have the patience and consistency needed for training, then either don't or take a few breaths to get in the right mood. Not to train doesn't mean to allow your dog to pull on the leash, unless you put your dog in a harness in which the dog is allowed to pull. Not to train means to not put your dog on leash. Exercise your dog another way, e.g. stay and play in the house, use the fenced yard or drive your dog to an area where your dog can be off-leash. For very short distances like car to building maybe use a leash that is longer than the distance, so that the dog can get from the car into the house without pulling.

- Expectations: Be fair in your expectations of your dog. It's very hard for an exuberant dog (that could be an adolescent Mastiff or a 7-year old Labrador Retriever) to walk calmly next to a human on a bike path for a mile or two, especially if that's the only exercise of the day. The more additional opportunities to exercise your dog gets, e.g. off-leash, play with other dogs and play with you, the faster your dog can learn to walk on a slack leash for longer distances.

My Luce gets a variety of exercise, not everything every day. We vary between off-leash play with me in a fenced area or in the arena, off-leash walks on and off property, daycare to play with other dogs once a week, play dates with friends with their dogs, short ten-minute trick games in the house and leash walks on and off property.

- Routine: Some routine helps, sometimes no routine is okay, too. If you practice the same short distance for loose leash walking every day, e.g. walking down your driveway, you'll see results faster. Then you can take the learned and slowly move it to other areas. You'll have to start from scratch in a new environment, especially if there are more distractions, but you'll progress faster due to the previous training. If it's easier for you to work with your dog at different times of the day and in different environments, then progress will be slower in the beginning, but the learned behavior still strong in the end.

If you always practice in the same environment (at home), then you might get stuck at that level. You'll need to change up the routine as much as possible, so that the learned behavior can work in public, too.

- Reward: You can teach loose leash walking without any treats, because your forward movement (continuing the walk) is the reward for not pulling. On the other hand, you might see a faster progress in keeping the connection with you if you have treats with you, especially in more distracting environments.

To keep Luce's focus in a class room with other dogs being present, it takes chicken or other meats. After the first 10-15 minutes, she settles and sausage or hot dog will do. Outdoors off the property I better take meats again, but on our property I have sometimes no treats at all on me while working on loose leash walking. Lately I found that regular dog treats, which Luce would spit out outdoors, are now sometimes rewarding enough to want more.

- The retractable leash: A lot of trainers condemn that leash due to the dog learning to pull against the spring. I believe that leash has its purpose, to allow your dog more room to play and run while still being safe. I have a very clear rule for all loose leash walking, especially when the dog gets more leash and walks in front and not at my side. My leash arm needs to dangle down at my side, not be pulled up by the dog. That rule works for retractable leashes as well.

My dog Maggie, stray dog from Greece, ended up being a leash-dog for 11 years. I brought her with me to Alaska in 1999 until she passed away in 2003. We hiked a lot, and I used varying equipment on her. A pulling (Buggy) harness to get up the mountains, a Gentle Leader® to get down the mountain, and a retractable leash to hike along the fields. Her break-through for not pulling occurred at agility classes. I didn't allow her to pull me from the car to the field, and she wanted to get there so urgently, that she quickly discovered that only not pulling got her there. I didn't need to say a word or jerk on her, just stopped when she pulled.

- Distance and time: Once you decided to be consistent in your leash walking rules (dog pulls - you stop; dog doesn't pull - you walk), you will end up having to decide if you either walk the same distance as before but take longer due to all the stops, or if you walk the same length in time, but a shorter distance. Lucky for us, our dogs don't care as much about the distance as they care about the time we spend with them. So if you spend the same time that it would take to briskly walk 1 mile, and instead work on loose leash walking in front of your house, you have not only trained AND exercised your dog, but also connected better with your dog and therefore spent valuable quality time with your dog!

And now enjoy walking with your dog; everything is an opportunity to connect and spend time with your dog!

Enjoy the Journey of Dog Training!
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The Better Companion, LLC, 1400 Regine Ave, Wasilla, AK 99654, United States

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