BetCo April-May 2017 Newsletter

Hello ,

We are all waiting impatiently for warmer temperatures and some green to appear - on the ground as well as on the trees! In the meantime, we're planning ahead, filling our minds and calendars with fun activities to look forward to. Be sure to leave some room for quality time with your dog(s)! 

The Better Companion has added some special events again this year (by popular request) that you might want to add to your calendar now:

- K9 Nose Work Seminars on June 16, 17 + 18
- Feisty Fido Workshop on Saturday, August 19
Shy Dog Workshop on Sunday, August 20

- Responsible Dog Ownership-Day on Saturday, September 9 - celebrating 15 years of BetCo!!!

Read more about these events below!

Monthly Training Tip at the end of this newsletter:
When to spay or neuter your dog - the discussion goes on!
If the story doesn't show below, please click on 'view in browser' at the top of this email. 

Ready for another class? Check below for upcoming behavior and sports classes - here a short overview, more details are further down:

1) Sports classes:

April: Agility classes (Saturdays). Can't commit to the full session but want to continue? Ask us about our punch card option!

April: K9 Nose Work (Sundays and Tuesdays). A fun game for indoors and outside! 

June: Trick Dog Beginner (Thursday evenings). Earn a title for your dog while at class! 

July: Sports Sampler! (Saturdays) Not sure which sport is for you? Try three sports in one class!

2) Behavior classes:

Every month: Grade School P
ractice manners in an increasingly distracting environment. Your dog will amaze you!

April: CLASS-BA Course (Canine Life And Social Skills) - improve your dog's behavior at home and in public (Thursdays). A fun, game-based class! 
There'll be an option to sign up for the CLASS-BA evaluation offered after the class ended.

June: Junior High and Rally College (Monday evenings). Junior High is for all Grade School graduates, Rally College (and obedience-based dog sport) follows after Junior High.

All clickable links in this newsletter are in PURPLE.

Enjoy life with your better companion,


Sally is an Australian Shepherd/ Husky-mix. She was spayed after her first heat at about 10 months.

She has been very healthy all her life and now, at age 15.5, has a tumor in her abdomen, besides a few lipomas on the outside. She's lively, happy and can still move around pretty good. 

I believe her good health stems from a healthy diet in her early years, when we had a sled dog kennel and added a lot of fish and meat to their diet. Now we just read the ingredient list carefully before purchasing anything. 

Read my personal recommendation on spaying and neutering in the monthly story below!
1) Upcoming events:

K9 Nose Work Seminars

Dates: June 16, 17 and 18, 2017
Time: all-day, TBA

Three days with one of the founders of K9 Nose Work, Ron Gaunt! Come to one, two or all three days to learn from the best and to understand this sport and your dog even better than before. Each day has a different topic and might be suitable for different levels of dogs, but they're all three valuable in just listening and observing. Auditing (come without your dog) is recommended  for as many days as you can come to! 

Is this workshop for you? Yes!!! No matter if you're brand-new and just interested to learn about this sport, have already started a dog or are already trialing at any level, this is a great workshop for anybody who wants to know more about K9 Nose Work. 

Is your dog a candidate? The three days are staggered for dogs of any level, starting with beginner dogs on the first day. Beginner means having no or a little experience in K9 Nose Work. The second day will be "Skill Building", and the third day is "Hide Placement for Handlers and Instructors". Both days will be for dogs that are already on odor. 

We're in the process of finalizing the details for this workshop. As soon as we know how many dogs we can accept per workshop and what to charge, we'll add this to our EVENTS page. Check back frequently or email us to be put on our Nose Work emailing list. We'll announce there when we're ready to take sign-ups!

Feisty Fido Workshop: 

This one-day workshop is offered once a year.

Date: Saturday, August 19, 2017
Time: 10 AM - 5 PM (1/2-1 hour lunch break)

Is your dog a candidate? This workshop is for dogs that lunge and bark at other dogs when they see them, either out of fear or frustration. They can sound pretty vicious or be rather quiet about it, but they don't know how to behave socially correctly towards other dogs. Often they have specific dog friends they get along fine with, but might still bark at all, some or only specific other dogs. This workshop is also an excellent practice opportunity for reactive dogs after a private lesson. 

Is this workshop for you? In this workshop we'll explain and practice exercises that will help your dog to cope better with the sight of other dogs. We won't allow direct contact between any dogs and they won't have an opportunity to play. We'll keep a good distance at all times to keep the exercises successful. If the situation is set up correctly, your dog should learn to focus more on you than on the other dog and accept the presence of another dog. We'll also practice what to do in emergency situations that would usually put your dog over threshold. 

You can also decide to come without your dog and learn by observing the other dog/handler teams. We'll have 6 working spots (handlers with their dogs) and 6 auditing spots (people without their dog or extra people of the family)

Shy Dog Workshop:

This 4-hour workshop is offered once a year.

Date: Sunday, August 20, 2017
Time: 2 - 6 PM

Is your dog a candidate? This workshop is for dogs that are timid and insecure around people, mostly strangers. They prefer to keep their distance from people and when asked to come closer, they get very nervous and rather want to go further away. Dogs should be okay in a strange environment and not too stressed to eat treats when brought into the building. This workshop is also an excellent practice opportunity for shy dogs after a private lesson. 

Is this workshop for you? In this workshop we'll explain and practice exercises that will help your dog to overcome their fear of people and talk about common mistakes that can make it worse. If you have a family member or friend who you'd like to be better accepted by your dog, this workshop is for you! Have a caretaker that needs to be able to handle your dog while you're gone? We often don't get to the dog actually being touched or patted by strangers, but being more curious and thinking more positive about strangers rather than being afraid of them. As you use these exercises at home, you'll see continuous improvement! 

You can also decide to come without your dog and learn lots by observing all the other dog/handler teams. We'll have 6 working spots (handlers with their dogs) and 6 auditing spots (people without their dog)

Responsible Dog Ownership-Day

Celebrating our 15-year anniversary!!! Save the date! Mark your calendar!

Date: Saturday, September 9, 2017
Time: 10 AM - 4 PM 

Call for vendors and demos! Free booth space, indoors and outside! Contact us to reserve your booth space! Have something you'd like to show? Tell us about your demo for either 15-20 or 30-40 minutes. 

2) Sports classes:

Agility classes (Saturdays): 

1) April/May/June class: starts April 15th, breaks on April 29, May 20 + 27, ends on June 10. 
2) July/August class starts July 8th, no breaks, ends August 12. 

Early sign-up "Agility Level Unknown": Sign up for a class before you know which level you'll need to join. We can reserve you a spot in the level you're currently in AND in the next higher level until you and your instructor have decided which class suits you better. By signing up early, you avoid the worry of ending up on a wait list!

Punch card option: To repeat a level when you already know you'd miss two or more of the sessions. We'll always try to fill a class with full class payments first, then any spots still available (if any) can be used on a punch card basis. You can purchase a credit for a single 1-hr session for $35 or a punch card with three credits (for three 1-hr sessions) for $90. Your credits will be good for three years. 

K9 Nose Work® (Sundays and Tuesdays): 

A fun dog sport and game for indoors and outside! No prerequisite (only our regular health requirements), dogs of any age, size, fitness and temperament level, even timid or mildly dog-reactive dogs can join this sport! 

1) April/May/June Sunday classes: K9 NW® Elements for all NW Odor graduates.
2) April/May/June Tuesday class: K9 NW® Beginners
3) July/August Sunday classesK9 NW® Beginners and K9 NW® Intro to Odor  

Trick Dog (Thursday evenings): 

Earn a real title for your dog while at class! Our instructor Ella-Kate can most likely sign your dog off as a Novice Trick Dog by the end of this class. She's an official Trick Dog instructor with Do More With Your Dog (DMWYD) and the American Kennel Club (AKC). 

1) June/July class: Trick Dog 1 - Novice starts June 8, break on July 6, ends July 20. 

Sports Sampler! (Saturdays): 

Not sure which sport is for you? Try three sports in one class! In this round we offer two weeks each of Treibball, Trick Dog and Freestyle! 

1) July/August class: Sports Sampler starts July 8, no break, ends August 12. The time for this class might still change, with 10 AM being the earliest option. 

3) Manners classes

Starting your dog: 

Puppy 1 - Preschool: for 
Puppies 2-5 months old; followed by Puppy 2 - Kindergarten
Foundation Class: for dogs 6 months and older.
The first week of these two classes only is without your dog, to give the handler/owner a head start! All other classes start with the dog. 
Package Deals: bundle two or more classes for a great discount! You learn valuable lessons and your dog gets the best possible start. Get your package first, then use the purchased class credit to sign up for a specific class. 

Classes start every month, switching dates and times each month to accommodate your schedule as best we can! We offer Sunday afternoon, Monday morning, and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evening classes. 

1) April/May Monday AM classes: Foundation Class and Puppy 1 start April 3, end May 8. 
2) April/May Monday PM classes: Foundation Class and Puppy 1 start April 3, end May 8. 
3) April/May/June Sunday classes: Foundation Class and Puppy 1 start April 30, break on May 28, ends June 11. 
4) May Wednesday class: we could offer an additional class starting May 10 as needed
5) June/July classes: Classes start Monday AM, Monday PM and possibly Thursday PM

The missing link: Grade School

For all Puppy 2 - Kindergarten and Foundation Class graduates
Grade School applies all the learned techniques from P1, P2 and FC to valuable exercises, improving your handling skills and your dog's behavior through more practice with controlled but increasing distractions. After Grade School you're ready to venture on into different obedience directions: Junior High, CGC-Prep Class or CLASS-BA Course. 

Classes start every month:
1) April/May class: Monday evenings, starts April 3, no break, ends May 8. 
2) April/May/June class: Sunday afternoon, starts April 30, break on May 28, ends June 11.
3) May/June class: Wednesday evenings, starts May 10, no break, ends June 14.

Beyond the basics: Keep going with obedience and manners
Junior High School takes you into the specific skills of the obedience needed for the sport of Rally: Teach your dog to "Finish", "Front", "Swing" or "Get In", increase hind end awareness through some trick training. Also learn how to manage and conquer emergency situations out on your walks, like a loose dog coming towards you and practice manners while meeting other people with their dogs on leash. 

CLASS-BA (Canine Life And Social Skills - Bachelor of Arts) practices in-home and in-public manners. The focus is also on feeding less treats and using less talking when asking for duration, like loose leash walking and stays. This is a great way to "proof" your dog's obedience skills, or you can join this class just for good practice and to get ideas on how to apply the exercises to increase the structure for your dog at home and in public. It's also a good class for potential therapy dog teams. We also offer an evaluation after the end of class to test your and your dog's skills - a chance to earn a bachelor's degree through the APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers)!

CGC-Prep Class practices manners in public through games and role-play, to prepare you and your dog for the Canine Good Citizen-test. You can join the class with or without this test in mind. The test is usually held in September, the weekend after our Responsible Dog Ownership-Day. You might find other test sites in Alaska on the AKC's web page

1) April/May Thursday class: CLASS-BA Course, starts April 13, no break, ends May 18.
2) June/July Monday class: Junior High and Rally College, start June 5, break on July 3, end July 17.
3) July/August Wednesday class: CGC-Prep Class, starts July 12, no break, ends August 16.

Here's what one of our clients had to say after taking Grade School:
"The greatest benefit from this class is that Puck is progressing well. I liked most about the training program the in depth explanations of why. The most interesting exercise of the whole course was loose-leash walking with distractions. Puck has taken well to down stay at home and will stay through dinner. Loved the class! Thanks!" Tim with Puck, Grade School

Read more testimonies HERE!

Monthly Training Tip:

When to spay or neuter your dog - the discussion goes on!  

Super early - as a puppy before they get adopted out 

Most rescue organizations will not allow an intact dog to go to a new home, no matter how young that dog is. That means dogs sometimes as young as 8 weeks get spayed and neutered. 

I totally understand the reasoning behind early spay and neuter, and am in full support of that option, rather than have rescues try to follow-up later on written 'promises' that the dog will be spayed/neutered by a specific age by the adopter. Animal Shelters kept that policy of trusting adopters to do as they promised for the longest time, until they finally gave up because too many adopters would not follow through on their promise. Now the shelter also only gives dogs out after they're altered. 

Early - before the dogs start to mature - at about 6 months

This has been the practice in the U.S. over the last 15 years and probably longer, but at least since I came to the U.S. Coming from a country (Germany) where male dogs only got neutered if they had to, and having had an intact male, I thought it was a great idea to just neuter them all at 6 months. In hindsight, my dog and I could have had an even better life together if he'd have been neutered, and some other dogs I knew, too. It just wasn't the practice back in Germany at that time. 

I understand that the main reasoning behind this practice was again the overpopulation of pets, trying to get the numbers of stray dogs and dogs in shelters and rescues down as much as possible. But along with that; there's a higher incidence of mammary cancer and the risk of a deadly pyometra in intact female dogs and testicular cancer in intact male dogs. There are numerous pros and cons to any argument on this topic. 

Later - after the dog has finished maturing and the growth plates are closed

The latest wave of information is based on the fact that dogs nowadays face health issues at a much higher rate than ever seen before. Some cancers, ACL (knee ligament) ruptures, overgrowth of the limbs and other health concerns have been brought up.

The American Kennel Club jumped on the band wagon and is now promoting to and through all its breeders to wait until AFTER "full maturity" (an arbitrary age that varies from 12 months to upward of 4 years, depending on breed, breeder or even different veterinarians) to spay or neuter a dog, if at all. That is sure in the full interest of the AKC: more intact dogs will lead to a higher dog population, which will increase the numbers of dogs participating in AKC events - confirmation or sport, since AKC will register mixed breeds as well (only spayed/neutered though!), they make a ton of money on these dogs entering sports events.

My personal opinion is that the food industry also takes part in promoting early spay/neuter as the cause of all these health issues - to lead away from their dog food as a possible cause for some of them. 

With all the insecurity this discussion has caused and the big love we have for our four-legged friends, we want to do everything in our power to allow our dogs a long and healthy life. So to be on the safe side, many have decided they would rather wait with the spay/neuter. 

Nothing wrong with that, until the dog trainer sees some unwanted behaviors coming up that pretty sure could be nipped in the butt with a neuter BEFORE they become a huge issue, and is told by the owner of the dog that this dog CAN'T be neutered yet because the breeder said to wait until the dog is two or the veterinarian said they WON'T do it until the dog is at least 1 year. At least that's how the dog owner perceived it.

Some facts to consider, and even found in articles on Facebook that seem to be AGAINST early spay/neuter

1) They say: Spay/neuter before the growth plates close will cause the dog to grow longer limbs, because without the hormones the growth will continue

In my 15 years as a dog trainer here in Alaska, while most dogs were altered at around 6 months, I have maybe seen one handful of dogs with a bit longer legs - it actually looked rather pretty on them and could also have easily been caused by the mix of breeds; I haven't seen longer limbs in the other thousands of dogs I met over the years, most of them altered latest at ate recommended age of 6 months.
2) They say: ACL rupture more likely in dogs with early spay/neuter

Yes the study confirms this: dogs altered before 6 months of age are somewhat more likely to have ACL ruptures later. That means as soon as they pass 6 months, the risk is SIGNIFICANTLY lower, otherwise the study wouldn't have been conclusive. No need to wait two years to be absolutely sure!

3)They say: Risk for cancer is higher- the big one! 

So many factors influence the cause and development of cancer, and in humans we know it's also sometimes hereditary. Without EVER being spayed or neutered, the increase of cancer in humans is also alarming! I'd really blame the food industry and the genetic predisposition for that one, not the lack of hormones!

4) A study recently shared on Facebook is titled "10 Painful Reasons NOT to Spay or Neuter a Dog Until After Puberty". This could mean 8 months or 4 years and is already wide open for interpretation. The article lists 10 arguments against early neuter/spay (some commonly mentioned and some less circulated), and explains then why this is NOT a reason to WAIT until the dog is several years old to neuter/spay. I guess the title is double-sided, depending on how the word 'painful' is interpreted. 

Studies they mention have compared dogs younger than 24 weeks (5.5-6 months) and older than 24 weeks (but not yet 1 year or 2 or 3!)

- Hip dysplasia: They actually state that hip dysplasia is mostly genetic and that it's critical to buy from parents that have been tested and certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Nutrition is also a factor in this disorder. 

- Heart Tumors: The article talks about cardiac tumors found more often in spayed females versus intact females. But then it also says that cardiac tumors are extremely rare and that dogs are far more likely to see complications due to intact reproductive organs than to incur a tumor of the heart.

The summary of this article is actually that all pet dogs should be fixed, and hopefully before they've accidentally bred. They still recommend spaying before the first heat and neutering before sexual maturity. 

My personal opinion - can we meet in the middle?

I feel there might be some truth behind some of the reasoning for a later neuter or spay, but not as heavily weighed as they want us to believe!

Nobody talks about the behavioral issues that come with an intact male or the problems of having a female in heat at home (with possibly several lovers along the fence line waiting for her) and I see more and more frustrated dog owners that feel their hands are tied because of what the breeder's contract or the veterinary clinic said to them. 

We did not have any spay or neuter rule at our facility, but about a year ago we added one to our Open Play Times and Doggy Daycare. We were instantly rewarded with a calmer daycare, having 4 male dogs neutered within one month. Knowing that their dog would need to be neutered by 1 year of age if they want to keep bringing them to our play times made it easier for some owners to justify neutering the dog already before that time if we see a reason for it. The reason is usually not aggression, but arousal. 

We do allow females to go through that one heat cycle before 1 year of age, during which they can't come to our play times (classes are fine). But seeing the problems that come with that in our daycare confirms to us that the policy of only going through that one cycle for each female dog is fair. It's already hard to control those young males close to one year, and even harder when a female might start to smell interesting. 

Rescues: keep your policy and spay/neuter before handing dogs over to new adopters. It is the better option even though not optimal. 

Breeders: RECOMMEND waiting with the spay or neuter, but don't REQUIRE! You're making the dog owners feel helpless about their situation. They should be able to decide what's best for their individual situation, not you. Wouldn't you rather see a dog neutered or spayed than re-homed (possibly multiple times) due to hormone-related behaviors? And it's often not about re-homing or neutering/spaying NOW, but the re-homing could happen later, because the dog didn't get altered earlier and the little problems escalated to a point of no return. 

Veterinarians, dog trainers, dog knowledgeable friends and others: Help with your RECOMMENDATION, but don't TELL them what they have to do. 

We're all here to help with our expertise to give the dog owners the knowledge, so that they can make an educated decision about their pet. They need to live with their dog! 
Enjoy the Journey of Dog Training!

Take the tiger out of your dog! Neutering can help. 
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The Better Companion, LLC, 1400 Regine Ave, Wasilla, AK 99654, United States

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