Sports Classes coming up soon! Agility, Nose Work, Rally College
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BetCo News Sep/Oct 201

Hello Claudia,

Fall has arrived and this is a good time to think about indoors activities for your dog to balance the shrinking outdoor opportunities! Daylight is getting shorter quickly, and eventually the rain, cold and ice will get in the way of giving our dogs enough outdoor romping time.

We have several great classes starting in September, including our favorite sports of Agility and Nose Work!

Important news and reads in this issue:

1) Sports Classes in September

2) Specialty Classes - Junior High and Rally College

3) Upcoming Behavior Classes

4) Monthly Training Tip: Anti-Pull Training Aids - to use or not to use and what to use

A diverse topic even under dog trainers! You'll hear different recommendations from different trainers, even if they follow the same training philosophy. Here's my opinion. Read more below.

All clickable links in this newsletter are in PURPLE.

Enjoy life with your better companion,


Dutch Shepherd Deja Vu mastering the weave poles, one of the obstacles used in Agility. Photo by The Journey Photography - thank you!
1) Sports Classes in September

Back to School and we're starting up our doggy physical education in Agility and Nose Work in September! Treibball will continue in October with a Treibball Intermediate class.


Agility Classes

Choose Agility Beginner + Puppy for all dogs 6 months or older wanting to start this sport or to refresh the basics. We'd like to have your dog take one of our basic obedience classes first. Contact us if you have any questions on this! This class focuses on introducing all the different obstacles used in Agility competitions.

Agility Skills is for dogs that have graduated from Agility Beginners. This class has three different curriculums and we recommend repeating at this level before moving on to Agility Sequencing. You'll be introduced to handler tactics like front and rear crosses, while your dog learns to work more independently and away from you.

Agility Sequencing puts your and your dog's skills together on short sequences of 4-8 obstacles. We'll work on fun and control while applying what you learned in the previous classes.

Agility Practices (AP) are for teams that have graduated from Sequencing and want to try their performance at a full course, if possible at the trial venue on a full 100' x 100' field or otherwise in a smaller scale at BetCo. We'll hold practices at Sirius Ranch at their indoors arena, switching between a standard course using all of the obstacles and a jumpers course using jumps, weaves and tunnels. There'll be a different course set up each week. At BetCo we'll have the opportunity to practice specific NADAC courses like Tunnelers, Hoopers or Touch 'N Go.

For the Practices you can purchase a punch card and only sign up for the weeks you want to join. Please note that we have different punch cards for practices at BetCo and for practices at Sirius Ranch!

Nose Work Classes

K9 Nose Work® Beginner class focuses on channeling our dogs' constant use of their nose into finding something specific we want them to find. We introduce them to the different search environments and set-ups, build their confidence and their drive to stay on task. This sport burns energy while using the dog's deepest instincts, increases the dog's attention span and helps them to stay on focus despite distractions. At the beginner level the dog will mostly learn to find food. Odors will be introduced towards the end of this class.

K9 Nose Work® - Intro to Odor shifts the dog's attention from finding food to finding a specific odor. We work with odors used in competitions - birch, anise and clove oils. Each week we will introduce new challenges to improve the skills of dogs and handlers. Odor graduates can already participate in Nose Work Practice during the winter while they're waiting for an Elements class to be offered in the spring.

K9 Nose Work® - Elements is for our Nose Work Intro to Odor graduates. Teams will be introduced to the different elements of a Nose Work trial: Containers, Interior, Exterior, Vehicles and specialty searches like water hides. This class can only be offered in the summer.

All Agility Classes and Practices
: Saturdays, starting September 14, 2019

All Nose Work Classes: Sundays, starting September 22, 2019


Treibball - Intermediate is the continuation for our TB-Beginner graduates and a great repeat class for all TB-Intermediate graduates! Sign up now to reserve your spot!

Treibball - Intermediate: Thursdays, starting October 10, 2019, at 7:30 PM

2) Specialty Classes - Junior High and Rally College


Junior High is for all Grade School graduates and takes obedience to the next level. It includes heel work, Front, Finish, Stay, Leave It while walking and more. We will talk about and practice emergency situations on your walk, e.g. encountering wildlife or loose dogs. We will practice meeting other people with their dogs and talk about how to manage a multi-dog household.

Junior High: Wednesdays, starting 9/4/2019, at 6:15 PM

Rally College is a fun sport, combining course work with obedience "obstacles". Built like agility, handlers will follow a given course that changes each time. You will talk to your dog throughout the course and help them with verbal and visual signals to perform the obedience tasks of each station. This sport starts on-leash and is a great way to teach your dog to stay with you and be focused on you while being in a competition environment. Less demanding on the handler and/or dog than agility, this can be a great outlet and self-control practice. This class is for Junior High graduates, as we teach the basics of heel work there.

Rally College: Wednesdays, starting 10/16/2019, at 5:00 PM
3) Upcoming Behavior Classes

Classes that start every month:

Puppy 1 - Preschool, Puppy 2 - Kindergarten, Foundation Class, Grade School;
Click HERE for the full schedule. The classes start on different days of the week and different times of the day, so pick the one that fits you best!

September classes:

Junior High starts on 9/4/2019 - see under 2) Specialty Classes

Agility and Nose Work
start this month! See under 1) Sports Classes

October classes:

Rally College starts on 10/16/2019 - see under 2) Specialty Classes

Treibball Intermediate starts this month! See under 1) Sports Classes


Here's what some of our clients had to say after taking our K9 Nose Work Classes

Greatest benefit: "The solid foundation of Nose Work"; "Learning to read my dog better"; 

Most interesting: "The variety of setups" [NW Beginner]; "Finding the hide in the water" [NW Elements];

Happy Tale: "Watching her gain confidence"; "In car going to school [my dog] is happy and vocal, then after class very tired in car, not much noise coming back home"; "my dog has gained more confidence, less focus on distractions and we are enjoying the environment around the searches"; "The course was interesting, informational and an excellent learning experience"

Read more testimonies HERE!
4) Monthly Training Tip:

Anti-Pull Training Aids - to use or not to use and what to use

Every dog trainer and instructor will give you a different answer to this, even if they use the same training methodology otherwise.

My fundamental thoughts on training Loose Leash Walking:

1) The handler of the dog should not only BE SAFE, but FEEL safe when they walk the dog. Whatever tool it takes to give the handler the necessary confidence, is a necessary tool.

Often dog owners aren't aware of what options of anti-pull devices they have though, and what the differences are between these options. If you can feel safe without hurting or threatening to hurt the dog, then I believe that's the route to go. I'll discuss the differences below.

2) Handler and dog need to be safe even if the
environment changes. Slippery surface and sudden distractions are common here in Alaska and the team needs to be prepared for that ahead of time. Even though the change only happens occasionally or even just maybe, the dog needs to wear the equipment to make the walk safe. Just like when we wear a seat belt!

3) Proper training to walk WITH the handler on a loose leash is always necessary, even with any anti-pull device. Training is easier with proper equipment, because it's more likely that the handler is more consistent in the training - the anti-pull device aiding in consistency.

4) It's the handler's choice to work more with the dog to finally fade out the anti-pull device or to keep using it. Not every dog owner wants to be a dog trainer! For larger and heavier dogs it might be safer to keep using that training aid.

5) In Alaska it's hard to keep a dog trained for all occasions, because some distractions only happen rarely. That includes seeing a moose; or a dog that either doesn't leave its property on a daily base or doesn't meet many dogs or people off property because of where they live.

6) Different tools for different occasions could be the best solution. As the environment, our willingness to work with our dog and our allotted time to spend training the dog change throughout the day, so could the equipment. I used to have a rescue dog that I couldn't ever trust off-leash, due to the stray nature of the dog. Even as a dog trainer, I opted to use a pulling harness to go up a mountain path, a front-clip harness for regular and downhill walkways and a Gentle Leader® head halter for high traffic areas. In between and as the dog got older I in between clipped the leash to the collar as well, making sure she wouldn't pull and choke herself.

The tools and how they work:

- I have one rule for consistency, no matter what equipment I use on the dog and between the dog and me. That could be a short leash, a long line or a retractable leash. That rule is that my leash arm should dangle down along my side and not be brought up by the dog's pulling. This rule will be easier to maintain with specific training aids and harder when only using a flat buckle collar.

- Prong collar: Once the dog pulled and felt the prongs in its neck, the dog will try to avoid that feeling in the future. While it works instantly, this technique is based on correcting the wrong behavior through punishment, followed by the fear of punishment. The handler doesn't need to do anything. I don't recommend them, but feel that they're a better solution than a choke collar. For some large breeds like mastiffs with a short nose there aren't many other options to keep a walk safe.

- Choke collar (usually chain, sometimes round leather or fabric): Also based on correcting the wrong behavior through punishment. Should (if at all) only be used in traditional obedience when the dog walks clearly on one side, otherwise the chain might close and not open up by itself again. The handler needs to give clear signals, with exact timing, abruptly jerking on the leash and releasing instantly, otherwise the dog will keep pulling and choking, which can cause damage to the trachea, throat and neck area. Eventually the dog learns to avoid a leash jerk by being in the correct position. I do not recommend this training aid to anybody.

- Harness with thin straps through the dog's axles (arm pits): Causing pain/ discomfort to the soft tissue in the arm pits. If it doesn't cause enough pain or discomfort, the dog will just lean into it. Supposed to work without handler input. If it works well for you, then that's probably because you have a rather sensitive dog. I do not recommend this training tool.

- Different collars have been invented to try to keep the collar off the trachea and throat area up high behind the ears with more or less success. You can use any collar on your dog, to be used either along with positive reinforcement methods or with correction-based training. We like wide collars to avoid pinching or damaging the trachea, IF your dog pulls. Some dogs will do fine with just a collar and never pull hard enough to need any specific anti-pull device.

- Harnesses that cinch around the chest: Some can cinch very tight and hurt the dog, some cinches can move towards the soft belly area and hurt the dog. The Freedom Harness® has a soft and wide strap around the chest that can only cinch to a certain degree through a martingale. The goal is to have the dog feel like they're held tight. This works for few dogs. No action by the handler required.

- Harness with a front clip: The leash clipped in the front of the dog will pull the dog gently sideways and discourage pulling forward. Some trainers don't like it because it pulls the dog off balance. The handler is not required to do anything, and as long as there's no harsh pulling back, I don't see the loss of balance as an issue. The best brands available here in Alaska are the Freedom® Harness and the Easy Walk® Harness. Other harnesses might be modified into a front clip, if they have a ring in the front to clip the leash into.

- Head Halter: This has been the biggest invention since dog training has changed to more reward-based techniques. Mimicking the halter of a horse, the head halter will move the control over the dog further up front towards the nose, away from the neck. This gives the handler more power over the dog without actually punishing the dog for pulling. It becomes easier to interrupt the dog gently from behaving wrong, which besides pulling, can also be barking and jumping.

The handler should not use corrections like leash jerks when using a head halter, as it can cause a whip lash in the dog, especially if the dog suddenly pulls. The head halter should not be used together with a retractable leash or track line, as the dog could run the whole distance and hit the end too hard. The head halter works best if the handler had instructions on how to use it for training.

Dogs need to be discouraged from a constant leaning into the halter and handlers need to learn not to keep a tight lead at all times, as the dogs might still develop too much strength and a constant tight lead can cause abrasions on the nose, especially in breeds with a thin or sensitive skin in that area.

We recommend and use the head halters a lot in our classes, and teach students how to use them for the biggest benefits. We use the Gentle Leader® head halters, which need exact fitting. Our instructors and daycare supervisors can help fitting the Gentle Leader head halter. I can see where a head halter bought at a store could end up not being the right tool for a dog. We prefer the head halter over a prong or choke collar.

Over the years I have seen clients successfully mastering loose leash walking to whichever degree they were comfortable:

Some needed a prong collar to control their dogs successfully, and couldn't convert to a head halter as the only other choice, because of the head form or skin sensitivity. They had dogs too big to control or trust them on a regular collar.

Some started out with a harness or head halter, then later switched to collar only, after working a lot with their dog and the dog getting more mature.

Some started out trying with a regular collar only, and later tried out a harness or head halter, being much happier. They'd switch between the different types of equipment depending on the situation.

Some keep using the head halter throughout the dog's life, and both, handler and dog are happy with it.  

In some families only certain family members use the head halter, while others work with a regular collar. The dog walkers can happily control the dog using a head halter.

I personally switch between regular collar, Freedom Harness and Gentle Leader, depending on the situation. I also use a pull harness, specifically encouraging my dog to pull.

Final statement:

I believe it's every dog owners personal decision of what equipment they want to use and if they want to try to fade that equipment or not. We dog trainers can make educated recommendations that we think fit the situation, but we're not living our client's life and therefore can't make the decision for them. You should feel 1) safe and 2) comfortable with the equipment you're using!

And now go take your dog out for a stroll - it's time for mine to get out!

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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