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BetCo News 2020 - Vol. 6

Hello ,

Important news and reads in this issue:

1) July Classes - Agility Is Back!

Agility classes are scheduled in July on Monday mornings, starting 7/13/2020 and again in September, on Saturdays, starting 9/12/2020! Classes will be held in-person, during the summer on the field if weather permits and in the fall indoors. Both sets for Beginners, Agility Skills and Agility Sequencing are on the calendar, ready for sign-up!   

2) Treibball Continues - Online And In-Person!

We are offering two more Treibball Intermediate classes, an online class on Mondays in the afternoon starting 7/13/2020 and an in-person class on Thursday evenings, starting 8/13/2020.

3) Feature - How Much Food Does My Dog Need?

Can I trust the manufacturer's recommendation on the bag? Will my dog tell me? How do I know if I feed enough or too much? Finicky eaters - blessing or curse?

While we are glad that Alaska has not been hit as hard as some other states and countries, we still want to act responsibly and urge all our clients to respect our guidelines and policies. Our goal is to make everybody FEEL SAFE, clients and employees, just like in our dog training philosophy.  

All clickable links in this newsletter are in PURPLE.

Enjoy life with your better companion,


We will try to hold as many of our agility summer sessions as possible outside on our fenced field!
1) July Classes - Agility Is Back!

Our in-person behavior classes are a great success! We are either outside on our fenced field or indoors in our spacious facility, where the stations for each dog/handler team are between 15 and 25 feet apart from each other. We are using a speaker system indoors and outside, so that people on the far side can still hear the instructor.

For July we will try to hold our behavior classes mostly indoors and the sports classes mostly outside.  

Behavior classes offered:  

Puppy 1 - Preschool: For puppies 8 weeks to 5 months
Puppy 2 - Kindergarten: For Puppy 1 graduates
Foundation Class: For all dogs 6 months and older starting with us
Grade School: For Puppy 2 and Foundation Class graduates

Our July Behavior classes are offered on Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings.
The August behavior classes are scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday evenings, depending on the class. See detailed schedule below.

Agility classes offered:

Agility Puppy/ Beginner: For dogs 6 months and older who already have participated in one or more of our behavior classes. We have a specific questionnaire for dogs that have not attended our classes previously to agility. Contact our office to see if you could join us anyway!

Agility Skills: For our Agility Beginner graduates. We have three different Skills curriculums. Our students greatly benefited from taking the Skills class at least twice, if not even three times - being challenged by a different curriculum each time.

Agility Sequencing: For our Agility Skills graduates (after taking Skills class 2-3 times). We have three different Sequencing curriculums as well and people have repeated this class with joy several times!

Offered in July:

Sundays, starting July 12th, 2020:

Grade School at 1:15 - 2:15 PM
Puppy 1 - Preschool at 2:30 - 3:30 PM
CGC-Prep Class at 3:45 - 4:45 PM

Mondays, starting July 13th, 2020:

Agility Puppy/Beginners at 10:00 - 11:30 AM (includes set-up and switch-over)
Agility Skills/Sequencing (combined class) at 11:30 AM - 1 PM (includes set-up and take-down)

Treibball Intermediate - VIRTUAL at 2:00 - 3:00 PM

Puppy 2 - Kindergarten at 6:45 - 7:45 PM
Foundation Class at 8:00 - 9:00 PM

2) Treibball Continues - Online And In-Person!

Treibball has proven to be a great way to improve our dog's attention, self-control, distance control and relationship with us in a fun way through playing games! And all that taught online in a virtual classroom, demonstrating exercises with a real dog and giving immediate feedback while you are practicing with your dog!

We are continuing for all our Beginner and Intermediate graduates with a new Intermediate curriculum, Techniques B, online AND in-person! Pick the venue or the dates that fit you better and continue this fun activity with us!

Treibball classes offered:

Mondays, starting July 13th, 2020:

Treibball Intermediate - VIRTUAL at 2:00 - 3:00 PM

Thursdays, starting August 13th, 2020:

Treibball Intermediate - IN-PERSON at 7:30 - 8:30 PM
We are looking forward to more Treibball fun!
3) Feature - How Much Food Does My Dog Need?

Can I trust the manufacturer's recommendation on the bag? Will my dog tell me? How do I know if I feed enough or too much? Finicky eaters - blessing or curse?

Our dogs come with very different eating habits - which are usually a mix of inherited trait and learned behavior. No matter where on the scale your dog is, you can always influence their eating behaviors - be it slowing them down or increasing their appetite. You also will be the one controlling their overall intake, which will influence if your dog is under weight, sporty lean, comfortably healthy, mildly overweight or heavily overweight.

I have helped hundreds of dog owners how to determine their dog's weight status and then to change it where desired or needed. I also had my own experiences with dogs who were too heavy and dogs that needed to gain weight; dogs that would eat more than good for them and dogs that didn't want to eat.

In this article you will find help with

- determining your dog's weight status
- helping dogs to loose weight
- helping dogs to gain weight
- what to do with the dog that LOVES to eat - maybe a little too much
- what to do with a dog that doesn't want to eat - even if they are lean or even under weight

Why would we worry about a dog not eating enough? They will never starve themselves, especially if we offer them something delicious enough every day. My current dog is the best example for that type of dog! She wouldn't eat her dry dog food, then wouldn't eat wet food either, and was willing to eat nothing for a week, besides a few high value treats for training. I couldn't use any low or medium value treats for training - she would spit them out, if she even took them. Using the feeding schedule described below, Lucena changed to be a reliable eater, gained weight and now will accept medium value treats as a reward.

How about the self regulators, who can have food out all day long and stay lean? We like the saying "it depends". If your dog can have kibble out and still shows eagerness to work with you and learn for other rewards like treats or playing with toys, you are golden. No need to change anything. If you would like your dog to eat more, be more flexible on what type of kibble you are offering or listen better to you, then maybe changing your dog's feeding schedule can help. I'm not talking about starving them, but changing their schedule and not leaving food out at all times.

TIP: The most delicious rotisserie chicken looses its taste when it's offered 24/7, every day as the main course. Not having food available at all times is more natural for dogs, who are born to track and hunt for prey.

As a positive reinforcement dog trainer, it is important for me that my dog WANTS to work with me. There are two major categories of reward I can use to train: Food and attention. Attention meaning talk, pat, look at, play with, interact with my dog. Especially when my dog's attention is at something else more interesting than my attention, food can give me the extra edge - if my dog is food motivated. The more food motivated my dog is and the higher value my treat is, the more distractions I can overcome in a training session. Being a greedy dog trainer who wants to see results quickly, I like to use high value treats for faster progression into higher distracting environments (real life), besides rewarding my dog with attention.

Food has another great effect on our dogs: It will calm them down faster. Depending on the situation, you might want your dog more or less aroused. In dog sports, we might want our dogs more active, excited and agile. Play rewards are better in these situations, to emphasize on the drive in the dog and keep the energy level high. On our walks, we might want our dogs calmer and staying close-by rather than blasting to us and then blasting away from us again. Food rewards and a food motivated dog can help with that!

- Determining your dog's weight status:

I look at five different areas of a dog to determine their weight status.

1) Their waist: Is there a waist? Is there an extra ring? Depending on the breed, the waist can be more or less dominant. Make sure you FEEL the waist, since the coat can be deceiving.

2) The spine: I want to feel the spine between the ribs and feel the muscle filling out the sides along the spine: (^) Depending on the breed, the spine can be more or less visible, but you should always be able to feel the spinous process, and the muscle (longissimus dorsi) should be convex (), not concave )(.

3) The spine between the pelvic bones (ilium): A little bit tricky to find, this spinous process can often only be felt, not seen. First find the two pelvic bones next to the dog's spine in the sacral area. Between these two bony extrusions, you should find a small bone in the middle with nice flesh (muscle) filling the sides in between. Lack of flesh means the dog is too thin, not feeling the bony middle means the dog is probably overweight.

4) The rib cage: You want to feel the ribs and the muscles in between the ribs. Falling in between the ribs means the dog is to thin, feeling a substantial layer over the ribs means the dog is overweight. You should feel just the skin and hair coat over the ribs, not more.

5) The chest bone: Last, I touch the bone in the front middle under the neck, the beginning of the rib cage. You should feel that bone directly under the skin, without any blubber masking it's outline. Any additional substance is a reservoir of fatty tissue - a sign of overweight.

- Helping dogs to loose weight

We want weight loss to be gradual, not too abrupt and not a torture for your dog. But there is only one reliable way to loose weight: Decrease caloric input!

Measure the daily ration for your dog and make sure that anything given additionally is accounted for. Yes you can still give them treats, table food, snacks and training treats. You just need to be aware and adjust the daily ration of the regular food accordingly.

Don't let them finish the other pets' food, don't let others feed your dog anything that wouldn't be accounted for and instead of cutting out a full meal because your dog got already enough snacks, give them just 5 kibble in their dish or reduce the snacks during the day.

Reduce the daily intake of EVERYTHING THEY GET by about 15-25%, depending on breed and how much they need to loose.

Don't give them more snacks because they got less food! That's like eating a big ice cream cone because you left out the veggies at lunch.

You can still support your dog:

- Find dog food and treats with less calories per cup or treat. Pet stores and veterinarians also sell specific weight loss diets, if it is too hard to feed less. Don't feed the amount recommended on the bag! You will need to find out how big your dog's daily ration needs to be by yourself. Every dog is different, and the manufacturers will always rather recommend too much than not enough.

- Replace part of the dog food with vegetables. Especially green beans are highly accepted fillers. Replacing 1/2-1 cup of dry dog food with cooked rice or cottage cheese will lower the calories, because of the high water content in the rice or cottage cheese.

- Exercise your dog more every day. More walks, hiking, playing, being outside and less sleeping all increase the burning of calories.

- what to do with the dog that LOVES to eat - maybe a little too much

Besides keeping their weight healthy with the recommendations above, we might have to look at additional factors with dogs that love to eat. You might have a dog that eats everything in their reach, from moose nuggets over sticks to mushrooms and rocks. Especially when put on a diet, some dogs start looking at other sources to fill their empty stomach.

Could you afford to feed your dog a little more? Maybe you were hoping to keep your dog at ideal weight, but your dog feels its ideal weight is at a couple pounds more. They feel constantly starved, until you allow them to gain those few pounds, and they finally feel more satisfied and stop eating everything. I had a stray dog from Greece that I kept at about 2-5 pounds "overweight", to decrease her urge of trying to get away from me and go find food.

- Allow your dog to spend more TIME eating, while eating less, by using puzzle toys, spreading the food out in the grass or hallway or hiding the dry kibble around the house or yard.

- Congratulations - you can use your dog's daily ration of food to train them everything! No need for expensive treats or cooking up something special, unless you want to overcome special distractions or just want to spoil your dog with something delicious. That's totally okay!

- Helping dogs to gain weight

Sounds easy enough - feed more! Unfortunately, the dogs that need to gain weight are often not the greatest eaters, and rather finicky. Fortunately, these dogs will also more likely stop before they overeat, and we can often count on their cooperation in letting us know how much they need, without spoiling them too much.

I found a great way between two extremes of how to feed a finicky dog! A feeding schedule that has helped a lot of dogs to become more reliable eaters, more food motivated, and to fill out a little bit more.

Extreme 1: Spoiling the dog
We have probably all done it at some point, maybe with a sick or elderly dog. We are upgrading their food by mixing it with broth, canned food, meat, human food leftovers ... Anything so that the dog will eat it, up to feeding them only meat, human food, canned food, tuna, chicken, or a piece of cheese, if that's all they want. Then sitting besides them and hand feeding every piece, talking to them, supporting them, walking them in a circle before the next piece ... I have heard of people having developed a 2 hour feeding routine so that their young and healthy dog would eat!

Spoiling is fine if there is a health reason why your dog won't eat.

Spoiling a healthy dog means you don't have any room left to improve WHEN your dog gets sick or old.

I once met an Afghan Hound that was skin and bones with a chronic diarrhea issue and the owner told me that the only thing the dog would eat is cheese. But cheese will cause diarrhea again, so it was a "catch 22". She was at her wits' end! My feeding schedule helped her getting her dog to eat again normal food and with the dog's diarrhea being controlled, the dog started gaining weight.

Extreme 2: Starving the dog
We have heard it and maybe tried it. If the dog doesn't eat it, just take it away. Repeat until the dog will finally eat it. That works for a lot of dogs, but not for all of them.

My Jack Russell Terrier Lucy was not impressed with kibble when she came to live with me at age 1.5 years. She would eat all kinds of treats, but I could not get her to eat her regular meals. Anything too extraordinaire like meat and she would throw up; not eating for 24 hours and she would throw up. So not feeding her was not an option. Living off treats was no option for me either.

My Alaskan Husky Lucena (Luce) was a finicky eater when she came to me at 11 months of age. I don't think somebody spoiled her much, but she was just the type of dog that found everything else more important than eating. She was skinny and I thought with a real sled dog, coming from an Iditarod kennel, I just had to wait a day or two and she would start eating. I was wrong. She probably wouldn't have eaten for a week if I would have waited that long. Food was totally unimportant to her and standing still to eat was a nuisance in her eyes. She didn't even like treats much, and two years later I still have to come up with special treats, if I want her to be eager to learn, while she eats her dog food just fine.

Feeding schedule for finicky eaters:

Set a baseline of how many cups of food you think your dog should eat each day to KEEP their weight (not to GAIN weight). You will feed twice a day, one AM and one PM feeding. TIP: You don't need to keep certain times - actually it would be better to vary the times of your feedings, to keep your dog guessing!

Take half of that and mix it with something delicious, so that your dog will eat that.
This will be your dog's morning or AM feeding.

The other half of your dog's dry kibble will be fed as is (dry, maybe with water, but not enhanced) as the afternoon or PM feeding. Your dog will probably not eat it, so take it away. TIP: I always use dry kibble, so that I don't have to throw it away.

I don't leave anything down for the dog for a specific amount of time. Either the dog eats it right away, or it's gone. As soon as the dog turns away from the food dish, I pick it up. I might rather offer it again to the dog a little bit later (no matter when, but not constantly), while the dog is learning the new schedule.

Repeat this until your dog is eating the PM meal several days in a row. Now you can try offering a little more in the PM, e.g. 1/2 cup more. If your dog still eats that several days in a row, increase the amount again. Don't increase the morning feeding while you are still mixing it with something delicious.

If your dog doesn't finish the PM meal (or doesn't even touch it), go back to feeding less again for a few days. TIP: I occasionally leave out the afternoon meal on purpose, especially on days when I fed more treats while training my dog.

Once you feel you reached a sustainable amount and your dog is still eating it quite reliably, start offering only dry kibble in the AM, too. Now you can play with the AM feeding as well, increasing the amount or leaving the meal out. TIP: If your dog isn't eagerly waiting for you to prepare their meal, don't wake them up to feed them. Leave that meal out.

Over time you get a feel for how much your dog is willing to eat on a daily base. Try to find the amount of food where your dog will always finish it. The amount you need to feed will always fluctuate a little bit, since no dog needs exactly one cup twice a day for the rest of their lives. It will always be a few kibble over or under, and you will always need to re-assess your dog for its weight and its appetite. You might find that your dog either starts to gain weight (watch that it's not too much) or will show you that they would like to get fed more. Now you have a dog that values its food, will be more willing to "work" for it and can be easier switched to another dog food if need be!

- what to do with a dog that doesn't want to eat

Every dog will eat something. Find out what your dog WILL eat, and start with the schedule described above. Always start with small amounts, to check if your dog's digestive system can handle it. Start with a tea spoon amount per day and only increase if no indigestion occurs for at least three days in a row, especially when feeding new proteins and high fat content foods. If in doubt, contact your veterinarian!

Try the following food sources, first by themselves and then mixed with dog food (canned or dry):

Broth, cat food, raw diet (fresh, frozen or freeze-dried), real meat, real fish, cooked, tuna, sardines, bacon, bacon grease, veggies (carrots, peas, beans), apple, cereal, bread, milk and milk products (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese), eggs ... If in doubt, ask your veterinarian if what you want to feed is okay to give to your dog. E.g. pork should always be cooked.

Start the schedule described above, feeding your dog whatever they are eating in the AM only. Slowly mix regular dog food into the source you found for your dog, while only offering dog food in the afternoon.

Especially for small breed dogs, the regular dog food (for the PM feeding) might be canned food, not dry kibble.

And now go measure your dog's daily ration and check out your dog's weight status!
Stay safe and stay healthy,

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The Better Companion, LLC, 1400 Regine Ave, Wasilla, AK 99654, United States

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