activities & sports
Adventure athlete has her dog to thank for her rescue after a near-fatal fall.
When Danelle Ballengee headed out for an eight-mile trail run near Moab, Utah, last December (2006), it was supposed to be just another outing.
And that’s probably what her dog, Taz, thought, too.
A two-time world champion in the extreme sport of adventure racing, and a seven-time Ironman triathlon finisher, Ballengee lives in Dillon, Colo., and frequently uses Moab as a training ground. And lucky Taz—a big mixed breed— often gets to come along.“He loves to run with me,” says Ballengee, adding that she thinks Taz is part Australian Shepherd. “He really enjoys it.We’ll run for a couple hours sometimes.”
They were midway through what would have been about a 90-minute run when Ballengee slipped on a patch of black ice, slid down a steep rock face and across a series of ledges, and finally crashed to the ground some 80 feet below, shattering her pelvis.
As soon as Ballengee realized she wasn’t paralyzed, she started to crawl; it took her five hours to go about a quarter of a mile. Then, when the sun went down and the temperature dropped into the 20s, hypothermia became a very real threat. Ballengee drank water and ate her energy gels sparingly, but knew that if she closed her eyes, she’d fall asleep and might never wake up. Rather than giving in, Ballengee did subtle abdominal crunches, both to stay awake and to keep her body temperature from plummeting. She also took comfort in having Taz at her side.
“I wanted to curl up next to him and be closer, but I couldn’t move. But it still helped to have him there. I wasn’t really alone,” Ballengee says.
Ballengee has always loved dogs. When she was a child, her parents had an Australian Shepherd, a Springer Spaniel and, later, a Golden Retriever. She considered getting a dog when she graduated from college, but developing her career as a professional endurance athlete, race director and personal trainer took a lot of her time. When she wasn’t running, cycling, swimming or kayaking, she was planning for a race or traveling to an exotic location—New Zealand, Argentina, Italy, Switzerland, Hawaii or Fiji—to participate in one.
Still, she really yearned for canine companionship, and kept her antenna out for a good candidate. In 2003, in the middle of a busy summer, she drove two hours to a rescue facility north of Denver.“It was one of those places where you know you’re not going to leave without a puppy,” she recalls. It was love at first sight when she laid her eyes on a 10-week-old mutt, part of a litter that had been rescued from a Kansas farm.
During their first year together, Ballengee took Taz on short walks and trips to the lake. As he got bigger, they started running and hiking together, eventually covering as many as 15 miles at a time, and occasionally hiking to the summit of one of Colorado’s 14,000- foot mountains. So while the Moab trail she and Taz were running that day was rugged and remote, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for Ballengee. “She trains 20 to 30 hours a week by just going out and having fun in the mountains,” says Dave Mackey, an ultrarunner and adventure racer from Boulder,Colo.“It’s amazing, but that’s what she does. That’s who she is. She’s tough as nails.”
When the sun rose the morning after her fall, Ballengee’s optimism was renewed, but Taz was growing restless. He spent that day running off and returning, each trek seemingly longer than the last. When night again found the pair alone in the wild,Taz wouldn’t sleep next to Ballengee; instead, he lay about 15 feet away. “The whole time I was thinking, ‘I can’t die. I’m not ready to die,’” she says. “It scared me to even think about it, so I just kept fighting and telling myself I just had to stay awake.”
At about noon the next day—more than 48 hours after Ballengee and Taz began their fateful run—police found her pickup at the Amasa Back trailhead.As a search and rescue team assembled, a dog matching Taz’s description was spotted heading toward town.“We were going to try to identify the dog, but the dog basically didn’t want to be caught,” said Curt Brewer, chief deputy of the Grand County Sheriff ’s Office in Moab. “When the dog turned around and started running, we decided to follow it.”
By midday, Ballengee had become very lethargic. When Taz returned from his longest journey yet, he wagged his tail and gulped water from the small water hole on which Ballengee had come to rely. “I figured maybe he had a nice run and was just happy to be back. I gave him a little pat—and then I heard the sound of an engine. He knew that someone was coming… he knew before I did.”
The rescue team arrived and worked quickly, strapping Ballengee to a stretcher in preparation for being airlifted to a hospital in Grand Junction.“The dog took our rescue personnel right to her,” Brewer says. “I think we would have eventually found her because we were in the right location, but the dog saved us some time. And that was important, because if it had gotten dark, that would have complicated things. And it wound up snowing later that night, too.”
He spent that day running off and returning, each trek seemingly longer than the last. After surgery to repair her broken pelvis and an extensive rehabilitation, Ballengee made a full recovery. By late spring this year, she and Taz were once again trail-running, albeit a little more cautiously, and in May, Taz received the National Hero Dog Award from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles.
“It’s pretty amazing, what he did,” Ballengee says.“We figured he must have run about 15 miles when he led the rescuers to me.He definitely helped save my life.”But it might have been a case of one good turn generating another: Taz was repaying Ballengee for rescuing him.
Wellness: Healthy Living
Grab a leash and get moving!
Having trouble sticking to an exercise program? Research shows that dogs are actually Nature’s perfect personal trainers—loyal, hardworking, energetic and enthusiastic. And, unlike your friends, who may skip an exercise session because of appointments, extra chores or bad weather, dogs never give you an excuse to forego exercising.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that only 16 percent of Americans ages 15 and older exercised at all on an average day! This is where your canine personal trainer can help. A survey of dog owners, conducted at the University of Western Australia and published in Health Promotion Journal of Australia in August 2008, revealed that dogs are great motivators for walking because they:
What are the benefits of regular exercise? Dr. Joanna Kruk reviewed medical literature describing the health benefits of exercise. Her research showed that the risk of developing a number of serious health problems is reduced by physical activity and exercise:
How much exercise is enough? According to the World Health Organization, adequate exercise to promote good health includes:
Researchers at the University of Western Australia found that seven in every 10 adult dog owners achieved 150 minutes of physical exercise per week, compared with only four in every 10 non-owners. Among new dog owners monitored for one year, recreational walking increased by an average of 48 minutes per week. And, among folks like you who read dog magazines, six in every 10 walked their dogs every day.
Is dog walking really effective exercise? Many people are become interested in exercise to help lose excess weight. Obesity is a global epidemic, affecting about one in every three to four adults in the United States and Europe. Dog ownership and obesity were evaluated in Seattle, Wash., and Baltimore, Md., in a study published in the journal Preventive Medicine in September 2008. Dog owners who reported walking their dogs were almost 25 percent less likely to be obese than people without dogs. Researchers in the April 2008 issue of Health Promotion Journal of Australia reported that having a dog in the house reduced the risk of childhood obesity by half!
Plan for success. It’s easy to forget about healthy walking plans, so set the stage for a successful program:
So, grab a leash, whistle up the pup, and go for a walk—today and every day! Dog walking is a great way to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle program.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Honing dog's scenting abilities through fun and games.
Discover K9 Nose Work, the latest training activity that develops your dog’s natural scenting abilities through fun and games. The sport leverages every dog’s amazing sense of smell and their love of performing a task. Geared for dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages—K9 Nose Work has found enthusiastic participants seeking a lower impact canine activity that offers great rewards for both handlers and their dogs. By utilizing basic search dog skills, the sport builds confidence, burns off mental and physical energy, and reinforces the bond between dog and owner. All levels of performance reap these benefits and are welcome.
Watch a video of a Nose Work session in action and check out the following sites for more information on classes, tools for training and competition requirements.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Promoting mental stimulation
One of the biggest challenges dog trainers face is how to encourage people to continue training their dogs. Not only will this help dogs remain well behaved, it gives them attention for a lifetime, not just for the course of a sixweek beginner obedience class. Watch someone who genuinely enjoys playing with her dog and you know that dog has a home for life.
No one understands this better than stunt-dog trainer and trick-dog performer Kyra Sundance. Together with her 10-year-old Weimaraner, Chalcy, she has entertained and educated thousands of dog lovers around the world through her live and televised performances, videos and books. She recently created Do More With Your Dog!, the only official sanctioning and organizing body for the activity of dog tricks. (To see Sundance and Chalcy in action, go to youtube.com/user/kyrasundance.)
“Teaching tricks not only teaches skills, but also teaches focus and establishes a pattern of learning in the dog,” says Sundance. “Tricks are taught through positive training methods, which promote a bond between canine and human.”
She shares the story of her two-yearold Weimaraner, Jadie, as a prime example. When Jadie came into her life as a puppy, Sundance was already under contract to complete a puppy-tricks book and DVD. “We started training right away with simple tricks such as ‘sit,’ ‘shake hands,’ ‘spin a circle’ and ‘fetch,’” she says. “We trained in many fiveminute sessions per day, and worked on several different tricks per session. We went through a lot of treats!”
Incredibly, at the age of four-anda- half months, Jadie could perform 50 tricks, including rolling herself in a blanket, getting the newspaper from the mailbox, tidying her toys into a toy box, wiping her paws on a doormat, ringing a bell to go outside and dropping litter into a step can.
“Spending this quality time together while she was a puppy built a bond between us that will last a lifetime,” says Sundance.
Don’t fret if your dog is well beyond the puppy stage. When my nine-yearold Dalmatian, Darby, retired from agility competition due to injury, trick training was the perfect outlet for her high energy and smarts. She already knew basic skills (see box), and eagerly learned more complex tricks such as “roll over” and “jump through a hoop.”
Sundance’s Weimaraners, Chalcy and Jadie, are accomplished performance dogs, having earned titles in agility, obedience, hunting and mushing. “But I’ve got to say, without a doubt, the activity they enjoy most is trick training,” says Sundance. “When you interact with your dog ‘eye-to-eye,’ your dog is staring into your eyes, looking for clues and enjoying your attention.”
While her training background is in competition obedience, in which dogs are expected to perform with exacting precision, Sundance wanted something more. “I sometimes feel constricted by the narrowly defined objectives— the human must get her dog to perform in one specific way,” she says. “In trick training, I feel a much more cooperative spirit. Your dog may offer behaviors that aren’t exactly what you had in mind … you have the freedom to allow the dog to add his creativity to the trick, to make it uniquely his own.”
Because I missed the joy of performance partnership with Darby, I was thrilled that we had a chance to earn “Trick Dog” titles. Instead of traveling to and competing at a traditional show, the handler asks a friend to witness her dog performing tricks appropriate for the required title level (Novice, Intermediate, Advanced or Expert). The handler then sends paperwork to Do More With Your Dog! or applies online (at domorewithyourdog.com) to qualify her dog for a title certificate.
Darby earned her NTD (Novice Trick Dog) title by performing 15 easy tricks, ranging from “sit” and “down” on command to “peekaboo” and “take a bow.” We’re currently working on her Intermediate Trick Dog title; if she remains physically sound, we’ll go for her ATD (Advanced Trick Dog) and ETD (Expert Trick Dog) titles. It’s exciting to see my senior Spot’s eyes light up when I bring out the clicker and a fistful of treats to try something new.
At the Novice and Intermediate levels, the dog may perform tricks while on-leash; the leash may not be used to physically manipulate the dog to do a trick. At the Advanced and Expert levels, the dog must work off-leash. Of course, physical or verbal corrections are not allowed. Treats are encouraged as a reward, but may not be used as lures beyond the Intermediate level. Tricktraining enthusiasts who earn at least an ITD title are welcome to pursue their CTDI (Certified Trick Dog Instructor), which requires completion of a written test and watching a video demonstrating your dog’s trick basics and how you would teach a new trick from scratch.
Regardless of the level and your reasons for pursuing it, you’re guaranteed to have a happier, healthier dog. “Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that training is fun!” enthuses Sundance. “This joyful attitude builds a bond that will extend into all areas of your life. Trick training teaches the dog that it is safe to offer behaviors, and that is what makes a really trainable dog.”
What You’ll need: You’ll need three identical flower pots which have a hole at the base allowing your dog to smell the treat underneath. Heavy clay flower pots work well because they won’t overturn easily.
1. Start with just one flower pot and rub the inside with a treat to give it lots of scent. You can even tape a treat inside the pot. Show your dog as you place a treat on the floor and cover it with the pot. Encourage him to “find it!” When he noses or paws the pot, say “good!” (or click your clicker), and lift pot to reward him with the treat.
2. After your dog catches on, hold the pot in place and keep encouraging him until he paws at it. Reward any paw contact, and lift the pot.
3. Add two more pots and hold them in place so your dog doesn’t knock them over. Use the pitch of your voice to calm your dog as he sniffs each pot, and to excite him when he shows interest in the correct one. If your dog paws at an incorrect pot, do not lift it; instead encourage him to keep looking.
4. When your dog indicates the correct pot, encourage him until he paws at it, then say “good!” and lift the pot to reveal his reward!
What to expect: Be encouraging with your dog and avoid saying “no.” Practice only a few times per session and end with a successful attempt, even if you have to go back to using just one pot to get that success.
News: Guest Posts
We are almost half way through Ranger’s first year or life and training to become a Conservation K9! He really did not seem to grow much the first few weeks but now he is just growing like a weed and turning into a very handsome Golden Retriever!!
Ranger’s training continues to progress. We train each weekend with the Search and Rescue team, as well as attend puppy obedience class. We trained at a couple novel locations this month, which was great to see how he reacted, and not surprisingly he did just fine. One day we had a short training session at my local UPS store here in Brenham, TX where Ranger was allowed to run around off leash, do some short sit, down, sit exercises and then I did a lot of playing with him. At one point I threw his beloved toy onto a pile of discarded cardboard boxes and he, without hesitation, clambered up to retrieve his toy. This is a really great sign at such a young age that he has potential to be a successful detection dog because it shows that he will do quite a bit to get his toy, even if it is a little scary or uncomfortable!
A week later I took Ranger to Lowe’s and he got to run up and down the lumber department, retrieved his toy off a few piles of wood and even jumped onto a very tipsy lumber cart multiple times to get his toy back… I was very pleased!!
Of course wherever we go Ranger gets to meet new people, and I am thrilled with his temperament because he is an absolute love bug with everyone he meets. I have decided that he has a definite backup career as a therapy dog one day!!
As Ranger’s training has progressed, Dogs for Conservation has also made some big strides lately. We have assembled what I like to call a “Dream Team” consisting of several amazing detection dog trainers, and thanks to one of them, Sgt. Renee Utley, we also have several fantastic dogs who are old enough and have what it takes to immediately start training for Conservation Projects. One of these new dogs is a Springer Spaniel named “Bea” who has an keen nose, absolutely loves her ball, and is starting her new career in Conservation next week as she begins training to search for one of Texas’ most endangered species!
Dogs for Conservation has teamed up with the highly esteemed Caesar Kleburg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI) at Texas A&M University in Kingsville, TX to start training dogs for a couple different research projects that will be very useful to biologists to survey for these endangered species they are studying. The CKWRI instantly recognized the value and potential to use dogs to assist in their various research areas, and I believe we are going to be working with them for a long time. One of these soon-to-be-announced projects is also in collaboration with one of my favorite childhood places, the Houston Zoo!
I am also happy to announce that we have had several new sponsors come on board this month including Micah Jones from Blue Giraffe Art Works who donated a commissioned portrait of a CenTex Search and Rescue dog we work with regularly during training and which proceeds from will help both organizations. We were also generously donated several great products from the Kyjen Company, whose Outward Hound product line is a perfect fit for our working dogs in the wilderness!
Check back with Dogs for Conservation next month to see how Ranger and Bea’s training is coming along! You can also join us on Facebook or on our Website to check for more regular updates!
Training (and fun!) Videos this month:
Dog's Life: Travel
In North Augusta, S.C., there is a beautiful trail system called the Greeneway. Most of the trail is shaded, and the entire trail is paved. A large part of it goes along the Savannah River. It’s just beautiful and peaceful there.
It’s anything but a secret here in Northern California, but Carmel-by-the-Sea is probably the most dogfriendly spot you can find. The beach is available for off-leash dogs, and all sizes and shapes, mutts and purebreds, romp in the surf and chase balls. Afterwards, on a walk into town, you’ll find many places that welcome dogs, including quite a few outdoor restaurants. Of course, everyone is very conscientious about poop pickup, which helps keep it a great experience.
Zephyr Cove beach at Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada side, has a dog-friendly portion on the far end. A wonderful place to take dogs. My two learned how to swim there just last summer.
Do the dew! Dewey Beach, Del., that is. Dewey Beach is a dog-friendly town. The beach is available for dog play before 9:30 in the morning and after 5:30 in the evening. Every entrance to the beach and most street corners have free doggie bags and trash cans. It truly is better when you don’t have to leave your best friends behind.
Fourpeaks Adirondack Backcountry Camps in Jay, N.Y.: 700 acres of breathtaking beauty. You cannot count the stars. No leashes. I have never met a crabby person there and most people bring friendly dogs. It is heaven.
Burlington, Vt: Swimming in the lake, three off-leash dog parks, outdoor dining on Church Street, walking the 13-mile bike path next to the lake, exploring trails in the Burlington Intervale and Ethan Allen Homestead. Best of all, dogs can attend the annual Vermont Brewers Festival on the waterfront in late July.
The beautiful beach at Cape San Blas, Fla., is petfriendly 24/7— the best we have visited. Lady can’t wait to go back this year. She has yet to capture a sand crab, but that is not for any lack of diligence.
We love to hang out at the leash-free Canine Country, near St. Louis, Mo., on lazy summer days. My three dogs and I take beautiful hikes and swims on 223 acres of farmland. My dogs don’t herd sheep, but there are some available to smell, along with some chickens. We even got into a tussle with a skunk. It’s truly an adventure!
Buy name/ID tags that have a slip of paper in them that can be removed; add the important contact info for where you are staying. We have a separate ID tag for our trips to my mother’s house, since that is a destination we visit repeatedly.
Broad Ripple neighborhood in Indianapolis. Why? The Monon Trail is great for dog walking and Three Dog Bakery for starters. Best of all, numerous dog-friendly restaurants including Petite Chou, which serves frosty paws all summer; the Monon Food Company,with a large dog-friendly deck; Plump’s Last Shot, and the most popular local dog hangout, Flatwater. At The Monkey’s Tale/Jazz Cooker, you can listen to live music on the patio with your dog, provided that he or she doesn’t decide to join the band with a good howl.
Nothing better for a family/ dog vacation: Provincetown, Mass., at the easternmost tip of Cape Cod. It’s easy to find a motel or inn that takes dogs, and when you walk down Commercial Street, merchants have bowls of water out for thirsty canines, and many stores and outdoor restaurants let you bring your dog in. There are beautiful (and free) beaches where you can take your dog on off-peak hours; a great dog park, Pilgrim Bark Park; and nearly everywhere you walk offers scenic views of the Atlantic.
Lake Superior Hiking Trail from Duluth, Minn., to the Canadian border. Tip: Leash up your dogs at trailheads, but if they’re friendly with people and other dogs, let them run free once you’re a quarter-mile out. I rarely run into more than a few people in 10 miles.
Check out Chicago area neighborhood festivals, many of which are dogfriendly (not all, so be sure to check). One of my personal favorites is Custer’s Last Stand on Custer Ave. in Evanston in June. Besides dogs, I’ve also seen people there with parrots on their shoulders and carrying a pouch of ferrets.
Spend the weekend in Redmond, Wash.: The outstanding 40-acre, off-leash dog park at Marymoor Park is doggie heaven. Dogs are welcome at the Redmond Saturday Market (open from May to October), outdoor movies, restaurant patios, many stores and miles of trails.
We live in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and we have an endless amount of trails and parks to bring our doggies to. Whether we trek loops on the Appalachian Trail, visit the Shenandoah River or just traverse our backyard, we are blessed by location!
Going on the sandbars on the Wisconsin River: boat for miles ’til you find a secluded sandbar for your group — dogs included — grill, swim, throw the Frisbee. Everyone has fun and stays cool.
We live in beautiful North Idaho, where we are surrounded by pristine lakes, including Lake Pend Oreille, Lake Coeur d’Alene, Spirit Lake, Hayden Lake, Priest Lake and more. We love to go kayaking, as does our two-year-old yellow Lab, Jake, who wears his own dog life vest.
I grew up around Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park in Maine. There are tons of dog-friendly B&Bs, restaurants and businesses (everyone has a dog water dish outside of their store). And, there are amazing trails for every ability. It’s a mustgo every summer for us.
Pup-friendly hiking and cabins at Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma’s San Bois Mountains.
We recently took a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota — the one million-acre area lies within the boundaries of the four-million-acre Superior National Forest. This is the largest designated wilderness in the eastern U.S. with 2,000 campsites, over 1,000 lakes — heaven for wilderness trekkers, paddlers and pooches.
If you are traveling near Portland, Ore., try Sandy Delta Park; most of it is off-leash. Lots of trails and access to the Sandy River, which is great for wading and playing in, and easy on bare feet and paws.
National parks do not allow dogs, but they are allowed in most national forest areas. This leaves you with endless possibilities for fun with your dog. My dogs are at their happiest when we take them hiking. They tromp through water, run with each other and wrestle, get dirty, just be dogs.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Interview with the President of Dogs Scouts of America
Summertime brings back childhood memories of swimming, hiking and summer camp with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts and lovers of crafts, campfires and sleeping under the stars. Like many youngsters, these activities revolved around scouting … troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Today, our dogs keep me company on my outdoor adventures, but I sometimes miss the camaraderie of my fellow scouts. Imagine my delight in discovering Dog Scouts—a national organization that promotes a variety of pursuits for dogs and their owners. I had the opportunity to find out more about this exemplary organization recently when I spoke to Chris Puls, President of Dog Scouts of America.
When and how did the Dog Scouts in America start?
DSA was established in 1995 for people and dogs of all ages and abilities. It was started by Lonnie Olson because of her dog Karli. Karli had been active in several dog sports and she had excelled in many other areas which did not offer registered titles. For example, she was an outstanding frisbee dog. She was the lead dog on Lonnie’s sled team, and she had starred in stage productions and television commercials. She performed tricks and entertained people in hospitals, schools and nursing homes with her therapy visits too. This dog was like an Eagle Scout (the highest rank in Boy Scouts), she had done it all! Lonnie decided that there should be an organization for dogs like Karli or dogs who aspired to Karli’s many accomplishments. And an organization for people who just wanted to have more fun with their dogs and learn new things.
The concept of having a single organization that gave recognition to all of the various activities which dogs become involved in was just too profound to ignore. Lonnie jumped on the idea of Dog Scouts to recognize all the dog activities under one organization (at a time when dog sports outside of obedience were just getting started and when many were breed restrictive). Rally had not yet been created and Agility had just been introduced in the U.S. a few years earlier. The only other “dog camp” had just recently started on the East coast and was geared toward serious competitors in various dog sports.
The idea of pet dogs coming to camp with their owners to learn skills, for which they would get recognition in the form of merit badges, was, as Lonnie says, “the best idea I’ve come up with in my lifetime.” Everyone loves the concept. Everyone wants their dog to be a Dog Scout. And now that concept has spread across the country and even to other countries with troops currently in 22 states plus Canada and Puerto Rico.
Much like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Dogs Scouts is more than fun and games, it involves a lifelong learning, enrichment and dedication. Can you talk about the organization's mission and focus on responsibility?
I think the Dog Scout owner’s motto sums up the mission: “Our dog’s lives are much shorter than ours—let’s help them enjoy their time with us as much as we can.” But the official mission we strive for is: to improve the lives of dogs, their owners, and society through humane education, positive training and community involvement.
We stand for responsibility—to the dogs in our care, to our communities, and to each other. We recognize the importance and benefits of the relationship between people and companion animals, and seek out ways to enrich this bond. We believe encouraging compassion and kindness toward our canine companions builds a more compassionate and kind world. We strive to create a better understanding and quality of life for our dogs and all animals in our world. We believe that our members make a difference by setting an example, developing skills and embracing opportunities to share our philosophy with each other and inspire people to join us. We know that sharing positive ways of training and problem-solving helps to keep dogs in lifetime homes and out of shelters. In Dog Scouts, people help dogs, dogs help people, and the whole community benefits.
We envision a future where dogs remain in happy, lifelong homes with responsible owners. In this vision, all dogs are seen as a useful and welcome part of the community, because people take responsibility for socializing, training, containing and caring for them. We strive to create a world where people view their dogs as part of their family and all dog owners have the knowledge they need to raise well-mannered canine citizens.
There’s an entry point to membership and level of commitment to Dog Scouts, correct? What are the first requirements upon joining Dog Scouts?
All participants must first earn the title of Dog Scout. They do that by earning the Dog Scout badge. This title/badge (and all the other badges) have components for both the dog and the person to learn and demonstrate so that both ends of the leash are involved. The Dog Scout badge requires the owner to learn about responsible dog care and positive training while the dog needs to demonstrate basic obedience like sit, down, stay, come, heel and leave-it as well as showing they are safe around people and dogs.
And like young boys and girls in scouting, there are lots of badges to earn by the dogs and their human companions. What kinds of badges are available?
After the Dog Scout badge is earned, the team is free to learn/earn just about any of the other badges (some have pre-requisites that need to be earned first). Earning badges are optional and not required, but offer a wide range of challenges for dogs and owners. The badges are categorized into the following areas:
There are 88 badges (including the 10 new badges that will be introduced this year, but are not yet present online).
Some of the more popular are the Backpacking and Hiking, Puppy Paddler (swimming), Manners, First Aid/CPR, Agility (all levels), Community Service and Art of Shaping (teaching the dog to wear a bootie that gets dipped in paint, that the dog then swipes at the canvas to create a masterpiece.)
Community involvement is a big part of Dog Scouts as well … how do the Scouts impact their communities?
Many troop members help out in their communities, this includes individuals who participate remotely, without having a troop nearby. Troops have raised funds for bullet proof vests, vehicle temperature warning systems and door poppers for police K-9 units. They have organized drives for specially shaped pet oxygen masks for fire departments and cool bed equipment and vehicle temperature systems to search and rescue teams. And some have secured food and toys for the pets of people in need and low cost spay/neuter programs. They visit hospitals and nursing home with certified therapy dogs, and are active in educational presentations at a variety of events. Plus, DSA members often pick-up dog waste left behind by other, less responsible dog owners. We even have a badge for this! It’s the Clean-Up America II badge (level I is picking up cans and bottles).
I understand that there’s plenty of time for fun and games as well ... can you talk about some of the outings, camps and outdoor activities?
DSA national provides two summer camps each year in June and July at the 70-acre camp facility in St. Helen, MI. These camps run Monday to Saturday and allow the owners and their dogs to experience many sports and dog activities that they might otherwise be unable to do. If a medium sized dog wants to try Earthdog/Go-to-Ground, which is typically limited to small terriers, the dog can try it out because Dog Scout camp has larger tunnels for the big dogs. If a Chihuahua wants to try carting, we have some tiny carts for them to try. DSA encourages the dogs and people to try any activity that is safe for their dog. The camps are $650 for the week and that includes all the activities from 8 am – 8 pm and all meals (lodging is extra and available on-site ranging from $8 per night for a rustic camp tent site or $75 per night for a one-room private cabin with A/C. There are also private and group rooms in the main lodge and a few RVs to rent. People can also bring their own RV—we have sites with electric hook up.
DSA national also holds Spring, Fall and Winter outings that are fun get-togethers and free for DSA members (lodging extra). Members may rent the camp facility for their own use or use it to hold a seminar, troop camp out or other learning activity.
There are also two mini-camps held by troops near Pennsylvania/Massachusetts and in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. These are 3–4 days and include several badge activities and learning sessions.
We have about 40 troops that hold various activities for their members—everything from hikes and parties to community service events and fundraisers. The number of events a troop has per year varies by troop. People can see a map and a listing of troop locations and troop leader contact information online (scroll down under the map box for contact info).
Are there age restrictions for children joining with their dogs?
We have a Jr. Scout program that is open to children from 6 to 18 years of age. A child of any age can be a member of DSA (with parent’s permission), but some troops have rules about minors attending troop events. This might include the parent needing to stay with the child or the child demonstrating a certain level of competence in controlling the dog. At camp, anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult that must be responsible for them. We usually have a few kids per camp, but mostly it is an adult activity.
Can people participate in Dog Scouts online or virtually ... if they live in remote areas or don’t have a troop nearby?
Absolutely! All the badges can be earned by submitting video of the dog doing their part and written answers for the owner’s part of the badge. Individuals are encouraged to participate in activities like the DSA National Hike-a-Thon, which takes place every May and individuals can organize activities and fundraisers for their community.
We also have various competition and titling events that are open to everyone (with discounts for DSA members). Currently, we offer titles for backpacking, scent detection, carting, treibball (ball herding) and IMPROV (a fun, useful and varied form of obedience). The guidebooks and rules for these can be found at: dogscouts.org.
The dogs must love scouting ... any stories stand out?
We have had a number of dogs who try a dog sport for the first time at Dog Scout camp, and then go on to compete and earn titles. Several have even made it to the National level. This has happened with a number of dogs in Dock Diving, but also in Rally and Frisbee. And dogs of all breeds have found they LOVE lure coursing!
Usually at least half of the campers during the summer camps are people who have attended our camp before, sometimes well over half are repeat campers. And some of the campers have attended every year since the start and are now on staff! Many have attended multiple years and we give out “Happy Camper pins” that award a new “bone” for every 3 years of camp attended. Many people have multiple bones hanging from their pins. The Texas mini-camp filled in less than 3 days last year and this year it filled (50 campers) in just a single day! We often hear from the campers that Dog Scout camp is the best time they have with their dog.
What’s on the Dog Scouts calendar this summer?
We offer camps and events throughout the year—our popular Michigan summer camps held in June and July are currently full as is the Texas mini-camp this fall, but space remains at the Blue Ridge mini-camp in Western Maryland, Aug 16-19, 2012. The DSA Leadership Retreat and two Canine Freestyle camps with WCFO Judge Gloria Voss are offered every April and May.
Current and future outing dates are posted online: http://dogscouts.org/
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Canine freestyle encourages you and your dog to move to the music
When you’ve done canine freestyle as long as Kris Hurley of Oklahoma, you’re bound to have some funny stories. Most of them involve her seven-year-old Pug/Dachshund mix, Roxie, and her obsession with food.
“We were doing a demo in Memphis with an open ring, no gates,” recalls Hurley, who has danced with dogs since 1996. “On one side, there were high-rise bleachers. Roxie was next to me in left heel position, like she was supposed to be. We spin at the same time and she spins off to my left. At one point, she’s behind me, but then when I look down, I realize my dog’s not there anymore. She’s in the fourth row of bleachers in this guy’s lap, feet on his chest, and he’s holding a turkey leg up in the air out of reach.”
Canine freestyle is choreographed trick training set to music. You’ll recognize some traditional obedience moves, such as heel position, but the overall goal is to get creative and put your dog’s best paw forward. Fans of the sport love the freedom of choosing their own music, designing a routine based on their dog’s strengths and using verbal encouragement during a performance.
“There was a woman in high heels and stockings doing ballet with a Golden Retriever,” says Tennille. “There were so many sequins and ruffles, you couldn’t even see the dog, and all the dog did was sit. Another woman had a well-trained Border Collie, but she had heavy sequins and balloons, so again, you couldn’t see the dog. I call that entertainment. That’s not what they wanted.”
Aside from the challenge of giving the dog equal stage presence, Tennille had to think about movement and flow. Four-footed dogs move very differently from two-footed people. Plus, a Border Collie is going to be more agile and light on his feet than a Bloodhound.
“Rhythm is a great organizer,” says Tennille. “Your heartbeat determines the rhythm of your body. You breathe relative to that heartbeat, and you move relative to the heartbeat. The dog does the same thing.”
The demo proved successful, and CFF was born two years later. It remains the oldest active canine freestyle organization, and is best known for what Tennille calls “performance attitude.”
The Musical Dog Sport Association (MDSA) is a young organization, founded in 2002. Its website is a treasure trove for beginners, featuring resources such as a comprehensive (and ever-evolving) list of canine freestyle moves and advice on how to find a good freestyle trainer. MDSA also recognizes freestyle teams that perform at hospitals, schools and nursing homes through its Spirit of Sharing (SOS) program. Since freestyle classes are not yet available in some areas, its Circle of Friends program encourages members to meet and train with freestylers in their area.
Each organization promotes its own style and hallmarks of competition. Or, in the case of MDSA, the organization is so new that it’s still putting together titling competitions. In general, as you progress from one level to another, you’re required to perform longer, more challenging routines. Unlike dogs in many other sports, freestyle dogs must focus on their partner for a minimum of 90 seconds, and up to three minutes at the most advanced levels. The key is positive training using motivational methods.
“You can’t make a dog do freestyle,” says Hurley. “I don’t know how you could use correction to get the energy and teamwork. You can have all the technical precision in the world, but if you don’t have that connection, it won’t work.”
“The bond is even more important in freestyle,” says Lewis. “In agility, you pretty much do those obstacles the same way. In freestyle, you’re always doing new moves. The dog has to pay attention to you constantly to get the cues, either verbal or physical. Since you’re supposed to keep up, you’re constantly thinking, What am I doing now? When am I going to say it? It’s amazing what can go on during a one-and-a-half-minute routine. It’s important for you to know what you’re doing.”
Of course, mistakes sometimes happen. Once, Bryce decided to get creative and change the order of the moves. “He’s lying down and he’s supposed to crawl toward me, then we roll over together in the same direction and he jumps over my back,” says Lewis. “When we performed this in live competition, he didn’t crawl, he walked, jumped my back, then lay down next to me. I had no idea what happened. We got an award for the best beginning move! So when you have a plan and it doesn’t go well, just keep on dancing.”
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Minimize jumping dangers
Imagine living in a world of giants, where nearly every object is colossal and the local terrain is treacherous. Furniture towers eight feet high. Staircase “mountains” are intimidating, with each step equal to your full height. Jumping on and off the enormous furniture and scaling staircases make for a tough day.
This is your home from the viewpoint of your small-breed dog.
Obstacles and Injuries
Stairs are an added hazard for small dogs, increasing not only the risk of falling, but also the potential for premature joint wear caused by the impact of scaling stairs. The average house-step’s riser is approximately eight inches—roughly equal to a toy breed’s standing height—and a typical home contains 12 to 18 steps between floors. Most dogs make an average 12 trips up and down the stairs each day, so your dog climbs as many as 360 steps per day, totaling more than 131,000 steps in a year and 1.5 million in a lifetime!
It is important to understand the harmful effects that furniture jumping and stair climbing have on your dog. Because dogs are quadrupeds, the force of landing ripples through their bodies in a sequence of powerful shocks. When a dog’s front feet land on a surface, the impact of her body weight is absorbed first through the forelimbs and then by her back. The hind limbs land next, absorbing the impact of the hindquarter weight and sending a final jolt to her back.
Small-breed dogs are especially prone to injuries caused by their furniture jumps. Some of the risks of that jumping include broken toenails; sprains to the legs and wrists (carpus), pad and shoulder (biceps tendonitis, lesions of the humeral head); and elbow trauma. Serious injuries, such as a subluxing patella (slipping kneecap) and necrosis (cell and tissue degeneration) of the femoral head, also can be caused by a dog standing or hopping on its hind legs. According to Deborah Gross-Saunders, of the Wizard of Paws Rehabilitation for Animals, chondrodystrophic dogs (those with long backs and short legs) risk rupturing a disk by jumping. Ms. Gross-Saunders estimates that at least half of the patients she sees for post–back surgery therapy had been injured by jumping. When treating small-breed dogs in the high-risk category, she recommends that owners eliminate jumping from the dogs’ lives—in other words, no more furniture jumps.
To reduce furniture jumping, training your small dog to stay off the furniture is the obvious solution: no jumping, problem solved! But, as owners of small-breed dogs know, this is easier said than done. A simple and effective way to make their home more dog-friendly is to place pet ramps and steps next to their furniture.
Veterinarians and animal rehabilitation specialists suggest the use of ramps and steps to reduce the amount of jumping in the home. Ms. Gross-Saunders also recommends them for dogs recovering from surgery for back, knee and leg injuries, who absolutely must not jump on or off any furniture. If your dog was accustomed to furniture-jumping prior to the injury, adding a ramp or step is the only solution. Pet ramps also help dogs who suffer from arthritic pain (no matter their size)—it is estimated that one in five dogs in the United States have osteoarthritis so severe that it’s almost impossible for them to get onto your sofa or bed. A simple ramp can reduce pain and give your aging or handicapped dog a new lease on life.
Dogs too small to get up or down from furniture unaided—and even uncoordinated puppies—will adapt to a new ramp in minutes. For the Yorkies in our family, pet ramps have worked best, completely eliminating jumping on and off beds and couches. Ramps also provide a “puppy playground” in the house, a source of never-ending daily entertainment. Our dogs have loads of fun romping on their ramps, and even rolling balls and other toys down them—their own game of “doggy fetch.”
Pet steps are also great. Typically less expensive than ramps, they are usually more compact and fit into smaller areas. Steps often have storage compartments, which help corral toys and other odds and ends, and some are available with wheels to assist moving them from one place to another. There are also special units made with “mini” steps to accommodate even the tiniest of breeds.
So which option is best for your small-breed dog: ramps or steps? Both are built with your pet in mind, and designed to help your small dog safely navigate furniture. Countless models are available in different shapes, styles, and colors. Ramps and stairs are constructed from a wide range of materials ranging from lightweight high-density foam, plastic and PVC tubing to plywood and hardwood. Many models are available with attractive, removable and replaceable waterproof and designer fabric coverings. Beautifully finished hardwood and carpeted models compliment any home decor.
Puppy furniture costs vary. A single carpeted step starts at about $35, while a more elaborate set of premium hardwood steps costs as much as $250. Pet ramps prices are slightly higher, ranging from about $75 to $300. If you’re even minimally handy with tools, you can construct a simple—or elaborate, if your skills allow—ramp or set of steps yourself for the cost of the materials.
Whatever option you choose, it is important to provide your dog with both a safe alternative to jumping and assistance in navigating your “home obstacle course.” Simple pet-friendly furniture-helper units will reduce home injuries, making dogs’ lives happier, healthier, and safer—and give you more years to enjoy their company.
News: Guest Posts
I started jogging in 1975. My grandmother told me it was unladylike; my mother was certain it would ruin my knees. Thirty-five years later, I’m still running regularly and my knees are fine. I love it when science finally confirms what I’ve sensed all along, and also proves my mother wrong.
I believe that science about humans can often be extended to our canine companions. If jogging is good for us, it’s probably also good for dogs – with the usual cautions. I have had one or more canine running companion since getting my first Alaskan Malamute in 1985. She lived to be fourteen. My two current Malamutes Maia, 13 and Meadow, 11, are now “retired” from running, but they both ran until they were about nine years old, and still enjoy daily walks and are in excellent health. My current canine running companion is an exuberant four year old rescued Aussie.
A recent study out of Denmark makes a very convincing case that even moderate amounts of regular jogging improve and extend our lives. What’s impressive about this study is that it started in 1976; approximately 20,000 men and women ranging in age from 20 to 93 have been followed since that time, reporting their levels of activity, including jogging, as well as other factors related to cardio health and longevity.
At a 35 year follow-up, there were 10,158 deaths among non-joggers and only 122 among joggers. Jogging reduced the risk of death by 44% for both men and women. Jogging extended life expectancy 6.2 years in men and 5.6 years in women. An investment of one to two and a half hours per week, spread over two or three sessions, provided the most benefit, according to researcher Peter Schnohr, chief cardiologist of the Copenhagen City Heart Study.
Wow! Jog to live longer. So elegantly simple. And you get to enjoy runner’s high as a bonus!
Learning about the benefits of regular jogging from my own experience, I try to apply the same lessons to my dogs’ lives. From Schnohr’s study and others like it, we know that jogging improves our oxygen uptake, improves lipid profiles (raising HDL and lowering triglycerides), lowers blood pressure, improves cardiac function, bone density, immune function, reduces inflammation markers, prevents obesity, and improves psychological function.
Why wouldn’t this also be true for dogs? I’m convinced it is. I once made a guesstimate of the miles my Malamutes ran with me before I started noticing the signs that it was time to retire them to a walking regimen. The number surprised even me: 10,000 miles.* Observing the joy on my dogs’ faces when they run and their overall excellent health throughout their lives is my proof that running is beneficial for dogs. My vet is pleased that both of my Malamutes are lean in their old age, which benefits their joints. It’s a result of a lifetime of exercise. And we all know that “a tired dog is a good dog.” My regular runs with my Aussie mellow him right out.
Some people focus their efforts on making sure their dogs eat an optimal diet. That’s great, but if you forget the exercise component, you’re missing the chance to further extend your canine companion’s life and sense of wellbeing. Good diet alone isn’t enough. Humans and canines are designed to move. If your dog isn’t a good candidate for even an easy jogging routine, at least get her outside walking briskly and romping playfully every day. Regular weight-bearing movement in the key.
What about my mother’s long-ago warning that I’d ruin my knees by jogging? More to the point here, what about concerns that running will cause knee injuries in dogs?
Lauren Cox, MyHealthNewsDaily.com Contributor, asked several experts whether jogging causes arthritis in human knees. “That’s an old wives tale,” says Dr. Lewis Maharam, fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. “Your parents decide if you're going to have arthritis or not — it's genetic. Jogging, or running, itself will not cause the arthritis.”
Dr. Michelle Wolcott, Associate Professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine adds that if you’ve never had a broken bone or ligament injury that would predispose you to arthritis, then the chances that jogging will cause arthritis in the knee are minimal. “We know that weight-bearing exercise, such as running, helps prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Repetitive weight bearing and motion are good for the joints, and running essentially does that,” she says. “If you are not predisposed to osteoarthritis, and have healthy knees and are of healthy weight, then running doesn't affect your risk for knee arthritis. That's a huge misconception and one that I fight all the time.”
Again: If it’s true for humans – that jogging doesn’t damage healthy knees—then I bet it’s also true for canines. In fact, I believe that my dogs’ knees are better off running than doing activities like jumping to catch a Frisbee or chasing a ball with short bursts of speed. A lifetime of weight-bearing exercise allows for strong joints late in life.
In sum: What better excuse to get yourself out the door and jogging through the neighborhood than taking your dog on the same journey with you to a longer, healthier life? I have yet to meet a dog who won’t enthusiastically lead you out the door at the start of your jog, no matter the weather or time of day. It’s never too late to start. Just be sure to consult your medical and veterinary caregivers, start easy and build from there. Have fun with it. Motivate yourself by training for a local dog-friendly event, like Seattle’s Furry 5K, a run/walk that encourages bringing your dog. Your dog will thank you. You’ll both live longer and be better able to enjoy those bonus years.
*For skeptics, I calculated that number as follows: 8 years x 25/mls per week average x 50 weeks/year = 10,000 miles, a low estimate based on my own running logs. Many weeks we ran more miles, a few weeks we ran less. I suspect the real number is at least 10-20% higher.
Seattle Furry 5K: http://www.furry5k.com/
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