Great Expectations

I love goals! They are road maps, helping us arrive at a planned destination. I seriously have a list of Dog Goals on my refrigerator.

Goal not met? So what?! Nobody takes away your birthday if a goal needs to be changed or adjusted.

Goal not met? So what?! Nobody takes away your birthday if a goal needs to be changed or adjusted.

But goals can be a double-edged sword.

Goals generate certain expectations of ourselves and others. For example, to meet my goal Sparkle is required to master the exercises in the utility class. It is not Sparkle’s idea to learn which glove to grab or which jump to take — that is my agenda, my expectation, my goal.

Humans have an unfortunate tendency to react with anger, disappointment, and/or frustration when we do not get what we want or think we deserve from others. Even if we mute our response, those reactions are emotional triggers to dogs.

It is the nature of dogs to be keenly aware and responsive to their humans, and a message that there is something not quite right won’t be missed.

But it is the nature of a human to experience a full range emotions — in fact, it is a Bad Sign if we cannot.

So how are we to manage this seeming conundrum in Life with Dogs — the human need to emote but in ways that do not negatively impact a dog’s performance?

Easy peasy — we change our thinking.

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Thoughts are what trigger emotions, and unless you are being remote controlled by one of your electronic devices, you are in charge of what you think — and therefore, what you feel.

An emotional response to, '“Damn dog is blowing me off again” or “This is humiliating” will be very different from thinking, “How can I better support her understanding of my expectation?” or “I love this dog so much!”

This where the assumption of good intentions leap into the conversation.

Unless you are Miss Polly Perfect, it is much more likely that your dog’s so-called failure to meet your expectations is due to YOU. She wasn’t trained well enough for the conditions, you are being a Hot Freaky Mess, your cues got all stiff and weird in the ring, and so on.

If we assume good intentions of the dog — that she is doing her very best with the information and training we have provided — it is hard to be frustrated and disappointed with said dog.

However, we must be careful not to transfer the negativity to ourselves. Holding the dog blameless while mentally beating ourselves up for being an imperfect human being keeps the bad vibes in the training relationship.

FYI: An imperfect human being is the only kind there is. Are you a robot?!

You, the imperfect human being, are doing your best. Assume good intentions of yourself — your dog already does.

When we remove all that negativity in our thinking — about the dog and/or ourselves — we transform our training.

I have the ability to manage my thinking — and therefore feelings — around goals and expectations but even more, I have Perspective — and that is the real secret to keeping Life with Dogs infused with joy even when we miss our mark.

Oh Zoey — how I wish I could have one more hour with you.

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And because she knew that she was nothing but pure joy to me, she would choose to spend that hour training — and it would look like this:

Grand Champion. Utility Dog. Multiple High in Trial Dog. Tracking Dog Excellent. Draft Dog. Brace Draft Dog. Excellent Agility titles. Versatility Dog Excellent. Working Dog Excellent. Versatile Companion Dog 3. Top Producer. Heart Dog. #noregrets

Grand Champion. Utility Dog. Multiple High in Trial Dog. Tracking Dog Excellent. Draft Dog. Brace Draft Dog. Excellent Agility titles. Versatility Dog Excellent. Working Dog Excellent. Versatile Companion Dog 3. Top Producer. Heart Dog. #noregrets

Dream your big dreams, and have those great expectations. But just know that a dog’s life is short — do you really want to waste one second of it on frustration, anger, and/or disappointment?

I don’t.

Big News from Up North

Team Jordan (Sparklers) is on a serious roll, racking up the working titles so fast that it is hard to keep track. Her latest is quite the Accomplishment (yes, with a capital A) — the Canadian Kennel Club’s Draft Dog Excellent (DDX).


In the USA, draft titles are through breed clubs like the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA). In Canada, drafting is done through the Canadian Kennel Club, which has a draft program that our own dear Aysha described as “batshit” (as in crazy hard).

I pulled up the Regulations and Aysha’s comment is not actually hyperbole.

The requirements for DDX are very challenging and include working from behind the dog, a backpacking portion, three judges, and my personal least favorite — the dog may never sit or down during the majority of the test.

I thought the Americans had the corner on that whole Protestant work ethic thing but I guess our neighbors to the north are also a bit hard on idleness.

Anyway, Team Jordan passed that test — on a hot day, no less — before her 2.5 year old birthday. It is entirely appropriate to be super impressed and blown away by this young team.

As Dianne noted in her Facebook post — Jordan is aptly named: Kaibab’s Just Watch Me. This girl has been worth watching since she was tiny. She is something special.

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I am grateful to Dianne for ensuring that Jordan is living her Best Life and realizing her deep potential.

CONGRATULATIONS to Team Jordan on this significant title and all it represents!

Decisions, Decisions

rePete requested equal time on the blog.

Pete June 2019.jpg

This is Daisy.

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Let me give you a glimpse into the heart and mind of a Breeder. Since Daisy lived with Galen and Bethany for her first 2.5+ years (we co-own Daisy) — and may well return to them when they have a suitable housing situation — I am struggling between the desire to get various titles on Daisy or breeding her in August.

If I do titles first, I will not be able to breed her until Fall 2020 when she is 4.5 years. This is because our breeding plans always consider the National Specialty — we will not have a litter if it means missing the Specialty. And so it is this August or skip a cycle and breed Daisy in Fall 2020.

This is Claire.

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I am in a similar boat with Claire. I either breed her soon or I wait until Fall 2020.

This is Sparkle with a scraped up nose — more on that soon.

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Sparkle has not gotten pregnant — twice. Both times were high tech so semen quality could be the issue but I am concerned, to be sure. She is about to be six and so I figure I have just one more chance to breed her — that will likely be November.

I do not want to ever again be in a position of having such a wonderful girl and only having one litter from her as she nears the end of her reproductive life. That said, two litters is my limit with a girl but I want that second litter from Sparkle, who is the total Berner package — with a sparkly bow. And now we are down to the wire…

But what if I breed all three girls in the next few months and they all get pregnant?!

Think 101 Dalmatians.

What I have decided is this — Claire will be bred when she comes in season, which should be within the next six weeks. Hopefully I will know the status of her pregnancy before Daisy comes in season.

If Claire is pregnant, Daisy is off the motherhood hook for now. If Claire is not pregnant, Daisy will be invited to create my next puppy.

Sparkle will be bred in November regardless.

All that means show plans are up in the air — I do not compete with pregnant girls, and we stay home when we have litters. For someone who loves to plan, the uncertainties associated of what can we do when? is a bit disconcerting — but no doubt, good for me.

Breeding dogs well is definitely not for the faint of heart — for all kinds of reasons.