Closing in on our goal...

Terra and I are happy to report that we have moved into the Elite Advanced division of Rally Freestyle Elements Musical Freestyle and just earned our first qualifying score with a newly-debuted routine! We are working toward RFE’s first Elite Grand Champion title, and I have choreographed a new routine to allow her to show off her talents while being physically less taxing on her body. She still absolutely loves to play and train with me, so it is very important to me that I honor the joy she gets from training and performing.

Terra is hanging out while I read, but she wants to go for a walk…

Terra is hanging out while I read, but she wants to go for a walk…

“Hey mom! Stop reading!”

“Hey mom! Stop reading!”

Our new routine scored 95/100 with extremely valuable and wonderful comments like “Lovely storytelling!” “Super clever prop use!” and “Creative interpretation of the music” . This routine was a skit-style routine, very different from our usual heel/dance style of freestyle, so it was a creative stretch for me that presented lots of training challenges. The sheer duration of a few of her behaviors took time to build, as well as the independence to work further from me than she would prefer. Anyone who has seen her sidepass with me knows how she loves to GLOM and SHOVE into me! lol

This routine has also been challenging in the prop department: lots of them and some that even change throughout the routine! Oy!

She’s got a better idea!

She’s got a better idea!

Going for a walk… Now the fun really starts!

Going for a walk… Now the fun really starts!

I have been resting her for a couple weeks, hoping to perform again in the Dogs Gone Dancing Bandstand show April 27-28. I’ve practiced, but made her rest her body. We’ll feel the need to sneak in one more practice this week, play around with some bits during the Friday fun match and then see how she feels.

Stay tuned as we continue to work toward our goal with this new routine! Enjoy the video stills! :)

Attention: build it, value it

Why train it?

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Because getting your dog’s focus with a single effort is very useful. You can distract him from enticing trash in the street, for example, or keep his eyes on you when walking past another dog. You can more easily get your dog to come when called if you can get his attention. Plus, dogs that are rewarded for paying attention do it more. And attentive dogs are easier to train.

A gateway to self-control

Exercises 1-4 progress from most simple (for dog and human) to most difficult. The more difficult exercises install more self control in your dog. Depending on the difficulty of a given environment, you might decide to gather your dog’s attention in different ways. Work on each exercise in five different locations to make sure your dog can respond to his attention cues in new places and with new distractions.

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How to teach it:

Exercise 1. Watch Me: Start with a treat held right at your dog’s nostrils, then draw it to your face, holding it between your eyes. If your dog looks at your face, click and treat. Progress to adding the verbal cue, “Watch Me” when you can make the movement without food in your hand.

Exercise 2. Helper Sound: Use an interesting noise to cause your dog to look at you. Click and treat.

Exercise 3. Name Recognition: When your dog is looking at the environment, say her name cheerfully only once. Click and treat when she looks at you. If she doesn’t, use a helper sound, then click and treat.

Exercise 4. Voluntary Check-In: In a low-distraction area, stand still and quiet. Wait for your dog to voluntarily look up at your face. Click and treat. To add difficulty, add distractions or movement, or play the game in different positions (sit/down/left heel/right heel).

Important Tips:

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You will need to teach all humans around your dog to minimize over-use of her name. You really, truly CAN wear out a dog’s name! We are teaching her that her name has value, so using it unnecessarily often undermines this process.

Balance the value of your treat against the value of the nearby distractions. Use simple dog food if no one’s around, and high-stakes cheese or liver in the face of squirrels or other dogs!

Distractions can help or harm this process. Always start at a distance from your dog’s distractions. It should take less than 3-5 seconds to gather her attention. If it takes longer, move further from the distractions and try again. If she’s staring incessantly at you, work closer to the distractions.

Sea & Shore Camp Registration Open!

It is here!!! Sea and Shore Registration is ready and trust me it was worth the wait! We have expanded and improved our training and camp activity offerings from last year, to give you even more awesome opportunities to play, train, swim and relax!

This camp is in Pennsylvania at Camp Westmont May 31st - June 3rd.

Come Swim, Learn, Play, and Relax with us!

We are super excited to introduce the skills we are offering at this camp with four AMAZING instructors:

Erica Etchason - Sea Skills Jenn Michaelis- Shore Skills

Sherrie Wilkes - Agility Skills Jessica Schulte - Scent Skills

Visit the website to register and read about the instructors and the classes we will be offering. Of course the camp atmosphere you have come to enjoy from Camp Unleashed is part of the experience, but we have added more structure to this camp for campers that want to dive into our most popular activities and go beyond foundation skills. We want you to be able to take it up a notch when you go home!

During the registration process you will pick five classes a day to attend. Only 12 campers per class so if you have your heart set on an activity, register early before the class fills.


New Oregonian Life...

The past 6 weeks have been a blur! It feels like I’ve been here forever and it also feels like I just left New York. We are getting settled in, slowly but surely…

The Willamette River is just 5 minutes from the house. Lots of fun stuff to explore there.

Just a few weeks after I arrived the local freestyle club, Dogs Gone Dancing, hosted a live freestyle show. So we jumped right in! Ringo put in his strongest performance ever, finishing his Elite Intermediate title. Terra felt well enough to perform both days, caused the audience to cry and polished off her Elite Novice title.

Just a few weeks after I arrived the local freestyle club, Dogs Gone Dancing, hosted a live freestyle show. So we jumped right in! Ringo put in his strongest performance ever, finishing his Elite Intermediate title. Terra felt well enough to perform both days, caused the audience to cry and polished off her Elite Novice title.

The first Manners and More puppy graduates!

Roger and I have been exploring the forests near our barn. The plant life is so different here!

A Friday night full moon on the farm. The farm where Roger lives raises grass-fed sheep and organic grass hay. We can ride around the property if we feel like staying close to home.

Terra and Ringo love having a training facility just down the road from home. We can go and train so much more often! And of course training is their favorite thing!

Wonder Dogs has an open-enrollment puppy class that allows puppies to sign up anytime. I added a new course for graduates of that class called Manners and More, to introduce a perfect balance of socializing and clicker training.

I added a new class to the Wonder Dogs program called Double Trouble, specifically for handlers with two dogs.

Students at the Performance Annex get their feet wet in my K9 Games class, which is full of challenges.

Saddle Selfie!

Headed out down the road to get to the forest.

STCA's Favorite Calming Supplements

Supplements to support behavior change

These over-the-counter products can be used separately or together. By helping your dog be calmer, less reactive, and less anxious, your training will progress more quickly, with more permanent long-term change. Don’t reach for them as a last resort! Using them in conjunction with a well-planned and well-executed desensitization and counter-conditioning program can really help improve your dog’s overall stress level, making him/her more receptive to training exercises.


Vitamin B

Stress (both positive and negative) quickly depletes B vitamins, so help your dog stay stocked up on this. Most dog foods do not have enough, especially when you consider that Vitamin B is easily destroyed by high heat. Guess how your dog’s food is cooked? Try Amino B-Plex by Rx Vitamins for Pets.

The Auto Trainer

Milk-Protein Based Calming Supplements

These milk-protein-based calming and anxiety-reducing supplements are safe to give everyday. Terra used Zylkene for years and it really made a dent in her general high arousal and sound sensitivity. Ringo swears by Composure for when his separation anxiety creeps up. These consistently get rave reviews from my students and are very easy to feed.


DAP Solutions

DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. These solutions emit a dog-appeasing pheromone that mimics natural comforting pheromones emitted by nursing mother dogs. You can get it in a spray form to put in the crate, the car or on a bandana for your dog to wear. You can get it in a diffuser for the whole house. Or get it in a collar that your dog wears full time!  

The Treat and Train

Calming Ingredients in Treats 

Look for ingredients like passionflower, chamomile, skullcap, valerian root, or melatonin. Lots of brands sell calming treats these days, so you’ll want to look for good quality overall ingredients and calming ingredients in amounts that will actually make a difference. Here are some to consider:

  • Ultra-Calm by Drs Fosters and Smith

  • Rescue Remedy by Bach 

  • Calming Bites by Zesty Paws

  • Pet Calm by Richard’s Organics

  • SmartCanine Calming by SmartPak


Announcing SassyT Associate Trainers!

We are happy to announce a partnership with two wonderful trainers in the New York and Connecticut area that will keep our SassyT students in good hands! I will be planning quarterly visits to NY and CT for private lessons, but STCA is very thankful to have such good trainers available to continue the force-free humane and rewards-based training that is the cornerstone of SassyT Canine Academy.

I feel completely confident recommending and referring NY and CT STCA clients to these trainers, who are working closely with me to continue to bring wonderful and effective dog training to Westchester, Greenwich, and surrounding areas.

Read more about Virginia and Betsy here!

Scoring Big in Elite Novice!

Omg what an amazing weekend! Our first "go" at Elite Novice!

Ringo and Terra both performed their first Elite Novice routines at the Come to the Cabaret RFE Musical Freestyle Event. Terra only performed once (to be conservative about her arthritis) but our routine earned a first place with 98/100, and TWO Audience Choice Awards: "Celebrating the Bond" and "This routine made me cry". Ringo performed both days, earning his Elite Novice Title with a 2nd place 88/100 & 1st place 89/100, as well as a Judge's Choice Award for "A dog who dances with a joyful heart" in memory of Patricia Nash's Chase.

Jenn & Terra

Elite Novice Leg #1. Earned 98/100 Come to the Cabaret Musical Freestyle Event; 6/30/18

Jenn & Ringo

Elite Novice Leg #2. Earned 89/100 Come to the Cabaret Musical Freestyle Event; 7/1/18

I also felt the love with my going-away gift card and TIARA! Much love to all my freestyle friends here. I will miss you tons! I'll be finding excuses to come visit, that is for sure! ❤️❤️

Thank you to our judge Carrol Haines and to  Nancy Bartosik Marston and Lindsay Crampton who worked hard to help me put this show on! Also major thank you to Arlene Zingale and Kathy Labella for all your volunteer time helping us with music and scorekeeping. Thank you to Petra Ford and Sue Yanoff and Joe Zuckerman without whose help, I would not have been dancing with Terra at all this weekend. I'm beyond grateful for her good health!! 

I'm super excited for others' accomplishments over the weekend but I can't divulge it before they have. MAJOR CONGRATS TO EVERYONE!