Training Spotlight: Helping to Ease Separation Anxiety

FlatCoatedRetriever5_sit cropAKC Gazette breed column, Flat-Coated Retrievers: Keeping your departures and returns calm and controlled can help ease your dog’s separation anxiety.

Some dogs are very prone to separation anxiety. Whining, barking, and/or destructiveness in the absence of the owner are signs of a distressed and frustrated dog, which can lead to an unhappy owner.

The key to controlling separation anxiety is to always leave the dog calmly, ideally leaving him with a biscuit and a toy or something to do, and always return with calm control.

If your dog was in his crate while you were away, upon your return enter the room the crate is in alone, with no people or other pets accompanying you, and close the door behind you. Say nothing to the dog, and quietly busy yourself around the room for a minute or two at first, gradually longer, to get him used to waiting. Then go to the crate with a collar and lead. Say nothing to him and unlatch the crate door, but don’t open it.

Boundary-line train your dog by opening and closing the crate door an inch or two, quickly, repeatedly, 10 or 20 times or until the dog is calmly watching. Then gradually open and close the door wider and more slowly. If the dog begins to come out, gently but quickly close the door and start over. When he understands that he is to wait while the door is fully open, put his collar and lead on as you call him out, then have him stop and sit (or stand if he is a show dog). Control him with stops and turns every few steps, both inside the room and out, until he is under control.

Speak to him pleasantly in a low, calm voice, but be careful to not allow him to touch you. Touching you will excite him as much as being played with will. If you have trouble keeping him from touching you, practice left turns and circles left during training sessions and use them when he is excited about you.

Don’t allow any greetings with any other pets or people or affection or play from you until he has been calm for 15 to 20 minutes. This will be time-consuming at first, but it will take less time in a few days and will save you a lot of time in the long run.

If while you were away you left your dog loose in the house or a room, yard, or dog run, rejoin him by going into this area when you return, rather than opening a door or gate and letting him explode out. Walk into his area and walk past him, speaking to him pleasantly in a low voice. Have him sit for a biscuit while you put on his collar and lead, and treat him as you would coming out of a crate. Or tease him with a biscuit or toy and throw it to distract him. You could also look into a crate that's suited for helping with separation anxiety.

The Flat-Coat is a dependent, excitable breed that is prone to separation anxiety. Prevent explosive or bolting behavior when you return, and you will have a happier, healthier, less anxious dog. —Sally Terroux, [email protected]

Sally Terroux is a longtime obedience trainer and behavior specialist and Flat-Coated Retriever owner. 

Further information about Flat-Coated Retrievers can be found here and here and on the website of the breed’s national parent club, the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America.

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Posted in AKC Gazette, AKC Gazette breed columns, Dog training, Training Spotlight

Giving Back: Volunteer Your Time!

Vizla6_head WebDAMAKC Gazette breed column, Vizslas: It’s thanks to the people who step up and volunteer their time that we’re able to participate in dog events and enjoy the many other benefits that clubs provide.

Do you and your dogs enjoy shows, field trials, hunt tests, obedience trials, rally trials, agility trials, versatility tests, or other canine events? Do you participate in club activities such as training days, educational programs, or banquets? Or maybe you have a beloved rescued dog who came into your life with the help of a breed club. If any of these apply, you have benefited from the efforts of club volunteers and committees.

Events and other activities don’t run themselves. Club members who volunteer their time are the ones who make it happen, and they deserve to hear words of appreciation and support a lot more often than they do.

Some volunteer roles are more demanding than others. A few involve restrictions on competing, and in many other cases the necessary time commitment may interfere with training and competing. We shouldn’t expect anyone to make this kind of sacrifice all the time. If you regularly participate in events, taking your turn in a volunteer role is an important part of the sport. If you don’t help out at some point, are you being fair to those who do?

In addition to events, other club activities also require volunteer efforts. Rescue committees put in countless hours (not to mention the commitment of heart and soul) to match dogs with the right owners and to address issues of health and behavior. Education, fundraising, breeder referral, and other club functions also need people to step up and say, “Yes, I’ll do that.”

Having committees to address specific projects or areas of focus is usually the key to getting things done. Under most clubs’ bylaws, committees report to the board of directors, and this relationship is critically important. Committees must function with transparency and good communication, and this is a two-way street; without mutual respect between the committee and the board, things can go wrong in all kinds of ways. A committee’s responsibilities may involve considerable sums of money, compliance with rules and regulations, and attention to significant safety issues. A solid relationship of trust and clear communication helps ensure that problems are solved and successes continue. Maintaining good communication with the board is one of the most important duties of a committee chair. When a club’s board is supportive of the efforts of club committees, members are more likely to volunteer for these tasks.

Occasionally a situation arises where there is a disagreement between a committee and the board. In an atmosphere of mutual support, problems and disagreements can be resolved in an open and respectful way. On the other hand, if the board asks a committee to do a job and then criticizes or overturns the committee’s work, it’s a pretty sure way to stop people from volunteering in that role. It’s a lot like calling a dog to you and then punishing him: Both the dog and the person are likely to think twice before getting into that situation again.

Volunteers are human, and things don’t always go perfectly. If something goes wrong, instead of whining we should be asking, “What can I do to help?” If you think an event could be run better, that’s a good reason for you to sign up for that committee for the future.

And always, always … we should all remember to say a sincere thank-you to those who step up to take on the responsibilities and get the work done. —Beth Nash, [email protected]

Further information about Vizslas can be found here and here and on the website of the breed’s national parent club, the Vizsla Club of America.

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Posted in AKC Gazette, AKC Gazette breed columns, Events, Parent Clubs

Breed Spotlight: Busting Five Myths About the Great Pyrenees

Great Pyr - 3AKC Gazette breed column, Great Pyrenees: While other Pyrenees people may have a different list than mine of common myths about our breed, I believe that most of us have heard all of the following things said. So here is my list of the top five untrue things about Great Pyrenees that are commonly heard.

Myth #1: “They are so big!” I know they look big. And the breed’s name in the U.S. is Great Pyrenees. In Europe, however, they are actually called Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, and the breed’s AKC standard says they should be a dog of “medium substance.” In general, even large Great Pyrenees weigh about 100 pounds. This is a lot smaller than the Newfoundland or the Saint Bernard, with whom they are often compared. The impression of very large size is in part an optical illusion. They are white, and they have a lot of hair … a lot of hair.

Here is a true story: My friend had a beautiful, top-winning Pyrenees bitch whom she bred. Just after a Pyr bitch has her pups, she typically sheds out almost her whole coat so that the massive undercoat is totally gone. This beautiful girl also lost some weight feeding and caring for her puppies. In other words, she didn’t look too impressively large as she lay in her whelping box with her growing brood. When a potential buyer came to see the puppies with the thought of getting a pet, she saw the framed picture on the wall of the mom’s biggest show win. What a beautiful dog she was! However, the potential buyer was not impressed and said, “What are you trying to pull? You don’t expect me to believe this is the same dog, do you?” Well, yes. It was the same dog—just minus most of the hair.

Myth #2: “They must eat a lot.” This is actually related to the first myth. If they are so big, they must require a lot of food. Actually, Pyrenees tend to have a relatively slow metabolism, which means they eat less than expected for their size. Pyr owners must be careful not to overfeed or overmedicate their dogs, which can be easy to do.

Myth #3: “How can they live through a hot summer with all that hair? You should shave it off.” No, please don’t. The Pyr has a double coat. There is an insulating undercoat of fluff, with harsh guard hairs on the outside. In warm weather the undercoat is shed, leaving the protective outer coat. This coat is at least mostly white and reflects the sun. It traps a layer of air that is not a good conductor of heat to protect the dog underneath. In the winter, the dogs who come from the colder climates do have a beauty advantage in the show ring, as they grow their massive undercoats to keep them warm, but the dogs from the warmer climes are just as comfortable with their smaller coats.

Great Pyr vertMyth #4: “They are just gentle giants.” Actually, the Pyrenees has been used for centuries to guard sheep. They are perfectly capable of fighting off predators, and years ago the breed was known for its protectiveness rather than its gentleness. Breeders have worked for the past 50 years to breed our dogs so that they are fearless and tame. If you talk to people knowledgeable about the breed from many generations ago, they will tell you that having a stable temperament was the highest priority for selecting breeding stock, and the effort paid off. Today’s Pyrenees should be a good housedog who should never be a danger to people.

Myth #5: “They need a lot of space to run.” Maybe not a lot of space. They are not a good choice for an apartment (and they are not a breed for everyone), but most Pyrenees are very happy lying around most of the time, being petted and being watchful just in case some other animal wants to invade their home. They are not a quiet breed, since they will loudly announce everyone who comes anywhere near your house or yard. This is where they still are our protective guardians. —Gail Knapp, Ph.D., J.D.

Further information about Great Pyrenees can be found here and here and on the website of the breed’s national parent club, the Great Pyrenees Club of America.

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Posted in AKC Gazette, AKC Gazette breed columns, Breed Spotlight, Breeds, Working breeds

Bring Your “A” Game to the Ring

Leo headAKC Gazette breed column, Leonbergers—A solid knowledge of exactly what strengths and weaknesses you and your dog bring to the show ring, as well as strategies for maximizing your assets, can play a huge part in sharpening your competitive edge.

The “dog show game” is unique among sports in that amateurs compete with professionals in an arena of subjectivity. Add in the fact that our dogs, unlike basketballs or hockey pucks, are living, breathing creatures who have good days and bad days—and, in the case of Leonbergers, the often uncanny and creative sense of humor that they’ve been known to deploy at very inopportune moments—and the show ring can become a maelstrom of emotions for exhibitors and spectators alike.

For owner-handlers, especially, stepping into a ring full of professional handlers can be a daunting experience. As an owner-handler myself, I know well the self-doubt that often pools in the pit of the stomach prior to ring time. Those nagging questions such as “Is my dog good enough?” “Have I groomed him well enough?” and “What if I trip over my own feet on the down and back?” are bound to echo in the minds of even seasoned owner-handlers.

It’s easy, especially after leaving the ring without a ribbon, to let those feelings of inadequacy morph into frustration and anger. Many times I’ve heard exhibitors, professional and novice alike, angrily mumble about “politics” as they head back to their setup.

While politics may be at play some of the time, it’s an undeniable truth that when novices compete together with professionals, it’s up to the novices to bring their “A” game. Showing dogs requires some honest assessment and self-reflection, as well as careful preparation and training, and it’s necessary for owner-handlers to be their own toughest critics.

Additionally, it’s often helpful to enlist the help of longtime fanciers who know your breed and have an experienced eye for structure and type as well as movement to give you honest, constructive feedback about your dog’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing which elements of structure to emphasize and which ones should be downplayed can help you formulate a game plan for exhibiting your dog to his fullest potential.

dani garden crop

Photo: Courtesy Astrid Robitaille

However, even if you’re a seasoned fancier, it’s impossible to see yourself in the ring as the judge does. One of the best tools I’ve found to improve presentation is having a friend videotape you from outside the ring. Just as professional athletes “review tape” to up their game and identify areas to fine-tune in practice, owner-handlers can benefit greatly from taking a look at their own dog stacking and gaiting, as well as those of the professionals in the ring, and those who took home the ribbons.

As an owner-handler, I find it extremely helpful to review old tapes of myself in the ring with various dogs I’ve shown. I always catch something different upon which I can improve—and those glaring reminders of what not to do are always valuable as well!

I’ve picked up so many tips from watching tapes of professionals in the ring, too, from how best to present a beautiful head so that it will stop a judge in his tracks, to ways to downplay a straighter rear, to what wardrobe colors and patterns look downright awful against a Leonberger coat.

A good example is in watching movement. Sitting ringside to watch judging of my breed, I often see both owner-handlers and professionals not moving their Leonberger fast enough. Our standard calls for a free, easy, elastic gait, with good reach and drive. It’s essential to move the dogs fast enough so that these qualities are exhibited. In some other breeds, on the other hand, there are tendencies to move the dogs too fast. Until you see yourself and your dog in action and can really critique his movement for yourself, the optimal speed can be difficult to gauge. Having your breed mentor videotape you in the ring allows you to watch not only your dog’s movement and paw placement, but also that of your fellow exhibitors.

Evaluating yourself, your dog, and your competition is a great education and can go a long way toward preparing you and your dog to bring your best performance to the ring. It’s never easy to accept criticism, and sometimes we can be our own worst critics. However, having a solid knowledge of exactly what strengths and weaknesses you and your dog bring to the game, as well as strategies for maximizing your assets, can play a huge part in sharpening the owner-handler’s competitive edge. —Astrid Robitaille, [email protected]

Further information about Leonbergers can be found here and here and on the website of the breed’s national parent club, the Leonberger Club of America.

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Posted in AKC Gazette, AKC Gazette breed columns, Breeds, dog shows, junior handler, Leonberger, owner handler, Training

Westminster Flashback: When Sealys Owned the Garden

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”—The Sealyham Terrier joined the AKC in 1911. Within just a few years—thanks to shrewd imports, judicious breeding, and a small but enthusiastic U.S. fancy—the sturdy little Welshman was a force in the American show ring.

Here are two Westminster Best in Show Sealyhams, immortalized in the AKC art collection.


Ch. Barberryhill Bootlegger (BIS 1924)

A show-ring aristocrat of the Prohibition era, Bootlegger was named, as Bill Stifel wrote, “for what some wit thought of as Man’s Other Best Friend—which is to say, a discreet source of alcohol.”

During the 10 long years booze was illegal, fanciers vented their displeasure through their dogs: Among the entry Bootlegger defeated for Best in Show were dogs with names like Tom Collins, Egg Nog, and Home Brew. And the name of Bootlegger’s sire? Gin Rickey!

William Schnelle’s painting is done in a loose, impressionistic style, a daring choice for a dog portraitist of the day.


Ch. Pinegrade Scotia Swell

Ch. Pinegrade Perfection (BIS 1927)

Lillian Cheviot’s delightful twin portrait depicts two all-time great Sealys. Perfection (right) was the more famous of the two, having gone Best of All Breeds at the 1926 AKC Sequicentennial show and BIS at Westminster the following year. Scotia Swell, a British import, went Best of Breed at the Garden in 1925.

Their handler was Percy Roberts, who in 1937 handled to his fourth Westminster BIS, a record he held alone until Peter Green matched it in 1998. The combined eight dogs Roberts and Green handled to the top at Westminster were all terriers.

The most recent Sealy to take BIS at the Garden was Ch. Dersade Bobby’s Girl, 1977, handled by Green.

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Posted in AKC Gazette, Times Past

8 Ways of Looking at a Dog Show Judge

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”—What makes a good judge? The judges themselves have been kicking around that question in our pages for 125 years. Here are some answers.

“First Match,” May 1957 Gazette

“First Match,” May 1957 Gazette


  1. “It is first necessary for a judge to know dogs generally before he can know any breed of dog in particular.”—Irving C. Ackerman, 1939


  1. “A good judge looks for virtues in every dog. Fault judging is lazy judging, the pitfall of the inexperienced. The dog is picked apart and never put back together.”—Mrs. George W. Dow, 1975


  1. “The breeder furnishes the dogs, but it is the judge who decides the type.”—H.W. Lacy, 1925


  1. “Go over every dog carefully, if for no other reason than to make a friend of each exhibitor by causing him to feel that he has a ‘run for his money’ at least.”—Garvin Denby, 1931


  1. “Hesitancy in judging creates a bad impression on the ringside. Too much speed in judging, however, is quite as bad. Exhibitors are never satisfied when the judge has rushed through his work, even when he has done a good job.”—W. Edgar Baker, 1938


  1. “Knowledgeable judging is the ability to reconcile oneself to the fact that no perfect dog has yet been produced.”—Anna Katherine Nicholas, 1967


  1. “A judge who has acted entirely in good faith does not feel the necessity of defending himself and his placings.”—John Kemps, 1946


  1. “You were invited as an expert. Be one.”—Anne Rogers Clark, 1996


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Finding the Right Dog for You

At the end of last year, the AKC Dog Lovers video crew traveled to Virginia for the 2014 Timbreblue Whippet Reunion. More than 30 Whippets and their families came together for a day of fun!

We spoke with three Whippet owners about why they love the Whippet, why they chose to get their dog from a breeder and why they enjoy the reunion so much every year.

The importance of working with a responsible breeder:

How to find a good breeder: 

How breeders can match the perfect dog to the perfect owner:  (and see a dancing dog!)

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Posted in Breed Spotlight, Video
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