Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Photo Courtesy of mister b 1138
The canine sport of dog agility is a world unto itself. Last week, we touched on some of its strange and somewhat confusing vocabulary. This week we reveal the dog clubs/organizations in the United States that regulate and set rules for agility trials. Each dog organization offers its own version of the standard agility course. The titles you can win differ depending on the organization. For example, if you compete and win a top title in an American Kennel Club (AKC) agility trial, you must still start at level one if you decide to compete in a United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) trial. The following organizations sponsor dog agility trials in the U.S.

The AKC stands for the American Kennel Club which dates back to 1884. As a highly acclaimed and well recognized dog organization, the American Kennel Club is one of the largest registries of purebred dogs in the world. They focus on promoting and sanctioning events for purebred dogs, thus their agility trials are for purebred and companion dogs that have registered with the AKC only. Their courses are smaller than the United States Dog Agility Association's (USDAA) and their obstacles are less difficult to navigate than the USDAA’s agility obstacles.

The USDAA stands for the United States Dog Agility Association, Inc , formed in 1986. The organization was created using British standards including equipment used and the rules and regulations for the standard agility course. It also introduced non-standard classes like Jumpers, Gamblers, Snooker, and the Relay. The USDAA is responsible for the following agility tournaments: USDAA's Grand Prix of Dog Agility® World Championships, now in its 17th year, the $10,000 Dog Agility Steeplechase®, and the Dog Agility Masters® Three-Dog Team Championship. These trials tend to be more difficult with narrower planks, higher jumps and larger courses. More emphasis is placed on speed in these trials. The USDAA provides trials for purebred as well as mixed breed dogs. This organization decided to do away with the single ribbon system and devised an agility title system where handlers and their dogs earn points towards different titles. This concept is now extremely popular in the world of dog agility.

CPE stands for Canine Performance Events, Inc, a national dog agility association in the US. It allows both purebreeds and mixed breeds to compete in various agility trials. CPE agility trials are similar in style to those sanctioned by the AKC. This association emphasizes fun while trialing and offers many games as classes like Jumpers and Snooker.

Photo Courtesy of mister b 1138
This organization, known as the North American Dog Agility Council, made a bold move by moving away from international standards of dog agility in order to create its own version of a faster, yet safer agility course with less obstacles and lower jump heights. Both mixed breeds and purebred dogs are permitted to compete in the agility trials.

The United Kennel Club (UKC) formed in 1898 as another purebred dog registry. However, the UKC is different from the AKC because it primarily focuses on working breed dogs and recognizes them for their working abilities in addition to how well they meet their breed’s standards. However, the UKC allows mixed breed dogs to register under the Limited Privilege category which permits them to participate in UKC dog obedience and agility events. They generally have smaller, more contained courses that require more precision.

UK Agility International (UKI)
Existing since 2004 in Great Britain as UK Agility, this organization was urged to spread to North America. They changed the name to UK Agility International and now offer many agility competitions in the U.S and Canada. The organization was formed by a husband and wife team.

Sources: Affordable Agility

Thursday, September 22, 2011


What are jumpers? What is the difference between an agility match and an agility trial? If you are a beginner agility student or would like to start the sport with your canine but are intimidated by its cryptic language, fear not! Take our lead and we will guide you through the twists, tunnels and turns of agility’s perplexing vocabulary.

Agility Competition: There are two types of agility competitions. There are Agility Matches and Agility Trials or Sanctioned Trials.

Agility Match: Also known as an Agility Fun Match. Matches are considered informal trials that simulate competition. These are typically used for practice and help you get a feel for the real trial experience. You cannot earn titles at an agility match.

Agility Run Through: A practice session that is timed in which a handler and their dog can go through the agility course.

Agility Trial: A sanctioned competition where one can try to earn titles and qualifying scores. Rules are more regimented.

Back/Rear Cross: Any maneuver where the handler changes sides behind the dog and directs the dog to change their direction so the dog is moving in the same direction as the handler.

Contact Obstacles: The obstacles used in the agility course that your dog must navigate. Example of a contact obstacle would be the dog walk.

Directional: Any command given to the dog to turn the dog in a desired direction.

Flatwork: This is what happens in between the obstacles, when your dog is running on the ground. Flatwork is a foundation skill that is essential in agility. One component is how well the handler’s body language is communicated to the dog. Flatwork teaches your dog how to take direction and stay on course with you.

Front Cross: Any maneuver where the handler changes sides in front of the dog while the dog is moving. It is now generally accepted that in performing a front cross the handler always faces the dog.

Handler: The owner or person that directs the dog through the agility course.

Jump pole/bar: The horizontal pole, bar or rail on a jump that the dog must go over.

Jumpers: A course consisting of mainly jumps (horizontal poles). In most cases tunnels are also included; in AKC (American Kennel Club) you have Jumpers with Weaves in which weave poles are also included.

Pivot: Turning with your dog.

Turn: A relative directional that asks the dog to turn 180 degrees away from or toward the handler.

Weaves: Weaves are upright vertical poles fixed in a straight line that a dog must zig-zag through.

To get started learning the basics of agility, come to a Beginner Foundation Agility class at Morris K9 Campus!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


September is national Pet Insurance Month! In light of that, here are your options as a pet owner.

If you're reading this, then your dog or cat is probably a beloved member of your family and you want the best for them so you might have considered providing your pet with high quality healthcare throughout his or her life. Since we can't buy pet health insurance for our dog or cat when we really need it most, in an emergency, now is the time to examine the options to see if it can save us hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

There are more and more pet health insurance options available to consumers each day. And like human health insurance, pet insurance coverage can vary widely. Classic pet health insurance is said to cover expensive, unplanned events. There are monthly premiums and a variety of deductible choices, different coverage levels, co-pays and caps that limit the total yearly or lifelong payouts. These policies may exclude older dogs, certain breeds, genetic conditions and pre-existing conditions. In addition, there are often discounts for covering multiple pets from the same household.

Basic types of pet health insurance include:
• Wellness (preventative services like vaccines, check-ups, blood tests at set fee)

• Prescription drug

• Cancer treatment

• Alternative therapies

• Accidental death.
There is also a wide range of variations on these basic coverage types. From dental care and catastrophic care to acupuncture and lost pet recovery, pet health insurance options are out there for the taking. Of course, the costs for these plans vary significantly.

Veterinarian Tim Banker believes that although pet healthcare can effectively mitigate high-tech veterinary expenses, it is underutilized. One possible reason is the persistence of stories about insurance companies that fail to provide expected coverage. The minutia of paperwork involved in properly filing claims can result in missing payments. The good news is that vet offices are becoming more adept at properly filing these claims on their clients' behalf.

Here are recommendations for finding the right care for your pet:

1. Consider your pet's health, age, predisposition to accidents and risk of inherited diseases to help determine what level of coverage you need.

2. Get price quotes from each company that appears to offer the coverage your pet requires. Here are a few companies to consider: AKC Pet Healthcare Plan, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, Embrace Pet Insurance, Pet Assure Corporation, PetFirst Healthcare, PetHealth, Inc., Petplan USA, Pets Best Insurance, PurinaCare, Trupanion Pet Insurance,Veterinary Pet Insurance.

3. Ask your veterinarian which pet health insurance s/he recommends.

4. If your dog is diagnosed with a condition, make sure to renew coverage on time each year so it isn't excluded as a pre-existing condition.

With some careful pet health insurance research and planning, you and your pet can decide on the right choice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

As we approach the ten year anniversary of the infamous day that will be forever imprinted in the hearts and minds of the American public, it is the perfect time to shed light on the heroic search and rescue dogs that arrived on the scene at the Pentagon and The World Trade Center seeking survivors. Photographer Charlotte Dumas has made that possible through a photographic body of work that commemorates the brave efforts of these valiant canines. Retrieved is the name of her beautiful and poignant collection of portraits that pays homage to the heroes and heroines of that day that walked on four feet.

Seeking the last remaining 12 of the search and rescue dogs (most have passed away) that worked tirelessly to find survivors after the attacks, the title of Dumas's work could not be more appropriate. Dumas scoured the U.S for the 9/11 search and rescue dogs just as the dogs themselves searched for human life amongst the rubble ten years ago. As Dumas says of the title, "I found the dogs, I retrieved them, they were there to retrieve the victims, it is nicely rounded."
Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and a few German Shepherds are the breeds that grace the glossy pages of this work as they are particularly well know for their retrieval skills and trainability. Though not as fast, graceful, or strong as they used to be, the portraits of the remaining grey muzzled canine saviors depicts a series of wise and compassionate close-ups. It is their eyes that tell the story, a story of pain and sadness but inevitably one of hope and fortitude. We learn of the unwavering energy of both human and animal alike from Merlyn, a black lab, and his handler Matt Clausen that worked the night shift for 5 nights. We learn of the comfort these gentle creatures were capable of bestowing upon exhausted first responders from Bretagne, a Golden Retriever who kept a fatigued fireman company when he stopped to catch his breath. We discover the strength of dogs and handlers alike as many of them went on to play a pivotal role in the search and rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina. And most importantly, we recognize the spirit of both species and their ability to find the silver lining no matter the atrocity.

Though the attacks happened a decade ago, for many the pain still smarts like it was yesterday. However, as Dumas says, "These portraits are about how time passes, and how these dogs and their portraits offer us a way to deal with the things that happened as well as relying on them for comfort." Her photographs are on display at the Julie Saul Gallery in New York City.


Thursday, September 1, 2011


After an extremely rough week thanks to Mother Nature, it is time for uplifting news. As pet owners, we have much to be thankful for ranging from the presence of a constant snuggle buddy to the personal welcome home party we receive when we return home from our daily outings. Our pets light up our lives in our darkest moments and can turn our frown upside down with one floppy-eared glance.

It’s true that our pets are an investment. We spend much of our savings on them from squeaky toys to premium food. In our eyes, they deserve the best of the best and more often than not we are willing to give it to them. With the undivided attention and affection they give us and those eyes that never judge and only love, it is an investment that has always proven to be well worth it. But this is not the only benefit we can reap from our fuzzy companions. Studies have proven time and again the health advantages of owning a pet. Both mentally and physically our health can flourish with the addition of a furry, wet-nosed, whiskered friend in our lives.

Physical Health Benefits
As Dr. Oz has pointed out,“Petting your animal has been clinically proven to reduce blood pressure and increase serotonin, a hormone that helps to elevate your mood.” Research has shown that petting a dog lowers blood pressure and increases serotonin. In the PBS NOVA documentary, Dogs Decoded it was discovered that pet owners that have a heart attack are three times more likely to survive the heart attack if they own a pet. Let’s not forget that dog owners especially exercise more often since they must take their dog on a walk and engage their canine in physical activity at least once a day.

Mental Health Benefits
Having a dog is an easy solution for fighting depression and lifting your mood. It is nearly impossible to stay mad or sad when your dog looks at you with those puppy dog eyes or licks your face with a special blend of tender yet fierce love, not caring how you look or what mistakes you've made that day. Pets' love is a constant and unyielding force that staves off loneliness. They will never leave you if you never leave them. You can tell them secrets and unload your problems on their fuzzy shoulders and they will never falter from the pressure. Though they can't offer you advice, they will always lend you an ear to whisper in, a paw to hold and a shoulder to lean on.

Though pets may leave a little dent in our wallets and a few spots on the oriental rug, the happiness, well-being and joy they bring to our lives are simply priceless.