The games aren't over

sheepdog_image.jpg

If the recent conclusion of the Olympic Games left you jonesing for more, here’s good news:  the 2012 National Sheepdog Finals return to Klamath Falls, Oregon Sept. 25-30.  Called the ‘Olympics’ of sheepdog trialing, the event draws competitors from across the nation.

Over six days, the best of the best 150 dogs and their handlers from across North America compete for the coveted title of National Champion.  In addition to the adult top dogs, top Nursery dogs (age three) compete for the title of Nursery Champion.  Also happening during the week are cow dog demos, spinning and weaving, a western trade show and entertainment.  Details www.sheepdogfinals.org.

Mutt Masters Action-Packed Pet Event Hits the Coast

Photo-MuttMasters.jpg

The Mutt Masters Dog Show and Olympics takes place in Lincoln City on Saturday May 19th and promises a dizzying array of events, contests and prizes to be had.  One of the most anticipated dog events of the year, Mutt Masters continues to draw participants far and wide for this fun-filled day at the beach.

Registration begins at 11am with the full line-up commencing at noon.  Fees to enter your dog in any one of the show categories or physical contests are three bucks, but if you have a multi-talented pup you may want to consider the $25 fee and enter her in an unlimited number of events.

Judges will be looking for everything from the most unique-looking to the cutest, who has the best handshake or is the most distinguished elder and of course, who is the tail waggin’ champ of the land.  There will also be displays of free-flying fitness in the Frisbee catching category and for those who are into the sloppy stuff, there is even a prize for the sweetest smoocher.

This year also includes caricature drawings by Deena Printz and psychic readings by Shirley Scott of Animal Talk Healing.  Food booths for the humans and a wide array of pet-related vendors will also be on hand.

Spectators without pets are welcome to observe with a suggested donation of five dollars or a bag of dry pet food, which will be donated to the Lincoln County Animal Shelter.  For more information, visit OregonCoast.org/Mutt-Masters.

CONFIRMED: Dogs can fly

Makani is ready for serious playtime

Makani is ready for serious playtime

Anyone can be a disc dog!

Some people get revved up watching an amazing touchdown or their favorite player swing from the net in a game-winning slam dunk.  Others get their blood pumping when the horses are in the back furlough and the announcer strains to be heard over the pounding hooves of magnificent beasts.  Then there are those among us for whom dog sports rev our engines.  Likewise, some dogs’ tails start thumping, hearts start racing, and muscles start quivering.  They can barely contain themselves in the presence of their obsession.

Spot received a YouTube video awhile back showing some amazing moves by a human/canine team showing their stuff in the thriving sport of disc dog.  The dazzling duo is Oregon’s own Rich Roskopf and his Aussie/Viszla mix Makani, doing what they love best — playing Frisbee.  Included in their jaw-dropping, acrobatic and energetic routine was a showstopper that surprised and thrilled the crowd.  Going in a handstand, Roskopf flips Makani the disc with his feet.  Makani catches it and sails beautifully into a backflip.  All we can say is, “Wow….”  Printed words can’t convey the excitement — catch the fun with your own eyes by watching the video.

A little about Rich…

Roskopf can’t remember a time he didn’t love throwing a disc.  He played ultimate Frisbee at Oregon State University and, when seeking others of like mind, especially people who enjoyed trying new moves as much as he did, he found the perfect partner:  a dog.  Having a canine partner proved the best of both worlds; Roskopf got to throw the disc and now had someone to bring it back.

Allie makes it look easy during a recent competition

Allie makes it look easy during a recent competition

The dogs…

Makani was a natural jumper who came bearing some great stunt-dogging front and back flips.  Roskopf adopted her from Oregon Dog Rescue and began the thrilling journey the pair continues to enjoy.  Makani was not only a jumping, flipping fiend, but she was ball-crazy.  Roskopf said it took time to get her interested in the disc, but by studying her ball obsession he was able to redirect it to the disc he favored.

Allie is another rescue girl, from the Jefferson County Animal Shelter.  An Australian Shepherd Labrador Retriever mix, Allie was a pleaser from day one, always keen to follow Makani’s lead.

Enter the disc…

Roskopf thought the Frisbee would be a great way to exercise the dogs while allowing him to continue his beloved hobby.  Rain or Pacific Northwest shine, Allie, Makani and Roskopf are out playing, running, chasing, and practicing their sport.  The disc also serves other functions, says Roskopf, including strengthening the trio’s bond.  If you’ve participated in training with your dog, you likely appreciate that while tools help with the work, perhaps the most important factor is the shared bond.  “Sometimes I think I am training them to obey commands and more often than not, they are reminding me to just play,” says Roskopf.

 Rich Roskopf and Makani impress the crowd with their physical prowess.

Rich Roskopf and Makani impress the crowd with their physical prowess.

Disc Training

A dog doesn’t necessarily have an instinct for a disc.  It isn’t an item from nature — something they’d instinctively seek, like a squirrel.  A disc must be introduced, and some dogs need help recognizing its potential for fun.  Roskopf notes that it’s important to develop some proper disc throwing skills before adding your dog into the equation.  You’d don’t want to throw the disc in a way that could lead the dog into harm’s way.

So what if your dog won’t give the disc a look, or acts like he has no clue what you expect?  Try using it as a food and water dish.  Baby steps.  Start slowly and build.  Once your dog is used to the disc being in his or her life, you can move forward.  One thing Roskopf says worked for him was playing tug with it.  That progressed to the dogs tugging and dropping it, then to carrying it while chasing him, to him rolling it along the ground, then flipping it straight up in the air.  Once that became appealing it was a quick transition to throwing horizontally.  Like most things, there’s no one-size-fits-all method.

IMG_0413.jpg

These are some ideas to get you started whether your goal is to just have fun with your dog, to meet other people, or to find a sport in which you can compete together.  Makani and Allie’s dad says, “Playing disc with your dogs doesn’t have to be about you standing there and your dog chasing the disc.”  He gets plenty of exercise playing with them — wrestling, playing tag, chase, and keep away.

Caring for the Disc Dog/Athlete

Roskopf’s background is in massage and movement therapy with a primary focus on biomechanics.  So professionally he works to educate people to use their bodies efficiently.  When it comes to dogs, he often finds they tend to learn best when steps are taken in easy, comprehensible bits.  Paying attention to each of their natural abilities and focusing their training, moves, and using routines that showcase those characteristics goes a long way toward keeping the dog balanced, motivated, and happy.  Dogs are excellent workout partners and playmates, and keeping them happy and healthy and accommodating their love of play is integral to the relationship.

Disc-Katie-HilgemannIMG_1334.jpg

Disc Dogging Resources

There are numerous resources about disc dogging online, including FLYDO (flydogoregon.com).  From videos to pictures, training tips, and contact information for pros like Roskopf, FLYDO is a great site to learn more about this energetic, fun and creative sport.  As is typical of dog-related sports, you’ll likely find people who are extremely helpful, willing to field questions, share tips, discuss strategy, and maybe even meet up for a workout.

Currently, Roskopf is busy working on creative solutions to each of his girls’ challenges — such as maintaining team focus from a distance and turning styles.  He’s also designing a freestyle routine for Allie, and of course just continuing to have fun.  He hopes both dogs will again qualify for the upcoming World Championships.  

Like this story?  See the video!

Human + Dog + Focused Discipline = Fun, Fitness and so much more

Depending upon various breed characteristics, some dogs are hard-wired to herd, others are all about the hunt, some are just plain nosy, and still others are toys.  Wait!  That is, they belong to the “toy” group.  All joking aside, dogs and their people have many opportunities these days to jump in and get busy engaging a dog’s passions — whatever they may be.  In fact, there has been a growth surge in recent months in canine activities you might find of interest.  While not all may be of interest, or suited to you and your pup, there are so many choices you’re sure to find something you’d love to try.  That’s the other good news:  classes, weekend events and workshops have sprung up at doggy daycares, indoor parks and even boutiques, so the opportunities to give something a try abound. 

Truffle Festival showcases the latest Truffle-Hunting Canines

In the rarified world of truffles, Oregon is known as the center of research and expertise outside of Europe.  The 6th annual Oregon Truffle Festival, held recently in Eugene, gave the public a chance to immerse themselves in the unique world of truffles, and the emerging popularity of training dogs to hunt them.

In the field with Spot . . . learning the ways of canine games

Pop Quiz

Q: What is: Boerboel, Cane Corso, Fila Brasileiro?

A: Canine breeds found amongst “working class” dogs

Q: What are: ATTS, CGC, IABCA, PDI?

A: Tests and games in which “working dogs” compete

If you answered the above quickly and easily, you’re likely among those who live and work with canines who love their work and are serious about having fun.

If you didn’t recognize these terms, you’ve got plenty of company — including many of the Spot crew. Please join us in getting better acquainted with the goings on “in the field” of canine competition.

Ready . . . set . . . FLY!

The growing sport of canine disc — everyone can play

Perhaps you’ve seen it on TV — a dog races out, makes a dazzling leap, and snaps a flying disc from midair.  Then ecstatically races back for the next throw.

Or maybe you’ve seen it at the dog park — no less enthusiastic but with varying degrees of finesse. If ever there was a portrait of jumping for joy, this is it . . . Canine Disc.

Canine Disc. Disc Dogs. Frisbee Dogs. Flying Dogs. Aerial Dogs. Whatever you call them, these canine athletes are amazing! And the sport is growing by leaps and bounds. 

“Canine disc is a great sport for dogs, particularly in urban settings,” says Adriana Ericson, a member of Washington Owners of Flying Disc Dogs (woofd2). “All you need is a bit of grass, a dog and a disc.”