Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest blog: Are You a Dog Person?

Today, the Throw the Ball! blog is privileged to host a guest post by Julia Priest. Julia is a longtime breeder of many accomplished and useful working GSDs (, dog trainer (, former K9 officer, and someone I feel very lucky to call a friend (she is the one directly responsible for Nike joining my life!). She is a tracking expert, has titled multiple dogs to the Sch3 level, and has competed nationally with dogs of her own breeding in various venues, in addition, she has helped many a pet person find ways to happily live with and enjoy their much loved "pet" dogs.

Are You a Dog Person? 

Why do you want a dog? I know why I want one.. or two or three.
I want dogs so that I can share in their splendid natural abilities. I treasure their phenomenal gifts for scenting, for hunting, for gathering stock, for interspecies communication, their adaptability for service and companionship, and because I think they are beautiful. They are beautiful to touch and to look at.

There are few things more inspiring to watch then a beautifully put together dog or three running full out in a verdant field or on a stretch of beach and covering ground with joyful abandon. I love their ability to comfort us, to absorb our moods and to forgive our poor communication skills and somehow "get it" anyway, because they derive satisfaction from being with us.
Reza von Sontausen Bh TD GN.SAR and LE Trailing K9, romps with PAM Nick Nik von Sontausen SchH3 WD3 IPO3 UDT PT North American SchH2 Champion, NW Regional SchH3 Champion, multiple HIT
photo by Micky Adams
Anyone who says the dog only loves who feeds him has not observed the myriad videos of dogs greeting their people as they return from months or even years away. Someone else fed that dog the whole time, but the dog’s unfettered joy at the reunion when “ daddy’s home” can not possibly be mistaken for a ploy to be given a "cookie."

But at times I wonder why some people get a dog. I work with a lot of “pet people.” This is something of a pejorative to those of us who deem ourselves actual “dog people.”

Pet people want their dogs not to do lots of things. It seems they want an ornament or an object to be stroked when they feel like it, and then it should shut up and go away and not do anything until they wish to pet it again. When I ask them their goals for their dog, they commence to recite a long list of what they want him not to do: Don't jump. Don't lick. Don’t dig in the garden. Don't take food. Don’t get in the garbage. Don't pull on the leash. Don't bark. Don’t chew. Don't shed. Don’t step in this room. Oh, and “I want him to mind.” Which means listen to me when I tell you not to do something.

I am not suggesting for a moment that dogs be allowed to run amok and misbehave and damage property or annoy people. But the “don’t ” can’t be the whole focus or your relationship. If you embrace and guide what the dog can do, most of the “ don’ts” take care of themselves.

Sometimes I feel sad that their greatest wish for this amazing little beast is that is contains itself and doesn’t get into any trouble. They have no plans to discover and enjoy the dog’s natural talents. For them, I recommend a stuffed or digital pet. Dog people revel in what their dogs can do. But that by no means suggests that our dogs are not pets, as in cuddling, stroke-able, play-worthy beloved companions who often monopolize most of our waking thought.

I am a professional dog trainer. But you know what? Sometimes my dog gets on the counter and steals peanut butter. When she does, I think about why I was so dumb as to leave it out on the counter, and I certainly correct her if I see her going for it in my view, but she is so much more to me than her naughty behavior. I am much more focused on the fact that when I have been stuck and lost my keys somewhere in a 10 acre field , she can and has found them for me. That I can feel safe traveling cross country and sleeping in motels with only my dogs for company because of their remarkable trained ability to behave politely yet effectively defend me against real threat. I think about how happy and proud I feel when we compete in a performance event and I get awarded a blue ribbon. Yes, I get the ribbon. My dog could care less about “her” titles and placements, but I get to feel happy and proud and if I am honest I must say I like it a little when others are a tad envious of her retrieves or his heeling.

Even more so, I am thrilled and proud beyond measure when a dog I have bred and placed changes lives by protecting a police officer, catching a dangerous felon, guiding a blind person, tracking and saving the lives of lost or injured people, locating vital evidence and closing cases. Its what they can do that makes me adore them. The only thing I fervently wish my dogs would not do is grow old and die so soon. Their lives enrich mine so plentifully with all that they do. Maybe because I concentrate on that and not so much on the “don’ts”

copyright 2013-Julia Priest

Friday, September 20, 2013

What I Did This Summer

There was frost on my windshield Wednesday morning. I was up early (pre-dawn, omg!) to go herding with Jubilee and Oda. I have been dramatically remiss in updating this summer, and there's no reason other than I was doing stuff with my dogs! Good enough. Still, I took lots of pictures over the summer, and so I'll try to do a quick update.
Leslie and HRD SAR K9 Nash (Nike x Ash - Blackthorn's Inigo)
Back in early May, we had a training weekend in Bath County. Lynx is the dog I was training in HRD work, and he went to live with a friend in Florida in April (he is now doing competitive agility, obed/rally, lure coursing, dock diving, personal protection training, and soon, nosework! He needed more "work" to be happy, and he's in the perfect place for that!)

Lynx and his sister Macy in Florida
I don't even remember June. Things happened. I tried to get the pool to go from jade green to clear blue, with slow, slow progress. The dogs swam nevertheless.

Blitz and Ruffian and Flint
June 30th, the U-litter puppies were born! That always throws everything out of whack for me for a while--it usually involves at least one all-nighter if not two, and it just sucks all my attention for a while like a black hole of puppydom.
Xita and the Uppies
July... wow, I don't even. Life occurred. It was good.
Nemi & Hunter in front; Flint, Blitz, and Coal in back

Nike turned 15 on July 27, so she got cake and pictures with three of her kids:
Birthday cake!
Hunter, Nike, Coal, Jubilee

In August, it was surprisingly fall-like--cooler than normal. But there were a few adventures and the pool stayed blue! Sunny came to visit while she was in heat, and her sister Josie came for a play date. Nemi turned 2 on August 31. Sumo came to visit for a week. And there were puppies....

Sunny (Solstice) and Josie (Sweet Josephine)
Sunny (Solstice) and Josie (Sweet Josephine)
Nemi and Sumo
That brings us up to September. I'll save that for another post!