Sato Rescue

We, as dog owners, already know that there is a great need for dog rescue. Here at Team Unruly, we’ve already done posts about picking shelter dogs, helping dogs with special needs, and rescue transports. There is awareness about shelters, over population, spay/neuter, responsible breeding, the evil of puppy mills, and the struggles of rescue organizations to get it all under control; but there is another area where there are dogs in need, where there is a lack of resources, and where dogs can get an upgrade with relative ease.

Last year, I was introduced to sato dogs and the need to help them.

What is a sato? 

Sato is a slang term referring to the stray dogs of Puerto Rico. While they are feral and therefore a mixed breed, they do tend to have some uniformity from dog to dog. They tend to be medium sized, short haired dogs. Many have easy-to-spot trademark sato ears. Because of their tough background, they are usually hardy and live to be between ten and fifteen years old. Despite the fact that they’re viewed as a nuisance and put through all sorts of abuse from burning/drowning to starvation and stoning, they maintain a friendly demeanor and are known to be extremely loyal pets.

The problem:
The sato population is out of control in Puerto Rico. There are an estimated quarter million dogs on an island roughly the size of Connecticut. Because of their over population, sato are considered a pest and a health risk. Residents alternately ignore and abuse them, and most tourists can’t bear to look at them. As a result, there are very few resources to help these dogs. Life on the streets and beaches is hard for these dogs. Most are emaciated and suffer from skin conditions including mange and ringworm. A majority of the sato don’t live to see their second birthday.

While there are some organizations (All Sato Rescue, Save a Sato, The Sato Project) set up to help these dogs, there just isn’t enough man power to put a dent in the problem. The government has bigger concerns and despite a few individual efforts to help control the population, a much-needed spay/neuter program has not been established. Often times, the few mostly volunteer-based organizations that do exist are the only source of food and water that these dogs see. It’s no wonder they’re an eye sore and health hazard.

Why rescue a sato?
When I start talking about rescuing the satos, I frequently run into the same set of questions. The top two are always:
-Why save a dog from Puerto Rico? Don’t we have enough dogs that need help locally?
-Why fly the dog to the States? Can’t we just place them on the island?

Doca, currently looking for a home.

The bottom line, for me, is that a dog is a dog is a dog. They all deserve a good home. There aren’t enough resources in the world for that, and it’s not realistic, but it’s a good thing to aim for.

Shelters and rescues are great, but they also come with adoption fees and a ton of red tape. For many of the same reasons that it’s often easier to adopt an Asian baby than an American-born one, it’s often easier to fly a dog home from Puerto Rico than it is to get a dog in need out of a local shelter. Even dogs on death row locally are often impossible to spring from their current situations. For the cost and effort of saving one dog from my local shelter, I could fly home three or four sato pups and have them vetted, spayed/neutered, and re-homed.

As for adopting them on the island… I’ve already mentioned that they’re considered a pest animal. The locals have very little interest in the dogs to begin with, but even if they did, there aren’t physically enough people on the island to home them all… and that’s without taking the ongoing breeding into consideration.

As for me personally… it’s all about the ears.

Mr. Spock is currently looking for a home.

My sato experience…
So how did I get involved with satos? It’s very simple my friend/barn owner/vet/boss had one for a long time. My friend found her on the beach as a starving, scared pup, tucked her away with her luggage, flew her home, and named her Chiquita. Chiquita was the best dog… smart, loyal, and friendly. She was a great babysitter, lap dog, and farm helper. She lived to be 15 years old, and even in her old age she continued to be a bright spot on the farm.

Chiquita, the first sato I met.

Last year, the same friend went on vacation to Puerto Rico again. While she was down there, she networked with local animal lovers and vets to bring home six more pups. I happily photographed them, shared their stories, and helped foster, socialize, and advertise them. All six found carefully screened, loving homes.

Just last week, my friend returned once more, this time with only two pups in tow. Once again, I am helping network to find them homes. Meanwhile, my friend is working tirelessly to arrange transport for even more satos in need.

The more time I spend with these personable, hilarious, adorable dogs, the more I think owning one is in my future.

A serious case of the yips: Competing with a reactive dog

What do you do when you’ve got the yips about your yapper?

PS: I just totally gave away the ending to this post.

“The yips” is a slang term for the sudden loss of skills (usually the fine motor skills of accomplished athletes). There are some medical explanations for the loss of these motor skills, but in common language, having the yips is usually attributed to a loss of confidence in one’s abilities. Sometimes athletes recover their ability or change their technique to compensate, but others end up retiring from their sports.

Most people probably don’t think of dog sports as, well, “sports”, but those of us who do compete with our dogs know better. Agility, obedience, weight pull, rally – all of these activities require training, physical preparation and mental readiness. They require partnership between dog and owner and — in my opinion — they are influenced just as much by mental mistakes as by physical mistakes. A lot of people go into competition and blame failures on their dog. “He knows better than that.” “He missed that jump.” “She was distracted.” Ultimately, it is the handler’s preparation and competition mindset that makes the difference here. A distracted dog is not engaged – so engage him. A dog doesn’t “know better” unless you prepare him – so prepare adequately. A dog who misses obstacles or signs has not been directed properly – so direct him. In fact, I would venture to say that most errors that cost dog-handler teams points or qualifications are caused by mental mistakes, not physical inability.

About 18 months ago, I got a serious case of the yips.
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So you found a stray…

This week, since I don’t have enough on my plate, the universe decided to drop a stray dog in my lap. Mike and I were driving to the barn to take care of the horses when we spotted a small, fluffy dog prancing down the sidewalk next to the main road in town with nary a person in sight. A few passers by had already pulled over and tried in vain to capture the little white dog. As luck would have it, we were able to wrangle the little guy and bring him home.

In the car after pick up.

The whole experience has brought up a very good point: what do you do if you happen to find a stray dog? Instead of putting together a how-to, I’m just going to share what we did in this case. Stray dog stories vary instant to instant and what works in one situation may not turn out well or be possible in another. 

Catching the Dog
The problem: So you spot a stray. What next? Dogs who have run away or been dumped are often skittish and elusive. Obviously, every minute loose on the streets is putting them in danger of illness, injury, or death. You want to catch the dog, but it can be tricky or even dangerous. A scared dog can quickly turn aggressive.

What we did: Mike and I pulled over in front of the house where we spotted the dog. The owner of the house promptly informed us that she had seen this particular dog wandering the neighborhood for a few days. Several people had attempted to catch him. Nobody had had any luck. I stayed in the car with my busted leg while Mike approached the lost dog. The little guy obviously wanted to be friendly and he walked tentatively towards Mike, but he was shy and not 100% convinced that he actually wanted to be caught.

He loves the car

Luckily, we just so happened to have a bag of dog treats in the trunk of my car. Also luckily, another girl pulled over to assist and she had a slip leash from her local vet clinic. Mike sat on the sidewalk, avoiding eye contact with the dog, and tossing cookies in his general direction. With a little bit of time and patience, he got the dog close enough to loop the leash over his head. Unfortunately, the skittish little dog was alarmed and bared his crooked little teeth at Mike. Mike decided not to pick up a growling dog (wise move) and, instead, took the painstakingly slow walk back to my vehicle. Thankfully, the stray dog obviously knows and likes car rides and he jumped eagerly into my lap as soon as Mike opened the door.

First Stop: Vet
The problem: You don’t know where the stray dog came from. He could be sick or injured. He could have special medical needs. If you have other pets at home, bringing in a stray with an unknown history could put them at risk.

A face only a mother could love.

What we did: It just so happens that I work a few hours a week at a local vet clinic so I was able to bring the little stray dog in for a visit right away. We were able to determine that the dog was an older (11 years old or so) in tact male Lhasa Apso/Havanese/Shih Tzu type dog with bad teeth and no microchip. He was at a healthy weight and appeared to have all his senses in order. He could see, hear, and smell, and the wheezing we heard on the car ride over was a result of his under bite, not any kind of infection, etc.

Locating the Owner
The problem: Your stray dog had to come from somewhere. If you’re lucky, he’s wearing tags. But what if he isn’t? There’s still a good chance he’s someone’s lost pet. The best chance at giving a found dog a bright future is to locate his original family. After all, they’re probably distraught over their missing pet.

What we did: It didn’t take long to figure out that this little guy belonged to someone at some point. He loves car rides. He’s at a good weight. His ears were shaved in the last few weeks. He knows how to take a bath. He begs for human food and does tricks for cheese. He likes to sleep on the couch and in the bed. He certainly didn’t seem the type to run away from home, and we started to wonder if his owner was an elderly lady who had to be hospitalized. Perhaps he slipped past EMS and out the door. So we began the search for an owner.

We checked for flyers around town and drove around the block asking neighbors if they recognized the pooch. Then we went online and joined lost and found animal pages on Facebook. We checked Craigslist. We took photos of the dogand shared them on various social networking sites.

Couch potato

Next, we called everywhere we could think of. I called the non-emergency police number and left my information. I called all the local animal shelters and animal control units. I contacted local rescues, dog groomers, pet stores, and vet clinics. Nobody recognized the little dog, but we left our contact information everywhere, just in case. We also brought the dog into local stores and clinics to see if anyone recognized him.

The only thing I got was that Animal Control had been trying to catch the little dog for several days, and that someone local was missing a corgi in a sweater. 

We did not post flyers about the found dog. My reasoning is that I don’t want some random person claiming the dog for the wrong reasons. “Ooh, he’s not fixed! I can breed him and $ell the puppie$!” If someone is going to claim this dog, they better be able to describe him to me without a photo flyer!

Alternative Plan
The problem: Nobody claims your missing dog. Now what?

What we did: Unfortunately, it appears that our found dog doesn’t have anyone looking for him. There are no flyers, no missing dog advertisements, and no descriptions matching his at any of the places we called. We are in an area notorious for abandoned pets, and the dog has a few minor issues that probably landed him on the streets. He has serious separation anxiety that leads to hours of barking any time he’s left alone, and he occasionally pees in the house. None of this is his fault, but the longer he sits here, the more we suspect nobody is looking for him.

Herbie is not amused

Of course, the first thing we asked ourselves was whether we could keep him ourselves. Is he a good fit for our lives? Quite simply, the answer is no. We don’t own our own house and we already have Herbie. Sure, the little guy gets along with her, but she’s also jealous already. We live active lives and don’t spend a lot of time at home (these ten weeks excluded). Financially, I’m not really ready to take on yet another pet. I have a lot of pull with local rescues and could probably get him into one if I asked, but I understand their resources are limited and he’d be taking up a slot better used by a dog in more dire need. The local no-kill shelter was also an option, but no-kill really means low-kill and I’m not willing to go that route. In the end, we decided to foster the dog until a permanent home is found. He will be listed with the animal rescue league on the corner. They will advertise him, screen homes, and collect an adoption fee. We will give him food, water, and a warm place to sleep.

Making The Dog Adoptable
The problem: The found dog needs a home, but so do countless other dogs in the area. What can we do to up his chances of getting adopted?

What we did: The first thing on our long to-do list was to get the dog presentable. We bathed him, treated him for fleas, and groomed him. We clipped the hair on his face to make him more attractive. We got him a collar (a gift from a generous local pet store) and brushed through his long hair. We took photos to show off what a charming little guy he is.

Next, it was back to the vet for a full work up. He was weighed, tested, neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated. His nails got trimmed and his teeth got cleaned. A healthy dog is an adoptable dog and many low-cost clinics will do a lot to help an animal in need of a home.

He can see now.

Not only are we giving this dog the best shot at either finding his old owner or a new, loving home, but we are ensuring that he won’t end up in this situation again. The microchip is registered to me. The new owners will have the option to put him in their name, but if they don’t, AC will have the option of contacting me in the unfortunate event that he winds up wandering the streets in the future. Putting him in an organization ensures that he’ll get a thoroughly screened home with vet references; a home that is unlikely to abandon him in the future. It provides him with a safety net for years to come.

Let’s open up the floor for discussion. Have you ever found a stray dog? What did you do? Did your story have a happy ending?

Schutzhund and the German Shepherd Dog


In an effort to keep the German Shepherd Dog following down the path that Captain von Stephanitz had laid out for the breed, the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (Society for the German Shepherd Dog), most often simply known at the SV, was founded in 1899. This governing body would oversee the future of the breed, and ensure adherence to the Captain’s primary goals- the breed some of the best working dogs. The breed standard was laid out and later elaborated on in a book published by the Captain himself titled The German Shepherd in Word and Picture. This written work, still highly coveted by breeders and enthusiasts today, laid out everything Captain von Stephanitz knew and desired for his breed, including breeding, training, raising, kenneling, and the importance of form and function. In his later years the Captain made a request of the German Shepherd community, and that was to, “Take this trouble for me; make sure my shepherd dog remains a working dog, for I have struggled all my life long for that aim.”

The SV set up requirements for the breeding of German Shepherd Dogs, and first and foremost on that list, was the requirement of titles for all breeding stock. A puppy from parents that did not meet the breeding requirements are not granted full registration papers. In this way the SV hoped to ensure the quality and continuation of the breed.

In modern German Shepherd Dog breeding, a dog must have a KKL rating, obtained during a ‘breed survey,’ in order to be bred and produce puppies that are able to be registered as purebred German Shepherd Dogs within the SV. The breed survey is the last step in a long line of tests to ensure the dog is breeding quality and that breeding that dog will be an asset and produce an improvement in the breed. The very first title a dog must achieve is a minimum of a Schutzhund 1 title. This important first requirement illustrates how important the working aspect of the German Shepherd Dog’s breed standard is. As Max von Stephanitz said, “Utility is the true criterion of beauty.” Once a Schutzhund title is achieved, the dog can then be entered in conformation shows. In German-style conformation shows, ratings are given to each dog independent of what they place in their classes. Every dog gets the rating the judge feels that dog deserves, regardless of what other dogs are competing against it that day. For a dog to be considered for breeding, it must be awarded at least a rating of G- ‘good.’ A dog can also score higher- SG- very good, or V- excellent. Anything below a rating of ‘good’ does not qualify a dog for breeding. A conformation title alone is not enough, under Captain von Stephnitz rules, to qualify a dog as suitable for breeding. As he once said, “Breeding worth and Exhibition worth are two fundamentally different things which need not have anything to do with each other; and further, an Exhibition award must never be taken as a judgment of Breeding value but only, and this too with reservations, as an opinion that a dog might possibly be suitable for breeding.”

Dogs wishing to be breed surveyed must also pass an “AD” endurance test, consisting of a run of 20 kilometers (approx. 12.5 miles) at a pace of around 12 – 15 kph (7.5 – 9.5 mph). The dogs run this test next to the handler, who rides a bicycle. A dog that consistently falls behind is removed from the test. After the first 5 kilometers (8 miles) the dogs are given a 15 minute rest period while each dog is checked by the judge for fatigue. Dogs that are removed from the test due to sore feet, fatigue, falling behind, or not having the ability to finish the test are given a ‘not passed’ rating and do not receive their AD award.

In addition to the temperament, working ability, conformation, and endurance requirements, the SV also takes the health of the dogs very seriously. At some point in the young dog’s life, the owner must also x-ray the dog’s hips and present the x-rays to the SV for inspection. A dog showing no signs of hip dysplasia is given an “a” stamp on their pedigree. A dog without an “a” stamp cannot be bred.

Once all the requirements have been met and the dog has a minimum of a Schutzhund 1 title, a minimum of a G conformation rating, an AD endurance award, an “a” stamp certification for their hips, and is at least 2 years old, they can be brought before a Koermerister for their official Koerung, also called a breed survey.

Similarly, a dog can fulfill his endurance and working requirements by completing a “HGH” title, which is a German-style sheep herding competition. In a HGH (pronounced ha-gee-ha), the dogs trainability, working ability, obedience, temperament, and endurance are all tested as part of the test while the dog, in tandem with an second dog that is not being judged, moves a flock of 300+ sheep through the required exercises. (But more on this particular sport in a later post).

The Koermeister is presented each dog individually after a gunshot and bite work test. The Koermeister will have received copies of the dogs Schutzhund title, AD test (waived in breed surveys for dogs over 6 years of age), conformation title, registration certificate and 3 generation pedigree (with “a” stamp on it) prior to the breed survey. The judge will go over each dog individually, inspect their paperwork, and place them into one of three categories- KKL1, KKL2, or Not Suitable for Breeding. A KKL1 means recommended for breeding, while a KKL2 means suitable for breeding. A dog can be re-presented to the same Koermeister the following year and try for an upgrade from a KKL2 to a KKL1. The dog can also be downgraded on a subsequent inspection but this is rare. The original survey is good for two years, after which the dog must be represented for another breed survey. The second time the dog is breed surveyed the rating is good for the remainder of the dog’s life.

If you are lucky, after all that work, you’re left with a litter of cute, fluffy little German Shepherd Dogs that you can start the whole process over with! While Schutzhund and the entire process was primarily developed for the German Shepherd Dog, that’s not to say that many other breeds don’t compete and excel at the sport today. Dobermans, Rottweilers, Boerboels, Dutch Shepherds, all types of Belgium Shepherds, Mastiffs, Bully breeds, even Standard Poodles, Airedales, mixed breeds, and several famous Jack Russel Terriers have all competed in the sport of Schutzhund. While some Schutzhund trials are designated for one breed, many club level trials are open to all breeds and mixes. Like many other dog sports, not every dog is suited for the sport, but for dogs that are suited and enjoy the work, Schutzhund is open to them.

Schutzhund: A Brief History


Schutzhund- the triathlon for the working dog. A trust test of one’s character. Courage and obedience under stress. Schutzhund is not a sport for the faint-of-heart, but rather the ultimate test of one’s mettle. What is Schutzhund? Where, and more importantly why, did it originate? And who is crazy enough to compete in this demanding sport?

Schutzhund, which is German for protection dog, is as old as the breed it was designed to protect- the German Shepherd Dog. To understand Schutzhund, and the origins of the German Shepherd Dog, one must travel back to the late 1800s and meet the founder of this noble breed- Captain Max von Stephanitz. A German Cavalry officer, Captain von Stephanitz also spent time serving at the Berlin Veterinary College. When he started his own dog breeding program using the knowledge he had learned about form, function, movement and breeding, his goal was to create the ‘ultimate’ working dog- a true blend of loyalty, courage, stamina, intelligence, and a dog that not only excelled at any task put to it, but also one that truly enjoyed the work. Not the best at any one thing, but second best at everything.

For his foundation stock the Captain turned toward the best working dogs of his time and his area- a regional breed of mixed ancestry known simply as “The German Shepherd’s Dogs,” hence why the breed name, to this day, still includes the word “dog” at the end. These dogs were bred for herding and protection of the German shepherd’s flocks, and Captain von Stephanitz greatly admired their intelligence and work aptitude. He purchased his first dog from a local shepherd, named him Horand von Grafrath, and set about creating a standardization, what was often referred to as his ‘grand design’ of what he was trying to produce in his dogs.

In addition to his exacting breed standard, Captain von Stephanitz wanted to be sure these dogs could work- what good is a good-looking dog if it can’t do the job placed before it? German Shepherd Dogs were to be a working dog first and foremost. As the Captain once wrote, “The most striking feature of the correctly bred German Shepherd are firmness of nerves, attentiveness, unshockability, tractability, watchfulness, reliability and incorruptibility together with courage, fighting tenacity, and hardness.” As none of these desirable traits were something that could be judged in a dog show ring by simply looking at the dog, a way to test the potential breeding stock of future generations needed to be developed.

A 3 phase test was developed, one that would test a variety of traits but that boiled down to three basic things- the dog’s ability to work on his own, the dog’s ability to work for his handler, and the dog’s ability to work under stress. These three tests would be turned into the three phases of Schutzhund that we know today- tracking, obedience, and protection. These would be the tests placed on any dog that would be a breeding prospect, and although some minor changes have been made, over 100 years later these trials still stand as the truest test of a dog’s working ability and are fundamental in the breeding of future generations of German Shepherd Dogs. As Captain von Stephanitz said, “The breeding of shepherd dogs must be the breeding of working dogs, this must always be the aim or we shall cease to produce working dogs.”

So what is Schutzhund? Often hailed as the triathlon for the working dog, or 3-day eventing for the dog world (although most trials do not take place over 3 days), Schutzhund is, quite simply, a 3 phase sport consisting of tracking, obedience and protection phases. There are 3 different levels of Schutzhund, starting with the basic Schutzhund 1 title, and progressing through to the more demanding Schutzhund 3 title.

Prior to any dog’s ability to enter a Schutzhund trial, they must first pass what is known at the Begleithund, or “BH” test. A simple obedience routine done on the Schutzhund field in the presence of the judge and an honor dog, the handler must prove that his dog is under his control both on and off leash. The BH consists of the dog moving with the handler at heel position around the field, through right angles and groups of people, and at slow, normal and fast speeds. A gun shot is fired and the dog must not react to the sudden loud noise. The dog must demonstrate the ability to ‘sit’ and ‘down’ in motion, where the handler does not stop walking but commands the dog to both sit, and then later to down, and the dog must comply and stay rather than continue to walk next to the handler. Finally, the dog must demonstrate a firm recall to the handler. Once the routine is over, the team will switch with the honor dog on the side of the field, and will demonstrate the dog’s ability to stay in a long down while another dog performs their obedience routine on the field. Off-field exercises for the temperament portion of the test include the dog heeling calmly while a car, a jogger, and a biker pass, going past other dogs, and allowing a group of people to walk up to the handler and converge on the team. The final test involves the handler tying out the dog and disappearing from sight. While the handler is gone, another dog will be walked past and the testing dog must not act aggressively, whine, cry and must remain quiet while the handler is gone. While not an obedience title, the BH routine proves to a judge that the dog is trained and under control and enables the dog to enter future trials to compete for Schutzhund titles.

Schutzhund 1 titles, abbreviated SchH1 (and sometimes IPO1, if following International Trial Rules) are awarded after a dog proves his/her ability to track a handler-laid track that is 20 minutes old, 300-400 paces long and includes two right angle turns and two articles which must be properly indicated. The dog may be tracked on a 10 meter lead or may complete the track off-leash. The obedience routine for a Schutzhund 1 is similar to the BH except performed completely off-leash, and also includes a retrieve both on the flat, over a hurdle, and over the scaling wall (a.k.a. an A-frame), as well as a send-out, where the handler commands the dog to run forward away from them until given the command to down. The protection phase includes the blind search- where the dog must search through all 6 blinds on the field until they find the “helper” who is wearing the bite sleeve. The dog must bark and hold until the handler arrives, then the dog must leave the helper on command of the handler. The dog must also demonstrate the ability to prevent the escape of the helper without being given a command- when the handler is not looking the helper will try to run and the dog must chase and apprehend the helper by biting the bite sleeve. The dog must “out” the sleeve immediately when given the command to release the sleeve. The final test is the courage test, where the helper will run threateningly toward the team from the end of the field and, on the judge’s command, the handler will send the dog. The dog must make contact with the helper by biting the bite sleeve, and the helper will ‘drive’ the dog, by moving forward and delivering two hits on the back with a padded stick to ensure the dog has the courage to maintain the bite when threatened. When the helper stops the dog must properly release when given an ‘out’ command. The handler takes the stick away from the handler then, with the dog between them, the handler will ‘transport’ the helper to the judge. During this walk the dog is not allowed to make any more contact with the helper.

For a Schutzhund 2 title, abbreviated as SchH2/IPO2, the requirements get a bit more difficult. The track is increased to 400 to 500 paces long, 30 minutes old, laid by a stranger, with two articles that must be indicated. The obedience phase includes everything from the Schutzhund 1 routine with the addition of a stand in motion exercise where the dog is told to stand and must stop and stand while the handler continues to move forward without a break in pace. The retrieving dumbbells in each level of Schutzhund increase in weight and size for the retrieve on the flat exercise. The protection phase also has some additions which include an exercise known as the ‘back transport.’ Similar to the transport exercise in phase 1, the helper walks in front while the handler and dog walk behind the helper, ‘transporting’ him to another location on the field. At the judges signal the helper turns to attack the handler and the dog must defend the handler without being commanded to.

Schutzhund 3, abbreviated SchH3/IPO3 is the highest level title attainable for all 3 phases combined. The Schutzhund 3 track is 800-1000 paces long, laid by a stranger, aged for 50 minutes, with four right-angle turns and 3 articles which must be indicated. In the obedience phase the sit, down and stand in motion are now down at a running pace rather than a walking pace, and the long down is done with the handler out of sight hiding within the blind. The protection phase includes everything from a Schutzhund 2 routine, but also includes a re-attack after the courage test, and a second escort back to the judge after the completion of the re-attack.

After attaining a Schutzhund 3 title, there are two higher level tracking titles available to dogs that excel at tracking, and those are the FH1 and FH2 titles. The FH1 track is 1400 paces long with seven right-angle turns, cross tracks which are laid 30 minutes after the actual track is laid, must go over terrain changes such as a road, is aged at least 3 hours and has four articles that must be indicated. The FH2 is the most difficult of any track, averaging between 2,000 and 3,000 paces long. Unlike all other Schutzhund tacks, in which the starting point is indicated by a flag, the dog must find the start of the FH2 track within a 3 minute window of time. The FH2 track also consists of terrain changes and a cross track which is laid 30 minutes prior to the dog running the track.

Canine play styles…why are they important anyway?

I think, like everyone else who grew up around dogs, I always understood that dogs played together.  I would watch them in our neighborhood or at a nearby dog park and see them running and leaping and jumping on each other, all obviously having the time of their lives.

But it wasn’t until I first got my own dog that I started to look a more closely at how those dogs played.  In 2010 I picked up a copy of Pat Miller’s amazing book Play With Your Dog.  In it, she outlines several very specific play styles that dogs can have.

1. Cheerleaders.  Cheerleaders play on the outside of a group who is more physically involved.  They run around the outskirts of the group and bark, sometimes almost constantly.  Often times cheerleaders turn into the dreaded “fun police.”  These dogs can be great on one hand (they may break up play that is getting too rough by dispersing the playmates and allowing them to calm down) or problematic (they can cause fights because some dogs do not appreciate having their fun broken up).


Cheerleaders stand on the outside of the group and bark at them! Why? They’re cheering them on!

2. Body slammers.
I don’t think this needs much description.  Pat Miller describes them as dogs who believe play means to “run full speed into other dogs and see if you can knock them off their feet.”  These are full contact, hard-hitting dogs.


Gracie and Ruskin demonstrate some hard hitting body slamming play.

3. Wrestlers.
  Wrestlers like to, well, wrestle.  These are the dogs who come into full body contact with each other and can often be found playing something many of us call “bitey face.”  They often look frightening, with huge displays of mad teeth.  Many of these dogs are good at self-handicapping, but sometimes the play can get out of control and escalate to something a bit more serious (this is when a good fun police dog can come in handy, but if you don’t have one of those on hand, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your wrestlers to make sure everyone is having fun and step in to separate and calm them down if one is not).


Wrestlers can look quite scary, but these dogs were having a total blast!

4. Chasers
. Chasers love to run.  Some dogs really prefer to be the one chasing.  Some dogs like to egg on others to chase them (sometimes by play bowing and running away, sometimes by showing off a prized toy and running away with it).  And others will happily change roles.  Predatory drift (wherein the dog “forgets” the dog they’re chasing is another dog and begins to see it as a prey animal) can occur when dogs are chasing and so it’s recommended to keep chasing partners close in size.


A good game of chase is exciting and fun for the right dogs!

5. Tuggers.
Many dogs love to tug and some of those are quite happy to tug with fellow canines. I’m personally a huge fan of watching dogs play tug.  I think one of the draws for dogs (vs. playing it with humans) is that the other dog can more closely match their vigor.  Even my 50 pound dog can nearly pull me off my feet in a vigorous game of tug.  Not so with her canine playmates!


Tug is especially fun when it’s a dirty half-frozen sock you’ve found in the middle of a field!

6. Soft touches.
These are dogs who are very hesitant to play much with other dogs. They aren’t confident or they’ve been injured or are older. Vigorous games of wrestling, body slamming, and tug are beyond them.  Games of chase are too much for them.  They really need other “soft touches” to have short bouts of play with.


This old dog would be a “soft touch.” She was arthritic and slow to move, but still a happy dog who wanted to play.

7. Self play.
Self-playing dogs will toss toys in the air and chase after them or toss their toy off the bed then run down to get it and hop back up, only to drop it back on the ground again.  Some will pounce on their toys and squeak them over and over again.  Dogs that self-play don’t get bored easily and I think they can have a huge advantage over other dogs when left home alone.


Dahlia can amuse herself by squeaking her toys over and over and over again…

In examining all of these different play styles and thinking about my dog, I realized she falls quite easily into some of the categories and is definitely not a part of others.  You can probably guess by looking at some of the pictures above which ones Dahlia is!  Dahlia loves to chase.  If dogs run off, Dahlia will be close behind running after them.  Dogs running get her excited and moving.  The more dogs running, the more Dahlia gets excited and gives chase.

She is also, most definitely, a cheerleader.  If there are two dogs wrestling, Dahlia is sure to be there barking her fool head off at them and sometimes getting in their way.


Dahlia cheers on Ruskin and Gracie!

But if not controlled, Dahlia can certainly turn into the fun police.  We were once at the dog park and a trainer was there who was in love with Dahlia’s ability to diffuse tension by stopping one dog from playing too rough with a dog who obviously wasn’t enjoying it.  Unfortunately, not everyone likes the fun police.  The dogs in our regular play group, thankfully, either totally ignore Dahlia or just put up with her control freak ways.


The fun police on her way in. A moment later, these two wrestling dogs separated as Dahlia came up between them and herded one away from the other.

Although Dahlia rarely gets to do it, she does enjoy a good game of tug with another dog.  And she will not let up until she gets that tug away from the other dog.

Tugging with friends!

Dahlia tugs with her friend Nellie. Even water won’t stop these dogs from their good rousing game of tug!

What Dahlia is certainly not?  You won’t find her wrestling or body slamming with a dog.  She doesn’t like being run into and bitey face makes her nervous. She’s not a dog who likes body contact.  She’s a dog who has a personal space bubble and prefers to keep other dogs out of it, especially in play.

So what does all this mean?  Why even think about your dog’s play style?  I think that picking the right playmates for your dog is hugely important.  It can mean the difference between a dog who finds joy in other dogs and one who becomes nervous around them.  If I brought home a dog who wanted to constantly wrestle with Dahlia and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, I can imagine Dahlia getting more and more upset and shut down.  I can imagine her becoming snarky and annoyed with the other dog.  I can easily imagine it turning into fights and quickly escalating to an ugly situation if left unchecked.

On the other hand, if I bring home another chasing/cheerleading/tugging dog, then I’ve got playtime gold on my hand.  I have a dog who Dahlia understands and who understands her.  I have dogs who can happily chase each other into exhaustion.

It’s certainly something to consider when looking for a second (or third or fourth) dog.  I think that matching up play styles is extremely important and so, knowing my dog’s play style, I feel that I know more of what I’ll be looking for in a second dog when the time comes.

If you’re looking for good books on play, I cannot recommend the following books highly enough:

Play With Your Dog by Pat Miller
Play Together, Stay Together by Patricia McConnell and Karen London

I really think they’re both worth reading (neither is an exceptionally long book) and well worth checking out if you’re considering adopting another dog.

So tell us, Team Unruly readers, what are your dogs’ play styles?  Do you have any pictures of their playing with their dog friends that show off their particular style?  Have you ever considered play styles when getting an additional dog?  How did it work out?  Come share your stories!