Ready Set(ter) GOOOO!


I believe you can never get enough of a good thing! If once was good, twice is even better -right? So, I’m posting this article by Guest Blogger – Linda Stebbins of Los Ranchos NM for the second time, because the first was way back in 2015 and it is well worth repeating!

Linda shares her Gordon Setter Agility Training experience with us and we’re both hoping it might be enough to encourage some of you to give this fun competition a whirl! So here’s Linda… I know you’ll all treat her right, give her a big round of applause or shake her hand to say “thanks so much” next time you see her!

Linda Stebbins

Agility success with a Gordon Setter requires flexibility, concessions, a desire to learn, train with restraint and understanding and a SENSE OF HUMOR! One of my Gordon Setters was running a clean course in a large horse arena and at the end of her run, a pigeon dive bombed her and returned to the rafters. She took a sharp U-turn, raced up the dog walk and went on point to the pigeon. So much for BEAUTY, BRAINS and BIRD NONSENSE.

Although I do not consider myself an expert, my 25+ years in a breed I dearly love, allows me to make valid comments, constructive criticism and appropriate recommendations.

When I write about a topic, I am pulling from my own experiences and do not deny there are other methods and styles of training whether it be in conformation, performance or field. I do not proclaim to be a professional trainer and am in a perpetual learning mode. I do this for FUN!

Because I handle my own Gordon Setters in all venues, the journey to their titles is extremely long, self satisfying and rewarding for me. I live in New Mexico where 80% of competitions in the conformation and performance rings are a 7-8 hour drive away. This can be long and grueling but I am totally committed to showing and competing with my Gordons. There is a sense of pride when one can train and show their own dogs.

I like to get my Gordon Setters’ Championship and Grand Championship titles as soon as I can so I can start playing in the agility ring. I don’t begin competing in trials until my Gordons are two years old and I know that their growth plates are closed. I use rally trials as a tool for socialization, obedience and  positive reinforcement. My true love is agility and I can honestly say I am an agility-holic.

Before agility I participated in obedience and hunt tests. Agility became a strong desire for me because it gave me and my Gordon Setter a sense of mental and physical challenge. I truly appreciate Gordons who have titles on both ends of their name, and there is every reason for a Gordon to be extremely successful in this sport if so desired.

I am a strong proponent of breed standards so when one wants to take up agility with their Gordon Setter, we must keep in mind how substantial this sporting dog is. The normal jump height is 24″. The physical demands of agility are significant. Larger boned dogs may require negotiating some of the obstacles more carefully. Good structure (balanced conformation), temperament and soundness are very important.

While most breed show dogs are campaigned for a relatively short period of time, many agility dogs compete into their senior years with the jump height going to 20″. As for temperament, I like a Gordon who has a desire to work and a willingness to train. I was asked in an interview, “In your opinion, what makes the Gordon Setter such a special breed?” I replied, “Versatility!”

They aim to please. They can hunt expertly, are extremely agile, obedient out of love, flow like a stream in the show ring, are a form of positive therapy for the owner’s “dog days”, full of snuggles and contentment whether in your lap or in their beds. As a learner, the Gordon Setter in general is intelligent, quick to learn and of bold character. I like the Gordon’s willing and forgiving attitude which makes a great partner. Curiosity and independence are traits which I think allow the Gordon to be a successful student.

Ready Set(ter) Goooooo!

My training philosophy consists of the Five F’s “Fun, Fair, Firm, Flexible and Fun”. I support positive reinforcement using rewards based methods. I want to develop teamwork. As the handler, you have to think step by step through the shaping process needed to train for an end behavior. I enjoy looking for the good things my dog does successfully. Rewards I use are treats, tug toys, tennis balls and/or verbal praise. Clickers are a true way to mark desired behaviors for problem solving and I do incorporate that in my training. Eventually the clear click sound transfers to me saying “YES” or “GOOD”. Whatever the method, I want to find a special connection that makes us a team.

My puppy starts in puppy socialization class which includes manners, and then moving into basic obedience where he/she learns to have a reliable sit, down, stay, and recall. We transition to “flat work” which is agility foundation, teaching me how to handle and making my body language clear and timely. The puppy learns how to take direction from me. After all, it is on the flat surface where I do most of my job navigating my Gordon. A combination of training class, private lessons and creative home training make a great equation for success on the agility course. A class exposes my Gordon to different sounds, breeds and people. Private lessons help clarify and tweak those skills that I so desperately need to have for my Gordon to advance.

Homework is a must and this reinforces and gives my Gordon a purpose. At home I like to introduce my puppy to a rocker board, and later trading it out for a wobble board for building confidence and being comfortable with movement and sound.

The Fit Paws Disc is another way to develop canine fitness, balance and confidence.

Learning fundamental skills properly is vital because training mistakes will be very hard to fix later on. I have learned from my mistakes and work to overcome them. One big recommendation is do not compare the speed of your progress to other members of your class. This has been very difficult for me to ignore, primarily because I am generally the only sporting dog in a class of many herding dogs. I find the herding breeds are a natural for this sport and excel quickly.

When searching for an agility instructor and facility, attend a local trial where you can watch the various handlers and trainers. Find appropriate times to talk to the people and ask them questions about the training methods, styles, techniques, etc. I find most agility competitors are very receptive and want to help newcomers. When you visit training centers and talk with the instructor(s), see if he/she has a willingness to work with all breeds and a variety of energy levels. Not all dogs are high driven. I have had Gordon Setters who have been moderate in drive and consistent on the course. I also have had the total opposite where I have had over the top, high driven Gordons. Once again, don’t compare your Gordon to the speed demons. The instructor should be able to work with all levels of drive. Of course this goes without mentioning, but knowledge and staying up with current changes in the sport is crucial. I personally need to work with someone who has a sense of humor. After all, Walt Disney didn’t create Goofy after the Gordon Setter for nothing. This is supposed to be a FUN sport for you and your Gordon. Make sure there are a variety of classes offered, addressing specific skills and it is not just your basic levels of agility; availability and communication is vital. My READY SET(ter) GOOO! instructor(s) will ask for a video of my homework attached in an email. I will receive feedback commenting on the rights and wrongs. This is extremely helpful! The training center must offer a good foundation so when your Gordon is ready to compete, it is confident and safe on the equipment.

Agility is constantly changing and evolving. Many handlers have gone to the internet to take instruction. I have not experienced this type of training but it is getting to be more and more popular. In fact books became outdated quickly and the internet has taken its place. Seminars and camps are well sought after and the training center you attend will have announcements posted.

A few resource recommendations are:

Gordon Setter Club of America members who have far exceeded anything I have accomplished and are reliable resources are Gail Deller, PA, and Susan Wey, TX. I am sure there are many others who are knowledgeable and successful but these three have helped and supported me immensely in the sport.

Team Work and Making the Dream Work requires your commitment, patience and sense of humor as an agility handler. Those embarrassing moments will occur and you must be willing to be amused by your Gordon Setter’s exuberant antics. It just means you didn’t proof the skill or train it long enough. 99% of the mistakes made fall on the handler, not the dog!

The Gordon Setter can transfer the ordinary day into extraordinary moments and memories.

Auntie Mame said “Life is a banquet!”  I say “Living with Gordon Setters makes it a feast!”

Linda L. Stebbins,  Los Ranchos, NM

On Being an AKC Delegate

From the February 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine.

Ever wonder “what does an AKC Delegate do?”

The delegate is supposed to represent his or her dog club to the AKC, but that’s only half the job. This tongue in cheek essay from Dogs in Review magazine will give you an all around look at the job and bring a few smiles along the way.

From the age of five I have been going to dog shows. Since then, I have organized a university outreach course on canines, served as president of an all-breed club and of the Clumber Spaniel Club of America, and been show chair, but until I became the AKC Delegate for my local all-breed club 12 years ago, I didn’t really have a clue as to what that really meant. So I thought it might be of interest to others in the dog world to try to explain what it’s all about, with the good and the bad.

There are about 5,000 AKC kennel clubs in the United States, of which only about 600 are official member clubs, entitled to elect a delegate, and thus supposedly have a voice in the organized dog world. The other kennel clubs are simply licensed to give shows, etc., but are not represented. It’s a big deal to be a member club and involves fulfilling a number of requirements (mainly size, continuity, breeding and shows). The Clumber Spaniel Club of America was founded in 1972, and it took us 17 years and a lot of paperwork to finally be approved in 1989.

The delegate is supposed to represent his or her dog club to the AKC, but that’s only half the job. The other half is to represent the AKC to one’s club, and given the present AKC, that’s not always a pleasing task. About 80 percent of delegates serve long-term and can help serve as informal institutional memory. The delegate is expected to give regular reports on official (and unofficial!) AKC doings. How do we know what to report? As many as two emails come each day with what AKC wants us to know. Also there is an online magazine by delegates for delegates. To learn what AKC doesn’t want us to know, delegates get to meetings early and stay late, and listen to the “old-timers” with 20 or more years as delegate.

But WARNING! It takes essentially three elements to be a delegate: a passion for dogs, plus time and money. The passion for dogs is probably what we share the most. Time available varies with each of us, but money is something else. It’s not cheap being a delegate. In addition to airfare, hotels and meals, there are the two days off one’s job, kenneling, gas, airport parking, van to the hotel and other travel expenses. Most clubs contribute $200 to $250 per meeting, which is at best one-third of the actual costs. Very few clubs pay all delegate expenses, and some delegates pay all expenses themselves so as not to be a burden on the club’s precarious finances. But as the old joke goes, you can actually get rich being a delegate! It takes a good thumb, a bag of cheap peanut butter sandwiches and a good supply of old newspapers. The thumb is for hitchhiking cross-country, the sandwiches for food and the newspapers for warmth at night sleeping on a park bench. Then you invest the money your club gives you and get rich!

There are four meetings a year, all on the Atlantic coast. You probably think AKC stands for American Kennel Club; in my opinion, it stands for Atlantic Kennel Club. There are executive offices in New York City, operational offices in Raleigh, North Carolina, and meetings held in New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida. So reflect on that, especially if you live in Kansas, not to mention California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska or Hawaii! Another problem: Some parent clubs schedule the national at exactly the same time as the important election meeting in March.

Once elected and having gone through the 3-month AKC approval process, you go to your first meeting. (One can represent only one AKC club at a time, and when I was elected delegate for the CSCA, having already served as a delegate for my all-breed club for 12 years cut no ice.) If this is really your first meeting, it looks like organized chaos. There are about 400 of the 600 delegates typically present at a given meeting. All are running around in the same big hotel, attending myriad committee meetings and one huge general meeting. It’s so bad that at your first meeting they hang a sign around your neck that says, “FIRST MEETING,” so people will take pity on you. And you are assigned an official mentor, normally someone in your breed. Meetings are rife with unwritten rules, dress codes, etc. Also you have to be formally introduced on the floor at your first general assembly meeting with a résumé of your dog activities, normally by someone in your breed.

Meetings are held on Mondays and Tuesdays (helps keep out the working stiffs!). On Monday there are individual committee meetings (e.g., parent clubs, all-breed clubs, canine health, dog show rules, obedience, herding, coursing and so on). Many take place at the same time, so you have to choose. Each committee has an elected board. To be elected, one presents an unblemished attendance record for hopefully 200 years and great dog activity. The committee board members sit at the head of the room and officiate. Any delegate can attend any committee meeting but can be heard only after the board members have had their say concerning the agenda. At the end of this first day there is a big general meeting with no agenda, so anything worrying people can be brought up and discussed. None of the professional staff are to attend these Monday meetings, except by special invitation. It’s just delegates talking to delegates. Monday evening is a cocktail party, and later it’s a good time, especially for people in the same breed, to have dinner together and talk dogs.

On Tuesday there is a complimentary continental breakfast, standing, followed by some sort of informational presentation organized by the professional staff, and then the very formal official general assembly meeting in a huge ballroom (where there are never enough chairs). Presiding is CEO Dennis Sprung with reports from the AKC Treasurer and other officers. There are microphones around the room, and new delegates are formally introduced. The agenda is sent out far in advance, with proposed rule changes. Any new member clubs, after having been cleared by the professional staff, are voted in. There are matters such as inevitable new Beagle trial details. (Afterwards, in the men’s room, one guy will ask, “Does anyone understand what the heck we just voted on with Beagle trials?” We all agree we don’t have a clue, but everyone likes Beagles, and if that’s what the Beagle people want…)

Next we all adjourn to a large dining room for a nice luncheon, compliments of the AKC. This is a good time to meet other committed dog people, but the conversations are soon interrupted by Dennis tapping on a glass and endless awards, interspersed with dutiful clapping. Then unless any items on the morning’s agenda still remain, we turn in our badges and go our separate ways.

THE END

References for more information on the Delegate role visit the AKC website by clicking the link below.

Delegate Meeting Minutes

The American Kennel Club is a “club of clubs”, and not a club of individuals. There are over 500 clubs that meet AKC membership requirements and have duly elected or appointed Delegates to represent them at quarterly meetings of the Delegate Body. Each delegate functions as a representatives of his or her member club in voting on matters coming before the Delegate Body and electing from amongst their membership the thirteen individuals who serve on AKC’s Board of Directors. Under the Constitution and Bylaws of The American Kennel Club, the Delegate Body”… shall have sole power to make the Rules governing dog shows and field trials and the clubs or associations formed to conduct them.”

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Keeping It All About the Dogs

I confess I’m not sure how to tell this story, though I’m sure it must be told just as I’m sure it must be read. To begin you should also know that I’m positive that kind, generous, moral and ethical dog people far outnumber the bad eggs. So, that’s not where this story leads, to the denouncement of dog clubs or dog people, even though it is about a few dog people who behaved badly. People who continue still today, behaving badly toward a fellow club member. People who would harm an innocent, unselfish dog loving person.

This is a true story about people who love purebred dogs. The name is changed to protect the innocent so I’m calling the story’s heroine Joy. I won’t name wrong doers, but do hope that those people just happen to read this story and recognize themselves. Maybe with any luck, some will change their behavior, for the dogs and the sport. If they don’t change, maybe some of you will call them out when you witness their bad behavior. Maybe together we can force a little change for good, stifle bad behavior in our rank.

Many love affairs begin by chance, a serendipitous event that changes the direction of our lives, melts our hearts and brings us joy. A walk in a field leads to the recovery of a stray dog brought home to safety and shelter. When the stray’s owner isn’t found this happenstance blossoms into a love affair with the breed because the stray had stayed, becoming a beloved pet. Two is better than one as all dog lovers know, so Joy acquires a second puppy from a well-known dog show exhibitor and breeder. The typical contacts between breeder and pet owner carry on in the early part of  puppy’s life, but those contacts dwindle to nothing as both go about their busy lives. The years pass with little contact between these two casual acquaintances, Joy and the breeder.

Joy commits herself to supporting her breed by joining dog clubs, her breed’s parent club and a couple of the local breed clubs. She contributes time and financial support to rescue efforts and serves as an officer for a local breed rescue. Joy is one of those members fondly referred to as a pet owner. She is one of thousands, heck maybe millions of pet owners who support AKC parent clubs.

Not being involved in dog competitions, Joy is blissfully unaware of the political maneuvering, power mongering and gossip that occurs among that group. She knows nothing of the fighting and controversy that can darken AKC dog sports. Because dog club leaders are often selected from among people who participate at AKC dog events, they sometimes bring their competitive penchants and accompanying power plays along impacting the leadership of a club. Rarely, if ever, is a pet owner included among the ranks of parent club leaders. Rarely, if ever, is a pet owner aware of the controversy or competitive power plays among club leaders.

When Joy reads a blurb in the club newsletter seeking a qualified member to fill an officer vacancy, she recognizes that she owns the skill-set needed to fill the job. Wanting to help, she volunteers. Joy had no attachments to any individual, had no preconceived notions, and had no contact with any of the leaders. Joy had no dog in any fight, so to speak. Joy is simply a pet owning member of the club, enjoying life with her dogs, unaware that any controversy existed in her club. Joy just happened to notice that work needed done for the club and she was willing to offer her help. Joy was a pet owner, unaware of back channel politics, power mongering and gossip. She innocently volunteered.

When called upon she joins the club’s Board to fill the vacancy. Joy believed she’d been asked to join a group where each held the commitment that what was said and done would be about taking care of the club and giving back to the dogs.

 If only this were a fairy tale and not a true story. In a fairy tale moral acts would prevail. Joy would marry the prince and together they would rule over the people with dignity, grace and justice for all. The village would stand united while puppies run happily through fields and the children laugh and play. And, there’d be sunshine, and rainbows and unicorns…yes, let’s have some unicorns too.

This story actually happened though, so we face the reality that some people do behave badly. In a true story a white knight doesn’t ride in to save the princess, because sometimes, in a true story, people cave to their own self-serving mission declaring it for the greater good. They mislead, they lie, and they distort the truth to achieve their personal mission, to serve themselves. Their allegations are false but repeated anyway to any who will listen. Unrest is sewn with lies stitched into stories whispered mouth to ear. Their personal mission is crafted to harm, to sew unrest, to lead the villagers, pitchforks in hand to the castle to unseat their enemies. Harm is done merely to serve the selfish needs of a few.

So, a few people, needing to drive controversy, depict Joy, a selfless volunteer, as a political pawn. They tell this story because they think, they don’t know as a fact, they only think she’s consorted with others. Their stories, their false allegations and their lies are spread among members to cause harm to Joy and controversy in the club.

 ­­Now mind you, Joy isn’t aware that her integrity is under attack, and most certainly doesn’t know that nasty gossip about her is spreading rapidly among the members. A few club members, acting out in a wicked way have twisted the motive behind Joy’s selfless act simply to create drama that would promote their own personal agendas. Joy doesn’t know about the gossip channels used by exhibitor members, she’s a pet owner who goes about her work unaware of this behind the scenes plot.  

Why did they choose to focus an unprovoked attack on Joy? Why was Joy singled out, dragged through the mud and into the midst of a controversy she never knew existed? The connection they used to craft their lies, the one and only small shred of truth in all that story telling was that once, years ago, Joy acquired a puppy from one of their targeted foes. That’s right, they aimed an attack at Joy because she once acquired a dog from a person they believed was their nemesis.

Wouldn’t it be grand if I could tell you the mean-spirited garbage and gossip ended there? Sure, there was some dirt thrown about, but our Joy, even after learning about their attack, ignores the fracas and goes amicably about her work supporting the club. Wouldn’t it be nice if it all stopped there? If there was no more harm, no more fouls?

Nope, didn’t happen. Joy, who never meant nor caused harm to anyone in any club, is still under attack today by a few exhibitor members, those who do so love to stoke controversy.  She continues to receive derisive emails ladled with snide remarks from those who simply want to hurt her. Some people still gossip when they’re in a group, and she’s often a target of their gossip.

In my eyes Joy is a heroine. Joy is strong, intelligent, kind and giving. Joy is a dog lover devoted to giving back to our canine friends and her club work is truly motivated by her devotion to the dogs. Joy won’t allow petty human antics to affect her, nor would she ever stoop to such tactics. Joy lives by the creed that for dog clubs to survive and breeds to flourish we shove all that human nastiness firmly aside, choosing instead to enjoy time devoted to productive activity shared with the kind and compassionate dog lovers who are are abundant in our clubs.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Photos of Poisonous Plants and Flowers

From those that are safe for pets to the most deadly, a list of poisonous plants and flowers commonly used in arrangements and landscaping. Dogs,  don’t seem to know the difference, at least mine don’t, my Gordon’s will chomp on the Lantana in my backyard every chance they get! Hope this list is helpful to you!

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

 

1st in Flowers! Home Page

Flowers Toxic to dogs that are commonly used in flower arrangements
Chrysanthemums

Dangerous Parts: All Parts
Reaction: Diarrhea, vomiting, hypersalivation
Flowers and plants that cause rashes (Dermatitus)
Chrysanthemums

Dangerous Parts: Leaves and Flowers
Reaction: Rash
Flowers that cause upset stomachs (Vomiting, diarrhea, and gas)
Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila)

Dangerous Parts: Flowers and Stems
Reaction: Diarrhea, vomiting
Plants that cause upset stomachs (Vomiting, diarrhea, and gas)
Cyclamen

Dangerous Parts: All Parts
Reaction: Diarrhea and vomiting
Flowers and plants that cause organ damage (Kidney, liver, stomach, heart, etc.)
Cardboard Palm

Dangerous Parts: All Parts
Reaction: Vomiting, increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, liver damage, liver failure.
Flowers and plants that cause death
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)

Dangerous Parts: All Parts
Reaction: Convulsions and death
Flowers that are not toxic to dogs and are commonly used in flower arrangements.Below are some of the flowers that are commonly used in floral arrangements which are listed as Non Toxic to dogs by the ASPCA.
Snapdragons

Emergency Contact Information.
If this is a poison emergency call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222
The ASPCA also provides a poison emergency phone line and they maintain one of the most comprehensive databases of flowers and plants toxic to pets. This database was used to identify many of the flowers and plants in this article. If you are looking for a plant or flower that isn’t covered here, you should try the ASPCA website.

 

Please feel free to download the PDF versions of this page, a single page printer friendly list or a multi page list with pictures. While these documents are intended for personal use, veterinarians, animal shelters and other such caregivers are invited to make copies for distribution to concerned pet owners.

Grooming – Gordon Setter Videos

Oster ProfessionalOster  has offered many best selling grooming products for many years and are especially known for their animal clippers. Now they’re offering even more help and support for the self groomer via their website where they’ve posted very helpful video clips demonstrating how to groom several breeds. For us that includes the Gordon Setter. How wonderful is that? Here are all the links to their videos…happy tails to you all!

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ                                                                                  Photos by Ben Perez

14 Videos about grooming a Gordon Settter13173347_178245152575572_8841807142114207002_o

Face & Skull – Gordon Setter

Face & Muzzle – Gordon Setter

Face & Eye – Gordon Setter

Face & Ear – Gordon Setter

Body & Neck – Gordon Setter

Body – Gordon Setter

Body 2nd Time over – Gordon Setter

Body 3rd time over – Gordon Setterjuly

Front Leg & Legs – Gordon Setter

Legs & Front Foot – Gordon Setter

Rear leg – Gordon Setter

Rear Foot – Gordon Setter

Tail – Gordon Setter

 

Recap Complete – Gordon SetterJuly3

Nail Grinder – How to use

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Photo by Bob Segal

Why are European Dogs So Well Behaved?

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Why Are European Dogs So Well Behaved?

Dogs, Euro Style

By Kama Brown CPDT-KA, January 2017

Together we will build a resource

“Together we will build an interactive, searchable resource for the Gordon Setter Fancier” – Sally Gift

I have been asked by some GSCA members about the origins of the Gordon Setter Expert and, in talking to them, learned that there are many misconceptions about why I developed it. Gordon Setter Expert started because as chair of the GSCA Breeder Education committee, I heard from members expressing the need for a web based resource and communication tool for not only member owners and breeders, but all Gordon Setter fanciers. My intent, therefore, was to create a blog which was to be owned and hosted by the Gordon Setter Club of America, Inc. and managed by a team of GSCA member-expertsI called this blog Gordon Setter Expert because I envisioned the content would be contributed by the hundreds of Gordon Setter experts among GSCA ranks. I purposely used the word Expert as a word to draw non-GSCA members, to gain trust, to attract Gordon lovers to our resource and to the Gordon Setter Club of America. I hoped to illustrate, through our web presence, the value of being a member of the GSCA.

My proposed prototype for this blog was sent to the GSCA Board of Governors for approval in January of 2015, where that necessary approval stalemated. Understanding then that some on the Board at that time did not recognize the value for the breed as well as the club, as a labor of love for our Gordon Setter breed, I decided to launch this blog on my own, as a personal contribution to the breed and their owners. I believed then, and continue to believe today in this blog’s ability to promote, protect and advance the purebred Gordon Setter.

It will always be my hope to someday transfer this blog to the Gordon Setter Club of America, in the hope that my efforts will be accepted and GSCA will carry on the work that has begun here.

Today GSE visitors will find over 250 articles related to breeding, showing, field events, performance events, training and health. Gordon Setter Expert is followed by 2,372 people who receive the new articles by email and other web services. Followers come from all walks of life, from all around the world and include many of the current GSCA membership. I am pleased to see that so many individuals, breed clubs, and parent clubs link to Gordon Setter Expert in order to share this resource with their friends, members and visitors to their websites.

Gordon Setter Expert proposal sent to the GSCA  To read my first proposal to the 2015 GSCA Board to gain their approval and support to create this blog on their behalf click this link.

To learn more about me and GSE click here to read the “About” page

Sally Gift, Mesa AZSundance Logo

Sally at the beach

Please note that the views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Gordon Setter Club of America.

When is it Ethical to Euthanize

Authored by Bernard Rollin

Bernard Rollin does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Professor of Philosophy, Animal Sciences and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University

In the 1960s, I knew people who, before going on vacation, would take their dogs to a shelter to be euthanized. They reasoned that it was cheaper to have a dog euthanized – and buy a new one upon returning – than pay a kennel fee.

Two decades later, I was working at Colorado State’s veterinary hospital when a group of distraught bikers on Harley-Davidsons pulled up carrying a sick chihuahua. The dog was intractably ill, and required euthanasia to prevent further suffering. Afterwards, the hospital’s counselors felt compelled to find the bikers a motel room: their level of grief was so profound that the staff didn’t think it was safe for them to be riding their motorcycles.

These two stories illustrate the drastic change in how animals have been perceived. For thousands of years, humans have kept animals as pets. But only during the past 40 years have they come to be viewed as family.

While it’s certainly a positive development that animals are being treated humanely, one of the downsides to better treatment mirrors some of the problems the (human) health care system faces with end-of-life care.

As with humans, in many cases the lives of pets are needlessly prolonged, which can cause undue suffering for the animals and an increased financial burden for families.

The growth of veterinary medicine and ethics

In 1979, I began teaching veterinary medical ethics at Colorado State University’s veterinary school, the first such course ever taught anywhere in the world.

A year later, the veterinary school hired an oncologist to head up a new program on animal oncology. Soon, our clinic was applying human therapeutic modalities to animal cancer. The visionary head of the veterinary program also hired a number of counselors to help pet owners manage their grief – another first in veterinary circles.

I’d been under the impression that people would be reluctant to spend much money on animal treatments, so I was genuinely shocked when the following April, the Wall Street Journal reported individuals spending upwards of six figures on cancer treatments for their pets.

As a strong advocate for strengthening concern for animal welfare in society, I was delighted with this unprecedented turn of events. I soon learned that concern for treating the diseases of pets besides cancer had also spiked precipitously, evidenced by a significant increase in veterinary specialty practices.

One of the family

So what’s behind the shift in how pets are perceived and treated?

For one, surveys conducted over the last two decades indicate an increasing number of pet owners who profess to view their animals as “members of the family.” In some surveys, the number is as high as 95% of respondents, but in nearly all surveys the number is higher than 80%.

In addition, the breakdown of nuclear families and the uptick of divorce rates have contributed to singles forming tighter bonds with companion animals.

Such attitudes and trends are likely to engender profound changes in societal views of euthanasia. Whereas before, many owners didn’t think twice about putting down a pet, now many are hesitant to euthanize, often going to great lengths to keep sick animals alive.

Vets caught in the middle

However, veterinarians continue to experience extensive stress as they experience two opposite – but equally trying – dilemmas: ending an animal’s life too soon, or waiting too long.

n a paper that I published entitled Euthanasia and Moral Stress, I described the significant stress experienced by veterinarians, veterinary technicians and humane society workers. Many chose their profession out of a desire to improve the lot of animals; instead, they invariably ended up euthanizing large numbers of them, often for unethical reasons.

These ranged from “I got the dog to jog with me, and now it’s too old to run,” to “If I die, I want you to euthanize the animal because I know it can’t bear to live without me.”

In other cases, the animal is experiencing considerable suffering, but the owner is unwilling to let the animal go. With owners increasingly viewing pets as family members, this has become increasingly common, and many owners fear the guilt associated with killing an animal too soon.

Ironically this, too, can cause veterinarians undue trauma: they know the animal is suffering, but there’s nothing they can do about it unless the owner gives them permission.

The consequences are manifest. One recent study showed that one in six veterinarians has considered suicide. Another found an elevated risk of suicide in the field of veterinary medicine. Being asked to kill healthy animals for owner convenience doubtless is a major contribution.

How to manage the decision to euthanize

Here is my suggestion to anyone who is thinking about getting a pet: when you first acquire it, create a list of everything you can find that makes the animal happy (eating a treat, chasing a ball, etc). Put the list away until the animal is undergoing treatment for a terminal disease, such as cancer. At that point, return to the list: is the animal able to chase a ball? Does the animal get excited about receiving a treat?

If the animal has lost the ability to have positive experiences, it’s often easier to let go.

This strategy can be augmented by pointing out the differences between human and animal consciousness. As philosopher Martin Heidegger has pointed out, for humans much of life’s meaning is derived from balancing past experiences with future aspirations, such as wishing to see one’s children graduate or hoping to see Ireland again.

Animals, on the other hand, lack the linguistic tools to allow them to anticipate the future or create an internal narrative of the past. Instead, they live overwhelmingly in the present. So if a pet owner is reluctant to euthanize, I’ll often point out that the animal no longer experiences pleasant “nows.”

In the end, managing euthanasia represents a major complication of the augmented status of pets in society. Ideally, companion animal owners should maintain a good relationship with their general veterinary practitioner, who has often known the animal all of its life, and can serve as a partner in dialogue during the trying times when euthanasia emerges as a possible alternative to suffering.

VACCINATION AGAINST CANINE CANCER STUDY

Thank you Barbara Manson, Stoughton WI for bringing this to our attention!

Attention all Gordon Setter owners – our breed is included among those being recruited for this study. If interested, follow the link below to submit your information online.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

VACCINATION AGAINST CANINE CANCER STUDY

UW Veterinary Care’s Oncology Service is recruiting dogs for the Vaccination Against Canine Cancer Study (VACCS trial), the largest clinical trial conducted to date for canine cancer.

The goal of the VACCS trial is to evaluate a new vaccine strategy for the prevention, rather than treatment of dogs with cancer. Healthy dogs of certain breeds, 6 to 10 years old, will be randomized to receive either a series of vaccines similar to other routine vaccines that are given to dogs currently, or placebo vaccines. Dogs will live at home and be checked 2-3 times yearly for 5 years after enrollment. A financial incentive will be offered to defray the cost associated with diagnostics and treatment of any cancers that dogs develop, regardless of whether they are receiving vaccine or placebo.

In addition to potentially providing a new strategy for cancer prevention in dogs, if successful, this study could provide important justification for eventually looking at a similar approach in humans.

TO QUALIFY, DOGS MUST MEET THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA:

  • Owners must live within 150 miles of one of the participating trial sites
    • University of Wisconsin–Madison · Madison, Wisconsin
    • Colorado State University · Fort Collins, Colorado
    • University of California–Davis · Davis, California
  • Age: 6 to 10 years old
  • Weight: 12 pounds (5 kg) or more
  • No history of previous cancer
  • No significant other illness that could result in a life span of less than 5 years
  • No history of previous autoimmune disease
  • No current treatment with oral or injectable immunosuppressive medications such as prednisone, cyclosporine, mycophenolate, or tacrolimus

THIS TRIAL IS NOW BEGINNING THE PATIENT ENROLLMENT PROCESS.

If you believe your pet meets the study criteria and would like to receive more information, please click the button below to enter your contact details and preliminary information about your dog.

A member of the Oncology team will contact you within a week of your entry to collect further information and schedule an appointment.

Questions? To learn more about this study, please email us: vaccs@vetmed.wisc.edu.

DOGS MUST BE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING BREEDS:

  • Mixed Breed
  • Afghan Hound
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Borzoi
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Briard
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Corgi
  • Deerhound
  • English Setter
  • Field Spanie
  • Flat-coated Retriever
  • French Bulldog
  • German Shepherd
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Setter
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Italian Spinone
  • Keeshond
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Leonberger
  • Newfoundland
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Rottweiler
  • Saluki
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Siberian Husky
  • Springer Spaniel
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Standard Poodle
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Viszla
  • Welsh Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier

FAR Better than Tomato Juice as a Skunk Rinse…

OMG!  SKUNK!

With the arrival of Fall comes bird season and the hunt, which reminded me that sometimes “stuff” just happens when you’re out having fun with your dog! For those unexpected encounters, Dr. Becker’s video and recipe could be the solution to your dilemma, just follow the link or the directions below.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

FAR Better than Tomato Juice as a Skunk Rinse…

By Dr. Becker

In this short video, Dr. Karen Becker shares the very effective method she uses to get rid of skunk smell on pets.

Today I want to give you my skunk rinse recipe, and here’s hoping you never have to use it!

If, heaven forbid, your dog or cat is ever sprayed by a skunk, you should have this recipe on hand. The sooner you apply the solution to your pet’s fur, the sooner he’ll get relief and smell better.

Skunk Rinse Recipe

Tomato juice isn’t nearly as effective as this recipe, and it’s easy to follow.

In a pail mix:

  • 1 quart hydrogen peroxide (the 3 percent hydrogen peroxide variety)
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons dishwashing liquid

If you have a large breed dog, you may need to double, triple or even quadruple the mixture.

Wear dishwashing or other household gloves if you like during the whole de-skunking process.

Don’t wet down your pet. Apply the mixture to your pet’s dry coat from the collar back toward the tail. Don’t pour it near the eyes because the hydrogen peroxide solution can burn them.

Lather the mixture into your pet’s coat and skin. Rub the solution around for about five minutes or until the skunk smell starts to dissipate.

If the front of your pet is as stinky as the back, use a sponge to apply the solution to your pet’s chin, cheeks, forehead and ears, being very careful not to go near the eyes. When you rinse the head area, tilt your pet’s chin upward so the solution does not run down into the eyes, instead allow the water to run back off his neck.

Do a complete rinse once the smell starts to decrease, then repeat the entire process again.

You may need to repeat the lather and rinse process up to three times, but it’s a very effective method for removing the skunk smell from your pet.

Make sure to completely rinse the solution off your pet. Your final rinse should be very thorough.

You can’t prepare this solution ahead of time and store it – it won’t be effective when you need it. It must be made fresh, right before you apply it to your pet. So it pays to make sure you have all the ingredients ahead of time!

Good luck … and I hope you never have to use my skunk rinse recipe!

We are dedicated to building a knowledge base and a sharing site for those who are involved in all of the various aspects of competition with Gordon Setters, competitions that showcase the Gordon Setter’s Beauty, Brains and Bird-Sense.

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