I have been an active participant in the sport of showing and breeding purebred dogs since 1973. While I began my journey with an Irish Setter, Gordon Setters became my passion in 1977 and I've been breeding them exclusively ever since.
Planning to attend the Gordon Setter Club of America’s National Field Trial coming up in November at Bechtel Ranch in Kasas? The GSCA NFT Facebook page (click here to open a new window to the page) is a resource for information. The event depends on generous donations for it’s success, information follows on how you can help.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Serenity Setters and Stables August 11, 2019 Good Evening y’all,
I hope that this finds you and yours well!
It may be the dog days of summer but soon fall will be coming around the corner. With fall comes the 2019 GSCA National Field Trial. A great event held every year at Bechtel Ranch in Kansas.
On behalf of everyone coordinating the event I would like to extend you the offer of joining us in celebrating the finest of our beloved breed. The event will take place November 4th-8th and can’t take place without the generous support of people like you. Please join my family in contributing to this event.
I’ve attached the official donor letter and form for your viewing pleasure. We greatly appreciate your time reading this and ANY donation to this wonderful event will be greatly appreciated!
Thank you very much!
Respectfully, Brandon T. Bell-Colfer Owner- Serenity Setters and Stables
Proper grooming techniques give a boost to your Gordon Setter’s competitive edge in the show ring. Knowing how to accentuate your dog’s best points by trimming him so they shine through can improve your win record. If you’ve seen Will Alexander in the ring with a Gordon you’ve witnessed that every dog he shows is beautifully presented, groomed to perfection. I’ve seen Will in action and have admired his skill for decades so I’m sharing the link to his course on Setter grooming with you. For a relatively low cost your subscription to the course will give you unlimited access to this self paced, visual grooming reference for as long as you like. Perfect your skillset with professional guidance!
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Click the blue link below and a new window will open taking you to the course. Don’t let the English Setter fool you – Will knows Gordons and covers them too!
This course is an introduction to the basics of trimming all four of the setter breeds.
You will learn the subtle differences between the English, Gordon, Irish and Irish Red & White Setters.
From Clipper-work, to carding and raking you will learn skills that will be valuable to you no matter what your skill level.
You will learn when and where you should use various tools such as; thinning shears, knives, stripping stones.
Knowing why we are trimming hair off in different ways is as important as how to do it. Will explains how the setter’s furnishings should be an extension of your setter’s bone structure and how to create the most anatomically correct version of your setter through trimming.
Stay tuned as we bring you each breed in greater detail.
Will’s family bred and showed Irish Setters (his father still breeds them), and as a junior Will bred English Cockers. Will made his ring début at the age of seven with one of his father’s setters, and from then on he was very active (and successful) in Junior Showmanship, and the breed ring, with a variety of breeds.
Will always wanted to be a handler, but before embarking on a handling career he worked for Garry MacDonald here in Canada, and for Bobby Stebbins in the States – gaining experience, honing his skills, and perfecting his craft…
Will started handling professionally in 1986, and in 1987, took the Irish Setter Ch. McCammom Impresario to Top Dog All Breed.
This also set a record as the youngest handler to have a Top Dog All Breeds.Will is one of only 5 handlers,
who has had more than one Top Dog All Breeds
Will has had a dog in the Top Ten All Breeds since 1991!
Will is often referred to as the “Wayne Gretzky of dog shows”, Will is proudly Canadian and arguably the most recognized professional handler in Canada!
Will is now a published author, his book “For the Love of Dogs” was published in 2014.
Will had the honour of winning Best In Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2015
with the beautiful Beagle bitch, Am/Can. Ch. Tashtin’s Lookin For Trouble, aka Miss P
Click the link above to go to the GSCA National Specialty website for all the pertinent information on this event at Purina Farms, Gray Summit, MO on October 3rd -6th.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Tentative Schedule of Events*
Thursday, October 3rd
Veteran Sweepstakes with Welcome Party
Friday, October 4th
All Dog Classes
General Membership Meeting & Dinner
Saturday, October 5th
All Bitch Classes
Best of Breed competition
All Best In Class competition
All Multi-dog Classes
Sunday, October 6th
Remember all conformation classes will be held at Purina’s outdoor venue and performance events will be held in their Event Center. We do have an indoor option available if weather is not in our favor!
*Schedule is subject to change depending on entry and additional programs offered by other GSCA Committees
Dr. Karen Overall, Senior Research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania
Temperament in purebred dogs plays a vital part in how the dogs fit into their families and society. Along with that comes the inevitable nature vs nurture argument. In other words, does separation anxiety, for example, have a genetic basis or is it caused by well-intentioned but misguided owners.
According to Dr. Karen Overall, it’s some of each.
“It was a lot more complex than what we thought’”
Research in purpose bred working dogs indicates that genetics are responsible for 30 percent of a dog’s behavior, with environment, at some level, responsible for the rest.
“When you look at a pedigree, if 50 percent of dogs in that family line have a variant of a certain condition, the chances are that there’s a genetic contribution to that,” Overall said, “especially if that condition has been identified in another species, if that model exists, chances are that pedigree is representative of an increased risk that’s genetic.”
OVERALL AND THE “SPINNING DOG”
Overall’s work is the baseline for many in the field of behavioral medicine. Her books and protocols are used in clinics around the country. But she describes her work here as sort of an “accidental tourist.” She planned to work in strictly research until a residency in behavioral medicine introduced her to a dog who couldn’t quite spinning… for two and a half hours.
“That dog said to me, whoa, this is interesting, this looks like human OCD,” Overall said. “There’s a good chance it has a genetic basis. There are a number of clear cut behavioral concerns that look to have genetic predispositions.”
Overall has dedicated her career to researching and teaching owners of pets with behavior issues. “Education may not work, may not take,” Overall said. “But that doesn’t give you the option to not do it. Without it, guaranteed, what you have is ignorance.”
BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION PROTOCOLS
This dedication to behavior medicine has paid off for Overall. She has developed and promotes protocols which help clients address and overcome with behavior modification. And she has identified seven “risk genes” that approach significance in the field.
In all the instances Overall discusses, the genetic basis is polygenic and influenced by the environment. And she notes that frequently the phenotypical disease is not actually expressed due to the dog not experiencing a triggering environment.
“I think they’ll put it on my tombstone, ‘It was a lot more complex than what we thought”.
She added that many of what we as breeders and owners identify as behavioral issues are linked with performance and the jobs the dogs were designed to do.
“In those cases, there has been selection for the job, selection against the extremes of pathology, but not that midrange,” Overall noted. “There has been no ‘cost’ to enhancing the behavior.”
Amongst the tools Overall has provided to owners and breeders is this type of protocol for creating a “relaxed” dog in various situations. Please investigate the various links for more information on her amazing work. Enjoy today’s conversation, with valuable insight from one of the country’s foremost practitioners in behavioral medicine and research.
Christopher G. Byers, DVM, DACVECC, DACVIM (SAIM), CVJ
When most folks think of infection, they think of bacteria. Yet not all infections are caused by bacteria. Many infections are caused by other infectious organisms, including fungi. If you live in certain parts of the United States, fungal infections are actually quite common. One of the more common fungal infections is called blastomycosis. This week, I’ve dedicated some time to disseminating some helpful information about this infection. Happy reading!
Blastomycosis – What is it?
Blastomycosis is a fungal infection caused by a fungus called Blastomyces dermatitidis. This fungus is predominantly found in North America while occurring only sporadically in Central America, Africa, India, and Europe. Within the terrestrial borders of North America, certain regions have a preponderance of the fungus, particularly the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, and St. Lawrence river valleys.
Blastomyces dermatitidis is found in two distinct forms – as yeast and mycelia. Mycelia are found in the environment; as they grow, mycelia form segments called conidia (also known as spores) that are ultimately inhaled by our pets. At body temperature, conidia transform and grow as yeast in the lungs, specifically terminal airways. After establishing an infection in the lungs, the fungus disseminates to other areas through blood and lymph vessels, particularly to the following regions/organs:
Nostrils (called nares)
Blastomycosis – What does it look like?
Both dogs and cats may become infected with blastomycosis after 5-12 weeks of incubation.. In dogs, large breeds are more commonly affected than small breeds. Sporting breeds are over-represented, likely due to the fact they are brought to high-risk areas to hunt and work more frequently. Males are more frequently affected than females. In cats, there is no age, breed, or sex predilection.
Common clinical signs in dogs include:
Reduced (or loss of) appetite
Clinical signs are similar in cats. Breathing changes, skin lesions, vision changes, and weight loss are most commonly reported.
Blastomycosis – How is it diagnosed?
After gathering a complete medical history and performing a thorough physical examination, a veterinarian will recommend testing to confirm their clinical suspicion of blastomycosis. Testing may include:
Evaluation of cells from skin lesions (cytology and/or biopsy)
Urine antigen testing
Chest radiographs (x-rays)
Pet parents may find it helpful to partner with a board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist to develop a cost-effective and logical treatment plan.
Blastomycosis – How is it treated?
Blastomycosis should be treated with an antifungal medication. Common drugs that may be prescribed include:
Treatment is prolonged, often more than two months’ duration. In general, the prognosis for patients who are promptly and effectively treated is good. Dogs with central nervous system involvement typically die but treatment is occasionally successfully. Dogs with marked lung involvement carry a more guarded prognosis with 50% of dog succumbing to infection within the first week of treatment. Approximately 25% of dogs will experience a relapse after treatment. The relapse typically occurs within six months.
The take-away message about blastomycosis in dogs & cats…
Blastomycosis is a meaningful fungal infection in many parts of North America. Clinical signs reflect the organ(s) affected by infection, and may including coughing, appetite changes, skin lesions, and eye changes. With prompt identification and treatment, prognosis is good.
Dog food brands most linked to heart-disease reports named
U.S. FDA tallies 560 dogs affected since 2014
VIN News Service
June 27, 2019 By Edie Lau; Lisa Wogan
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today for the first time publicly identified the pet food brands most frequently associated with cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a serious and potentially fatal heart disease. The vast majority of cases involve dogs, but a few cases involving cats have been reported, as well.
In an update on its investigation into the potential link between certain diets and canine DCM, the FDA listed 16 pet food brands that have been named in 10 or more reports of the disease.
The top three brands are Acana, named in 67 reports; Zignature, named in 64 reports; and Taste of the Wild, named in 53 reports.
Starting in 2014 and through April 30, 2019, the FDA has received reports of 560 dogs and 14 cats diagnosed by veterinarians to have DCM. Of those, 119 dogs and five cats have died.
Not included in the figures are counts from “the many general cardiac reports” the agency received that did not involve a diagnosis of DCM. “However,” the FDA said, “this case information is still valuable, as it may show heart changes that occur before a dog develops symptomatic DCM.”
DCM is a condition resulting in an enlarged, weak heart that cannot pump blood efficiently. Dogs with DCM may tire easily, cough and have trouble breathing. More dramatically, they might exhibit sudden weakness, collapse, faint or die with no warning.
The large majority of reports received by the FDA were made in 2018 and 2019. The agency has been investigating the problem since last year. It announced in July that it had learned of cases of DCM in dogs eating certain pet foods, many labeled as “grain-free” and containing as main ingredients peas, lentils, other legume seeds (known as pulses) and/or potatoes.
While particular dog breeds are known to be genetically predisposed to DCM — breeds such as Doberman pinscher, Great Dane, Newfoundland, boxer, Irish wolfhound and cocker spaniel — many of the affected dogs were not of those breeds. That is what caught veterinary cardiologists’ attention early on.
The cause of the problem is unknown, and most researchers investigating the problem suspect the answer won’t be easy to identify. The FDA cannot say with certainty that diet is the culprit, although in an investigation update posted in February, the agency reported that some dogs diagnosed with DCM improved simply by changing their diet. Other investigators have reported similar observations.
At that time and again today, the FDA said: “Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.”
Because of the uncertainty, the agency has not asked the companies behind the implicated brands to recall them. “We have shared case report information with these firms so they can make informed decisions about the marketing and formulation of their products,” the FDA wrote in a Q&A on its canine DCM investigation.
The agency added, “We are also sharing this information with the public, but encourage pet owners to work with their veterinarians, who may consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, prior to making diet changes.”
In analyzing ingredients and ingredient proportions of the identified diets eaten by affected animals, FDA researchers have found that more than 90% of implicated products were “grain-free,” meaning they did not contain corn, soy, wheat, rice, barley or other grains. Ninety-three percent contained peas and/or lentils.
Early on, some veterinarians investigating the problem posited that novel animal protein sources in diets, such as kangaroo, bison or duck, might be a factor. But in its latest update, the FDA reported: “The most common proteins in the reported diets were chicken, lamb and fish; however, some diets contain atypical protein sources such as kangaroo, duck and bison. No one animal protein source was predominant.”
The FDA said most of the identified foods in the canine cases are dry formulations, but not all. There also are raw food, semi-moist food and wet foods reported.
A representative from one company owning a frequently implicated brand expressed concern about the issue while questioning the premise that its formulations could be culpable.
Dr. Alexia Heldman, director of veterinary affairs for Diamond Pet Foods, which owns Taste of the Wild, said in a telephone interview, “Over the last year, there have been a lot of theories …. Where we are now, there are more questions unanswered than there were a year ago.”
Heldman said Taste of the Wild is the largest brand of grain-free food, noting that 29 million bags have been sold in the U.S. since September 2017.
She said that 53 reports of disease cases should be considered in the context of sales. “If the numbers were presented as a percentage of bags sold, we would be at the other end of the list,” Heldman said.
At the same time, the numbers aren’t inconsequential, she said. “I certainly want to make sure we don’t in any way minimize what those pets and pet owners have been through.”
Heldman has taken some of the calls made to the company by affected pet owners. “It is devastating. My heart really does break when I talk to pet owners. I and everyone else at the company really hate that this is happening.”
Heldman noted that Taste of the Wild formulations have been largely unchanged during the past four to five years. “[H]ow did this come out of nowhere?” she wondered.
The FDA wonders the same. “Another puzzling aspect of the recent spike in DCM cases is that they have occurred just in the last few years,” the agency wrote in today’s update.
It noted that formulation is not the only possible variation: “The FDA is working with the pet food industry to better understand whether changes in ingredients, ingredient sourcing, processing or formulation may have contributed to the development of DCM.”
Diamond Pet Foods encourages veterinarians and pet owners who have questions or concerns to contact them, Heldman said. The company number is 800-342-4808. “We take meticulous notes, because we want to share with everyone, especially the FDA, anything that we can do to help potentially figure out what is truly going on,” Heldman said. “It’s a top priority.”
Similarly, Pets Global, owner of the Zignature line, said in a prepared statement, “Ensuring the health of all our pet customers continues to be our top priority.”
The statement also says in part: “While the vast majority of our customers thrive with our high quality, grain-free pet formula, we are taking the FDA’s recent announcement very seriously. As such, we have created a dedicated customer care line (888-897-7207) so we can understand more to further ensure the safety of all pets. As the FDA said in its release, it still does not have enough information to fully understand these cardiac issues. Any pet owners or veterinarians who have information on this matter are strongly encouraged to contact our dedicated customer care line backed by our team of veterinary experts and nutritionists.”
Mike Fuccillo, a spokesperson for Champion PetFoods, which owns Acana, the most frequently named brand on the list, and Orijen, another brand on the list, said the company had no comment.
When amputation is not an option, please don’t go straight to euthanasia
By Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified
March 12, 2019 1:00 pm
When a patient is diagnosed with osteosarcoma, we tend to focus on three options:
• the “gold standard,” i.e. amputation with or without chemotherapy;
• what many call palliative care, meaning pain medication and rest; or
But what if amputation is not an option? What if chemotherapy or radiation is out of the owner’s financial capabilities? Or a couple of medications are not enough to numb the pain? What if visible metastasis to the lungs is already present?
Bob Stein, DVM, pain management guru and founder of the Veterinary Anesthesia & Analgesia Support Group (www.vasg.org), recently shared another valid option.*
“With my suggested approach, we can often provide quality of life to even large-breed dogs for six to 12 months and sometimes more than 20.”
Let’s detail Dr. Stein’s protocol.
Pamidronate, a bisphosphonate, is an injectable drug that is inexpensive and easy to administer (ref: TM Fan et al. JVIM 2007). It helps to reduce pain (in 30 to 50 percent of patients), inhibit bone osteolysis, and has potential cancer-suppression effects by impeding proliferation and inducing apoptosis. The drug has a wide safety margin and can even be used on patients with renal or liver insufficiency. While side effects such as esophagitis, allergic reactions, and gastritis have been described, Dr. Stein has not yet observed those adverse effects at his practice. Note: If pamidronate is backordered when you read this, use zoledronic acid instead.
NSAIDs are a mainstay in pain management, but they are not particularly well suited to the management of bone cancer pain. Dr. Stein hopes NSAIDs can contribute, but consistently utilizes them for their antiangiogenic, cancer-suppressant properties. They also help with pain related to degenerative joint disease (DJD) in other limbs and discomfort related to weight shifting.
Tramadol has been shown multiple times to be unpredictable and, generally speaking, ineffective when managing canine pain, so we won’t dwell on it. When reaching for a reuptake inhibitor, Dr. Stein chooses amitriptyline or duloxetine as noted later in this column.
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Several studies have been conducted to prove the effectiveness and safety of gabapentin. Like amitriptyline and duloxetine, gabapentin is better suited to bone cancer pain than NSAIDs. Initially used to treat seizures, gabapentin treats pain by blocking calcium channels. Patients with osteosarcoma receive a starting dose of 10 mg/kg three times daily, but Dr. Stein increases the dose as rapidly as tolerated to as high as 60 to 70 mg/kg three times daily. Due to gabapentin’s nonlinear pharmacokinetic profile, it is very difficult to overdose gabapentin, but you can see lethargy and sedation if you increase the dose too quickly.
Our patients are unaware they have a life-threatening disease. If their activity needs to be slowed down, prescribe trazodone. It doesn’t play well with tramadol (yet another reason not to use tramadol), but works well with gabapentin to provide safe and effective sedation. Use with caution, if at all, when utilizing a reuptake inhibitor like tramadol, amitriptyline, or duloxetine.
Cymbalta (duloxetine), a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), has been shown to provide pain control by increasing serotonin in synapses. Care must be taken to ensure there are no drug interactions with other medications, such as aspirin or over-the-counter supplements the patient may be on.
Amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, can be used to treat neuropathic pain via a broad variety of mechanisms. Unlike tramadol, amitriptyline can be effective when dosed twice daily. Doses as high as 3 to 4 mg/kg twice daily may be required for peak analgesic benefit.
Initially used as an antiviral medication, amantadine is a N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor inhibitor. It can disrupt the nervous system response to prolonged pain signaling. Also showing evidence of chronic osteoarthritis pain alleviation, this drug can be used for relieving osteosarcoma-related pain.
What we feed a cancer patient is more important than most pet owners realize. Food can either “feed” the cancer or help “starve” it, while boosting the immune system. Prescription diets for cancer patients offer:
• Low levels of carbohydrates (sugar is blamed with “feeding” cancer cells)
• High levels of protein, fat, and omega-3 fatty acids
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Weight control is critical in cancer patients. Many veterinary professionals believe weight loss and cachexia are a classic consequence of cancer. Until the disease takes over, being overweight is a far greater risk. Quite often, the owner feels bad for their dog’s fate and tends to use food to offer comfort. Sadly, extra weight puts extra pressure on joints. In addition, adipose tissue releases cytokines that can exacerbate a multitude of inflammatory processes, including DJD, which can contribute to discomfort.
Weight maintenance or weight loss should be a critical part of the discussion regarding a cancer patient. Remember to include serial weight checks and follow-ups to tailor the food amount to your patient’s needs.
Glucosamine, chondroitin, injectable supplements, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) have been recommended to help with arthritis present in joints unaffected by cancer.
Not all omega-3 fatty acids are created equal. There is a lot of over-the-counter junk. Proper manufacturing and conservation are critical to prevent the supplement from becoming rancid. According to Dr. Stein, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation can provide anti-angiogenesis properties. Calculate the dose of various supplements with a free calculator located at http://www.vasg.org.**
Using a harness, such as Help ’Em Up, can help owners lift or support dogs with osteosarcoma in a back leg. It can also alleviate extra strain on the back end when a front limb is affected. An effective harness also reduces the likelihood the client will be injured while assisting their dog.
As osteosarcoma progresses, weight shifting can cause strain to the other limbs. Physical therapy and massage can lessen the impact of the increased load.
Acupuncture, myofascial trigger point needle therapy
Needle therapy can be part of a multimodal program for pain control. Acupuncture has been shown to boost beta-endorphins, which are the body’s natural opioids. Acupuncture also can help reduce chemotherapy-related gastrointestinal side effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. Myofascial trigger point needle therapy can relieve the painful contracture knots that often form when muscles are overtaxed or injured.
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Countless other modalities, including Reiki, have been recommended to help fight cancer, along with all kinds of nutritional supplements. Claims include cancer growth inhibition and overall support. We will leave it up to you to pick and choose what you believe in. Working with a veterinarian who is familiar with these modalities is recommended. Laser, however, is not recommended anytime cancer is suspected or proven.
When amputation is not an option, please don’t go straight to euthanasia. As Dr. Stein suggests, using some of the modalities mentioned here can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life, as well as their longevity.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at http://www.DrPhilZeltzman.com and http://www.VeterinariansInParadise.com. AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, Pa., contributed to this article.
Over twenty years ago a I co-bred a litter with good friend of mine who handled the whelping of our eight Gordon Setter puppies . Everything went smoothly at the birth and they were all plugging along, doing great and gaining weight when out of the blue, four days after giving birth, the dam became critically ill. An emergency call and wild ride to the vet revealed that Eclampsia had struck, and in addition to being life threatening for our bitch it created the need to completely take over the feeding of those eight newborn puppies, the dam could no longer nurse due to this condition. Without tube feeding, this litter’s chances of surviving and thriving would have been fairly slim. Bottle feeding eight puppies around the clock and all by oneself was not an option. Tube feeding only means by which my dear friend could save those babies.
And that brings us to to thanking Barbara Manson for sharing this excerpt on tube feeding and for bringing this topic to my attention, it’s something I hadn’t thought of in awhile, but it certainly should be given space here, so here we go!
Tube feeding, for most people, is the easiest, cleanest, fastest, safest and most preferred way to feed orphans, An infant feeding tube (available from many hospitals, pharmacies or pediatricians), number 8-10 French, or a small male urethral catheter can be used. Once weekly, mark the tube 75% of the distance from the nose to the last rib. This is the length necessary to just reach the stomach. If more is inserted, when withdrawn it will frequently come back doubled, possibly damaging the esophagus. Attach the tube to a syringe, aspirated the amount of formula needed and expel any air aspirated. Open the mouth slightly, and with the head held in the normal position (not flexed upward or downward) gently pass the tube to the mark. If an obstruction is felt before you reach the mark the tube is in the trachea. If this is not the case, slowly administer the formula over a two minute period to allow for gastric dilation. If resistance is felt, stop. It probably indicates the stomach is full. With these precautions, regurgitation rarely occurs. If it does, withdraw the tube and do not feed any more until the next scheduled feeding. For the first few weeks of life after each feeding, burp the animal (just like an infant) and swab the genital area with moistened cotton to stimulate deification and urination.
Below you’ll find more resources, including websites with photos to help guide you, simply click the colored links to go to there. This is also where I ask other breeders if they have techniques or advice about tube feeding that can be shared with others to help round out this information? Please use the comment section to add your thoughts or if you’ve got more detail to add than can be shared in comments feel free to send me your notes or an article at email@example.com and I’ll get it published on here.
That this blog has been silent for awhile is no secret. That I’ve been off track and unable to focus on this mission is also obvious. Reaching out to Gordon Setter lovers to share information is still a passion and an objective I don’t intend to abandon, it’s simply that other things in life got in the way.
While I haven’t been writing here, I have been busy supporting our Gordon Setter through work I’ve been doing for the Gordon Setter Club of America over the past couple of years or so. It’s been a busy and sometimes a challenging time there and it’s taken a great deal of my free time to accomplish some projects I’d taken on. And, sometimes life throws us curve balls that take us down another path that eats up time and energy and that’s what transpired last winter with my diagnosis of breast cancer. Treatment options are great in the medical world today, Following sugery and radiation, I’m undergoing chemo these days, and am happy to report that my prognosis is excellent. I feel so blessed that my odds of remaining cancer free, moving forward, are greatly in my favor.
With all that said, I hope to get back to publishing more in the coming weeks, and I hope there are passionate folks, like myself, among you who will share in the work needed to accomplish this blog’s mission by sharing articles, ideas, photos and the like you feel are of value to our readers.
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!
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.
Book by Nancy Gyes – Alphabet Drills (click title of book to be linked to Amazon for detail).
Kim Terrill (Training/Activities Director) Owner and handler of canines winning AKC Agility Nationals, USDAA Agility National as well as many regional agility and obedience trials. Linked here are videos.
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!”
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.