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Win an iCalmDog… It Stopped Border Collie’s Barking in 20 Seconds Flat!

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I was recently in Arizona with Gina for Cynosport World Agility Games. Highlights were running team with “Gina Follows the Golden Roula”. (The other black dog is Roula.)

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Watching Steeplechase finals under the lights. Man were those Border Collies fast!

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And hanging out with my Ace Dog Sports family.

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The event came on the heels of our recent iCalmDog 3.0 launch. I had been working overtime to bring our newly modified, portable canine music player to market, and I was grateful to be taking frequent naps in the passenger seat during the long 2-day drive. Gina and teammate JoJo were nearby in their crates, quietly listening to iCalmDog 3.0. Good dogs!

Once we arrived, I noticed that all of the stimulation was a bit overwhelming for Gina (for me too, at times). To make matters worse, our crating area was near a non-stop barking Border Collie.

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To help her reduce her anxiety and increase concentration and circulation, I signed Gina up for a canine massage with Dr. Cindy DiFranco while iCalmDog played in the background.

During the 5-day trial, I had been leaving Gina’s iCalmDog 3.0 on her crate in-between runs. But, the barking Border Collie in our crating area was driving me (and everyone around me) crazy. So, I asked the BC’s handler if I could bring over my iCalmDog 3.0 to see if the clinically tested music reduced his barking. I have to admit, Nim’s barking was so intense that I wasn’t even sure it would work, but watch the video below to see what happened in 20 seconds flat…

Want a Calm Dog? Just press and play!

iCalmDog 3.0 canine anxiety

(Sanchez not included in prize, but feel free to share his photo!)

How to win an iCalmDog…

Enter a comment below and tell us how iCalmDog 3.0 would help your dogs and where you’d take it. Or, if you prefer to donate it, tell us how your fave rescue org would benefit. You will automatically be entered to win an iCalmDog 3.0 (Standard model) by Through a Dog’s Ear. (Prize value $89.95)

Want bonus points? The barking Border Collie video is starting to go viral on Facebook. View it here and share with your friends and fans. (Remember to post as public so that all Facebook viewers can enjoy it.)

Use hashtag #iCalmDog in all posts and tag @ThroughADogsEar

For additional chances to win, share this giveaway on your social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.  Also leave a comment on the barking BC  youtube video. Winners will be chosen by random drawing. The more shares and comments you post, the more opportunities to win!

Already own an iCalmDog 3.0 and want another?  (Did I mention they make great holiday gifts?) Post a review on the model you purchased at iCalmPet.com or on Amazon, if purchased there.

The winner will be announced by December 14 on a future blog post. Good luck and remember to use hashtag #iCalmDog so I can easily find all your shares, posts, and comments!

Please note: Contest is open to Lisa’s blog subscribers. If you purchase an iCalmDog 3.0 before the winner is announced and you win, you can choose to donate your iCalmDog to a rescue or shelter, or we can refund your money. Your choice. Prize value = $89.95

 

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Tail Waggin’ Dog Agility (with video)

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My agility addiction started so innocently.

Years ago, when Sanchez was career changed from Guide Dogs for the Blind, I knew I needed to find a new job for him. My guide dog puppy class leader also taught agility, a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. I just thought it would be a fun activity to enjoy together, never imagining I’d turn into one of those crazy people who set their alarms for 4 am on weekend mornings to drive for hours to an agility trial.

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I love Sanchez to no end, but, I have to admit, he wasn’t the best agility partner. He’s always been a dog who marched to his own drum, and that was no exception on the agility field. He often just wanted to make up his own course. But, I just fell in love with the sport as I continued to learn so much about dog behavior and training. (And Sanchez went on to become a fabulous freestyle partner.)

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When I adopted Gina, I knew she had the temperament, work ethic, and athletic body of an agility dog. Everything about agility is fun with Gina. She tries so hard to please me and is incredibly responsive.

At USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) trials, she’s usually the only Lab entered in the 22″ Championship class. It’s a height dominated by super fast Border Collies.

I missed half of the season while nursing an injury (mine, not hers), and I was down to the wire to qualify for USDAA Nationals (Cynosport). I had two more weekends left and needed to run a clean Grand Prix run.

We had one of the best runs of our career on the first weekend. EXCEPT… her happy waggin’ tail slowly brought down a bar just after clearing it. (It’s a Lab thing!) It was the 3rd to last obstacle. After heavily rewarding my dog and playing ball with her, I had a total meltdown. I started to convince myself that I just wasn’t supposed to go to Nationals, for some unknown reason. Maybe, I just wasn’t cut out for it.

But, it wasn’t over yet. I still had one more weekend.

The pressure was really on. Western Regionals on Labor Day Weekend ended the qualifying period. We had two chances for clean Grand Prix runs, the local qualifier and regional qualifier.

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WE DID IT!!! We ran clean for both!

The full honest truth is what I posted on Facebook… I almost never post my agility runs on my personal profile. I watch all the agility runs by fabulous handlers and fast dogs, and I’m very inspired to watch and learn, and I love them, but it doesn’t inspire me to share my runs with Gina. I watch our runs and it’s too easy to notice all the things I could have done better.

After posting, a comment came in from a frequent member of the world team that reminded me what truly is important about agility…

Yep, our tails were waggin!

Having missed so much of the season, I’m thrilled we qualified for USDAA Cynosport World Games and honored to have made Grand Prix finals at Western Regionals.  And, I have to admit, it was even more fun to add my own piano playing from my concert repertoire to the agility video below. (Yep, sometimes I play fast music in addition to calming music for dogs.)

Yea, Cynosport World Games here we come!!! If you live near Scottsdale, AZ, we’ll be there November 9 – 13, 2016. Come watch. It’s a free spectator sport, and you’ll be blown away watching all the fast, happy dogs run with their 2-legged partners.

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We’re setting our goals and gearing up for a good time. It’s an indescribable feeling running a course in total sync with your canine partner.

Main Photo: Ian Coggins

 

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5 Signs of a Responsible Dog Owner

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Being a responsible pet parent may have many different definitions. But, it is more than just loving your dog and meeting his basic needs. Being responsible means learning how to understand the world from your dog’s point of view. Dogs speak a different language than people, and they are constantly studying everything we do to understand our behaviors and language. Being responsible means understanding their language and ways of communicating.

Here are some of the ways that you can be a responsible dog owner that go beyond the basics of neutering and spaying, exercising your dog, feeding them healthy meals and treats, and being there for them until the end of their life.

1. You Give Them Space.

Some dogs are very comfortable around a multitude of dogs and activity, many aren’t and need extra space. Learn to read your dog’s stress signals and make sure you keep her in an environment that is safe, determined by her needs. If you are aware of signs of stress in crowds, then it’s better to leave her home than take her with you to your local wine and art fair. Some dog-friendly events aren’t always friendly for all dogs.

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2. You Pay Attention To Their Sound Environment.

We brings dogs into our human world and we say “adjust.” Some do, many don’t. When dogs can’t orient the source of a sound to determine whether it is safe, they can easily go into sensory overload and develop anxiety behaviors along with health problems. Humans hear sounds between 20-20,000 Hz. Dogs hear at least twice as high, sometimes all the way up to 55,000 Hz. While I think it’s great that more events and public places are dog friendly, so often those environments are created for humans. A fundraising party for dogs and their people that benefits your local shelter, doesn’t benefit your dog when a loud band is playing. Please safeguard your dog’s sound environment.

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3. You Treat Dogs Like Dogs, Not Little Humans.

As humans, we tend to anthropomorphize our pets. It’s only natural if we love them. But, when we start to understand life from their point of view, we realize that dogs rarely show affection the way humans do. Most don’t like being pat on the head, especially from a stranger, and most don’t naturally take to hugs.

Sanchez Interception

4. You Prioritize Humane Training.

While it’s our responsibility to train our dogs, it’s also our responsibility to humanely train them with positive reinforcement. Humane training is not only the kind, loving way to train, but it’s scientifically proven and it works and helps to create an emotional bond between you and your dog that is priceless.

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5. You Provide Opportunities for Stimulation.

We can read a book or study a subject online when we want to learn, grow, and educate ourselves. But, it’s our responsibility to keep our dog’s minds stimulated. Feed her out of food puzzles instead of a bowl, enjoy a canine sport together, and teach her new tricks that help her keep thinking and making decisions.

Are you a responsible dog owner? Or maybe you prefer the terminology ‘pet parent’? Thanks for sharing your thoughts on what makes you responsible in a comment below.

 

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5 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog in 33 Seconds

As well as I thought I knew my Labrador, Gina, she even surprised me recently during this recent run at an AKC agility trial.  It never ceases to amaze me how much I continue to learn from my dogs. Here’s what Gina taught me in 33 seconds:

1. Don’t ever give up.

Even when you fall flat on your butt, you never know what will happen next. Get up, go on and finish.

2. Life (and dog training) is supposed to be fun.

Don’t take life too seriously. When life throws you a curve ball, have fun with it.

3. Be prepared.

We practice cues from a huge variety of positions and locations ~ the floor, on the sofa, while doing a plank. And even though I never said “over” from the floor, I never knew how much all that practice would come in handy.

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4. Praise and attention keeps you going.

Gina really responded to all the cheering at the end and picked up speed. Praise feeds your soul, no matter your leg count.

5. Reward. Reward. Reward.

Everybody likes to get paid, even dogs. She was immediately rewarded for a job well done. First with the cheering, next when she jumped on me right after the run, followed by her favorite treat, and then a game of fetch with her squeaky ball reserved especially for agility.

Lisa and Gina Palo Alto Agility

Good girl, Gina!

What life lessons have you learned from your dogs? Thanks for sharing in a comment below.

Photo Credits:
Top Photo: Ian Coggins
Gina Jumping: Erika Mauer
Gina posing with Lisa: Karen Gough

Delivering Calm, four paws at a time…

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from our Calm your Canine Companion music series when you sign up for our newsletter and/or Lisa’s Blog. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

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Is Mother’s Day for Dog-Moms?

Mother’s Day is not the easiest of holidays for me. I have no human children and have never been called “mom.” No one has ever said, “Happy Mother’s Day mom, I love you!”

But, can we be mothers to species other than humans? I am the single provider for two dogs, Sanchez and Gina. But, I usually think of them as my companion animals, not my children. Even though others may see me as a dog-mom, with my children being of the furry sort.

My 81-year-old mother is 3,000 miles away. I am very grateful that she is in good health, and we will have some time together at the end of the month. And, even though my dogs are not my children, I am very happy to be spending Mother’s Day with them. Whether I take them for a hike, drive them to the beach, or they sit by my side at an outdoor cafe, they are still my full responsibility.

I pride myself with being a very conscientious care-taker for them, providing a very healthy diet, plenty of exercise, daily reward-based dog training, environmental enrichment, participation in dog sports, playtime, and an infinite amount of love. They won’t ever graduate from high school, leave for college and produce offspring. But, when I adopted them, I promised them a forever home. They get room and board with medical and dental for life. I am their provider, care-taker, training partner, agility partner, canine freestyle partner, and human snuggler, even if I am not their mom.

A study in New Scientist reported that pet dogs rival humans for emotional satisfaction. After playing with their pets, dog owners experienced a burst in a hormone linked to infant care. I honestly have had more experience playing with puppies than taking care of infants, so I can’t compare. But, I do know that my engagement and relationship with my dogs is extremely emotionally satisfying and bonding. It’s not surprising to me that Dr. Rollin McCarty, Director of Research at the Institute of HeartMath, conducted an experiment and found that heart-rhythm entrainment, or synchronization, occurs between people and their dogs.

There are 75.1 million children in the United States. Stats.gov projects that number will increase to over 100 million by the year 2050.  At the end of 2009, The Humane Society reported there were 77.5 million owned dogs in the U.S. and 93.6 million cats. The pet over-population problem is out of control.

So, this Mother’s Day, I’m going to enjoy being a mom, if only for a day. I’m not going to feel guilty raising good canine citizens instead of good children. I’m going to be proud of my choice to not add to the over human population and remind myself that I am helping the pet over-population.

Have you tried Sound Therapy for your dogs? Through a Dog’s Ear is the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system.

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from the Through a Dog’s Ear

Calm your Canine Companion Music Series

Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

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Top 10 Relationship Tips for Men ~ From an Agility Dog

10. All good things come from your partner. Nothing is as rewarding as being with her. 

9.  Communication. Communication. Communication. Let her know that you’ll do everything she asks when she communicates what she wants clearly.

8. When you see an obstacle in front of you, take it, unless she indicates otherwise. Remember that obstacles are put in front of you to remind you how much you want the prize.

 

7. Keep your connection with her at all times. She’ll know exactly when you’ve reached your point of commitment.

6.  Waking up at 4 am for a road trip is a good thing when you get to be with her all day.

5.  If you are tempted to go off course, don’t. Watch her and she’ll keep you on course.

4. Don’t linger at the top and look for what’s better out there. Run to her quickly and make contact.

 

3. Sit patiently before you head out. She’ll give you the “OK” when she’s ready to go.

2. Keep chasing her. Not just initially, but forever and ever.

1. Remind her to take breaks and play.

Have you learned any relationship tips from your dog through a canine sport or shared activity? Thanks for sharing your tip in a comment below.

Have you tried Sound Therapy for your dogs? Through a Dog’s Ear is the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system.

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from Through a Dog’s Ear

Calm your Canine Companion Music Series

Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy.

 

 

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A New K9 Behavior Every Day in August

It’s August 1st and I made a decision over the weekend to teach Sanchez and Gina something new everyday during August. Since I retired Sanchez from agility, we’ve started doing more tricks and canine freestyle training. We do this in the evenings and he literally cries and begs to train with me. While I’m sure the treats help (he is a Lab!), I really think he likes being mentally challenged and learning new behaviors. I’ve also noticed that it’s easy for me to get lazy and keep training behaviors that he already knows. But, really, what’s the fun in that? It’s like me sitting down at the piano everyday and only playing what I know. It’s so much more satisfying to learn new music. So, I’ve decided to teach Sanchez something new everyday during August, even if some of it is shaping on the way to the desired behavior.

Sanchez waiting to train with the Staples Easy Button

I took a fabulous clicks and tricks class with Diane Gibbons at Camp Unleashed in June. Even though Sanchez wasn’t with me, it gave me a lot of ideas on behaviors to teach him that we can incorporate into a canine freestyle routine. I also have recently started using the Staples Easy Button to help shape behaviors. Stay tuned for a video of him walking on my feet that I taught him via the Easy Button. It’s also helping us prepare for American Dog Idol at Camp Unleashed Sequoia.

An absolutely fabulous private agility lesson with Sandy Rogers this weekend gave me some new ideas for Gina. We are working on independent weave poles – meaning she will go through 12 weave poles when directed, without her needing me by her side. Although she absolutely loves to weave and is very fast with a steady rhythm, her weak point has been doing weave poles at any venue, indoors or out, and anywhere on the course. While she’s great at them in our indoor facility, that’s not going to help at trials. Sandy gave me great trips for teaching independent weave poles, and I’ll be making it to the field to practice every day when I return from my vacation.

In the meantime, I’ve decided that saying she isn’t good at generalization is my weakness, not hers. If I want her to have consistent behaviors anywhere, it’s up to me to teach them to her. At Sandy’s suggestion, over the weekend we started tugging in a variety of rooms and outdoors. I’ve started at a time when she loves to tug (after eating) with her favorite tug toy. I’ll be adding something new to the mix daily – a different tug toy, a different room, a different time for tugging, gradually more distractions, etc. I’m happy to report that I just took a break, and she tugged outside, with a tug toy we’d never used outdoors, and she kept tugging when the neighbor’s dog came by – usually a big distraction for her.

Gina - agility contact board on piano bench

Tonight, I’ll be taking my piano bench and contact board outdoors to help her learn to touch the target no matter where I run.

Any readers want to take on this challenge with me? What new tricks and behaviors could you teach your dogs daily that would stimulate them while building relationship with you? Thanks for posting your comment and sharing your ideas.

As co-founder of Through a Dog’s Ear, I am offering my readers a free download from our latest release, Music to Calm your Canine Companion, Vol. 3. Simply click here and enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy.

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I Have a Dream….

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Puppy dreaming to Music to Calm your Canine Companion

It is Martin Luther King Day, and I woke up this morning thinking about his “I have a dream” speech. It inspired me to think about my real life dreams…

I have a dream that Through a Dog’s Ear music is heard by over a million dogs in 2011, and improves their lives and those of their people. Additionally, over a million dogs in shelters find their forever homes because TaDE music calmed and quieted them.

I believe in that dream so strongly that I am letting go of an identity I have been holding onto for 14 years to create the space for that dream to come to life.

On November 1, 1996 I opened the doors to Lisa Spector’s Music School. Over the past 14 years, I have been very blessed to receive the support of a wonderful community eager to add music to their lives and those of their children. The school grew out of my love of teaching. It began with one piano in one room where I was the sole piano teacher. Now 14 plus years later, the school offers lessons in piano, voice, flute, guitar, “Make Music” group classes for children, and concerts in the expanded concert room. What a dream it has been to see all of this develop and grow!

In 2003, my life would forever be changed when attending a weekend seminar taught by world renowned sound researcher, Joshua Leeds. In this seminar for teachers and healers, I learned about the psychoacoustic principles of resonance (tone) and entrainment (rhythm) and started applying them when teaching piano students at my music school. I became so adept at helping students with ADD relax and focus, as well as picking up the energy level of sluggish children, that I wondered how I ever taught without this knowledge.

This was so fascinating that I went back to another one of Joshua’s workshops to learn more. This time accompanied by a four month old yellow Labrador Retriever. He was wearing a jacket that said “Puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind.” During that session, I started wondering if Joshua’s music, that was so successful in helping autistic children in neruo-developmental centers throughout the world, could also calm dogs and relieve their anxiety issues.

The rest of that story is now history, some of which can be read in the years of research that followed. Through a Dog’s Ear  not only grew out of my love of music and dogs, but also out of my desire to improve my piano teaching at my music school. For that I am eternally grateful. It is now time to pass that legacy on to another dedicated music teacher that will continue to serve the musical needs of the community, while I devote myself full time to helping improve the lives of dogs and their people worldwide.

Combining my love of music and dogs into the creation of a music series has been more than a dream come true. In the past three years, I have been on the CBS Early Show, Martha Stewart Living Radio, presented at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers National Conference, and have recently become a pet blogger for Care2.com – an online community of nearly 15 million people making a difference in the areas of animal welfare and pets, healthy and green living, and human rights. Every blog I write lands in over a million inboxes and has the ability to make a difference in the lives of animals. I play canine concerts as fundraisers for non-profit animal organizations and Through a Dog’s Ear music has been featured on Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog. And I am very actively involved in dog agility and canine musical freestyle with my two dogs, Sanchez and Gina.

I am being called to focus on and expand my work with Through a Dog’s Ear. In the past month, I have been in communication with dog trainers, behaviorists, and animal shelters in Turkey, Spain, Australia, Greece and throughout the U.S. Working globally is a great joy, especially with the huge advantage of social media.

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The top of my 2011 Vision Board reads, “Lean forward into your life.” So, I am leaning further into Through a Dog’s Ear as well as my performing career while passing the conductor’s baton at Lisa Spector’s Music School to Kitty Rea, owner of Ms. Kitty’s Harmony Road — Moss Beach.  The new name will be Ms. Kitty’s Harmony Road Half Moon Bay, effective January 31. Kitty’s teaching experience and enthusiasm for music education makes her the perfect person to carry on the legacy that I started.

While this seems like a personal choice, it feels more like it chose me. When I read how much TaDE (Through a Dog’s Ear) music has helped dogs with separation anxiety, sound phobias, fears, aggression issues, senior dogs, puppies, post and pre-surgery dogs, and has calmed and quieted dogs in shelters and foster homes, my life can’t help but lean further into what is calling me. What is equally powerful to me is hearing from people who have renewed their interest in classical music because of my recordings. I also plan to spend more time at my piano and performing, whether it be for humans or humans with their canines.

It’s been a great pleasure serving my local community over the last 14 plus years. My heart is filled with enormous gratitude for all that has transpired and for all that will continue to grow here. And, I look forward to my expanded cross-species work in a global community.

What is your dream for dogs? Thanks for clicking “comment” below and sharing your dreams.

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What I’m Grateful for on Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m reflecting on what I’m grateful for. At the top of my list is the health and companionship of my dog, Sanchez. Recently, we both have experienced the opposite extreme of good health, fortunately only very briefly for both of us. I just recovered from a 24 hour case of food poisoning. It takes a lot to get me to slow down and do absolutely nothing. Well, this did it. I recovered as quickly as it hit me, and was reminded to not take my good health or my appetite for granted.

On the other hand, if you asked Sanchez on Thanksgiving what he is most grateful for, he’d say the turkey he’s about to eat that he only gets once a year. I’m a vegetarian, so he rarely even gets to smell meat being cooked. But, once a year, I bring him home some turkey. And, if he’s really lucky, he doesn’t even have to quickly run through 12 weave poles to get the turkey. Not so sure this will be a lucky year for him, as we have an agility trial on Sunday. But his Thanksgiving weave poles are usually the fastest of the year!

He’s 6 1/2 years old and I’m very grateful for his good health. Particularly more grateful this year. About a month ago, he was attacked by a dog and suffered a puncture to his leg and a bite on his mouth. He recovered fully – both physically and emotionally. I think he was in shock the first 24 hours when he slept around the clock. And he wasn’t quite himself for the first week. But, he’s now back to playing with all sorts of dogs very happily. As my trainer says, an unprovoked attack of this nature would have leveled a lot of dogs, but Sanchez has such a solid temperament, and it really served him well. I am extremely grateful that he has recovered so well, physically and emotionally.

I could write about a million things I am grateful for in my life. For over 10 years, I have kept a gratitude journal and write in it nightly, reflecting on my gratitudes of the day. But, what really comes to mind, is Through a Dog’s Ear. I am eternally grateful to combine my passion for music with my love of dogs in the creation of music that is improving the lives of dogs worldwide. Receiving emails from around the world hearing stories of how Through a Dog’s Ear has changed the lives of dogs brings me tears of gratitude. If our music has affected you and/or your dog, I’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you and your two and four legged familes a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Why dog agility is similar to playing music

It wasn’t long after I started agility training that I became aware of the similarities between giving a music performance and running an agility course. Since I’ve been playing the piano for nearly 40 years and performing most of those years, I fortunately already learned how to handle stage nerves. So was I ever surprised that the night before my first agility trial, I was so nervous that I only slept 3 hours. With a two and a half hour drive ahead of me in the wee hours of the morning, the short amount of sleep didn’t help my anxiety. But, it luckily didn’t affect our performance, as we managed to take two first places and qualify on 3 out of 4 runs that weekend in my first novice AKC agility trial.

I have begun to equate agility with being in a chamber music duo – let’s say violin and piano. My dog is the string player, I’m the pianist. Most of the attention is on him, but my part is vital to our performance. And here’s where agility is most parallel to being a musical performer – it’s all about timing and trust. In agility it boils down to my timing and direction being clear, so that my dog can trust me, and my trusting that I know what my dog can and can’t do. As any agility trainer knows, when the dog makes a mistake, it’s almost always due to a handling error, not the dog’s.

During the non-qualifying run of my first agility trial, I learned a very valuable life lesson. I listened to my instructor instead of following my intuition on what I new my dog couldn’t do. I have the best instructor in the world, but still I can’t expect anybody to know my dog as well as I do and trusting that I know his strengths and weaknesses has become a very valuable skill in agility. The same is true in a duo music partnership. After awhile, you just know exactly what your partner can and can’t do. Years ago, I was horrified when the violinist in my piano trio showed up hours late for an out of town dress rehearsal. She barely made it even in time for the concert. What I didn’t know at the time was that once she walked on stage and put the violin under her chin, no matter what she went through emotionally or physically to get there, she sounded like and became an angel during a performance. (I wish I could say the same for my dog!)

When Sanchez earned his novice and open titles and advanced into running excellent courses, I started having a hard time memorizing the jumpers courses. With all due respect, if you knew nothing about agility and watched an advanced jumpers course for the first time (filled with only jumps, tunnels and weave poles), you would wonder how anybody could possibly remember the course. After two times in trials of getting lost on jumpers courses, I decided to change my tactic and memorize the agility course the way I’d memorize a piece of music. Previously, I had been trying to memorize the course the way everyone else seemed to be doing it – walking from obstacle 1 to obstacle 20 over and over and over. But, no matter how much I repeated that, it wasn’t working and my nerves were escalating as I would fear getting lost on a course. So, I thought about music. I never have been able to learn or memorize a piece of music by playing it over and over from beginning to end. Probably the only musicians who can do that are people with photographic memories. In reflecting how I learn music, in brief summary, I sight-read the piece through from beginning to end only once. If I do this more than once, I can easily start to end up with bad habits that it will only take more time to correct. Then I learn it in sections, usually decided by the form of the piece, starting to try out and decide on all fingering. And I repeat those sections several times, before going on. Then I combine two smaller sections, etc, until I can play through the entire piece once. When it’s ready, I play the entire piece through in entirety (usually under tempo, with gradual increases in tempo). So I started transferring that to agility courses. I’d walk through the entire course once (like sight-reading a complete piece of music) to get an understanding of the layout. Next would be deciding on placement of my crosses and repetition of walking about 6 or 7 obstacles, depending on the course. Then I continue with the next 6 or 7 obstacles and repeat the above. Then I combine those first two sets before making decisions on the last section. Then there is putting it all together with repetition, always making sure I gradually go from walking it to running it.

Almost always, my 90 minute agility class is one of my favorite parts of my week. It’s a time to forget about all of my other responsibilities, become a partner with my dog, and work on improving my agility skills, not to mention enjoying my classmates. The feeling I get is very similar to the feeling of working on a piece of music I love. It’s very easy for me to get lost in the sounds of a 9 foot Steinway and forget about the rest of life for a period of time.

In summary, here are my comparisons of agility and music:
Keeping the bars up = playing all the correct notes
Placement of crosses = Playing the correct rhythms

Deciding on front crosses, rear crosses, threttles, serpentines, etc.= Deciding on Fingering

Walking a course = Playing music under tempo
Running a course = Playing music at full tempo
Running a course with your dog = The performance, with your chamber music partner.