Saturday, December 26, 2009

Our dogs

   I sometimes get questions about our dogs when I'm running a training class or during casual conversation. They usually center around if my dogs always behave, what titles they have and if I ever get upset that they don't do what I'm thinking they should do — and yet have failed to communicate my thoughts to them.
  The answers to those questions, in order, are: Of course! Many in many venues, and never! OK, the real answers are not that simple.
   Do they behave? Not always, though they always behave the way I expect them too in a given situation if I think about it, except when they are being naughty and trying to steal a cookie on Christmas Eve and when dragging their stocking around Christmas morning because there is a bone stuck in it.
   Do they have titles? Yes they do. Some of our dogs excel at herding, some at agility and some at obedience. Several of them are good all around competitors, and others I only participate in activities where I can closely monitor them — or the urge to go visit someone may overcome them.
   Do I ever get upset with them? No, not really. I do get upset at myself for not communicating correctly with them, but they are dogs so any communication breakdown belongs strictly to me.
  At the beginning of any class, I always tell those in attendance that I believe it is never the dog's fault. I believe this to my core. Our furry, four-legged friends want nothing more, usually, than to please us. Sure the occasional piece of meat, a bowl of sloppy stuff or a small child's ice cream cone may sometimes draw our dog's attention to where they want that more than anything, but those urges don't last long.
   I sometimes am asked how many dogs we have, and I usually preface my answer with, "at the moment..." because the number is always fluctuating. Sure we have our usual crew that is always around, but we also have a couple of rescues at any given moment.
   We will help any dog in need, but we work with many herding and rare dog rescues, including: Border Collie rescue, Briard rescue, Aussie rescue, Sheltie rescue, Puli rescue, Komondor rescue and Yorkie rescue. Why those breeds in particular? Because those are the breeds we are most familiar with and have that extra-special place in our hearts.
   Do we have any of those breeds? You bet we do. Our Briards are named Ditto and Bizzy. One is a copycat and the other is always busy. Our Border Collie is named Maxx, and he is a maximum BC. Scoop, our Sheltie, can stop the presses with his performances in the agility ring. And, little Manny, our Yorkie, has a desire to be an internet video star — hamming it up in front of the camera any chance he gets! We have had Pulik and Komondors in the past as well as others.
   They are all different, and they are all love-bugs who want really to be lap dogs. Each has a personality all their own, but still want nothing more than to be with, and please, their people. If there is ever a misunderstanding, it was probably because I forgot to buy extra steaks or hotdogs — not because the decided to sneak off with one or two.
   Sometimes we have two or three rescues, in varying stages of being ready for their forever home, and sometimes we only have our crew. Those times seem strange, because there are not as many paws pattering, tails wagging and cold noses lightly touching the back of your legs. When there are extra bowls with no food in them at meal times, I usually wonder how our fosters are doing in their new — and some not so new — homes.
   We love getting photos of our fosters in their forever homes, and love hearing stories about what they are up too. Each still has a place in our hearts.
   So, if you ever wonder how many dogs we have, I can only tell you that the number depends on when you ask. If you want to send chew bones and are looking for a specific number, I can tell you they will never go un-chewed.

Blake Ovard is a professional dog trainer and a top-three finalist in the Extreme Mutt Makeover. He can be reached via e-mail at

Friday, December 25, 2009

Starting out

  I don't know why I feel the need to welcome those of you who are taking time out of your day, or night, to read this blog. But I do — mostly because you are indeed welcome, and I look forward to hearing from you.
   If you don't already know anything about me, or Did Ya Q?, please allow me to introduce myself and what this blog is about.
   I am a writer by trade, so this should come naturally to me, but I'm not writing this because I need another outlet. As a managing editor for all six papers in a small newspaper group in the Metroplex of the Fort Worth/Dallas area, and a freelance writer for several magazines, there are ample opportunities to see my words in print. I am writing this to help people understand dogs, dog training and the relationship between dogs and people and to chronicle some of the humorous adventures in dog training.
   You have probably guessed that I am also a dog trainer. Some may wonder why I am both a dog trainer and a writer, and for that I have two answers.
   The first answer is that I love both aspects of what I do. If I were no longer looking into the news of the day, producing breaking news stories on tight deadlines and dealing with high levels of stress, I'm not sure I could function correctly. Conversely, if I were not working with dogs, communicating and dealing with them on their level, teaching other people to communicate and learn about their dogs, and relieving all of my stress by being around wagging tails and playful pups, I know I couldn't function at all.
   The second answer is that in addition, I am also an artist — usually producing artwork of dogs and other animals. While I will be talking about dog training, dog tales and sometimes writing things, I will be talking about art — at least my art — almost never.
   Did Ya Q? is the name of our dog training business and our dog supplies business. We started it after attending conformation, obedience, dog disc, herding and agility events all around the country and could not find many of the items we needed while on the road.
   We settled on the name, because the score a dog and person team receives is many time not as important as earning a green ribbon, or earning a "qualifying score" or "Q." The most common question you may hear at a performance dog event is, "Did ya Q?" We want everyone to Q every time, thus the name.
   So now it's up to you. If you've ever had any questions about dogs or dog training, you can leave a comment here, or e-mail me.  To subscribe — that means being notified when we do a new video — to our YouTube channel, or to follow us on Twitter, those links are below.

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