Category Archives: Product Review

Puppy Culture’s Rockstar Show Puppies

Wally was easy to train for the show ring, although in hindsight I would have done some things differently. The biggest problem we had was too much enthusiasm; he was totally confident in the ring and didn’t mind being examined. Fiona was a little less enthusiastic but basically the same way. Ava, however, is different. She’s much more sensitive to sensory input so the show ring is overwhelming. She also prefers to initiate interactions and being examined by a stranger is A Big Deal.

That was only half of the problem though. I know how to train a dog; what I really needed was help troubleshooting Ava’s particular challenges using +R methods. Unfortunately the show world is at least a decade behind the rest of the dog training community and true +R training is far from common. Our regular +R trainer offered solutions but she’s never shown conformation so I was still left with some gaps. I looked for local +R handling classes but couldn’t find anything within an hour’s drive. What to do?

Ever since Puppy Culture came out I’ve kept it on a wish list, waiting until I could justify the $70 price tag. Then I found out that there’s a bundle that includes the PC DVD along with a handful of DVDs on training show behaviors using +R methods. Hello justification! I ordered up the Rockstar Show Puppies Bundle and watched the four DVDs related to showing: Attention is the Mother of All Behaviors, Killer Free Stacks, Stack & Deliver, and Winning in Motion.


Jane Killion uses shaping and luring to train these behaviors, and breaks everything down into incremental steps. Each behavior is demonstrated with multiple puppies and dogs to show how the behavior develops from the first lesson with a 6 week old puppy to a seasoned special with a GCH. She goes over the entire process, some parts in more detail than others, and in the end you get a complete picture of how to take a tiny puppy from a being a Mexican jumping bean to a competitive show dog. And while it’s not a big focus she does cover training for the table, which is critical for table breeds like the Border Terrier.

The target audience for the series appears to be show exhibitors who a) have never used clicker training and/or b) have never trained a show dog. If you’ve trained a lot of show dogs with positive reinforcement methods this series may not help you much. Still you might get something out of it; I did!

Attention is a super simple behavior yet Killion’s approach is pretty novel. Usually the goal is to train the dog to look at the handler but her goal is for the dog to ignore distractions. That seems like it’s just semantics but it makes a big difference! As soon as I saw this DVD I realized I had a solution for Ava’s discomfort with being approached and handled. In the future I’ll be using this method for all of my dogs whether they show or not.


The last two DVDs (Stack & Deliver and Winning in Motion) were the most helpful for me. These two went over more of the “tips and tricks” of handling skills such as how to best display the strengths of your dog while minimizing weak areas. She also discusses things like lead placement, gaiting speed, a few breed specific tips, and multiple small details that really set the pros apart from the novices.

These are all webinars that were recorded for later distribution so there are times when the camera handling or audio is a bit sloppy. On the other hand because they were webinars there are frequent Q&A sessions that provided a lot of the info I found most helpful for my own situation. Killion also discusses and demonstrates a variety of solutions for troubleshooting different issues.

Ultimately I think they were totally worth it. Despite the fact that I already knew most of the material it was incredibly helpful to see someone demo the skills with an actual dog. Plus I picked up a lot of great new info!

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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Product Review, Shows, Training


My new bible

It was about 6 years ago that I bought Patricia Craige Born to Win but it was only recently that I actually read it. I guess I just didn’t have the motivation back then, being dog-less for most of those years. Hot dang was I missing out!

Everything you need to know, and everything you didn’t know you needed to learn, is in this book. Although it’s intended for breeders, current or wannabe, anyone who shows dogs can gain from the work of Patricia Trotter (formerly Craige). Today Mrs Trotter is primarily an esteemed judge, but for decades she bred some of the winningest and most influential Elkhounds in AKC history. A former history teacher, she has a very readable style of writing that is blessedly easy to learn from. In addition she has over a half century of experience breeding and showing dogs, plus a knack for thinking creatively and being open-minded. Is there a better teacher?

The whole purpose of this book is to guide the reader into thinking like and becoming a master breeder: one whose purpose is to raise the classic dog and positively influence current and future generations. If you just want a litter of cute puppies and have no interest in becoming an “artistic genetic engineer” then this book is too much for you. But if, like me, you want to someday be remembered as an icon of the fancy then you couldn’t find a better starting point than Born to Win.

A few of my favorite sections include…
– Learning plan for the fledgling breeder
– How to develop selection criteria
– Breeding methods (line, out, and “close”), patterned pedigrees, importance of tail male and female lines
– Historical giants in producing champions, both dogs and bitches
– Selecting a “true foundation bitch”
– Selecting a truly great sire
– Anecdotes from classic shows like Morris & Essex, Westminster, and others; stories of the journey to the top
– Conditioning your dog (my new fave topic)
Federico Tesio, breeder of classic Thoroughbreds like Nearco and Ribot, inspiration to small-scale breeders everywhere

Ribot (GB)

Image via Wikipedia

There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe this book, but there’s one that sums them up: it’s a gem. Meaning go buy it now! And no, I gain nothing from you clicking that link. I just want to proselytize you to the good work of Patricia Trotter!

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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in Product Review


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Product Review: Bamboo Silicone Pop-up Bowls

A month or so ago we had a parade the three of us were walking in, and it was projected to be a hot day (OK so it was just 75F, but even Wally thought it was hot!). Since carrying around a water bowl is inconvenient and giving Wally water straight from the bottle is wasteful and sneeze-inducing we decided to pick up a collapsible bowl. I’ve never liked the Outward Hound bowls because they’re so flimsy, so I was ecstatic to see these colorful and collapsible bowls at our local pet store!

Not only are these fun to use (we’re easily entertained) but they are super simple to pack and carry. Isaac can easily slip the 1 cup model into his cargo shorts or I can toss it in my purse. Plus it’s easy to wash and I like the non-floppiness. Apparently it also comes in a 3 cup size for you larger canines. I’m not sure about any potential allergic reactions to silicone, but we don’t use it daily so we haven’t had a problem.

Definitely my new favorite gidget!

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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Product Review


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Padding the Shelves: Puppy Puzzle (DVD)

This afternoon I finally watched Pat Hastings’ Puppy Puzzle DVD. Years ago I’d heard of the Hastings method for evaluating puppies and had read about it on the interwebs, but I’ve never actually seen it done. Since our LBD will be testing the waters in both conformation and performance I figured this DVD would at least help me know what to look for. While primarily directed at breeders there’s still plenty of good info for the puppy buyer. Aside from learning how to do the evaluation (which you probably won’t do) you’ll also learn about what to look for structurally and how different structural relationships affect each other. For example, a soft topline is typically caused by front assembly issues while a roached back is often cause by rear assembly issues. Since I have a background in horses a lot of the angulation info wasn’t new to me, but there were tons of tips that were new to me. Like how to tell if the puppy’s head will develop proportionally or whether the puppy will paddle with his front legs when he matures. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to understand structure and movement!

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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Product Review


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Padding the Shelves: Play Together, Stay Together

Padding the Shelves: Play Together, Stay Together

I’m a huge fan of Patricia McConnell and whenever I have an excuse to pick up one of her books I take it. Her book The Other End of the Leash is #1 on my list of awesome dog books so I assumed, of course, that Play Together, Stay Together would be equally awesome. I was not disappointed! Obviously this book is narrower in scope but the information is just as valuable. They explain the benefits of play, how to keep play safe and constructive, and numerous ways to sneak “real” training into your play time. For example, how to teach come by playing chase. I’m the kind of person who likes everything laid out in easy steps with the background info to understand why, and this book does just that. You’ll learn how to play games like chase, tug, fetch, and hide & seek, not to mention more complex tricks like Aren’t You Ashamed of Yourself? and I Need a Hanky. I can’t wait to teach LBD some tricks and play some of these games!


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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Product Review, Training


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Padding the Shelves: Raising A Champion

Padding the Shelves: Raising A Champion

When it comes to Amazon I should be in a self-help group, I have no self-control! Especially when it comes to dog books! I have several wishlists on Amazon and the dog one has been growing for years. I managed to prevent myself from buying the whole dang thing but now that a puppy is on the way I’ve allowed myself to pick a few things here and there. Like the passel of books I snagged last week, plus a Susan Garrett DVD. :)

This weekend I finished up Raising a Champion. As a showing noob this book answered every question I imagined or was afraid to ask. They went over how shows work, how to train your puppy, what to do at the show, how to track points…everything! If you’re planning to show your puppy definitely pick this up to complement your handling classes. In my experience handling classes don’t train you how to train your puppy; instead they provide the opportunity to practice in a show-like setting and fine tune your skills. So before you take advantage of handling classes be sure you’re practicing your handling skills at home. And since most handling classes require your puppy to be at least 12 or 14 weeks you’d be wasting precious time if you waited 4-6 weeks after getting your puppy to start practicing your craft. The training instructions are simple and easy, although I have to admit I haven’t been able to use them yet. Gotta wait another 4 or 5 weeks! :)

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Posted by on March 20, 2011 in Product Review, Shows


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