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iWildWolves Photography

Capturing the essence of animals through my lens

Posts tagged ‘training’

Basic things to know about the USMRA aka Mondioring for sport dogs

Keeping up with the theme of this past weekend’s San Diego trip I get a lot of people on my social media asking me what USMRA is, no it’s not a branch of the Marine Corp, though I know the acronym is similar and confusing. USMRA stands for the United States Mondio Ring Association, the sport along with many others originated in European countries and is very popular still out there. The USMRA is a member of the American Working Dog Federation (AWDF).

Other ring sports include:

  • Schutzhund
  • French Ring
  • PSA
  • IPO

USMRA Mission

  1. The mission of the USMRA and AWDF is to promote, conduct and administer Mondioring trials held to the FCI standards.
  2. To promote proper and humane training and handling of all dogs that participate in the sport.
  3. To promote sportsmanlike conduct at all Mondioring activities.
  4. To promote education about Mondioring by establishing nationwide trials open to the public as well as participants.

So what is Mondioring exactly?

I have been involved in the sport going on 4 years now, I live on the ranch that holds trials each year and twice a week we have club training, but unfortunately, I do not have a dog of my own to work. With 2 of my own dogs that deserve my attention, I can’t afford a 3rd high octane working dog. It’s not fair to me, my dogs, or a working dog I would get. Everyone knows I’m chomping at the bit to get a dog of my own, and they all ask me when that will happen. Though I don’t participate as a handler I do participate in many other ways and watch from the outside looking in, so that’s why I feel like I’m qualified to explain this to people who aren’t circling the sport or been around it their whole lives. SO let’s dive in!

Here is my elevator pitch on the sport. Mondio is a competitive sport that demonstrates obedience and personal protection at different levels through a series of exercises. Different from the other ring sports, Mondio practices with many distractions like what may occur in the real world outside of the arena. Strangers approaching loudly, shaking hands, toys, and food on the field to deter a dog. It’s all about control and training.

Therefore I love the sport, as someone who suffers from anxiety these days (who wouldn’t with all the mass shootings and human trafficking) I find I look over my shoulder everywhere I go and always have Beowolf by my side. Beowolf is not trained in personal protection at all, but he has an incredible judge of character and will literally push me off the sidewalk is someone sketchy is passing. However, the training for Mondioring is designed around that. In obedience classes, I find I started using the same commands and training techniques I see in the arena and it really helps with keeping him close. everyday life

Really this is a hobby for many people in the sport worldwide, for some, it’s their full-time job and they’ve made a career out of it but for many, they come home from working 9-5 and pull out Fido for training.

Who can participate?

Well right now there are still new regulations being formatted to evolve with the sport, however, USMRA participates in International events such as “Worlds” which is a worldwide trial for the top 6 in each country for each level. As it stands here are the criteria for dogs participating:

  • All new registrants must be purebred and registered through an organization. *This rule is in dispute amongst everyone so it may change*. This includes all breeds! The most popular are Belgian Malinois, German shepherds, and Dutch shepherds “Dutchies”. But can include large and small breeds from American Staffordshire terriers and Pugs to Cane Corso, Rottweilers and St. Bernard’s. If it’s purebred and has teeth, it can work! Currently, mixed breeds can participate but cannot place. boxer puppy
  • All dogs are to be intact (Not spayed or neutered). *This rule is also in dispute* Females can get away with this as you can’t obviously see the uterus from the outside and nobody does a physical to check, but males are harder to fool the judges. If you want to participate but your dog is neutered, there are things called Neuticles which are testicle implants, this is cosmetic surgery so be aware and do your research.
  • Behavior- Dogs don’t need to be outgoing and super friendly though that makes life easier for everyone, for those of you who have aggressive or sketchy dogs, this also may be the sport you can participate in. The sport teaches you how to control a dog who is “on a bite” and teaches your dog an “off switch” it will also teach your dog an “on switch” too so they are less likely to take matters into their own paws. Since the dogs don’t intermingle and many handlers are familiar with an intense personality, nobody is judging you! I know of several dogs are only like their handler and nobody else, when on the field the dogs learned this is time to work and after that, they are put away. Contact your local club coach for a consultation if you are interested in pursuing the sport with your dog.
  • Healthy- Vaccinated and in good physical health. The sport is a sport for dogs, not slavery, so the health and well being of dogs are the first and foremost top priority. Limping dogs, dogs with cuts or torn nails, health issues are not permitted and will be asked to leave the field. Many handlers will pull their dogs the morning of competition if they are subpar on their health, for many handlers in the US these are pets first and a working dog 2nd. So health is always a priority.

*As regulations change I will be updating this post. The coach for the Santa Clarita Mondio Club is close to those on the board committee so all changes, I will be among the first to know. *

Levels

There are 4 levels of Mondioring that are all based on the level of training for the dog. It’s not based on age like shows or other sports but where the dog is in training, the higher the level the harder it gets, and more exercises are involved. Again this sport is designed to build a bond and boost confidence in a dog, not deter it, so putting a dog in a level it’s not ready for is STUPID.

Brevet (Br-e-vay)

This is the beginner level, for young dogs or dogs just starting in the sport.

Obedience Exercises:

  1. Healing without a leash heeling
  2. Absence of handler– Dog is in the “Down” position while the handler leaves for 60 seconds. The dog must stay put until handler returns and releases the dog from the down position. There may be a ball or toy thrown to distract the dog, but this is at a distance so it’s not too hard.long down
  3. Retrieve– Basically a single game of fetch with a “personal item” likely something you’ve been training with. Dog retrieves the item, then comes back to sit in front of the handler. The dog has 15 seconds to complete the task. (Below is Oj Knighten and Dude. Oj is a handler and professional dog trainer in Los Angeles County, see his Instagram)retrieve 2

Jumping Exercise:

  1. Hurdle– The height is based on the standard for the level, which is 0.8 meters. hurdlehurdle 2

Biting Exercise-

  1. Face attack with Baton– The “Decoy” stands at a distance and wave the baton lightly, these sticks make a clattering noise and their bark is worse than the bite. The handler sends the dog to bite the decoy and after 10 seconds the handler gives the command to stop. At which point the dog must stop and either guard or lay down, then the handler can call the dog back or walk over and Heel him away. 
  2. Defense of the Handler– This one is fun, it’s very interactive with the handler and the decoy. The Decoy’s job is to be very annoying and will try and get your dog to bite, however, the dog is not allowed to bite until the decoy hits the handler with both hands. He must use both hands and it must be clear and audible for the dog to understand, at which point when he bites after 5 seconds the handler will call off the dog at which point the exercise ends the same way it did with the face attack.

Click here for Full Brevet rules

Level 1, 2, and 3 consists of all exercises in Brevet, with additional exercises.

Must pass each Level twice to be certified and advance to the next level *Same goes for levels 2 and 3*

Obedience:

  1. Send Away or Send Out- This is like the fake game of fetch. The dog is sent to retrieve an item and once he passes through a certain threshold the handler is to call him back. He is to return to a heel position.
  2. Positions– Handler is to command the dog to change positions from a distance. Sit, Down, Stand. In any combination. The judge or field assistant will tell you the combination during the exercise. positions
  3. Food Refusal– As the name says, handler leaves the dog in a Down position while someone tosses food in front of him. The dog should ignore the food, licking or eating results in failure of that exercise.
  4. Little Wood– Only level 2 & 3. The handler is given a small piece of wood to rub his scent on it, then across the field will place it in the middle of 3 other identical pieces of wood. The dog is to sniff out the scent and retrieve the correct wood.

Jumping Exercises: You can select the height your dog jumps, but you get more points the higher the jump.

  1. Palisade– Level 1- 1.8-meter height; Level 2- 1.8, 1.9, 2.0, 2.1; Level 3- 2.2, 2.3m palisade image
  2. Long Jump received_620808161438781 20161029_144239(0)
  3. Hurdle– Level 1- 1.0; Level 2- 1.1; Level 3- 1.2 (Below is Francois Massart a french handler/ decoy/ professional dog trainer in Temecula, CA. See his Instagram)Screenshot_20190419-162844_Instagram.jpg

Biting Exercises:

  1. Face attack with Baton and obstacle– Only Level 2 & 3 are with an obstacle (something for the dog to jump over like a tunnel or row of water barrels) obstacle 2 e collar present
  2. Face Attack with Accessories– Only Level 2 & 3. An accessory is a bundle of objects the dog should run through to get a bite. (Below is Allison a handler and Decoy check out her Instagram)Screenshot_20190419-163308_Instagram
  3. Flee Attack– The decoy is running away, and the handler sends the dog after the bite. flee
  4. Stopped Flee Attack or Call Off– Only Level 3. Same as Flee attack except handler is to call dog back before it contacts the decoy, the dog should return to a heel position. call off
  5. Search and Escort– Only Level 2 & 3. Basically, a game of hide-and-seek with the decoy, the dog should sniff him out and bark until the handler comes and gives dog next command. Then the dog should stay with decoy’s every move and prevent him from escaping via a bite, a lot of dogs are trained to walk between the legs of a decoy making it harder for an escape. DSCF8267
  6. Object Guard– Only Level 3. The object can be anything and the dog is to stand and guard it against the decoy who is trying to steal it while the handler is out of site. The dog should initiate a bite within a certain distance from the object, then let go to return to guarding the object. object 3

So how do we know who wins?

The best part is it’s a paired team sport, nobody competes against one another, everyone upholds the most sportsmanlike conduct. We all cheer and clap for each other and help everyone out, tips, videotaping and taking pictures among other things. Each exercise is scored on a point system, everything is worth a certain amount of points and the judges remove points as needed. In any event either everyone can pass, or nobody can, it all boils down to each individual team. It’s just you and your dog on the field, all your training and hard work come down to what happens on the field. team

What’s the reward?

Eternal GLORY! Just kidding but seriously everyone competes for a title for their dog and bragging rights. There is no prize money, though, every trial has raffles and you can win some dope stuff! Like I said earlier in the post, this is a hobby for pet owners as well as professional trainers, but everyone has the same amount of fun! Not to mention opportunities to travel for trials and meet new friends. friends

Do the dogs like it?

Do they ever! This is a sport designed for dogs, many thrive in this sport especially mouthy energetic dogs like the herding and working breeds. Most were bred to do exactly this and many owners admit that on their days off the dogs still want to work. You can hear excited cries as the dogs are on the field, they can’t control themselves and are eager to get out and work. They were born to work and do something, sure maybe the obedience part isn’t as fun but their reward in a “tug” or ball is well worth it, not to mention many decoys refer to themselves as a human tug. puppy dutch

What if I don’t want to compete?

There are many pet owners who don’t compete with their dogs but come to training just the same. We are a community of dog lovers who all mostly have the same breeds and can relate. We talk, we laugh, we eat and work dogs! There is no rule that says you have to compete if you train, in fact, if Valentine was able or Beowolf was younger I would participate in training but wouldn’t do the competitions. Like I said it’s a hobby and a fun one at that, creates a bond with you and your dog, teaches you about handling a powerful dog and builds both of your self-confidence! Contact a local club for any questions. *If you don’t plan on competing then a mixed dog can participate*

What if I don’t have a dog?

That’s not a problem as neither do I. You can volunteer at trials, help with your local clubs offering services and such (snacks and in my case I am the Vet tech on duty). If you’re interested in being a decoy the best part is this is an equal opportunity sport, both men and WOMEN can be decoys! Even I have taken a bite from one of our dogs in the club and let me tell you, it’s a major rush! I would do it more, but we have plenty of decoys to help and the coach doesn’t want me to get hurt since I need to be on my feet all day and I’m out of shape to handle the stamina and weight of the suit. received_809283349448893

Where can I check out an event?

Trials are held throughout the year by various clubs, this is nationwide as well as worldwide! National events are held in the spring and the International World’s championship are usually the first week of October. Trials are really fun as each one has a theme so the club decorates and makes it as interesting and unique as possible! Click on this link to see when and where there is a trial nearest to you! jurassic mondio

Check out this video of Jessica and Khaleesi from the USMRA Nationals April 13th. She is a level 3 competitor from our Santa Clarita club. Jessica is a teacher and Khaleesi is a family dog!

So I won you over and you want to know how to get started?

Check out this link to the official USMRA site to find a club near you.

Santa Clarita Mondio Club Southern California.

Hope you like this post, come check out a trial if you’re ever in the area!

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How to protect your dog from Rattlesnake bites!

Spring has arrived and that means outdoor dogventures are on the rise! If you’re anything like me, spring symbolizes the time to leave the house from hibernation all winter, and into the lure of fresh flowers in the air its enough to pull you out of the sweats and strap on the hiking shoes. With the large number of wanderlusters going out that increases the number of potential dogs tagging along. If you own a dog you know that unless they are on a proper leash (Not a retractable) then they like to stray from the beaten path, this is okay if we were the only ones out in nature, but that’s never the case. Snakes are among the wildlife that you will encounter. There are many different species of snake out there.

For those of you who don’t know, here’s a quick education about snakes:

There are 2 main types of snakes:

 

Constrictor- These are the pythons and kingsnakes among others. Basically, these snakes catch their prey with their mouth and curl their body around them and constrict, this is how they kill their prey, suffocation. These are what are considered not as dangerous (though snakes of various sizes can be a danger to a small child or dog). These snakes are NOT poisonous, though they do have teeth and can still bite.

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Handler showing children a Milksnake at a Charity event

Venomous- These are your rattlesnakes, vipers, and basically anything that kills their prey while remaining at a safe distance. These guys will strike and envenomate their prey and while they die the snake will wait nearby until they can consume them.

 

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You can tell the difference from a distance just by looking at the snake’s head. Constrictors have a narrow head slightly wider than the body, whereas venomous snakes have a wide head at the cheeks because of the pockets of venom that are stored and it’s more triangular.

 

Most of the time you will HEAR the rattlesnake before you see it, their tail rattle will vibrate and sound like a buzz. All snakes have a striking distance of half their body length; math time, if a snake is 4 feet long and their striking range is half their body length then what is their striking distance? That’s right, 2 feet!

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So now that you have a brief overview of the types of snakes you may encounter let’s move on to the dog facts.

 

We all know dogs use their nose to sniff and they are curious af! Working in a vet clinic I would see many cases of rattlesnake bites and I have personal experience with rattlesnake encounters. Typically dogs would get bit on the face, this is bad news bears! If a dog gets bit in the face the swelling can obstruct their airway through their nose and for the obvious reasons you need to see a vet!

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Now some dogs have gotten away with getting bit by a snake and nothing happened, a lot of clients have told me this that their dog was bitten on multiple occasions and never sought medical attention and the dog was fine. This is your own risk! Most of these clients are ranchers and their dogs are ranch dogs, so not to say the owner didn’t love their dog, relationships are different for everyone. Dogs stem from wolves and their immune system is meant for survival so yes perhaps some dogs have a stronger tolerance of snake bites, not to mention every snake is different so please don’t base the decision for medical treatment on that.

**If your dog has been bitten by any snake please go to your nearest emergency veterinary clinic. Note: If you see the snake that bit your dog, please try and identify the snake correctly, I know you may be shaken, but knowing what type of venom you’re dealing with will absolutely help your dog’s medical staff**

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How to protect your dog:

There are many ways to protect your dog this spring and summer from all types of snakes, in particular (if you are a California resident) Rattlesnakes!

Vaccines: Yes there is a vaccine for Rattlesnake. There is a company in Woodland, Ca that has formulated a vaccine the aids in the protection of dogs from rattlesnake bites. A common misconception of this vaccine is that it is a “preventative”, it is not. A preventative vaccine is like Rabies, Distemper, Parvo, and Bordetella among some others. These vaccines protect the function of cells from diseases and viruses. However, snake venom is venom, like a poison, which kills the cells in the tissue altogether. Like all vaccines though, it creates memory cells to help the immune system fight off what it can. This vaccine buys your dog valuable time to seek medical treatment when the time is of the essence in a snake bite situation.

 

I always told clients that it’s better to have the vaccine on board than wish you had it and you didn’t. Since there is no set time frame when the venom passes through the body it’s better not to waste or risk it, especially in the case when you are in the middle of nowhere and must hurry back to the car and race to a hospital.

 

Call your local clinic to see if they carry the vaccine. If they do please consider getting it for your dog. It’s a 2-vaccine series spread out 4 weeks apart, in some cases there may be a 3rd vaccine for extra large dogs, but if you stay consistent with it then you will only need 1 vaccine per year after that. My dogs are vaccinated and it’s a real peace of mind knowing they are current with the most protection I can give, especially since Beowolf roams freely about the ranch while I work. The best time to get started with the series in February and March as the peak of the snake season is April, however, you can start or booster anytime during the spring and summer, again better to have it and not need it.

*Standard reactions are a lump at the injection site that can appear anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks from getting the vaccine, more severe cases are abscesses that appear though these are very rare but considered normal. If you see this you can apply a warm compress for 5 minutes a couple times a day and please call to notify your vet of this as they are to be reporting reactions*

 

Rattlesnake avoidance classes: Yes there are rattlesnake classes that you and your dog can attend together. This is held by various people with usually the assistance of a professional snake handler. Typically the rattlesnake used is alive with its mouth taped for the protection of the dogs in the class. E-collars or electric collars are used as an aid for a deterrent in the training, what the class does is it shows the dog the snake in a natural environment. The rattle begins to vibrate and as the dog pays attention to the snake the trainer hits the button on the E-collar. My dogs have yet to participate in classes, but we hope to get started soon. I know a lot of clients who love the classes and feel it has helped them and their dog in avoiding rattlesnakes.

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Antivenom: This is a treatment method that is also time sensitive and must be given IV slowly. This is only administered by a veterinarian and should only be used in the event of an actual bite. Sometimes if medical treatment is immediately after a bite and clinical signs are not sever then you can get away with IV fluids and IV antibiotics and pain killers along with monitoring and not need the antivenom, but most cases do.

 

You: You should have known that everything with your pet boils down to you! If you know you are going out on a hike with your dog take extra precautions, this isn’t just for your dog’s safety but yours as well. People get bit all the time by stepping on a snake accidentally. So here are just a few ways that you can accomplish this.

Research- Investigate the area where you’re going and see if there are any natural inhabitants to watch out for (rattlesnakes are NOT the only ones out there to watch for).

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Tools- Leashes are best with keeping your best bud close to you on the beaten path and out of tall weeds and rummaging through wood piles.

Your eyes- Nature is beautiful no doubt but try to draw your eyes to the ground ahead of you and scan the ground for anyone on the path ahead of you. Scanning for snakes can help you and your dog from accidentally stepping on a snake.

Your ears- For the obvious reasons you want to listen out for rattlesnakes, a lot of times you can hear the rattle before you see the snake.

 

*I do all these things when I go hiking, also when I am just walking around the ranch. I have a lot of paths that I take to get to the horses to feed them and there are plenty of places to stumble upon a snake. I am constantly scanning not only where I step but the area where Beowolf is walking around too. I am a little more lenient on Beowolf being on the property lose because his instincts are strong and he has a good sense of danger, at least keeping his distance long enough for me to get to him*

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The DL on rattlesnakes:

Rattlesnakes and all snakes for that matter are not out to get you, I 100% respect the fear people have of snakes though I cannot personally relate because I love snakes. A snake will not jump out at you, they will not hunt you down or chase you unless you are really pissing it off like I’ve seen on YouTube videos with men taunting cobras. A rattlesnake out in nature will not do that, in fact, I watched a documentary of a snake hunter looking for rattlesnakes and when they found 2, the snake did nothing but curl in a ball and rattle. It wasn’t until they grabbed the snake with the catcher that it even bit the catch pole, snakes feel pain and have fears as well. They would rather stay far away from you for their own safety, it’s not until someone steps on them and messes with them that they even do anything. This is how dogs get bit, sticking their nose in their face and barking pawing or taunting them.

 

As a cold-blooded animal snakes like to sunbathe, and you will find them in the early mornings when it’s starting to get warm sunbathing on a rock or dirt road. Basically, they spent all night chilling out and now they want to warm up. They typically live under a large pile of wood or stick piles.

 

Rattlesnakes have natural predators, the most common is Gopher snakes and the California Kingsnake. Kingsnakes are cannibals and will eat other snakes, hence their name. Both Kingsnakes and Gopher snakes are relatively friendly and harmless to people, they do have teeth and can bite, yes, but the risk is much lower. I found a California Kingsnake last year, it slithered into the arena where we were working dogs and I was able to walk right over and pick it up. It tried scurrying away from fear, but I gently picked it up and relocated it somewhere safe (not around working dogs that would kill it). I have not found any gopher snakes around, but these are the GOOD GUYS! I would gladly take them as a gift and release them around the ranch, a natural deterrent, and predator to rattlesnakes is more humane to me. The circle of life. I can’t stand that people kill rattlesnakes, I understand why they do it, but rattlers have been around since before I was born, and nobody will ever completely kill them off.

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California Kingsnake- Harmless to people, a natural predator of Rattlesnakes! Pictured above is a juvenile.

 

Donate them to SCIENCE!

Chances are if you are in an area where Rattlesnakes reside, there is a snake wrangler who will come and catch a snake if you find one and safely capture it. The snake wrangler in my area Bruce Freeman will take the snakes he captures and sends them to where they can be humanely milked for their venom. This venom is a vital ingredient to both the Rattlesnake vaccine and antivenom! Yes in order to successfully create and distribute vaccines and antivenom they need snake venom from live snakes. Rather than waste a life, call someone who will come and give snakes a purpose!

 

A friend recently found a juvenile rattlesnake that a kid killed for him. He brought it to me so that I could skin it after he used it to train his dogs for avoidance. He’s new to the area and terrified of snakes so I couldn’t blame him for it but still, he didn’t quite know what he was doing. Firstly they put the dead snake in a Clorox bottle and froze it. Crickets. First, the bleach will affect the scent of the snake, which he wanted to let his dogs smell the carcass and shock them to avoid the smell. This isn’t going to work, I told him that if you rely on your dog sniffing a snake and running away then you already lost. By the time a dog got close enough to sniff the snake, his face is already bitten and that’s the worst place you want your dog to get bit. Then the scent will be wrong anyway because it’s been sitting in a bleach bottle.

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Next, the most effective method of avoidance classes is the live rattle, the sound of the rattle will carry and will warn a dog before he’s within striking distance. Snakes like to warn you to KEEP away, not just get away, so if the dog hears the rattle chances are they are in a safe distance to warrant a warning, not a bite.

 

I then explained to him about Bruce Freeman which he didn’t know he could call a guy to get the snake for him. I also told him about the work Bruce does and the importance of the live rattlesnakes to the vaccines and antivenom we use to protect our dogs. He had just got his dogs vaccinated and so it was perfect to point out that if not for live rattlesnake venom his dogs wouldn’t be able to get a quality vaccine. I hope next time he calls Bruce instead of letting some idiot kid lie to him that he can train his dogs for rattlesnake avoidance with a dead rattler.

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Slytherin hanging out with us and playing with our Valentine’s Day Backdrop at the clinic.

I really hope this post helps you in both understanding the nature of snakes and tips to keep your dogs and yourself safe this summer!

Have fun and be safe out there!

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