The Journey of a Performance Dog

Journey of a Performance Dog ©
Bryn Mawr’s Warning Light (aka) DUSK

Jill Marie Fernando

photo was taken when Dusk was just about 8 weeks old. This was his first
hiking adventure, the day after I brought him home and as you can see
his bell is almost as big as he is. Jingle, jingle!

This is
our journey …”enjoy!”

One of the most important things I do with my companion-performance
dogs is giving them a lot of interactive exercise. We hike daily, whether
it is 90 degrees and humid or bitterly cold 17 degrees with wind chills
below that.

There is nothing more invigorating to the dogs or myself
then to get outside, and breath the fresh air nature has to offer. We
are very fortunate to live within but a few miles of several state parks,
lakes and equestrienne trials. So, hiking is as common for my dogs as
is breathing. That is only one form of interactive exercise I give my

When training with performance in mind, the most important
facet of training is to have a bright-eyed, happy, alive dog (puppy) ready
to do whatever I have in store. I ask, “What drives my dog?”
Is it food? Is it toys? Is it running with dog friends? Is it chasing
something? Or is it a combination of some or all of these things?

Once you have found some of the things that drive your
puppy, you know that if you give your dog these things in context of training,
you will have a bright-eyed, happy working puppy that will want to work
for years to come, alongside you. Another thing to consider when training
and interacting with performance puppy, is, to consider that you and your
puppy will be performing for a long time; many years from now. So, building
strong relationship through training, love, play, leadership, treats and
praise is of utmost importance. Without some of these components, you
will find training to become stale, and that training relationship will
never last. You and your puppy BOTH, must enjoy working together, and
in a sense, feel like you cannot wait to get out there and do it. If you
can picture in your mind what your dog’s eyes look like when you
are holding a ball up ready to throw it for him: are they bright? Are
they glistening? Is his body shaking with anticipation?

CD Bryn Mawr’s Warning Light CD TDI (age 4)

you have his attention? If you say a big, loud YES to any and all of these
questions, then you have seen in your dog what you need for a working
performance dog. Now the trick is to use his BRIGHT-EYED ANTICIPATION
to teach him, any and all things to perform.
… go now and play with your dog!

From the
time I bring my pup home at 7-8 weeks old, I have a game plan of what
things are a must that my pup must learn. For example “any”
pet dog companion should know “no matter what” to come when
called, to stay where you leave him, and to respect your guide-ship at
all times. So, these are the things I work on immediately with my pup.
It is true that I love to bond and cuddle my new baby pup while he is
relaxed and quiet, and I do take advantage of these few brief moments
in my pup’s life that he is quiet and relaxed. (Most of us who own
ACD’s know that period for a cattledog does not last long, so it is cherished

When introducing the new member to the pack (which in
my house hold our pack contained a ten year old Rottweiler; Nimbo, Drizzle
my blue ACD & two red headed kitty-cats!

It’s important to do this carefully so everyone
can experience this new bundle of joy in a safe way. My now two year old
baby Bryn Mawr’s Warning Light TDI (aka) Dusk spent his first hours
of his life with me, learning what an ex-pen was, while I taught obedience
classes that evening. Several friends came by to meet the new baby and
during my class I looked over to see how he was doing in the ex-pen and
was amazed how quiet the little bugger was, only to find that my friends
had scooped him up and he was nestled in their arms sleeping. No wonder
he was so quiet! It was precious! And after that wonderful “first”
weekend together Dusk and I began our foundation training.

(Foundation training: sit, come, stay, soon to be followed
by down, submissive down, wait, let’s go and fetch) He enjoyed training
and playing (he doesn’t know the difference) no matter when I interacted
with him. This is a great tool for new puppies and their people. When
I say the word “ready” it means let’s go do something,
and he was always eager.

The first few months of foundation training is tedious
and repetitive but dogs require this consistency in their lives, and without
that, learning is hit and miss.

Also at this time (2 months-5 months) I introduce agility
items like the tunnel, weave poles and dog walk to help my new pup become
confident with unusual looking things, to build grace in their movement
and to just plain have FUN! As a matter of fact the first weekend I spent
with Dusk he leaped over one broad jump board left in the yard after class,
and I just chuckled in amazement. After about 10 weeks old, I noticed
that Dusk began to think independently of me, and when I wasn’t
paying attention to him, he, very confidently went off on his own to investigate
the yard, smells and began playing his own game of “I am faster
my Mom!” Enter; drag line! A drag line (anywhere from 10-25
feet long) is a long line with no handle on the end of it, allowing it
to drag freely and not get caught on anything in its path. This is a wonderfully
helpful training tool that I suggest to all of my puppy students. Having
a drag line on the pup at all times, immediately places responsibility
on the pup to listen and can be caught rather quickly when playing the
“ha ha I am faster then you” game. I use this great tool inside
the home, and also in the yard, and I always suggest to get a couple of
these, so that the dirty one from the yard can remain outside and a clean
one can be put on once the pup enters the house.

“Yes, even a dog fancier like me, likes to keep
my home clean!”

As the pup gets better at realizing that I am in control
all the time I will then shorten up the line making it about only 6 feet
long. So, with the drag line on the pup while outside sniffing, playing,
training or running amuck I can remain in constant control of what he
is getting into, and reinforce my obedience training tools constantly,
and rewarding the pup lavishly with treats, smiles, laughs and praise!

During these early months Dusk learned to adore hiking
in the woods, or on a gravel path alongside his brothers Nimbo and Drizzle.
He also learned to swim and enjoy the water within the first month of
new life with me, which is a great way to keep your very active Cattle
Dog cool and comfy in the heat and humidity of the summer! And, this is
another place I began early foundation training of coming out of the water
when asked, as well as learning to swim after a ball or dummy and return
to me with it! When you think about it, training a new puppy is one of
the most rewarding and easiest times to train a dog. They are willing
and eager and if we keep training fun and rewarding, they are just more
willing as the months and years pass.

Another really important facet of early relationship building
between your new pup and you is to enroll in a puppy kindergarten class
for socialization and distraction training. Dusk was the youngest pup
in his class at 9 weeks old, and this was a fun and helpful way to begin
socialization around other puppies of all different sizes and breeds.

In our puppy class Dusk learned how to sit/stay, down
on command, come when called (with distractions) as well as walk nicely
next to me in heel position. He fell in love with a red Pomeranian puppy,
which was about the same size as he was at 9 weeks old. But by graduation
at 15 weeks old, Dusk towered over her. It was still cute to see the attraction
he had to someone who was the same color.

After puppy school, we began some formal obedience training
as well as introducing Dusk to agility equipment and obedience items like
gloves and dumbbells. At first all he wanted to do was race around with
a toy and play keep-away. But I taught him quickly that the only way “I”
play any games with him, is if he cooperates and returns the toy to me.
He wasn’t fond of this game, but eventually, through my determination,
he gave in and found that playing with “mom” was actually
a rather fun way to play. This play relationship is very important to
develop with your puppy, so that games can be played to keep these highly
active, intelligent ACD’s challenged. Without challenging them enough,
they become bored and destructive.

important aspect in our relationships with our canine friends is to make
sure they get plenty of exercise. And I am not talking about “just”
playing ball in the back yard, or just running amuck in the back yard
by themselves. I am talking about a daily (or better yet/twice a day)
fast paced hike or jog. This is an excellent way to control their high
energy levels. And a dog needs to “travel.” Traveling with
your dog/puppy is instilling leadership immediately, and as they follow
“their” leader daily on the hike/jog it brings them closer
to mother nature and their counter-parts; wolves.

A wolf pack
travels every day for miles and miles in search for food. Did you ever
watch a wolf program on TV? It is quite enlightening and really shows
us how animals have a system to their daily lives. They travel, they eat,
they clean each-other and then they rest. There is no such thing as separation
anxiety or dog aggression (a few of our pet’s psychological problems)
in wolves. They all play a role in the pack and the pack has order. They
are also not out of control like a lot of our own dogs are.

So, put on your comfortable hiking shoes or walking shoes
and get out there “every day” and give your dog/ puppy what
they need!

Dusk & brother Drizzle

after Dusk and his brother Drizzle get their daily hike they are fed and
then they rest. Just like the wolves are doing. They are happy and content
and become calm-submissive, which is really quite amazing to see the transformation.

In the summer I hike really early before it gets too hot,
but in the spring, fall and winter I usually hike twice a day with them,
on most days. I hike in the rain and “drizzle” and when it’s
bitterly cold, because my dogs need it. Actually I need it too. It is
also a great way for “me” to stay in shape too. I just love
it and so do they! What a great feeling!

The training that I do with a young pup between 8 weeks
-6 months of age is consistent and pretty regular. I train probably 5
days a week for 5-10 minute short sessions. In those sessions Dusk has
learned to fetch on command (using inductive methods), with a perfect
front used in obedience, how to finish (both sides), how to heel and pay
100% attention when working, how to stay in many, difficult situations,
including a line up of other dogs, hand signals and direction (used for
directed jumping and gloves in Utility).

I have also taught him freestyle moves such as weaving
between my legs, heeling on both side (right and left), to spin left or
right, to leap over my arabesque-style leg, and tons more. He is one smart
puppy and giving him ample exercise he is capable to learn lots of stuff
and maintain it.

CD Bryn Mawr’s Warning Light CD TDI

writing this journey Dusk has passed his health certifications and is
an eligible stud dog as well as earned his therapy dog certification and
become a therapy “tester” dog. He has also earned his United
Kennel Club Companion Dog Title, American Kennel Club Companion Dog Title
and a “High in Trial.” He also earned his way to All Star
Performance Dog Tournament in Novice and place 16th out of 50 + dogs entered.
He lost 22 points out of a possible 600 perfect points! Woohoo!

Dusk is almost six years old now, and is continuing his
education in fine style! He is an eager companion, whether hiking with
me and his younger Rottweiler brother; Rain, training for obedience competition,
learning obedience for Mondio ring sport, playing agility or rally and
keeping fit and happy by playing Frisbee or swimming!

He also
works with me in classes teaching dogs to be calm, showing students positions,
practicing the stay exercise while students work around him and so much
more! He is a wonderful neutral dog that can calm over energetic new pups
down quickly by his calm demeanor. What a wonderful partner. I am forever
grateful to this special Red Speckle ACD! What a guy!

more information on Jill or Dusk, please contact here:

Dusk is available to approved females for stud service.

You can also contact Monica Shifflet (Dusk’s breeder)
for more information on Dusk and ACD’S at
He is currently working on Mondio Ring Sport obedience and continuing
his AKC titles. He is a very happy and friendly Australian Cattle Dog!

dog sport web site:

All photographs are property of Jill Marie Fernando. Jill
is a published author and photographer as well as training dogs for people.

Visit here
for Jill’s books:

© Doris Duewel, all rights
reserved / webmaster : Doris


About acdisla

Mit 20 Jahren war ich verheiratet und mit 28 Jahren hatte ich drei Töchter. Ih war eine gute Hausfrau und Mutter. Kochen, Waschen, Hausaufgaben mit den Kindern, kutschierte alle zu den Freizeitaktivitäten und, und und. Abends dann Befriedigung des Ehemanns. Mit 37 Jahren war ich am Ende. Drei Selbstmordversuche zeigten meine Verzweiflung. Geändert haben sie an meiner ehelichen Einöde nichts. Ich rettete mich durch Scheidung, lernte mit Feuereifer und fand einen interessanten, mich fordernden Beruf.Unterstuetzung gab mir eine neue Freundin. Die Rechnung fuer 17 Jahre ehelicher Vergewaltigung kam in Form eines Koma in dem eine meiner drei Töchter neben meinem Bett sass. Das folgende Jahr verbrachte ich im Krankenhaus und erholte mich langsam von einer fast ganzseitigen Lähmung, Verlust meiner Muttersprache und meiner Erinnerung. Halbwegs wieder intakt, bekam ich Multiple Sklerose. Nach einem langjährigen Versuch Kindern in einem Kuenstlerdorf Sport beizubringen, habe ich einen idyllischen Restbauernhof gekauft und ein Hotel fuer Hunde aufgemacht. Das wurde der grösste und erfolgreichste Spass in meinem Leben. Inzwischen fand ich in Finnland ein traumhaftes Zuhause. Auf 50 000 qm konnen wir und unsere Hunde so frei leben, wie wir es uns erträumt hatten. Mir hat die MS inzwischen einen elektrischen Rollstuhl beschert, was der Mobilität ganz neue Dimensionen gibt. Meine Gedanken habe ich hier teils in Reimen, teils in Prosa aufgeschrieben. Viel Spass beim Lesen.
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1 Response to The Journey of a Performance Dog

  1. Pingback: Autorenliste | Neue ACD Gazette

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