February, 2011

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Skijoring with rescue dogs Taxi and Kady

Taxi and Kady have been some of our skijor students this winter along with Mindy and her colleagues from the Vail Doggie Spa and Lodging. They are killing it! Mindy enjoys skijoring with Kady and Taxi Although Kady only has three legs, she pulls like a maniac and is a great dog…both on and off the trail. Both Taxi and Kady would love to find great forever homes. If anyone is interested, please contact Holly Walters at Vail Doggie Spa and Lodging.

What I”m trying to say….

In honor of the Liam J Perk Foundation’s fundraiser this coming Sunday, I thought I would quickly go though some basics of dog body language.

When a dog is saying ” I’m happy and relaxed”, he or she usually looks likes this:
-total body position relaxed; relaxed hips, free movement, relaxed face
-open relaxed panting mouth
-tail at a neutral position (not too high or tucked between legs….unless that position is breed specific like high on a husky or tucked low on a greyhound)
Even if a dog looks relaxed, if you don’t know this dog, you should always ask the owner if it is ok to pet them. It is especially important that kids ALWAYS ask permission from a dog’s owner before they pet them. If an owner says no, that needs to be respected as well. Just like people, not all dogs want someone to come grab their head. Just like people, most dogs do NOT want a total stranger to come grab their head.

When a dog is saying ” I am alert and interested in something” they look like this:
-tail high and starting to curve over the back
-body erect with some tension
-focused stare
-ears erected or moved forward.
-mouth closed
At this point, a dog is alert. This doesn’t mean they will be aggressive, but it is a good sign they are alerted and interested in something, and perhaps you need to pay attention to what they are interested in. Also, this is not a dog that wants to be bothered, especially by children. Its a good idea to keep kids away from a dog that is alert and focused on something.

When a dog is saying” I am uncomfortable and anxious” they look like this:
– heavy panting
-stressed face
-stiff body
-tail low and between legs
-ears back or flat against head
-rolling eyes
-yawning (note, this is situation specific. True, dogs yawn when they are tired. They also yawn as a “calming signal” if they are in a stressful situation)
-showing normal behaviors that are out of context such as sniffing around in an unfocused manner, scratching if they are not itchy, biting at their own paws or other body parts, licking their nose or jaw when food is not present, shaking like they are wet when they are not wet. The key to this is to note that these behaviors are out of context.

When a dog is saying “I am really uncomfortable and anxious” they:
-get up and leave a situation (it is always important that dogs have an escape route they can use so they do not feel trapped)
-try to hide
-turn their head away
-bark and retreat
Growls are important and should be respected in dogs. A growling dog is saying “please give me my space”. It is important to NEVER punish a dog for growling. Their growl is a warning. Suppressing a growl will not change how a dog feels about the situation or decrease a dog’s stress. It will only make a dog that does not give a warning, does not growl and goes directly to bite.
Respect growls.
Teach children to recognize when a dog is anxious and uncomfortable.
Teach children to leave a dog in this state alone.
Teach children to never corner a dog in a place it cannot escape.
Teach children never to tease a dog.

These are some of the basic signs that a dog is either relaxed or uncomfortable.
Dogs try to tell us. Let’s try to listen and teach our children to listen and respect.

Event to raise awareness about dog bite prevention

Event to raise funds for dog bite awareness.

The Perk family, formerly of Breckenridge, lost their two year old son in a tragic accident when the family dog delivered a fatal bite to his neck. From this tragic experience, they have dedicated their lives and their foundation, the Liam J Perk Foundation, to raise awareness about dog bite prevention.

Each year, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States. Most of these are children and most of the bites are from the family pet. These bites rarely occur “out of the blue”. In the majority of cases, dogs have been telling their people that they are uncomfortable and anxious. Their bite is truly their last resort of defense if none of their body language has been heeded by the humans around them. The problem is that for humans, dog body language may seem subtle and hard to read.

The Liam J. Perk foundation seeks to educate dog owners and parents about how to read dog body language in order to know when a dog is feeling anxious, trapped and uncomfortable in a given situation, especially around children, so that adults can intervene before it is too late. The foundation also provides education to children about how to approach and interact with dogs safely.

On Sunday, February 27 the Perk family will return to Breckenridge to lead a fundraiser hosted by the Breckenridge Nordic Center. The “Huff and Puff to the Halleluja Hut” is a fun “race” to raise funds which will be spent in Summit County for education about dog bite prevention.


When: SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2011





The Perk family lost their 2 year old son, Liam who was fatally bitten by their family dog. Our ultimate goal is to bring awareness and education to communities throughout America and beyond. Helping parents and dog owners create safe and healthy environment for their children living with canines.FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE LIAM J. PERK FOUNDATION GO TO:


We will be posting a couple more blogs this week about the importance of understanding dog language and bite prevention.

The “ski” part of skijoring with dogs.

Believe it or not, I do have a couple of passions besides dogs. One happens to be nordic (cross country) skiing. In fact, it was the combination of dogs and nordic skiing…two of my favorite things… that got me going on skijoring to begin with. I love the smooth, rhythmic flow of classic or skate, the quiet of the backcountry and add to that the speed of the dogs and their companionship… it makes for truly magical experiences when it all comes together.

Teaching skijoring over the years I am always surprised how many people under estimate cross country skiing. Often students come to skijoring class with absolutely no experience on nordic skis, or it was “something they tried a long time ago…once”. Sure, if you have been alpine skiing, those skills will definately carry over into cross country. However, cross country skis often surprise students in that there is a learning curve to them, even if you are an alpine skier. This is especially true for light classic or skate skis.

In skijoring with dogs we can use any type of cross country skis: touring, telemark, classic or skate. The skinnier the ski, the more of a balance game it becomes. Moreover, the lighter and skinnier the ski, the lighter the boot as well, which also will test one’s balance. Hence it is a good idea to get on cross country skis and perhaps take a lesson before hooking up to your dog.

The benefits of learning to nordic ski before trying skijoring are numerous:

First and foremost, SAFETY, for you and your dog! In my years of teaching skiing I have unfortunately seen a couple of broken wrists from folks out for the first time on skinny skis; one little slip, hands fly up in the air, then down…and OUCH! Not to mention being able to stop quickly so that you do not run into your dog… or a tree. A dog can get injured from a skier running into them (especially with metal edged skis! ) and they can get spooked of skis and never want to get out in front of them again.

Second, your skiing skills and confidence on skis affect your dog. Dogs are closely tuned into our emotions. If you are nervous and tentative on your skis, your dog will feel this and will probably feel slightly anxious themselves. If your dog senses your uneasiness, they may even try to “protect” you against anything or anyone around at the time. Often people will be stressed on their skis, feeling out of control, and without meaning to, yell at their dogs, “stop pulling me!”. Think about that for a moment, and think about the idea of skijoring…dog pulling person while they are skiing. What is a poor dog to do? To pull or not to pull? What message is this dog getting?

Alternatively, if you are balanced, relaxed and confident on your skis, your dog will also relax and perform better. You will be ready and willing to move in synch with your dog pulling. The better nordic skier you become, the more efficient you will be, and your dog will be willing to pull you at faster speeds and for longer distances.

So set you and your dog up for success. Get on those skinny skis and even better yet, take a lesson or a refresher course before hooking up to your dog. Yes, nordic skiing is simple to learn, but it still has a learning curve! Plus, even if you have the basics down, you can always improve your technique and efficiency.

And trust me, your dog will love you for it!

100 dogs

“Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human life”. ~ Albert Schweitzer

Well, for our first real blog, this should be happier, and I promise that we will be in the future. But here we go….
Last Monday I and a lot of the world learned about the massacre of 100 sled dogs in Whistler BC last April.
The dogs were not euthanized. They were shot, stabbed, slaughtered as they tried to climb out of a mass grave.
Here is the link:
This happened to them because they were viewed as simply animals to be used to make a sled dog tour company money. They were not looked at as living sentient beings; they were not seen as partners and friends; family members or companions. When they lost their economic value to the tour company, they lost their “value” and were maliciously and painfully put to death.
I had a really hard time with this this week. I felt blackness, sorrow, sickness.
Yesterday I decided to do something. A small thing. Tomorrow I will dedicate our workshop at Gold Run to the memory of these 100 dogs. I will donate my proceeds from this workshop and take donations, in the memory of 100 dogs, for the Summit County Animal Shelter.
I hugged my dogs as always. I thanked them for everything they give to my life.
Hug your dogs everyday…and thank them at least once a day.
In memory of the 100 dogs.