Even the best dog trainers have problems sometimes! – What you see on social media is not real life. Everyone that has multiple dogs has scuffles, has fights from time to time. Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean you failed as a dog trainer. It just means you have more work to do, which everyone does, say Nick and Joy Weis.
JEANETTE: According to ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States, and there are millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. For some, it’s a bit harder to find new families than others. There could be many reasons for that, but a common reason is that they are too demanding. You guys often end up with these dogs. Why?
NICK: We got into dog powered sports because as a kid, I always wanted a malamute. We ended up getting a malamute that had been returned because he was too high energy. The family couldn’t handle him. So it was my opportunity for us to get a malamute. We got him, and he was going to destroy our house. We had to find something to keep him from destroying our house. We were not going to give up on him.
I started in canicross for that reason. I just started running with him to burn off energy so that he could get the exercise he needed to be a good dog. That just let us see that there was really a need for high energy rescue dogs to have a place that – they need a family where they can burn off that energy and be the good dogs that they really are deep down inside.
JEANETTE: But it can be quite hard to find that good dog sometimes. Do you have some tips and tricks to share?
NICK: The biggest tip, really, is exercise. In the U.S., we have a saying, “a tired dog is a good dog,” and that’s really it. It’s about getting them the exercise that they need to find that inner calmness that they all have.
JEANETTE: Is this often underestimated when somebody gets, for example, a malamute or a husky or a border collie, the level of activity these dogs need?
NICK: Absolutely. In fact, almost all of our dogs have had homes before us where someone got them and underestimated how much work they were going to get.
For example, the dog that Joy ran with in the first World Championships that we competed in was a dog that someone applied to a husky rescue. The rescue said, “Your life is not right for a husky.” They said, “Too bad, I want a husky anyway.” They went out to a different shelter, adopted one. Called this rescue back and said, “Hey, you were right. We can’t handle a husky, but we adopted one, so here. Please take him.”
People really need to understand that huskies and malamutes and many other breeds out there require a certain lifestyle. You have to make a commitment to that lifestyle. If you’re not an active person, don’t get an active breed.
JEANETTE: And you are quite active with your dogs. You’re doing canicross with them, and you have done quite good. We are at the World Championships in Sweden right now, and you have been running with one of your rescue dogs.
JOY: Yes. His name is Oso and he is a husky mix. We adopted him several years ago from a shelter in Oklahoma City, and he’d just had this third birthday.
When we adopted him, no one wanted him. All of the people who had come to look at him and see if he was right for their family took one look at him and said “absolutely not,” and walked out the door. He would destroy wire crates. He had had a couple surgeries with stitches and had ripped those out and tore up his cone, had to have a muzzle. He was just sort of a mess, and people thought they really couldn’t handle him.
We came across him and we talked about it and talked about it, and we decided he’s the perfect fit for our family. We have never had one problem with him because from the moment we brought him home, we started running with him.
NICK: We find it a little funny in that when we walked in to meet him, we picked up a leash and he started screaming at the top of his lungs. The rescue said, “That’s why everyone is scared of him.” We said, “He’s perfect for us.”
JEANETTE: Was he screaming because he was eager to do something?
NICK: He was just so excited. He knew that the leash meant he got to go for a walk, and all he wanted to do was get out there and burn energy off.
JEANETTE: Do you think these signals are often misunderstood?
NICK: I think they’re misunderstood. I also think that a lot of people just ignore them. They see something like that and don’t really comprehend what’s behind it. With Oso, Oso needs a lot of exercise. He can go for miles and miles and miles and miles. Just taking him for a walk was never going to be enough for him. He was born to run.
JOY: I think people also think their screeches and their howls for a leash, that they’re cute. They come and look at a dog and they see them do that, and they’re jumping and they’re excited, and they think, “That’s just so adorable. I can’t wait to have that at home.” And they bring that dog home and realize that it’s so much more than just needing that walk. It’s beyond cute. They really need to go for a run. People see that in the shelter and they just don’t understand what it’s really going to take.
JEANETTE: As far as I know, you guys are really eager to get more people to be more active with their dogs.
NICK: We live in Missouri, which is not a huge place for dog powered sports, but we’ve been pretty active in encouraging people to get involved in canicross. We have a big running community where we live, especially trail running. We actually host – it used to be a road 5K. We’ve since expanded that to trail running races. This year we’re adding a trail mountain bike race. A couple years back we added a canicross race.
In addition to that, we’ve also started Canicross Missouri, which is just a Facebook group for people to get on for helping find canicross type races. We don’t really have a lot of canicross official races, but dog-friendly 5Ks and that sort of stuff in Missouri, and then training tips, etc.
JEANETTE: The people you meet, what kind of state are their dogs in? Do you see a change after they start doing dog powered sports?
JOY: We see a lot of different breeds of dogs, and a lot of people who are in different places with their physical fitness who are looking to get into a dog powered sport. There are a lot of people who like to do ultra-running, who are already running with their dogs, and their dogs are very fit, and they already understand taking care of their paws and proper harness fit and things like that.
Then there are people who are just looking to really start. Maybe they just want to start running; they’ve never run with their dog before. We have seen a difference. We’ve had a lot of people who, once they start in the sport, then they’re looking for more gear and they’re looking to see what they can do to get better with their dog and asking more questions and really getting excited about it.
For us, that’s what’s exciting, to see people really enjoying it and getting more excited about doing things with their dogs.
JEANETTE: But getting started can be quite hard, especially if you’re not very fit. How do you solve it if you have a dog that’s super energetic and needs a lot of exercise, but you’re not a proven runner yourself?
NICK: The first step is literally just that. Just take the first step. Go out and start – go to a trail, do a mile or so walk. Just start that way, and then build up. You can do that. After a couple weeks, maybe throw in a little bit of jogging with your dog, and then before you know it, you’re going to be doing canicross or whatever sport you want to do.
JEANETTE: As far as I know, you have quite a few dogs. Is it nine?
NICK: That’s correct, nine dogs.
JEANETTE: You have to tell us a bit more about them. How many are rescues, how many are not?
NICK: Two are not rescues. Six officially came from rescue groups. The seventh one, he’s not a true rescue dog, but he was one that someone had bought from a breeder and returned because they couldn’t handle his energy level.
JEANETTE: Did the rescues have any extra baggage, so to speak? Any problems?
NICK: Each dog is different. Some of the dogs were more problems for the rescue groups than the others. Actually, three of our dogs have come from the same rescue group that’s based out of Oklahoma City. It’s Heartland Husky Rescue.
Oso, for example, came from there. He was a handful for them, because like Joy had mentioned, he would destroy wire crates. He had had to have surgery because when he came in, he had a lesion on his leg, and they had to stitch it up multiple times, and he continually ripped his stitches out.
In fact, it’s a little funny; we have a picture of him from back at the rescue. The only way they could get him to leave his stitches alone was to put a cone on him and the muzzle on him at the same time. We have a picture. It’s absolutely hilarious, because he looks like some sort of serial killer. But you can see underneath the muzzle, he’s just smiling and his tongue’s hanging out.
Every dog that we adopt, whenever we talk with rescue groups about them, we say, “Tell us their problems. We’re not scared of the problems; we just want to know what they are so that we know how to address them.” That’s really the big thing for us.
JEANETTE: But getting a rescue can be a lot of trouble. Why don’t you just get a puppy instead?
NICK: There’s a lot of dogs in shelters. They all need homes. A puppy can have just as many problems as a rescue can. In fact, all these rescues were puppies at one point, and their problems most likely originated from people not taking care of the puppy as they should’ve in the first place.
JOY: I think, too, being able to work with a rescue and helping them overcome some of their problems is very rewarding, just as it is to raise a puppy and watch them grow. We have a rescue, the one that I took several years ago that Nick mentioned early on, and his name is Prudhoe. Prudhoe has a lot of anxiety issues, and Prudhoe also does not trust women. He gets very scared if a female touches his paws or his head or if he feels like he might be a little bit cornered with a woman in the room.
It’s been very enjoyable and rewarding for me to be able to work with Prudhoe, because for quite some time, I could not even put a harness on him, and now I’m able to harness him and pet him, and he trusts me. To me, that’s so rewarding and so wonderful. I just remember when we first got him, I couldn’t touch his feet. Sometimes he wouldn’t even come to me.
JEANETTE: But how did you address this problem, and how gradually did you progress?
NICK: The big way to address not only that problem, but any problem, is first you have to earn the dog’s trust. It takes baby steps. It’s making sure they get the food they need, making sure they get the exercise they need, making sure that you never ask them to do something that you don’t already know they can do and setting them up to succeed.
Over time, you build that trust, and as you build that trust the dog will – like in Joy’s case, Prudhoe slowly over time realized, “hey, it’s okay if I sit beside her.” Then it became “it’s okay if she touches my forearm,” and it just gradually went from “no, you can’t touch me at all” to “hey, we’re best friends and I trust you completely with everything.”
JEANETTE: So patience is the key word.
NICK: That’s exactly right.
JEANETTE: If I have a problem dog but I’m new to dog training, what should I do if I cannot solve this problem myself?
NICK: We got into dog powered sports all because we had a problem that we didn’t know how to solve. That was that we had a very high energy malamute that was going to destroy our house. We just got online and started looking for ideas of how to burn energy off of him. We were both already runners, so it started off running with him.
Got a little tired of having my arm be sore after every run, so it’s like, there’s got to be a better way. We just did research and research and research. Any problem you have, someone else has already encountered that problem, so look online. Try to find the resources.
In the U.S. there’s a lot of dog training blogs and webpages where you can go and get tips. In saying that, don’t read everything as gospel. You know your dog. Just because it works for someone else, doesn’t mean it will or it won’t work for you, but be open to trying new ideas.
JEANETTE: It can be quite hard to figure out what information I can trust and what not.
NICK: The most trusted resource for us is your dog. You can see very quickly if something’s working or not if you just pay attention to the subtle cues that they give. There’s lots of training things that we try that, after a week or two, we say “No, that’s not working. We need to get rid of that.” So just follow your dog. Let him tell you what’s working and what’s not, and if it’s not working, don’t be afraid to change up what you’re doing.
JEANETTE: What are the most useful lessons you guys have learned, either by experience or from others throughout the years?
NICK: The most useful tip that I’ve ever received for training dogs – it actually came from a book – was never ask your dog to do something that you do not know they can do. As long as a dog does not know their limits, they believe they have no limits, and they will do anything and everything that you ask.
If you ask them to do too much, they learn they have limits and they know exactly where that limit is, and they don’t want to come close to that limit. So you can accomplish so much more in training by you knowing the limit and never asking them to cross it and if you push them to their breaking point.
JEANETTE: It’s your job to protect their confidence and to build it.
JEANETTE: You have to tell us a bit more about your dogs and the championships you’ve just been doing.
NICK: The dog that I brought to the championships, his name is Anarchy. He is a Greyster. He’s 14 months old, very young. He’s actually only been racing for 3 weeks. This was his third race – his first large race where there was crowds. Our first two were smaller races where he didn’t really have to deal with a whole lot of people or anything. He’s still very much a puppy. He’s very excited. He very much lives up to his name of Anarchy. [laughs]
JOY: Yes, that was maybe a mistake. Maybe never name a puppy “Anarchy.” [laughs]
The dog that I brought, his name is Oso, and he is the rescue that we’ve been talking about. He celebrated his third birthday here in Sweden this week. He has raced quite a bit before. He’s done some rig racing and some canicross racing. But this week he really just was not himself, was not feeling well. He usually gets so excited to see the belt and the line and he starts squealing and he’s just so thrilled because he knows he’s going to get to run, and I think that goes back to the piece about trusting your dog and knowing them.
I did run with him on Thursday, and he did not have a very good run. It was not him at all. We just watched him. On Friday, he did not want to come out of the van. He wanted to stay inside and he wanted to sleep. He wasn’t excited at all. So we made the decision to scratch him, because that’s what was right for him.
Sometimes that kind of stinks, but that’s what he needed, and he relies on Nick and I for his care. So that’s the decision we made, to do what was best for him.
JEANETTE: That’s a tough decision, because you have been traveling from the USA to Sweden.
NICK: Yeah, Joy really struggled with that decision. In fact, the morning of the second day of racing, I actually got up early to take him out just for a very short run, just to judge how he was doing, and I came back and I told her, “He’s better than he was yesterday, but he’s still not himself.” I was trying not to dictate to Joy what she needed to do, but I let her know that he’s not himself.
We talked about it for hours, just because Oso loves to run so much. Under normal circumstances, not running him is a punishment for him. So it’s a fine line that we had to walk. Do we not run him and risk him getting more down because he didn’t run? Or do we give him the day off and let him recover? He did tweak his paw in the first day.
It was very tough for Joy’s ego, but we ultimately made the decision that Oso needed the day off, and it didn’t matter how hard it was a pill for us to swallow. Oso came first, not our egos.
JEANETTE: There will be more competitions. While we’re talking about that, what are your next goals?
NICK: Now our focus – I guess we have a couple more races this dryland season for Fall Dryland in the U.S. We’ll do a couple races in the spring. But our big race that we’re turning our eyes to is going to be ICF in 2020. In the U.S., a lot of the bigger races are quite a drive from us, so pretty much if one of us does it, we both do it.
JEANETTE: It’s much easier that way.
JOY: It is. Most of the drives for us, just because of where we live, are 10-12 hours. So it’s a whole weekend – which is wonderful, but it takes both of us. [laughs]
JEANETTE: You have to tell us how you got into this sport.
NICK: We both ran in high school. After high school, Joy decided that she needed a break from competitive running. I went on and ran in college. In college, I suffered a pretty significant hip injury and damaged some of the cartilage in my hip.
JEANETTE: And you were a talented runner.
NICK: Some people might say that. I’m a little hard on myself, and I would say not quite so talented. But anyway, I was hurt. I had to take 18 months off from running. When I was finally able to run again, I was just very frustrated with my fitness level. I knew in my head I would never run PRs again, and that was very tough for me to accept. I went through years of no motivation. I would run, but it wasn’t very often or very consistently.
Luckily for me, we got Ruger, the malamute I was talking about, and he needed someone to run him. So I started running him and we started doing canicross. Then Joy saw how much fun I was having with Ruger and saw that I actually had my motivation back to get up and start working and running and improve my fitness. So we ended up getting Denali, who was a husky rescue. So we had Ruger and Denali that we were doing canicross with.
Then we decided, we have two; maybe we should go for three. Did that. Started doing a little bit of other dryland mushing, a little bit of sled racing, etc. It’s just snowballed from there, and now we have nine dogs.
JEANETTE: And the big question is, will there be more dogs?
NICK: Eventually there will be more dogs, but recently we’ve upgraded how we travel with the dogs and everything like that. Our travel arrangements right now are pretty full. The trailer we use has nine crates in it. There’s not a tenth one. There’s not room for a tenth one. So it would take some pretty serious reconfiguring of everything that we have around our house to handle another one at this point.
JEANETTE: How is life with nine dogs?
JOY: It’s a lot of fun. It really is. Our dogs are outside in the yard when we’re at work, but when we’re home, they get to be inside with us. They’re not allowed on our furniture, but they do have their own beds. So they come in at night and they have to get to their own bed before someone else goes and takes it.
Yes, it’s a lot. If you’re used to having one dog or two, nine seems like so many. But to us, I guess nine is normal. [laughs] But they make life a lot of fun.
NICK: We live out in the country. We don’t have a ton of neighbors, but we do have one neighbor that is relatively close to us. Luckily, they don’t mind dogs barking, because otherwise we might be in trouble.
INTERVIEWER: Many that start with one dog are wondering, when do you really feel the difference? Is it between one and two dogs, between two and three, between four and six?
NICK: If you go slow, you never feel the difference.
JEANETTE: Really? [laughter]
JOY: No, I think the difference came when we added the two Greyster puppies at the same time. That’s when I think I felt the difference.
NICK: Yeah. They were actually born 3 months apart, but because one came from Australia, one came from Canada – the Australian one is older, and due to Australia’s laws, we actually could not get him until he was 4 months old instead of 2 months old like you typically get a puppy. So we got both of the Greyster puppies within about a month of each other.
JEANETTE: And what are the pros and cons of that?
NICK: I’m not sure there’s any pros of that. [laughter] The cons of that are everything that you have with one puppy – destroying shoes, potty training, they like that – you have two. The food bill.
JEANETTE: Double trouble.
NICK: Exactly. One puppy going around your house playing can be a little challenging at times. Two puppies, especially as they’re growing into large dogs, going around being rambunctious and playing, it can be interesting. They have each other to play with, and most of our huskies are very playful also, so it’s not uncommon to see three, four, five, six of them chasing each other around the yard, just in a big dog pile, wrestling.
JEANETTE: Having two puppies at the same time, does it affect the relationship they build to you when they have each other?
NICK: I don’t think so. Both of them are very focused on us. We are definitely their people. Yeah, they like to play with each other and they like the other dogs, but you give them the opportunity to hang out with us or hang out with the other dogs, probably 7 or 8 out of 10 times, they’re going to choose to hang out with us.
JEANETTE: The first day, when you’re getting either a puppy or a rescue, how does the first day for them look?
JOY: It’s scary for them. And it’s a little scary I think for us, and for the other dogs. We sort of joke sometimes – Ruger was our first, and when we bring a new dog home, does Ruger say, “Oh my gosh, you’re doing it again”? [laughs] But it’s a lot, and it’s overwhelming to come into a new home and not know any of the other animals there.
So we try to introduce them each one at a time and give them some time to get to know each dog individually. We have a dog that we start with because she is the pack leader, and if she is accepting and likes them, then usually the rest of the dogs are like “that’s great, welcome home.”
But it can be scary for particularly a rescue dog, who has maybe had some other issues in their life. A puppy, eh, they’re a puppy. But some of the rescues have struggled a little bit just because they don’t know what to expect.
NICK: And that is something good to think about with getting a rescue dog. Ask for as much information as you can get. We try to learn everything we can about the dog. That way, when we’re planning that first introduction, we know “okay, this dog has had issue with male dogs before, so therefore, let’s introduce him to all the females first, and then after that we’ll introduce the males slowly” or something. Just however the plan needs to be adapted for whatever that particularly dog needs. Just get as much information as you can.
INTERVIEWER: Do the shelters or centers get even better at sharing this information as a standard?
NICK: That’s one thing that we’ve struggled with, with a lot of shelters. Most of them are scared to tell you the problems because they want to find homes for the dogs. The one shelter that we’ve gotten three of our dogs from recognize now that when we say “tell us the problems,” we really mean tell us the problems. It’s not going to scare us away. Whereas a lot of shelters will tell you the problems, but they’re going to…
JEANETTE: Sugarcoat it?
NICK: Yeah, they’ll sugarcoat it. Exactly. I do think that is one place that a lot of shelters could work on: letting people know the dirty little secrets of every dog. Every dog has them, and as long as you know those, you can plan for them. You can research. You can figure out a way to deal with them.
JEANETTE: Yeah, I think that’s really important, because if they give a dog with a problem to somebody that doesn’t have the experience or the knowledge to handle it, then the problem just continues.
NICK: Yeah. We’ve volunteered for shelters in the past, and in fairness to them, they do have a tough job in trying to match the right dog with the right family. You go to get a dog, you know your family; you don’t know the dog that well. They know the dog really well; they don’t know your family well, and they’re having to go through the same thing. “This dog needs someone that doesn’t have a male in the household, or someone that has an active lifestyle,” or “this dog could go to an older couple,” etc. They’re trying to pick the right family for the dog, and sometimes that can be hard on their part also.
JEANETTE: If we go back to the introduction of a new dog to your dog or your pack of dogs – because that’s something that I know quite a few are struggling with – what do you do if the new dog or the other dogs in the pack react to this dog, and you have a fight or something is happening, or they don’t seem to get along?
NICK: We have a big backyard. Our backyard is divided into three sections, where we can close off gates so that the dogs can be separate, but together. We actually use that quite a bit.
In fact, that’s one problem we’ve had here recently. One of our newer female huskies does not really like – I guess I shouldn’t say “doesn’t like.” She can get scared of our alpha female. She’s got with her 99% of the time, but if – Katahdin is her name – if Katahdin is in a corner and our alpha female walks up to her, she just panics. She lashes out at Denali, our alpha female.
So we use those separate pens a lot to keep them separate, so they’re safe, but they can still be together. You’re not isolating anyone. They still smell each other. They still can interact. It’s just there’s something there to keep them safe so that they cannot get hurt or hurt each other.
JEANETTE: Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve reconsidered, “was it the right decision to get this dog into the family?”
NICK: Every dog.
Just to be brutally honest, yes, every dog there is a point where we have said “I think we screwed up.”
JOY: That’s true. Denali, our alpha female, you might consider her my dog. She was my first running partner, and she’s my girl. Denali is 8 years old. I started looking for another dog that I could use Denali to help train as she was aging and maybe thinking about retirement for her. That dog was Katahdin.
I have often thought to myself, we did all of our research, but the two of them just sometimes don’t get along. I’ve thought, was this the wrong decision to bring Katahdin home? Because my goal with her was to have Denali help train her. But it wasn’t the wrong decision. Katahdin needed us, and she’s taught us a lot too. It’s just figuring out how to manage them together.
NICK: Earlier I said that with every dog, there’s a moment – I could go through every story where that moment was with each one of our dogs. Ruger, our first one, I remember clear as day. Joy wasn’t home. I was in the bedroom with him. We were playing. We had a ball, and he started playing with the ball himself, and he threw the ball up and he almost broke some glass that we had in our bedroom.
This had been after a rough day for me, a rough day for everything, and I thought, “I really think this dog is going to destroy everything we have in our house.” He was chewing on stuff. I thought, “I wanted a malamute all this time, and I can’t handle it.” But you push through those. You find a way through those moments, and those moments will pass.
It’s happened for every one of our dogs. We’ve gotten to that point where it’s “I think we screwed up,” but you give it time. You let yourself relax. You let the dog relax also, because they’re in a new environment as well. You can get through it together with them.
JEANETTE: This might be the point where many give up and give the dog to a center or a shelter.
NICK: That’s right. In reality, if you’re at that point – this might be a little cliché, but the night’s darkest just before the dawn. If you’re at that point, you’re at the dark part of the night. The dawn is almost there. You just have to push through it.
JOY: Nick mentioned Ruger and him nearly tearing up our house. Quite honestly, now Ruger is one of our best-behaved dogs. He’s our best leader. He listens. He’s just such a caring and loving animal. But it took time, and that’s what people don’t always give a dog: time. Particularly when they bring a rescue dog home, it takes months, sometimes years, for them to feel comfortable because of some of the things they may have been through. Don’t give up on them.
JEANETTE: It’s reassuring to hear you guys, that have been working with dogs for many years, and that are competing at the high levels, say this. I think many might need to hear that you guys can have problems too.
NICK: Yeah, that’s right. With the two Greyster puppies that we’ve most recently gotten, we had the exactly same experience with both of them. Pharaoh, the first puppy, the one from Australia that we got – typical puppy stuff. He was rambunctious. This was before we had received Anarchy. We were going to get him in a couple weeks.
I had just gotten to the point where it was like, “I can barely handle one. How am I going to handle two? And I have months of this to go. How am I going to do it?” In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad.
JOY: Not now, right? [laughs] When I was younger, growing up, we had a golden retriever at home and would raise a few litters of puppies here and there. I kept thinking to myself, when Nick said, “We’re going to have two puppies at home,” I thought, “Oh…” I remember asking him, “Have you ever had a puppy at home before?” Because our golden, she would have litters of 10 to 12, so she had a lot. Nick was so excited about the puppies, and I just kept thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness, this is going to be a nightmare, having two puppies.”
JEANETTE: Reality check.
JOY: And you know what? It wasn’t easy. I think about the times that they were just being puppies, rambunctious puppies. We have a glass table in our living room, and every time I watch them go by it, I just cringe, because I’m quite sure it’s going to be broken almost every day.
But it’s the same thing. They are worth it, and they just take time. Every time I bring one of them in and I think to myself, “you are so obnoxious” or “you are so rambunctious and I wish you would just calm down,” I have to remember that they need me to teach them to not be that way. So it’s a cycle. If you’re sitting there thinking “my dog is causing all these problems, so I just stick him back outside,” he’s never going to learn. Bring him in and help him learn.
NICK: Despite the fact that we went through those points where we thought we had made a decision – we just finished the World Championships, Anarchy and I did, and we placed eleventh. I would go through all that again to have the feeling that he and I have now. Just the last day, you can tell he’s proud of himself, and I’m so proud of him.
Pharaoh is the exact same way. I’m a runner; I’m not a cyclist whatsoever, but Pharaoh and I are doing bike touring. The weekend before we came here to the World Championship, he and I had an awesome race together in bike tour. Same thing. I would not trade those hard times – I would go through those hard times 100 times again to have that feeling I had at the end of that bike tour race with Pharaoh, where we hit every corner perfect. Our top speed was faster than we’d ever gone before. All that work, it came together. And that’s only his second race.
When you add up all those little moments that you have like that over a lifetime, it’s worth going through those few rock bottom points.
One thing that I take really hard with our dogs is on occasion, we have dog fights. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does happen, I take it really personally. You look on Facebook, you look on Instagram, you look on social media, everyone’s dogs are perfect. Whenever we do have those scuffles – because I mean, it happens. People don’t get along all the time. We have our own issues, and dogs are the exact same way.
Whenever they would have their fights, I just take it so personally. What you see on social media is not real life. Everyone that has multiple dogs has scuffles, has fights from time to time. It’s realizing just because you think that someone else is perfect with their dog, they’re probably not. No one’s perfect. In fact, I guarantee you they’re not. Everyone has dog fights. Everyone has the case where their dog growls at another dog or something.
It’s about not letting that ruin your confidence, because dogs feed off your energy. If your energy becomes negative, they’re going to feed off that. And I will admit, I struggle very hard with that. It’s very hard for me to not take that personally. But Joy has to always remind me, everyone else deals with the exact same stuff that we are. Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean you failed as a dog trainer. It just means you have more work to do, which everyone does.
JOY: I think the other piece of that, too, is just remembering – well, first of all, nobody’s going to post a picture on Instagram of their two dogs that just got in a fight. They’re going to post a beautiful picture on a hike, and “my dogs are wonderful.” And of course they are, but they’re going to get into it sometimes.
When those fights or those scuffles do happen, what caused it? What was the issue? We had one, one time, over a toy. It was two males. One was playing with a toy, and the other one took his toy and that caused a problem. So how do we prevent that? How do we work on not stealing from each other and those types of things?
So it gives you a little bit of perspective, too, into how your dog is thinking. How did he feel about having his toy taken by this particular dog? Just working through those issues and just remembering, they are animals. They have instincts. Just work through it.
NICK: One thing I joke about is it’s a little bit of a pet peeve of mine when people refer to my dogs as “my kids,” because frankly, dogs are better than people in my opinion.
JEANETTE: Totally agree.
NICK: Yeah. It’s like, don’t insult my dogs by calling them people. But that’s a good thing to remember. People have issues too, with other people. Dogs are going to have issues with other dogs. It’s just part of life, and it’s just another thing you have to work through and something to remember.
JEANETTE: When you’re going to have your next dog, will it be a rescue or will it be a new puppy?
NICK: I would say more than likely, it will probably be a rescue. We haven’t gotten to that point yet, but we’ll just wait and see what we feel is the best fit for us at the time.
JEANETTE: A question that we ask everybody on this podcast is: if you had to do another dog sport, what would it be?
JOY: Honestly, I would love to do ski touring, but we rarely get any snow, and when we do get snow, we don’t have any place to ski. [laughs] So if I were in a place with some snow, I think that is the sport I would take up.
NICK: When I was in high school, I was a lifeguard. So the other dog sport I would take up would be water rescue. I think it would be really fun to have a Newfie or a lab or something and do water rescue.
JEANETTE: Thank you so much for joining us on this podcast, and good luck with all of your endeavors.
NICK: Thank you for having us.
JOY: Yes, thank you so much