Later edit: I was notified that some of the video links weren't working. I think they all are now, but please do notify me if any of them don't?

So there's this thing called patellar tracking disorder which, if you are a middle-aged or older woman, is apparently something you have to watch out for. In a nutshell: the muscles that hold the patella, or knee cap, in the right place for your knee joint can weaken to the point that the patella sort of drifts away from where it should be — and ends up rubbing painfully against other bones in the knee. It was not something I knew about, but I've become intimately acquainted with it in the past couple of months. Did I mention painful?

According to my doctor, for two to three weeks I needed to stop any running or twisting motions with my knees — which effectively wiped out my agility training with Goldie, and my ATS bellydancing. Drat! Fortunately, the "fix" for patellar tracking disorder is relatively simple: exercise. So I did the doctor-recommended exercises for about two weeks, and one of my wonderful housemates gave me my Solstice gift a little early: a gym membership with a trainer! I've consequently been working out there for the past three weeks or so, and now I am deeply pleased to report that my knee is doing much better! It's funny, though, how often physical and mental issues I have are resolved by exercise. Geez, you'd think maybe I should, like… do it routinely or something! ;)

So because I wasn't able to do any agility training with Goldie I decided I would do some other type of work with her, so she wouldn't get bored. It had to be something we could do inside, where I wouldn't be required to move around too much — so I chose trick dog training. I'd been idly training her to do tricks to relax in between agility training elements, after all, for the past two or three years, and it was clear she enjoyed doing them… so surely it wouldn't be too much of a change for her?

The funny thing is, I'd never heard of trick dog titles before a month ago. I mean, I knew you could train your dog to do tricks, but not that they were titles the AKC would recognize. But as it turns out there is a woman named Kyra Sundance (love her name!) who trains Weimaraners to perform tricks using just positive reinforcement, which I am now a huge fan of. She's put out several nicely thorough books on training your dog to do tricks — her system is called Do More With Your Dog — and set up a certification system to encourage folks to (effectively) do more with their dogs… and the AKC decided to recognize it, and have a program of their own as well.

What she does is have you perform a certain number of tricks for each title, and then have someone accredited witness it, and that's how you get your titles. The AKC recognizes the DMWYD accreditations, and it cost about $20 for title regardless of which group you go with, so I'm going to support the woman-owned business. Once Goldie is an Expert Trick Dog I will send in the request for her to be recognized as such by the AKC. Pretty cool!

Goldie & her NTD certificate

Goldie & her NTD certificate

So Goldie & I have started doing some more focused trick dog training with an eye towards getting her some "alphabet soup" after her name. Luckily some of the agility elements (e.g.: the teeter or the weave poles) are considered "tricks." Thus we blew through her Novice, Intermediate, and even Advanced Trick Dog titles pretty quickly — so she's now my Golden Girl NTD, ITD, & ATD!

I'm very proud of my beautiful, clever girl right now! The Novice and Intermediate certificates have arrived in the mail already, and I've included both pictures of her titles below, as well as the official videos of several of the tricks she did. Her Advanced certificate is on its way — doubtless slowed down by holiday traffic — but once it arrives I'll post that one too.

Here's the first batch of tricks by Goldie for her Novice Trick Dog title! They include, in order, a come that got slightly cut off by the video taking a while to start, then a sit up pretty, down, sit, stay, paws up on her mark, nose touch to hand, high-five, shake hands, bow, crawling low to the ground, figure 8 through my legs, and a "leave it" for food! That was 13 of the 15 tricks needed for the title — though I later redid the come and sit up pretty so they could be more easily seen.

Two more very short videos show the tricks Goldie did that I think look the cutest: the "Have you been naughty?" trick, where you unfortunately can't really hear me, but can certainly see Goldie's (unrepentant) enthusiasm for hiding her face! — and the "Say your prayers!" trick. Amusingly enough, as it turned out I taught Goldie the trick incorrectly — she's supposed to lower her nose down between and below her forelegs — but I still think it's awful cute! I'll have more videos tomorrow for the later-earned titles!

We're currently on our way to getting Goldie her Expert Trick Dog title — only four tricks to go! — which will make both she and I very proud! She seems to really enjoy learning and performing the tricks, too — which is great as far as I'm concerned. If I can't keep her running around madly with me in agility training, at least I can keep her brain running just as fast, as she learns the new tricks. Of course, I suspect the multiple treats don't hurt any either. ;)

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