Sara Carson: Super Dog Tricks

            Your dog may have been working hard to convince you that old—or even oldish–dogs can’t learn new tricks, but Sara Carson, who with her Super Collies has appeared on such shows as America’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent The Champions knows better.

            Considered among the best, the Lexington, Kentucky based international trick dog trainer shows how we can easily train Fido to perform an amazing amount of tricks from very simple to what appear to be circus level performances. It’s all in her new book, Super Dog Tricks: Make Your Dog a Super Dog with Step by Step Tricks and Training Tips (Quarry Books 2022, $22.99).

            “Anyone can do it,” Carson tells me when we chat on the phone. I’m a little doubtful because despite my degrees in psychology I never could even get a rat to run a maze. But her book, full of step-by-step explanations and detailed techniques is easy to follow. It breaks down into such categories as Super Simple Tricks (leash training, rolling over, and taking a bow) to Super Trick Dog. That’s the chapter where Carson shows how to train your dog to do a walking handstand, jump rope, and skateboard.

            “It’s really simple,” says Carson, who tells me that this winter she’s already been able to teach one of her dogs to turn the handle on a jack-in-the box toy until it pops open in three days.

            Of course, some dogs take longer at it.

            “They’ve to have the drive,” she says. “Some dogs have more drive than others.”

            To develop that drive, Carson uses several techniques including Free Shaping where she just sits with a big handful of treats and as the dog approximates the right moves, offers one up.

            Carson is a serious dog lover. After getting her first pet when she was 11, she was so determined to add more to her menagerie, that she opened up a pet daycare when she was 14. The first month she had 3 dogs she was training and by the end of the second month she was training 40 in agility, obedience, and puppy tricks.

            But not in her home in Toronto where she grew up. Her parents, less dog loving than she, thought one at home was enough. Now she currently has three of her Super Collies (typically Border Collies) and a cat at home with her. At one time she had six.

            Border Collies and Border Collie mixes, known for being super smart, are easy to work with and good for showing.

            “They have the stamina to learn and perform as they’re bred to guard sheep for hours and hours at a time,” she says.

            Hero, one of her dogs, broke the Guinness World Record in 2018 for most dog tricks performed in one minute by completing 49 in just 60 seconds. That was double from the previous record holder.

            The idea for the book came during the pandemic when she and the dogs—and cat—weren’t traveling to performances in her RV. She wanted to teach everyone how to have fun with their pet and also train them. Whether you want to have your dog jump rope or bounce with four feet off the floor is up to you. But the trick where they put their toys away certainly works for me.

Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home

9781101947012

When six-year-old Gonker, a much loved family pet decided to do some typical canine spontaneous off-site exploring when navigating the Appalachian Trail with his owner Fielding Marshall, he was expected to shortly return. But after a while, though repeatedly calling the six-year old Golden Retriever’s name, Marshall began to worry that his dog was lost.

To make it even more serious, Gonker suffered from Addison’s—a serious disease that effects dogs and is characterized by a deficient production of glucocorticoids and/or mineralocorticoids. If Gonker doesn’t get the necessary hormone medication needed to control the disease, he will die within 23 days.

The story of the search for Gonker is told by Marshall’s brother-in-law, journalist Pauls Toutonghi in his compelling book, Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home (Knopf 2016; $25).

It’s a tale of a family’s search to find their dog in time and also of how, after Fielding’s mother, Virginia, sets up a command center, the community and ultimately the country. Indefatigable—she long had mourned the loss of her own dog decades ago, Virginia uses a map and phone book to jump start what will become a nationwide network of those wanting to help find and save Gonker.

Relentlessly contacting radio stations, park rangers, animal shelters, the police and local retail stores, Gonker’s disappearance and the family’s search gets a write-up in a local newspaper where it is picked up by AP. Before long the nation is offering their help in finding the missing dog.

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