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One Woman, Many Roles

Patti Muraczewski - Caring About Animals in Sheltersand Family Pets

By Kathy Edstrom

Patti Muraczewski of For Pet’s Sake Dog Training School has been involved with the Wisconsin Federated Humane Society since the early 1980’s when she became the director of the Elm-Brook Humane Society. She joined their board of directors in the late 80’s, and has been on the board for 15 years.

According to Muraczewski, “Many people aren’t aware that this organization exists. This is a statewide organization. Our main purpose is to increase the level of professionalism for humane societies through education and networking. The group also monitors animal welfare legislation.”

Currently, Patti Muraczewski supervises the Wisconsin Federated Humane Society’s website: www.member.petfinder.org/~wisfedhs/ She writes for the quarterly newsletter and organizes their representation during the Wisconsin State Fair. Patti also serves on a mentoring committee where they are trying to improve the sharing that societies can do with each other throughout the state and eventually throughout the Midwest.

What would Muraczewski like to see happen with the care and training that takes place within the humane societies around the country? “I believe we are on the right path in many ways. There definitely has been an emphasis on temperament evaluations for pets going up for adoption. This was never done in a formal fashion during my early years in humane work. This is an effort to better evaluate any major areas of concern in the particular animal’s behavior. The emphasis is on quality adoptions for both health and temperament.”

Muraczewski went on to say, “There is a national movement towards what is popularly termed ‘no-kill’ shelters and this is a concern for many of us in humane work. Like Roger Caras said, ‘We are responsible for anything we domesticate...forever.’ We need to be equally responsible for the quality of life, not just an existence, that we provide for that animal.” Roger Caras authored over 40 books on nature and the environment. He was the President of ASPCA until he passed awayin 2001.

Why should people adopt a pet from an animal shelter rather than purchasing a pet from a breeder? Patti believes there is a “why” and “when” to this question. I asked her to explain.

“Humane society personnel and breeders have often been at odds throughout the years over responsibility of surplus of animals. There is no question that careless breeding practices and puppy mills are a major problem in this country. However, the numbers of responsible breeders I have known surpassed the number of irresponsible breeders. When looking for a particular breed I am very glad there are knowledgeable and caring breeders out there. The answer to the ‘why’ of this question is because there are many outstanding puppies, kittens, dogs and cats coming through shelters looking for homes every day. The ‘when’ in the original question is when you are looking for a good companion and possibly a performance pet, but are not looking to breed or necessarily show through a kennel club.”

Muraczewski has two foster Bichon frises’. One dog originated at a puppy mill and the other from a well-respected breeder. She says both are equally capable of providing someone as a loving companion. Her point, “Many types of dogs come through rescue groups and shelters. Some mixed breeds as well as purebreds. Animals in this environment are often at higher risk of being euthanized after a period of time due to space and/or not thriving well in a high stress environment.”

Patti believes in most shelters you are truly getting a great economical deal. Many shelters include spay and neutering, vaccinations, fecal testing and not uncommonly heartworm testing for under $90. “At this price”, Patti said, “We can put more of our hard-earned money into dog toys...right?”

There are many canine sports available for people to train their pets in. Patti Muraczewski and her husband, Ed, currently train and show in the sport of Obedience, Conformation, Agility, Flyball and occasionally Tracking. Patti says she is pursuing Canine Freestyle, but not for competition, just for fun. (Freestyle and Trick training help the handler to prompt and shape behavior. The dog can learn body awareness and it is mentally challenging to the dog.)

Patti said she had two dogs throughout her childhood and teenage years, but adopted her first “very own” dog in 1976. Patti described this dog as “a mixed breed Wisconsin Humane Society special”. She started training immediately and became an instructor one year later.

I asked Patti to discuss some of the various canine sports that people can train their pets in. Here was her response.

“Obedience training is not really a sport, but more a way of life. We do use this for practical control (door dashing, food stealing, walking on leash, etc.) as well as competitive Obedience (heel, long sit, etc.) for showing your dog through a kennel club. Obedience is good for basic control, reducing aggression and better communication between pet owners and their pets (which is a stress reliever for both parties).

Conformation training is for showing through a kennel club, but this time the emphasis is on the dog’s appearance and how well they follow the breed standard.

Flyball is an up and coming sport where a team of four dogs races over hurdles to hit a ball launcher. The dog has to grab the ball and return over the hurdles where then the next dog is released. It is great fun training and for exercise. We compete nationally and have developed some wonderful friendships throughout the years. Flyball can teach focus, retrieving and in some cases reduces dog-to-dog aggression. Handlers learn a great deal about problem solving.

Agility can be for fun and/or competition (but yet it should always be fun). This sport is obstacle course racing where the dog learns to maneuver tunnels, walks, teeters, jumps in a controlled and preset manner. This sport stimulates the dog mentally and physically. More importantly it is a wonderful confidence builder. Agility is also good for control and is a wonderful lesson for the handler on body language.”

“All of the above”, Muraczewski added, “If done right, should dramatically increase the bond between the dog and the handler.” She also stressed that training a pet in a particular sport does not mean you have to compete, but does provide the tools you need if you should choose to compete with your canine companion. She said, “The emphasis is simply enjoying your dog!”

When Patti is training, her belief is to train with knowledge, love and patience. If the dog doesn’t enjoy the activity, she suggests finding something else the dog will enjoy. Patti also noted “All sports will take its toll on the dog in some way, as it does people. Be aware of your dog’s structural weakness so not to over work the dog or push them beyond their capabilities. Dog ownership can be expensive. Dog showing is more expensive but expense should not be spared for regular check ups, structural assessments, needed x-rays and alignments for the athletic dog.”

I asked Patti when a person should not train their dog in a particular canine sport. Her response, “Definitely training should be discontinued when it is not in the best interest of the dog. Whether it is for health reasons or the dog’s lack of desire. Also, if the handler doesn’t enjoy the activity this will be communicated to the dog. In those cases, owners should realize sometimes it is better to let someone else work with your dog or switch to a different activity.”

Muraczewski’s final thoughts on dog training: “Do it right! Association of Pet Dog Trainers has a list of trainers that are members and/or certified through their organization in your area. This is an organization that promotes reward based, humane training.Lastly, do it early! If training is started when the pup is young, many bad habits can be prevented.”

About Patti Muraczewski, CPDT

Patti has over 25 years experience in dog training. She is a certified judge for the American Mixed Breed Association, and is a Therapy Dog International Evaluator. Patti recently received her certification as a dog trainer through the Associationof Pet Dog Trainers. She has earned numerous Obedience titles in AKC, UKC, SKC including a Dog World Award. Several years ago her Bichon, Keshka, ranked third in the country for Obedience and sixth in Agility. Snafu is currently third in the country for Novice Agility and fourth in the country for Flyball.

 

To learn more about Patti, visit her website.

Published May 2002