About Us

Loretta (Lori) Swanson

Loretta and Hartley

Loretta and Hartley

Loretta (some folks prefer to use her nickname, Lori) Swanson began what has become a lifelong love affair with dogs when she was very young; training her first dog, a mixed breed Collie-type, to an obedience title when she was 12 years old and part of her local 4-H program. 

After competing with that dog for several years, Loretta switched her attention to Quarter Horses, where she was first introduced to the numerous benefits of using +R or positive reinforcement training.  In her part of the world, people were still using the traditional method of correction-based training on dogs but they had moved to more force-free methods for horses, the primary rationale seeming to be that if a horse resists having corrections applied to it, it can kill the trainer.

A couple decades or so filled with all kinds of equestrian events and several show horses passed quickly and after completing graduate school, Loretta adopted a mixed breed rescue pup and went back to her former dog training club to teach the pup some manners and maybe even perform a little obedience work with him.  She was rather dismayed to find they were still advocating the use of “choke” and “pinch” collars (although they now couched them as “training” collars). 

So, despite the dirty looks she got from instructors and once even having the trainer tell the rest of the class “Oh, that’s Loretta over there, she does her own thing so just try to ignore her,” Loretta trained her new dog as she had her horses, by giving him rewards for his good behavior.  This led to a succession of dogs trained and shown in obedience trials using positive methods (and several frustrated instructors!).

Loretta's Jack

In 2006 Loretta adopted a young adult Dalmatian, Jack, who was very fearful, so fearful in fact that he didn’t respond well to her usual methods of training.  She made the rounds of canine behaviorists in the Midwest with Jack and one suggested using a clicker to work on his issues. 

While she had heard about clicker training before, she had never used it but she loved Jack and was willing to do anything she could to help him live a less fearful life.  That began her immersion in all things clicker (as well as all things behavior) which eventually led her to completing the Karen Pryor Academy in the spring of 2012 and earning the distinction of Certified Training Partner, or KPA CTP.

Jack, soaking up the sun on his favorite agility obstacle, in one of the Spot on Dogs play yards.

While working with Jack, Loretta observed that massage seemed to help him calm down and cope with the world better.  So off she went to learn Canine Massage Therapy!  She has accumulated well over 400 hours of massage therapy training and experience, which she now shares with the dogs in her care.  Soon she will be testing to become a Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapist.

The same scientifically proven methods she uses to train and massage dogs are incorporated into her Day Care and Boarding programs.

As a lifelong educator (in her previous career she was the Undergraduate Coordinator for the School of Art at Northern Illinois University), helping folks learn to understand their dogs and train them to live together in harmony comes naturally to her. 

When Loretta isn’t working with dogs, she works as a freelance art historian, teaching art history and art appreciation courses at several colleges in Northern Illinois as well as online and lecturing/curating exhibits at regional museums.  She also continues to be a productive studio artist.


Blah, blah, blah . . . good grief that woman can carry on, can’t she?  Finally, we get to the most important employee of Spot on Dogs – ME.  That’s UCH URO1 Aberdeen’s Bob Hartley RN, TDI, TT, to be official.  The way she made it sound, she does all the work around here.  Well folks, I’m here to tell you that’s just not true!  I spend all day (and sometimes all night too) with my friends who visit us at Spot on Dogs.

I play with them, nap with them, eat with them and what does she do?  She observes them!  I’m the one who stands between two dogs having a disagreement to diffuse the situation, until they forget what it was they were disagreeing about.  I’m the one who helps undersolcialized dogs learn to play correctly.  I’m the one who helps fearful dogs understand that things like fireworks and thunderstorms really won’t hurt them.  I’m the one throwing calming signals left and right in the middle of a rowdy playtime to keep everyone safe and happy.

When I’m not taking care of her business for her, I go to dog shows and strut my stuff in the conformation ring as well as the rally obedience ring (see? beauty and brains!).

Hartley headshot

Yep, that handsome face is me!

So what do all those letters around my name mean? Well, the UCH means that I’ve completed my conformation championship in the UKC (the United Kennel Club) and the URO1 means I’ve earned a title in the first level of UKC rally obedience.  The RN means that I’ve completed my nursing certificate.  She’s gonna take that out, I just know it.  So I’ll tell you that it really means I’ve completed my AKC (American Kennel Club) novice rally obedience title.

The TDI means I’ve passed my Therapy Dogs International test and am a therapy dog.  I don’t go to a lot of hospitals and stuff.  Instead, I’m a Tail Waggin’ Tutor and I go to schools and libraries and let kids read to me.  A reading dog is a great way for kids to improve their reading skills, since we don’t judge or correct them.  We just love them!

And the TT tells everyone that I’ve passed the American Temperament Testing Societies really hard temperament test (they even fired a gun near me, but it didn’t phase me!).

Hartley playing with a toy Dalmatian

I love, love, love to play - even if it's just with a stuffed dog!

I’m also a Low Uric Acid (LUA) Dalmatian and so I spend a lot of time promoting other Dalmatians like me because that’s one of the things that makes me so special.  I’m a special Dalmatian because I make pure wee wee (but my “mom” says that’s not the polite way to say it – she says I should tell people that I produce urine that is normal uric acid.

You see, most Dalmatians produce urine that is high in uric acid (HUA), which is totally different from all other breeds of dogs.  Yep, that’s right; Dalmatians are the only breed of dog with a genetic defect that makes them produce urine that is high in uric acid.  Mom says humans with something called gout are similar to them.  And high uric acid urine can lead to lots of health problems like the formation of bladder stones (which really, really hurt, cost humans lots and lots of money to fix, and can even kill a boy like me).

But, back in the olden days (1973!) a human geneticist, Robert Schaible PhD., bred one Dalmatian to one English Pointer (uh huh, that’s right, only one Pointer, one time,  touched sainted
Dalmatian bloodlines ever!).  And guess what?  They produced dogs that didn’t have the genetic mutation!  The breeding program continues today with more and more Dalmatians being added to the mix (even though I think they hit the jackpot with me!).

I was born in 2008 and lil’ ol’ me is part of the 13th generation of Dalmatians since that remarkable night 25 years ago when two young, mismatched lovers united toward the common goal of creating a healthier Dalmatian.  Well, okay, they probably weren’t thinking about fixing the genetic defect the entire time they were together, but, hey, whatever; it worked.

Genetic testing done by scientists at the University of California Davis and published in the peer reviewed journal PLoS Genetics has verified that I do not carry the nasty high uric acid gene (they call it a mutation of the SLC2A9 gene).

When I’m a daddy, I have a good chance of passing my healthy genes on to my little ones.  And they will pass them on to theirs, and so on and so on and so on.  See why I’m so special?  What, you thought I was just a handsome face with a wiggly bum?  Yeah, I’m all that too!

Friends and Family

Gee whiz, to listen to Hartley tell it, you’d think he single handedly runs the whole show!  Well, even with his help (and he truly is great with visiting dogs), Spot on Dogs could not operate with just him and Loretta.  They get a lot of help and support from some really great friends and family who make sure all the Spot on Dogs get the best possible care, always.

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