Thursday, July 29, 2010

It Was Bound to Happen


Ominous sounding title, isn't it.;o) Yesterday was my birthday. I finally hit the big 3-0. So I guess that it was bound to happen. There's just no escaping getting older. Thankfully I don't feel horribly freaked out like I remember my mom feeling when she hit this age. And also thankfully, I had a really laid back day yesterday. It was great!

I started off the day like any normal day. I got up at my regular time and Wednesday morning is an obedience morning, so we went down to the local middle school and worked on a few things there. Both dogs did great and it was the perfect start to the day. When we were done, we all had breakfast and then settled down to just relax for a bit. I had been going back and forth on the idea of going into work late that day. I originally was planning on taking the dogs out to the lake so that we could do some swimming. However, the lake isn't really warmed up to the point where I would have a whole lot of fun swimming in it. And swimming in the lake definitely requires a shower afterwards, especially if I'm going back in to work and that's just too much effort. I finally decided that yes, spending an hour romping around at the lake with the dogs was how I wanted to spend my morning. I called in and told them that I would be coming in late, and off I went with the dogs.:)
We hit a couple different spots and had a really nice, laid back morning. Bess was finally allowed off leash and was loving it as you can tell from the above picture! We pretty much had the place to ourselves aside from a few fishermen in boats who were already out on the lake. Oh yeah, and the two guys who had just beached their boat that the dogs slightly startled.;) Here are some of the pictures from our morning.







My darling husband also had a dozen red roses and some balloons sent to me at work! Awwwwwww!! Major bonus points on that one! Then in the evening we went out to a nice sushi restaurant in Portland. For desert we went to The Melting Pot, which has the BEST fondue. Their desert fondue is beyond words. I ate so much that I still feel full this morning. I'm calling it a food hangover.

You probably won't hear anything from us until Sunday or Monday evening. We leave to go camping in the morning (we haven't been REAL tent camping in four years!!) and tonight we've got a whole lot of prepping to do. I hope that everyone has a fantastic weekend and I'll be sure to have more pictures to share when we get back!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blogger Tuesday

My pick for Blog of the Week is el Loco & el Lobo!! This blog is about the life of Mike and his malamute Munson. It started off as the log of his European travels with his previous malamute Bondi, but with Bondi's passing, Munson has taken up the torch. Most recently Mike has moved from Australia (where he moved to after his original European travels) back to Europe. He has some lovely pictures of the villages and country sides that they get to visit. And it's just really cool to read about the many dog friendly places within the towns that Munson gets to join Mike in. So head on over and check them out!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Comparatively Speaking...

Every time I catch myself making comparisons of things that I do, or things that I have/haven't achieved to what others have done or are doing, I try to stop and think the whole thing through. Sometimes this can be beneficial, and sometimes it can be self defeating or self destructive. I think that it's something that comes up a lot in the dog world. Regardless of whether you compete or not at all, I think we're constantly comparing how our dogs are, what they do, how they do it, or what we've done with them to the same things that other people have done with their dogs. From things as simple as envying people who's dogs don't go into a barking fit when someone knocks at the door, to wondering why you haven't achieved some coveted title when someone else you know has achieved it in less time and experienced fewer difficulties. We're always comparing and contrasting.

I think that this can be potentially helpful if you have a positive role model or something positive to strive to achieve. If there is someone who is doing great things with their dog(s) within your breed and you would like to go down a similar path, they could definitely give you something positive to strive for. If you go about it with the right attitude and keep your focus on achieving your goals and how to get to that point, I think that comparisons can be helpful.

It's when we start to compare ourselves to someone else and it starts to become self defeating, that things can take a turn for the worse. For instance, there's someone possibly within your sport or your breed who is achieving things that you would also like to achieve. They managed to get to the level they're at within a few short months, while it's taking you those same months just to get out of the novice level. Things could get very frustrating if you start to beat yourself up for not being able to achieve the same thing in the same amount of time. Worse yet, you could start to take your frustrations/disappointments out on your dog, whether in training or in competition. It can start slowly, but it's an ugly path.

The thing of it is, every person is an individual and every dog is an individual. Just because someone who got their dog at the same time that you did, got the same breed, and from the same litter, that doesn't mean that both dogs will be able to necessarily achieve the same feats, or in the same time frame. Every person has different constraints on their time. Every person has different things going on in their lives that will influence the outcome. And every dog has their own personal quirks, likes, and dislikes that will present various training or just every day living challenges. Not every person is going to experience the same problem. Not every dog/handler team will experience the same triumphs.

In my own rambling way I guess that I'm just trying to say to compare yourself to others only when it will lead to positive things. Only you know what is truly going on with yourself and your dog and only you can make the judgement calls that are best for you both. Surround yourself with those who will genuinely be happy for you, encourage you, help to build you up, and be a support system to you when you are having your down times. Leave the negative comparisons and the negative people by the way side because they will only serve to tear you down. You and your dog are individuals and that, in and of itself should be something to be proud of!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

MUCH Better!

Well, I thankfully redeemed myself today! We had a more involved course and I managed to not skip any of the stations! Hooray! Not only that, but we qualified with a score of 95 and a second place!! Bess was so good! Especially considering that we started off the course with the off-set figure 8. Yeah, that was kind of a harsh way to start the course and there were a few dogs in both advanced and excellent (that's how she started the excellent people too) that didn't do so well on that station. It was also a little tricky going over the broad jump into a halt. You sort of build up momentum, only to have to real it back in quickly in time to halt at the next station. So overall I'm quite happy with how we did.:o)

I got a third place with Mia in her class, so not much there. Though I am happy to say that two of Mia's brothers finished this weekend! Morpheus finished yesterday and Abu finished today. Mia's sister Mable also picked up a major today by going Best of Winners. The Daynakin family did very well this weekend!:)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

D'oh!

The title of this post is perfectly appropriate. I'm talking smacking hand to forehead perfect! Which is actually what I did at the end of our beautiful advanced debut run when the judge told me that I had skipped a station. D'oh!!! I walked the course and included every station when I walked it. Granted, it's a lot easier to just follow the crowd when you're walking it and not really pay attention to the numbers. Which is what I should have done. It was station #3 that we skipped. That's right, right at the beginning. Bess did so well too! She was a happy girl! The judge liked her too and told me that I have a lovely working dog.....BUT, I skipped a station. He said that he knew I was going to be bummed about it. And I was. Regardless, Bess did great! In a way I'm sort of glad that we got an DQ because now we have a chance at a better score for our first advanced score of record. I ended up redoing the fast station because I kind of got her a little too riled up for it and she decided to race me to the next station and then run out a bit. She was very excited and I was concerned for just a moment that she was going to do zoomies around the ring. But she came back to me, we redid the station, and it was a beautifully heeling fast.:) So I'm happy even though I DQed us!

Unfortunately I didn't do anything with Mia today in conformation. Hers was the biggest class and she has decided that she doesn't want me to stack her rear. She does some wonderful front pivots just as I start to lean down to try and stack those feet. She's definitely got it down to a science and will even sometimes start pivoting once I have her front stacked. It's something that I'll have to work on. Georgia gave me some tips of things to try and I think it's just going to take repetition.


Tomorrow is another day and I'm really hoping that I can bring my happy girl into the ring and we can have a qualifying run!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Obedience Lesson

This morning the dogs and I had our obedience lesson. We're trying some new methods to try and tweak things a bit. Basically trying to figure out what will get the best, most precise, most animated performance out of the dogs. Soooooooooo.....we got rid of the food rewards and were working strictly with toys. It was a little rough, but I think that in the end we'll have a better finished product that will hold up better. The doesn't mean that I'm nixing food rewards all together on everything. I'm going to start small and work my way up with the toy rewards so that obedience is beyond fun for both the dogs!

What we're going to do is take it back to basics. I'm going to start with heeling. We're going to heel a few steps, halt, and then reward with the toy. I KNOW that they're sits, Heffner especially, can be faster when they're motivated. And while food is definitely motivating, Heffner gets a LOT more animated with toys. Gradually I work longer heeling patterns before they get released to play with the toy. And then I'll also be working it into the various other exercises.

And to be perfectly honest, that is what we spent the majority of the hour working on with the dogs. I know that it sounds simple enough, but there were a lot of things that had to be tried out and when I switch dogs, it starts all over again. For Heffner, it was a matter of finding the right toy that was both exciting, but not sooooo exciting that he was absolutely obsessed. Thankfully I had a variety of toys in the truck to try out. The cuz toys are a no go. He gets over the top excited. As in doing vertical leaps over my head excited. Yeah, that just doesn't work for heeling. We settled on a different solid toy and he was quite happy with that, but would also still come to me and drop it. I think that once he figures out that I'm asking him for the same maneuvers, but there's a play session at the end, he's going to be all sorts of prancy pony.:o)

With Bess, I used a soft toy, because she loves them. I have yet to find a toy that she is so over the top for that she won't give it up. Don't get me wrong, she'll get plenty excited, but she always comes back to me and always gives it up. The down side of a soft toy is that she can rip the seams and send fluff every where. Not quite as advantageous.

The other thing that our instructor wants me to figure out and define is what command I'm going to use for getting into a seated heel position, excluding the right finish. Do I want to use the word "swing" like I have been when I'm specifically practicing a left finish from the front position or do I want to use the "get in" command like I have been when we're doing right pivots or I want them to get in closer? I'm going to have to ponder that one. In essence, I'm using two commands for the same positioning. Regardless of where they are, I want them in that left hand seated heel position. The reason for defining this is that we're going to start proofing both dogs understanding of the command. I'm going to start setting them up in a variety of positions. Once we're both situated, I'm going to give the command and I want for them to KNOW where that position is regardless of where they're positioned in reference to me. This is actually something that Jackson's mom has posted a video about before. I believe that it was titled finding heel position. It makes a lot more sense now. And it's a great way to test whether the dogs actually understand the command or whether they're just feeding off of your specific body language. Essentially we're making them think and be actually responsible for the movements.

It's definitely a lot for us to work on. That in addition to reworking how both dogs sit should make things interesting. I've also kind of had to rethink my goals of where I want the dogs to be. I've mentioned previously that with regards to obedience, I want the dogs to be completely ready before we enter the ring. I want to get good scores, not just barely passing scores. I think that it's definitely achievable with both dogs, it's just going to take longer than I had originally thought it would. There's so many things to tweak and play with! And it's REALLY important to get this stuff correct right now because I won't be satisfied with just a CD on either dog (though a CD may be as far as Heffner goes). I want to keep going upwards. And if I'm going to do that, then this foundation work is incredibly important. I have a picture in my mind of the type of performances that I want out of the dogs and I know that it's achievable, it's just going to take time to get there. That, and Bess still needs more time to get those chest muscles in better working order. While on the outside she looks like she's quite healed up, I can tell from her movements and certain times that she takes minor hesitations where she normally wouldn't, that things are still getting readjusted internally and there's still rehabbing work to be done there.

I kind of had to give myself that little reality check on the drive home from the lesson this morning. I had been getting myself pumped up about a trial in August that I was planning on entering Bess in obedience in. I was starting to get myself mentally prepared for where we needed to be at that point to put in the performance that I know she's capable of. As I've started to work myself up to that trial, I can feel myself starting to get nit picky with Bess in a way that isn't productive. I've been bordering on getting frustrated with her in regular training sessions and that's just not productive for her. I've started to build the pressure and raise my expectations for her, when in reality, I need to chill the he** out and let her finish recovering. Once I feel that she's FULLY recovered, then I can start doing the real nit picking, but I need to remind myself to do it in a manner that is productive and won't stress out my dog. There's also the double wammy of the trial being on grass. I could feel a little stress building up over that as well. I so badly want to have a great performance with her, but I really need to hold myself back and actually wait until the time is actually right to enter her. Entering her in a trial in August on grass, is too soon on a substrate that she's already shown a dislike for working obedience exercises on. So I'm waiting. At least we've got rally going for us! It gives me an opportunity to get in the ring and try things out in an actual trial.

So that's where we're at. And this weekend we've got a dog show!! I'm showing miss Mia in conformation and I've got Bess entered in advanced rally. It'll be our first time in the advanced rally ring! I feel pretty good about all the exercises except for the 180 degree left pivot. But I can usually warm her up enough with 90 degree pivots ahead of time that we can kind of stumble through the 180 degree. Wish us luck and I'll be sure to report!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conditioning

For this month's conditioning exercise, I decided to video some of the balancing and weight shifting that I have the dogs do centered around the jumbo core disc. You can easily start out small and then add in a variety of things to work a few or all of their muscles. Any time they have to balance on anything, they're working and strengthening muscle groups. When you add in different moves where they have to maintain their balance, or shift their weight, they're exercising different muscle groups. It's really fun to play around with! Here's the video I put together.




I started off the video by showing a quit bit on how I got them started on the giant disc. I put the disc between myself and a solid structure so that they essentially had a limited area of movement. Sort of shaping how I wanted them to get on. They both caught on to that pretty quickly. Next was just getting them to walk over the disc. They're used to putting their front feet on everything that I set down in front of them. So I just had to get them to continue walking over the disc first. When they were walking over it, I made sure to emphasize them having to place their rear feet on it. Once they got used to that, I started having them pause with just their rear feet on the disc. After that, I got them to start sitting on it. This really only took a couple of sessions for them to really get the idea of what I was trying to have them do. Bess caught on quicker than Heffner did. But she's like that.;o)

Once I got them balancing fine in a sit on the disc against the "wall" I decided to move it out into the middle of the floor to really test their balancing skills. After they got the hang of that, I started testing their balance skills with a simple shifting of weight. In this case, I had them shaking my hand with alternating paws. It took them a few tries at first to figure out that I wanted to shake my hand, but also keep their bums firmly balanced on the disc. It seemed like once they figured that out, I could throw all sorts of things at them and they understood that the basic requirement was that their rear end stay on the disc and they balance accordingly.

When they had the whole hand shaking down pat, I had to figure out what to try next. Since I was focusing on transferring weight and maintaining balance, I wanted to see what they could do while standing up. I needed to start them out on something pretty easy so that they could just focus on what their rear was doing. I pulled out my taped up phone book (we do a lot of pivoting on this thing so they very happily and pretty much automatically put their front feet on it) for them to place their front feet on while balancing their rear feet on the disc. They caught on really quick. From there I started walking from side to side. Since they're always watching me and waiting for that cookie, they're having to shift their weight accordingly to watch me and still maintain balance. I love this exercise because I can really see their muscles working.

From there, I decided that I was going to increase the difficulty a bit and give them an unstable surface to balance their front feet on in addition to having their rear feet on the balance disc. This was a little trickier and requires more effort, but they still very happily participate. I don't do a lot of me walking around them right now when they have two balancing objects. I want them really strong with me stationary before I add movement in.

It's been a while since I ordered the giant balance disc, so I don't remember exactly where I got it from. I do know that Clean Run sells something similar, just slightly different. I use the disc with the bumpy side up. The "spikes" kind of look uncomfortable, but I tried them with my own bare feet and they bend quite easily and neither of the dogs seem to mind them. I like them because they give the dogs a little more traction than the smooth side. And as I mentioned, for stationary object, I use a taped up phone book. It works really well and lasts a long time. The object that I used for their front feet when I increased the difficulty, I used the 12 in. balance pod sold by Clean Run. This also has "spines" but they are very rounded and comfortable to the touch.

Hopefully I've explained everything that I did well enough, but if anyone does have questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I will answer you to the best of my ability!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Coconut Oil

Before I get into the meat of this post, first I'll talk about how I stumbled upon coconut oil as a beneficial supplement for dogs. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Heffner came down with colitis. It was really unpleasant and he was obviously feeling horrible. We went to see the vet he was prescribed sulfasalazine for 10 days. However, I only ended up getting 5 days worth of it. I didn't realize this until we were practically out. He was doing so well on the medication that I figured it shouldn't be a huge deal. However, two days off of the meds and his colon got angry again. I called the vet. My vet is on vacation, but the fill-in vet was going to look over his case. Retrospectively I realize that I didn't emphasize enough then that Heffner had run OUT of his medication and had been off of it for two days. I think the vet was under the impression, from the relayed message, that it had just cropped back up while still on the medication. I had requested to get a full 10 days worth of the medication and not just the remaining 5 days worth. However, in the confusion, I only got 5 days worth. Okay. I was hoping that would do the trick.

Well, it didn't. Two days off the meds and Heffner's colon is angry again. I called the vet today and we got things figured out. He's now on a different medication, metronidazole, for 7 days. Hopefully this will kick the problem all together. Thankfully we just had the one accident over night and there wasn't anything for me to clean up when I got home from work.

As happens in most cases, when you're having problems with something, you tend to become more aware and more receptive to alternative solutions. My friend Shana recommended slippery elm to me. It's supposed to help soothe the intestinal tract. The only problem I found with it is that it's not recommended to take the supplement with other medications. Since he's getting his meds twice a day, that doesn't really leave me a whole lot of other options as to when to give it to him. I did pick up a bottle, and I do plan on trying it out with him (if nothing else, I figure it's a good supplement to have on hand for the dogs when we travel to help fend off any possible travel related diarrhea), but I'll wait until after he's off his meds.


I was reading a magazine the other day and I just happened to come across an article talking about coconut oil. I like reading random articles about using random things to help our pets and this was something that I knew absolutely nothing about and hadn't really heard anything previously about giving dogs coconut oil. Well let me tell ya, apparently I am quite behind the times! In just a short random search online I found all sorts of blurbs about the stuff and there have been articles published in various dog related magazines as far back as 2005. I do often find that until something is specifically brought to my attention, I tend to live under a rock!;o)

Do you guys realize how great coconut oil is for dogs and people? The list of benefits is quite lengthy. In a nut shell, it helps with skin and coat conditions, and more importantly it's incredibly helpful with the GI tract as a whole, and inflammatory bowel syndrome and colitis specifically. That's right, it helps with treating colitis!! Ka-ching!

Coconut oil is made up of medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid in addition to a plethora of other beneficial nutrients. The lauric acid is of special importance because the other primary natural source is human breast milk. We all know how critical it is for babies of any species to get breast milk in order to grow properly. So many of those beneficial nutrients are found in coconut oil!

This information is all pretty new to me and I only just stopped by New Season's today to pick up the coconut oil that I haven't had enough time to really test it out on the dogs and tell you what I think of it. I will update in a few weeks and give my general impression. Since Heffner is on medication for the colitis I know that any benefits he receives will be predominantly due to the medication. My hope is that by starting now and slowing increasing the amount that he gets each day, that the benefits will last well beyond the length of medication. My hope is that we won't have any further flare ups and that the coconut oil will be a good preventative. There are more than enough other benefits to giving it to the dogs that I'm giving it to both dogs right now and will continue to do so.

As always, I have some generally helpful links to share with you:

*http://www.cocotherapy.com/health_cocotherapy.htm

*http://www.coconutdiet.com/pet_nutrition.htm

*http://nutiva.com/articles/healthy-dogs-use-coconut-oil/

*http://www.onlynaturalpet.com/product_detail.aspx?item_guid=C89DB8E9-3DE0-407E-A89A-5135EA070A47&click=2083&mf=2

*http://www.answerbag.com/bb/index.html?bbPostId=AOXSdQhNQTqCzE3u615JxZAsCz3thqBmJWIBwCz4cDbjdIIc7j&bbParentWidgetId=B98egprXiadvzBIDOdMOmwP3

*http://www.poochieheaven.com/cocotherapy-coconut-oil-fordogs.html

*http://www.kokonutpacific.com.au/OilSales/OilIndex.html?Health/PetCorner.htm

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blogger Tuesday

My pick for Blog of the Week goes along with my pick for Web Site of the Month from yesterday's post. I've picked 2 Dogs 2,000 Miles! It's the various posts that Luke has made along his journey. The most recent one sums up the reason for the walk and Luke's devotion to his dogs. I encourage you to check it out. It's sad and touching to read and probably will bring up thoughts for all of us that we would rather not think about, but they're important none-the-less.

In happier news, Bess got to go to agility class tonight! She was only jumping 16", but she was ECSTATIC to be back! Seriously. Happiest. Dog. Eva'. As you might guess, there were plenty of zoomies, but she did some great work too. And was sure to let me know how happy she was to be back in between her runs. It was nice to have her back.:)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Web Site of the Month

My pick for Web Site of the Month for July is 2 Million Dogs! This web site was created by the man who walked 2,000 miles with his great pyrenees dogs to raise awareness about canine cancer. It's a web site/plan that is still in the beginning stages since the creator only just finished his two year, 2,000 mile trek in June of this year. His current goal for the organization is to get 2,000,000 dogs to walk two miles to raise awareness. There aren't a whole lot of details on the site just yet, but there will be more forthcoming as things develop. I thought it would be cool to kind of get in on the ground floor and watch as things grow. If you want to join in, there's a pledge box towards the bottom of the page. You just hit the pledge a dog button and it asks for a little information from you. Things like your name, number of dogs, and an email address to contact you by as the plans come together and they figure out what they're going to do.

I think that cancer is something that has touched us all in one way or the other. It's horrible when it hits our canine companions and we're often powerless to do anything about it. What we can do is take the best care of them that we can, do what we're able to try and prevent it, and help those who are raising awareness and much needed money for research. I encourage you to check out the web site and pledge to walk two miles with your dog. Lets see where this goes! Who knows, maybe there will even be local events to be organized!! Either way, check out either of the web sites that I've linked to for more information.:)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just Wrapping Up

I didn't get to finish uploading the pictures that I took of the dogs out in the wheat field on Thursday because we were jetting off to go see Inception (LOVED it!) and I wanted to get the post out because I knew that I wasn't going to otherwise have a whole lot of time this weekend. So I'll finish with the remaining pictures that I took.:) On our way back from the field, we passed the fairgrounds where they have a section of an open field fenced off with only one way in or out. Definitely the perfect spot to let the dogs off leash for some long distance recalls to finish off the zoomies they had!


We haven't had a whole lot of stuff going on dog wise this weekend. We've had some people related things going on. Thankfully I've had enough chunks of time that I've been able to fit in cardio and training with the dogs so that I haven't been feeling horribly guilty or like I've been ignoring them.

Not really much to report otherwise. We made a little trip to Home Depot today because our washer died and we desperately needed a new one. While there I did some browsing and picked up some safety cones to use for a variety of things in the back yard. I also picked up some lawn flags that are a LOT more appropriate for tracking than the wooden things that I had used previously. I also bit the bullet and ordered Bess her own tracking harness. The thought of having to repeatedly adjust the one harness that I have every time I switch dogs was really unappealing to me. And I also have made a firm plan to start up with some tracking training in the fall. It's going to require some adjustments in my schedule in order to fit it in, but I really want to and I think I'm getting up enough momentum and a training plan that I'll stick with it. I also plan on going to an instructor periodically through the fall and winter to make sure that we stay on track. I'm really excited about it though!

Otherwise things have been pretty mellow. I've just got a stack of books and magazines that I need to get to reading, but that'll come after a little True Blood tonight.;o) I hope everyone had a great weekend!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Balance

I've read a few blog posts in the past few months talking about balance. Some people are trying to find the perfect balance in their lives of dog related things versus non-dog related things. Others are trying to find the balance between competing and not competing. Or even a balance between over training and training the "right" amount. It's a topic that has sparked a lot of thought in my own mind and I'm going to just kind of ramble on a bit in this post while I sort of think things out loud (and I definitely welcome comments on this because the people who read this blog have given me some really great insight on a plethora of things in the past!)

With regards to finding a balance between dog and non-dog related things, I honestly think that this depends a whole lot on the people that we surround ourselves with and the people that try to influence us. I think that I'm rather fortunate in that I don't have a lot of nay sayers around me who give out those little verbal digs that imply that I'm "too into my dogs." I do have friends who aren't in to all the stuff that I do that will occasionally give me a hard time, but that's usually when I'm joking about the subject, so they're basically joining in. That doesn't happen too often and there's no malice behind it. I do have a husband who isn't into the dog activities really at all who is pretty laid back about the whole dog competition and training thing. Though I do think that some of his friends can give him a hard time about things and that's when it will bother him. As long as I do reserve time for him, he's pretty understanding. In a nut shell, I don't feel as though I'm out of balance with regards to the activities that I choose to spend my time on. I'm doing what I love and shouldn't we all be spending our time doing that?

The balance between competing and not competing is also an area where I don't feel out of balance in. Financially, I can't be training and trialing two dogs in various different disciplines, in a variety of venues, every single weekend. The costs are too high and I have to work within a budget. On occasion I would like to be out competing more than I am, but I also know that I would completely burn myself out if I really was competing more than two or three weekends a month. Two weekends is a pretty good amount, and that's kind of what I've been planning around. Occasionally I like to set goals for myself and the dogs and that's when I MIGHT ramp up the trialing, but that's not often. So I feel like I've found a good balance there.

The balance between over training and the "right" amount of training is something right now that I'm toying with. My training with the dogs has taken some ups and downs more recently due to various illnesses and injuries that have limited what I can do with each dog. It's not the worst thing in the world. It's given me time to sit back and assess what I'm doing and what's best for the dogs. Lately, the dogs days have been pretty structured with a plethora of training. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but their days have been lacking in time spent just being dogs. Time off leash where they can do whatever and I'm not assessing or structuring their every move. I really feel strongly that they need this time and I think that I need this kind of time with them as well. I've mentioned previously that I'm trying to set up a training schedule for the upcoming week on Sundays. This schedule isn't just for training, but also for their cardiovascular exercise and just fun activities. That is becoming more of a priority. I want my dogs to be well rounded, happy, and healthy. And now that they're both back to mostly normal, I can definitely start working our fun off leash sessions back in!

When it comes to working the fun back in to our schedule I'm not just talking about our little off leash jaunts, but I really want to work back in things that we can all enjoy. There are some pretty fun little road races in the area that are dog friendly that we're going to do this summer. I've already sent in our registration for one in August that Adam is actually going to do with us! We're also going to be going camping twice this summer! These are the fun little things that have been sorely lacking in our "schedule," and I'm actually doing something about that. I think that it will help to not only refresh the dogs, but me as well.

On that refreshing note, I took the dogs out for a fun walk last night and took them to one of the wheat fields near our house for some off leash time. It's the first that Bess has had and it was a pretty good area to let her off in. Here are some of the pictures that I took!



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Collar of the Month


My pick for collar of the month are the creatively recycled bike tubes turned dog collars, made by Cycle Dog! That's right, their creator took what a lot of people would just throw away, and turned it into something really cool and useful. The collars themselves are quite durable and don't require any sort of breaking in period. Some collars come rather stiff and it takes a little bit to get them fit properly around your dogs neck. These collars are soft and supple. And check out their video clip on their unique Pup Top design for the traditional leash clip tab! It's a dog collar and a bottle opener all in one! I was actually really excited about that because we've got a couple of camping trips planned for this summer and the dogs will be wearing these "multi purpose" collars.:o) These collars are also made right here in Oregon!

While I do generally enjoy being matchy-matchy with the dogs, they each got slightly different styles. Heffner got the regular buckle design with the red background and black dots.
Bess got the quick release design with a pink background and black paw prints (you can see how nicely her wound is healing in this picture).
I am definitely a fan of these collars! You should at least hit up the web site and check them out!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blogger Tuesday

My pick for Blog of the Week is Adventures in Vineyardland! The posts revolve around life on a relatively new and growing vineyard, Schram Vineyard. I find it fascinating all the things that they get to do and hearing first hand just what it takes to start a vineyard and keep it going. Along the way there are various projects that crop up, lots of pictures (always a plus!), and did I mention that they have two dogs?:o) ; They have two dane mixes that are a couple of very lucky dogs! Can you imagine all the trouble, er, how helpful those two could be? I definitely recommend that you head over and check it out. And in case you're wondering, the picture above is of a wine stopper that I won from one of Ashley's posts.:)



I'm also thrilled to say that Heffner's picture from when he got his RN came in the mail today!!
I never ended up getting Bess' titling picture. The one that the professional photographer took has her with her ears pinned back and generally looking unhappy. The picture that the club member took was much better!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Magazine of the Month

My pick for Magazine of the Month for July is The Canine Chronicle! This is an all breed magazine that has some serious heft to it. I actually got this issue from Georgia the day I picked the dogs up. Traffic was bad on the way home and she figured I could use the reading material. Yeah, that kind of fun traffic.

While my interest in dogs lies in great danes, I also really enjoy conformation. It's interesting to me to leaf through the advertisements and see if I can recognize any of the dogs and/or handlers. As a newer exhibitor to conformation, I think there is a fair amount that can be gained from these publications. There's a whole interesting world of etiquette in the conformation world, and I think that it's wise to kind of be at least some what familiar with who's who so as not to step on any toes. It's also really nice to have some sort of base knowledge so that if you're in a larger group of people from various breed backgrounds, you can follow along with the conversations. While it may seem like it's "just" a means for people to advertise their dogs and get their names out there, it's also a great way for newbies to familiarize themselves with the dog show world as a whole and really start to feel like they're part of it.

While advertisements make up the majority of the pages in this magazine (as they do with the majority of these publications), there are also a variety of dog related articles. From judging, to breed specifics, to the fancy as a whole; there are articles within that are worth reading.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Obedience Match

Welllllll, I would really like to say that today was another stellar day of obedience, but it wasn't quite that. The day started off promising. The match was held at a lovely park in Vancouver, WA and the first half of the day was overcast, keeping the temperatures down. By the time we had our first run, there were a few wispy clouds left, but the sun was a shinin'. All I guess that I can say is that while Bess is otherwise acting totally back to herself (just ask Heffner who often serves as a make shift trampoline for her!), she's still not there training wise.

We got there early and after getting the soft crate set up under a tree (and getting bitten by a few mosquitoes!), I did a little warm up with Bess to see where she was at. I think my mistake was warming her up partly on cement. I've mentioned before that Bess has issues with different textured surfaces (she's slowly getting over the stuff that they have on the contact equipment now). I'm now pretty sure that this applies to working on grass. A lot of things clicked today. Why it took that long, I'm not really sure since I've basically already spelled it out for myself. Her final qualifying rally novice leg in Lodi was done on grass and it was a really lack luster performance. Yes it was a Q and got us first place, but she was just off. And then there was the obedience run which was not like anything that I had seen out of her before and garnered us an NQ. And of course lat week, when I took the dogs out to Noble Woods to work them in an outside and distracting environment, she was just slow to work on the grass. For that day, I thought it was just a combination of still not being quite up to par and being outside. Now, I really think that she just has a hard time working the grass textured surface. I have no idea why, but that's what it seems like.

Anyhow, when I was warming her up, I started on the pavement and that went really well. Then I switched over to the grass and we started having the same issues. Primarily it's that her butt seems to get stuck to the grass. Seriously. She's very slow to respond to recalls on grass if she responds at all. With a dog who otherwise has very consistent recalls, it's just weird that she responds only about 50% of the time on grass. So that's one area where her she has to unglue her butt from the grass. Then there's the finishes. Once she's in front position, it doesn't matter which direction I ask her to finish on, she just kind of stares at me. Mind you, she has great finishes at home in the upstairs hallway. On grass though, her butt gets stuck. When I then took her back to the pavement, the finishes magically reappeared! So at least I know that they're not totally broken, it's just that the grass is REALLY sticky.

I put her back in her crate after that because I was getting a little frustrated. Then Andrea came with Brody and they got their stuff settled. When it was starting to get closer to novice going into the ring, I got Bess out again and we did a little warm up and suddenly she was fine doing recalls and finishes on the grass. Granted I didn't take her onto any cement, but things were just suddenly working. So I got the camera set up on the tripod to record our first run.

Once we got into the ring, things just sort of broke down. Our first run was better than our second run. And while yes it was getting warm, it was at most in the upper 70's. Bess has run agility courses when the temps have been in the 80's and other than panting, hasn't shown any signs of being bothered by the heat. And based on how well Heffner handled the heat yesterday, I really expected that Bess would be totally fine with lower temperatures today. Whatever it was, it just wasn't pretty. She was slow to respond and there was a fair amount of lagging on the heeling. I'm just a lot more used to her being precise and just being so on top of it. After how well Heffner's been doing lately, I just expected her to be doing at least as well. At any rate, it was a less than stellar performance and I was pretty disappointed. I do have video of both of our runs, but I haven't even looked at them yet. I'm still not sure as to whether or not I'll end up posting them. While it's good to have the video to review so that I can pick it apart, I'm just not sure that I'm entirely up to sharing it. We'll see.

So I came home from the match pretty dejected feeling. I was pretty bummed at the lack of team work that I felt with Bess. After a bit of wallowing in my own self pity (sometimes I'm just really pathetic!) and a little bit of a reality check, I'm just going to try and tone things down a little bit and definitely do a LOT more general work on grass. There's a trial in August that I would REALLY like to enter her in, but I'm going to wait just a bit longer to send in my entries.

And as usual, when I'm frustrated with one of the dogs for something, after a bit of feeling frustrated AT them, I then feel horribly guilty about feeling frustrated/disappointed/annoyed. I didn't really feel like doing any more obedience training tonight, so we worked on one of our "stupid dog tricks." :o) It was actually something that I just randomly started doing with Heffner yesterday when we weren't running the course. I want to cue them to "kiss" (WITHOUT tongue) me on the lips. Basically just a nose bop on the lips. I thought it would be cute. And it definitely is. Though it's definitely sloppier than I had planned on. I'm going to keep videoing our sessions and when it's where I want it to be, I'll put the sessions together and post a video.:)

This week, I am seriously going to crack down on our finishes! I need it with both dogs and I need to be a little more determined in working on it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rally Workshop

Today Heffner and I headed down to My Dogs Gym in Salem for an advanced rally workshop. There ended up only being three other people who came to the workshop, so we got a lot of one-on-one time and the atmosphere was nice and laid back. Heffner was a really good boy for the majority of the time we were there. We got there pretty early and were the only ones set up, besides the instructor, for a little while. As such, Heffner had a bit of a barking explosion when the first dog showed up. He was fine once things got going and everyone was there. He was otherwise excellent in his soft crate. No whining what so ever when I walked the courses or got out of his sight. No pawing of the crate (HUGE bonus there!). He has generally gotten a lot more relaxed in the soft crate. At one point I was just having him hang with me outside of the crate, but with the flap open. He chose to go in there and lay down after a while. That's pretty huge for him! He's making great progress over all.:o)

I'm also really pleased with how happy he was on the courses! There wasn't any air conditioning in the facility and while it started off at a good temperature, it did start to get a bit warm even with all of the fans going. He didn't quit on me once through all three of our runs! He was also paying attention a lot more than he has in the ring. I think I got some good ideas as to what I'm not doing in the ring that I otherwise do when we practice obedience in general and do these rally matches. I brought the tripod along and videoed all three of our runs. Unfortunately the quality isn't that great. Guess it's time to up the amount of nagging I do to Adam about getting a video recorder.;o) Of course, it would also probably help my case if I could keep BOTH of the dogs out of the vet's office!

Without further ado, here's our first run:




This was a nice, simple course to warm up on. While we will have to do our Advanced courses off leash, in this type of setting without physical ring barriers, I chose to keep it on. Throughout all three of the courses you'll also see that we really took our time working through each of them. I wanted to make sure that I was clear on the signs and that I was doing everything that I should be doing. I'm pretty happy with how our 90* pivots are coming along. The right pivots are rougher than the left ones, but we're working on that.

After that nice warm up, a second course was set up and our instructor went over some of the challenges that we would face in that one. Included this time around were the off set figure 8 and a jump. I didn't realize before, but for the jump the judge can choose from a bar, broad, or high jump. Thankfully we're fine on all three, but it's still good to know.;o)




On this course, we also had our first 180* pivot thrown in. I'm actually totally comfortable with pivot to the right, it's the 180* pivot to the left that you'll see later we had some serious issues with. That definitely needs some work. Overall, I'm really pleased with how he did.:)




Our third and final run of the day was probably more impressive because of how well he was still working for me in spite of the rising temperature (I would guess in the upper 70's, maybe right around 80) in addition to having already done two other runs. I was REALLY proud of him! At the beginning of this run you'll notice that we did a double about left turn. That is not a standard AKC sign. Our instructor decided to throw it in there to spice things up. I thought it was great because I would also eventually like to do non-standard classes as well as a few other venues. This is the run with the wicked 180* left pivot. Yeah, it's pretty rough, but we'll get there.;o)

Basically, I'm really proud of how well he did and I really enjoyed working with him today! He was such a trooper! I feel confident enough now that I'm going to start sending off entries for rally trials for him (Bess is already entered in a trial this month). It was also nice to get to spend that one-on-one time with him. I love having multiple dogs, but also love spending that alone time with them.:)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Obedience Weekend!

Tonight I'm sitting home and relaxing with the dogs for a bit as we gear up for a fun obedience filled weekend! We started the weekend off early by going to our group obedience practice.I took Bess. I think she's holding back just a little bit still, but I think that will get a lot better as she gets better conditioned and gets used to moving the scarred tissues. Adam actually came along for a bit to watch tonight! He's never watched any obedience period and it was kind of nice to explain and show him a few things. I think he'll understand a little better now why I'm constantly working on things and fine tuning them. We got there early so that I could get Bess' crate set up in a good shady spot and get her warmed up. I did some warm up heeling and was explaining to him all the little things that we can get docked whole points and fractions of points for in obedience. I think he has a better appreciation for the precision of the sport now.:o)

Tomorrow Heffner and I are off to My Dogs Gym for an Advanced Rally workshop. This is the same wonderful facility that we've done some obedience matches in. I REALLY like this place. When I saw on their web site that they were offering an advanced workshop, I figured that it was the perfect opportunity for me to work on rally with Heffner and hopefully show him that he can still have fun in that ring even though he doesn't get to move out like he does in obedience.

Then on Sunday Bess and I are off to Vancouver, WA for an obedience match. I felt this was essentially the perfect match for us to go to because it's being held outside. There's so much that I want to work on with regards to being outside, that I couldn't pass up this opportunity! There's a trial in August that's outdoors that I am tentatively planning on entering Bess in obedience. This match would be a great mimic of that. My friend Andrea will be there with her studly bullmastiff Brody too!

Overall, Bess is healing up so well. The hair is really starting to grow back in. I just have to gradually condition her back to the level she was at prior to coming down with pneumonia and we'll back on track. Heffner is feeling sooooooo much better! He was definitely happy to have his regular food getting mixed in with the bland diet today. He's only been getting relatively brief walks yesterday and today due to his physical state and how hot it's been lately. He's a heat sensitive boy and I don't need anything heat or exercise related stirring something else up! I think he will be VERY happy to have some one-on-one time with mommy tomorrow for such a big chunk of time.:) I'll try to take some video and hopefully post it. I hope that everyone else is set for a fun weekend!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book of the Month

My pick for Book of the Month for July is "Raw Meaty Bones" by Tom Lonsdale. I am including this book because I feel that it's a good resource for those thinking about starting their dogs on a raw diet. Information gleaned from this book combines nicely with "Give Your Dog a Bone" and "Grow Your Pups With Bones" by Ian Billinghurst. I know that I've included a few different books on the raw diet throughout the year, but I think there are enough people out there who are curious about sources of information to learn more about feeding a raw diet, that it warrants mentioning. While I love feeding my dogs a raw diet, it's not necessarily for everyone. For those who want to feed this way, I think it best that they become as informed about the diet as they can.

With all that said, I will again caution those who are reading this book to take away from it the diet specific information. While the book is overall beneficial, there is a whole lot of time spent talking about Lonsdale's struggles with getting other veterinarians in Australia to listen to him. He talks about this a lot. So be prepared. I understand that part of his agenda for putting out this book is also to show people how to become an advocate for the diet and to push back against the societal norm of feeding your dog a kibble based diet. I do have to admit that a lot of what he had to say got me to thinking. During my life time, the norm has always been to feed kibble. However, that is a more recent construct. For several hundreds of years people raised and bred various breeds of dogs successfully without feeding their dogs kibble. It's just so common place now, that we often don't even think to ask what we did before kibble.

My second cautionary note regards the author's take on kibble being the downfall of canine oral health. When I gave my review of "Grow Your Pups With Bones" I gave fore warning about Billinghurst's conclusions that kibble was basically the cause of every malady to befall kibble eating dogs. Welllllllllll, that's sort of a recurring theme in this book as well. While Billinghurst harped on hip dysplasia; Lonsdale harps on oral disease. I do understand his reasoning though. It has been proven that unhealthy teeth and gums can adversely effect the dogs overall health. Greyhounds adopted from racing kennels have been recorded to have a decrease in the severity of heart murmurs soon after having a total dental cleaning. So yes, I get the connection between oral health and overall health. However, not all kibble fed dogs necessarily have gnarly teeth. And again, I think that it's kind of "easy" to blame oral disease for EVERY single thing wrong with a dog.

Like I said, read this book with an open mind bent on gleaning the intended information from it. If you're interested in learning what Lonsdale went through to get heard and the ostracism that he faced by sticking to the results he found based on feeding a raw diet, then you'll have an additional bonus! Either way, I believe that there is useful information within and it's not a bad read.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

YouTube of the Month

Zoomies are just plain funny! And this dane pup is pretty freaking hilarious! I have to admit though, it's a lot funnier because it's not happening in my house.:o)


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Blogger Tuesday and More Vet Fun.....

Firstly, my pick for Blog of the Week is Dig-it, Fetch-it, Herd-it!! Want another great blog that has fantastic pictures of some pretty awesome dogs? Then you gotta check it out! The stars of the show are Jane the terrier (OMG, freaking cute little dog with one heck of a personality that REALLY captures well in pictures!), Kaleb the flat coat (who just recovered from emergency bloat surgery), and Gyp, the crazy cute border collie. Their mom is very active with all three dogs in multiple performance events in various different venues. Most recently Gyp won her height division at their regional agility competition! Anyhow, it's a fun blog to read and the pictures are just fantastic!

Secondly, I'm contemplating changing the name of this blog to "Life With Big Dogs at the Vet's." Ug! Seriously! This time it's Heffner and thankfully it's a relatively minor ailment. Heffner started having some serious diarrhea yesterday afternoon. He had a couple of accidents in the house Sun. evening, but he had also gotten into the cat food twice last week and that ALWAYS gives him the runs. I assumed it was related to that. When he was constantly needing to go outside and was pooping and straining to poop every single time yesterday evening, I thought it was a bit odd, but was going to wait it out and see if it passed. We still had some canned pumpkin that I've just sort of kept around to help with the random loose stool that is usually a result of Heffner getting into something that he shouldn't have. I used up what we had and went out to buy more. Apparently last year's pumpkin crop was severely depleted due to a mold that rendered a lot of pumpkins unusable for consumption. Therefore, it is impossible to find canned pumpkin in any stores. And apparently it's a huge enough issue that the store clerks are all aware of it and have had to explain it to people. Sucky! In a nut shell, what pumpkin we had wasn't helping any, so I decided to wait it out through the night and see how he was in the morning.

I will preface this by saying that I am a pretty heavy sleeper. There are a ridiculous amount of things that I can sleep through. However, Heffner is VERY insistent when he needs to go outside for a diarrhea related incident. For whatever reason, his whining is pretty guaranteed to wake me up. It's not that it's particularly loud or obnoxious, it just triggers something in my unconscious that wakes me up. Last night, though, Adam was up twice to let him out. I felt bad thinking that I had managed to sleep through the poor thing's whining. Oddly for Heffner, he never made a peep. Adam is a light sleeper and actually heard Bess going up and down the stairs after Heffner. Unfortunately, it was a little too late for him to get to the door to let Heffner out before he had a couple of accidents in the house. I will say this though, the boy is thoughtful enough to have his accidents on the easily cleaned instead of the carpets!

I was up early this morning and cleaned up the mess. Adam was too tired to even deal with it and I was feeling so guilty that I didn't mind cleaning up dog diarrhea first thing in the morning. After feeding everyone their breakfast, all seemed well. Heffner wasn't acting particularly off, just pooping a whole heck of a lot and having diarrhea every time. Both dogs were settled seeming when I left early for work. Some time between when I left for work and when Adam got up, Heffner had another accident. Oy! When Adam emailed me about it, I just went ahead and called our vet to see when I could get him in today. Something was very obviously amiss and I wasn't about to let this go on. While Heffner was still eating and drinking like normal, he wasn't drinking enough to replace the amount of fluids that he was losing. He was also looking a bit skinnier already to me.

We got in to see our vet this afternoon and Heffner was diagnosed with colitis, which is essentially an inflamed colon. It's pretty broad and can be caused by any number of things. I honestly have NO IDEA what the hell brought this on. Other than our obviously bad string of luck lately, it just seems so random. The treatment won't be much fun for the boy. He is to be fasted for 24 hours from the last time that he ate, which was early this morning. He is going to HATE that tonight. He's a food whore to begin with, but to have to tolerate his sister getting food while he "starves to death" is going to be loads of fun. Then starting tomorrow morning he will be on a bland diet for a few days. He'll be get 6 smalls meals of white rice and fat free cottage cheese. It's going to be roughly 3 parts white rice and 1 part cottage cheese. Needless to say, we'll be making a boat load of white rice tonight! On Thur. he'll go down to four meals that are a bit larger of the same combo. Then on Fri. we'll start slowly adding back in the raw diet. The 24 hour fast is to let his colon rest. We don't want ANY food going through is system that could potentially irritate. He doesn't even get to have any treats. Which will make giving him his pills tonight a real joy!

In addition to the bland diet, he's on sulfasalazine for 10 days to help with the inflammation and irritation. We also need the period of fasting to allow the drug to really start to take hold.

While Heffner was acting totally normal this morning, by the afternoon he was getting really lethargic and was definitely dehydrated. His mouth was pretty dry and when you picked up his skin, it took a few seconds to go back to normal (I can't remember the name of this little hydration test). While at the vet's, they started him on some subcutaneous electrolyte fluids to help with this. I say started, because the goal was to get 1 liter of fluid into him, but we only managed ~500 mL between the technician and I. Heffner was NOT having it. It was seriously a struggle just to get that much into him. He did NOT like getting poked and was very twitching, which meant that he had to get poked multiple times. Finally we gave up. They had wanted to keep him there for another hour so that he could get the fluids, but I offered to give it to him at home. I figured that he would be a whole lot more relaxed at home and I was a lot more likely to get it into him there. I do have experience giving animals subcutaneous fluids, so I wasn't bothered by the idea. I waited until Adam got home to try. Adam heald and petted his head while I got the needle in and started the drip. Heffner wasn't a fan, but he pretty quickly lay down on his side and let us get the remaining 500 mL into him! Yay!!

So tonight, starving, but hydrated dog who will probably still have an accident or two during the night. Tomorrow, hopefully a much happier dog who is feeling a lot better! And Bess gets her sutures out tomorrow too!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Belated 4th of July!

Since I didn't get around to posting yesterday, I'm wishing all the US people a belated happy 4th of July! Thankfully neither of my dogs are bothered by the sounds of the fireworks and they slept through all of it. We had a nice relaxed night at home. It was the first time that we haven't gone out and watched the fireworks some where, but I have to admit that it was really nice to be able to relax at home and revel in the fact that we both had today off.

I took the dogs out to a sports field that's attached to one of the local grade schools last night to practice heeling and paying attention while on grass with limited distractions. One section of the field is set up with mesh barrier that I assume has something to do with Little League. Either way, it's absolutely perfect for heeling patterns along a barrier so that I can keep the sits nice and straight.
Both dogs needed a little bit of warm up time before they were really actually focusing on what I was asking of them. Bess actually took a little longer than Heffner. She also started out slower than was her normal pace for heeling on a smooth surface. However, she did get over that and I was getting a nice heeling pace out of her about half way through. Heffner warmed up pretty quick and was my happy little heeler. I LOVE working on heeling! I kept things really simple for both dogs. At the moment, I just want them to understand that just because we're on grass doesn't mean that we get to lose focus. There's still work to be done and the expectation is that they treat it like any other surface that we more regularly work on. I did two laps around that barrier per dog. The first entire lap was just heeling. Treats were sporadically given for focus. Heffner has a really good understanding of this. He will bore into me with his eyes when he knows that he is supposed to be watching me and giving me all of his focus. It's almost as though he thinks that the harder and more intense he stares, the more likely he will be able to levitate that treat out of my hand and into his mouth. Bess is just starting to catch on to that. Again, I think this has a lot to do with my lack of playing focus games with her.

For our second lap, we would heel a few paces and then halt. I varied the distance that we would travel before halting and both dogs did really well. I have found that it's also helpful for me to practice like this on a long stretch against a barrier where I can focus on what I'm doing and maintaining consistency. That way I'm not having to worry about a lot of turns or maintaining sits in proper position. I haven't entirely decided how often I want to do these exercises each week, but I think 3-4 will reap great benefits.

After we did the work part, then it was time for the play part. Since we were on school grounds, I didn't let either dog off leash (we live within walking distance and I took the dogs one at a time). At one point there was a school district marked trucked that stopped and watched us for a while. I'm pretty sure they were waiting to see if I let either dog off leash in order to correct me. After they watched some heeling where I very obviously was training my dogs and the leash never came off, they moved on. So our playing was mostly just walking around the grounds and me getting the dogs into different spots to snap some pictures. The sun was just right that I snapped some shadow pictures of Heffner and I standing in the field.
I've been really bad lately about getting pictures in for the 52 Weeks for Dogs, so I made a concerted effort to get a shot yesterday, just under the wire. I was going for something that was a little patriotic since it was the 4th of July. I decided that the flag that was in front of the school was perfect! There was the shot that I included at the top of this post and there was another one with a slightly different angling of his head.
Next up was Bess. We did the same pattern of heeling and it took her a little longer to come into focus mode. I think that's something that will get better with time. She also got her picture taken with the flag after we were done. With her I was able to capture the pose that I originally wanted to catch with Heffner. I wasn't quick enough with my trigger finger with Heffner to capture him looking up at the flag. With Bess, I was ready.

I'm also super excited because yesterday we got a scanner!! There were some super good sales, so we took advantage of that. Possibly tonight or some time this week/upcoming weekend, I'll be scanning in some pictures of Heffner from the puppy days to post. I think I've mentioned this before, but when we first got Heffner I was fairly anti digital camera. Adam is always into the latest techno stuff and a digital camera was right up his alley. I was fighting the switch and took most of my pictures of him in those first few months with my film camera. This will also be nice because I can scan in a plethora of other things too!

At the risk of making this an even lengthier post (this is exactly why I need do daily posts; otherwise I blather on about too many things!), we had our obedience lesson today! Heffner's sits today were noticeably better! I think that doing those exercises last night with the mesh barrier really helped. I also got him to inadvertently do a walk up sit instead of his normal rock back sit. The walk up sit is what I would prefer that both dogs do. Bess is more likely to do it than Heffner. While it seems like such a minor thing, when either dog does a rock back sit, they usually end up out of heel position. While it's not by a large margin, it's more noticeable with Heffner. When I have to take a slight step back to get back into heel position with him, it's noticeable. Some how I got him to do a walk up sit. After our instructor broke it down for us and told me what she was seeing and watched me actively trying to get the proper motion out of Heffner, I feel like I have a good idea of how to get it and that's what we're going to start working towards.

Heffner also sometimes will start off his heeling patterns by pacing. Again, while it's a minor cosmetic thing, it looks much better when he's doing his happy heeling when he's gaiting properly. So we toyed around with different ways to start the heeling patterns and different speeds. In the end we decided that me essentially just starting right into the speed that I want to heel at is the best way to start him out at the right gait. I just need to practice that a lot and NOT slow down from the speed that I start at.

I've also been working on him getting treats that I drop out of my mouth. I know it sounds simple, but when you've never done that with a dog before, they tend to be a little confused. We've been working on it a little bit for the past couple of weeks. Once he caught on to the fact that the treat was coming from my mouth, he would start just randomly biting at the air when I would give him the watch command or use his name. For him, the treat was just randomly falling from the sky when I cued it. He now realizes that it's coming from my mouth and has a better concept. He's catching rate has gone way up. I was actually forcefully spitting it out at him for him to catch and now I'm working on just dropping it from my mouth right into his perfectly placed mouth.

When it was Bess' turn, we worked on a lot of the same things. Figuring out how to go about getting a walk up sit from her. I think I've got it mostly figured out. She has a little easier time doing it than Heffner does. She thankfully doesn't pace while heeling, so that was a non-issue.


We did some work on the stand for exam. I need to be very mindful of how my body is positioned with her and how I'm cuing her. If I'm not facing forward and giving my stand signal, I tend to get a stand into a sit. Not what I want. We figured out what I need to do for my hand signal and how I need to stand and that helped a lot. I just need to practice it.

There was a lot of trying different things out and figuring out how to get what I wanted out of each dog. Our instructor also does a great job of explaining why it's more ideal to train things a certain way or why we're going for specific movements. While we're "just" working on novice exercises, it's the foundation for everything else. Since I do plan on going on with the dogs, I need to keep in mind the upper level exercises and what will be expected of them at that level. With the novice exercises being the beginning phase of those exercises, I need everything to be as solid as possible and prepare them for the next step up.

Phew! I think that's enough for today. I hope everyone had a great holiday!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Today we had a nice, lazy start to our holiday weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in until 8:30am! After everyone had their breakfast and had time to do some digesting, I decided that it was time to work on some of that going out to the parks to do some training. As I said before, the temperatures have now gotten warm enough that it's not possible to take both dogs and leave one in the truck while I work with the other. I'm also walking around enough that I can't really leave one dog set up in a crate outside of the truck while I work with the other. I'm therefore doing some driving back and forth, but it's worth it.



We went out Noble Woods park today. It's a largish park that has plenty of trails, woodsy areas, and creeks to play in. There's also a nice bustling picnic area that they rent out that usually has a variety of people and dogs hanging out around. I started off with Heffner and we took a nice relaxed and meandering walk around the park for a bit. Then we headed up to the picnic area to work on some obedience. In a nut shell, we REALLY need to do a lot of work outside! I have found with both dogs that it's easier to warm them up around a lot of distractions by doing some heeling patterns on nice flat cement. They both seemed to focus better when I warmed them up there and then moved onto the grass to work on various exercises. I did get some pretty good heeling out of Heffner. He definitely perks up, pays better attention, and has nice movement when I praise him. He actually transitioned onto the grass really well and I got some nice work done with him. Throughout our time at the park we worked on focus whenever other dogs came into sight. He's more aloof than Bess and isn't as distracted by people. He did REALLY well at focusing on me when other dogs were passing us by. I want to work him up to a point where a dog can come into the picture and while he notices them, he doesn't stiffen his posture. We've gotten to the point where he doesn't vocalize, now I just want for him to notice, but not take on a "ready to rumble" pose. From what I saw today, as long as I give him enough distance from the other dog, this is definitely possible. We'll slowly work up to a point where he can be closer and more relaxed. Thankfully this is something that we don't struggle with at trials. It's just when we're out and about.

Next up was Bess. She had a much harder time of gaining the type of focus that I'm used to getting from her. She was REALLY easily distracted. I assume that this has a lot to do with the reduced activity that she's had more recently and her not getting out and doing the variety of things that she's used to. She most definitely benefited from the warm up heeling patterns on the paved paths. Once we moved onto the grass, everything was so different. She was so much slower than she was on the paved path. Her automatic sits were also a lot slower in coming. It was like we had stepped off the paved path onto molasses. We most definitely do a lot of outdoor work on grass!

I also realized some of my training holes that I have with Bess. Because she is such an even tempered and friendly dog, I haven't done the same kind of work with her that I've had to do with Heffner. We haven't done nearly as many focus games. She's also a lot less aloof around people than Heffner is and wants to go up to everyone and say hi. I realized this when I tried doing some focus work with her when dogs were passing by. She had the hardest time just sitting and focusing on me. After that realization, I had her hold a sit stay and focus on my face whenever there were people approaching in the opposite direction. It's crazy to think about, but I do have to admit that Bess is a little on the rude side on leash when we're just out doing casual walks. I really would prefer a more behaved dog, but I've let her get away with it until now because it was always Heffner that I was on the alert for. The park wasn't terribly busy either, so it wasn't like we would only be able to walk a few feet at a time before we did a sit stay. It's definitely something that will be handy to work on.

The two sessions were quite productive and now I have a much better idea of what we need to work on. While getting out once a week to a new outdoor place to train is a good start, I can already tell that we're going to need to do some training on grass in some of around the house training locations to really have an impact. At least I've got a better idea so that I can tailor our training sessions more appropriately!

I hope that everyone is having a nice, relaxing weekend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Welcome to July!

I mean the title of my post both optimistically and sarcastically. Sarcastically because it has rained for most of the day and the temperatures haven't risen above the low 60's. Not the best start to the summer month. It also means that it's going to be several days again before I can use the back yard for anything dog related. That's a little annoying.


I'm also trying to stay optimistic with the beginning of a new month. I'm hoping that our dog health woes are over and we can have a nice uneventful month. I'm also going to be trying out new things to keep me on schedule for training and exercising the dogs. My hope is that by spending a little bit of time on planning, I'll feel more in control of things and hopefully help to lower my stress levels. As I said yesterday, I'm going to try and start the month out with my goals for each dog for that month. Here goes!


Heffner


*I'm shooting for working some of Susan Salo's foundation jump grids to improve his overall jumping. I've looked back at some of our videos and sometimes he has good understanding of the jumps and sometimes not so much. I want to improve his jumping ability and his consistency. I'm aiming to practice the jump grids two to three times a week.


*Working with outdoor distractions. My plan is to go to at least one new park a week to work on obedience exercises. My hopes are that this will help improve his focus on me in outdoor settings with a variety of things going on. It will also have the side benefit of working on his reactivity. I'm going to choose parks that will have people and a low occurrence of other dogs to start with. I'm also going to places where it will be a lot less likely that people will have their dogs off leash.


*Finishes. I am trying to focus on using only one cue for these. He understands the concept of what I'm asking for with both cues. I just need to wean him off so that he understands that either alone means the same thing.


*Lots of working the rally off set figure 8's with food and toy distractions. That will help us for a lot of things.


Bess


*I am doubtful that I will have Bess physically back to a point where I'm comfortable working her on jump grids of a variety of heights on a regular basis. With her I will probably just leave the jumps at 4" or 8" and practicing taking her through the standards. I'm also going to work on rear crosses with her over jumps at this same height.


*Bess too will go to these same parks once a week. We'll be sticking relatively close to home. With temperatures on the rise (eventually!), there's no way that I can leave one dog in the truck while I'm working the other one. So there be some going back and forth to the house. Her focus is pretty good outside, but there's still room for improvement.


*Finishes. My goals for her are the same as with Heffner.


*While she's caught on to the idea of the rally off set figure 8, we can definitely still work on it and fine tune it.


Overall


*I am planning on writing out a game plan for the dogs for the week each Sunday night. First I'll sketch out what our training exercises and focuses will be for each day based around what my work schedule is and whatever cardiovascularly we've got going on. After the training is figured out, then I'll work in the cardio. That won't be too difficult because we already have a pretty good routine. However, I'm going to start throwing in one trail run a week. It's good for me and it's great for the dogs.


*Tricks. Each Sunday night I'm also going to try and pick a trick to work on with the dogs. This won't necessarily be a weekly repeating thing. I won't have a good idea as to how long it'll take me to teach the dogs the trick until I actually under take it. And it will also be based on what ever else we have going on. The trick training will be a lower priority event.


I feel pretty good writing out this list! And I just realised that I never got around to posting pictures of Mia!! Here are the pictures that her dad Jeff took of her and I in the ring!:o)