Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Remi also gave us the Stylish Blogger Award. Thanks dude! The rules are that I need to tell everyone seven things about the dogs. Here goes!
1) Both dogs love getting outside for some exercise, even if it's raining a bit. Thankfully neither one is terribly bothered by the rain, though Bess does get a little peeved if she gets totally soaked.
2) Bess is a super leaner. To the point where it's been tempting to just suddenly step away from her to see if she catches herself. Mean mommy, I know, but it's a comical picture in my head!
3) Heffner is very gentle. From his kisses to the nose touches he'll randomly give me; they're always soft.
4) Bess has a butt fetish. More so than most dogs I've met. One of the most common phrases said around my house is "get your nose out of my butt." She's that way with dogs too. To the point where it's actually pretty rude and I try to avoid her getting overly sniffy. Who knows how many colon exams Heffner has had!
5) Heffner still gets the spins. It's usually after I get home from work and have let the dogs out to potty. He spins in place like he's got some sort of rod in the middle of his back that allows him to spin around in place. I really must try to capture this on video!
6) I still have random strangers asking me how old Bess is because they often think she's a puppy. This usually coincides with the time frame after a dog show when her muzzle has been shaved, to "hide" the signs of aging.
7) As much as they make me want to pull my hair out at times, I have to "secretly" admit that I often like it when the dogs are "bad." I tell them all the time what bad dogs they are.;0) To the point where I'm pretty sure they take it as praise now. Gotta love the gruesome twosome!
Now for the hard part, I have to pass this award along to five of the blogs that we follow. I always struggle with this, but here goes (I will try not to repeat blogs that have already been hit)! 1) Chianti's Blog
2) Danes Can Q
Whether they decide to join in or just collect their pretty picture award, there they are!:0)
Monday, March 28, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I had each dog entered in one Beginner Novice run and one Novice run. Our obedience instructor has encouraged us to try out the optional titling classes as an additional way to get ring ready. The really nice part about these classes is that they offer other behaviors to train for and additional classes that I could enter Heffner in (due to the group exercises he will be trialed very selectively. There are some dogs that I know he will be fine holding a stay next to and others that he will not. I therefore need to be choosy about how we trial). And they're fun! Our first runs were in Beginner Novice and each dog had pretty good runs. I liked their attitude in the ring and they were over all pretty happy.
For the Novice runs, both dogs were actually more animated and seemed to really enjoy the Novice exercises. Bess was VERY enthusiastic the majority of her time in the ring. To the point that it was cracking me up. Her recall in particular was hilarious! It was a good recall, she was just REALLY excited to do it. When I released her she just launched out of her stay and came tearing up to me. It only took her a few strides before she pulled up into a nice front. Which was followed by a nice finish.:0) She was sooooooo eager to please for the entire run! I want that dog in the competition ring! Even the judge was laughing at her enthusiasm.
While Heffner wasn't quite at Bess' level of enthusiasm, he still did quite well. I think I figured out the key to getting him to just sit and not move around when I'm setting him up for the beginning of the exercises. I need to just walk right up and act like it's a halt. The less I mess, the less he futzes. I was particularly impressed with one aspect of his recall. There was a saint bernard outside the ring that kept catching his attention. The handler was having some repeated problems getting the dog to do what he wanted and I think that the dog was a little reactive to boot. I wasn't entirely sure how Heffner was going to handle doing a recall to me when the saint bernard was going to essentially be at my back, and Heffner would therefore being running straight towards the dog. Before I gave the command I could tell that he was starting to fixate on the dog. But once I gave the command his eyes were glued on my face and he came in for a nice front. It was kind of like a switch flipped. He went from concerned and getting ready to fall back into on guard mode, but then he heard the command and he was all about business and what was expected of him. Which included a nice finish! I was super proud of him for keeping his brain where I needed it to be. There were also a few little incidences outside of the ring where a couple of dogs lunged and barked at him, but he was awesome! No outbursts! The only reaction it got from him was one of startlement because he wasn't even paying attention to the dogs who were bothered by him. He got cookies for that!
All-in-all it was a great way to spend our morning! I got there early to help set up and I stuck around a while after we were done running to help with ring stewarding. It was a really fun match!
I didn't get a chance yesterday to post about how Heffner's chiropractor appointment went. He got two thumbs up again!! Three days in a row of agility last weekend didn't break the big boy! He held the adjustments well and she said he was actually a lot easier to make the minor adjustments to. She also thinks that he's looking stronger and his overall movement is much improved.:0) I was very happy! From here he'll move into a maintenance pattern of adjustments. What I would like to do is just get him adjusted the week after an agility trial, or if I see something that seems a little off. I did make an appointment for Bess to see Sandra so that she can get checked out and I can make sure that everything is a-okay with the wee hopper. My guess is that she will have some minor imbalances that are a result of her chest laceration last year. Her overall movement is good, but I think it will be beneficial for her to at least periodically get adjusted.
I hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend!!
Thursday, March 24, 2011
I don't entirely remember how I found Lauren's blog, Maybeads, but I did and I was enamored with the beads that she was creating. I started checking out her Etsy store and I saw some of the most adorable dog beads. Naturally, one of the first thoughts to pop into my head was "I want Heffner and Bess beads like these!" I contacted her about doing a couple of custom beads and there you have it!
Aside from the fabulous quality of the beads themselves and the fact that they're actually MY dogs, I received the best customer service that I have EVER had. Ever. I do a lot of special ordering for a variety of products, given the size and shape of my dogs. No one has ever been as great as Lauren was. One of the bead colors was slow to come in, so she sent me an email apologizing for it and letting me know what was going on. This was just a couple of days after I had placed my order with an intended deadline of the end of April. From there she had me send her pictures of the dogs so that she could get an idea of their markings. She went above and beyond to give me a bead that most closely resembled my dogs. She was meticulous about the colors, the markings, the size of the beads in general and relation to each other, and the shape of every last detail on the beads. I was amazed at how hard she was working on these beads. And her hard work shows. I freaking love these beads!!
I snapped a few pictures of the dogs with their beads (the previous shots were taken by Lauren). I didn't get on top of the picture taking before the daylight went, so things are a little dark, even with the auto correct.
Over the next few weeks my posts during the week are probably going to be sporadic and fewer. Physical therapy is going really well and the PT was really excited about the changes that she's seen already and wasn't expecting. Which is great and helps to fuel my commitment to doing the exercise routine that she has prescribed. The down side of that is that it takes me roughly an hour and twenty minutes to get through it all. That combined with exercising and working the dogs doesn't leave me a whole lot of "free time" in the evenings. My week nights are now very structured to fit everything in and it can get a little draining. Just wanted to let ya'll know I'm still alive and things are going well, I just won't be posting quite as much for a few weeks.
Oh yeah, and Heffner has an appointment with his chiropractor tomorrow so we get to see how his body is holding up! He's still moving really well and hasn't shown any signs of soreness. My friend Shana came over yesterday to do some TTouch work on the dogs. It's yet another tool to have in my basket for keeping both dogs as happy and healthy as I can. I'll talk more on that in a later post. But keep your fingers crossed that everything still checks out well for Heffner tomorrow!
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Kennedy was able to video us yesterday for our JWW and Standard runs. While they weren't the best of runs, they had their good moments. So here they are, the good, the bad, and the ugly (I just wanted to say that for dramatic effect! ;0) )
Today was kind of another meh day. I bobbled in JWW, which ended up slowing Heffner down and we couldn't regain our momentum. While the run wasn't horrible, there was a knocked bar NQing us and he just didn't have the power and zip that he did on Friday. Standard kind of followed suit with a lack of zest. I just wanted to try and keep forward momentum with him and we ended up bypassing quite a few obstacles. Oy! Here's the Open JWW map:
It was a loooooovely course with nice flow. I really enjoy the courses that this judge puts together. I could have done without a tunnel on the course, but at least we got it out of the way at the very beginning. Here is the accompanying video, shot by my darling husband:
You can see where I screwed him up. I had thought that he was about to go around the jump and I stopped. Which caused him to drop the only bar that was dropped on the course, and lose his momentum. Which then screwed me up for the rear cross that I needed to make and I ended up in the wrong position, gave a crappy cue, and then had to race ahead to catch up with him. Oy! It otherwise would have been a decent run. Heffner forgive me!
Our second run was Excellent Standard. The course wasn't too bad. There were some tricky spots, but I thought that we could handle it. It started off poorly because I put Heffner in a stand stay, that he broke as I was trying to make it out to jump two for a front cross. I had to scramble to try and make up for that. There were parts that weren't too bad, but he had lost his umph, and we bypassed a few jumps, the weaves, and the chute. Oh well. I just entered him in too many classes this weekend.
He also decided to start refusing to go up the ramp into the truck bed today. That was fun. When we were loading up to leave, I gave up on the battle and took the ramp down so that I could just let him jump in. Only he didn't want to do that either. Awesome Heffner. Obviously that's going to need some work to get him comfortable with the ramp again. Sigh. And now to get ready for a fun filled work week. I'm ready for a vacation!!
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Our first run of the day today was Open FAST. It didn't look too terribly bad, but I also wasn't going to really push anything in the hopes of qualifying. I do have to admit that I went into not as focused as I probably should have been and the send portion got botched. Though I have a feeling that it was kind of a sign of Heffner getting tired of the tunnels. He nailed the first jump and then hesitated and went wide of the tunnel entrance. I just continued on after that and let him run around a bit. No Q.
Next up was Excellent Standard. It was actually a pretty nice course. I like this judge to begin with and out of the two this weekend, she is far and away the better course designer. I'll get into that when I get to the JWW course. Unfortunately on this course, Heffner and I were both having an off day. My handling was lacking and bit late in a couple of areas. He didn't complete his weaves. And the final indication that Heffner has already had enough tunnels for the weekend was on the final tunnel when he refused the entrance and went around the outside of the tunnel. I took the hint, thanked the judge, and we headed out. For some dogs that might have garnered a time out or some sort of indication that what they had done wasn't okay. For Heffner, that was his subtle way of letting me know that he wasn't feeling it. Fair enough. He got loved on outside the ring by Kennedy and Rachel and that made him pretty happy.:0)
Our final run was Open JWW. Before we even got to the fairgrounds today, I had a bad feeling about how the JWW course was going to look just based on how this judge did the Standard course yesterday. I was not disappointed, unfortunately. When I picked up the Open map and looked at it, to be honest, I was annoyed. If you need to, click on the map to biggify. Do you notice how many times it is advisable to change sides? Do you see much in the way of flow? Especially compared to yesterday's course, this course is just stilted. I will admit that it ran slightly better than it looked on paper, but still, that's a bit much. But it gets better. Hopefully Kennedy will post an image of the Excellent course. I figured that if Open looked like this, Excellent was going to be really ugly. And it was. For someone who is just trying to finish a title, it would be annoying. For someone who is trying to get MACH points and those necessary double Q's, it's just not cool. There was LOT of grumbling about the jumpers course from a lot of people. Quite a few who were stating that the judge making up these courses most likely wouldn't run under a judge who did the same (she happens to be someone local, who also competes locally). I'm not saying that the courses should be easy so that qualifying is a gimme, however, this is AKC, NOT USDAA or one of the international style courses. Enough on that rant.
I walked the course and felt like I had a good grasp on what I needed to do. Heffner was the first dog on the course and we were ready to go. After a lovely start line stay and first couple of jumps, I basically got lost. Heffner can run pretty well as long as I'm confident in what I'm doing. When I'm running a course by looking at the cone numbers, it's understandable that it's a little hard on him. We did make it through. There was one knocked bar and a the weave poles were not completed correctly, but I didn't care and continued on. The tunnel at the end was the most painful. He was so slow going in that I felt pretty bad. I threw a little party once he got out of the tunnel and then we made it over the last jump. The ending was quite nice. It's all that stuff in the middle that didn't work out so well.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Today I headed up to Ridgefield, WA for an AKC agility trial with Heffner. I was a little nervous since this is the first time that we've trialed since October and he's had the intervening pelvis issues. Otherwise I felt like we were ready. He's been strong in practice and as long as I didn't handle him like he was going to break, things usually went pretty well. I was taking a couple of precautions that may not have been entirely necessary, but they made me at least feel a little better! I decided to keep Heffner in the truck so that he could fully stretch out if he wanted to and so that he would also be away from the noise and commotion of the trial. I also packed along a ramp for the first time ever. I had him entered in all three classes and that was a fair bit of jumping in and out of the truck with the resulting impacts felt predominantly on his shoulders. The ramp was quite the success and is something that I will probably pack along from now on.
Our first run of the day ended up being Open Jumpers With Weaves. I am incredibly proud of how well Heffner did on the course!! We successfully did TWO rear crosses. His weave pole entry was mostly good, except that he kind of stared off into space a wee bit after nailing the entrance. Thankfully he came right back and we didn't get a refusal. I was so elated with how the run had gone that I pulled up short on the last jump. Our clean run ended there with a knocked bar and an NQ. D'oh! Regardless, I was so incredibly happy with how it went!! More importantly, my friend Kennedy was there and watched the run. Since it's kind of difficult for me to pay specific attention to how he's moving (aside from anything that is overly obvious), she was able to watch him and reported that he looked good out there!! Yay!!!
Next up was Excellent Standard, the course map that's at the top of this post (I didn't end up picking up the maps for the other two courses today; I'll be better tomorrow). There were a couple of trickier spots that I wasn't entirely sure of how we were going to do. I didn't like the entrance to the tunnel at the beginning and was debating whether to start on the left or right of him, pretty much all the way up to the start line. I decided to stay on Heffner's left and go for pushing him into the tunnel. And it worked! The rest of the course went pretty well, including weave poles that I was really pleased with. While our time was a little over course time, we still ended with a clean, qualifying run and our very first Excellent Q! Yay!!
Open FAST soon followed the Standard run. The send portion didn't seem too bad, but after two tries, I just couldn't get Heffner over the first jump in the sequence. Thinking back now, the judge did say that the handler didn't have to be behind the line until all four of the dogs feet were about to hit the ground after the first jump. I should have used that little bit of time to get in closer to the jump and nail the send. Ah hindsight! After two attempts that didn't work, I decided to just let him stretch out and really run around the course. We took off in a big loop around the ring until the buzzer sounded and then we headed for the final jump. He was a happy boy and definitely deserved that last little bit of play!
Overall I am REALLY happy with how today went. It felt so good to be back out there with Heffner! And no disrespect to Bess, but it was also really nice to be able to run a full course. Heffner's had his stuff together for a while now and it was just a matter of me buckling down and actually working on my handling skills. I've finally paid attention to that and things are really starting to come together. And it just feels so good! Here's to a weekend with more fun runs!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
It was a rather draining day at work that was topped off by an email that ended in a couple of snarky sentences that really pushed me over the edge. I bit my tongue and didn't immediately respond to the person who sent it, but did vent else where. I guess that means that I'm starting to grow up at least a little bit. Before I lash out via email, I expel the initial venom so that I can later put together a more rational sounding bitchy email.;0) Oh yeah, and I had my first physical therapy appointment. Maybe that's what's weighing more on my mind?
It's great to have things finally figured out and have a plan that should see me moving pain free, gaining back my full range of movement, and keep my body from acting like it's already 60 something. But at the same time, it's a whole different story to have hunches confirmed and have it mapped out for you how screwed up your body is.
The short version of why I'm at this point is that I had two operations on my legs when I was younger that have gotten my body into the physical state of compensation that it's now in. I had one surgery on my right hip and one on my left knee that have left me with essentially two very different legs. That have been torquing my body in some very wrong ways. I have shoulder and back problems that have been slowly progressing to the point that I couldn't handle the pain I was in at work and finally broke down and made the appointment for today. I've had my shoulders x-rayed previously and nothing showed up on the x-ray. That's because there is nothing physically wrong with my bones. It's all in the muscles and the ways in which they have had to compensate for the physical results of the surgeries I've had.
After some pictures and many exercises to see what my range of motion is throughout my body (one of the exercises I didn't even do because my right shoulder doesn't move properly for me to do it), the right side of my body is the worst. Right down to how I freaking hold my head while standing. The only joints that I have that line up are my ankle and knee. Everything else is at different angles. The left side of my body is fine, but the right side is not so good. With everything being out the way that it is, it's totally screwing up my back, neck, and shoulders. There are literally muscles in my body that my brain has no concept of how to use. I tried clenching and releasing some muscles and there was nothing to clench on the right side. I was concentrating, but there was nothing there to work with. After multiple repetitions I could start to feel something, but nothing even remotely comparable to the left side. That was a very sobering experience. I actually have muscles in my body that my brain has no connection to. WTH??
While I am very glad that I have FINALLY found someone who can figure out exactly what is wrong with me and how to mostly fix it (there are going to be some things that just aren't "fixable"), it's also kind of a lot to deal with at the moment. For the past thirty years I have been living in this bubble where this is just how things are for me. I move this way, because that's just how I move. I had these surgeries previously, but they're no big deal. Except that they actually were a very big deal. And I should have actually been in some sort of physical therapy after each one of them. And I should have continued to see a physical therapist periodically as I continued to grow to help prevent the gross abnormalities that I am now dealing with. I am glad that I was never treated like I had a disability or told to limit my activity level as I grew up. However, you can't screw with someone's whole skeletal system and expect that they won't have any issues down the road. So yeah, I think I'm having a bit of a hard time dealing with the reality of everything right now.
Not to be a complete Debbie Downer, I do really like my physical therapist. And she didn't want me to curtail any of my activities. I do have a whole list of exercises that I have to do at least once a day to help slowly strengthen my many problem areas. I'll be seeing her once a week for at least the next five weeks and then we'll see from there. Today was just an assessment day and initial set up, so no ball exercises yet. But I think I'm going to bring it up to her next time.;0)
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
To wrap things up, I've got one more Iditarod themed blog for you to check out. It's Jason Barron's Blog. His tag line is "A place where outdoor adventure, long distance mushing, and creative writing collide." I really enjoy blogs written by people who have the natural ability to write and write well. He has his own way of telling the story of the Iditarod and I think that he does it in a way that is enjoyable for a wider audience of people to enjoy. I hope that you'll head on over there and check him out!
Monday, March 14, 2011
Anywho, on to the video! When I first saw the posting of How To Bag a Cougar, I was doubtful. I'm sure that someone out there makes a suitcase that could at least fit Bess laying diagonally in it, but I'm also pretty sure that it would cost a pretty penny. And I'm not all that interested in buying special luggage just to train a trick. As "luck" would have it, we had an old hard top suitcase that I inherited from my grandfather that we were planning on donating to Goodwill. It was largish and it didn't cost me anything. Problem solved! Sort of. Heffner really didn't progress past moving his feet around while in the suitcase. I tried to capture some head dips or anything remotely like a sit, including him sort of tucking his butt. It wasn't really happening, and while I'm sure that if I really persevered and kept at it, I might be able to get there with him. It's not that important, and we do still want to get rid of the suitcase. So Bess sallied forth and I was actually quite impressed with her willingness to try stuff, especially inside the suitcase. While my timing with the clicker is not always super, I'm slowly getting better. And try not to be too terribly jealous of my ridiculously awesome wardrobe! Didn't you get the memo that your socks shouldn't always go with what you're wearing???? Oh yeah, and as always, the video is a bit long. I put it together for myself as much as anyone else to see, and like so many people who adore their dogs, I just love watching them do anything! Enjoy!
ETA: You will also notice that I've changed a few things on the blog. One of which is the comments part. I was get pretty regularly spammed and wasn't always catching it. To the point where really old posts were getting spammed and I just happened to stumble on it when I started noticing it happening more. Unfortunately I now have things set up so that I have to approve any comments. I don't mean any offense to anyone who isn't spamming, it was just getting a little ridiculous with some of the comments that were left.
Friday, March 11, 2011
I am happy to say that Heffner's chiropractor was VERY pleased with how his body is holding the adjustments and with how much easier things are moving when she wants to manipulate them!! That's a bit of a sigh of relief! She told me to keep doing what I'm doing and continue to build him up.
I've been working him back into our jogging routine and he's been back to our therapy ball work. All of which is just making him stronger and stronger and I love it! We're working on some additions to our ball studio "routine" that have him focusing a lot more on his hind end and placement of his individual back feet. Also lots of work on strengthening those all important core and back muscles. Things are looking good and I'm really happy right now! Now if only I could have a little bit of that good news for my back. Nothing lots of Advil can't fix for the time being. ;0)
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
My great dane book pick for March is "The Great Dane: Dogdom's Apollo" by Nancy-Carroll Draper. Well, I really can't be more enthusiastic about this book! If you are interested in great danes at all, GET THIS BOOK! Seriously! I love this book!
Draper starts off with a general history of the dogs who are believed to be the progenitors of what we now know as the great dane. It's a fascinating history lesson covering areas that I hadn't read about before. A rather violent history where a rougher version of the great dane was used very effectively as a weapon of sorts during battles. Dogs who fearlessly fought the enemies that they were unleashed upon, regardless of the wounds they received. Once more sophisticated weapons of war were developed, the great dane moved into the role that it is historically better known for. That of the boar hunter by day and the manor guard by night.
With such a "colorful" background, I think it's important to talk about the temperament and demeanor of the past great dane, to really appreciate how far the breed has come today. I mentioned in a previous book review that I was disappointed that the author glossed over this fact. While it may be unpleasant to think about, facts is facts! Needless to say, I was very pleased that Draper included a brief description of the temperament of the danes from around the 1870's for what they really were.
"The danes were so bad-tempered and started so many fights during the show, amongst each other and with every other breed, that they were barred from further show competition ." An excerpt from a section talking about the first major show that great danes were entered as Great Danes.
"They exhibited a ferocity found only in trained attack dogs which, in many instances, they were. The vast German royal estates demanded guard dogs of size and aggressiveness. It is a tribute, indeed, to those early American Dane breeders that in less than twenty years they were able to reduce that facet of the Dane character and virtually eliminate the unmanageable bad temper."
From the history, the author moves on to talk about general aspects of living with a great dane. What their character is like, how to train them, how to house them, and what it's like to live with a dog breed that is so larger than life.
The next section is another reason why this book stands out as a must have for dane lovers. The breed standard! Not just the breed standard that we in the US know today, but the early American standard. But wait, there's more!! Draper also includes the German breed standard, the English breed standard, and an illustrated standard! While the technical standards may not be as universally interesting, the illustrated standard is something that any layman can relate to. There are pictures of what is meant by the verbiage in the standard as well as pictures of what is considered incorrect and should be penalised.
Following the breed standard chapter are a couple of chapters relating to breeding. What the American breeder's code of ethics entailed at the time (copyright 1982). As well the all important coat color genetics. For those who may not be as familiar, the great dane breed is broken down by color and the majority of people breed danes according to the three color families. These color families are the fawn/brindles, black/blues, and harlequin/mantles. At the time that this book was published, mantles were not a recognised color in the show ring. I believe that didn't happen until 1998 or 1999. And yes, it was that recent. Because most breeders want to be able to combine two dogs who will not only complement each other conformationally, but genetically, the study of coat color genetics is a big deal. I won't even bother to touch on it except to say that there's a good reason why harl breeder's are not envied!
Following the chapters on breeding are a couple of chapters discussing nutrition and diseases that the breed is prone to. Nutrition is important regardless of the dog or the breed. However, some breeds require more forethought into what they eat than others. The great dane is one of those, if for no other reason than growing giant breed puppies take special consideration.
These more sobering topics are followed by a subject that makes me smile. The chapter is titled "The Dane and Obedience.":) This chapter was written by Rose Sabetti, who was not only a dane fancier, but was there on the ground floor for the "obedience movement." It was fascinating to read about how the sport got started and how the number of great danes titling in obedience increased as the years went on. If you're a nut about this kind of stuff you'll love it. If you're also enough of a history buff to recognise the names of the early dane people competing in obedience as well as the dogs, you'll be over the moon!
The next chapter is about the Great Dane Club of America and how it got started. It's a little more history and just another nugget of knowledge that's fun to read.
The book is finished up by Draper talking about the great dane in art. In a nut shell, how much more complete could this book be?? She includes lovely pictures of various dane figurines, paintings, and stamps in addition to more history about the specific pieces.
All throughout the book are pictures of great danes. The majority are show pictures that include little captions about the dog, parentage, and the owner(s). These pictures serve to demonstrate the great continuity in type and structure that breeders strive for. The dogs pictured could easily be competing with today's dogs and winning. Their beauty is stunning and serves as a testament as to why the great dane has been dubbed the Apollo of dogs.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
We also won an award (thanks Remi!!)!! But I'm going to save that for once the Iditarod excitement fades.:)
I have a bit of good news on the Bess agility front! We went out to the practice barn tonight and I did a LOT of recalls with Bess. I actually did some with Heffner too to add a little variety in. With Bess I did short recalls on the ground. Recalls over one jump. Recalls here. Recalls there. She was doing SO well, that I decided to tempt fate and take her off leash after about 10-15 min. of being on leash. She did GREAT!! We did have one episode where she sucked into a tunnel, which naturally amped her up. But she came back, I put her on leash, and then we did more recalls on the ground with me going super crazy and amping her up. Then she had to stop when I stopped being crazy. Rinse and repeat. I like the idea of crazy time being on leash and work time being off leash. Regardless, she's responding REALLY well and we even did a 7 jump sequence all OFF LEASH!! Woo hoo!! I was a happy camper! I'm also really working the dogs' contacts. I want a stop on the down contacts so that I can use those lovely contact obstacles on a real course to catch up or throw in a front cross. So far so good with that! Two thumbs up for tonight!
And now I'm off to fold my laundry and watch some She-Ra!!
Monday, March 7, 2011
When I get right down to it, it totally makes sense. While her zooming could be a little dash of stress, my gut says that's not the whole story. When she takes off, no amount of calling her brings her back until she's decided that she's done. We also have this exact same problem when we're out hiking. She gets on the scent of a deer, or better yet, sights an actual deer, and she is gone. There really isn't any calling her off of wildlife. Heffner I can call off. Bess, I have to wait for her to tire of the game or the deer to go somewhere that's too difficult for her to follow. She just totally gets in the zone and there's no getting through to her by verbal means. Something which was all too painfully evidenced by last summer's injury. If you've got a dog who won't listen and respect the command when it comes under ordinary circumstances, how can you possibly expect it when the dog is over aroused/stressed and has found a way to release it?
The other methods I've tried (from the suggestions of lots of great people!) obviously haven't had any sort of an impact, and this train of thought really makes sense. Especially when I think back to early training with Heffner. When I first started taking agility lessons with Heffner, we had a minor zoomy issue. Minor enough that I had kind of forgotten about it. At the beginning of each lesson, he would take one or two obstacles and then take off on a victory lap around the ring. Every. Single. Class. The difference is that he would actually come back to me when I called and that would end the zoom. This went on for a couple of months and then he just kind of got over it. It was never an issue after that. Even more recently in class there were times when I could tell that he was soooooo excited to be doing what he was doing and he soooooo wanted to just dig into the wonderful substrate that she has and just go tearing around the ring; he stayed with me. When we're out hiking, Heffner doesn't go terribly far from me. He may go off trail in a brief jaunt, but his recall is actually quite good. Even when there is wildlife involved.
For those who may be wondering what other means I have tried to get Bess through this, there's not a ton, but I'll go through them in case anyone else is going through a similar bout of craziness. We've tried incorporating tug play and jackpots before and after runs. The jackpots are for after runs. The tug play was tried before and after runs. She enjoys it for sure, but didn't seem to make a difference. There was all the proofing of working with me in the ring and trying not to give her the opportunity to self reward by leaving the ring on my terms in a trial setting. By Sunday of that trial weekend it was evident that wasn't having an impact. The most common advice that we got was to give her a time out. I tried this at the trial and I tried this during our practice barn time. I tried giving her a time out in a crate, in the truck cab, and in the entry way to the practice barn. Her time out length was varied from 5 minutes up to an hour. Yes, an hour long time out. I would then take her out and work with her again. The pretty consistent response that I got from her once she was back around agility equipment (and sometimes even before she was in sight of the equipment) was a dog who was more amped up then when she was put in her time out. The shorter duration time outs were more likely to lead to a dog who tried playing tug without being told and before even getting to actually work. The longer duration time outs usually lead to a dog who appeared to be calm, collected, and ready to work until she was released. Then we were back to playing Bess' game. So across the board the time outs in all their varieties didn't seem to have the intended impact. At one point I even tried just straight up yelling at her in a very mean mommy voice and telling her NO. It certainly didn't do anything while she was out having a blast running around where I couldn't get to her. And obviously yelling at her and telling her no is not the way to go when she would finally come back to me. So there you have it. Recall work I will happily try. Now I just have to develop a game plan.
On to a lighter subject, I painted the dogs' toe nails last night!!:0) A few weeks back I bought a new shade of green nail polish and some shamrock nail decals from Fred Meyer. Now that St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, I figured the dogs and I should get a little festive. I was not as inspired to put the effort into applying nail decals to my own nails, but the color matches!
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Now on to the real weekend wrap up. Yesterday I entered both dogs in an agility match. It was a good experience and I gained a fair amount with both dogs from it. Heffner is slowly getting back into the agility thing, but he's more than happy to be back out there. I'm still jumping him at a lower height, but he's having a great time all the same. On the first run I kind of babied him a little. I treated him a little like a fragile glass figurine that might break if I wasn't careful enough. While I do need to be mindful with him, at the same time, it does him no good to have me out there worrying about every little foot placement. He was a little hesitant in some areas, but overall I was pleased with his performance. His second run was much better. Probably because I decided to stop worrying so much and see what we could do. I still broke the course down into segments, but he definitely had a lot more fun the second time around! He gets adjusted next week, so I'll get a better idea of how his body is handling going back to agility and the reconditioning that we've been doing.
Bess and I have some serious work ahead of us. I had already decided that at least through the month of March, Bess was not going to get even a little taste of being off leash in an agility setting. Saturday reaffirmed my decision. I had one of the club members there watching her to see if they could give me any pointers on what to do to combat the crazy zoomies that we are now constantly dealing with. She's not stressed going into the ring or waiting outside the ring. She's quite calm and collected in her stay while I've got her set up. It's somewhere after the release that she goes bananas. I did some proofing of her start line stays and that went well. I decided that for her first run, we would do one obstacle, then tug, another obstacle, then tug, and so on. It seemed to work well, though she was obviously strung really tight and really wanted to take off running. She was staying with me and seemed to catch on to the pattern. She was REALLY into tugging and I had the paw prints all over me to prove it. For her second run, we did two obstacles, then tug, two obstacles, then tug, and so on. Doing two obstacles really pushed her over threshold. Even though she was on leash the entire time, she was still trying to dig in and take off. She actually was able to drag me a distance a couple of times. So yeah, we're still working on the zooming thing. The only thing that I can really come up with is that this is a phase that I'm just going to have to wait out and try to plan for how to prevent it happening in the future. Only time will tell I guess. On the up side, she remains very enthusiastic throughout!
After the match we went home and chilled at the house for a bit, then I headed out to Wilsonville for drill team practice. We were down one member and a choreographer, but I think that we made it through quite well and started figuring out how we're going to rework some of the open spots in the choreography that we have to fill. It was a pretty productive practice!
Today I got to sleep in!! I played with the dogs in the morning and then we went out on a little hike with some friends in the afternoon. I forgot my camera at home, so no pictures, but it was a lovely day. The weather was fairly warm and the trail conditions were good. It was a great way to sort of end the weekend. Now I'm off to torment, I mean play with the dogs some more.;0) I hope everyone had a great weekend!
Friday, March 4, 2011
I know that I've said it before, but one of these years I would really love to go up there and volunteer for the race. There's so much more that you can experience by actually going and helping out in one of the many positions that they have! It would just be incredible to see the mushers and dogs up close like that. Granted the mushers are going to be in a bit of a fog and focused on the task at hand. Even so, just being around to soak it all in would be something!
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Our regular routine is that once I get home from work I feed them right after taking them out to potty. Since the majority of our cardio involved activities happen after 8pm, I want to make sure that they have enough time to eat, digest, and be okay to go running or whatever we're doing.
If you'll remember from a previous post, Heffner developed a bit of a demand barking propensity around meal time. It all started off cute enough (don't all bad habits?). He would roo at me or do something else that I found adorable while I was fixing the dogs' meals. My reaction was to laugh or make some sort of comment. Basically positively feeding into his reactions. Well, it was escalating into some seriously annoying demand barking that would NOT stop. It stopped being cute and started being something that I needed to fix. The fixing was thankfully easy enough. Even though Bess is a complete angel and will actually go and stand waiting in her crate for her meal without even being told to, I put both dogs in a down stay out of sight of the kitchen. Heffner will occasionally whine, but as long as I don't feed into that (i.e. make fun of him out loud for being such a poor, starving, deprived dog), he quiets down. He also has learned that I will continue to withhold food if he breaks that stay. And since he is clearly starving to death, he will do EXACTLY as told in order to get that precious food. Once he's given the release word, he launches out of his tensed position and hurtles toward the door. I should probably work on that part a little too.;0) From there, everything is peachy keen.
If I don't feed dinner right away though, it's a whole different story. First the dogs start out slow to see if I've just had a momentary lapse into insanity. Heffner does nose bumps all over until I acknowledge him in some way. Then Bess comes in to invade my bubble by putting her nose exactly 1 mm in front of mine (I'm usually sitting when this happens) and leaning her body into me. It's effective. She gets my attention. If I continue to not produce dinner, that's when the dogs go crazy. They start zooming around the house, wrestling maniacally with each, producing a horrifying array of sounds, and using the walls of whatever room as their spring boards. Playing and wrestling is normal for them, but this kind of wrestling takes it up a few notches and only happens when they haven't received dinner at the appointed time. The wrestling is also hard to break up and get them to settle down from. I usually have to bodily block one from the other for an extended period of time or I have to yelp very loudly like an injured dog. They put on quite the show. Enough so, that they've actually put a few dents in our walls in the process. Oy!
You'll have to excuse the ugliness of some of the wall colors. The house came like that and we haven't gotten around to repainting. Maybe because we're waiting to also have the holes repaired?? Also excuse the obvious slobber marks on the walls. Spit happens!
The moral of the story is that if I don't feed my dogs their dinner on time, someone or something is going to pay!
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
I took the dogs out to the agility barn tonight for the first time in about a month. Heffner was fantastic!! OMG! He was so obviously excited to be there. We warmed up a bit and then we just played around a little and he totally got the zoomies. I saw it coming and I knew that he needed a little release. He had such a blast! And then got right down to business after that. I'm jumping him at a lower jump height right now and we didn't work anything particularly hard, but I'm just so thrilled to be running him again!!
Bess also got to come along and play her version of agility which involves remaining on leash the entire time. I have never seen a dog try to take off zooming so much while ON LEASH! At one point I had the leash attached to my waist to free up my hands and she almost dragged me into a freaking tunnel! Somehow she managed to turn around in the tunnel and come flying back out at me. Yeah, that was fun. For probably the first 10-15 min. she kept trying to run off after one or two jumps. I really wish that I had somehow managed to record the whole session because she was in serious spaz mode and wanted nothing more than to just RUN! We've got some work ahead of us!