Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gomey!

This is the only video I got over the weekend--it's Mr. Gomez's first run of the weekend (jumpers, and we Q'ed!):



Thanks to my friend Shelly for taking it--she has a lot more agility vids you can watch here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Agility: More NADAC

I spent the weekend competing in another NADAC trial. I entered each dog in four runs per day, both for financial reasons and because remembering how to run two very different dogs is still new enough that I didn't think I could do any more. Results varied. Saturday gave us beautiful weather--sunny and warm. Mr. Gomez qualified in his first run that day (jumpers) but then we had a few runs where he spent a lot of his time looking around at the spectators and ring crew as if he was still trying to comprehend what was going on. So we wasted a little time here and there as I got his attention back and got him back on track through the course. I think he'll start getting over those behaviors the more he gets accustomed to the trial environment. Lucy was enthusiastic and fast all day Saturday ... too much so, in fact, because in each run she got way ahead of me and took an off-course obstacle before I could call her off of it. Still, it was great to see her so fast and confident. Plus, all of the work we have been doing on weave entries and contacts seems to have been paying off because she nailed every one beautifully.

Sunday was a quagmire. It had started raining heavily in the middle of the night, and when I got to the site at about 7:15 it didn't look like it would ever let up. The field, which under normal circumstances drains nicely, was a bog. The once waterproof hiking boots I was wearing were obviously no longer waterproof (fortunately I had brought two extra pairs of shoes and socks ... although once the second pair got completely sodden I just decided to keep them on and save the third pair for post-trial relief). Fortunately, the rain started slacking off by 9 am, but the field remained sodden, and it got worse all day as competitors slowly churned it to mud. Gomey went 1 for 4 all day, Q-ing only in Touch & Go (with a really beautiful run). Lucy took another off-course in T&G, but went on to have fantastic qualifying runs in Tunnelers and Weavers. Then we missed our Jumpers Q by .12 seconds--she had been well on her way toward an off-course jump when I called her off and got her back on course to finish clean, but we burned up too much time in the correction (we're in Open jumpers, where the times can be astonishingly tight).

At any rate, despite the fact that our Q's were sparse, I had a great time. I'm still not a fan of NADAC, however. I find that there is little consistency in the level of difficulty one can expect in the courses (i.e., at one trial they will be laughably easy, while at another almost impossibly hard). The NADAC trials just often feel so random--at one trial a judge may give a full 10 minutes to walk a course while at another trial (i.e. this one) the judge may give 4 minutes. I wonder if it's a coincidence that the only NADAC judge I have respected so far is also a USDAA judge? Too bad there aren't enough USDAA trials within easy driving distance to keep us busy all year--I'd skip NADAC completely. Fortunately we'll get a new option next spring because one of the local clubs will be hosting a CPE trial. I'll give it a try!

Friday, November 10, 2006

A home for Zsa Zsa?

Yesterday I was feeling frazzled and stressed because it seemed that my every waking moment outside of work (and even a few at work) was consumed with the care, exercise and training of little puppy Zsa Zsa. I was wondering how I could continue this for four more weeks (that's how long until her puppy class is over), and then what? What if no one wants to adopt her? Would I be able to keep this up indefinitely without going bonkers? Zsa Zsa is a sweet little dreamboat of a dog, but she's stil a puppy. A very, very busy little puppy.

But my friend Alyssa, who has been of great assistance during this whole endeavor, called last night with some great news: the folks at Annabelle's Second Chance, a pit bull rescue group that listed Zsa Zsa for us, had a potential adopter for us. Alyssa had spoken to them, and thought they sounded very promising--the one drawback being that they don't have a fenced yard. Well, I know a lot of people who are perfectly wonderful dog owners without fenced yards (my own mother, for example). I think the important questions are how much time are these people willing to spend on/with their dog, and do they plan to make the dog a full member of the family? In those respects, it sounds like this family might work for Zsa Zsa.

Alyssa said the family lives near her parents' house, where Alyssa is headed for the weekend, so it will be very convenient for her to take Zsa Zsa to meet them. As soon as she told me this I looked over at adorable Zsa Zsa contentedly chewing her rawhide bone in her x-pen, and thought "Oh, no! What am I going to do without her? She's too precious! I'm going to miss her!" Funny how one's perspective can change so quickly ...

It it true, I will miss her, but I will be so happy if this home works out for her. And Lucy and Mr. Gomez will be happy to have my undivided attention back. Speaking of them, they will both be competing in a NADAC trial at PBH this weekend. I don't feel mentally prepared because I've been focussing so much on the pup, but what the heck--we'll jusy run around and have some fun. It's only NADAC!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Puppies, puppies, puppies!

It's been pouring down rain all day and now I sit here wondering: How on earth am I going to get this puppy tired enough to want to settle nicely in her crate and sleep? It it were a light rain I'd just go ahead and walk her in it, but it's a rather heavy rain--it was hard to get her to want to leave the porch to take care of business. There are also 5-inch deep puddles in the back yard, so I can't really take her out to play ball (plus it's dark so early now--stupid daylight savings time!!) Right now she's cozy in her x-pen chewing a compressed rawhide bone (she loves them and I'm so glad for that!), but she will probably tire of that soon. I wish I was allowed to take her to the mall and walk her there--wouldn't that be wonderful? Instead I suppose I'll have to just play with her in the living room.

In other puppy news, my "senior puppy" class last night was borderline chaos. The smallest dog looked like she was about 35 lbs., the biggest is approaching 50 lbs. and none of them had been in any previous classes, so they were wired and wild and it was hard to maintain control long enough to get through the exercises. I really wonder why people wait until their puppy is big enough to pull them over before getting into a class where they can learn how to control it? Please people, start those classes right when you get the puppy (we accept them as young as 9 weeks old in "puppy primer")! You're doing no one any favors by waiting, least of all yourself. I've heard people say they are putting off puppy classes because they are "too busy right now." In that case, why didn't you wait to get the puppy until you had time to do what's necessary? By waiting, all people are doing is ensuring that they will have more problems to solve when you finally find the time to make it to class.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Puppy!

yes, i am adorable indeed

One of the reasons I haven't posted much lately is the puppy you see above. For some insane reason, I decided to be her foster home. Actually, I know exactly why I'm fostering her: she's absolutely awesome and needs to find an active home that will take full advantage of her awesomeness. I first met the pup--I'm calling her Zsa Zsa--at a flyball tournament in September, and I spent some time walking her, playing with her and trying some basic training (sit, loose-leash walking) with her. Her focus and attention for such a youngster (she was about 12 weeks old at the time--she's about 17-weeks now) just astounded me. She had all the motivations I would want for a sporty dog (tug, ball and food), and she was super handler-attentive even in the presence of lots of dogs and people. If I had been in a position to add a third dog to my household, she would have been it.

One would think that a pup like this would have no problem finding a home quickly, but she has a bit of a reputation to overcome--she's a pit bull. (More after the jump.)


She did briefly have a home, but they turned out not to be the right fit. The truth is that pit bulls--which in my opinion can be absolutely wonderful pets and sport dogs--are not for everyone. They require committed and knowledgeable owners willing to spend a lot of time with their dog. They require consistent and firm but loving training, and they need a lot of exercise. They get a lot of bad press for supposedly being aggressive towards humans, but the real problem to watch out for is aggression towards other dogs (those who know the breed recognize that they are usually extremely loving and devoted to humans, and very tolerant of handling). Proper socialization and supervision with other dogs is essential, and pit bulls may not always be suitable for dog-park-like recreational settings or multi-dog households. But their work ethic, drive and general enthusiasm make them well-suited for many different dog sports and work. A U.S. Customs dog trainer once told me that pit bulls make exceptional drug sniffer dogs, but the agency had to stop using them because anti-pit bull hysteria made people freak out when they saw them. I've even gotten some bad-will over the last few days just walking her around my neighborhood: people ask what she is and I've gotten a few horrified looks when I tell the truth ... as if she's going to eat all the neighborhood toddlers one day (one can only hope ... oh, I'm kidding, lighten up!)

Before she came to my house, Zsa Zsa's home was a boarding kennel. She was surrendered along with her heartworm-positive mother to the kennel owner by a neighbor who could not or would not take proper care of her dogs (the mother was so sick that Zsa Zsa is the only pup from the litter who survived). Although she got a lot of love from the kennel staff and was able to play with other dogs and pups, it really wasn't a great place for her to learn good potty-training or home-life skills and habits, and the kennel staff wasn't doing anything to pubicize her to potential adopters. I couldn't stand the thought that for lack of a little training she could end up being someone's problem--which is usually what happens when high-drive dogs don't get the stimulation and attention they require.

I decided to bring her to my house for a weekend trial period. Wow--even though I teach puppy classes, my dogs are getting old so I've not been required in recent years to practice what I preach! I had forgotten how extraordinarily demanding the little breasts are, and it took me a couple of mistakes to get the potty training rhythm going (once I got my act together Zsa Zsa responded well, and we're almost pros now). I had also forgotten that in the blink of an eye, puppy can go from chewing on authorized toy to unauthorized table leg, rug or pants leg, and when I tell my puppy classes that pup needs to be confined in a crate or x-pen if they aren't actively supervised, I'm not making it up or exaggerating! There is nothing in this world that Zsa Zsa doesn't want to pick up or chew on--or both. I noticed this morning that there's a growing pile of sticks by the front door--she picks them up when we're walking outside, but I make her drop them before we go in. I think that pit bulls can be even "mouthier" than other breeds, and it's likely to be a trait she holds onto past puppyhood. That means whoever adopts her will need to be committed to keeping her in a "dog-proof" place like a crate or x-pen well-into adulthood. Some people think it's cruel to confine a dog, but it's far better than what happens to dogs whose owners allow them to run loose only to decide that the dog "isn't working out" after it destroys expensive furnishings and posessions ...

Anyway, the big problem with having Zsa Zsa in my home is that Mr. Gomez (my big border collie mix) vociferously hates her (or almost any dog guest in our home), and I have to keep them separated, because Zsa Zsa wants nothing more in life than for him to love her. She's doing all the proper submissive things--scrunching down, bowing her head, trying to lick his mouth--but it only gets him more upset. At first, the mere sight of her set him to growling, but now he's cool if she doesn't pay any attention to him ... which doesn't last for long. At any rate, I have to keep them separated (he tolerates her hanging out in an X-pen in the same room as him), and the last thing I want her to learn is how to be hateful toward other dogs. Lucy tolerates her presence but she doesn't actually want to have anything to do with her so I don't really let Zsa Zsa try to play with her at all. The whole situation requires a lot of time and energy to manage, and when people say (as they do say--a lot) when I'm singing Zsa Zsa's praises "Oh, you're going to end up keeping that dog" I know there is no way I could do this permamnently. I had a foster dog several years ago whom I dearly loved (I think he was a lab/pit mix), but the three-dog circus just wasn't working (Mr. Gomez actively hated him, too, and he grew to hate Gomey right back). So when he finally found a home after seven months, I was sorry to part with him but very happy to be back down to two dogs.

The good news is that a fellow dog-training type and her partner may be interested in Zsa Zsa. They are going to meet her tonight. It would be an excellent home for her because they are experienced and active dog people, and they would give Zsa Zsa some training and a job. I really want to see her doing agility if possible, because I think she has the aptitude--I've already got her doing figure-8's around cones, running through tunnels and jumping onto a "tippy board," all of which she does with great enthusiasm. We'll see, and maybe I'll even find the time to keep you posted!