Monday, December 28, 2009

Welcome back to the dog blog, I say to myself ...

We've had tons of rain around here over the past two months, which has made the ground so extremely soggy that's it's been hard to get in a lot of agility training and practice with the girls. But did that mean I took the time to write about dogs and agility in my dog blog instead? No, it did not.

But I did move 8 of my 12 channel weave poles into my basement so I can get Tally and Pinky finally weaving. It's so funny the differences between them: Tally is go go go and doesn't seem to sweat it as the poles move closer together. Her main problem is that she goes too fast to always stay in the channel--she just sort of flys out accidentally. Pinky, however, is very deliberate, paying close attention to where she is stepping. She's very sensitive to any change in pole width, so we're progressing at a snail's pace. I don't see her becoming a fast weaver anytime soon. The only think holding Tally back is that I don't train and practice her nearly as often as I should be. She's probably be weaving a completely close set like a pro if she belonged to someone less lazy than I am.

Anyway, that's not what I came to talk about. I'm thinking about Doggie Stress, mostly because I just caught up with my Team Small Dog blog reading and This Post made me think somewhat about Pinky and Tally and stress, and rather than blah blah blah about my own dogs over in Laura's comments I figured I should do that here in my own blog.

So what I'm thinking about is how different dogs (and by that I mean Pinky and tally) handle stress so very differently. I just discovered this the other week in class with Tally, after I inadvertently completely stressed her out. Well, actually, I think she stressed me out first, because I've created a Shaping Monster: we've done so may shaping games that now I have a hard time just getting her to relax and chill while waiting our turn in class. She wants to throw behavior after behavior at me, and if they don't succeed in getting a reward she wants to start barking at me, as if to say "HELLO! I'm doing stuff here!" So when my turn came, I was exasperated and stressed. Then I wondered why I couldn't get her off of me; it's like she was stuck like glue, refusing to stop staring at me. Usually she has brilliant obstacle focus, but now suddenly she was all handler.

Val, my instructor, pointed out that I was stressed and had stressed Tally out, and her staring at me was because she wanted to be absolutely sure of what I wanted before she did anything, because obviously whatever she was doing wasn't pleasing me. I hadn't a clue ... Pinky and Lucy always exhibited their stress by going away and sniffing and pretending they couldn't hear me. Now suddenly I have a dog who stresses the opposite way, by gluing herself to me and refusing to take her eyes off me (I swear, even though she's only 14 lbs., her behavior reminds me so much of many border collies I know ...)

Anyway, I've decided that from now on, Tally goes into a crate between turns in class so I don't get stressed about her demand to play shaping games. (I tried shaping her to relax on her mat, but we got stuck on the "relax" part. I couldn't get past her thinking that the mat was just the place she was supposed to go and try out her repertoire of shaped behaviors, or bark at me if the didn't work ...) Good thing she's small and her crate is very portable.

There's also a big difference between what stresses Pinky and Tally in the first place: Pinky doesn't like too much pressure. It's as if she needs everything to be her idea. When she goes through the weave channel, she's more relaxed and faster if I keep some distance. If I act like her doing something is really important to me, she's more likely to shy away from it. If I pretend I'm not overly interested, she's more likely to try things. Tally, on the other hand, really really wants to know what I want her to do. She'll try all sorts of behaviors if it's not apparent to her, but she's very tuned in to my actions for any cues I may be throwing off. It's a little unnerving, actually. But if I can get used to it I'm going to have a tiny little kick-ass agility girl ...

In other news, I decided that since USDAA Nationals will be somewhere on this side of the country in 2010 (I really hope it's Kentucky), I may as well see if I can qualify Lucy. I'm pretty sure we'll have no problem in Perfomance Gran Prix and PVP Team, but I'm not so sure about the Performance Speed Jumping. Lucy's really a great dog, but she doesn't always take top honors for speed. I guess I'll just have to enter a lot and hope we get lucky ...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Silence of the squirrels

Squirrels are great little sprinters and it's always impressive when a dog can catch one. After the catch ... maybe not so much fun. Definitely no fun for the squirrel.

Yesterday I was out with my three, and I guess I had a moment of inattention because Tally lunged for a squirrel and her leash just jumped right out of my hand. At first I thought "No biggie. She'll tree it then stand barking at the base of the tree and I'll go get her." I was a little flabbergasted that she caught it with absolutely no problem. She's an amazingly fast little dog.

For a second it looked like the squirrel would get away, because Tally released it ... no, then she caught it again, wounding it this time. She kept catching it, releasing it and catching it again like a cat would, and I couldn't stand to watch. So I let go of Lucy and Pinky, knowing that Lucy would go straight for the kill and end the poor squirrel's suffering. She did, with one quick bite.

So then I had three dogs playing tug-of-war with a dead squirrel, and I was hoping to creep in and grab their leashes before ... too late. Tally gained control of the squirrel and took off with the other two in pursuit. I became the crazy dog lady running down the street screaming her dog's names in vain. It was a nice day and neighbors were out, too.

Lucky for me Tally wanted to enjoy her prize on her home turf. She led us all straight home and when I caught up I only had to open the gate to the back yard and everyone ran in. Tally proceeded to take victory laps around the yard with her treasure while the other two chased her.

I didn't want to have to go searching for the squirrel or its bits later (when it was likely to start stinking) so I needed to get Tally to drop it. A while back I got Pinky to drop a dead rat (killed by Lucy) by throwing cheese at her, so I went in to get some food. I grabbed some meatballs--perfect for throwing! I also grabbed the camera, and here's what followed:

And no matter how many times I do it, I can never get over my squeamishness and revulsion at having to pick up a dead critter ...

In other news, Tally is adorable, if occasionally annoying:

Friday, October 23, 2009

My little stick of dynamite


It's been almost five months since I got Talladega, and I'm really amazed with her. When she first showed up it was hard to even live with her. She was terribly rude and ill-behaved, and thought the best way to get a human to play was to bite a face or appendage. She wasn't house trained and couldn't be trusted out of my sight at any time whatsoever unless she was in a crate. Now she's house-trained (provided I make sure she gets out at the right times), only slightly rude and occasionally ill-behaved, and can be trusted out of my sight for minutes at a time! She still tries to nip the occasional face, but we're working on that.

But all that will come and I don't mind it so much because I think she's going to be a kick-ass little agility dog. Our major problem has been focus. She's so into everything and everyone (she loves the world and the world loves her!) that it's been hard for her to stay working with me when there are possibly exciting things around. Over the past six weeks I've had her in two classes designed to work on exactly that, and she's made remarkable improvement. She's not 100 percent yet, but she's good enough that I think can "mainstream" her into a normal agility class.

Meanwhile, on my own, I've been working on obstacle performance, and she's a dream. She learns so quickly and seems to really have a great time. She also overcomes her fears quickly; she's gotten a little startled by the teeter, and flew off the dogwalk once, but she's always willing to give it another go right away. This is a huge contrast to Pinky, who gets really shaken at the smallest scare. She was startled on the dogwalk once and I couldn't get her to approach it again. I had to start all over again on a low contact trainer and work all the way back up.

I've still got a lot of work to do on her jumping skills, and the weaves are a work in progress, but I've got time; based on the vet's age estimate, Tally won't even be old enough to compete in USDAA until next April. And I'm trying not to even focus on that, because I really want to enjoy the process. Now that I'm really getting her attention, training her is amazingly fun.

A great side effect of Tally's success is that she's made me completely relax about training Pinky, because now I know I'll have a dog to run when Lucy retires. Pinky can stay in training for years. This has had a wonderful effect on her training. With me relaxed, Pinky relaxes and we make good progress. Duh! I actually knew this would be the case, but it was getting myself to REALLY relax, as opposed to just pretending to relax, that was the key. Dogs notice!

It's a game. It needs to be fun!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do our dogs gripe about us after a run?

I had a good time doing USDAA this past weekend. Lucy was fabulous and I wasn't too bad either. We got a few Qs (2 Snooker super Qs and 1 Jumpers) and missed a few, but we were a good team all weekend.

But I've got a little rant inside me that I need to let loose ...

Over the weekend I got really sick of listening to people bitch about how something their dog did ruined their run. I felt like if I heard an indignant "S/he knows better!" one more time I was in danger of slapping whoever said it. It's almost heartbreaking to see someone out on a course with a dog who was trying hard to do the right thing, getting confusing, late or no instructions, and then getting lectured by the handler ("what were you doing? You're not listening Blah blah blah!") as they come off course.

If our poor dogs could talk amongst themselves they would probably be saying stuff like "What was s/he thinking waiting until I was on the landing side of the jump before telling me I needed to turn?" or "All of a sudden s/he moved in a way s/he never does in training, and it just threw me completely off and I popped a weave. She never does that--I don't know what got into her!" or "S/he was driving right toward that jump so I thought I was supposed to take it. Then s/he started screeching in a panicky voice 'Here here HERE HERE!!!' and it frightened me out of my wits. I slowed waaay down after that and hesitated before the rest of the jumps because I wanted to know for darn sure I was supposed to take it so s/he wouldn't yell at me again ..."

Full disclosure: I used to blame Lucy for stuff that was my fault all the time. So I'm not holier than anyone. (And I really hope I didn't make too huge a fuss about it to other people because god, it's awful to have to listen to!) At some point, however, I realized what a stupid dope I was and that Lucy was actually really, really good at this stuff and I was the one who sucked. And after that we just started getting better and better. I really wish I could share that revelation with the people I hear bitching about their dogs, but that would amount to saying "hey, your dog is great but you suck!" And that's pretty much an awful thing to say to anyone. I probably would have cried if anyone had ever said it to me even though it was the truth.

So I don't know if there's much a of a solution for me on this issue, aside from turning away and refusing to listen to anyone who's dissing their dog. Or maybe I should try sarcasm (I'm really, really good at that) and say something like "Yes, it's a shame that your dog keeps screwing up when you're always so perfect out there."

Or maybe I'll just come here and rant whenever it gets to me ...

But now a fun bit to counteract all my negativity! At one point over the weekend, Derrell Stover "got" me with a little joke: He asked, when I was bar-setting, whether I had raised the chute. I actually stopped, thought and looked toward the chute before I realized it was a joke. I had a good chuckle and decided I'd have to try it on someone else. So before our Standard run on Sunday, after table legs and whatnot had been changed for P 12", I asked the judge (Melanie Behrens) if she had lowered the chute. Yeah, I got her! But then in our run that followed, Lucy apparently decided the chute wasn't low enough:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Practice, practice ....

practice pose
Originally uploaded by bunchofpants
I want to be able to put all three dogs into a sit or a down, move away, and have them all stay put while I take photos. Lucy is a champ at this. Pinky's getting better, but will change her sit to a down if she doesn't get a reward right away for the sit, because she thinks a down is a more lucrative position. Tally ... well I'm lucky if I can keep her is a sit for more than a moment, and she definitely doesn't stay while I move away. But we'll keep practicing ...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

My lesson of the week: Stand up!

I did three days of agility with Lucy in a trial on home turf over the Labor Day weekend. Not three full days--I don't ask the old girl to do that any more--I only entered her in three events per day. We had some great successes: a Jumpers Q (for the PIII jumpers title); two standard Qs (the first of which got us the PIII Standard title), and two more Snooker Super Qs (one more Snooker Q and we'll have PIII Snooker Bronze!) Our pairs run was beautiful; unfortunately our partner E'd, but we had a good time.

Notice I haven't mentioned any Gamblers Qs? Since achieving the ADCH and moving over to Performance, we have yet to get a gamble. I'm starting to think I should just stop entering Gamblers, since I'm not chasing the APD title. Maybe I should just enter the things we're really good at until I retire Lucy. Why keep trying at something that only leads to frustration? On the other hand, I keep thinking that sooner or later we'll do it. I work on gamble skills when we train (although now that she's getting old I don't spend a lot of time training her). It's something to think about.

Overall, the trial felt very positive and rewarding to me, and Lucy was running fast and seemed like she was having a good time out there. But I had one moment where I did a really boneheaded move that I knew was wrong, wrong, wrong, and that prematurely ended what was shaping up to be a fabulous Snooker run: I bent over to pull my dog into handler focus. Of course, it did not draw her toward me, as I intended, but pushed her out and away, so she jumped the #2 closing obstacle in the wrong direction.

I had been trying to threadle Lucy. There are lots of ways I could have handled this successfully, none of which involve bending over, and I had even planned to do it correctly (with a "backy-uppy" move) in the walkthrough. The problem is that to us humans, it seems like bending over should draw the dog in, so in a pinch or a panic, we resort to stupid instinct. To dogs, us bending over looks like we are pushing or pointing ourselves toward an obstacle (probably the wrong one). I used to make this mistake all the time with contact/tunnel discriminations. I want the near obstacle so I lean in toward Lucy thinking I'm somehow "engaging her," but she thinks I'm indicating the far obstacle. I see my friends do it all the time, and if they say "I don't know why she took X instead of Y" I can say "oh, you leaned over. You need to stand up straight."

So the fact that I know better and did it anyway makes me feel like even more of a dope. But I'm a trainable dope, I think. I swear if I got a do-over I wouldn't do the same mistake again. Maybe a whole new mistake to learn from, but not that one!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fun with judges' discretion

I ran Lucy in a USDAA trial in Colfax, NC, on Friday and Saturday. It was hosted with a brand-new club (Carolina Piedmont Agility) at a brand-new site (well, the site's been there for a while--it's a horse arena, but it's new to agility) and it really couldn't have been nicer. I'll definitely be going back.

I only entered Lucy in 4 classes on Friday and three on Saturday because now that she's old, I need to lighten up. We did pretty well--a Snooker Super Q and a Pairs Q (netting us our PIII relay title) on Friday, and another Super Q and a Standard Q on Saturday. I so wish I had gotten Saturday's Standard run on video, because it was exactly the kind of run that keeps me doing agility. I was where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there, and Lucy corresponded. Alas, you'll just have to take my word that occasionally I'm a really good handler!

Our Saturday Snooker run was another story. (It was caught on video by a friend, but I don't have it to post. Not sure if I want to, either.) I had made a simple plan, but then executed it badly, and at one point, after completing the 2-part number six obstacle in the opening, Lucy then back-jumped 6b (or, I should say, my bad handling caused her to back jump). I assumed I was toast and started heading to the finish line, but I wasn't hearing a whistle ... why no whistle? Then Lucy, smart little dog who apparently has learned the "if you don't hear a whistle just keep going" rule, decided to jump a red, which happened to be the red I had planned to go to after the number six anyway. I heard the judge call "One!" Holy moley, I thought, I'm still alive here! So I just proceeded with the rest of my plan, pushing for speed because I'd wasted time thinking I was cooked. The rest of the course was gorgeous! We finished before the buzzer with 42 points (which, because no one else in the running got enough points to even qualify, gained us a Super Q). But why didn't we get whistled off after that number 6?

I asked a few people and no one seemed to really know, so I buttonholed my friend Derrell Stover, who's a judge in addition to being one of the most awesome handlers I've ever seen. He told me there are two schools of thought about how to judge what we did, and our Judge (Allison Bryant) apparently subscribes to the Cheri Wittenberg philosophy, which is: we had successfully completed that obstacle combo, and we then faulted it before attempting another red and therefore we were not pointed for it but could continue to accumulate points. However, he said that if it happened again under a judge who subscribed to the Tom Kula school of thought it could be considered an off-course and we could be whistled off. For some reason I find these issues of discretion fascinating ... it sort of adds to the excitement of Snooker, really. Or maybe that's just me being geeky.

At any rate, the lesson, which I should have already learned by now (and Lucy seems to know!) is if I don't hear a whistle just keep going, even if I know I screwed up. As it was, lucky little Lucy saved my butt, but I'm supposed to be the one thinking out there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Patience, possibilities, payoffs ...

Tonight I felt like I had a big breakthrough. I've been struggling for the past few months to walk three dogs, two of whom are young and full of themselves. Talladega has been the toughest of the three, because when I got her at the end of May, she was almost like a little savage with absolutely no self-control whatsoever. On the leash she was awful, especially when we crossed paths with other dogs. She absolutely loves other dogs and thinks it's her god-given right to meet them all. She would ignore food, even if it was right under her face, preferring to whimper, bark and pull toward the other dog. It was mighty frustrating. But I tried to remain steadfast and patient, and tonight, for the first time ever, whenever we passed other dogs (three times), she fell into line at my side with the other two, looking up at me and not the other dogs. It was beautiful! One guy said "It looks like they're synchronized!" Of course, Tally's learned by now that not only is she never, ever going to get to go say hi to that other dog, but that Charlee Bears are pretty good and there's probably going to be one for her when we get past the other dogs. It also helped that I spent a lot of time hand-feeding her meals in exchange for attention, tricks etc., so she's learned that food has value.

She's also a whiz to train in general. After working her with the wobble board and skateboard, I decided to try some other cool stuff with her. A friend lent me a little wooden spool so I could try to teach Tally to roll it with her front feet while walking with her back (it's a first step in teaching a dog to do something like pushing a baby carriage). All I did was get a bag of treats and set the spool in front of me, and the first thing Tally did was put her front feet on it and start rolling it! I think after the skate board she just assumed that's what I wanted. I was completely amazed. I also wanted to teach her to push a playground ball with her nose, but when I put the ball in front of her she put her front feet on it and started rolling it with them while she walked on her hind legs! We still have some coordination issues to work out before she can sustain the spool and ball tricks for more than five or six steps, so I have some practicing to do. By that point maybe I'll have picked up a tripod so I can video it all properly. She's a truly amazing little dog.

I have a lot of focus work to do to move forward with her agility training. It's hard for her to keep her mind off the people, other dogs and great smells in class. She's improving, however, and next session we're signed up for a Focus and Motivation class taught by Melanie Miller (I took the class last summer with Pinky). I'm hoping it helps.

As for Pinky, moving her down to the "baby" level class was the best thing, I think. Making things very simple and progressing very slowly turned out to be exactly what she needs. She's really blossoming doesn't seem nearly as nervous as she used to be. She seems to enjoy the class much more than when I was trying to have her on a more accelerated track. I was just asking too much to quickly.

And Lucy is still good little Lucy. We took another distance class because gambles are still tough for us, and I learned that I'm relying too much on body cues for "right" and "left" and not enough for verbals. When your dog is heading directly away from you to a distant gamble obstacle, they're not necessarily going to see the body cue for a change of direction. They have to hear it (something I should have remembered and worked on after Stuart Mah, but I didn't).

My dogs are filling me with optimism ...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tally ho!

I've been working with Tally on the skateboard and wobble board:

Training with Tally from bunchofpants on Vimeo.

I need to find a bigger paved surface to take her skateboarding, because the screen porch is a bit cramped. My driveway is gravel, so that's out. I'll be on the lookout for a seldom-used tennis court.

In Pinky news, moving her back down to "baby" classes, where the exercises are easy and short and the jumps are left low, turned out to be a great idea. She seemed to have a lot of fun in class last night, with only a few short incidents of stress sniffing. I think that while Tally will do well with an accelerated training schedule because she's always willing to try new things and overcomes her fears very quickly, Pinky will do best if I keep it slow and let her get really comfortable with things before I move on.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So many mini mutts, so little time ...

It seems I need to start every blog post with an apology for not being a very good blogger. That may be, but I'm spending the time trying to be a better dog trainer and handler, and with three dogs now I'm getting plenty of opportunities. Here's a bit of a recap of what we've all been up to:

Lucy: The old girl is definitely slowing down a little, which is not surprising considering she turned 11 in May. But when she's on, she's good. I'm taking another distance class with her; the one we took last summer helped her get her ADCH, but since we moved over to Performance III we've gotten no gamble Qs. She did make one gamble very nicely, but since I was out of position and far from the gamble line when the horn sounded, the buzzer went off as she was launching over the last jump. So no Q, but it still felt good. She's really rocking the exercises in distance class, which gives me hope that we still have a few good gambles ahead of us.

I've reduced the number of runs that I'll put her in over any weekend, though, because she tires easily. It makes me a little sad because we really hit our stride as an agility team over the last two years, but I want to keep her injury-free and with me as long as possible. She's happy as long as she's with me, regardless of whether she's doing agility or not, so there's no reason for me to push her.

Pinky: Her leg is healed, although she still has intermittent lameness, but I've been allowed to phase in all of her previous activities. The problem is, her confidence is worse than before she broke her leg (and it was never great to begin with). I started her back in a young dogs class, but it's clear she can't really handle even short sequences anymore, and all of the progress I'd made on the dog walk and the A-frame are gone. So we're going back to baby stuff. Part of the problem is that after so much forced inactivity, none of her muscles are as strong as before, so she may have lost confidence in her body. So while I'm building that back up I've moved her into a Beginner 2 class where we will do single obstacles, the contact trainer and sequences of, at most, three obstacles. Meanwhile I'm working her on channel weaves at home. I'm not even thinking about the teeter at this point ... no sense in freaking her out even more. In fact, I've resigned myself to the fact that Pinky may never be a competition agility dog, which is OK because she's just a complete sweetheart and I love having her around. Maybe she'll be the one who makes me expand my horizons with Rally-O or Canine Musical freestyle.

Talladega: What a jewel I stumbled onto! I guess credit should go to my friend Cindy, who first sent me the Petfinder link. The first thing that wowed me after I got her home was her incredible attentiveness. I hadn't even decided on a name yet, so I couldn't really teach attention-to-name, but if I just said "hey" she'd turn on a dime and come to me, as whatever I wanted were more important that whatever she was about to do.

But she came to me with absolutely no manners whatsoever and an almost manic fondness of jumping and biting hands, feet, noses, eyeglasses. She seemed very starved for attention, which isn't surprising because she was a homeless dog who lived in the foster home's yard (their existing dog hated her and wouldn't let her in the house) for weeks until I got her. So my first task was to teach her a few manners, which I did at mealtimes. Instead of getting her food in a bowl on the floor, it all came from my hand in exchange for small acts of politeness. At first, she got food simply for keeping all four paws on the ground and not biting my legs or the hand with the food. Then I started feeding her for sits, then downs. Nothing she got was free. She was vastly improved after just one day of that and like an old pro after a week.

Tally's got bravery and drive, and she seems to thrive on all of the things that turned Pinky into a shrinking violet (skateboard, wobble board, contact trainer). Her incredible attentiveness makes her very easy to teach. She loves every toy I've tried, and always wants food. I have no doubt she's going to accelerate past Pinky in her training. In fact, before she broke her leg I had signed Pinky up for a September Stuart Mah beginner dog seminar, but I'm going to attend with Tally instead.

I'll try to beg or borrow a tripod and get some video of her to post here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The dog has a name!

I finally decided on a name for The Dog Formerly Known As Star: Talladega, or Tally for short. I just really like the word Talladega, and the fact that it brings to mind racing, as in the Talladega 500. Plus Tally is a great call name for a dog and it really seems to suit the little cutiepie.

Meanwhile, Pinky is still healing, and I can't wait until she's given the green light to properly play with other dogs. As it is, it's hard to have Pinky and Tally both out of their crates at the same time because all they want to do is rar-rar-rar and body-slam each other. In a good way ... they became instant friends. In fact, in the mornings and after work, I let Pinky out of her crate first, and after stretching the first thing she does is go to Tally's crate and wait for her to be let out.

Good times!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The pros and cons of looking for trouble ...

I was discussing little Miss Alabama She-Ra Caprica Demeanor with Val, my agility instructor, and she said that before I decide to keep her I need to get her hips, knees and elbows x-rayed to make sure they are sound. I think she's thinking this way because she had her young border jack checked a few months ago and discovered that he's dysplastic in one hip, which really upset her. Not that it will stop his career or anything--I know lots of dysplastic border collies who have enjoyed long careers in agility and/or flyball. If you keep them lean and well-muscled they can do quite well. But since little cutiepie is a small dog, I started wondering about her knees--small dogs very often have luxating patellas, which can cause a lot of problems in sports.

But then Julie asked: Why go looking for trouble? Would it mean I wouldn't keep her and do agility with her? Good point. I like this dog (dang, I need to decide on a name for her SOON!!) and I think she's very smart. She's got a lot of natural attentiveness and a big desire to do stuff with me--she's not so interested in going off and noodling around on her own (makes me think there's no terrier in there!) Would I want to give her back at this point (even though I know she could get a good pet home in a heartbeat)? I think maybe not. So would it make a difference if I knew she had weak knees or a bad hip? Maybe not. Then again, after absorbing the financial shock of Pinky's broken leg, I'm not sure if I want to set myself up for a future of knee or elbow surgeries and rehab, either ...

Of course, she could always check out beautifully on all her parts and then go and break her leg in my backyard ...

In other news, a co-worker suggested the name "Talladega," which is a hellaciously good name for an agility dog! Decisions, decisons.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Say hello to ...

say hello ...
... er, well, I don't have a name yet. So far she is "Star," but she doesn't actually know that name and since I know of several dogs named Star running agility, I'd like to name her something else. I've been referring to her as Cutiepie Whats-her-name. More on the name later ...

I brought "Star" home yesterday from a rescue group in Mt. Airy, NC. She had been listed on Petfinder as probably a border jack, but she looks nothing at all like any border jack I've ever seen. In my opinion she looks like a papillon/mini aussie mix. The important thing is that she's attentive, very playful and smart, and I think she will make a fun agility partner. She also has absolutely no manners at all, but I'm already working on that! She's estimated to be 7 months old, and she weighs about 12 lbs. I'm not sure how tall she is currently, but I think around 12-13." I may take her to PBH this evening and see if I can get her to stand under the wicket.

I've surprised even myself by getting another dog. I've had a couple of offers to adopt great dogs over the past few months, but I kept saying no because I really didn't think I wanted a third dog. But then Pinky broke her leg, putting her training on hold for a while. And then Lucy turned 11. She's still a fun agility dog, but she really can't do as much as she used to, particularly if it's hot. Another factor is that Pinky is likely to measure over 16", if only by a fraction, and I don't think I want to jump her at 22", so in USDAA I'll have to keep her in Performance. Nothing wrong with that, but I also want a Championship dog to run ... I'm not sure why that's important to me, but it is, and I don't want probably-too-tall-Pinky to have to work way too hard because of it.

So anyway, about her name: I've got several in mind, but I'm having a hard time deciding. I like "Miss Demeanor" (Miss D? Meana?), "She-Ra, Princess of Power" (just She-Ra or Ra for short), "Caprica Six" (only Battlestar Galactica Fans will like this one; Cappi for short) and "Alabama" (Bama or Bam). I'm also open to other suggestions (a co-worker wants me to name her "Eileen" so I can say "Come on, Eileen"). So I was able to summon just enough geekiness to make an online survey. Please play along!
Click Here to take survey

Interesting tidbit ...

Yeah, I got a new dog, and I'll write more about that later. But right now I just wanted to share some info that may be interesting to dog owners in my area (Research Triangle, NC). The Department of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University is starting a Canine Cognition Center to study unique social cognitive abilities in dogs, (such as interpreting human gestures like pointing or eye gaze to find hidden food, a simple task that most other animals do not perform well in experiments.) The goal of the new lab is to run further experiments in the form of fun games on pet dogs to explore this unique ability.

The center will be starting its work next fall, but they are currently gathering information on potential participants. According to the information I received, the tests are expected to take 30 to 60 minutes and should not exceed two hours. Dog owners must be able to bring their dogs to the Center's lab on Duke's West Campus in Durham, where the dogs will participate in various problem solving games to win food rewards. Dogs of all breeds and ages are welcome and owners are welcome to sit in with their dogs while the testing is going on.

Although the studies will not start until Fall '09, dog owners who are interested in participating can fill out this questionnaire.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In the pink ... more or less

I took Pinky to see a rehab vet yesterday to get an assessment of how she's doing on her healing leg. He thinks she doing extremely well! She's using the leg and putting weight on it, has good range of motion and the muscling in that leg is only slightly less than in the other. He encouraged me to start incrementally increasing her walks, and gave me the OK to start swimming her. He sees no reason at this point why she shouldn't be able to eventually get back to doing agility. This makes me very happy! I really can't wait until she can run and play, but until then I'll be patient and try to do exactly what's recommended.

In other news, yesterday a friend sent me a link to a little border-jack-jack on Petfinder. In a fit of insanity I put in an application on the dog. what am I thinking? I have yet to meet the dog because she's about 2 hours away, so I have no idea if I'll click with her or not. All I know is she's small, cute and has a lot of energy, which is part of what I would want in a dog. But why am I thinking about adding another dog? I must be crazy ... but Lucy turned 11 years old last week, and I'm thinking she's not going to be able to do whole trials, even at 12", for very much longer. I've missed not being able to train with Pinky, and it made me start considering adding a dog, just to make darn sure I've got one to play with when Lucy retires. Is that terribly crazy?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Six weeks to go ...

no running, no jumping ...

So it's been two weeks since Pinky broke her leg, and I'm already starting to look forward to the end of crate/leash confinement. Must keep reminding myself not to rush anything. The photo above is Pinky doing one thing she's allowed: rolling in the grass (on leash, of course!)

She loves spending time outdoors, so I set up an X-pen in the yard where she can hang out while I'm doing yard work. I wish I had some sort of mobile pen, because my yard is very large and she gets upset when I'm all the way across the yard and she's stuck in the pen.

Yesterday I did a bit of shaping with her and made some progress towards "play dead." I figure that's a great thing to teach an injured dog! I'm also going to try Elayne's idea of teaching her the names of her toys, but first I have to come up with some names ... right now most of them are just called "toy!" She knows "ball" already, so I think I'll start by differentiating between "ball" and "tug." Then of course there's the problem of what to call the tug-ball, i.e. the ball-on-a-rope. Maybe I'll just name it "Bob" ...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poor little Pinky ...

I interrupt this blog's silence with some rather crummy news ... poor little Pinky broke her leg a week ago ... pretty badly, too. I suppose the upside of it is that now no matter what she she does in agility or whatever, I'll be thrilled that she's doing anything at all. All my frustrations about training her are gone ... I'll consider anything she's able to do to be awesome. Here's the damage:

Horrible, eh? "How did she do it?" is the first question everyone asks, and I really wish I knew. I wasn't watching. It was about 9:30 on a Saturday night and I had just gotten home from dinner with a friend and had taken her and Lucy into the backyard for a potty. Lucy had finished her business and wanted into the house, so I went to let her in, which put me out of sight of Pinky for a moment. The next thing I knew there was the sound of a dog screaming in pain from the yard ... it took me a few seconds to realize it was Pinky. I ran out to the middle of the yard and found her sitting sort of hunched and holding up her right front leg. I carried her into the light and could tell from a glance that something was really wrong with the leg, so I immediately stuck her in the her crate in the car and went to the emergency vet.

The prevailing theory seems to be that she stepped in a hole or something, although it had to have been just a shallow divot because that's all there are in the area where I found her (irony: most of the divots were dug by Pinky herself.). I'll never know for sure what it was, I guess, which makes me reluctant to ever let her out of my sight again once she's all healed.

The break required surgery to install a plate and some screws, which look something like this:

She got the bandage off after two days and is now putting some weight on the paw and using it a bit, but for the next seven weeks she is confined to her crate (or an x-pen I've set up in the living room) unless she's on the leash for potty breaks (or limited short walks after the fourth week). OK, I let her out to cuddle on the sofa with me every evening ... sue me! I do make sure I keep a hold on her so she can't impulsively jump off.

The great news is that she's expected to be able to do agility if I'm diligent about rehabbing her and manage not to let her re-injure herself during the healing process. It seems a bit ironic that the break happened the same day that I had had one of the best training sessions with her, ever ... I was feeling really upbeat about the fact that she was starting to relax and enjoy agility, and I was making plans to finally start training her on the teeter (I had even won a teeter base in a raffle!) Maybe after many months off she will be very excited to get back to it!

When she is allowed to do more activity, I think I'll take a tricks class with her before I get her back into agiltity. It seems like a low-impact way to get her working again, and she really seems to love any training that doesn't involve equipment.

Oh, and also, maybe I'll blog more ...