Friday, October 31, 2008

my baby girl

I had a scare with Misty this week.

Yesterday morning, I found a pee puddle on our couch. I knew it had been from Misty, not Oreo, as he never leaves my side in the morning. Misty had been laying on the couch after eating breakfast.

My dogs never pee in the house.

That made me think of the previous morning, when I had stepped on the carpet, and felt a wet spot. I had attributed that to wet paws, even though I questioned how their paws had gotten wet in the first place.

This morning, I checked the carpet again, after Misty stood up, and there were more wet spots.

Also, I have been noticing the past few weeks that Misty's poop has been smaller than usual, but have attributed that to many other things.

The combination of the two symptoms got me really nervous, as they were Munchkin's two symptoms right before he was diagnosed with cancer. Plus, Misty is almost the same age as Munchkin when he got the doomsday diagnosis.

I had Jeff bring Misty over to the vet this morning, while I was at work hosting Halloween parties for my students.

At first, I was going to wait until Monday to take her to the vet myself, because I am trying hard not to rush my dogs to the vet everytime I see the slightest change in their behavior. Plus, Misty didn't seem to be in any sort of discomfort. However, I knew I would be a nervous wreck and a googling fool all weekend if I didn't get her in today.

The vet did a urinalysis and ran some blood work. From the urinalysis, she thinks Misty has either a kidney or bladder infection. Her poop has been smaller, because her anal glands were impacted (sorry, I know that's gross). So, she put Misty on an antibiotic, drained her anal glands, and then cleaned her up for us too (that's a very stinky process).

The vet says I caught the infection really early, and if I had waited over the weekend Misty would have been in a lot of discomfort.

Hopefully, the blood work comes back normal, and Misty has a clean bill of health. She is eating and playing like her usual self, so I think she is going to be fine.

I know I'll sleep better tonight. I hope Misty will too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

learning the elephant trick

Oreo and I have been practicing the elephant trick, where he puts his front paws on a box, and then spins around like elephants do in the circus.

We were inspired to learn this trick by Sizzle, from the Knight's shelties. There is also a blog dedicated to this trick:
http://be-an-elephant.blogspot.com/

Here is a video of today's practice:

video
I am hoping that within a couple days, I will be able to stay in one place, and Oreo will just go around on his own. I get very dizzy training this trick.

We have been working on this trick for awhile, but were unsuccessful until I switched to this lower box. Now, Oreo is well on his way to being an "elephant".

Isn't it cute how Misty goes around too? Ahhh, the lure of a jerky treat....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

thanks Lian~

A fellow blogger, Lian, had seen my last video of Oreo's backyard practice. She told me that the jumps we were doing were called "snakes", although I think here in the US they might be called serpentines. Leave it to the Americans to make it sound even scarier.

Lian was kind enough to email me this handy baby snake sequence:
I thought I'd share it, in case anyone else wanted to try it.

She told me that if I angled the jumps like this for a while, then lined the jumps up in a row (like I had done in my video), Oreo would automatically jump right over them when I sent him.

I tried it this afternoon, and it was so easy! The hardest part for me was setting up the jumps. I had to keep looking at the diagram a thousand times, and turning the jumps this way and that. I never was very good at geometry.

Once I had the jumps in position, Oreo was flying over them, and I gradually put them back in a straight line.

Lian was right. Oreo jumped right over all three without me having to do any elaborate hand commands.

Thanks Lian!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

new class

How I wish I brought a camera to my new agility class today! Our class consisted of two shelties (Oreo and a sable sheltie) and two collies (a sable and a blue merle like Misty).

It was herding dog heaven. A family reunion of sorts.

There were also supposed to be two border collies, but their owner had hurt her back, so they couldn't make it. I hope they make it next week.

Immediately, I felt more comfortable in this class, simply because I was surrounded by all these luscious furballs with long snouts. Also, I knew if everyone dropped their leash, my dog would be safe.

Right away, this class was immensely different from my previous course. Everything was done in a "singsong" voice. The instructor took the time to get to know our dogs' names. Safety was a top priority. Things were taught at a much slower pace, and with more detail and explanation. The instructor made sure to praise me when I worked Oreo on my left side. I appreciated that.

How I wish we had come here first.

Oreo started the class a bit nervous around the other dogs, which is typical for him. By the end of the class, he was touching noses with the other sheltie, Sparky. It was quite sweet. Plus, Oreo was doing obstacles without me even giving him a command. I was merely walking him by a tunnel, and next thing I knew, he was inside it, and then hopping up on a nearby table. Clearly, Oreo was feeling comfortable here, which was the reason I signed him up for a class in the first place. I wanted him to be comfortable doing agility around other dogs, and in places besides our backyard.

Oreo and I have some homework to do this week. We have to learn how to get him to touch his nose to a plastic lid when I say "target", and to touch his nose to my palm when I say "touch". The "touch" will help when I am trying to get him to certain obstacles, because he will learn to look toward my hand as a guide. The "target" will help ensure he hits the yellow contact zones on the A-Frame and dogwalk, as the lid will be placed on the ground at the end of the obstacle. For example, he will stop at the end of the dogwalk, his back feet will still be on the obstacle, front feet on the ground, and nose on the lid. We'll also be working on jumps with a front cross, which means I have to cross/spin in front of Oreo, and try not to trip over my own feet. I swear Oreo has the easy job.

Right now, Oreo is taking a nap. So, our homework may have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

backyard agility practice

video

Here is a video of some stuff Oreo and I have been working on in the backyard.

A few weeks ago, I came across a blog of a young agility handler. She had a video with her border collie doing jumps all lined up next to each other, and I was very impressed. So, I thought I'd give it a go.

Oreo and I had only been practicing jumps lined up one in front of the other, which is pretty simple. This was completely foreign territory to both of us. I had to learn how to tell Oreo what I wanted him to do.

Once I got my hand signals down, Oreo pretty much took it from there. It took us several weeks, but Oreo is now a pro. At least, I think so (I'm somewhat biased). I only wish I had one more jump. I think that would make it even more of a challenge. Hmmmm...I wonder if Jeff could squeeze a quick jump building project in between one of his chopper building projects.

I am still struggling with working the weave poles on my left side. It is just so awkward for me.

Anyway, hope you enjoy our follies! You'll see Oreo just loves that orbee ball. You'll also see that when I lose all my energy, he loses interest too.

(if you got this post via email goto my blog to see the video: www.saralovesdogs.blogspot.com )

Monday, October 20, 2008

new agility class

I've signed Oreo up for a new agility class, that will start on Saturday. This one will be semi indoors, with a new instructor.

It will still be a "beginners" class, but I think we will be learning all sorts of new things. From the course description, it sounds like the teacher really focuses on positive reinforcement, hitting the target zones, safety, and overall making it fun for the dogs. All of these things were really lacking in my last course. There will only be five dogs in the class, which is great.

Plus, the course is at a working farm with sheep, cows and many border collies! Heaven!

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, the class is being held at the place where my GPS led me down the dirt road, deep into the woods, where I lost the satellite signal.

Now, I know the twenty minute way to get there! On a paved road!

I'm really excited to get there and see how it goes.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

a hike at grafton

We went on a a short hike at a local state park today. Took a two mile loop around a pond, and then a quick walk along the beach by the lake.

We found several large foot prints along the trail, and some very large, fairly fresh poop. It looked like it could be from a bear. I was a little scared. Jeff told me to just keep talking and we would be fine.

I think Jeff was secretly hoping to see the bear, but I sure wasn't!

The dogs had a great time sniffing every single rock, fern, twig, and leaf along the way. I bet they knew if a bear had been around.

The foliage is past its peak, but there are still a few leaves on the trees. I think by next weekend, it will be looking pretty bleak around here.

Here is a slide show from our hike:


http://picasaweb.google.com/sjpblair/Grafton#




Oreo after we got home from our hike:



both dogs on the "dog couch" after the hike:

what a life

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

new toy

I read in an agility book that finding a highly motivational toy, that you use solely for agility is a good idea.


Oreo loves his orbee ball, but we play with it all day, everyday. I can't see taking it away, and using it only when we do agility. So, I decided to seek out a new toy.


The dogs that I see doing agility on TV always seem to like tugging on a toy after completing their run. Oreo never really showed much interest in tug toys, but perhaps I just never found the right one.


I went on a website that caters to agility people, and yes there are a lot of us agility freaks out there. I clicked on toys, then tug toys, and came to a page of about 8 to choose from. Unfortunately, the "best sellers" were all sold out.


I read the descriptions of the best selling tug toys, and saw that they were all made out of real animal fur. Rabbit fur.

Interesting.


I went back to the available choices, and found one tug toy left that was made of rabbit fur. I threw it in my cart and checked out.


Now, can a dog really decipher real fur from fake fur? Surely the fur has gone through some sort of process before being made into a toy? Why are these toys hot items?



My package arrived two days later. I took the toy out of the box.


Disturbingly, the fur was soft, white and fuzzy. Exactly like my pet bunny had been.

In the photo online, the fur had been dark gray in color. Similar to the wild rabbit, who had been eating my plants, and destroying my garden earlier this year.


Had a sweet, innocent bunny with a pink nose actually been harmed in the making of this toy? What had I done?

Quickly, I erased that thought from my mind, and showed the toy to Oreo. Immediately, he showed an interest. Within seconds, his mouth was on it, and minutes later we were involved in a lively tugging match. Clearly, Oreo knows what real rabbit fur is, and he likes it.

Soon, Oreo was jumping, tunneling, weaving, teetering, and basically following me (person holding the rabbit fur) all over the yard.

Now, I know why these toys are sold out.

I can't wait to take the toy to the agility field, and see if Oreo shows an interest in the toy there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

agility obsession


OK, all I am blogging about lately is agility. I think I may be obsessed.

I brought Oreo and Misty over to the practice field this morning to get a few runs in on my day off. Oreo got off to a slow start. He was more concerned with what Misty was doing (smelling), than what I was trying to get him to do.

I began to think that perhaps I should leave Misty at home when we go to practice, but that makes me feel guilty. Then, I thought it is probably good for Oreo to learn to work through his distractions.

Finally, I figured out what I had to do.

Get him running......

Once I got his heart rate up, Oreo really started to focus. Then, Oreo was going through the sequences and paying attention to me. It was the first time that I felt he really knew what I meant when I said the command "tire", "wall", or "walk it". Those are the ones we don't get to practice at home. We were coming at the dogwalk from an angle, but when I said "walk it", his head turned, his body followed, and up the plank he went.

We worked on my weave pole technique a bit. I think I am finally getting how to work the poles on the opposite side. I just needed some time by myself to figure out what the instructor had been trying to teach me. Today, it kind of clicked. I wish he had been around, so I could show him my "ah ha" moment. I know teachers love it when their students finally get it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

last intro to agility class

Oreo and I had our last intro to agility class today. Only four dogs showed up! I guess a lot of people must have taken advantage of the picture perfect weather and the long weekend.


One woman who did show up, had broken her hand earlier in the morning, and came to class before going to the ER. Her hand was so swollen, it looked like a baseball was growing under her skin. Now, there is a woman who loves her dog.


The four of us got a lot of individual attention, although I felt as though Oreo and I got the most. The instructor must sense my enthusiasm for the sport, or maybe he sees something special in Oreo.


We didn't do anything all that new today, we mostly reviewed the things we had learned. We did try a new jump sequence, where the jumps and tires were set up in a circular pattern. Oreo did OK, although he tried to go under the tire once, rather than through it. The instructor told me, that under the tire is eye level for Oreo, so that made sense. I have to get Oreo to look up, because the dogs will go where they are looking.


Oreo excelled at the teeter as usual. No problems there, and I ran this week for the instructor.


We practiced the weave poles. The instructor made me stay on Oreo's right, although I told him I am always on Oreo's left. It was a disaster. We got all tangled up. On our last try, I pleaded to let me go on the other side to prove Oreo can weave, and he did.


Then, we did the tunnel sequence from last week. The other dogs did much better at this than Oreo. Oreo shines on obstacles that require a little more thought and technique. Any dog can run through a tunnel. Oreo kind of moseyed on through and took his time. I think the instructors like to do tunnels, because it makes the other people feel like their dogs are successful.

After class, we were invited to join the intermediate agility class which runs on Friday nights until the snow flies, and were encouraged to take the intermediate obedience class over the winter.

Then, we were handed our diploma. How silly. At least they didn't play pomp and circumstance like they did at the obedience class last week. That was ridiculous.


When the instructor handed me Oreo's diploma, he told me that Oreo had done really, really well, to keep coming and practicing on my own, and that I should think about getting him ready to go to competitions. I noticed that he didn't say that to anyone else.


I guess that's a good sign. Especially since I didn't think Oreo had even done that great in class today.

One person who had been at the class just watching told me that my dog was very "agile". Well, that's the name of the game, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

agility practice

I brought Oreo and Misty to the agility field after work today to get in a bit of practice. I laid Misty's leash over a weave pole, and she seemed to enjoy taking in all the wonderful aromas while Oreo and I ran the course.

And boy did we run.

Our instructor had told me that Oreo wanted to run, and I think he was right. There is another "intro" class on Tuesday nights, so the course hadn't changed since my last class. We were able to do the same sequences we did on Saturday, but this time we ran as fast as I could.

I'm sure Oreo could have gone faster. He was loving it, and ran the course almost flawlessly. He still got hung up on the tunnel chute. He ran right past it, and I had to go back with him. Then, he would go right through it. Perhaps, he is just not used to going through two tunnels in a row.

The instructor also told me that I should make sure I made it fun for Oreo. I explained to him that at home we always do agility with a ball. So, he told me I should bring the ball to the practice field.

I wasn't so sure Oreo would be interested in his orbee at the field. At first he wasn't. After running him through the course a couple times, and getting him really pumped up, I threw his ball and he went running across the field after it.

Yes! I was excited. So, I threw it again. Off, he went.

Then, a familiar sound. A familiar sight. The big brown truck pulls into the parking lot to make a delivery.

Wherever we are, if a UPS truck is anywhere nearby, my dogs go berserk.

Oreo lost all interest in the orbee. He had a more important job to do. Monitor the man in the brown shorts.

Quickly, I got Oreo back on the course running.

The other piece of advice my instructor gave me was to leave while the dog was still having fun.

I did that. But, I really think he should have said to leave while your heart is still beating.

I think we were only there 15-20 minutes, and I was spent. But, I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. It is just the best time, and so cool to see Oreo's progress every time we go.

The whole drive home I was thinking about how far we've come from that cardboard box tunnel and swiffer jumps in my hallway last December.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fall creek

Went for a walk down by our creek today. It is where my dad and I go every Father's Day. I don't think I've ever been there in the Fall.

In June, it always feels good, because the closer you get to the creek, the cooler you feel. Today, I was seeking out the sun.

The dogs had a great time, both even got their paws wet, and got a little adventurous climbing around on the rocks. Oreo was allowed off the leash, and I got in a little obedience training by telling him to "come" and "stay" while Jeff went off on dangerous cliffs to take photos. Oreo wanted Jeff to stay with the herd. Oreo listened, so all my backyard training is paying off in the real world.

We had one run in with another off leash dog. I saw the dog coming at us, and had time to call Oreo and Misty to get them on leashes and under my control. Oreo barked at him, after wrapping himself around a tree, and cowering behind me. Luckily the dog was harmless, just a butt sniffer, not a biter. Wish all dogs were like that.






Saturday, October 4, 2008

agility class 4

Chilly day for our class today. At least I got to wear long sleeves, to ward off the bees. Last week I got stung, and my arm still itches.

Our instructors took advantage of the cooler weather, and set up some long sequences for us to run our dogs through.

We started off as a large group doing about 15 jumps, an A-Frame, and a dog walk. Repeat.

Then, we ran our dogs through a 12 foot tunnel, over a jump, over the 6 foot wall, through another 12 foot tunnel, and then the closed tunnel. Repeat.

Oreo did great, until he got to the closed tunnel.

I'm not sure why he is having a problem going through the chute in class. He has no problems with his at home, in fact he loves it. When I brought him to his school on Monday to practice using their tunnel, he went through it ten times without hesitation.

Perhaps, the other dogs are making him nervous, and when he goes into the chute, he loses sight of me. We will have to keep working on that.

Then, we split into our large dog/small dog groups. This time, we did a sequence of tire, tunnel, tire, A-frame, dog walk, and a couple jumps. Repeat. I let Oreo off his leash for those sequences, and he did it all perfectly.

After a few practice weave poles, we were on to the slide.

Since when is a slide an agility obstacle?

I really thought this was crazy. It was a slide that you would find at a child's playground. They wanted us to have our dog walk up a staircase, lay down at the top, and slide.

Are we training our dog to join the circus?

I really didn't see the point. Oreo must have sensed my discomfort, and really wanted no part in this activity. He grudgingly went down the slide, then quickly ran to the nearby table, hopped on and sat politely. As if to say, "Can we get back to the real agility stuff already?"

After the ridiculous slide, we finished with Oreo's favorite - the teeter.

Oreo must have been impressing the teacher, because on our last turn, he said, "Oreo really looks like he is ready to teeter at full speed. I want you to run with him this time."

So, I jogged up there with Oreo, said "teeter", then "wait" while the board came down, and Oreo went barreling off the end.

Class was over.

The teacher came right over to me, and asked, "Are you planning on getting Oreo involved in competitions?"

"Maybe," I said.

"Well, I saw you out here practicing with him the other day," he said. "You need to keep practicing, and start running with him. Oreo is doing really good, but he wants to go faster. When I told you to run on that last teeter, I meant run, you did more of a fast walk."

I guess I better eat my Wheaties.