Retrieves to hand. Such a useful skill
Video: Zora the corgi picks up and hands me a sock, then picks up my sneaker by the shoelace to hand it to me
Video: Zora the corgi carries my shoe and delivers it into my hand
I’m a rather routine, predictable person. I find routines comforting and reassuring. I like having plans. It’s harder to get lost, lose things and be forgetful when life is orchestrated with many patterns. It’s no surprise I have any number of patterns I tend to follow when it comes to agility trials. Everything from how things are packed in our car, to setting up or breaking down our crating space. And of course pre and post runs.
Zora and I have what I call our Corgi Warm Up and Corgi Cool Down routines. She recognizes each phrase and the predictions of behavior it means. As I feel warm up and cool down is important with the canine athlete I thought I’d share our routines
Our Pre-Run Corgi Warm Up Routine
We have 2 types of corgi warm ups. One involving handling warm up and one involving stretching.
The handling warm up we do first thing of the day before the general briefing at the trial, and depending on the courses then set may or may not do it at other points before certain runs. During the handling warm up we find an open area, might be where the club has the practice equipment set up, might not, and we review various motions and cues. Switch, out, here, go, tight, wait, and so on. Get as in sync with each other as we can. If a particular course has a spot that looks rather tricky, we will practice the motions so that when we actually get on course there is a better (but not guaranteed as yesterday’s trial proved. LOL) chance I’ll handle it correctly. During our handling warm up I try to vary type and positions of rewards to further reinforce where on course I’d like Zora to be relative to me when we do that motion or cue once on the field.
The other warm up we do, this one we do before every single run, is our stretching warm up. Which includes portions for me and for Zora. We start off with some walking and trotting, then some moving in figure 8s to the left and the right. Next we do some leg, neck, tail and back stretches, and light muscle massage. From there we move to the ring as either we are first dog or last and there are now about 4 dogs to go. We jog to ring side for a bit faster movement. Once ring side we do some pivots, sit down stand position changes, hand touches, and turns to the left and right, working to ensure our muscles are warmed up before running the course.
By then it’s our turn, we walk to the line, Zora moves into her down, I cue her to “watch” which means look down the line my foot is pointing to show her where she’ll be going on the release. We get our “Good luck” cue to remove the leash from the judge. Leash off, I move to my starting position, and off we go!
Our warm up stretching routine usually takes about 3min. When we are first dog on the line, I have to time my walk through so I’m done with a minute left in the walk through. That way I have my 3 minutes as it’s usually about 2 min after the walk through ends to first dog, us.
Our Post-Run Corgi Cool Down Routine
Our Corgi Cool Down routine is similar to our warm up stretching routine, only done in reverse with an addition that makes Zora’s eyes sparkle. Aka Squeaky Ball. Squeaky ball doesn’t actually squeak. Maybe it does still now that I think about it. But Zora doesn’t squeak it. She holds it, carries it, and fetched it, no squeaking. She loves loves loves Squeaky Ball. It’s her special post trial run toy that she only gets now a days at agility trials. Oddly enough at home she likes it ok, but she loves it at trials. I think she’s associated it with trials hence it’s value there. At home she’d chose a tennis ball, at a trial she wants Squeaky Ball all the way. It’s a soft plush fluorescent orange or yellow (we have one of each so just depends which I happened to pull out of the bag) ball with a squeaker in it. Squeaky Ball is always part of our Corgi Cool Down routine.
We finish the course, the leash runner hands me Zora’s leash. I hold it out, Zora shoves her head into it, and we leave the ring together. Head on over to where we left our treats and Squeaky Ball ring side. She gets a couple of good girl treats then I say the magic words, “Let’s go play Squeaky Ball!” And she starts prancing. We jog together to the exit door or open area to play a little game of Squeaky Ball fetch. After our game, we do some body stretches, figure 8s, trotting, walking, light massage, Zora gets a drink and then quiet time until we do it all over again for the next run.
Do you have a pre or post exercise routine? Please share, I’d love to hear them!
A favorite dog of mine, Rose, who belongs to a good friend has been ill for the past couple of months. Steadily going downhill. Thursday my friend learned Rose’s symptoms were due to cancer. It beyond sucks. Rose is a lovely dog and only 6.
Because Rose hasn’t been feeling well for a while, and hadn’t been eating well or absorbing nutrients, she’s lost a lot of weight. Over 10% of her body weight. Closer to 20% at this point. For a dog who was svelte to begin with this isn’t good.
Thankfully her owner is now working with a fantastic vet (we won’t go into the way her regular vet dropped the ball on this situation). In addition to prescribing some meds to help Rose feel better, the new specialist vet has given an ultra digestible food for her to eat. One that her body can at least get some nutrients from. Which is great. Except it tastes like crap. And she’d rather eat other things, which unfortunately right now her body can’t actually use.
So, how to get a dog who is essentially starving and anorexic to eat food that will help her but tastes like garbage?
This is where Rose’s years and years of training history are proving to be a huge asset. Rose loves to train. She loves puzzles and thinking and problem solving. She also loved toys, balls in particular. And she loves games that involve her figuring out what to do in order to get the ball to be thrown. My friend has developed an awesome relationship with Rose these past 6 years, with training games being a huge part of their daily fun.
My friend had to go out of town this weekend, I had Rose and the challenge of figuring out: how to get her to eat food that tastes like garbage and she would rather spit out?
Knowing Rose as well as I do, I figured let’s try rewarding eating it with ball play. And see if that ends up reinforcing eating. The good old Premack Principle.
Then build up how many kibbles she has to eat in order to get the ball thrown.
It worked! So far she’s up to a handful of kibble individually hand fed to her at a high rate per ball throw.
Because the goal is for calories in to well exceed calories out for her right now, the ball throws are short to minimize how much energy she spends with the ball part of the equation. But for about 4 short ball tosses per session she’s willing to eat usually 2.5-3 handfuls of kibble now 4-5 times a day. Which is awesome. She’s actually eating and getting in calories her body can do something with.
And it is clear she has grasped its an if then equation. Every so often she’ll try spitting a couple out. When that doesn’t get the ball to happen, she’ll make a clear point to eat the next one. And get very happy when that does make the ball occur.
Thank goodness for training histories and a smart dog. Sure is improving Rose’s quality of life, even with cancer. Fingers crossed she’s willing to play this particular game for a long time more.
Rose this past fall when she was feeling her usual bouncy happy poodle self on one of our walks.
Today began day 1 of 2 of the pre-trial. The pre trial is essentially a normal agility trial. Similar to any weekend agility competition we might go to throughout the year. The only difference is the location, i.e. At the same venue as the championship event which begins on Thursday. The pre trial gives competitors a chance to acclimate to the arena, see how your dog does with the surface, and get a chance to get a feel for the equipment.
The pre trial today ran 2 rounds each of the touch n go, weavers and tunnelers classes. Tomorrow is 2 rounds each of hoopers, jumpers and chances.
The elite classes were huge! Each nearly or over 100 runs! So after we ran round one which was pretty quick and as the heights ran small to tall today, we had a good few hours before our next run.
I was pleased overall with both of our touch n go rounds. We earned a qualifying score in each round and first place in our jump height. so that was nice. To me it felt like we were running our usual speeds and way but my husband said oh no she was smoking it out there! And our YPS (yards per second) said that too! Which was exciting
Because I can’t seem to figure out of to embed YouTube videos using my iPad here is a link to our touch n go round 2 if you would like to see it: https://youtu.be/URonU6cDcCI
our weavers rounds were definitely slower. Round 1 the 3rd set of weaves she didn’t even realize they were there. When I walked it and saw they were a set of solid dark green poles I thought, “hmmm….” it was rather comical during our run. As she ran past the set she turned slightly and went “Hey! There are weave poles here!” And started to weave at pole 3 or 4. She had no clue previously that set of poles was there. Round 2 though she found them and weaved beautifully. Though on the first set in round 2 she popped out twice to sniff in the dirt. She came back quickly but that was a bit annoying, 2nd time through that set though she stayed focused and on task good girl. I know we qualified with another first place in weavers round 1. not sure on our score yet for round 2 as we left for the day before they posted the results
Video link to our round of weavers: https://youtu.be/hGk-Qbujc-c
I decided to scratch the 2 rounds of tunnelers. I was getting tired and starting to have sensory issues and there was no real reason for us the run those. Our touch n go and weavers runs gave me tons of useful data on how zora is running and doing in the arena. So instead we took the dogs to the back fields to play whiffle ball and go for a little off leash walk. Which was a nice way to end our day at the trial.
Tomorrow we are going to skip our morning runs at the pre trial day 2 and head back there in the early afternoon to run maybe chances and jumpers and then check in for the big event! I hear they have some awesome surprises in our check in bags this year. Can’t wait to find out what’s in store
Zora here and today it’s my birthday!! MY Birthday! Me me me Corgi dog ALL DAY! It’s My Day! Mum said so! So as it’s my birthday I have many requests.
First more breakfast! What? You say no!? But it’s my birthday! “sorry, Zora, no. You can have a special bite of hot dog in your breakfast but not more breakfast.” What kind of crap birthday is this going to be human?! No extra breakfast?! But it’s my day! Well we shall see lady, you better step up and make it a really great day if you want me to forgive this one!
Second a walk and swim. That one mum said ok to! It was awesome!! And the cheese stick she gave me wasn’t half bad either. Ok this day is improving a lot!
Third ball time! A LOT of ball time! Every time we go outside. Until I want to stop!
Fourth you human sit still and let me sleep on you. “Sorry Zora I can’t make promises on that one. Sitting without shifting is really hard. How about I pet you instead while you lay beside me?” Hmm, ok I guess.
Fifth all the cookies I want! “ALL? the cookies you want? Maybe, we’ll see. There might just be some ice cream tonight for you special little munchkin…..”
Zora the corgi who is now threeee!! Happy Birthday to MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!
Whether you live with a chronic condition that causes fatigue as I do or you are exhausted after a busy day at work, your dog still needs exercise. Many people think exercise the dog = walk the dog. Well when you’re exhausted and walking the dog means making your tired brain and body move off the couch, yea don’t know about you but not likely.
I spend a lot of my time on the couch, sitting in a chair or leaning against a wall, tree or fence. And have come up with lots of ways to exercise my dogs from those stations. Now this doesn’t mean I don’t also get my dogs out in the world, I do. I go for a walk with them nearly every day. But for many dogs (mine included) that isn’t enough. And when I have days where I can’t get out, these types of things are my go-to.
So here we go: 10 Ways to exercise your dog when you’re exhausted!
Oh how I love hide and seek and all of its near endless variations!
Version 1: If my husband is home or my nieces and nephews are visiting hide and seek means I sit on the couch, they hide. They call the dog, dog finds them. I call the dog back to me, the hider hides in a new spot. Over and over. Until dog is bright happy eyes and panting exhausted. If the hider gets creative there are lots of ways they can hide even in a small area. Some favorites are in the bathtub, behind an open door, on the bed, in the closet, and hidden in plain sight by quietly standing up against a wall in a dark room. Zora especially Loves loves loves this game. We use praise, treats, and petting to reward her, and practice her staying with the person until the other person calls her, not just racing back and forth. This waiting until called gives the hider a chance to really hide.
Version 2: if your dog has a favorite toy, instead of hiding a person you can hide their toy. If your able to get off the couch, hide the toy in various places in your house and send the dog to find them. Practice your dog doing a sit or down stay while you hide the toy and finding it when you cue “Find It.” If you can’t get off the couch, hide them in various spots on the couch. Under different cushions and such.
Version 3: the good old shell game using treats. Hide a treat under one hand, dog has to indicate which hand has the treat. Or under a blanket. Or couch cushion. Or if they’re handy under actual cups.
2. Kibble toss
A fun easy game that can be played at meal times if you feed your dog dry dog food. Or at other times using a couple of treats.
Version 1: Call the dog to,you praise them then throw a piece of kibble across the room. After dog chases and eats the treat or kibble you tossed, call them back to you and repeat. Dog races back and forth across the room and gets tired
Version 2: add some obedience into the game. Ask dog to sit or down then stay as you toss the kibble. Then release the dog to go get it. Or ask the dog to stay, toss the kibble then ask the dog to do another behavior (sit, down, touch, come) before releasing them to go get the food.
3. Fetch with a toy
Simple. Take a toy your dog likes and play fetch in the house or outside leaning against the fence. Zora prefers super bouncy chuck it balls for this game. They fly off the walls making for a fun erratic game of fetch. Though be careful you don’t take the tv out if your a bad thrower as I am. Practice your dog bringing the toy all the way back to you and dropping it in your hand or on your lap so you don’t have to bend your aching body down fighting gravity to pick the toy up. If you and your dog are up for it, add in some obedience. Or multiple toys. Teach your dog to sit or down stay and wait for you to cue ‘Get it’ once you’ve thrown the toy. Or teach your dog to get the toy you point to, even if you’ve thrown 2 or more, in the order you point to the toy.
If you have the hand and arm strength and a bit of upper body energy play tug from your spot on the couch. Practicing your drop it and grab it cues.
My dogs and I do so many stupid tricks from the couch. Get creative, make shit up. Let’s see we play E.T phone home (nose touch to the tip of my finger), we play back up, we play crawl, and lots of targeting games. They play running from place to place in the house, on your bed, now on the couch, now back to your bed, now in the kitchen, now on the rug! They practice jumping over my legs. And crawling under my arms. We place shark avoidance (I take the fish toy and sing the JAWS theme, the dogs practice abandoning ship! aka jumping off the couch and “saving” me from the shark aka taking the toy and shaking it.) And I never have to move. Tossing treats or toys to reward.
6. Learning toys by name
Where’s your fish? No that’s not the fish, find the fish. Yay! That’s the fish! Now how about your ball? Yay! Now blue ball, where is blue ball? Close, that’s red ball.
and so on. My dogs love that game too. And again I never leave the couch.
7. Scatter kibble
An easy one. Take your dog’s meal and toss it on the floor. Either in the house or in the back yard. Let the dog snuffle around finding their dinner kibble by kibble as you rest.
8. Puzzle toys
Make or invest in some puzzle toys. Some that involve you too and some that your dog can play alone. There are so many different ones on the market now, it’s awesome. Lots of styles to choose from. Get some variety, so you and your dog have different ways to solve the puzzles.
If you’re making puzzle toys cardboard boxes can be your friend (hide treats in different boxes, or within within within boxes or wrapped in paper bags, etc). As can pvc (drill some holes in a large diameter pvc tube, put some treats in and cap the ends, Dog bangs it around to get the treats to fall out. Or get some lengths of PVC and different connectors, hide a treat in the maze of twist and turns, dog has to pull the pieces apart at the connectors to find the treat.). And empty soda bottles. Or muffin tins (take a muffin tin, put some treats in the wells then cover each well with a tennis ball. Dog has to remove the balls to get the treats). Basically anything you can create that your dog has to think and puzzle through in order to get their food or toy out of it.
Other ways to make puzzles for your dog can be making mazes or labyrinths out of boxes or couch pillows.
9. Arm chair agility
Use actual agility obstacles or create them out of things like chairs and pillows. Use treats and toys to encourage your dog up and over while you stay stationary. Note of caution if your dog is not an experienced agility dog, always use a spotter especially with the higher obstacles like the dog walk and teeter totter. And be sure if doing any jumping your dog is on safe surfaces like grass or carpet not concrete or hard wood floors
10. Arm chair obedience
Practice your dog’s response to cues. Try just verbal cues such as saying ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stay’, etc. And just hand signals. Practices puppy push ups: sit, down, sit, down, down, down, sit. Add in the cue to stand. Or stay. Or come. Or fetch. Or touch. Mix it up. Practice your dog responding to the cue you give without anticipating what you’re going to ask them to do.
Remember when doing these things with your dog, the goal is fun, happy and tired. So smile, laugh, and enjoy your time with your dog. Help your dog engage both their brain and their body. Playing these games can be super fun with your dog and low energy expenditure for you. A tired happy dog is so nice to live with.
It has been damp and intermittently raining all day. The Tuesday Crew & I got our usual morning walk in, then went inside for a few hours to de-mud and dry off. The weather cleared up a bit just now so out we went into the back yard for a game of Kick The Ball.
It is unseasonably warm here today, quite lovely out really. Gorgeous enough to get my husband out on a walk in the woods with us! We crossed paths with a number of other folks out enjoying the woods today both with and without their dogs and everyone was fantastic! We all communicated, were honest with our needs from each other and respectful of what was communicated. It was just plain wonderful. Refreshing. It’s the kind of day and walk that restores my faith in humanity. Overall just great. Really fantastic.
Also, I adore Zora’s whistle recall. So glad I trained that. She happily stops on a dime, turning as she decelerates and races to me. I find it’s one that is harder than a verbal to wreck. You know how it is, at least for me I tend to call my dogs all the time. Around the house, in the yard, just to tell them how cute they are. It’s easy to get sloppy with such laxity. A whistle, well I have to think more to whistle. Coordination and all. Means I have to be conscious of what I’m doing, and therefore more conscious about criteria response I want to maintain for the dogs and for me.
Zora enjoyed that hubby was with us because it meant she got to play some ball on the trails as well. He throws so much better than I ever can, even with a Chuck It for help! It was very fun. Thomas was perfect as usual, no tripping or being smashed in the head with branches for me. Yay!
Once home we still had daylight, always find it shocking that just a month after solstice the daylight hours have shifted so much already. It’s not even February yet, but feels like spring today. Mr H was gracious enough to help me set up the dog walk and move some tunnels into place after which Zora and I had some training fun. First we ran the most recent Chances posting for a VT Q. She was on fire and we were both enjoying ourselves on that course. Then we trained.
A clip of some of our training time:
And our Chances VT Q:
Weather like today lifts my spirits. After being down for the count with a virus for a while, then dreary rainy weather, to be finally feeling better and the weather so nice as well. Just a good day all around. Hope your weekends are just as lovely!
This weekend we were graced with the first real snow of the season! And by real snow, I mean over a foot of it. Yea sure we’ve so far had a couple of dustings, even a couple of inches, but this weekend it was real snow. Real, ‘yea it’s coming down hard no one is going anywhere for the next 12+ hours’ snow. Real no one is on the roads but the plows snow. It’s great!
The ducks begrudgingly survived it. They don’t seem to mind the snow itself, but the cold. Yea, they say they can do without the close to or below zero temps thank you very much! They were pleased when I brought them fresh greens and peas this morning and basically scattered it on their heads in the straw. They essentially seem to only move to the front of their pen when they want a drink otherwise they are nestled in the deep straw out of any risk of wind in the back area.
This morning the dogs and I took a walk (ok for the humans more of a trudge) through the snow in the woods with a friend. That was a work out. We were cracking jokes on the ride home, who needs a gym? We just walk our dogs! With every season change our work out changes! I think tomorrow I will be sure to remember my snow shoes.
When the dogs and I woke up again later this afternoon, we went out into the yard to take some silly snow photos. Hope you enjoy!