Zora’s been on R&R for the past 10 days or so for a foot injury. Not sure how it happened, the most likely is either A. I stepped on her and let’s be honest, rather a high chance of that. or B. She really jammed it either chasing chipmunks or a ball in the woods, and let’s be honest, also high chance of that with the intensity she races after either of those.
After a visit to the chiropractor, about 5 days of snoozing on the couch and being left home from walks, her foot was clearly starting to feel better but she was still really low energy. I thought to myself, something else is going on here. My gut says she’s having a tick borne disease flare up as last year she came up positive for both lyme and anaplasmosis. Sure enough 3 doses of doxy later, she’s back to her normal energy demanding I let her DO SOMETHING!! Which of course is tricky, as her foot is still healing.
Mid week, after another chiropractor appointment, we got the go ahead to start doing bits of exercise. Can I say how thankful we all are that she can now be a bit more active?
Yesterday she got to do a bit of an on leash walk in the woods through the pine forest. Walking on the soft bed of pine needles. Watching for chipmunks she couldn’t chase. And was sound after that.
Today, we’ve added in some treadmill work. With the treadmill I can more easily observe how she’s moving and more easily control the speed she is moving at. Also, she loves the treadmill and asks me to turn it on every time we go in the cellar, so as she can’t play ball or run around like a nutter for the near future, if the treadmill is allowed and makes her happy, treadmill it shall be.
Suffice to say, this morning she was very happy.
There are loads of games you can (and I do) use to teach and reinforce the come cue (aka Recall). Round Robin, Restrained Recall, Tag, The Stalky Stalk Game, Hide & Seek, Treat Toss, The Bowl Game, and more. But relatively simple game my friends and I often play with the dogs on our walks is calling them back and forth between us.
The “rules” of the game are pretty simple:
- The dogs start at Human A.
- Human B calls the dogs
- the dogs race as fast as they can to Human B. Dogs that actually reach human B directly get praise and food treat (if they want it)
- Human A then calls the dogs
- The dogs race as fast as they can back to Human A
- Dogs that actually reach human A directly get praise and a food treat (if they want it)
The “if they want it” is because we’ve learned some of the dogs prefer to only gets treats from me, or from my friend. But they learn they will only get those treats if they actually complete the loop of run to the opposite person, then run back when called. So they race away when called to the other person same as the rest of the dogs, don’t really care or want that person or the food, but are thrilled to then be called back and get their treat then. Race away, race back, race away, race back.
How far apart we are to start depends on the dogs in the group at the time and where we are (ie what distractions are or aren’t around), and as the dog’s get into the game we gradually move further and further apart. Sometimes if we’re playing the game on the trails (vs in a field) the dogs end up racing around corners, over fallen logs, up and down hills and generally having a great workout.
The dogs quickly figure out in order to get a food treat they have to A. Go all the way to the human calling them, B. Actually go from Person A to Person B if they want a treat when Person A again calls the group, (except for Tom, he’s special, and as such his version of the recall game involves a sit stay and me moving away) and C. Ignore the other dogs around them. I’ve found this a great game for teaching dogs the value of not focusing on the dogs around them, I’ve done this game with dogs that have a tendency to want to chase or body block, and by the end they’ve stopped fixating on the dogs running around them and instead race as fast as they too can to get to the human calling them. We’ve even been able to time our calls with some of the regular dogs to build up to dogs passing each other without a second glance. It’s great fun for us all! (note, if a dog has a tendency to want to grab other dogs, they don’t play the game while other dogs are also running, safety first always)
Another piece we often add into the game is the dogs not leaving the present human until the other human actually calls them OR the present human sends them to the other human. This teaching of the send has proved useful on a number of occasions. The dogs all learn that if they hear the word “Katrin” and race to me, good stuff will happen. Or “C—” and they race to her, good stuff will happen. Or “J——” and they race to him, good stuff will happen.
We do this game close to every walk in the woods as it really helps to remind the dogs that coming to us when we call is a good thing, doesn’t mean the walk is over necessarily, and helps increase the dog’s value for the humans in the highly stimulating environments of the woods, fields and ponds.
A bonus of the game? The dogs get additional running time and end the walk really tired.
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.
NADAC trial recap for the weekend. It was awesome!!! I’m over the moon, on cloud 9, still happy dance big grin, etc.
It was my clubs annual spring trial, so I worked and helped out more than I usually do at trials, but I think I did an ok job pacing myself over the 2 days. Saturday a good friend of mine who rarely does trials on turf was also entered and we crated together. It was nice to see him and catch up. There were a couple of new folks and it was lovely to meet them, clap and cheer for them, and get to know them. I hope they decide to come to future events as well. As always hubby was a huge help, I’m ever grateful he is so supportive of my agility hobby.
The courses this weekend were super fun. And a plethora of bonus boxes. It was awesome. Usually we are lucky if we see 1-2 boxes all weekend. Saturday we had them in touch n go, both rounds of regular AND in weavers. Sunday they were in both rounds tunnelers, both rounds regular and BOTH rounds jumpers!! Seriously! 10 boxes in a weekend of 16 runs. And all of them felt 90% doable for where our skills currently are (which is also amazing).
I’m happy to report our winter training of go skills in many different contexts has paid off. I am so damn happy!! We struggled with those types of elements on boxes last season, she rocked them all this weekend!
Elite Jumpers, that final go line of the course OMG my heart sings as it does for so much of this course:
I found repeatedly a hole with turn always at big distances. Especially when there was a closer draw obstacle. She’d lock onto the draw. But I was pleased despite the lock on she was able to respond most of the time to my lie down cue. I started using that after the first round of touch n go where on the resend she could not shift her focus and wasn’t really listening but guessing. So good things to work on.
Elite tunnelers, that turn away with the green tunnel draw, got us both rounds. 1st round she made it to the mouth of that green tunnel where I downed her and redirected back out. This round was better as she didn’t fixate on that green tunnel and I’ll take the change she did do asking me for help.
Elite Weavers, so much awesome happened this round!!! But again the tunnel draw
Elite Regular, again over the moon about so much of this! Struggled with some of the push outs
And fingers crossed I think we maybe earned a passing distance challenge regular run on Sunday! Still waiting for final determination from NADAC but I felt comfortable enough with it to try submitting it for bonus review. We shall see.
Elite Regular distance challenge:
I adore using mats or dog beds or other place type spaces to teach and then remind dogs about taking turns.
Tom and Zora have both been getting rather nudgy, pushy and whiny lately around the concepts of sharing my and other people’s attention so I realized I needed to be much clearer and consistent with our taking of turns during training as I’ve slacked a lot on the criteria for that. I’ve been really lax on where the non-working dog is to be in space.
We’ve now done 2 sessions where I went back to clear and consistent criteria that the working dog was active with me and the non-working dog was quietly lying on the dog bed. Then they swap on cue. And already I’m seeing a positive difference. Calmer, quieter, more focused work from both of the dogs.
The non-working on the bed dog is remembering to stay on the bed until I give their name and release cue. Even when the working dog and I are doing some rather active, movement based and enticing things. The working dog is getting my undivided attention and we’re making some great progress on things.
An interesting observation is each dog has asked to be the on the bed non-working dog at times when they want a break from the active more precision based training we’ve been doing. I respect that and we do a dog swap when ever either asks for that.
In the past when I’ve been consistent about non-working dog is on the mat during training sessions, I see really nice fall over to other areas of life, such as when people are at the door, leave it exercises and meet and greets in general. As those too have deteriorated in ways I’m less than thrilled with lately, I’m including practice and clearer consistent criteria on our greeting manners using their ‘on the bed’ behavior too.
We had such a nice time today at the Charles River Dog Training Club‘s rally trial. It was a really lovely trial. Very low key and easy going. Everyone was so supportive of each other. I do adore in obedience and rally the clapping after each run, the chairs set up to watch each other ring side, and that they stop everything to give the awards and placements and even more so I adore that they have a name for that. They call it “Pinning the class” and it makes my heart melt a little every time. I love it. Love the community support and camaraderie. It’s just a lovely way to spend a Sunday if you ask me.
It was an added bonus that our 2 Advanced Rally runs went very well. I thoroughly enjoyed the judge’s courses. Challenging but fair for the level. We ended the day with a score of 98 and 1st place in our first run, and score of 100 and 1st place in our second run to complete our Rally Advanced title! Yay!
Our 1st run with score of 98 (1 pt off for lagging at the start, and 1 pt off on our side steps.)
Our 2nd run with score 100 to complete our Rally Advanced title
We’re going to take a break from Rally now as I focus more on our Novice and Open Obedience skills gearing up for our first Novice obedience trial in just a few short weeks!
Today we went to the Mayflower Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club’s rally trials. I have to say the short days of these rally and obedience trials is a definite draw for me at present! 2 trials and we were gone from the house a total of 4 hours, so that includes travel and competing. Pretty sweet. Hubby also appreciates that unlike agility, we don’t have to be out of the house at the crack of o dark hundred. Leaving the house at 10am on a Sunday rather suits his preference.
Any how, it was an overall great 2nd rally trial experience for Zora. We earned the 3rd qualifying score required to earn our Rally Novice title and move up to Advanced. Where we earned our 1st Advanced Rally qualifier despite some rather major handler errors. Oops. The judge was very kind and said as we finished, “So you know that…” and explained the errors I made. No, no I didn’t know that, but now I do, which is great.
What made me really happy though was a couple of competitors who I didn’t know came over to me to tell me that the team work Zora and I had was lovely and they could just see how in tune to each other we were as we did the course together. That really made me smile. As that connection with my dog is what I love about doing anything with my pups. It isn’t worth doing if my dog isn’t also having a good time and enjoying what we are doing together as a team. I’m glad Zora is enjoying our forays into Rally.
NADAC Barrelers is damn hard! Our absolute worst qualifying rate is in this class. Why? Because it’s damn hard!
Barrels are the one agility obstacle that have no physical outside boundary. Yet are judged with an outside boundary, which is marked by a small marker, usually a bean bag or a golf tee. So if you don’t handle that line absolutely correctly, yea…
Barrels are also the one agility obstacle that can be performed many different ways depending on the numbering of the course. You might have to have your dog go all the way around it clockwise, or counter clockwise, or just run past it on the outside path, or run past it on the inside path, or run full 360′ around it, or only 270′ around it, or only 180′ around it. Which means if you don’t handle that line absolutely correctly, yea…
Barrelers is just damn hard!
But Barrelers does do a great job of making me a better handler!!
Last night hubby and I went out for my belated birthday dinner. I’ve been sick with a bad cold for over a week and last week I was in no shape to be going out. But last night the lure of sweet potato fries, gluten free pasta and yummy soup got me out of the house.
Tom of course came with, tucked himself under our table and snoozed as he does while we ate.
Tom has a tendency to migrate as he sleeps. I have no idea how he does it. He’s in a down the entire time and he’s sound asleep. His sleep migration tendency is one of the reasons I usually request booth seating when we happen to go out to dinner, as then there is a wall for him to sleep against and avoid migration. Otherwise I always have to keep a foot against his back so I can feel when he starts to migrate and wake him up to get back fully under the table. It’s like he turns to ooze when he sleeps and that combined with well varnished floors of a restaurant means migration. Anyway in this 1 particular booth at this particular restaurant if he sleep migrates in a certain way he ends up stuck under the seat and I have to help him out. There is a gap under the seating booth of about 6″ and he somehow manages to ooze under it. My 63# retriever cross manages to slide himself under a 6″ tall opening as he sleeps, and people wonder how he fits under an airplane seat when he’s awake and actually trying, easily he fits under an airplane seat easily.
Regardless, as I’m fishing my guide dog out from under the booth seat last night after our meal, a couple seated nearby exclaimed, “If we hadn’t seen you folks come in, we would have had no idea your dog was there! He is so good!”
As it should be, as it should be.
I remember a long time ago when I was first researching service and guide dogs hearing the term unobtrusive used to describe an assistance animal. And it’s one I go back to time and time again, a working assistance animal should be as unobtrusive as possible. They do their job, help their person, and act in a manner as invisible as possible to the general public.
Unobtrusive. The word fits Tom to a T.
Except when he wants me to pet him. Then he’s as obtrusive as all get out.