Friday, June 29, 2012

Bentley Update--And Boredom

 There has been a lot of this going on these days....
Lian (over at Knights Shelties--check them out!) asked me how Bentley is doing, and I do owe a quick update.  We kept him on crate rest (with just a few walks here and there--no jumping or running) for 10-14 days.  Obviously no sign of pain or limping because we weren't letting him do anything. 

Then we started working on strengthening--increasing walks (still short, though), and some ball work.  We also worked some hind end awareness in small bursts.  He showed no signs of pain, stiffness, etc...After increasing his walks and strengthening, we decided to put him in an agility-like environment.  Jonathan set up a jump box (no bars) and asked him to run and make some turns.  Again, no signs of any issues (except maybe him being a bit over-enthusiastic!).

We have still been holding him out of strenuous activities like running, chasing, etc...much to his chagrin.

This past weekend we decided to put the bars up to 8" for him and try doing something where he picked up a little more speed.  We set up two jumps to a tunnel, and then two jumps out.  I watched my husband run him and felt that he was jumping funny.  I can't decide if it's all in my head (maybe he was just jumping low/hopping over the bar because it was SO low), or if something is wrong.  So, he's back to crate rest and no fun.  We still have an appointment with the orthopedic vet on Monday, so hopefully he can help us figure it out one way or another.

I really hope that it's all in my head and that he will be cleared (entirely plausible as I'm a bit of a worrier!).  I'm worried about him!

Of course, we've been hit with the nationwide heat wave, and so both dogs have basically been confined inside all week.  They are not pleased, and the amount of boredom barking has increased tremendously!  I'm hoping we can get Lexi back to the beach tomorrow to burn off some energy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summertime pt. 2

Here's evidence of our great weekend!  Lexi loved the baby pool that we got, and that combined with the sprinkler made for a wonderful few days for all of us.

I haven't posted anything about the cat recently because I've been worried about him, and it didn't feel right.  Those of you on Facebook have seen that he has been sick.

So here's the story:  the other day we got up and he had knocked down the bottle of Bentley's Rimadyl (I guess I didn't close the lid all the way) and 6 pills were missing.  We rushed Bimmer to the vet and he had to stay for 2 and a half days.  Apparently Rimadyl is toxic to a cat's kidneys, so we were really worried.  He went back in for his last blood and kidney profile test today, and he is totally clear.  Hooray!  Now he is sleeping off the entire ordeal and being extra cuddly!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summertime Summertime

Going to try to be better about sharing our weekends as they are tons of fun--and about 99.9% of the time involve the dogs!

This weekend it was quite hot, so we went to the beach (photos of that to come in another post as I took MANY!), bought a kiddie pool and played in the yard with that and the sprinkler (pictures to come), and of course, went out for ice cream.

Makes me wish I had a permanent summer-break!

 We haven't been doing a lot of agility training because it's been so hot, and because Bentley has been on the IR.  I'll try to post soon about his progress.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tricky Tuesday--Jumping Through Our Arms

Lexi's snarly face (she's eating a stick)

I'm bad, but I gave up on marching.  We were doing well a few weeks ago, and then Bentley got hurt and we were busy trialing for two weeks and I just kept forgetting to work on it.  Bentley seemed to be doing well at it, but now I don't want him to do it because I think it may put more stress on his rear shifting his weight back and forth.

So, I moved on to the next trick that I thought might be easier (for Lexi, at least) in our online trick challenge.  This one is "jumping through your arms".  I think maybe being an agility dog is sort of cheating, and having 2 people is also a shortcut, but that's okay.  Lexi likes it, and she likes being successful!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Car Safety

After reading about Elicia Calhoun's terrible car accident, I decided it was time to buckle down (pun intended) on car safety for my two.  A few people asked what I did, so I thought I'd blog about it.
Bad parenting!

My husband and I travel frequently--and the dogs ALWAYS come with us.  Because of that, we always take my husband's car which is a 2003 Mazda Tribute (small SUV).  The dogs are usually crated, but it was always such a pain.  Bentley is way more restless in a crate than out.

Previous set up

But, we really do usually do crate them.  It was a pain, though, because the crate wasn't secured, not to mention that the two of them were sharing one large (36") crate and Lexi was NOT happy about that (Bentley tends to get restless in the car).  So, we decided things had to change.

My plan was always to move to two crates and have them in the very back.  I liked that we could put the seats up or down and if the seats were up that was added security to help contain the crates.  However, after reading quite a bit about the crumple zone on most vehicles, I realized that the crates would likely be crushed back there.

So, we did some re-arranging and decided they should go in the center of the car.  I felt like that was the safer place from them to be.  We did have to make a few compromises.  The front seats now won't lay down very far, so no more comfy napping as a passenger.  Also, we knew we were going to secure them in somehow, so that meant no more taking my husband's car if we were going to meet up with friends/potentially have anyone else in the car.  It also meant packing another large crate that we would use in hotels, etc... since these are not going to come out frequently (but we have soft crates for that).

The biggest problem we encountered was that we had two 30" crates, but only one of them had double doors (side and front).  We decided it wouldn't be safe to just have one with one door because if we packed suitcases/ the back, it would be really hard to get the dog out quickly (also a pain for rest stops).  So off we went to PetSmart to buy another 30" crate. (I can't remember the brand and will update this ASAP--but they only had 1 brand with double doors).
Lexi approves of both options!

We also bought new crate pads (since the crate size changed, and I wanted something easier to clean and that wouldn't make any noise when Bentley wandered around).  I really like these Kong ones.  They are machine washable, seem easy to just wipe off and have a bolster on the side that looks comfy.   I considered the lamb skin looking ones, but thought they looked hot especially if we ever use them at trials (sometimes we crate out of the car).  Also looks like they would get dirty easily.

Anyways, the issue with the new crate is that its door was on the same side (right, if you're facing the front door) as the other crate.  So my husband had to completely undo and then rebuild the crate with the door on the opposite side (easier than it sounds).  He also had to flip the door to open the other way because the door wouldn't open all the way.
New set up
 Next step was to secure the crates in place.  We found some nice ratchet straps at Home Depot for really cheap (something like this).  The hard part was finding something to hook to.  I ended up hooking them to the anchors of the seats on the floor.  I don't think that they could ever loosen, even in an accident because the crates cannot be pushed forward at all (since the folded seats AND the front seats are in the way). The only bad thing is if the car were to flip, the straps would not hold down the crates (there is nothing to hook the back to).  I am still thinking about what we can do about that (we have extra ratchet straps).

Ratchet straps
The very last thing I did was to create an ICE (In Case of Emergency) pack.  It was super easy to do, and made me feel much better.  The front says "Dog Emergency Information Inside" then at the bottom "Dog's Name: BENTLEY".   The bag is a pencil case, and they are attached using plastic zip ties.


Inside there are two pieces of paper, one has a lot of information including dog description, owner information, vet information and emergency contacts.  The second page has information regarding what to do if I'm incapacitated (ie: don't take the dog to a shelter, all expenses guaranteed by owner or owner's estate, etc...), or the dog is injured or lost.  I am happy to share my template if anyone is interested.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bentley's Bored

As I mentioned in my last post, Bentley was limping last Saturday (just once) before our second run.  I've been concerned all along that there is something going on, so we took him to our vet to see what he thought. The vet did a snap test (for Lyme, etc...), and then took x-rays.  Nothing showed up.  The only thing the vet noticed was that Bentley resisted (just the slightest bit) when he extended his hips.  I asked the vet about iliopsoas, and he seemed to brush it off.  The vet said that we should just try to take it easy for a bit, but he felt it was just a little muscle soreness.

I got home, and started to worry.  What if it is more than that?  I have really been looking forward to showing at USDAA Regionals this year, and both our dogs have byes to the second round of Grand Prix.  I don't want to hurt him by asking him to run if it's something more serious.  I have a vet friend who told me that many general vets don't know much about iliopsoas, and I know a few people whose dogs have this issue.  I know it's a long and difficult rehab process, and I want to get started doing the right things if that is what it is.

Of course the only symptoms we have is his ONE incidence of limping, and his slight resistance to hip extension.  It honestly could be nothing.  But it could be something.  So, we got a recommendation from a friend for an orthopedic vet and will make an appointment for as soon as possible (though he has a long waiting period) and our trainer volunteered to take Bentley to see her vet/dog chiro. friend for a second opinion.  She is more familiar with agility-related injuries.  We can always cancel the appointment with the orthopedic vet if we want.

All that to say that Bentley has been very bored as he is on crate rest.  We put him in an ex-pen in the evenings and he is not a fan!

We gave him his early birthday present (his birthday is in July) to keep him busy.  Here both he and Lexi are working at the Nina Ottosson Magic toy for the first time.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Good and Bad News (Incredipaws Trial)

I posted last weekend that Bentley seemed a bit off.  Diana even recommended that we take more time off since she has dealt with several similar issues, and I didn't listen (bad me).

Bentley: Masters Gamblers.
He did awesome!  I sometimes wonder if he'll ever be able to get his ADCh simply because of gamblers--and today he showed me he'll get there--he got a Q and I was so very proud of him!

Unfortunately, this was his only run of the weekend.  Jonathan took him out of his crate an hour or so later to run Standard and he was limping pretty severely.  So, he was scratched the rest of the weekend.  He'll see a vet this coming week.  I really hope it's nothing serious.  (I should note that we took a lot of time stretching him, observing him, and warming him up before his gamblers run and he showed no sign of any issue, and he ran with no issue as well which all seems very odd).

Lexi, I think, enjoyed being the only dog and had an amazing weekend.  I don't want to set the expectations too high, but I can't believe how much she improves with each trial.  I also think that my handling is getting better and I am feeling less and less nervous before the runs (I am sure all those things are related!)

Now here are all of Lexi's videos--
(NOTE:  See all course maps at bottom of page)

Masters Gamblers:
I was honestly surprised that Lexi didn't get this one (though I think she did consider it!).  I thought her handling prior to the gamble was quite nice.

Grand Prix: Q
Baby girl looked awesome!  I made her hold her contacts for a long time, and she still got 1st place and the bye!  I'm so excited.  Can't believe how well she collected coming around the 180 wrap.  Maybe the first time that she truly collected in a trial!

Masters Pairs: Q
Can you tell that Jonathan was nervous?  His partner told him before the run that this was for her dog's ADCh!  Anyways, he played it safe and managed a Q for her.

Masters Standard: Q
Lexi's first Masters Standard run, and she nailed it! I still need to do a little work on cuing using decel as well  as cuing 180s since she tends to go really wide, but we will get there.

I will try not to say much about this video--but I will say that this is the first weekend that I felt like I had an advantage having run Lexi in class exclusively over the past month or so.  You can tell that I'm frustrated with the run by my poor video skills!

Masters Snooker: Q
I will say that I think Jonathan was disappointed that Lexi didn't do better--clearly she was quite "offended" at the off set weave poles!  We were both very surprised that this seemed to stump her because several months ago when we were retraining weaves we set them up like this and she had no issue!  Not sure what she was thinking.

Masters Standard:
No Q, but I was pleased with several of the things she did (though she needs a little table work!)  I am fully convinced that she missed the weave poles because of the previous run (snooker).  I think she was a bit worried about them and when she doesn't think she can do it she tries to run past--hence why I put on my angry face and made her do them correctly.  Her turn to the teeter was picture perfect, but she slipped right before taking the jump and took the bar, I was still very pleased!  Then I slowed down too late to cue the parallel jump behind the a-frame, and just continued on.  Great job on the tunnel/tunnel/dogwalk though :)

Masters Jumpers:
My little rocket girl!  She ran this course only slower than 2 dogs (across ALL heights)--and one of them was Linda Mecklenburg's dog who only ran .04 seconds faster than Lexi (6 YPS, by the way).  Of course her speed caused a bar, but I'm very proud of my baby dog!

Saturday (Gamblers, Standard, Pairs then Grand Prix and Steeplechase)

Sunday: Snooker, Standard, Jumpers

Friday, June 8, 2012

Foundation Holes

I feel as if I've always been pretty candid about the fact that there have been many holes in our training from the get-go, especially in relation to foundation sills.

Bentley's contacts are a prime example, and the reason I started this blog many months ago.

I mentioned in the post about our last trial that Bentley clearly has no idea what the criteria is for his contacts.  He tries so hard, but is obviously confused.  I am feeling frustrated because it's clear that what we're doing now is not working (targets -- fading them and proofing).  It seems as soon as we take a visual prop away, he gets very confused.

Several things occurred to me when it comes to how Bentley learns (tricks, obedience, agility)--

1)  He generalizes very poorly.  Using props is a bad idea because he tends to rely on them and cue directly off of them regardless of how long they are in play or how quickly or slowly they are faded.
2)  It is very important that he have a strong foundation skill before we start to build on it (this is likely true of all dogs, but exaggeratedly so for him)

Therefore, it's time to start from the ground up.  No gimmicks!

We're going to start teaching him to get into his 2o2o like we're teaching a trick.  You start with the basic behavior (touching the contact, getting onto the contact, having back feet on and front feet off, holding that position, running into that position and so on and so forth).

Well, we went in the yard early this week to start this new regimen and I realized almost immediately how much we missed with this particular behavior.  He stood next to the dogwalk and stared at me.  He offered sits, he offered downs, he marched, he spun around.  He didn't even want to look at the dogwalk!  We had to start with just that--looking at it.  Mind you, I was armed with a clicker and real turkey!

In our second session he actually got on the dogwalk backwards and was in a 2o2o with his back feet on the ground.  Needless to say, at least I know that this training is the way to go!  Poor guy has had no idea what the end behavior has been all this time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Attitude--From Middle School Sports To Dog Agility

Today is the second Dog Agility Blog Action Day.  The topic for this week is ATTITUDE.  Click here to see a list of other blogs around the world that have weighed in about "attitude" in relation to our sport.

I grew up playing competitive team sports.  I know what it means to struggle to maintain a good attitude or to let your attitude get the best of you.  I know how it feels to have a negative attitude affect your performance--I've been there.  I remember being out on the volleyball court in middle school and making a couple bad plays.  After that it was so hard to get my head back in the game.

The best thing for me during those times were my teammates. They were encouraging; they patted me on the back, they gave me high fives, they built me up over and over.  And I got through it.

As I went through school and graduated from college I got away from organized sports.  It was hard to find friends to play with, and even harder to find the time.  But I had a dog, and something was missing from my life...then I found agility.

While Bentley has been an amazing partner, he is truly forgiving.  When we first started, everything was just for fun.  I remember crying the first time we were awarded a Q--previously just finishing a run was exhilarating.  My expectations were low, and my attitude was always (well, almost always!) positive because we consistently exceeded my expectations.

Then Lexi came along, and reminded me what true passion and teamwork is about.  It's about attitude.  It's about building each other up and being encouraging.  It's about "high fiving" your teammates to put your head back in the game.  It took me a long time to re-learn this lesson.  And actually, blogging helped me do that.

I know that Lexi has a tremendous amount of potential, and my emotions became very closely tied to our success.  When we did well, I was up!  When we did poorly, I was down.  I felt like no one understood, and there was no one there to build me up again (whether I was blaming myself or my dog).  Someone posted a comment on my blog that I was setting my expectations too high and not being fair to myself or my dog...and it gave me pause.  And I realized...all along someone was there.  Someone did understand.  And someone was trying to help me adjust my attitude just like my teammates in middle school did.  It was my partner, it was my dog.

Why was I letting one letter--"Q"--determine my success?  Why was I letting a less than perfect run prevent me from being happy?  My attitude had to change because it wasn't fair anymore.  Lexi kept trying to give me a "high five" and "encourage me" to get my head back in the game, but I wasn't listening.  And that wasn't right.

For our next trial, I wrote on my hand "No matter what happens, I'm taking the best dogs home" because I truly believe it.  I wouldn't trade them for the best dogs in the sport.  They are mine--successes, triumphs and even mistakes.  This is a journey that we are taking together.  We have a responsibility to each other as teammates to build each other up, even when we're feeling down, and I hope that I never again forget the lessons I learned in middle school sports.

My dog and I, we're in this together, and our bond is a success no matter what the score sheet says--and that's the attitude I'd like to maintain as long as I live.

WW: Lexi, AAD

Monday, June 4, 2012

BRAG Trial: Bentley

Bentley really had an off weekend.  About a week and a half ago he was running a little off in class.  He dropped a couple bars and crashed the tire, which is not like him at all (he is very careful).  We took him to get adjusted and the chiro said that he was very sore around his back/rear.  So, he took a week off and he seemed fine the next week in class.

Despite only being entered in 3 events on Saturday, he ran really oddly in his third event.  He knocked a couple bars and then crashed the a-frame.  So we pulled him from Steeplechase.  Our trainer took a look at him the next day and stretched him out and said he seemed okay (though she agreed that he had looked "off" the previous day's last run).

Also, his contacts were really poor all weekend.  Contrary to Lexi, it's clear that the contact boot camp has not helped him much.  I am really all out of ideas and feeling frustrated.  Someone told me at the trial that he really is not a slow dog, we just waste so much time on the contacts.  I explained to her that we had retrained a couple times and she pointed out that she could tell that he didn't understand the criteria--and she is right, but I don't know what to do.  Target plate down?  He gets it.  Take it away?  Loses it regardless of how slowly you fade the plate.

Anyways, my boy worked hard, and here are his videos.

Masters Gamblers:
(Sorry about the shaky video, I had just finished running Lexi and they didn't give me my leash so she was in a stay right at my feet while Bentley ran!)  Anyways, clearly Bentley was not going to get the gamble.  It was about a mile and a half away from the line.  At about 55 seconds you'll see him hop the DW contact.  He hasn't done that in a long time.  Not sure what caused that.

Masters Standard:
Not a bad run--and happy that he got into his 2o2o.  But, his lack of a predictable contact caused a refusal after the a-frame.  Naturally, he made it through the hard parts!

Grand Prix:
I should have known when he dropped that first bar that he was a bit off.   I know he is not the fastest dog but he was pretty pokey in this video, which should have been another clue.  Anyways, as you'll see this run was a mess.  This is when we pulled him for the day.

Masters Standard Q:
We debated for a while whether or not we should enter him, but our trainer said he felt okay (she stretched him out, etc..)  We warmed him up quite a bit and kept a really close eye on him over the practice jump and he seemed just fine.  Decided to go for it knowing that if he showed any signs of being "off" Jonathan would pull him.  As I told Jonathan after this run--Bentley saved him!  I'm not sure how Bentley knew where he was going a couple times, but he guessed right!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

BRAG Trial: Lexi

What can I say, this little girl has been improving and impressing me from week to week!  Despite our low Q rate, I felt great about her performance this weekend.  I love it when the things that you work on are the things that improve.

Overall wins:

  • Not a single break on the contacts.  She waited for my release 100% of the time!  This is a dramatic improvement from just a week or two ago!  I even made her hold them several times, and she didn't flinch!  (Note: you'll see that once she doesn't get her teeter contact, but she forgot how quickly the teeter at this trial drops, and she got to the end too fast to hang on!)
  • Awesome weaves.  She didn't pop out once, and only missed one entry (and it was handler error!)
  • "Go"  This is something that we haven't worked on in awhile, and something that I would consider one of Lexi's weaknesses.  This weekend she proved to me that she knows that at the end of the course if I say go, she should go on and run!
  • Timing, of course.  Making sure we're cuing early enough, moving in the right direction, not showing too much motion, decelerating at the right time, etc...
  • Staying connected on course (maintaining eye contact, etc...)
  • Collection (as usual!)
Masters Gamblers:
All handler error--I didn't set her up well (couldn't find a good way to get her out there in obstacle focus) and she didn't even see the teeter.  Oh well--I thought the opening went pretty well (look at her hold her contacts!)

Advanced Standard:
Despite the NQ (dropped bar to the weaves) I felt like this was an awesome run.  I tried to be really aware of my body positioning as well as motion cues, and it paid off.  I even got some pretty good turns!

Grand Prix:
As usual, GP got the better of us.  I thought that this course wasn't too bad when I looked at it, but a lot of people struggled.  Coming out of the tunnel to the a-frame I never thought she'd look at the far end of the tunnel.  I expected her to possibly look at the close end, so I purposefully pushed out a little.  I also disconnected (lost eye contact).  Oops.  Then we disconnected again (briefly!) and she cut behind me.  I recovered and love love loved her weave entry.  I lost eye contact a third time and she cut behind me when I  blind crossed the weaves (I think I said, out loud, "you little sh**!" laughing, of course) and then the end was just a mess.  I did take a deep breath and slowed down and got beautiful collection on the second to last jump.

Masters Pairs Q:
Love the weave entry here.  Looks like an easy one for most dogs, but these are usually pretty tough for Lexi because the timing of the decel and the importance of managing forward motion.

Steeplechase Q:
I'm still not sure why Lexi dropped this bar (other than the "she jumps really flat" excuse).  My plan is to play around a bit with the best distance to set her from the first bar.  In this video it looks like she takes a stutter step, then maybe 3/4 of an extended stride. This course had a lot of potential off courses for Lex, but she was a champ.  And I want to remember this weave entry for the rest of my life.  She was FLYING and still collected and hung onto the turn into the second pole.  So proud of her (in other words, I should have probably decelerated more!)

Advanced Standard Q, and Advanced Agility Dog (AAD) Title!:
I think that this was a really hard course.  And it wasn't pretty for us, but we hung onto it and managed a Q. You'll see that she goes too fast over the teeter and just can't hang on.  I couldn't believe she came to my side and then pushed out the weaves the way she did.  A bit of a mix up in the middle--I must have pressured for the cross too early and she shot off like she was going to the tunnel.  In all fairness, having to call her back set us up much nicer for the discrimination.  I didn't get the collection I wanted heading back to the a-frame, but that's okay.  She had a lovely go at the end!

Steeplechase Finals:
I'm not sure if you can hear the woman next to me (her sheltie placed 7th in Steeplechase Finals at Nationals last year) but she is criticizing Jonathan's handling.  Better her than me!  Jonathan was a bit unclear, and even he admitted that he felt Lexi did exactly what his cues told her to do.

Friday, June 1, 2012

CBC: An Update

Started Contact Boot Camp this past I thought I'd post an update.

Lexi has (unsurprisingly) shown me that she remembers her 2o2o.  In the past week or so of proofing, distracting, encouraging, and challenging her on the dogwalk, I think we have managed to pull her off only a handful of times.  In class the other night she came off of her a-frame once (we don't have an a-frame here at home), but that was a huge improvement from the previous weeks!  

For Lexi, we've done the following:
  • Taken her right outside as soon as we get home (no saying hello, etc...) as she is VERY excited
  • Made her dinner and taken her outside with the food bowl, again trying to get her to break because she is so excited
  • Ran past the contact
  • Used other words to try to get her to break
  • Sent her on the contact and stayed back
  • Stopped with her on the end, and accelerated away (without releasing her)
  • Placed an obstacle right on the other side of the dogwalk and reached over the obstacle to appear as if I was calling her for a RTH position
Anyways, those are just a few things.  Again, she's really doing great!  I just hope that it translates to a trial environment where she is even more amped up.  The problem is simulating a trial--she is smarter than that.  She knows when she can get away with it and when she can't.  I don't want to have to start taking her off for breaking, so let's hope this CBC works!

Bentley, on the other hand, is still displaying the same issues.  We haven't been able to practice with him as often because of our neighbor's dogs (Lexi ignores them, Bentley will fence chase them and won't work).  He is still hesitant at the bottom as if he doesn't know where his 2o2o is.  If you put a target plate down, he's good to go.  If you run to the bottom with him, he's good to go.  I'm not sure what to do.  We've tried fading both of these things and it works for the first couple times, and then he's back to creeping.

In a trial, he's so amped up that he usually comes down, creeps for a step, and then jumps!  We've been able to get him to do this a couple times in class, but almost never in the yard.

Either way, we'll keep working both of them.  I'll be interested to see how it translates for this weekend's trial.