Zumi Ring Entrances

Another round of my online ring confidence is coming up in a few days!  I decided to film a few new videos for the class, especially since Zumi is quite a bit older now.

I have her very first "squish" to ring entrance games on film from when I think she was 7 months old.  At that time she was pretty new with both parts and had basically no duration at all waiting between my legs and had major excitement upon being released.  Perfectly fine for baby dog!


I haven't done as much practice with the games as I had planned since then, but we're definitely much further ahead on addressing those issues now.  We have calm waiting in position.  We have a clear understanding that my hands on her chest means get excited.  And now I"m just starting to address some thinking to go along with her drive.  Zumi is definitely a dog who is going to need control on the release, but I do not want to lower her energy to do it.  For the last 3 of the 5 entrances I did this past week I purposefully used her ball as a reward to up her arousal levels and teach her how to work through it.



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Sit Signal Update

Remember that oh so cute but sadly point costing behavior of Zumi backing on the sit signal?  Well we're making progress with my plan


Like everything, we could be further ahead if I actually practiced it daily.  But still, I'm happy with the way things are progressing.  The plan was to work on down to beg to get Zumi in the habit of lifting her front end straight up vs thinking about backing up.  

She hasn't done any backing exceeding 2 feet in a while.  At this point I'm trying to reset anything greater than 1 foot and am still rewarding the tiny little ones.  Doing less alternating with the beg position than previously too.  Zumi is often going into the beg when I go to feed her and I'm letting that slide for now because it's cute :)  I know, I know, I'll regret that at some point too!

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Good luck to Tabor!

We said goodbye to the Labrador on Friday!  Tabor moved in with his person as a diabetic/mobility service dog and we wish them both the best of luck as they continue to bond and work towards certification.



He was such an easy house guest that having 4 dogs in our tiny place wasn't that big of a deal.  It's really not a big jump going from 3 to 4 in the house.  Outside the house is a slightly different story.  I'm a one trip person, especially in this cold.  Walking 4 fairly well behaved dogs from the car to work or the club is one thing. Walking 4 dogs + my bag + Vito's crate + maybe an extra bag inside suddenly was a huge jump in feasibility.  3 Dogs plus all the things I felt very accomplished.  4 dogs plus all the things I felt like I deserved a medal.


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Obedience Experiment- 2.5 Months

Vito's obedience experiment has been going on for about 2.5 months now.  Due to lack of daylight and the weather I don't have nearly as many sessions in as I would like.  As stated before, in house training with full choice is simply not an option in our tiny space.  Vito would never even know a session was available as there's no way to set up a "training area."  But over the holidays I had off work and got in quite a few sessions over the two weeks in my yard.  I bundled up!


Sadly it's been kinda demotivating.  Vito has full choice to do what he wants and he knows that very well by now.  And I admit it's a blow to the ego when once the snow hit it wasn't even Me vs Grass but Me vs sniff the snow and air scent?  

Of course we have had some really great sessions.  It's been interesting that his speed and drive still haven't decreased at all on the sessions he chooses to work.  Precision is off, but really not by much considering I've pretty much "rewarded" everything he does with gushing praise and butt scratches with only a few full resets.  The only thing Vito is still very reluctant to do is his down signal.  Vito has always hated lying down when working and it's always been a training challenge to keep the distance downs with speed and style vs the awful lazy butt first and slower slide.  Without the rewards Vito just isn't on board.  Actually that's not fully true, as he has surprised me by starting to do well with the verbal at a distance or at minimum being sassy and barking at me when I give the signal vs sitting or staring at me.  

Most of the time Vito carries his dumbbell around.  I will usually do a bit of light tugging on it with him but don't do a ton of throws.  Tugging is fairly low value for Vito and he was never a dog to carry around a toy in his mouth before.  Throwing would be very high value for Vito and I'm sure I could create a dog really obsessive about his dumbbell if that was my goal.  Right now I'm happy to see that the dumbbell has increased value and is somewhat a substitute toy, but I'm not interested in taking that a step further to really solidifying that as the main reward.  We will see if my view on that changes in the future for him!

What I find most interesting about the experiment is our 100% rate of working at the obedience club.  Now we haven't done very many sessions there compared to the training we have done at home, but every time he has been very quick to engage- between immediately to up to 3min.  And there are way more interesting smells to sniff and activity to watch from other classes when there.  

I wish I had done more non dinner time training in our yard before starting the experiment as I wonder if habit is part of the reason.  Training obedience in the yard was always associated with meal time and other times we just hung out in the yard.  But the club was either chill in your crate while I teach, or come out and train.  Huge history of associating the building with work and not a free for all type of environment.

Here is Vito's last session at the club.  I actually forgot his dumbbell so I borrowed one, just a bit too large for him.  He chose to work almost instantly although there were also slightly less distractions as normal classes were off that week for that time.  Some people entered the ring at the 5min mark which was hard for Vito.  I was happy with his choice to mostly keep engagement with me and ended the session a minute later
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USDAA Day 2

Day #2 of our USDAA trial on Sunday went better than expected.  My foot was tired, but it was mainly from compensating than the actual injured portion itself being worse.
Shenna ran Vito in his 2 non team runs again- jumpers and snooker.  And I ran Vito in his last 2 team runs.

The jumpers course with Shenna really made me happy.  Vito always dislikes jumpers the most with it's lack of his power boost obstacles the dogwalk and aframe.  But he ran pretty hard for Shenna on a tricky course and even ended up taking 3rd in the 22in class!  I love how excited he got for her going up to the line.  I can have a hard time getting him to do that with me depending on his attitude before the run.


And his snooker run was one of his best!  If it weren't for Vito knocking a bar in the opening they would have possibly gotten a super Q!  I don't think Vito has ever done 4 reds before and still complete the closing under time!

My team jumpers run with Vito was also happy.  A simpler course and I was proud of myself for running fast enough down a line to be able to handle the correct end of the tunnel versus giving up and doing a rear cross which he wouldn't like.

Relay Vito was very sassy and loud.  We had an almost refusal which I saved and then had to immediately save him from back jumping and ruining things for our team.  It looks way smoother than the panic I felt.  Our team ended up placing 3rd overall with our slower and mostly consistent team!

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Gimpy Me, First for the Toller

The first agility trial of the year!  Unfortunately for me, Thursday night I jammed my foot while running Zumi in agility and ended in what I thought was a very graceful fall.  My foot hurt, but it didn't feel all that bad so I kept playing.  A few hours later when going to bed I could put hardly any weight on it.  Luckily when going to work on Friday my foot was improved,slightly.  And a perk to training service dogs is the abundance of wheelchairs.  I'm pretty sure all my coworkers thought I was just goofing off when they saw me wheeling by without a dog in tow.

And for the 2nd time ever, I was actually entered in Team for the trial.  Meaning I had two other people counting on me and Vito to try our best and not enough time to recruit someone else.  I also found out that it has to be one person handling the dog in all the team events, meaning I couldn't switch back and forth like I could in the normal runs.  Vito has never ran for someone else in a trial before.  The last time he even ran for someone in a practice setting was several years ago and he was a bit hesitant about driving to obstacles, but cooperated as they had a ball.
Day #1 had 3 team runs and Vito was entered in only 1 non team run- masters standard. Day #2 has 2 team runs and Vito is also in 2 non team runs- jumpers and snooker.

I decided to try handling Vito in the team runs myself to be safe and experiment with a friend running Vito in the non team to see how it went.  A coworker was at the trial who Vito knows well, although of course had never done any training with before.

My first run (team gamblers) with Vito actually went pretty well.  Vito was super, super up.  I told him he needed to be nice and do a start line stay but Vito disagreed.  He reminded me that I've always said he can do whatever he wants in a trial  My foot held up pretty well, just a lot slower running than normal.

Round #2 with me (Team standard) Vito again broke his start line and had the consequence of having to do a rear cross at the 3rd obstacle already.  Vito hates rears but he made his choice!  Again he was very sassy and I was really proud of the run!  It doesn't really look like I'm hobbling, but it was definitely not my usual running!


Run # 3 (master standard) was with his friend Shenna!  Very sassy Toller!  At first I didn't think he was going to go in the ring and leave his ball (he was very wound up with someone else handling his chuck it!), but he did so good!  I'm pretty sure the off course send to the backside of the tire was due to Vito driving the line that lead to his toy.  This video makes me so happy!


The last run of his day was several hours later and Vito was a little less pumped.  Actually held his start line.  Ran steady and happy, but not super fast.  Still managed to get enough points to qualify for a team leg.

We will see what tomorrow brings.  Right now I'm happy to report that my foot itself doesn't hurt any more than earlier.  However my injury is on the top right of my foot, and all the muscles on the left hand side and up my calf are aching.  Not sure what the plan will be.

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The Long Car Trip Verdict

Did anyone make a guess from a few weeks ago on how Vito's car ride to Missouri went?  My guess before the start of the trip was that Vito would be calm, on extra drugs for 3.5hrs, and then would panic. About a month after we increased Vito's Clorazepate again he started doing better in the car.  So about October to our trip over Christmas Vito had very few anxiety attacks.

It was supposed to be about 8hrs of driving but due to a horrible snow storm, we were stuck in insane traffic for an hour and a half.  I think we counted 19 cars in the ditch?  Vito did phenomenal for 7hrs.  Ate lots of treats, some french fries, even pretended to sleep for a little bit.  And then it started to go downhill.  Never worked up to full panic attack on the ride down, but did get up to some light trembling and moderate panting that last 2.5hrs.

The ride back was the disaster.  Started panicking before we even fully left the driveway.  Major trembling, heavy panting, and looking like he was going to have a heart attack.  Since he already had lots of extra drugs in his system we couldn't do anything until at least several more hours passed and we could give him more drugs.  Also found out that his fancy Sleepy Pod seatbelt harness is no match for a panicking dog.  Vito was able to do terrifying somersaults and needed saving twice before we gave up.
At the 2.5hr mark Adam climbed in the backseat and made Vito sit on his lap, which doesn't really help but made us feel better.  It must have helped a little as at the 3.5hr mark Vito was still trembling and panting but remarkably less.  No longer looked like an imminent heart attack.  We pulled off to get gas and lunch at 4hrs and decided we could pretend 6hrs between dosings was enough to give him more drugs.  It helped.  Vito calmed down quite a bit and was really good for 3hrs, and light anxiety for the last hour.

Since then though his panic attacks have been a regular basis again.  Not every ride at least.  We're at about 50%.  At least things are still going pretty well at work.  Fingers are crossed that things start to die down again and we can get rid of the daily, or twice daily, panic attacks.

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First Ring Entrances!

The local agility community had a huge fundraiser this past Saturday to help out an exhibitor.  Agility, obedience, rally, and nose work all available in the same place on one day!  I don't think that has ever happened before!

The tollers each did 2 runs in agility but before that Zumi had 1 run in the obedience side.  I chose not to do a formal run through despite my curiosity on how Zumi would do with the full exercises.  Instead, I chose to grasp the great opportunity to work on some of our Ring Confidence exercises.
Entering the ring with focus, setting up, leash removals, and finally the talking of the judge.  This was Zumi's first time getting to work on this in a formal type setting.  She has done these exercises a (sad and tiny) handful of times at our club with friends.  And Zumi's age and experience with it showed.  She was quite a bit more distracted then I thought she would be.  And very, very interested in our judge!  Especially the talking!  Our lovely judge was very helpful and ironically enough was also the real judge when Zumi did WCRL rally last month.

Here is her full, unedited, session.



Zumi actually toller squeals trying to get in the ring at first!  My first goal was getting in with focus and being able to sit at heel.  If this was too hard I would have backed up and gotten rid of the setup.

At the 1min mark I add in setting up and removing the leash.  Handing off the leash went well, although I realized setting up so the judge was on my right vs the left would have been easier to keep full eye contact.

At 2:30 I have our judge work on moving and talking.  Very hard for the Duck!!
And finally at 3.15 I add the first bits of heelwork in.

Overall I'm thrilled with how she did, even if I was a bit surprised at the difficulty.  She recovered quickly and made some great decisions out there.  I need to do a LOT more of this before I take her into the obedience ring.  Still quite a bit more before we do any other rally than WCRL (where food is allowed) but the ability to praise is a nice bridge.

I wish I had signed up for another obedience run before having to move to agility!  Agility was fun, but she is much further along there with her ability to handle the ring distractions and focus on her job.  Still, it was nice to get her on different equipment again!

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

Email: lkwaudby (at) gmail.com

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