Stay at Home Dog

Since Netta has arrived the dogs and I have had our schedule drastically changed.  No longer are we all going to work every day.  Work involved many stressers for the Toller.  Two long car rides.  Staying in the cubicle area while Mom abandoned him to train the service dogs.  Seeing favorite coworkers come in for the day and not always being able to hang out with them.  Then seeing coworkers pack up to head home and thinking he may be left all alone..forever!  Really most of Vito's anxieties at work boiled down to me not being able to be with him the majority of the day.  He would have been a very relaxed dog if he could just sleep at my feet all day.  Drugs helped.  And helped with the car rides too.  Really Vito was doing pretty well with the situation and his current drugs.  But still daily stress.


And now Vito is a stay at home dog.  A very relaxed stay at home dog. Mom is always there.  Car rides are way less frequent and usually very short.  Happy Toller.

So relaxed that I've weaned Vito off of both his "situational" drugs that were given twice every day. No more Clonidine, his favoritest drug that you could always tell when 2:30 rolled around at work and it was time for another dose.  Vito would definitely tell you he needed his Clonidine!  And no more Clonazepam, the latest of numerous drugs rotating in and out of his life.  Of course if Vito does have to go on a car ride for some reason I'm keeping the drugs around to well actually use situationally.  How novel.

And at this point I'm still keeping Vito on his base drug, which currently is Sertraline.  I'm not sure if I should keep him on it or not.  A part of me hopes that maybe Vito could get used to being left alone again for short periods of time.  Perhaps without the daily stressers in the other areas he will be able to handle it.  His separation anxiety has always been his biggest issue.  But at one point, several years ago, Vito was able to be left alone for a few hours.  With the help of drugs of course.

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Trialing in Heat!

The tollers got to do another agility weekend!

But first, I forgot to wrap up Zumi's USDAA trial last weekend.  Overshadowed by Vito's championship!  Zumi actually had her best agility trial yet.  Very focused on Saturday and much more responsive to handling than she has shown in other trials.  Growing up!  Sunday had a bit more distractions when Grandma came to watch and Zumi wanted to maul Grandma vs focusing on warming up.  Definitely a training issue that still needs to be worked on!  She still managed to do some very nice runs on Sunday.  Her only "bad" run of the weekend was the very last run where she left me once to run over to the wall of spectators and then while she didn't leave me after that her brain was still thinking about her audience.  That's ok, I also had a stupid run where I did the opening the masters course with her instead of the advanced course.  Beautiful run, but not exactly what the judge laid out for us!

I made a montage of her good moments!!


This weekend I was glad it was UKI as Zumi decided to come into heat and UKI has no problems with girls still competing.  I think it's ridiculous that other organizations have not come on board with the same allowance.  In Europe it's seen as just a training issue.  And while Zumi was just in the beginning of her heat cycle at the trial this weekend, I don't think any dog had a major problem with it.  A bit more sniffy and excited perhaps, but everyone was able to run their course.

I think Zumi had more of an issue with running during her cycle than anyone else! I was grateful I was able to take the dogs to the facility on Friday night for a fun run.  Zumi was much more sniffy of the grounds than she has ever shown.  But once in the ring she was very focused!  At the trial on Saturday it was about the same.  Sniffy and more easily distracted than usual outside of the ring, but doing fairly well inside.  We had some issues on the startline for her first 2 runs of the day on Saturday as Zumi had to sit on a towel.  She did not want to sit on that towel!  Very weirded out by what should have been a non issue since Zumi knows "go mat" games very well!  But we worked through it with treats and then she didn't have an issue the rest of the weekend.

Unfortunately, we couldn't qualify at all.  Lovely runs with just a few baby dog mistakes of running by obstacles, a dropped bar, or refusal.  I do think her runs got better with each one, and her speed increased too.

Zumi had one incident at the trial though where I didn't think I was going to get her in the ring.  Shockingly there were quite a few spectators at the trial on Sunday and before Zumi's jumpers run there was a mom with 2 young children.  Zumi saw the kids and was terrified.  This is not a new issue for her, she's been wary of kids and definitely undersocialized to them.  I'm not worried about Netta as she will grow up gradually getting used to more movement and Zumi's personality just isn't one where I'm concerned.  I think it will remain to be seen though if I can get her comfortable with other people's kids!  But at the trial she was freaked out more than usual, likely due to all her hormones playing games with her.  I politely asked the mom to move off to the side isle where Zumi wouldn't be able to see them before her run.  The mom mentioned her kids not being able to see if they were over there, but I nicely asked again and mentioned Zumi would be the very last dog anyway.  The mom agreed and moved off but when I took Zumi out of her crate again I saw that they just moved 15ft down the line and were now directly in front of the entrance, actually touching the gates...  I'm not mad the family was at the show.  Zumi's issue is just that, an issue we need to work on.  But I also didn't think it was unreasonable that I asked them to move for one dog.

Zumi was freaked out and I didn't even know if she would enter the ring with me.  I entered on the exit side and brought her ball in with me, trying to play with her.  I am SO glad UKI allows non-qualifying toy runs!!!  Shockingly Zumi did enter the ring with me and while I totally lured her with that ball on the setup, she obliged. And even better she had an amazing run!  I ended it early so that she wouldn't go near the entrance again and would be far from the kids who were actually hanging on the ring gates.

Here is Zumi's toy run with the kids at the gate:


And here is her standard run on Sunday:


Vito also had a great trial on Saturday.  Very Happy Toller!  And then on Sunday he was a really good boy but not as fast.  Lots of Qs all weekend though even on some challenging courses.
I think I might go to just one day a weekend for Vito.  In the past Vito has been terribly inconsistent about whether he is faster on day 1 vs day 2 in the same way that he's not predictable on whether the first run or the last run is better.  But, since Vito's getting a bit older now, limiting him to one day might be something to consider.

Here was his only run I got on film.  Actually I felt this jumpers run was his slowest run of the weekend.  Still a very nice that I'm happy with:


I usually do some toy runs for Vito in UKI but I chose not to do that at this trial.  Vito's been Vito with his agility runs for years now and while has made TONS of progress with his anxieties in it, not really anything has changed in the last 2(?) years.  Vito runs fast when he wants to and runs meh when he wants to.  Toy runs really haven't made any difference for Vito except for being magically faster the second half of the same run he got a surprise reward in.  I don't think Vito needs any more classical conditioning and confidence building with trials (agility), which is really a good thing.  I think it's just pure motivation issues which aren't going to change with rewarding in the ring only a small portion of the time.  Maybe if there were a lot more UKI trials it would be different. I think our jackpot training and leaving his ball at a distance in practice have been and will continue to be the best plan for him.  That and me being completely at peace with whatever he decides to give me in a trial.

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Toller Champion!

Spoiler alert- Vito earned his ATCH this weekend at the USDAA trial!  He needed 1 jumpers Q and 1 Super Q in snooker.  Honestly it was a feat I wasn't sure would ever happen for him. Jumpers is his least favorite class and he's prone to going slow and knocking bars, but it's also very doable for him.  But in snooker Vito has gotten the points needed so many times and just not the speed needed to beat the other great teams for those special super qs!


I took the tollers to their first trial in 4 months.  So excited to compete as well as just getting out of the house,  It was also our first time at the new jump heights.  Zumi was already assured to jump 20in and Vito I wanted to remeasure as I was certain that he was easily under 19in tall in order to make that 20in cutoff as well.  He made the measurement easily!  I'm extra excited as I wasn't sure how much longer I wanted him jumping 22" but 20" is so much easier for him.  It's amazing what just 2in can do,

Vito had 3 runs on Saturday.  Jumpers was first and he needed 1 more towards his ATCH title. Well Vito was pretty happy and put out a solid run.  Not warp speed but not a Sad Toller run either.


Standard was the same although Vito missed his dogwalk contact on a very easy straight exit.  It's been a long time since that's happened!  And then finally snooker.  Since he was in the new 20in class now there were less dogs and an easier chance of getting that SQ.  We pulled out a 50pt run and waited.  I was a bit dismayed to see 1 team who also did 50pts slow down and not go for speed at the end.  She mistakenly entered championship when they're now in performance and didn't want to take a placement away, but I didn't want to win that way.  She didn't know I was going for my ATCH.  Oh well.  So Vito won his height.  I did feel better to see that (sadly) all the top teams made errors at 22in and Vito's score would actually have gotten first in that height as well.


Vito's first championship.  My first championship.
Vito must be content with his new accomplishment as his 2 runs the next day were more flat.  Still manged to pull off a difficult gamble but not really excited about the day.

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Mealtime Training

I've started resuming some of the dog's obedience training lately.  Still no time to go the club and actually have some space for the bigger exercises, but I've been working on the little things in my tiny living room.  Training with their dinner has always been easiest for me as I have to get off my butt anyway to dish up food and it requires no special treats.


Zumi is working on fronts again with different angles.  Speed is hard for her and she can't really get up much in the small space, but I can work difficult approaches.  And doing crazy spins before a front can get her arousal up...and maybe a little dizzy too.  We're also working on not anticipating position changes when working on signals.  Lots of deep breaths from my part and then no signal given.  

Vito is working on right sided heel work again for my pretend goal of getting back to the hunt training.  He's also doing some stand re-training as apparently he lost some precision (surprise I know!).  When prepping for my upcoming online stand for exam class I found out that Vito still has a nice kick back stand but he pops his butt out when in heel position.  I will be fixing it with his pocket hand.  Here is a video of his "before" with crookedness, alternated  "with help" of the hand guide:

Note that just because he's doing it nicely with my hand guide it doesn't mean it's fixed.  Instead of alternating reps with and without the hand like I did for sake of the video, I'll scale back on testing until straightness is a better habit.  If you want to join us in working on stands and/or exams there is still room at all levels!  Class starts Feb 1st!

Lance isn't working on anything in particular.  I do a few tricks and whatever obedience I feel like doing at the time.  Joys of retired dog.

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Don't Eat My Food!

My dogs don't have a ton of house manner rules.  They can jump on me.  They're allowed on furniture of course.  The Corgi often leads obnoxious barking bouts at what are clearly grave threats to the household.  They charge out the door when opened.  And they are all very good supervisors of our food.  SUPERVISORS is the key word in my mind.  The main rule in my house is you can watch the food, even snuggle up close while I eat, but do not even think about eating it.  I often set my food down and even leave the room and only have to fear the cat who seemingly springs out from nowhere.  But never the dogs.

Zumi's station every time I eat is to place her head in my lap.  She doesn't even look at the food and if I accidently drop a piece she doesn't even lift her head.


But apparently she's acting out since Netta has come home.  Or more likely her lower exercise and mental stimulation the last several months has gotten to her.  Because Zumi has broken my main rule more than once now.

So now we will go back to basics and revisit training and management.  I admit that this skill that all my dogs and long term fosters have had is not one I explicitly teach them.  It just kinda comes with our everyday life and gradually pushing their understanding of rules.

First I will review her automatic leave it in training mode.  Is the dog truly able to resist a distraction without any clue from you?  If you're having to give a verbal cue, or even just a small stop in your motion then the dog isn't quite there yet.  And keep in mind that it's the first rep that really counts, not the ones after the dog knows it's a proof.  This with Zumi I'm certain is solid.  But a dog's ability to ignore distractions and concentrate on work is not even close to the skill level needed to ignore distractions when not working.  Zumi may still have some work to go with automatically ignoring things but overall she gets the game pretty well,

Outside of training sessions is where most of our work will take place,  I will do all of it without giving Zumi any cue to leave it or stay as I want it to be automatic.  If she was a different dog who really struggled I would consider using boundary training or place training to provide structure but Zumi doesn't need that.
First duration.  This is easy for me to practice because I'm lazy,  I'll just eat my meal, usually on the couch, and leave my plate sitting next to me.  In easy reach so I am a part of the picture still.  Duration will also naturally work on another variable such as my focus waning in and out.  Zumi still has this stage down pat.

I think it's important to note that I don't ever reward from my plate when doing this training as I don't want Zumi thinking about when she is going to be able to eat it. I want her to completely ignore the food altogether, knowing that it's not going to be hers.  Actually in this training at home I don't even like using food rewards at all, just calm praise.  Unlike in her sport training where I want her to leave a reward and focus on me, in this every day life moment I ideally want Zumi to not focus on what I'm doing at all.  Go chew a bone, take a nap, wrestle with the cat, I don't care.  Of course since supervision doesn't bother me either I also don't mind if she does choose to lay her head in my lap and closely watch either!  And I have fed my dogs directly from my plate quite often, but I will be suspending that with Zumi until she is back on track.

My movement and distance will be another variable.   She has already proved she can leave food without my focus on her so now would be seeing if she can leave it while I stand up from the couch.  Then whether I can pick up something in my hand, or bend down to touch my toes, etc.  Can I move to the kitchen with direct eye contact?  Move away without the eye contact reminder?

Next the dog's movement if she hasn't done that on her own already,  I want to see that she has no problem walking away from food.  I will reward any cues given to come but then dismiss her again and go back to pretending the food isn't there.  I don't want her in training mode. And a release is not a free for all,  I want to see Zumi relaxing and not thinking about running back to my food.  A hard step for many!

And finally the big one, going out of sight again.  This will be done only after she doesn't need my eye contact as a clue that I'm paying attention and isn't glued to its location.  Quick around the corner and back.  Not drawing too much attention to anything.  Low key praise as needed, but overall me being gone as no big deal.  The food doesn't exist.

Of course management is going to be equally important.  No leaving food unguarded again for quite awhile.  If your dog struggles with this training management will be far more important than any training,  Keep training steps easy so that you don't have to body block or verbally cue your dog. The more you have to help your dog the less your dog is practicing impulse control.  Actually progressing to quickly can mean your dog is learning more about how long your arms are and how fast you can run than anything else.  It's amazing the calculus a dog can do to figure out whether they can beat you to the food before you even see what's happening!

I am also reminded to always keep in my mind my dog's personality to have realistic expectations.  The Corgi humbles me often in this department.  As long as a body, a conscious body, is in the house he wouldn't dream of tearing into any food and raiding any desks/tables in search.  I;m willing to be that he would leave a hamburger on the floor untouched for hours.  But if nobody is home or everyone is sleeping then he is on a mission in an instant.  He is going to be 10 in a few months and still can't be trusted outside of his crate or being closed in the bedroom when left alone.

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Getting Back to Agility

My doctors have cleared me to restart running with the dogs so back I went to agility class.  Zumi has desperately needed to do some training and the once a week work will have to do until spring.
Surprisingly Zumi's been extremely thoughtful in her 2 classes so far.  No nearly as orbity and Wahoo-y! as I expected her to be.  She sure doesn't make up for any bad handling on my part though.

Vito I was also not sure what to expect with his return.  He had a long break this past summer and when he was able to get back to training he was absolutely insane for weeks.  Couldn't even sit at the start line his arousal was so high.  This time Vito was the opposite.  Calm.  Listening well.  Not quite running full speed but trying hard and saving my butt with some bad handling.  He's only done 1 class and I'll have to see what to do with the dogs the rest of this winter.  I can have both dogs in the same class but that's harder for me mentally with the different handling and of course physically as I'm so not in shape.  I had been alternating dogs each week over the summer.

There are 2 trials coming up in early February that I'm thinking about entering. 1 USDAA and 1 UKI.  Zumi of course is due to come in heat as we just can't time our breaks together I guess.



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2016 Year in Review


A little late but I thought I would keep up with my tradition and review the last year.  Obviously last year was a big one for me with finding out I was pregnant and then having a 2016 baby instead of a 2017 one.  But the dogs are the important one on this blog!

Lance
The Corgi of course is retired, or semi-retired really.  Lance will still compete in WCRL rally since the jump bars can be moved to the ground for him.  Lance did several trials this last year in level 3 and earned his level 3 excellent title with glee.  I have no interest in getting any of the combined level 1/2/3 titles with him so we will keep playing in level 3 for fun.  He was incredibly sassy this last year and let me know he can do what he wants now.  Mainly barking on not just the "backwards" type stuff of backing up in heel and the left pivots, but also just whenever he feels like it.  And of course some forging is coming back as well.  So happy!

We also played with a bit of nosework earlier in the year.  I wanted to give Lance something to do now that he's retired.  Lance had fun training it but he's certainly not a natural!  Unfortunately I dropped off my training by summer.  I'm going to try to re-motivate myself to pick it back up again as I know he will still have fun training for it.  I just have never liked scent work training personally.

Vito
Vito's year was mainly one big break. 2015 was the start to our obedience experiment and that continued through spring last year.  I've since worked on more jackpot training with him again but a ton more emphasis on true choosing to work without seeing any rewards up front or any real effort on my part to encourage him to start.  Vito knows when work is an option and doesn't need me to plead with him.  For the most part it's going extremely well.  Vito still takes quite a while to choose to work sometimes but when he does start his energy is very high.  I've started working more on precision again with Vito but it's hard as to truly work on that I would want to up my rate of rewards and do fun "drills" and I don't want to do that with Vito yet.  Maybe not ever again with him, who knows.  Vito needs the most work on motivation when he knows rewards aren't forthcoming, well and all the ring confidence work with people pressure too.


I did enter Vito in exactly 3 trials this year in rally.  Vito isn't really a rally dog but I knew it would be easier for him with teh extra support I can give and with way less people pressure.  The first 2 trials were WCRL and he was a very pushy boy!  Some distraction issues with the food bowls but he recovered and was even sassier afterwards.  The last trial was AKC rally at our club.  Sadly this did not go as well.  Vito and I finished the course and other than me choosing not to redo a sign he couldn't do with the judge behind us, he scored well.  But he was worried by that judge and with the higher pressure environment in general.  It seems as though our AKC goals will remain a once a year evaluation of where his mental game is at.

Sadly an injury plagued us most of the year and Vito didn't get many agility trials in.  Not much changed with Vito in agility.  Some really good runs where Vito ran full speed.  He even got 2 difficult gambles!  And then some mediocre runs where Vito just didn't feel like running fast.  Like the past years, he still seems happy in these runs and not worried, just not speedy.
I am currently debating about what height to jump him this upcoming year.  Vito is not old, just 8yrs, and isn't having issues jumping 22in.  But well he's Vito.  Vito only needs 1 more jumpers Q and 1 more Super Q in snooker to get his ATCH and I admit I want to try to go for it.  I know that Vito might not ever get that last Super Q and I"m ok with that, but I don't want to rule it out before it's time.  I'm also hoping that Vito will get remeasured to be under 19in with the new USDAA jump heights.  I've easily gotten him under 19 when I've measured him in practice and this would allow him to jump 20in instead of 22in.

Vito also did some nosework last spring and loved it like I knew he would.  We didn't get far but Vito is definitely a natural at the sport.  Too bad competitions with him are out as there is no way he could handle the strict trial environment of dogs waiting at the cars and not being able to walk around.

Finally Vito did a tiny amount of gun dog work in the spring.  Unlike Zumi, Vito was over the top excited by the prospect of real birds. We worked on taming the savage.  Mainly teaching Vito to take another reward in exchange for a calm hold on a bird instead of thinking he could rip into the bird as a reward...

Zumi
2016 was Zumi's trial debut in agility!  A few issues with greeting ring crew and general WaHoo! running past obstacles and not turning.  But overall I am thrilled with how she did.  She earned her starters title and moved up to advanced.  Unfortunately due to being in heat at the beginning of the season and then myself being on restriction ruining the end of the year trials, Zumi didn't get to trial as much as I planned.  At least there is plenty of time!

 In obedience/rally I first started Zumi in WCRL rally and earned her level 1, 2, and 3 titles.  Then in the summer I tried her in CDSP obedience and earned her novice title.  I was thrilled with her level of focus and precision she offered me.  Just a few issues that I know we're still working on in practice.  I entered her in AKC rally novice for 3 runs at our club this October to earn her first AKC title.  I was happy with her performances but she also showed me that the AKC environment was a bit too much for her right now.  While her focus and attitude remained high, Zumi was unable to do some simple tasks even outside of the ring that I know she knows well.  I was planning on entering her in AKC obedience this spring, but will now hold off a little bit until I know she's more comfortable.

Gun dog stuff was almost all done in the spring.  I introduced Zumi to her first real bird which was interesting.  Zumi is very hesitant to pick up any bird that she hasn't been properly introduced to first.  Then she is super excited!  If it wasn't for the "new bird" issue I would say Zumi is ready to pass her WC test.  Somebody kick the handler to get more practice in!

Disc dog was even less practiced. I did get to go to 2 seminar this year to work with Zumi.  A lot of fun!


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The Homecoming

She's home!  Ringing in the new year, Netta decided she was ready to come with us on January 1st.  She came home at  34 days in the NICU, at 35weeks.  Quite a bit earlier than their initial guess and the schedule kept getting bumped up in the last two weeks.  I originally planned to wrangle homes for Vito for early January as I was going to have to stay in the hospital to work on getting Netta transitioned to a "feed on demand" schedule and transition her off her feeding tube.  But then Christmas evening the staff decided she was showing great signs of being ready for that process that day!  I am so grateful for all who offered to take Vito into their homes so I could do what I needed to do for Netta.  Netta ended up only needing a week to fully get her strength built up to take all meals by mouth, so Netta and Vito ended up coming home earlier than planned again.


A bit scary taking her away from her monitoring systems.  It even felt weird being able to walk around with her past a small radius that her cords would reach!
Netta's 1 month birthday celebrated in the NICU.

Netta passed her car seat test of being able to maintain breathing while being slouched in the car seat, but needed a double crotch roll under her butt in order to be snug.  Netta in the car seat really drove home all tiny she is!  Netta was 4lbs 12oz when leaving.

They gave us essentially a Do Not Pet sign for her car seat as we will be sequestered from crowds for the next several months.  We don't want her ending back in the hospital due to illness as her immune system just can't handle it.

Due to her 10wk early preemie status and the limitation on crowds, I did have to quit my job as a service dog trainer.  They highly recommend no daycare for as long as possible, a minimum of 6 months past her initial due date of February.  Vito will love being a stay at home dog!  And thankfully I still have my online classes at Fenzi Academy to help provide a little income.

The tollers are curious of Netta, but are being very respectful.  I'm sure Zumi will have some issues once Netta is more mobile, but right now she is being an angel.  Lance is such a go with the flow dog that I'm not sure he's done more than the initial courtesy sniff?  He knows he will be in charge of her later but figures I can handle it for now I guess.


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

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