AKC Obedience Changes

Go here, right now.  I'll wait:  http://images.akc.org/pdf/events/obedience/2014_OAC_Fancy.pdf

WOW!  I am in utter shock at what the committee recommended.  I thought everyone would drop dead before some of these changes were proposed!
- Leashes on dogs in stays!
- Dogs who NQed not being invited back for stays!
- Only 1 group stay of judges choice!
- Broad jump on both sides!
- New P-UDX and P-OTCH titles based on scores!
And the list goes on!

Now go here: http://www.tfaforms.com/336185#
Rate every suggestion.  Write thoughtful comments.  Make your voices be heard and pray that AKC listens to even 25% of the proposed changes.


Learning to Relax

Vito has no idea how to relax outdoors.  Inside, unless on a bad day, he's calm and cuddly.  Outdoors apparently means we're supposed to be doing something.

Before moving here this past winter the dogs never really had a backyard to just chill in.  The first duplex puppy Vito lived in was the closest he had to it.  It had a small yard and a patio that we sometimes hung out in but due to the dog living upstairs they were never unattended and we moved before he was 2yrs.  The next place we weren't really set up to relax outside and our last place we fenced a section the size of a shoe box and an aggressive doggy neighbor.

I absolutely love just sitting in the yard.  And Vito's learning.  After several months he may finally be starting to get it.  Of course he still has to at least try lots of whining and obsessively standing at the gate to the big yard first.

And well, this next picture was taken at dinner time with the bowls in my hand.  But that's not unusual!


Bursts of Work

Vito accompanied me to a puppy raiser outing at a public park this weekend.  I was planning on bringing Gracie but she's still in the slammer.  I knew that this would be difficult for Vito as he has a hard time adjusting to "non-dog show" environments but was also pretty certain he could handle it.

On arrival Vito did a bit of stress whining from the parking lot to the entrance.  I parked farther away so that he would have a bit of a walk and hopefully tone down the whining before getting to people.  And for the most part it worked.  We were able to hang out and wait at the park entrance for the small group of puppy raisers to arrive.  It took Vito about 20min of looking around at all the people walking by for him to be able to work for 5 seconds.  Then he came into heel position nicely, did 5 great steps of heeling, got some cookies, and then I released him back to the environment.  He needed more time to soak everything in so I put him back in a down and waited again.  Another 10 minutes passed before he was ready to work again but this time after 5 seconds of work, a reward, and a release back to the world he re-engaged me with me almost right away!  I think we did maybe 4 or 5 more bursts before I could feel him waning and we went back to hanging out.

A little bit later we went for a walk around the large playground and made several stops for the dogs to work on attention and behaviors.  Vito was able to work at a few.  In the 90 minutes we were at the park we probably did a grand total of 5 minutes of quality work.  At one spot towards the end he started getting anxious about nothing in particular.  I found that just giving him treats for being calm and lying down nicely did nothing to help him.  But work he understands.  Vito wasn't in a state of mind to offer nice work and focus but I could fake it by showing him a cookie upfront before doing our 5 seconds.  Repeat.  The heeling was lovely and his attitude was great.  But that's still not something I want to get in the habit of doing with Vito.  Bribing doesn't get you very far in the long run and certainly won't hold up in the ring.  At least it kept Vito from having a melt down in a situation we couldn't leave.

All in all, I am very happy with how Vito did at the outing.  The park was very busy and there were kids running around everywhere.  Because it was so busy I didn't expect Vito to have any reactive episodes (nothing stands out in chaos) and that held true.  He took a very long time to acclimate and if I was there on my own I would have brought out his crate for him to hang out in.  But he did eventually choose to work and wasn't bribed or pepped talked into doing so.  Some of the times he worked I feel he did so purely because he's a good dog who knew what I was waiting for.  So he did a little work and upon his release he went right back to watching the world.  That tells me he really wasn't ready despite choosing to do so.  It makes me happy to see that choice, but it also means I was greedy and pushed him too hard.  Overall we were there a long time and he mostly handled the environment well.  See the relaxed eyes and face in the pictures above?!

In case you haven't read it yet, Denise Fenzi posted a brilliant post on the topic of working in challenging environments..


Vito on Zoloft

4 good morning car rides in a row!!!  Lots of praying to Robot!

Vito has been taking Sertraline (Zoloft)z for 1 month now and has had two weeks at his current dose.  Because Vito is Vito, my breath continues to be held that it will last.

Vito is also doing better at work.  Much less reactive episodes to people walking by!  Hard to tell if this good change is due to the new drug or due to our cubicle move.  We just moved 3 cubes down but in the same little hallway so he has access to the exact same areas as before.  He can even lie under the desk of our old cube if he wants.  I thought the move farther away would be hard for Vito because he still needs to hear people to know he's not alone.  But I think having his bed at the far end helps to muffle the noises of approaching people.  The downside is that if he's having a bad day then he's really having a bad day; as his home base is now far away when he stands at the edge of the hallway by the gate to whine for momma.

He is experiencing a bit of a sedation effect still on his new drug.  I think it may be starting to wear off as he gets used to it though.  Always hard to tell with Vito if a flatter training session is because of drugs or because of his low "work ethic."


2 Dogs

Gracie is still in prison and hopefully not getting in too much trouble.  Life here is quiet with only 2 dogs.  Gracie is always very calm in the house and does a pretty decent job of not stirring up trouble, but it's strange how much extra "work" a third dog takes.  Slightly less time of holding the door open for mosquitoes to fly in.  Only one dog on each side for walks.  Nobody for the Corgi to try and herd/be a snot too while I'm dishing up food (as the Toller doesn't bother to get off the couch).  No need to have two separate toys and worry about body slamming during fetch.  Only 1 dog in the kiddie pool.  No one supervising us in the bathroom and no one sleeping on the pile of clothes while I'm in the shower.  It's odd.

In other news, I've finally seen the results of Lance's photo shoot a few months back for Target!
It's the Corgi!

And I'm coming up on the deadline of having to decide what to enter Vito in for the upcoming CDSP trial.  I had set a goal several weeks ago to try and be ready for Utility in order to push my motivation and work with him on the exercises.  For the most part I can say mission accomplished.  Vito has a pretty thorough understanding of all the pieces and has seen all those pieces finally put together to form the completed exercises.  Yay!  The exercises aren't quite the way I want them to be, precision wise, but that doesn't bother me too much.  Attitude first, precision second.  

What is still giving me pause is his confidence with the exercises, especially in new places.  While I've been doing a little bit of obedience in new places recently (like shopping centers and patios and such), his quality of effort in those new places aren't yet consistently high.  Continued work on choosing to engage, block out the world, stuff.  I am happy with how he's progressing and his ability to work with me (high rewards, very short work), but I am still doing quite a bit of ending of work for him not being ready.  And since Utility is all about confidence, and confidence at a distance, I'm a little concerned about rushing it.  At least Open is very well known and we could just practice more of ring=fun stuff we've been doing.  If I choose to enter Utility it would simply be as a reward for my part of the equation.  Utility is fun and I've been doing Open with Vito for a very long time.  Not so rewarding for me.  And I would try and manage his side of the equation by showering him with treats and praise in the ring (as CDSP allows) and likely the issue of his confidence wouldn't even be an issue.  Decisions...


NADAC- injury, happiness, and rant

NADAC trial this past weekend and we got to be indoors at the Soccer Blast.  Another one of the few weekends we get to steal it from the AKC people!

Unfortunately the Corgi didn't want to jump in the van on Saturday morning.  So I boosted him up and worried.  Worries were confirmed on arrival as he didn't want to do any trick that involved lifting his front end of the ground.  I didn't even try the warm up jump.  Trying what limited feeling stuff I know I felt his back muscles trembling.  A friend tried to help with some massage stuff but it wasn't enough.  Lance had to be scratched from all of his runs, both days. On Sunday I was able to get him adjusted as his chiropractor was there, but he's still on restriction and still doesn't want to do any running or begging.  My fingers are crossed that a few days of rest and he will be back to normal.  Lance was super happy to be out walking about and I think he was confused as to why he didn't get to run.  Definitely as charming as ever to his beloved audience!

Super sucks that Lance has only competed in 1 NADAC trial this year so far, and 2 UKI Trials.  I was really hoping to finish up his NATCH this year and was going to trial him a bit more.  Between lack of money and then a canceled trial, it just hasn't happened.  This weekend Lance was just a very expensive accessory!

And then because I'm super helpful, I mixed up the boys drugs when I got home and wrapped pills in cheese.  I was planning on giving Lance some Traumeel to help with his back and of course Vito needed his anxiety drugs.  An hour later I saw Lance stumbling drunk around the house and I knew what I did :(  Poor Corgi on a large dose of Clorazepate.  At least his back pain was likely less noticeable to him!

While I was looking forward to trialing with Vito I also wasn't sure on the timing.  I had just increased Vito's new drug, Zoloft, a few days before and had started to see a small sedation effect.  I'm hoping it goes away as he gets used to the new drug, and fingers are also crossed that Zoloft will help him.

I need not have worried as Vito has a FANTASTIC trial!  Especially on Saturday, Vito was back to screaming on the start line and mostly running!  Sunday was a little bit more tired but he was still happy and doing some very good moments.

We also worked on our leaving the ball behind to enter the ring and then MYSELF getting it for him on exiting.  I do think our practice work is paying off as Vito not only ran a bit better but fully understood that he had to do a tiny sit stay while I handed the ball to him.  He was clearly tempted to run out of the ring after the last obstacle to get it himself, but called easily to me to get his leash and even walked nicely with me to it.  Yay for little victories!

Total Q rate for Vito was 5 of 9, with a 6th run being completely my fault for sending him off course as I did a "bonus" front cross to try and speed him up in a spot that no cross was needed.  I realized my mistake barely too late but didn't bother fixing it.  Two of the NQs were in chances, but he did some brave handling where he was farther away than he would have been in a trial even a few months ago.  Last NQ was a missed discrimination in Touch n Go.

I like NADAC.  I really do.  The dogs just love running FULL speed.  But on Sunday it was hard to get enthused about any of the courses (Saturday was better).  The elite regular course had a total of 2 side changes and one was at a tunnel.  It was basically a gigantic loop around the outside and then a tiny inside loop with a contact discrimination thrown in.  (On video above).  I honestly had to check to make sure I was walking the elite course and not novice.  I'm not saying that it can't be challenging for fast dogs, and I surely don't have a 100% Q rate in NADAC.  But it was painfully obvious to me how uninspired I personally am about running NADAC courses.  I think Vito is at the point where he doesn't need the courses to gain confidence anymore.  But with Lance it's pretty much the only agility option I have with the shortie other than a tiny amount of UKI trials.  Why can't USDAA acknowledge that small dogs want to play their program too!?  I think trying to get to bonus line distance would be enough to hold my interest in NADAC with him, but he stutters worse when I'm too far away so it's not something I do a whole lot of.  NADAC, please give us a little bit more inspired courses rather than gigantic loops with a pinwheel thrown in.  Ok, end of rant.


Choosing his Reward

Another obedience post since Vito was too cute to not show the world!  

If it's nice out and I'm actually home in the evening instead of teaching classes, I take the dog's dinner outside and do some obedience practice.  Vito is very used to this and ranges from being super excited to train for his meal to being moderately excited.  Overall excitement is much higher at meal time than at any other time so I try and take advantage of it.  I usually just train in the fenced yard but for some reason I wanted to do Vito's session in the larger field.  We've occasionally trained obedience out there so it wasn't completely new to him.  Lucky for me, I had planned on video taping it to evaluate our heeling progress.  For an unknown reason I also decided to video tape exiting through the gate.  I think it was because he usually is so eager to work with me coming out of the gate that I wanted it recorded so I could compile it for part of our year-end video.  I guess I knew there was a ball around the corner but it didn't cross my mind at all that he would abandon his dinner for it.  Our session quickly went in a completely different direction than what I planned on working on!

Vito already had a trained swallow this cookie behavior.  I know, very odd.  But it's come in handy so many times to lower his arousal level and to get his brain thinking instead of just reacting.  After a few courtesy swallows he started to think enough that I could leave his ball on the ground and do some heeling- a behavior he also knows.  And then with some more courtesy swallows his brain started to focus 75% on me and his dinner and only 25% on his ball.  


Prison Bound

Gracie left me today to head to one of our prison programs.  Life behind bars!  I have no doubt she will quickly be in charge on the other side of the fence.  The plan is for her to only be gone for a few weeks until another dog coming in for their final training can be placed down there.  But they needed a dog and Gracie was selected for some new experiences.

Technically Gracie is now 19 months old and is right at the age when we call our program dogs away from their puppy raisers and start evaluating their career choices.  Gracie has already completed her mobility training ages ago and recently finished her diabetic alert training.  She is also still a very immature little girl.  A fact that I don't think will be changing for her, probabally ever!  At this point we are mainly waiting for the right match for Gracie, likely as a diabetic alert dog.  And we are in no hurry.

When she comes back from prison and her time spent showing the inmates what a fun loving labrador can do, the plan is for her to continue living with me until that match is made.  In the meantime, life will be a bit calmer with only 2 dogs and zero meerkats.
Amazing ability to keep her butt on the floor and still cuddle as much as possible.

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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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