New Ferret Video

A couple people have asked me about the ferrets recently, wanting a new video.  But sadly the ferrets are all getting up there in age.  They sleep a lot more and steal a lot less.  As the youngest one, Opie is still causing a bit of trouble and doing a great job at keeping the lab in line.  Fiona loves rolling around on her back for him to crawl over her and most days I still hear her crying when she gets nipped at.


But to pacify the ferret fans, I compiled some older footage of the ferrets.  Most of it is 2yrs old.

Sadly, Bjorn seems to be on his last leg.  He has lost a lot of weight and mainly just sleeps.  I don't think he will be with us in 2012.
Photo by Sarah Beth Photography

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Vito sees a Veternarian Behaviorist

Vito had his behavioral appointment at the University of Minnesota.  While I really like and respect our normal veternarian we were at a loss for where to continue with Vito's anxiety.  He has been doing so great being left at home but his car anxiety is still very intense, he still can be reactive towards people, and he has general anxiety in public places (especially evident at non dog shows).

Right off the bat Vito was giving an excellent example of his issues.  He was panting and whining in the waiting room and continued his panting once in the exam room.  Vito settled down quite a bit and was very cuddly with the doctor but was still very alert to sounds outside.  Twice he had reactive outbursts and I was able to prevent him from starting a few other times.  He started trembling and tried to hide for the basic physical exam we saved for near the end.

The doctor agreed with me that the Prozac is going well with helping Vito's separation anxiety.  She did note that he is on a very high dosage and has plans to decrease it in a few weeks.  Vito was initially on 20mg but was increased to 40mg since while the Prozac was helping at the lower dosage he seemed restless and unable to fully relax when left alone.

We are also going to be starting Vito on Clonidine to help with his car anxiety and general anxiety.  While we can use it on an as needed basis, because Vito has to go in the car a minimum of once a day we're going to be likely giving it twice daily.  My fingers are crossed that it doesn't give Vito any sedation effects like the Xanax did.  The next drug she suggested was Trazodone but he definitely couldn't start it until his prozac was lowered and she didn't think it would be as good of a fit with his issues.

As additional work for me, I'm going to start some ds/cc work in the car.  She agrees with me that it is likely won't help since I will be unable to keep him below any threshold we might build.  Because Vito HAS to go in the car for at least one trip a day it will destroy any progress made.  Nevertheless, I will start working on it by hanging out in the car with Vito and some treats in the Minnesota winter.

She checked to see if Vito had any mat work and I sent him to my jacket.  I thought she was going to recommend the formal relaxation protocol and said I really didn't see myself doing it!  But since Vito was so visibly relaxed on his "mat" and not any operant relaxed fashion of just trying to get treats, we passed and she said I didn't have to :)  But it was recommended that I actually work on mat work a bit more and to reward him if he doesn't react to stimuli. 

We talked quite a bit about trialing for obedience and agility.  I explained my hypothesis of Vito's anxiety being linked to the pressure of a crowd watching and his need to really take in the environment around him.
Our last agility trial in October was the first time that Vito and I were connected at the start line for all of our runs.  It was also the first time that after doing some tugging to warm him up I just crouched down and let him watch the ring before going in.  I don't know if doing the same for obedience would work but I do need to find a routine that would allow Vito to be ON as soon as he steps in the ring.  And I need to start doing it in our little practice sessions instead of letting him do his little stretches that he can't do in a real trial.  The run through went fantastic last weekend but I didn't do anything differently as a warm up.

I look forward to seeing if the Clonidine is going to help Vito.  The good news is that I should know soon as it is a fast acting drug.  We're starting out on a really low dosage just to make sure we're not getting any bad side effects and then will slowly up it until we find a dosage that will hopefully help him.

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Chuck Graduates!

Chuckles and his new mom are now an official team!  The graduation ceremony for Chuck and 14 of his friends was this past weekend.  We got to be reunited with Chuck before the ceremony and then walk him up the stage to hand him over to his momma.  Chuck has already been living with his new mom for almost 4 months as they have been diligently practicing their skills at home and out in public.

Most of his job involves retrieving.  He retrieves her crutches, her prosthetic leg, and things she drops.  Chuck also braces to help her get off the floor or out of a chair, and opens doors using the push plates.  And his absolute favorite task, and the one most helpful to his new mom, is tugging the laundry basket out of the closet, out the apartment door, down the hallway, and to the laundry room.  That is quite the distance!!!



Reunited!
Some of the other puppy raisers/fosters with their dogs

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CDSP Run throughs

I took the dogs to do some run throughs today at the same building the CDSP trial will be held next month.

Lance
Lance went first for his utility run and made several errors.  First he sat after I turned to face him on the signal exercise.  On articles he found and picked up the right one pretty quickly but then dropped it after taking a few steps back to me.  A problem he used to have under pressure but hasn't done in a long time.  No issues with either glove send at least.  On his go outs the first one was really nice but then he started to arc back to me and I think it was from the pressure of the other dogs in the warm up ring directly behind it.  The sends after that were good.  But on the first jump Lance again veered off to my left!  I interrupted him to send him over my right and then tried again.  On the 2nd attempt Lance looked to my right and stared right at the judge before smiling and taking off to the left.  Odd because the judge is our weekly instructor and Lance normally is not that sensitive to pressure from people.  We do it one more time at a shorter distance and Lance was successful.  Moving stand he didn't take any steps as I left but did take one during the exam.
 But despite all our bobbles he was a happy corgi!

Vito
Vito was having a good day!  He was very excited during his warm up and kept most of it during his open run.  There weren't a ton of people there and he knew the judge so I think that helped him.


No lagging at the start :)  He did look away briefly before the first turn but I called his name and did a little sidestep as I turned and he drew back in.
I've never done a running broad jump with Vito before and I think he thought my backing up was so he could jump on me as a reward!
I put the toy behind him on the drop on recall and sent him to it as his reward.
Vito knocks the dumbbell with his foot on the retrieve (I don't know how to fix that!) but does one of his closest fronts ever!
Retrieve over the high and Vito again knocks the db with his foot but does another really close front!  I played the video in slow mo and I don't understand how Vito is knocking it.  He comes in  with his head lowered, all poised to turn as soon as he grabs it but his foot slides it a split second before he can grab it.
There's a go out from the center of the ring in CDSP open and Vito's training isn't quite there. On our first attempt he went out to the pole so I went out and showed him where I wanted him to go.  The 2nd attempt I was closer and Vito went to the right spot but didn't quite touch the gate like I wanted him to.
He didn't really want his toy as we were done but I did get him to tug a little bit before we left.

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Obedience Pictures!!!

Pictures!!!  I've never ordered pictures from an obedience trial before, but Amy Johnson got such nice photos that I couldn't resist and bought the cd!  We didn't qualify this trial due to wrong jump but the pictures don't let on :)

Signals
 

Articles
Gloves
Moving Stand

Directed Jumping

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Kitty training

Ever since seeing Pawsitive Vybe's kitty doing 2x2's (seriously!!!) I've felt so much like a slacker that I became inspired to train the cat.  I briefly tried training Luke around the time that Vito was a puppy but stopped because I didn't hate myself that much!  Training a cat certainly requires patience.

Kitty has had a few sessions so far and is learning how to beg, and lift a paw.  I'm trying to get a spin but so far it has only resulted in a butt nudging up against my leg.  I don't know how butt marking fits in with the whole hunting process but every time I feed him he has to rub and rub.  The one thing Luke has been taught since a kitten was to go to his chair and sit to wait for food.  But 4yrs later and he still has to rub up against the chair at least once before sitting.  Doesn't he know by now that it only delays the food?!

This time around is going better than last time at least.  Luke eats wet food ever since his bladder problems started and he is much more motivated to work than he was just using his kibble or even dog treats.

Awesomeness.  Clearly not my cat:

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Lance Utility

Lance and I played in the Utility ring again today.  Still having a blast and making everyone in the audience smile!  Another NQ as the poor guy crashed the last jump.


Signals
Oh the forging.  But Lance did settle in decently on the fast and more after the first about.  I think we just need a change of pace to reel him in!  He moved a bit when leaving on the stand and his finish sucked.

Article 1:
Tasting again.  And sniffed a spot on the floor in the middle of the pile.

Article 2:
No tasting!

Gloves
#1, again.  Happy bouncing to and from.  Sitting further on the front like he's done the last 2 trials.  Huh.

Stand
Crazy forging, moving again when I left and a tiny bit on the exam

Directed jumping
Straight go outs!!!  No sit on the first send but did on the 2nd.  Took the correct jumps!!!  But really bad bar jump where he jumped early landed on the jump and crashed it. 

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Training Progress?

It's been a month since I've vowed to restart training with the Toller.  It's helped that at home he's been eating every meal and sometimes he's even excited about it ever since I stopped his Xanax 1.5 months ago.  I'm still not doing a lot of training at home and haven't started any new tricks.  Mainly we've been doing a little bit of fronts with the dumbbell, still working on closer fronts and making the dumbbell a toy.  And also having him do his shake and paw most days making sure he actually makes contact with my hand.  Because Vito's paw sensitivity has increased so much this last year I'm starting with him making contact with me and then will go to me reaching for and holding his paws.

At the obedience club is where we've been making the most progress.  We're still not in a regular class but are focusing on playing with me in the ring for about 10min twice a week.  My main goal for the month was figuring out how to play with him without toys since I've seemed to have lost the ability to play the games he used to love.  Mainly I've been encouraging a lot of jumping up on me in order to get a treat.  He seems to like it as I back up and I hope that I can get to the point where jumping up for petting as the main reward is seen as pretty cool too.  Vito also loves butt scratches and while me standing and reaching over to give him one is still a bit of pressure that causes him to back up, if I crouch down and clap my hands he often comes in for a nice happy scratch.  While Vito knows a ton of tricks he doesn't seem to have any that pop out as super rewarding like Lance's rollover.  I was hoping I could get his hand touch to that level but I'm not sure.

I'm not sure if it's due to my effort in reasserting playing with me over the toy or the stopping of his Xanax, but Vito has been getting more of his drive back too!  When I do use a toy in obedience he is back to his old levels of intensity and even in agility we haven't had any "tired" days in awhile.  Goodbye flat Vito!?!!

I know we still have a long ways to go for Vito to be confident outside of a practice session.  At the obedience trial two weeks ago Vito was even worse on Sunday when we thankfully weren't entered than
he was on Saturday where he had his rally entry.  Vito would tug with me a little bit and would work for food, but as soon as he wasn't actively being engaged he had to look around at everything.  It was harder to get his true focus even though I usually had his attention.  Then at a presentation I used Vito as a demo as he once again wanted to look at everyone watching him and just went through the motions of the exercises.  I found that really interesting since we were even in the same ring that we practice in every week.

Car update
Vito's relative calmness in the car was short lived.  Less than a week after the post Vito's anxiety spiked and now we are at heavy panting and trembling, again.

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

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