A very close call

On Sunday last week I took the boys to the first disc dog competition of the season.  Since Vito is working on his jumping for discs over our make shift broad jump to encourage a farther take off point, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with him when I got there.

I ultimately decided to enter him in freestyle but to limit ourselves to lots of rollers, some flips, and a few leg vault takes.  I wanted to avoid opportunities where Vito could get decide to leap from directly under the disc.  I also decided to enter him in toss and catch and try my hardest to throw low.  Keeping him safe was goals #1-5.

Freestyle round 1 was a disaster from a judging perspective.  Rollers and takes are not scorable, and I clearly had no plan, nor the looks of someone who was comfortable going with the flow (sorry buddy!).  Vito blew off or was slow to respond to about half the tricks I (lately) cued.  But towards the end of the two minutes I felt comfortable enough to crouch down so I could throw some very low, short tosses and I thought Vito did very well.

Toss and catch round 1 did not go as well.  My first two throws were nice, but Vito managed to get underneath them and do his spectacular acrobatics.  I tried to throw lower and my next two tosses went into the ground, but at least he didn't summersault.  The last toss was long and low and a catch for Vito.  I decided then not to do a second round and risk more craziness.

Freestyle round 2 was short.  I did the same plan but did less rollers and some more crouching, low tosses.  He managed a few crazy leaps in there anyway between nice ones.  And then I did a take from a leg vault.  Vito came up screaming and wouldn't stop. 

Thankfully a few minutes after being carried off the field he would put some weight on his front foot.  After spending all evening passed out next to me, wincing if he had to move, the next morning he bolted off the bed before I could even think of carrying him.  He acted as if the previous day had never happened!  A visit to the chiropractor resulted in some adjustments in his neck that can reveal itself in leg pain and a few more  adjustments in the ribs.  She noted no soft tissue damage and we were even given the all clear to resume activities as normal!

 Thank God!  But now I don't know what to do.  Dogs are capable of getting injured from any dog sport we do or even just from racing around the home.  I don't think that disc is really more dangerous for most dogs than any other sport as long as the throws are placed early enough for the dog to judge their leap from.  Vito's near catastrophe wasn't from a suicidal launch from underneath the disc; he just buckled the landing for no readily apparent reason.  But the truth is that Vito could have easily injured himself on several occasions on Sunday and any other time he has played.  I have been extremely lucky so far in our short disc dog career.

I knew that this summer might be our last one playing disc if I couldn't fix his jumping style.  Now I'm thinking that spending effort on our little jump grid is just delaying the inevitable.  We were supposed to have a private lesson when Pawsitive Vybe comes back into town this coming weekend.  I'm not sure if that is worth pursuing or not.

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NADAC Trial

The boys had a NADAC agility trial today.

The corgi was nuts.  Even before we left the house this morning he was running laps with Bubba and on arrival he was out of control!  But Lance managed to qualify in 3 out of 4 runs and got his open regular title today!  He got a toenail in each aframe contact and 2 out of 3 dogwalk contacts were actually pretty deep!  The last run of the day was weavers and by then he told me what he thought of the weave poles!  I don't think I have ever seen the corgi just run off like that, ignoring my pleads!


Vito was entered in two runs that I had planned for him before the last USDAA trial sadness.  Touch n Go is his favorite and he seemed very excited to start!  Unfortunately he completely leaped off the dogwalk and I let him spiral into off course maddness in the beginning.  He has missed a handful of dogwalk contacts in his trialing career but he hasn't leapt like that since his first trial!  But he had a happy and fast run and I was thrilled with it!


He was then entered in his least favorite run of the day, jumpers.  No happy contacts and it's always last in the day.  We still needed one loley novice Q in order to be completely out of novice.  It always happens to be one little jump that Vito doesn't take due to him needing more support on the slow-Vito runs. 
We had about a very short warm up as Vito was second and I actually walked the baby course more than my usual twice.  He finally got excited at the last possible moment before going into the ring and we managed to take every jump and actually qualify!  He even put on a burst of speed to go in the tunnel!  yay for the toller!

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Vito's Behavioral Recheck Appointment

It's been 7 months since Vito first went to the university for his behaviorist appointment.  Some things have changed since then, but most have not.

Separation Anxiety:

Vito was on 40mg of Prozac already when he went to the 1st appointment and it was managing his SA pretty well.  In December we briefly tried knocking down the dosage to 30mg but that was a failed experiment and was quickly brought back up to the full 40mg.  Unfortunately Vito didn't really recover.  It wasn't until this past month of May where things started to go up again.  Vito didn't have to come to work with me daily and got to stay at home more frequently for 4-6hrs some mornings, and others 2-3hrs.  I think the more frequent, but varying times, helped him to redecide that it was OK to be left again.  Hopefully he will keep this attitude now that May if over and once again he has to come to work with me daily and the times left alone will be more rare and random.

General Anxiety:
Vito's reactivity to people has remained the same, and has possibly increased.  He still does well in crowds, but will react to people when startled or if somebody says "hi" to me or someone near by.  Vito is hard to snap out of his reactive barking, especially if we can't walk it off; but if allowed to approach or be approached he does well.  This happens maybe 3 times a week at work, but is a low percentage of the number of times the situation would present itself to react.  In other situations he is actually more likely to react to someone he knows well (family, friends) or someone he thinks might look like someone he knows.

In some ways Vito has been doing better in social settings.  He was MUCH more relaxed at the last puppy raiser party when at past events he gets over excited by the presence of dogs and people (in a non dog show atmosphere, he knows the difference!).  At this last event he remained calm until he thought dogs were playing out in the yard; despite the fact that he does not enjoy playing with silly teenage labs.  At people's houses he can be a nut case on arrival but is capable of relaxing if no toys are present.

At work Vito is doing better.  He isn't whining most days when left in my cubicle (as I'm out working with other dogs) but will lie down now at the baby gate looking out.  Not fully relaxed, but at least better.  When I am in the cubicle he still has some bad days where he will do some panting and staring out, but often he will go under my desk and actually sleep- until he notices I leave.  Usually he only gets anxious when it approaches noon and thus the time to get CRAZY excited about going out with the pack of dogs he does not particularly enjoy.  After his second dose of Clonidine in the afternoon he calms down even more.

Car Anxiety:
Vito has improved a ton in the car.  Unfortunately it's not consistent.  The Clonidine has helped Vito go from major panic attacks to being completely calm.  Until it doesn't.  It seems as though Vito develops a tolerance to the drug as we had great improvement, for a few days to a few weeks, at .1mg and at .2mg, at .25mg, and at .3mg.  Currently Vito is at .3mg x2/day of Clonidine and is usually doing light to light+ panting (I developed a Vito rating system!) and will take treats most days unless we are on the freeway.  Acceleration and deceleration seem to up his anxiety with on-ramps being the worse.  Some times he chooses to deal with his stress by doing a  chin rest on my hand and closing his eyes so shut out the world.  Sometimes that's not enough.  Changes in a routine can also increase his anxiety such as today when I had to go back in the house to get my laptop before I made it to the car, or leaving the house at 6am on trial days instead of 8:30am on work days. 

The Plan
As we discussed the above issues at his appointment we touched on the following points:
1.  Switching drugs.  We were going to try Trazedone until she remembered how high his Prozac dose is and would have to lower it to 20mg.  If other drugs don't help, we may have to go that route.  But we are going to try him on Diazepam (Valium!), starting at 5mg alongside his current dose of Clonidine.  Vito has previously tried Alprazolam (Xanax) from the same drug family and I did not like him on it.  But hopefully combining Clonidine with Diazepam can keep the dosage low enough that I won't see a flat Vito return.

2.  Vito pants a lot at home, even during the winter months.  But looking at some of the video where he doesn't seem stressed in any other way, it's possible he's just a sweaty guy.  Lovely.

3.  His reactivity will be very hard to get rid of as it isn't consistent enough and it isn't just anxiety driven. 

4.  Agility trials.  So she didn't say this, but it was easy to see the confusion on her face when I started talking about Vito's speed/drive issues in agility trials.  Basically if he's not showing other obvious signs of stress or anxiety when competing then so what?

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A real dog!

Bubba finally hit the 10lb mark!  He is almost 5 months old now and is calming down a lot, sometimes.  He still talks like a bear cub, even when other dogs (mainly Lance) are completely ignoring him and trying to sleep!

We're now tackling the tricks that actually require him to be still and think.  Sit-down-stand verbal only transitions with front feet still, stays on the mat, remaining in heel position when I'm not moving, stays under a desk/table/chair... 
So hard!!

We even did his first outing to a restaurant and I'm proud to say that he remained in a down under the table with very few reminders.  Of course, unlike the labs, he was wide awake and ready to spring into action at any notice.

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Obedience Pictures!

I got the pictures I ordered from Lance's last obedience trial in April.  The amazing Great Dane Photography got us in the open class!I love obedience :)

 
 
 
 



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Jump Work for Discs

Vito and I have been working on his jumping style for discs since the PVybe seminar.  With Ron's advice, we went to using a broad jump to force his take off point to be further out. 

The first time I tried using a broad jump Vito was super confused and either just jumped the broad without trying to get the disc, or if he tried to get the disc he would use the broad jump as a platform.  I managed to solve the riddle by putting a standard jump right after the broad jump.

Since I only have access to a broad jump once a week, I'm just using our PVC jumps as a double or triple, depending on how many we can carry out there :)

Here's the results of our last 2 sessions:


I don't think it matters that he's knocking the bars??  I'm also not quite sure how far he should be set up and how far I should be pushing his take off point with the jumps.
At the very least he's getting some success with leaping for a disc without being underneath it.  I tried doing a take without the jumps and Vito was immediately jumping under it again, so clearly we will need a LOT of work in fixing his jump style before trying that again.

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Expectations

Once again I am completely writing the blog action day post on Attitudes the day of.  I did have a plan. But then after this last weekend's agility trial with Vito and my personal meltdown after, it didn't really fit :)

So, I'm going to talk about expectations.  I had them.  When I got Vito he was going to be my sports dog.  Surely we would have fun conquering a wide range of activities.  I may not have set specific goals on reaching an OTCH or an ADCH but we were certainly going to see how far we could go.

When Vito's anxieties increased and he decided to add some new ones in, our plans changed a bit.  I was never focusing on specific outcomes such as titles or Q rate, but now I put even more emphasis on how to warm him up, getting him excited at the start line, and judging his runs based on his speed and feeling of connection.

We've made progress in some things, but it always seemed to be 1 step forward and 2 steps back.

I think I need to learn to let go of all my expectations.  I am sure that Vito feels my pressure to perform even though the goals I say I have match my priorities of having fun in the ring.  I've tried hard to always let him know that he's a superstar but I'm kidding myself if I believe he isn't capable of seeing my disappointment.


We all set expectations for our dogs.  But in order for my stressy dog to truly relax in the ring I need to stop thinking of trials as a yard stick of how far we have come or still have to go.  The ring just needs to be our play time together.  It remains to be seen whether or not Vito will want to keep playing this game with me and I don't want my expectations of where he should be to hinder that.

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Despair

That was my feeling while driving home on Saturday after the USDAA trial.

Vito had a few pros:
- He didn't fixate on anyone or react to anyone.  Even when kids were running by he remembered that he actually likes people.
- I got him to yell at me on every start line.
- Great dogwalk and aframe contacts

But had a lot more cons:
- He ran dirt slow and he got slower on each of his 3 runs on Saturday.  By the 3rd run on Saturday I actually ran on the outside of one jump and on a wrap I even ran past the plane of the jump just so I could continue my forward motion long enough for him to take the jump.  Weaves were the slowest.
- It was hard getting him up to engage with me on our warm ups.  Even for his tennis ball he was not super thrilled.

I didn't know what to think.  There are plenty of dogs who never sprint around the course and minus a few exceptions, they look happy.  There are even many people who really want that calm (and usually consistent) dog and never encourage their dog to break out of a trot or gallop.  But that's not my personal vision of agility.  I want speed and enthusiasm and am happy to take some off courses while we are learning to read each other.

Vito will never be a blazingly fast dog, but he used to run for me in practice.  Then he slowly started to have a few days here and there where he wasn't so speedy.  Now days the slower days are happening more frequently even in practice.  Usually if I can get a good warm up and barking at the start line he does well.  If not, I can almost always get a fast Vito after that first reward.  And if we are by ourselves he runs like a champion.

So as I drove home on Saturday I was in tears as I contemplated letting agility join obedience in retirement at Vito's 3.5 years of age.  Certainly disc will be joining them as well after this summer's experiment.

On Sunday I tried a new warm up plan; I brought along a disc.  When I first pulled it out Vito jumped on me and then remembered that he's not idiotic and brainless at agility trials.  He remained focused but calm as we walked over to the ring entrances/warm up area and when I found there was a huge delay he quietly lied down.  When I was ready to start getting him excited, Vito was very up but kept his wits about him instead of turning into a screaming idiot.  We tugged on it and threw a few short rollers.  Going into the ring seemed pretty comparable to Saturday, which I felt was good both days.  I got him to bark at me again and he seemed focused.  On our standard run he even did his reverse chest vault when I just asked him to put his paws on me during a small delay.

Our runs were better.  They weren't fast and he still weaved very slowly, but it was a huge improvement from Saturday.  Again he loved his dogwalk's and aframe's and gained speed after them with his running contacts.  I am so grateful that I don't have to try to get him up after stopped contacts! 

But I still don't know where to go from here and I don't know why we're struggling.  Vito does not seem stressed in any way just hanging out at trials or practice.  He is content to relax and even sleep in his crate.  Out of his crate he is calm and even if he does fixate on a person (which is still pretty rare) he recovers very quickly.  Trials are like a second home for Vito, unlike when he goes over to someone house and completely overloads with excitement, or even when goes to work with me and decides that just the environment is stressful.  So why has this been an issue for us and what should I do from here on?

Other facts to judge thee giving of advice:
- I've done complete training breaks.  We don't really train at all anymore anyways, just once a week in class and maybe 5min after Lance's class.
- We don't compete that often and mainly do one day shows, averaging about 1 trial a month.
- He's not running fast, but he isn't walking or even trotting.   I don't have YPS for this last trial, but usually when he's feeling slow but accurate he's about 3.5-4.5yps and fast for him is between 5-6.2YPS at a trial.  It's not the numbers that concern me, it's the large difference between them.

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Bubba 18wks Video

The bear cub is starting to look less like a bear.  His puppy fur is being replaced by shiny adult fur and is forming a weird stripe down his back like a skunk.  With time he is also starting to chill out.  Zoomies now occur mainly at night time and are now a sign that it is past his bed time.  There are even daily moments of peace where I find a Bubba just calmly lying down and sometimes he even has his eyes closed!  He's still not a "real" dog though; Bubba needs another half a pound before he reaches that 10lb mark!

I'm not in any rush with his training, but I can't help but notice he will be my oldest puppy who still does not have a stay.  We sure are having a lot of fun shaping tricks though!  Moving is not his problem :)


But while we don't completely have the concept of staying still, we are making progress on our boundary training.  With little reminders from his leash, Bubba is learning that he needs to stay in the cubicle with me even when the office cats and dogs walk by!

And then he has also squeezed through the last bar of the baby gate when it has been closed.

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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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