Vito USDAA- not our day

Long drive to Little Falls this morning for a USDAA trial.  AM drive was not good despite us stumbling out of bed at 4am to give him in drugs in time.  Unfortunately the drive seemed to set the tone for his 3 runs.

Jumpers- E
A bit slow and then Sad Toller really appeared on a 180-wrap to tunnel.  He knocked the 1st bar in the 180 and then refused the jump wrap.  I just kept going but couldn't get my brain back in the game and wasn't very insistant in my handling that he especially needs the slower he is.  Several more jumps missed.

Pairs- E
Really excited at the start line and I chose to run him 2nd.  The start was very similar to the jumpers run but Vito pulled off the 2nd jump this time.  I throw him back over.  Slow weaves.  Pulled off a jump after the weaves but I keep going.

Standard- NQ, 5fts.
He seemed really excited to be going in but alas it was still not meant to be.  Running Dogwalk was slow enough that he actually gave a glance at the judge on the middle plank.  The rest of the run was OK.  I guess our big Pro was that he didn't pull off any jumps or have any real Sad Toller moments.  Knocked the double.

Next weekend we are back indoors for a NADAC trial.


Vito- Loretta Mueller Seminar

Vito and I headed up north this last weekend for a Loretta Mueller agility seminar!  Our topic was transitions- extension to collection and vice versa.

We've been working hard since we last saw Loretta and received our great advice on getting Vito back into obstacle focus after collection.  Apparently Vito really wanted to show off in front of her as he chose to be super happy Toller!  Obnoxious screaming, fast weave poles, and overall running was pretty darn fast for him.  If he did become Sad Toller on the collection parts he went right back into Happy Toller as soon as he could chase me again.  Downside to Vito demonstrating awesome sends meant that he didn't demonstrate how he's still having pulling off of jump issues in practice, just not as much on wraps anymore.

Advice for us:
1. Practice our "rebound" trick immediately before sending him to the first obstacle.  Basically before his feet even hit the ground I should be taking off running.  I've had him do this trick while waiting at the start line if there's a big delay, but I've never done it as a bounce and go type of deal.  Hopefully this will be another way to get Vito into happy running mode at trials if he's not quite feeling it.  Another tool in the box.

2. Keep looking for the handling choices that maximize as much movement from me as possible.  SPRINT!  I am his engine.

3. In order to do the above, keep practicing sends to obstacles to give me time to run away.  Throw the ball.

4. Try going back to throwing the ball immediately after wraps.  Under Loretta's advice I had stopped doing that and had switched to running to other obstacles after wraps to get Vito back into obstacle focus. But since he's doing so well with that now, I need to also be able to reward immediately after the best wraps.


And I can't change.
Even if I tried.
Even if I wanted to.

The first time I heard those lyrics I was driving the dogs home from some event and Vito was having one of his car anxiety episodes.  It wasn't a bad panic attack at least, but it was certainly heartbreaking.  And while I know the song itself has absolutely nothing to do with my little red dog's issues, the chorus still speaks to me.  

Vito usually has a few moments a day, whether at home, work, or in the car, that I look over at him and sigh.  If I'm having a rough day I might even say "stop being a freak."  I know he can't stop panting and I'm sure if he could speak he still couldn't tell me why he was freaking out.  Vito's lyrics would change slightly to

And I can't change.
Even though I tried.
Even though I wanted to.

Our drug progress is stalled.  We have not caught up to where we were a few months ago.  Car anxiety isn't increasing past mild+ levels at least.  Reactivity to people/sounds at work is averaging 1.5 times a day, not awful.  Separation anxiety, well it's easiest to never leave him anymore but for the most part he can handle being left in the morning if needed.  Random panting episodes at home makes him our alarm at 5:30am, our reminder to take him for walks, and his personal just go to bed now clock.  So not bad.  And of course there are still many good things such as our ability to trial in agility, and as his relative calmness to hang out in my cubicle at work when I'm not there most of the day (a feat that took 2 whole years to get to).  Just leaves me questioning the whole what to do next thing.

I already feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle with trying to maintain drive and enthusiasm in playing obedience/agility while the drugs are trying to keep him calm and relaxed.  These past  2 weeks I started doing the Couch to 5k program again with him and I've been doing it in the morning right after I give him his drugs.  He's a panting freak at that time in the house but is so incredibly happy at that time on our run/walks.  Major tucked butt and glee just radiates from him.  It's different if I do those run/walks in the evening; he enjoys it but is content to be that perfect partner just staying by my side.  

Current decisions on the table:
1. Leave him where he's at with his 3 drugs and be satisfied with where he is in life.   Also hope he can at least maintain it as Vito is not so good about that as shown through our history of dosage increases.

2. Increase the dose of his 2nd and/or 3rd drugs (Clonidine and Valium).  I'm pretty sure this option is a no go for me.  Or on the same lines I could give him a 3rd dose of Clonidine before going to bed.  It's supposed to be a 12hr drug but in Vito it's more of a 6-8hr one.  Seems silly to have to drug him up just for bed time though.

3.  Start over.  Scrap his daily dose of Prozac and begin a new main long-lasting drug.  His 40mg of Prozac is so high that we no longer have any new shorter acting drugs to try with it.  Since many of the longer lasting drugs take 6wks to see effects, this option 3 is a several month plan.  I don't know if I have the strength to do that yet.


Problem Solving Class

I was lucky to win a contest Denise Fenzi was hosting for her new Fenzi Dog Sport Academy online classes.  We got a "working" spot in her Problem Solving Class, co taught with local MN trainer Nancy Little!  I love reading about all the different ways to train things and then to fix them.  If you have any interest in competitive obedience at all, or just want to be a better trainer in general, you seriously need to head on over to her site and at least audit one of them!

Lance is working on his "trial only" issues that have been cropping up recently.  Mainly his failure to lie down on the signal exercise.  This is one that I really haven't been able to replicate in practice.  Nancy had some wonderful ideas for proofing and little Lance aced every one.  Rolling a piece of food on the floor right before I gave the signal fool him once as he simply watched it roll instead of looking at me.

So I've committed myself to driving across the cities every Friday nights for run throughs.  I suppose I'm lucky that Lance does commit all his trial errors if I do formal run throughs at different clubs.  And last week was a disaster!  I went in with the plan of only doing the signal exercise, followed by gloves (to work on maintaining eye contact after the pivot instead of auto-marking, another trial-only issue).  Lance could not lie down.  Unfortunately I got frustrated and he knew it.  Lance couldn't even do a half distance down signal in the ring.  Every single time he sat.

New ideas came with me for visit #2 today.  Trying to de-stress the Corgi and take all the pressure off of him for doing the down signal.  But it turns out Lance was amazing and I didn't even get to try!  We started with signals and Lance immediately dropped on the down cue.  I praised him like crazy and ended the exercise with that.  Gloves he made his mistake of auto marking again so I re-pivoted.  Second attempt of articles also had a successful down and I once again broke off the exercise.  Second attempt of gloves was great as well.


Gracie 6 months- Video!

Video from a few weeks ago.  

Oh Gracie.  Easiest puppy ever has turned into the naughtiest teenager ever.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised!  She turned 6 months old yesterday and our Pocket Lab is 33 lbs.

In reality she's really not all that naughty at home.  Easily self entertains with toys and is thrilled to be given access to the toy box once again (it was up for a month due to all of Vito's teeth removals).  Most of her puppy naughtiness is saved for public work.  Everybody must be her friend and must be launched on!  Recall?  Just wait a few seconds Mamma till I'm done playing!    And she apparently only remembers this thing called loose leash walking when food appears.  Oh puppies!

She did manage to squeak by and pass the level 3 test at puppy raiser class.  Things tested included verbal only commands for heel and side, verbal only sit/down/stand transitions, a basic retrieve, light tugs, being sent to visit another person, and walking skills.  The squeaking by occurred on our walking as Gracie was suddenly enamored with the cones on the ground and felt they must be retrieved!

Things we're working on besides remembering her manners:
1. Distance control- Sit/down/stand transitions at a distance.  Adding motion in with cookie toss downs.   Yesterday it apparently was cookie toss sits as she never heard of the verbal called down before.

2. Hold- Going very well on the dumbbell.  Adding in continuing to hold as my hand moves now and soon will start working with other objects.

3. Fronts- Gracie definitely understands my criteria of nose targets between my legs although she doesn't always get the verbal only.  Recently she's started a lovable jump and punch me between the legs.  I'm sure the guys will love that if she goes to prison some day!

4.  Heel and Side- Making sure her understanding of positions continue when I'm sitting.  Sometimes she gets confused and wants to visit my lap so thus is crooked.  She's doing really nice pivoting work with me in a swivel chair though.

4. Tricks- Started to teach her some new tricks.  Crossed paws and drumming are currently in the works.


Improving our Agility Organizations

Another blog action day!  Go here to visit people more productive than me!

We have a variety of agility oganizations to choose from in the U.S.  In my area we have AKC, USDAA, CPE, NADAC trials on a regular basis with a few offerings each year of ASCA, UKC, UKI, and Teacup.

My dogs do different organizations based on their motivation issues, jumping issues, and just plain personal preference!  I pretty much do NADAC and USDAA now and there is certainly a lot I can say about both organizations!  I hemmed and hawed over what to actually write though as I didn't want to turn this post into one big rant as for the most part I truly love playing in both.

So NADAC, I just want to say one thing and then I'll zip my lip.  Committee.  Please, please, please, consider having an actual group of people voting on any changes made for the ever "safety of the dog" and stop letting one person make yet another rule changes whenever the hell she feels like it.  Thank you.

Lance is way too cute for any criteria!

Ok, I can't stop myself from one more suggestion (but don't worry Sharon, I'm not going to mention the damn barrel!), how about you let judges actually design their own courses?

USDAA, I really hope those jump height rumors are true!  I would love to see tinier dogs playing and even more of the midsized dogs that aren't Shelties and teeney tiny Border Collies.  I like UKI's jump height divisions, maybe take a peek at theirs?

All organizations, let's seriously start discussing equipment changes.  Things such as do we really need slats on the dogwalk now with rubber contacts, what about those cool jumps with only one movable jump cup slot, how about even lowering the dogwalk so falls aren't so scary?  No judging up contacts, no table?



0 for 7 at the USDAA trial this weekend.  Saturday felt like Sad Toller came to play.

Saturday- looking around a lot before his runs.
Gamblers- ran ok but weave poles definitely made him sad.  On the gamble itself he went all the way out the jump only to stop inches in front of it.

Standard- broke his start line :)  It put me out of position for a push so he ran by a jump and I kept going.  Really flying after that and even did a 1 hit aframe!  Weave poles were much better although he also had a ton of speed from his running dogwalk shortly before.  Push to backside of jump after them and he came into too much focus on me and pulled off the next jump.

Steeplechase- My first time in this class!  Vito knocked the 2nd bar and did a death march on teh first set of weaves.  He then pulled off the jump after them so I stopped and pushed him around a bit before starting.  This of course put me out of position for doing a front cross after a straight line of jumps so I sprinted with him and planned to just do a rear on the flat which I thought he would prefer to me slowing down for a proper rear cross- maybe not, he dropped the bar on the double.  But he certainly loved me sprinting to do a blind after the broad jump!  The 2nd set of weaves right after that move was much faster!  But then more bar knocking.

Sunday- happier, but aframe issues.  Also more reactive to people at both our canopy and just walking around.

Snooker- I thought he would love this course as the aframe/tunnel combo was the #7 and the layout required lots of sprinting.  I was certainly out of breath at the end!  It started awesome, but then after the 2nd aframe he came to me instead of wrapping to the tunnel and acted like he couldn't see the tunnel in front of him.   This wasted at least 5 seconds and we then ran out of time in the closing.  Wasn't quite done tipping the teeter on the #5 combo in the closing when the buzzer blew.

Standard- Happy run!  But took the tunnel instead of the aframe.  I thought he would prefer me sending him to the jump and sprinting away instead of doing a front cross before it.  The rest of the run was happy and although he did run by the last jump I'll take the blame as he actually went out around it vs coming in to focus on me.

Pairs- Happy run but avoidance of aframe again. Also knocked the 2nd bar and pulled off another jump.

Gamblers- More avoidance of aframe, twice.  Did do his "stopped" dogwalk contact ok.  We would have just barely had enough points to qualify if he made the gamble.  Vito actually went out to the weave poles and slowly did them at a distance.  Then he even sent out past the dummy jump next to me and got within an inch of the correct jump when he turned right in front of it.  I did tell him to switch but I was certainly hoping it would be after taking the jump.

Only after that last gamblers run did I start to think it was a physical problem.  Sorry Vito.
I took him for a massage after that run and she stated that his back was pretty darn tight, especially on his right side.  Recommending additional work done soon.  I'm currently debating about him seeing Lance's chiropractor instead or the 2nd massage.

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