Going Online!: Ring Confidence Classes

Exciting news to share!  I've recently accepted the responsibility of taking over the Ring Confidence classes at Fenzi Dog Sport Academy and joining the instructor team!  

I LOVE the ring confidence classes I'm teaching at my obedience club so I am thrilled to be able to help others build up their dog's attitude, confidence, and focus for trial setups.  The ring work I have done with Vito has been the biggest help for him over the past years and then when Denise came out with her online classes I picked up a few more hints to try and help Vito.  We still have such a long way to go, but I look back and see just how much progress we have made.

The next round of Ring Confidence wasn't on the schedule until August so for those who need to think about it for awhile you have time :)  I'm very nervous but also SO excited to jump into the world of online classes!

Because I realized I had practically zero pictures of ME I grabbed the camera and dogs to remedy that for the bio page.  After some surprisingly OK self-timer pictures, I then grabbed the husband to help!
And then it turned out that I had business rights to 2 pics of Lance at the NOC last year and submitted one of those instead :)

But here were some of the attempts at a picture for the page


Rat Introductions

Rattie girls are doing well but not yet living together.  

Penelope is a little nervous about Evie still and I've been careful about letting them interact.  They have done several cage swaps for brief times (Evie is too little to live in the secondary cage with the 1in bars) and have done several short interactions on neutral territory.
The first several times Penelope started squeaking whenever Evie got close to her.  Evie seems oblivious and just wants to see her best friend!  I used a gloved hand to protect Penelope and ward off Evie often.  Twice I tried the two girls in the main cage where I thought it might be easier since Penelope would be a bit braver on her former turf, but nervous Penelope's confidence only went high enough up to be a bit more aggressive towards Evie so I went back to neutral ground.

On day #5 Penelope started to become much more relaxed!  Less squeaking and less kicking Evie away.  Still mainly pretending that her little sister does not exists, but improvement!  And Evie is being slightly more respectful.  Evie continues to do lots of stalking, but is less intense about and easier to redirect than before.

I have hope that by this weekend they will finally be living in the same cage.


Lance's Return

Lance had his return to AKC obedience today since his injury.  I only entered 1 day and only utility as I don't know how I feel about Lance doing the broad jump yet.  But I felt pretty comfortable with Lance only doing the two 8in jumps utility has.

Lance was excited to be at the trial but my hopes weren't high when I saw that his down signal was "broken" in the warm up ring.  Lance would sit.  Since I know he knows the signals well and thus was a stress issue, I praised him and had him run to me to get a cookie.  Another setup and then another sit.  More praise, more cookies, repeat.  And then Lance was doing downs brilliantly again.  But in the actual ring you only get one chance, not three.

During our run Lance was the most engaged he has ever been!  And that's saying something as Lance really is my focused and good working dog :)  I think I just did a better job of handling him in between exercises, more like I try extremely hard to do with Vito.  But whatever the reason, Lance didn't do any of the super quick glances at the audience or judge he usually does after our little bit of play in the ring in between exercises.

Articles were first with no real issues.  Even a tighter send to the pile than normal.

Gloves had a very poor pivot to #1.  #1 remains his hardest turn at trials, despite the fact that I think it should be the easiest!  He also humored the crowd by grabbing the glove quickly, dropping it (because he stepped on it??) and kinda flinging it against the wall, and then since it happened so quickly he was already moving about 3ft towards me when he stopped and realized there was no glove in his mouth.  Stared at me, and then ran back and looked for the glove crunched against the wall which he happily brought back.

Signals were third and Lance was Mr. Forgey.  Not too horrible, but certainly pushing it!  Very nice focus though and nailed the stand signal that was suddenly giving him problems late last year.  And then he sat on the down signal like I was expecting.  Because I knew this was a possibility I had already told myself I would praise him and just call him into me when it happened.  I'm glad I thought about how to respond as I do think that response is the best for him right now.  May not be right for every dog, but good for the sensitive corgi who just needs to know it's ok to be wrong.

Moving stand was not so great as the corgi took several steps after I told him to stay and another step on the judge's exam.  He hasn't had that issue in a very, very long time!

Directed jumping also had issues.  On the first go out he pulled up short so I re-told him to go touch and Lance did turn around to continue going to the gate.  On the 2nd go out Lance went all the way out but just stood when I told him to sit so I gave a 2nd cue.

So not the greatest performance back in the ring, but overall I loved his focus and attitude!  Very happy with the Corgi!


Yard Expanded!

We have officially been at our house for over a year now and this spring I wanted to expand the dog's fenced in play area.  While the dogs are boundary trained very well and able to hang out with me in our non-fenced portion while we are actively training or playing, I still wanted a larger safe space to just chill in and not have to watch as closely.  

Initially we made the fenced portion about 70ft x 30ft(?), just big enough so they can run a little bit and do some obedience training in.  We still have our agility field on the other side of the garage that was for training or just a bigger space to let the dogs have fun in.  And I had plans that the area behind the fenced yard would be my obedience field.  

The unused obedience field behind the smaller fenced off section.

I was originally worried that if the dogs had access to a larger space all the time than they (ie Vito!) would be less enthused about getting to train in it.  I knew that going through a gate would help Mr. Motivationally Challenged be more excited!  But my concerns were unfounded.  While Vito did become super excited about going through the gate to train, he was still very excited to do just obedience training in the smaller fenced area for meal training time.  And thus due to the way the fence and property was laid out, the grass behind the fence became pretty much unused all last summer.
Gate to fun-ness.

So now we more than doubled the fenced area!  You can easily see the dead grass that marks where the old fence line was.  Still using cheap utility fencing, but installation is fairly easy and way, way cheaper than chain link!

I still have dreams of getting some obedience ring gates so I can better practice ring entrances and go outs, but for now the dogs are loving it.  It is also highly beneficial for visiting dogs to be able to play or train in a secured area.


Gracie Graduates!!!

Congratulations to Miss Gracie for offically graduating today as a diabetic alert dog!

Gracie moved in with her new mom back in December and they passed both public access and skill test early this year. But today was the actual ceremony along with 16 of her friends.  I got to reunite with my Gracie, make her do all her tricks, and then ceremoniously hand off the leash to her person.

Gracie hadn't changed a bit!  She so loves life :)  Going to be a long time before Gracie is actually mature. But she is doing a wonderful job alerting her mom to low blood sugars!  And as a bonus Gracie is also teaching her mom how to play agility!  They're in beginning agility classes right now so maybe I will some day get to see Gracie showing off at at trial!


Meet Evee!

Rattie friend found! 

Evee is just a baby rattie at 7wks old.  So tiny!

Ended up turning to craigslist in my search to find Penelope a friend.  Surprisingly there's not a lot out there in rescue right now, at least if you only want 1 rat.

She's a brave little girl.  No issues with Zumi shoving her face in her cage and very quick to explore her surroundings.  Already has ventured further than Penelope has!

Introductions to Penelope is not going as smoothly as I hoped.  Initially Penelope was afraid when I put the 2 together in a large neutral cage.  Evee had no problems and tried following her around.  After their 3rd short meeting together Penelope started to get braver, but still nervous enough that she started to go after Evee.  I don't know too much about rat body language so I can't really judge how serious.  But it seems mostly bullying type behavior rather than outright aggression.  Evee is a little nervous now.  So I've settled in to having the girls in their separate cages for awhile now.

I needed to get Evee out of the tiny carrier she had been living in, but my large 2nd cage has 1in spaced bars that Evee can easily slip out of.  Actually Evee spent her first night in that cage with duct taped screen all over the side that I foolishly thought would hold.  I woke up the next morning and panicked when I saw some of the screen down and couldn't find Evee!  After quite a bit of searching Evee was eventually found huddled in the corner of the cage next to the litter box.  Thankfully she was still a little nervous as we had her less than 12 hours!  But thus Penelope is now moved to cage #2 and Evee gets the main cage with the 1/2in bars.

I am hoping that with a little more time Penelope will relax and accept her new little sister.  I have done many slow ferret introductions over the years, but never rat introductions.  With the ferrets it usually took 3-7 days before I felt comfortable housing the newbie with the existing clan.  Fingers crossed it won't take too long for these two!


Training on the Road

On one of the warm days last weekend we took the dogs to the park and decided to get ice cream on the drive back home.  Vito and Lance are excellent patio dogs but this was Zumi's first patio experience.  She needed quite a bit of reminders to lie down, but overall was calm.

However Vito was the one to blow me away.  Not only did Vito choose to engage with me and do some training after I finished my ice cream, but he actually was able to do so even before the food came!  That means that upon arriving to a new place Vito didn't need tons and tons of acclimation time to sit and stare at the world.  He was able to look around and within a few minutes felt safe enough and happy enough to actually choose to work!

My expectations weren't high in order to earn a cookie.  Really all Vito had to do was make eye contact, and then either engage in play with me or do a few steps of heeling.  Lots and lots of cookies!  By the end of a few minutes of work I built up to baby signals and baby go outs.  It's not about the exercises. Vito knows the exercises very well.  It IS all about choosing to engage and play without pleading on my part.  Sometimes we really need these small successes when working with our special kids.  And maybe Vito won't be able to work so well on our next visit, but it sure felt good to see how happy he was to play with me in public.



NADAC trial this weekend that I took Vito to on Sunday.  It was weird not running the Corgi as NADAC was definitely his thing.  Not sure how much more NADAC we will be doing in the future if it's just Vito trialing, but we did have fun on Sunday!

First run was jumpers and while I apparently didn't lead out quite far enough to get my front cross in timely, Vito was OK with me stuffing him awkwardly and ran decently fast for him.  Still barely made time by 1/2second but it was in no way Sad Toller speed.

Chances was next and the distance game always eludes Vito.  But Vito shocked me and was sprinting on course and even did 2 tandem turns at quite the distance!  Made it through 75% of the distance challenge and then just didn't stay out far enough to take the last challenge.  So happy with how he ran and the distance he was able to work at!

Regular round 1 &2 were our last runs.  Vito was again very sassy!  Round 1 Vito actually made fastest time of all heights!  I actually came off course exhausted from trying to sprint so hard to avoid his rear crosses!  Round 2 Vito actually broke his start line!  We do have an agreement that in trials Vito can do whatever he wants, but usually I can sense his breaking and am prepared to just go with it.  This time I was barely a foot past the first jump when Vito came sailing over it. Since I wasn't prepared I stopped moving and teased him and then set him back to the 2nd obstacle.  He took a bar down  but otherwise it was another fast run.  Even with our little delay at the start Vito was 4.97yds per second.  Happy Toller loves his standard runs!

I'm mainly excited that Vito now has 3 trials in a row of running and being Happy Toller.  Hopefully that early March USDAA trial of sadness is now behind us and he can continue on the right track.

Zumi was also excited to be at the trial.  Her very first time being on dirt!  Played and trained very well for me inside although also flailed towards lots and lots of people when not working.  Outside she was intrigued by the horses.  A bit nervous, but felt safe watching from a distance.


Settling in with Penelope

Penelope is fitting in nicely!  Brave rattie comes easily out of her cage and is starting to explore the ground a bit more.

Zumi is being so good.  She quickly learned that offering a down gets Penelope to come up to her more and somehow Zumi even started offering her head down behavior whenever Penelope bolts back up to her cage!  Penelope likes to actually use Zumi as a safe zone as she starts to explore the room and then bolts back to Zumi or me.

Mouthing of my fingers is almost completely gone now.  But while she loves crawling around on me she still doesn't want to be held.

I knew she loved stashing her food on the upper level but when I went to change out the fleeces today I found 2 whole cups worth of kibble in one of her hideouts!  Decided to just move her food bowl to the upper level and see if that pleases her.
Still working on finding her a little friend.  It's hard to find one that isn't part of a "bonded pair" in rescue.


The Streak is Over

And just like that Vito is back to where he was.  We made it past the 2 month mark of zero car anxiety trips and almost 5 whole months of very few panic attacks.

All came crashing back this last week. Just as quickly as his decision those 5 months ago to suddenly be OK.  I can't say that I'm surprised as it's not like his recent calmness was explainable by any medication change or training change.  Unfortunately even before his nice change this last November Vito was mainly only panicking on morning car rides and was OK on afternoon car rides.  Currently Vito is stressing out on both.

And sadly along with the return of car anxiety Vito is also getting worse at work again.  More "nutty" and more whining when left.  Not horrible yet and not all the time, but it had been so long since Vito has had a bad day at work.  In some respects Vito is even continuing his nuttiness at home with more frequent stress zooming and panting episodes in the evening.

Now we're left at the decision of what to do.  Since Christmas I have been very, very slowly lowering Vito's 3rd (most expensive) drug Clorazepate.  He's gone from 1.5pills x2/day to getting only 1/2 a pill in the morning and 1/4tha  pill in the afternoon.  Lowered afternoon dose first as usually afternoons are better than mornings, wait 3-4wks, and then lowered morning, wait 3-4wks, repeat.  For the most part the lowering went super smooth without me noticing any change in his behavior until he got to 1/2 a pill in the morning on March 1st.  That first week was hard on Vito.  Car anxiety didn't return, but reactivity was greatly increased.  And then he got better.  March 27th was my last change which brought the afternoon dose to our current 1/4th pill.  No change was seen the last two weeks until April 9th.

I could try increasing back the dose of his Clorazepate despite the fact that lowering it didn't seem to make much of a difference.  And it sucks how much more expensive it is.

I could try increasing his Sertraline slightly as Vito's not at his maximum dose yet.

We could just wait and see how he progresses over the next week or two.

Want my Happy Toller back.


Zumi 6 months

Zumi is officially over 6 months now!  And actually she really has started to change over this last week.  Food drive started decreasing again.  Much slower to start eating her meals although she is still willing to be trained with it at home.  At the club she will sometimes work for food, but without the spark and drive I like.  And sometimes won't want food at all.  So mainly working with toys in public and using food to train the new behaviors at home.

Boundary training is going fairly well now too!  Since one of the employee dogs likes to push open the gate at the end of our little hallway and go on sprees, I decided it was time to start!  Vito and Lance already are good about not joining in the fun of the escaped dogs, and now Zumi gets to be one of the good dogs too.

So far she is doing awesome at not crossing the open gate with low level distractions, for quite a long duration.  I peek my head around the corner of my cubicle every now and then, and Zumi just lies at the gate opening.

She also stay in if I exit the hallway and go out of sight, but I don't trust her duration as much in this case.  And while Zumi s actually doing pretty well if  person or dog walks by, I don't fully trust her yet!  Since I'm not at my cubicle that much, Zumi is still crated most of the day.  But we practice our boundary training every morning before the other pet dogs arrive.

Jumping on people is still a huge issue but progress continues to be made slowly.  Zumi is faster at offering down or sit and holds it slightly longer before lunging again.  If off leash and a person comes in she only jumps about 50% of the now immediately, although odds of her jumping within the first 15 seconds are still about 100%.


Meet Penelope


Yes with all of the ferrets now passed on I am finally able to get rats!  Love ratties :)  This is Penelope.

Loved my ferrets too, but rats are a lot less work!

Apparently actually getting a rat though is another story.  I didn't want to purchase a rat at a petstore so instead I have been eyeing rescue sites.  When a friend posted a picture of the rat she was fostering though an organization that mainly does small dogs I was intrigued.  Applied!  And then promptly rejected.  Apparently the fact that my puppy isn't spayed makes me a bad person and thus not responsible enough to own a rat.  Yes, the fact that I had an entirely different species intact than the one I was applying for matters.
I wrote back and they relented due to Zumi's age since I am not willing to spay a puppy so young.
And then the process continued.  Another full week since our "meet and greet" and contracts were finally finished being signed from coordinator, foster, and me.  Whew!  Quite the process!  I can't say that I'm eager to go through that again although I do plan on getting a friend as soon as I find another confident little girl!  Through a different rescue.  I can so easily see how trying to do the responsible thing is almost punishing, and all I wanted was a rat!

I had so much fun setting up her cage though!  My ferret cage was twice the size, but due to their size and different behaviors, their cage was way boring by comparison!

Penelope is still settling into her new life.  Apparently she was a stray.  Yes, a stray! Ran right up to her rescuers!  The last bit of her tail fell off shortly after rescue but it isn't easily noticeable unless you're looking for it.  
Super sweet girl and fairly brave.  Overall not bothered by her calm observers!

Zumi was a bit nervous at first, mixed with some conflicted play bows.  But now she seems mainly curious and polite.  Lance doesn't care at all and can't even be bothered to sniff the cage.  Vito looks in every now and then but also doesn't care too much.  Even Kitty is getting more bored with it!

So far I'm working on building Penelope's trust.  No grabbing her, just letting her explore my hands and get used to me.  She will jump on my hands and arms but only for a few seconds before she needs to run back to the safety of her cage.  I'm thinking it won't be too long though before she's able to come of her cage and start exploring!  

She is doing quite a bit of mouthing of my fingers but overall very gentle.  From what I can read online it appears as though this is common in rats getting to know people and learning about our bodies.  It is decreasing from the first day and I hope that overall time it will go away other than times she tries to pull my finger further in her cage for more yogurt licking!


Day 2- Zumi's first title!

Sunday we were back!

Zumi had more awesome focus for her 2nd time in the rally ring, puppy level!  Ate lots of cookies and even did the around finish I quickly introduced to her in the parking lot!  Our score tied with another puppy so we even did a run off for first place!

And to be greedy I decided to enter Zumi in a second round of Puppy!  She continued her great focus and qualified to earn her very first title!  Not that a Puppy Rally title means anything at all, but it's super cute :)
More ribbons!

Vito- Utility
I had decided to enter Vito in utility obedience on Sunday just for fun.  Vito has done it once last summer and manged to qualify then, but I knew that chances were still low.   Just isn't as comfortable with the exercises under the pressure of the ring.

Ring entrance went well again!  And although several glances at the judge on setup for the short bit of heeling done on the signal exercise in this organization, Vito heeled well and stood well.  And then a long stare at the judge as I was supposed to leave him.  I waited a bit and Vito still didn't look back so I gave the signal anyway and Vito actually stayed put.  But frozen on the down signal, even with a second hand signal given Vito just sat.  On verbal he finally downed.  On the sit hand signal he was still frozen so I gave  verbal right away.  Did come on the hand signal though!

Bounced happily for me on the long way to articles!  More staring at the judge, but not intense enough he couldn't listen.  Worked the article pile nicely when I sent him and brought back the correct one!  Go outs were also awesome!  But more staring at the judge on the setup.  She actually was very nice and after he sat on the other end she decided to be on the opposite side of the jump he was supposed to take to lessen the pressure on him.

Gloves were hard for Vito.  On the first one he didn't pivot with me so I gave another cue.  And then he started marking wrong, so I stood up right away, re-marked, and then sent him.  Got the correct glove.  On the second set of gloves (you do this exercise twice in CDSP) Vito pivoted nicely, marked nicely, and then froze so I gave a second command which he did nicely.  The judge helped us again by not coming around behind him to observe his front.

Moving stand he heeled nicely, stood nicely, and then had to take a step forward to see the judge coming to touch him.  I chose to give another command to stay and Vito did a nice job looking back at me.

So hard stuff for Vito but overall I was very happy with his performance.  Although he wanted to stare at the judge he engaged with me nicely after each exercise finish, moved nicely to the setup, and didn't take too much effort to reconnect after staring.

Lance- Rally and Utility
Corgi continued sassiness and had another great time in the ring.  Loved doing rally and got to bark at me as the bonus sign was the call front-back up 3 steps.

In utility Lance was on the edge of anticipation in everything but managed to qualify with a nice score.  Did all his signals the first time :)  On the first go out he started to sprint off before the judge even asked if we were ready.  And on the moving stand I'm pretty sure he started to move as soon as the judge told me to call to heel.  Otherwise it was nicely done and he worked a bit harder at finding a proper front and had nice finishes.

I had the jumps at 4in in obedience and on the ground in rally all trial but Lance didn't have any issues.  He over jumped them all and was excited.  I have done zero jumping with Lance since his injury as I'm still not sure what our plan is going to be.  I did enter Lance in the AKC obedience trial next weekend.  Sunday only, and utility only.  Not sure that I want him doing the broad jump right now, and I don't want to worry about the sit stay anyway.  I'm not entirely sure that I won't pull before the event, but right now I think things are looking good for Lance's return to AKC obedience.  At least physically and with attitude, not so sure he has any sense of precision back!


Zumi's first trial!

Our club hosted a cynosport rally and CDSP obedience trial this weekend.  Always great organizations for creating happiness in the ring with their allowance of treats during certain portions!

Yes, Zumi!  I decided to enter Zumi in rally, puppy class, since she was there anyway :)  At the puppy level you can feed a treat anytime you want, as long as the treats are kept in a pocket instead of in your hand.  I fully planned on treating as often as needed to keep her focus and teach her that ring=awesome!  Expectations were low that she would even sit in heel position!  Actually until the week of the trial I hadn't yet worked on sitting in heel and even when I asked for a sit in front of me I usually got a down instead.

Apparently Zumi had higher goals for herself!  She not only had amazing focus but actually did several sits in heel, immediately when asked!  Only sign we actually faked our way through was the sit-stand-forward.  I used a hand touch cue to get Zumi out of her sit and then immediately praised and moved forward almost instantly before she could sit or down again :)  Zumi actually looked like a trained dog!  Video to come!

Vito- Open
Brave and happy Toller!  Didn't quite do full focus during the ring entrance, but quickly looked back to me during leash removal when I said his name.  I loved his attitude and focus to our first setup and he continued it during the heel pattern.  Only a small look away to the judge at one section.  Super nice jumping up when asked in between exercises and setup quickly each time.

Main error was a skipped front on the drop on recall.  And then more points lots of my part when I gave him an extra command to stay as I tried to shimmy over him after the mini go out.  But happiness!  Energy!  And bonus work on even trying to be straight on his dumbbell fronts!

Squirrely!  Excited to be back in his trial post injury!  Lance was entered in one round of CDSP Utility and one round of Cynosport rally level 3 each day.  Very good work in both on Saturday.  Just not quite working his fronts and finishes very hard like he had been starting to before the break.  Sadly Lance did not want to lie down on signals.  Gave him the signal twice and he just gave me a blank stare until I used a verbal.


Zumi 5.5 Month Video

Another video!

Zumi turns 6 months old pretty soon and weighs 26lbs now and maybe 17in tall?  Still not sure what height she is going to end up as but I'm now hoping she gets another growth spurt that she gets closer to 19 rather than 18 considering she's not going to stay under 17.5!

I've been happy with our continued training in teaching her to stress UP instead of shutting down.  Not that she's had any opportunity to shut down, but if she's failing a little bit with a concept more than once I try to get her sassy with shoves and high hand touches and then resume training either at the same level or a tiny bit easier.  I love that it's so easy to keep her in the game and coming back with greater intensity and confidence to try again.  Vito responds pretty similarly to training if I just make fun of him for being wrong, but depending on the situation Lance can actually need more hand holding.

I skipped on continuing scent article work so she's still only had the 2 unsuccessful lessons.  Maybe this week I will resume, still with plan B in mind.  I have never been motivated to teach scent articles!

Mitten thief.


Happy Easter

I hope everyone had a great Easter!  Obligatory group shoot

At first I tried Lance with the basket, but proved a little too short.

Went over to see family for Zumi's first (2nd?) visit to another person's home.  Kept her on leash for the whole time but she did a fairly nice job.  Really wanted to flail on everybody there though!

During lunch she calmly ate a bully stick under the table and then after lunch she earned the privilege of letting her leash drag around the house.  Naturally respected some of the boundaries of activities fairly well too!  She kinda started to calm down and get a little sleep after 3hrs...
Wide eyed!

I was most proud of Vito though.  Super excited at first but calmed down fairly quickly in preference of supervising lunch preparations.  One of his calmest house visits!  It can be so hard for Vito to not spill into anxiety from over arousal, so win!

Comparison of calm Toller and super excited Duck!

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