Zumi- Bad Training Habit

Zumi still struggling on learning to adjust her stride for running dogwalk training.  Doing amazing though at zero leaps, all misses are striding over.  Channel weave pole training is going well.  The poles are still very wide and we're about 80% accurate on entries from 10:30 to 2:30.  Going further down the clock isn't happening without help from my body being in the way :)

But in our training sessions I've discovered another naughty problem for the Duck.  Zumi has recently started blowing off a thrown toy to go in search of another one.  She runs after the thrown toy then starts air sniffing and searching for something better.  I didn't think it was that big of a deal when she immediately found a toy hidden in the grass so I switched to playing with that one.  And in doing so I created a bad habit.  Several more times since that first decision Zumi has tried to go off hunting for a new toy in the middle of a session, even if no obvious toy exists.  Even her favorite toys weren't immune to the switch habit.

At first I tried doing a distance down and giving a mini time out before resuming.  After 2 downs I had to quit the session.  And trained Vito.  That pissed her off!  Knock on wood our problem is going away.  I think I ended the session a total of 3 times since the habit started and then just did one down time out on a 4th session.  She's had a few sessions since then with no signs of wandering.

It doesn't really bother me that she wants to switch toys.  I like variety and mixing things up is just fine!  But it does bother me that Zumi will disengage in the middle of a training session to find something better to do.  Training time is a privilege so if she doesn't want to work than she loses her turn.  I have made a mental note though of her preference and will sometimes bring 2 toys out to a training session so I can choose to switch


Vito Utility Dog!

Went back int the utility ring for day #2.  I didn't have quite the drivey dog at the trial that I did on Saturday so I worked hard at getting him revved up outside of the ring before our turn.

The entrance was at the far end, away from the stewards table but closer to more activity.  Pros and cons.  Vito actually did a fabulous ring entrance, complete with a tiny scream as I did a little oppositional push before going in the ring.  Excellent leash removal, and setup right at the entrance.

Unfortunately since the CDSP signal exercise really doesn't involve heeling, judges have the option of either heeling down the length to an about turn and stand, or just a simple forward-right/left turn-stand.  The short setup was picked today and while Vito did a fantastic job of heeling for the short duration, I think he would have done better with the longer pattern like yesterday's run to help him settle into the ring.  The stand was literally done at the 13sec mark.  Something to prepare Vito for in the future!!!

So Vito gave me a blank look on the down signal.  I paused and then gave him a second down signal which he did.  No issues on sit and came quickly on the come.
Nice fast articles.
Go outs he wasn't marking very well.  Did a lovely first send though.  Second send he started to turn  just a bit early.
Gloves we had the exact same issue as Saturday.  Not pivoting with me for a left pivot, just staring at me until I give him a second command to heel.  Then playing with the first glove and dropping it at my feet.  Second glove was nice although we had quite the delay before the send as the judge wanted a chair removed for some reason.
No issue with the moving stand.

Overall I was very happy with the run!  Certainly not as enthusiastic as Saturday's run and I needed to work harder on our transitions and setups too.  But no major stress issues and he still seemed very engaged.

Since CDSP allows 2nd commands as points off versus an NQ, Vito technically qualified and earned his Utility Dog title.  


Utility Q!

The Toller had a CDSP trial this afternoon.  Decided to enter just utility A this weekend since he finished his open "championship" in June.

And he had one of the best runs of his life.  Great ring entrance.  Great enthusiasm on the exercises themselves.  Great engagement during transitions. And great setups.

Did you see we even managed to qualify!  I thought it was Vito's first leg, but it turned out it was his second.  I forgot Vito entered utility a year ago and although he needed second hand signals at that time for each portion of the signal exercise, that is still qualifiable in CDSP as long as you don't talk.  So today was his second leg, and was qualifying even by AKC standards.  The first glove send just made me smile at how much fun he was having!

Looking over the video I see that he did do some looks the judge at setups, but was easily redirected through a nose bridge, placing my hand on his chest or by re-marking where he should be looking. Vito doing a nose bridge/pocket hand so quickly under stress has been a long time in the making!

Vito gets another go at it tomorrow and my fingers are crossed he will be just as happy to play with me.  Regardless of how it goes, I will at least treasure this moment

And since I know there are at least a few people out there who actually read this blog, I am unashamedly going to push you to sign up for my Ring Confidence class at the Fenzi Academy!  I am new and people are scared of jumping on board!  But I would love to try and problem solve your dog's ring issues and emphasize!  I am blending Denise's lectures with mine and also creating new ones for you guys!


Back to Normal

Well tomorrow ends (*fingers still crossed*) THREE weeks of Vito and the other pet dogs not being allowed at work.  Two weeks was bad enough and then the unexpected third week did me in.  The longest and seriously most desperate 3 weeks of my life trying to manage Vito's schedule and get to work myself at the same time.  A HUGE thanks the amazing dog community as people stepped up that I barely know.  And I was at that grasping at straws level to accept.  It meant lots of driving all across the metro but we made it.

And with the decision made to put Vito back on Clorazepate he actually handled the drives really well.  For the first time in a month he has stopped panicking in cars again.

Vito did pretty well on his adventures, at least so I'm told.   While he's not a fan of change to his routines, Vito does relax pretty well as long as he's not alone.  He doesn't even need to know the person.    Which is good, as Vito only knew 2 of his baby sitters!  Was even good with a no furniture rule at one house!

Discovering doggy beds can be ok after all if a couch is off limits.

I am so looking forward to life resuming back to our "normal" highly managed life.  De-stress me.


Ring Confidence Class

I'm getting excited for my first online class!  Ring Confidence registration begins today at 1:30pm central time.   My absolute favorite topic, although still quite the journey to get Vito fully there.

I would love to see some of my readers join in.  If you're thinking about competing in obedience/rally and haven't yet taken the plunge it's a nice class to prevent problems.  Or if you already started competing and are seeing your dog deflate in the ring, fix it now before it becomes a bigger issue.

My goals for this Ring Confidence class are to

1. Build the dog's drive, focus, and want to for entering the ring.
2. Teach the dog what to expect when entering the ring at a trial so that focus can stay on the handler. 3. Teach the handler how to best support their dog in a trial environment.


Zumi's Training Update

Started Zumi's first several sessions of channel weave poles this month.  Going to be taking it slow and no real weaving action for several more months yet.  But in the meantime we will work entries and independence.  Zumi is excited about any learning that involves running full speed!  The girl certainly has no issues with driving ahead towards the reward line.

Running dogwalk training kinda resumes.  I did some experimentation with reward throwing time and pre placing the reward and didn't find much to go on.  Zumi has learned not to put her cape on and fly but it still boils down to having no clue that she is to adjust her stride to aim for the end of the board yet.  So I might go back to the board completely flat, and actually use 2 boards on the ground and just see if I can get that concept in.  I didn't have any criteria when we are on the flat stage previously other than no leaping.  Mainly assuming that she would get it as we went through jackpot training the best hits and using starting placement to help her out.  But it hasn't happened.  But I decided in the meantime I'll also go back to grafting the plank onto a full dogwalk and work on raising the height.  Zumi has done extremely well with that setup, it was just adding in the speed of the full dogwalk that she couldn't get.

Scent article training has been dying down.  Losing commitment, on my end.  Zumi is at the point where I'm having a mixed article pile with me sitting in front of the pile.  Accuracy is fairly high and only rarely does she get grabby now.

Obedience fronts are coming along pretty well.  Not sure that I'm sold on my experimentation, but I'm moving onto my next step.  I've recently stopped allowing her to shove her face between my legs and have been locking up.  We're getting some accuracy and surprisingly also fading the physical contact faster than I thought.

Trick training has resumed!  Working on a few new tricks for the first time in several weeks if not months.  Starting penguin, wrapping in a blanket, and clean up.


Training in Public

Ouch.  What I thought I was going to be videotaping was Vito choosing to look around a bit on the first session, ignoring me, and then choosing to engage.  Instead we hopped onto a time warp and fell back a year or more on our journey.  The first session Vito didn't engage at all in 5 minutes.  This second session is about 15-20min after the first one.  While Vito seemed to connect a bit better, you can tell that he's really not into it and that becomes even more obvious after he receives a reward.

I used too much pressure to try and will him to play with me and the result shows.  Trying harder than your dog is never helps in the long run and it certainly won't get you trial ready.

Zumi is doing well with focusing in new places.  I pushed her a bit too hard in this session but lesson learned for next time.  With a dog eager to play it's hard to do any lasting damage :)

And finally here is a recent session from Vito training for dinner at home.  I ran into some errors that were very unexpected and apparently were bigger issues than I thought at the time.  I should have either had a higher reward rate for when he was correct, or abandon what he was struggling with and come back to it later when it likely would not have even been a problem.  But Vito was focused and happy and I'll be more prepared if he makes some of the same mistakes in the future.


Stuck point with Running Contacts

Still struggling with Zumi's running dogwalk training.  I counted and I've been at the same setup for 16 sessions, about 3 weeks.  Previously the plank was grafted to the full DW and was actually at a bit taller height before I lowered the full dogwalk to half height to work on speed.  I knew this stage would be hard, I just didn't expect to be here for so long.

Trying to do 3 styles of rewards for the Duck.
1. No reward other than getting to bring me back the ball I threw for obvious jumping.
2. Small reward of light praise and maybe a little tugging for striding over, but not superwoman feats.
3. Jackpot of huge praise, tugging, and recently letting her run victory laps with the toy for nice hits.  Zumi likes to run a bit lap and then usually likes to come back over the dogwalk with the toy in her mouth.  Those hits are actually usually pretty nice!  But slower obviously as she's not driving towards something.

This was our session Saturday afternoon.  Starting her very close to the end most of the time, any further out and the rate of jumping goes even higher than it already is.


Rat 2x2s

In happier news, the rats continue to learn weave poles!  Or at least Penelope.  I think Evee is actually at the point where we could be making progress if I were to be a good trainer and do separate sessions. Evee comes pretty eagerly now for the treats for at least a few.  And then she runs off to eat Penelope's stash.  I only tried her once separate from Penelope and she was more nervous but did do a little.  So mainly I'm just luring her and doing crappy training while I focus on Penelope.

Poles are starting to be straight!  And then Penelope actually did it for one completely straight set of 4 poles the next day!  The 2 sets of 2 poles were straight, but still with a bit too big of distance between the 2 sets.  And sadly the very next rep couldn't do it and then the poles actually snapped :(  I need to make new weave poles apparently.  This time I'll do bigger spacing as the current spacing was actually really tight for Penelope to squeeze through!

Have a new setup for the rat playtime.  Penelope continues to climb the xpen regularly but is content for a little while.  Her biggest motivator to climb is to try and get on Adam's desk so by moving back the xpen this has cut down on the amount of climbing.  She still tries though as she has started to become brave enough to climb to the top and then scale down the other side.

Zumi is supposed to baby sit...

Evee climbs too but not as often and easily gets scared off.


The Ugly Part of Living with a SA Dog

Just when I thought it couldn't get worse with Vito it did.  This time not really his "fault" but due to a change at work.  It's kennel cough time at work like it happens every year around this time. Once one dog brings it into the kennel, everyone gets it.  Unfortunately this time it was decided that no pet dogs are allowed in the building for at least two weeks.  In years past risk of coming is always to the pet dogs as of course we can't make the kennel more sick than it already is.  I've crossed fingers and toes every year in hopes that my crew never got sick so that I wouldn't have to figure out what to do with them.  And we luckily survived each time.  But now that wasn't even an option.  Pet dogs are a privilege, not a right.

So we're trapped.  Let Vito panic for hours and hours on end and likely have an actual heart attack, or stop coming to work.  My dog or my job.

Thankfully I do have some PTO, not that I wanted to use it for the next 2 weeks.  Technically a lot of it is supposed to be saved for my "forced" vacation time that happens for 2 weeks over the Christmas holidays when the kennel is closed and all service dog trainees go to foster homes.
And thankfully Adam was able to get someone to switch shifts with him so that he doesn't have to work until 3-11pm.  So Vito and the other 2 get to spend time at home while I work half shifts at work all this week and next, and race home so that the longest Vito is left is 15min.  

And of course it rears depressing thoughts on living with a dog with separation anxiety.  You're always trapped.  Never able to go out with the husband to see a movie or even go grocery shopping.  Someone is ALWAYS with the dog.  Summers are the best as at least there are a few dog friendly places you can go.  If you want to deal with the car anxiety which you've already decided is the lesser of the 2 evils.  Shorter in duration at least.

I know that if Vito weren't MY dog that the most humane thing would be to let him go.  Nobody should have to deal with a dog with severe separation anxiety.  It's not healthy for the people to work so hard to prevent it for a decade or so of their lives and it's not healthy for the dog to be in so much panic.  Medication and behavioral modification can do wonders for many dogs with SA.  But not Vito.  If I were to die I've already told Adam that he has my permission, and my urging, to let Vito go.  A person on their own can't help Vito feel safe all the time.  And finding a home that can would be impossible and I would say unethical.

But although my thoughts keep drifting to the day that a decision might be necessary, we're not there.  I have never loved another dog as much as I love Vito.  And we can make it work.

Post note:  
The reason I wrote this serious post is I want to make sure dog trainers, rescues, and pet people are aware of how serious of a disease separation anxiety is.  It is not to be taken lightly due to how incredibly difficult it is to manage it and prevent panic attacks and even possible injury to the dog in their panicking.   I would not hesitate to immediately put a dog on medication and immediately start a training protocol to try and help a dog as fast a possible.  But not everybody has the means to make living with such a dog work.  And then you have to consider the ethics of having a dog in the world who is having full blown panic attacks for hours every. single. day.  And that decision is serious, sad, and very real.  


Seeking Answers for the Corgi

The Corgi finally had his neurologist appointment on Tuesday.

Saw that his right side still is at decreased function and his left side is now very limited.  Can't blink, or move his ear, decreased function in his lips, and some signs of vertigo.

According to her, there was zero chance his sudden paralysis on his left side of his face (and the right side of his face since February) could be from his herniated disc in January.  Since we had xrays done but not a full MRI in January, we also couldn't be 100% sure that Lance actually had a herniated disc.

So she looked at potential causes for both the back issues and the face or just the facial paralysis.  Meningitis possible but unlikely due to lack of other symptoms and partial recovery of the right side of his face.  Brain tumor also possible.  Or unexplainable Bell's Palsy.
I chose to do an MRI of both his brain and back and a spinal tap to rule out things.  Thankfully they were eliminated.  But we're left without an explanation.  Since Lance is feeling fine and doesn't seem to be much affected by his recent development, there's nothing to do now but wait and see.  Maybe his face will get better and maybe it won't.  Hopefully nothing new will occur.

And his back MRI was OK.  He still has some small bulging discs but the vet said there was nothing to do about them unless they start causing him pain.  Re-confirming his retirement from agility and making me think about his obedience.  The greatest risk to Lance re-injuring himself is going to be in the yard just being a dog.

And with great sadness Lance's movie career is over.  In 2 weeks Lance was going to meet Woody Harrison and have a small role in a new movie being filmed here in the Twin Cities.


Zumi Video

New Zumi video!


Finding New Parks

The Duck got to be an only dog this morning as I scouted out some parks I've been wanting to take a look at.  Vito got to stay home with Dad as he doesn't take too well to car rides, plus multiple park trips I think would literally give him a heart attack.  We were on a mission to find

1. Interesting trails.  More than just back and forth.  Bonus points for nice paths cleared in the woods versus just paved paths in open areas.
2. Odds low of finding other people, or at least within the first 5 minutes.  Vito gets highly over aroused when going anywhere and does best when he can be let off leash to run and sniff right away.  Other people means on leash or a stay and Vito is like a can about to explode.
3. No areas where it looks like dog people might stop and throw balls with their chuck its.  Lower chance since I'm not visiting dog parks, but it does happen at one one the parks we visit, it's just easy to avoid that area if I see the activity.
4. Water access as a bonus.  But huge negative marks if water can't be avoided.  Vito will OBSESS about water and if for whatever reason he can't be given permission to go swimming (too many people around, too much brush) then his head explodes and I'm constantly calling him back every 2 seconds.

We visited 4 parks in the morning with miles of walking done and one park that we found a swimming creek under a bridge.  Just a little bit of brush to go through.  Zumi ran and ran all morning.  Got home and passed out for maybe half an hour before she was back shoving toys in my lap.

So a few hours later I decided to go back to the park with the creek with both Zumi and Vito.  Goal was to get him tired before the firework celebrations.  Although I don't recall it being super noisy in our neighborhood last year.  We will wait and see.  Left the Corgi at home as while he's not really on restriction, he's not holding up well to longer walks.  I think the facial stuff on both sides now is limiting his ability to pant.  Also hard to tell if he's a bit off with his coordination again, although he is able to still do side stepping pretty well.  Goes to the neurologist on Tuesday.

Sadly we did encounter 2 people resting at a bench shortly upon entering the park and Vito's head exploded.  But I think we discovered a better entrance to the trail system that might be better if we go again.  
Eventually Vito got to swim.  Vito's been on restriction from ball throwing and thus running for the last 2 weeks. But since it's been over a week since his last occasional wince, and over 2 weeks since the "incident" I haven't been restricting him otherwise.  Today has been the most exercise he's gotten as Vito doesn't really run for the sake of running.  Time in the yard or the earlier park visit to the woods is mainly sniffing time with a bit of trotting for him.  Monday he visits for a massage and checkup to see how he's healed.

Happy tollers.

 Difference in swimming style.  *Sigh* Vito.

Group pic of course.

Continuing our walk.  You have to leave the water Vito.


Zumi 9 months

Zumi is a week shy of the 9 month mark.  Growing up so nicely.  And a little crazy.

No weight gain this last month and I don't think she's gotten any taller.    28lbs and just under 19in tall.

Must be slouching as I swear she looks pretty close to Vito's height.

Scent article training continues to go well and I continue to be committed to practicing a few times a week.  She finally did her first mixed pile successfully!  I've tried it a few times with her and she was too grabby not actually thinking.  We're getting there.

Just starting to add in a sit to her heelwork.  I'm happy with her rear end movement so I figured it's about time.  Luring it to ensure straightness and preventing a rock back.

Running contact training stalled as predicted.  Zumi just can't do the full length half height dogwalk. Dones her cape and flies!!!  Does have a 100% rate though if I start her almost anywhere on the middle plank vs on the ground.  Am going to attempt to put stuff under the planks to see if it's too wobbly.

For tricks I've been re-visiting hind leg lifts and working on a supported handstand.  Also working on adding duration to her beg.


Rock Bottom

Well the Toller has not been doing so great recently with life.  We were on a roll there, having reached a 2 month streak of panic free car rides and less anxiety in general at work and out and about. It crashed a bit in April and then became kinda better in May.  And now we've crashed again.  This time all the way back to the bottom.  Car rides have trembling and panting so hard it's like he's going to have a heart attack.  Doesn't look much difference than 2011 did.  And we're about 100% of the rides now being in a panic.

More of a freak at work.  Whining at being left.  Getting easily worked up and frantic. Continuing stress at the obedience club with doing some whining in his crate and crazily frantic when let out of his crate.  Even being panting and having this neurotic energy at home.  It's almost like if he's not sleeping he's neurotic.  

I increased his Sertraline to 1.5 pills in the morning last week.  Will see if it helps.  Other option is putting Vito back on Clorazepate and spending way too much money.  But I don't know if that would help anymore either as when we weaned him off it over several months I noticed almost no difference in his behavior.  It did seem to help him on our car ride to Rochester this past weekend.  Although it also seemed to sedate him.

I alternate being wanting so badly to strangle him and slap him out of his panic attacks and wanting to burst into tears as I can't imagine what it's like to be so worked up you tremble uncontrollably.  And I think how he's having at least 2 panic attacks a day right now if not more most days.

And before you comment I'm going to stop you and warn you that if you are thinking about asking if I've tried this supplement or that plant or something I'm going to feel like reaching through the screen and punching you.  Please hold back your helpful suggestion.

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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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