Sunday, December 28, 2008

Who Are My Dogs?

Julie tagged us for this fun game! I have to think about who my dogs would be if they were human (personality wise), in general or as a specific person.

Iris would have been sports team captain. She's definitely type-A and would be happy to spend all of her time running and jumping. After graduating, she'd quickly rise to a CEO position. Actually, the joke is that Iris is my friend Sarah in a dog body. Really, the similarity is a little creepy. For someone famous, I would probably be have to go with Hillary Clinton. Iris is a pushy b*tch who would love to supervise the world.

Henry would be a hobbit. Ok, I know they're not technically human, but they're small, passive, and they eat at least seven meals a day. He'd be in heaven. As a human, I'm sure he would be a chef. Or he'd be someone like Andrew Zimmern. Traveling the world and eating weird food - what more could a Beagle want?

I'm not sure who hasn't been tagged yet, so if you want to play, please do!

Friday, December 26, 2008


I admit, I really enjoy animated movies in general, but Bolt has to be one of the best movies I've seen a while. They did an outstanding job capturing a lot of dog idiosyncrasies. If you're looking for a funny, lighthearted film, this is it. Believe me, it really is "fully awesome!"

Plus, the girl in the movie says to Bolt a few times "You're my good boy." I tell Iris "You're my good dog" ALL the time. Because she is. She tries, and in the end, isn't that what counts?

Anyway, I really think this is a must see film for any dog lover. Still not convinced? Check out the trailer.

Eye Update

If it's true that things happen in three's, then I think we've got eye problems covered. Both Carmen and Makin have been having eye problems and Iris is also joining the club.

I've been trying to work out Iris' allergy issues for a couple months now. I'm fairly certain that household cleaners are the biggest trigger for Iris and floor cleaners (carpet, kitchen floor, etc) are the worst. I've made some changes since moving into the apartment, and I think we're on the right track. The safest cleaner I've come up with is vinegar diluted with water (you can add baking soda to the mix for tough stains or strong odors). The water/vinegar mix is good for the kitchen and bathroom and a steam cleaner with just water in it works well for the carpets. I've been using non-toxic citrus based cleaners for surfaces that Iris doesn't come in contact with (counters, bathroom, etc). I have tried the citrus cleaner for the kitchen floor too, and I don't think she's had a problem with it. As a side note, just because a cleaner is marketed "for pet odors" doesn't mean it's safe for pets. About a year ago, we tried a "pet odor" cleaner on the carpets at the house and all three dogs started scratching themselves raw.

I've also been trying to encourage her to sleep anywhere other than on the carpet. She has a "new" dog bed in my bedroom. It's actually the old cushion off of a pappazon chair, but Iris thinks it's awesome. You can see in the previous post, she's pretty happy with the blankets on the couch too.

Iris finished up the course of eye drops over the weekend. While I did see a significant improvement, her eyes didn't clear up completely. I'd say they were about 90% improved in terms of how runny they were although I didn't see any change in the gray spots. I talked to the vet on Mon, and we decided to try her off the drops to see if she gets worse or stays the same. Some of the discharge I'm still seeing could just be the drops making her eyes water a little. So far, the only day her eyes seemed worse was when we visited my dad yesterday. Today, her eyes have been clear all day. Since she looks so good today, I'm going to let it go over the weekend.

The bad news is that the gray spots haven't cleared up at all. But they haven't gotten worse either. When I brought Iris to the vet, Dr K did a fluorescein stain, and the spots didn't look like corneal ulcers. I honestly didn't get a good look at the stain (now I wish I had) because I was more concerned with keeping Iris still and quiet. Dr K thinks the spots are probably scarring and are going to be slow to heal if they heal at all. Basically, we just wait and see if they get worse? Right now he says they look pretty translucent. As far as I can tell it hasn't affected her vision. She's never giving any indication that her eyes bother her (no rubbing or squinting). Henry's eyes have been runny since the day we got him and he's never had any scarring. I hate waiting.

In the meantime, I started giving Iris vitamin E (antioxidant to help her allergies) and increased the amount of fish oil she's getting as well.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Hey Iris, do you want to pose next to the Christmas tree for me?

If I pretend I'm asleep, maybe she won't see me. Do you see how many blankets I have? Why would I want to get up?

I have cookies.

Why didn't you say so? I'm wide awake and ready to go!

From myself and the red dog, we wish everyone a joyful holiday season and a happy New Year. Iris says she hopes everyone else got cookies too.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

Next year I'm teaching Iris how to decorate the tree.

(Hopefully the photo isn't too dark - I just started using a Mac monitor, and it's much brighter than a PC. If I get to work on Mon and think it looks horrendous, I'll update it).

Monday, December 15, 2008

We're Back!

We have internet! And power! Electricity, not world domination. Although I believe that is on Iris' to-do list. At the very least, I'm certain she's planning some sort of conquest in world supervision.

Iris has settled into the apartment better than I ever expected. I think it's been really good for her. It's a much less chaotic environment than the house. She's been pretty good about staying quiet, especially since she doesn't have a window to watch the road from anymore.

On the training front, we're on break from agility class until after the holidays. That doesn't mean we haven't been working. There's a fenced in tennis court on the other side of the apartment complex, and I've been taking Iris over there to work on heeling and recalls. I ordered a set of weave poles, so I want Iris to think of the tennis court as a really cool place before we start working on weaves. I've also been trying to do some free-shaping with her, mostly because Iris has a tendency to wait for me to show her what I want (or worse, shut down entirely) instead of trying to figure it out. I think she's starting to enjoy it a little more.

The only downside to the apartment is that the carpets were cleaned right before we moved in. When we were living at the house, I think the cleaners were irritating Iris' eyes and hoped moving into the apartment would help. Nope, she actually got worse after moving here. This past week, I noticed that she had small, cloudy spots on the corneas of both eyes. We saw the vet yesterday, and Dr. K thinks it's still probably allergy related. Iris' eyes are definitely red, irritated, and getting worse instead of better. Anyway, the spots don't appear to be corneal ulcers (good) and her eye pressure is normal, which rules out glaucoma. As far as I can tell, her vision hasn't really been affected, although she seems a little more reactive to people when I'm walking her outside. Not sure if that has anything to do with her vision since it could just be that as she's gotten more comfortable here, she's also gotten more protective of her home. Now she's getting eye drops for the next week, which will hopefully help. So far, her eyes are definitely less runny, but I haven't seen any change in the spots. If those don't improve by the end of the week, it might be time to see the ophthalmologist or check her thyroid (or both).

Iris did get quite a compliment when we were at the vet. The tech remarked that when I first got Iris, she never would have tolerated such a thorough examination. Yes, this is the same dog who somehow managed to do a back flip to get out of having her temp taken. We did take her temp on Sat (I had her in a bear-hug, but she tolerated it), and then she sat quietly while her eyes were poked and prodded by a man she's only met once before. It was a good reminder of how far my girl has come, especially since I know I've been seeing her reactions to people around the apartment complex as a bit of a set back. Two steps forward and one step backwards is still forward progress!

As a side note, I'm starting to really think about switching Iris to a raw diet, so if anyone has any books, websites, etc that they recommend, I'm interested.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Renting with a Shepherd

For the time being, my little Shepherd will be masquerading as a Sheltie mix. Thanks to breed bans, especially from Insurance Companies, most apartments won't allow certain breeds if they allow dogs at all (One place offered to give me their info in case I would be willing to part with my dog. Um, no thanks). The lists I've seen are pretty predictable - Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and German Shepherds, and Mastiffs top the list followed by Dalmatians, Akitas, Huskies.

Australian Shepherds are not on any of the lists, but unless the leasing office knows something about dogs, the only word they'd hear is Shepherd. One place I looked at just had "Shepherd" on their list next to a clip art image of a German Shepherd. Trying to explain that Iris is probably more of a shepherd-sheep-herder than most pet GSDs, but she's really a completely different breed that's not even really Australian and decidedly not German is just a battle that I don't really want to fight.

Iris is spending this week with my dad while I'm getting the apartment set up. I have to put in some overtime at work this week, and it's just not fair to Iris if I leave her alone for 12 hrs at a time. She did spend some time in the apartment over the weekend, but I think all of the packing and moving is really stressing her out. I wonder if any of her previous owners gave her up because of moving? I'm going home for agility class with her tomorrow and her chiro appointment on Wed, so I'm not completely abanndoning her. On Fri, I'll bring her back to the apartment to stay.

So far I haven't seen too many dogs around the apartment. I have seen a Husky being walked, so maybe I'm living in a more lenient location concerning breed bans? Although I've only seen him out after dark, so maybe he's not really a Husky. Maybe he's a Sheltie mix too.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chiro Update

Last Wednesday, I took Iris in for her second adjustment with Dr Anne. The good news is that Iris' adjustments from last time held. Hooray! She hasn't had any limping episodes either. I think Anne was just as happy as I am to hear that. Iris has two more appointments scheduled and then hopefully everything will be in alignment.

While we were there, I asked Dr Anne about Iris' runny eyes. I've been suspecting a food allergy but changing Iris' diet hasn't helped (I've tried switching chicken, lamb, no grains). Well, Anne said Iris isn't allergic to anything she's eating. She thinks the problem is a household cleaner. Of course, I have no idea what we use for cleaners so we couldn't narrow it down. However, I'm in the process of moving into an apartment this week. Once we're in the apartment, I'll be using only all natural, no chemical cleaners. Hopefully that will fix the problem! The only thing I'm not sure about is that it looks like the rugs were just cleaned. If Iris keeps having problems, I'll have to clean the apartment rugs again myself.

I brought Iris to visit my mom this morning, and sure enough her eyes dried up after being out of the house for a couple of hours. As soon as we got back home, she was all teary again. My poor girl.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Dog Agility

Happy Aussie came out to play on Tuesday! Last week Iris was pretty freaked out by new people and dogs, so it was good to see her bouncing and more relaxed. Katrin posted Tuesday's course diagram on Monty's blog. I really liked this course and I think I learned a lot from it.

I started the course with Iris on my left and crossed while she was in the tunnel. I'm pretty sure she saved my butt by guessing that the tunnel was right because she was out-running me and I wasn't sure where to throw a cross in at that point. It shouldn't be surprise me that my dog is a lot faster than I am when she wants to be. Later in the night, we tried the start again, and I did a rear cross/switch between jumps 3 and 4.

Iris came out of the tunnel, over the next jump and instead of curving back toward me for the next jump, she said "Hooray teeter!" Iris really likes contact obstacles, and I was completely facing the teeter. But she did wait on the teeter perfectly without me standing right there to grab at her or remind her a half dozen times to wait. Ok, so we tried it again. And again Iris demonstrated that she can wait nicely on the teeter. I still didn't turn my shoulders enough. This was definitely a handling challenge for me. Iris didn't seem to mind because she got to keep showing off on the teeter. She knew I wanted her to do something different but couldn't figure out what. She tried jumping over the tunnel and putting her paws up on the tunnel. When I did remember to turn my shoulders, I turned too much and Iris came in too tight and missed the jump. Ooops! I'm sill amazed by just how much my body language "steers" Iris. As soon as she did jumps 6 and 7 correctly (ok, it wasn't pretty because by that point Iris just wanted to be goofy, but she did go over both jumps), I had her do 8 and 9 which she did perfectly.

I think this is the first class Iris has been in that's followed by a different class. At the end of class, there were cars pulling up and people coming through doorways and she really wanted to bark at everyone. Katrin had me keep her out of her crate for a few minutes while Niel and Tessa did a few more jumps. Iris really settled down quick and then was happy to do a few more jumps. I was proud of her.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chiro and Herding

Iris had her first chiro appointment last Wed. I was impressed with Dr. Anne, especially how gentle she was with Iris. Iris was stressed out about being in a new place with strange people - she was spitting out string cheese! The method that Dr. Anne used was very gentle and didn't bother Iris at all, which is something that I was worried about. I admit, the whole thing wasn't quite what I expected. My naive brain was imagining something a lot more forceful. Given that my Wheaten battled chronic disc problems, I was a little hesitant about anything that concerns the spine. Iris doesn't have disc problems, why cause one? Her occasional limping prompted the chiro visit, and I'm glad I decided to take her.

The right side of Iris' pelvis was out of alignment, which I expected because it's her right hind leg that she limps from sometimes. The funny one is that both sides of Iris' head were out of alignment. Dr. Anne said that could be from running straight into something. Yes, I can definitely believe that Iris ran full speed into something at one point. Iris only had her pelvis and head aligned this time. Anne explained that if the two ends aren't right, the middle can't be right either. Makes sense! Iris goes back in two weeks for another adjustment.

After the appointment, Iris was very mellow. It wasn't that she seemed tired. She just seemed really relaxed. I don't know if it was her crashing after being stressed or if she just felt that much better. I think it was probably a combination of both.

Today, Iris went sheep herding with Julie and Bug. Iris had a great time! She's gotten a lot more relaxed about riding in Julie's car. She was so excited to the sheep. It's been a while since our last lesson. We worked on get around and walk up/out on a leash. Iris also did great with her downs! In the past, I've had to step on her leash almost every time I asked her to down. Today she was doing it on her own. Good girl! She did eat sheep poop for the first time, and decided that it was pretty good, so we'll be practicing "leave it" more.

Sometimes, I am better at taking care of my dog than myself. Iris got breakfast before we left and I didn't. I was also way over dressed because I HATE being cold. So no food/liquid in my stomach, running in circles and being much too hot made me very dizzy. I never eat breakfast before work - I usually grab something light when I get there. Feeding myself just isn't part of my morning routine (is it any surprise that my dog can't change her routine either?) So Iris' turn got cut short so I could sit and drink, and Julie worked with Bug. Bug had a great lesson! He is really doing awesome.

Colleen brought her Tervuren, Hannah, out and let Julie and I practice our handling skills with an experienced dog. One thing really stuck with me fro the Tenley clinic I went to last spring. She said in the horse world, you wouldn't put a novice rider on a green horse. Because a lot of people get started in herding with their pet, it ends up being a novice owner and a novice dog trying to learn together. Even though you can do it, it just takes longer. With that thought in mind, I enjoyed the opportunity to work with an experienced dog. Hannah was much better behaved for us than she was last time. I think I'm starting to get a better picture of where to be in relation to the dog and the sheep. It made a big difference when I started to watch the sheep more instead of looking solely at my dog. Funny, that seems to be a habit I have in agility as well. Course? What course? At least I know where my dog is!

Iris got to come out again to work the sheep again after we finished with Hannah. She was thrilled. She's very focused on the sheep. She also decided that it's fun to dart in, bite the sheep's hocks and dart out. Bratty dog. I need to work on keeping Iris pushed out further from the sheep so she stops being fresh. Colleen mentioned that Iris would probably make a good cattle dog, which I thought was really interesting. Iris' dam was bred by Pincie Creek, and it looks like they place an emphasis on working cattle. I'm not sure if I would ever be brave enough to try her on cattle, but it does explain why she works the way she does.

So far tonight, Iris hasn't limped at all. Hopefully she won't wake up stiff. Looks like the chiro appointment was worth it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tug Toys

I think we may have a winner....

A red fox for the red dog! I've been trying to build some toy motivation with Iris. Her favorite toy is still The Beagle, but I wanted to get her excited about playing with me. She shunned any "standard" rope tug toys. The only toy she would play with was stuffed animal type toys, which would last all of 5 min before the toy tore apart.

The fox is a stuffing-free Coleman Dog toy, but it does have a squeaker in it. It is by far the most durable stuffed animal toy I've seen. It was a little on the expensive side, but considering that it's the only plush toy that Iris hasn't destroyed in a matter of minutes, I think it was worth it. So far, the only damage is to the underside of tail (the upper body is fur on both sides). The body and back legs are a solid piece of fabric, so the only seam to worry about is between the tail and the body. Even that is holding up fine, although it would be easy to reinforce the seam if it starts to tear. They also make a skunk and a raccoon. I might pick up the raccoon as a back-up, though the buffalo looks like it has potential too.

Iris gives Colman toys two paws up for durability.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Agility Class

For Tuesday's class, Katrin set up a typical NADAC novice regular course because a few people from class will be going to their first trial this weekend. I'm going to bring Iris up for a little while (and probably keep her crate in the car in case she needs a break), so hopefully I'll get to see everyone.

Iris was the first dog to go in class, and she was stressed. Tons of stress sniffing and not really interested in agility. It was a full class. Cat, Dan, Tessie and Strata were there, and I don't think Iris has seen them since ABC? Kim, Shaya, Tom and Opal (who weren't there last week) were there, and so were Sandy and Baxter (who has always set Iris off, poor Baxter). Plus Julie and Carmen, but Iris has never really been bothered by Carmen. Obi was there hanging out too. That brings the total to seven other dogs and two new people. Especially with the "new" dogs, I think it was just too many people and dogs for my red dog to handle.

The other thing that I thought of later was that Iris went first, which she never does. We've been very consistently going last because Iris jumps the highest and the little dogs go first. At home, Iris gets very set in her little routines and does not like to change them. She's very particular about her morning routine - we get up, go for a walk, eat breakfast, go outside one more time, and then she goes in the crate. If I keep her routine the same, she's happy to go in her crate. If I change it, she bark-screams in the crate as soon as she hears me leaving. In class, the combination of new dogs and people, plus a different routine was probably just too much for her.

Iris did manage to make it through the course, but very much so at her own pace and with lots of stress sniffing. The last obstacle was the tire and she was much too brain fried to figure it out. We didn't really push it because she was stressed. I think I'm going to try and make a tire to practice with at home.

At the very end of class, Iris did an abbreviated version of the course. While she still seemed stressed, I do think she was a lot less stressed than she was at the beginning of class. It was good for her to end on a higher note.

It was a good reminder that I need to work more with her on just being around people and dogs. Not because I have any real need to trial with her, but because it would just make life less stressful for her. We'll go up to the NADAC trial this weekend, and I'm going to really try to figure out somewhere to take her on the weekends after that.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I took the girl hiking yesterday, and it seems the ticks are out in full force. When we finished the hike, I saw a couple of dark sports on Iris' face and thinking it was just some dirt, went to brush it off. Nope, a couple of ticks. I started checked her over throughly from nose to tail and found probably a dozen ticks on her, none of them embedded yet. When I was done, she turned toward me and I could see 5 MORE TICKS on her face. It was like something out of a horror movie. We were standing on pavement next to the car. I have no idea where they came from. I went over her again, figured we were in the clear, and loaded her in the car. At a stop light, I turned around to check on her and could see 2 more ticks on her face. When I got her home, I checked her over again and found 3 more ticks. I can't believe how many there were.

Today, I found 2 more on her, probably from the yard this time. I haven't see any on the boys. I did start Iris on Bug-Off garlic again. She was on it for spring and most of the summer, but a few months ago, Iris suddenly decided that she would not eat her food if there was garlic in it. Absolutely would not touch it. It was such a sudden change, I decided to listen to her and stopped adding it to her food. I hadn't seen any ticks on her until this weekend. Because of the number of ticks, I put some Bug-Off garlic in her food tonight, and she ate it with gusto. Funny dog. I'll probably keep her on it for the next couple weeks.

Agility and Crates

No more limping this week! Hooray! Iris also seemed a lot happier, probably because she wasn't hurting. I do have a chiro appointment scheduled for her anyway, but I couldn't get a late enough in the day appointment until the 22nd.

When class started, I left Iris in the car until after I finished walking the course. Normally, I park the car over to the side of the arena and Iris' view is blocked by the car next to ours. Unfortunately (or maybe it turned out not-so-unfortunate), the car next to us was in the previous class, so Iris ended up with a lovely view of the other dogs. I don't think she stopped barking the whole time. Great. I decided to keep her outside for a bit because she was so fired up. I ended up standing with her in the empty parking spot and had her do a some tricks and rewarded her for looking at the other dogs calmly. She really settled down. Despite her having a bit of a meltdown in the car before class, I think it turned out well because she was so good outside.

It did get me thinking about leaving her in the car. I don't have a very big car. I bought it pre-dog and it doesn't accommodate a crate very well (my previous car was a station wagon! I had the right car when I didn't have a dog!) I can fit Iris' soft crate in the back of my car if I pull the front seats all the way forward. So basically, I can crate her in the car if I need to, but I can't do so when I'm driving. I think Iris' crate is a pretty good fit for her - when she lies down on her side, she's exactly the size of the bottom of the crate. I'm wondering if I get a crate one size smaller, could Iris fit comfortably in it and would it fit better in my car?

Katrin posted the course diagram from last Tues over on Monty's blog. :) The first obstacle in the course was the tire, and Iris did it correctly on the first try. Good girl! She really had trouble with it last week. We had some trouble with wait on the a-frame (Iris didn't mind, it just meant she got to do the a-frame more times). I need to remember just how much Iris relies on my body language for things like this. We also did the last four obstacles (tunnel then three jumps) a half dozen times or so. Iris was on my left and the jumps curved toward the left. She would come out of the tunnel, take the first jump, then come in toward me and miss the last two jumps. Part of it was me forgetting to keep my arm up, but even with my arm up, she was still missing the jumps. Katrin noticed that Iris wasn't switching leads, so she was curving to the right (toward me) instead of the left (toward the jumps). Katrin suggested doing a back cross after the tunnel. I think it was the first time I've done a back cross with Iris, and the look on her face was priceless - "How'd you get over there???" Iris did take the last two jumps! Good girl! It was really interesting just how much lead changes affect her performance.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Agility Class and Lame Dogs

Here's the course from last night (thanks Katrin!). It was an interesting course with a couple obstacles that Iris hasn't seen in a while - the a-frame and the tire.

Unfortunately, Iris never ran the full course. We started out by just working on the tire because Iris wasn't quite sure what to do with it. She just wasn't convinced that I wanted her to go over and not under. The second obstacle was 12 weave poles with cages all on. Iris bounded right in (I think she was glad to be doing weaves instead of the tire!) Then my poor girlie came out of the poles limping. I stopped her and Katrin helped stretch out Iris' back legs. After trotting a bit, she seemed like she was able to walk it off. She must have done something in the weaves (or maybe started to do something with the tire and made it worse with weaves?) Iris decided to do the a-frame on her own, so we kept going with her. She seemed ok. She wasn't limping. She was fine going up and down the a-frame and wasn't refusing jumps but she was definitely not herself. However, she was doing a lot more sniffing than she has in weeks. I was worried about her, and she was probably picking up on that too.

The second time I ran her, she was ok at the beginning, but after jump #15 she skipped the next jump and the tunnel to go in her crate. She never does that. I had her do one more jump just so she doesn't get in the habit of quitting when she feels like it, but she'd had enough. Thinking about it now, I don't think she was 100% even though she was walking fine on it. I think she was just pretending to fine.

After our herding lesson couple weeks ago, Iris limped for about 24 hrs. Both times, it's been her rear end (herding was rear right, not sure which it was this time). Katrin suggested taking Iris to the chiropractor. When Iris walks, her back feet step very close together, almost like she's walking a tightrope. She's got a very feminine little hip wiggle, but it's not very structurally sound. If her pelvis is out of alignment, it could be making that worse.

I've thought about taking Iris to the chiropractor before, and it looks like it's time for me to stop procrastinating.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Camera Progress

I bought a new camera last summer, and Iris promptly decided that she did not like it. She was 100% fine with my little point-and-shoot, but the new dSLR is big, black, hides my face, and makes a louder noise. I'm pretty sure the noise was the real issue. This is the dog who bolted out of the room the first time I tried using a clicker.

I started just holding the camera down at my side and giving her a treat every time it made a noise. Well, I think we had a breakthrough yesterday.

As long as I'm pretending not to point the camera at her, she'll tolerate it in exchange for cookies.

Oh look! Is that a dog in my shot?

You can tell by the direction that she's looking in that I'm not looking through the camera at all. That shot was just luck. It's not cropped. Her ears are up, she's making eye contact with me, and she's not concerned about the proximity of the camera.

I think the girl is ready for her close up.

That's right. I'm behind the camera and right in her face with the camera. Probably about a foot away from her. It's hard to tell, but her ears are still up. She's not afraid to look at the camera and is happy to keep playing with me. Hopefully she'll keep this up next time I take out the camera!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Agility Update

Last weekend, I took Iris over to watch some of the NADAC trial. I figured it would be a good opportunity to start exposing her to a trial environment (and people and dogs in general). It was the largest number of people and dogs I've ever had her around. She did great! I kept her pretty far away from everything and let her look around, had her do some obedience, and gave lots of praise and treats every time a dog walked past us and she didn't explode. I didn't push her very hard at all because it was her first time out.

To keep enough distance from the trial, we had to be closer to the road, so Iris ended up being a lot more interested in the cars. At least there were only a couple cars that drove past. The only thing that really weirded her out was a guy who had a very pronounced limp, but I did get her attention back on me, so no exploding. Initially, she jumped when she heard the loudspeaker (megaphone? I couldn't tell what they had) but after hearing it a couple times, she was completely ignoring it. She seemed to really relax one she got used to being there, so overall I think it was a positive experience for her.

I was also amazed by how quickly Iris recognized people from agility class. She saw Sandy from a pretty good distance away and started wagging her little nub. Iris does not wag for strangers. I was surprised because although Iris has seen Sandy in class regularly, Iris hasn't really interacted with anyone from class much. She saw Julie from way across the field and started whining. If Julie is here, where are the sheep??? Goofy girl.

Iris was full of piss and vinegar at agility class on Tues. The course included the teeter, table and chute. Iris hasn't seen the chute in a very long time. We were supposed to have the dogs "go" to the teeter and the table. There's also a front cross after the first tunnel.

Baxter (lab) was in class and I know he was stressing Iris out. He's a big black dog with a big bark, and something about him bugs her (poor Baxter, he's a nice boy!) Iris wanted to go cause trouble right from the start. Brat dog.

The goofy zoomie Aussie came out to play. She knows I think she's funny, which doesn't really help. But at least we're both having fun, right? She did not fly off the teeter (Katrin was standing right there, probably for my own safety more than my dog's). However, Iris did do the teeter backwards and wants to know if she can get bonus points for creativity.

I still have trouble with front crosses. I haven't quite mastered the art of watching my dog and watching where I'm going at the same time. I'm good at watching my dog and generally have no idea where I'm going. Crosses of any sort are my biggest challenge right now.

The last obstacle was the chute, which Iris hasn't seen since ABC. If I remember correctly, she never actually did the chute without me holding up the end. Well, she did it just fine on her own! It took a little coaxing while she was in there, but she figured it out on her own. Good girl!

She tired herself out so much with her zooming and stressing, she was pretty brain fried at the end of the night, but I think she had a good class.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ABC Reunion?

Maybe everyone else already knows this, but I just realized that the Tues night agility class is almost the same class as ABC. The only one we're missing is Strata.

Look at how far everyone has come!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Agility Class

Iris had a great time at agility class tonight (and I had fun too)! It was the first class of a new session. I forgot, and we got there a half hr early, which turned out to be a good thing. I noticed yesterday that Iris has a much easier time with down from a sit than down from a stand. Bad dog mum not realizing this sooner! Since all of her downs in herding are from a stand, that's probably part of her issue. We practiced downs in the parking lot while we waited.

Because it's a new session, there were some different people in class - Julie with Carmen, Lael and Neil with Makin, Shaya with Tom (mixed breed, Sheltie-Terrier?), and Kim with Opal (Greyhound). I think Sandy and Sadie are in class too, but they weren't there tonight. ABC in March was the last time Iris had class with Tom and Opal, and she was definitely aware that there were new dogs in class. A couple of times when Iris was running, I saw her start to think about the other dogs, but she came right back to me. Good girlie! Both Opal and Tom came pretty close to Iris' crate and different times and no explosions. Ok, mouth full of cheese may have helped, but the fact that Iris was more interested in cheese than exploding was good.

Iris and Carmen started class off with a lovely duet while we walked the course. Here's the course diagram from Katrin. We broke the course into two parts starting with just the first eight obstacles (ended with the jump after the teeter). Before Iris ran, Katrin asked me what I need to remember. Uh cooler than dirt? It's the default answer. Sort of like the only French I actually learned in high school was "I don't know" and "nothing." But apparently I've graduated from that, and "I don't know" isn't a good answer in doggie higher education (and I know well that my dog is NEVER actually doing nothing). Here's the real answers so I can study up before next class:
  • Keep my arm out and level (not down at my side, not up by my head)
  • Keep my speed consistent - if I start and stop, my dog will too
  • Treat out of the hand CLOSEST to my dog. I think I'm going to write in sharpie on the back of my right hand "other hand!"
With the first eight obstacles, we had to do a front cross after the first tunnel, and a cross sort of during the second tunnel. When I do front crosses, I very consistently look at my dog and not where I'm going. This generally means that I end up on top of an obstacle by the time I bother to look up. Ooops! We did have some trouble with the teeter. Iris thinks contact obstacles are great fun. She's wanted to fly off the teeter since we started agility. I think sometimes I'm a little late telling her "wait." The first time we did the teeter, Iris flew off the end. I grabbed for her. Grabbing at running dog on teeter is not really how you train wait. Ok, we tried again. Iris runs onto teeter. I yell, "wait, wait, WAIT!" And my good Aussie did wait on the teeter. And everyone teased me. Hey, I got my dog to wait. Iris was probably rolling her eyes at me too. The third time, I did manage to say wait only once and Iris, of course, was perfect. It's a good thing I have such a tolerant little dog.

Working on the second half of the course was much less eventful. We started from the jump after the teeter The dog had to do a switch between jumps 9 and 10. Switch was the only tricky part. I still think switch is one of the hardest things, but I think we're getting better.

I thought Iris did great tonight. She really stayed with me, even when I was being silly. She was happy, playful, and silly too even with new dogs there. I had fun, and it was just what I needed for a week that has started off sort of iffy and stressful.

There's an agility trial this weekend, and I think I'm going to try taking Iris over to hang out for a little while. What I'll probably end up doing is going without her so that I can watch for a bit and get a feel for it. Then I'll go home and get her since it's only about 15 min away from my house. Should be fun!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Herding Lesson

Herding two weekends in a row! We thought it would be good for Iris and Bug to have a few lessons close together (Bug had a great lesson too). I think a couple of things are really starting to come together in Iris' mind, so I'm really glad we were able to get two lessons so close together.

When we got there, Colleen was finishing up another lesson, so Iris had to wait in the car. Oh god there was a tractor! Someone thought it would be even more fun to chase tractors than sheep. Looney dog.

We started out by walking (on leash) around the pen with me asking Iris to down periodically. When we do this exercise, Iris gets excited and lunges when we get close to the sheep. Whenever she starts to lunge, I switch directions. We turn back toward the sheep once she settles. During the last lesson, I could really see Iris working it out in her head. "When I act like a crazy dog, mom turns and walks away from the sheep. When I calm down, we get to go back to the sheep!" I really like the turning-around method. There's no fuss. It's just "Fine, you can act like a crazy dog if you want, but if you do that, you don't get any sheep." By then end, I could see her thinking about lunging but then checking herself. Cool!

After that, we continued working on "walk up" and "out." I know Iris hasn't made any connection between the words and the motion yet. At this point, I think it's probably more important for her to get used to what it feels like to put pressure on the sheep and then take pressure off.

Iris says weird faces are one of the best ways to intimidate sheep.

After that, Iris worked on "get around." It's her favorite part. Julie too some really cool video of Iris working.

During the first couple of lessons, Iris would sort of "buzz by" the sheep, and then she'd check out to go sniff grass. She was definitely a little intimidated by them. She'd dart in with a lot of flourish and then back right out before the sheep had a chance to get her. If you watch her close, you can still see that she sort of darts in and out, but she was staying engaged for a much longer time. I think she's starting to figure out just how much control she can have over the sheep.

At then end, Iris was trying to act like she was too tired to work any longer. Then she saw her opening, darted in and scattered the sheep. Brat dog. Too tired to do it right but not too tired to cause trouble?

See that? That's the butt puff of a trouble maker. She may look like she's relaxing, but don't be fooled.

After the lesson, we helped Colleen put in some fence posts and then let the dogs run around the field. Both Iris and Bug ran right over to the pen where the sheep had been. Iris came bounding back, "Mom! Where did they go???" Instead, she found some really stinky sheep poop and had a great time rolling all over it. Lovely. Poor smelly Aussie got a bath when we got home. All that work rolling around went right down the drain. She was not impressed. I mentioned to Colleen that I've only had Iris for about a year now, and she said that explains a lot about our relationship. She's settled in so much at home, I forget that we're still building a relationship!

My poor girl started limping on Sat night. All that running around, I think she pulled something. She was a lot better on Sun and better today too.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Agility and Reactive Dog

Iris and Makin were the only dogs at Tues night agility class, so we got lots of practice! Julie set up a course that was mostly jumps with just one tunnel and had us work out how we were going to handle it initially.

The first time we tried it, I planned on doing a front cross after the fourth jump (that little circle-thing. Front crosses don't translate well to diagrams) and another one after the tunnel. Ok, the very first time we tried it, my dog was much faster than I anticipated and beat me to the front cross. After that we did much better! I'm getting better at front crosses. Iris was really goofy, taking jumps while Julie was still setting up the bars, demonstrated her ability to jump 20" vertically from a stand still, and just generally happy and silly.

After we started get the hang of it, Julie told us to run the same course but change one thing. Oh no! Actually, it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. This time we did a switch after the fifth jump and front cross after the tunnel.

The dreaded switch! But we managed to do it without any weird spinning around or me tripping over my dog. Horray! Last time we did a sequence in class that included a switch, I was never able to get Iris to do it without a weird spin. I think we might be getting the hang out it. I even think I liked doing it with a switch better than with the front cross. My front crosses are still a little choppy.

Iris was getting tired at the end of class. It was a lot of jumping especially since it was just Iris and Makin, but I know a certain Aussie who's put on a little extra weight recently. I'm going to start calling her "Pudge," which maybe isn't a bad thing if you're a Red Sox fan. Regardless, my poor starving Aussie is going to have her food intake monitored more closely. She tired herself out faster than I expected her to in herding and agility, and I think the weight gain is a factor. We've also been doing walking instead of jogging more often than not lately. We both need to start running again.

The last thing we did, I had Iris wait while I led out all the way to the fourth jump. It was almost the length of the barn. Iris held her stay! For whatever reason, she did skip the first jump, but did the other three. That's definitely the furthest lead out I've ever done with her. Lead outs are harder for me than Iris. I worry about her breaking her stay to go harass other dogs even through that's something she's never done. Good girl proving me wrong!

Thurs night was the second Reactive Dog class. We worked on hand targeting and leave it with only one dog coming into class at a time. Iris loves hand targeting, but she does need a better leave it. The first two classes were slow, but Emma said they'd be the only slow classes. Regardless, Emma had some really good observations about the different dogs which just don't quite translate to text. I am looking forward to next week.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Iris had her second herding lesson last weekend. It gets it's own post so it's easier for me to look up later. Iris was great! Colleen said she was really "hot." Yeah, she was definitely pulling to get to the sheepies. I asked her to down outside of the pen.

Even in the photo she looks intense. I think our focus right now is getting Iris used to taking pressure on and off the sheep. Initially, I just walked Iris around the pen and had her down periodically. We still need to work on "down" in various locations. The distraction of the farm and the sheep was too much for her. I had Iris on a leash, and whenever she started to run toward the sheep, I switched directions. Iris needs to learn that too much pressure means back off a little, not run around like a crazy dog. But I think she really likes being a crazy dog.

We also started working on "walk up" and "out." Julie brought up a really interesting point that those commands, especially "out"are used in agility but mean different things. I use "walk it" in agility for the contact obstacles, and "walk up" in herding is move in a straight line toward the sheep. I don't really foresee that as being much of an issue for Iris because sheep don't really look much like a dog walk. I think "out" could be a little more tricky. In agility, "out" means increase lateral distance between yourself (the dog) and me. In herding, it means turn and walk away from the sheep in a straight line, which takes pressure off the sheep. Colleen does agility, and she said her Tervs don't usually have a problem with out. She had more trouble with "come" and "come bye" (circle the sheep, I forget whether is clockwise or counter clockwise), so she uses "go bye" instead. Just something interesting to think about.

For "walk up," we moved toward the sheep until they started to fidget and then I asked Iris to down. She was so focused on the sheep! After a few seconds of pressure, we walked back to fence. It was a good chance for Iris to feel what it's like to put pressure on the sheep without causing them to run.

After that, we had Iris drag the lead, and worked on "get around." Iris was doing "fly-bys" where where she'd run around the sheep real fast and then go sniff. Colleen said Iris still isn't quite sure about the sheep, so she sort of rushes in and makes a big show about it but then backs off right away.

Iris looks like she was totally zoning out in that photo. Actually, I think she's about to go sulk because I toughed her with the rake. Right now, Iris does herding very much so on her own terms. That seems to be how my crazy red dog does just about everything! Is it a girl thing? I'm hoping the more I work with her in herding, agility, and whatever else we're doing, she'll get the idea that working together isn't such a bad thing.

By the end of the lesson, Iris was exhausted. I started walking her around the pen again and having her down periodically. The brat dog had perfect down in the shade and did not feel like downing in the sun. See what I mean about "on her own terms?" Silly dog.

After Iris' lesson, it was Julie and Bug's turn. Bug completely turned on to sheep! It was so cool to see. Everyone had a great lesson and we're going again tomorrow. I think it will be really good for both Iris and Bug to have two lessons so close together.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What a Week

Does it make me a bad dog mom if I laughed when I read that note? Admittedly, I am glad I heard about this after the fact. We have had quite the time the past couple of weeks. Iris' misadventures include jumping the fence, busting open the front door to harass the mailman, fighting with Zeus (and she's got the puncture wounds to show for it), and just generally tearing at the windows and everything around the windows in her quest to bark at cars.There's a tear in the screen door, and I'm afraid she'll go through that door next. So in short, Iris will be staying in the basement while I'm at work (she has 2 x-pens worth of space). She's got a nice bed, a bowl of water, and a kong. She gets walked before I leave. It's not really the ideal situation, but it is better than her getting hit by a car. Plus, I really don't want her spending all day barking and lunging at cars through the windows. My biggest issue with that is that every time she barks and lunges at a car diving past, she learns that barking and lunging is effective at making things she doesn't like go away.

In more fun news, agility class a week ago went well. We worked on different entrances and exits for weave poles. I'm starting to get the hang of front crosses. Iris still needs cages to do weaves. I think my next big purchase will be a set of weave poles. We need more practice! At the end of class, the barn's owner came in to check the lights (we had some weird buzzing sounds going on during class). Iris was up in arms as soon as she heard the tractor. She's been really good lately about not barking at the other dogs in class, but a strange man entering the barn pushed her over the edge. At least we were done for the night and I brought Iris out to relax in the car. Last night agility was also lots of fun, but more on that in a separate post.

Lately, Iris has been really good about not "checking out" or getting really flighty during class. I've been trying to build up some toy drive at home partly just to convince her that playing with me can be just as much fun as playing with Henry. She's not quite convinced... I have figured out that she likes stuffed animal squeaky toys the best. The problem is that they only hold up for a couple of minutes. Iris thinks tearing them up is pretty cool. I can't afford to to replace a toy after every 2 min of play. If anyone knows of any stuffed animal toys that are also durable, Iris will thank you!

Last Thurs we started a Reactive Dogs class at Masterpeace. The first class was no dogs and really basic. We just went over teaching eye contact and sit with a clicker. So maybe a little too basic for Iris, but it's definitely something that every dog should start with. I think we're going to get a whole lot more out of it once we get into the "meat" of the class. Another interesting note, Emma is teaching a Control Unleashed class right now too, which I hope she runs again at some point.

It seems that my crazy red dog is keeping me too busy for blogging so sheep herding and this week's agility class (both complete with pictures) will follow later.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Agility Class

Last class, we worked on handling skills just with jumps. I think Katrin called it double box jumps? Something like that. I know there were jumps arranged in squares.

The first sequence had a switch in there. Switch is still the hardest thing for me to get. Direction changes, lead changes, treats, hands, dogs, my own two feet...

I'm pretty sure there was a front cross in there somewhere after the switch, but Iris and I never got that far. Iris had no problem taking the first three jumps but after the third jump, she was spinning around to the right instead of turning toward the left. Actually, I think she should have started turning left before the third jump, which was part of the problem. She had to turn right after the second jump and just continued that motion over the third. Sandy and Sadie went after us, and I tried to really watch what she was doing with her hands. I know that's where I was losing Iris. She just didn't know what I wanted. I think I have a better idea of what I should be doing (so much easier to say than do!) I keep meaning to set up Iris' jumps to practice, but I've been a lazy trainer this week.

Next we worked on front crosses. A front cross is when the handler's path crosses the dog's path in front of the dog (until recently, I thought it was when the dog crosses in front of the handler, so there's my clarification). It wasn't pretty, but we did pull it off. The handler's path in these diagrams is really generalized, but you get the idea.

The last sequence was almost the same as the second, but the hander had to stay on the outside while the dog did the jumps in the middle. Katrin held Iris at the start line not because Iris has been breaking her stays, but because I worry too much about her breaking her stays. And I was not cooler than dirt that night.

So we started. Iris did all three of the first jumps perfectly. And then I stopped. And Iris stopped. Katrin says, "You have no idea where you're going because you didn't think she'd do it." Nope! I didn't bother to plan ahead because I really thought that Iris would come in towards me, and we'd end up working on that. Serves me right! My good girlie.

I did, however, manage to go the entire class without being told to deliver the treat with my other hand.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Herding Lesson

Sat was Iris' first herding lesson! We went with Julie and Honor-Bug, who also had a great lesson. Bug went first, and I had Iris lay down and watch him. I don't think she took her eyes off the sheep the entire time.

When it was Iris' turn, Colleen had me walk her around the outside of the pen and asked her to stay in each of the corners. Iris was pretty interested in the smells, but didn't seem to notice the sheep yet.

Then I asked Iris to down-stay, and I walked up and touched a sheep. She held her stay next to Colleen (which was awesome for Iris! I've never asked her to stay with a stranger and walked away).

Now to see if Iris was actually interested in sheep. Colleen came in the pen and we walked up toward the sheep.

The sheep moved away and Iris really tuned on. It was so cool. She does herding at full speed, but she does circle to the outside instead of running straight toward the sheep.

See how she's making a wider arc than the sheep are? Good girl!

Herding for Iris was done in short bouts of full speed interspersed with sniffing. I think the sniffing was a combination of interesting smells and stress sniffing. Even though she thought the sheep were cool, she wasn't quite sure what I expected of her.

Then it was my turn with the rake. The rake is a kid's garden rake, and it's used to guide the dog and get the dog to change directions. It really just acts as an extension of your arm. Sort of the same way I'm supposed to use my arm to guide Iris around the agility course. Colleen commented that Iris is pretty pressure sensitive, which doesn't surprise me given how sensitive she is to my body language in general.

Figuring out the rake is hard! The idea is to keep it near the dog's girth to get the dog to move forward and to move it in front of the dog to get her to change directions. I had a tendency to keep it too far forward which was confusing Iris.

Look at that stay while Colleen was explaining to me how to use the rake. Such a good girlie.

Iris and Bug both got to rest in their crates, andJulie and I got to practice our handling skills with Colleen's Belgian Tervuren, Hannah. Hannah quickly figured out that Julie and I are softies! I was lucky and Julie had already tired her out a bit before I worked with her.

I think Iris had a good time, and I definitely enjoyed it. Iris was a completely different dog than she the first time I introduced her to livestock. I think it was a combination of a less stressful environment and me being in the pen with her. Colleen noticed that Iris was more relaxed when it was just me in there with her. She certainly doesn't look like a dog who's afraid of sheep, does she?

We have another lesson at the beginning of Sept, and I'm really excited about it. I can see how herding could be addicting! In the mean time, we're going to be practicing down in various locations. I realized that while Iris will down very reliably at home and at agility class, those are the only places I've really practiced it with her.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tues Night Agility

We switched to the Tues night agility class for this session, and it was a night of "firsts" for Iris. There are three other dogs in class - Makin the Vizsla who's been in class with us from the beginning, Sadie the Aussie who we've had a couple of classes with (and that means her Aussie puppy "brother" is there too!), and also someone we haven't met before with her two dogs (the dogs will be alternating weeks, this week we met Misty the Aussie). Me and Iris, and Neil and Lael with Makin are all new to agility. I'm so glad I'm not the only new kid! Sandy with Sadie and Misty's owner (I learn dog names so much faster than human names) have been doing agility for longer. I think we've got a pretty good mix in our Aussie dominated class.

Katrin set up a 19 obstacle course. When I went to walk the course, Iris stayed in her crate and she was so quiet. Ok, she did get in a couple of woofs, but no crazy barkbarkbarkbarkbark like she sometimes does.

Iris jumped 20" for the first time in class. She did more obstacles in a row that she has in a long time (ever?). She did contact obstacles for the first time since March. She did weave poles for the first time in 6 weeks because I don't have my own to practice with. When I got home from work on Wed, my sister said Iris is so much quieter during the day after agility. No wonder!

Iris was awesome. The weave poles had cages only on one side. She missed the entrance on the first try and got it right on the second. She was so proud of herself when she got it right. I was proud too! When we got to the dog walk, Iris remembered how to run up and across, but she completely forgot that she's supposed to slow down on the way down. Slow down? Crazy Aussies don't slow down! Then she started being really goofy, which made me laugh, which made her more goofy. We decided not to try the teeter with Iris right then since I'm sure she had every intention of flying off. Plus, Iris was starting to tire herself out. I think I need to start running again with Iris during the week. Both of us need better endurance, and I don't think it would hurt Iris any to lose a little bit of weight.

Later, we decided to just work on the dog walk and teeter. We kept Iris on a leash initially and after she did "wait" a couple of times, she figured it out. She says, "Oh, that's what you want!" Then she was happy to do both the dog walk and the teeter without a leash. I also learned that I don't really have to yell "wait." I can just say it and Iris will still hear me, even if sometimes she does try to convince me that her little witch-hat ears are too full of fluff to hear a word I'm saying.

I also realized that Katrin hasn't been asking the other dogs to leave the barn while Iris is off-leash, and Iris has been really good. It only took me weeks to notice. I think my crazy red dog is really starting to enjoy this agility stuff.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

5 Directions #6

Tonight we had our last 5 Directions class. I think we both got a lot out of this class. Iris was so good. She does exactly what I tell her to do. If I have my arm up, she stays out. If I bring my arm down, she comes in. My little dog swears she'll make a good handler out of me yet! :-) I really do have fun with my little red dog even if she is a crazy-head (and look at her head! Her eyes can't decide if they're blue or brown, her ears can't decide if they stand up or flop over, her funny little mane sticks out in all directions... She's a crazy head).

We started by working on the same tight-out-switch-out sequence that we worked on a few weeks ago, except this time we added jumps. Iris was stress sniffing when we started, but then she figured it out pretty quickly. I think I'm starting to get the hang of switch and tight. We've been working on those two a lot at home over the last couple weeks. Even more exciting is that they mowed all of the grass at the airport field last week, so I'm going to bring jumps and gates over there this weekend so we can practice this some more. At the very least, I need to try and remember that I have TWO hands I can deliver treats with. I am not an ambi-treat-deliverer. Like Zoolander, only with a dog instead of fashion sense (phew! I'd rather have the dog).

After that, we worked on the same sequence for "go" that we did last week. Iris did a lot less sniffing when we worked on this. She even started to go toward the other dogs, but turned around and came running back. Good girlie! I think a table in going to be my next project. Iris has no problem hopping up on it, but I'd like to work on getting her to down automatically.

Sandy brought her new Aussie puppy, Teddy, to class. He is adorable! I want to steal him, but I think eight people and three dogs is more than enough for one house. I'll have to settle for playing with Teddy in class. Iris says she's still the best Aussie ever.


Slightly off-topic, but I thought this post on Dolittler was really interesting - the comments are better than the post. Right now, raw isn't an option for Iris because she'd be the only one of the three dogs to get raw, which seems like a fast way to end up with food guarding. Anyway it's a study I've heard cited before, and I admit I've wondered about it in terms of ever switching Iris to raw (why risk making her reactivity worse?) The comments bring up some very valid points against the study results.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Julie posted this game over at her blog so though I'd give it try for Iris.

1. What is your first name? Iris

2. What is your favorite food? cheese

3. What high school did you go to? Maplewood

4. What is your favorite color? red

5. Who is your celebrity crush? Rin Tin Tin

6. Favorite drink? water

7. Dream vacation? camping

8. Favorite dessert? Frosty Paws

9. What you want to be when you grow up? supervisor

10. What do you love most in life? running

11. One Word to describe you: energetic

12. Your flickr name. none

1. Broche Arco-íris, 2. "I, Piórko, like Cheese!", 3. maplewood farm, 4. Gizmo, 5. jordi tongue flickr, 6. October Morning on Lake Michigan, 7. Campsite by Moonlight, 8. Tasteful, 9. Terracotta warriors. Xian, 10. The chase, 11. Sally, Sally, pride of our alley, 12. Sunny Side Up

And then Henry Wenry wanted to play too....

1. What is your first name? Henry

2. What is your favorite food? muffins

3. What high school did you go to? no school!

4. What is your favorite color? green

5. Who is your celebrity crush? Lassie

6. Favorite drink? coffee

7. Dream vacation? grocery store

8. Favorite dessert? Pop-Tarts

9. What you want to be when you grow up? chef

10. What do you love most in life? food

11. One Word to describe you: hungry

12. Your flickr name. none

1. Bigui, Beagle, 2. It's A Girl!, 3. Over/Under, 4. Meeting the pregnant princess of the forest, 5. Lassie, is that you?, 6. WIRED, 7. Schmidt's Grocery sign, 8. Mini Pop-Tarts, 9. Little Chef, 10. Metzis Tasty Takeaway Hamburger with the lot - Australian style!, 11. Caught in the Act, 12. bun... none

5 Directions #5

In 5 Directions on Thurs, we worked on "Go." There were three jumps set up in a straight line with a table and a tunnel at either end. The idea was to have the dog go over the jump and pass the handler at the third jump to do either the tunnel or the table. Iris did really well with it, especially since she hasn't really don't anything with equipment in this class. She was happy to do all three jumps and only hesitated a little before going into the tunnel. She has no problem hopping up on the table, but I need to work on getting an automatic down. Iris wasn't really going very far ahead of me, but she seemed pretty happy to be playing with me and not overly distracted by the other dogs. There were a couple of moments where Iris thought it might be more fun to go supervise the other dogs instead of going in the tunnel, but she stayed with me (with a little help from Katrin blocking her...) Iris was a little more bratty than she has been recently, but in general, I think she did good.

Katrin pointed out that as long as I keep my arm up, Iris will go over the jumps, and as soon as I start to drop my arm, she starts to think about coming in toward me around the jump. I'm surprised by just how important body language seems to be to all of the dogs in class. I've never really thought about it before, but it makes sense because that's how dogs communicate with each other.

We were practicing "switch" and "tight" last night and I noticed that Iris seems to only pay attention to my body language. I think I could insert any word in there and it wouldn't matter to her right now because she's not actually listening to what I'm saying. If I'm staying more stationary, she just sort of walks around randomly hoping to guess right. I'm not sure how much that matters right now?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Year In Review

My little red dog has come a long way in a year.

One year ago today, I adopted Iris from the NHSPCA. The first time I met her, she came into the visiting room at the shelter, sat down, and leaned against me. When she's not being crazy, she really is exactly the dog I was looking for. When I got Iris home, she refused to eat for two days and spent most of the first week hiding under the coffee table. She'd come out if I sat on the floor and talked to her. She had kennel cough, which only added to her stress. Iris was 4 years old and I was her fifth owner. She was housebroken, but I don't think she had much other training.

The first photo I took of her to email to a couple of people - she was hiding in the corner.

A photo from a few weeks later, you can see she decided to upgrade her spot. The photo makes her look like a gremlin, especially with her demon dog eyes. It's still her favorite spot on the couch:

It took Iris a few months to get settled in, and I just worked on some basic manners at home with her. She started out so shy, I didn't want to push her into classes. A big thing for her was learning not to bolt through doors. It's one of the reasons she was in the shelter. Coming home from work to find out that the dog I'd only had for a few weeks, the dog who was still spending a good deal of time under the coffee table, was missing was one of the worst nights. She was only loose for an hour and half or so.

As Iris got more settled in, her behavior issues started to come out more. She's been through four other homes for a reason. The shelter said she was surrendered for escaping the house and killing ducks. Going through the paperwork later, the secondary reasons she was there were being overprotective of her house and nipping kids who here running around with "her" kids. I think those were probably the primary reasons and the duck killing was just the last straw. Iris is extremely aware of everything going on outside the house. She's reactive to guests coming into the house. Men make her nervous. She's reactive to other dogs. She pushes Zeus around. She's obsessed with cars. Her nickname is "the supervisor." She can't be left alone loose in the house because she makes herself crazy obsessing over cars passing the house.

In the fall, I enrolled Iris in a basic obedience class at MasterPeace. I wanted to work on her manners in a more distracting environment than my house and also get her used to being in a class. She did really well in the class, even with the other dogs. It was a pretty stationary class, so I think she found the other dogs less threatening?

In January, I started classes at Maplewood. Iris needed something to do with her brain besides just supervise the house. I wanted an agility dog from the beginning so we started in ABC. The beginning half of the class (now called Communications) was excellent for building a relationship with Iris. The second half was an intro to obstacles and Iris seemed to enjoy running and jumping around. Her issues with other dogs came out in full force. Iris was turning into a lot more dog than I'd bargained for. Katrin has been extremely patient with my crazy dog right from the beginning. In the 7 months since we started classes at Maplewood, Iris has gotten so much more relaxed in class, and as a side benefit, she's gotten a lot better at home. Of everything I've done with her, starting agility classes had by far the most positive effects. I've learned a lot about managing her around other dogs and keeping her attention, a lot of which applies to barking at people, chasing cars, etc. I'm still working on being cooler than dirt. :-) The only downside to agility is that Iris now thinks my 24" baby gates are agility inside the house. So far, we've done ABC, Weave Poles, the 5 Directions, and Competition Heeling.

In class, Iris is happy to hang out in her crate when she needs a break. She's gone from not being able to focus with other dogs in the barn, to being able to play while certain dogs are still inside. At home, she now loses her window privileges as soon as she starts barking, so she's gotten better about relaxing in the house. She's only allowed to greet guests if she's relaxed. If she starts barking, she's walked out of the room. She's made huge improvements with greeting my friends. When I'm out walking her, she can sit and stay while a car passes.

We also tried herding at a clinic given by Tenley Dexter and put on by ASCNE. Iris was afraid of sheep but really interested in the ducks and not all all rough with them. Tenley thought Iris would make a really nice duck dog. Quite a compliment! There were a lot of people there, which I think was stressful for Iris. Even when I went in with her for the ducks, Iris kept looking over at the people and dogs watching. I really want to see how she does in a less stressful environment.

A quick recap of the year, I'll probably think of more later but it's getting late -

Things Iris learned:
-her name (means make eye contact)
-Sit Up
-Wait and make eye contact until I say "ok" before going through an open door
-Hand target
-Target plate
-Back up
-Loose leash walking (with no distractions)
-Off (our dogs are allowed on the furniture as long as they'll get off on command)
-Relax in crate
-No dogs in the kitchen for meals until they're told "ok"

Things Iris is still working on (in no particular order):
-Loose leash walking with distractions (especially cars)
-Come with distractions
-Greeting people without jumping up (mostly an issue when I get home from work)
-Toy motivation (Henry is still the coolest toy ever)
-Weaves (I need to invest in my own!)

Things we've only worked on a little but I'd like to work on more:
-Leave it
-Go to place
-Turn and make eye contact after going through an open door
-Ears (bring ears forward, a good trick for photographs)

What next? Our next agility class will be Putting it Together at Maplewood. I'm also thinking about putting Iris in the Reactive Dogs class at MasterPeace in September. As soon as I get my car fixed (or rather, find out how much it's going to cost to fix my car), I want to try herding again. And of course we'll still be training at home, running in the field, swimming at the pond, harassing the poor Beagle, and finding new and exciting ways to get in trouble!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

5 Directions #4 and C.H. #6

In 5 Directions class on Thurs, we worked on switch and tight over jump bars on the ground. Iris and I got there first, and she was being great about giving me attention and working while we waited for the rest of the class. The two other dogs showed up and came into Iris' barn (she owns whatever space she can see) and they started barking (Iris is actually the only dog in the world, except Henry, allowed to bark), and I completely lost her focus. I took her for a walk outside to see if I could get her to "start over." Sometimes life needs save points and reset buttons.

Iris relaxed a bit and we went back in. We worked on switch first. The goal was to have the dog go over one jump bar and switch to go over the other jump bar. I think Iris is starting to understand that turning is important, but she hasn't quite made the connection that doing an obstacle is part of it too. When I was practicing with her earlier in the week, she was trying to turn before getting to the cone. Once Iris thinks she knows what I want, she usually tries to find a shorter way of doing it. If she turns before the cone, it's less work than walking all the way around the cone!

After switch, we worked on tight over one jump bar. I need to remember that tight actually means really tight. Iris was doing better with tight than switch, which is probably partially because I have a better understanding of tight. By this point in class, Iris had stopped worrying about the other dogs and was doing a much better job focusing. She went from wanna-be-reactive-dog at the beginning of class to happy-working-dog at the end of class. I think that's the first time I've actually gotten her paying attention and happy after she'd gone into reactive mode to the beginning of class.

Today was our last Competition Heeling class. This was a great class! Iris still has a ways to go before she's doing perfect heeling, but I think it's helped a lot with getting her to focus on me when I'm moving. That was really what I wanted Iris to get out of the class and I think we're off to the right start. Today was really hot and Iris was really spacey. She was looking for an excuse to explode at the beginning of class, and I was more concerned with just keeping her attention than with teaching her anything new. We worked on pace changes and then put everything together at the end. Iris' head was in the clouds somewhere. She really doesn't like the heat and get more snarky when she's hot.

Later in the afternoon, I took Iris over to the abandoned airport field to practice heeling a little more. It cooled off a bit after the rain and was mostly overcast so I thought she'd have an easier time focusing. It was still hotter than I thought, so we kept it pretty brief and I took Iris to the pond across the street when we were done. Iris thought the pond was great fun! I had her on a long line, so she really got to romp around. Now I have one very sleepy Aussie.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heeling #5

Sunday was windy, which means all of my dogs were acting a little wacky. With the windows open (and with no AC, the windows have to be open) the wind makes all sorts of weird noises as it blows through the house. All three dogs were freaked out by it, and they were all getting each other going. I also had company. Iris was being really good, but I know it stresses her out, especially since they were guys who showed up driving trucks.

During class, the wind was still going, and Iris was pretty worried about it. She was more concerned by the wind than the other dogs. Katrin had me start Iris off with tricks that she was familiar with. That seemed to help her relax a bit and then we borrowed from canned food from Julie. The canned food was a lot more exciting than the treats I had! We worked on making left and right turns. Iris did pretty well with it. I think she's starting to get the idea of heeling. Eventually, the novelty of the canned food wore off and she started worrying about the wind again. I let her retreat to her crate. Overall, I was really happy that she was able to relax enough to work for a little while.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Three Is More Than Two

I think it was me that said "three dogs can't possibly be much more work than two." And that's when Iris joined the pack. Usually it's just Iris and Henry here during the week, but this past week I've had Zeus as well.

Normally, my routine before work is to get up, feed the dogs, start getting myself ready while they eat, let the dogs out, finish getting myself ready, let the dogs in, get Iris in her crate, and then I leave.

This week, it's gone something like this: Get up and let the dogs out because Zeus won't eat unless he's been outside first. Start making their breakfast - all three are on different diets. Let the dogs in. Red dog comes in, hound dog comes in, where's the black dog? Grab a leash and go outside. Zeus has dug himself a crater in the backyard and is laying down there, growling and grumbling when I go to bring him in. Slip leash over his head, he hops right up. Back inside, give all the dogs their food. Dogs finish eating and they have to go back outside because Henry won't go relieve himself until after he's had breakfast (food is just too exciting!) Iris runs outside. Grab Zeus' collar so he won't go back to his crater outside. Where is Henry? He's the one that actually needs to go outside. Henry is in the kitchen trying to lick Iris' bowl clean as fast as possible. Alright, get Henry outside, keep Zeus inside, now Zeus is licking bowls. Finish getting myself ready for work. Let Iris and Henry in. Bring Iris down the basement to keep cool. The boys get the run of the house for the day. I turn to go back upstairs, and see Henry trying desperately to get into the recycling to lick empty dog food cans. Usher Henry back upstairs. Find car keys.

Finally, ready for work!