Sunday, June 29, 2008

Family Relations

I've been poking around the internet looking to see if I can find anything out about the dogs in Iris' pedigree. I actually did manage to find Iris' breeder - Dogone Australian Shepherds. The website isn't much of anything, but the Puppies page says "All our puppies have been placed in their new homes. The next planned litter will be in November of 2003 on the West Coast." Iris was born in May '03 so I bet she's one of the puppies they'd just placed. I wish there were pictures! The breeder hasn't responded to emails, but it could easily just be an out-of-date address. It's too bad because I'd love to talk to her about her dogs. I might try getting in touch with Pincie Creek since that's who bred her dam. I'm mostly just curious about what the dogs in her pedigree were like. It'd be nice to know if any of her close relatives had any health problems too.

I couldn't find anything about Iris' parents, but I did find a couple of dogs further back in her pedigree. It looks (to me anyway, although I don't really know much about pedigrees) like Iris is from a conformation x working cross.

The closest relative I found is Iris' grandfather on her dam's side: Justus McCain of Pincie Creek. Isn't he handsome? Even if he doesn't have witch-hat ears.

Her great grandfather on her dam's side is Shope's Goodnight Bandit. Down at the bottom it says he carried little coat until he was about 6 years old. Iris just turned 5 and I think she has a light coat compared to most show Aussies. I like her coat because it's so "wash and wear." After so many years of keeping my Wheaten in full coat, it's kind of nice to go weeks between full groomings. Bandit's coat at 4 years looks thicker than Iris' coat now (or maybe just better groomed).

On her sire's side, I found her great-grandfather and great-grandmother. If you scroll down a bit, you'll see Gingerlynn's Patrick O'Shannon and Misty Blue of Southwynd. Their About Us page has a little bit more about Paddy.

And that's all I could find!

Heeling #3

It was pretty hot during class this afternoon, and so I had a lazy Aussie. I took advantage of this and had her hang out on a blanket with me instead of in her crate. She was really good! She stayed out the entire class and seemed generally ok with just hanging out with me.

We only practiced a little this past week, but I did see a definite improvement in her following me around the ring in heel position. I really like working on that one with her. Yesterday, I was even able to have her out in the yard just dragging a long line, and she was awesome about staying engaged with me. I've never brought her out in the yard like that because one of the reasons she was in the shelter was for bolting. Something is starting to click in her head.

In class, we practiced getting our dogs to move from in front of us and into heel position. I used a treat to lure Iris around and into position and then asked her to sit. She figured out pretty quickly that the end result was a sit and started sitting too early. Silly girl. We also worked on teaching our dogs to keep their front feet stationary and shift the back feet around in a circle. Iris had a little bit of trouble with this one and kept wanting to sit (hey, that is what we were doing earlier!) When I taught her to back up, she picked it up much faster what I started clicking for back foot movement, which probably means I'm more accurate with the clicker than a verbal marker.

But the really exciting part of the day is that Julie and Ike gave Iris her very own Screaming Monkey. Iris says thank you Ike for sharing!

No more posing! She has to carefully maintain focus or else the boys might make bid for it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

5 Directions #2

Thursday was Iris' first 5 Directions class. Ok, so it was actually the second class, but I forgot to show up for the first one. We started by reviewing "switch," which is what we would have learned in the previous class. Good thing there was a review for the scatterbrains in the crowd! Basically, you start with the dog on one side and walk up to the cone. The dog should walk around the cone and end up on your other side with both of you turned around. That probably makes no sense. I'm a painter, not a writer. Here's a diagram for everyone who has no idea what I just tried to say:

That's right. Look at that diagram. Clearly art school was money well spent.

To teach "switch," you start with treats in one hand (the treat should be in whichever hand is closest to the dog. I forget this and almost always use my right hand regardless of where Iris is. That is not how you are supposed to train your dog and someday will probably result in me tripping and falling face first over my dog). The tricky part is switching hands to guide the dog around the cone, so I thought it was a good idea to have treats in both hands.

Just when I thought Iris and I were getting the hang of turning toward the left, Katrin asked us to go in the the other direction. I looked at the cone and looked at my dog, who was no help whatsoever and seemed quite happy to continue in the same direction. I looked down at my cheese filled hands and realized I had no idea what hand I was using anymore. There was no way my brain was going to reverse this treat-hand-cone-dog balancing act. I'm sure Iris will master switch long before I can figure out which hand the treats go in.

The second direction we worked on is "out." Basically, we had the dogs go in a straight line along the cones, "switch" around the last cone and then out around a gate. "Out" essentially means "put more horizontal distance between you and me" if I understand it right. We worked on "out" a little bit in ABC class, so Iris picked up on it right away. After practicing with treats, we switched to tossing toys so the dogs would get rewarded for running out instead of getting a treat for coming back to the hander. I had a tug toy for Iris, but she wasn't at all interested. Julie let us borrow The Screaming Monkey toy, which Iris thought was really cool! Iris was actually willing to chase and pick up the monkey when I tossed him. Even at home I have to work to get her interested in any toy other than her Beagle. She thinks Henry is the ultimate toy.

Iris was once again awesome about waiting her turn. I'm not sure exactly what is getting easier, better, different or whatever for her but she's definitely more relaxed in class. I hope this trend continues!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Heeling #2

Ok, very funny. Who switched dogs with me on Sunday? Class was great, and the dog I had was well behaved a mostly focused. It couldn't have been my dog. My dog is never that well behaved!

In all seriousness, Iris was awesome on Sunday. At the beginning of class, she gave me perfect attention while other dogs were barking, and she was in much closer proximity to the other dogs than she can usually handle. She gave me attention even when she wasn't actively "working" (usually I have to keep her doing something - backing up, targeting, tricks). This might have partly been due to the fact that I restocked my treat supply with some of Iris' favorites, including string cheese. Whatever works! She was happy to relax in her crate while we waited her turn, and only gave a couple "woofs" in response to other dogs moving around or barking. No real explosions. Good girl!

For this class, most of the arena was closed off so the waiting dogs had a small area to hang out in while one dog and handler team worked off-leash in the big area. The handler walked around ignoring the dog (well at least I was pretending to ignore Iris, but I was pretty aware of where she was anyway) and looking down at the spot where the dog would be if the dog was in proper heel position. It was sort of an extension of the "finding eye contact" exercise that we learned in ABC class. Basically, the handler would wait until the dog ended up in heel position and then reward.

This is Iris' exercise - I need to practice this with her. Like I said last week, I need to remember to reward Iris whenever she checks in and that's exactly what this exercise is. Definitely something that both of us need to practice! Iris did great when it was her turn. I walked around ignoring her until she chose to come over and interact with me. She wasn't quite sure what I was doing or what I wanted, but she was aware of where I was. Even when the other dogs started barking, Iris still kept playing the game with me. A couple of times when I caught her starting to focus in on the other dogs, I switched direction and she was pretty good about following. No rushing the other dogs and no barking. She was just an all around good little dog, and it forced me to reward her every time she checked in! A good class for both of us.

At the end of class, we started practicing "tuck sits," which is when the dog keeps front feet stationary and moves back feet forward to sit. Iris does this pretty naturally, so I think as long as make it point to only reward tuck sits from now on, she won't have any problem with this.

We'll definitely be practing a lot this week and I'm hoping to "take the show on the road" a bit and get her to a couple different fenced in places for practice.

Iris says being good is exhausting. After class, she fell sound asleep in my lap. I can walk her for miles, but a 1 hr class does a much better job of wearing her out!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Competition Heeling #1

Sunday was our first competition heeling class. I think this class is going to be really good for Iris. Even though I don't really plan on competing in Obedience with her, it's great chance for us to practice working around dogs and people, and if I change my mind about Obedience, we'll already have a good foundation.

Iris did really well in class. I'm pretty sure all of the dogs and most of the people were new to Iris. She was really good at the very beginning while Katrin was explaining heeling. I just kept Iris busy by asking her to do simple things like sit, down, target, back up, etc. She started to lose focus when Katrin demonstrated with her Flat-Coat, Niche. Iris says, "But mom! There's a dog right there bouncing around. Don't you see him? He's right there!" Yes, thank you Iris for your assistance. I swear, I'd never notice anything without your astute Aussie power of observation. :-) My crazy dog.

So I was a bad mom and forgot to actually look though the training treats before class to see what I had left. I knew I was running low, but I forgot just how low (I've been so spacey this week! No wonder my dog is spacey too). Everything I had left was good for at home, but mediocre when compared to everything else going on in class. Luckily, Lisa had some spare cheese (Iris says string cheese is a gift from doG). Once I started using treats that Iris actually cared about, she was much better about playing with me and not acting just as spacey as I am.

In class, we practiced getting our dogs to sit when we stop and to start heeling when we start walking. Iris figured out really quickly that I wanted her to do something when I stopped, but she kept alternating between "sit" and "down." I was encouraging her for both, but only giving her a treat for sit. At least she was trying something and not just barking! For whatever reason, if Iris starts barking at another dog when she's in her crate, I'll ask her to down and she seems to quiet faster than if I had her sit. So down has been heavily rewarded. It's also the first thing I taught her, because she already knew sit, although she was inconsistent about sit.

I was having some trouble keeping Iris' attention on me when we'd start walking and even more trouble remember not to touch the leash even with it tied around my waist! At home, we're practicing without a leash. In class, I was trying to give her a treat whenever she was walking with me and not paying attention to everything else. This seems to be a theme for us that I keep forgetting - Iris checks in, Iris gets a reward. It's something I've always taken for granted with my other dogs and really need to remember to reward Iris for it. I'm sure Katrin has reminded me to reward Iris for checking in at least a dozen times, but I still need it drilled into my head. Proof that I am definitely more spacey than my dog!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Escaping Aussies and Cutting Class

It seems I'm not done thinking about crates quite yet.

When I got home from work on Wed, my brother informed me that Iris went on a little adventure that afternoon. Steve was upstairs hanging out in his room (the only room in the house with AC), and Iris was loose in the house. This probably had about the same effect as leaving her home alone and loose. I imagine she spent the morning obsessing over the windows.

My brother heard Iris go completely nuts and then silent He came downstairs to check on her, only to look outside and see Iris circling the UPS truck parked in front of my neighbor's house. The UPS truck is Iris' arch-nemesis. What I'm sure happened is Iris was sitting on my bed looking out the window and saw the truck drive into the neighborhood. She goes nuts as soon as she sees the UPS truck. So she sprints to the other end on the house to watch the truck drive around the corner. Because it was hot, just the screen door was shut. So, Iris flies into the room and skids on the tile floor into the door, probably barking the whole time. The screen door wasn't shut tight, so when she skidded into it or jumped up on it, it opened. Freedom!

Luckily, my brother thought to go downstairs when he heard her go crazy. Iris is even worse about the UPS truck than she is about cars. Steve ran outside and called her, which of course she ignored because the truck started to drive away. My brother went back in the house to grab his car keys and some cheese. Iris didn't make it too far down the street before she lost the truck, and she hopped right into my brother's car.

I have one lucky little Aussie. I'm positive that if Steve didn't notice her escape, she'd have been hit by a car. I can't have her getting out like that again. Not only is it dangerous for her, but it's also a bad situation to have her harassing people like the UPS driver. The solution I have right now is to keep her in an x-pen down the basement when I'm at work and my brother isn't actively supervising her. I think that ends up being most of the time. She hates being down the basement, but the x-pen gives her more space than a crate, and it's significantly cooler down there. I worry about her overheating in the crate, so I'm overriding her on this one. Right now, there's not enough space for her to have a crate in the x-pen. Once the basement gets cleaned out, I'll see if I can combine 2 x-pens and include a crate. It's not an ideal solution, but it's the best one I have right now and at least she can't get out to chase cars. Even if the screen door had been shut tight, I don't think it would take much for her to go through the screen.

In other news, Iris should have had her first 5 Directions class on Thurs, but I'm a bad mom and completely forgot about it. Somehow, I got it in my head that class didn't start until next week. It might actually be a good thing that we missed class because after her adventures in truck chasing, Iris was limping Wed night. She was putting weight on all 4 legs, but she was definitely favoring one of her back legs (I had trouble telling which). I don't think the injury was completely cause by the truck chasing. When I was walking her the night before, I thought her gait seemed a little off. I couldn't quite pinpoint what was wrong and started thinking maybe I was just being paranoid. Something was probably not quite right and running around acting crazy was just too much. She's completely fine now, but she probably needed a night off anyway.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Since Zeus is the only one of the three dogs who hasn't made an appearance here, I figure it's about time for his 5 minutes of fame (Iris doesn't share well, so he only gets 5 min). We seem to have unintentionally come up with a Greek pantheon theme for dog names. Poor Henry got left out of that one, although he's the one we didn't name.

Zeus is a lab mix who tops the scales at just over 100 lbs. So between the giant black dog, the insane Aussie, and the howling Beagle, I don't think the UPS guy will even bother coming down the driveway. I think he'll be adopting a "toss and run" policy.

Poor Zeus is undergoing heartworm treatment right now, and in having bloodwork done for that, it looks like he probably has Cushing's disease. He just turned 7, and the only symptoms he seems to have right now are increased water consumption and excess panting. I know very little about Cushing's and as far as I know, they're not doing anything to treat it right now.

He's ball-obsessed, loves to swim, and sometimes more than a little neurotic. Iris loves to boss him around, but hopefully they'll improve once they're actually living together and not "starting over" every weekend.

More Crate Thoughts

I've been thinking more about the crate (or lack of crate) incident last Thurs. Obviously, Iris can't have the run of the house when no one is home. When she's alone, I think she does have some anxiety, and she gets "hyper-protective" of the house. When I'm home, I've never seen her hit the windows with the amount of force that she does when she's alone (judging by the amount of damage she's done to the window frames). Also when she's alone, I think she completely fixates on the windows and just gets more and more wound up. If Iris is barking, Henry starts barking, so Iris barks even more. Not a good thing. When I'm home, she does much better. Part of it is probably that I do call her off the windows when she starts barking. Actually, she's made a ton of progress in the last couple months.

She's still crazy. Right now, she's leaping around the kitchen trying to catch a moth. She's getting some pretty good height too. Lucky for the moth, Aussies can't fly.

I digress. Iris has to be crated when no one is home. Hopefully there won't be any more loose Aussie incidents. In my brother's defense, the last time we had a dog that needed to be crated was 15 years ago when we had a puppy.

I've tried to avoid crating Iris because my previous job had me working long days (10+ hrs and then a commute). Baby gates aren't an option because they're not tall enough. They're like agility inside the house! I tried leaving her in the bathroom thinking she'd like a little more space, but she scratched up the bathroom door. I tried 3 ft tall boards blocking her and Henry in the kitchen since I thought they'd keep each other company. I couldn't come up with something heavy enough to prop the boards with. She kept getting out. I tried an x-pen in the basement, because I could anchor it to a couple different structures. She will jump up on it, so I didn't want her to knock it over on herself. It did hold her but she HATED it. She would hide in her crate and I had to drag her down there.

So I conceded. Since Iris wanted to hide in her crate, that's what I've been doing. She knows my getting ready for work routine and will hop in the crate on her own. The nice thing about the new job is that I don't have to be there until 10, so I can walk Iris before work (Iris says she has a bad mom because she knows other people who happily get up at 5:30 am to walk their Vizslas). I've tried leaving her with a kong, but she doesn't usually touch it and I haven't been giving her one lately with my brother home. He lets Iris out when he wakes up, and I can see one kong and two dogs causing problems later.

The nice thing for Iris right now is that Zeus and his people will be moving in this summer. This is good in that Iris won't have to spend much time in her crate. But I admit, I'm pretty worried about undoing her training around the house. And even more worried about how she'll handle more people coming in and out of the house. She might end up in the crate anyway. We'll see.