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.