Friday, January 30, 2009

Agility Class

A few notes on agility class last week -
  • Iris was a bitch. I really need to get her out just to work her around other dogs/people. It's been a while since she tried to run over to the other dogs instead of playing agility with me. At the very beginning of class, I kept her right outside the door and she was actually doing a really good job of not reacting to the dogs inside. I'm not sure why she fell apart when we got inside.

  • TURN SOONER. I really need to remember this. My dog knows what a jump is. I don't need to run over and stand right next to the jump to show her where it is. She knows what she's doing. I had some trouble with her going too wide when we turned and therefore taking the wrong obstacle. This included taking the a-frame, which wasn't even part of the course. I need to turn my body and shoulders sooner.

  • Iris needs more work on weave poles but actually less than I thought. We haven't practiced much because the ice and snow has really limited us to indoor training. In class, the first time Iris approached the weaves, she missed them completely and took the tunnel. I do know what happened. I was thinking about the front cross between the weaves and the tunnel, so guess what obstacle I was looking at? Bad handler! During the first run, there were cages on all the weaves, but for the second run, the cages were only on one side. I forgot some of the cages were off and was only thinking about getting ahead of Iris to get the front cross in. Well, Iris was perfect! And she did it without me babying her. Good girl!

  • No flying off the teeter! Iris was awesome about waiting. I was a good distance behind her when I asked her to wait too.
Our last run of the night, I thought things were starting to come together. I had Iris turning in the right places and ignoring the other dogs. I managed to get both front crosses in (the second wasn't as pretty as the first, but they were both there!) But it felt good.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stir Crazy

I think my dog is going stir crazy. Or maybe just crazy. She's always been kind of crazy, but she's been in rare form this week. Ok, I admit it. She hasn't been getting enough exercise and I know that's the biggest part of the problem. The 18" of snow on the ground makes the state park a difficult option, the lack of sidewalks rules out most of the streets around here, and the apartment complex seems to be full of reactive dogs on retractable leashes. Plus it's just damn cold. So those are my excuses, but in the end I still need to get my dog out more.

We did get out to agility on Tues, which was good for both my dog and myself. I think I'm going stir crazy too. The course was set up for us to work on distance a bit more. I'm starting to think it might be good for us to take the 5 directions class again at some point. I did get Iris to switch a couple of times without spinning though. Also, it's starting to click in my head how important my path is and how much even just a little shift will completely change what Iris is doing. The sooner I turn, the tighter my dog turns. If I start to turn change my mind and try and correct it, Iris is making crazy little direction changes too. Yeah, I know it doesn't sound so revolutionary in text, but it was on Tuesday. Having it make sense in my head and actually getting my feet to do it right are two completely different matters. I make no guarantees for next class - I might still be all over the place, but at least I know my dog will be following me, right?

Iris had a chiro appointment on Wed, and everything was in good shape except that she had two intestinal points out of alignment. Anne thought maybe from licking salt off her paws? I apartment does use excessive amounts of salt on the walkways. Iris hasn't been acting sick, although she was hair-trigger reactive while we were waiting for her appointment. She was pretty edgy in agility class too, although I attributed it to having a new guy (Iris would be feminist if she was human) and a very handsome Aussie (who I think she secretly has a crush on even if she is a feminist. It's like in elementary school when instead of telling a boy you liked him, you pulled his hair instead. Don't want to get boy cooties). Iris was actually better than she was last time new dogs/people were in class, when she pretty much shut down and stress-sniffed through the whole course. I need to start being more proactive with her training around the apartment complex. I'd say 9 times out of 10 when we see another dog, the dog explodes at Iris. No wonder she's so edgy. But avoiding other dogs isn't really helping her burn off energy either. Rock and a hard place anyone?

Excess energy might be the theme of the week. Or it was all just an exercise in patience. Lately, I've been leaving Iris in an x-pen in my bedroom (she has access to her crate too). She's been having a lot more anxiety when I leave for work than she used to. I tried a DAP dispenser, leaving on music, and giving her a kong, and I was hoping a little more space with help. She was doing better, but I think she started getting bored. Her fun new game was to see how many things outside of her pen she could reach. She destroyed a bird's nest. Acquired a collection of pillows and blankets from my bed. Pulled a plush dog's head through the x-pen bars (I'm still not sure how she did that one). I thought everything was out of her reach, but it's not a big apartment and she had plenty of time to be creative. I kept moving things, but finally on Friday she figured out how to jump the 36" x-pen. She was quite proud of herself. Ok, so she's back in the crate tomorrow because I don't trust her to stay quiet if she can look out the window.

I had to work today, so I brought her in with me because I was the only one there. She slept in her crate the entire day. Not a peep. Played with a bully stick for little bit, got up for a drink of water, but slept solidly the rest of the time. That's right, my brat dog will sleep for 8 solid hrs if she's in a crate next to me but keeps herself quite busy if I leave her alone. I do think it's an anxiety thing. She's gotten worse about me leaving her anywhere. If I leave her in the car, she barks. If I leave her in the crate at class, she barks. I know that's partly her barking at the other dogs, but I think she's barking at me too. Need to start working on that too. This week will at least be a short week for her. Because I worked today, I'll have Friday off.

I tried to find another class to put her in - maybe an obedience class or something to get her out on another weeknight. Unfortunately, everywhere I looked started new sessions at the beginning on January, so we'd have to wait until March. There goes that idea. I'm trying to at least get another herding lesson scheduled. Hopefully I can get her out to run around a bit on Friday. It's supposed to be the warmest day this week with a high of 32 degrees.

Is it spring yet?

Friday, January 16, 2009


We started back at agility class this week, and Iris did great. As soon as we pulled into the driveway at the barn, she started crying. When I got out of the car and left her, it was the WORST THING EVER. It's a good thing I parked away from the barn because she was acting as if I was leaving her FOREVER. Crazy dog. Of course I went back for her after I walked the course. I guess someone was happy to be back at class. Ready to work or ready to cause trouble? Maybe a little bit of both.

The course had a couple pinwheels and a discrimination between a tunnel and the dogwalk. I had a lot of trouble getting Iris to take the tunnel instead of the dogwalk. I was turning too soon, so Iris was coming in toward me to take the dogwalk. It didn't help that Iris likes the dogwalk better than the tunnel. At one point, I blocked her from the dogwalk, so she squeezed in between the wall and the tunnel, climbed onto the tunnel and hopped onto the dogwalk. Brat dog. Eventually I did get her into the tunnel, so then she took the teeter at full speed. After she got that one out of her system (I swear, she thinks that's more fun), she was good about her "wait" for the rest of the night.

While we were waiting for Iris' second run-through, Katrin's puppy Obi, really wanted to play with Baxter. Iris was convinced that it's her job to tell the puppy not to bark. No Iris, you're not the ultimate supervisior of the world. She thinks she is. Even though she was all revved up, she was awesome about working with me when I brought her out afterward. I really need to stop second guessing my dog. It seems like every time I think she can't/won't do something, she proves me wrong. Oh, and it's been one year since we started agility! Yes, this dog has come leaps and bounds. And she still continues to exceed my expectations.

During the second run-though, we still had problems with the teeter and dogwalk discrimination. I think Iris did get it faster the second time. Also, the second time Katrin had us do a front cross before the tunnel (the first time I did a back cross). I think maybe that helped? I really needed to get the front cross in sooner since I always felt like Iris was coming straight at me over the jump, but she was getting tired so I had to push her a little to get her out to the second jump in the pinwheel. Agility is a bit like a balancing act sometimes. I did manage to only screw up the course once, which I actually felt pretty good about. In the past, I've only been able to keep track of a couple obstacles in a row. I think that's still me needing to have more confidence in both my dog and myself! Because I expected to screw up after the third obstacle and didn't, I certainly hadn't planned for the fourth.

I had a nice tired Aussie dog when I got home.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Corneal Dystrophy

My poor crazy dog has been poked and podded. She's had stains and drops put in her eyes. She's been so good throughout the whole thing but I think she says enough is enough.

We went back to vet this week to recheck her eyes and for bloodwork. Her eyes are still a little runny, and the spots haven't changed. The spots still don't look like corneal ulcers. They just look like cholesterol deposits. We decided to do bloodwork to rule out a few things including thyroid deficiency. Poor Iris, they had to draw blood from her front leg and her back leg to get enough.

Anyway, all of Iris' bloodwork came back normal, which is good. That leaves us with either corneal dystrophy or the less likely possibility that they're caused by the irritation from her allergies. Dr K really thinks that it's corneal dystrophy because both eyes are nearly symmetrical and the spots are located towards the center of her eye.

Corneal dystrophy is inherited but is not common in Aussies. According to the ASHGI about 1 in 200 Aussies are affected, but at least some of those cases are actually caused by thyroiditis. Iris' thyroid level are normal, so it seems like it's just dumb luck that she ended up with one of the uncommon genetic problems for the breed. This article from the Animal Eye Specialists is the best information I've found, and it really does describe what's going on with Iris. It's also one of the only websites I've seen that lists Australian Shepherds as one of the breeds that can be affected.

Unfortunately, there's not really anything we can do about it. Right now, the spots don't seem to affect her vision, and the vet thinks they're still translucent enough that they probably don't bother her. They could get worse and they could start to affect her vision. But they might not and there's no way to know if they ever will get worse.

As far as how runny her eyes are, she's on drops for another week to see if it will help. While I do think her eyes are significantly better than they were a month ago, they're not completely cleared up. Hopefully this will take care of it. The vet didn't seem concerned at all and didn't seem to think we need to pursue any sort of treatment if her eyes don't stop running. A lot of dogs just have tear stains all the time. It probably is an environmental allergy, although I was hoping the carpets would have stopped bothering her by now. The thing is, I had her for a year and her eyes were fine. It's only been a problem since the fall I think? It started before we moved into the apartment, but not too long before. But I'm starting to run out of ideas for things than I actually can change in the apartment.

I'm still thinking about switching her to a raw diet. Maybe if I can improve her overall health, she'll have an easier time dealing with environmental allergies? Otherwise, I feel like we're at a bit of a dead end.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Iris had a herding lesson last weekend. She hasn't had a lesson in a while, but she was great! The field was really muddy and Iris did not want to down in the mud. Such a princess! Colleen has me step on Iris' leash when she won't down. The first time I did it, she spread her legs way out and was as close to a down as she could get without her belly actually touching the ground. Goofy dog!

We worked on walk up and out, and Iris was having a little trouble focusing on her stock. I'd walk her up near the sheep, wait for her to look at the stock, and then have her out. When we walked up, she was so busy trying to supervise everything - cars on the other side of the field, sheep in different pens, etc.

We also worked on get around and fetching. Iris is getting much better about changing direction for get around. There's still one direction that she really prefers. I think it's clockwise? But overall, she's a lot better. For fetching, I walk around the pen and it's Iris' job to bring the sheep to me. She's really starting to get the hang of it. She has to switch her direction back a forth behind the sheep so that she doesn't circle around behind me. Iris still wants to nip at the sheep's heels, but Colleen pointed out that there really isn't any malice in Iris' nips. She's not biting them hard. Eventually, we will get Iris to work further away from the sheep, but right now it's more important that Iris stay engaged.

Overall, I thought it was a great lesson, especially considering how long it's been since Iris has seen sheep. She wasn't doing as many "fly-bys" as she's done in the past, and was much more willing to stay working with the sheep. By the end of the lesson, we we both COVERED in mud, but I had a very happy (and tired) Aussie dog.