Friday, March 27, 2009

Beach Portraits

Over the course of our beach trips, I decided that I wanted to get some nice portraits of Iris. Iris was really not interested in portrait time. Beach time is for running, not for sitting.

I was amazed by the number of photos I ended up with that she has her eyes closed in.

Then when I finally did get her to look at me, all she wanted to do was make funny faces. I really think she's actually a gremlin.

Iris, how'd you end up with sand all over your nose?

What? I wasn't doing anything.

I had a very specific shot in mind, and this is as close as I could get -

You can really see just how much she tends to walk on a tightrope. It's not a bad shot, but I had a much nicer shot in my head. The problem I had was as soon as I knelt down to be at Iris' eye level, she would turn and come toward me. Most of the moving shots are her moving straight toward me. I snuck in a couple shots when she wasn't looking at me but try as I might, I just couldn't get the one I had in my head. It reminded me just how nice it is to have a second person acting as handler. One of these days I'll have to bring another human to the beach with us.

Ok, I did actually manage to get a couple of shots that I'm happy with.

This next one is actually my favorite shot. She's busy supervising the dogs at the other end of the beach. Crazy dog.

Her profile looks so much "sharper" than she does from the front. Her profile photos have such a different feeling to them than her straight on shots.

I did eventually let her go back to doing what she really loves.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jump Boxes

Last night class was jump boxes. Oh no..... Actually, I think it's pretty safe to say that it was the best jump box class I've had with Iris. This may have been because the focus was on front crosses and not rear crosses, but I still thought it was a very good class for us. In the past, Iris has stressed out about jump boxes a little (possibly because I get nervous doing them? I've never been confident about that sort of exercise). I had the day off from work yesterday, so I think we were both pretty relaxed going into class.

Here are the course diagrams and a good definition of "layering" from Julie. It's the first time (I think) that I've tried to do layering with Iris.

The first time we did the first course, I didn't give myself enough space after the fourth jump in order to be outside the boxes. The trick was to ask Iris to go a little wide between jumps 4 and 5 so I could get on the outside. Once I figured out where to put my feet, Iris had no problem with the added distance. Good girl! I still have some trouble figuring out where exactly to put my feet for front crosses, but the second time we did the course we made it through the whole course! Making it over 7 jumps doesn't really sound like much, but last time we did jump boxes in class, we really struggled through it. Granted, this class was a very different concept than the February class, but I still feel like it's a little victory.

The second course had two front crosses and the dog had to make a tight turn after the second to last jump. We haven't really worked on tight in a while and I kept forgetting to give poor Iris enough space to come between me and the jump. It's not that I was crowding her space - there physically wasn't enough space for her to walk between me and jump. Bad handler! After a couple tries, I did remember and then Iris had a easy time with it. Katrin also pointed out that I kept dropping my arm and confusing my dog. If I'm thinking a lot about the course, I forget to keep my arm up and I don't give poor Iris enough information. Definitely something I need to remember!

At the end of the night, I tried to run her one time too many. Iris had a great night up until the last run, and I think by then she was completely brain-fried. She'd been pretty stressed about the other dogs all night and by that point, I'd completely lost her focus. Other dogs making noise is a HUGE trigger for Iris, and I think it's something I need to made a big effort to work on with her. You would think after living with a Beagle that she'd be completely desensitized to barking!

I admit it, I cringed a little when I got to class and saw the jump boxes but I actually had a really good time and learned a lot.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Beach Fun!

So this is where we've been hanging out for the last few weekends.

Gorgeous? Yes. Probably too much driving? Also yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

Hey! What's all that stuff?

Pfftttt!!!! Definitely NOT water! Yuck!

Is the water hiding in the shells? Pffttt! That's not water either!
Hey! I thought you said there was water at the beach?

I quickly discovered that it's a bit of challenge to photograph a dog that wants to be right here:

I shouldn't complain! Part of me really wanted her to go out a little ways so I could actually get some shots of her, but I was actually pretty pleased that she was so willing to stick around.

Instead, we practiced stays...

...and recalls!

Notice that NONE of her paws are actually touching the ground. She thought it was just the greatest game ever if I asked her stay, walked way down the beach, called her, and then started running. Retrievers chase balls, herders chase.... people? Silly girl. Not necessarily a safe game to play while holding camera. I almost got run over numerous times.

It seems a certain Aussie doesn't always understand how to slow down!

We saw these guys almost every time we went. Iris was very interested, but also very good (she was on a leash at that point).

We even waved to this guy when he flew over us. Very cool!

And then time for some more running...


I suppose the big question is, does she ever stop running? Maybe, by the very end she starts to get a little tired. Tired, but VERY happy.

When the sky starts looking like this, I take that as a cue that it's time for us to head home.

I'm going to see if any of the more northern beaches allow dogs still now that we've lost Horseneck to the birds.

Goodbye Horseneck until the fall!

Tues Agility

My brain was very fuzzy on Tues. I'm glad Julie posted the course map because otherwise, I might not remember the class well enough to blog about it. In hindsight, I maybe should have stayed home. I was practically falling asleep driving home after work (leaving work early enough to get to class also means sitting in horrible traffic. It's a 30 min drive with no traffic, a 40 min drive if I leave at 6, and a 50-60 min drive if I leave at 5. I really need to see if I can figure out another way to get home).

It was a very good good class, and I'm glad I went. The course had two 180s, and I think I have a MUCH better idea of what the difference is between a 180 and serpentine and also how to handle both. For serpentine, the dog should be splicing the jumps and running in a straighter line. For 108s, the dog needs to be reversing direction more dramatically. So, for the course on Tues, I tried to do a cross (front cross-ish thing) between jumps 8 and 9. I wasn't very neat about it, but we did pull it off. I did a front cross after the first set of weaves which was much neater although it felt a little like cheating because the weaves had all the cages on so I knew Iris wasn't going anywhere!

The first time we ran the course, we had trouble with the last tunnel and jump. Iris came out of tunnel thinking she was going for the second tunnel, not the jump. The next time, I led out from the teeter and did a front cross before the tunnel. It worked better especially since I've been practicing stays with her anyway.

Behavior wise, she was a little snarky but not over the top like she has been. In general, the dogs were pretty quiet on Tues, which is always easier for my bossy dog.

EDIT - I keep forgetting to mention, Iris is somewhat officially switched to raw diet. She's thrilled! Every time I put her bowl down, she checks with me to make sure it's really ok for her to eat. Very funny!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Training Update

The warmer weather has meant lots of outdoor training time. I've been able to get the weave poles out again, so hopefully we'll start making some good progress on those. We've been working on all cages off only on the side that I'm not on. I think Iris is really starting to "get" that it's her job to finish all six poles. She still occasionally pops out early, but I think she's getting it right about 80% of the time. A bit of a side benefit to practicing weave poles is that we've also been doing a lot of basic obedience. Iris gets bored with repetition very quickly, so I've found that she gets a lot more out a training session if I vary it. We'll do weave poles a couple times, practice some stays and recalls, then some heeling, and then another couple times through the weave poles. I haven't had much of plan with the obedience work. It's mostly just been because I really don't want Iris to decide that weave poles are boring. We did do some specific work on stays while I moved around because she was having trouble with that during class. Her heeling has gotten a lot better too! I'm starting to think about trying to work on actual Obedience with her. I think it would be helpful for me to have more of a goal than just keeping my dog from getting bored. Plus it seems like she's enjoying it too.

It's only just starting to be light enough when I get home from work for me take her outside to practice on weekdays. Instead, I've been trying to work on some shaping with her because it's easy to do inside. Iris stresses out about being "wrong" so I'm hoping that shaping little tricks will help her learn to try new things. So far, I've got her putting her front paws up on an upside down pot and moving her back feet around it a little. I also really want to teach her to put her to paw on her nose as if she's playing "the nose game." Right now, I have her touching her paw to her nose as if she's brushing something off, and I think we're a little stuck. I'm not quite sure how to get her hold her paw on her nose. She is doing exactly what I want but she's only doing it for a split second. I think part of the problem is my timing. If I'm a little late, I think I'm clicking for her moving her paw away from her nose, which might be part of the problem.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Polka Dots

On Saturday, I took Miss Iris for for a walk through a neighborhood up the street. Well, everyone was outside enjoying the weather. We saw a group of young kids on bikes (all girls). Iris was VERY good. When they saw us coming, one of them very proudly announced to her friends, "Look, it's a Collie just like Lassie. And she has polka-dots!"

It was so cute. All of the kids were very polite too, even though they were very interested in my polka-dotted dog. I just thought that was such a cute description of merle!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday Agility

I have to say, Iris was MUCH better this week than she was last week. Oh, she wasn't perfect. She still had her bratty moments, but overall she was much more relaxed. She even managed to stay mostly quiet in her crate even with the other dogs making a lot of "excited dog" noises and through Remy's second run (something she couldn't handle last week because Remy barks when he runs). I admit, she got A LOT of cheese to keep her quiet, but at least it seemed to work.

Here's the course map from Julie. We had a little trouble with the serpentine at first, but Iris had a much easier time with it once I remembered to turn my shoulders (my reoccurring theme). Iris overshot the table every time. I really should build a table once I have a place for it. Maybe I could build one and keep it at my dad's house. Table and tire are my two nice-weather projects. Every time we did the table in class, Iris jumped on the table and kept going. She was good about turning around and coming back to the table, but I'd like to get her staying on the table the first time she jumps on it, not the second.

Iris was also having trouble with her stays. She got up early the first time she was on the table She really wanted to release every time I turned my shoulders instead of waiting for the "okay." She even broke her stay on the teeter. I helped her out a little by not turning much once I realized that's what she was doing. It's definitely something we need to practice more at home. Now that the weather is nicer, I should be able to get her over to the fenced-in tennis courts this weekend to practice stays and recalls.

We had some trouble with the rear cross and weave poles. I wasn't giving Iris nearly enough space so she kept missing the first pole. We did get it figured out, but then I would praise her whenever she'd get the rear cross. I think I was hesitating a little when I'd praise (and because I was happy just to get the cross!) so Iris kept stopping after the first pole. I should have just let he go. Different entrances for weaves is something else I have to remember to practice. I realized that recently when we've practiced weaves at home, I've been having her run through pretty much in a straight line. Bad handler! Iris had a much easier time with the first and last sets of weaves. Especially the last set of weaves, she was really getting up good speed. In general, she seems to have an easier time with the weaves if I help her out less. I'm probably cramping her style.

We did have a funny moment during out first run. I completely forgot where we were going after the second set of weaves. I was just happy that we got the rear cross figured out! Iris, my smart little red dog, kept going over the next three jumps despite the fact that I was no where near where I should have been. It's a good thing my dog knows what we're doing even if my head is in the clouds! And she always manages to make me smile.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LOL Aussie

It might be that it's getting late and I've spent the better part of the night going through a lot of photos (mostly the boring job of resizing old photos for another project). The new dog photos were at the end of the to-do list.

I meant to post all of the dog photos at the same time, but I can't stop laughing at this one. I probably need to go to bed.

Hold on, I think we might need a close up of her face.

She's such a goof.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Agility Class

Just so no one thinks the week was a total loss - we did make to a very cold agility class on Tues (and to the beach yesterday, but that's another post...) Plus, I think today needs a more upbeat post. Here's a cute dog photo to start with.

Iris! Quit making funny faces and pay attention. One of these days your face will get stuck like that.


Ok fine. You get weird dog photos instead of cute dog photos. My dog is weird.

Now about agility. Last Tuesday's class was the first class in a new session so three dogs (including Iris) are the same from last session and the other three are new. Also, there are three Aussies in class! All we need is a solid red Aussie and we've got the whole color set.

Iris was not impressed with the addition of new dogs and was really reactive. Other dogs barking is a huge trigger for her, and one of the new dogs barks the entire time he runs. Iris went nuts. It didn't matter if we were in the parking lot or if she was in her crate. She wanted the whole world to know that there is NO barking allowed. Sheesh. Note for future classes - I need to take Iris out when Remy runs. Not because Remy is doing anything wrong. Iris just can't handle it. It will probably be a good experience for her in the end. She had some moments when we were outside where she was doing really well. It will be a good opportunity for me to work with her around something I know really bothers her.

The course was another chance to practice rear crosses. We did the rear cross version (the maps are great, Julie!) Considering how fired up Iris was, I thought she did an awesome job of staying with me. She wasn't perfect. She really wanted to go cause trouble, but for the most part she seemed pretty happy to work. I think she likes this agility thing when she manages to take a break from supervising. Our second run was better than the first, which seems to be a trend for us - but a good trend! I know I was late on the rear cross between the two jumps. I need to let her get more ahead of me so I'm not practically stepping over her for the cross. At least she did it without spinning! That better than where we were a few weeks ago, so I'll take it.

Now I'm wondering if her stress at home is contributing to her reactivity in class. I know, I know. I meant to keep this post upbeat, but I'm still worrying about her anxiety during the week. I have to work and I have to find a way to make it comfortable for my dog. Thinking more about it and looking back through some of the old blog entries, it's an issue that's been building up since we were living at the house. I feel like I should go smack my head against a wall for letting things get worse, but I should probably go walk my dog instead.

And as a final note, thank you to everyone in class who moved jump bars up and down an extra time for me because the red dog was being too much of a brat to run with the other 20" dogs! Especially since I was trying to get her to settle down outside, so I don't think I was much help moving bars for any of the other dogs.

Iris would say thank you too, but right now she's busy trying to fit her tongue back in her mouth.

Long Week

The past week was a long week for a certain little red dog. It seems like Iris' anxiety was in overdrive all week. She's been better about me leaving for work (I think), if I'm pretty quiet about leaving. I came home on Wednesday and could hear her barking as soon as I got close to my apartment. I suspect it was in anticipation of me coming home? As much as I hated doing it, I left her in her crate for a little while after I walked in since I didn't want her thinking that the order of events is "bark bark bark, I walk in the apartment, she stops barking, and I immediately let her out." She needs to stay quiet. So far, the neighbors have been beyond tolerant. I know crating her while I'm at work is too long, but switching her to an x-pen didn't make any difference. Even on the nights that she was quiet when I walked in, I could tell that she'd just been in there panting. She's turning her front legs and mouth pink from panting and drooling.

I've thought about having someone come in to walk her or maybe leaving her at a doggie day care, but I don't think either is really a good option for us. She's been so reactive to other dogs and people lately around the apartment complex that I'm not sure I want someone else walking her. Plus, she'd have to go through the stress of someone leaving her all over again. She's not a great candidate for doggie day care because she's so picky about other dogs. I could board her during the day, but she'd just be sitting alone in a strange place instead of in her familiar crate. I don't see that as being less stressful, although it would probably be nicer for my neighbors.

At least the weather is getting warmer. Iris has gotten a TON of exercise this weekend. Hopefully more exercise will take some of the edge off. Right now it's looking possible that we'll be moving into a house in early summer instead of an apartment. No guarentees yet, but our lease is up the first week of June. If we end up renting in a house, I'll be able to set up a bigger space for Iris during the day instead of just the crate. So think positive thoughts for us! Also, I might try and get down to my dad's next weekend so she can have a "play date" with her Beagle. I know she misses Henry. Unfortunately, Beagles are one of the banned breeds in my apartment complex (that's right - pit bulls, Rotties, GSDs, and Beagles!)

So now it seems like we're still right back to where we started. For the next couple months, she has to stay in the crate. If I can get her relaxing more, I could try moving her to the x-pen again. I've been trying to research separation anixety via the internet and haven't really found anything useful. She doesn't really fit the typical sparation anxiety decription. When I'm home, she's pretty independent. She doesn't follow me around, doesn't need constant attention. I already do a loose version of NILIF with her and try to make my coming and going as low key as possible. Any other ideas? Someone did suggest getting a video camera and recording her for the day. Maybe there's something happening during the day that I don't know about (noise upstairs? A delievery truck outside?) that's setting her off. I'm not sure if I can get access to a camera that would record all day. Maybe a webcam? I don't know. I'm just thinking out loud right now.

Another thought - maybe I should look more into something like Flower Essences? Anyone had any luck? I've tried Rescue Remedy but without much result. Although maybe it just wasn't the right choice?

My poor little red dog. Sometimes I really wish dogs could understand English.