Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow Day!

It sounds like we got a lot less snow than our more southern friends. I'd say we got about six inches and it looks like it's slowing down. We actually have a pretty good amount of snow on the ground, but some of it is left over from the last snowfall. Since the older snow has a layer of ice on top, Iris can walk on top of it. It looks like we have barely anything on the ground.

A certain red dog has been stuck in the house for a little too long. There's a little field in right outside the condo so we went out to get some exercise.

snow + long line = very happy red dog

All of the tracks in the snow were made by Iris. Think she had a good time?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Four Weeks

The goal was to get Iris to go 2 months without any seizures. That was one of the big reasons for starting her on Phenobarbital. Since her seizures started, Iris has averaged about four weeks between clusters. She's always been in the the 3-5 week range, usually right around 4.

Since starting on Pb, she managed to go four weeks to the day between seizures. Actually, it was four weeks almost to the hour. She passed the four week mark by about 2 hrs. Damn it. The low dose of Pb didn't buy her any more time. The two seizures she had on Sunday morning (last weekend) were a little longer than "normal" for Iris. I gave her Valium during the second seizure and she came right out of it. No more seizures after that although the Valium made her really out of it for the rest of the day. At least Valium actually does something.

I held off on acupuncture while we were gradually increasing her Pb dose (to help with the ataxia she gets from Pb). I wanted to only change one thing at a time in case she suddenly got worse, but now her med dosage is consistent so acupuncture is our "next step". I want to give it a shot before we increase her meds yet again. Since Iris' seizures started, none of the medication changes have increased the time between seizures. She was going roughly four weeks before we started her on meds. It's definitely time to try something else.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snow Herding

Between getting Iris' seizures under control and getting my car issues sorted out, it's been two months since Iris' last herding lesson! I didn't realize it had been that long. Goes to show just how crazy life has been.

I thought we were going to get snowed out of our lesson, but we ended up getting a lot less snow than they predicted. Hooray!

Hey! I thought moving north meant more snow!

We got there early so we could watch some of Julie and Bug's lesson. It's been a while since I've seen Bug work and he is really fun to watch. Plus, I always learn a lot just from watching. There was another CWC there for a lesson too (the red dog was out numbered by the short dogs!), and he was very vocal while he worked. It's always really interesting to see how different dogs have different "styles."

When it was Iris' turn to work sheep, it was really hard to motivate her. Initially, she seemed interested but after getting corrected for lunging at sheep a couple of times, she pretty much checked out. The first time I brought her in the pen, I had her on a long line and the goal was to keep her moving and encourage her to fetch sheep. With the long line, it's easier to get her working again when she starts to check out. We've done the same thing during the last couple of lessons. The second time I worked Iris, we focused on driving and trying to get Iris motivated. I think she was pretty much fried for the day.

I've been thinking a lot about the lesson and I admit it, I was a little discouraged when we left. It seems like Iris used to have a lot more interest in sheep, did great at the Jan Wesen clinic, and since then she's really quit on me. Sometimes it seems like she does want to play, and then sometimes all she wants to do is glue her nose to the ground. It feels like she is a lot more stressed out than she used to be. Stressing my dog out wasn't the reason I got started in herding.

I think the problem is that Iris doesn't really understand what's expected of her (hence all the stress sniffing). I was thinking about it, and Iris tends to shut down if she's wrong. In agility, I'd lose her if I screwed up a sequence too many times. She'd start to get stressed. If I do any shaping with her, I have to be really careful about raising my criteria too fast or else she'll quit completely. Bad handler, the only feedback she was really getting during herding was "don't lunge at sheep like a crazy dog." From Iris' prespective what was she supposed to do? Ignore the sheep?

I know Diane said this to me during the lesson. MANY times. I need to remember to praise my dog when she's doing it right. If I'm excited and happy, she'll be excited and happy. Iris is extremely sensitive to my mood. I have to remember this! Iris loves verbal praise. The other day, I was working on "go to mat" with her and I was just using a click/treat as the reward. She was able to go all the way across the room to lie down on the mat, but she was very slow. Without thinking about it, one time when I rewarded her I told her what a good girl she was, petted her, and said "are you reeeaaaady? go!" She bounded over to the mat and slamed into a down. I know some people like to use purely a c/t as reward, but it doesn't work for my dog. She likes being told she's brilliant! It's only a reward if your dog thinks it's a reward! I think praise needs to be part of the reward for Iris.

So that was my little epiphany last night. If a "good girly!" can completely change Iris' demenor during a simple training game in my living room, then of course it would matter to her during herding. How many times did Diane try to tell me that? Too many to count! I tend to be quiet in general, and I'm not always good at giving Iris verbal feedback. Especially if I'm trying to think about what I'm doing at the same time, I forget to talk to her. I had the same problem in agility. If I remembered where to put my feet and where to hold to my arm, I probably forgot to actually say "tunnel."

The plan for next lesson is to start with sheep. We'll do the same thing with the long line and fetching and trying to get her motivated. Then Iris will get a break and the second time she works, we're going to try ducks. Starting on sheep will give Iris a chance to get some of her energy out, and switching to ducks should hopefully change the game enough for her that she'll want to keep playing. And I have to remember to tell her she's perfect!