Tuesday, March 31, 2009 NOT for your pet

I meant to write the other day, after seeing a post about a dog being given away. Today, it was an opened bag of dog food. And I felt compelled to say something.

The freecycle network is actually quite an amazing thing. It takes the trash that would otherwise find its way curbside and into landfills, into the hands of someone who considers it treasure. Got a box of non-matching glass jars? Hey, here is someone who needs them for a mosiac! In the short time I have been enrolled (have yet to actually post, but rest assured I have tons of potential treasures!) I have seen many interesting items change hands; boxes of baby clothes, office furniture, PC monitors and toys. You can post things you need, as well as what you have. The concept is essentially a positive thing.

Here is where I part ways, however. I do not believe that any animal should be included in "come get it or it's going to the curb" practice. The person giving up the dog could, of course, do a more thorough job of screening the takers but something tells me that if they equate their pet to household trash, it ain't gonna happen. So far I have seen dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs and kittens. Does anyone think that they have gone to good homes? Or care if they have been fed to snakes, or used as fighting dog bait? Nope, they are out of the house and good riddance. Now where is that high chair?

This morning, an opened bag of dog food was posted. The author said her dog did not like the food. For anyone who has been through the contaminated pet food scares, what was one of the first signs of a problem? Your pet did not want to eat the food! Additionally, even in the best of facilities there are sometimes food storage problems, and moldy bags that pass through to the consumer. Your dog will know something is up and probably decline to eat it. So, should you give it away to someone else? If that person was your friend, fed that feed and could trust that this was an issue of a fussy dog and not bad food, perhaps. But to place it on a the "free to a good home" list? I think not. I realize there are indeed folks who grab whatever bag is the cheapest week by week and will happily scavenge a half eaten bag, but I think it is a poor idea. In my opinion, NO EDIBLE items should be posted. What's next, a half eaten sandwich?

You can find chain link and dog crates and bedding at Freecycle and save oodles of cash. But please, do not seek out or place your pet through that site. I'm shouting in the wind on this, as there are now a host of sites where you can sell anything, with few limitations and no screening. This is not even delving into the possibilities of someone wanting to see you or your home or otherwise make criminal activity from your good intentions. There is common sense advice to heed when inviting strangers to your home to pick up items. And since hamsters and puppies cannot be placed at curbside for pick up, that means a person you do not know will be coming to your home. They may even ask alot of personal questions concerning how the animal was cared for, that reveals your daily activities and habits.

I do not believe that edible items or living creatures have a place being posted through Freecycle. Recycle your junk, not your pet.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jinx Channels Ivan B

Not really, but we did give it a try, just to see if dressing the part motivated her to give it a real work out! Frankly, she wasn't thrilled about the bandana but for the most part, she tolerates the crazy things I ask her to do.

When Jinx first began her rehab, and was getting accustomed to her hobble/restraint system, she wore an Under Armor shirt over the harness to prevent her from messing with it and to keep it in place. We even sent a photograph to the Under Armor company, praising their product. They did not answer. Apparently having a dog model their gear wasn't high on the list of "things we want to promote." But, hey, it worked!

We have progressed to the point where she has a tiny pink weight to velcro around her leg, either on the foreleg or between the paw and pastern. That prompted me to put a bandana on her head. She REALLY looked at me as if I was crazy when I started singing, "you're a maniac, ma-ni-ac....." (thus firmly establishing my age). Jinx tolerated it and seemed to be amused that I was so humored by her appearance. For her weight exercises she has to offer her paw and I require that she also extends it, so not only is she lifting it, she is also exercising the possibly nerve damaged area.

She has also learned to "sit pretty" which means to sit up on her haunches and balance, and to offer me a paw. However, as I attempted to photograph it I realized that my verbal commad has a proximity attached to it. Whenever I got too far away, she would become confused over what I was asking, as apparently I have taught her that the command criteria involves having me within several feet. I'll have to work on that one, but was unable to get a photograph by myself. It's really cute, though; a definate hit on the dinner theater circuit! From that position she will learn to "wave", by repeatedly offering her paw and that becomes the bicycle like action of the human machine used in physical therapy.

As you can see from the photograph, the vet does have some concerns yet as to possibly nerve damage. The 'knuckling" when resting is something that had worried me previously. I do see it less and less, and Dr. Bruce advised at our last visit, that the nerves will regenerate, so this is merely a matter of being patient as she continues to recover. I hold out any ray of hope like a carrot to our sled, and continue to march toward that goal.

We still do the cavaletti and she is very good about lifting her foot. I told her today that I can already see the rippling muscles in her shoulder! She continues to practice her "lay" (dead dog, flat on your side) position from which I can ask her to flex her head to her shoulder.

Because I noted she tends to stand like a tripod, with her hind feet wide and the good front leg centered, we also use exercise bands on her hind legs to keep them closer under her body. This prompts her to put her injured leg to the ground. I do think that the traditional gundog hobbles might actually work better, because the rubber bands stretch. Of course, those are only for stationary exercises. The last thing I need is to have Jinx fall over onto that shoulder or try to catch herself. She is so tolerant of all these devices.

Walks are high on the list of acceptable exercise, which has necessitated the addition of a "walk" command, which means "keep all four feet on the ground". This is helpful when Jinx decides she would like to sprint and to carry the injured leg up. I am fortunate that due to her training I can stop her and remind her to "walk." I also use that command when she wants to heel with me and carry the leg elevated.

Jinx has to earn all her meals through work. Sadly, she has porked on some pounds being sedentary and if I added training treats to her regular meals, she would swell like a woodtick on a labrador. One way she earns her meals is by tracking. And she is getting darned good at it, and quite persistent! The first thing she does when I let her out to potty is to look for a track she might have missed. Tracking puts her head down so that she cannot hop, and must move one foot and then the other. I had begun doing this in the house, laying a trail of kibble that wound through the kitchen and livingroom but now that the weather has improved, I lay tracks outdoors so that we can legitimately combine rehab with applicable training. If nothing else, Jinx will be a devoted tracking student by the time we're through!

The most recent addition to our reportoire is to have her offer me her *good* paw, while bearing weight on the other. So far, I have only attached the word and I pick up the paw myself, but being the food motivated creature she is, I think we will soon find success. However, this one is more difficult because she wants to stretch out instead of keeping her injured leg underneath her. I believe that as she builds muscle tone, it will also become easier for her to do.
I believe this (septic vent) to be the culprit in the injury. At the risk of sounding like a lunatic, I have a picture in my mind of Jinx running, looking over her shoulder at Cooper, and smacking into the pvc pipe.

This week Jinx will have her first swim therapy session. If I don't have my hands full, I will try to get some photographs of that. One small step for dog therapy, one giant leap for Jinx! For anyone rehabbing a dog following an injury, I hope that these blogs inspire you not to give up and to think outside the box.

Hooray for Spring!

Time to celebrate the positive! Despite a late snowfall this past week, I think we are now on our way to spring. Hundreds of geese have been flying over and landing in the fields in front of the house. The finches are returning to the feeders, and I am finally able to train my dogs outside without wearing hip boots! Enough of dark thoughts, and wasting time worrying about why other people are irresponsible or just plain ignorant~ seize the day! Run, play and yell at the sky with joy!
Along the length of our North border runs the Black Creek, for which our town and township are named. For much of the year, I find it quite scarey looking. The leaching leaves render it a very dark and ominous color and when I can't see the bottom of a river, it worries me. A short distance to the south of the creek (or "crick" if you were born here) we have a pond. Actually, a wildlife scrape, which evaporates to a shallow mud hole by August, home to cattails and frogs. However, in the spring it is indeed a pond, with glorious clear, blue waters that call out for dogs to run through them. The waters of the creek push past the banks and leave a flooded expanse that becomes home to the ducks and geese. Although I can't follow the deer trails as I do in winter, evidence of their travels is stamped in the mud. For now, the color is that of dead grass but soon it will alive with green. I am so happy to see Spring!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Puppy Fever

It is spring. One of the most certain signs of spring is not the mud, the blooming flowers or special holidays; it is puppy fever. Spring calls out for the addition of puppy feet in the household. And by gosh, we must have a puppy NOW!

In the last month I've seen several examples of puppy fever. One woman called and thought she might be interested in schutzhund. No, she had not selected her puppy with that in mind. No, it did not have a recognizable pedigree, in fact, I'm not sure if there were papers. The owner couldn't recall the name of the seller, but had found them through the newspaper. I evaluated the puppy, which happen to be a long coated German Shepherd, and was pleasantly surprised (dare I say, practically shocked?) to find him to be a nice, stable puppy with workable prey drive! The woman planned to come the next week to begin training.

She never showed up. Several weeks later, after I sent an email inquiring if everything was okay, she revealed that her circumstances with a significant other and the time needed to devote to school had changed, and she needed to find a new home for the puppy. She wondered if there was anyone I knew who might be interested? I told her I would give the information if that occurred that it was unlikely A short time passed and I got an email from another gal to whom the poor puppy had been passed. Guess what? She wondered if I might have suggestions for placement as the her landlord didn't want 3 dogs there! She was also hoping to be paid more money than the original owner had paid! I bluntly told her the puppy had now been screwed over twice now and the best thing would be to surrender it to the Humane Society or German Shepherd Rescue where they would at least screen potential owners and likely find him a decent home. No such luck~ she knew someone in the country where he would have room to run. This story breaks my heart, because against all odds, this puppy from a nondescript background turned out to be a nice little dog and all the future had to offer him was being passed around.

In another case, I saw a gentleman make an impulse buy of a puppy that was brought to a seminar; younger than most breeders release their pups, no shots and no papers. Caught by puppy fever!

And in a final recent incident, I observed a man also at a seminar who stopped by with a new puppy that he had purchased "down the street". As German Shepherds go, it appear to have several physically aesthetic details that were faulty and was quite passive for a youngster. It could be that this pup actually has the drive to do the work the owner intends it to do, but it could also be pounded a square peg into a round hole, where no one is left satisfied.

We get many phone calls in the spring, of people looking for puppies and wanting them NOW. They don't inquire about the genetics, or the titles and training, or even pedigrees. They only want to know when the puppies will be born, so that it corresponds with summer vacation, or the new job, or the alignment of the moon. Sometimes, I have to say, I just hope they get what they deserve for their poor planning and lack of thought, but I have to wonder who suffers most? My money says it is the puppy who gets passed around because of a spur of the moment decision, or who does not meet the expectations of the owner. I also have to admit that it does make me wonder why we work so hard to investigate the right dogs to breed, to genetically test them, to train and title, and then to nuture and care for the puppies to ten weeks of age, by which time they are microchipped and tattooed, have been exposed to gunfire, crate training and travel, and clicker training and are well on their way to being social adaptable, confident dogs; why we do all this when people will buy the next puppy in a pen at a seminar? Why do we register them when people will buy a puppy down the street without papers? Why we spend all the time we do to properly raise and environmentally challenge the puppies, when a newspaper ad is more attractive?

At the end of the day, I know why we do things right. It is because it is the ethical and right thing to do, for the well being of our dogs, and the breeds they represent. Doing things the right way is more expensive and time consuming, and yes, it does get very frustrating to watch people hawk puppies at seminars and be willing to send a dog home with someone they have not pre screened.

As a buyer, it is critical that you identify what your goals are for the dog and select the breed AND the particular breeding that is best suited to that, as well as your personal strengths and experience, and time/family contraints. Do not be bound by your personal schedule, as easy as that sounds. Finding the best dog may not occur in a neat little window of time. If this is to be a companion and partner who will live for 12-14 years potentially, be certain that it is clear of known diseases and defects that occur in that breed and do not be afraid to ask for PROOF. One of the biggest scams I hear often is buyers being told that a dog's hips are "good" or even "excellent" when they have never been Xrayed, and there are no films on file. They will make that claim that "no one has had problems in the line" when all that means is that no one has bothered to have a dog Xrayed or the films were never submitted. Make certain that the dog has the registration that you need to meet your goals, if you plan to compete. NEVER buy a puppy at a wayside or a seminar. Never, ever, ever. No breeder who cares about their dogs would sell a puppy to you there. What do you think they're basing their decison on? The cool way you trick out your pickup? Stop a minute and THINK. Better yet, go home, research some more and then make a decision. And if the buyer doesn't care enough to get to know you, you shouldn't want to know them. I have seen some decent pups from no-name kennels and some not so great dogs from big-name kennels. That is a bit of the crap shoot that is breeding; the difference between those two however will likely be the guarantee and what you can expect if things go wrong. A reputable breeder should be willing to take back the dogs they have produced and be responsible for them.
Yes, spring is indeed in the air. Use it wisely.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Finding Your Yoda

I heard this phrase the other day, in reference to which trainer(s) an individual respected or followed. The man asked "is he your Yoda?"

Most of us who have trained for any length of time can identify our Yoda. Generally your Yoda is someone whose methods you like, and whose accomplishments you aspire to. You would not model yourself after someone who had not achieved the same goals you set for yourself! That would be like wanting to break into a business and following the advice of the janitor. Yes, he works in the same building but he has no personal knowledge of how to get from the Point A to the Point B you wish to.

For newcomers to dog sport, your Yoda could be someone else in the club whose has earned those titles you are working toward, who understands the rules and how to train for that level, who can guide you through the process. Or it could be a trainer that you work with regularly. Yoda's can also change. As you progress in your own training and accomplishments you will naturally seek out someone who has once again achieved more than you.

The problem in not having a Yoda is that you have no one to model yourself after, and the goals become difficult to visualize. You find yourself led in conflicting directions by well meaning advice. And worst of all, you may be receiving advice from people who are the "janitors" of the sport. How will you recognize them? The easiest way to recognize the false prophets is that when everyone else is working dogs, they are standing on the sidelines, either disagreeing with what is being done or giving advice to any victims within range. They always have a better way or could do better, but yet amazingly, have never titled a dog! Maybe they even coaxed a title out of one, but it has never been repeated, or they purchased a trained dog and are now telling you how to raise a puppy. We can all think of someone who meets this description. To us they are mildly annoying, but to a maleable newcomer to the sport, they can be downright dangerous. They monopolize the new member and serve to fracture cohesiveness of a club.

Another means of recognizing these people is through their use of scientific terms. The impression is that they must know what they are talking about, since they use lengthy phrases to describe it. The implication is also that if you do not understand, then you are more ignorant and should pay attention to them. They talk, but they cannot "do". They may also refer to their own Yoda, but knowledge of a well known name does not make them a trainer.

In the example at the beginning of the story, the woman answering said that this man was her Yoda for certain aspects of her training. You may find that you draw from the experience of several people whose work you admire, but for different parts of your training. Becasue people are not always equally gifted in all areas, it makes sense to seek out the most accomplished in each. Or the most accomplished that is accessible to you.

When you audition Yodas, seek out a person in the position you aspire to whose methods you like and are comfortable with. You may not elect to make the same sacrifices as they did to reach that point, but can take the positive aspects that apply to your work. You might determine you cannot ethically do the things that they did to reach those goals. There are some things I simply will not compromise my ethics on, in order to reach the podium. And you might find that you have several Yodas, at different levels of accessibility. This could include a trainer with whom you work regularly in seminar, and your club training director. Understand that someone else may have a different Yoda that suits their needs and goals. It does not make them wrong, only different UNLESS they set out to undermine other members with critcism and argument.

In time you may find yourself in the position to be Yoda to a new member. And, as Yoda said" NOT THINK. DO."

A work in progress- Jinx's rehab

As Jinx progresses with her rehab, I wonder how many people whose dogs have suffered similar injuries, are willing and able to commit the amount of time this has taken? I did pose this question to the therapist during a visit and she said some owners will look at her and say "you want me to do WHAT?" It would be impossible to do with an untrained dog, in my opinion.

When Jinx initially came home following surgery, she was in the hobble system within several days. I was told that some dogs do not tolerate them, and will tear them off. In addition to becoming very expensive, this would make their recovery more difficult. She had to remain still. That meant being in the crate or on her bed. No bedroom access which would tempt her to leap onto the bed, although for the first few weeks I don't think she felt well enough to attempt that. I was able to send her to her dog bed, where she would remain for hours, or all day, until released. She was perfectly content to lay there and watch the world go by around her. I could tell the change in her attitude at week 3, where she began to move around more. I think she had the good sense to know her body needed to be still and heal. But what if your dog was not crate trained, or resisted being crated? What if you could not tell your dog to lay down and remain in one place? You would have weeks of struggling; again, counterproductive to recovery.

At 12-15 weeks post op, these are the home exercises we are given to do, with 2-3 sessions per day:
  1. Passive Range of Motion of elbow joint: flex elbow to point of stopping, hold for 10 seconds, relax and repeat. Affected limb only.
  2. All 4's rocking: Dog standing on all 4's OUT OF HOBBLES. With hands on dogs' shoulders, gently push dog to the side, and then let them go back to center, only pushing 1/2 to 2 cm off center. Continue random pushes as you have been doing.
  3. Down to stand: 3 sets of 10 reps. Because Jinx learned her "positions" as a competition exercise, and the front feet must remain in place while the back feet change positions, we did have to modify the exercise. Initially the therapist wanted us to do a sit to a down and back up, but Jinx kicks her feet back to sit, and does not slide forward to down, and can do it very easily on 3 legs, so that didn't work.
  4. Lateral raises (torso/core strengthening) Increase to 2 sets of 10
  5. Treat to Opposite Shoulder: with dog standing, increase to 3 sets of 10. This is the exercise that we started out doing both laying down and standing, where Jinx had to flex her head to reach a treat at the shoulder. From the prone position, she had to keep her shoulder flat on the ground, so I need a command that would accomplish that. Viola! "LAY" became her command for the flat-on-your-side with head down, "dead dog" position. From there I can flex her. She loves to throw herself to the ground and roll her eyes at me as her head is flat on the ground, which is so hilarious.
  6. 3 Leg standing (rear only) OUT OF HOBBLES Lift rear leg while patient is in standing position. Support lifted leg at stifle with hip and stifle flexted. Hold as tolerated by patient and repeat 3 times on each side, continue with 3 reps of 20 seconds on each rear leg. Be sure she is standing square! Being square is something we have to work on, as Jinx has become very adept at standing in the tripod position. From the rear, her hind legs are spread wide and the weight bearing leg is in the middle, so you can't even see it when you stand behind her. The front leg is in line with her tail. Now, in all of these, with the physical adaptations she has made, I worry about the stress is is putting on other joints. Like the guy who has surgery on one knee and the other one blows out because it has taken all the pressure. So, to combat her tripod position, I am teaching her "stand". She already has a word for that as a competitive position, so this is a new word. It means to put all four feet on the ground. I physically place her hind legs underneath her, which forces her to put the bad leg down for balance. I still have to remind her "stand" to put that leg down, but once she does that, I mark and reward it. It is primarily a process of relearning how to balance using four legs.
  7. 3 leg standing, front only: OUT OF HOBBLES. same as above, but life left forelimb.
  8. Leash walks: OUT OF HOBBLES slow walks, on short leash. Walking in 8 foot diameter circle with right leg to the inside of the circle. Another exercise that was suggested was to find a gentle hillside or roadside back and walk her at a horizontal angle, not climbing up and down. Since our weather has been so awful and muddy yet, we have not tried this. Some days we go to the AKC club building for our walks. We are finally seeing bare ground here, but before that I was afraid Jinx would slip on ice and reinjure herself. I sometimes will walk with her on my right side with a "walk" command which tells her to keep all four feet on the floor as she moves; in the heel position, with her trying to keep in proper position and attention she tends to hop, keeping the right foot off the ground and it is easier to take it out of context.
  9. Sit to beg: hold the beg for 15 seconds. I keep saying that if Jinx doesn't return to work, she may have a bright career as a circus doggie! She has learned her "sit pretty" command and throws herself into it with the same enthusiasm with which she applies the "lay". Like, look how fast I can do this, can i have a treat now, please? We are working on duration. We are also shaping the "wave" which will be done using the injured limb. Right now it is the "paw" ( I really need to think about the physical gesture and word I intend to use long term) where she gives me her foot. Initially it was a struggle for her to even move that leg and foot to my hand, but now she is doing it much more easily, so that movement will be helpful in rebuilding the muscle mass of her shoulder. Eventually it will become a "wave". A friend told me that she teaches it by placing her dogs on the bed and then tempting them with a treat, and they reach for it with their paw. Good idea, but I have to lift Jinx up on the bed and can't risk having her jump OFF of it, so I think I will put that idea aside.
  10. Side stepping: both directions, starting with 2-3 steps and increase as tolerated. When Jinx moves left it will be more difficult for her.
  11. Stepping through ladder rungs or over poles laid on ground: slow walking exercise. Jinx is doing well with this, and raising her feet nicely. She practiced a cavaletti when preparing for her ladder climbing training for USAR and when the ladder is raised off the ground she will walk on the rungs, so I was worried she might attempt it. Held just off the ground, she steps carefully in between the rungs and it has not become and issue.
  12. This excercise is not one that came from the physical therapist, but from my friend, Sam. Jinx now eats her meals from the floor. I make a trail of kibble through the house and she follows it, walking step by step, and using her paw. Holding her head down like that makes it impossible to hop, so she uses the leg. Great idea, eh? Plus, I figure it will help her in her tracking!! Granted, it is pure sight tracking in the house, but she is motivated to follow the food.

So there you have my Jinx rehabilitation exercises. Crazy, isn't it? I know that there are people out there who just expect surgery to fix things and be done with it, but I tell you what, I am the one doing all the hard work here!! Yes, the surgeon had the skill to make the repair but he worked on her for an hour. I have a commitment that will extend for months yet, to seeing that the money spent on surgery was not a waste, and that she can recover fully. At our last visit, the surgeon seemed to have some reservation over whether there was nerve damage, which would be permanent, or not. Since then I have noticed Jinx using that leg more and more, and I am probably more optimistic than I have been previously during her recovery.

Monday, March 16, 2009

seminar photos

Quinn and Cooper at the Mike Ellis seminar

I was only able to attend one day with my dogs, and just couldn't decide who to work. I decided that Quinn needed attention first, as he has become quite challenging to new helpers. He flies around the blind and leaps up, face high to see what kind of a reaction he gets. If he sees the person flinch, then he is horribly pushy, jumping up and even nipping. I had noticed that when we worked with Greg Doud, after being pushed BACK by Greg, Quinn became a gentleman. I wanted to test my theory on Michael, who is taller than our usual helpers and has more presence. Sure enough, Quinn ran in, did not get the reaction he hoped for, and settled down, never jumping and nipping. He did get a little pushy and we discussed some possible remedies for that which I may employ on my usual helpers since they do not have the same presence as Greg to be pushing the dog back.

After seeing what the response was to having Michael as a helper (and I might add, the "outs" were exceptionally clean and fast, just as they are on Greg) I decided to move on to other aspects that we have been training in the schutzhund routine. Quinn was the only dog training in schutzhund at the seminar. All the rest were ring dogs. As the ring dogs worked, people photographed and filmed and followed them around the room. When it was Quinn's turn, suddenly it became lunch time. I had no crowd! Now, the negative aspect of this is that one reason you attend seminars is to have groups of people around your dog as you are working, standing at the blind, etc. I did not have that.

Another aspect of working a schutzhund dog at a ring seminar is that the ring routines are quite long, and move from obedience right into protection work. When those guys start their practice, you might as well grab a chair because you're in it for the long haul. Therefore, so as not be be cheated time-wise, I stretched my session out until Quinn tripped on his tongue. I did continue to work from the send to the blind, to the call out (the magic triangle), to the escape and finally the transport. I was very pleased with Quinn's work, and of course, Michael's helper work is always excellent and Quinn got nice, strong fights. You develop a level of comfort when working with particular helpers, understanding their training "language" and reading their indications with a nod. New handlers go through a struggle of having to verbally communicate or have communicated to them, what they need to do, and that slows the process. With Michael, I see his lock up coming off the grip and he glances at me and that is my signal to "out" the dog. It was good practice to move from exercise to exercise. My personal reminder is to have our helpers make an exaggerated leap back on the rebites; otherwise, Quinn tends to get lazy and while his grip is full, he isn't punching as he can and should. I will practice that as well in my toy play. One of the other exercises I need to remember to do reinforces the dog punching through the helper, by using the bite wedge. Sometimes the "tools are in the toolbox", but you have to move one to see the one that was there all the time!

I had the choice of what to do with my second session, and I opted to work young Cooper on the leg sleeves, or jambierres. There were several factors that led to this decision, and was, in fact, the reason I could not decide which dog to work orignally. We have been working on Cooper's grip; having him hold a full, calm grip for extended periods of time. His tendency had been to pull back (huck-a-buck is the term our K9 handlers use), hunching up and yanking backwards. Who knows where he thinks he is going, but he is hell bent to get there and pulls very hard! However, that pull takes him from a full to a 3/4 grip, which is no good. We have worked on having him punch in and keep a full grip. Watching one dog work, I heard Michael comment to an observer that a dog taken to SchH3 without a leg foundation will never be able to reach the upper levels of ringsport if you switch. They need the foundation to feel comfortable and satisfied with the grip, and to understand the gripping style of turning the head properly. Cooper had bitten leg sleeves as a baby but then we moved away from that. I decided it was time to teach him properly so that we have that to return to later, but as a learned behavior. The big question mark-- and the one that would decide if we continued in that vein or not-- was whether he pulled himself off the grip when on the legs.

In the end, I was very pleased with how Cooper handle the leg bites. He turns his head nicely, is bring good activity and power to the grips and did NOT pull himself off of them! Instead, he continued to punch in and want to fill his mouth, so I was very happy with that. Michael would slip the jambierre and we would reinforce the hold and carry or cradle, the same as I had done on the bite pillow, so it was a good transference of skills. Since the time to teach an object guard is before the dog knows a bark and hold, and since he learned to go to an object and turn when he was young, we will revisit that before I teach him the bark and hold. Things are progressing nicely and I hope to have a very well rounded dog. He certainly is fun to work!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cooper learns to retrieve

Cooper has been practicing his retrieve skills. The first thing that was taught was how to "hold", using a dowel. At some point I may describe in detail what this process is but for now, simply wanted to post an update as to where we are at. Retrieving is retrieving. The point is to run out as fast as you can, pick up something at the handler's direction and return as quickly and directing as possible. This may sound simple, but break down the steps and the parts and you will discover just how many skill sets are involved. My correction involves verbal marking and a simple chuck under the chin with my hand. No ear pinch, toe hitch or e-collar. I know that people have had success with all these methods (don't ask the dog's opinion!) but I choose not to use them in teaching the behavior.
Cooper knows the hold, but sometimes I do need to reinforce it yet. Reminders are doled out by marking the behavior verbally (uh-uh), administering a chin-chuck and immediately replacing the dumbbell in his mout Much of handling a dumbbell is moving and a thing to be aware of is putting too much pressure on the dog in the front position so that you create a dog who sits back away from you, comes in slowly or mouths/drops the dumbbell.
Therefore, at the stage of learning that Cooper is in, I place the dumbbell in his mouth and remind him to "hold" ("hold" is not an act of having the dog snatch the dumbbell from you out of prey drive, it is an acceptance to something placed in their mouth) and then begin to heel. From the heel position, I will then turn and run backwards and tell him "bring" and he runs toward me. I can create an oppositional effect by pushing him back with my hands on his shoulders so that he drives back strongly into me, and I can mark (yes!) his fast approach and take the dumbbell. Right now I am not insisting on a front sit. I work the front separate from movement, making him comfortable sitting closely with both front feet in between my feet, holding the dumbbell, marking and rewarding.
I am also not throwing the dumbbell yet. Any dog with the drive to compete in schutzhund should have high prey drive, so chasing something thrown should not be an issue. Instead, I practice the technique by restraining Cooper by the collar as I throw his tug toy to land against the wall. I then release him on a flexi lead with the "bring" command. Just as soon as he dives for the toy, I direct pressure to return immediately back to me as I encourage him. The dog needs to know how to pick up an article without passing it by or fumbling with it, to pivot and directly return. No touring with his prize, no circles of glory. So that there are no negative associations with the dumbbell, we make certain the object is something he wants to pick up and when he brings it back I play strongly with it, to encourage that fast return.
And advanced version to really make the dog pick up and return quickly, once you know he will come directly back to you, involves sitting the dog at a start point and you move halfway to where the thrown dumbbell/toy will land. You throw the object and tell the dog to "bring" and he has to run twice as far and fast, as you then turn and run back in the direction he started from. Some people add a whip cracking to get the dog to drive back even more quickly, but this can create an overstimluation and munching on the dumbbell, and frankly, I suck at whip cracking.
We still have to put the jumping together with the thrown dumbbell, but Cooper doesn't turn 2 until July 30th, so we have time to get that in place before he trials. Overall I am very pleased with his willingness and attitude and he made exceptionally nice pick ups and returns today.
Consistency and repetition, my friend.

Mike Ellis Seminar

On Friday I stopped up at Donna Matey's where she was holding a seminar with Mike Ellis. Seeing Mike is always like greeting an old friend. No matter how long it's been since I've seen him, he always acknowledges my arrival and makes sure to give me a big hug. Hey, I'm a hug person!! I believe the seminar was five days this time, preparing some of the folks for the upcoming Mondioring Championships. There were a number of decoys there, as well, honing their skills, so it was fun to watch.
My first love is schutzhund. I love the volunteer atmosphere of the sport, and the idea of not having to hire your helper work. However, more and more, in all protection sports, finding skilled decoys is becoming something you need to seek out and pay for. I also like the fact that I can find a schutzhund trial in my region practically every weekend of the competition season, if I like. I don't have to travel halfway around the world to compete or to train. That argument aside, it is still great fun to watch the mondioring training or to dabble now and then (my girl, Jinx du Loups du Soleil has her MR1 (one leg).
Our schutzhund club was actually the first group in this area to bring Michael in. At that time, we had been holding many seminars with Ivan Balabanov, and really loved his work, but we were struggling to get something on the calendar. I asked Ivan who he would suggest, whose work (and use of verbal markers, etc) would be compatible with the training methods our club prefers. He recommended Michael. I had never heard of this guy, but took Ivan's word for it and we invited him. We found him to be extremely skilled and generous with his knowledge and invited him back.
The sneaky little bugger had ulterior motives, however! and as he filled our clubs with dogs bred by Loups du Soleil, he also convinced some of our members to go to the dark side, and try ringsports. Some of those left and formed their own training group, which now meets at Donna Matey's.
I strongly believe that the environmental pressures of mondioring are very helpful to a confident and stable dog, no matter the sport. The training methods are consistent. Michael also does sleeve work, of course, but his heart is in those suit bites. I like to give my own dogs a foundation in leg/suit work at a young age, because if they are exposed to it earlier and learn how to enter and bite properly, they can come back to it as adults and feel comfortable and satisfied.
So, all this brought me to drive to Donna's on Friday and say "hi" to Michael and the gang. Notice that the only dog picture posted is a dutch shepherd. And to make things more confusing, both photos here are of Chris Becher, not Michael.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Lion Cage

Roya is a very clever dog. She knows how to open doors. She climbs and must be kept in a covered kennel. She manipulates barriers and locks with teeth and paws. When she was in the house previously, we resorted to keeping her contained when necessary in a welded aluminum crate purchased from Active Dogs, which we dubbed "the Lion Cage". It is no wonder she has not much for teeth left, because in her insistence to be OUT!!! she bit the aluminum bars, leaving very clear indentations, and tore off the lock. When Tom brought the crate back to the company for repairs (and a strike plate was added to protect the lock) they asked what kind of wild animal we were keeping in there? Oh, just a 45 lb dutch shepherd bitch!

On this stay in the house, son Cooper (whom I wanted to nip in the bud of his escape antics when he immediately tried pulling the doors off the airline style plastic crate) is already housed in the Lion Cage, so a second crate (fortunately purchased this past summer at a schutzhund trial, and from the same company) was pressed into service. I thought this one would be better, because it has only slats in the crate, not bars. How wrong I was! Although she had not yet escaped, you can see the damage she did, somehow biting the vents and pulling it in.

Being loose wouldn't be a terrible problem except that we had to install double cylinder dead bolts on the inside of the doors to keep her IN the house. Otherwise, she would let herself out but not close the door behind her, also allowing the cats a taste of freedom. Luckily, they do not like being outside (ick! grass!!) and did not follow. She will open the door to any closed room. Why? Apparently just because the door is closed. She doesn't chew up or damage anything. On one occasion she ate approximately 6 6-month packages of heartwormer for 100 lb dogs, and we spent the midnight hours in the driveway with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Doubtless she will be worm free for years to come! Mostly she just likes to explore. Being curious can be a good trait when it applies to work. In the hands/paws of a bored dutch shepherd it can only spell trouble. And that trouble is spelled R-O-Y-A.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good news for Roya!

Roya has been living in the house since she had a mammary tumor removed last week. Physical examination had revealed her spleen felt enlarged and while ultrasound did not reveal any masses, there was an oddity to the landscape and the vet recommended a recheck in four months. Because of this, I was resigned to the fact that the mass would likely come back as cancerous and I would be faced with making life and death decisions. Roya is such a character; a small dutch shepherd female who has been mother to two of our litters, the most recent resulting in my Cooper, who promises to be an awesome dog! She has crazy high drive, and passes the selection test to be an explosives or narcotics detection dog. In fact, she was originally imported as an explosives detection dog but they determined she lacked focus, and she was sold to me. Personally, I can't imagine her being used for that purpose at the time I got her, as all she knew to do was scream and bite.

At any rate, when the vet called today, I held my breath. I was so happy to hear that the tumor is benign, not cancerous! It is of a type that does not spread and is not cancerous, so those were lovely words!

In the meantime, she continues to reside in the house until her stitches come out. She is a master of opening doors and climbing, but has been relatively well behaved thus far. Maybe she knows a good thing when she sees it! I can tell she is here because all the toys are gathered and placed on the dog bed. If you sit on the couch, you are likely to find one repeatedly thrust into your lap. She is a sweetie, and I am just so glad that she will be with us for some years to come.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Going to the vet

Why is it that every time lately that I take a dog to the vet, it comes home with stitches? Last week I took Arec and Roya in for rabies vaccinations. That would seem to be simple and straight forward enough, wouldn't it? On routine examination, the vet felt Roya's spleen and it seemed to be enlarged. Since I was scheduling a teeth cleaning for the next week we ran the pre-anesthesia bloodwork, and that came back okay. Then it was Arec's turn. As I waited for the vet, I fiddled with a spot over one eyebrow that I had thought was a scar from hunting. Son of a gun, but wasn't there a cyst there instead! I pointed it out to the vet who asked if I wanted him to just take it out while we were there, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Remember those as being famous last words. Much like, "here, hold my beer and watch this" in Wisconsin. He administered a local and Arec just sat there. An interesting instrument is used to extract those, which must have sharp edges and kindof screws down over the cyst. Then he snips off that last separation to pop it out. Darned if a little tiny blood vessel didn't get nicked and start spraying blood like a slasher movie. Out come the compresses, and the direct pressure, and sutures to close up the wound. It was still leaking, so I held pressure with compresses again and we tied a piece of gauze under his chin and around his head, tying it off with a big bow that hung limply over one eye. All through this, Arec, true to his extremely social and stable munsterlander nature, simply sat on the table. There was no thrashing or struggle and he was an ideal patient. When we got home and Tom asked what had happened to his dog, who went to the vet for a vaccination and came home with stitches in his head, I told him he should be glad the dog wasn't neutered!
The following week it was Roya's turn. Since she was there, the vet asked if I wanted to ultrasound the spleen and see what was going on. Again, it sounded like a good idea at the time. As they shaved her belly, a mammary tumor was discovered near one nipple. Oh damn. What next? Yes, lets cut out the tumor. Nothing significant showed up on the spleen but one odd spot, but no tumors or growths and we will recheck that in four months. The lump from her belly will be submitted to see if it is benign or cancerous. In the meantime, she goes home with stitches on her tummy! If this continues, the dogs are going to boycott vet visits!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Jinx in rehab

Jinx isn't ready to sing Amy Winehouse tunes yet, but she is in rehab. On December 12, 2008 she underwent surgery for a near complete tear of the medioglenohumeral ligament, also called the collateral ligament.

As you can see by the photo, she wears a hobble restraint manufactured by DoggLegs, 24/7. The physical therapist said that some dogs just do not tolerate them, but Jinx has not bothered them at all. They stabilize the shoulder and keep it from splaying out to the side.

We don't know how it happened, and never witnessed a particular injury. Because this type of injury is caused by an impact where one front leg ends up on either side of an obstacle- smack!!-- it is likely that she was running (and my guess is that her head was turned, looking at Cooper) and she ran headlong into one of the PVC septic pipe vents. The height is right. Too little, too late, but my plan had been to create a raised garden to surround those last year but it never got done. It started with the tiniest of limps, barely discernable. Our vet was here on a kennel call, and I asked him to look at it. He manipulated the shoulder and got no pain response, twisting it every which way. He said to try NSAIDs and keep an eye on it, and check back in a couple weeks. The limp had gotten worse, and NSAIDs didn't affect it. Neither did exercise, or lack of. It was no better or worse when she got up, or after she ran around. We Xrayed and didn't find anything and were referred to the orthopedic specialist. Of course, each one in turn twisted on that shoulder and Jinx never so much as whimpered or pull away. Unfortunately, her stoic attitude made it more difficult to assess what was going on.

The ortho surgeon thought it might be a rotator cuff tendon tear. I was told to let her run around all she wanted to see if we could isolate the area of injury. In hindsight, this may have created more problems. I debated whether the best course of action was to go in and look around, or do a scan. I talked to a vet who works with the Iditerod teams about his experience with rotator cuff tear injurys. I visited the holistic vet with her "magic wand" (biocom) and she said she wasn't *getting* tendon tear; she was being shown there was nerve damage, and indicated the shoulder/armpit area. She described to me the type of impact that would have caused that. Oddly enough, it was the same scenario later posed by the orthopedic surgeon.

In the meantime, the limp progressed to non-weight bearing. The muscle tone dimished, the limb atrophied and when we arrived for our scan, the vet examined her and this time, did get a pain response. It was an aha! moment. He recognized what the injury was and suggested we take her to surgery. I am tearing myself up over my reluctance to let him cut her open to begin with, but I simply did not feel comfortable with a very expensive fishing expedition when they were saying they did not know what was wrong. Once he identified the problem, I was on board. Unfortunately, I agonize over whether that delay will ultimately prevent Jinx from returning to duty. Earlier this year, when she was spayed in emergency surgery due to pyometra, I had to face the fact that this exceptionally talented and qualified dog would never be bred. Now I have to consider she might not work again.

At this stage, almost three months post surgery there is still hope. I continue to over-estimate the amount of time that has passed post surgery and think she should be showing more progress. The physical therapist has said that the dogs can generally return to function in 4-5 months, so I need to be patient. In the meantime, we have PAGES of exercises to do for rehabilitation. I asked how in the world you could ever do this with an untrained dog. I think it would be impossible! In addition to simply being restricted, and restrained by hobbles, how many dogs are going to cooperate in the rehab exercises? The therapist said that she does get an "you want me to do WHAT?" response many times from pet owners. If Jinx does not return to disaster work, she will have the training to be a movie dog when we are done, I think! For example, she has to do bending/flexing exercises where she brings her head to her shoulder from both a standing and laying position. In the laying position, she has to be flat on her side and keep the shoulder on the floor when her head flexes. Therefore, I taught her a "lay" command, which is essentially your typical "dead dog" thing, where the dog lays in its side, with the head flat on the floor. Then the therapist said she should learn to sit up and balance on her rear quarters and ultimately "wave" to exercise the bad shoulder. Well, we aren't at the wave stage yet but have added "sit pretty' to our reportoire. She has to balance like a wheelbarrow, with me holding both her back legs in the air as she puts weight on the front. I make trails of dog food through the house, and she sight-tracks her meals because it forces her to move each front leg independently. In fact, I am thinking that tracking is something she can do without putting undue pressure on the shoulder and may give us something to work toward as she continues her rehabilitation.

Jinx is an exceptional dog and I think that requires me to give exceptional effort on her behalf.

Welcome Back!

It's been a long time since I posted here, and I really need to get back to it. Initially, I began this as a means of updating puppy owners and buyers but it is time to branch out and move onto the day to day life of a family with multiple dogs and cats. I joined the FaceBook nation not long ago, as well, which is somewhat interesting and good for superficial contact with a host of people. I enjoy reading some other blogs and wonder how people have the time to keep up on all the electronic forums. Talk about a leash! We have cell phones (a crack-berry, in the case of my husband), answering machines, discussion lists, blogs, Facebook, websites and just regular old email. How any of us gets work done is beyond me? Particularly when you see the number of posts that are sent from work addresses, you get a sense of how much work is NOT being done because of all this. I hope to try to fit in more blog time around my doggie schedule, but have to admit that being with my dogs and active is far more important than being on the computer, so bear with me. I'll try to do better.