Saturday, December 6, 2014

Full Metal Papillon

I made this coat a couple of years ago for Dragon, but Chimera is almost exactly the same size. (He's a good replacement.) My family went to Truckee, up in the mountains, for Thanksgiving, and Cai needed coats to keep him warm and dry. He didn't like this one very much, since the sleeves are restrictive, and ugh, the hood.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

First Rally-FrEe Novice leg

I got three of my former Rally-FrEe students to sign up for a video competition with me. I knew that Cai wasn't quite ready - I hadn't done enough prep work for going through an entire course without rewards, and he still gets easily distracted. However I wanted to go ahead and compete so that I could see where any other holes show in our training, and get an objective evaluation.

Here was our entry, due on 11/17/14:

We qualified with a score of 133 of 200. (125 points are needed to qualify.) The scoring in this sport is strict, which I like! We got dinged for: large/obvious hand and body cues, doing more of a pivot instead of a proper circle on the 270s, and Cai's loss of attention. My own stress made me revert to the large signals and smaller circles, so I need to remember about that under pressure.

I'm glad that we did this competition and I saw these problems. Now to continue practicing!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Back to agility!

After a month long break from agility class, Chimera and I were ready to run again! Cai did great; it was like there was no break at all. He was completely quiet in his crate between turns and was frequently offering the behavior of lying down with his head down - something I reward because it is self-soothing for him. The only silly mistake he made during his runs was that when I took my eyes off him to look ahead at the next jump, he cut behind my back to run up the teeter.

We've been working on the teeter here and there during private lessons with Sandy, and he was doing well, but I was still so nervous about letting him do the full teeter without any support (ie, changing the speed, reducing the bang, or delaying the drop). I was scared that he wasn't ready, would get frightened, and then we'd have to backtrack the training. I'm sure that this fear was because Dragon had trouble with the teeter that we didn't resolve before he died, so the issue still hangs over me. Plus, I always err on the side of caution when pushing a dog to do something. Clearly, in this case I was too cautious, as Cai had no problem with the full teeter experience and kept trying to go toward it again. The history of reinforcement was winning out and he was getting sucked toward the teeter like other dogs go for tunnels. Wow!

With that obstacle behind us (pun intended), I decided that Cai is ready to trial. We still need to attend fun matches as often as we can to work on focus in new places and among many dogs. However there is a small club holding TDAA trials about an hour away, a few times per year. That easy-going, less crowded atmosphere will be perfect for our debut.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Baby's first emergency vet visit

Chimera has been staying with my parents while I do a long pet sit. This morning my mother called me to report that he had been lying down a lot with his head between his front paws (rather than the more relaxed lying down on his side) and not following her around as much. He'd also stopped walking and hunched his back here and there. I suggested a GI problem and said to monitor him closely. An hour later my dad called - he was now hunching over a lot and his back legs were shaking. My parents both took him to the nearest emergency vet.

It turned out that one of his anal glands had gotten infected, swollen, and burst. It was bleeding when they reached the vet. Fortunately, the vet's assessment was that pain killers and two week of antibiotics should clear everything up.

I wasn't able to drive down and meet them because I had to teach two training classes while this was going on. That may have been for the best, though - I would probably have been a crying wreck in the waiting room.

He's doped up on pain meds but is resting much more comfortably.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Overview of recent adventures

Oops, it's been months since I last updated Chimera's blog! I've simply been too busy to keep up with logging all his adventures. During the past couple of months:

Cai and Jasper (my kitty) got check ups at the vet at the same time, and the tech and vet were both impressed by how well they got along.

Barney the French Bulldog came over to play for five days, and he and Cai rough housed almost nonstop, as usual.

Cai and I went over to Luz and Catriona's for dinner. I made him wear his belly band, which was a good thing because he lifted his leg on their curtains. Cai played with Sweet Pea and annoyed Nopalito.

He turned 2 years old on July 27th!

We went to Tahoe with Sarah and River and Owen. Cai still did not want to swim, but he did swim twice to get to the island in the middle of the pond we were all playing on.

I took him to a small dog playgroup a few times, and to a small dog park once. Cai still gets super excited (overly excited) about greeting other dogs (especially small dogs), but he is less interested in playing than he used to be. He still loves to chase and be chased, but he'll also spend a lot of time just sniffing and exploring. Sometimes he gets fixated on sticking his nose up a particular dog's butt (usually a female), and then I have to put him on leash to stop him. So I have decided to stop taking him to playgroups and dog parks. He's out of the puppy "play with everyone!" stage.

He spent a weekend with my parents while I did a petsit, and right now he's staying with them for three weeks again. He's following my mother around non-stop and jumping onto her lap every time she sits down. He's becoming a real lap dog. She's giving him walks twice a day. I'm happy that he's doing well, and happy that she has a little companion.

We went to a park with Sherry and Jacques to practice obedience and agility in an abandoned tennis court. Cai still freaks out if he hears tags jangling, but he's slowly continuing his progress in being less reactive at the sight of dogs. We also worked on his recall, and I can see his ability to focus improving.

We did a mini agility demo at Dodger's Paws to celebrate their re-opening after a move. Again I was impressed with his improved focus. It's all coming together!

This past Sunday we attended Paws in the Park, a fundraising fair for Valley Humane Society. I ran an agility ring and a rally-free ring and we did demos. Cai did perfectly in agility and did very well in rally-free (just a little distracted toward the end). My dad was there and took these cool photos of us! (The jumps are TDAA sized and I had them at 8" to make it easy for him in this distracting environment.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Twenty inches

Chimera loves to greet and play with other dogs, especially other small dogs (even better if they're white and/or fluffy, like other Papillons). In agility class today, we did contact proofing exercises with one dog running the a-frame and the other on the dog walk, with white dividers making a solid wall between the two dogs. Cai saw that the chihuahua was on the other side of the wall. I cued him to run the dog walk, and then he kept going to get around the wall, going over a 20" double jump along the way. He only knocked down one of the bars. I was annoyed but impressed. The chihuahua was too interested in his owner's treats to care about Cai sniffing his butt.

Later he took an off course and jumped another 20", a single bar this time. He cleared it. What a cool dog.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A very dirty dog

We took a trip to the Albany Bulb with some friends this morning.

Somehow he was able to pull the stick out of his tail on his own, with a minimal amount of fur loss.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Catching butterflies

Found this small butterfly net at an arts and crafts store. It has a telescoping handle. It'll be a perfect prop for Musical Freestyle.

I can hold it and have Cai put his front paws on the edge, put his head inside, jump over it, or I can use it to give choreography cues that look like they're part of the dance. Or he can hold it and either walk around with it, or just hold still while I toss small and light props into it. I can feel a routine developing already.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rally-FrEe seminar with Julie Flanery, part 2

Some info about scoring and competition in Rally-FrEe:

All behaviors are variations of staying in precise position (heel, side, center, behind), circle (around the handler), spin, thru (handler's legs), plus paw lifts, the playbow, and free choice signs.

Each full course has 15 signs, plus a start sign (dog might start on left or right side of handler), and includes 4 free choice signs. Clips on the signs will indicate which side of the handler the dog should be on when they reach that sign. The sign is placed so that the handler is sandwiched between the dog and the sign (unless it is a change of direction or change of side).

There are no "do-overs" as in AKC Rally O. However you may pass by a sign and still get a Q, if you get enough points from the rest of the course. Scores are based on the execution of the signs (150 points, 10 for each sign), plus HAT: Heelwork (consistency in heeling), Attention (ability of the dog to focus on the task and the handler), and Teamwork (engagement, enjoyment, and working together) (30 points, 10 for each category). At each free choice station, you can also earn 5 points for creativity/complexity of the trick. 125 out of 200 points are required to Q.

Changes in the proximity of your dog's heeling are considered a fault - it doesn't matter if he slightly forges or lags, if he does it consistently throughout the course. The subtlety of your physical cues is considered - in higher levels, the expectation is for fewer lure-like cues. Cues that look counter to luring are scored higher (ie, putting up your right hand as your dog is going to your left side). You are not penalized for giving multiple cues as long as your dog is continually responding and not exhibiting refusal (ie, chanting "around around around" as your dog is making his way around you).

For free choice behaviors, judging is based on what is presented, without assuming what the intended behavior is. (In other words, if I cue my dog to roll over and he only lies down, the lying down behavior is judged on its own, without assuming that he was supposed to do something more.) BUT apparent mistakes by the handler will be taken into account - so if I then get upset at the dog and re-cue the roll over, I WILL be dinged for it. Just pretend that whatever your dog did, that was what was supposed to happen. Make sure that your dog starts and ends on the correct side of your body when doing a free choice behavior.

Course maps are made available 7-10 days prior to an event (whether live or video competion), so that handlers have time to decide on their free choice behaviors and brush up on any rusty skills. Music is played during live events, and is encouraged but not required for video submissions.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Agility match in Elk Grove

This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 5 am for our second agility match, in Elk Grove. There was a jumpers course set up outside on grass, and a standard NADAC course set up in a barn with dirt flooring.

Chimera was of course distracted by the dogs, and did some demand barking, but I'm still so happy at the change in his reactivity after taking the L-theanine and lactium for a few weeks now.

We were in the jumpers course three times. I went in with food (boiled chicken) because it seemed like Cai was too sniffy and distracted to play. The first time, this worked fine. I kept his leash on and we did some heel work for treats. The second time he didn't take food, and I tried using sniffing as a reward. Unfortunately, by his third turn he was so overstimulated that he barely picked his head up from the grass and I carried him out before our 90 seconds were even up. I was bummed out but decided to go ahead and do our two turns in the standard ring - at the very least it was an opportunity to practice leash walking in a very distracting environment, and I'd paid for it long ago.

Cai was still turning down treats, but I tried giving him a rubdown and scratching above his tail. He liked that. I tried doing some playful pushing on him and running, and he perked up more. Then I leaned forward and blew into his face, and he started barking excitedly! That's something that I do at home when we're playing. I don't remember what gave me the idea to blow on him in the first place, but it instantly revs him way up. I usually use it as a self-control exercise. I don't want to use it so much during stressful/distracting situations that it loses its effect, but clearly it's a secret weapon I can pull out from time to time.

During our final 90 second turn, I was able to take Cai's leash off and have him do one or two jumps, and I used playful bouncing and pushing and blowing in his face as a game, and he was SO happy.

During our weekly agility class, food has always seemed to trump play. Color me surprised.