Friday, April 29, 2016

Iliopsoas sprain

We had our third appointment with Chimera's awesome new chiropractor today. After his first appointment a couple of months ago, I had seen a huge improvement in his movement and signs of pain. However shortly after the second one he had deteriorated again. I had meant to call them and let them know, but I just dropped the ball. Dr Wallace found that his left shoulder was worse again, but also that he had a new iliopsoas sprain on his back right leg. Thank goodness we caught it early. I read Dr Patricia McConnell's blog and her Border Collie Willie has been having problems with his iliopsoas on and off for years. It can be an awful injury.

She referred me to a nearby clinic that does laser therapy and we made another appointment with her in one month. I got pet insurance for Cai about six months ago and they should cover some of this. It will be my first claim with them, so I'll update here how it goes.

In the meantime, Chimera is on strict rest. He is not allowed to run, jump, or climb stairs. No fetch or retrieve training because he runs to get the object. He will be crated when I am gone, pottied on leash (to stop him from doing his usual sprint back to the door when he's done), and he is banned from getting in the furniture (I will probably have to use tethers a lot to keep him from jumping up). No heeling because he does a beautiful head-up position, which makes him lean back and puts pressure on the iliopsoas. His only exercise will be on leash walks and training that keeps him mostly stationary.

I guess I'll finally work on his stays, and maybe make more progress with matching to sample.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tall grass

Tiny dog + tall grass = adorable

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chiropractic visits, bucket game

I forgot to update about Chimera's visit to a new canine chiropractor on March 22nd. We saw Dr Wendy Wallace at Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital. I was quite impressed by how gentle and attentive Dr Wallace was. She gently ran her hands over Cai's neck, back, shoulders, and hips, and used very subtle pressure to shift things around. He was in so much pain at the base of his neck, at his left shoulder, and at the base of his tail that he growled and tried to snap at her. I had to hold his head still so that she could fix him up. Apparently he could immediately feel the improvement because when she was done, he still presented his back to her and let her pet him.

That night he was already back to his prompt response to cues to sit and lie down. (I only tested them once each!) Over the next three weeks I still only sparingly asked for those behaviors, but he was back to offering his default downs when he wanted something. But within the last week he started getting snippy while I was brushing him. Fortunately yesterday was our recheck.

Dr. Wallace wasn't surprised that he had started regressing, as it was a normal timeline for things to start getting tensed up again after an initial adjustment. Cai was doing better along his neck and above his tail, but still had pain around his shoulders

We had been practicing the Bucket Game in the meantime. I brought Cai's bowl and high value treats to our appointment. Before the doctor came in, I put him up on the exam table and we played the game until she came in. I explained how it work and she immediately took a liking to it. She agreed to wait until he was looking at his bowl before doing any adjustments, and would stop if he looked away. (She had already been this gentle and was watching for stress the first time we came, but she liked that this was an operant behavior that helped him focus.) We did have to put the bowl away and I held his head when she worked on his shoulders. On the bright side, there was less growling and snapping than last time, and I was able to use much less force to keep him still.

She asked us to come back in another 3-4 weeks, but she's booked up for the next 6 weeks! We're on the call list in case someone cancels.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Reverse heeling

Our newest fancy trick, taught via a little luring and pocket hand:

I'll clean up his positioning and then we'll use this as our "alternative position" in advanced Rally-FrEe, and for some Free Choice behaviors as well.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Advanced training, mystery medical problem

For the sake of my own health and trying to fix my sleep/wake cycle, I started a regimen of walking/hiking for 30 minutes right after I get up in the mornings. Of course I take Cai with me. My motivation for going out is quickly changing from "my health" to "Cai loves it." If it's raining in the morning, I now do 30 minutes of playtime and training with Cai instead.

This morning it is indeed raining, and we worked on some fun advanced training skills:
- Heeling while he's facing backwards. (This will be our Alternative Behavior in rally-free, as well as a great Free Choice behavior.)
- Turning 180 degrees to face away from me while in Center position. (The first part of the Advanced "Turn: Back Through" RF behavior.)
- Moving from Heel to Behind position on a verbal cue, and NOT confusing it with the backwards circle.
- Directed retrieve using those little rolled up Whole Foods bags that I always have on hand.
- Down from motion.

It was during this last one that I finally out the pieces together with a strange behavior that Cai sometimes does. For a long time now, he has occasionally yelped while jumping up from a lying position. This has never before happened during training, only when he was doing his own thing. So I could never tell whether he was feeling something funny, yelping, then getting up, or whether he was yelping as a consequence of getting up. Well today he did it twice as he got up from the down position on cue. And then he started offering playbows instead. And then I realized that our problem of Cai frequently offering a playbow instead of a down is likely not a cue discrimination problem, but a physical problem. Holy smokes.

He has a visit with a new chiropractor in two weeks, so in the meantime I won't be asking for any downs in training. I hope that this won't be a mystery problem that takes a long time to figure out...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Rally-FrEe trial at Fetch Sam, Intermediate title

REDD hosted their annual musical freestyle and (since last year) rally-free trial this past weekend, at Fetch Sam in San Jose. Chimera competed in the Intermediate RF class on both days, and we earned the 2 legs we needed for our Intermediate level title! (Which, confusingly, is called the "Excellent" title, or RF-E/X.)

Cai spent much of the trial napping in the car or sitting on my mom's lap. We did some fun engaging (like cuddling or giving butt scratches) both before and after our run, but I only did a formal warm up for a few minutes on the first day, and one minute on the second day. I gave him plenty of time to look all around and see who was present (and he got lots of treats whenever a new dog walked in).

We went in the ring and I was ready to have fun and not worried. I knew the course well since I'd helped to set it up! I felt confident that we would qualify, and I didn't care too much about the score otherwise. (Though of course it's nice to score high!)

Well on Saturday my little monster BLEW ME AWAY. He was completely focused the entire time! No looking away when someone made a teeny sound! No worry when he messed up and I had to recue! He was prancing and looking up at me the entire time!

We scored 171, our highest score ever! We only lost significant points on the Circle Around x3 which he doesn't like and I hadn't quite fixed it in time for the event, and a few points for the confusion on the Figure 8 x2.

On Sunday he did have a teensy moment of distraction when he noticed Sherry outside the ring, and a brief floor sniff, but was still much more focused than he has been in the past. In fact, he got revved up and started barking a bunch, which he has never done before. Mostly it was my mistake - I had him do a bunch of barks on cue before we went in the ring. Then I used it as the first Free Choice behavior. And the next sign was a back up, which he sometimes confuses with barking due to old cue issues. So once that pattern happened, he just started barking. Since it messed up the third sign, Spin to Front, we lost major points on that one. We also lost points on the bobbled Switch Back, which usually goes better. And then he left my side to start running for his treats, haha.

Overall I'm still very happy with our second run, since his attitude was so happy! We scored 157.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

RF Novice Skills Test

Chimera and I earned our Rally-FrEe Novice Skills Test title (R-FE/NS) with a score of 136/150. Here's our video submission:

Note that I performed sign #11: Into Left Heel incorrectly, as the DOG should move into Left Heel. It's incorrect if the handler moves. Oops! We also lost 1 point on many of the signs due to Cai finishing wide.

Friday, February 26, 2016

My Little Papillon

I used a set of Bark Art Blow Pens to color Chimera's tail in a rainbow. I only colored the top of it as I held it out, so when he curls his tail up, it's more subtle. The colors fade quickly, but I'll have to wash the residue out before our Rally-FrEe trial next weekend anyway. I wish that we could compete in color!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tree cave

Chimera emerging from the "cave" in this tree:

Monday, February 8, 2016

Barn Hunt

There's a new sport called Barn Hunt gaining popularity around here. It's meant to mimic the work that a ratting dog in a barn would do, as there are bales of straw stacked up and rats hidden among them. The rats are safely ensconced in thick PVC with air holes drilled in. The dog is required to find all of the hidden rats (without alerting on decoy tubes containing rat bedding), as well as go through a tunnel made of straw bales, and climb onto at least one bale with all four feet.

My friend Sarah is trialing two of her dogs in Barn Hunt, and I decided to give it a try since Cai goes nuts over Sherry's pet rats. Sarah put out two PVC tubes with rat bedding inside, and one with an actual rat. Cai sniffed that tube all over, wagging his tail, and we praised and petted him for showing interest. I led him away, and Sarah switched the positions of the tubes. Cai found the one with the rat again, we fussed over him again, and the game was on! With his background in nose work and agility, Cai quickly realized that he could find the rats via scent and had no hesitation about climbing all over the straw bales.

We didn't use any treats since Cai wasn't settled enough to take them, but our support and his natural drive for hunting down tiny critters was enough to build his enthusiasm more with each try. I scheduled another lesson with Sarah in a couple of weeks.