Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pictures from a stream and hiking

We're visiting my parents for the weekend again. It is over 100 degrees F, and Cai is surprisingly mellow. At least, while I'm with him, he's mellow. The moment I leave the house to buy groceries, or even leave him downstairs while I shower, he starts throwing a fit. Ugh. My mother usually starts playing with him or gives him a bone to chew on, which is good because it shows him that he can still have a good time without me.

Both yesterday and today, I took him to play in a stream at a nearby park. He now happily enters shallow water, but doesn't want to go in much past his belly. He has accidentally gone in deep enough to swim a few times, and he was able to turn around and swim back to shore without a problem. I hope that with continued fun, low-pressure exposure to water, he'll learn to like swimming. I've always wanted to have a dog who enjoyed swimming.

I discovered that he will happily retrieve a bumper from shallow water, take it back to shore, and drop it and wander off. He did that over and over. Funny guy.

Click on any picture to see it pop up in a larger size.

Yesterday there was a 14 year old, blind German Shepherd at the stream as well. He would get excited and start barking and following other dogs around once he realized they were there. Typical GSD. Cai has learned to be cautious around big dogs (got knocked over and stepped on a few too many times), but is willing to play "you can't catch me" after a while.

Back at home, he was tired out.

Here are a few recent hiking pictures:

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nose drops

Look how great Chimera is at letting me put a drop of medication into his nose!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Correcting bad habits: Give Me A Break

I've gotten into the habit of letting Cai run loose in the kennel's play yard to potty and sniff around, and then trying to get him to focus and do agility training. It was fine for a while, but the past handful of times, he's been doing a rep or two and then leaving to sniff or mark, and it's hard to get him back. This isn't good. I want to create a habit of being focused and excited about agility, not checking in and out as he pleases.

Although it's less convenient, I'm not going to let him potty in the yard anymore. I'll take him for a short walk instead. Once we enter the yard, it's training time. However I can't expect him to change his attitude without changing how I'm setting up the training situation.

I've decided to try the Give Me A Break game (GMAB) from Control Unleashed. We've done this game a little bit at home and in agility class. There is a portable wooden fence in the play yard for splitting it into two sections. I'm going to use it to make a box (like the ring gates suggested in CU) and play GMAB in there. We've done it once so far, and Cai sometimes asked to work right away and sometimes just sniffed for a while. The only problem we ran into is that if the kennel dogs start barking, I can't continue ignoring him -- I have to interrupt his reactivity or he works himself into a frenzy and THAT bad habit gets reinforced.

My other option is to keep him on leash to restrict his ability to run off, work on heeling and other close work, and let him off leash once he's better at staying focused. I'm pretty sure that would work, since it's essentially what we did in agility class and other classes, but I'm hoping that GMAB will do the trick and have better long-term benefits.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Foxtail removal

Look what came out of Chimera's nose today!

A big honkin' foxtail! He was put under anesthesia and the doctor fished it out with her tiniest tools. After he woke up, he was loudly barking and crying in his kennel, so one of the techs let him run around a back office and also carried him around like a baby.

What a spoiled dog.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reactivity update

I'm happy to report that both my parents generally get along well with Chimera, provided he's not barking or jumping all over the furniture. My mom often volunteers to take him out for a walk when I'm busy or tired. As is true of most dogs with leash reactivity, he is calmer with her than when I walk him, even though we're constantly working on it!

Yesterday we watched Up on the big screen tv, and when the cartoon dogs showed up with panting and paw-thudding sound effects, Cai barked at the tv. Even cartoon dogs are a threat!

Did a 2x2 session with a tennis ball, working from 4 to 5 o'clock. He's doing great!

Donner State Park, 2x2 weaves

We're in Tahoe for the weekend again. Chimera peed indoors once, which was my fault for not taking him out again sooner. Other than that he's been well-behaved. He spent much of the day obsessively moving his cow ear chewie from one hiding spot to another (ie, behind the couch, in the bathroom).

The whole family went for a two hour walk at Donner State Park. It was a beautiful warm day, and the park was filled with people and dogs. I put on my happy face and said to myself, "This presents many opportunities to work on Cai's dog reactivity!" And it went better than I expected! There were a few outburst of growling and barking, and some frustrated yelping, but he also managed to pass a number of dogs with no more reaction than pulling in their direction. We did BAT (though not uncued, I had to really encourage him to "let's go!" because the distances were too close) and LAT. Two or three times I did have to just pull him along to escape the situation, because he was too worked up to be redirected. Still, it was clear progress from his level of reactivity before we started BAT setups a few months ago. He passed out in the middle of the living room when we got home.

Oh also, he played in the water and barked at it a lot. He now pulls toward the sound or sight of water, which makes me very happy. I've always wanted to have a dog who enjoys swimming. (Although he still ignores puddles of water/mud, which is the best of both worlds!)

I brought two jumps and one set of 2x2 weave poles to practice at the condo. We did two weaving sessions today. It was clear from the start that he already aims himself to go between the poles and then toward his right (12 o'clock). I was excited that our last session finally instilled some enthusiasm to move forward without my body language being a giant cue. Our agility instructor had recommended I use a collar grab to start him going. I had done enough collar grab work that Cai doesn't mind me taking hold, and expects that I will toss forward a toy or his treat bottle (small medicine bottle wrapped in duct tape to make it easy to grasp). However I just hadn't bothered to continue working it to he point that I could let go and he would drive forward in his own. I didn't see the need, since Dragon had had great drive toward obstacles without it. But I heeded her advice. I found that Cai would tense up and move forward a little after I let go of his collar if I said, "Ready?!" I've conditioned that to mean "Let's do some fun play/training!" So that got him going to the weave poles and stopping right between them, argh. So then I switched to tossing the toy immediately after he started forward. 

Today, by accident, I pulled upwards on his collar as I said, "Ready?!" and his front feet lifted into the air. Opposition reflex made him shift forward, and lo and behold, as I let go of his collar, he zoomed forward and all the way through the poles. I've seen other people do this with the collar (such as Susan Garrett, I think, and my instructor), but I wouldn't have intentionally done it with my tiny Papillon. However he really responded to it with more energy, faster running, and was actually MORE willing to come back to my side for the next rep. We did about eight reps, moving from 3 to 4 o'clock, and I stopped while he was still fully engaged in the game. Of course his success made me more excited and animated, which fed his energy. Weaves were probably my favorite obstacle to teach Dragon, since I felt comfortable with the shaping process and we played it as a modified game of fetch. I'm looking forward to continuing with Chimera.

I know that growth plates are something to be mindful of when teaching weave poles and jumping. I've been jumping Cai at 8 inches for a few weeks because a dog his size matures much sooner than big dogs, and eight inches is about his elbow height, which Chris Zink said should be okay for a dog his age (forgot the exact age parameters she gave -- maybe it was six to fourteen months? Fourteen months being the estimated time of growth plate closure.) I found one resource online that suggested that Papillons are full grown at nine months. For weave poles, we'll be spending a while working on entrances, and he'll be 11-12 months before he's doing any serious bending. I'm not worried. I'd delay training if he were a bigger, and therefore slower to mature breed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Agility 4.1 summary

Halfway done with the Beginner Series now! We've started on weave poles. The instructor is showing is the 2x2 method, but also setting up guide wires and x-pens on a set of 6 so we can practice both ways. I made my own set of 3 pairs of 2x2s over the weekend, and had already done a couple of shaping sessions to build value for going between the poles. I started rotating through different entry angles, but the instructor pointed out that I needed to back up a bit and get Cai really driving to the poles first - he was only going forward with a body cue from me.

We did a rear cross drill, a u-shaped tunnel and then rear cross over a jump. Cai did this perfectly, even when my timing was a bit off. I was so proud!

After another 2x2 session, we practiced the 6 poles with guides. Cai has trouble moving ahead without my body language to help him - definitely something we need to work on!!

Finally we did a simple 180 with jumps, but Cai kept sniffing the ground for treats instead of wanting to jump. I put him up early.

He was better about me being away from his crate. I would shush him when he did start barking. For many dogs, turning back to them and talking to them would reinforce their barking, but for Cai I can see that it's helping him understand what I want and get himself back under control before the barking fit gets too crazy.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Photos and quick update.

A few random photos and little update from yesterday.

9 months, photo taken just after brushing.

So handsome!

We were walking between the car and this wall, and Chimera decided to jump on top if it. He overshot and fell four feet down into the bushes. Fortunately I had a good hold of his leash and it was attached to a harness rather than collar. I pulled up in time to slow down his fall, and then lifted him back up.
Later we drove to Sherry's and went on a beautiful sunset hike with her and Jacques. For the most part, Cai has learned that Jacques doesn't want to play with him and leaves him alone. Jacques still doesn't like having Cai around.

Sherry helped me measure Chimera and he is now 11 inches, and weighs 8.4 pounds.

Agility 3.6 summary

Halfway through the introductory curriculum! I checked with the instructor: if our dogs are keeping up with where their skills would ideally be at the end of this 36 week course, what's next? She said that we would go into a sequencing course afterwards. When we can nail sequences and courses without a problem in class, we'll be ready to start entering matches. In the meantime, of course, we want to be practicing our current skills in various environments and around distractions. I have practiced agility with Cai at home, in my parents' condo, and in the play yard at Dublin Creek Kennels, but we have lots or distraction training ahead of us.

We started off with a couple of rear cross drills. We've been practicing rear crosses on our own, but Cai wasn't getting them consistently. Today he nailed them. Hooray!!

We moved on to 180s, and this time Cai just couldn't get it, even though he'd done them fine in previous classes and we've done them a lot on our own. He kept sniffing the ground, the bars, the standards... I guess his brain was just fried after the rear crosses. Couldn't figure it out.

At the end we worked on sending the dog ahead to a jump, which we've done at home but not at this distance. He would go forward a few feet but then turn back to me. We just need to continue building distance in our practice.

He used to whine and bark terribly whenever I would step away from his crate, but he's improved a lot. At first I focused on stepping away for short distances and returning to give a treat for being quiet. Finally I decided that he didn't really understand that I didn't want him to bark. I remembered that when he was younger and would bark in excitement when I got home, it helped him when I have him a cue to be quiet. So for the past few weeks, I've told him "shush" or "shhhh" (cues he already understands) when he starts barking, along with a little calm talking if he needed more help. It's made a huge difference. I've also started sitting on a chair just a few feet away but partially out of sight when he's in his crate. With these two changes, he's now letting me walk a sequence or stand fifty feet away to watch another student run. Thank goodness!