Wednesday, December 30, 2015

More agility and rally-free practice

Last weekend was busy for Chimera. We went to the Boxing Day agility match hosted by Jump'n Java on Saturday, then to rally-free/freestyle practice hosted by REDD on Sunday.

Agility went well except for Cai doing the teeter fine twice, then bailing the third time, then not wanting to go onto it at all. With weaves he also did them perfectly twice, then started skipping random poles (not the last two, which have been a consistent problem). I suspect a physical issue, and will schedule a visit to his chiropractor as soon as they open again in the new year.

He focused well for about 6 minutes of "ring time" in San Lorenzo DTC's building, then became increasingly distracted by smells / needed a break. After that he was pretty much done with training, even after a break. Tired pup!

Winter solstice and new year's pictures

(Click on any image to see it pop up larger.)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Agility and obedience practice

It's been tough to find opportunities to practice agility outside of classes or private lessons. Fortunately Jump'n Java scheduled 4 fun matches around the holidays, and we were able to attend the one after Thanksgiving, plus we'll be at the upcoming one on Boxing Day.

Cai and I are totally out of practice. This was a new location, outdoors on grass. Despite these things, Cai did super well! He was focused the entire time we were out on the field, other than one time he couldn't resist the allure of the tall grass along a fence line. But no staring off at barking or running dogs, like when we did a fun match a year ago. The power of fresh-cooked rabbit meat helped, but he's definitely gained maturity and focus.

On the Jumpers side, we did a Novice course. The first time I got lost, but the second time went smoothly. I actually heard a few "oooh"s as we finished up. We also did some on-the-fly sequences.

On the Standard side, we mostly practiced the weave poles. We have 10th pole syndrome. I'm going to take some more time to heavily reward the completed poles, and put him back in if he pops out early. If that doesn't make a difference, I'll have to schedule private lessons to help us figure it out.

The best part was that he was eager and fast on the teeter! I babied him and lowered it just a tad slowly the first 2 reps. Then I let it fall normally. He slowed down briefly at the tipping point (which was almost at the end of the board, since he's so fast), then quickly moved up to the edge. The next time, he leaned back when it tipped but was at the end as it hit the ground. WOW!! Then I had to focus on rewarding him for staying at the end, to prevent fly-offs in the future. So proud of my little guy.

On Wednesday we returned to the drop in obedience practice at SLDTC. There were only two other dogs this time. We practiced playing, heeling with tricks, recalls, stays, dumbbell retrieves, and the broad jump. No one bothered to ask why Cai didn't sit on the halts and fronts. (It's because rally-free and freestyle are higher priority than obedience.) We also practiced crating with me 10 feet away or briefly out of sight. He's slowly improving on that front - no barking this time, but a little scratching at the crate door.

Stays with a Yorkie and Sheltie.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Nose touch to object

Chimera has always loved to put things in his mouth and chew them up. I've managed to change that to putting things in his mouth and bringing them to my hand. However for training Match to Sample, I waned an indication behavior that won't involve always messing up the objects he's choosing from. I chose a sustained nose touch. Today I finally got a nose touch to every single one of the 13 kinds of objects I've set aside for this training.

We'll still need to repeat this a handful more times before the nose touch is fully reliable. Also, realistically, the nose touch will still slide them around when he's indicating, but at least he won't be destroying the object.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rally-FrEe Intermediate leg 1

Recorded at ARF for the West Regional 2.

We only scored 137 - yikes! Cai was pretty distracted, but also the scoring is a bit more rigorous now that we're out of Novice. We need to practice a lot before the live trial in March if we want to qualify then.

There is no audio because I played music for us to work to, and YouTube has removed it due to copyright issues. Sad.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Zoom Room practice

I've been hunting for drop ins and matches to work on proofing Chimera's teeter and weave pole performance, but it's been hard to find anything that works for my schedule. On Wednesday I rented the Zoom Room in Walnut Creek with Sherry and Jacques. They have mini-obstacles, but it was worth it considering how long our break from agility class has become.

Cai popped out of the poles here and there (and especially at the 10th pole, ugh), but he fell into the groove better than I expected considering that their PVC poles have a big PVC base in the middle.

I did a quick review of the training method we'd finally settled on to teach him happy teeter behavior. I held the top of the teeter from underneath the first couple of times he ran up and fed right at the end. Then I let it drop a little bit before I caught it, then more and more. At the end he was running nearly to the end of the board before I stopped it just above the ground. He still slowed down when he felt the tip, but then scooted to the end to get his treat. I'm satisfied with that. I never let the teeter actually hit the floor because it was an exceptionally noisy one and their floor is a thin layer of rubber mats over concrete - yikes!

The trainers at this place were very discouraging of having a tiny dog run to the end of the teeter, both during this visit and when we'd gone in for an assessment (before being allowed to rent the equipment). They're worried about a tiny dog getting bounced when it lands, which is a valid safety concern (especially on their horrid teeter and flooring). However both of them had this weird spiel where they asked me if I had agility experience and had watched "real agility," stating that "real agility competitors" (as a whole, apparently) NEVER train tiny dogs to run to the end of the teeter, but instead to stop at the tipping point and continue down after the movement stops. Um, what?

I explained that I was "over-training" the teeter, meaning that in practice I was encouraging him to come to the very end, knowing that in competition he'd be less comfortable and therefore probably slow down at the tipping point anyway. She was skeptical. Sherry and I finally got them to leave us alone by saying that we trained under an experienced agility competitor/trainer and this was what she wanted us to do.

I might rent the Zoom Room one more time to be able to set up proofing exercises like having toys and treats next to the weaves, but otherwise the value of its mini-obstacles is short lived, and I don't want to spend my training time arguing with them.

Can NOT wait until Sherry has her agility field all set up with equipment!!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Apple core

Chimera surprised us by nibbling on an apple core my dad offered him.

We were in Monterey last weekend and he got to run on the beach off leash. I had the last of the rabbit jerky I'd made a few months ago and his recall was almost perfect! I took a lot of pictures with my fancy new camera but haven't had time to go through them yet.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Rally-FrEe practice

We rented the training pavilion at ARF and set up a rally-free course. My goal was to 1) work on engagement first, and only do the full course if Cai was showing me that he could do it with enthusiasm, 2) if he was able to do it, use as few treats as possible, in preparation for the next time we trial (end of October), 3) crate him and walk away between training, to help him get used to quietly resting (a big problem if we're in a new place).

Well Cai blew me away! We only needed to do one round of sniffing around the edges of the ring before he was fully ready to work. Then I had his full attention for the entire run. It certainly helped that I had rabbit jerky on hand! We did two runs, and each time I only stopped to reward once, but I gave multiple treats and lots of praise when it was time. Here's the video of our second run:

As long as he's confident in the skills that are needed for our next Intermediate course, we should do very well!

In the crate, he whined and scratched at the door the first time I put him away. I just waited him out, and returned with treats during moments of quiet. The second time he was quiet, and by the third time he was relaxing with his hips rolled to the side and his head on the floor.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Papillon play date

Angela and I decided to organize a Papillon meet up group since most dogs love to play with others of their same breed. At the first meet, one other purebred Papillon came, along with a mystery mutt that has the right ears and tail, and a shy long-haired chihuahua who lives close by.

This was Chimera's first time being loose around other dogs (besides his housemates and Jacques) since his neuter, and they were all sexy ladies. He still stuck his nose right into their privates, and still sniffed a bit longer than was polite, BUT it was much, much better than before! And once he got a good sniff, he didn't keep going back for more. I was pleased.

He had a blast running around the yard - one of the other dogs would chase him (and then Eevee would bark at that dog). He even jumped in and out of the kiddie pool to cool off. He also jumped on people's laps to get petting.

Is someone coming?!

The center of attention.



Coming through!

Jump! Run!

His girlfriend, Eevee.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Engagement class

The Engagement class at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is finished. Chimera and I had a Gold spot, although as usual, I didn't quite keep up with posting videos. It didn't help that he was down for the count for a week after his neuter, and then I was on vacation for 10 days. Oops, bad timing.

Still, I learned a LOT from this class that I will be using both for Cai's training and to coach my clients. (In particular, I currently have 3 ongoing clients who are training for various sports.)

These were the biggest take aways for me:
  • Learn how to interact with your dog in a fun, playful way, that you can use to practice focus/engagement without using your dog's trained tricks. This is a key intermediate step that was missing for me (and most other trainers!). It builds up your dog's ability to work for you for longer periods and in more distracting areas, without falling into the trap of nitpicking your dog's work (which will cause stress for both dog and handler).
  • Give your dog plenty of time to "acclimate": look around, take in the sights/sounds/smells, and assess the safety of the situation. If you do not give your dog enough time to do this, he will not be able to focus fully on you and the work, and you are setting yourselves up for failure.
  • Sometimes the dog wants to start play/work before he's taken enough time to acclimate, because of the draw of treats and toys. In that case, you need to ignore your dog's attempts to engage until you're sure that he's truly ready. (I've experienced this with Cai a number of times.)

Here's a video of us working on engagement training on August 8th:

I have Cai's attention, but I have to keep the treats coming fast and furious to keep it. If anyone were to walk by, he would have stopped and stared for a good long while before being ready to turn back to me.

Here's our final video, from September 10th:

We have learned how to move and play together without the treats needing to come so frequently. We're both more relaxed. Cai looked away a few times when someone walked by, but after just a quick glance to assess the safety of the situation, he was back to focusing on me. After warming up with playful engagement, I was able to smoothly transition to work, and he stayed happy and focused! No deflation because work is boring or too much pressure or because he's conflicted between me and the environment.

I am beyond pleased - and this was with minimal completion of homework on my part! I feel positive about our future obedience/rally/freestyle/etc career.

Where to go from here:
  • Continuing to stretch out the length of time Cai is happy to interact between primary reinforcers.
  • Continuing to practice in slowly more distracting/busy areas.
  • Getting the food off my body, so that Cai is not dependent on its presence. (Though the food will be nearby and I will still use it to reward him, and it will also function as a distraction to work around.)
  • Teaching new tricks and tidying up old ones at home, separate from working on engagement outside.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cai's vacation with Sherry & Jacques

August 16:
Cai just ate all his dinner up – totally cleaned his plate.

He seemed to be over the rats until they woke up and started their evening activities, and now he’s back barking at them.

Cai and Jacques are getting along. Still not besties, but no problems.

August 17:
Cai attacked and devoured his breakfast and dinner as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks. 

He is still going after the rats consistently (I think they are his favorite thing here), but I can’t blame him. The rats are part of the problem! Instead of quietly retiring to the safer upper levels and hiding like decent prey animals they insist upon running down to engage with him, which of course eggs him on, which then eggs them on in a rather interesting cycle. I posted a short – and relatively mild – video on my Facebook page if you want to see. They have gotten quite feisty since I shot that video (and so has Cai), and now all three of them are running down and ganging up whenever he starts in. Last time all three were in the hammock on the lower level. I CAN call him away from them if it gets too intense, but of course he goes back – what dog wouldn’t? I might have to close off their access to the lower levels for a while just to keep some peace in the household!

August 18:
Both meals attacked and devoured, as usual – along with part of Jacques’ dinner. Oops!

He might be a butterball when you get back if he keeps this up.

Confining the rats to the upper levels seems to have dampened his enthusiasm. If they can’t come running down to engage with him, they’re just not that interesting anymore.

August 20:
Reduced food to 2 ½ pieces. You’d think I was starving the poor guy.

He’s behaving very well with Jacques, and Jacques is tolerating him better and better. Still not besties, but…

Cai has decided that everything that is within his reach is his, especially if he finds it on the floor. Good thing you trained him to come and hand you whatever he is carrying – most impressive, and certainly easier than trying to catch him and pry it out of his mouth! He has torn up a few tissues, and a couple of plastic bags, and pretty much gutted and demolished one of the toys you brought. There are a couple of items that I have been missing for a few weeks – wish he would find them!

August 22:
And speaking of your dog, I just heard some doggy lip-smacking sounds, and when I went to investigate found that Cai had opened up a bag of rat food blocks and was devouring them as if they were the only thing between him and imminent death from starvation. And this was, mind you, less than an hour after he ate breakfast.

I don't think you will be able to continue to say that dog is not food motivated. I'm guessing sawdust would be a high-value training treat for him about now.

August 23:
Well, we did do a few sessions with the "two-on, two-off" box last night. Of course, he practically attacked the box trying to get into it - after all, it's got some characteristics of a platform - and he was starting to catch on to the idea that doing something with his front feet was a good idea, and that something involved lifting a front foot, and putting it on the outside of the box. He was still experimenting with that when we stopped. He was also swinging his rear outside the box, which is one reason I stopped. I'll try to do a few  more sessions tonight. He is quite good at shaping.

I had to rearrange things slightly yesterday and today after he succeeded in cornering Sadie in the  nesting box. I'm afraid he got quite a surprise when I opened the top of the coop, grabbed whatever part of him I could, and jerked him out of there. Sadie seemed unhurt (and he was fine - just startled), but of course every time I let him out to pee he headed straight for the chicken coop, so I've kept the kennel gate closed.

He's doing great. He and Jacques seem to have arrived at a modus vivendi, and I might have actually seen a few play moves from each of them, though not much. 

Focus/Engagement And The Unaltered Dog

Copied from a post I wrote in the Engagement class at FDSA:

Are you sure Suprelorin is available in the US? I was looking into this stuff earlier this year and thought that the only chemical option for us is Zeuterin, which is permanent. The upside of Zeuterin is that it only reduces testosterone by about half, so you hopefully see some behavioral benefits without removing all of the health benefits of testosterone. However I decided not to do it as the technique hasn't  been around long enough to know about long term health effects.

This topic is one I wrestled with for a couple of years. I feel that it's overall healthier to leave dogs intact (particularly males), however Cai has been intensely focused on dogs since he hit adolescence at 4 months on the dot. He became leash reactive *literally* overnight. His reactivity is almost entirely due to frustration at not being to run over and greet other dogs. There's also a small proportion of it that is alert behavior, that appears when he's off leash and a dog appears unexpectedly, but that seems to be a carry-over from practicing the frustrated reactivity so much.

Cai is also obnoxious around females, both spayed and intact. He obsessively sticks his nose right into their privates and needs strong corrections to be dissuaded. If the girl doesn't correct him, he follows her around non-stop. He's not often off-leash around females except when briefly passing on hikes, so I've just managed him with a leash when the situation's come up in the past.

I polled multiple trainer friends on this topic at ClickerExpo this past January, and they mostly agreed that neutering would *probably* help, but maybe not because he was 2.5 years old at that point and had had lots of practice at these unwanted behaviors.

A couple of months back I got a chance to meet up with Dr Amy Cook, and she provided helpful insight. She noticed that his reactivity included a lot of posturing, and I said that he also marks after every single reactive incident. Her analysis was that decreasing his testosterone would likely improve his intense interest in other dogs. That was what finally convinced me to neuter him, and he had the surgery two weeks ago. I will certainly provide updates as I see any change in his behavior. (I'm currently on vacation and will be picking him up on Tuesday. In the meantime he's gone from being a dog who will sometimes turn up his nose at his usual high-value treats even when we're at home, to devouring everything he can get his little teeth on. If the neuter changes nothing else, at least I'll have a dog who is easier to train on the food motivation front.)

But there's one more thing at play in this decision: trainer ego. When he was younger, neutering him seemed like taking the easy way out. I wanted to be a "good enough" trainer that I could work through the issue. I've certainly improved as a trainer thanks to him (and thanks to the training methods at FDSA, which think outside the box), but after 3 years (and an anxiety attack in front of everyone at Ferretpalooza), he's worn me down.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


The first 48 hours after Cai's neuter were rough. He spent lots of time just lying in his crate whining and crying, and refused water - I had to squirt it into his mouth with a syringe. When he finally peed, it was on my bed. When he finally pooped, it turned into almost 12 hours of diarrhea (and I couldn't wash his butt fluff properly due to the stitches).

After that, though, things improved immensely. On Monday Cai was no longer whining, would wag his tail happily when I greeted him, drank occasionally when I brought him a bowl of fresh water, and ate all of breakfast and dinner -- and has continued eating every meal since. (It's actually unusual for his appetite to stay strong for 4 days in a row, so I'm quite pleased.) He's still sleeping a lot, but also spent time chewing on a bully stick and sitting on my lap.

His stitches look fine and will come out on Saturday morning - just in time for the hand off to Sherry on Sunday, since I'll be in Hawaii next week. Good luck, Sherry!

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Chimera was neutered yesterday (and had a dental cleaning while he was under). The surgery went smoothly and his incision and stitches are looking fine today. He has barely stopped complaining, though. He's spent the past 24 hours mostly lying in his crate and whining until he exhausts himself and falls asleep. He hasn't peed or drunk any water. After checking in with the vet this afternoon, I got the okay to increase his dose of pain medication. Let's hope he feels better soon.

Papillon playdate

Chimera made a new friend this week: a young female Papillon named Eevee.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Back to work!

With the combination of attending Ferretpalooza and Chimera being "flat" on our last attempt at a Rally-FrEe leg, I am recommitted to improving our focus and engagement. I decided to take an FDSA class at Gold level this coming session. I met up with Dr Amy Cook a few days ago to get an assessment and help picking which class - we settled on Denise Fenzi's Engagement class, with the extra homework of revisiting Heeling Games (which I signed up for at Bronze long ago but didn't really work through) as well as finally doubling down and counter-conditioning Cai's reactive response to the sound of dog tags.

We've been working hard since the Tuesday meeting with Amy. On Wednesday Cai stayed at home, but we did many more play sessions than usual. I'm experimenting with how I play with him and trying to improve our personal play. I'm also continuing to build his willingness to bring a tug toy back to me after "winning," which we got help on from Shade Whitesel at Ferretpalooza.

On Thursday I took Cai with me to two consults, and after each one we hung out by the car for 15 minutes. I let Cai look around and sniff within the boundary of the six foot leash, and then did as much personal play, tug, treats, and tricks as he would happily do. The goal was not to get nice work, but to build his willingness to engage in a new environment. Let's have fun together!

This morning I took Cai to the front yard just to play tug in a place where we don't usually do work. There were workers walking around the neighbor's house, but Cai played anyway.

Later I met up with a Rally-FrEe student so that we could introduce our dogs to each other, and be able to train together in the future. We started far away and walked around, slowly getting closer to the other dog, an Aussie named Heidi. Cai gave a bark or two during the first few passes. As we got closer and he had more opportunities to see her and catch her scent, he calmed down. His body language switched from stiff and alert to loose and with a softly wagging tail. At that point he didn't actually care about meeting her; we continued to walk around and sniff. Finally the dogs did meet. Heidi was a little too big and fast for Cai to feel comfortable playing with her. However they were totally comfortable being next to each other and working for their owners. Again we did little sessions of play and tricks, with a bit of heeling thrown in. It felt good!

Now I just need to keep up the momentum!!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Brotherly love

Chimera licks Jasper's ear...

Then puts his head down and Jasper licks the top of his head.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Advanced training props

With the introduction of wooden scent articles to AKC Obedience, I went ahead and bought a set of small wooden spoons.
I also bought a set of little panda figurines to learn the advanced concept of counting items, as presented by Ken Ramirez at Clicker Expo.
Finally, I scavenged around the house and found 15 pairs of small items to learn "match to sample," also as presented by Ken Ramirez.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Second TDAA trial and TBAD title!

At our first agility trial, Cai was too overstimulated to eat or play until the end of the day. On Sunday, he played tug and ate chicken within an hour of getting out of the car! We were at the same place in Vacaville, with Pint Size Agility.

I alternated our free time between walking around and letting Cai acclimate and rest time in his crate, with just a handful of tricks thrown in. I wanted to make sure that he was still comfortable enough to eat, but didn't want to work his brain too hard. He was primed and ready at the start of our first run.

AM Beginner run, regular speed:

AM Beginner run, slow motion:

We did perfectly until the very end, where I was too far behind and Cai turned toward me instead of going straight ahead, and went around the last jump. I knew that that was a weakness for us but he was just too fast for me! We still qualified since I got him back and going over the jump the right away.

This was our third Q in Beginner, so Cai is officially a BAD dog! TBAD, that is: Teacup Beginner Agility Dog.

We moved up to the Intermediate class for the "PM" run (although the trial was so small and started so early, that the "PM" runs started at 9 am). The Intermediate class includes 6 weave poles. I warmed up Cai on a set of weave poles outside the ring. He was getting hot and tired, but I knew that if I didn't, he would run right past the poles in the ring.

PM Intermediate run, regular speed:

PM Intermediate run, slow motion:

This run did not go well. Cai knocked the bar on the third jump. He rarely does that, so I think he just didn't estimate the distances between jumps properly and took off too late. He did the weave poles beautifully. After the next jump, he ran off toward the chute instead of following me to the a-frame. Not sure why; something caught his attention? I got him back and he went up the a-frame a bit slowly. He didn't lie down after the contact and got stressed by my front cross. He may have interpreted it as a correction, or he was just plain confused. He started stress-sniffing. (The front cross would have been fine if he'd promptly laid down after the contact.) I got him back and we finished the last few obstacles. Whew!

Things to work on: proofing the post-contact down, proofing the weave poles, and improving his comfort level with the teeter (he did these teeters fine but was stopping earlier than I like). We're going to do more matches before returning to classes later this year. Due to budget and time constraints, I have to choose between classes and entering matches or trials.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Focus work at park, Home Depot

After Ferretpalooza (which I still need to write about), I've recommitted to taking Chimera to a variety of places to work on focus around distractions. Last week I took him to a quiet park. I picked a shady spot and we hung out. Cai spent twenty minutes mostly scanning the environment. If he looked at me, I praised him and gave some petting. Finally he was looking at me more often and seemed to want something to do. I offered him some chicken, which at first he sniffed but ignored, but eventually ate. Once he ate the pieces of chicken lying on the ground, he would eat from my hand, and then he was able to focus pretty well (about 90%) for 4-5 minutes of work. I should have stopped after just 1, maybe 2 minutes. Greedy trainer! Instead he petered out and had to go back to acclimating. I waited another 15 minutes, but he wasn't ready to work again, and it was time to go home.

I realized that outdoor spaces are still too overstimulating for him. We need to get more success in busy indoor spaces. Yesterday I took Cai on a shopping trip to Home Depot. He walked with me all around the store as I picked up homesteading supplies. Then I packed my goods into the car, picked up my treats, and went back in for training.

I picked a quiet aisle and let him look around, and gave brief praise and petting when he looked at me. I think it was about 10 minutes in that he started to look bored of just watching and wanted to do something more interesting. I tried out asking him to do a few tricks just for attention and petting, which is medium value compared to treats, but he often accepts it as a reward (and it successfully increases behaviors) even when he's too overstimulated to eat. I did see an brief increase in focus and willingness to perform a sequence of behaviors. However it was not a pretty, enthusiastic performance. Then I pulled out the chicken, and he lit up and wanted to work.

We did one trick per reward at first, then combined them into sequences of up to 4 tricks, but none of them required sustained focus beyond heeling 2-3 steps. The rapid cues served to bridge better than doing one trick for a longer duration (such as a long stay or heeling farther).

We moved out of the quiet aisle and toward a corner at the front of the store. There was a moderate number of other shoppers. We did more short sequences of multiple tricks. Cai did better than I'd expected! He barely lost focus as people walked by.

I'm feeling proud - and even better, like I finally have a clear way of progressing toward my goal: a dog who will be able to focus in any environment, whether a trial or a busy public market.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First agility trial, with TDAA!

Back on May 17th, Chimera made his agility trial debut! This was at the Pint Size Agility TDAA trial in Vacaville. I chose this teacup trial to be our first since I knew that it would be quite small and laid back. Cai was super excited to see all the other small dogs, of course. However, when we went over to some practice equipment, far away from the crating area, he was happy to pay attention and warm up to me.

I felt quite confident before our two standard runs. I drew out our paths on the course map, then closed my eyes and visualized what I would be seeing and doing at every point on the course. I still ended up with one bobble, but otherwise our runs were fast, clean, and smooth! Chimera and I qualified both times.

Here the first run in real time:

The bobble is when I forgot to front cross after the table and almost ran into in Cai. He responds by getting stressed and moving off to sniff the grass. Fortunately he came back with just a little cajoling.

First run in slow motion:

The slow motion shows that as Cai does the jump right before the rear cross (about 4:30), I started to lean into him in anticipation of the cross, and he actually switches leads to land in preparation for going to the left. Good boy! Bad handler, giving confusing body language! He seems to have a preference for being on the right lead?

Second run in real time:

Cai was noticeably slower on this run. He was getting tired from all the excitement of the show. However we ran completely clean!

Second run in slow motion:

Again, I'm seeing slight preference for the right lead. Good to know.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Alprazolam failure

This coming Thursday, Cai and I (with Sherry and Jacques) will be flying to Pennsylvania for Ferretpalooza! I am so excited about the conference but nervous about flying with Cai for the first time. I asked our vet for an anti-anxiety medication to help him be calm during the flight, and she prescribed alprazolam, the generic version of Xanax. This is commonly used for flights, as well as during thunderstorms, fireworks, or other situations when a fast-acting, as-needed medication can relieve a dog's trauma. Of course it's critical to test the medication out first, to make sure that your individual dog responds well to it.

Yesterday I met up with a training friend at Miller/Knox Park for an outdoor training session. I've been lazy about taking Cai out to train in public, so I decided to make dates with other people, and force myself to go even if no one else can attend that day. Fortunately my friend came and gave us support. It was a busy Saturday afternoon at a lovely park, so there were lots of distractions around and Cai had a difficult time focusing on me. It was about what I expected. I had given him the dose of alprazolam 30 minutes before we arrived at the park, and I saw no difference during the first hour we were there. Then Cai began acting strangely, in ways that were small but added up to an OBNOXIOUS MONSTER.
  • During the last 15 minutes we were at the park, he was whining, staring, and pulling toward a particular area of the park. I could not see anything that would cause him to whine that much. I gave up on the idea of him calming down and getting anything else productive done.
  • During the 45 minute drive back home, he whined off and on in his crate, which he almost never does.
  • When we arrived at home and I opened his crate door, rather than waiting for me to put his leash on, he tumbled out and onto the ground. I caught him and put his leash on.
  • When I opened the front gate and took his leash off, he initially stared at me and wouldn't get out of my way so I could close the gate, and then he rushed headlong down the stairs with awkward balance and gait. I wondered if he was injured.
  • I fed my housemate's dogs and Cai stuck his nose into their dishes, which he does occasionally if he's very hungry.
  • I let the dogs into the backyard to play and took Cai to our section of the house to feed him and Jasper. There is a baby gate separating the kitchen from the living room, and Jasper's litter box is behind it. (That may sound weird, but it's honestly the best place for the litter box in this house.) Cai has been trained for nearly two years to never step beyond that gate even when it's open. I am usually able to go into my bedroom or even outside and not worry that he will go into the kitchen. This time, however, not 5 minutes passed before Cai had gone into the kitchen and pulled a chunk of cat poop out of the box and started to eat it, which he had literally never done before.
  • I got the poop away from him, cleaned that up, cleaned the litter box, and vacuumed the entire room for good measure. I went into the kitchen to prep food, thinking that surely Cai would not enter the kitchen again with me standing right there. I turn around for a few seconds, and turn back to find him behind me, licking the cat's food bowl. I yell and shoo him out.
  • He then proceeds to repeatedly cross over the threshold even when I keep telling him to back up and wait. I end up closing the baby gate.
  • He whines and prances around as I'm preparing his food, rather than lying down quietly as he's been taught to do.
  • A little while later, I'm settled in the bedroom with my friend A to crochet and watch a movie. Cai steps onto my yarn and I gently push him back and say "off." Rather than saying "oops, sorry" like usual, Cai gets irritated and mouths my hand.
  • He then bugs me for attention more insistently than usual, and that's saying something.
  • And the final weirdness for the night... he decides that he wants to lick the penis of one of the other dogs, which is something he does occasionally anyway, but he's really insistent about it. Usually I tell him to knock it off and/or push his head back, and he stops, but this time he immediately dives back under the other dog and won't stop, no matter how many times I tell him to.
My conclusion is that the alprazolam removed Cai's sense of inhibition (which I hadn't thought he had much of, anyway).  It really brought out his inner monster. I will not be giving it to him ever again! Cross your fingers that he does fine on the flight without any help.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Visit from Miki and Lilit

My "niece," Lilit, was born one day after Cai. He's been visiting her since she was an infant and he was a puppy. At first he didn't care about her at all - sniffed, then ignored. He wasn't bothered by the sounds of baby crying or laughing or shrieking. As she began to walk and reach out and touch, he became just a little nervous about her. (Many dogs dislike toddlers because of their unpredictable movements and noises, and grabby-ness.) Treats and careful supervision are steadily bringing him around. The last visit was particularly sweet - he sat on his Auntie Miki's lap, and gave Lilit sniffs, kisses, and tail wags.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Recent pictures

Drooling after too much excitement over female dogs. Gross.

Hunting for lizards(?) in the scrap wood pile at N's farm.

Investigating the rolled up pasture fencing.

Sniff sniff...

It's an agility tunnel!

Playing with a top hat toy. (There are tiny stuffed bunnies inside that he was trying to pull out.)

Right before he walked into a kitchen cabinet.

He knew the stairs were somewhere in front of him, and thankfully stopped walking just in time.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Chiropractic fix up

One more story of note from the past couple of months - Cai had suddenly started being hesitant on the teeter, and even jumped off in the middle at one point. A few weeks before that, he had been consistently popping out of the weave poles around the 10th pole. That's a common issue, but it appeared suddenly when he had never done it before.

I got him to the chiropractor, who reported that he indeed had a disc out of alignment again. Our next opportunity to do the teeter was two weeks later, and Cai was back to his usual form. In fact, Blancett told me to stop babying him at the drop and instead start running past and testing his contact behavior (4 on). He still popped out of the weave poles, unfortunately. Back to training!

Rally-FrEe Novice title

I am so behind in updating Chimera's blog! I've had a lot of other things going on - check out my other blog detailing the adventure with chickens, gardening, and crafting. That said, there's no good excuse for not posting about Cai earning his Rally-FrEe Novice title!

This was back on January 11th, when the Redwood Empire Doggy Dancers hosted California's first Rally-FrEe trial. Cai did "okay" in the ring. He certainly had distracted moments, but when he was paying attention, he performed very nicely (other than sometimes going wide on the Circle Around signs). He earned 7-9 points at most of the signs. (I think the scoring was a bit lenient - but maybe that's just because I'm used to Obedience scoring!). In the morning we scored 156, and in the afternoon it was 152.

Here's our morning run. The first sign was "Right Heel Forward," but because I was nervous, I reverted to my Rally O roots and started Cai on the left! I realized that the signs were on the wrong side for left heel after the second sign (free choice).

Here's the afternoon run. You can tell that he's more tired.

So now his full name is MicFriends Chimera Monstra R-FE/N!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rally-FrEe practice

The local freestyle club, Redwood Empire Doggy Dancers, is holding California's first Rally-FrEe trials tomorrow (one in the morning and the second in the afternoon). Chimera and I are entered in both, though we only need one more qualifying run to earn his novice title.

Today they hosted two WCFO freestyle trials, and a run-through at the end. I volunteered as the camera person during the freestyle runs, and brought Cai into the building for practice during breaks and the run-through. As has been the case recently, I was prepared for explosive reactivity and no focus, and instead I had a very, very good dog. There were minor incidents of growling or barking, but he was easily redirected. In the ring, he was focused 90% of the time (though with treats and personal play).

I would still prefer not to enter him into any trials yet, and do more proofing and fun ring time instead. However I couldn't pass up the opportunity to support the growth of Rally-FrEe! We'll do more fun matches afterwards to balance things out.