Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Solstice 2016!

(I had a particularly difficult time wrangling them this year.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Belly band

Chimera outgrew his puppy belly band a long time ago. He still occasionally marks at Sherry's and at my parents' condo (where we're spending Christmas this year) so I finally made him a new one.

Good news from the chiropractor

Dr Wallace was pleased with Chimera's recovery! She didn't have to do any major adjustments this time. She could tell that I had been doing his new rehab exercises, because his movement was better in his shoulders and he let her extend his back legs more easily. He's still licking his front left foot intermittently and we're not sure why.

I'm to continue with his current set of rehab exercises:
  • Front foot pivot on pilates disc
  • Reaching up and forward with front legs (especially pulling something down from above with his front left leg)
  • Crossing front legs across his chest, and also stretching sideways out away from his body (they go farther than I'd realized!)
  • Back foot pivot on pilates disc
  • Lifting and stretching back legs out

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cue dictionary

I took time to write up a cue dictionary for Chimera, since I was having trouble remembering what some of my cue words were. It's at the top of this blog, or here's the direct link.

Need verbal cues for the following behaviors:
  • Obedience go-out to distant target
  • Reverse heel position (facing backwards)
  • Limp
  • Back foot target to my hand

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

TEAM1 attempt - not yet!

Here was our first attempt at the TEAM1 title, filmed in Sherry's living room:

We received a "not yet" due to a few errors, but they are all easily fixable. Here are the notes from the judge:

Lovely engagement; well balanced energy with your dog! Easy set up in heel position.
Find heel: If you use a verbal/hand signal combination, they must be simultaneous. At 38 sec - you gave a verbal and at 39 sec you gave the hand signal when your dog stalled a bit. Clearly your dog knows the behavior! Now get it to a more confident place with one cue!
small training details (Not part of NY score) - watch your body language. Freeze video at 41 and 1:08 sec and note that you're upper body is tilted backwards - keep straight :). I would have had to think about how to score that if you didn't already have the NY for the second cue.
pivot only needs to be 180- I would have scored this as an NY because your dog is "catching up" at times rather than moving with you - (freeze tape at 1:19 and 1:22 and note how far out of position your dog is at these points). You only need 180!
Find front: Beautiful handling up to1:50 while your dog searched for food - no rush - well done. First two were lovely! Third attempt he is not on the board/straight in front position - see 2:13.
sit and down: No sit! Lovely after that.
lovely backing! Speed around cone not judged so no problem there.
Nose touch - You cannot hold the hand signal - you started the signal at 3:37 and were still holding it at 3:40. your dog clearly knows this one! Give your verbal/signal - and then go to neutral and wait for your dog to finish up on his own!
jump was easy for your dog.
Retrieve is there too. Make sure your dog reaches for the object rather than putting it in his mouth (not relevant here but will be at the second level).
beautiful scent work!
beautiful stay too :).
Your dog is well trained - you have this! Watch your handling - that cost you. Make sure that your dog can use that platform/disc smoothly and continuously with no help from you. It's likely that you were a bit nervous and that was affecting your dog's behavior - that's ok! Both of you will benefit from that experience of nervousness and will get better as you accustom yourself to it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Tricks update

I've been getting back to teaching Chimera more complex tricks that require extra body awareness. (We had taken a break from those while he was on restricted activity for his leg injuries.) Some of the fun tricks we've been practicing are:
  • Dig
  • Limp
  • Crossing Paws
  • Pawstand with his back feet up on my arm (something he used to be scared to do)
  • Side passes in front
  • Weaving backwards through my leg
  • Doing backwards circles around me while I turn in the opposite direction
  • Turning 180 degrees from Front
  • Getting into smaller and smaller bowls
  • Holding unusual objects, especially rags, paper, and other light objects that are a challenge for him to hold steady without shaking them
We've been visiting Sherry frequently and he's loving the opportunity to RUN off leash. Today we took the opportunity to record our first attempt at a TEAM1 title in Sherry's living room. I'm not sure whether we passed - I'll post the video here with details once we get feedback.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Retrieving a dollar bill

I started to teach Chimera to pick up and bring me a dollar bill.

I rushed the training process and he started playing with the bill and tore it. Oops!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Finally healed!

Chimera's chiropractor had said that he was pretty much healed up when we saw her two weeks ago, and it's now been confirmed by the rehab vet. He still grumbled at her when she pressed very hard into his groin/inner thigh area, but she said that he's 90% back to normal.

I took him to my friend Sherry's fenced in field on Friday and today, and he was SO happy to be allowed to run and run and run off leash. We also went on an off leash hike yesterday, which consisted of little running but plenty of fast trotting this way and that.

I can ask him to do more challenging freestyle and obedience movements again, such as pivots, sidesteps, backing up, backwards circles, bows, fold back downs, and so on. We can also do retrieves at a distance since it's okay for him to run toward the dumbbell.

And we can play tug and ball! I just have to be careful on the hardwood floor.

We are both much happier now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Good news!

Finally some good news! Chimera saw his awesome chiropractor, Dr Wallace. She found that his pelvis was out of whack, but that was probably from his regular jumping and running while playing with Jasper. He had a few other sore spots and grumbled and snapped at her a few times, however she was able to fully extend his hind legs. His iliopsoas seem to be finally healed! We have another two weeks before our recheck with Dr Yamamoto at the K9 Rehab Center and I'll still have him take it easy until then, just in case. I want a second opinion before I risk anything.

I asked about returning to agility and she said that once he's had another two appointments in a row with no significant problems, we can start easing back into it. Woohoo!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Iliopsoas recheck

Just finished a recheck with Dr Yamamoto. Cai is improved since six weeks ago but not as much as most dogs would be. She is concerned about his slow recovery. The current plan is:

1. Schedule more chiropractic appointments as they definitely help him - I need to call Dr Wallace's clinic and just schedule a ton of appointments way out so that I'm guaranteed to get in regularly.

2. Continue laser treatment twice a week as my schedule allows.

3. Take him off the muscle relaxants since I didn't see any change with them.

4. Continue rehab exercises.

5. Continue restricted activity - no running or jumping or stairs. She said that for some dogs she would have relaxed the restrictions, but since Cai likes to run and jump when he's off leash, we can't risk it.

6. Get information about possible stem cell therapy trials/research from Dr Troy, a fellow vet at Mueller.

7. Schedule an appointment with Dr Sams up in Marin for a second opinion.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Shoulder and harness problem

Since Chimera has to be pottied on leash even in the yard, I got him a new harness that is easier to put on and take off. I can't keep a harness on him all day because it makes his fur mat within 24 hours. (This dog could spend all day sleeping at home and still end up with mats.) The one I got was the Ezy Dog harness:
I knew from a Chris Zink seminar I took a few years ago that having a strap go horizontally across the dog's shoulders isn't good for them, but I thought that for just his short walks it would be okay. I was surprised when I took him in for a chiropractic adjustment a couple of weeks later and his shoulders were VERY sore. He growled and snapped at Dr Wallace much more than ever before. She asked, "Has he been pulling himself up with his front legs onto something? Or pulling in a harness?" OOPS

Fortunately after adjusting his atlas/C1 (at the top of the neck/spine) and massaging his shoulder muscles, he calmed down considerably. And the Ezy Dog harness went into the donation pile.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Brain games

Dogs are not natural multitaskers. The first time you ask a dog to sit while he's holding an object in his mouth, he'll most likely drop the object and then sit. Chimera can now hold onto the dumbbell and sit at the same time, but yesterday I asked him to wave a paw while holding it, and his brain exploded. He stared at me, frozen for a good five seconds. Finally he dropped the dumbbell and then jumped on me. "I don't understand what's happening!"

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


It's Chimera's fourth birthday! This is how we celebrated:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Iliopsoas rehab update

We saw Dr Yamamoto at the Canine Rehab Center on Wednesday. She felt him over to see assess how well he's healing. The assessment: not much. He was still sore and whipped around to give her warnings when she felt the iliopsoas on both sides, as well as on his back at the spot where those muscles originate. We were disappointed. We decided to do an x-ray to see whether there was perhaps a congenital issue that was impairing his healing. There was some subtle disc narrowing and hip changes but the radiologist thought that it was just a result of his positioning during the x-ray. (He was quite squirmy - he doesn't like being on his side or back.)

We could potentially do an ultrasound to give us more information but it would probably not change our course of treatment. We could do an "MRI to rule out a spinal cord, spinal nerve or disc problem that is not showing up on radiographs" but "this is expensive and would require general anesthesia." The doctor even mentioned the possibility of stem cells. But before we jump into any more aggressive treatment, we agreed to do another 6 weeks of restricted activity and cold laser treatment twice a week, with the addition of a muscle relaxant and PT exercises. The PT exercises are designed to keep the other muscles around the iliopsoas strong, but they're also good because I was worried about Cai losing muscle tone due to the extended rest period. I will also continue the chiropractic visits every two weeks. At the beginning of September we'll do another recheck and go from there.

On the bright side, we've exceeded the annual deductible for Cai's health insurance with Healthy Paws, and are now getting reimbursement checks for 80% of the cost of laser and chiropractic adjustments.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Clicker savvy

It's fun to have a dog who is used to clicker training and has many skills in his repertoire.

Cai already knows well: picking things up, holding items in his mouth, backing up

We quickly reviewed: picking up items from an awkward angle, moving while holding something (including backing up while holding)

We did a single shaping session to teach: pulling hard on an object to get it out of my hand

We combined those skills to teach: grabbing hold of my zipper tab and pulling/backing up to unzip my sweatshirt

So fun!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Still in rehab

I never know what to say when the vet techs doing Chimera's laser therapy ask me if he's getting better. I'm still restricting his activity such that I'm not asking him to do the things that had originally tipped me off to the problem (such as jumping into the car, going up and down stairs, and doing weave poles).

Today he was reluctant to let the tech use the laser on his iliopsoas on both the left and right side. (Usually his right is worse.) It might be because a few days ago he got a rare case of the zoomies in the living room and I just didn't have the heart to catch him and crate him up. My mistake.

We've been doing nose work to give him mental stimulation. The hides are all at low heights, of course, and the furniture is blocked off in case he's tempted to use it to source the odor.

He's really being a good sport about all this as long as he gets plenty of cuddle time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fourth laser treatment

Today's tech was Erin. I have been impressed by all the techs we've worked with at the Canine Rehabilitation Center. They have all been patient with Cai if he was weirded out by the machine. I explain the Bucket Game to them and they follow orders exactly.

Cai was sensitive about his right side being lasered, though. He must have done something to strain it since our last appointment four days ago.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pink and purple back

The ink smeared from Cai's tail onto his back. Oops.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Purple and pink tail

I busted out the Bark Art Blow Pens again. Since Chimera won't be competing in anything any time soon, I might as well take advantage of being able to doll him up. I had wanted to give him zebra stripes, but he doesn't like the feeling of air blowing onto his body. He's more tolerant with his tail.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

First trip to rehab vet

We had an appointment with Dr Yamamoto at the Canine Rehabilitation Center in Walnut Creek. We went over Chimera's history and the notes from Dr Wallace. I told her that I thought I remembered Dr Wallace saying that the iliopsoas strain was in his right leg, but I noticed while brushing him over the past few days that he was definitely more sensitive with his left leg. She felt him up and said that BOTH legs were injured. She said that his hamstrings and quads in both legs were also tight and sore. The one good thing is that both knees are fine. Oy.

She recommend cold laser therapy twice a week. She estimated treatment would take about 2 months, assuming that there is no incidence of re-injury, which is common with iliopsoas strains. We are continuing the restricted activity protocol.

The laser machine made loud beeping noises which made Cai uncomfortable. The tech, Tracy, was patient with him. I held the laser wand (turned off) and did some quick reps of rewarding for exploring it, then allowing me to touch him with it. He still was wary when Tracy took over, but by the end he was calmly standing still and looking at me for 5 seconds between treats. I should have used the bucket game but I had been so worried and rushed this morning that I'd forgotten the bowl and even my own treats!

Visiting parents

We spent Mother's Day weekend with my parents. Chimera was more active there, and ended up yelping due to his leg injury a few times. I wish one could explain to animals that they need to take it easy when they're injured.

On the bright side, I took him to a get together and he spent the evening calmly lying next to me on leash.

We also took a trip to Home Depot and he was a model citizen, walking perfectly next to my cart.

A couple more pictures of Cai on strict rest.
Have to find new positions to sleep in.
Tired of the bed?
Begging politely for raw fish.
Calm in the car.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Rally-FrEe Intermediate Encore, 1st leg

After REDD's trial at Fetch Sam in March, one of the Novice entrants was eager to participate in a video event and finish up her dog's title. One other trial entrant, a brand-new beginner, and I all signed up to bring up the numbers of the event. We scheduled our joint recording session on April 22nd at ARF and had a fun time together. She did indeed get her dog's Novice title for that run!

Chimera doesn't have the Advanced level behaviors down yet, so I signed up for the Intermediate Encore class. Since I didn't care about whether we got a leg toward our Encore title (I'm just focusing on the core title track), I was able to totally relax as we went through the course. I didn't even train for the course ahead of time. As we went through, I thought that Cai was a little off-kilter since we hadn't been reviewing the signs that were on the course. However now I know that both his shoulder and his iliopsoas were giving him problems, and that's why he wasn't as responsive as usual. I believe that most of the missed/confused cues were actually because of the pain rather than lack of attention, because it's not the norm for him.

We still scored 148 and qualified. Here's the video:

Pet insurance and restricted activity update

Chimera has been adjusting better than I expected to his restricted activity. He gets bored here and there but mostly is willing to sleep the day away. He potties promptly when we go out on leash and enjoys his leash walks. We're doing some low-movement training like putting his front paws into my sandals (he manically paws at them because he's so excited to be doing something), scent articles (just indicating, no retrieve), and match to sample (he still doesn't get it).

In the meantime, Healthy Paws has come through and are counting my 3 recent payments for chiropractic adjustments toward my $500 deductible. (Or rather, they're counting 80% of those payments.) Like nearly all pet insurance companies, they don't count the exam fee toward the deductible or cover it. I'm happy that we've got the process going, as now there's no reason they shouldn't cover 80% of any upcoming laser therapy or other rehab treatments we do for his iliopsoas (after I cover the rest of the deductible). I'm happy with my decision to get pet insurance because now I don't have to worry much about the expensive rehab!

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.

Scissors bite

I'm taking FE238: Structure and Movement at FDSA this term. We're just getting started with learning the basics about bones and muscles, but one of the lectures last week was about the shape of the head and jaw, and included some info on types of bites.

The instructor, Sue Ailsby, confirmed that Cai has a lovely scissors bite.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The princess and the pea

Cai approves of his new mat... on top of his old mat, on top of his regular crate pad and blanket.
We're all packed for Clicker Expo in Reno!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Raw egg

When I collect the chicken eggs in the evening, I put them in my jacket pocket since I need both hands to hold the flashlight and lock up the coop and run. This evening I came in the house, squatted down to untie my shoes, and an egg rolled out from my pocket and across the floor. Before I could even see where it had gone, Chimera snatched it up and carried it up his little steps and onto my bed. He bit down on his treasure and spilled the contents onto my blanket. He then had fun crunching up the shell while I cleaned up the raw egg. He was so proud of himself.