Saturday, July 15, 2017

Third annual Fenzi Dog Sports Camp

Camp was in Albany Oregon this year. As usual, Sherry and Jacques and Chimera and I went together. The location was the Lynn County Fairgrounds, which I loved because our hotel was just a minute's walk from the labs. I crated Cai in the car on the first day, since that's where he would be most calm and comfortable. The rest of the weekend was hot so I switched to crating in the hotel room. As far as I could tell he was quiet there, too.

He was reactive toward other dogs if they came right toward him, but that was generally easy to manage. He was also still reactive to the sound of dog tags jingling, and that's still a pain in the ass. We did a little practice crating in the official crating area. He didn't seem to mind me moving away, but I had to stay pretty close so that I could quickly feed treats after he heard tags. If I can just get him past that issue, I think that he would be fine in a covered crate during future camps.

In good news, he stayed focused the entire weekend, other than our final lab, when he just couldn't muster the energy anymore.

Here are my biggest take aways and exercises I need to do with Cai.

Figure 8 (obedience) with Hannah Branigan
- Use a pivot platform to teach the dog to come into your side, and then use a pivot/side-stepping motion to train moving into you as you go around a cone. This will transfer to an inside turn with lots of rear end movement into you, and good attention on you.
- For the outside turn, teach a sequence of you look at the cone, then cue a jump to your left hand, and click and reward the jump. Looking at the cone will become a cue to "power up" as the dog heels.
- I want to do both of these exercises with Cai.

Ring Ready (obedience run through) with Denise Fenzi
- We did a novice run through. Cai did better than I expected!
- He doesn't have any automatic sits in heel or front since I trained a default stand for rally-free and freestyle. So I just skipped those rather than cuing them, which would have added pressure and stressed him out.
- We skipped the touching in the stand for exam - the judge just walked by him. He still became nervous and stepped toward me. I definitely want to work on that.
- Denise told me that I have a bad habit of slowing down during heeling (which I didn't realize I did!) and looking back at him too much (which I'm aware of but is hard for me to stop doing). It was especially bad on the outside turn of the figure 8, which is funny because I KNOW not to do that and I've told clients not to do it multiple times. But that doesn't mean that I can always follow my own advice! She told me to look where I'm going.
- For the first half of the run through, I was too stressed to remember to be playful with Cai in between exercises. I did reward with food jackpots. When I realized that I should also connect with him socially, we both felt better.
- During the off leash heeling pattern, he started to look around and stress down, so I stopped in the middle of the pattern and kneeled down next to him. I pet him as he looked around for a few seconds. then I had him put his paws on my legs and we did our little "paw at each other" game. He recovered completely and we finished the pattern with enthusiasm. Woohoo!! That was a big victory for us.

Getting Ahead (agility) with Loretta Mueller
- Sending ahead has always been a weak point for me and Cai, and it really showed in this lab. I need to get in successful repetitions of me doing a clear send and Cai taking the obstacle ahead.
- It's definitely better when I follow Loretta's instructions to connect with the dog as he finishes the previous obstacle (see dog's feet land), then look at the take off point for the next obstacle, then repeat. (Feet, feet, feet!) Our runs are much smoother when I get this right. Not only does Cai follow my intended instructions better, but it feels less hectic on my end.
-  I have a problem with disconnecting with him when I look around to make sure I'm not running into an obstacle. I need to turn this into a super quick peek taken as Cai is committed and performing the previous obstacle, and be turned back in time to watch his feet land.
- I miss doing regular agility practice so much!!

Use It And Lose It (training aids) with Julie Flanery
- Do the initial platform shaping with the platform in front position - saves time and helps dog orient to front position when the platform leaves.
- Before you remove your prop, you must place it on cue.
- Using multiple props for the same behavior makes it easier to fade them because the behavior isn't dependent on any one prop. (I think this is where a lot of people go wrong.)
- Let the props do the work, not your food/lure/body etc.
- Make sure to build plenty of value in the position you want - do that first, before teaching the dog how to get into that position. (Stationary position before movement.)
- Keep the picture the same when you're fading props. Minimize how much you have to move around as you're physically removing props. For example, do your platform fading sessions next to a table so you can swiftly pick up the platform and place it out of sight without moving your feet.

Fabulous Fronts with Julie Flanery
(I was late to this)
- Use your final cue as soon as criteria is reliably being met - even if you're still using props to make dog meet criteria
- Use a chute from gates to create straight fronts. Feed in center of your body. Dog comes to food rather than the food going to the dog's mouth.

Heeling with Denise Fenzi
- I walked into the ring and Denise immediately asked, "Where are you going to look?" "Where I'm going!" "Good girl. Start heeling."
- Denise had me do a bunch of wide right circles to practice looking where I'm going, and reward Cai for staying nicely in position. Apparently he did great. I couldn't tell because I couldn't see him. It was SO HARD. She asked if I could "feel" him in position and I really can't.
- We also did a little trouble-shooting on right about turns. He stays fairly close but I'd like him closer. I should do a lot of turning, then drifting to the right to pull him into my left side. This will pattern train him to stay close on the right about turn.

Heeling with Hannah Branigan
(Can't get too much of heeling!)
- Hannah had me practice the right turn and jump to hand touch exercise from her earlier lab (which I'd audited).
- She noticed that Cai was only pivoting left when I did a big ol' shoulder turn, and I need to minimize that. She suggested I go back to my disc work and get my footwork to cue the pivot rather than my left shoulder. Then I need step forward with my left foot in front of my right, heel touching toe, angled left. Click for Cai pivoting toward me without any other help.

Private lesson with Hannah Branigan
- Since I had already gotten a lot of help with heeling, I asked about a different obedience exercise: positions out of motion, for example the drop on recall. Here were the steps we worked through:
1. Test the stimulus control of the target behavior. If you hold completely still and say the verbal cue, does the dog immediately respond with the correct behavior? If not, train that first. Cai passed this test.
2. March in place and say the cue. Reward the correct response, and repeat. March just a little at first, then go into full-on goose stepping. Cai hesitated at first, but then caught on.
3. Slowly back up and say the cue. Reward and repeat. Cai hesitated, then caught on.
4. Increase speed of your backing up. Cai was doing great at this point.

- If you want to do it while heeling forward, start with slow forward movement, then faster.
- For the drop on recall:
1. Pick a spot on the floor that you can see but is not salient to the dog (ie seam in the rubber mats, stripe on the rug, crack in the sidwalk).
2. Toss treat behind dog. Dog will eat it, then automatically start heading back toward you. Click as dog approaches spot, then toss treat behind him. Repeat until the dog starts to slow and later stop as he reaches the spot. Cai got this faster than I expected. We had a hiccup when a treat stuck to my finger and landed in front of where he had stopped - then he resumed trying to come all the way toward me and we had to quickly rebuild the behavior.
3. Cue the desired position as the dog reaches the spot and slows to a stop. Click and toss the treat backwards. Cai was getting it.
4. Repeat with various distances.

- To get those varied distances, start off by tossing treats to various distances, and cuing the behavior right as he's finishing eating, before he starts coming back toward you.
- I asked about teaching the dog to drop as he's moving away from you (just to be extra fancy), and she recommended having a cone or target to send the dog to, but otherwise repeating the steps above. (Click as dog approaches spot where you want to cue drop, treat to reset.)

Distance (agility) with Amanda Nelson
- You need trust and confidence in other to get distance.
- Always help the dog. Step forward, closer to the obstacle, if needed. Don't just stand there yelling "go" or "out!"
- Reward at distance via remote reward or tossed reward.
- Think of a rubber band - the greater the distance, the greater the pressure.

Private lesson with Shade Whitesel
- I was so excited to have gotten a private with Shade, but I'd already had two private lessons just on heeling, and one on changes in position, and I had trouble deciding what to ask for help with. I came up with three things that I could honestly use help with: sound sensitivity, fronts, and pace changes in heeling. Shade said to talk to Amy about sound sensitivity (that's fair), and she didn't want to work on fronts without the ray diagrams on the floor a la Sue Ailsby, so that left us with pace changes.
- We did well when we went out and just gave a demo of our current paces. I'd never actually trained Cai to respond to pace changes; he just picked it up along the way. But when we demoed a second time, you could see that Cai wasn't totally sure on what to do, and I wasn't sure on exactly what pace to use for our fast and slow.
- Shade said the most important thing for me to do is give him more warning, and I can do that by doing a half-step differently right before I actually change. I need to practice this more sans dog so that I'll be smooth. (Practice with a metronome would be great for this.)
- If he lags, I can keep going and then reward by tossing food/toys forward when he catches up. The fact pace should be a canter.
- I need to slow down more on the slow pace so that he clearly downshifts to a walk.
- His normal heeling pace is a (happy bouncy) trot.

Confidence Games with Amanda Nelson
- You can use known tricks as an emotional barometer. Is your dog responding quickly and with enthusiasm?
- Cup game (use 2 clear plastic cups):
1. Place a treat under a cup.
2. Tip the cup over or pick it up as the reward to shape the dog to interact with the cup. The goal is that the dog tips it over himself to eat the treat.
3. Add a second cup without a treat. Let the dog figure out that he can use sight and/or smell to find the right one.
- Middle (dog goes in between your legs, facing forward) - good place to wait for your turn, and helps many dogs feel secure.
- Go to mat
- Fly
- Knocking over tupperware to get food
- Wait and go (I didn't write down what exactly this is, I think it's self control and then release to reward?)

Agility match with Loretta Mueller
- We ran the course as if it were a trial. Then Loretta fixed my timing and made sure I connected and watched his feet land and gave good cues. When I got those things right, Cai ran beautifully!! I really miss doing agility regularly.

Rally-FrEe match with Julie Flanery
- There were only a few people signed up for this, and so we went right after we finished our 10 minutes of agility practice. Cai was tired out. He was still trying but he couldn't recognize some of the cues I was giving. I just did easy stuff and helped him out and gave him rewards, and we were soon done.

I love dog sports and I love my little monster. Can't wait to do it again next year! We should probably actually do some training and trialing in the meantime (Fast CAT not withstanding).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fast CAT adventures

Sherry came with to be Chimera's "catcher" for two back-to-back Fast CAT trials last Saturday. Cai's first run was awesome. He took off after the lure and ran at almost exactly the same speed as last time - 12.4 seconds /16.46 mph, earning 32.92 points. However he seemed to not hear Sherry calling him at the end, as he turned around and started to run back toward me. I could tell he was looking for me and I was already walking toward the finish line, so I wasn't worried. But the other exhibitors didn't know that he wouldn't run off, and my friend Michael did a flying tackle and caught Cai in his arms. My heart stopped for a moment as this happened, as I was afraid that either a) Cai was getting crushed, or b) would be traumatized and scared of people approaching during future runs. But Michael was very careful and Cai was fine. Cai even solicited butt rubs from him later.

As we lined up for our second run, Cai heard the sound of the line winding around the corner posts behind him, and really wanted to investigate them. I kept him facing forward, waited until the lure started moving to release him, and thought that he saw it. However his mind was still behind him and as soon as I let go, he ran behind me. I called him and ran forward a few steps, and then he saw the lure up ahead and ran forward. But the lure operator wasn't ready and didn't immediately get the lure going again. Cai outpaced it and started to drift off to the right side of the track. At the end he turned back toward the middle and passed the finish line successfully. It took 18.2 seconds, which comes to 11.21 mph and 22.42 points. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Sherry called him, and this time Cai looked like he noticed but he deliberately turned and started back toward me. Again I was already halfway to joining him at the finish, and I knelt down and called him. He saw me and headed right for me... and then the lure, which was being wound back toward the finish, passed him and he changed course to chase it. *face palm* The person who was doing the start flag was quick on his feet. He picked up the line (after it stopped) and waved the plastic bags up and down, and Cai jumped up and down to get at them, allowing me to catch up to him and scoop him up.

I guess we have extra recall training to do! Also from now on I will have someone else release Cai at the start, and I'll be at the finish waiting for him.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Treeing Papillon

Chimera ran out the door as my parents were visiting. I figured he'd do a lap and then come back, but then I heard his "I've cornered a cat" bark. I went out with a flashlight and sure enough, he had treed a cat in the orchard. As I approached, the cat jumped down and and they both took off again. The cat went up another tree way down the property. I found them thanks to Cai's barking as he treed it again.  I stopped a few feet away, squatted, and called Cai. No acknowledgement. It took some calling for him to finally give up and return to me. His legs and belly are covered in burrs.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

BUMAS muzzle

Chimera's custom-made muzzle is here!

It's slightly long and wide, but it's hard to get these things right with tiny dogs - a single centimeter makes a big difference. He wore it happily for these pictures, but we're still working on wearing it while walking.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Much fluff

I brushed Cai with his regular slicker brush to remove debris and tangles. Then I forced him to put up with a thorough brushing with a flea comb, which pulls out much more of the loose hair.
He is significantly less fluffy now, but hopefully cooler in this hot weather (100+ degrees F).

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Vet visits

We moved onto a farm property last month. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of flea pressure. Chimera has always attracted fleas. During Clicker Expo a few years ago, Cai picked up fleas while Jacques (Sherry's Papillon) came through unscathed. Cai was on Advantix II and I've been keeping the house clean, but they still wouldn't leave him alone. When he ended up chewing at his side badly enough to pull out hair, I took him to the vet.

I had already decided that I wanted Happy Tails Animal Hospital in Vacaville to be our new clinic. I had gone onto the Fear Free website to see if there happened to be a nearby clinic with certified techs and vets, and was thrilled to find one!

Cai has always been quite good at the vet's but I wanted to make sure that things stayed that way. He is a little nervous about getting man-handled by strangers (understandably). And I definitely wanted to support a clinic that went to all that effort.

The longer appointments offered by Fear Free clinics are great - they allowed me to get to know the tech who worked with me (Shawn) and the doctor (Dr Diedrich). The doctor asked for my business cards and gave me some of hers. They gave me a tour without me even asking.

I got a free trial of Nexguard and some medication to temporarily lower his body's response to itchiness. Both helped and the potential hot spot healed up.

The doctor noted that he had enough of a plaque build up on his teeth that a dental was recommended. I went ahead and scheduled one asap - I had noted that his breath was awful lately and I didn't want to neglect his dental health. The pre-dental x-rays revealed that Cai had a couple of molars in the back of his lower jaws which are normal in big dogs, but small dogs usually don't have them because of the lack of room. There was bacterial build up around these molars and the doctor removed them. She said they came out easily and he should recover quickly, which was true.

A week later, we had an appointment with Dr Wallace, his chiropractor. We hadn't seen her in a few months because I'd had to reschedule an appointment and she always books up way in advance. Once again Cai had to have an adjustment around his sacrum. He was PISSED when she pressed in that area. He whipped around and tried to snap at her hand. I had to hold his head and he kept growling and whale eyeing. But finally she got him adjusted and was able to feel him up with no reaction. And that evening, he was much calmer during brushing around his back legs. I hate that he keeps having problems in that area even when he hasn't been very active. I made an appointment one month out and another two months out. Poor guy.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

First Fast CAT run

There's a new type of AKC lure coursing event, called Fast CAT. CAT stands for "coursing ability test." The regular CAT events are 600 yards for big dogs and 300 yards for small dogs. Fast CAT is a sprint of just 100 yards. Chimera loves to sprint and chase things, so I decided to give it a try. My mom joined us since a "catcher" is required to get the dog after he finishes chasing the lure.

I was worried that Cai wouldn't chase the lure (a plastic bag on a string, which zips along the ground), or that he would go partway and then return to me (which many of the other dogs did). However he took off like a shot the moment he saw something "running" away from him, and ran all 100 yards lickety-split! My mom reported that once the bag stopped moving, he approached it, but then she called him and he ran to her and got chicken treats. What a good boy!

He ran the 100 yards in 12.34 seconds, which is 16.58 mph. There aren't a lot of Papillons who have done the sport yet, and the fastest one is 19.76 mph! However the second one is only 15.27 mph, so apparently Cai is still very fast!

Since he is under 12", I multiply the mph by 2, and he has earned 33.15 points toward the BCAT title (needs 150 points total).

I wish I had gotten a video of him running all out. It was very cool to watch. There is another event very close to me on July 8th, and I'll definitely sign up for it.

Only downside was that the event was poorly managed by the club, and we had to stand around waiting for a full 2 hours before our turn - and we were #43. In fact, this really highlighted how silly these dog sports are: I drove 2.5 hours south to my parents' house, spent the night, got up early and drove 40 minutes to the event, and waited 2 hours in the cold, so my dog could run for 12 seconds. I then drove 40 minutes back to my parents' house and then 2 hours back home. On the bright side, I had a lovely time visiting my parents, and I would do it all over again! But I'd bring a chair, blanket, and good book.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Running at the beach

Since we're about to move an hour north, this was probably our last trip to the Albany Bulb. Chimera likes to run run run on the beach.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Muzzle measurements

I've been wanting to train Chimera to wear a muzzle, in case of emergency, to help reduce the stigma and normalize muzzle training, and as good practice for me. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a mass-produced basket muzzle that is small enough for his tiny snout. I was excited to learn about the BUMAS muzzle KickStart campaign and ordered a custom-made, colorful muzzle for Cai.

They wanted pictures of the dog at nose level, showing his head from the front and from the side.

Then they wanted a picture of a tape measure around the dog's snout, taken while the dog is panting, or while he's eating a treat. Here the tape measure is at 18 cm.

Finally, the length of the dog's snout, from just below his eyes to the tip of his nose. Cai is about 4 cm, so his muzzle length should be 5 cm (to add a little space in front).

 They weren't sure about the measurements I had sent them for the circumference, and asked again for me to exercise Cai until he was panting, then place the measuring tape around his snout. However Cai does not pant a lot, and he closes his mouth any time he is uncomfortable or concentrating. Putting the tape measure around his snout both made him uncomfortable, and made him concentrate on holding still while I took a picture and then gave him a treat. So I took two pictures of the tape loop next to his face while he panted, and a few more of him wearing it, mouth closed.

The final measurements the BUMAS team suggested were 16.5 cm in circumference and 5 cm in length. I can't wait to get it!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

First Rally-FrEe Advanced leg

Scored 163, which was a bit higher than I was expecting. Obviously Cai hadn't fully learned the Back Thru x3 or the Turn Back Thru yet, but I went ahead with the run because I wanted to support the video event.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Agility match

Our first agility match in a long, long time! Chimera was SO happy to be running again! He was zooming! In fact, at one point he did a quick zoom around the ring because he was so happy to be running. I stopped and held my hand out, and he ran back to me with a strong nose touch. We then continued our practice.

My focus was on getting tight turns (which has always been a weak point for us), particularly by giving Cai plenty of heads up without pulling him off a jump. I saw progress but we'll need lots more repetition on this front. I also worked on setting clear lines and using an "open" shoulder to direct Cai to jumps at a distance. This went fairly well. Our rear crosses were worse than usual.

I skipped the weaves, dog walk, and a-frame. We did the teeter once and he did okay, though he stopped at the tipping point rather than going all the way to the end. We had managed that in training at one point, but this is another area that needs plenty of review.

I'd like to get back into classes at ACE but I'm moving to a new area in mid-April. On the bright side, I'll have a giant grassy pasture in which to practice with my mini-equipment, and one of my friends will be setting up a full-size ring later this year. So for the first time, I'll be able to practice outside of class!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Guard dog

My landlord had a plumber come down while I was away. She didn't realize that Chimera was home because he was being quiet. He came into the living room/kitchen after a minute, stopped and looked at the plumber, then retreated to the bedroom again.

Good job, dog.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Paw stand

This is an older video that I just uploaded.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Cleared for agility

Another recheck with Dr Wendy Wallace, and she has officially cleared us to start agility training again! Of course we'll ease back into it with low jumps, minimal turns, etc. We can start with jumps and tunnels, then weave poles and teeter, then dog walk, and leave the a-frame for last.

Both Cai and I are out of practice, so we'll be focusing on handling work with low jumps rather than rushing to get back on the obstacles.

On a different note, I was also happy that Cai only barked at one dog while we were at the vet's office, and it was a brachycephalic dog that was breathing very loudly. Later we went for a walk at the cemetery and he saw three dogs and stayed below threshold around all of them.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Freestyle music picked, private lesson

No one else showed up to Freestyle class last night (possibly because of the storm), so Chimera and I got a private lesson. I had just decided what song to use for our first routine: I Kissed A Girl by Jill Sobule:

I had a few ideas already for certain parts of the song. I shared them with Judy, who gave me feedback, and then we worked on developing the parts in between. We're about halfway done already!

I need to edit the song file down to between 1:30 and 2:15 in length, then divide it up into sections that I can play and practice to individually.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mat hate

"I don't like the mat. You can't make me use the mat."

He'll get on it for a treat, but he's never been into settling on a soft mat when we're out. He chooses the floor instead. Yet at home, he would never lay on the floor, but always chooses comfy beds. Weirdo.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Musical Freestyle class

I signed up for an advanced-level Musical Freestyle class with Cai. It's taught by Judy Gamet of Dogs Can Dance. The class is for dogs and handlers who have already learned a variety of Freestyle tricks and are looking for help putting a routine together. There are three other students, all of whom already have some basic idea of what they want to do. I entered the class without any ideas; I need help figuring out what kind of music would fit us as well as putting together sequences.

After a warm up for each student, Judy asked me to pick one skill that we already do well, and we brainstormed together. I picked going through my legs. We ended up with a fun sequence that alternates between walking forward and weaving through my legs, and has me stepping both forward and backward as Cai weaves.

For next week I need to come in with another skill to work on. I was thinking of picking paw raises (though I need to be careful of overtaxing Cai's left shoulder) or backing up.

Going through the brainstorming process with Judy really helped me see how I could start putting together multiple moves with a theme. I suspect my biggest challenges will be 1) memorizing the choreography for an entire piece, and 2) coordinating doing my own movements with giving the correct verbal cues to Cai, with correct timing. That part has always been a weakness of mine, such as one time when I yelled "hup!" as Cai ran toward a tunnel entrance during agility class. (He pulled up short and gathered himself for a jump, then stopped and stared at me. I was amazed, as at the time I hadn't realized just how much he does listen to my verbal cues.)

I hope that we'll earn our Masters (aka Excellent) level title in Rally-FrEe this year, and possibly even Champion. Once that's done, I'm planning on transitioning my sports focus to Freestyle. Agility is still up in the air until we get the all clear from Dr Wallace.

Chiro check up

While Chimera enjoyed running through the snow, on the second day's hike he was favoring his left shoulder. We cut the walk short.

He had his regularly scheduled appointment with Dr Wallace a couple of weeks later. He had slightly knocked his pelvis out of alignment again, and his shoulders were much more painful than usual. She said that it was most likely due to the different kind of activity than he's used to, and is not necessarily indicative of anything serious. I was disappointed, though.

We went to the pet store today and I bought a cute little dress for Cai - I've been looking for just the right piece of "formal wear." He flinched when I was guiding his left leg through the hole.

His bad iliopsoas sprains seem to have mostly healed, but now that shoulder is worrying me.

Snow holiday

We spent four days in Truckee to celebrate a real white Christmas with my family. The drive up was stressful since it was snowing, but then we got to enjoy hiking through the picture-perfect snow. I got some nice shots of Cai running in the snow. (Just with my smart phone, as I totally forgot to pack my nice camera.) Click on any photo to see a bigger version pop up.

The little brown dog is my housemate's "foster" dog, who came with us since my housemate was also out of town.