Wednesday, January 22, 2020

NW1 trial and clove ORT

Chimera had his first NW1 trial attempt on December 8th. He passed vehicles, containers, and interior easily. We had a snag on exterior: he sniffed at the base of a big plastic trash bin and then looked at me. I hesitated because I thought it might just be "that trash bin was interesting. What are we doing again?" In class, we'd recently had times that I thought he was alerting when he was just checking on something. He then left and searched elsewhere, and there was one other spot that he lingered but then moved on (without looking up at me). When we passed the trash bin again, he sniffed all around where the odor was traveling but didn't return to where the hide was, as I had expected. I guess since I'd accidentally told him that was wrong, he assumed I knew what I was doing and didn't bother to tell me about it anymore. We timed out. The judge said, "Juniper, you know where it is." I said "it's right there under the trash can!" "Yup. Listen to your dog." D'oh. Still a great day.

Our next opportunity to trial will be end of March, if we get into the lottery.

In the meantime, we had another opportunity for an ORT just an hour away, so I went ahead and signed us up for clove. No shenanigans this time - he clearly searched down the line of boxes and gave his usual "I smell it in this box!" behavior at the hot box.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Odor Recognition Tests

I signed Cai up for an Odor Recognition Test, in all three scents so that we could get it over with in one day. He found the first two (birch, anise) super fast. He didn't do a fancy trained alert, but was clearly extra interested in the correct boxes. For clove, he didn't hit the correct box on his first pass, and then he second-guessed what we were doing and climbed on top of a box and sat on it. He had sometimes done that during training, when he was confused about not being able to directly access the odor. I said "alert" but I knew that it was wrong as it came out of my mouth. As soon as I moved him away, he alerted on the correct box. Darn it.

We joined a weekly class with Jennie Kiefer. She's great about presenting new challenges every time, so his understanding of the search is continually growing. Cai is mostly ready to do level 1 containers, interiors, and exteriors, as long as the hide isn't too far off the ground, but we haven't done vehicles at all yet.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Fast CAT record, Rally-Free Elite Novice leg

We had two Fast CAT runs over the weekend. On the first one I forgot to tell the lure operator that he's fast and to make sure that the lure stays ahead of him. Instead we got what I've now recognized as a consistent pattern: he started to catch up to the lure and drift to the side, then slowed down slightly, then picked his head up and started looking for me. He assumed that the nearest person standing ahead of him was me and sped up toward her - it was the lure operator. I called him loudly and he noticed me and finally crossed over the finish line and came right to my arms. I didn't bother to find out what his time had been (probably 14+ seconds).

For our second run, I told the operator to make sure that the lure stayed way ahead of him. I also started calling him much earlier. He set a new record for himself! He ran in 11.72 seconds (17.45 mph) rather than his usual 12.5ish (16.5ish mph). Very cool.

Earlier in the month we drove all the way down to Fetch Sam in San Jose to participate in a video event with friends. The space is great but the commute was awful. Next time I'll sign up but record at Sherry's or somewhere closer. As usual we had a few little moments of distraction and our heel position is inconsistent but Cai was happy to work with me. To earn a leg in Elite Novice, you have to score at least 165, and we got 170. (Probably would have been 173-174 if not for camera not showing the switchback at station #4.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Private nose work lessons

I am FINALLY taking nose work more seriously now, and Chimera certainly appreciates it. When we're practicing at home, he jumps on me when I get the odor out, and then scratches at the door while I'm hiding it.

We're currently doing private lessons with Jennie Kiefer. I was impressed at how well Cau worked at our first lesson, in a brand new place, even around picnic tables with old food and dog pee smells. So far we're doing mostly exterior hides and presenting new puzzles, with the tin always accessible. Last time we did a single box drill to introduce him to the idea of searching boxes. (He was confused and offering me lots of eye contact at first, but once he caught the whiff of odor he went into hunt mode and found the right one quickly.)

Jennie says there will be an ORT in the area in early 2019, and if I keep up with practice he should be able to pass it with style.

I didn't used to enjoy nose work much, but now that agility is off the table, I appreciate it more.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Retiring from agility

Chimera seems to have completely recovered from the disc injury he sustained 3 weeks ago. He had his regular appointment with his chiropractor yesterday. I asked her whether I should retire him from agility, and she said yes. He might be fine for a long time but he's likely to keep getting hurt, and we know that when he does, he hides it until it's extreme.

After years of training, waiting until he was mature and confident before trialing, and finally competing with qualifying runs nearly every single time... we're out with just our novice jumpers and standard titles.

Obviously life with my dog is about more than competing, but we both love agility and I am sad at how things have turned out.

We'll continue with low key sports and tricks training. I'm thinking about doing nose work more seriously (we just dabble here and there).

Friday, June 29, 2018

Another emergency vet visit - spinal pain

We had agility class on Tuesday night and Chimera did great, other than a few mistakes in the weave poles, which usually mean that he's experiencing some physical discomfort. At bedtime I squatted down and invited him to jump onto my lap so that I could pick him up and carry him up to my loft bed - our usual routine. He started to jump but didn't make it. Something dinged in the back of my head but I didn't fully notice it. On the second try he climbed up onto my lap and we went to bed.

Wednesday morning, Cai was subdued. He was walking instead of running on our way to the yard and back in. I don't think he peed - he just sat by the doorway to the yard. (I was busy monitoring a boarding dog so I'm not sure.) When I gave him breakfast, he just sat and looked at me instead of chowing down like usual. Crap. I had a date with Miki to hike our dogs together. I decided to leave Cai at home and see how he was doing when I got back.

He had eaten his breakfast while I was out but was now clearly in a lot of pain. He was moving slowly, with a roached back, and shivering. He was lying down a lot. When he started to jump up, he yelped and stopped.

Our regular vet was able to get us in for 6 pm. He reacted with a hard look and snap when she felt along his spine. She said that it was most likely intervertebral disc disease. She prescribed an NSAID, a nerve pain reliever, and strict crate rest and on leash potty breaks for 2-3 weeks. If he doesn't improve, we'll go to Davis and get more testing done (such as an MRI). Most likely he will recover with conservative management.

He's being very good about spending all day in his crate. I still carefully lift him up to sleep in bed with me, since that's our only bonding time right now. He's clearly feeling better with the pain medication, but he's still moving carefully and slowly.

I'm wondering if I should retire him from agility.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Hemorrhaging in left eye

Yesterday evening I saw that when Cai looked to the right, the left side of his left eye was bright red where the sclera should be white. No swelling and no damage around the eye. No change in behavior from Cai - he was his usual perky, barky self. Off to UC Davis we went for an emergency visit. We were there for 3 hours. They found that his eye was mostly healthy - good pressure, no scratches, no ulcers. They ran blood tests just in case it was a result of disease like a clotting disorder, but those came back clear. So we think that the bleeding is a result of a physical trauma, and the most likely candidate is that Terra hit him in the head with a giant paw and got his eye. She does that when she wants him to play with her. It does not get the intended result. This is why I usually don't leave them together unsupervised, but obviously I'll need to step up my game. We were sent home with some drops to put in twice a day and instructions to monitor and recheck in two weeks.

During the exam, Cai was well behaved and showed off his cooperative care training, except when the vet or student wanted to touch around his left eye. That was clearly painful, and he growled and snapped. They were both sympathetic. I realized that I had forgotten his custom made basket muzzle that I had ordered specifically for situations like this. We used a fabric muzzle. They let me do most of the restraint because Cai was much calmer when it was me handling him. I gave him lots of treats and breaks from the muzzle in between the vet checking his eyes with various instruments. He even did a mostly-voluntary blood draw at the end. He was nearing the end of his patience so I had to place my hands gently on his chest and side to remind him not to move, but he placed his paw in the vet's hand on his own and didn't shy away - we didn't need to use the muzzle for this part. After that the student was supposed to do a standard physical exam. (They had done the eye exam first, then blood work, then physical last since that was least pressing.) Cai grudgingly let her take his temperature and listen to his breathing and heart rate. He didn't let her touch him though - when she tried, he really started snarling. He was obviously DONE and she was scared by his response, so we stopped the physical exam.

I wish we could have made it even less stressful for him, but clearly our prep work at his regular vet, plus all the handling practice I've done over the years, had a positive impact. I was proud of my little monster.

I talked a little about clicker training with the student, and I narrated what Cai was doing and "saying" as we worked. I hope I helped educate them a bit (since vets don't usually get much education on behavior and training) and made a good impression as well.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

AKC Agility Qs in Open Standard and Jumpers

Flawless (though slow) weaves this time! Jumpers was first:

And here's Standard:

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Posing on a tree stump

He jumped onto this tree stump on his own when I approached it. First four photos were taken then. I asked him to jump up a second time to get some more. All those times that I've asked him to do a handstand with his back feet up against raised objects paid off. Look how he reached out and confidently balanced!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Novice AKC Agility titles (NA & NAJ)

Chimera qualified in AKC standard and jumpers classes on Saturday, earning novice titles in both (NA and NAJ). He was perfect with his jumps, crosses, and teeter. He was fast and he didn't get distracted, other than glancing over at the judge as she approached him on the a-frame descent. The only problem was that in both runs, he initially blew right past the weave pole entrances. Both times I called him back and resent him, and he then did them without mistakes but slowly, not with confidence. I'd already started remedial work on the weaves as this has shown up in practice as well, but it hasn't clicked yet.

I got a video of our standard run: