Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Spring Odyssey

I am in South Carolina this week. I presented my 'Balancing Act' obedience training seminar for the NADOI (National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, pronounced 'nay' 'doi') annual conference this past weekend. It was held in at the Ramada in Charleston, SC. I wasn't sure if I would know anyone, but my long-time internet friend, Margie English, was there. We've only met in person twice before (once at the only other NADOI conference I attended when it was in Toledo, OH (2003), and once when she came to another seminar I taught in PA several years ago). Margie wrote the preface for Judy Byron and my book Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act, and I have stolen several training ideas from her over the years. Or is it borrowed? It was great fun to see her again. I am leaving with many new acquaintances who I hope will become friends in the years to come.

My original plan when I scheduled this seminar followed by one in Maryland next weekend was to - Ah, bliss! - be somewhere warm, in the south, and spend the time field training with the Flat-Coats. Since Gryff is still not able to, I am instead training obedience. Given Ty and Joker's level of greenness (Green and Really Green), it is good to force myself to train them in places other than my training building. Unfortunately, the 'Ah, bliss!' warm weather seemed to vanish almost as soon as I drove into the state. The rain came along with me, too (they'd been having weather in the 80's), but given the fires they've been having, the rain would appear to be a blessing. I saw evidence of fires driving north along 17 yesterday as I moved from Charleston to Myrtle Beach. I came up here because the weather looked to potentially be a tad less unpleasant (supposed to be 61 today before going back to raining tomorrow) AND through the power of the internet and the dog network, found someone local with a small training building. I met Sue yesterday and did some utility work with both Joker and Ty, and we're going to meet at a local park to train this morning. It isn't exactly warm out yet, but bright and sunny, so it should be fun.

I'm working on updates to my website, something which is hard to find time for when I'm at home. I'm a beginner at it, but liking computers and programming as I do, I'm enjoying learning something new. It helps to have large blocks of time to work on it, which I don't often have during my regular at-home life. I'm staying in a suite because I have too many dogs for a regular room, but having been a bit claustrophobic in a regular room over the weekend, it is probably going to be much more conducive to getting work done. The dogs like the extra space, too.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A New UD

I showed Ty and Joker in Utility B today at the Fulton Co KC trial held at the Toledo KC's building. Ty earned her 2nd leg there in February. Today, the duct tape holding the sheet covering the mirror in the right back corner of the ring attracted her attention, causing some big point losses, but she got herself back on track enough to earn her 3rd leg and her UD. We started with articles, and she dashed out past the pile to go check out the duct tape (I thought she was trying to do a go out), so went out probably 10-15 feet from the end, off to the right, then dashed back to the pile and got to work. She came out of the pile well to my left, and made zero effort to straighten herself. On the bright side, she DID hold the article very nicely until I took it, something that has been a large challenge for her. The out-of-the-way approach cost us 3 points. Ouch! She went somewhat past again on the 2nd approach, losing another 1/2 point. Funny how those things about which you say "but she's never done that before!"** often happen right away again.
   We had glove #1 (same as last month), which she did a fine job on.
   Earlier this week, I decided to try heeling with my left hand hanging down (and, I HOPE, swinging reasonably evenly with my right one) instead of up at my waist. I do think she forged less than usual, so I will definitely continue to experiment with this hand position. In the past few weeks, her signals have gotten tenuous again. They had come together nicely back in February before and during TKC, when I made a change to my sit signal. It was almost like she finally figured the signals out. But then I was away for 10 days, and she was back to insecurity, especially on her sit signal. Fortunately for me, when I was training at TKC on Wednesday, someone pointed out that I wasn't moving my shoulder at all when giving the sit signal. By making sure I open my shoulder up with the hand signal, she has been responding consistently. It's a subtle difference, and it may not last, but she did it today.
   Her Moving Stand was perfect, yeah Ty!
   On her 1st go out, she veered some to the right, again eyeballing the duct tape. Fortunately, the bar on the right was the first jump. Okay, I admit it, I haven't done all that much proofing of her jumping from the opposite side of the ring. Guess what we'll be working on this week? I made much more of an effort to get her marking the center, and her 2nd go out was right on the money. So she finished out the class with a 190 and a new UD.
   Back in 2002, on the day Java finished his UD, Mike MacDonald was there, and he said "I don't care how many UDs you earn, they are each special." That is very true.
   Joker inexplicably failed both articles, but the rest of his class was really solid. I was especially thrilled with his go-outs after retrieving glove #1. In training on Wednesday, I had him retrieve each corner gloves, then did go-outs. He kept wanting to veer to the left corner. I worked on it at home on Thursday, where he was fine, but I figured we'd be lucky to get anything approaching a straight go-out. He only lost 1 point on the exercise, what a good boy! He also needs to work jumping from the opposite corners.
   Ty and I go back tomorrow to show in both Open B and Utility B. Joker gets to stay home watching basketball with my husband.

**This is a quote from the back of my book, The Art of Proofing. Yup, happens to me, too.

March Training Update

 I showed Ty in Utility once in February. I'm very happy to report that she earned her 2nd leg with a solid 194.5 performance, and even won a runoff for 4th place in Utility B. The only thing that gave me any anxiety was that just as she arrived at her glove #1, she whipped around and looked at me. I had a very brief "Oh, no, don't go to glove #2!" thought dash through my head, but she recovered and turned back around and grabbed the correct one.
   Joker was entered, but on Tuesday when we were practicing gloves, he just didn't seem right. Once several years ago, he had similar symptoms - not wanting to jump up - and he had a sore back. Sure enough, a trip to our wonderful local rehab vet showed quite a bit of back soreness. He had an acupuncture treatment, but the next day, I decided to pull him since we wouldn't have the training time needed to make it worthwhile.
   I've got a nice rehab & strength training routine worked out with Gryffin that he seems to enjoy. We've been doing the workout 2-3 times a week. I mentioned last month that I'd just gotten the "Building the Canine Athlete" DVD. I've incorporated several exercises from the DVD into our routine. A friend did Gryff's workout with him 4 times while I was out of town, and I could see some nice improvements on several of the exercises as I got back to doing them with him myself. I've been enjoying this so much, and see so much benefit for Gryff that I'm offering a couple of 3 week classes called 'Tricks for Strength', one in March and one in April.

How to Fit a Dog For a Dumbbell

I'd like to explain how I fit dogs for dumbbells. The following video is extracted from Totally Fetching: Teaching and Proofing a Reliable Retrieve. You will see a variety of dogs holding both properly fitted and improperly fitted dumbbells.

The following information is taken from the booklet that comes with the DVD.
    A correctly sized dumbbell is a help to your dog. The obedience regulations state that, "the size of the dumbbell shall be proportionate to the size of the dog." There are three elements to consider when fitting a dumbbell to your dog: the height of the bells, the thickness of the dowel, and the width between the bells.

    Many dumbbells are made with tapered bells to allow for a more comfortable fit. An "off-the-shelf" size is fine for many dogs. Some breeds require a custom fit due to their unusual length or width of muzzle.
    The ideal placement of the dumbbell is directly behind the canine teeth. The dog should hold it firmly. If there is too much room between the bells, it is easy for the dog to roll it back onto his molars, which usually leads to mouthing. If there is too little space between the bells, the dog's lips can get pinched, causing discomfort. If the bells are too large, they can interfere with the dog's vision. If they are too small, the dog may have difficulty picking the dumbbell up smoothly without hitting his nose on the ground.
    A thicker dowel often helps prevent the dog from rolling the dumbbell to the back of his mouth. You want the dog to be able to clench the dowel comfortably. It is possible for the dog to roll a thin doweled dumbbell even when the teeth are closed tightly. Also, a thin dowel on a wooden dumbbell tends to break easily.
    I get my custom-made wooden dumbbells from Phillip Klosinski of Toledo, OH. I've measured a lot of dogs all around the country with the spiffy dumbbell measuring kit Phil gave me years ago. The kit has a large variety of end sizes with different dowel thicknesses. One end is fixed and the other one can slide. They've proven themselves to be very useful over the years.
   Are you interested in ordering a copy of TotallyFetching? See the NDT website to do so.

Friday, March 11, 2011

More rehab for Gryffin

Last Friday night, I had a consultation with Dr. Chris Zink, a well-known vet from Maryland who was in Ann Arbor to teach her weekend Canine Athlete seminar (fabulous, as always). She felt that Gryff's biggest problem was in his iliopsoas muscles (in the groin area). When she tried to do the standing test, he really objected. So Gryff is back on much more restricted activity, and had the first of a series of laser treatments to try to help reduce any inflammation. We've got 4 more scheduled in the next two weeks before we all go out of town again for my east coast trip.

It's disappointing to have to put his workout routine on hold for now, but if several weeks off will help, we just have to do it. He has been learning to wave, which I don't think puts undue stress on the sore areas. His wave is actually more of a whack with his front paw raised up slightly over parallel to the floor. He usually connects with some part of my leg. Or Joker's head, if he happens to be too close by. Poor Joker.

At Chris Zink's seminar, she mentioned a simple way to teach dogs to wave. "Just put a postIt note over their eye, and then click and treat them when they raise their paw to swipe it off." Here's what Gryff thought of that:
All the proofing he's had meant his feet stayed planted firmly on the floor. Oh, well, he's getting the idea in other ways.