Saturday, January 31, 2009

New Agility Toy

I tried out my new agility toy today: the Move It Aframe mover. It is totally awesome and works as advertised. However, I plan to modify it by gluing some slippery plastic strips to the claws so they don't scratch up my newly repainted Aframe.

And yes, it was as beautiful outside today as it looks in the video. About 72 degrees by noon, blue sky, just a bit of a breeze. I had windows open all over the house! After training the dogs outside (Mimi and Gracie on the equipment, Cap in tug and chase and ball games) for well over an hour (I work them in 5-10 minute shifts), everyone took a well deserved nap in the late afternoon sun.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


At about 17 weeks of age (and after one month with the fox terrier pack), Cap weighs 13.1 lbs (measured on the vet's scales yesterday) and is still between 13.25 and 13.5 inches at the shoulder. I'm leaning to the shorter measurement because I think I got the wicket right over his shoulders this time (practice makes perfect...). He's only gained 0.3 lbs in a week and I've been stuffing him with food.

House training is going much better. I take him out every 20 minutes or so but he seems to be settling into our routine and doesn't pee every time. A lot of that peeing before was probably stress related. I have actually let him loose in the house out of my sight for 60 seconds at a time! Okay, I exaggerate just a bit, but I am letting him wander about a bit more.

His recall and "get in your box" commands are becoming very solid. I continue to treat them nearly every time. His wait in the box for the release word and his stay in a sit or a down are also looking very nice. I'm getting about 6 feet of distance now.

I was in Austin this past weekend to help my flyball club at a tournament (I felt sad not to be running a dog; more on Harry later) and got a chance to watch one of my friends train her dogs in between races. She is a good dog trainer so I thought I'd ask her for some advice on getting Cap to offer a paw touch. It has been frustrating to me that he wouldn't offer this. He uses his paws all the time in play but so far never in training. The terriers start pawing at things right away no matter what and that is sort of what I expected from him. But Cap was not cooperating. I was stuck.

She suggested I use a piece of carpet or some other more familiar object instead of the strange and scary plastic lid.

You know what? It worked like a charm! I put a folded throw rug on the floor and Cap offered a down with his front paws on it immediately. Then we progressed to having him lay down on it. Then I put the plastic lid on the rug. Bam! In less than 10 clicks, he was offering a very deliberate paw onto the plastic lid, even when I moved it around the room. I tested him again on this skill tonight and it is pretty solid. He will even drive back and forth from the mat to the lid over a distance of a few feet. And he also tapped my closed fist with his paw, another game I play with the terriers. He only did it a couple of times so this trick needs a bit of work. But this is a huge breakthrough.

This same flyball friend has papillons and papillon mixes. After seeing her dogs up close, I'm not so sure Cap isn't part papillon too (one of you suggested this and I dismissed it but am now reconsidering). Something in his genetic mix is keeping him small. So I broke down and ordered one of the canine genetic tests. More on that as the story unfolds.

Cap and Mimi in a quiet moment, Jan 2009.

Here's some things I've noticed about Cap.

He walks on his feet, his entire feet. Fox terriers walk on their toes.

When I go to grab his nose, it's like some sort of trick--there's hardly any nose to grab! Along with his shorter face, Cap's got a tongue like a freaking hummingbird. Astonishingly long.

Without a tail, there's not much of a signal that he's generically happy. But when he's super pleased with himself, he wiggles that tiny nubbin on his rear. Very strange. I'm used to terrier tails that never stop moving.

His fur is like duck down, unless he's finished a play session with one of the sisters, then he is totally spooged with spit and his neck fur is all spiky and stiff. I've never owned a dog with a soft coat. The terriers have stiff, coarse hair that lays very close to their bodies and is hell on fleece. Cap has these wispy, microscopically fine hairs that are also hell on fleece but that float in the air.

He politely poops and pees far out in the yard. My lazy terrier bitches may go all of 2 feet from the back door before squatting to pee.

Cap almost always plays with one of the other dogs. The terriers never play among themselves. Too much stress, too much competition. But the tan and whites happily play with Cap, one at a time. (Harry has as little contact with Cap as possible and Dyna ignores him.)

The only time he doesn't have a toy in his mouth is when he is sleeping, eating, or outside. Otherwise, he's chewing, tugging, squeaking, carrying, chasing, or ripping up some toy. He has favorites to be sure but his tastes in toys are surprisingly broad. He's pulled out some toys from the bottoms of the toy bins that only Iz used to play with.

I was wrong about him not being a cuddler. I have to have both bitches work him over first, but after a couple of hours, once the other dogs are settled, he's happy to curl up in my lap and watch TV or read a book with me.

I suppose I'm going to have to keep him.

Ice Storm!

North Texas got smacked with an ice storm last night. I went to sleep with the hiss and scratch of ice pellets hitting the windows. My office is closed today as are all area schools. It's a brisk 25 degrees this morning in my backyard but the sky is clear and it's promising to be a sunny day.

The dogs are not at all happy about walking on the spiky frozen grass.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Best Twenty Bucks I Ever Spent

When I was in Salt Lake City over the holidays, my friend Gosia took me to Costco. This may seem to be a non-event to many of you, but in fact, this was the first time I had ever been in one. It was somewhat overwhelming to say the least.

But we are professionals and remained focused on our goal: dog beds, round 42" wide beds with cedar and polyfill priced at less than $20, to be exact. I bought two and dragged them back to Texas.

Who would have thought that one bed could accommodate so many little dogs?

Clockwise from top: Gracie, Cap, and Dyna, with Jack in the middle

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Boys

It is week 17/18. Cap has been a busy boy. He grew an inch this week! He now stands 13.5" at the shoulder and weighs around 13 lbs.

He's visibly bigger and longer and he's starting to develop a little more muscle. All that wrestling and chasing with the sisters, who are as muscular as young Arnolds, is certainly not hurting.

Harry is starting to feel better. His toes no longer bleed with the slightest activity and he seems to be more willing to walk. He even had a bit of a lilt to his step yesterday! Two nights ago he brought me a toy as we were heading for bed.

He seems to be past the dry heaves but I continue to give him famotidine twice a day. He's still got a bit of diarrhea from that nasty castor oil but I think we are moving past that too. We're shooting for a March flyball tournament.

I haven't mentioned Jack much lately. He spends a lot of his time with Dyna on the fringes of the main pack activity. In fact, these two are the only pair that I can play with together. Jack retrieves a ball and Dyna chases him and barks in his ear.

Jack doesn't care for the puppy much. Jack's all about finding warm spots to take naps and humping Bix. Jack is a sweet, affectionate dog. Doesn't cause much trouble or fuss.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Aaand They're Off!

I stood outside in my jammies and bare feet this past Saturday morning just after sunrise to get this video. Brr!

The barking? All Cap. Mimi never makes a sound when she plays.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bits, Oddments, and Loose Ends

On Sunday, I worked Mimi in the field with our little PA system. The sound quality in the video below is kind of crappy because it was really windy (that's why I cut out all of the sound from the clips of Gracie and Cap). Still, you can tell that Mimi is flicking her ears back, standing up, and generally getting uncomfortable on the table as I'm counting down (the volume was up pretty high and I'm sure my neighbors were wondering what the hell the crazy dog lady was up to). But I was able to reinforce her on the table quite a bit and she went on to perform nicely.

I believe. . . dare I say it? . . . that she is slowly desensitizing to the PA sounds.

Enjoy the video. I shot it on Sunday morning. It was cool and breezy and all three pups enjoyed doing some work outside.

On Friday, I had my first lesson in TTouch (this link is reasonably informative). I am willing to try anything that might help my girlie and I figured TTouch could perhaps give me some tools to maintain a connection with Mimi in the gate area at trials. The idea is that with time, she will learn to associate a calm, relaxed, but focused state with my touching her and that perhaps I can recreate that state in the gate area before she becomes so stressed. My friend Denise suggested that I can also use TTouch after runs when she is also pretty worked up.

It will take a while for me to learn how to do it correctly and for her to learn to associate the touches with a calm state. Fortunately, I have an entire house full of animals who will line up to let me practice on them! I'll get a second lesson in a few weeks.

Harry is still feeling super crappy. I can hear his poor little gut rumbling and roiling. My friend Denise, a regular font of information tonight, suggested famotidine. Iz took that too. I'll get some tomorrow and see if it doesn't help Harry. I gave him some carofate tonight before dinner in the hopes that it might help him rest more comfortably tonight. He got me up twice last night to go outside with diarrhea, poor little guy. I spent many long months with Iz sleeping with the light on and one eye open. It is not a skill I am pleased to have. On the bright side, sick pups get to go to work with me and he's enjoying that special attention. I can't tell yet if his feet feel better--his GI distress is masking any change there. Today is day 5 of the nasty meds.

Lola is still fat. Maybe she's photosynthetic.

Cap went to my vet today for his "puppy wellness" exam. He has tapeworms and I wanted a course of strongid to treat him for all of the other kinds too. Puppies get worms and he's been in at least half a dozen foster homes so it's not a surprise or a big deal. Still, worms. Ew. Need to be dealt with.

The vet told me some very interesting things. Foremost of these, he said that in his experience, twice the weight of a pup at 16 weeks is about what they will weigh as an adult. The more accurate scales at the vet told us Cap now (at about 17 weeks) weighs 12.8 lbs . . . so he may only be around 24 lbs as an adult! Gracie weighs 22 lbs (but as I've said, she's a big, strapping bitch).

I already knew that Cap only has one descended testicle. The vet said the other one is up in his body but that it probably won't drop. Since Cap won't be bred, having only one testicle is not of itself a problem. But those undropped testicles often become cancerous. Now, his neuter operation requires more invasive surgery, more like a spay than the usual snip-snip. I'm glad I convinced the rescue group to wait and let me take Cap intact. I'll feel more comfortable having my own vet do this more complicated surgery.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Health Worries

My petsitter was nagging me late last year because she was worried about Lola, who was looking swollen and apparently getting bigger by the day. Lola was eating and drinking just fine and was in fact quite playful. But I had to agree, Lola was decidedly bigger than a couple of months ago.

I dragged her to the vet and had a full blood panel and some xrays done. The verdict? Lola's blood chemistry looks fabulous. Her organs are in the correct place and are all about the right size--except that they are all nestled in a huge bed of FAT.

She had gained 4 lbs in four months.

And how did this happen?

Well, all the cats were looking a little rotund in the fall so I had started restricting their portions. They don't free feed but get measured portions of food twice a day. Lola was chowing down on her kibble then shouldering one of the other cats out of the way to eat most of his food.

The trick was to first switch to low-fat kibble then cut the portions to the point that even the pushover cat sucks his meals down right away, leaving little extra but crumbs for the voracious Lola.

My bigger worry is Harry. He tore a claw in November at flyball practice. I thought it was healing but as December progressed, more and more of his claws started deteriorating. The nails flake and crumble off, separating from the soft tissue underneath, and the nail beds of the affected nails would tear and would bleed often. Like, bleed all the time. I took him to flyball practice in early January which in retrospect was a mistake. Although his hind feet were wrapped, his front feet were not and he tore off parts of two nails on his left front foot. His feet hurt so bad on our return home that he was unwilling to walk.

I took him to my regular vet who passed me on to a dermatological specialist. My regular vet did run a full blood panel and nothing unusual showed up there. Many days of worry passed. I pulled Harry from the January flyball tournament. Whatever was going on had affected all four feet and all but two of his nails.

At last we got in to see the specialist. He seemed quite excited to tell me that Harry has an extremely rare condition called alopecia areata with trachyonychia (that second part is the nail disease). It is an immune related disorder in which his immune system is attacking his nail beds and the special cells that make nail material. He is now on cyclosporine, an immune suppressant (anti-tissue rejection). It is dissolved in cod liver oil castor bean oil in gel caps. Castor bean oil smells really nasty.

The castor bean oil is causing Harry significant intestinal distress (diarrhea, dry heaves) but the specialist said that he should develop a tolerance for it in about a week.

Harry is still in a lot of pain. I found out that when his nails fall off, the bloody stub that is exposed is HIS BONE! My god.

And some of you might recall that he has almost no hair on his ears. That is in fact another expression of this immune condition, which he has apparently had for many years. It suddenly moved into his nails. Typical of immune diseases, it can wax and wane.

This condition is so rare in dogs that there is very little information on its progression, if there are recurrences, etc. However, the dermatologist was remarkably upbeat about treatment and prognosis.

The dermatologist said that I should see improvement in his feet and a reduction of the pain and the nausea and such in about 7-10 days. It's only been four days and it will be a very long week ahead. My boy is suffering and I can't do anything about it except wait.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun!

Two videos! Double your pleasure!

The first is some clips of me playing ball and tug with Cap. Sorry for the dim lighting. I'll work on that the next time I film in that room (that's my dog room--it is large enough for twelve weave poles, or a flyball box and a jump--that room is one of the reasons I bought the house). I cut out the audio because the other dogs are having a fit and that's about all you can hear.

The second is from the fun run last Sunday. Because Mimi was pretty stressed, her runs really weren't much to brag about but I clipped out the last part of her third run. Gracie was entertaining as always. She is a bit hesitant with the chute, doesn't like to down on the table, and oh my god! there was a tunnel under the dogwalk! Never heard of such a thing! Took us a while to work through that. I had the camera on the tripod which meant it was set back pretty far to get the entire field in view, so everything is very small in the videos. I cut out the audio because it was terribly windy that day.

Cap update: He's been a bad boy today. I had him outside with Gracie while I was doing some housecleaning this morning. When I went to check on them, Cap was busily tunneling his way under the soapberry tree. Had to pause in the housecleaning to give him another bath. I caught him digging twice more today--a new problem to work on. Later I was trying a harness on him for fit and before I knew it, snick, he chewed through it. I said, damn it, that cost twenty-four dollars! then felt a bit stupid because what does Cap know about money? And he's peed in the house twice today immediately after coming in from outside. Argh.

The second pee event has resulted in Cap being tethered to me. No playing with toys or the sisters or wandering around the house until he pees outside and gets a treat for it.

He's getting introduced to the fabulous yummy stuff the other dogs get to eat--tonight it was chicken livers in a bed of kibble. Mmm. The market doesn't have those livers too often. They are from free range "happy" chickens. Yogurt, carrot treats, fresh green veggies--so far he's inhaling it all.

Today started really great though. It was cloudy and a bit cool, nothing like the 20 degrees it was two days ago. I had Cap chase me as I was dragging a toy and did his clicker work outside in the agility field for a change of scenery. We started working on stay this morning. I also set up a course with a serpentine/threadle jump sequence ending in a 270, plus tunnel under dogwalk (different shape than in the fun run) and at the far end of the field, set up a circle of teeter, triple, weaves, and chute and worked Mimi and Gracie through all of this. Great fun was had by all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cap in Action

You've all been asking for it. Sorry for the delay. I've got some stuff going on at work and home. But read on and scroll down--videos of Cap!

Cap and Mimi are becoming best buddies. Sure, Cap will play with Gracie if that is his only option but he obviously prefers Mimi. In fact, it takes both sisters working in shifts and a good couple of hours to wear him out every night--and that's after I do some clicker work and play tug and chase games with him myself.

He's working on sit and down (the latter is coming along nicely). He's struggling with a paw touch to anything. He's like Mimi with the damned blue bowl--he'll do anything he can to avoid touching the target with his paw. Very strange. But I think we made a tiny bit of progress on this tonight. He'll nose touch the target just fine though. We continue to work on recalls and waiting at the door and in his crate when I open that. Barking in his crate when I'm out of sight is a problem. A frustrating problem. The pitch of his yip could shatter glass. His bite inhibition has really improved. All I have to do is say "ow!" in a normal voice and he'll drop the toy and jump back and look at me. He's also learned the various meanings of "off".

But he's falling quickly into our routine. And believe me, with five fox terriers, I adhere to a pretty strict one. He sleeps soundly in his crate through the night, he potties when I let him outside (sometimes I have to send him and Mimi out separately because they won't stop playing long enough to pee or drink water), he runs into his crate just like the other dogs when I'm ready to leave for work because he's learned that a yummy, dry dog biscuit is heading his way.

Now that I've got some lovely videos of him posted, we can return to this question of what kind of dog Cap might be. Before you get all hasty, let me give you two pieces of info.
  • Week 14/15: 10.5 lbs, 12.75" at the shoulder (iffy measurement)
  • Week 15/16: 10.0 lbs, 12.5" at the shoulder (two good measurements)
(Yes, he lost weight but that's because he spends most of his waking hours wrestling and chasing the sisters. I'm going to up his food volume a bit to compensate.)

Now, two points only make a line, we need three to make a curve. So I plan to collect his stats regularly until week 24, approximately 6 months of age.

All my friends with border collies say with absolute certainty that he is part BC. But my friends who have other kinds of dogs believe he is mostly if not all aussie. Ah, we all see what we want to see, don't we? Right now, Cap is smaller than two of my cats. He easily walks under Gracie (granted she's a big fox terrier bitch but still...).

I'm not saying what I think he is for now, but if he's going to be 40 lbs he'd better get cracking.

I plan to do a genetic test on him for grins and giggles. So you're convinced he's a BC? If you'd care to put a little, um, wager, on that, well, let me know. Strictly penny-ante stuff, of course. But I have a PayPal account you can send the money to!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Lovely Day Spent Outside With Your Dogs is Never a Wasted Day

My agility instructor held a show-n-go at her facility today. The weather was a bit nasty yesterday, very windy and grey, cloudy, and cool. But I got up at 6am this morning to a calm, clear sky and a lovely sunrise. It got up to perhaps 55 degrees today, so in order to spend most of the day outside, I dressed in plenty of layers.

I originally planned to take only Gracie. I figured she'd benefit the most from this new take on agility. Mimi is very comfortable at Debbie's facility and I didn't think that she would really need to go. But this morning I decided to take Mimi and the new puppy both.

Our setup. I had planned to put Cap in the smaller crate on the right but Mimi and Gracie were being snarky to each other.
It turns out taking Mimi was an excellent decision. Even though this was a casual show-n-go, there were plenty of people and strange dogs and unusual noises, enough to turn the usually comfortable class setting into kind of a scary place. And indeed, Mimi started displaying her fear behavior at her first run. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to work through some of her issues. She did much better in her second run (Jumpers), and by her third run, back in the Standard ring, she was a little stressed at the start line but once we got going, she was all business.

Gracie did pretty darned well considering she has never done more than 8 or 9 obstacles in sequence before. She had a lot of problems with the dogwalk in her first run. The first time up it she thought it was the teeter, a common green dog mistake. And there was a tunnel under the first half of the dogwalk. Gracie had never seen such a thing and kept jumping off the dogwalk onto the top of the tunnel. It was funny but not what I wanted. I finally lured her slowly up the dogwalk and once she got past the tunnel, she was all, OOH! Now I get it! She struggled in Jumpers--I wasn't stopping to reward her enough--and kept shutting down around obstacle 10. But her third run (Standard) was outstanding. Perfect dogwalk the first time, fabulous teeter, listened to me all the way.

I videotaped both of them and hope to get that posted later this coming week.

And then there was Cap. He got plenty of attention and time out of the crate. I did some long line work with him and we played tug and fetch. Mostly I walked him around the periphery of the two rings, letting him sniff what he wanted, and occasionally calling him to me to work on recalls. He's got a great headcheck at his name and comes every time I say come. We also started a bit of circle work/chase me games. For the most part I kept him away from crowds of people and other dogs.

Of course, as soon as I walked him in the gate, Debbie made a beeline for us, very curious as to who and what this little fluffball is. She and a couple of others think he has BC in him. The mystery of his origins continues!

The other most excellent benefit of all this play and work and agility is that I now have three totally exhausted pups!

Cap curled up at my feet in the computer room. I've not seen him stop moving before this except when crated.

Mimi in the "isolation room".

Gracie in the cat bed in the chair in the living room.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

He Followed Me Home, Mom. Can We Keep Him?

A couple of months ago, I arranged a home evaluation visit from Border Collie Rescue of Texas. Since then, I've looked at perhaps seven dogs, none of whom had the drive I was looking for or more importantly, got along with my terriers.

Why did I do this? It's become pretty clear that neither of the sisters have any interest in flyball. They do it only because I ask but not with drive or enthusiasm. Instead, I see that drive and enthusiasm on the agility field. That is their forte, and what an amazing pair they will make in the competition ring!

I need a flyball dog. Harry is getting old. He still loves the game and I'll let him play as long as he wants to and as long as it is safe for him to do so, but eventually, we are going to have to think about retirement.

I love flyball. Because it is a team sport, it has a social and cooperative aspect that agility doesn't have. I love the speed and fury and frenzy of flyball. I love the sportsmanship. And Dogz Rule! is such a great club.

I need a flyball dog.

Last Sunday, I was in Austin for flyball and one of the foster moms for BCRT, who does flyball with another club in Austin, brought this little guy to my friend's house.

He is about 15 weeks old as of this post, 10.5 lbs, 12.75 inches at the shoulders (the last is approximate as you can imagine he wasn't too interested in standing still under the wicket until I could make sure he was standing correctly and find his shoulders under the fuzz). Male, of course, still intact for now. Even in a strange, but dog-neutral location, he played tug and fetch with different types of toys. He is drivey, feisty, pushy, but not overtly dominant. So I decided to take him home to see how it would go.

I've gradually introduced him to the pack, letting him spend more and more time loose with them. He's been appropriately disciplined by all three bitches, and last night Harry got his two cents in, telling that terribly annoying little pest to leave him the hell alone. It has so far been one-trial learning with puppy and Harry.

In the past week, puppy has learned sit on hand command (no verbal consistency yet but he'll sit in different places on different surfaces including my mini agility table), down (luring required but he did give me about 10 puppy pushups), leave it (he sits on the verbal command), waiting at the door coming and going, nose touches to hand and target, the potty command, not to mess with the cats (I wasn't involved in any of those lessons!), to enter his crate on command and to wait for the release word before he leaves it (Crate Games, of course). We are working on come, bite inhibition (part of this is because he's teething), walking on a leash, not barking in the crate (he has this super high-pitched yip that drives me crazy), and not jumping on humans.

All this training is good for the other dogs because while I'm in training mode, I drag at least one if not two of them out to learn some new games (like sitting, or attempting to sit, in a bowl!).

He and the sisters get along better than I thought they would. Each of them likes to play chase with him, especially in the backyard. Gracie gets a bit too rough but so far Mimi has been a good playmate.

He is as busy as any terrier. He shoots out of his crate and picks up the first toy he sees, dropping it only to replace it with another one. In the evenings, he will completely empty the toy boxes, playing with one toy after another, although it's clear that he does have some favorites. He never stops moving until I crate him out of sheer exhaustion--mine!

He sleeps in a crate at night and is crated during the day. So far not a single accident, but I do come home for lunch every day to let the dogs out.

He has this endearing behavior when I play fetch with him. He'll grab the thrown toy and run full speed back to me, jumping in my lap and shoving the toy into my stomach.

He's not much of a cuddler but that's fine by me. I've got five of those already.

I was told he was a border collie but it was apparent from the get go that at a minimum he was a BC-aussie cross. He has no tail and appears to have been born without one. He's got that aussie rabbit butt, and his butt is nearly as high as his head! After being chided by my friend Denise in Virginia, I finally tossed out that "he's part BC" preconception and it's pretty clear this little guy is a small aussie pup. Mini aussie? That's not clear.

I have no idea what the growth progression is for this breed but he is smaller than my cats, smaller than Dyna, smaller than Harry was at 16 weeks. I don't think he's a mini because he doesn't have the thin, elongated leg bones that the dwarfism produces in them but his eyes are just slightly poppy; the minis I see out here have bug eyes, also due to the dwarfism. He's got great bone in his legs. His paws don't have that dinner plate effect that lots of large breed pups have at this age.

I may have to start a pool to predict his height and weight at 24 weeks, but I think he's going to be small. And a genetic test would clarify what he is. I may start a pool for that too!

After a week of calling him "puppy" I'm tentatively going with Cap (Quicksilver Monkey Man). I'm still not 100% sure I'll keep him but he needs a name of some sort while he's here.

Okay, you crazy dog people. Comment away!!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sisters (2)

Class was again ever so fabulous this week. Gracie is turning out to be quite a focused agility teammate. She is soon going to be nipping at Mimi's heels in class and in the ring, metaphorically speaking, of course. They are now in back to back classes but I hope that we can move Gracie up into Mimi's class soon.

I did forget a couple of times that Gracie is still green--I can't handle a sequence for her exactly as I would for her sister. But besides needing me to stay closer to the obstacles than I would with Mimi, Gracie also reads the course differently. The differences are subtle. Both dogs are small, fast, spend lots of time sproinging in the air, turn on a dime, and in many ways physically perform the same. But Mimi is edgy. I feel like we are always just a bit out of control. I have to move so fast to keep up with her, to stay ahead of her and give her information about the course that I hardly have time to think. Gracie is excited and moves plenty fast but I don't get the same sense of careening around the course with her. The difference is not the same as that between an experienced dog and a novice dog. The sisters are so similar yet not at all the same.

When I was in Utah for the holidays, I visited a friend who does agility with an aussie and a parson russell terrier. She showed us a video that she made of her terrier doing this amusing trick: putting all four feet in a tiny little bowl. She started off by teaching him to do this in a larger bowl.

I set the bowl trick up tonight for the sisters using a 9x13 pyrex glass baking pan. Gracie nailed it in one session, and in the film below, she's doing just the end performance again for the camera.

On the other hand, after spending nearly twice the time working on it, Mimi never really figured this one out. Oh, of course, she got that it involved the blue bowl but that's as far as I could take her. There was lots of leaping about and random placement of feet in the bowl but she never once deliberately put a hind foot into it. She was chomping my fingers to get to the treats, which is unusual for her, and which clearly indicates that she was more excited/stressed than normal.

Which reminds me. To update everyone on the training I'm doing to help her with her fear issues, I continue to randomly use my little PA system when Mimi plays ball with me in the house. She is flinching less and less--and tonight I even made the thing squelch out some feedback and she still brought the ball back to me. I hope this weekend the weather will cooperate and I can take it outside to my training field. Once we take that baby step, then we'll take the PA show on the road--to class, that is!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Baby Steps?

I dragged Mimi to yet another agility trial this past Saturday. It was a USDAA trial in a nice horse barn arena in Belton. Because it was a flyball weekend, I also had Harry with me, and because he'd been in the kennel over the holidays and needed some special time with me, I also took Jack.

Because I didn't want to stress her out too much (nor waste even more money), I only entered Mimi in Standard and Jumpers, even though USDAA has fun games likes Gamblers and Snooker.

I was joining a friend at the trial, and when I got there and got set up, she suggested I give Mimi some Rescue Remedy.

Now, as a scientist, I think homeopathy is a load of crap, pseudo-science in its grandest form.

But I'm a desperate woman. Principles be damned! So I grabbed Mimi and squirted half a dropper into her mouth.

About 30 minutes later, I got a handful of jumps and two tunnels out of Mimi in Jumpers. As she went into the second tunnel, I could tell she was beginning to wig out so I waited at the end and collected her in my arms and ran out of the ring with her. Big party at the crate, vienna sausages, of course. It wasn't a bad attempt at all. She even had a start line stay.

I spent the next couple of hours intermittently clicking and treating scary sounds. I also took all three dogs for nice long walks in a big field next to the arena.

Later that morning, Mimi got another shot of Rescue Remedy.

I purchased some tendon chews for the boys, figuring she would be too stressed to enjoy one. She looked at them, looked at me all "and where's MINE?" so I had to go back and get her one too.

A bit later, I was amazed to see her stretched out on her belly in her crate, hind legs out behind her (I use BIG crates for my dogs), front paws calmly crossed, greatly enjoying her chewie.

Then came our second run, Standard. It was chute into the weaves, then a jump, turn to the left, spiral of jumps to the Aframe, then to the table, which was obstacle 10.

Mimi was okay until we got to the gate area. She began to violently shake and tremble and get that starey look in her eyes. I picked up half a rod of string cheese that had been sitting in a corner all morning, forgotten by the owner (picking up someone else's treats isn't the nicest thing one can do but it happens), and jammed it into her face. I kneeled on the ground and stroked her and let her nibble at the cheese. I say nibble but she was so frightened that she was biting my hand really hard. Still, she kept eating the cheese.

At last it was our turn and we could go in the ring. I carried her in, removed her leash, set her on the ground about 18" from the chute, held her chest, made her look at me, then told her "chute!" and off she went. She shot out of the chute and was into the weaves before she knew it, and SHE DID ALL TWELVE POLES!!! The jump in the corner was scary so we ran past that, did almost all of the curving line of jumps, and approached the Aframe. Nope, judge was too close, too scary, she ran past that, but I did get her on the table where she stood trembling. I slowly bent over her, began whispering what a good girl she was, and gently collected her and ran out of the ring.

My friend was waiting at the exit with a bucket of treats. She started picking out pieces of Bil Jack one by one, and I said, good grief, just give it all to her. All of it?, she said. Yes! So she put the container on the ground and Mimi snarfed up almost every crumb.

It was a baby step, yet such a huge difference overall in her demeanor and performance. I could have sworn Mimi was almost having fun for a second or two in that Standard run. My instructor, who was also at the trial, noticed that too.

What was different? I'm sticking to the plan of C/T scary noises. The arena was nice and open and airy. I had two other dogs with her, dogs that she's not particularly worried about competing with or against but who do provide companionship and a sense of "pack." They were all crated with their backs to a wall. And of course there's that damned Rescue Remedy.

Who knows? Maybe we can work past this after all.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Terrier Toy Testing Institute (T3i)

I thought it was a good time to revisit the goings-on at T3i. I have a particular case study in mind.

The terriers got a lovely little Zanies Fluff-a-Duck for Christmas, which Harry immediately appropriated for himself.
this is what a shiny new Fluff-a-duck looks like

In a matter of a hours, Harry managed to remove its feet and wings and snatch its midsection bald, leaving bits of slobbery orange fur all over Gosia's carpet.

It now looks like a lint-covered orange lima bean:

this is what OUR Fluff-a-duck looks like...

However, it still squeaks (!) and he loves carrying it around. We played a nice game with it last night before bed.

The initial T3i rating was a 3 but given the suprising longevity shown by this toy, we must increase that rating to at least a 6.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Back Home at Last

After leaving Bluff, Utah, at 6:30am and a marathon drive of 16 hours, we got home around 11pm on Monday night. I put 2,817 miles on the rental car! The dogs were troopers but I made sure I stopped every couple of hours to walk them.

heading home, northwestern New Mexico, December 29, 2008

Everyone is still recovering, taking lots of naps and generally lounging about.

I took Mimi and Gracie to class on Wednesday morning. They both were fabulous! Mimi was amazing as ever (my god, if we can get her past her fears, she is so precise and fast...), and Gracie, who hadn't done the dogwalk in a sequence yet, ran across it and hit her contact like it was second nature. She's going to be quite a little star, I think. I've set up a nice course in my training field that I can use for the next few days--it has all three contact obstacles, the chute, and two tunnels, and I added the weaves, the triple, and the table for grins.

The transition to the new year was uneventful. Mercifully, none of my neighbors felt compelled to blow things up to mark the occasion. The pack and I were all in bed last night by 10pm.