Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Archie: Progress Report

I'm pleased to report that Archie's "brain surgery" was a success! At the time, he was deep into a period of hormone surges, so the sudden removal of those hormones resulted in equally rapid changes in his behavior. It only took about 72 hours before I started seeing big differences, although to be fair, he was drugged to the gills on the good shit for the first 24 hours of that. 

The two changes that would be obvious to even outside observers were these: he no longer had his nose glued to the nether parts of any girl dog within a meter, and when he peed outside, he was completely emptying his bladder instead of placing 2 or 3 perfunctory drops on the fence, saving it all for marking inside the house. Just as quickly, I was able to relax all of the "monitor Archie" tactics I had put into place in an attempt to change his behavior. Most importantly, he is now left free in the house with the girls when I shower. This doesn't mean that hijinks don't ensue when the Eye of Sauron isn't on him, but they are the normal sort of playful dog antics that my house is well proofed against. Everyone is much happier with this new state of affairs. 

One unexpected consequence is that I now regularly brush Archie's teeth. I brush Mimi's teeth every other day or so. When she wanders into the bathroom after I get out of the shower, I know that she wants her teeth brushed. It's been this way for quite a long time, something that she started doing even back when we lived in Saudi Arabia. I keep the dog toothbrushes and tooth gel in a plastic container on the bathroom counter, always at the ready. Archie started following her into the bathroom and watched the procedure with great interest. After smearing some gel over his gums for a week, I decided it was time to jump right in with the brushing (each dog has their own toothbrush). And now when I pull back the shower curtain, I am often greeted by both terriers jostling for position to get their teeth brushed first. 

His performance in agility class has also accelerated noticeably, drawing appreciative comments from the instructor and my classmates. Right now, I'm the weak link in that chain. He's blazing fast, far faster than any fox terrier I've had in the ring, and very responsive. I'm old, slow, and fat. But I've mentioned that his instructor teaches a particular style of agility that emphasizes distance handling and independent performance from the dog. So my job is not necessarily to keep up with him--I can't--but to give him information at the right time and with the right inflection. That last bit is kind of important. If I get too excited, too loud, too flailing, Archie gets too high to perform. If I remain calm, controlled, and quiet, he does much better. He loves to run flat out but he's simply amazing on the tight, technical stuff. 

Many dogs suck into tunnels like they are pulled in by invisible forces. I've learned that, most surprisingly, Archie is a weave-sucker. Many of his early weave problems, such as lifting his head around pole 4 then popping out and hopping into the air at the last pole, have completely disappeared. He drives through the weaves like he's a drill bit. It's quite amazing to see this in a novice dog. 

His first agility trial is coming up in 10 days. I have no idea what he will do when turned loose in that new space. I hope he decides to do some agility with me. I've been renting our practice facility for extra hours to work on AKC-style sequences with him and so far, he takes everything I throw at him in stride.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Diary of A Second-Year Vet Student: Finals Week Is An Endurance Event

Finals week of the fall term. Five comprehensive finals, one per day. It is so, so much worse than that short little sentence makes it sound. Surviving this week will take a fiendish combination of physical and mental endurance. But there's no sag wagon or friendly people handing out cups of water by the side of the road.

I was smart and kept up a constant level of studying throughout the term. And I preloaded my studying over the weekend, working on material for the first three exams. 

The amount of studying we are doing is starting to wear us all down. We passed the halfway point today. Even so, we can't rest, there is no rest for the wicked or weary. The most difficult exam will be tomorrow morning. There's no time to reflect on the exam we take each morning, no time to catch our breath. We must immediately begin studying for the next one.

While I get that all this studying can make it difficult to maintain a normal routine, and I will freely admit that I am not getting enough sleep, some of my classmates continue to dismay me with their apparent inability to organize their lives on even the most basic levels. Half a dozen of them appear to be sleeping in the vet school library at night. They have been wearing the same clothes for three, maybe four days now, walking around the building in what appear to be pajamas, wrapped in blankets. I just do not understand this. It smacks of a helplessness or fecklessness that is not professional. Maybe they think they are being edgy and cool ("look at me, I'm sleeping in the library!") but I think they are just sort of pathetic.

I am studying just as many hours as they are, but I have somehow managed to continue to cook real food every day, shower every morning, put on clean clothes that are different from those that I wore the day before, feed and play with my dogs, take Archie to class (he was a superstar! brain surgery a success!), do laundry, put gas in my car...you get the idea.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Archie's Naughty Bits

Yep, this is exactly what you think it is.
I was fully committed to leaving Archie intact until and unless problems arose. Problems arose so the decision was made: Archie’s naughty bits had to go.

I gave Archie a decent interval of time in which to sort out the signals that his naughty bits were sending to his brain. But he started marking in the house, a behavior that is extremely difficult to stop once it starts. And his obsession with girl dogs was interfering with his ability to play agility. I tried bribes, baby gates to block his access to favorite marking spots, crating when I wasn’t able to watch him, but none of these things were able to compete with his hormonal urges.

Basically, Archie turned into a 12-year-old boy who has seen real tits for the first time.

He is now 14 months of age so he has reached his adult height and the growth plates in his long bones are closed (this would not likely be the case for a larger breed of dog; the growth plates could remain active until well after 18 months of age). Even though it has not been definitively proven that early neutering affects growth, I think it is moot for Archie at this age. But neutering him now will certainly alter his behavior.

My friend Kathryn, the CVT who I worked with a couple of summers ago in the emergency clinic, arranged for me and my classmate McKenna to bring Archie in to the clinic on Monday night. That is usually a very slow night in the clinic and the doctor on duty graciously agreed to let us scrub in and help. 

A routine surgery that would have taken less time to complete than it took to prepare Archie for it stretched out to nearly half an hour as the doc walked McKenna and me through the minutiae of every step. She and I each got to tie some suture knots around the spermatic cords and we each snipped a testicle once the tying off was complete. It was, not surprisingly, a fumble-fest as we tried to sort out the unfamiliar tools and maintain a sterile field.

Most animals given the induction and anesthetic drugs that Archie received take anywhere from a few to 20 minutes to wake up once the inhalant anesthetic gas is turned off. Archie was trying to get off the surgery table in less than two minutes! It was a surprised rush to get his breathing tube out. I was telling a friend in class about this, and she said, “Well, he doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him.” I laughed and said, “Yeah, Archie’s volume of distribution is Archie!” Then I paused and said, “Sadly, I think I just made a pharmacology joke.” We both laughed sadly.

(The volume of distribution is a calculated value describing the theoretical distribution of a drug in an animal. It is usually a much larger volume than the animal itself. My joke played off her comment about Archie having no fat. It’s a really funny joke if you are a second-year vet student taking pharmacology. It’s not funny at all to anyone else on the planet.)

Archie was sent home with some nice drugs and I kept him sedated for two days. He spent the first 24 hours sleeping it off but starting Tuesday night, he started trying to get Azza to wrestle and trying desperately to get me to play fetch. I finally relented and played some toy games Wednesday morning and he was very happy at the return to our normal routine. I figured he didn’t need any more drugs by then. Today (Saturday), he was high as a kite but naturally so, full of life and joy, zooming laps around the living room without touching the floor.

Archie also proved to be fairly sensible for a fox terrier. The cone that he would have had to wear to prevent that long nose from reaching his incision was enormous and it stressed him a lot to have it on. So I decided: no cone. He’s not bothered his incision site other than a few tentative sniffs and licks.

Even though it might take a couple of weeks for his system to completely recalibrate to his new testicle-less state, I’ve already seen some subtle changes in his behavior. And not one marking incident since Monday.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Archie and The "Spread" Jumps

Archie's agility instructor only competes in NADAC. I intend to take Archie mainly to AKC agility events. So what's the difference? Jumps may be replaced with hoops which sit directly on the ground; the dog runs through them with no jumping required. NADAC doesn't use the teeter. And NADAC doesn't use the spread jumps: the double jump, triple jump, and broad jump. 

NADAC also has a lot of games where distance handling is required. Archie has some mad distance skills for a novice dog. Many novice dogs have to be babied all the way to the obstacle. As long as I am clear and consistent, I can send Archie away from me 20 or 30 feet, sometimes more depending on the flow of the course. I can even do this with contact obstacles. That takes strong commitment to the obstacle on his part, and a deep understanding of what my signals mean and what he needs to do with respect to that obstacle. 

But he's entered in his first AKC trial at the end of December. And there is no question that he will encounter the double jump, the triple jump, the broad jump, and the teeter at that trial. He has never seen these obstacles in class.

I wasted no time in finding a solution to the teeter problem. During the summer, I ordered an aluminum base and prepared the plank myself. In September, Archie and I worked our way up from a tipping plank on the ground to full-height teeter. He's rather enthusiastic about doing the teeter, sometimes pulling off the line I am working with him to run off and do it on his own. Some dogs like tunnels, mine prefers the contact obstacles.

I only started jumping him at his full jump height (16") at the beginning of November so there was no point in working on the spreads until then. And I don't actually have any real spread jumps. Rather than spend more money, I decided to take a more DIY approach.

The double didn't pose much of a problem. It is a bi-direction obstacle with two bars at the dog's jump height spaced about 8 inches or so apart, and crossed bars below to give some depth perspective. It turned out to be quite easy to set two of my jumps next to each other. Archie figured this jump out very quickly, really in just one session. He has since learned how to turn and wrap the double. Rather than trying to micromanage it, I let him figure out that I will handle it like a jump but that he has to alter his take-off and landing points a little to accommodate it. 

I solved the triple problem using a similar, but far more rickety, arrangement. The triple can only be performed in one direction. There are three bars at ascending heights. The back of the jump is the highest bar. I taught Archie a new command with this one: hup. The command "over" works for jumps and for the double, but the triple requires that the dog choose a different point to take off and that he remains extended over the jump to safely clear it. This will also change his landing point. He figured this jump out very quickly too but didn't feel comfortable extending over it, instead using the fox terrier "boing"--most inefficient. Setting jumps before and after the triple and requiring him to approach the thing at speed seems to have solved the problem. Perhaps he senses how unstable this mess of PVC is because he never touches any part of it! 

The broad jump had me stumped for a while. It is a weird obstacle made out of long, narrow wooden steps. The width of the steps can be 6 or 8 inches, and you place several of them next to each other to make an obstacle whose width measures twice the dog's jump height, which in Archie's case would be 32 inches. The tops of the steps are usually sloped with the front a little bit lower. The obstacle as a whole doesn't ascend in height though. 

I finally hit on a quick, cheap solution. I bought a wooden shipping pallet for $4 and sawed off a couple of slats to make it close to the right jumping width (it was okay in the other dimension). I slapped a coat of white primer on the top and sides, then added "racing stripes" (as recommended by AKC to improve depth perspective). I used paint I already had from preparing my teeter plank. 

Then I set up jump standards on the four corners, and voila! A very ugly but workable facsimile of a broad jump. I use "hup" on this obstacle too. Archie needed the prompt of a jump bar in the middle of it for the first few times over it, but he figured this one out quickly too. At first, he sailed over it with his hind feet tucked way too far forward but adding jumps to the approach and exit to increase his speed helped him sort this out. 

Archie will never see equipment quite this crappy in competition, that's for sure. That wobbly triple I cobble together never looks the same two training sessions in a row. But I think that's okay. As part of learning the obstacle, he is learning that although there may be variations in its configuration, his performance of it will not change. He's proving to be a smart little dog who thinks on his feet. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Diary of a Second-Year Vet Student: Dx the Dz

No vax. Tx with abx only reduces Cx.

Somewhat cryptic but you can probably figure it out: no vaccine available. Treatment with antibiotics only reduces clinical signs. 

You already know that Rx means prescription (derived from the Latin, of course). We "health care professionals" use lots of abbreviations. Ddx is differential diagnoses, a ranked list of the things that could be causing the animal's observed symptoms. Related to that is dx which is used to mean diagnostic or diagnosis. Sx is surgery. I think that X is used because it is not otherwise a super common letter in the common languages of health care and medical science (which are mainly Latin, Greek, English, and German; French and Spanish are distant players). Disease is an exception to the X abbreviation family. We simply write dz. Diarrhea and vomiting are common enough that they too are abbreviated: D and V (some people draw an arrow instead of a line but computers have been gradually shifting that).

Those are all examples of abbreviations of common usage. They are not appropriate for formal papers or presentations but many vets and doctors will use them in writing up patient notes, for example, or communicating with techs or other doctors. There are plenty of other abbreviations that we use which are actual acronyms: IV for intravenous and Ab for antibody, for example. 

The most bewildering abbreviations are those used for diseases: FMD, CPV, BRSV (foot and mouth disease, canine parvovirus, bovine respiratory syncytial virus). They get out of hand very quickly. I try to avoid them because I think they lead to an uncomfortable level of ambiguity. We already use so many abbreviations and jargon. CAE is a bad disease, but when I spell it out as caprine arthritis (and) encephalitis, I have more things to associate with it: goats joints brain. Not a nice disease at all.

Like med students, vet students must learn about various ways that each type of tissue will respond to injury or disease. But on top of all this, vet students have to constantly overlay species variations. Some canine viruses can infect other species--the resulting disease may be like the one in dogs but it may located in entirely different tissues and thus have a completely different set of clinical signs, progression, diagnostic tests, and treatment.

In gross anatomy, there were lots of mnemonics we could use, such as the one created by one of my classmates to remember the names of the 12 cranial nerves: O! O! O! To Touch And Feel Very Good Velvet After Hours. Using dz and abx are only a convenience. Most of the rest has to be learned with old-fashioned, blunt force repetition. There are no true shortcuts at this point. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Archie: Start-Line Stays and Contacts

I convinced one of the other folks in class to film me and Archie on Monday night. Here are some highlights!

It's been raining a lot up here in the Pacific NW so I've had to get creative with training in the house. I decided to tackle the start-line stay problem. Archie loses himself completely when I remove his collar and leash and toss them away. He uses this as an excuse to run off to check out other obstacles, people, bugs, etc. I tried to shape this behavior at home with the clicker. When I removed the collar and leash and tossed them somewhere else (in front, behind, next to), Archie was only clicked and rewarded if he remained sitting and looked at me (looking at the leash first is okay). Turns out, that didn't translate too well into the class setting. So I put his leash on for every run in class, made him sit, and if he broke the stay when I tossed the leash, I put his leash back on and repeated the start line routine. We discovered that the less I said, the better. Sit, stay, remove the leash, if he's still sitting, release him to the first obstacle. That's pretty tricky, really. The reward for holding the sit is me releasing him. But he is still getting plenty of rewards when he runs off. So he started choosing to let me release him over releasing himself.

In this video, he runs off when I remove his collar and leash, and sneaks in a bonus visit to the "ring crew" before coming back to me. It's a good demonstration of the basic problem.

In this video, I am resetting his start line by putting his collar back on. Not only is there manhandling (doghandling?), I'm using my dying rabbit voice to call him back to me. You can hear my videographer snickering. I'll certainly plan on toning down both in the future, although Archie is not a particularly soft dog and isn't put off by wrestling with me and his collar. Another clicker training project...

Archie gets to run the entire course in this one. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Diary of a Second-Year Vet Student: Drunk Cleaning

It's a thing, drunk cleaning. 

We've had a rough week, we second-year vet students, with two extremely difficult midterms on top of an unrelenting schedule of lectures and labs. But there is a very good likelihood that most of our houses and apartments will be much cleaner by tomorrow morning, all thanks to drunk cleaning. 

There were quite a few animated discussions this afternoon about exactly what is the best beverage choice for drunk-cleaning sessions, and the various merits of this or that beverage with respect to enhancing drunk-cleaning results (consensus: most of choose beer since spilling wine would only increase our cleaning task list). We also talked about when we usually drunk-clean (Saturdays, because Sundays are excellent study days). 

But we've been knuckling down for quite a while to prepare for these two exams, and cleaning one's house falls pretty far down the list when that happens. So: drunk cleaning on a Thursday night.

I stopped into the big grocery store on my way home from campus. In different parts of the store, I ran into several of my classmates gathering pizza, candy, ice cream, and of course beer. No shame, and no judgement.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Archie: Making Good Choices

Archie has been making a lot of good choices lately. He is bringing me toys while I study to initiate play (bringing them right to my hand, not a coy drop in my vicinity). He is bringing me toys during play, also right to my hand. He is dropping toys on command during play, though sometimes I have to wait a few seconds before he complies. The latter two choices are particularly interesting because he is definitely past stimulation threshold when we play tug and retrieve. He is still able to think and respond even though he is very wound up.

Monday night in class, he made yet another good choice. As I mentioned in the previous post, the doing of agility is becoming the reward for him holding his start line stay. Even though I have stopped giving him distracting treats, I still have one major distraction: his collar and leash. I run him naked so I remove his collar (flat, nylon buckle collar) with the leash attached. If I drop them on the ground or, heaven forbid, toss them towards the end point of the sequence, he will jump out of his stay and run to investigate them. And once he breaks his stay, he tends to run around a bit checking out other things and even doing an obstacle or two. (I've added "not breaking stay when collar/leash are removed" to the list of things to work on this week.)

This behavior was initially quite extreme, and he missed his turn to run a few times when I had to go get him from the other side of the facility. It has been steadily decreasing over the past weeks. But he had a rather big breakthrough on his first run in class on Monday night. 

The first run is always the hardest for him. He's high as a kite, ready to go, but unfocused. I walked him out to the start point, asked him to sit, made eye contact, unclipped his collar and leash, told him to stay, then stepped away. He immediately took off in another direction, heading for a jump and some interesting boxes to sniff by a pillar in the training facility. I called him, once, calmly, "Archie, come!"...and he whipped around and came straight back to my side without even taking the jump.

That was an amazingly good choice. Combined with all of his other good choices, it tells me something very important. He is starting to value playing with me over self-rewarding by sniffing and running about. 

Of course, the desired behavior is that he not break his stay at all. But Archie is a work in progress. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Archie: The Need for Speed

The comment from Archie's instructor in class last night: "He's learning to love his speed now..."

While it's great that he is finding agility super motivating (no more treats at the start line--the release to play agility is the only reward that he wants now), this new-found need for speed is affecting his contacts and his weaves. He enters the weaves super hot, but he's not quite experienced enough to maintain that. And when he loses his rhythm, he hops in the air and pops out of the weaves. (I'll be the first to admit that this is hysterical to see. It's as if he is saying, I'm going, I'm going, oops, I missed something, oh fuck it, I'll just call it a day! And up in the air he goes.) I am now watching for this--when he lifts his head in preparation for that hop, I tell him "easy" to get him to refocus. He did 24 weaves last night (we were playing a weave pole challenge game) so I know he understands his job.

His contacts have completely degraded too. He had beautiful two on-two off contacts but he's now jumping off the end or running past the end, not even trying to rock his weight back to stop. So back to basics on his contacts. Now is the time to build those good habits. 

I had such good luck training his teeter with the clicker that I think I'll add that to his contact training to make it crystal clear to him what it is I'm rewarding him for. He's very responsive to the clicker--his distance work is improving quite a bit with simple exercises using cones and the clicker. He demonstrated that last night in class. I was able to send him out to a jump, out to a difficult tunnel entry, and out and around a barrel without moving in right next to these obstacles. Anything that shortens my path and allows me to stay in front of him is a good thing!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Diary of a Second-Year Vet Student: Dogs, Vomit, and Folly

"As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" --Proverbs 26:11

Money matters are a permanent focus of concern for vet students. Most vet students accrue more student-loan debt than they can realistically pay back (treating Fluffy and Fido pays for shit, and don't even think about being all idealistic and trying to survive by working as a vet in an animal shelter...if the debt doesn't crush you, the burnout will).

While I did earn a modest salary for working on my chicken ovary research project, it was not even enough to pay rent for the summer. So I decided to start looking around for some other ways to make money.

To that end, I applied to a student job offered through the College of Vet Med: teaching assistant for gross anatomy. 

Yes, like a dog returning to its vomit, I'm going to be helping first-years in the gross anatomy labs.

I am perfectly aware that gross anatomy was my weakest subject during the first year, the one that I struggled with the most, the one that brought me to tears more than once. But anyone who has had the privilege of stepping to the front of a classroom will be able to confirm that you learn as much or more when you teach. I experienced this when I was a teaching assistant for Physical Geology lo these many decades ago during my first stint in graduate school. I also told the gross anatomy instructor that I would have "considerable empathy" for the students struggling through the dissections. 

He bought it, so I'm in. In fact, Monday will be my first day back in the lab. Thankfully, the topic is the thoracic limb. Fairly straightforward. 

This isn't a real money-maker. There are 10 or 11 of us second-years appointed as TAs so we each only get three labs, perhaps a total of 10 hours for the term, not even $100 after taxes. But you never know where these kinds of things might lead.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Diary of a Second-Year Vet Student: The -ologies

To continue to receive AVMA accreditation, vet schools tend to adhere to the same curriculum. Schools that have adopted a "case-based" curriculum, such as Cornell, might deviate somewhat from the traditional schedule, but for the most part, vet students use the same textbooks and take the same classes in the same sequence no matter what school we are attending.

First term of the second year can best be described as the "-ology" term: systemic pathology, bacteriology, virology, parasitology, and pharmacology. 

All except pharmacology have associated labs that involve the usual seeing, touching, and doing. We have to don way more PPE than we did in any of the first-year labs (PPE is the acronym for "personal protective equipment"; I used PPE while contributing to a group presentation and was surprised to find quite a few of my classmates didn't know what it meant; oy, they can't experience the real world soon enough...). Our lab PPE includes the usual requirement for close-toed shoes, long lab coats, gloves, eye protection (glasses don't count; have to have another layer over them), and sometimes face masks. We also have additional protocols such as washing hands before putting on gloves, washing hands after taking off gloves, and wiping down all lab bench surfaces with bleach before and after every lab. All of this is standard BSL-2 (biosafety level 2) protocol. These actions are good habits to acquire--far too many of the "illustration" images used for vet med presentations are of people handling diseased animals with no precaution or protection at all.

I think most of my classmates, after seeing slide after slide of disgusting infections with arcing pus fountains and candid photos of parasites (did you know there is an entire family of gut worms that have LIPS? This is the stuff of nightmares, I assure you), are now washing their hands rather compulsively all day. I certainly am.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Diary of A Second-Year Vet Student: The Struggle is Continuous

I just texted this to my friend:
On the fourth fucking iteration of this fucking skin assignment and [instructor] emails yet another fucking clarification.

She texts back:
And yet I still cannot do it.

I reply:
Nor can I. 

I feel like I am just getting more stupid by the day. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Crates and Tires: Archie Has Adventures

Archie started a new agility class. It at the same facility and with the same instructor but we had to move to a new time because my own classes are beginning this week. 

The other handlers in his new class are considerably more advanced than those in his previous classes. For one thing, every single one of them has their unleashed dog run back to his crate upon completing each exercise. This may not sound like a big deal, but to command a dog to return to his crate when that crate is many yards away, and the handler and dog are surrounded by lots of wonderfully exciting agility obstacles, and there are very interesting dogs in other crates with handlers nearby who almost certainly have food on them, and to have the dog comply without hesitation and with speed, well, that's a pretty big deal. 

I'm a big fan of crate training, so I embraced this immediately. It's a fabulous test for young Archie. To have him choose to ignore all of those distractions and run as fast as he can back to his crate and wait inside it for me to catch up to give him some treats is a measure of his self-control and comprehension. 

It's also an interesting example of generalization. All my dogs have to run to their crate before I leave the house. All of them get a treat every single time. Azza and Archie are shut into their crates while I leave Mimi loose, but the expectations are the same for all three. So Archie has already had a lot of practice at running to his crate then waiting there for a reward. But his crate at home is his crate--nobody else shares it. His crate in class? We don't even use the same crate each time, and many dogs would have been in any particular crate since he last saw it. He has clearly made a conceptual leap about the concept of "crate" and the behavior associated with it. 

His instructor has been putting out the tire for the past few classes. It took Archie a while to get the point of the tire (he kept trying to go under it or next to it rather than through it) but he's got the idea now. In fact, I think he's carried it to quite another level. 

Archie has this funny habit of treating everything like a jump: he leaps airborne into tunnels, he hops over hoops, he leaps almost straight up as he exits the weaves (this one in particular I'm working to extinguish). Now that he understands the tire, he has decided that if jumping through it is good, jumping even higher through it is better. 

Last night, he clonked his head on the upper rim of the tire every single time he jumped through it. Just think about that. He only has to jump 12" to clear the bottom rim. But that's not nearly exciting enough. He is jumping over 30" and hitting the top of the tire in the process. The tire, a hollow plastic tube, is suspended from elastic cords so he isn't getting hurt when he does this--it certainly doesn't slow him down. Still, while extremely amusing, this is not a behavior I want him to repeat, so I'll be working to change this too. 

Archie turns 1 year old tomorrow (September 21). He's a remarkably happy little fox terrier and he and I are having a lot of fun with his agility adventures.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Some CircusK9 Photos

I thought I'd drop in some photos. Never a dull moment at CircusK9.

Archie and Azza are nearly always touching each other. Nap time is no exception. Those extra feet sticking out between them are Azza's hind feet. She folds up like a piece of origami. 

I must have muttered something about dinner time. I turned around to find them arrayed like this and was very lucky that I had my iPad handy. I swear this is not staged!

Azza likes to prop herself on toys when she chews on an antler. She will even rearrange toys to make a better platform. This time, since a toy wasn't immediately available, she propped herself up on Archie. Needless to say, this didn't last long. Antler kabuki ensued.

Mimi has healed well from her dental surgery. I couldn't resist taking this photo today. Not an incisor to be seen. I can't decide if this is sad or funny. Bit of both, I suppose.

Archie and the Teeter

Archie loves his little round tippy board. He will leap onto it from quite a distance, sticking his landing and sitting for his treat or release to the next obstacle--they are almost equally valuable to him now. His focus in agility has dramatically improved in the past three weeks. Looking forward to late December when he can begin competing in AKC, I got him a real teeter.

Someone else made the aluminum base but I prepared the plank. Priming, painting, surfacing--the board was ready when the base arrived. 

Archie's initial introduction to the teeter did not go well. Archie was rather freaked out by the noisy, clanky frame. So I put that away in the garage and let him explore the plank by itself on the ground. With the mounting hardware on the bottom, the plank still rocked about 2 inches. After a couple of days, he was happily running back and forth along the plank to reach targets on either end. I then put a 4x4" post under the plank. It was really interesting to see Archie go through the process of exploring this thing, learning where the tip point was, and most importantly, learning that he controlled everything. That latter bit was most amazing. I could see his entire expression change the moment that he figured that out.

So today, a week after his new teeter base arrived, I hauled it back out and set it up at the lowest height. Even so, the teeter still had far too much tip, so I put a rolled up towel under the "down" end and piled up some cushions under the "up" end. These served two purposes--they made the teeter much quieter and they greatly reduced the distance that it would move. But with the increased height, the teeter is now a one-way obstacle, so I taped just a single target to the "up" end (I want him to race to the end and hold position there, riding it down to the ground then waiting for his release).

Archie watched me run Mimi over the teeter a few times, clicking as she hit the target. I also had two jumps, the table, and his tippy board out to serve as distractions from the teeter. As usual, I always run her first so that I can test out my set up. Plus Archie stands at the back door and gets very excited when I run Mimi. I want him to be high like that so he can learn to focus and run with control even in that state.

Then it was his turn. I clicked him for any interaction with the teeter, including jumping on then immediately off it. He even jumped over it a couple of times. Fine by me, that got a click and treat too. Then he noticed the target on the end. I put a treat on it--it was just higher than he could reach with his nose so he put his paw on the end of the board...and pulled it down so he could get the treat. I knew then that he was very close to putting it all together. After a couple of passes at the teeter, I ran him over the other obstacles. I didn't want to exhaust him mentally on just one thing. And this gave me the chance to reward happy tippy board actions--I use the same command for the tippy board and the teeter so I could reinforce the behavior.

Archie then started jumping on the teeter board just behind the tipping point. I clicked the moment he reached the tipping point and gave him many treats, one after the other, as he advanced past that point and the board began to move down. Like the other day, there was a very distinct moment when he realized that he was in control of everything. Within a couple of minutes, he was running the length of the board to the target. He even pulled off a jump to do the teeter instead. That was when I called it a day--it's best to finish on a high note if you can!

Not bad for a week of training.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Poor Mimi!

Mimi had twelve teeth removed yesterday afternoon. Yep, that's right, twelve teeth. Don't worry, she has plenty left.

Here's a picture of the teeth that I took at the vet clinic when I picked Mimi. I took only the picture, leaving the teeth behind. Ew.

Most of those were incisors. They are tiny teeth for the most part--except in the fox terrier, the incisors have unusually large roots. She lost one premolar, those small teeth directly behind the canines, and the two large molars in the back of her upper jaw. I brush her teeth every couple of days but those teeth are hard to reach because of the shape of the fox terrier jaw, and I did worry that I wasn't getting them clean. According to the vet tech, they were darned hard to remove too. 

The problems with her teeth came on quite suddenly. She had a dental done just a year ago with only a single incisor extracted. For some reason, all of her remaining incisors (but one) just went south a few weeks ago. She also had a condition in which her gums were growing too exuberantly around some of affected teeth. This condition is more commonly seen in boxers, and in those dogs, the gums can grow so much that they cover the teeth completely. And she had an epulis, a small hyperplastic nodule on the roof of her mouth behind her upper incisors, which from my reading is thought to be from the peridontal ligament and is nearly always benign. 

I was worried that the vet who did the dental last year missed some obvious diseased teeth, but the vet who did the procedure this time seemed to think that Mimi just had a bit of bad luck. I was careful in how I posed my question to the second vet since I didn't want the issue to become a pissing contest between two different clinics. And Mimi's dramatic tooth removal shouldn't be used as an argument against brushing your dog's teeth. I've already started getting Archie used to the dog toothpaste even though his teeth are still beautiful puppy white.

Mimi is on the mend, eating well (two weeks of nothing but soft food--yummy!), and getting some good pain meds (tramadol and carprofen). She's been better though, and is not her bouncy self. Not a surprise with a sore mouth full of sutures. Poor old girl. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Rude Encounter With Nature

Archie did not have a good morning. It started out like most other mornings this summer. Part of our morning routine is a complete poop patrol of the backyard. This includes what I call the back forty, a small ell off the main backyard. The house is on a corner lot so this ell is paralleled by a sidewalk and a street, and separated from the main part of the yard by a short stretch of fence with a gate that I keep propped open. It's a bit neglected. The dogs like to play back there so I make sure that it is part of the regular poop patrol but I don't do much with the space itself--it's weedy and dry.

Anyway, I decided to mow all of the backyard this morning. Archie loves to help me mow, shadowing my every step. I started in the back forty. After some tight corners with the mower around the propane tank, I was just getting into the rhythm when I saw Archie explode into a frenzy of running, diving, rubbing his face on the ground. He was covered in bees! On his head, his side. I managed to call him to me (his recall is getting so much better!) and we ran around to the main part of the yard where I brushed the remaining insects off of him. He was frantically flipping and rubbing in the grass.

I've encountered these little fuckers before. Last summer, I had two different nests of them in flowerbeds in the front yard. They are social, live in nests in the ground that they dig, usually located around something like the stem of a large plant or a pole that extends into the ground. And they are extraordinarily aggressive if their nest is disturbed. They interpret disturbance fairly liberally so I keep an eye out for them. They cling to clothing, or fur, and sting multiple times. They will even sting through clothing. Bastards.

I've never gotten a good look at them except to figure out that they are around 10-12 mm long, fairly dark in color with clear wings, and they are not bumblebees. I have plenty of those in my yard, more than one species, and they are easy to identify. After doing some research, I think that these things are some sort of wasp, not bees. A lot of the evidence points to wasps: nesting activity so late in the summer, aggressive defense of the nest, etc.

I inspected Archie carefully for swelling or similar adverse histamine reactions. I put him in the house and kept an eye on him for about 15 minutes just to be sure. Then I went back to see if I could find the nest. Sure enough, they were coming and going from a small hole located next to the pipe containing the electrical supply for the propane tank meter. I must have bumped it with the mower and by sheer bad luck, they went for Archie instead of me.

I cobbled together some water hoses and sprayed the wasp nest with poison. My experience of last summer suggests I will have to do this a second time to completely eliminate the nest. Of course, before I resorted to poison last year, I tried benign solutions such as trying to drown them out. All that did was provide them with a regular source of water and make them more active and aggressive. At one point, I was having problems exiting my front door because one of the nests was under a rosebush about four feet away. So, poison. I'll also set out some hanging traps, which don't seem to attract bumblebees (although plenty of sweat bees make it into them).

Poor little Archie. Even when I finished mowing the main part of the backyard, Archie decided he wanted to stay in the house. That was not at all like my happy-go-lucky puppy. 

I generally take a live, let live attitude towards the insects in my yard. As long as doing so won't endanger me, I capture and transport spiders back outside. I don't break spider webs unless I absolutely need to. Instead of poisoning the horrifically slick moss coating my sidewalk and driveway last winter (all the poisons are terribly toxic for fish and amphibians), I sprinkled sodium bicarbonate over everything--it changes the pH and the moss dies. Works great and it's cheap! I plant flowers in the front yard that attract bumblebees and butterflies. But these little ground-nesting, stinging wasps--they have to go. I can't have myself, and now the dogs, attacked when we wander around in our yard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sniffing Bugs and Chasing Shadows

Archie is certainly proving to be a challenging agility partner. At times he has amazing focus and ability. At other times, no matter how enthusiastically we start, after a few obstacles he's off sniffing bugs and chasing shadows. His trainer pointed out that this is a classic example of avoidance behavior. But what is at the root of this problem? What, exactly, is he avoiding? There are several possibilities.

I'm late in giving him information. I just have to point and Mimi will perform. I can crowd her line, flap my arms, and she forges ahead. But Archie needs time to process what I say, which means he needs the information early and clearly. When I'm late, he slows down or stops because he's not sure what he is supposed to do and we lose our connection. Then it's oh, look! Off to see what that bug is doing!

I'm sloppy in my handling. He is extraordinarily sensitive to my body position, far more than Mimi is. Certain handling moves that work great for her only confuse him. He likes it when I keep everything very simple. That's not to say that he's stupid, because he isn't, or that I can't execute complicated handling moves with him, because I can. But I need to focus on trimming out all of the unnecessary bits and watch my feet and shoulders and my path more closely. For example, this morning he had to execute a tunnel and two jumps in a straight line followed by a 90 degree turn to another tunnel (this was part of a longer sequence, and he had completed this section once already). The dogs were getting a good head of steam coming down the line, so timing their turn around the second jump was important. The goal is to have them collect before the jump and turn tightly around it, not jump it at full speed and in full extension then execute a joint-damaging turn on the ground. Instead of running straight ahead to the second jump then slowing at the approach, letting my path mimic the one I wanted him to take, I let my path drift laterally to the second tunnel (with my shoulders turned towards my drift direction). I said "tunnel" before he hit the second jump so that he had plenty of time to execute the turn. Instead, he pulled off that jump and came straight to me. In fact, he did exactly what my body language was very clearly telling him: he interpreted that I wanted him to come to the far end of the tunnel, where I was heading, instead of the end of the tunnel closest to that second jump, which I had already passed. See what I mean? There is no question that he is watching me very closely. But I need to get better control of what he sees!

I'm not giving him rewards often enough. His trainer suggested this morning that I need to build up his stamina--his mental stamina, because physically he's fabulous. He needs to receive a reward every three or four obstacles, at least for a while longer.

And finally, I may be drilling him, which he hates (in which case, he is voting with his feet and leaving), or I have overfaced him, presenting him with a challenge that he just can't figure out. Both are more easily fixed than my sloppy handling.

Any and all of these can apply at any moment in time then he's off with the bugs and the shadows.

I was feeling particularly frustrated last night during a casual practice session (not a formal lesson). Archie was a mess. His time in the ring was not productive for either of us. I fretted over it after I got home and went to bed. He should be doing better, I kept thinking.

Then I recalled Mimi and the dead rabbit. I don't recall if I've written about this on the blog (it would have been in the earliest years of the blog, pre-Saudi Arabia). She used to train outside in a very large field. When presented with an arc of jumps that took her down field in a particular direction, she would not complete the arc but would instead take off for the damned lower forty. She always ended up at the same spot, sniffing and pawing excitedly. I was able to call her back, but she kept doing this. After a couple of weeks, I finally went all the way down there to see what she found so fascinating. 

It was a dead rabbit. A very long-dead rabbit. Just bits of bones, tendons, fur. A paw. Probably a dog or coyote kill.

A dead rabbit! How could I possibly compete against a dead rabbit? And that became a running line from her trainer: when you are more interesting to Mimi than a dead rabbit, you know you have found it, that special sweet spot in your training. I persisted, and in a few more weeks, we did in fact find that spot.

And with time and patience, so it will also happen with Archie.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Agility Fun Run!

The facility where Archie takes his classes held an agility fun run yesterday. It was casual and low key. I signed up both Archie and Mimi. She let me know quite some time ago that she didn't care for noisy competition venues. Besides, even though she is in good condition, she isn't conditioned to do agility anymore, so I don't jump her any higher than 8" even while goofing around in the backyard. So this was a perfect opportunity for her to do some agility. And this of course would be a good way to see how Archie would behave at a real trial with other dogs in crates, bags of treats lying around, equipment banging and dogs barking, people and dogs moving around. Then there was the issue of his focus: could he hold it together when faced with something like a real course? 

The people that attended the fun run were inexperienced handlers with inexperienced dogs so our trainer set up courses using basic equipment--no tire, no spread jumps, no teeter. We had two standard courses, a tunnelers course, and a jumpers course. That's a pretty fun-packed morning for a bunch of novice dogs and handlers!

Mimi showed them how it's done with her tunnelers run. And that high pitched barking in the background? That was Archie! I totally did not notice it when Mimi and I were on the course.

On Archie's first standard run, he had several puppy-brain moments: he had to check out the Aframe just in case there were treats at the bottom, he went to sniff behind tunnels. But it wasn't that bad. His tunnelers run would have been fabulous if I hadn't been so late with information. I can see that I am going to have to step up my game with him. Mimi lets me get away with all sorts of bad handling. I'm rusty in handling a novice dog.

But oh my, Archie's jumpers run. It was a thing of beauty. It wasn't perfect of course. He's only 11 months old, and he's only been taking agility classes for about 4 months. I didn't expect perfect. I was looking for drive, focus, and joy. And I got all three.

I put a lot of effort into getting Archie to the start line. I don't want him pulling on the lead. I want him "with me"--eyes on me, focus on me. Even when he darted off to check on his leash, he still came right back. I know that I sound quite idiotic, chattering away to him in that stupid voice but he seems to like it.

I wanted a longer lead out--you can see that he quickly got ahead of me, but he headed right for the tunnel like he was supposed to. The yellow tunnel was a problem for him all morning. This time, I planned to rear cross him, a move that he's not been reading well even at home. Once I got him focused on the tunnel, that rear cross went off without a hitch. And while his wrap on that jump could have been tighter, he did collect and wrap as I asked. 

That knocked bar was my fault. I should have alerted him sooner, while he was still in the tunnel, that he needed to make a turn out of the tunnel. He came out of the tunnel too wide and in trying to make the turn to my front cross, he knocked the bar. He almost knocked the bar on the next jump too--his stride was off from the first knocked bar! But pause that video as he is coming out of that red tunnel: look at how he is already turning into me, reading my front cross and heading for the next jump. And I slowed down a bit at the end, so he did too, although he did turn out to the final jump (a hoop, actually).

Some of his jumps were boingy. That's a smooth fox terrier flaw, for sure. Their straight fronts cause them to boing a bit too much. It's inefficient and really slows them down. But some of his jumps were nicely extended and flat. I need to do more jump grid work with him but at least I know that he is capable of jumping correctly. 

At the end, he was like, great, the petting is great, but give me the darned treats you've got in that bunny fur tug! (He got them all.)

That was a complicated course with several side changes. My handling needs to be smoother and my signals earlier and more clear (less arm waving in general, I think). But Archie did a great job. I'm excited to see what he will do next!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Linking to YouTube

I don't spend much time on YouTube. But I think that posting videos there will resolve viewing issues for those of you who use tablets.
I'm starting with two short videos, one of Archie and Azza playing in the backyard, and the second of Archie dragging Beast by his head

Just for grins, here are two screenshots:

Look at that air!

An excited terrier puppy and a cat--what could go wrong?

Monday, August 01, 2016

Archie and Azza

Despite being a 10-month-old smooth fox terrier (two strikes against him), Archie is a joyous, happy little dog. He personifies the CircusK9 motto: live in the moment. For me and Mimi this is mostly aspirational, but Archie truly lives his life in this way.

Archie likes the sprinkler.

I am very lucky that he and Azza get along so well. He distracts her from her many worries and fears. She is large enough that he can't do too much damage.

Butter wouldn't melt in their mouths...but don't be fooled! They are regenerating for a new episode of mayhem.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Don't Understand This

I got a new (cheap) bit of carpet to put in front of my door. The cat in particular loves to lounge on it. I guess he likes the texture. Or the smell. Maybe the color. Who knows? He's a cat. Might as well be a helium-based life-form that lives in gas giant planets like Saturn for all that I understand what motivates him (sorry, my re-reading of the most excellent sci-fi Culture series by Iain M. Banks this summer is taking over my metaphors).

I was working on my summer research project the other day when I looked over to see Archie chilling on the rug. Good, I though, that means he won't be bugging me for a few minutes at least. I worked for a few more minutes, looked over again to see Beast stretched out on top of Archie's paws. Archie didn't even bother to move and the cat was already mostly asleep.

I don't understand the relationship that Azza and Archie have with Beast. They love him. He loves them. The cat ducks in and out of various rooms, runs under the bed, and zooms behind chairs in the living room, leading them on a truly merry chase through the house. The three of them go all out for this game.

You might recall how Azza would drag the cat across the living room by his head, cat screeching the entire way but loving every minute of it. 

Imagine my astonishment last week when I walked down the hallway just in time to see Archie dragging the cat across the living room by his head. 

It's the cat. That's the only possible explanation. Somehow he has figured out how to get two dogs with extremely different temperaments play the exact same crazy games with him. 

What can one do but shrug? They are happy, healthy, and full of play and silliness.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Request From Reader: More Antler Kabuki

While playing the antler kabuki game, Azza will offer a combination of submissive/appeasing behaviors (such as licking Archie's face and rolling over) while she continues to guard her antler with lifted lips and tries to push Archie away with her paws.  

Mimi is always looking for openings to get involved, and I don't mean in a good way. Her behavior seems low-key here but she'll pile on top of Azza in a second if she sees an advantage. This is an escalation that usually requires my intervention. 

In this video, the kabuki get pretty heated but both dogs back down on their own. This is a perfect example of knowing when to trust your dogs.

Make sure you have the volume turned all the way up for this one to get the full ear-piercing effects of Archie's barks:

I love Azza's expression at the end of this video. It's as if she's saying, see, see what I have to put up with?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Diary of A Second-Year Vet Student: Drama of the Little Sibs

One of the traditions at my vet school, and I'm sure at others as well, is for second-year vet students to take on the role of "big sibling" to "little sibling" first-year students. Each class gets to decide how the big sibs are assigned to or associated with the little sibs. The most common, and certainly reasonable, way is to send a short survey to the incoming first-years then share their answers with the second-year class, allowing each person to select their little sib. That is exactly what our class presidents did.

The survey results from the Class of 2020 were posted in a shared google form, and we, the Class of 2019, were told that on such a day and exactly at such a time, the form would be opened up for editing and we could put our initials next to the person we chose for our little sib. 

Sounds pretty simple. 

Shit went south in less than an hour. People started claiming "dibs" on this or that first-year. Others protested that claiming "dibs" wasn't fair. Tempers flared, mean words were exchanged. Dibs were placed on incoming students who were already dibbed by someone else. Arguments raged about who should get priority in claiming a little sib: "He's from my home state so I obviously get first dibs!" "She wants to work with camelids so obviously she must be my little sib!" This was all happening during the last couple weeks of the term when everyone was just a frazzled mental mess anyway, and the arguments began to spill out into hallways during breaks between classes.

The entire affair began to take on the air of something between auctioning slaves and trading Pokémon cards: she's mine! No, I called dibs on her first! Sadly, very sadly, this was only happening for a very small number of the incoming first years, the result of the cool kids fighting over the cool kids.

After reviewing the google form, I made my selection of little sib quickly. He's an undergrad here at the university and I've known him for several years. I like him a lot, and I think he'll be a good vet. I contacted him and asked him if he'd be okay if I put my name in as his big sib. He said yes. Nobody was fighting over him. I guess neither he nor I qualify as cool kids. Fine by me.

Then the form opened up as duly promised by our presidents and the shit didn't just go further south, it went nuclear. 

Some of my classmates began replacing initials already in place in the form with their own. Did they know that google documents retain a complete editing history, what and by whom? They didn't care! This was playing for blood, a fight to the death. This was about getting the most cool first-year as their little sib. Because clearly that would mean they were cool too.

I quietly logged in, put my initials next to my little sib's name, watched some of the drama (you can see real-time edits in shared google docs), then quietly logged out. Just in time, too, because one of the class presidents, who was also involved in a bidding war for one of the first-years but has yet to own up to his participation in the shit show, finally closed the form down, about three hours after he had opened it up. Of course, his initials were firmly in place by his choice of little sib when he closed it down. Keepin' it classy!

That still wasn't the end of it. One of my classmates who was engaged in some of the more public and nasty fights with another girl forced the dean to meet with both of them. The dean, who surely has better things to worry about. I haven't heard the gossip about the outcome, but really, what difference could it make? The entire affair was petty and unfortunate. 

I truly hope that the next three years provides some tempering for my classmates. 

I met with my little sib last week. I gave him a tour of the building--he'll get a tour during the orientation before classes, but I gave him a tour of the actual places he needed to know about; the official tour is pretty worthless. I shared suggestions about which textbooks he should consider buying and which ones he didn't need to buy at all, where he could find all the digital resources that the students share between themselves, what he needed in terms of lab materials, and gave him tips like "keep one clean lab coat and a set of scrubs in your locker". I told him that the schedule in the college course catalog was completely bogus, that the vet school sets its own schedule for courses and finals, then I showed him where to find this information. I discussed professors and their expectations and teaching style. These are all things that I wish my big sib had shared with me, but she wasn't very proactive, and in fact turned out to be sort of weird. So I figured that I would pass my knowledge to him in the hopes that, since he's a nice guy, he'd pass things on to his little sib in turn. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Beast Is No Exception

This is a photo of one of the windows in my bedroom taken from the backyard. Go ahead, click on it and take a closer look:

I'm sure you have several questions for me now.

Are those car sun shields nailed up inside the window? Yes, indeed they are. I rent an older home with no A/C, typical for this area (the house could be retrofitted for it but it would be very expensive). Although this summer has been unusually cool and cloudy, it can get quite warm in the Pacific NW at this time of year. And this particular window faces southwest so it gets full summer sun. The sun shields not only block the sun, they block the heat. With the blinds and curtains drawn and the shields pushed up against the window, my bedroom remains cool all day long.

Isn't putting sun shields in the window projecting a slight note of trailer park? Yes, indeed it is. I don't care. They are effective and cheap, and easy to remove with the changing seasons. And they are slightly more upscale than aluminum foil.

Why are they all torn up? In short, cats are assholes. Beast is not content to just stretch out on the window sill to bask in the afternoon sun. No, he has to amuse himself by chewing up the sun shields. They used to be connected in three places by zip ties. Those were not apparently challenging enough so he started in on the shields themselves.

Are all cats assholes? Yes. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

It's A Wrap!

Archie and Azza enjoying a sunny morning after weeks of cool, cloudy days.
I was excited and nervous when I took Archie to class on Tuesday morning. New day and time, and an entirely new class: Archie's beautiful stopped contacts and his weaves (still a work in progress) earned him a promotion to the next level of training. 

I was nervous because Archie and I are the "new team"--all of the other handlers and dogs in this class have been taking classes together and already know each other. But it turns out that the instructor placed us in a perfect class because all of the dogs in it are at almost the same level of performance as Archie. 

In our new class, we work sequences of 5 to 10 obstacles arranged to focus on a specific skill. This is always a bit of a leap for dogs learning agility because the rewards are spaced farther apart. In contrast, when rewarding at a skills station like those we worked on in his previous class, Archie would get rewards every few seconds. Consistent with his overall chill attitude, Archie seemed to accept this new arrangement without any hesitation.

However, he did have a "puppy brain" moment on his first run of the morning. He had completed the sequence and I had tossed the bunny fur tug out in front of the last couple of jumps. He grabbed it...and took off running! He jumped over a tunnel, carried his precious up and over the Aframe a couple of time, did a few jumps just because he could then carried it into another tunnel where he settled down in the MIDDLE OF THE TUNNEL with plans to rip the tug open and get to the treats. Oh, such a naughty puppy! I managed to convince him to bring it to me before he emptied the treats into the tunnel.

On his next turn, I took no chances and ran with a traditional bait bag clipped to the waist of my shorts. 

The first class did expose an interesting hole in his training: Archie has no wrap command. A dog that knows he will wrap a jump will collect himself as he approaches the jump, take off closer to the jump and land closer to the jump. Agile dogs that get the idea of the wrap can turn as they jump, so that when they land, they are already pointed in another direction. That's been the theme of our training at home this week. 

Archie picked up the concept rather quickly (including turning as he jumps) so tomorrow I'll set up some obstacles (as few as three jumps is enough but I'll probably toss in a tunnel and of course weaves) that I can use to work both the wrap and an extended jump.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Keeping It Simple

Archie continues to amaze and astound in his agility training. We had a fun class last night where we tested the dogs' understanding of the two-on-two-off position at the end of the Aframe by doing a front cross in front of them as they stayed in their contact position. Archie flew over the top of the Aframe, literally as he was completely air-borne, skidded into his touch position, ducked his head to wait for his treat, waited patiently while I crossed in front of him then, when I released him, shot off the Aframe to the next obstacle. The instructor videotaped us on this run and I hope to be able to share that in the next few days. His startline stay is quite nice too. I'm pleased with his progress.

We've also been working "go on" and "here", two specific commands that give a lot of information to the dog about what he needs to do next. "Go on" is fairly simple. It means continue taking the obstacles in front of you even if the handler is not right there. It is a nice command to use at the end of a course when many judges put a run-out to let the dogs stretch and fly, and when fast dogs easily outpace their handlers. "Here" means turn towards the handler--even if there is an obstacle that the dog can see in front of him. Remember, the dog's name only means that they should look at you. "Here" asks the dog to change his path and move towards you. 

I set up a little skills sequence in the backyard this morning to work on both, as well as work on Archie's "left" and "right" directionals and his weaves. 

Such a simple setup: one J-shaped tunnel, three jumps, one set of six weave poles. But so many skills can be worked on it. 

Mimi loved it. I have many more options with her since I can do more obstacles before I reward her, and because I can rear-cross her. Archie isn't quite there with the rear cross. It was so fun for both of them that I'll probably set it up again later this week.