Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Feeding Your Pet the Raw Diet Seminar

Last night I attended a free seminar hosted by Especially for Pets (in Acton) on feeding your pet raw. I have been feeding Ike a rotation of Nature's Variety (Venison & Chicken formulas) and Primal (Beef formula) with assorted veggies in the mornings for the past month and a half. This morning, after a long weekend of hearing that Ike's current weight is more appropriate for a pet dog than a performance dog, I switched Ike to two raw meals. I am sure this is exciting to Ike!

Judy Asarkof, owner of Natural Pet Options, taught the seminar and had loads of info to share. I had met Judy online via the New England rawfed e-mail list and she mentioned that she teaches a free seminar at Especially for Pets, then Katrin mentioned that the Especially for Pets seminar is quite good; it became a no-brainer whether or not to attend.

One of the things that came up is the Bravo! recall. Judy pointed out that 23% of all chicken tested shows Salmonella present, and the USDA accepts this as the NORM. Interesting; from the Bravo! Website:

How did your Bravo! products become contaminated?
Raw meat, especially poultry, harbors pathogens (bacteria). That is why it is essential for you to wash your hands after handling raw meat and to clean surfaces and utensils that have been in contact with raw meat. Approximately 15 percent to 23 percent of all poultry is estimated to be contaminated with Salmonella by the time it reaches the age of slaughter. Therefore, contamination takes place long before the poultry parts ever make it to raw diet manufacturers for processing. The USDA recognizes Salmonella as a fact of life and has even set “tolerance levels” for Salmonella – so poultry producers are allowed to have a certain amount of Salmonella present in their birds. The reality for raw feeders is that low levels of pathogens are present in most raw meats, most of the time, whether they feed raw meat from the supermarket or whether they buy prepared raw diets from manufacturers. If you have been feeding raw food to your pet for more than a day or two, your pet has consumed pathogens such as Salmonella.

Judy discussed some of the reasons people switch to raw (this is when I arrived - damn traffic), the most important reason being that feeding raw food is a building block - using good nutrition to provide the body with all the tools it needs to grow, heal, thrive and maintain a strong immune system. Other side benefits that point to ways in which the body is healthier when on raw include:

- Raw is easier for a dog to digest and is more hydrated than kibble;
- Lack of "dog" breath;
- Lack of coat smell;
- Less dander; and more reasons to numerous to list in one posting.

She said, when animals eat food that isn't ideal for them, the side effects of eating that food will be noticeable in some manner. See above.

For me the big message I got from this seminar is that there is no ONE way to feed raw, no absolutely perfect method. Some of the books you read are very strict, for example I picked up Billinghurst's The BARF Diet and felt like if I don't feed his model exactly Ike is going to be stricken down with name-your-disease. A friend lent me Volhard's Guide to the Holistic Dog; after reading Billinghurst, comparatively, I couldn't BELIEVE how many grains were included in her diet.

Judy pointed out the Volhard is a Golden person. Some owners have Goldens with poor health, which sometimes equals poor coat and they find that adding some grains seem to help the problem. Many dogs, including Goldens, suffer with hypothyroid and this is why Volhard feels grains are important. Volhard feels grains are necessary for a healthy thyroid. Judy feels that IF feeding grains helps the coat - this is a stop-gap measure and essentially manages the problem but doesn't cure it. Grains are NOT necessary for a healthy thyroid - in fact - many of us feel grains contribute to unhealthy everything in canines.

Judy stressed that you have to think about the whole animal - both the whole animal that you live with and what they gravitate towards, and the "whole animal" you plan on feeding. So I need to start thinking about balance as a more gradual and long-term thing. It is not something that needs to be achieved with each individual meal but all the meals as a whole.

Here are some additional thoughts/points:

  • Think always of modeling after the wolf diet and feed predominantly red meat: venison, beef, lamb, goat;
  • Feed 2/3 red meat, 1/3 other meat;
  • When choosing to use prepared raw diet options consider feeding 2/3 items that contain bone and 1/3 items without bone to better approximate what is found in a prey animal;
  • Ripping meat OFF Bones provide good digestion priming (i.e. tells the belly that food is coming);
  • Grass-finished meat over grass-fed (Grass-fed is a term that is now frequently manipulated).

In addition Judy suggested that I feed Ike lean meats since he is on a diet at the moment: venison, rabbit, buffalo, grass-fed beef, and elk. She suggested avoiding lamb and tripe right now as both are higher in fat. Judy also doesn't feel that supplements are absolutely necessary all of the time. She feels if a dog is eating a complete diet they don't need them.

On my way out I picked up some Bravo! Elk and Buffalo for the boy. Unfortunately, Coolen's just started carrying Bravo! and they don't have a huge selection at the moment. I would like to eventually move away from the prepared diets, or solely supplement with prepared diets when life gets too hectic, but until I do more research and get a freezer prepared diets it is.

Lots of food for thought!

Monday, September 24, 2007

MAP Trial

This weekend was the annual Maplewood Assistance Partners trial in Wrentham, MA. Well, woo-hoo. Ike got a 5 point Q (his 1st in NADAC). To me this is a big deal. NADAC requires fast dogs and if there is anything we know for sure it is that at this point our dear sir Ike is not that fast!

Saturday we were entered in 2 Regular classes, Jumpers, and Touch n Go. I held off on Chances both days. I am still intimidated by it.

Both Regular runs were really nice with Ike not hesitating at all about the distance requirements. AND considering John was at the trial at this point, hanging out, and volunteering it is awesome that Ike was able to maintain his focus and Q. The first Regular run Ike picked up some significant speed coming out of the tunnel and over a jump headed toward the poles. As a result he blew by the poles and I had to call him back, but he did them beautifully! Second run, the run we Q'd in, he was just so good. Yay! Jumpers I had brain-freeze and poor Mr. Ike stood there saying, "and where would you like me to go?" Needless to say we were way over time. Touch n Go was going really well until we hit the A-Frame and Ike decided to do some sight-seeing. He was excellent though - very responsive to me and much faster than usual.

He was also really good in his crate. Except for his classes and the class immediately before it I volunteered the entire day and he was pretty happy. I think the nap time he had between the Regular classes and Jumpers and Touch n Go REALLY helped him out - he was really fresh for both classes.

On Sunday we had 2 Regular runs, the Pairs Relay, another Jumpers class, and a Tunnelers class. We had a great 1st Regular run and during the 2nd Ike actually had an off course! There was a tunnel/dog walk discrimination for the 2nd to last obstacle and Ike just wanted to take the tunnel - again and again. He looked So happy about it. We were way overtime but again in both classes Ike was showing speed. I think someone switched out my Schnauzer!

It was really nice, my in-laws were able to see Ike run his two Regular classes and the Pairs Relay. Shortly after they left my friend Marlene arrived and stayed for Ike's Tunneler course. I am hoping she brings her gorgeous Golden-boy Kody to the Act-Up Trial. I think it would be a great and exhausting experience for him to hang out in such a stimulating environment.

The Pairs Relay was a blast - we did not raise the most funds, although I think we were up there. In total the Relay race raised $1,500. Thank you to everyone who reads my blog and donated. I will be sending you a note soon! The course was essentially a tunnelers course which I now know is not the best thing for a dog like Ike at this point in his career. i.e. not ideal for a slowpoke! Fortunately Sadie is a speedy gal and she saved us from total disgrace! Please see the Tortoise and the Hare below!

Ike isn't 100% about those ears!

Sandy B., Sadie, me, and Ike

Tunnelers was our next class and Ike took his time - he did break into a lope at points! I think he thought it was stupid to be going through the same tunnel multiple times - twice he stood there like, "huh?"

Final class for us was Jumpers and Ike was superb. I am surprised he didn't Q he was moving so well. Next time for sure. I was really running in this class, and Nancy (with Remy) pointed out that since I was running, so was Ike.

I think I don't trust Ike enough - actually if Katrin is reading this she will probably say, "No Kidding!" I am working on it.

This trial was a pleasure for me and it told me that I have to learn to trust Ike more. I think when I trust Ike more our over all performance will improve even more.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lesson with Erin Schaefer

Ike and I had an evaluation/lesson with Erin Schaefer this morning. Katrin had recommended we contact her and first impressions, I am glad I did. As it was partly an evaluation, we did a lot of talking.

The lesson was at Erin's house - she has a nice space in her yard that is enclosed with enough space for 18+ obstacle sequence. At first Ike barked his fool head off - Erin was wearing a visor over her sunglasses. Eeek, not that! He actually settled down pretty quickly. We ran a sequence so that Erin could see how Ike moved and how I handled him.

The sequence had more tight turns and crosses than I am used to and Ike was pretty distracted during the run. He pooped immediately after we completed it, so I suspect part of the reason he was so distracted and sniff-y was because he wanted to find the right spot to go. This from a dog who had a nice walk and bathroom break just an hour earlier. Ah well.

Things I am pleased about:

  • Ike really didn't hesitate about taking ANY of Erin's contacts;
  • After blowing the weave entry twice, Ike did a complete set of 12 poles at his new "faster" pace;
  • Erin's tire looks like an old fashion life-preserver and Ike took it anyway.

After the demonstration of our skills or lack of skills, Erin and I discussed ways in which we can work at motivating Ike. She thinks the speed is there and was pleased that he took all the contact obstacles without issue.

Rather than giving you'all an absolute blow-by-blow of the lesson I'll tell you was hit home with me the most and then get back to a bit more of the lesson info (maybe!). Erin really stressed that she doesn't feel like there is any right way or wrong way, right words or wrong words - just what works. She talked a lot about movement and lack of movement - the inadvertent cues we give our dogs. A great example is when Ike came off her A-frame. I did a front cross when he was coming down the a-frame and was partially facing him. Erin said later that she would have done a front cross before the A-frame because then Ike would know the direction I was heading after the a-frame. Novice handler that I am, I did the opposite and essentially told him to stop by partially facing him. Drrr....I have done this once or twice in Katrin's classes and she has called me out on it as well.

Erin also used a good analogy for me as a horse person. She said be sure and face the direction you want the dog heading, if you were riding, you wouldn't be leaning over to one side, etc. unless you wanted the horse going that way. Well, yeah.

This led to a discussion about running laterally to your dog or parallel. Currently I run parallel to Ike - right beside him. She suggested I run laterally, which essentially means running with my body angled toward the obstacles and forward - so I physically facing the way I'd really like Ike to go. hmmmm....

For homework Erin more or less suggested I get over Ike's barking. She thinks he "plays" me sometimes and I need to get better at figuring out when he really is stressed out and when he'd just like a treat. She is personally of the ignore what you don't want camp. Since I live in an area that requires lots of sidewalk walking and passing strangers I think I need to find an in-between position/better way to manage Ike's barking in general.

Erin also discussed her first dog who had a lot of behavioral issues and would bolt from the ring to aggressively take food from people/dogs, etc. She said the way that she managed that was with target plates. In the beginning during practice she would have target plates after each obstacle with food; then she would have target plates after each obstacle, but only some would have food. Then she weaned the dog down to one target plate some where in the sequence.

We tried to work with Ike and the target plate in her yard, but he couldn't see the plate for some reason. It was really odd. Although now, thinking about it the grass was green and the lid was off of a container of treats that I had with me and was red. Dogs are red-green color blind. Maybe that had something to do with it. Anyway, our "real" homework for the week is to practice with our target plate and long-term homework is to get some jumps. I think I may get jumps for my birthday instead of a chute. That seems to be more important right now.

I have a second lesson with Erin this Friday and then one in October. I got an awful lot out of this lesson and I think with Ike, maybe privates are the way to go - although *I* really do miss group classes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Practice @ Katrin's and SeeSaw

Yesterday we (Ike & I, Cat & Tess [ESS], Sandy & Sadie [AS], Nancy & Remy [AS]) gathered at Katrin's ring to practice some agility. Cat was there before Ike and I arrived and had set up a flexible course with two tunnels, multiple jumps, and the dogwalk. She and Tess were already practicing, so I pulled out some poles and decided I would work Ike on his poles while we waited for everyone to arrive. Well, dork .... I did the classic bad owner training. I asked Ike for what he was able to do at home perfectly - now speedy poles - in a SUPER distracting environment (Cat & Tessie racing around and Katrin & Monty [CWC] outside the fence) and then KEPT asking him for it. UGH....every week at the shelter I remind people to back up if their dog fails and try again with something slightly easier. I am a bit frustrated with myself because this seems to be a recent theme - my wearing blinders when it comes to Ike. Thank the gods Katrin was out there and reminded me of one of the basic tenets of training. D'oh.

The rest of practice went really well with Ike displaying the confidence he lacked last week on Katrin's dogwalk and picking up some speed. We also incorporated the poles into a couple of sequences and Ike was able to whip through them (whip is a relative term, I described his previous weave performance to Nancy as "a semi truck doing the weaves"). A couple of thoughts: two weeks ago Ike handled all of Katrin's contact obstacles with confidence (to my surprise); last week he was very hesitant about all the contacts; on Saturday I groomed him and trimmed his nails and the fur between his pads. I wonder if that made the difference in his confidence level. I tend to think so.

Today Ike and I practiced the SeeSaw and stays for a while. Initially he was cautious about the teeter as we haven't done it in a bit, but he was quickly doing it pretty confidently and with more speed than usual. I reinforced him heavily for this. Then I began asking him to do the SeeSaw while I was about 3 1/2 feet away from it. At first Ike got about a foot up the SeeSaw and hopped off. The second time he completed it. Whoo-hoo!! Needless to say we repeated this a few times.

Then I practiced some distance stays with me running away from Ike. I am lucky my in-law's have a large backyard. Ike was a very good boy and held his stays. Since both of these seemed to go well I decided I would try to put Ike in a stay and send him to the SeeSaw from about 5 feet away. I told Ike, "Okay, SeeSaw" and he flew up it. Hooray! I consider this a breakthrough. I know we have LOADS of work to do with distance but considering Ike's attitude about the SeeSaw I am pleased with today's mini-session.

I've noticed in working on Ike's weaves and teeter performances that he seems to enjoy these brief one obstacle sessions a lot. He is much more playful and excited about the obstacles and the training. I have to think about how I can utilize this new knowledge of Ike's attitude for future obstacles. I see myself with a backyard full of equipment!

Denial is a Powerful Force

A friend of mine (Shaya with All-American Tom) lent me Brenda Aloff's new book, Canine Body Language, A Photographic Guide. I shouldn't say "new" since it came out last year I think, but I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet.

Regardless of my excuses, I am currently devouring it. I actually can't believe Shaya lent it to me, it is so great. But on to the title of this post....

Many pictures in the Anxiety and Fear section look VERY familiar to me. Poor Ike, I see many of these faces while we are visiting at the Rehab. Having said that, having realized the truth I have been skirting around for a few weeks now, it is with great sadness that I will be contacting Tower Hill Center and informing them that Ike will no longer be visiting. The sadness is for the patients, but also for Ike. I feel badly that it took me so long to recognize the signals my dog has been sending me. And truthfully, I would recognize them if they were coming from any dog other than my own. I have put my desires before Ike's.

I know Aileen (the animal communicator) suggested that Ike views the rehab as his work, but I have decided that right now, and for the foreseeable future, Ike has a more important job. Katrin recently asked me what my life goals for Ike are and truthfully I just want him to be comfortable; so often Ike seems overwhelmed. I think it is safe to say that Ike would like to have the coping skills to be comfortable most of the time - the rest of the time he'd like to be on the couch. So helping Ike develop better coping skills is our new job.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

of puppy parties and weave poles

Today Ike went to a puppy party. Considering the amount of people and dogs, he did awesome. I have to let him be a goober - I try and stop him when I don't need to. How I figure out when I do need to versus don't need to....that's another story. Practice, I guess.

For those not in the know, a puppy party is typically given when a puppy is still in that very special time frame when lots of positive imprinting can occur. Believe me, my next dog will be having a puppy party!

Katrin has suggested that Ike might benefit from hanging out with a dog that has good social skills, that he can then model his behavior after. Since Ike can be so stand-offish, finding a dog he really likes is not such an easy task (rather knowing whether-or-not Ike likes a particular dog isn't easy!). That's why we attended the puppy-party, in hopes that someone there would be Ike's kind of dog and of course to assist in helping Lisa socialize her adorable Vizla Ryan. Among the many dogs there was a red Basenji named Ellie. Ike took a serious liking to Ellie and I have called her mom to see if I can set up some play-dates with her. It is surely just a coincidence, but the last three dogs Ike has taken a liking to have been small, red colored, and female. Hmmm....

After Ike had dinner and a nap, we worked on our weave poles again. I started where we left off at about 5 inches separating the poles, and poor Mr. Ike did not remember what to do - at first. One oops and he was back on track. Per Cat's recommendation I moved the poles in pretty quickly. I moved them in about 1 inch, then 2 inches, then completely closed. Well, what do you know - Ike's poles are definitely faster! Holy crap. He also totally thinks it is a game. I say "Ready....go" and race him to the end. He LOVES it. It will be really interesting to see if this performance carries to the great outdoors and different venues. I HOPE SO!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

slow poles - the channel method

The weave poles I have at home are channel poles. Channel poles means that the base can be separated giving you two sets of three poles, correctly offset to create a channel (duh, right?). Monday when we were practicing at Katrin's Cat mentioned that when she first started working with Amanda Shynne at Masterpeace she (Amanda) devoted an entire class to working poles with the channel method. Cat claims that all of the dogs' pole weave performances sped up. Hmmm.....needless to say Cat suggested I try this with Mr. perfect-but-so-slow poles Ike.

Yesterday when I got home I had a package from Clean Run which included some yummy new treats I thought I would try with the boy, they are called Grandma Lucy's Freeze-Dried Tiny Tidbits Meatballs. I bought Ike the Cheeseburger flavor. Since I had some new, possibly spectacular treats I thought I would fool around with our poles.

I initially separated the poles quite a bit - about foot and a half. I was able to transition to about a 5 inch distance in 30 minutes or so. I put Ike is a stay and place his "fun" plate at the other end of the poles. Then I release him. Well, he flies! But more important, considering this is Ike we are talking about, he actually hits the poles on occassion and doesn't stop dead. YAY!!!

I am going to continue to work this at the 5-inch spacing and then move it an inch closer. I want to take it slow and reinforce highly with these apparently delicious meatballs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

EEEEK! We spoke to the Animal Communicator....

Yesterday Ike and I headed over to Katrin's to play agility for a bit. I knew Carol and Asa would be there but wasn't sure if Cat and Tess would be able to swing it with school starting up, etc. Well, they were. Yay! Cat brings a different perspective to our little training sessions as she has more experience training agility and working with different trainers than either Carol or I have.

Ike and I are going to *try* the channel method at home to see if it speeds up his performance at all. He has such slow, perfect weaves! I am also very excited to have three lessons scheduled with Erin Schaefer. Yippee~

After practice Ike, John, and I had an appointment with Aileen D'Angelo, an animal communicator.

Katrin had a session with Aileen a few months ago when Monty first came home and Niche was stressed out. I was impressed by Aileen's reading of the dynamics of Katrin's dogs and some of her observations which appeared to be unprompted.

As those of you who I see regularly and read my blog know, I have become concerned that Ike might not be enjoying the rehab visits we do. I thought speaking with an animal communicator might be one way I could ascertain if we should continue doing them.

I spoke with Aileen briefly last week and she asked me to talk with Ike and tell him that we would be speaking with Aileen, that I would like him to be honest, and that he has the right to refuse to speak with her.

Yesterday I called Aileen at 7:30 with Ike and John in the room (as well as the birds). Aileen asked for silence as she attempted to make a connection with Ike. The first thing she did was laugh and say that Ike had a sense of humor and then asked if we had done this before. I said yes, when Ike was a puppy we did a 15 minute session with an animal communicator/psychic at Polka Dog Bakery and then a couple of years ago my mother and I took our dogs to a 15-20 minute session with a Reiki healer and animal communicator. Aileen said that dogs are typically either really excited to connect with her or somewhat uneasy. She said that Ike acted like it was "old hat" to him. She said he has a very dry, British sense of humor. Hmmmm, interesting.

The first thing I asked was whether Ike enjoys going to the rehab. Aileen immediately said yes he enjoys it, but the smell bothers him. I explained that I am afraid it stresses Ike out. Aileen said that Ike thinks of it as his job, and he likes that it makes me proud of him. When she said this, she said she gets a very puffed up feeling from Ike, like he is proud that I am proud of him.

Aileen said that Ike has an incredible work ethic and he views visiting the Rehab/nursing home as his work.

As icky as Ike thinks some people are, it is true that he has ALWAYS been incredible at the Rehab/Nursing home. John and I have always figured that somehow he knows these people need something from him.

I then asked about whether or not Ike enjoys agility. Aileen said that Ike likes agility, he thinks it is fun, but he is not as competitive as I am. She said he thinks of it as a way to blow off steam. She said Ike knows sometimes I get frustrated with him because I know he can do things but he chooses not to! Hmm.... She reiterated a few times that Ike likes agility for fun, but doesn't feel the need to push himself at it. She said he wouldn't mind if I got another dog to compete with as long as he still had his work to do.

Which brought me to my third question. What would Ike think about us adding a puppy to the household. Aileen said Ike was fine with that as long as he still had his work to do. I asked if Ike has a preference. Aileen said yes, a female. Ike wants to be the "guy" in the house. He doesn't want to have to compete with another dog for that.

I thought this was interesting because I REALLY wanted to get another male puppy, but lately I have been thinking about it and wondering if a female might be a better fit for Ike. I mentioned this to Aileen and she said I might have been picking up on Ike's thoughts or as John said, it might be common sense.

I also asked about Ike's reaction to the birds. When I first brought Larry Joe home Ike went and hid in his crate. It took about two weeks for him to adjust to Larry and the same story with the g-pigs. Aileen said Ike is a little bit afraid of the birds. He said due to their movements, he isn't sure what they are even! And as a result he doesn't know how to interact with them.

Then I asked if Ike would mind if I did an agility class with Carmen. Ike immediately told Aileen that would be a good idea; that Carmen is out of control. Ike thinks a class might help Carmen calm down. huh! Well, compared to Ike I suppose Carmen is out of control.

Then I asked John if he had any questions or thoughts. Aileen said Ike said, "He gets me." I'll admit they are kindred souls - they are both capable of doing nothing and that is something I find VERY hard to do.

Then Aileen said that Ike was saying something about food, that he liked his food a lot or had we changed it? I said I have been adding some raw and I am researching switching completely. She said Ike likes it A LOT. I told her that I had been giving him Nature's Variety Chicken and Venison. She said he prefers the chicken, Ike then piped up and said he likes the venison too, not to confuse me. She said he would like something with a bolder taste (for lack of a better word) and recommended I try the lamb.

All in all it was a very interesting session. I am still a little unsure about the Rehab/Nursing Home. Aileen stressed what a work ethic Ike has and that he feels like visiting the Rehab is his work. Well, if he thinks it is his work obviously he wouldn't want to stop. I have to think about it more....

It does appear that I will be getting a female puppy though.

And I was blown away by the Carmen, John, and food comments. I also noticed during the session that Ike was breathing extremely deeply and towards the end of the session he started to pant. Aileen said she was doing distance Reiki on him to help him relax.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

kiddie pools and a *small* Ode to Ike

Ike had Agility-for-Fun today at the shelter. Due to the ungodly heat, it was kind of a junk day. For me, my personal highlight came when I was able to lure Ike into the kiddie pool with another dog in it! And to top it off, it was another dog who is pushy and likes to steal his treats (sorry, Dunk)! But, that's Ike's own fault though for being a "don't rock the boat-boy."

Seriously though, for those of you who have a dog who isn't afraid of ANYTHING you can't comprehend the joy of these small successes. They may be small, but they feel HUGE! I have been threatening to buy a pool for home all summer. I really need to do this. I think with some privacy I can really get Ike to enjoy the pool. He has gotten to the point where he gets in it of his own volition - no treats involved, no one paying attention - purely 'cause it cools him off. Having a dog that melts in the summer, this is such a bonus.
There is a shy dog in the current beginner class and I have totally horned in and made it my personal cause to empower this dog and owner. I wish I realized 5 years ago that what often works best with "reserved" dogs is just plain old patience. Sigh. So damn obvious.
Okay, this is a little corny, but what the hay, without having Ike, a dog with some quirks, I would NEVER have found out how much I dig behavior and working with both dogs and people as they figure things out. Yay, Ike.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Practice session, thoughts about Rehab

Ike and I got together with some fellow agility-friends yesterday to practice. Cat & I had talked about renting some ring time at Masterpeace during Katrin's break, but the reality is they don't have a ton of time available. Katrin offered us a super deal. Clean up the ring at her house, put her A-Frame together, and we can use her space for free. How could we pass it up?

Yesterday was our first practice session, the only handler/dog team Ike and I didn't know were Carol and her Belgian Terv Asa. Oh my goodness. I love her!! Carol, too!

We set up a pretty simple course: jump, dogwalk, tunnel, three jumps leading into the poles. Ike is such a great boy - he didn't hesitate with the contact obstacles AT ALL. We ran the A-Frame too. Hooray!! I am so happy. I hope this means he is beginning to generalize a little better with contact obstacles. The first run I has Ike jump 12" - which is what he jumps in CPE and if I run him at the "Skilled" level it is what he'll jump in NADAC. The next few runs I had him jump 16". The final run I could see him really have to gather himself prior to the jump. Considering his height 16" jumps shouldn't be that big a deal. I wonder if it is a conditioning issue?


I have made an appointment with the animal communicator that Katrin saw a couple of months ago. I am concerned that I am not being fair to Ike by taking him to the rehab. I know people kind of stress him out in general, but selfishly I want to have him visit as a therapy dog. My internal argument is it helps him continue to socialize with scary people. HOWEVER, I am really worried that this not a valid argument and that he's totally miserable. Sad as it is, Ike isn't going to be with us forever and there will be other dogs that might be a better fit for therapy dog work in my future. So, if Ike is miserable I need to figure out what we can do together that will make him happy. Of course, he might not be miserable, but I am preparing myself to see the reality I haven't wanted to acknowledge. Good gods, he might say he doesn't want to speak with the lady! We'll see. Our appointment is next Monday. I will let you all know how it goes.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Auditing the ARFF USDAA Trial, Westford, MA

Ike and I hung out with Cat (human) and Tessie (ESS) at the ARFF USDAA Trial yesterday In Westford, MA. We arrived around 9am and left around 2:30 pm, but it was a full day for both of us, even without running in any classes!

Ike views his crate as a safe haven and was even relaxed enough to sleep in it. Yet, a part of me worries that he views his crate as a place to escape. Hmmmm.... That's quite the dilemma. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

The trial was at the Middlesex 4-H Fairgrounds, and Cat was right, it's a great venue and vibe. It *felt* more competitive to me, but that might just be my expectation of how a USDAA trial would differ from a CPE trial. Not sure, I will have to check out some more and see what I think. There were certainly more competitors and dogs there than the previous trials I have been to.

All in all a good and exhausting experience.