Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Misc. Training and Nails

No class yesterday due to the torrential rains. Some roads near dog school were under water - or very nearly!

So, I worked on a few different things with the boys at home.

Spins of course! I am having a tough time free-shaping Ike to spin in the opposite direction that he has already learned. "Spin" is still not solidly on cue. I think I am going to go back and try to get it solidly on cue before moving forward with the opposite direction.

Bug has a free-shaped spin, but it is not on cue yet either. His spin is so different than Ike’s. Ike’s spin is like a whirling dervish while Bug’s spin is slow and ponderous. It’s funny because Bug is usually the whirling dervish, not Ike.

I did a bit of plank work with Bug and holy cow. I think feeling better and not being in class have changed the way he views the plank. Previously with plank work he was really not that comfortable and would try to cheat and not run the whole plank. Last night he could barely restrain himself until I released him and he ran the entire plank every time. Go Bug!!

I also worked on some “Sits” and “Downs.” “Sits” because it is not solidly on cue and “Downs” because I still want a happier down than I have.

I played a game Tracy Sklenar had mentioned in one of her seminars with Ike. I tossed treats ahead of us, restrained him, and then raced him to the treats (on my knees) – he won every time. Yay, Ike!! This is to work on having your dog drive ahead of you.

Then John and I tried to clip Bug’s nails again. We did a single nail on Sunday and Bug freaked out so badly we stopped. Bug was terrible when he first came to live with me, then after many months we had a brief honeymoon period where he was tolerating having his nails done really well. Now he has gotten even worse than he originally was. I bought a new Dremel (I dropped and broke my old one a while ago) and plan on trying to CC/desensitize him to it. Until then though we need to do the nails somehow. Last night we did one more nail and he freaked again. He freaks so badly I am afraid he is going to hurt himself.

Katrin and I are going to get together and try to do them together. I’ll help her with Monty and she’ll help me with Bug. Next step would be to talk to my vet and ask her about Xanax? I guess? I don’t know if that would actually help, but as I said, he panics so badly I am really afraid he is going to hurt himself. You would think it would help that I do nails every 2 – 3 weeks, but nope, it doesn’t seem to matter. To top it off, I have personally NEVER-EVER quicked him. Not once (watch I will tonight). So, I think he just has super sensitive feet or a nail phobia or both. VERY frustrating. Ike isn’t crazy about having his nails down, but he at least tolerates it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Healthy Way to Stretch your Dog

Elbeepem posted a link to The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog on Amazon for way less $$. And if you use this link, 5% will be donated to ForPaws Corgi Rescue, to boot.

Thanks, Elbeepem!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Heal Faster……Move Better

Saturday afternoon I attended a two-hour seminar at Masterpeace called Heal Faster……Move Better. Marjorie McMillan, DVM, DACVR, CCRP and Cathy Symons, CVT, CCRP were the presenters. Dr. McMillan has been a vet for 36 years and was in the first class that graduated from the University of Tennessee’s Canine Rehabilitation program 10 years ago. She is both Bug’s primary vet and a rehab specialist – hence also his rehab vet. Cathy is Bug’s well-loved physical therapist.

Dr. M started the presentation by discussing the astounding lack of studies regarding injuries and dogs in performance sports. She said the only comprehensive study she could find was a study Clean Run published in 2007 and re-published in April 2009.

From that study, the areas most commonly injured – comprising 50% of the injuries - were:

Shoulders 20 %
Back 18 %
Stifle 12 %
Hip 6 %

The obstacles most commonly involved in injuries were:

A-frame 29%
Dogwalk 16%
Bar jump 16%

The majority of the injuries were contusions, sprains, and strains.

Dr M feels there are many factors that contribute to injury, some of which you can affect (poor flexibility, muscle weakness, and muscle imbalance) and some of which you have no control over (conformation and inherited disorders). The typical causes of injury are hyperextension, hyperflexion, rotation or pivot (here’s where your acl injuries happen), blunt trauma, and chronic repetitive trauma.

The types of injuries tend to fall into the following categories:

Muscle injuries (Dr. M and Cathy feel that muscle injuries are much more common than reported because they do not show up on x-ray.)
Tendon injuries
Ligament injuries

Dr. M feels that a handler has the opportunity to have the most impact on an injury immediately following its occurrence. Humans have the PRICE principle for treating injuries (P - protect from further injury, R - restrict activity, I - apply ice, C -  apply compression, E - elevate the injured area) and canines now have PRICK.

P – Protection from further injury
R – Relative rest (Dr. M does not believe crate rest is always ideal and might in fact slow down healing)
I – Ice
C – Compression
K – Kind and Gentle Handling

In terms of Relative Rest the underwater treadmill is ideal because the water is warm, it takes pressure off the joint and allows muscles to continue to have “normal pull” which results in less scarring.

Cryotherapy or Ice Therapy
blood flow
Pain and the histamine response

You should ice every 2 hours after acute injuries; depending on severity ice for 24 – 72 hours. Use common sense 10 – 20 minutes depending upon the size of your dog, its coat, etc. I can safely ice Bug for 15 – 20 minutes at a time, but he has a heavy coat.

At this point Cathy spoke about warm up routines. She said the best way to prevent injuries is to PREPARE your dog!! At a trial be sure to walk briskly with your dog and jog a bit before doing stretches. She has a lovely Lab demo dog named Trout whom she used to illustrate stretches. Cathy strongly recommended the book The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog by Sasha Foster and Ashley Foster.

What Cathy likes about this book is it has chapters on stretch suggestions based on performance sport choices. For example, if you have a dog that has trouble weaving at times it would be wise to be sure and do adduction and abduction stretches of the shoulders & hips. Adduction is when you carefully bring the limb in toward the midline of the body. Abduction is when you stretch the limb away from the midline.

After demo-ing stretches Dr. M talked some more about physical therapy and why it’s worth it.

20% of dogs over 1 year have arthritis
90% of dogs 9 – 10 years old have arthritis

Dr. M considers the following injuries to be the problematic:

Bicipital tendinitis/tendosis
Iliopsoas injury
Cranial cruciate rupture

She had slides illustrating where the injuries occur and discussed the likely causes.

Without physical therapy after an injury, there is:

Significant loss of muscle mass and strength
1 – 1.5% per day; 10 – 20% per week
Large muscles atrophy twice as fast as smaller muscles
Fiber atrophy begins within one day
Bone resorption within 30 hours

Most startling in my mind:
Recovery without PT takes 2 – 3x the period of immobilization

Dr. M said, “The most important predictor of future injury is past injury.”

Then we discussed treatment options:

Phytomedicines (Dr. M recommended we check out Dr. Susan Wynn as an authority on, and author of, Veterinary Herbal Medicine)
Nutraceuticals (Dr. M also said the joint supplements are best absorbed as either a liquid or powder)
Physical therapy

To prevent injuries Dr. M said:

Look for conformation – know your dog’s weak points physically so you can train to hopefully balance them
Train for balance
Massage (it helps move toxins from the body in addition to providing a huge benefit to muscles)

I am sure I have missed something. It was a lot of information for two hours, so this is to the best of my ability.

Oh, and if anyone is looking for an awesome ice/heat pack, I have a personal endorsement. Sterling carries the Thermal-Aid ice packs. They stay cold for SO long and when heated they retain heat really well, too. We have two - one for the freezer and one for the microwave. With dh's knee injury he and Bug have been fighting over the single freezer pack. I might have to buy a third! DH also likes the weight of the pack.

Busy Weekend

Saturday morning both boys saw the chiropractor for “tune-ups.” Ike has been working really hard in class and doing lots of contacts and he hadn’t seen Cheryl in some time. With Bug, I wanted Cheryl to use applied kinesiology to muscle test him regarding the treats/meats I am feeding him and his supplements. Bug has been having loose stools a lot lately and this has absolutely NEVER been a problem for him (unless he was at a show and getting loads of high value treats or had a stomach bug).

I suspected the issue was the Ligaplex and possibly the Nature’s Variety. Bug is slightly allergic to chicken, and I have been feeding him NV Venison and Rabbit. These two products do contain chicken eggs and I wasn’t sure if that would be enough to cause a reaction.

Cheryl muscle tested all the treats and meats first and he did not have an issue with any of them. Hooray!! Given he cannot eat beef or chicken, developing a new allergy is a fear of mine. I am fortunate that he has a fairly low-key reaction (to both the beef and chicken) and doesn’t have an allergic reaction like some dogs I know, none-the-less I don’t want to have to scratch off any other protein sources!

On to the supplements. Bug is sensitive to the Ligaplex (knew it!), but given what it does (supports connective tissue and joints) Cheryl thinks it is important he continues to take it. He was taking it 2x daily. Cheryl suggested splitting one pill between am/pm. The surprise was that he tested VERY sensitive for the Glyco Flex II. Drat. Cheryl pointed out that liquid or powder forms of joint supplements are said to have a better rate of absorption. She said Glyco Flex does have a liquid supplement for horses I could try.

We decided I would meet her in Pembroke next weekend at The Healthy Animal. Apparently they carry a really wide assortment of joint supplements for both dogs and horses. I will bring Bug and we will muscle test him to see which supplements he can tolerate and go from there.

Saturday afternoon I attended a really interesting 2-hour seminar called Heal Faster, Move Better on preventing and treating injuries in the performance canine. The seminar presenters were Bug’s Rehab/primary vet and his Physical Therapist! I will post more on it later – including a book recommendation that has stretches for specific sports.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tuesday Nite Class

It is official, Ike LOVES agility. Tuesday night we had a great class. He is just so full of joy when he runs now.

The first run through Ike took off like a bullet and we almost CRASHED after jump 5. This is because I have taken to rewarding all of Ike’s tunnels with tossed food. This leaves him AHEAD of me. He thought we were taking the jump beside tunnel 6 (even though I was continuing to drive forward – hence the near crash).

Kathleen suggested I continue rewarding his tunnels, but after he has been rewarded slingshot him back into the tunnel and then continue the course. It makes for a much smoother run!

We moved the a-frame up a link and Ike continues to drive through the hoop. He also seems to really LOVE the table, throwing himself up and into a down on it. This week I did remember to utilize the table, allowing myself a lead-out so I could position myself between 13 and 14. Ike handled the wrap around 15 and into the poles really nicely. He was REALLY moving through the poles, so I think he has figured out the 24” spacing.

Second course was not as smooth for Ike. It was, of course, my fault. There were two wraps (8 and 14) in the course and I drove all the way to the stanchion in both cases, even though my dog was not ahead of me. This resulted in an off-course and wide turns. We had the most difficulty with 8 to 9. Poor Ike. When I tried to call him back to retry he thought I wanted him to do the poles – we did a confusing dance for a few minutes. We both found it painful.

However, Ike had no issue once we moved past that. In the past if the momma was THAT confusing Ike would absolutely have gotten emotional/stress-y and checked out. In this instance he moved on and was fast and happy – happy to have left that wrap and confusion behind!

Next run through I only ran to jump 9 with the goal of decelerating enough that Ike could make the wrap at 8. Success!!

This was an interesting class because our classmate Linda and her SS Darcy specifically asked Kathleen to work on some It’s Yer Choice exercises from the recent Tracy Sklenar seminar we attended. Kathleen numbered a shorter sequence for Linda and put out some closed containers that contained food. Second run-through she upped the ante because Linda and Darcy did so well. She put out Bug’s rabbit tug and had someone sit in a chair like ring crew. Third try Kathleen and I tossed a tennis ball while they ran and we had two “fake” ring crew members, as well as all the containers, a bag, and the toy. Darcy did an awesome job with the distractions. I think there were only two instances when he lost his focus and in both instances Linda went and grabbed his collar and brought him back to the first obstacle.

In Ike’s last run of the night Linda sat in a chair right next to jump 8 and we left out a bucket between jumps 1 and 2. I was nervous because the chair was really close to jump 8 and Ike has space issues. After Ike and I started running he immediately went to the bucket; back to the start line for us. After that he ran the course beautifully and I swear I don’t think he knew Linda was sitting next to jump 8 (obviously he knew, but it didn't seem to bother him at all). Very cool. I think it would be helpful for us to do more of this. I wonder if part of the reason Ike has so much trouble in a trial situation (in terms of stress) is because he doesn’t have laser focus – he is taking everything else in?

I have also taken to incorporating “Go” into Ike’s meal times and I think it is paying dividends in class. I have been doing this for a while with Bug. I feed Bug in the bedroom with the door closed (because otherwise he would try to scarf down Ike’s food), once his food is ready I tell him “Go!” and send him ahead of me to the bedroom. Bug is like a little freight train as he barrels into the room – it’s great.

Recently I started bringing Ike’s bowl with me to the bedroom and once I have closed the bedroom door, sending him down the hallway to the kitchen. I crouch down, just like I would on the start line, say “R-e-a-d-y” and sometimes even hold him back before I say “Go!” The first few times Ike was hesitant, but now he races into the kitchen and thinks it is a really fun game.

Both boys are really food motivated and eagerly await their meals. I feel like this is a good exercise to build value for the word “Go!” for them and they really enjoy it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rehab Vet Visit

Bug and I saw the rehab vet today. She thought he felt great - very pliable. She does NOT think he should immediately go back to classes. She wants me to work up to it. She said the biggest reason people end up seeing her again is because of the terrible too's - they do too much, too soon.

She is going to speak with the PT and I need to make an appointment with the her (the PT) and discuss what exercises she wants me doing with Bug and also the possibility of cross-training - underwater treadmill and swimming.

I am kind of frustrated. All I want is a time table, but because every dog is different they are really hesitant to give me one.

I spoke to my chiro about it and she said she thought 6 months would probably be realistic. ugh.

I asked about Bug's iliopsoas and how he is stiff after herding and playing with other dogs. She said we can do therapeutic ultra sound (which breaks down scar tissue), but they need to shave in order to do that, so it will be after Bug finishes, if it is necessary.

I will wait until I talk to the PT but it doesn't look like we will be competing at the Specialty. The thing I need to remember is that Bug is young. If I let him heal fully Dr. M sees absolutely no reason he can't go back to herding (I specifically asked because that is one of my top concerns).
Sorry to vent a bit. Every dog is different - you can't say "Oh, Bug will be good to go in 1.5 months." I do realize this. I just wish I had a general idea. However, I might have a more general idea after I meet with the PT.
The upside is that yesterday Bug played like a maniac with a 4 month old puppy - for four hours!! (I have video I will post tomorrow.) He was EXHAUSTED! I did moist heat and ice when we got home and, while he was so tired he could barely move, he didn't seem stiff. AND Dr. M didn't think he was stiff today. She thought he was pliable! That is progress - I will take it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Re-Eval Tomorrow

Bug has his re-eval with the rehab vet tomorrow. I am nervous. He has made SUPER progress with the physical therapy - hence it is time for the re-eval. I think I am going to ask her about bringing him in for water treadmill. I really want to bring him back slowly so we have the best opportunity to play, period.

His iliopsoas continues to show signs of tightness almost a year later. That is what has me distressed - not the recent injury! I don't know what it means for herding. My current instructor had to retire her now 10 year old dog 3 years ago due to an iliopsoas injury. She made something much more clear for me about the nature of the strain/tear. I was saying how Bug shows the most stiffness/tightness in his iliopsoas after playing with other dogs or herding. He rarely, if ever, seems stiff after agility. K said, "Imagine you were a human with a groin pull. You would be bending over so as to not fully extend the muscle. When Bug is running with other dogs or herding that muscle is in full extension, so later it is sore." Well, duh. Once more I need the picture painted out for me. Boy, does that make sense.

So, my questions for the rehab vet:

Is it worth doing an ultra sound to see how severe the strain/possibly tear is/was?
Would we see anything at this point? If it was bad enough originally we should.
What would be the cost?

Is it realistic to think Bug can go back to herding?

What is the time table for him to go back to agility?

I am FINE if we need to wait longer. At this point I would just like to have an idea of how long I should plan on giving him off. I truly do not care about the length of time recommended - I would just like to know how long. He had his initial PT appointment on 2/15 and the first two weeks we went twice weekly before switching to once a week. He has been doing PT for about 4 weeks in addition to chiro (weekly) and acupuncture (every other week). Chiro and acupuncture pre-date PT.

I am not sure what this means for the Specialty. It is about a month away. Bug has continued walking 2 miles daily and playing shaping games, but he hasn't been doing anything else. At this point I don't think it would be fair to him to do the herding trial, but if the rehab vet gives him the green light to go back to work and we get some lessons in, maybe it would be okay? I am just afraid of creating an additional problem. Rehabbing your dog is brutal. I would much rather play it safe and make sure he is 100%.

Tuesday Nite Class

Tuesday night Ike had class and it went really well.

The a-frame was located right near the seating, and Kathleen got some sheets from the daycare and hung them over the gating. We have discovered that Ike is very senstive to the pressure of the other students and dogs. The sheets took care of the pressure for Ike.

The first course was pretty straight forward for Ike until we got to the A-frame. We had the hoop out and Ike went right by it. We shaped the hoop some more and then ran the a-frame again. No problem, said Ike.

We also ran into some trouble with the table. I didn't utilize it well and do a lead-out with Ike, which left me scrambling to do a cross after jump 15. It was ugly. Kathleen stopped me and had me do a lead out so I was already in position past jump 15.

The other place I had trouble was 18 to 19. The first time I shaped the turn with Ike really nicely. After that though I began turning too late and sending Ike right over the dummy jump and to the table. We worked on calling Ike into me quietly rather than startling him with an abrupt "here" and slowing him down. We discovered Ike likes a soft, "Ike, Ike, Ike." It was MUCH more effective!

Tuesday night his weaves looked great.  I was thinking maybe he has figured out the 24" weaves with speed, but in both courses he wasn't going at them full tilt - he was coming off a turn.

When I walked the second course I did not plan on running the whole thing with Ike. I was really struggling to figure out how I wanted to handle 14, 15, and 16 and I thought I would get lost when actually running the course. I figured I would be better off stopping and rewarding after 13 or 14.

When I talked to Kathleen about it she asked me to think about running 14, 15, 16 from behind the tunnel. and to do the same with 5, 6, 7. It was AMAZING how much easier it made running the course. I don't think I would have EVER thought of doing that by myself.

When we ran the actual course I was the only one who didn't think the course was terribly hard because Kathleen had showed me that. She asked the other students to run it the same way and not everyone wanted to. I think they thought their dogs wouldn't take the tunnel with them behind it, but those of us who tried it found it 10x easier. Ike had absolutely NO issues with taking the tunnel with me behind it - if anything I think he drove into it harder!

The only other bobble we had was taking the a-frame from the opposite direction. Ike missed the hoop going in the other direction, so we played with it on the flat once more and then put it on the a-frame. He was fine with it after a little shaping session going in the opposite direction. We plan on raising the a-frame a link every week.

All in all it was a great class. I made a concerted effort not to jabber so much at Ike and I think he appreciated it. I also really liked both courses; there was a lot of flow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

System Saver

Has anyone heard of this product, System Saver? or used it? I followed a link from Suzanne Clothier's blog (she endorses it in a recent post). It sounds really interesting and contains Boswellia.

From the "About System Saver" page:

Unlike nutraceuticals (chondroitin, glucosamine, hyaluronate), System Saver inhibits the destructive enzymes, rather than just providing nutrients for repairing the damage.
System Saver's unique dual action mechanism inhibits chronic inflammation, as well as tissue degeneration.
System Saver's patented formula is the only source of broad spectrum metalloproteinase enzyme inhibitors. By regulating these enzymes, this formula controls damage done to cartilage and other tissue during athletics, repetitive activity, and aging.

These same enzymes are also responsible for activating the biochemical mediators involved in many chronic inflammatory disorders. By regulating these enzymes, System Saver has proven effective in the management of many of these conditions.

From the "Ingredients" page:
System Saver contains Boswellia serrata (frankincense), Citrus reticulata (mandarin orange peel and other orange peels), Curcuma longa, Camelia sinensis (green tea), natural flavoring.

Last Week's Course Maps

Course 1

Course 2

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last Week's Class

I was a bit under the weather last week and didn’t manage to write a post about class. Ike and I enjoyed the course and the Flying Schnauzer made multiple appearances. Woo-hoo for speed, although boo for leaping contacts.

Kathleen let Ike and I stay after class and we shaped going through a hoop – then we put it to work on a lowered a-frame. The thing I found most amazing was Ike's performance totally changed. Previously he would scrabble on the down side and then leap off. I think because he was accelerating and driving for the hoop there was no scrabbling – it was a much smoother performance. Very cool!

A-frame - 1

A-frame - 2

Last week was not a great handler week. Not only do I have a tendency to yell out commands (with all my dogs), but I have a tendency to fall into chatter with Ike. Not with Bug, but with Ike. I think I spent so much time cheerleading him in earlier years (to no effect so you’d think I would stop) that it is my default. Ike tunes out the chatter (or slows down – eek) and I habitually start chattering words that I am trying to build value for, like “go.” BAD handler.

In re-watching the videos I feel somewhat better. While I was chattering too much Ike did really well with the repetition. Previously the repetition could have easily caused him to check out on me.

Course 1

In the second course I set the tone in the first run – my body VERY clearly said to take the far entrance to the green tunnel. Poor Ike. The two runs that followed Ike was sure I wanted him to take that entrance.
Course 2

There are more videos of our runs from that class on youtube, but these were probably the best in most respects.

Ike Luvs Standard Schnauzers

Monday, March 8, 2010

Weekend Pupdate

Saturday and Sunday were both STUNNING! The temperature was in the upper 50’s – hooray! Spring has sprung (I hope). Saturday after my chiro appointment I took the boys for a short hike at the Bradley Estate. Given Bug is still not allowed to do anything too-too strenuous (especially now that we are seeing improvement!) it had to be a low-key walk. Bradley Estate qualifies - in general the trails are rolling with only one steep-ish incline.

You are allowed to have your dog off leash as long as they are within your sight and will come when called. Their signage specifically discourages people from allowing their dog to run off leash if they will charge another dog or human. I am always hyper vigilant about letting my boys of leash. I only do it if there is no one in sight and the amount of cars in the parking area is LOW. On Saturday, including my car, there were 3 cars and I spotted a group of people returning to one of the cars.

About a third of the way into the loop, both dogs off leash and Bug running about 50+ feet ahead of me, we spy a gentleman with a 3-wheeled baby stroller (about 100’ from Bug). Bug stops on high alert and commences intense staring. I call Ike and Bug to come. Ike comes flying and Bug remains frozen on high alert. Then the man starts to turn the baby carriage around (so he has the front wheel up and he is rotating the stroller) which looks VERY odd to a dog. Bug is fixated.

I continued to call “come” without moving, just crouching down, and suddenly my visually stimulated corgi comes flying thus earning a big “YAAAAYYY!!” and a handful of cheese. Go Bug!

This is a huge accomplishment for Bug. Often time novel sights blow his mind. How often to you see a 3-wheeled stroller in the woods? He really didn’t know what it was and yet he came. GOOD BOY. I am really proud of him. We continued our walk and both boys took well deserved naps in the afternoon!

Sunday another gorgeous day and I opted to torture the boys with baths at the Dirty Dawg Wash. Baths are also exhausting for them, but certainly not as fun. They were rewarded with a “family” walk – meaning all four of us. It’s funny, but you can tell they enjoy their walks more when John and I are walking them together.

Paws crossed this mild weather is supposed to continue all week!


Dietary support with Boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease.
An open multi-centre veterinary clinical trial, comparing conditions before and after treatment with a herbal dietary supplement consisting of a natural resin extract of Boswellia serrata, was conducted by 10 practicing veterinarians in Switzerland. This traditional plant-based supplement is known for its anti-rheumatic and anti-inflammatory properties. 29 dogs with manifestations of chronic joint and spinal disease were enrolled. Osteoarthritis and degenerative conditions were confirmed radiologically in 25 of 29 cases. The resin extract (BSB108, product of Bogar AG) was administered with the regular food at a dose of 400 mg/10 kg body weight once daily for 6 weeks. Already after two weeks of treatment, an overall efficacy of the dietary supplement was evident in 71% of 24 eligible dogs. A statistically significant reduction of severity and resolution of typical clinical signs in individual animals, such as intermittent lameness, local pain and stiff gait, were reported after 6 weeks. Effects of external factors that aggravate lameness, such as "lameness when moving" and "lameness after a long rest" diminished gradually. In 5 dogs, reversible brief episodes of diarrhea and flatulence occurred, but only once was a relationship to the study preparation suspected. Because quality and stability of the resin extract were ensured, these data suggest that a standardized preparation can be recommended as a herbal dietary supplement providing symptomatic support in canine osteoarthritic disease.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bug!

Today his Boo-ness turns 4 years old. WOW!!

Happy birthday, dear Boo - here's to many more!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Ike has absolutely figured out that spinning to the right is what I want. How exhilarating! Today I started adding the cue as Ike is very consistently offering the spin.

Then we worked a bit on spinning in either direction as the foundation for our rear cross – with no verbal cues.

Bug did much better with today’s shaping attempt. He is not a cheap date – he just isn’t very confident. Today I gave him a very high rate of reinforcement and I clicked lots of head turning. I actually got a spin from him a number of times. I would say I don’t think he knows that’s what he is being clicked for, but he did it about 5 times so I am unsure. All in all it was a much more successful (and quieter) shaping experience.

Super Ike

Last night Ike had agility class and, wow, he was ON. The course set up was designed to practice rear crosses so there was a lot of flow. Ike and I both enjoyed the courses tremendously! The first course I successfully completed WITH A REAR CROSS. Twice!

I led out between jumps 1 and 2, asked Ike to stay, and “teased” him with “ready.” He took off like a bat out of hell! I did a landing side front cross at 6 and a rear cross between 12 and 13. Ike did not spin! We handled the cross fluidly. Coming out of 14 I forgot to do a front cross and ended up on the wrong side of jump 16 for the a-frame. I didn’t stress about it and crossed behind him as he started up the a-frame.

The second time we ran the course I was able to get a landing side front cross in after 15 as well as the cross by 6 and the rear cross! Ike was moving so fast he took off of the a-frame pretty high – with only one paw in the contact zone. Hmmm…more on that later.

I have had a lot of trouble with rear crosses – in part because my dogs are usually not driving ahead of me. However, the Tracy seminar really gave me a different way to visualize my body language driving into a rear cross. Last night I was able to hold up a bit at the stanchion of jump 12 and allow Ike to drive ahead of me.

The second course I did a front cross between 6 and 7 and tried to do a landing side cross at 13. I totally got in Ike’s path of travel but he didn’t really falter (even though I literally said “eek!”) and I rewarded him after tunnel 15, which also happened to be the green tunnel he hates. Between nearly smooshing him and then having him do his least favorite tunnel Kathleen commented it was a good time to reward.

The second time we ran this course I did a cross on the take-off side of 13 and that worked well, except….Ike LEAPT off the a-frame like Super Ikey. Uh-oh. Kathleen asked how we originally trained his contacts and I said, “I didn’t really. It was always a non-issue because of his speed.” That is not entirely true. I originally trained his contacts with a “wait” in the contact, but he really didn’t seem to like it and it seemed to demotivate him (at the time) so we moved to a moving contact. I will have to re-evaluate now that he is moving so much faster. Kathleen mentioned that we could use the hoop to work on his muscle memory.

For the end of the class we did a speed circle and Kathleen taped it for me. Ike was flying. I did purposely slow down at the a-frame to ensure he didn’t blow his contact and that is something I can do in the future, but I would like more independence – so again, I’ll have to think about it and talk to Kathleen. Perhaps part of the problem with the “wait” was my tendency to yell commands and get all German sounding. There is lots of food for thought.

Here is the video, enjoy super-speedy Ike!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shaping a Spin

I am currently reading Reaching the Animal Mind by Karen Pryor. I am really enjoying it! A few days ago I read the chapter Questions, and this section (see below) really resonated with me.

From Reaching the Animal Mind, Questions, Page 159:

Clicker Using without Clicker Training

I sometime see people who compete with their dogs in agility, or in the dancing-with-dogs sport called freestyle, who use the clicker a lot, and whose dogs are happy and enthusiastic, yet the dogs don’t seem to be clicker-trained. Take one aside and try to shape a new behavior by clicking small moves, and the dog is totally bewildered. Like a conventionally trained dog, it waits to be shown what to do.

These owners seem to develop new behaviors in a more conventional way, by leading or luring the dog through the moves over and over, using lures, praise, and encouragement. They then maintain the behavior, once it’s more or less learned, with clicks and treats. As a consequence the dogs see the click as a secondary reinforcer, all right, meaning “Job’s done, treats coming,” but they don’t see the click as information about their own moves, since it hasn’t actually been used that way. They are better off than dogs that are coerced into the behavior and punished for errors, but they aren’t really using their brains.

I think this is primarily what I do with my clicker. I have trained some behaviors purely with shaping (like go to mat, look at scary people, and touch), but the vast majorities are trained as described above.

I decided I would try to do more shaping and to start I want to train a spin purely with shaping.

Last night I worked with both Bug and Ike. Ike got to go first because he was being an absolute snot-rocket and busted out of the room I put him in (how, I do not know) and also into the room I was working Bug in. So, yeah, I reinforced his doggedness by saying, “Fine, you want to work that badly you can work first.” Bad trainer or lazy trainer, I know.

Regardless I started by just clicking movement so Ike wouldn’t just keep popping into a down. He thinks it is AWESOME to THROW himself into a sphinx down. Ike tried a variety of adorable and hysterical behaviors before I caught him turning to his right. Once I caught the turn to the right it really did not take long to get a spin and get him to offer it additional times. Hooray, Ike!! Now I will continue to reinforce the spin and get it on cue. I guess I forget how clicker savvy he is or perhaps I never realized it. It was really exciting and felt so good to see him catch on to what I wanted with only the well timed click.

Then there was Bug. Poor Bug is not as clicker savvy as Ike and became frustrated pretty quickly, which resulted in a lot of frustration barking AT me. From the start one of my criteria was NO BARKING. I opted to click and treat any movement AS LONG AS THERE WAS NO BARKING. The problem for Bug is that down has been so HEAVILY reinforced due to herding that is his default. He thinks a down is always the answer or a good place to start. I will be doing a lot more clicking for movement and plan on playing many more shaping games with Bug to try to remedy this.

This training session reinforced to me how much I need to re-watch Crate Games and really work it with my boys. They are both absolute snot-rockets when the other is working. Yuck. It is not enjoyable to me and definitely comes down IMPULSE CONTROL!!

Monday, March 1, 2010


It would have been ideal to do a rear cross instead of a front cross where I crossed.

You will note I lied to my dog and almost took her off course! I thought we were doing a pinwheel!