Saturday, July 31, 2010

Control Unleashed, Week #1

Thursday night Bug did not have physical therapy - he started a new class. HOORAY!! We are still going to do PT every other week for a bit.... b-u-t..... we have received permission to dip our toes back into the performance world. I am ecstatic and if Bug's reaction on Thursday to an hour long class is any indication, so is he.

We are taking the Control Unleashed class, based on Leslie McDevitt's book of the same name, at a local dog training facility. I have been looking forward to this class since I signed up in APRIL. Actually I have been looking forward to a class like this since I attended Leslie's seminar at Clean Run (Day 1 and Day 2) in 2008. This is the first time my schedule has coincided with the class schedule offerings.

Also, I will be honest with you and myself. When you are in the midst of training to trial it is sometimes hard to convince yourself to give up your spot in an agility class, even if it is likely in yours and your dog's best interest long term.

Thursday night was our first class. The class is an interesting assortment of dogs: 2 large breeds (a Dane and a Mastiff), a super-happy-go-lucky-bit-over-the-top-exuberant Golden, an Aussie, 2 All-Americans, and a Bug. One of the All-Americans is very reactive and she is working her own program within the class construct with E's permission and encouragement. E set up barriers and allowed the owners to decide if their dog needed to be behind a barrier or not. 3 of the dogs and their owners did chose to work behind barriers.

After talking a bit about what she hoped we would get from this class - a focused dog who can work through distractions and in a stimulating environment - we started working on the first exercise, Look at That.

Look at That. E wanted us to click and "feed the crap" out of our dog for looking at something exciting versus the old stand-by of "watch me" when something exciting appears. In this instance she set up two cones about 15' apart in the center of the room. She had each handler get up and walk their dogs around the cones. Handlers moving their dogs were to click and feed the dogs for staying with them. Handlers and dogs watching were to click and feed their dog every time they looked at the dog and handler walking.

Well, this was pretty much a FAIL for us because Bug would not take his eyes off my face. He was intently watching me for any clue/cue about what I could possibly want and kept offering spins and his "cute" behavior (rolling partway on his side and waving his paw). I figured out that part of the problem was that I was watching him to see if he was going to Look at That which was feeding into him watching me, so I went "soft-eyed" and loosely watched the dog handler so that Bug would realize he was not going to get an indication of what to do from me. I could still see any head movements from him and in this manner I was actually able to click some moments when he chose to Look at That.

Next we worked on a Default Behavior. E wants us to choose a Default Behavior and put it on cue. The purpose is to have a solid behavior your dog can revert to in any environment; ultimately the dog will likely offer it without cue when he is not sure what you want. Well, we already have a very solid default behavior: down. Since Bug's down is so ingrained as a default behavior I decided I would work on sit. We have been doing a lot of sits while out walking to try and build value for it because previously sit had ZERO value for Bug.

Next we worked Dog in a Box. E set up a box in the center of the room made out of obedience gating. She had one dog and handler in the box while another dog and handler walked around the box in both directions. Then the teams switched positions. Both dogs and handlers were to click and feed their dogs for Looking at That and continuing to move. Depending upon the dog's level of stimulation it was just c/t for being out there and moving/staying calm in the box.

Bug and the Aussie went first. Bug was in the box and was watching me for any indication of what I wanted. I was really surprised and proud of him that he could care less about the situation. Since he was doing so well E suggested we work on our default behavior while in the box. Bug offered some down's at first and then I was able to get him to switch to sits. When it was our turn to walk around the box Bug did a very nice job of staying engaged with me and paying no mind to the dog in the box.

Next E introduced Hand Targeting. Most of the students were familiar with this, but not all, so we practiced this for a bit. Bug is funny - he absolutely understands the game, but I need to change the criteria because his touch is so GENTLE!

Then we worked on having our dog's target a cone - this is the basis for what will become our Go to Mat behavior.

Our homework for the week is to practice everything we learned in class (of course) and start teaching our dog to target his/her mat.

Both Bug and I had an excellent time and I am looking forward to our next class.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Agility Class = Happy Ike

Ike and I had agility class on Tuesday after missing last week for DJ’s vet appointment. Both boys are sick to death of hearing about the bird. They do not understand why she is so special or what is going on that is making her the center of attention.

Anyway, Ike was VERY happy to have class. He enjoys class so much he doesn’t care about the heat. For Ike that is significant. After all he is a dog that takes comfort over companionship most days!

Highlights of the class included Ike taking the weave poles at full speed and continuing through them at a much faster pace than normal. HUGE deal. He continued to do the weave poles at a much faster pace throughout the night. Yay!

A very nice 180 with minimal-to-no ground lost in execution because I stopped my forward movement and got my FX in soon enough to cue Ike correctly. Of course I immediately followed that sweet 180 by lying to my dog because I forgot where I was going and almost called him off a jump. D’oh. :)

Best of all, when we walked the second course there was a 180 immediately following the dog walk, and you wrapped the 2nd jump to head up the A-frame. I walked the course and KNEW I would need to do a rear cross. I also thought it was quite possibly set up beautifully for us because Ike really extends on the dogwalk now. First attempt = FAIL. I rushed it. It was happening and I rushed it causing Ike to say, “what?!”

We went back to the beginning of the dogwalk for a second attempt and NAILED it. I was (am) so excited! A lot of times when I cross behind Ike it slows him down for the rest of the run (because I execute it in a stilted manner, I suspect). Not with this run. Wooo-hoo Ike! And to top it off the 2nd attempt really was seamless – it was very nice.

I did draw the course map and asked Kathleen to send it to me. Hopefully I will get that posted in the next day or two so you can really see what I am talking about.

On a very humorous note, Ike has been VERY amorous in class lately. There is a toy poodle in the class before us. Her owner has a BC in our class too so we often see her poodle Crumpet after class. Ike has a big crush on her and has tried to show his affection in the past. Tuesday night he met Charla who used to be in the 6pm class. She is an adorable shitzu-poodle mix (I think) and whoa-boy does Ike like her.

Ike is not an indiscriminate player – he just isn’t, but lately there have been more and more dogs he wants to play with. Just as there are more and more people he digs. It just proves that change never stops happening (Ike will be 8 in October).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mt. Misery

Today Bug and I met up with Blue and Iris for a hike at Mt. Misery in Lincoln, MA.

What was really nice about Mt. Misery is that it is very dog friendly and has explicit instructions about where dogs are allowed off-leash and where they are required to be on-leash and the behavior expected of owners (i.e. pick up the poop , off-leash trails, etc.).

For the most part people followed the rules. The dogs that we did meet had superb dog-dog skills. It was great to have such positive experiences with dogs both on and off-leash. Most of the times you run into dogs in the woods the story is less positive and tends to start with someone hollering, "He's really friendly" as the dog charges up to you with the owner(s) following by at least 50'. It was a pleasure, and somewhat surprising, to have so many positive encounters.

We hiked for a little over an hour and both dogs were pretty beat. The majority of the trails are in pretty dense woods so it felt cooler. There is one trail that goes into a field and essentially doesn't go anywhere - we found that out the hard way. The upside of the dead end into the field was they actually had copies of the map on the other side of the field!

There were many ponds and lots of water. I had to take a picture of the green slime coating quite a few of the ponds. It was so vibrantly colored.

Pups are allowed to swim at designated areas and we did let our guy and gal into a running stream near a beaver dam. They both enjoyed wading for a few moments to try and cool off. While it was cooler in the woods the humidity is pretty high today and the dogs were definitely feeling the heat.

While there were probably 15 cars (at least) in the parking area, we barely saw anyone in the woods. We didn't do all of the trails and I am looking forward to going back another time. Blue and I talked about getting together again to take our dogs for a hike at a different location. It is a great opportunity to discover new hiking spots as we tried to meet mid-way between our houses (she is in in northern MA and I am in southern MA).

My corgi is now snoozing at my feet. There is little better than a tired dog!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weight - a Lightening Rod

Anyone that knows me personally or reads my blog knows that it K-I-L-L-E-D me to put weight on Bug, both last year and again this year, to finish him. However, I made a good faith agreement with his/my breeder, Holly, to try and finish him when he came home with me. He was finishable and only needed 3 singles at that time. The hard work of finding majors was already done.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that a dog, or at least a Cardigan, cannot be competitive in the breed ring at performance weight. "Performance weight" equals xylophone ribs. I want to feel every single one of those suckers and see them, too.

This year I half-heartedly started fattening him up because I was really hesitant to put weight on him while he was coming back from an injury. I received his Physical Therapist’s blessing to put weight on him for the show ring and so I started by upping his food.

In order to be competitive in the breed ring Bug eventually gained 5.4 pounds (starting weight was 31 pounds). That is 17% of his body weight. Imagine gaining that much weight in 5-6 weeks? I think it is safe to say you would be miserable.

At 34 pounds, after he did nothing at a show, I spoke to the judge about what she liked and didn’t like in my dog. Her sole complaint about Bug was his weight. That confirmed what my handler and Holly had been saying for weeks - the weight discrepancy between performance and the breed ring is real. Judges do not like skinny dogs regardless of their structural attributes or the fact that it does not say anywhere in our breed standard that a Cardigan must be heavy. Note: there is a difference between bone and weight.

I had been in denial; Bug needed to be heavier in order to be competitive.

Ultimately I had to resort to adding Satin Balls to his diet in order to reach his "show weight," that lucky number where the judges think he looks "good." For Bug “show” weight is 36 pounds, for other Cardigan dogs I know it is closer to 40 pounds, for some it might be below 36 pounds.

As it turns out Bug’s Physical Therapist was astounded by the impact the additional weight had on his swimming (he had trouble swimming straight! and was listing a lot more), UWTM (he was lagging) and general muscle health (iliopsoas started showing signs of tightness after being very soft and pliable for months). I am surprised that she was so surprised, only because the mantra at rehab is "a thin dog is a healthier dog." Repeatedly they witness that taking weight off a dog has them acting 10 years younger. Why should it not work in reverse?

Bug is now on a fairly strict diet. He has lost 2.5 pounds of the 5.4 pounds he gained to be competitive in the breed ring. He will not be going back to agility or herding until he reaches a minimum of 31 pounds. My personal opinion, obviously influenced by having a long backed dog and dealing with soft tissue injuries, is that it is not healthy for a dog to be training and competing heavily in performance sports at breed ring weight.

Can a dog do it? Can a dog be at show weight and compete in herding or agility? Absolutely. Is it wise? In my personal opinion, I think the likelihood of an injury occurring goes up astronomically. Having dealt with soft tissue injuries not even caused by performance sports, but definitely impacted by weight, I don’t think it is worth the risk.

In the future, in order to get the right dog (i.e. great structure plus temperament) I would consider the breed ring again. However, while that dog was showing I would stick with foundation work and avoid heavy, repetitive training of contacts and weaves or trialing.

What I would really like is to see a trend toward dogs in the breed ring at the appropriate working weight. Is that possible?

What are your thoughts about weight and dogs? What about the discrepancy between performance weight vs. breed ring weight? I would love to know what you think, particularly those of you with long backed dogs where weight can contribute to back issues.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's Official

CH Visions Cornerstone Dream On - DN14250003

Conformation - Awards Processed Through 02-JUL-2010

CH  Number of Points 15

      Number Major Wins 3

      Number Major Judges 3

     Total Number Judges 7

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I stopped at Petco today to see what they had for cages since mail order would probably take too long. They had a giant cage - bigger than my current one - on clearance for $65! It is not nearly as well made as the cage I have, which I special ordered, but it is huge and will serve it's purpose. You can't really go wrong with that price.

DJ is going to feel like she is living in a birdie McMansion.

Chronic Egg Laying

I thought I would share a bit more about chronic egg laying for those of you that don’t have birds. It is a serious problem with cockatiels and any bird that develops the habit (smaller parrots are more prone to it). I am sincerely hoping that by intervening now I can stop this cycle with DJ.

“The shell of an egg is made primarily of calcium. The calcium comes from calcium stores within the bird's body. The bones and muscles provide nearly all of the calcium required to shell an egg. The calcium that is lost in forming the shell needs to be replaced so the body can continue to function properly. Calcium is primarily needed for muscle contractions and building strong bones. In the case of chronic egg laying, calcium stores are depleted and the body is unable to function properly. The condition is known as hypocalcemia. The most common problem in egg laying females associated with hypocalcemia is egg binding. With calcium at a low level the uterine muscles are unable to contract and push the egg out. Hypocalcemia can also cause seizure-like activity and brittle bones, which can be easily fractured.”
Source: The Birdie Boutique

Egg binding is when ... “Lack of calcium and other nutrients, cause an egg with a soft shell that is larger than normal or abnormally shaped to be produced, The soft shell causes the egg top get trapped inside of the female’s body because the muscles in the ovary and cloaca cannot get a grip on it to push it out. Lack of calcium and other minerals also causes weaker muscles that are unable to contract properly to expel the egg. Chronic egg laying, which is usually correctable, depletes a bird’s body of calcium, leading to low blood calcium levels and the formation of soft shelled eggs.”
Source: Cockatiel Cottage

Egg binding is something that can often be treated successfully by your vet if caught early enough.

In my attempt to disrupt DJ’s life as much as possible I clipped her wings quite short (both my birds are/were fully flighted and Deej was a very aggressive flyer). I am moving the cage into the kitchen during the day (this is a room they RARELY go into). This morning I used some of the guinea pigs’ eco bedding as foraging material to cover their nutri-berries and Zupreem pellets. I also add a little dish of squash with seed sprinkled on top of it.

Today I will pick up some plain Tums and a second cage. Kathy and Dawn, I wish you were closer so I could take you up on the offer of a cage. I can’t believe I donated all my extra cages and didn’t keep a sick bird cage. Argh! Foolish.

To date I have been very lucky with my girls. Hopefully that luck will continue and I will be able to reverse this trend with the Deej.

Oh yeah….Ike had to skip agility class last night in order for DJ to make it to her vet appointment. He's not sure that was fair.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Deejie - A 'Tiel Saga

I have a 5 year old cockatiel named DJ. Starting in April she has been laying eggs. In April the eggs were misshapen and somewhat soft. I changed her diet and cage around and during the months of May and June she laid 4 eggs that were all normal. Then in the past few days she has laid two eggs that are very soft - practically just membranes. Prior to this she was a 'tiel that laid 1 or 2 eggs once or twice a year.

Cockatiels can become chronic egg layers and a whole host of health issues can arise. That is not what I want to happen with DJ.

We had a vet visit today. The vet said DJ felt physically like she was carrying another egg but wanted to x-ray to be sure. The other reason she wanted to x-ray was to see what DJ's bone density looked like.

Well, she is carrying another egg and her bone density did not look good. We did a calcium shot and we need to return in 10 days for another calcium shot.

In the mean time I need to move DJ into a separate cage away from the hen she lives with (Larry Joe), clip her wings short, reduce her food to about 50% for the next 4 - 5 days, and in general make her feel as insecure as possible. Seriously. 'Tiels lay their clutches when the weather is warm, the food is plentiful, and they feel secure.

I also need to work hard at getting her to eat real food. She will not. My other hen Larry loves to eat whatever I am eating. Not DJ. DJ acts as though she is afraid of novel foods. The vet wants me to make mashed sweet potatoes and mash a Tums into it for calcium. Of course I also need to bring DJ outside in the sun so she can activate it with some Vitamin D.

I am also to increase her foraging activities to distract her from her hormones.

In the meantime I need to purchase a new cage to put DJ in, in a different room. I used to have a bunch of cages but I donated them all to the MSPCA. I should have remembered to keep one just in case I end up with a sick bird or one that is on an egg laying tear.

I have also ordered some plastic cockatiel eggs so that next time she lays an egg I can swap it out with the plastic one and she can sit on it for about 21 days if she so desires.

The appointment went better than I expected. Hopefully with all these changes I'll be able to break the cycle of laying.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


The boys really wanted to go for a mid afternoon walk. They didn't seem to care that it is like an oven out. So off we went. Very little shade to be found. Yuck.

When we got back both boys were huffing and puffing so I decided to cut up some watermelon and let them try it. Various people have posted pictures of their corgis mowing down on watermelon and obviously loving it. I know my guys love cantaloupe - why not watermelon?

The boys seemed to think it was an odd shaped
Popsicle before they figured out they could bite it.

It was very much a success and now they wish I would give them

Win Picture

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Tuesday night Ike and I had agility class. Unfortunately due to the rain it was held inside. I say unfortunately because the last two times we have run indoors during the summer it felt stuffy in there and Ike was sluggish. Not Tuesday night!

Both courses had a lot of flow and were enjoyable to run. I realize that with everything else going on in my life currently I have not been the most thoughtful handler with Ike. I need to be more conscientious about the choices I make while running him.

For example, there was a serpentine in the second course that was toward the end of the course. Rather than sticking a front cross in between the first two jumps, which I know for a fact will get Ike moving, I handled it from one side. I didn't even THINK about the front cross until Kathleen commented that it would get Ike going. I know this about Ike. I really do, but I didn't *think* to do it.

At another point Ike came flying out of a tunnel and I handled the weaves following the tunnel in a manner that would require a rear cross. I had no choice - Ike was moving. It's not how I would have chosen to handle it but due to Ike's speed it is how I needed to. I made a comment about how I wanted to do a FX and Kathleen basically said you aren't always going to have that option. I think I need to do a few privates and work on rear crosses because I am just not getting it done by myself.

Ike and I were a little disconnected by the end of the class.

Cheryl adjusted all three of us after class and Ike's pelvis was out. He has not lost his pelvis in some time, so that could have contributed to the disconnect. We need to video tape Ike when he is getting an adjustment. When he is out of alignment he does not stand straight - his spine visibly curves. When he is adjusted he visibly unwinds in moments. It is the coolest thing to watch. I have never seen it in another dog.

Bug has been holding his pelvis like a champ. His iliopsoas was a bit tight due to the weight, but better than when he was at full show weight (he has already lost 2#).

My current goal with Ike is to try to be more thoughtful and run less on autopilot.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

C6 Results

The vet just called with the results of Ike's 6-month follow-up C6. His titer is down from 254 to 108. That's a 57% drop - so we are on the right track.

I went to tell Ike the good news and found him, per usual, in the coolest spot in the house. Ike is a comfort first kind of dog.

Bug is all about companionship, regardless of how hot it makes him.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


...from my SIL who is currently on vacation.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pet Insurance

Okay....who out there has pet insurance and what company did you go with? I am thinking seriously about it and am leaning toward Trupanion (if I decide to go that route).

The other idea would be to figure out what the monthly premium would be and put that money into a separate bank account.

I am in the process of reading/checking out the website Pet Insurance Review that I linked to from a Fully Vetted post but would love to hear some personal experiences. Love or hate.....

Monday, July 5, 2010


It is hot....really, really hot. Stifling one might say.

I took the boys wading because it is so darn hot.

I didn't get any great shots of Bug, but this picture of Ike is priceless. Ike is not a huge water-luvin' Schnauzer. It took me a long time and lots of treats to convince him he could wade into a kiddie pool without melting. This is the deepest he has ever ventured in water!

Meanwhile, I maintain that Bug must dress up a a shark for next Howl-o-ween. All he needs is the fin and the outfit would be complete.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Today Bug shared a kiddie vanilla frozen yogurt with his brother and cousins from Crescent Ridge. Bug believes in biting ice cream not just licking it, so he definitely made out like a bandit. On a side note I think it is definitely time for a new camera. That will involve a lot of thought....

I hope everyone is having a terrific 4th of July with their friends and family.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Champion!

He did it....I can barely believe it....HE DID IT!

CH Visions Cornerstone Dream On* pending AKC confirmation/approval

Today under Judge Roberto Velez-Pico Bug picked up that final elusive point. I literally hugged every single person outside the Cardigan ring. Granted I knew most of them from other shows or online (Hi, Joanna. Nice to meet you in person!). I very nearly cried. I think I am still in shock.

I have this whole grid paper outline of upcoming shows I planned on entering and I can throw it away!! Hooray!!!

Bug was being a nudge before the show barking at the girls. He was very excited by Joanna's Friday and a cute sable girl. I had to move him away from them. Kerry and I hoped that energy would transfer to the show ring and I guess it did.

Bug gets one more fat-boy meal as a reward and then the diet begins tomorrow!! A couple of dear friends have jokingly said, "The dog finishes his championship and what does he get? A diet!?" I know, I know. Poor thing.

Crazy Busy = Bad Blogger

I have been a bad blogger. I just can't seem to keep up at the moment.

Work has been really busy with some major project and proposal deadlines. John and I are house-hunting which is pretty all-consuming. Add to those two items something after work everyday. It ends up equalling no time or energy to blog or train.

I have missed blogging about Ike's last two classes and he is doing really well in class. He isn't minding the heat and he loves when our instructor Kathleen cheers him on. When he hear her "woo" he visibly turns on the afterburners. Very funny that a dog who really doesn't like a lot of people watching him enjoys a select audience. I am proud of how the circle of people he enjoys and likes is widening. His dogwalk is rocking and he is running in extension more and more consistently.

Bug is continuing physical therapy. We are at the conditioning phase; we have been for a month +. He is swimming 10 laps and doing almost 20 minutes on the UWTM. For all of those who end up with an iliopsoas injury or any soft tissue injury really - take the slow and steady route or you'll be trying to fix additional problems a year+ out. I didn't push Bug, but I could have shut things down completely last spring and gone to Sterling earlier. Lesson learned.

The good news is I have a sneaking suspicion that once this is all said and done Bug will be just about as good as new. We'll see. I don't want to jinx us, but I am feeling really positive about the amount of tearing around he can do and show no signs of tightness, etc. And I have a boatload more skills and knowledge when it comes to soft tissue injuries.

We had an acupuncture appointment on Wednesday and Anne thinks he feels great. We are now regularly scheduled for 5 weeks out. Yay!!

Yesterday I took Ike to have his follow-up C6 done. I had been putting it off because I knew it was going to take a bite out of my wallet (it was due at the end of June so I didn't put it off that long). Yup. Hopefully his titer is significantly reduced. He certainly acts like he feels good. I had the tech weigh him while we were there. 16.9#. I find Ike's weight so frustrating. Suddenly I will feel as though he is a porker and I will reduce his food by 1 ounce. Then he will be skin and bones, so I will up his food. Rinse and repeat - it goes on and on. I just cannot find a happy medium with him.

Bug on the other hand is officially a porker, at least in my mind. He might still be too skinny for the breed ring. He is up from 31# - where you could feel all his lovely ribs and see a great tuck to......36.4#. It KILLS me. I feel like he is obese, but I know many people and vets think he is perfect, not even overweight because you can still feel the edge of his ribs. Ha. Try doing serious agility or herding with a dog carrying that weight - want to know how quickly they would be broken? Anyway, off the soap box - I don't want to get started. Those of you who do performance sports know what I am talking about.

I think I might have to seriously consider Rally or Obedience with Bug for right now. I don't really have an overwhelming interest in either, but I feel like he needs more of a job than he currently has. His current job is PT. Control Unleashed will be starting up soon though and there is Noseworks offered locally (he loved the seminar). There are options, they just aren't either of our top picks.

I have a bunch of breed show dates mapped out and REALLY hope we can find this stinking single soon - then Bug can go on a diet!

I really miss running a dog competitively in agility. I miss the training to compete and the camaraderie  at the trials. With Bug's weight we will not be trialing until next year at the earliest. I can wait.

There you have my update. Lots of nothing-too-exciting has been going on.