Sunday, January 30, 2011

Herding Seminar

This weekend Bug and I attended a 2 day herding seminar with Jan Wesen. We were supposed to be there for 3 days but I worried it might be too much physically for Bug after being off for so long and I dropped the third day. Note: Jan said in the future she is happy to do line work with me if I am concerned about Bug's physical well being and want to do all three days.

The seminar was supposed to be a duck intensive seminar but we did end up working sheep. We started off by introducing ourselves and explaining a bit about where we are and what we wanted from the seminar. When I explained what has been going on with Bug for the past year and that I was interested in ducks as a result Jan said, "Why? Ducks are harder on your dog." Now I audited a seminar last year where I swear she recommended ducks to someone because of their dog's physical health. Regardless. I have heard that ducks are harder from other people as well. All I want is to be able to work my dog without him being crippled when he is older. Jan suggested that I can work both I just need to be smart and make sure I stretch my dog, etc.

Friday we worked ducks twice and sheep once. The first time we worked we were really just working on keeping our dog on the fence and realizing that if the ducks moved all the way down the indoor arena (kind of cutting across it) versus turning back towards their safe spot our dog's nose and shoulders were coming off the wall. The second time Bug was feeling much more comfortable and we moved the ducks back and forth on one wall a lot more smoothly.

Jan had me help Bug move the ducks if he got stuck by wiggling my hand and actually moving them at one point. It really stuck with me when she said I need to help my dog now so that he realizes I will always help him if he needs it and as a result trust me to help him when he needs it. I love how different people say the same thing in different ways and for whatever reason one day it clicks for you.

Jan suggested we keep our dogs out while other people worked. Initially Bug whined a bit but I did grab his muzzle once and he did not whine again. He was really excellent. I kept him stapled (on a down with my foot near his collar) beside me for a large part of Friday and while he did rearrange fairly frequently he did not make a peep.

We ended the day with a bit of a melt-down on this human's part. I got stuck in a corner with my sheep and dog, did not understand at all where Jan wanted me to move and everyone got frustrated. My level of anxiety was high! The funny thing is after the melt-down Bug did some nice work. I feel like he likes sheep more than ducks, but I think a lot of it is exposure on both our parts so the level of comfort is higher.

I was nervous about Saturday after my melt-down, but it ended up being a REALLY great day. We did a lot of different exercises and Bug was really good and really engaged. And the human part of the partnership was more on the ball! We did driving and packed pen with both sheep and ducks, as well as many other exercises. We packed a LOT into Saturday which makes me sad we aren't there today.

Bug was slower jumping into the car Saturday morning and as the day went on he did wait for me to pick him up occasionally so I believe I made the right choice in doing only 2 days instead of 3.

Saturday someone was auditing who has never done herding before and she definitely felt like people where being harder on their dogs than she would be using the rattle paddles, etc. I remember the first herding seminar I audited. I felt the same way, I think. I think what people don't realize when you come from an all positive training forum, I didn't and I learned over time, is even though sport herding is not like having a farm where you need to move stock and sometimes the situations are really-really tense (like life or death tense), your dog (or you or the stock) can still get seriously injured. You and your dog need to have an understanding, trust each other, and work together. Some dogs are really hard headed and sometimes the methods you need to use can be a bit harsher. With Bug I use a stock stick. Anything more than a stock stick is WAY too much pressure for Bug. It's hard for me because I need to be very conscious of where my tool is and as a novice person I can be sloppy and exert too much pressure on my dog or hold pressure on him by accident.

It was really interesting to me to have this person asking questions and questioning the methods because it made me realize how my viewpoint has changed since I audited my first seminar in 2008. I have also watched every person I have worked with adjust their training styles to meet the dog's needs, so I am aware it isn't a cookie cutter formula - there is a reason for the tools and methods.

I learned a lot and I am looking forward to the next multi-day clinic I have the opportunity to attend. Attending multiple days really piles up the experiences and learning and I now see why it is the popular method in herding.

Rear Crosses and Handling

Last weekend Ike and I attended two 4-hour workshops hosted by my agility club with Amanda Shyne. Saturday's work shop was on Rear Crosses and Sunday's work shop was on Handling.

The most important thing that occurred, Ike's tail did not stop wagging the entire time. Ahhh....I think the transformation is complete. :) I said at the workshop I wish I had video of Ike from "before," but I do not. You will have to take my word that he has blossomed into a totally different dog. He no longer "shuts down" if I foul something up. He is engaged and happy and, in fact, did not want to leave the facility when it was time to go home. I think it helps that we train there so he now has a very positive association with it.

Amanda gives a lot of feedback and the biggest things I got from the seminar were very small details tweaking what I do. I have continued to struggle with rear crosses. I don't think I have ever really committed to learning to do them properly. One of the things Amanda went over once she saw where everyone was (which was a complete mash-up of weak or learning RCs to very nice RCs that just need a little tweaking) is how she starts the foundation with her puppies.

She puts her puppy in a sit and walks behind them. As soon as their head moves in the correct direction (i.e. the direction in whicvh you are crossing behind them) she releases them forward to tug or chase food (although if using food run with your dog to the food don't just toss it). Then she graduates to a jump bar lying in front of the dog and then stanchions without a jump bar. Very easy exercise I can work in my living room with Ike.

The other thing she suggested for me with Ike, I think in part because he is so small, is to use my inside arm versus my outside arm. I was taught to RC using my outside arm. When I tried it with my inside arm it felt incredibly awkward (muscle memory!) but it was smoother for Ike. Later that day she had me stop using my arms at all because I was obviously feeling conflict about which arm to use and my arms were all over the place.

I am planning on working with Ike on the foundation exercises and eventually, when I put it into action, I will try it with my inside arm.

The biggest thing I walked away with from Sunday's workshop on Handling is a game to make Ike more comfortable coming into my space. Amanda commented that part of our problem with Rear Crosses and in general is that Ike doesn't feel safe coming into my space or about me coming into his space. She asked if I had stomped him repeatedly, I haven't. I was talking to Kathleen about it and she commented that while I haven't stomped on him a lot I did used to regularly cut his path of travel off which made him not trust me! Well, duh!

The game Amanda wants me to play is very simple. Toss a cookie away from me. Then toss a cookie between my legs so Ike needs to drive between my legs to get the cookie. Over time I can bring my legs closer together. The first time we tried this Ike went around me multiple times. At first I wasn't quick enough and didn't grab the treat! Finally his confidence grew and he started running through  my legs. We will keep working on this.

Excellent seminars. I hope the club has Amanda back again next year. She has a very analytical way of looking at things, is a good teacher, and gives tons of feedback.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

AVMA Podcast on HD

This podcast is an interview with Dr. Amy Kapatkin, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, discussing hip dysplasia.

The podcast is nothing earth-shattering for an informed owner, but it is a good refresher and informative for the owner with a newly diagnosed dog.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Structure in Action

Here are some notes from the Pat Hastings seminar. These deal primarily with evaluating puppies. Truly there is too much info. I am looking at my notes and getting overwhelmed by the thought of trying to fashion it into something coherent to post! I think maybe I will do multiple posts or perhaps I will just do this post.

Please be aware that there are often mistakes from the ear to the paper. Pat told a great story of a woman who had been to MULTIPLE seminars. She asked Pat if she wanted to look at her notes. Pat said sure and discovered things she swore she never said! That being said here you go….

Pat Hastings started in dogs in 1958 with no “formal” education. She is sharing what she has learned. She has bred 26 different breeds of dogs and evaluated over 34,000 puppies. Her mentor has been Dr. Barclay Slocum.

All dogs are born with the natural instinct to do their job, but not all have the structure to do the job. In order to work all day in terrain a dog must have good structure.

Understand when you look at a breed standard it is all compromise. Breed type is critical but type has to be on a quality animal.

PH strongly feels the phrase “pick of the litter” should be eliminated from a breeder’s vocabulary.

Vets are taught that the only time you can evaluate structure is at 8 weeks. Tissue does not have enough strength to hold bones in correct position prior to 8 weeks. Bones are similar in proportion to an adult dog at 8 weeks. 3 days on either side of the 8 week anniversary works. 4 days does not.

PH did an experiment with 100 litters. She tried a 7 week evaluation, an 8 week evaluation, and a 9 week evaluation. 8 week evaluations were 100% accurate. 7 and 9 week evaluations were about 70% accurate.

For a proper evaluation the puppies should be in a totally new environment. The WORST person to evaluate the litter is the breeder. Breeder will spend the entire evaluation trying to make their favorite the pick. PH suggests getting someone else, outside of your breed, to do the evaluation.

PH always does her evaluations on a table with a mirror facing her. This allows her distance and angle. She started with a scale of 1 – 5; she would now recommend a scale of 1 - 9.

3 is your average show dog; 5 perfect – doesn’t exist; 1 should be euthanized.

Scores each of the sections on a scale of 1 – 5:
Shoulder – point of shoulder up
Front – post-sternum down
Rear assembly
Does not evaluate heads

4 pieces of a breeder’s job:
Structural Soundness

Any dog whose structure is less than a 3 doesn’t belong in a performance home, shouldn’t be bred, and should be sold STRICTLY as a companion.

Busiest puppy in the litter typically does NOT belong in a performance home. The reason it is busy is because it cannot comfortably stay still and the busy-ness becomes a habit. (Debbie Gross Saunders said the same thing in her seminar I attended a few years ago.)

One of the litters that Pat evaluated was a litter of labs. She stated that they were overweight. She said that puppies that carry the HD gene and are overweight increase their chances of developing HD by 50%.

She sees too many people fault breeding, or trading faults. This one has the head I want so I will breed to xyz. She said it is best to breed to the best total dog that includes the strengths you are looking for. Also recommends knowing as much as you can about the litter the sire/dam came from because whatever that litter consisted of is likely what the dog will throw.

Pat also has a spiffy trick to help stack puppies. She holds them so their feet are barely touching the table and moves them around the table. Their nails are dragging. Then she sets them down and sets them up. Because the puppies felt as though the floor was moving, once it stopped they did not move. She did this with both litters of pups and every pup stacked beautifully.

She did not talk much about actual showing but one thing she did say is that people tend to touch problem areas and it is a dead give away to the judge. She said to stack your dog and refuse to touch the problem area once he is stacked – all it does is call attention to it. It is commonsense, but sometimes we overlook the obvious!

That’s all for now; I have to organize my thoughts about the structure analysis and decide the best way to present it – if I am going to.

By the way, Bug’s chiropractor was there and she said a lot, if not most of this information is in Pat Hastings’ video Puppy Puzzle.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Goings On

I have been a very bad blogger.

Sunday I attended a Pat Hastings' Structure in Action seminar. It was amazing. I learned so much. I have yet to have a chance to look at my notes this week and really digest all that she went over (or blog about it, obviously). She used loads of photos to give examples of correct structure and structural faults as well as two litters (Irish Setter and Lab litters) and about 10 adult dogs (variety of breeds: Azawakh (2),  LR (2), GSD, CWC, Parson Russell Terrier (2), Hungarian Mudi, Miniature Poodle, and an All-American). She might be coming to New England again within the year and I will definitely go again.

Bug started doxy on Thursday. Tuesday he started with diarrhea – which hasn’t stopped even with rice and arsenicum album. We had a lovely 1 am walk last night. Brrrr! I did not give him any doxy yesterday or today. The vet and I are playing phone tag. I also have calls into an herbal practitioner and Ike’s CVH.

As I mentioned last post or the post before that, since Bug had been acting so spooky I do not want to vaccinate him for rabies if his titer is adequate. It came back as > 15 which is more than adequate. I have to touch base with the vet about that – the number I received for Ike was thousands higher. Perhaps it is because Ike has had many more rabies vaccines? I think Bug has had his 1 year booster and his 3 year booster – that’s it.

Ike is still struggling with the Dog Brick – he just does not get that he needs to push with his nose. He does get all the treats out, but boy does he have to work hard. Bug is now finishing it in less than 2 minutes (I think) – he understands exactly what is needed.

I finally got Ike’s “Spin” to the right on cue. We are now working on “Turn” to the left. He is obviously a righty – he has a much harder time making his body turn to the left. I was able to shape a turn to the left – now I just have to get him to do it consistently and put it on cue.

Bug is finalizing his “spin” (to the right) on cue and we are working on backing up.

They are both such funny boys. They learn in such incredibly different fashions. I love it.

I hope to blog about Pat Hastings this weekend….

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lyme yet again....

Bug had his annual exam last week. We titered for rabies, distemper, and parvo. I wanted to titer for rabies because Bug has been acting incredibly spooky as of late (beginning about the last week of November). I don’t want to vaccinate him, or I would prefer not to vaccinate him at full dose, if his titer is sufficient given how weird he is acting.

Spooky = very wary of sudden movements and items being moved near him. I guess a better descriptor would be to say he is acting extraordinarily skittish ….everywhere….in the house, at herding, on walks. He is also being hesitant about tugging - one of his favorite activities.

Since he is acting so spooky/skittish Dr. H suggested a follow-up C6 to test his level of Lyme infection. Last December we did a six month follow-up C6 and his levels had dropped from 424 to 138 (after treating with doxy – his 1st treatment). That was a huge difference. However, it is now a year out and his C6 came back at 86.

I am really depressed about the results. He’s been acting really odd lately or I don’t know if I would treat allopathically. I am extremely torn and I guess I still haven’t really made a final decision about treatment. I am picking up the doxy tomorrow. A large part of me thinks I should make a new patient appointment for him with Dr. F (CVH). I really feel the doxy pushes the disease deeper, at the same time I know it can be an extremely effective treatment. Bug could have easily been reinfected given the amount of ticks I saw late this year.

Given his recent behavior I definitely consider him symptomatic. Argh. I hate ticks.