Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Performance Scent Dogs Nosework Trial!

This past weekend we finally got to have a try at a Performance Scent Dogs nosework trial. We of course have not trialed in Nosework since our NW1 attempt in the spring, and it was our first time entering a PSD trial.

Since I have been training Molly on birch, with very enthusiastic results, I decided to enter her in a "Target Odor Test" for Birch. In the Target Odor Test, or 'TOT', the dog searches 12 identical chairs for odor. Only one chair has odor. A dog be entered in their TOT as well as other classes all on the same day. If the dog does not pass the TOT, they are still permitted to search in their entered classes on the same day, but they will be searching "For Exhibit Only" (FEO) and the scores would not count towards titles. Pretty cool!

Knowing that, I entered Molly in Buildings (indoor search.) and Containers. She is trained on both of those elements and I wanted a chance to get her "out there" and see how she looked! I love that I could enter just an element or two, even on a dog who has not done their odor test yet. I was not sure how Molly would behave! We are still getting past some issues of not driving directly into the search. Molly has an issue with looking to me for direction and getting pushy and heading into overarousal when I fail to tell her what to do. I expect this issue to fade away rather quickly as we do more and more training. Molly has been an agility dog for five years, I feel this is a symptom of transitioning to the independence of scent work.

Molly's TOT went rather well! She visits source more than a few times but doesn't particularly alert on it, she does some watching me and looking to me for direction. After observing her behavior one one particular chair I felt confident to call alert on that chair. Pass!

A nice ribbon for a TOT pass!
Molly was next up in the run order for her Buildings search! More of the same behavior of looking at me and acting like she isn't quite sure why we were there. It clicks into place before long and she got super interested in the mop bucket sitting against the wall. She finally does a little pawing alert, which I was happy to see from her! I'm kind of proud she worked out this scent puzzle, as she was working inside of the bucket initially but then went down underneath by the wheel where source was. She has never seen anything like that. Has never done an Interior search away from home (I said she was super green after all!)

Molly needs a lot more generalization and practice, but I was overall super happy with her ability to work in a trial atmosphere. She got a "Great Enthusiasm!" comment from the judge.

Perri got to go next in the Distance Element. She got to do a container search, with blue lines taped on the ground that I was not to cross. At the Novice level the distance was not too great. I have been working both girls on "funny" non-box containers so Perri approached the little Thanksgiving-themed pilgrims and pumpkins like it was just another search. This was probably the fastest Perri has ever worked away from home, 22 seconds even with a weird little poodle detour to sniff the black post that marked the start line. And in the ribbons with a fourth place! 

We took a break for pinning the mornings ribbons, lunch and then some classes that I did not have the girls entered in. I chose to avoid Exteriors for this trial for Perri, and Molly has not started Exterior work yet. I love that I could choose how much or how little elements I want to play! We also took a short hike at the neighboring hiking trails during that time with our friends Mary and Zoe. I could not resist a funny photo of Molly between the two poodles!

After that was Perri's turn for Buildings. Another thing I really love about this venue is that they offered "split" Novice classes so that a handler can run two dogs in the same day. For each Novice game offered, there were two groups of Novice dogs running through. Molly's Novice A group had gone first, and the Novice B group went later for Buildings.

This search was my proudest of the day. The building was very very large, so two search areas could be judged at one time. You can see the divider in the back of our area. The dog working adjacent to us was very vocal, the building was echoey. The hide was in the support of the table and Perri went in through metal chairs and the metal support of the table to get to it. She does not alert or stick to source as she normally would, but her behavior told me she was in odor and likely at source. I asked her to check the area again and called alert when I saw her freeze at source momentarily. I had to repeat my "Alert!" call to the judge as the other dog was so loud! I am so proud of Perri for continuing to work through a loud dog in the same building and pushing around metal to search. Good girl! This search was also a third place!

I thought we were golden for a perfect pass rate for the day, since we had only Containers to go. Perri's favorite element is containers, and Molly is doing well there too. And then...I walked into the search area. They were hanging containers. They were little plastic pilgrim hats hanging from a line. Uh-oh. I knew PSD uses hanging containers but I did not train for it. I didn't expect to see that at the Novice level, though I am certain the rule book covered that subject and I overlooked it. I do love the idea of it though, it is different and fun! In Molly's defense she gives it a pretty good try! And I think if I had not been so surprised by the hanging containers and then subsequently by Molly pulling the line down we could have passed. I should have taken a moment, gotten us both away from the search area, gave Molly a treat and then restarted. Watching my video I do see towards the end she smells the hot container and then turns to me. It just wasn't clear enough to me, I don't regret not calling alert on that one. It was all really not that bad for a dog as green as Molly, and the double leap over the clothesline was too funny!

I knew that Perri would be afraid of the hanging containers. Whether it would be mild reluctance or outright NOPE! I wasn't sure of. I have a video of the search but it isn't much. She approaches the first hat tentatively, gives it a nose touch and recoils in terror when it moves. When I ask her to walk in a circle around the line she speeds into a pretty trot, obviously relieved I am getting her away from that offending object. She would not search and I ended it. I was not going to beg and plead and upset her for the remainder of our time in the search area. It needs a lot of work but I wasn't going to progress by asking her to search over and over again. The judge was extremely supportive, and told me she has a dog like Perri. She asked me to turn Perri away from the containers so that she could turn the hat upside down with source pointing out towards Perri and being held very still. I loved that she understood that. Perri was worried to approach at first but then she surprised me by sticking her nose forward, so lots and lots of food! The judge told me that it means more to her than I will ever know that I ended the search for Perri and supported her. I saw on our score sheet that she wrote, "Love how you treated your dog."

So while our container search was a Fail, the judge's kindness and support meant a lot to me. I came to this venue after finding NACSW to be too intense for Perri, especially one particular judge. We ended our day with an issue caused by Perri's sensitivity and limitations but this time we found compassion and understanding from the judge instead of criticism. I feel great about our decision to proceed in this venue. And it is fun!

Now remember, I don't like Nosework! Nope! Not at all! But...I can't wait for our next trial!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Beach Dogs and Molly Catch Up

Last week we took our annual trip to Cape May, NJ.   We have been going there for years now and have decided this will be our last visit.   Time to explore some new places!  It is so hard to find off leash areas for the dogs to run, so much so that between Vince's busy work schedule and wanting colder weather (therefore less people.) we visited later this year than we normally do. 

We were rewarded, especially on our last day (with temps in the low 40s and a storm rolling in), with little to no people.   The dogs were able to enjoy a whole lot more off leash running time.

I was nervous about how Molly's foot would hold up on the sand, especially since we had an agility trial about three days after we were due to return. I refuse to keep her in too much of a bubble though, so she got to do a fair bit of ball chasing. Last year I had a pretty full proof system in place: backpack for poop bags, chuckit, balls and anything else. So sadly, no camera. It sucks and I so miss having my SLR, but until I grow some extra arms it had to be sacrificed. The iPhone is much easier for snapshots, lower quality but I've always been of the opinion that composition is so much of what makes a photo beautiful, not equipment.

Ein freely off leash.   Either Perri or Molly off the leash alternately.   I did try a fair bit of leaving Perri off leash while playing ball with Molly, but Perri was so rude with her biting and chasing behavior that I had to leash her.   Molly gives Perri absolutely no corrections for her behavior, but simply chooses to go "out to sea" with her ball to avoid being pestered.   That doesn't work when it is in the 40s and your dog has no coat! (Not to mention, Molly drinks water while she swims and we don't need any salt water induced diarrhea!) And Molly is only permitted off leash when we are playing ball. Without the ball to occupy her she turns her attention to bullying the other two dogs relentlessly.  Despite all these "rules" they all had a great time!

An excellent example of Her Royal Pestiness!

"Out to sea...no poodles...just me, my ball and the great wide open."


If it fits, I sits! (yes, she did jump up there herself!)
I lifted her the first time but then asked her to get back up and she did. "Her powers of levitation would make a fakir stare..."

Goodbye, Cape May!

Molly's foot issue did not act up, no limping!   She did have her usual sand-induced skin breakdown in between her paw pads though.  When we got home I gave her a bath and soaked her feet in Epsom salt, and despite having cleaned the sand out with wipes after each beach visit, I still got more grit out in the tub when I massaged each foot!   She had been licking obsessively until that bath, so even though I got the royal stink eye for bathing her, I know it made her feel better!   I also massaged a new shampoo into her feet that I have been trying for Ein by Espree Molly usually fights me in the tub "tooth and nail" but she stood quite still and tolerated her feet being massaged. (Molly has no issues with me handling her feet, she is my best "paw dog", but when it comes to a bath she says no thank you! to everything about it!)
I also noticed a favorable difference in Molly's hips this year. Because of what we were dealing with in her left front foot, I doubled the dose of Dasuquin I had been giving her after the first episode of lameness in that foot. After she improved I backed off to maintenance dose until the beginning of October when the limp returned after a day of Fast CATs and beach play in very loose sand. Last year at the beach I remember Molly dragging her hips up, she was very stiff after playing on the beach. This year I saw none of that and I have to think that the doubled Dasuquin is to thank.   Good stuff!

With Molly's soundness under discussion I will roll right into a quick update about our USDAA trial from last Sunday!  We have done little trialing since September, with the exception being a very short day mid-October where Molly took a crash on the dog walk after a very poor approach.  Although Molly seemed quite sound afterwards, I didn't feel much like playing.   So, last Sunday I was hopeful for an enjoyable day. My main focus was on my weird ring nerves in the Masters ring, my feelings of self doubt and inferiority.  I actually put a little meme on my phone with a message that encouraged me and made me smile all throughout the day. 

I do not want to be a handler who lacks confidence anymore. I really want to tackle this and overcome it. I was feeling pretty good about our Jumpers course, though mildly obsessing about a wrong course tunnel. By the time we went ringside I was intensifying in feeling some of those feelings of being worried of making a fool of us, of failing, of not belonging. However, my focus for this trial was honestly to address this issue I am having and by the time we took the line in Jumpers I was working hard on exactly what the meme above states: being confident and not doubting myself. We won our class, our first Masters/P3 Jumpers Q. :)

The rest of the day was a lot of waiting as Biathalon Jumpers and Grand Prix were in the run order and we had not entered either of those. (I keep saying when we get a Steeplechase Q we will then try Grand Prix!) We had Gamblers and Standard remaining. Here is our Gamblers run, which I did not love. Molly was sort of tired, not very fast, and I gave her an awful approach to the Aframe for her first time. While we got whistled on the Gamble (hmph.) we did complete the distance challenge so I was happy with that!  

In Standard I had the same kinda ho hum pokey dog, though we did run our first clean P3 Standard! We were one second over the SCT but I am still grateful for what was a very nice run! However, Molly's inability to run three agility runs in a day without becoming so tired that we are overtime was initially upsetting for me. It brings up another issue that I have:beating myself up for days after a trial over every single thing I did not like.  Introspection is good but I take it too far!

However, introspection on Molly's energy and speed makes me realize that I truly have let her become a "weekend warrior" and as she is getting older, she is not able to maintain endurance on just being young and in condition.  Because...she is getting older and I am not keeping her in proper condition! Perhaps I could blame her feet still being sore, or fret that her lymphoma is becoming symptomatic, but I don't think so. Really, beginning this year more than ever, if Molly doesn't want to go walk or hike, I leave her home. Molly's exercise is so sporadic, it could be only a walk every two weeks or a hike here or there. Starting this week I have tried to take Molly on a 15 minute walk every day. It is not much but it is better than nothing and it is a start. (Our usual weeknight exercise is an hour+ walk perhaps 2-3 times a week, and again if Molly doesn't want to join Perri and I, I just shrug and go on without her. No more!) 

Six days later I have already created a monster, Molly has more energy! While she would normally eat her breakfast and go back to bed on a lazy weekend day where I am at home doing chores and bills and drinking coffee, guess what. She was pestering me for her walk! I love it! Now, I just have to start saving up for a Dog Pacer.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Wildcard Success!

Last night I took Ein and Perri to our local Friday night CPE trial.   Wildcard and Standard for Perri, only Wildcard for Ein.   I normally do two runs with Ein but since he has made it clear he is no longer a fan on the Aframe, we don't need to do Standard.

Wildcard was first and there was a straight extension line with some weird angles in the beginning, leading straight to a tunnel trap.   The hosting club began the trial 15 minutes early, so I did not get to walk the course.   So much for being organized and confident for Perri's sake!   I worked ring crew for "small dogs" so I could be in the ring and get a little bit more familiar with the course.

Even when we set up on the start line I was not set on how I wanted to handle that first line!   I decided to be very brave indeed and set Perri up on a start line stand.   Whoah.   It let me set her line over the first two jumps but then do the necessary push out to the next three.   At the end of that was a tunnel trap, but I rear crossed the jump and pulled Perri - which she did very nicely.   I was doing a lot of mental management to be confident of doing that and to not agonize over the potential for a wrong course.   With Molly she would have taken that tunnel no matter how much deceleration or rear crossing I did and I had to remind myself that Perri is not Molly.   She is more handler focused and if I am confident in my decisions on course and she is not stressed, she will follow me.   And she did!   Entered her weaves and stayed in them.   From there I needed to stop and see where to go next, as the angle of the next jump was hard for me to see from where I had been ring crewing.   No matter, we qualified and finished well under time for at last, our first Level 5 Wildcard Q.  Ha!

This all meant a lot to me, as in the beginning of August was when I "fired" Perri for a while.   It was after we drove to a farther away club specifically to get Wildcard legs, but Perri was so stressed out that we NQd both Wildcard opportunities.   It was nice to come back with a Wildcard Q at Perri's first true planned trial back since then.  (The other two trials were Pairs for the sake of a friend, and unplanned substitution for Molly at a CPE trial last month.)

We also did Standard!   I was feeling really great about this course.   I ran with Perri off the start line, cheered her up majorly on the teeter and then did a front cross at the end of it.   I did not have much other option as the only way to run with her on the first line was to be on her left, and rear crossing the teeter is a super non-option for Perri.   Unfortunately that big front cross all the while cheering and carrying on and not asking for her stop criteria (I haven't been lately because Perri has been having confidence issues on the teeter)...anyway it caused her to bound off the teeter early as my shoulders were pointed at the Aframe and she happily ran towards it. 

I forgot myself and called her and she stopped dead in her tracks.   Not a stressed out stare for no good reason, but a stink eye.   A stare down at me!   I deserved it and I welcome it!   She was doing what she thought I asked for and I called her off of it and I was getting some attitude!   She stared me down for a while, and then finally did the #5 jump even though she seemed thoroughly disgusted.   There were some weave stress issues then and I did ask her to repeat them.   That was a risky decision.   She weaved fast and then ran the rest of that course fast and confident!   The gamble decision played out okay, whew.   She did her second set of weaves, entry and commitment, great! And the rest of the course was a lot of extension with a little tunnel trap at the end.   Again Perri pulled towards me and took the correct end.   She was sassy and proud on her dog walk, which was second to last obstacle, and finished the course with her tail up and happy! 

To bounce back from a moment of some confusion and weave stress was a really big deal for me and I am almost happy it happened!   I do question my decisions.   Maybe I should have left her take the Aframe.   Maybe I should not have asked her to repeat the weaves.   However, our dynamic was not what we had been dealing with a few months ago.   The issue a few months ago was random disengaging with no discernible triggers and slowing down to a trot while staring at nothing.   Last night it was unclear handling and truly, some sassiness on her part.   Perri is a sassy dog when she is not stressed out and she was right to go to the A-frame and she knew it!   So.   This time, a clear trigger.   I kept my mind clear, I acted playful, I judged where Perri's mind was and if it was strong enough to handle a slight readjustment, and I judged correctly.   Had it been that mindless drifting and environmental stress, I truly believe I would have played along with her to get her back in the game and feeling brave again. 

It will still be a month before Perri does more agility and that is okay.   I have given considerable thought to moving Perri to Enthusiast level in CPE next year.   She would have to jump 16" which is the only thing I am not happy about.   What I am looking to do is skip a class and gain more time to run courses.   Skipping a class would allow Perri and I to skip Standard class as we pursue a CT-ATCH.   CPE is kind enough to do a one time transfer of any legs earned down to Enthusiast or Specialist, so all of her Level 5 legs would be retained.  I had this idea after last month's CPE Agility trial.   Now after last night I am unsure.   If I were to move Perri to Enthusiast it would be because I believe that Perri and I absolutely cannot tolerate Standard class, that it would be detrimental to us as a team to continue playing in that class.   At least for now.   However, last night we both kept our cool and rode out a little mini storm and came out with a wagging tail at the end.   That means a lot to me.   That means maybe we could dig in together and work on a goal of playing in Standard class.   Maybe.   We could.   We will see how December goes.   I am learning that life with Perri is one day at a time.

And by the way, Ein played in Wildcard Level 1 with a faster YPS than Perri and a time of 18.88 seconds.   He was so fast, his commitment to obstacles was so improved and he is so loving the game.   I even layered the last wildcard (he did the tunnel and I layered the weaves between us once he was committed!).   This boy! 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ein qualifies in Open!

I worked up the nerve to enter Ein in another CDSP (double) trial.   Truth be told I almost cancelled my entry, fretting that he was simply not ready.   Especially not for his Go Out.   But I kept the entry.   I picked a trial with a judge I love and who I knew I would feel comfortable with.   Ein and I have worked hard on his Go Out as well as some other problem areas between Spring and now and I really did want to see how things were looking.

This particular trial building was perfect for Ein.   Ring separate from crating and spectating.   Steward table off to the side in the ring rather than at one end or another.   The ring entrance was a doorway with two foldable ring gates stretched across it.   Wide, and it allowed room for spectators to see in, but not on either of the ends of the ring where Ein would need to run towards or away from.   Cool.

Ein's heel off lead was laggy on the first trial and he had a missed sit because the heeling pattern ended right at the entrance of the room and he got distracted momentarily by spectators.   I was told a missed sit is -5 points but a verbal cue to sit would have been a -3 points, so best to give a verbal if I'm not getting a sit. (And really, best to support my dog too.  Bad Handler.)
Running broad jump, good!   The BJ was right by the spectator gate and I was happy with how he handled that.
Drop on Recall, good boy!   I can't remember but I think he anticipated the finish on this exercise.
Retrieve on Flat great!!    No anticipating the send, picked it right up and was fast! (and adorable!)
Retrieve over High Jump Ugh!   Retrieved the DB and then came wide around the jump and....didn't take the jump.   We've worked on off set pick ups of both treats and the DB and he catches the jump.   The judge reminded me I could have cued the jump as I saw he was coming in on the flat, I did not know that!   (I forget to ask if was points off, not that I care but it would be good to know.)
Go Out was okay.   He went out but sort of started this arc and return to me.   I just cued him to sit by the gate and returned to him.   Not bad, definitely and improvement!

I was super thrilled with Ein's attitude and work in the first trial and really felt like our hard work has paid off.   Ein is loving being in the ring.

Perri got to play in Novice C (in CDSP Novice C class is for dogs who have earned their CD-C title).   I tried some tricks, having some super high value treats.   Asking a friend to hold Perri for me right before my turn so she would be excited to be with me when the leash was handed back over.   Perri still flattened out for the ring.   Dutiful flat heeling for the heel on lead (though only 1/2 point off.), she did perk up about half way through.   Figure 8 was....well we got eight points off for steward sniffing and getting lost with stewards.   Sigh.   No deductions on the Stand for Exam or the Sit-Stay, and a half point off on the recall for a crooked sit.   Strong finish!   The judge even pointed out Perri's tail which was firmly slammed down for her whole time in the ring.   Like everything with Perri, I know she is capable of loving the ring but today was not her day.   She was still a very good poodle and tried very hard for me.

After that I stewarded in Utility and before I knew it, it was Ein's second turn!   Heeling was much prettier this time, but he had some other tricks up his sleeve!   Broad jump was good but Ein went right to finish position afterwards and grinned up at me.   Clever boy!   Drop on Recall was great but the same thing, why front when you can just go straight to finish??   The retrieve on flat he amped it up to a new level by dropping the dumbbell at my feet and speeding into heel position.   Oh my!   Too much!   For the retrieve over high Ein returned over the jump no problem and I firmly reminded him with a verbal "front".   He say quite squarely, held the DB until I took it and did a finish when told.   What a hoot!!   Still in the realm of the (barely) qualifying, we proceeded to the send area for the Go Out.   I made a fuss of showing him his mark, stood up and sent him.   Beautiful rockstar Go Out, stayed put while I returned around him.   Besides the extreme naughtiness on the fronts, it was our best run yet!

And I still did not know if I qualified.   I'm not terribly savvy on the rules and I wasn't sure if we lost too many points on all those missed fronts and especially the dumbbell drop.   But then I heard our "Open A dog qualifies with a score of 179.5!"   I raised both arms up, so happy!   Our first Open leg!!   We did it!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Perri Medication Weeks 4-6

As of tonight Perri has been on fluoxetine for 6 weeks.   Tomorrow begins her 7th week.

The lethargy I saw in Perri towards the end of the third week, a few days after the as-instructed dose increase, has stayed away for the most part.   We certainly did not experience any "sleeping in" and not wanting to be involved in car trips or adventures.   Perri does sleep much more soundly through the night now and even goes into deep enough sleep for "sleep talking".   I give Perri her medication in the evening.   I do not feel that Perri has any issue waking up in the morning, or that her energy levels are affected at all. 

Perri's appetite suffered starting towards the end of the fourth week.   I had recently switched to a new kibble and thought that was to blame.  (American Journey Salmon and Rice - switched at the beginning of Perri's fourth week.)   Initially it was just skipping the morning meal.   Over the past week (Week 6) it has worsened to the point where Perri will not even come in the kitchen in the morning for her food, and at night she comes into the kitchen and might eat half of her dinner after much coercion from Vince.   Perri's anorexia is nothing new, it has been an issue her entire life but rarely would she go over 24 hours without at least eating a whole bowl of kibble.   One night last week Vince looked at Perri and remarked he could see a visible weight loss.   And Perri does not have much to lose, her bones have always been so palpable it almost disgusts me.   I was ecstatic to find she was over 40 pounds at her behaviorist visit. (She had been eating rather well at that time - for Perri - we were trying Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Stomach/Skin. mostly to try to help an issue Ein was having with obsessive elbow licking and mutilating the skin there as well as some skin redness ands pots throughout his body.   Without success.)

However, starting this past weekend, Perri refused to eat anything at all.    Perri went over 48 hours without eating anything except the treats she was given at the agility trial on Saturday.   Now, I will say that right around the time Perri's appetite started going into decline (worse than normal), I started to feed Ein Honest Kitchen Force formula.   I am very happy with this food, and will likely review it at a later time.   I did notice Perri eyeing the bowl and looking at her own bowl of kibble in....disappointment?   In desperation I dumped a quarter cup of HK into Perri's food this Monday morning, rehydrated it and mixed it all together and Presto! problem solved.   3 meals later Perri was in the kitchen in the morning eagerly anticipating her meal and has been that way ever since.

So.   Who can say if the anorexia was caused by the fluoxetine or by Perri's general pickiness and being put off of her kibble by a clearly better option present in the kitchen at meal time.

Positive Changes

Despite water being available all night long, Perri has not had a single bed wetting episode since starting the fluoxetine.   I am happy to say that the three reusable doggie diapers that I bought are collecting dust.

Alert barking has decreased, but certainly not disappeared.   I would be curious at how much less alert barking Perri would do if not for Ein's influence (who is alert barking more than ever.   old dog rules.)

Reactive fear barking at other dogs is still happening, but I have noticed a few moments here and there where I braced myself for an explosion and it did not happen.   Most notably at a husky we crossed paths with on a walking trail, with blue eyes and staring and the whole package.   Perri just walked on by.    She did explode at the next dog we passed.   So, it is just here and there.   Nothing to grab onto and say, "This has changed." but little moments in time where Perri simply does not act as she used to.

Scanning behavior is decreasing, I think.  Whether that is accurate or optimistic or coincidence, I think it is hard to tell.    Obviously we had a better day at our agility trial on Saturday than we had in a long time, I can't ignore that the fluoxetine likely had a hand in that.   I noticed that on approaches to the building, Perri seemed less "lost" in scanning and more responsive to reorienting to me.   That is not to say we don't still have scanning behavior, I remember a specific incident just this Sunday on a geocache stop.    We were at a very quiet park but there was a man across the street practicing his golf shots.   Perri did some scanning but became transfixed by this man, almost a trance.    She did not even remember that I was there until I sneezed by accident.    There again: a swinging object presenting to her an "enormous threat".    In any case, just as I mentioned with the fear reactivity, I am seeing moments sprinkled into our lives where Perri is able to reorient to me quickly and I do expect those moments to continue to increase.

As of today, I feel very positive heading into our 7th week and excited for more continued positive change and peace in Perri's life.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Good CPE Trial Day With PERRI!

A close friend of mine often laughs at me because I tend to make declarations...only to change my mind later.   I did exactly that regarding yesterday's trial.   "I believe I need to be firm that Perri does not run here (on dirt.) anymore."    Also, Perri is on an agility break, right?   But what am I to do when my best Molly hurts her foot and I've got five perfectly good runs and and and....I swapped Perri in!

I am bad.  bad.  bad.   But I was resolute to scratch and quit playing if things went badly, resolute to keep running and not fix "errors" (of the "spacing out and trotting past an obstacle for stress reasons"-variety)  Most importantly, I felt enthusiastic about a chance (however naughty on my part) to play with Perri.   Not out of duty, not out of "fixing my project", just excitement over the opportunity.

credit R.McGavin

Our first run of the day on dirt footing is normally zooming and barking and silliness.   It was...not!   The course was very short, it was the game called Colors.   There are two mini courses on the map and you pick which you would like to run with your dog.   I chose the shorter one, only eight obstacles.   The downside of that course was that the weaves were very close to "ring side" but I wasn't insisting on weaving today.   Firm.   Perri was a thing of beauty, running fast as the wind and the course was blessedly a course which allowed for extension - perfect.   Perri even hit her weave entry and weaved straight through and took the finish jump.   16-something seconds!   5.44YPS!  Perri!

We played Snooker next and I hated the course, but I do often call Perri the "Snooker Queen".   Perri never NQs Snooker anymore, in CPE or USDAA, even all through this year and her issues that we have been struggling with.   She is "further along" in Snooker in both venues than any other game.   And she was the Snooker Queen, doing my goofy choppy plan that I hated with happiness and speed!   The weave poles were "Number 7" and she did skip out of them after three but I was a very good poodle support handler and did not miss a beat, just kept running and asked her to get on the table.

Jackpot was next and Perri started to fray.   Off the start line she took a jump and had a moment where she spaced out and slow-trotted in a direction I was not running.  Thank goodness this happened in Jackpot, a class where I am most at ease.   It set me up for success.   I changed course immediately and made a big noisy cheering fuss and took off in the direction that Perri was moving.   It worked.   She sort of rebooted and then started running with me again and enjoying herself!   Good!   The Jackpot was "non traditional" so the rules were: you had to collect points and after the buzzer, any tunnel that you did meant that the obstacle following that tunnel would triple in points.   I asked Perri for a tunnel, then the Aframe (tripling it to 15 points.) and then did two more tunnels on our way out (tripling the second tunnel to 9 points.)   Cool!

I lost Perri on the fourth run, Standard.   She was slow off the start line and had a moment of stopping.   I stopped with her and made the claw hands and scuffed some dirt sideways, and that energized her into a pounce!   It was short lived as she came out of the next tunnel in a daze and trotted past the next jump.   I switched course and just ran past her to a panel jump and asked her for the dogwalk (her favorite obstacle).   She did that, then the teeter but was very sticky on it.   The weaves and a tunnel were the last two obstacles and she said "no thank you".   After she ran past the weaves we just went straight to the leash.   The whole while I was running with her and did not stop and compound her stress.    We had one more round of Standard left to go, but I scratched that.

It was a good day overall.   Success and good moments, and a reminder of Perri's limitations.   I respect it all.   I am proud of myself for scratching her last run, but I wish I had listened to Perri's behavior in Jackpot and scratched the first round of Standard as well.   I am a work in progress too!  One other thing that I did differently was to keep Perri outside on the car as much as possible, and then keep her back away from the ringside area as long as possible before our runs.   Will continue to experiment with this.

And of course I must mention my most perfect Mr. Ein!   He played in Colors and in Snooker with Qs in each game!   He is running faster and faster and staying committed to obstacles better, such a fun boy!   In Snooker we had to do a rather obnoxious plan so that we could earn enough points to still qualify without doing the Aframe, which was number 5 in the closing.   Since Ein is in Level 1 Specialist, he only needed 24 points.   We earned 21 with our opening alone and did obstacles 2-4 in the closing.

I am having so much fun playing agility with Ein.   As of yesterday's scores he is over halfway towards his 1000 point Level 1 title.  We sure are having a lot of fun together!   I daresay he is beginning to love this game more than Rally or Obedience!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Autumn Fast CATs!

Sunday was Fast CAT day!   I really enjoyed my first Fast CAT with the girls in the spring and was looking forwards to another day of it.  While this sport is not something that I could enjoy more frequently than a few times a year, I think doing it on occasion and allowing my dogs to be total barbarians is sort of liberating.   Ha.

There was an AM and a PM trial, so each dog got two tries each.   We were very fortunate to be on the top half of the run order, Perri was #26 and Molly #31.   Perri got to go first and clocked in at 9.76seconds (so, 20.95 MPH.)  Quite a bit slower than her personal best, but honestly...I can't say how much I enjoy watching Perri going all in and just enjoying something!  On Perri's second round in the PM trial though, she pulled up short and refused to go through the cones and timers at the ending.   She ran back to me!   Perri had returned to me in the AM trial, but she had gone through the timers first.

I was very upset about this at first.   Perri can't even chase the bag without freaking out about something.   This. Just. Sucks.   So tired of my dog having her life ruined by fear.   Upon further reflection I thought about what happens at the ending: the delightful chase ends abruptly.   Strangers converge upon the dog and come at her with slip leads to hold until the owner gets down to the other end.   Does that sound like something Perri would like?    While Perri does love people, the abrupt shift in activity as well as people coming to put things over her head....it is no wonder she returned to me the first time and unsurprising she refused to go in there at all the second time.  I actually think that she slowed down towards the end of the first trial as she came into the finish line.   The timer handed us our time slip and said, "We can't believe she got a time this fast, it looked like she was barely moving!"   At the time I just laughed and said "Poodles float!" because they do cover a lot of ground with seemingly no effort, but I have to wonder if Perri slowed down her sprint significantly because of people at the ending.    As usual, things are a bit complicated with Perri!   I have three choices: no more CAT activities.   Coursing ability test only (600 yards, ending where she starts so I am the one to catch her.)  Or, get somebody else to hold her at the start of the Fast CAT and I can go down to the end line to catch her.   I already suspect there could be some issues with an unfamiliar person holding her at the start so I would need to bring a friend along or find somebody familiar to her at the trial who would be willing to build rapport with her before her run.    Or.   God forbid, Vince could join us and release her!   Oh heavens no, Vince coming to a dog show!

Molly was much less complicated!   7.88 and 7.99 in the AM and PM, 25.95MPH and 25.60MPH!   Not beating her personal best but still very respectable!   I was told down at the finish that Molly released the lure, allowed the leash to be placed on her and was very polite.   Good little barbarian!   I am proud of her manners down at the finish with strangers.

We will return in the Spring for more Fast CATs and I am hoping to finish Molly's BCAT title then.   The titling system for Fast CATs is to use your MPH and convert it into points.   At this time with all three of Molly's scores she has 80.77 points.   If she continues to average at least 25 mph, she would need to run three more Fast CATs to earn her title.   

BCAT is 150 points, DCAT is 500 points and FCAT is 1000 points.   I think a BCAT is a fun goal for Molly and I!   My main focus in on a day of fun and barbaric behavior and foolish bag chasing, but hey if they want to give us a pretty ribbon for that I can't say I wouldn't enjoy it!

And at last, a compilation of the lunacy of Bag Brain Day!

Since the trial site was only about 20-25 minutes from the coast, I treated all three of us to a drive out there to the Asbury Park Dog Beach.   We did not stay long but the girls enjoyed some off leash time and ball chasing.   Unfortunately when I got home, Molly was quite lame on her bad left foot.   She was moving well when we got to the beach so I don't feel the Fast CATs were to blame but they certainly didn't help.  (add in the day before's agility runs and the 2-3 hour hike.)  The beach was not a great shore line.   It was all fluffy sand with a sharp slope down into the waves, which were fairly rough.   I did not want to keep throwing Molly's ball into the surf because she drinks so much water when she swims, and drinking that much salt water would be disastrous for her bowels.   Considering a few weeks ago I had her in the ER for GI issues, I did not want to push it!    This resulted in a lot of throwing her ball into the loose dry sand, which meant a lot of power sliding on poor footing. 

So, next Spring we will play more Fast CATs but no beach trip afterwards!   Molly has never had issues with lameness on our beach vacations in the past, but the beach that we go to has a different layout.  I have no regrets!   Molly is my rock, she plays agility with me whenever she can, no matter what.   I owe her so much.   A day of self destructive favorite activities is the least I can do for her.   Molly is already walking well again and her pain responses to toe massage have stopped. (the most painful area was actually her "outside toe", the toe on the opposite side from her arthritic area.   Compensation most likely.)   From the start her shoulder was stretching well (whereas last time this happened, she was resistant to extension.)    As a precaution I scratched Molly from this Saturday's CPE Agility trial, I want her foot to have a proper amount of rest.