Wednesday, October 29

Fall - time for hot spots!

It's that time of year again, when Roofus starts ripping out his hair and getting scabs in a large patch on his back from hot spots. When I'm talking about hot spots, I mean the itchy itchy spots where dogs chew and chew and chew for no apparent rhyme or reason, not to be confused with any kind of skin parasite, fungus, or food allergies (which are usually accompanied by licking the front paws).

If you've never had a hot spot before and you suspect that's what it is, you should go see the vet. Yes, gripe about the cost for a minute, then suck it up and go. You want to rule out other stuff before you attempt a hot spot treatment. Also, the vet can prescribe things like prednisone if it is seasonal allergies that are out of control.

How I cope:
Again, always consult your vet before trying ANYTHING.

1) Humidifier. It can't hurt, after all. Your home's humidity should be 30-50%, and if you had a humidistat you'd find out that yours likely is well below this line. Cold air does not hold humidity very well, and running your heat further makes the air dry. It's also healthier for YOU to have a humidifier. But too humid isn't good either, so keep a firm eye on your home's level.

2) Apple Cider Vinegar. This stuff is great for people too! I put it in my dogs' water bowl everyday with fresh water, roughly 1 tsp per gallon. It's definitely homeopathic, but I think it helps so I use it during this period. I've heard it's also a good wormer. Don't use too much, that's really bad!

3) Grape Seed Extract. I used to give this to my sheepdog for his very sensitive tummy. Later I found out it helps with allergies too! It can be found in pill form in the human vitamin area. You might have to try several stores - Grapefruit extract and grape seed extract are NOT the same thing.

4) Get a really good, high-quality allergen air filter for your furnace and replace it monthly. Yep, you get what you pay for. Buy the good one - you'll feel better too.

5) Benadryl. ALWAYS CONSULT A VET BEFORE USING ANY MEDICATION. I HATE giving my dogs drugs, but with Roofus, it's a necessity if I don't want him to be miserable and rip all his hair out.

6) Allercain. This stuff is great. It's a spray on antiseptic, anti inflammatory with pain reliever. It has some nasty taste in it which isn't TERRIBLY effective if the dog is really bent on chewing on that spot, but it seems to be safe. I've used hydrocortisone with better results, but you definitely don't want the dog licking it off.

7) Bathe once a week. Yup, you heard me. Nice oatmeal and/or tea tree oil baths once a week actually cuts down on dry skin. You can also use hydrocortisone shampoo, but only use on the affected areas!

Wednesday, October 22

Agility Class last night

Last night was the first night of Session 2.5, Weaves and Teeters. My SO built me a teeter, and during the break between classes, I taught Popper the teeter by gradually raising it (3", then 6", 12", 18", 24") one level after he was extremely comfortable on it. Took roughly one week of practicing 3-5 times each day. I set it on my wooden deck first at the lowest height, so it would make far more noise than normal, and sometimes I'd just walk by and bang the crap out of it and give him bits of hot dog to desensitize to the noise. ALWAYS use a high value treat for these "scary" obstacles!

Popper did awesome last night, he was the only dog already doing ground to ground on the teeter. There was another dog that did it but was iffy, so they went back to using the tables. I was really proud of da Pop Pop! Weaves, well, they use the channel method. I've been trying to get Popper's speed up and to get him working independently, but it's not happening. I'm probably going to buy a set of channel weaves (which are expensive!!) and retrain them that way. Everybody was really impressed he's already got the teeter and weaves. It's a class people commonly have to repeat - and I really, REALLY don't want to! I don't like doing things twice, that's why I have my own teeter and weaves and other equipment.

Well, we'll see how it goes. Now I'm off to eBay to see if there are any used or less expensive channel weaves for me to buy.......

Tuesday, October 7

Popper's Weaves - Video

Well, everyone who wants an update on how Popper's weaving is coming along, here's a video!

He does REALLY well when I'm on the opposite side of him... not so great when we're on the same side. :( So we're going to go back and start working with just three poles for that side, then add a pole at a time until he's simply amazing. :) Popper's awesome that way.

See? You CAN teach weave poles at home by yourself! It did help though that I take agility classes so I could ask the instructors for help if I needed it. :) We start actually learning the weave poles in class at the end of October. Hopefully I've given Popper enough of a head start!

Next up, teaching the teeter totter! First, though, I have to find out how to paint it. :)

Thursday, October 2

Teaching Weave Pole Entry

Well, today was the 2nd day and I just finished the 3rd training session with Popper on weave pole entries. It is working so well so far that I thought I would share the method that was shown to me. Today, after several successful entries, I sat Popper offset to the left of the pole by about 6 inches. I called him, and boom! Successful entry! It was the only time I offset him because I was so proud and happy I didn't want him to mess up, LOL. We do at least two training sessions a day so I figure we'll work on offsets more later after he's solid in entries.

The method used, which is harder to explain than to show, is to only use two weave poles. Put the dog in a sit-stay directly in front of the first pole, centered so he has to choose himself if he's going to the right or the left. You go and stand behind the second pole like a statue, treats out of sight (but in your hand). Call the dog. If he enters correctly (weave pole to the left of the dog) you give him a treat, quickly, at nose level of the second pole. It's very important to not use body language to influence your dog! Just reach down quickly after a successful completion, click or use your cue word (I say "GOOD!" since he's afraid of the clicker and so are many of my other dogs) and give a treat at nose height, right next to the weave pole. If the dog messes up, don't say NO or anything else that's negative (which is really hard for me, as I am accustomed to say no or AHT! if the dog does something wrong). You simply go oops, try it again, and put them back into their sit-stay. Never ever ever get frustrated with your dog. Always act happy and excited (especially when they do it right!), but you can act a bit sad if they do it wrong, just don't yell at them. Don't do this more than ten times in a row. You don't want your dog to get bored with it.

Once you're confident your dog knows where the entry point is, change the dog's angle. Offset a bit to the right, then a bit to the left. Next session, offset even more. See how it's going? You're reinforcing the dog's entry without telling him all of the sudden to find the entry point from twenty feet away.

Wednesday, October 1

Happy October!

Well, I finally got grass seed planted yesterday... I overseeded the entire yard, and did some bare spots too. I used about twice the recommended amount because I did plant so late in the season. So if half of it (heck, even 1/4) comes up, I'll be pretty happy. When I first went to Wal-Mart, the guy told me to just put straw down for the whole winter. Uhhh, so I can have MUDDY straw brought into my house? How is that better than just plain mud? I picked a perennial rygrass dominant mix so it'll come up faster... but since it's cooler out it'll still take a while. It might not even become decently established before winter hits. Sigh.... I have to reseed or resod my lawn twice a year because of the dogs. I just wish I'd done it a couple weeks ago!

Last night was the last night of Session 2 agility. Popper finally got over his fear of the teeter totter board (just the board) and was zooming happily across for a piece of hot dog each time. I asked one of the instructors about some weaving help with entries, and she stayed after class and showed me how to teach it. She's such a great teacher. :) I have to start working on it today with Popper... I think it'll really click into him where he's supposed to enter. Right now I have to tell him every time.

I asked for some help on a message board I go to with the same issue, and they were pretty less than helpful... in fact, I kept getting attacked for methods I'm using and stuff like that. It's exactly that kind of "queen of agility" attitude that kept me away from this sport for so long. Like I'm some kind of jerk for working with my dog OUTSIDE of classes. Yeah, what was I thinking, trying to interact with my dog and give him a headstart in class. There is absolutely NONE of that in my class - they encourage you to work at home, and not a one of the instructors had a problem with me teaching Popper the weaves or buying a teeter. I guess some people just have a need to try to put others down or make them feel stupid. I know where I WON'T be going for help from now on. Glad the agility club is so awesome!