Thursday, February 26

Vet Experience... and agility (of course!)

I had an appointment for Blossom at the vet yesterday. She's been scooting around on her bum for at least six months. Now, she had that issue when I first got her, and of course the vet says, Oh, it's her anal glands. Expressed them, didn't change anything. So I had to take her back again (and pay another office visit fee) and he declares that she is allergic to fleas. That didn't help either. By trial and error, I figured out she was allergic to chicken. I removed all sources from her diet, and poof, no more scooting.

Yesterday's experience is following a similar trend (7 years later and with a different vet).

This time, though, first I exhausted the possibility of an allergy by switching to California Natural L&R, then to Natural Balance Venison. No change (except in my wallet). So I dewormed her, even though her poop looks fine and nobody else is having issues (and we have a notorious poop eater in the house too). No change. So I go out on a limb and buy frontline plus. No change. I added lots of Omega 3, 6, and 9 to her diet. No change.

So, yesterday, the vet tech nods politely while she squeezes my dog's anal glands and does absolutely nothing else as I recite my story of B and her scooting history. This morning, Blossom was scooting around the house on her butt again. I'm pretty ticked off. I understand vets deal with idiots all the time. But not only have I WORKED for a vet, I've got this useless degree in zoology and I own five very pampered dogs - I think I know what I'm talking about.

Blossom also was checked for congestive heart failure yesterday. She coughs a lot, sometimes she'll wake up and start coughing in the middle of the night. If I give her an aspirin, she doesn't cough, which is why I figured she has heart issues. The vet looked at her x-ray and said if she does have it, it's in the very very early stages. He gave her some broncho dialators and told me I could keep giving her aspirin if it appeared to help her. He wouldn't give me a definitive diagnosis so I guess we'll just play it by ear for now.

Agility last night was with Popper, and they told us if we passed through to the next level or not. I wasn't so sure, since one of my previous instructors told me we'd be repeating, and I ran into an agility obstacle last night and looked like an idiot LOL. But we've been working on rear crosses, and I threw a whole bunch in during class and Popper took them like a pro. That might have saved us, because we got promoted to the next level. One of the other ladies got to skip the next level entirely! I was pretty happy, I don't like repeating things. Even doing the beginner levels again with Merlin is annoying because I've already done them once, and what Popper learned I already taught to Merlin. But it's good experience for him, I guess, because he's not used to the classroom setting like Pop is.

Monday, February 23

Near Saltwater Disaster

I did a very stupid thing the other day.

I had gotten a fresh batch of saltwater from the fish store, and had bubbled it (don't have an extra powerhead at the moment) and gotten the temperature where it needs to be, and I did water changes on both my nanos. I DIDN'T CHECK THE SPECIFIC GRAVITY!!! Oh Lordy, and when I did, my 7 gallon nano (which holds roughly 4 gallons of water, and I did a 1 gallon change) was 1.027!! My black sun coral was evidently in heaven, but my big orange sun coral (I have hundreds of orange sun polyps) was really, really angry. It's a coral that comes out fully and completely with just the slightest hint of food in the water. It was sullen and sulky. I have it back down to 1.025 where it should be, and this morning it already looks happier. I've got another water change tonight (and yes, I remembered to check the specific gravity) so hopefully it will feel a LOT better and show me all its gorgeous polyps again.

In other news, when I went to get more water from the fish store, I was informed they were all out and that they couldn't meet demand anymore - that they didn't even have enough for their own tanks. Either 1) they're lying or 2) they have the worst owner/manager in history. You NEVER deprive your own store of necessities like that, and you certainly don't abandon all attempts to keep up with demand. RO units aren't *that* expensive, particularly when they can get them wholesale. I was so angry I went to Aquarium Adventure, who costs a bit more but I can be pretty sure they'll never be out of pre-mixed saltwater because they're so big. Now I'm ticked because everyone gave me gift cards to the other place for Xmas so I could get water there, and I don't intend on getting water there anymore. Great.

Wednesday, February 18

Changing Group Dynamics

My dogs have a problem. Whenever I say "outside" or walk to the backdoor, it's pandemonium! Barking, lunging, dogs jumping over each other - it's chaos. And if they get excited enough, my macaw starts going at full volume. It has to stop.

The method of changing their behavior is actually extremely simple in its simplicity, and has been referred to by others as "doggie zen." Essentially, I'm making the dog control itself naturally in order to obtain what it wants. Usually this applies to crate training - not letting the dog out of the crate until it has settled down and stopped barking/pawing/whining etc. I'm using similar principles.

To start with, I proceed to the back door. If anyone barks or whines, I immediately leave the room, keep my back to the dogs, and look up at the ceiling. I don't say a word. I stay this way for at least twenty seconds, maybe longer if they're still being noisy. Sometimes it takes four or five attempts before they are calm enough to be let out. My dogs are never at the point where they've "gotta go gotta go," so it's a lot easier to be patient when you don't have to worry about an accident on the floor.

Next, I include the behavior of not jumping on each other. The first step was silence - once they've gotten that down pat, I further up the ante by not allowing any potential aggressive behaviors. Usually this goes hand in hand with barking, but you may have some sneaky petes.

Third, and my final step, because it's as difficult as I wish to go, is to make the dogs sit at the door before they can be let out. I don't make them all sit at the same time, at this point, but as soon as one sits, that dog can go out. If you want out, you have to sit. Eventually I'll have them all sit concurrently. Baby steps here. ;) You could also do a down or any other behavior you want.

If you want to go even farther, you can require that the dog remains in a sit while you open the door, and doesn't leave until you give him permission. Obviously this is a good deal more difficult with multiple dogs, but it's necessary if you want to avoid the "bum rush" out the door.

Remember to keep it positive and give lots of verbal encouragement. You can see how with each step I take, the dogs are "earning" their potty time.

Playgroups This Friday

There are playgroups this Friday at Anything Goes for Dogs, located in Woodstock, Ohio. Little dogs (under 30#) are at 6:30pm, and big dogs are at 7:30pm. It's $10 for one dog or $15 for two.

Come and meet Popper and Roofus! Popper will be in both sessions and Roofus will be in the big dog group.

Thursday, February 12

Huge Windstorm Last Night...

Not quite as bad as the last one, but I still woke up this morning to shingles all over the lawn. Looks like the SO will have to get back up there and fix the roof yet AGAIN!

We also lost power last night for 3.5 hours... After a couple hours, my saltwater tanks had lost 2 degrees each, I sent the SO over to his dad's for a generator. The bad thing about having corals and saltwater fish and such is that they can't tolerate being without power like a freshwater tank can. We got that sucker going and hooked up both my nano tanks (left the freshwater fish alone). By the time the power came back on, everyone was happy and well-circulated and back up to their normal temps (80 degrees). This morning everyone looks completely fine.

I always hate when we get high winds because I don't like sending the dogs outside to potty. Roofus is an idiot and I always fear he'll either get bonked in the head with a flying shingle or that he'll try to catch one. Either way, he spent most of the night chasing our flashlights around - yes, sometimes into walls. I said he wasn't too bright. Popper, the youngest, was scared and spent his time attached to my hip.

Wednesday, February 11

Control Unleashed

I've spoken about this book before - it's put out by Clean Run publications (the agility magazine), and it's specifically geared towards reactive dogs. Whether they are dog reactive, motion reactive, whatever. Heck, it's great even if your dog isn't very reactive, as it helps you build the skills you need to have a confident, focused dog, whether you're doing agility or not.

Merlin, my corgi, is an extremely low-threshold motion reactive dog. He sees something moving, he wants to go herd it up, barking and running the whole way. Most dogs do not appreciate being herded by a tiny dog full of attitude. It disrupts the class because of the barking and potential for a dog fight. I was becoming increasingly frustrated because I was spending all my time trying to deal with this yappy little ball of corgi instead of enjoying the class or learning anything new. I seriously doubted he'd ever be able to compete, and certainly never off-leash.

One of my former instructors (you change with every class) recommended this book. It is now my bible.

Last night was our fourth agility class for Merlin. I am an absolute treat machine at class - I carry with me roughly 300 treats to each session, to make sure I'll have enough to sufficiently reward as well as to "jackpot" him when he is exceptional. I kept Merlin about 10' (if possible, sometimes less depending on the obstacle) from the equipment while other dogs were working on it. He'd quickly glance over at the dogs working, then snap his head back around for a treat. At NO POINT do I ever forcibly restrain him or correct him. Sometimes he doesn't even move his head, he will simply round an ear backwards like a horse, and then snap it back forward. That also gets a treat. Immediately mark the behavior with "good!" and treat.

This is a dog that, on the first night and second night, would go totally nuts at other dogs running (especially on the a-frame) and start lunging and barking. VERY low threshold. His distance had to be much farther than the building allowed. By the third night, I could get him to within 15', but we still had a lunging issue on the dog walk (later I found out that the dog wasn't very well socialized himself, which isn't an excuse but would certainly fuel Merlin's desire to bark and lunge if he's being snarled at).

Last night we only had one minor instance where I noticed Merlin's "warning signs," and immediately got his attention back on me and performed basic "thoughtless" comands (like sit, touch the hand - second nature behaviors to him) until he was fully focused again. He didn't bark or lunge the whole class. I left thinking that I will probably be able to take Merlin off leash within the year, with confidence. I actually was able to listen to the instructors last night and thoroughly enjoyed the class.

If you have a dog you're having issues with focus or reactiveness, I highly recommend you pick up the book. Clean Run sells it for roughly $25.

Wednesday, February 4

CPE Agility Trial Last Weekend

Well, last weekend BRAG hosted a CPE agility trial, and I decided to enter Popper. It was the first trial either of us had ever been in, and while Popper was bouncing off the walls, I wasn't sure if I was going to throw up, pass out, or just soil myself. Yes, it was that scary for me.

I entered Popper in two events - Standard and Colors. He'd never run a "full length" course before, nor had I, so I was pretty sure it would be interesting. We got out there and he instantly knew something was different... he quickly started losing focus when I took his leash off (and for a half beagle mix, that's a HUGE NO NO!!!). I didn't even bother doing a start line stay for fear he'd completely zone out. I took off right away, with him hot on my heels. Oh, boy - that dog can RUN! The excitement fueled him, as he leaped, looped, and otherwise made a mad dash for each obstacle. In the first run, we did have a fault for off-course - at the time I thought it was my mistake, but upon review of the video, Popper was a bit distracted by having a huge audience and simply wasn't paying attention to my signals. But it's all good. It is a learning experience and it's for fun - which we had a lot of!

Ending the day, we qualified in both our runs - a HUGE achievement, especially for our first trial!

Popper wasn't ready to go home, but I had only signed him up for those two runs, so away he had to go. He was strutting and prancing along and you know he had a great time!