Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reba Pictures

Because I realized she doesn't get enough 'show time' on the blog or in the videos. So here's my best girl:
Reba happy to work. That's one thing I can count on... she always wants to play and work. She's such a happy girl. Where I get stumped a lot of the time is how to help her... she's losing her eyesight and I find myself struggling to continue teaching her as many tricks as possible. We're learning together and in the end it'll make me a better trainer for it, but she's not an experienced dog when it comes to shaping (and gets frustrated fast) and luring is dangerous for my fingers. So we experiment together... but a lot of it I don't think to tape.
Her eyes actually look good in these pictures too. They got all green and gunky the longer we worked outside. :(

Oh and just because I can't help it. I have to show of the "happy man," although he was anything but this last weekend. I noticed he'd either itched a small hole in his side or gotten bit by a good sized bug. Either way he had to suffer through my administrations. I voted to just clean it/put some cream on it, and bandage it rather than take him to the vet this weekend... I watched him closely and he seems completely normal. And taking him to the vet would have wiped his system out - stress wise. I hope that changes with the new vet. We'll see how well that goes Tuesday.
Though I will admit... he doesn't look nearly as fed up with me in this picture as he did last summer when he started itching his butt bald and had to wear undies for a few days. Oh... was I getting the look then! Seasonal allergies kick our butts over here. In the winter, Toby is fine... his coat is shiny, his eyes bright, the whole nine yards... The moment my allergies kick in come spring, his are right behind mine. -sighs-

A New Vet

Well, I've been putting this off and putting it off. I've known for a little while now that I wanted to change veterinary clinics. The vets we currently have do a good job, don't get me wrong, they're just not for us. They're closest to us and have done fairly well with all of our dogs. But Toby has been going downhill there... he used to love going in and saying hi to the people. Now, he'll cower as we walk in the front door and will freak if it even looks like we're heading to an examining room. It's far from easy carrying him back to a room. You know it's bad when your dog gets injured and you weigh whether it's really that bad to take him with the emotional costs you know it has on your dog. I've tried working with them... I've asked to be taken in through the back if possible, they can't do it. Which is surprising, because they can do it for other clients. I've asked if we can schedule around the busy times, they can't do that either. There aren't any non-busy times apparently.

So after a lot of poking around I was recommended to a small vet practice (a little drive from where I am...). After calling them I'm feeling much more confident about switching. We've set up an appointment (for next Tues) just for a meet and greet with the vets and if he's feeling comfortable, his heartworm blood test. They were more than willing to set up an appointment just to get to know him (even more surprising was that the receptionist recommended it before I'd even gotten to that question). Even better, we're scheduled right after lunch time and are the first clients in. That way there will be the fewest possible dogs there and he shouldn't have to feel crunched and over threshold. And if that doesn't help, they're more than willing to take us through the back. There are a few more questions popping into my head as I write this... which goes to show that no matter how prepared I thought I was to call, I still didn't have everything on hand like I wanted. lol. But that's nothing I can't ask them Tues.

Part of me hates having to switch vets. On the human end, our previous one was convenient. I hate driving, I'm terrified of it. Our old one was right next door practically, off residential roads so I didn't have to do anything 'scary.' The new one is off a little distance (15 minute drive), off a busier road that I've never been too. I'm scared all right. But I'll spend this weekend driving from home and back just to get the feel of it. I almost didn't call and move him... almost, until I remembered him shutdown in the middle of the lobby, shaking and having to be carried into the back room. Or the way he know growls and cowers from the vets and makes me wonder what goes on when they take him from me to the back. There is no way I can accept that that's how going to be has to be. The lady at the new vet assured me that that's not how it should have to be either.

I just really hope this works out. -crosses fingers-

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

And he's loose...

I had quite the heart attack this morning. The latch on side gate sprung loose while he was out and I'd gotten distracted because I was running late for work so I didn't realize it until he'd been out 10 minutes. I know the gate was shut when I let him out because that's the first thing I check, so I'm not sure what went wrong. However, Toby has one call (I smooch, shut the door and he has 10 seconds to get up to the door) when he's out back when it's time to come in. It's amazingly enough, a rule structure everyone in my family has kept up with. If he's not there in 10 seconds the shoes go on and someone calmly goes out to fetch him. He rarely, if ever misses a call. Lately however, with the pesky dog out he's been missing a few.

So when I called him this morning I didn't think anything of it. I went out back and checked the fence line for where he might be standing before I realized he wasn't there. Sure enough when I turned around and hurried around the deck... the little gate was standing wide open. I took off after him, but when I didn't see him in immediate sight down the block I started to panic. Trying to think I just did a 'smooch' sound again as I headed in the direction I thought he'd go. I made it two steps before he dive bombed me. Yes!

I'm so proud of him. Thankfully, it was a quiet morning and outside from the normal fenced dogs on the street there'd been nothing for him to get in trouble with. After some cuddles and telling him what an awesome man I thought he was, I let him run up my neighbor's drive way back into our back yard (his biggest reward tends to be getting to run loose again... I can't give him that, but I could at least rev him up and run with him back those last few feet). I'm relieved and thrilled... whew.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Track Success - Playtime, Tunnel Work, and Distractions

Wow. It's been so nice out these past few days that we were actually able to get some agility work done... After yesterday's success I couldn't wait to get out today. We tried this morning, but the track was in use, so we went to a near by park and just walked/jogged around on his 6ft leash. The park itself is bigger than the track but... people like to use it as an off leash dog park (why, I don't know, it's settled between four roads, one of which is busy) so I didn't want him on anything that I couldn't be right there to intervene if a dog came flying out of nowhere. It allowed him to stretch his legs and work on loose leash walking, because we haven't done much of that.

But tonight... I kept my fingers crossed and when I drove by the track was empty. So I went home and loaded him up. I already had my arms full and him in one arm when I realized the track was no longer empty - two 13 year old girls were riding their bikes around the track talking. That was fine. I figured we'd do some 6ft leash work while they were there and if they left I'd switch lines and go to agility. They didn't leave... but were very curious to see what we were up to. I love kids that are well behaved. They were nice. Parked their bikes, asked questions, asked before they pet... the whole nine yards. Toby was very happy for a chance to say hello to someone older than his normal 5 year old and younger crowd (kids just seem drawn to him when we go out... and as patient as he is, he's not always as thrilled to see them as they are him). They saw my bundled up tunnel (only 3ft long, nothing special) and asked if we were training for a competition. I told them no, we were just there to have fun. They asked me if he was good at it... no there too. LOL. Don't get me wrong, Toby LOVES his tunnel... but this was going to be the first time we ever tried the tunnel anywhere other than my backyard.

Then they headed off like they were going to leave. So I set up. I was setting the camera up (I videoed the session, but you only see half of the tunnel and our play sessions because I didn't do a test run with it... I was too nervous), when I saw the girls had parked their bikes and were sitting in the bleachers to watch. I'm not the person you put in front of a crowd... and Toby's not the most focused boy on the lot. But I was determined to try and just have fun. It was going to be a nice, small distraction so I figured I might as well make use of it. He did wonderful!

I ran him through the tunnel 4 times (5 trials, I set him too far back on one and he missed the tunnel)... using tug as his reinforcer. He was thrilled. It was all one big game to him and that's exactly what I want! It was over in less than 3 minutes and after that I let him wander and smell, just rewarding for check ins. The girls stayed the entire time... they waited until I'd packed up and was heading to the car before they came to ask more questions. I thanked them and still can't wipe the silly grin off my face. He not only played with me at the track, he did a 'new' obstacle for that situation, and did it with people watching. What a boy! I've teased enough people that if I could give him a 'show name' it'd be Valerie's What a Man, because that's my boy. When he's feeling good and comfortable, he'll do anything.

I may upload the video, either here or to youtube... Though I'm hoping to get a better one soon (I need to figure out a good camera arrangement for out there).

On an even brighter note! I might have found a CU class less than a half hour from me. This is the closest positive class I've been able to find. I'm not sure however, if the trainer does private classes or what not as she's apart of the Kalamazoo Kennel Club and their web site is hard to navigate and with several different trainers for various classes. I'll be nosing around Thursday to get more information. I'd love to work with a trainer who uses these principles and is a positive/clicker trainer. -crosses fingers- I can only hope. I'd like to be able to set up more safe situations to work with him in.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Toy Success! Yeehaw!!!!

I'm so beyond thrilled tonight. Toby has never been willing to play anywhere but home... He might take a toy if asked but would normally drop it off hand. It's never mattered where we were at... camping, staying at someone's house, just out in a field... He wouldn't play. He'd 'work,' aka tricks, but was never relaxed enough to play. Lately however, the abandoned track near by has double as our backyard/walking grounds. It's not safe to walk in the neighborhood, so I've taken to using that almost daily to get him the exercise he needs. In doing so he's gotten really, really comfortable there... enough so that he'd play agility with me and run through the jump standards I got.

So I've been trying to build the fun/relaxing aspect of the track for a little while now, in hopes that maybe he'd be comfortable enough to actually play with me. Tonight was finally cool enough that I decided to grab the jump standard for some work... and two toys. They're both new ones... a nice, soft tug and a fake rabbit pelt. No food rewards like I normally have to use when we go on an outing... just me and two toys I didn't know would work.

He was a blast!!! At first he was just thrilled to have room to stretch his legs and was pacing at the end of his 50ft line when he came trotting up to 'help' me set up the jump standard. I got out his tug toy and started twirling it over the ground, jerking it about and running and WHAM! He latched on for a game of tug and then chase and tug again. Finally I cued him to give, set him in a sit and ran him through the standard for another game of tug. I was so beyond pumped. It's the longest session we've ever had with the jump - just being able to run and play. The rabbit fur toy was even more of a hit. It's the first time I've actually walked him around and had him turning back looking for a toy to go play with instead of walk.

He was more relaxed there than I've seen him normally and totally willing to be a goof. I'm so glad to see him finally relaxing somewhere other than home like this. (On a bonus note, the other day my brother's friend was over with his 10 year old brother. The boys were all out back and had taken Toby with them while they played. Toby played beautifully with the little boy, doing his normal 'keep away' game which the boy got a kick out of chasing him around the backyard. He will bring it back if you ask, but Toby grew up with little dogs and he's always considered that type of play to work the best. Lying down to wrestle is okay but takes a lot more self control than letting the other dog chase him around. He takes that view to play sessions with people he's not too sure of how to play with either. And of course, with one of us if we're not specific right away on the game we want to play).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Near Miss

I've so beyond had it with my neighbors and their dogs. I haven't walked Toby in the neighborhood since the little Shih Tzu ran up and bit him while we were out front. As a rule I've ignored the two dogs these people own as they run loose in the front yard. I've tried being civil. I've tried being as polite as possible to these people. I don't want them as my enemies - these are the people who just the other day went walking down the street with a baseball bat after someone. I'd rather not have a problem.

But... it's ridiculous when I can't even let my dogs out in the backyard without having to worry now. Why? Because that little dog that attacked him has discovered that are dogs on the other side of our fence. That wouldn't be a problem if she was in her own backyard... we have landscape timbers laid at the bottom of our fence to prevent anyone from going under it. We've taken the precautions. I contain my dogs, I keep them under control when out in public to the best of my ability and they are always on leash. But in our fenced in backyard that is the one place Toby is allowed off leash and to just run around and be a happy dog. I should not have to worry about his sanctuary being breached by some one else's dog.

The only part on our fence that sits off the ground is the double gates dad needs to get his camper in and out. That's it. That's all the way up our drive way, behind our cars, and it barely sits off the ground maybe 3 inches... And yet when I let the dogs out this morning, went to grab a drink, I had to come flying back because Toby was barking up a fit. Toby never barks so when he barks something is up. I go bolting out in the backyard and Reba is snarling away on our deck and Toby is madly attacking the ground near the double gate system. That's when I can hear the barking and snarling of a little dog on the other side.

I yelled leave it as I'm trying to run down the deck to get over to where he is and much to my surprise, he listens! Toby has a stellar leave it with non animate objects... it's a work in progress with live animals. Especially other dogs. But maybe because he thought I was cueing a leave it to the fence he backed off a few feet from it, he kept growling but at least he was no longer trying to claw down the gate. (It's padlocked and with a car pressed up against it, but still...) I get over there and just grab his collar in time to see a little snout of a dog trying to peak in under our fence, little teeth bared.

Oh, I'd had it. I hit the fence and yelled at the dog to get... which resulted in the dog backing off our fence and just standing there barking. Not that I agree my little temper tantrum helped the situation with Toby, he just thought there was even more reason to be snarling at the fence, but it was much better than kicking the dog in the nose... which at that moment was as close to what I wanted to do at that moment (which was give the little dog's owners a kick in the hiney). I led Toby back in and despite a few last huffs at the fence he was fine. Then I turn to go retrieve Reba and see her hopping down the stairs to go take up his post. -laughs- I scooped her up and carried her in. Silly little dog.

I called Animal Control once both dogs were in the house. They came, I reported everything that's happened and they went to have a talk with the neighbors. An hour later... the dogs were out loose again. I have a feeling I'll be making a lot of reports, because I'm done. I'm not about to risk having that dog try and dig it's way under our fence to get at Toby. And as much as I'd like too... I can't guarantee that he wouldn't be out back unsupervised... everyone in my family lets the dogs out and it was a losing battle from the start on that area.

Toby has some of the best manners with little dogs. He modifies his play with them, he's grown up with, he cuts them a GREAT deal more respect and tolerance than any large dog and is all around very good with them. Puppies tend to get the same response from him. But, he doesn't tolerate being bitten. And this little dog seems to have it out for him. This is the third time she's come flying up to where he was at to start something. The first time we were half way down the block on a walk and up she came, thankfully chased off by another neighbor. The second time she came out of nowhere and had the whole bite fiasco. And now she's tried to find her way under the fence to get at him. I've heard her a few times in their back yard too and she chases the fence line snarling but Toby gives up fence fighting rather fast on that side because we've blocked huge sections of it off so he can't get near the fence (from when they still had the large dog before it got loose and attacked a kid).

Some people really should just not have dogs. Those these people shouldn't have kids either. -sighs- Though I've just remembered, I don't think the dogs are licensed... so the next time I call Animal Control that'll be a point I bring up. Maybe a hefty fine will sway them to keep their dogs contained.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Toby Turned 5!!

Yep. Sunday, Toby turned five years old. A bit startling because it doesn't feel like we've been together that long. Gosh, I can still remember him in the Humane Society kennel with his all golden lab colored siblings, the only one not bouncing around like a madman... he was just sitting there calmly, wagging his tail as he looked up at us. Or holding him when I discovered he had Parvo, or his gangly adolscence, or... wow. It really has been that long.

To celebrate I got him some special stuff. He got a Booda Bellies Giraffe - a really weird looking stuffed toy giraffe, with a huge fat tummy. He thinks it's awesome and I'm waiting for him to destroy it... surprisingly it's last two chew sessions now. That's gotta be a record for a stuffed toy. He also got a 'money bag,' a stuffed toy our Wal-Mart occasionally has, it looks like a small bag of money, with the dollar sign on the side, but instead of squeaks it crinkles. He LOVES the few toys I find that do that. Then as a special treat for dinner he got a McDonald's hamburger (well part of it...). Reba also got stuff, a collection of puppy squeakers that are small, soft, and have incredibly high pitched squeaks. She loves them.

Things have been quiet here for the most part. After the incident in the previous post we haven't walked around the neighborhood at all. I've taken him to the track every day I can and worked with him in the backyard when I couldn't. This past weekend I was swamped dog sitting so he got a little neglected - and was sure to tell me so! I did let a doggy friend come over and visit Sunday night - or rather, a past doggy friend. Although Toby was initially thrilled to see him, the interest died off fast when we both realized that Vargus has fully come into his hormones. He's a three year old (or close to) intact male Boxer. Varg loves to play, but he's a little 'humpy' to everything. Everything. Female in heat nearby perhaps? I don't know. Toby wasn't too thrilled after Varg tried to hump him once or twice and after calmly setting the situation straight he retired on the deck behind me.

I did this however, not just to let him play but also to watch his reactions with me around. It's been awhile since he's been able to play with a doggy friend (we just don't have many). As normal, he doesn't like Vargus paying attention to me. I'm not sure how much of it is more 'resource guardy' or just splitting and wished I'd taken a video. But I'm leaning towards the latter of the two. Why? Because as long as Vargus was calm and we were just petting (hard for that dog, who never stays still!) Toby was fine to watch or be pet as well. But if Varg got too excited he'd step between us... if Vargus continued to go over the top, Toby'd get growly and tell him to knock it off.

Treats wise, they were both more than comfortable to take treats from me and work with me. Odd... because in the presence of another dog on leash that's now always the case and surely not with the dog standing right next to him.