Archives for February 2017

Quiet

This week has been a bit quieter. Other than obedience class on Thursday night, we haven’t done too much.

Classes at McMaster were out for winter break, so I didn’t even have marking to do. For those who don’t know, I am a grader for one of the third year classes. The class is on disability, chronic illness and aging, so it’s been pretty interesting so far. The readings for the class are informative and it has been a bit of an eye opening experience to read some of the responses students give to questions posed by the instructor on issues, such as physician-assisted death.

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Arizona and I were the first to show Susie what work we have done.

Before we could do this, Susie had me walk with her in the training area without Ari. I think she is hoping that by practicing the patterns regularly, I won’t be as nervous when the time comes for us to actually enter a trial.

Once we had gone over two different patterns, Huib let go of Arizona’s leash and she came barrelling over to me.

I began with our usual warm-up exercise of, sit, down, touch, and then we did some turning. I turn in the same spot, so Ari has to pivot with me and keep her back end moving in line with my movements. Ari isn’t always great at this exercise, but after a while, she catches on.

Susie noticed that Arizona appears to have a good ‘touch,’ so she suggested we try using it on turns, to keep her attention on me and also keep her lined up properly.

When I turn right, I ask her to ‘touch’ my hand, which is at my left pant seam, as we finish the turn. By doing this, it keeps her focus on me and stops her from moving too far ahead. When I do a 180, I ask for a ‘touch’ before we turn and then as we finish. In all cases, she’s touching my left hand by my pant seam and I am passing a treat from my right pocket to my left hand. I need to work on not moving my left hand from its anchor spot. I think this will work though because Ari’s ‘touch’ has really come along since we first started it in late October.

I think we did a pretty good job of following the directions Susie laid out for us. Ari’s heel is coming along. She was still a bit sniffy at times, but Huib wonders if maybe there’s something on the floor because Rogue also wanted to sniff in that area. I will just keep working on their floor zen (leaving treats and stuff alone on the floor unless cued to interact with them).

When we did the figure eight, Susie and Huib were the posts – very distracting for poor Ari. I used the ‘touch’ cue to keep her attention on me and away from Susie and Huib. As I finished the turn around the post, I asked Ari to ‘touch,’ which kept her head from moving towards the posts and we were able to stay in motion and on track.

I asked Susie if she felt Arizona and I might be ready to consider a trial in the near future and she said we have a lot of work to do. Personally, I think we’ve made huge progress since our first lesson back and this is only our third. I am hoping that if I keep working through Sue Ailsby’s Levels and on the Fenzi Academy classes we are taking, that maybe we can prove Susie wrong.

Then it was Rogue and Huib’s turn.

Huib has really tried to do a lot of work with Rogue. It really showed. I don’t think Susie had anything bad to say about their performance.

She had them run through two different exercises and they were great!!

Susie thinks that if they continue to practice, they should be ready for a trial soon.

After having Huib and Rogue work, Susie suggested Arizona and I do some more work with her. She had us practice walking and stopping. She feels Ari is too used to being given a cue twice, so wants me to correct her immediately if she ignores the first cue. I did this, but I am going to keep working hard on having Arizona respond to my first cue, so that I won’t have to give her leash corrections for longer than necessary. I really do not like leash corrections and I try to only use them if the dogs are in danger, like if they are about to run out into the road or something.

After a while of that, we moved on to doing some sit-stays and recalls. Arizona is doing really well at sit-stays, but still struggles at staying as I return to her side. I think it will just take time for her to realize it’s okay. Usually I expect the dogs to move out of my way, but I need them to learn that if I ask them to stay, it means they don’t have to move out of my way when I come near.

Our next class is Thursday evening, so I will continue working on incorporating the ‘touch’ into our turns and also work on floor zen and longer sit-stays.

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On Sunday, we were supposed to have urban tracking, but Huib got called into work. It worked out okay though, because I had a pretty bad migraine with nausea most of the day. With this unstable winter weather, I’m dealing with a lot more migraines than usual. Winter tends to be the better time for me, migraine-wise, but not this year. I am hoping things will calm down soon, so I can give my liver a break from all of the extra medications I have had to take.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope everyone is staying safe.

Facebook: Attentive Students

I still can’t figure out the Instagram app, so I am trying out another option for sharing my pictures. I will set pictures that I want to share to public, so I think everyone should be able to view them.

Here, you will find pictures of Arizona and Rogue from obedience class.

In the first picture, they are waiting for class to begin. In the second, they are wondering why class has started without them. In that picture, I am in the obedience ring with Susie. She is teaching me the different exercises I will need to perform with Arizona.

Please let me know if this is not a good picture sharing option and I will try something else.

Adventures In Running: What Am I Thinking?

I have been training to run for 63 days.

I am progressing slowly, but change is definitely happening – I have lost eight pounds!!

Two weeks ago, I found out my abstract was accepted, and I will be presenting at the annual Canadian Disability Studies Association conference taking place May 31 to June 2. I don’t know what day or time my presentation will be, but I now know that I am free the last weekend of May.

So…

I will be doing a 10 kilometre race with my friends, Jess, Jason and Jon, in Ottawa.

Now, my training really means more than just getting healthier.

My last two workout assignments from Jess were torture!!

On Saturday, before we did our tracking stuff, I did 23 minutes on the treadmill, which doesn’t seem too bad, right?

Well, Jess asked me to do my usual warm-up and cool down, and to do six repetitions of two minutes walking and one minute running. To get a comfortable running pace, I set the treadmill at 5.0 miles and then my walk is at 3.4.

The first three times through were fine. Once I finished the fourth session of running, I needed to stop. I had to stop the treadmill, for 30 seconds, in order to catch my breath. I did the same thing after my fifth running session.

I really didn’t think I was going to make it through the sixth time. Luckily, I had Huib to cheer me on. He counted down the seconds. When I finished the sixth repetition of running, I was DYING!!!

I had to stop the treadmill for a full minute before I could do my final walking session, and then the cool down.

I did it though. I did the entire assignment!!!

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Monday was another torture session.

When I first got my assignment, walk for 45 minutes raising the incline of the treadmill platform by one every other five minutes (lowering it back to the regular incline after five), I was like,, “cool, that’s no problem.”

In the past, the long walks with different incline work has been tough, but okay.

I was wrong. It was more than just tough…

I began with my usual warm-up of 3 minutes at 3.0, and then the ‘real’ work began.

The regular incline I work at is one, because this incline would be similar to running outdoors.

I started with five minutes at an incline of one, then I did five minutes at 2. At the 18 minute mark, I dropped down to one for five minutes, and then went up to level three for five minutes.

Incline levels two through four were tough, but not horrible. Level five was killer!!

I didn’t think I’d make it to the end of the five minutes, but I did. When I was through, I had to stop the treadmill and just breathe for a minute before I could complete the last walking part.

It is VERY awkward working at an incline of five. I couldn’t imagine having to do longer than five minutes.

Even though my comfortable, fast walking pace remains around 3.4 miles, it’s okay. I am just hoping I can start extending my runs to more than a minute at a time, or the 10 kilometre run is going to take forever, lol!!

Until next time.

Busy Bees

The past two weekends have been good weather-wise, so we have been out tracking at the University of Guelph.

Last weekend Laura laid a really tough track for Rogue. She did an AMAZING job!!

The track was on Johnston Green, where a lot of students cut across to get to the corner of College and Gordon. There were a couple of corners where Rogue had to work harder to locate the track amongst all of the other scents, but she idd it perfectly. She has really improved over the past year.

This weekend’s track was a bit easier, but it still had some places where Rogue needed to work things out. I think the toughest part of her track was having to work through areas of slushy snow and puddles. It got up to about 8 degrees celsius on Saturday, so we had a lot of slush.

I am really glad I bought waterproof shoes last month. They kept my feet warm and dry, while also giving me enough traction to navigate the snow, slush and sections of ice.

Last weekend Arizona’s track was around MacDonald Hall towards the hospitality buildings. Laura and I stayed on the opposite side of the road to watch because Huib and Arizona had to cross the road twice. Arizona did a bang-up job!! Other than a bit of hesitation when she had to cross over the road, she really didn’t struggle at all. I love listening to people describe her working.

This weekend’s track was more about navigating the deeper snow. Laura wanted to see how she’d do with the challenge of finding her scent amongst the snow and other people’s footprints. Huib was able to see the track somewhat, so it gave him an idea of when Ari was checking out a cross track or if she was actually on the track itself. Other than taking the wrong direction near the end, she did great!! Ari had briefly indicated the correct direction, but it was such a fleeting indication, that Huib missed it.

Arizona has only been tracking for a year and she is such a different worker now than she was three months ago.

Last weekend, Canyon did a tough track that included pavement, snow, ice and sculptures. His track went through the sculpture garden at MacDonald Hall. I had to do a lot of encouraging, but he did a pretty good job considering how new all of this is for him.

This weekend, Canyon seemed a bit more unsure than usual. He kept running back to us, so I just encouraged him to continue on. Laura says that this behaviour is pretty common for obedience dogs. Canyon hasn’t really done formal obedience trials, but we have been training for them and he also does other dog events, like conformation, so I think her comment is still valid. She said that a lot of obedience dogs find it tough to work on their own, without constant direction, like they don’t think it’s okay to track.

I think it will just take Canyon some time to realize that it’s okay to work things out and to do things on his own, without any cues from me. Once he gets the idea of it, he’ll really excel!!

It has been really good for me to work with him. He is really a different worker than Rogue. I also find he’s less all over the track, so right now, it’s sometimes a bit easier to read him. This may change as he gets more confident though.

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On Tuesday I had my annual check up with my ophthalmologist. Alain wants to keep a close eye on how my optic nerves are doing, so each appointment begins with an O.C.T. (I just know the ‘O’ stands for optical). The images from the O.C.T. will give him a good idea of what is happening and if anything has changed. He wants to keep this record, so that when stem cell research into optic nerve regeneration progresses far enough, he will attempt it with my worse eye. In my left I really only have light perception, so I wouldn’t lose anything if it didn’t work. From the images he got this year, nothing has changed, so he was happy with the results. I had my pressure in each eye tested, but I didn’t have to have them dilated – YAY!!! My pressures were normal. Alain says he checks pressures because it would be a shame if I lost more vision because of something he could have prevented. He’s a pretty cool guy.

It would be really strange to have my full vision back. I wouldn’t mind having more than I do now, but I don’t know if I would want it all…

Unless I run into any problems, I’m good for another year.

We were going to meet one of my aunts for dinner, so we stuck around London after the appointment.

I needed to get a new CNIB card, since mine expires in March – it’s kind of funny to know that the card expires, it’s not like I’m going to stop being visually impaired. The new card should arrive in about two weeks. I hope the picture is better than my last one.

We went to dinner at Dawghouse with my Aunt Tracey. We haven’t seen her in a while, so it was nice to catch up. The food was great!! I had a vegetable stir fry with spicy teriyaki sauce, while Huib had a turkey club with fries and Aunty had a beef dip with a salad. We had a really large lunch at the Mandarin, so I ended up taking half of my meal home. After dinner we went over to Aunty’s place and they opened their Christmas presents. Last year, we had all planned to do a stocking sort of thing, so Aunty had Huib’s name and Dad had to buy for Aunty. We had an ice storm before our Christmas dinner, so Aunty was not able to make it. Huib got an awesome cushion for his chair at the office or in the car, along with a cute moose toque, a big travel mug and some other things that I cannot remember.

Huib is going to look pretty adorable tracking in his moose toque!!

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Friday was obedience class. Susie was quite impressed with the progress both girls have made.

Arizona and I need to continue working on heeling and sit-stays. I also need to get her used to people walking around her for the “sit for examination,” and making a beep noise when we’re doing the figure eight.

Since I cannot see, the obedience judge will have the ring stewards be the posts, making a “beep, beep…” sound as I approach. Arizona thinks this is pretty exciting at the moment, lol!!

I also need to keep working on ‘leave it’ because she wanted to sniff the floor at times, which really got in the way of my ability to remain in a straight line.

Like us, Rogue and Huib need to continue working on heeling and some stay stuff. She is paying more attention to him, dropping her head less, so that is huge progress!!

I think working with Rogue is good for Huib because it will make him a better trainer. He says that unlike the goldens, Rogue really seems to cue off his body. As a result, he needs to pay close attention to what he’s doing and make sure she knows he’s watching. When he doesn’t pay enough attention to her, she will often start tossing behaviours at him, hoping she’ll give him what he wants and get a reward.

From personally working with Rogue, and listening to them work together, I think the biggest thing he needs to do is talk to her more. I talk to her a lot when we are out walking and also while we’re tracking, so that’s what she is used to. I think she gets distracted or thinks she’s doing something wrong when we don’t communicate with her enough.

Rogue is a sensitive girl, so needs to know she’s doing things correctly. I think this communication is needed most when she’s initially learning things, then he can probably back off a bit.

While the girls were learning, Canyon was visiting his friends Mandi and Maddy. Last time we had obedience class, I left him at home, and he had a seizure. We got home just as it was finishing, but it still made us nervous to leave him again. Dad is usually pretty good at paying attention to him, but I think Canyon must have fallen asleep on the couch upstairs, waiting for us to return. i think the seizure caught him off guard, so he didn’t have enough time to get to Dad. It must have been a pretty mild one because when we arrived, he was still on the couch, laying close to the edge. If it had been a moderate or bad one, then he definitely would have fallen off. His head was up, so it was his usual partial one, but it still worried us. As long as Mandi and family are not busy, they have offered to take him while we are at class each week.

We are SO thankful for these guys!! They are so great with the goldens and amazingly accommodating.

Well, that’s a wrap. As you can see, our week was pretty busy.

Gun Dog Foundations: Whistle Problems

Last week our Gun Dog Foundations 1 class began. We had a pretty busy weekend, so other than reading the lecture material and checking out the forums, I didn’t do any actual work.

I had Huib read the material and watch the videos before we started.

Once we get the clicker out, the dogs know something exciting is happening, so it’s kind of a pain to get them to go down into the living room, so we can work with them one at a time.

Arizona was first.

The first lesson talked about the importance of engagement, so I began our session playing with Arizona. She loved it!! She really enjoys interacting with me, so I think I will try and remember to incorporate this into our classes in the summer, where her distraction level rises.

Once she was fully engaged, I started to work on a ‘whistle-sit.’ I blew once on the whistle and quickly said “sit.” The minute she sat, Huib clicked and tossed a toy for her to chase and bring back to us. We did this a few times, until I no longer needed to say “sit.”

Arizona was beginning to learn this in the summer, but we never really did much work on it.

To take a bit of a break, we moved on to the ‘whistle-recall.’ Huib held her, I blew the whistle three times and said “here” in a very excited voice. Arizona ran over, I petted her and I dropped kibbles at my feet. We did this a couple times before I dropped the verbal cue all-together.

We use the whistle-recall a lot in field, so Arizona’s pretty good there.

Huib suggested we do some more sits, but try to get some distance. She kept coming really close, so Huib attached a leash to the staircase rail, so she wouldn’t be able to move. Starting a foot away, I blew the whistle once and said “sit.” She did nothing, so Huib finally lured her into position, clicked and rewarded her.

We continued to have similar issues, as well as problems with her going into a down. I stopped using the whistle and just worked on showing her she can sit while on a leash attached to something. It’s like she thought that being tethered to something meant she had to be in a down position.

Next it was Rogue’s turn.

I blew the whistle once and said “sit.” She just stood there. I tried again, but got the same result. Huib said it looked as though she was nervous. We think the whistle might hurt her ears and remind her too much of the smoke detector, which scares her.

I’m hoping she will be okay with the whistle outdoors, or I am not sure how we’ll do any field.

To get her back “in “the game,” I ran through Sue Ailsby’s level 1 behaviours. Rogue knows these well and loves ‘touch,’ so I think the exercise helped destress her.

Once she was back to herself, I did some distance work. I’d ask her to “sit” and quickly walk away while I did it. Huib clicked anytime she sat and I was at least a metre away, then I’d toss a treat for her. We did this several times and she steadily progressed.

Since I couldn’t do the whistle-recalls with her, I did some retrieve and ‘hold’ work with her using the bumper. The last class we took that used shaping to teach a retrieve, really helped because she has a nice quiet hold now. We just need to work on moving around with items and on getting them and passing them over.

I am hoping to do some work with the girls outdoors next time, so I can see if Rogue is okay with the whistle outside.

If anyone can suggest a substitute for the whistle, in order to also work indoors with Rogue, that would be awesome!!

Rough Conditions

Today was a tough day for tracking. It wasn’t extremely cold, but there was a light snow/rain mix, along with a bit of a breeze.

Wanting to keep everyone warm and dry, I had all three dogs wear their winter coats.

A few weeks ago, our friend, Kelly, asked if we might want a green Hurtta harness for Canyon. She purchased it a couple of years ago for Ace, but he has a very awkward body structure. On Saturday, she was at an agility thing with another friend, who offered to drop it off at our house.

I was looking forward to trying it out with Canyon.

Sunday’s tracking group consisted of: Stewart, the Belgian Tervuran, Cordelia, the Golden Retriever and our three.

Stewie tracks with his handler, Sandy, a lot more often than we admit to working with our guys – we’re so bad!! He tends to be quite on when he’s working, but he found this track to be really challenging. He missed almost all of his articles, which were mostly covered over with a light layer of snow, and he also had a bit of trouble locating the track while following it through a more contaminated area.

Rogue was up next and I was expecting the worst. Her first leg was a bit messy, like usual, so I brought her back to me and had her settle before cuing her to “find.” Once she settled in, she worked really well. She had some trouble locating her articles, but she let us know they were nearby, so we are all thinking the snow must have been creating some difficulties. Rogue did not really run into any issues following her track, even in the more contaminated areas. We were all quite surprised and excited!!

Next was Cordelia. She is still learning to do urban tracks, but she did very well. I don’t think there were any major problems. From listening to the rundown of her track by Laura and Sandy afterwards, it sounds like the biggest improvement came from her handler, Mary’s, work. Both Sandy and Laura said Mary has improved a lot in her ability to handle Cordelia on the track.

While Cordelia was running her track, Huib laid one for Canyon. When you are teaching a dog to track, you want to keep it fresh and avoid too many complications.

Arizona was next. Both Laura and Sandy were impressed. She found all of her articles and really didn’t struggle too much. The only place she showed some difficulty was as she neared the end. Arizona began to slow down, so Huib started tossing treats ahead, encouraging her to keep moving. We think part of the issue was that Laura had put a parking lot crossing into her track, so Ari got confused, but she figured it out and ended beautifully. We just need to continue extending her track, so she’ll be ready for the long ones at a test.

Last, but not least, it was Canyon’s turn. Huib put a squeaky tennis ball into his pocket as I got Canyon dressed. He really likes toys, especially balls, so we thought a ball, rather than a treat, would be a better reward at the end.

I will be handling Canyon in tests, so I am starting to work with him now. I need to work on teaching him to really check out the scent pad before we take off, but he did an okay job there. Once I felt he had located the track direction, I said “find” and we were off!! He is a very calm and focused worker. It was easy to follow him and he really didn’t seem to get distracted by other scents. I’m not sure if this will change, but it was sure a great start. Huib laid the track to have about 3 or 4 corners which Canyon found and navigated nicely. He is a very quick worker, so I’m sure glad that I’ve started to work on running. Once he located the glove at the end, he picked it up and gave it to me in exchange for the ball.

Despite the conditions, all three of our dogs did a fantastic job!!

Obedience with the Youngsters

It’s been a while, but we’ve finally returned to obedience class.

I would really like to try and earn the Pre-Novice Obedience (PCD) title this spring with Arizona.

If I can teach her consistent heeling and at least a one minute (30 seconds is actually required, but I’m thinking I should account for time needed to return and getting the leash back on) sit-stay, then we’ll be ready to trial.

Ari reliably performs a 25-second sit-stay at home. I need to extend this time, while also adding distractions and working outside the house.

As for heeling, it’s really a work-in-progress. She can do it when we’re at home, but add any sort of distraction in and she’s done.

From reading the CKC obedience rules, it looks like Arizona needs to earn three qualifying scores before she’ll get the PCD title.

Arizona absolutely LOVES Susie, so I didn’t expect great work. And, she didn’t let me down… She did her usual screeching and bouncing around, lol!! Once she’d efficiently greeted Susie, I took her into the training ring and began running through Sue Ailsby’s level 1 behaviours – sit, down, touch, ‘leave it.’ When we begin training sessions at home, I do this, and I think it helps to get her into “the game.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure Susie was a big fan of the work we’ve been doing. Her biggest concern was with the way I tossed treats after clicking. For me, when I click, the behaviour is over and the dogs can go get their reward. I feel tossing the treat helps reset them because they have to come back and get into position again in order to receive a click/treat. Susie doesn’t want me tossing treats because she bellies it is not promoting a bond with me, and she thinks it will just encourage scavenging. I don’t agree with her assessment, but I will follow her request when we’re in her presence.

Susie and I use the clicker in similar, but different ways. When I click, the dogs know the behaviour is over, so they can move and go get their treat. For Susie, the click means you’re doing it right, but it doesn’t mean you’re done.

I’m going to stop using the clicker when I am with her, just using a verbal “good” or “yes” instead.

I want the dogs to continue seeing the click as an end to the behaviour and a time for reward.

I am leaving Canyon out of obedience classes for now. I need to work out some problems we’re having with the sit-stay.

Last week, we started our Sensational Stays class through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, so I’m really hoping his issues will iron themselves out.

Rogue is coming to class with Huib. I wanted to do obedience with her, but she gets confused when I ask her to heel because I also require her to ‘leash-guide’ from time-to-time. As a result, Huib has offered to work with her and together they will try for the PCD.

From listening to the comments he received in class, I think the first goal for him will be to develop a working relationship with her.

Once Rogue knows that she needs to pay attention to him, I think the rest of the requirements will fall into place quickly.

Rogue already knows how to work. She just needs to realize that I’m not the only one who might ask her to perform cues.

Thankfully our next class isn’t for about 10 days because we’ve got lots of work to do.