Our Silverfoot Order

Today, the new collars, leashes and watch band I ordered from Silverfoot arrived.

In addition to the collars, I bought leashes to match the top and bottom collar, along with a watch band for me with the same pattern as the bottom one.

Agility

Cessna and Canyon had their second agility lesson on Tuesday. It was pretty sunny, so both were a little slower.

Cessna seemed to remember almost everything she’d learned on the weekend, so we started teaching her jumps and weaves, as well as, starting to ask her to do two jumps before being sent through a tunnel or shoot. Cessna and I learned jumps while taking lessons with Dogs In the Park, so it was nothing for her to start jumping 18 inches right away. We’ll raise the bar a bit further during her next lesson, but the Border Collie lady (Dawn) thought we’d start lower while we were teaching her what’s needed.

I didn’t need Huib’s help as much this time, so he took some pictures.

Cessna loves the Dog Walk and A-Frame, so even before I asked her to “walk on” or “climb” she was running towards the other end.

Cessna was a little warm by the end of her half hour, so she lazily walked through the tire.

Huib had to help me with the weaves, so didn’t get any pictures. For now, Cessna is just being asked to walk through a channel of poles that are about three or so feet apart. As she gets used to the poles, they’ll be brought in closer to one another. Dawn told me that her two year old female (Ruby) is just now starting to perfect her weaves after an entire summer of working on them four days a week, so she said we’ll take it slow. I think the weaves and teeter will be the main areas where Cessna and Canyon will need time and tons of practice before competing. They were both quite nervous walking along the teeter – I held their collars while they walked along and Dawn and Huib held the other end and slowly lowered it as we reached the other side. Cessna was the only one who didn’t try jumping off at the middle, she decided it was best to just get it over with and walk quickly lol!

Canyon didn’t have as great a session, he was really distracted!

He walked confidently along the A-Frame and Dog Walk. Loved running through the tunnels and shoots. And had no issues going through the tire and weaves, but he refused to go over the jumps and continually got off the teeter around the centre.

I really think I need to start using a leash with him when we’re in the arena though, he would do the piece of equipment I asked him to attempt and then run over to this place or that to “mark” or sniff.

Here are a couple of pictures Huib took of Canyon during his lesson.

Dawn is away for the next two weeks – attending a show in Sudbury with her younger dogs (Ruby and Tay) this weekend and then the agility regionals in Sault Ste Marie next weekend with two of her older ones (Gracie and Echo) – so we won’t have another lesson until the beginning of June. I think I’m going to try and build a makeshift jump for Canyon and Cessna to practice.

Before I go though, Dawn has asked me to come and participate in a demo she is hosting Canada Day weekend!! She thinks it is important for others to see how my disability isn’t deterring me from doing agility with my dogs. I know this could be seen as bad (you can insert whatever word you want here) to others, but I don’t mind being used for education – just weeks ago she didn’t think we could do it and now she wants us to show others we can, so this opportunity means a lot to me. I also found out that her sister is blind (or visually impaired) so I’m wondering if this is where a lot of her understanding and/or beliefs have come from. Maybe her sister isn’t as able or willing to participate in traditionally sight-oriented activities. I’m glad I’ve been given this opportunity to teach her that not all blind/visually impaired people are the same.

Fun With Dad

On Monday, Huib took Cessna and the goldens for a swim and hike. I had a migraine and Phoenix had already done a lot so I felt the trip would be too much for both of us.

Here’s what we missed

Canyon found a giant stick in the lake and of course, couldn’t leave it…

Aspen thinks Canyon should share.

Huib finally gets one of the dogs to pose on the rocks for a photo.

Here’s a cool action shot of Canyon shaking water off his coat.

Canyon is such a photogenic boy!

Agility Has Begun!!

This afternoon Cessna and Canyon had their first agility lesson.

Canyon was in a bit of a hyper mood, so I decided to start with Cessna. I thought she would be a little easier to work with; making it easier for me to focus on learning what the dogs were to do on each piece of equipment.

We first started with a really short Tunnel, calling her from one end to the other for a treat. After a bit, we extended it and did the same. I’d stand at one end and say “tunnel” while pointing to the opening, and Huib stood at the other end calling her name with a treat. Finally, we curved the Tunnel and did the same exercise. Cessna was a little slower with the Tunnel curved, but still ran through when I pointed to the opening and said “tunnel”. We then moved onto the Shoot. Similar to the tunnel, Cessna didn’t mind running through. I just pointed to the opening and said “shoot” and she ran to Huib for her reward (pieces of cheese or hot dog).

With the Dog Walk and A-Frame (both were only about a foot off the ground), I had Huib do it with Cessna first so that she had an idea of what it wood be like. Using a leash, he guided Cessna along the Dog walk, asking her to “clime” at the beginning and then having her pause for a treat, before getting the release to jump off. Then with the A-Frame he asked her to “walk on” at the start and then pause at the end for a treat before being released. I wanted Huib to do the dog walk and A-Frame with her first, so that if I ended up screwing up in some way, she’d know it was my fault and have a good idea of how it should go.

We then brought out Canyon and went through the Tunnel, Shoot, Dog Walk and A-Frame. He was quite excited about the Tunnel and Shoot – the Boarder Collie lady thinks he’ll be a Tunnel addict lol! He actually took to all four pieces of equipment so quickly that she decided to start teaching them the Tire and Teeter as well. They eagerly jumped through the Tire of course, but weren’t as thrilled about the Teeter. I think we’ll just have to do a little more practicing.

It’s hard to believe how much we accomplished in just an hour. Our next session will be Tuesday at 2:00pm. Huib will try and take pictures. He wanted to take some today, but ended up having to help out a little more than usual.

Summer’s Almost Here…

Yesterday the dogs had their first trip of the summer to the lake.

Here’s some pictures from our adventure.

Canyon didn’t seem to remember that he could jump off the dock with the girls.

Canyon takes a moment to pose for us.

Huib decided to take a picture of me.

After half an hour of swimming, the dogs pose on the dock.

After the swim, we decided to go for a bit of a hike through the bush.

Canyon found a stick…

Don’t forget Appy!

Doesn’t this one look like a picture for a puzzle?

Here’s a few other shots we took of the goldens.

Doesn’t Aspen look intelligent here?

Canyon found a better stick…

Thanking The Moms

Since it’s Mother’s Day and I don’t really have anyone special to thank, I began thinking of my canine family, and decided that I’d like to take a moment and thank their moms for bringing each of them into the world.

Phoenix’s foster family was unsure of who his dam was, but thought they remembered the name Willy. As I’ve written over and over on this blog, Phoenix has been an important part of my life and every day I’m thankful to have him.

I’m not sure if Willy was her name, but whoever the wonderful mom was who brought Phoenix into the world, thank you!

Next I’d like to thank Ivy for blessing us with Aspen. I met Ivy when I went to pick out our little girl at 5 weeks of age. She’s a small, light colour golden, with a soft feathery coat like her daughter. She had a rough time with Aspen’s litter, so was spayed after her puppies were in their new homes and adopted by a loving family, not far from her breeder. I haven’t had a chance to see Ivy since picking Aspen up, but from our brief interactions and through talking to Doris (breeder), Aspen inherited many of her looks and personality from her mom.

Thank you Ivy for bringing Aspen into the world, she has provided us with memories that will last a lifetime.

Cessna’s dam is Belle. I got to meet Belle a few years after Cessna and I were matched. We spent a couple of hours with her and her foster mom, so were amazed to see how similar her and Cessna really are. Belle is a little bigger than Cessna, but the differences end there. They chased squirrels together, barked at the neighbour’s dog in unison and exhibited many of the same manor isms. Cessna has taught us more than we could have ever imagined and continues to bring joy to our lives.

Thank you Belle for blessing us with Cessna, I owe you the world.

Finally, I’d like to thank Goldie for entrusting us with Canyon. Sadly, Goldie passed away a few months after we picked him up. We never really got a chance to meet Goldie, but are sure that she passed on many traits to her son. I’m not sure if it’s his puppy looks, his cuddly personality or his sunny disposition, but I can’t get enough of this boy!!

Thank you Goldie for bringing Canyon into the world. He continues to bring a smile to our faces every moment of the day.

I don’t think many people think about the moms who give life to our furry friends, but without them, our lives would be much different.

It’s Been A Crappy Friday!

Do you ever wake up and wish you could climb under a rock until the day is over?

Well, today is that day for me…

Yesterday Huib and I decided to pick up some fresh beef bones from the butcher to keep the dogs busy. They loved it! But I don’t think Canyon’s tummy did, because he woke us up at 6:30am panting and pacing. After some explosive release though, he slept soundly until about 11:00am. We fed him some rice this morning instead of his regular kibble and thought this had settled well, until we came home from an hour in town, to find two neat little piles of rice and a couple pieces of bone. Since then, we’ve given him some Pepto Bismal and opted to skip dinner and he seems to be feeling a little better. I think the pieces of bone irritated his stomach and now that they are out, it’s begun to settle because he hasn’t had any more explosions in the long grass and we haven’t found any more neat little piles.

And, if that wasn’t enough fun and excitement for a day, it looks as though Canyon is getting another eye infection. He had an infection in both eyes about two weeks ago, but after seven days of Polysporin, it went away. Today it looks as though the infection in the right eye is back, so we have begun the Polysporin again and will do it for ten days this time. It’s so sad to see his eye all gunky!

Then, if that wasn’t enough to worry about, Huib noticed that Phoenix’s right ear flap has become engorged with blood. This happened to his left in November, so we know what needs to be done, but I had hoped that his ears were finally going to give us a rest. Since changing him over to the raw diet on January 25th, we’ve started him on a homeopathic remedy and his ears have finally begun to move in a positive direction. We’ve been cleaning them every other day and trying to keep him from shaking his head too much, so we actually thought things could be looking up for the old guy. Well, we were wrong, because now it looks as though he will have the crinkled look on both sides, instead of just on his left. I’m glad the hematoma doesn’t bother him, but feel bad that he has to wear his ear on the top of his head in a vet wrap – at least it’s a nice teal colour though…

I’ve also been dealing with a lot of migraines this week because of the unstable weather, so having to worry about the boys really isn’t helping.

Hopefully next week will be a little better for us all.

Lesson Six

Canyon and I had our sixth lesson with the Border Collie lady. It’s sad to think that next week will be our second last indoor obedience lesson before we start outdoor agility, but she has had to change her classes to Thursday nights and already has someone booked for 9:00pm privates, so I guess we’ll just have to go with the changes. Last night, Canyon wasn’t as into practicing some of the behaviours, but I think his lack of enthusiasm was because we had started the session off with a high energy “game” and then moved onto less exciting things. I think that next week we’ll just have to do the new “game” at the end of the session, so the more practical task work won’t be as boring to him.

This week she decided to teach me a new way of ramping up canyon’s excitement level in order to get him to do quicker retrieves and recalls. This new “game” is supposed to help him want to quickly run out for a toy and immediately rush back and give it to me, so I’ll toss it again. She feels this skill is necessary for him to be successful at both Flyball and Agility – she’s still showing a little bit of iffiness regarding me and agility, but I’m determined to win her over lol! So, for this “game”, she had me toss a ball and then when he reached it, I started waving around another ball and calling him back all excited and cheery. Canyon has a high ball drive so he thought this game was the best thing I’d ever asked him to play lol! He began to get faster and faster at returning to drop the toy and play a quick tug game, before I asked him to “give it” (release the ball we were playing tug with) and then tossed it for him to retrieve and start the cycle over. around the fifth toss though, Canyon decided he liked one toy over the other and would start ignoring my efforts to play tug and just paraded the other toy he’d just retrieved in front of me lol! We tried to convince him to give it up, but ended up having to just take his collar and throw the other toy, so he’d gladly bring it back for a quick tug game and then retrieve. She asked me to keep playing this game with him and to maybe look at getting two of the same toys so he won’t end up favouring one over the other.

We then tried to do some “heel” work, but Canyon was too riled up to concentrate. He kept running between me and the box where we had put the toys because I only had a treat and he wanted to play the other game again. After a couple unsuccessful attempts at getting his attention, I decided to do some more basic stuff like “sits”, “downs”, “stands” and some “stays” so he would relax a bit. He didn’t really completely settle, but I was able to keep his attention a little easier after a few minutes, so we decided to do some “fronts” instead of heeling. His fronts are coming along. He seems to come in really straight every time I throw a treat to the right or ahead of me now, but still doesn’t seem to come in as straight if I throw it to the left and ask him to come. The border Collie lady tried doing some fronts with him to see if she could figure out what I’m doing wrong when I throw a treat to the left, but he seemed to do it with her as well, so we’re a little perplexed. After he had been doing really straight ones for a while, we decided to test him and see if he was ready to practice while I leaned against a table in a sort of squat/stand position. He came into a pretty straight front about two times, but then started coming in crooked more often than not, so we moved back to sitting on the edge of a chair. I’m sort of feeling as though we’re moving too slowly on learning the fronts, but I’m sort of stuck on how to help Canyon move a little quicker in his learning. It’s sort of like he just doesn’t care or he doesn’t really understand why we’re doing this in the first place. I’ve found it easy to teach him some behaviours like “sit”, “down”, “stand”, “give five”, “leave it”, “give it” and “wait”, but I’ve pretty much failed in teaching him to “touch”, “stay for longer than a minute, to “heel”, to not turn his head when I’m reaching for a toy and now the “front” seems to be another place we’re stuck.

Since getting Canyon over a year ago, I’ve really had to learn to think outside the box because he’s highly sensitive (can’t even handle the sound of a martin gale collar) and isn’t overly food motivated. As mentioned in earlier posts, Canyon didn’t know much of anything when we first got him, so we had to first work on getting rid of some of his undesirable habits he had (mouthing, jumping up & pacing) and teaching him his name, before we could move on to the skills he would need for being a well-behaved family pet. He learned his basic obedience commands quickly, but once I started to try and teach him some more complicated behaviours such as heeling and stay, I noticed his eagerness to learn disappeared. I’m not sure if it is something I’m doing wrong. Or if he’s just going to take more time to learn these behaviours, but I sort of feel as though I might be asking too much of him. When Aspen was young, we tried to teach her as much as we could before she turned six months because her breeder warned us that she may choose not to be as compliant after that and to be honest, she was right. Aspen knows how to “sit”, go “down”, “to heel”, “give five”, “wait” and “come”, but those are all skills she learned before six months. Since then we’ve tried to teach her new skills like “speak”, but she just doesn’t seem to have the desire to learn. I guess we’ll wait and see how our lessons progress this summer because I really don’t want to give up and just accept that Canyon wants to be a regular pet, but I often wonder if this is what he’s trying to tell me.

His number one love in life are toys, so I think I need to figure out a way of always incorporating them into our training. The problem with toys though, is that he becomes so excited and obsessed with the toy that I’m finding it hard to get his attention and “working” for what he wants. But, when I just use treats he doesn’t seem to have the drive and enthusiasm for learning new things that a toy ignites.

Seminar & Other Stuff

This weekend, Huib, Cessna and I attended a breeding seminar with Amy from Me And My Pups. the seminar was being hosted by The Labrador Owners Club so of course their were several lab breeders in attendance, as well as, a table of West Highland White Terrier breeders, a Duck Toller breeder, a couple Wheaten breeders, a man who breeds Old English Sheepdogs, a woman who breeds golden retrievers and some others that I can’t remember.

Dr. Carmen Battaglia, a breeder, lecturer, researcher and author of “Breeding Dogs To Win”, was the presenter for the two day seminar. He taught us an easier way of understanding the pedigree of dogs through the introduction of “stick dog” figures, and a “symbols” pedigree. By using these two methods, breeders are better able to visualize the strengths and weaknesses of their females in order to find a stud that will help alleviate some of their weak traits or compliment their strengths. I found the seminar to be a bit on the more visual side, but also found it educational. Huib and I are not looking at getting a breeding female until Phoenix crosses the rainbow bridge, so have tons of time to collect pedigrees and learn all we can about the “missing” pieces of a traditional pedigree – such as the health concerns and structural traits of the ancestors.

On Sunday we began our journey home and experienced some problems with the truck around Oshawa. Luckily Amy was still with us, so we called CAA and had the truck towed to a dealership near her parent’s place. We stayed the night and had the truck examined the following morning. I was pretty frustrated by the lack of attention the dealership gave us, but was happy when they finally called to say we could pick it up around 5:30pm and head north. Phoenix, Aspen and Canyon had stayed with my step-dad and sister while we were away so I was eager to get home and pick them up. My Dad and sister are great with the dogs, but for some reason Aspen was stressed and having issues with her incontinence so I was pretty worried about her and annoyed that we would be delayed in returning. Aspen has had issues with incontinence since she was young, but for the most part it doesn’t happen often – just when she’s had too much water or when she is feeling stressed. While with my sister, she had about two or three incidents a day, which is unusual, so I really wanted to get back to her. Since we picked them up Monday night, she has not had an issue…

On Sunday I also sent an e-mail to the breeder who owns Canyon’s sire and brother to see how Phoenix’s (brother) clearances had gone. Judi was taking Phoenix to have his clearances done that morning, so I was eager to learn about his eyes. Well, it turns out that Phoenix also has scarring on the retina of his right eye in addition to folds. As far as I know, retinal folds are an issue common in the collie breeds (not so much in golden retrievers), but in Phoenix’s case, Huib is wondering if it might not be related to whatever caused the scarring in the two brothers. He is thinking that maybe Phoenix had the infection or whatever slightly worse in his right eye, causing inflammation that left the folds. I think it would be interesting to find out if their sisters also have the scarring, but since they are most likely just pet dogs, I don’t think we’ll ever know. With this news, Judi has begun the process of finding Phoenix a new home because it is not possible for her to keep a dog who cannot be in her program. I really wish we had known this a few months ago because I know Brandi would have adopted him for sure, but she now has Dawsen and doesn’t think she could handle another dog at this point.

Here’s a picture of Dawsen from one of our many walks in the winter.

Yesterday Canyon and I had our fifth training session with the Border Collie lady and again it went well. Brandi came along to watch so she could see what we were learning and if she would like to do something similar with Dawsen. We did some “lefts” and “rights”, practiced the “heel” position a bit more and worked on his “fronts”. Then, we started teaching him to “go around” so that in the summer he will be ready for Flyball lessons. I thought he would be too big for Flyball, but the Border Collie lady thinks that his obsession with balls will work well in this sport.

As an aside, I’m sort of getting the impression that she isn’t sure I will be able to be successful in agility with my dogs since I won’t be able to run the course with them. I’ve tried to explain that I could stand in the middle and direct them, but I’m not sure she sees how it is possible to be successful…so I guess I’ll just have to show her how it’s done. Does anyone else know of a blind or visually impaired person who has done agility with their dogs?

After the session was over, we talked a bit about the seminar I had attended on the weekend and she really thinks that we should show Canyon even once for the experience. So, Huib has said that if the Temiskaming Kennel Club has their show in new Liskeard this summer, that he would be willing to show Canyon for me – could I be rubbing off on him? Then, just before we were leaving the Border Collie lady asked my sister if she had a dog and Brandi told her about Dawsen. After listening to the concerns Brandi had, she asked if she would be interested in attending some obedience classes and Brandi said she’d love to. So, Dawsen will be starting his classes next Thursday!! Brandi wants me to come along, but Huib and I both told her that we think it would be better for her to do this on her own with Dawsen because part of the issue is that she worries about what others think and relies on us to help her, so it’s time they did some real work together and develop a more respectful relationship. I’ll keep you all posted on how their classes go…

Before I end this post, I thought I’d let you all know that our potential puppy is due on Monday (April 18th). Cheyenne is the dam of this litter and her breeder feels that one of her girls might be a good fit for us. They tend to be a little more independent minded and she finds them a little harder to place in homes because they need more experienced handlers and more stimulation. Our ideal puppy is exactly what she has described, so we’re quite eager to hear about the litter and to find out how well they score on the aptitude test. We’re still waiting for the pedigrees and clearances the breeder was supposed to send us, but are hoping that this delay isn’t a sign that we should be looking elsewhere. I think I’ll e-mail her again and give her my sister’s address in addition to the hospital’s fax number and my e-mail address in the hopes that it’s just our mail service that is the issue.

Training With Canyon

On Tuesday, Canyon and I had our fourth lesson with the Border Collie lady and it went quite well!

Last week, we worked some more on our positioning for the “heel” and then began trying to walk further and further with him remaining “in position”. He stays right by my side most of the time, but will sometimes get a little ahead, so this week we started saying “wrong” and starting over again. She explained that if I just kept changing directions when he got out of place that he wouldn’t understand exactly where or if he did something wrong. This really made sense to me, so instead of just continuing on for as long as I want, I’m stopping the second he’s out of place, telling him “wrong” and returning to where we started. I found this week to be one of the best sessions because Canyon and I have really begun to understand one another.

This week we also practiced our “fronts”, “sit-stays” and “hand touches”. For the “front”, she has me sit on the very edge of a chair with my legs slightly outstretched to give Canyon a sort of spot to aim for. Then she has me throw a treat and then call him, using my hands to sort of direct him into the centre of my body – not sure this really makes too much sense, so I’ll try and explain how I position my hands. When Canyon is retrieving the treat, I sort of hold my hands together as though I’m praying, but have my arms outstretched, and as he comes I bring my arms towards my body in a sort of “U” motion. For the most part, Canyon tends to come in straight, but stays about a foot or so back. The Border Collie lady thinks this is probably close enough since he’s a big boy, but we are rewarding the times he comes in really close, as opposed to when he is just perfectly straight. His “hand touches” are coming along, but he still won’t really do them on command – it more looks as though he’s just bumping my hand because it was there or because he thinks there is a treat. I’ve made a “touch stick” to try and further his understanding. We made the “touch stick” from a mop handle and put bright yellow and navy blue electrical tape on one end to give him a target. Cessna already knows this game, so I’ve also purchased a button thingy that makes different laughing noises when pressed for her to practice the “touch” with. I want her to get really good at “nose touching” before we move on to learning a new command for “paw touching”.

The rest of our session this week was spent learning two new behaviours – backing up and turning left and right. For backing up, she has us toss treats between his front paws and as he goes to move, we say “back”. He really liked this game, but after ten tries was not quite ready to do it without the treat being thrown. Unfortunately, Huib will have to help with this one because the aim needs to be perfect and I need to click the second he moves his paws. I think teaching Cessna this command on my own will be easier though since she is black and there is better contrast between her paws and the floor. she already knows how to back up when on leash, so I think it shouldn’t be too hard to teach her how to do it in other contexts.

Then, to teach the the lefts and rights, the Border Collie lady had me hold a treat above Canyon’s head and with my right hand move him in a counter-clockwise circle while saying “left” and then doing the same with my left hand, but instead having him move in a clockwise circle while saying “right”. He started doing this one quite easily, but we’ll have to practice a bit before I think he’ll do it without the lure. Cessna knows her lefts and rights for working, so again I think it will be easy to teach her in the new context.

Canyon and I have four more obedience lessons with the Border Collie lady before she sets up her agility equipment for the spring/summer sessions. At this point, we’ll be working outside and she’ll have less of a time constraint, so Cessna will begin coming as well. I won’t work the two together, but will have one in the truck while the other has their half hour lesson. I’m hoping to build some of my own agility equipment in the summer, so we can practice what we’ve learned at home.