Tracking Update

This morning we did some tracking at the University of Guelph with Laura and Sandy before it got too warm and humid.

Canyon did quite well. He really seems to be getting the idea of tracking. The only real issue he had was when he saw an article and decided to skip the corner and just go get it, lol!! This is a problem for all dogs, so I’m really not sure how to solve it, other than to make sure the article is better hidden.

Rogue’s tracks were all on hard surface. Laura set up a start drill for her. Rogue had four different tracks where she had to figure out the direction to go from the scent pad. This drill is meant to teach the dogs that tracks won’t always go straight ahead. Rogue did really well. She took a bit of time to decide on a direction for a couple of tracks, but she always figured it out and indicated the articles perfectly!! I really love working with this girl!!

Arizona was really good. She has been struggling to focus lately, but this phase may be passing. Laura gave her a tough track, with parts of it on newer grass and the final leg being on hard surface. Ari got a bit distracted by smells in the taller grass and decided to lay in a puddle, but otherwise she did everything well.

Until next class…

This Week’s Update

This week has been a bit busier. I am still not doing a lot of walking, and definitely no running, but we have managed to stay pretty busy.

On Sunday, we met up with Laura and Sandy for tracking at the University of Guelph. We haven’t done any tracking since Rogue’s test on the 12th, so the dogs were eager to get back to it.

We started out with Canyon. Huib has been handling him for the past couple of months because he is able to help him along the way. I think the golden boy is finally beginning to understand the point of the exercise. Huib said he did quite well for his level of difficulty – Good boy!!

Arizona was up next. For some reason she is struggling a bit with her focus. Huib has been her handler from day one. He said she seemed to know when she was out of scent, but she stopped a few times and just looked around. It’s like she needs time to think, lol!!

After Stewart (Sandy’s dog) went, it was Rogue’s turn. She was REVVED!!! I am still hurting a bit, so Laura just laid her tracks on hard surface. We had three different short ones. Our focus was on aborted transitions. I want to teach Rogue that her track will not always go from hard to soft or vice versa. I need her to realize that sometimes we will go towards the other surface (pavement to grass, grass to pavement, etc.) and turn before it.

Rogue did a really good job!! On the third track she insisted the track should go onto the grass, but she figured it out after a minute – Good Girl!! I think it really confused her that we never went onto the grass once, so when she got to the middle of the third track, she thought it must go there.

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On Tuesday, we had field class. Since Arizona and Shelby got their WCs on Thursday, we were in charge of bringing treats for the class. Huib asked his former co-worker to make us some field themed cookies – they were freaking awesome!! She made ducks, hunting rifles, duck calls, camouflage hats, orange vests with camouflage t-shirts underneath, gingerbread hunters, and some retrievers. She offers three different flavours, we asked for salted caramel – YUM!!!

This week Susie set up the water and land retrieves like we’ll see at a hunt test. In addition to the dogs needing to go further, they also had duck calls and one gunner was hidden.

Arizona did her first water retrieve really well. She barely hesitated before jumping into the pond. as she swam to the duck, Huib said she looked over at the decoys, but didn’t seem to care about them. When she reached the duck, I blew my whistle and she began to swim back. I repeated my whistle and continued to encourage her from time-to-time. Ari has been really good about not shore-running, so I am really trying to make sure she never starts.

Her second retrieve went a bit rough. It took a lot of convincing to get her into the pond, and then the gunner had to toss another duck because she lost sight of the first. Huib thinks her issue was mainly due to the fact she couldn’t see Laura (the second gunner), and also because there was a fallen branch at the edge of the pond. Once she finally got into the water and was tossed another duck, she swam right to it and brought it back to me.

Susie wants me to work on having her come to the front of me and hand the duck to me, instead of making me find her. Arizona is really good about doing this at home, usually coming and sitting in front of me and not releasing the item until I ask for it, but for some reason, she always seems to walk past me, so I have to search for her head. I am also going to ask her to have the gunners hide for a bit, so Ari will learn that this is something that could happen.

Both of Arizona’s land retrieves went perfectly. It might be because neither gunner was hidden, but you just never know with her.

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On Monday and Thursday evening, Huib and I went to the pool at the Westend Recreation Centre. Our local one doesn’t reopen until today, so we thought we’d try out that one. We did the 9:00pm to 10:00pm lane swim.

On Tuesday, we did five laps. The pool is 25 metres, so each lap was 50, meaning we did a total of 250 metres. We also did a minute of treading water.

My arms were SO tired by the end!!

On Thursday, we did seven and a half laps, which equals 375 metres!!!

I need to work on straightening out my body when I swim, so my back won’t hurt from the poor swimming posture. Huib says I look like I am doing the doggy paddle, lol!!

How embarrassing!!

I took swimming lessons when I was younger, so I remember some of the basics. I need to get comfortable having my face in the water, so my feet will rise and maybe then my arms won’t get as tired either.

Stay tuned…

Tracking Updates

I haven’t written about tracking in a while. We have been working on it though.

Over the past month, we have been tracking a few times a week.

Rogue is doing really, really well. Her work ethic is amazing and her focus is beautiful. We have been concentrating on urban because I have been hoping to test this spring. We got into the London test, which is this weekend. I am nervous about it, not because I think she isn’t ready, but it is supposed to get really hot this weekend. I think the temperature is supposed to be 30 degrees Celsius on Sunday and there is a risk of thunderstorms.

I am crossing my fingers for good conditions though. This will be our third attempt. I am hoping third time will be the charm. 🙂

Arizona is progressing well. Her focus and work ethic is improving every time we track. I think we need to start making her tracks a bit longer and begin adding in new elements like pavement, so she won’t get too used to the ‘easier’ stuff.

Canyon is still struggling a bit with the concept of tracking, but he is learning. Huib has been handling him for now, as it’s easier for him to help Canyon when necessary. Once he gets the concept, I will take over as his handler. I think he enjoys tracking, especially because he gets to find ‘toys’ along the way, also known as ‘articles.’

Once we get past this weekend, we will move over to field tracking. There aren’t really anymore tests until the fall, so we will have a lot of time to do some field tracking with a bit of urban mixed in.

I really, really hope Rogue passes on Sunday!!

Adventures in Running: Race Day

I did it. I did my first, and definitely not my last, 10 kilometre race!!

Saturday morning, Rogue, Huib and I travelled to Ottawa. We arrived around noon.

Jess met us outside of her place, so we could go run a few errands. First, we went to the Running Room to grab some clothes and energy gels. I got a black t-shirt and black shorts, while Jess got a purple tank top, purple and black shorts, and some colourful socks. I’m glad Jess convinced me to grab some clothes because when I went to get dressed, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my running pants and jacket, lol!!

After the Running Room, we went to Critter Jungle for some dog stuff. I bought Rogue and Nala each a cool vegetarian treat that was in the shape of a dinosaur. Jess bought Arizona and Canyon a really cool bacon flavoured Nylabone-like wishbone shaped toy for their birthdays (Ari’s was on the 17th and Candy’s is on the 3rd). I suggested she buy it for the two of them to share because it was expensive and they are competitive, so having to share a toy would make it an even cooler one. They love it!!

Nala turned six yesterday, so Jess bought her a ChuckIt! launcher and some tennis balls. She also got her little dogs some cool chews for when her and Nala have to leave them home alone.

Around 6:00pm, we set off for Ottawa City Hall to meet up with our guides. Rogue and Nala hung out with Huib while we were running.

It was really busy, so Huib had Jason hold onto him, while Rogue and Nala guided Jess and I through the crowds. The girls were fabulous!! As it got more congested, Jess gave me her tether to hold, so that we would not lose one another. Nala is longer than Rogue, so even though her and Jess were walking behind us, she was able to walk beside me on the right, so her and Rogue could make room for us to move through the people. I was pretty darn proud of the two of them!!

It took a bit for our guides to find us, but once they did, we gave Huib our girls and then set off for the starting line.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the four of us were all wearing tutus. I wore a royal blue one, Jess had a purple one, my guide had a black one that lit up and Jess’ guide wore a lime green one. My guide also wore a batman t-shirt, so he looked pretty cool!!

When the race began, they had us all start at different times because there were thousands of racers and we all ran different speeds. To make things less crazy, they organized people into different groups based on the estimated time you thought you would take to complete the race. I tend to take about ten minutes per kilometre, so we were near the back of the pack.

Jess and her guide were doing the race to support me, so they stayed behind us. They sang, danced and had me laughing the whole way. I honestly never thought running could be so much fun!!

Jess’ guide had us working at a pretty constant pace that we maintained most of the way. I think we completed the first half of the race in 45 minutes, which would be about nine minutes a kilometre.

Around kilometre six, I began to lose energy, so Jess gave me an espresso gel. It kicked in at about kilometre number eight, allowing me to finish the race with energy to spare.

In the end, we did 10 kilometres in one hour and thirty-two minutes. This is about eight minutes faster than my usual time, so I was pretty excited!!

Thank you Jess, for motivating me to try running and for helping me train.

Thank you Huib, for cheering me on and for helping me with my treadmill workouts.

Thank you D, for the dedication and for being an amazing guide.

Thank you to my race guide, for keeping me safe and entertained.

Finally, thank you Team Tutu!! You guys were the best race partners ever!! I have never laughed so hard.

Now, I need to set a new goal…

More Water

This week’s field class involved some more water work.

We started the evening in one of Susie’s shallower ponds. Arizona wasn’t too sure about getting in, but with some extra encouragement, she did it!! She swam right to the duck, came straight back and held it firmly until I said “give.”

The second attempt went better, only a slight hesitation – GOOD GIRL!!!

When Ari was done, we took her back to the car because the mosquitoes were pretty bad. We forgot to put repellent on her and us. Huib found the dogs’ herbal mosquito and tick repellent in the field gear bag, but ours was missing, so we decided to try out theirs. It works surprisingly well, and doesn’t smell bad either. I think we’ll keep using it for now.

*****

With Canyon’s seizures, we have to be really careful about the stuff we put on him, as well as what we use around him, so we try to use herbal stuff when possible. There are tick preventatives for dogs, but all of them have been found to have pretty nasty side effects for dogs with seizures, so we have chosen to avoid using them with everyone. Instead, they get Revolution monthly (prevents heartworm, fleas, some ticks and some other parasites), and we have them tested each spring for heartworm and tick-borne diseases, such as lyme.

*****

After all of the dogs – 5 labs and 2 goldens (including Ari) – had their turn, we packed up the gear and moved over to a deeper pond.

Arizona had more trouble with this one. It took a lot of encouragement to get her to jump in, but again, once she was in, she was perfect!!

Her second attempt was a little worse. It might have just been because she had to go to the washroom, but when I sent her, she went to the edge of the pond, walked around a bit, then walked away and relieved herself closer to the trees. When she finished, I called her back, got her set up, and sent her for the duck. She barely hesitated before jumping in.

I am hoping that as we introduce different ponds, she’ll continue to feel more comfortable.

But, like everything else we do, we aren’t in a rush, so she can take her time getting used to things.

Biking

Last fall, Huib bought a bike, and then several months ago, he got an attachment for the dogs. A few weeks ago, he got the bike out and started teaching the dogs to run alongside him.

The first couple times he took them out, it was slightly warm, so he did not take Canyon out as long as the girls. With his seizures, Canyon runs the risk of heat stroke, even when the temperature is just over 20 degrees celsius.

Of the three, Arizona loves it the most. Huib usually goes about four kilometres with her. He says nothing seems to distract her, that no matter what they pass, she just continues going straight ahead. I think she loves the speed.

Canyon only tends to go about 1.5 kilometres. Unlike Arizona, Canyon thinks he needs to pull the bike, so Huib is finding it more difficult to adjust speeds with him. As they work together, he’s getting better, so hopefully he’ll stop being a pain soon.

Rogue usually goes for two kilometres or so. The first few times they were out, she kept pulling further away from the bike. I think she thought it was going to eat her, lol!! The last time they were out, Huib said she did a lot better, so I think he’ll probably start going further with her as well.

Guelph is a very hilly city, so poor Huib is pretty tired once he’s taken the three dogs out. They all seem to really like it though, so I think he’s going to try and get them out at least a few times a week.

Field Class

Arizona had her first field lesson of the season and it went GREAT!!

We have been working all winter on her ‘hold’ and on ‘delivering to hand,’ but we have not done any work with ducks since the fall.

There were about eight dogs, including Arizona and Canyon, who came to class. There were: 2 flat-coated retrievers, 3 duck tolling retrievers, a lab and our 2 golden retrievers.

Canyon was our muscle. We didn’t know how driven Ari would be to retrieve ducks, so we brought Canyon to encourage her. They are very competitive with one another, so he does a great job of motivating her to cooperate.

Since there were several new dogs, Susie had them all start by retrieving a bumper from a short distance. Arizona was all over this!!

The dogs then had to retrieve a bumper from a farther distance. “No problem!” says Ari.

Finally, Susie got out the ducks and had us all practice with our own dog.

I worked with Arizona, while Huib tossed the duck from a variety of distances. Arizona was freaking awesome!! Other than me fumbling and dropping one duck, she handed every single one to me.

After several tosses, we put Ari into her crate and got out Canyon. With his seizures he cannot do any of the water work, so he loves when we let him play.

Unfortunately, he was a bit of a pain in my butt and instead of handing me the duck, he’d come close, then turn and lie down to start mouthing it – bad boy!! I guess we need to work on this.

If this is any indication of how Arizona will do in field this year…I’m getting pretty excited.

Working Dog Conference: Calgary

Around 3:30am Friday, we woke up and began to get ready to head to the airport. Our luggage was packed, we just needed to add our toiletries after we were dressed. Once they were in, we secured the suitcases with zip ties and Huib put them in the car. While he was putting stuff into the car, I got the last of the stuff into a bag for the goldens to take to Mandi’s house, and double-checked that I had everything for Rogue.

We didn’t want anyone to have an accident before Dad woke up, so we left him food for everyone. Mandi was coming to get the goldens in the afternoon, so he just had to worry about them until she arrived.

Our trip to the airport was uneventful. We parked the car in a Park and Fly lot, then took a shuttle over to the terminal. We were glad we arrived on the early side because the baggage check-in line was really slow moving. At the front, they weighed our bags and then asked us to wait, so they could make sure the next people knew a service dog was coming. I’m not sure why they felt this was needed, but we had time to spare, so it wasn’t a big deal.

At security, I asked Rogue to sit and then I walked through. Huib planned to go after me, so that Rogue wouldn’t be worried about me leaving her behind. It worked out great. I thought they would ask me to take everything off her, but it didn’t happen, so when I called her through, she came running with her leash dragging behind.

We still had an hour or so to kill before we would be boarding, so we had some breakfast at Tim Hortons.

About 20 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off, they began to board everyone. We were in zone five, or about the middle of the plane, so we got in line. Rogue was a complete professional about it all. She patiently waited beside me and then once we were on the plane and I removed her handle, she curled up for a nap. She woke up a bit when we first took off, but once she knew there was nothing to worry about, she fell back asleep.

I read through my presentation notes a couple of times during the first part of the flight, then fell asleep for a bit. I think even Huib slept some.

Once we began descending, Rogue woke up, so I gave her some treats. When it was time to get off the plane, she walked nicely at my side.

At the baggage area, we waited a short time for our suitcases. While waiting, they announced that a person’s carry-on had been mistakenly taken by another passenger. It was a black bag, so probably an honest mistake, but who knows because they were still making the announcement as we left the airport.

We got a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. We planned to see if we could drop the bags off, so we wouldn’t have to drag them around the city while we waited for our room, but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that we could check-in. The hotel had a room available on our floor, they assign all dogs to one floor, so they gave us an upgrade and we got a suite for two days!!

The room was great!! We had a small kitchenette with a sink, counter, table with chairs, a bar fridge and a microwave, a decent size living room with a TV, love seat and two chairs, then a bedroom with a king-size bed and a small bathroom. I thought it might be good to relax a bit before we went walking and for lunch, so we all settled in the living room. I read through my notes until I fell asleep, while Huib watched a bit of TV and dosed and Rogue slept on my legs and then in one of the chairs.

We walked for about three hours!! We checked out the mall and bought a few things. We walked the streets and along the pedestrian paths, stopping to take pictures in front of statues and to check out various stores. There were a lot of ‘interesting’ people along the way.

There was a woman walking along carrying her pants and shoes. I asked Huib if maybe he should stop and ask if she needed help, but he explained that there was another woman who appeared to be trying to help her. I guess he was right, because a bit later, we walked by them and she had helped the woman get dressed and was trying to convince her to come somewhere. At another spot, we passed a man loudly talking on his cell. It’s always funny to enter a conversation part way through. As we were passing, he said: “she got canned today too!!” Finally, there was another man talking on his phone, and as we passed by he was complaining to whoever he was talking to about the fact that he had been cut down to “just a pound and a half of medical marijuana.”

We then went back to the hotel for an hour to relax and drop our purchases off.

In the evening, we went for another walk. This time, we walked by the Bow River. It is a really nice spot to walk.

On Saturday morning, we woke up around 8:30am. The hotel had a breakfast buffet, so we got dressed and went down for food. It was a pretty good buffet. We had eggs, potatoes, grapefruit, orange juice and coffee. I had a croissant and Huib had a waffle. When we got back upstairs, Huib surprised Rogue with a couple of sausages to add to her pork rib breakfast.

I still needed to memorize my conference notes, so we spent a bit of time in the room before we went touring. We walked around Bow River, checking out the island in the middle. They created a really nice park on the island, with pedestrian bridges crossing over to it, so we walked around most of it. We also checked out some more stores. I almost bought a jacket for running, but it was only $20 off, so we decided to just wait because it was also on the bigger side.

For our last night in Calgary, we decided to go for a little bit of a fancy dinner. We walked around for over an hour and a half trying to decide where we wanted to eat, but there were too many options. Finally, we chose a place called The Gild. This place had caught our eye earlier that day because they had whole pig parts hanging in glass sided fridges to age. We thought it looked pretty interesting.

On the menu outside it listed meals from $40 to over $100. Once inside, we learned that the majority of the choices over $100 were meant to be shared, so I guess that actually isn’t too bad. When Huib read those options, he learned that they were 85% protein, so you got small sides and then a ridiculously huge portion of beef or something else.

I chose an applewood smoked half chicken meal that came with a cool poutine like side and grilled veggies. It was fries with chicken gravy, peas, shredded chicken and cheese – very yummy!! I also had a mimosa, a drink that contains champaign and orange juice.

Even though Alberta only recognizes program-trained service dogs, I did not get asked once about Rogue. The only comments I got were about how well-behaved and good looking she is.

Calgary is a pretty neat city. I think I would like to go back some day to see more of it.

This and That

It has been a great weekend for tracking. The weather has been a bit icky, but Rogue, Canyon and Arizona don’t seem to have noticed.

Saturday afternoon we got together with Laura and Annie at the University of Guelph Arboretum. Annie hopes to do a test with Trixie and Maestro mid-May, so Laura wanted to get them into the fields. Since Canyon is learning and Arizona needs the practice, Laura invited us to come out as well.

Rogue absolutely loves tracking, so I couldn’t leave her out.

Canyon had a pretty rough tracking experience last week, so I suggested Huib handle him. Huib is able to see what he’s doing and Canyon isn’t as protective of him, so I thought we should try switching for a bit. We don’t know if it was the seizures last weekend, or the handling change this week, but Canyon did a fabulous job!!

I asked Huib what he does differently, and he said the only thing he can think of, is that he keeps Canyon close. He doesn’t give him as much line as I do. Next week, I will try it out and see if it makes a difference.

Arizona was next. Other than missing an article in a highly mousey area, she did a great job. She got a bit distracted in a couple of spots, but Huib was easily able to redirect her attention back to the track. Laura says she has really matured since November.

Rogue was the last to track. Like Arizona, she missed one article, but did the rest beautifully. Rogue’s missed article was covered with snow. It has been over four months since she last tracked in a field, so I was really happy with her work.

This morning we did some urban tracking with just the girls. College Royal is on at the U of G, so Laura had us all (Mary, Kay and John) meet at a high school.

Arizona was first. I don’t think she did anything wrong – way to go baby girl!!!

Even though she needs to earn her TD before she can try for her UTD, I want to keep her working on urban stuff. Arizona is a dog of habit, so if we focus on one thing too much, it becomes difficult to switch over to something different afterwards. That is why we try to always add new aspects to everything she learns, while continuing to practice stuff she knows.

Rogue was the last dog to work. After two consecutive weeks of mistakes, I had my fingers crossed for a good showing – she did not let me down!! She found all of her articles, stayed quite close to the track and found all of her corners. She went the wrong direction once, but only went a metre before stopping and letting me know we needed to go the other way.

I am still on the fence about entering the April UTD test, so we’ll wait and see how she does next weekend.

Canyon joined us, but he did not track. I think it can be easy to overwhelm a dog with new things, so I thought he might retain his lessons better if he doesn’t do consecutive days. I don’t know if it’s true, but maybe by not getting to work every time the others do, his drive will also increase.

I am SO glad the dogs had a good tracking weekend. It can be really discouraging to have several poor outings in a row.

Tracking Frustrations

This week we didn’t have obedience because Huib had to work late and I have been dealing with some weather-related migraines.

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This afternoon we had tracking with Laura and others. It was quite a large group: Sandy with Stewart, Mary with Cordelia, Annie with Trixie and Maestro, and then us with Rogue, Arizona and Canyon.

It was a pretty cold day, so Mary brought us all hot chocolate, Sandy brought yummy scones and we brought banana nut bread.

Laura laid tracks for Stewart, Cordelia, Rogue and Arizona before we all arrived, so they would have time to age. She then asked Huib to lay tracks for Trixie and Maestro, while Annie laid a track for Canyon.

Stewart and Cordelia went first. Each of them struggled a bit with their track, but did a good job overall.

Rogue went next. She did a beautiful job on her first leg, but then she got lost on her second and third legs. I’m not sure what messed her up, but it kind of frustrated me. I was probably totally over-thinking things, but I kept wondering if maybe we shouldn’t even consider entering the urban test in April. Laura said the area was quite contaminated and not to worry, and Huib feels the wind might have played a part, but I was still a bit frustrated with Rogue’s work – I’m such a bad handler, I shouldn’t have blamed her for the problems… Rogue did a great job on the rest of her track, so she definitely redeemed herself – good girl!!

I’m still not sure I want to enter the test in April, but I think we have a bit of time to decide.

Arizona was next. She did some great work, but then some not-so-good stuff. She almost missed her first article. Then she got really distracted by a bunch of birds, specifically a fat robin, lol!! I think she also found it tough working close to a fence line.

I’m not sure if it was the cold temperatures or the fact we were working in a school yard, but all of the more advanced dogs seemed to face some challenges today.

Canyon had had a seizure around noon, so we did an easy warm-up track to judge how he was feeling. His last seizure was a mild one on February 3rd. Added to the upcoming snowstorm that is forecasted to hit tomorrow, this is about his regular time for another. His seizure was one of his usual ones, with lots of drooling, muscle tremors, fixed eyes, but totally aware of things around him, and a release of his anal glands. Once it was over, he got up and started begging for my lunch, lol!! The warm-up track went well, so we decided to let him do the one Annie laid.

He found both of the articles and did a great job on the final leg, but he was pretty unsettled. I’m really hoping that as he continues to run tracks, he’ll return to his initial focused working that we witnessed a month ago.

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I’m not sure if it’s related to his unsettled work at tracking, but a couple of hours after we got home, Canyon had a second seizure. This one was short, but about the same intensity as the one earlier in the day. I think it might be the upcoming snowstorm that is causing him problems. I sure know it has been causing me issues, with constant migraines and nausea at times.

For both of our sakes, I hope Mother Nature makes up her mind soon and sticks with some sort of weather for a while before changing again.