Sunday, June 29, 2008

Not only are my dogs pretty wonderful in my opinion, so are my girls!

Hi, so not only are the dogs in our house important, LOL, but my girls are pretty cool too. So being homeschooled -I think my kids are very creative, they love to read and they do come up with a lot of ways to entertain themselves. So one of their new passions is sewing. They just started getting small pieces of felt, and used hand needles and have made a ton of very cute dresses for their Bratz dolls. Emma also made the little blue animal-named Kirby in the front of the picture. They have been working hard the last few weeks making doll clothes, I am really suprised at how well they have done and they have done it all themselves.

As feared when I bragged about Lizzie coming and doing so well....we have had some training set backs again. She is in heat right now-I plan to spay her in about two months when her hormones go back to normal after her heat cycle-so maybe it is a little hormone brain thing going on? Anyway, we went to just play doing the one jump LM exercises and she was terrified of getting anywhere near that???? WHAT is that about? I have no idea. I really try to be careful to not put pressure on Liz, but I will have to monitor myself very carefully and make sure I have not done that around the jump with the jump work. She just kept trying to run and hide in her crate so.......guess I will leave that alone in case it is just her being spacey with the hormones, and then figure out a fun game we can play around the jump--But we all know if is my fault for saying we totally have Lizzie on board, LOL.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

LIZZIE is finally getting me on her page-we are working together!

OK, for a real training post!!! My wild Miss Lizzie the Lizard is growing up. We have been doing something I thought was almost impossible until now,....making HUGE PROGRESS!!! My instructor, who is the best in the world, if I haven't already mentioned that....suggested more clicker training things that can be done away from me. This is to get her more used to A. getting treats from places other then my hand, and B. getting her used to knowing it is ok to work away from me and still be connected. WELL, I was Miss Skeptical because I have done tons and tons of clicker training with Lizzie her whole life. I guess that is why we have mentors and teachers and friends to help us figure out training issues because I had not realized that with all Lizzies overstimulation issues and attention issues I had just done what everyone kept saying and I was doing almost all my work aimed at getting Lizzie to look at me and stay right with me. I am now aware I have major anxiety issues over her not being right with me. So...I started doing some shaping with Lizzie on the exercise disc and imagine my suprise when she was just having a heck of a time going to do anything without me being right there. Guess I have done a good job lately in getting her to just tune into me. I think the problem came when I need her to do some things where she cant just sit and stare at me. I dont think she knows it is OK for her to do her work and stay with me and that we can still be connected and working together if she is a few feet away. She starts stressing when I am not right with her delivering the treat, which of course has to add to her overstimulation issues. So I think this new work that we are doing is really going to help us. I had to really go back to square one even though she had the basics of getting on the exercise disc, when I started working with throwing the reward by the disc, I had to go back and shape from just turning to look at the disc and of course progress to going to the disc, then touching the disc with her nose, and then putting her front feet on, then some back legs on, then finally we will try to get all four legs in the next day or two..... Of course she is a real smarties and very operant so it is going very quickly. Suprised me though that we had to go back to square one. Guess we will be doing a lot more clicker training and working with things where she can be rewarded away from me and where she needs to work away from me but still be connected. We did a lot of that when she was a small puppy, but guess I had stopped doing it lately in favor of working on attention.
On the other fronts, ooooh man I am scared to say this, much less put it in print....but, it has been a few weeks since Lizzie has not come when I have called. Let me tell you this girl has been the biggest challenge to me, and I have never trained a dog anything like her. This dog has been through four recall classes and knows how to come, but she just gets so overstimulated by things that I truly dont think she is capable of coming in certain situations. But lately, she is just so terrific and is actually acting like a normal border collie, she usually just sits and looks like she is waiting for me to tell her what game we are playing, it is just amazing. She is a really good Lizard lately. ANYWAY, I have backed up so I am not putting her in situations where she is doomed to fail, so I have taken down the distraction level a WHOLE LOT, and I plan on working with Liz and getting behaviors really strong and cemented before I start adding in distractions. I think in her previous training I was adding in too many things at a time. I should know better. Right now my theory with working with her is to get her so used to the correct choices and responses in places she feels comfortable, and is able to be very successful then progress to situations where she has more choices.
So this is ANOTHER dog that we will just have to wait and see. I think someone feels like they had to give me a few lessons in patience, I hate just having to wait and see how things turn out, but what choice do I have right now?? I had got to the point where I just figured Lizzie would do really well at on leash things and she is truly the love of my life but I thought I would never be able to trust her in a agility ring, or anywhere off leash. So, again afraid to hope, but she just might really suprise me. Leapin' Lizzie Lizard is a little past 2 yrs old now, so maybe maturity is finally hitting. I really dont think my training has changed that much but all of a sudden it seems to be sticking more, so I just wonder if her age is just finally catching up with her so she can start using her brain??? Anyway, trying to really sharpen up on my training and trying to seize the opportunities she is giving me when she seems ready to get what I am asking for.
Lizzie is also starting on some one jump work ala Linda M's jump training. So more on that as we progress.

BREEZE-just waiting and watching to see how she does

Sooo...time marches on and this is what is going on. Breeze is looking tons better, I can not wait until she goes back to Dr. Walden to see how she feels she is doing. Her gait looks almost totally normal most of the time. WHOOOO HOOOO!!! She is doing her exercises well, and it is funny how totally overwhelming the exercises seemed when I first got them but now...they just seem like no big deal. I have suprised even myself and have been able to keep Breeze just on leash and I think there has only been a time or two she has done a short run before I got her back, and a few times she has jumped up on a chair before I saw what was happening-so really pretty proud of myself for being able to keep this young, wild BC from hurting herself! More unsure then ever what she will be able to do in the long run.....I want to keep her happy and healthy, and I do not want to tear her down physically, so know once all the info is in we will have a lot of decisions to make.

Funny how the emotions can change though, sometimes I really feel bummed to have this situation and sometimes wish I had chosen another dog, why when I want to do dog sports did I get a dog with real structural problems...isnt that horrible to say? I really feel bad about saying that, and most of the time 98% of the time I really am glad I have her, but once in awhile I just feel so disappointed. To be truthful I would really much rather have a dog that cant do agility and is a wonderful companion then the best dog at agility and dog sports that is a horror to live with, so I should be happy for what I have. She is ABSOLUTELY the greatest dog, she loves the kids and they love her, she is so easy to be with, she is the sweetest girl ever, I couldnt ask for more from a pet dog, I just absolutely love her so much. Then when I go back I keep thinking about what I am going to do or what I will feel if the vets say she can do a little agility and try to see how she does. I think if she is able to do some agility, I wonder how comfortable I will ever be worrying about what she might be doing to herself and worrying about not seeing the little signs if she is starting to hurt, I am scared to hope that she will be able to continue agility because I feel like I am going to be so bummed if she cant do it now that I have started hoping again.....and then part of me would just like to know that we have reached the point where it just isnt going to happen if that is the case so I can just move on-find her a new niche in life and just be happy. No one was saying they thought she was going to be able to do agility once this injury is healed, I am just thinking they might say we could try it because she just seems to be healing so well, so now I am thinking a lot of her problem might not be her hips but was her knee injury. But then again, there is arthritis on her hips, so obviously that has been giving her problems. Her health of course has got to be the first priority.

Poor Breeze has taken to sitting and looking out the window into the back yard where all the equipment is and where the dogs all ususally get to run and play. Check out in the picture what she has done to my blinds.....ughghghghg, very attractive and goes so well with the xpens in the house. I think these quiet couple of weeks are getting hard on her, she is putting up with it well,...but I think she is really missing her old life. Seeing her just sitting and staring out into the empty yard is sad, I think it just taps into my feelings of saddness for her, so it really tears at my heart. I took her with me when I was substitute teaching agility classes these past two weeks so that I can make sure she is following her activity restrictions and not being crated too long and to make sure she isnt crated too long which might make her stiff-ANYHOOO when I took her out of the crate to the yard she has worked in so many times she got so excited until she figured out that she just got to take a slow walk around the yard. SO TO SUM IT UP; nothing has changed, we are just watching and waiting to see what will happen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We can not forget Skyler

So have to include a picture of poor Skyler. He always gets the short end of the stick. Sky is a really nice boy, he is 6 and we got him after no one wanted him because he had parvo, something happened to him before we got him and his tail doesnt work, so people dont know what to think of his mood because his tail is always down, but he is a very nice guy. Breeze likes to pick on him a lot. So here he is doing his trick, touching a target stick, which we of course shaped with a clicker.

There is a lot of clicking going on

Sooo my ultra cool instructor and friend Alicia has inspired me to get my butt in gear and get more training in-she is very good considering she is on vacation and she is still getting me working. She has got me really excited about doing more clicker training. The reasons I like clicker training: #1 I believe it trains dog how to think and figure things out #2 I believe it puts dogs in control, and makes us more partners with them-always a good thing as far as I am concerned #3 especially when your dog gets used to clicker training you can get way more behaviors by using a clicker then you could ever get by pushing or pulling a dog. #4 I think clicker training and shaping is just plain fun once you learn how. SOOOO for the wild Lizard aka Lizzie, I am working on a lot of 101 things to do with, a remote, a exercise disc, a cone, hahahahaha, just about anything I can find. One really useful thing I am working on is teaching heeling with the clicker. I am using Morgan Spectors book Clicking for Obedience, and gosh I have had that for years and have read it before, but I pulled it out for this little project and I am loving it again. I think I must be picking up more then I did the first time I read it through, and for those of you who know me, you probably know how allergic I am to OBEDIENCE, so.....I think it says something if I am finding it fun and interesting. LOL. Anyway, Lizzie is really starting to act way more excited about working with me and I am actually getting some great heeling behavior. Granted this is all in a very low distraction type environment, but hey, I plan on getting this behavior very strong and very clear before I add in things to make it harder, am I not sounding like a real trainer???? Or at least a good imitation of one? ONe thing I am doing too is using her raw food for breakfast but I feed it with a spoon and for dinner I take her portion of kibble-yeah, I know we are back to that for training,....figure I have to make some concessions-I put the kibble in a container so I can use it through the day for training.
So next we have Breeze. She is still looking pretty good, and there is a picture of her with her shaped balance disc behavior. I couldnt believe she learned to do that in about five minuetes. I had been trying to lure it for a couple of days and she didnt get it, I got my hands out of there and just started clicking and she learned right away. I dont know if you can tell by the picture but the ball isnt that big and it takes a lot of effort for Breeze to keep her balance, thus the core is exercised. I even got her to put two back feet on the disc and then bow with her front so she gets a good stretch, and we did some back end awareness because she understands to lift her back feet and put them on the ball deliverately. With her back end any back end awareness will make her more safe I figure.
Chloe didnt want to be left out of the clicker fest....EVERYONE loves the clicker and gets really upset when they arent included. So Chloe worked on running to a mat and downing. Then we worked on contacts on the Aframe. She is having some problems controlling her speed on the way down the Aframe, so I am trying to figure out how to help her and keep her from hurting herself.
Skyler was a trip, he couldnt be left out of the training, so he was doing a mean touch to a target stick, what a good boy.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Well, we are one week into Breezes rehab. She gets some nice stretches on her knees/hips/spine three times a day, followed by a nice ice pack on her knee. She also does some exercises, turning her head to her shoulders and then hips, sit to stands-SLOWLY, and then some spine stretches on an incline and a slow walk every 2-3 hours. She also balances on a stability disc to do her "core" exercises. In addition she is not allowed to run or jump-YEA, I said it, a 21 month old driven border collie that is now allowed to run or jumpor worse yet play with the other dogs. That has been the hardest part. So Breeze has spent the last week mostly on a leash. She did have a nasty habit of sneaking and jumping on the bed or the couch when I would walk past so we have taken Xpens and surrounded the bed and couch, and Xpened off the kitchen to keep her off the tile because she keeps sort of slipping on that. Of course then there are the supplements and the different foods she is on to help her heal. Bless my family for putting up with the disruption in their life, everyone has pulled together and helped walk Breeze and put up with all the xpens. THE GOOD NEW IS Breeze is looking much better. Her gait is looking more normal, and she doesnt act like she is in the same pain she was a week ago. I also was able to clicker train Breeze in one day to put her four feet on the stability disc, no small feat. You can tell it is quite a challenge for her, it really takes a lot of work to stabilize themselves, and I couldnt believe within a few minuetes she figured out I wanted her to put all four feet on the ball and then balance. What a smartie pants. I will try to get a picture of her doing her exercises, she is quite a tropper and putting up with everything I have asked. She even seems to like the ice packs and just lays quietly and seems to know it is all for her own good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Breeze goes to Santa Monica

I took Breeze to a canine rehab center to get a second opinion about Breezes hips -to find out what could be done to help her heal from her recent injuries and try to minimize the damage from her hip dysplasia. I got a referral from my friend who has been there with her dog-she has always seemed very happy with them-and I guess now I see why! The vet was Dr. Jessica Walden in Santa Monica. That is about a two hour drive from here, through east LA which was an adventure in itself. So my friend Becky and her daughters came with us. The appointment lasted close to 3 hours and they checked EVERYTHING!!! They did gait analysis, did videos of her gait, they went over all her xrays, went through her whole diet/ supplements, and they showed me a lot of exercises and stretches-and worked with me until I felt comfortable doing them. So the great news is NO SURGERY!!! We had considered a hip replacement after one vet recommended that, but all things considered we are going to treat Breeze with supplements, exercises, and see how she does. Of course all the supplements I was giving were all wrong, LOL, so we are all loaded up with some very good, very expensive supplements to help her joints. THE BAD NEWS: apparently there was a pretty good ACL injury that no one else picked up-I think we are very lucky that with the activity she has been permitted the last few weeks that we didn't totally tear that ACL.
It is not sounding very likely that Breeze will be able to do any agility and I have some real mixed feelings about that. I feel very selfish for feeling so sad about that. I am very thankful that my dog can walk, and should have a good life, and seeing some of the dogs at the rehab center and what their people were dealing with I am lucky that Breeze is basically ok. On the other side you know how you focus on odd things when you feel sad about something....yesterday when all this was sinking in I just kept thinking Breeze got to do one trial for all the work we did training, and we didn't get any pictures. Then I had to keep from crying because she will probably never get any trial pictures, and I wish I had known that would probably be her only trial. Now why was it that that I focused on-pictures of all things??? What an odd thing to think about, but sometimes you just feel what you feel and think what you think. I just am really sad to think about the cool contacts we worked so hard on, and our weaves-all those mornings of training those, the handling, and no one will ever be able to see how great we were doing. I also think it is easier to think about pictures then to worry about what the future holds for Breeze, so maybe that is why I would rather think of pictures? Anyway, I would definitely recommend the CARE center, I couldn't believe how much time they took with us to really check everything on Breeze out, and how gentle they were with Breeze and how they just took as much time as I needed so I understood everything.
So after the appointment it was right smack in the middle of rush hour so Becky, her daughters and I went down by the beach and found a very cool little Mexican restaurant and sat an let everything sink in while we enjoyed dinner. It was a very long day, very emotionally exhausting, and I am thinking the next few weeks are going to be pretty full with starting Breeze's rehab.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A beginning

Soooo, to introduce myself, I am a mother of two girls -they are homeschooled, and getting to the age I can do a few more of my own hobbies and not feel like I am taking away too much from them. I also have a grown son. My chosen addiction is dog agility, which I have found to be fun and challenging and is really teaching me a more then I could have believed. I am learning to have a team member (my dog) want to do what I want to do I must get into their head and figure out what they would like out of the situation, I am learning how to work things out so we all get our needs met. You have to make sure your other team member is having fun and getting their needs met or they do not do their best!!! I am learning that some competition is OK and might actually be FUN. I was the type of kid and young adult that really shied away from competition and team sports because I did not feel I was good at them and didnt want to feel like I let others down, how much time did I waste worrying about that all the time? So having people watch me do what I like, and competing against others, having other people watch when I am trying new things is all something I have had to work to feel comfortable with. Another thing I am really learning lately that life is not under our control, and we can work, we can try, we can learn all we can do, we can actually do everything we know to ensure success but in the end.....we just have to hope some things are in the cards!!!!
So my so called agility career is not exactly something to be envied. I am learning so much and feel like I just want to put it all to use I said Fate sometimes seems to take control-who knows when I will be able to use all I have learned? Did I say I am learning a lot of patience?--I hope I am anyway.
My first agility dog was my tri color sheltie Skyler. He was a bit of a fearful dog and would take off after other dogs that scared him in class-getting himself beat up, so after working with him a lot I decieded that he is happiest doing agility in his own yard- he is much more comfortable, so who am I to say that he should be a public figure??? He is a happy backyard agility star now.
My second agility dog is my little buddy Chloe. Chloe is a 4 yr old sable Sheltie. Chloe has really started my patience training. Just when her career started she developed some sort of autoimmune disease that left her very slow, having a hard time learning and pretty shut down. I have done a lot of alternative therapies with her and just supported her and hoped that if I put as little pressure on her as I could she would one day be able to run and play and do agility again. Actually that sounds aweful, mostly I just wanted her to be a happy girl again, that was the biggest goal even if she never could do agiltiy. I came to peace with thinking that was all done. Well, recently she has just blossomed once again. So she isnt the fastest little girl, but she is consistent--well, except for her weaves--she is having a great time-at least she seems to be, and she has just started her trialing and is doing OK. Only problem is that she is a new dog but that means I have to relearn how to work with her. She is the sweetest, happiest little dog and I really admire her spirit and heart.
My third dog is one I got because I really wanted to do agility and I didnt know what would happen with Chloe-this was my Lizzie Lou. I had always wanted to get a border collie, but had heard so many horror stories so it scared me, but i was finally ready. Lizzie turned out to be everything I was scared about getting in a border collie, LOL, but that is ok, she is really a heart dog. OOOH my gosh, Lizzie is a split face red/white border collie and what can I say about her, SHE LOVES LIFE!!! She also loves me-I think she is more attached to me then any other dog I have ever had. That does not mean she lives to please me though-far from it. She is much smarter then me, and I struggle to keep up with how fast she figures things out. Lizzie just turned 2 and is finally starting to let me take a breath once in awhile. I have been in so many classes with her, really reliable recall-many times, control unleashed, lots of obedience classes, lots of trick classes, agility, so many classes and lessons. I have worked with her more then I have ever worked with a dog, but she is her own girl. I am trying to be careful not to smash out all the spirit and things I love about her and still motivate her to work with me. She is the dog that I keep telling myself if I ever figure her out I will be a really awesome dog trainer. I will be able to train any dog, I can write books or do videos, but I will not be writing any books just yet...IF we get through this I will be able to say I survived the Lizzie Lou!!! Some days I feel like that is just around the corner, then she takes off with a wild lap of zoomies and no one can catch her and I feel like we are at square one. She would be so awesome at agility if I can ever get us both on the same page, but, she might have to be my best friend and I will have to take what I get as far as agility goes.
Then there is my little 20 month old border collie Breeze. Contact Points Blew Breeze to be more exact. She was named that for the kennel she came from, and for her dad, and then of course she was named Breeze for the type of dog she is. Gentle as a Breeze, very fast, easy to teach and each to love. She has all it would ever take to be the most awesome agility dog in the world. She could really go places. I have handled her training carefully, she has the most awesome agility instructor in the world who has taken us under her wing and works as hard to teach my doggies as I work to teach them. She also is patient with me so how could we lose??? Well, unfortunately we recently learned that Breeze might have all the right stuff mentally, and someone who wants to work with her but she has some seriously bad hips and is really showing the signs now. Right now it is doubtful she can do agility and not suffer permanent damage and we are exploring some type of surgery to help her-she is starting in some rehab therapy at a place that looks awesome, and guess we are going to see where this road leads us.
So there you go, dogs, dogs everywhere at our house, and me sitting with some pretty strong desire to do this agility thing and get into trialing and see what I can do, and now i have a little knowledge and someone who can help me get a lot more of that, and ???????? serious dog problems, LOL, so if that isnt one of those funnies life throws at you, what is??? So that is more then you ever needed to know about me....