Stressing Low — Travel Aversion?

So I think I’m showing signs of stressing low. I am not eating grass, or wandering around sniffing, but am definitely having my own very special melt downs.

(Pete is in the same boat, but I will spare the gory details and his dignity by not listing the plethora of certainly stress-induced maladies he is currently hosting on his person. His are manifesting physically, mine mentally…)

I was supposed to leave for a work/personal/too hard to explain what the heck it is exactly trip yesterday. A few hours before I started freaking out. I got nauseous and super-cranky. I’d been kinda cranky all day but when it got close to go time I slammed on the breaks. I dont know if I freaked out because I didnt feel good, or vice versa, but all I knew was the last thing I was about to do was get on a plane. (And get a cab to friends house, sleep on couch, then wander around today chatting with a million people but no real game plan.)

So, I rescheduled. I actually like to travel. At least I used to. But not this time. I am still leaving tomorrow AM, but that leg of the trip will be easier. I dunno what my problem is, but I do know it wasnt bad for me to have an extra day to sleep in, and walk the dogs around the peninsula with Pete, and maybe go to the bank and manage some bills.

We’ll be missing agility on Monday since I wont be back until late that night, but CU #2 is on Wednesday. Pete and I worked on some of the focus C/T’ing today with Forest, hopefully he can keep it up while I am gone. He even said he was interested in coming to class with me, which would be great. I think maybe he’s finally feeling a little left out on this whole training of his dog thing! He is coming around to it all, especially since I think he sees the results. Positive reinforcement seems to work on people too.

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CU #1 — Which Kind of Crazy Dog Lady are You?

So last night was our first CU class. I unfortunately have to take one of the shittiest freeways to get there at rush hour, so it took me over an hour to go 25 miles. Sweet. Luckily I was not the only one who was late and next time, well, we’ll leave at 5 to make it there by 6:30. Good times, living in So Cal.

There were only a few people in the class. Us, a women with a Jack Russell, and a woman with a BC. Hopefully it stays that small, would be nice. The woman with the JR amazed me. Her dog seemed well-behaved enough, just “talky”. She went on and on about how he likes this and he does that and she already has her Novice Obedience and Rally titles, blah blah blah. And yet, once we go into things, she didnt know what the instructor meant by “raising the rate or reinforcement.” Sigh. She also didnt seem to understand that by scratching her dog every time he growled at her (in a talky way, not a mean way) she was handing over the reins to who was running the show.

How you could get that far along in training and not have a clue as to how a dogs mind operates–in the most basic sense–is beyond me. Or maybe some people just go through the motions and get “close enough” and never look at the how or the why. Obsessively reading all of these blogs every day makes me think the R+ theory is incredibly common in dog sports, but maybe not?

Anyway, last night was pretty basic stuff, but learned some tweaks and new ways of looking at things. The biggest thing for us at this point is going to be reorienting. We make them wait to get out of the car or go out the gate, but once they’re released, they just blast off into the universe never to be heard from again. Not good. Training them to orient (ie. turn back to me to “check in”) coming out of the crate, and ESPECIALLY out of the front gate or the car is going to be huge. The hardest part will be getting Pete to carry the treats on him at all times. Maybe I can stash them all around at all of those points so he has no excuse not to do it.

Another fairly large realization I have been coming to over the past few months (peripherally related to the dogs) is my change in “life focus” I guess you could say. It really hit me hard last night as I was packing for a trip which I am leaving on today. This is a trek I have made annually for many, many years. I look forward to it every year firstly as I get to see many of my favorite people on this earth, as well as get to live it up and ride snow and talk about riding snow and look at pretty new things made to ride snow and wear while doing so.

I really, am not that into it this year. It will be fun, I have no doubt, and yet I just am not that amped about it. I am more bummed that it will be taking a huge hunk out of my training schedule and that when I go back to CU class we’ll only have been able to cram in a few sessions.

I dont know if its my age, or the economy, or being beat down by the industry that I love (same for Pete, we’ve both had a rough last few years work-wise), or what. Many of my favorite friends are all in the same boat as me. Maybe we’re all just growing up and caring more about inner circle things than who is on what team and how they got arrested at Brand X’s raging party? I dunno.

I will always and forever love riding good snow with my friends. Being outside in the snow in the middle of no where and hearing nothing but the sound of your board across the snow and maybe whoops by your freinds off in the distance is one of the greatest feelings I ever hope to experience. And I will again, undoubtedly. But I also have loved–since the very day I was born–horses and dogs and most things four-legged with a passion.

Maybe this is just the new phase.

Two steps forward…

So. Last night went better. We got to class super-early. I stopped en route and grabbed some dinner (salad in place of fried Chimichanga). Forest had his dinner in the back while I had mine. No rush, watched the Advanced class before ours. He tried to get wound up once he was done with dinner, but I just stayed calm and ignored him. Put his leash on and worked on laying on the mat in the trunk. Took it out and down to class with us, clicked him for “go to yer bed”. He seemed happy with that for the beginning as opposed to laying on dirt or wet grass.

We usually seem to do jumpers first, which is definitely our strong suit. He was great, as usual, any bobbles were entirely of my doing. He runs really fluidly and I don’t have to give him much verbal direction except when calling him back towards me. He’s getting quite good at going ahead of me. I actually realized last night that I think thats where a lot of our hang ups are occurring–at any point where there is a loss in momentum is where we tend to melt down… And, he may make me lazy as he is so good at going ahead of me, its a lot of work to get out ahead of him in front as opposed to sending him from behind. Maybe I’ll start charging myself $5 for every lazy rear cross…

Standard course was not perfect, yet it was miles ahead of two weeks ago. I think maybe he has a hard time seeing things occasionally (?) in the dark, or maybe its me who has a hard time seeing. Either way we missed a few easy, obvious entries–to the tunnel and to the teeter–but got back on track quickly.

I did notice at one point where after we kept missing the tunnel entry he scooted away and started eating grass. I think I was starting to get stressed—I always thought he didn’t care so much what I was thinking/doing/saying, but am coming to realize he really is a pretty sensitive guy. It was pretty eye opening now that I am more aware of what to look for. I calmed down, gently grabbed him and told him it was okay. I think after that we got going again.

We also were just doing the short weaves as we had a few first time Novice people joining. He missed a few times more because he hasnt figured out how to slam on the breaks yet, but was no big deal. We practiced the full 12 set at the end of class. He nailed it on the second try so we quit with that.

Also reinforced a TON throughout class, including clicking him for laying/sitting on his mat. I should have fed him less for dinner…

Overall a much more relaxing experience than last class, so that is a step in the right direction.

Tomorrow night starts our Control Unleashed session. Six weeks long, looking forward to it—I think it will be a big step in the right direction. I love my agility trainer, but she definitely does not have the time nor the training style to address individual behavioral issues. I hope this can help us work through both of our stress and focus issues. Fingers crossed.

Overwhelmed + Inconsistent = Hitting the Wall

We’ve been pretty agility-free around these parts for the last few weeks, but I think that’s okay. I started reading Control Unleashed over the weekend, and it made me feel a bit better about where we’re at, plus affirmed one or two of my suspicions about some of our “hitting the wall” issues. It also helped me realize that I am definitely one of those people who loves to do their homework, but maybe that’s also just my way of avoiding the actual action plan. I like to dive in, read, read, research and read more, take classes, give my semi-educated opinion…. but when it comes to building a plan and sticking to it, not so good.

Ie, I fell in love with Sue Ailsby and her Levels training. Have I made it past Level One? Nope. (To give myself a break, I did take her clinic at the beginning of the move-new job-holidays-death in the family-hurricane, so hoping we can get back on track eventually with that.)

I also seem to have absorbed so much info and so many different styles and schools but don’t have the real foundation—so I am frozen in fear of where to start.

However, it just so happens that one of the local dog sports facilities actually gives a Control Unleashed session (5 or 6 weeks long!). And it starts this Wednesday. So, off to agility tonight (with greatly increased rates of reinforcement!!!) then our first CU on Wednesday! Seems like a lot of classes, but with my lack of consistent training in between, it may actually not be too bad.

I think that will be a great program for us to focus on for a while, then we can come back to other stuff. I need to not beat myself up over this and also remember I am training adult rescue dogs with various ingrained issues, not pliable puppies I can mold to my every whim. Plus, where’s the fun in that anyways?!?

More traveling this week/end, then a Sales Meeting in two weeks, then hopefully I can get back to my life and back on track.

Calm After the Storm

Agility was rained out last night. Boo. But instead, I did get to have a leisurely evening, which included taking both dogs down to the cove for low tide and running around like a crazy small dog lady. I am working on reinforcing Forest’s “Lets GO!!!” from a wait in hopes that helps with the “sticking” issue we’ve had. He actually was pretty good about staying with us last night, we also worked on running with me and watching/following my hands.

It would be nice to be able to have some room to work in some obstacles, but I have yet to find the right venue. I dont want him jumping in the sand, as that sounds like an injury waiting to happen. There is a park up the street, but its a little too public and a little too unfenced and close to streets. People don’t drive that fast, but I just envision Forest getting distracted and taking off for a tour of the neighborhood while I decide whether to run after him or leave crazy dog lady obstacles in the park… Am thinking about scoping out some of the local elementary schools as I assume they have fenced grassy areas (at the risk of looking like a pedophile). *sigh*

So P packed up the dogs this AM, and their crates and beds and bowls and leashes and treats and sweaters, and left for Mammoth. He didnt tell me, until this morning, that not only were he and the dogs and all the dog-and-snowboard gear driving up in the truck, but three other people were jumping in as well. Sounds like a grand old time.

No one can ever say we dont expose or socialize our dogs to the joys of new situations. Eesh. I am turning off my brain-imagineering-bad-dog-scenarios function for the next 4 days. They’ll all survive without me is my mantra… (though I did already get a text asking “did Forest poo this morning?” And so it begins…)

So now I am solo at home, at least for tonight, and leave tomorrow for SLC. More time to work on figuring out the Agility Record Book I downloaded last night… oh, and pack. Mleh.

Dogs in the News: Scientists Find a Shared Gene in Dogs with Compulsive Behavior

Oh the Timing. And the Rain…

So just Friday I wrote my woes about registering Forest in the ILP/PAL program for the AKC. That night I filled out the forms in resignation; height, weight, proof of nueter (which fortunately I figured I’d have to wait on til Monday), and a check for $35–all in an effort to dupe the AKC into believing my dog is a “purebred”. I didnt feel good about it in multiple ways.

Well lo and behold, that same day they issued a release stating the Mixed Breeds now will compete with and get titled the same as the “real” dogs. I didnt believe it and assumed someone misread between the lines on the local agillity email group, but that doesnt seem to be the case. We are now able to be legit!

I will continue to support the other organizations as much as I can, but with 4x the amount of AKC agility events around here, this really is going to make my life easier. Forest is already signed up as a mixed breed (male, brown, age 3–that’s all the detail they wanted. Interesting. I guess to the AKC once youre a mixed breed thats all you are, who cares about the details. Whatever.).

On another note things are going to get stir crazy around here. El Nino finally decided to show up all at once this week. We didnt pay attention to the impending storm yesterday and by the time it showed up we still hadnt exercised the dogs. So they got a damp two block walk in the rain and are now going bonkers. Sorry guys.

Also, its looking like no agility this evening, so we really are going to have a frenzied Forest on our hands. However, as I said last week, maybe we were due for skipping a week.

Then again, it doesnt look like it will be my problem–P is taking them both with him to Mammoth for a few days. Which I am glad he’s taking it upon himself to do (I will be in SLC for Oh Arrrrgh!), but I am worried about them being crated for too long and becoming crate adverse. We already disagreed at loud levels about it, so what will happen will happen. I have to choose my battles and will just pray this doesnt undo what little proper crate training has been done. Maybe I’ll make him promise to buy me a copy of Crate Games if things dont go well.

Breathe in, breathe out… I could be in Haiti, or Kabul or Sudan or….

To PAL/ILP or Mixed Breed?

I have a stack of dog paperwork waiting for me on my desk at home. Amongst the stacks of clean laundry, dirty laundry, plants to find homes for, etc… I dont think our move will ever be done…

Anyways, the stacks of dog items piling up include a local club membership form (practice in Costa Mesa—10 minute drive? Yes ma’am!) and the “PAL” application for the AKC.

I am torn about the PAL form and really about the AKC in general. I dont care for a lot of what the AKC does (turning a blind eye to puppy mills and horrific backyard breeding practices), and I think their first interest is financially-based, not the interest of the animals overall.

However, in our area of SoCal from what I can tell, it seems that the majority of the trials are AKC functions. So, therefore, ideally I’d be able to compete in those events for the most flexibility in scheduling in addition to the other associations.

My other problem is that Forest definitely isnt a “breed”. P and I argue rather constantly (more than I’d like to admit) about Forest’s heritage. I think he falls into the realm of Min Pin x Italian Greyhound, while P refuses this theory and insists that he is a Manchester Terrier (despite the indisputable fact that Manchesters cannot be any color other than black and tan).

So. I may try to squeak him in as a Min Pin. I think I am screwed if I do (because even if they do approve it at first) anyone who knows anything about Min Pins will know he isnt one and I may be “exposed” as a sham), but if I don’t try at all we immediately get demoted to the Mixed Breed class. It ticks me off that “Mixed Breeds” are awarded seperately and will have different titles than the “regular” dogs.

Then again, in all honesty, I dont care about the ribbons/awards. I dont. I just get peeved more at the segregation factor. I’ve done a good bit of reading on this topic and quite a few people are of the theory that -any- progress is good progress. Whlie othrs are saying that they will not participate at all with the AKC until they treat All American breeds on the same level. Part of me wants to lean toward the latter opinion, however as a new participant, I also want to try out all the different associations to get the feel for which I like the best.

Again though, we only have a handful of USDAA and NADAC trials within reasonable driving distance. I geeked out and actually counted the different association events held in SoCal for the next 6 months. My tally was:

NADAC: 4

USDAA: 2

OTHER (CPE): 4

AKC: 20

grrrr!

I guess ILP it is and we’ll see what happens. Glamourous MinPin-esque shots to be posted soon….