Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man

Okay so every other Wednesday we have a group of folks who get together and practice tricks. Sometimes in an organized fashion, sometimes not so much. Well we also are trying to come up with some big group tricks that we can pull out at trick expos and competitions. Doggy Band is one. Since Gauis is the -cough- smallest (don't tell him) member of our troop, I wanted to think of something similarly adorable fro him to do in our doggie band. I came up with a tambourine. Here's a video of what we've got so far. (WARNING: My voice is very high pitched in this video, I recommend turning the sound down or off)

Sorry the video is a little dark and turned sideways. I was taking it with Sean's i-pod. His command to shake an object is 'kill it'. I started with socks hat he loves to shake anyhow then stuffed animals then to more stiff harder objects and eventually to the tambourine which he wasn't even a fan of holding at fist. I put duck tape over one of the opening because his teeth had a tendency to get caught there (You can see that in the video once in another location). I think he has much improved and it's almost ready to take on the road. 

Below is our bands pianist Garth (Who also has a blog, click the link). We have a singer, drummer, and horn honker too but I can't find good pictures of them applying their art. This was taken at Marti-Paws where Garth played for tips and helped raise $275 for Fetch-a-Cure :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Say Your Prayers

This is a trick we've been working on for a while but this video represents only the second session I've gotten him to do it on anything other than my arm. The goal of course being a small bed or table. Sorry he looks wet in the picture, he just got a bath.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gauis' Back: A Saga

So this all started about the fourth week of September. Just a normal day. I was working the 6pm-3am shift which meant I was home during the day. I was getting some work done on the computer, or messing around the internet, not sure which. And I suddenly realized Gauis wasn't at my feet which is where he usually is during this time. I called him, nothing.

I found him curled up next to the cat in the guest room and he didn't get up to greet me or wag his tail. I picked him up and put him on the floor, his posture was hunched and he seemed uncomfortable. I tossed a tennis ball that was on the floor next to me and he made no effort to chase it. That's when I knew something was wrong. When he walked it seemed stiff and stilted, his tail was tucked. I felt down his back but couldn't get any reaction, no twinge or sign of pain. I was worried still so I immediatly put him on crate rest for the rest of the day. I figured if he had just pulled a muscle he'd be over it tommrrow, if he hadn't he'd come with me to work the next night (I work at an emergency vet).

When he's posture was still concerning to me by the next morning I just decided to take him in early. Of course by the time we were at the visits office he was agitated and screamy, and seemed less uncomfortable. Stress having overwhelmed any pain. Our vet was one of the interns (Right out of vet school, very nice). She felt up and down his spine and just like me couldn't get any sign of pain. I still though is gait was off, but she couldn't see any deficiencies (I know how my dog walks and what he was doing wasn't normal). She decided to take X-Rays anyhow, him being a dachshund and all. 

So there was a wait before I was called to the front to see them. When I got there the first thing that jumped at me was how much stool was in his colon (sorry about the poop talk). But the doctor did see some things in his back that she found troubling. The first is a calcified disk that's very clear if you know what your looking for. These are genetic and VERY common in almost all dachshunds of his age. She also said she saw disk shorting in two separate locations. This is much harder too see, can be caused simply by his positioning but can also be potentially more serious. It can meann that his disks are stressed and could rupture.

So she told me one week of crate rest and no agility ever again. I was pretty bummed and over the next week so was Gauis, crate rest and he do not get along. Especially when Sammy got to dart all around the apartment unhampered and Gauis got to watch sadly from behind bars. We started calling him our 'goldfish' during this time, due to being a pet we essentially just fed and watched from afar.

After his second day of crate rest his walking went back to normal (This happened to come immediately after he finally pooped by the way). Remember at no time during this entire period could I get him to show any signs of pain in his back. Which for a dog with a 'back issue' is just plain bizarre. 

I made an appointment to take him to go see his chiropractor Dr. Regina Schwabe   who is amazing. She does orthopedic rehabilitation and see a lot of dachshunds as well as agility dogs. If you live in Virgina she's totally worth the drive once or twice a year. I sent her the X-rays (though that was drama in and of itself with computers and formatting). 

In the mean time there are benefits to working where you take your animal, one is the ability to read there chart. You see we have a board certified radiologist that reviews all of the radiographs taken at the hospital. And there in Gauis file I could read his report too. Now he said, that though he saw the calcification, he saw no areas of disk shorting. So now I was confused. Constipation can present much in the same way back pain does, with hunched uncomfortable posture. Two vets with too different stories.Did I really have to retire Gauis from agility after all?

I was going to let Regina decide.  Well after doing her exam, she said his back felt great, better than the last time she saw him. No signs of pain. In terms of the radiographs she saw the calcification but said almost all dachshunds his age have that to a certain extent. She could maybe see some disk shortening in one area but it was very hard to tell. All in all his back lots pretty good for a dachshund of his age. Both the issues on his x-rays she said were probably entirely genetic and not caused by his agility. If anything agility helps strengthen his back and his core muscles and keeps him fit. It helps protect his back not hurt it.  And she saw no reason why he couldn't return to agility if he was showing no signs of pain.

I then asked if she though me taking him down to preferred at 4 inches was better than 8. She told me she alwasy thought jumping him at 8 was rather silly. So we'll be returning to AKC agility in preferred at 4 inches. Next trial is in January. He's loving running at 4 in class. 

So the moral of the story is always get a second opinion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two Fosters Here And Gone

Life was crazy and I've had two fosters here and adopted that somehow never made it to the blog so I thought I'd take a moment just to talk about them and keep there memory here in this little dog scrap book that my Untrainable blog has become. 

 This is Charlotte (AKA: Char Char, Charcolate, Chary, and Chary-bary). Charlotte was the second best foster we've ever had. Wilbur being on top.  She came to us as a stray taken from a shelter in Charlottesville Virginia. No idea how long she'd been out on the street. After her dental she walked away with only one tooth left to her name. She was probably around ten.

 Luckily she was adopted very quickly (or she might have been staying with us). She had the loveliest disposition and was so well behaved, potty trained and a total cuddle bug. She lived in our laps. Her only negative was her propensity to dart out doors. A trait that might have been why she was in the shelter in the first place. But who could not look for a girl like her. She was a tiny tiny girl at only 6 pounds. A trait which I think is one reason she was adopted so quickly. She barley barked which was lovely.

She was the only dog that actually slept with Sean under covers at night (he is a squirmier). Even Gauis can't manage this feat. She survived the great power loss episode and hurricane of August. During which she ate and entire package of ginger snaps and puked all over the bed. This was when we had no hot water or washer or drawer. Not her best moment. She used to jump on the couch and look out the window as we left. Which was freaking adorable (see photograph below)

She stayed with us only a month before she went to her new home in Soulth Carolina. She was adopted only one day after her photo made the website. If she had stayed longer I would have worked with her on getting CGC certified. Her mom and dad are lovely and have already sent us photos of her in her new home. Her new mom is a retired veterinary technician and a real animal lover. She has many brothers and sisters including another dachshund and a Boston terrier and three other dogs. They are retired and she will get a lot of attention there. She was a dear to have I wish she could have stayed longer.  Her name is now Willow.

 This is Sammy (AKA The Samster, Sammy-bammy) was our last foster. We had him for about a month and a half. He was surrendered because his owner was in the hospital and no longer in a position to take care of him. He was nine years old but man he didn't act like it. Probably one of the most active dachshunds we've had here in foster care. You can see him digging holes in my yard to your left. He had a grade four heart murmur which you could feel through his chest. But it didn't seem to bother him much and the vet told us it was probably congenital and not a big problem since he had no symptoms. He was a good dog but could be difficult.

He was a bit hand shy and would submissively urinate if new people tried to touch him too quickly. He stopped doing this with us after about a week but I had to protect him from unwanted touching by strangers. Other than that he was really great with people and even was comfortable around children as long as they went slow and fed him first. He loved sitting in laps and taking naps with you.

He had a little bit of barrier aggression and would sometimes attack dogs on the leash if they greeted him straight on or with too much excitement. But other than that was generally indifferent to other dogs. He wasn't very socialized with other dogs. He would ignore Gauis completely. Whenever Gauis would try and initiate play with Sammy there would be a fight. This only had to happen a few times for Gauis to decide he wasn't a good playmate.

He had a marking problem and some potty training issues he was really starting to overcome while here. He was fabulous in his crate. He was an expert at finding his way out of my yard and did give me several heart attacks. But he never ran off. I got him a harness the first day because he was such a puller, and he could destroy a dog toy in 0.032 seconds. We bought his an expensive non-destructable squeaker which he finished off in about a minute flat. We were forever saving Gauis' favorite toys from him.

All of that was fine except his absolute obsession with my cat. He didn't want to eat her, he was just fascinated by her and I'll tell you her life is much happier now that he's gone. I'm glade he went to a feline free household. But as big a pain as Sammie could be he was a wonderful dog and we'll miss him.

He went to an adoption event and was an instant favorite, you can see him below with his new mom. There will be another dog in his house but she is apparently as uninterested in other dogs as he is. It's a perfect match and I'm glade he's found his forever home.
 It is strange being foster free at the moment. we're not used to having a one dog household. I'll try to introduce our new arrive as soon as they get here instead of after they are already gone next time. :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Trick Title: Shell Game

Our new trick for our Championship Trick title. I hope you enjoy. I had some hang ups teaching this one. Like Gauis' initial insistence on no sniffing and just guessing frantically at random. Some hound dog he is. But we figured it out.

Gauis had his first try at Senior earthdog today. He worked for the appropriate length of time, and recalled to Sean though it took 60 seconds. But he didn't get to the rat in time as he had to make a detour to bark at the judges.  He gets another go at it tomorrow with Sean, I however will be at work.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Being the 'Off Breed'

For most of the sports Gauis and I do we are considered an 'Off Breed". Meaning, we aren't the typical breed of dog you see competing in that particular activity. The only thing this isn't true for is earth dog. I've been thinking about that a lot and I think like being off breed most of the time for a couple of reasons.

The first one is the public

I have come out of the agility ring after horrible runs, where almost nothing seemed to go well. My handling sucked, Gauis obstacle performance sucked you name it. Bad runs you just want to crawl under a rock afterwards. Without fail you know what happens the moment I'm out of the ring? Applause, then someone runs up to tell me how wonderful it was. Not my friends or people who know me, strangers. They tell me what a good run it was, and how Gauis obviously loved agility, and that he's a joy to watch. I'm thinking, 'did they see the same run I did? We were a mess' but then I remember that he's a dachshund. To them it's a miracle he's here at all. It's like winning first place just for showing up.

People have such a fabulous heart felt joyful reaction to seeing Gauis' training. He's always the favorite at our trick demos. But we're almost always the only little dog. I practically get mobbed afterwards. And gosh if they actually own a dachshund it's on a whole other level. I'm like a miracle worker. They want to tell me everything about their dog and what he/she can do, or more generally what he or she can't do. It's really fun to make people happy. I don't think watching a border collie run, or a golden do a perfect heeling routine gives people has much joy. Sure they are works of art to watch and there's a lot of joy in it, but people love watching Gauis. Sometimes I do feel like were the five minute rodeo clown routine in the middle of all the bull riding. We'll back to your regularly scheduled border collie runs in just a moment, first lets watch this cute little dachshund knock bars and take the wrong obstacles and double the course time. But people love it and we have fun.

The second reason I like having an off breed is no guilt,

I have friends with beautiful wonderful dogs from good agility lines and I'm always hearing them say things like... If only my dog had a better handler he'd be a champion. Or If only I was a better trainer we could make nationals, this dog deserves better. Sometimes I even hear people on the side lines make comments about other peoples dog along the same lines. I never have to worry about that. When ever I start a thought with if only Gauis had a different owner all I can practically finish it with is, He'd be 10 pounds over weight, probably wouldn't even know what sit means, and probably would be biting people by now. (Ahem, no offense to my fellow dachshund owners but I work at a vet clinic. I'm privy to a fair sampling of the dachshund community)  I'm confident there is no better owner out there for Gauis than me and that this home only makes him better and shows him to his full potential.

I think its important to not use low expectations as an excuse. Sure whatever Gauis does is gravy, but that doesn't me we can't always strive to be better or have big plans. In summary having an off breed dog has a lot of benefits I think I would miss if I went to a more traditional breed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Novice Tricks Class

So recently I was asked to teach a Novice Trick class. I'm really excited, though due to scheduling it might not happen. I made a syllabus anyhow and sent it to my boss. I thought I'd post it here. Basically the idea is to teach or explain how to teach what I call foundation tricks. These are basic behaviors that when mastered can help one achieve more complex tricks. Here's what I have planned:

Plans for a five week trick course consisting of one hour session a week. General break down of each class would involve me first introducing two Foundation Tricks. This is a simple trick which can become more complicated tricks in the future when mastered (list of foundation tricks is outlined below). Introduction and practice of the foundation trick would take up approximately the first 30-45 minutes of class. The last 30-15 minutes would be more free form. 

On the first day of class students would give me a list of one or two tricks they are really interested in teaching their dog and we would help them through getting those tricks down pat during the second half of class. The last day of class after introducing the foundation trick we’ll have a little recital where the class can show off what they’ve learned. The focus of the class is not them mastering all of these tricks in the time allotted, but giving students the tools to teach all or some of them on their own. 

The first day of class will be a little different as it will involve explaining the difference between shaping and luring and why they are both essential tools in teaching tricks. It will also involve explaining the proper use of a clicker and how it’s used in shaping. Teaching how one adds a verbal to tricks as well as how to change the name for a particular trick. As well as emphasizing short training sessions and the importance of doing your homework. Then I will introduce the simplest Foundation Tricks afterwards they’ll let me know which one or two tricks they want to master by the end of the course.

1)      SPIN
How it’s taught: Lure the dog in a circle. Quickly eliminate food lure from hand. Slowly reduce hand movement. Add a verbal. (Can also be free shaped if you have a lot of time on your hands :) )

What this trick becomes: Nothing really, other than a way to teach directionals in agility I guess. But it’s a really easy trick to start off with and most dogs learn it quickly. Also a good way to explain how to use luring effectively.

How it’s taught: Put hand behind back for a few seconds and then introduce it to dog as a novel object. When dog goes to sniff the hand mark with a ‘yes’ or a click. Remember to fed on the extended hand. Introduce a target the same way.

What this trick becomes: A great beginner trick to introduce people to the concept of shaping. It becomes, ring a bell; close a drawer or cabinet (for larger dogs); pick a certain object (Like in the shell game); and it’s the beginning of shaping a dog to hold something in its mouth.

How it’s taught: Hold food in a closed fist. Encourage the dog to get the food. When in frustration he/she paws at the hand in order to get the food mark and reward (this may be a struggle for dogs with stellar it’s your choice). To add target have a dog that is already comfortable with shake. Add a target to your hand and ask for shake; mark and reward for pawing at target. Slowly remove target from your hand. Alternatively; us a sealed Tupperware container filled with food. When dog paws at the container to get the food, mark and reward out of hand.

What this trick becomes: Shake, High Five, Wave, Chorus line Kicks, Pressing a button, Turning on a light (Bigger dogs), Being Embarrassed, Holding a toy in one paw (bigger dogs), Drumming, Playing the piano, Cross Your Paws, perch work, all four feet in a dish

How it’s taught: Put hula hoop on the ground and lure dog trough hoop. Slowly raise hoop. Add a verbal command and eliminate lure.

What this trick becomes: Jump through my legs (little dogs), jump over a baton, Jump through my arms (Which can become jump into my arms), Jump over my outstretched arms (big dogs), Jump over another dog, Jump up in the air on command, Jump through a rolling hoop, Pick a hoop up on the ground and go through it.

5)      ROLL OVER
How it’s taught: Ask the dog to down. Slowly use the food as a lure to turn its head over its shoulder. Reward the head turn several times. Then lure further and reward any shifting of weight. Increase criteria on the shifting of weight until you can get the dog to lie on its side. Usually at this point it goes more quickly into fully rolling over. Some dogs get this very quickly others need to go slow.

What the trick becomes: Play dead, roll yourself in a blanket, break dance

6)      GO TO PLACE
How it’s taught: Place a towel on the floor and wait for the dog to show interest in the towel. When they look at sniff, or step towards the towel mark and reward. After doing this several times wait for the dog to place one foot on the towel. Then increase criteria until all four paws are on the towel. Then increase distance from the towel till the dog can be sent there. And a position (such as a down) is desired and then a cue.  

What the trick becomes: Go to a particular place marked on the ground is something desired by most dogs used in film and television. It is also a great way to gain distance on behaviors. Used to teach a send out in obedience, jump on a stool or pedestal, get into a suitcase.
7)      SIT PRETTY
How it’s taught: Ask dog to sit and then lure into position. Use lure to maintain dogs sitting position. Add duration, remove lure.

What the trick becomes: Stand Tall, Dog Calisthenics, Jump up and Close a Door, Pray (The jump up with both paws part), Hop on Hind Legs, Hug toy to Chest

8)      BACK UP
How it’s taught: Sit on the floor (Or in a chair if you have a larger dog) with your legs stretched into a V. Click and feed the dog very close in toward our belly button. Then wait. Most dogs will take a step backwards. Click and reward the step back. Make sure to reward close into the body once again. Repeat several times until the dog understands what’s being rewarded. Then increase criteria to more steps back. When dog reaches about four or five steps backwards. Stop rewarding closes into the body and begin tossing the treats behind the dog (If large enough try to bowl the treats between the dogs legs. After dog has reached desired distance, add a word. Slowly move to standing position and proof.Also can be taught by using two crates to create a shoot if dog is struggling.

What the trick becomes: Lift your hind foot, Hand Stand, Reverse heeling, Backward figure 8s between legs, Spin backward in a circle, Spin backward in a circle around handler.

How it’s taught: If dog has a natural retrieve add cue and food reward, work on diversifying objects used. Then shorten the distance object needs to be thrown to get desired interest. Move to simply dropping object on the floor, placing object on the floor with hand then handing the dog object. If dog does not have a natural retrieve shape mouthing at a dowel. Entice dog to nose touch object.  Reward this several times then withhold reinforcement. When dog mouths object in frustration or opens mouth at all click and reward. If dog is struggling with dowel, present more enticing object such as a bully stick. Click and reward mouthing with higher value treats.

What this trick becomes: Carry my purse, put away toys, basketball, hold a sign, put one food bowl into another, open the fridge to get a beer, walk another dog, paint, pass a note, put money in a  bank, hold a flag

How it’s taught: Put dog into a down and lure the head down and outstretched so the chin touches the ground. Click and treat (I free shaped this so I will also discuss how to do that).

What this trick becomes: Shake your head yes, the foundations of how to teach shake your head no, the head down portion of say your prayers, and at the end of rolling yourself in a blanket. 

What do you guys think? Sound like a class you'd want to take? :)