Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Jake's Hardness of Hearing

Backfill: May 7
OK, it's clearer now that Jake *is* hearing more of what I'm saying than I had thought. I don't know why, in a quiet room, when I say his name directly behind his head in a variety of tones and loudnesses, I get no response. But on the agility field, when I say it loudly and in a low voice (not the usual high-pitched excited voice I use in agility, not necessarily intentionally), he often responds perfectly.

Karey pointed out the first day of camp when she saw Jake run that he seemed to be responding to my voice commands.

Rachel had told me before camp about a vibrating collar that she used with her agility dog, Spinner, when he showed signs of losing his hearing. She took it to camp to loan to me to try it out, but the battery was dead. Today I got new batteries for the transmitter and collar and started playing with it. Not clear what Jake thinks about it--he had no reaction to it at all as I started loading it up like you'd load up a clicker. He was too excited about the junk food to really pay much attention to a little vibrating whoosie thingie.

I'm going to try using it like I'd use a clicker normally, to mark desired behaviors. Especially & particularly, I want to mark him looking at me while doing agility obstacles. We'll see how persistent I am with this...

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Power Paws Camp, Day Zero

Backfill: May 7
Thursday morning and time to head for the hills--or for Turlock, whichever comes second. I mostly packed the car over the week, so it was ready to go this morning after I did some actual billable work. Decided to take everything with me, even stuff I don't usually take, because what-the-heck I'll be there for 5 days, 4 nights.
  • Canopy
  • sun shades for its sides
  • 3 floor mats
  • sun umbrella (forgot the umbrella stand so never actually used it)
  • both crates plus Remington's larger crate, figuring I'd bump both dogs up one size for this extended stay
  • tent and groundcloth
  • air mattress and 2 pumps (yes there's a reason)
  • Mattress pad, flannel sheets, pillow, down comforter with comforter cover, wool blanket, two extra blankets just in case
  • 3 ensulite pads for me and the dogs
  • dog beds for the tent
  • dog mats for the crates
  • water buckets for the crates
  • Tika's metal crate, mat, and bowl that always stay in the car
  • hammer (always in the car)
  • dog emergency kit and spare misc supplies bag (always in the car)
  • Current training/competing gear, including stopwatch, 2 rubber frisbees, 3 Riot Tugs of various colors and sizes, squeakies, stopwatch, clear acrylic targets, clickers of 2 kinds up the wazoo, WetOnes cannister, 3 slip leads (for 2 dogs, well, you never know when one will spring an extra neck)
  • Bag o'clips for attaching sun screens and other random stuff
  • paperwork bag--lists of titles & legs, notepads, pens, name-and-photo tags for crates
  • Tent light and extra flashlight for those midnight potty runs
  • Suitcase-duffle with 8 changes of clothes and a little extra (in case I should get, say, hot and sweaty or if it rains)
  • Rain gear just in case
  • Collapsing chair
  • Collapsing table
  • Snacks for me for emergencies and tasty fresh bread for Thursday dinner
  • "Real" camera and gear in case I have time for "real" photography, digital snapshot camera, and camcorder
  • Tons of pooper-bag refills
  • Dog food bowls and food for 5 days
  • Tons of chopped-up dog junk food goodies for training, plus belt-clip goodie bag plus Tug'N'Treat
  • Pedometer
  • X-pen, which I don't usually use any more, but thought it might come in handy
  • Two bags of stuff that I'm delivering to various people who'll be there, some from myself and some from other people
  • Camp map, list of instructors, preliminary schedule, all that sort of paperwork
  • Gallon jug of water
  • Beach towels for covering chair or misc
  • Rags in case of muddy feet
  • Bungies of various sizes and shapes
  • At least 4 or 5 different mesh & zipper bags, mostly purple and/or black, to haul dog stuff in
  • Plenty of spare toys of various ilk
  • Probably more I'm not thinking of at the moment

I actually get out the door around noon, arriving there before 2:00, giving me time to park the van, potty the dogs, and head over to the Dining Hall to check in.

In case I didn't bring enough stuff with me, check-in provides a truckload of gifts from various vendors and Friends Of Camp:
  • Camp t-shirt (OK, that's 156 T-shirts in my dresser devoted exclusively to t-shirts; just read that "the average American owns 25 t-shirts." Ha! I've just covered 5 others who own *none*, thank you very much.)
  • Duffle with zipper and velcro pocket for hauling camp stuff around. Of course I brought my draw-string duffle from *last* year's camp to haul stuff around--oh, well, you can never have too much stuff stuffed in various bags
  • SPF 30 lip ointment on neck rope. Keep forgetting to carry it around. (Have my own in my suitcase AND in my glove compartment. You can never have too much SPF 30 lip ointment. Oh--wait--yes, you can.)
  • Sealable plastic coffee mug. For the coffee I don't drink.
  • Nifty shoulder-strapped insulated bag for hauling around a bottle of cold water. Hmm. I was planning on carrying my bottles of cold water in my duffle. Good plan. Stick to it.
  • Two varieties of clickers--the old-fashioned kind and the new kind with the extended plastic button that you can click with your foot.
  • The Camp Book, with all of the instructors' courses and course notes and articles.
  • My badge.
  • Some goodies for the dogs.

Meanwhile, the friend next to whom I'm camping arrives. Chitchat. Discuss whether to set up in shade under tree with birds next to dumpster or out in the sun. Discuss some more. And some more. Ooops, dash over to the shade of the nearby giant oak with my chair and 6,000 other people to watch Wendy Pape's 2:30-4:00 excellent lecture on training contacts.

I come away with pages of notes, many of which I can probably apply to my current dogs and which I'm dying to try on a new dog.


Finally a break to set up my dogs' crates under tree in shade of dumpster, chat with various people about who's setting up where, briefly frisbee the dogs, toss my tent out of the car. I bought a large container of Enteman's chocolate chip cookies to tide us over during emergencies. Discover that Karey has brought a large container of chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips to tide us over during emergencies. Good thing we're exercising this week.

Back to the Dining Hall for the mandatory 6:00 Camper Meeting to get all the rules and changes and exciting info and be introduced to the instructors.

Finally I can hurriedly set up my tent before it gets dark (sunset around 8:00). It is VERY windy. This will be challenging if it keeps up all four days. And it's pretty chilly, too, as the sun goes down. And I didn't bring my long underwear. Feels like a change is blowing in, though. It's supposed to be warm. Then we prepare a nice chicken salad with bread for dinner. My brand new lantern lights up when I put the batteries in, turns off when I turn it off to put the shade on, and never turns on again. Dagnabbit.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

It's Time For Camp!

Backfill: May 1 '04
And tomorrow morning we're on our way to 5 days at Power Paws Agility Camp! I'm excited; I'm exhausted; so much to do, so little time.

Monday, April 19, 2004

What a wonderful weekend at USDAA: Jake's turn

Backfill: May 1 '04
Jake's weekend was much better, too--only 3 for 7, but better than nuthin', for sure! (And--holy Toledo-smacking gumshoes--that was his 100th Masters/P3-level qualifying leg. Blows me away, thinking about it. I remember busting my buttons when he finished his MAD way back when--first masters-level title I ever put on a dog in USDAA, and that required all of 7 Qs. What a good boy he's been. )

Anyway, this weekend he almost had a fourth one--he did much better in Snooker than the other Performance dogs, but he was half a second short of completing the #7 obstacle in the closing, and because of the opening I chose, he had to get all the way through the closing to qualify. Had a bunch of wide turns, comes from his deafness and me still not being able to figure out how to avoid him getting in front of me and deciding to keep going in a straight line.

For the last run of the weekend, he had a wonderful Jumpers run; that was Jake's 10th Performance-3 jumpers leg, giving him the AJD title. (P3 equiv of Jumper Champion.) I'm quite proud of him!

He qualified on a challenging Grand Prix course for the Performance Grand Prix; he now needs one more to be eligible for Perf. GP in AZ in Nov. Like Tika, after a zillion GP qualifications over the last 4-5 years, he had been 0 for 4 up until this weekend. The GP Nationals actually has 3 versions now: The "championship" track, for which Tika qualified (the "real" GP); the Peformance GP, which is the same thing but with dogs at lower heights, lower A-frame, and no double or triple jumps (plus a little extra time); and the Veterans GP, which is the same thing as the GP but the only eligible dogs are those who have--at any time previously in their career--competed in the GP Nationals, which Jake did twice, the 2 years it was in CA.

Jake missed both Standard Qs due to running across the table instead of stopping on it. Back to practicing in the back yard, relarnin' him that tables are to *down* on, not to run across as if doing a gamble at all times. Sigh.

Since I"m backfilling and don't have my papers here, I don't remember his 3rd Q. Will get back to you.

What a wonderful weekend at USDAA: Tika's Turn

Backfill: May 1 '04
Tika was 7 for 9 this weekend at the USDAA in Elk Grove--a bit better than the previous weekend, indeed. She didn't Q in either Advanced Gamblers class (her first time in Advanced Gmbl); she did one of them beautifully but knocked a bar; the other one she did the sendout to the 2nd obstacle perfectly but didn't do any sign of an "out" to the 3rd--something to work on.

She had two MOST lovely Starters Jumpers Qs, taking 1st place in both--which finished her AD (finally!). No spins or hesitations anywhere. That's after *20*(!) starters jumpers Qs without a clean run among them. Probably not a record, but that covers a year and a half of jumpers runs. What a relief! Now she'll be in Advanced in everything--except, oh, wait--

She had two VERY lovely Advanced standard Qs, taking 1st and 3rd--which means that she finished her Advanced Standard title in 2 weekends! So she's now a Masters Standard dog...yikes...

She Qed in the Grand Prix on a course that eliminated about 50% of the 22" and 26" dogs, for 9th place of 37 26" dogs (of all things, she missed her weave entry!). Now we need one more Grand Prix Q to be able to go to the Nationals in Arizona in November. Now, finally, it's in sight. (She Qed her 1st 2 GPs ever, last year, but was 0 for 4 for this year until now.)

She & partner Qed & took 3rd in Advanced relay--delay was largely that she missed the weave entry *twice*.

And she Qed and took 3rd in Starters Snooker--she knocked the first bar but I've learned my lesson and have been planning for *every* red jump "what do I do if she knocks *this* bar?", which I never had to do with my other dogs. -- This finished her starters Snooker title.

Start line: Stayed every time; lay down once but otherwise didn't have to repeat the "sit".

Contacts: Oh. My. Goodness. She is so good! I still need more speed on the descent. And why all of a sudden is she getting the dogwalk up. Luck? We've practiced casually with the little yellow contact board our instructor loaned us but not *on* the dogwalk, so maybe that or maybe not? I stopped running her up the side that's in a depression in my yard so that she was always flying onto it. Maybe that or maybe not? Probably luck.

Weave poles. This was the word for the weekend. BObbled in GP, in Pairs, and in both gamblers opening sequences. Sheesh.

Flat-out speed: Sunday's jumpers was a way hauling fast course where the dogs could go wide open. I'm still trying to figure out where she fits with the "big dogs" on ground speed:
  • Of all 22" and 26" dogs (43 dogs) who completed the course without spins or other bobbles, Lark Plummer was one second faster but knocked a bar; Annie (?not sure who this is) was .4 faster but knocked a bar; Kobe Cutherbertson was .1 faster but knocked a bar and has an AWFUL stutter-step--if Bill could fix that, he'd be dynamite! And Ty Rodgers was .2 slower but he knocked 2 bars...hmm, actually I wonder whether he actually ran past a jump and had to go back for it? I'll have to ask Sandy.

  • Anyway, I don't know whether I could have coaxed an extra second out of Tika any way in the world. But the fact that I'm thinking about that instead of how to avoid knocked bars is a nice change. :-) That was 145 yards at 6.75 YPS.
And why isn't she knocking bars all of a sudden? I've been doing some of the Susan Salo exercises but not all of them and maybe only a couple of times a week. Been trying to do circles with her in both directions over jumps. And jumping her at home and in class at a mixture of jump heights. Luck? Progress?

I'm repeating over and over "don't get cocky!"

So, after all that--last trial, Tika was in all Starters except had just moved to Advanced Standard. This trial she was in Advanced Standard, Pairs, and Gamblers and still in Starters Gamblers and Snooker. For the Bay Team trial in 2 weeks, she'll be in Masters Standard and Advanced everything else. Quite a shift in quite a short time-- (I had thought that USDAA had "versatility" titles if you finished all of your titles at a given level--but noooo; versatility is just about getting your 3 std legs and at least 1 of each of the 4 games. You get nada extra for getting 3 of each of the games other than the games titles. So Tika finished (because she couldn't move up) her Starters Snooker, Gamblers, and Pairs titles, and had 2 of the 3 legs for her Jumpers title. Pretty dang good, actually. But no reason to stay in Starters for that 3rd jumpers leg. I can be knockin' bars in Advanced as well as I can in Starters!)

Friday, April 16, 2004

The Latest Case of Down Syndrome

At Wikipedia, there is a discussion about whether the main entry for a certain genetic mutation should be Down's Syndrome or Down Syndrome. I thought I'd look it up in the dictionaries to see what I could see. Webster's had only the former. Someone suggested that it might be a British English thing, so I pulled out my OED, condensed version, and popped it open to the Ds. It's in really small print.

So I plopped onto the floor, which all three dogs thought was great fun and they came leaping in to see what great game I was offering to play. Fending them off, I pulled out the super-duper magnifying glass that comes with the OED, set the volume on the floor, and leaned over it on my elbows. There were pages of Ds, including several (condensed) pages of "down". Trying to find all of the appropriate entries, I mumbled out loud to myself as I often do when I'm trying to concentrate. "Down," I mumbled, running a finger and the magnifying glass along the pages, "down....down...down...down..." I gradually became aware that the dogs had all slowly and quietly sunk into reclining positions around me. Well--they ARE well-trained dogs, right? Although Jake lay down, too, and he claims to be completely deaf. But he also claims to read lips. So who knows.

Tika's Toy Auto-return Facility

I've heard of some friends' dogs who take a ball to the top of the stairs, drop it, then chase it down with great delight, grab it, and repeat endlessly.

Tika has figured out a similar maneuver that requires less expenditure of energy.

She has always wanted to have something in her mouth to shake around violently while I'm getting dressed in the morning. This was originally my bedding. I scolded her over & over, used bitter apple, put her into a down stay, all that stuff, for months. (Maybe only 2-3 months; I don't recall exactly now.) Then, perhaps after attending a John Rogerson seminar, in which he talked about *substituting* acceptable behaviors (which I already knew about but hadn't thought about much), I decided that the thing to do would be to keep a nice, floppy Rope toy in the bedroom that I could cram into her mouth every morning. Works like a charm. She shakes the bejeezus out of it, flings it into the air, pounces on it. Tries to get me to play a little tug of war, which I do--a very little (since I'm trying to get dressed). She prefers to do all of this on the bed. Understandable, since there's much more room on the king-sized bed than there is in the spaces on the floor around it. And no chance of whacking your head on something hard while you're doing the death-shake on the toy with half your body involved. Sometimes while shaking or flinging, the toy flies off the bed. So I pick it up and give it back to her to protect my bedding.

Fast-forward to 2 years later. Just recently realized that it goes like this: Tika gets toy, gets on bed. Shakes it a little. Shoves it against me to see whether I'll play tug of war. If not, walk to the edge, drop it on the floor, and stare at it. Mom picks it up and tosses it back on the bed. Pounce! Shake! Walk to the edge of the bed. Drop it on the floor. Stare at it. Mom picks it up and tosses it back on the bed. Pounce! Shake! Walk to the edge of the bed...

So someone managed to train *someone* quite thoroughly, but the someones somehow changed roles--

Monday, April 12, 2004

The Jake Weekend Report

Not nearly as good as with Tika. This is the first week in class and the first weekend of competition where I have been completely certain that Jake is deaf. He did very well in class Wed. night, fast and happy and we didn't mess up more than usual, I don't think. But in competition this weekend, he seemed slow and uncertain at many times. I tried very hard to plan courses where I could get in front of him or cross in front of him on difficult passages, and it occurred to me to wonder, after a while, whether I'm overhandling in an attempt to compensate, when in fact he had been doing quite well in previous weekends considering that I didn't *know* that he was deaf.

We got 0 for 7 Qs this weekend, and it is very rare for Jake to get zero Qualifying scores in a weekend. Admittedly, the Masters classes and the Grand Prix Qualifier were among the tougher ones I've seen in a while, but still--

In the Snooker class, he did much better than any other Performance dog, but we were half a leap away from finishing obstacle 7 in the closing, which is what we needed to get a Qualifying score. He'd have made it in time if he hadn't kept charging straight ahead on 2 occasions when i needed him to to make a u-turn and come with me, and I do blame that on his deafness--he's not looking at me, he seems to be waiting to hear my voice commands.

Both of his Standard runs were nice except for snafus with the table, which is not usually a problem for us. The first day, he ran onto and then right off the table instead of doing a Down, thinking, I believe, that it was a gamble and we were done with the run. The second day he stopped before the table and turned and looked at me, for a refusal fault. I don't know whether I can blame either of those on overhandling or on deafness; they just seemed like weird mix-ups.

Saturday's Gamblers class was, coincidentally, almost exactly the same gamble that we had practiced in class last Wednesday night--dog goes into a U-shaped tunnel to your right and blasts out parallel to you at the gamble line, then you have to flip them into weave poles going straight away from you. He flipped very nicely into the poles but then turned back to look at me--probably because he couldn't hear me saying "weaveweaveweave" which has always been the accompanyment to finishing the poles.

Sunday's Gambler's class was probably doable except that in the opening he flew off the dogwalk while I was waiting for him to stop at the bottom and proceded to land on the table, which was part of the gamble, which meant that my planned navigation path through a gamble tunnel could no longer be used without negating the gamble, so we went back over the dogwalk--and he flew off the other end, and at that point I just wanted him to get a da**ed dogwalk contact (plus our options were pretty limited by then, too), so I tried again, and he blasted off of it for a 3rd time. By then, we didn't have anywhere near enough opening points even if we had gotten the gamble and I tried an approach to the gamble that let him get ahead of me a little and when I tried to turn him it took too long because he wasn't looking at me and then when he came back to me he had no momentum. Popping the dogwalk contacts has nothing to do with him being deaf. But having trouble turning into the gamble had a little to do with it.

In the Grand Prix he also blew off a dogwalk contact and continued straight out over an incorrect obstacle of an offcourse elimination.

But he did some very nice moves on the standard and GP courses that caught a lot of other dogs.

Actually in the run after the Gamblers run, I backed way off on the dogwalk, rather than pushing him through it and pointing down and yelling "Contact!", which is what I've been doing in class and he's been getting them almost perfectly. Instead I ran a little behind him and away from the dogwalk and he slowed down and stopped at the bottom like he's supposed to (well, he's not supposed to slow down, but he is supposed to stop) and then looked up at me. Danged dog. So that particular style of driving & overhandling, which I had used in Gamblers, apparently is counterproductive.

The Tika Weekend Report

Another weekend, another USDAA trial, in Dixon this time.

Tika was an excellent girl. She stayed in a sit at the start line every time but once, when she lay down after I walked away. But the judge stopped to talk to the scribe, so I was able to put Tika back into a sit. Worked nicely! And I didn't even have to pay the judge extra.

She had lovely contacts--except for the dogwalk-up in the Grand Prix regional qualifier, which she jumped *over*. 2nd USDAA in a row where we've had a straight side-on approach to the dogwalk, and she did the same thing last time. So today I got out my pole in the yard and had her wrapping around it and onto the dogwalk like our instructor showed us in class a few months back; I never faded it when she first showed it to us and I practiced it only a little for a couple of weeks.

That'll learn me. Was discussing this with a co-student & competitor this weekend, noting how I've worked so hard on getting Tika to be able to enter the weave poles & tunnels from any direction, and she said that nowadays she figures the dogs have to be able to independently do *any* of the obstacles around the clock (that is, from any approach angle) because the challenges keep getting harder as the competitors get better. This ain't your daddy's agilitymobile!

She was focused and fast, except the down side on at least one dogwalk, where she just trotted.

She carried out over final obstacles just beautifully (which has been a problem at times where she turns and comes back to me, wasting time).

In Sat's Standard class, there were several places where she spun and and was obviously unclear about where to go next and knocked 3 bars in the process--all stupid handling things although I don't exactly remember what I did/didn't do--but she didn't get frustrated with me, kept working, didn't grab my feet or let her attention wander.

Other than that, she had no bars down this weekend (oh, wait, no, she had one in pairs) --

But I still couldn't get a jumpers leg! In the Grand Prix, she veered towards me as I was running towards the teeter and cut in front of me to take the tire for an off course. In her jumpers run, we had a straight-away heading for a U-shaped tunnel and she was looking at me and starting to veer towards me--I was afraid she was going to cut in front of me and take an off-course on a jump the same way she did in the GP, so I said "OUT through!", and she very nicely did a perfect out, veered *away* from me and took the wrong end of the tunnel. Sighhhh. She was still about the 3rd fastest starters dog even with the extra tunnel. And it was a *beautiful* run otherwise; I was just about heartbroken at my mistake. (You'd think someone with so many years of experience & runs & dogs wouldn't let a little jumpers run get her down...)

That's now 20 USDAA jumpers legs that have had either faults or an E. Unbelievable. I didn't realize that it had been so many!

She took 1st and Q on Sunday in Advanced standard, Starters snooker, and Starters gamblers. She took 2nd and Q Saturday in starters gamblers and Qed in pairs--5 of 8 for the weekend. BUT what I WANTED was a Q in Jumpers to get out of starters and a Q in the GP! (But she did finish her Starters Pairs & Gamblers titles, and she has 2 snooker legs, so she's almost all out of starters anyway except for jumpers.)

Really, she was a wonderful, wonderful dog this weekend.

Friday, April 09, 2004

...But Nothin's Wrong With the Sniffer

I was using food treats (doggie sausage cut into roughly 1/4" cubes) in the yard while practicing some agility moves with Tika. One piece popped out of my hand and landed among the wood-chip mulch in front of the U-shaped tunnel. The ends of the tunnel are about 8 feet apart and the food dropped probably about 4 feet in front of and roughly between the two ends. I couldn't find it and Tika didn't notice that I dropped it, so I ignored it.

I got Jake out a bit later. Got him riled up with his toy and sent him charging into the tunnel. He blasted in, charged out, skidded to a halt about 6 feet beyond the end of the tunnel, made a 180-degree turn led by his nose, bee-lined to within about 4 inches of where the food had dropped, zeroed in on it quickly, scarfed it down, then turned and zoomed on in his original direction as if nothing had happened.

Wish my nose was that good!

Agility With A Newly Deaf Dog

I'm working on my handling of Jake in agility training realizing that he's deaf. It's weird to be thinking "he's deaf" because I find myself saying things quietly or not at all while I'm concentrating on my body language and on getting the heck out in front of him so he can see me (and I thought I had to move fast with Tika!), but I think that--as I and others have noticed-- my body language includes my face and mouth movement and I think he does still hear *some* things, so I have to remember to say everything I used to *and* to do more and different body language. It's very odd to remember to do both. Or maybe it's odd that I have to work hard to remember to do what I've been doing all along!

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

What Jake Hears

I keep experimenting to see what he hears. (See what he hears?) I think I've seen a twitch in one ear when I do a clicker behind his head, sometimes, but the twitch muscle apparently doesn't connect to his brain because he doesn't look up to see what's happening. Tried a bunch of the sounds on the computer. Nothing. And that lovely squeakie-toy sound used to keep him entertained for hours. Ah, the joy of dumb animals! Sitting and staring at various parts of a computer for hours on end trying to figure out where the sound was coming from! Not that I was sitting there for hours, clicking the "play" button, and watching Jake watch the computer...

OK, I inadvertently found something that he heard. Picture Jake lying sacked out & apparently sound asleep on his side on the office floor, head pointed away from me. Now go here. (If you can play a .wav file.) At the climax of "towering over your head," Jake lifted his head abruptly and looked over his shoulder at the computer in what was clearly horror, then shifted his gaze to me with severe remonstrance.

I'm sorry, but even to get Jake's attention I will not stroll the agility field imitating William Shatner performing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds--

Deaf Dog Examples and Analysis

What's odd is that Jake seems to respond to some sounds or commands sometimes but at most times I could swear he's completely deaf (doesn't respond to his name or a squeaky directly behind him, for example). He still does "left" and "right" when in front of me and looking up at me--how does he do it?! Can dogs read lips? He hesitates before doing them, but it seems to me that he always did hesitate a bit (that one-brain-cell thing). I tried mouthing the commands without making any noise, and the percentage of times when he did nothing at all went way up--but when he did something, he usually did the right thing. Is there a subtle difference in my face/throat when I'm not actually saying anything, or is he in fact hearing some kind of sound vibration? It's intriguing...

I'm now trying to figure out how to handle a fast dog on course who doesn't really realize that he can't hear me and that I can't always get in front of. This is probably why we've been having trouble getting Snooker legs recently (no response from him when I'm trying to call him off an obstacle).

Other things that he seems to respond to:

Odd noises in the environment, but without a clear sense of direction. For example, I used the mongo hole-punch this morning while he was cat-napping on the office floor. It emitted a loud squeak/thunk. He immediately looked up, but in the opposite direction, out towards the front door, and peered in that direction as though trying to hear more.

His name when playing fetch--I send him behind me and he takes off running and I yell "Jake" and he spins back towards me. Sometimes but not every time. But lying in a quiet room facing away from me, he doesn't respond at all to anything, even me yelling his name. Is it a subtle body language thing in the yard?

The other dogs barking it up in the other room. But he doesn't immediately jump up and join them or start immediately barking. He looks up, alert, head and ears pointed in the general direction of the activity, and when the activity doesn't stop, he somewhat hesitantly gets up to go see whether something's going on. When he gets there, he joins enthusiastically in the barking. Is he responding to their physical activity somehow? (I'd be more inclined to believe this if he were lying on a floor that vibrates--but the office is on a concrete slab, and the other dogs are usually up half a story in another part of the house).

How'd he go deaf? Amber died at about 13, with arthritis in her back being her worst challenge. We never noticed her being hard of hearing. Sheba died at about 17. She had some trouble hearing, I think, but not a lot--but then, she had huge fleshy growths inside her ear canals that completely blocked them. Kind of weird but not particularly harmful. My ears sometimes start ringing when Jake gets a loud squeaky toy and squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeaks it a thousand times a minute--and he's been a lot closer to those than I've been! Could that have contributed? (Sort of like rock stars whose music deafens them at an early age.) Then there's Tika--she barked in my face yesterday and it was almost painful to my ears. Considering that she loves to chase Jake when he's playing fetch and leap at his head and yell "Bark!" as he grabs the toy, maybe that's contributed to it.

Who knows. Vet did say that most dogs by 12 or 13 experience some hearing loss.

But it is SOOOOOO heartbreaking that Jake no longer responds to the sound of a squeakie, just about his favorite thing in the universe. That hasn't stopped him, however, from squeaking them enthusiastically--maybe when they're in his mouth he still gets some vibratory feedback?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

And another thing--

How do you wake up a deaf dog without startling him? Jake has always had a fear-startle response to being woken physically. He has relaxed a little since we first got him 6 years ago, but used to be that if he was snoozing and you were lying back on the couch relaxing and you accidentally nudged him with your foot, he'd fly awake and grab for your foot all in one motion.

People had told me that in his early days as a rescue he had a horrible fear of feet and they suspected that he had been kicked a lot. Most of my dogs I've been able to rub their tummies with my toes (when we've both been in extremely lazy mode), but he won't have feet as a tool of affection, although he doesn't automatically try to grab and bite at them (ususally) any more. He did spin and grab at someone's heel at the agility trial 2 (3?) weeks ago when we were doing warm-up tricks and the someone walked by and stepped on his tail (which he has also always hated horribly).

Last couple of days I haven't been able to rouse him by voice, and even trying to touch him gently has him leaping into crazed, half-stunned awakeness, spinning to find his attacker, a feral look in his eyes as he tries to figure out where he is that is quite frightening. And if he's not hearing me, a soothing voice isn't going to help.

As I said--this will be interesting.

Other Random Stuff

Not dog related, but there are a couple of new things posted at finchester.org.

The Deef Dog

What's so odd about the deafness now is how suddenly it seems to have gone from "maybe he's losing a little hearing" to "he can't hear anything at all." I wonder how he ever was responding to me last weekend? We were practicing his "lefts" and "rights", which I haven't done with hand signals in ages, and he seemed to get about the same percentage correct as usual. I practiced calling his name as we'd head out to the ring and give him a goodie when he'd turn his head towards me, and he'd turn sharply when I called him.

But now, even in a quiet room, even if he's seen me with goodies a minute ago, there is no response when I say his name in any tone or volume. It's as if a wall had suddenly dropped into place where before there was merely shadow.

What got me really thinking was Thursday night when I was in the hot tub and he brought his toy over. I told him to "get out, tunnel!", where the tunnel is about 10 feet away from the hot tub. He just looked at me and the toy. I used hand signals. I used arm signals. I spoke really loudly and said it several times. I used "turn, tunnel," and he'd turn with the hand signal but in a complete circle. I stood up. I got out of the hot tub. Finally when we were about 2 feet away from the tunnel, he managed to get into it. I hadn't established at that point that he really wasn't hearing anything; I was still thinking that it was context and for some reason he hadn't figured out how to do what I wanted while I was in a bathing suit. (Worse confusion has been known to occur.)

But the thing that got my gears in the hearing direction was when I realized that Tika, in the background, was doing everything I commanded or signaled Jake to do, including turning, getting out, going into the tunnel repeatedly (even though I use "through" for her instead of "tunnel")--clearly my body language and commands were quite unambiguous.

Today we practiced doing some agility moves with mostly body language. I'm trying to invent some body language and hand/arm signals for things he always did on voice command. I'm starting to practice with some very tight turns coming out of tunnels to try to get him thinking about turning out of tunnels instead of blasting through (a whole different mentality and not sure it's entirely correct).

This will be interesting--


Meanwhile, back at the hot tub, Tika had fetched her own favorite Tika Toy (comes in a variety of favorite Finchester House/Taj Mutt Hall colors), Casey absconded with it, and the next morning when I came out--its handle now matched the previous one that Casey had absconded with a couple of months ago. What is it with the little black dog and handles? I guess every dog has his affectation; Remington's was removing eyes and noses from stuffed animals.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Doubt is Gone--Jake is Quite Deaf

Signals have been so mixed with Jake that I wasn't entirely convinced it was increasing hearing loss rather than some obscure sort of reverse training that had numbed him to his name.

Yesterday morning, Jake was lying here in my office, awake, gazing lackadaisically out the window. My housemate was preparing for work in the dining area, which is about 15 feet away with no wall between there and here. She got out some ta-ta dog goodies, and the other dogs were prancing around with enthusiasm. Jake showed no sign of being aware of anything going on. She called his name. Several times, getting louder. I had to go over and touch him--he didn't have a tremendous startle response, but somewhat of one. When I pointed out the housemate and the goodie, his enthusiasm overflowed and he charged in there to get his just reward.

Today I was gone for the morning. My sister dropped me off out front (so the usual garage door opening & closing didn't happen) and I came in the front door--keys rattling, door unlocking, greeting the other dogs bouncing around. Jake was at the top of the stairs barking in a desultory way, the "yeah, what they said" type of bark that says there's another dog here, too, even if he doesn't know what's going on. As I stepped into view of the stairs, he had already turned so that his head was down the hallway and had stopped barking. I said his name. I said it louder. He just kept walking casually away. I called several times very loudly. Nothing. I banged on the wall, at which point he started barking a little again and came casually back around the corner to see what was going. When he saw me, he turned completely into the little wiggling welcoming happy guy.

How very sad. He's still so good on the agility course. There are deaf dogs competing, but they and their handlers learned to do agility while the dog was deaf. I don't think that Jake understands the concept that he is now differently abled. I don't know that I can handle a dog on course when he's so fast but will have to rely entirely on body language--there are times I just won't be able to get in front of him. I'll have to think very hard about ways to turn visibly for him rather than just signaling with a call and a hesitation in my stride or a slight turn of the shoulders.

I suspect that there's a little vision impairment, too, but (again) nothing I can explicitly put my finger on. Just a few things here and there--

I guess I could retire him. But he seems to be having fun, doing the agility with me. Now that I'm convinced of what the problem is, maybe it will be less frustrating for me to go out there and feel that I've done the right thing yet watch him go on and do some odd and unexpected behavior. If I can treat it as purely for fun and not for competition.

Which means that it might not make sense for me to be planning to run him at the USDAA [intern]national championships in Arizona in November. Those tend to be tough courses.

And the CPE nationals are in June. The courses aren't usually as tough, but there are plenty of them where voice command is very important. If we want to keep competing, I'm going to have to seriously think about training him to really look at me after every obstacle instead of assuming that he's going straight unless called off. What a challenge. Could be interesting. Could be frustrating.

Good thing Tika's doing great now--