a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: August 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shoot the Chute

SUMMARY: Buh-bye to another piece of equipment.

Today, an amazing thing happened: USDAA and AKC on the same day did away with the chute ("collapsed tunnel")! It's a rare case of the Powers That Be listening to competitor's concerns and petitions and acting quickly--and I don't know that the 2 organizations have ever done anything in concert before!

The other astonishing thing is that I don't think I've seen any topic, in all my years on Facebook with all of the agility friends there, where it seems like everyone was posting about that one topic all day long. The crowds rejoiced!

I always thought it was fun to see dogs learn how to get through the fabric part of the chute--they couldn't see where they were going, the material was pressing on their face and head and back, lots of challenges. The down side is that, as dogs have gotten faster and faster, more and more dogs are getting tangled in the material no matter how carefully the chute is "fluffed" before each dog's run. Tres bad juju.

So, its time has come and gone and now everyone's discussing what to do with their barrel and their fabric.  I don't know what I'm going to do with mine.  The former I might just drag out into the yard for the dogs to play on. Nice fabric that I've stored carefully for 15 years or so (and used only a few times when Boost was young, maybe when Tika was younger)? Dunno, dunno, dunno.

In memory of Mr. Chute, here are some highlights of his glory days. (In order: Tika, Boost, Fawkes, Jake, Remington, Tika.)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Class Activites This Week

SUMMARY: What we worked on in class yesterday.

Raw notes primarily for myself and a classmate. Gives just a flavor of what we've been working on since June.

  1. Loose leash walking in a circle, both directions, dogs on both sides for each direction.
    Keep dog's attention on you--if attention wanders, your rate of reward is too low.  If dog moves away from you, turn 180 from direction he's going and walk.  Remember to release and play pretty often.
  2. Always always maintain criteria for exiting the crate. 
    (I've been 99.5% consistent with Zorro.  Lately he seems to have decided that sitting to wait for exit isn't as good as lying down to exit. I think he's just experimenting. We'll get through this.)  (Oh, realized that he doesn't send to his crate very well from more than a couple of feet away--confused because we haven't worked on it. I'll work on it. Maybe.)
  3. Periodically stop and ask for a sit or a down. Work on getting fast responses.
    (Zorro is pretty good on the down almost all the time, but for some reason is confused about sitting and turns it into a down.)  Keep working on gradually introducing distractions (food descending in your hand slowly, etc.).  (Oops. I haven't been.) This week Penni walked closer and closer to the dogs, giving us warning so that we could up the rate of reward.  (Zorro did pretty darned good at paying attention to me after a quick glance away.)
  4. SIDE NOTE: Watch for your dog's brain frying.
    If looks like he's had too much, work loose-leash walking back to the crate for him to get a little rest. (Zorro survived until just about the end of class.  My brain, however...) Per Moe, young dogs are still forming pathways and being shaped by all of their experiences. SHORT training sessions. Can easily do 3 or 5 or 7 sessions through the day of 2-5 minutes depending on your dog.
  5. Step-behinds.  Dog in sit. Stand next to him. Feed treats in front of him. Step back beside his thigh. Keep feeding in front of him. Step quickly across to his other side, keep feeding in front of him, but not if feet move or stands up. Fine if dog's head swings to follow you, but you want dog to always be focusing forward (and it's easier for them to keep their balance).
  6. Line-ups--dog standing, sitting parallel to you, not at an angle or in front or off to the side.
    Moe just demonstrated this, didn't assign or have us do. Goal is to have dog move rear end back towards you.  Hand in collar, keep head in position close to you just as a pivot point, step across (into) muzzle so has to turn head, which should swing butt. Keep stepping across until he moves butt and then reward.
  7. Restrained recalls, 2 each acceleration, deceleration, shoulder turn, front cross into dog, one of each on each side.
    Agility is about fun and fast. You don't want dog walking or trotting to you, but running full out. So quickly get to position and quickly release the dog. If dog won't let you go very far, work on those durations for sit and meanwhile release ASAP just before they're ready to break on their own.  When you throw toy on accels, don't just watch, run to meet dog.  (Zorro is now at least chasing a "lotus" toy with cheese in it. Still won't play with it or anything, but that's progress, and he didn't take off on his own to go exploring.)
  8. Contact trainer board; wobble board or bang game.
    Trainer board: Try to get dog to hop on right up at the end, not in the middle and step/walk to the end.  The instant that all 4 feet are on the board, feet quickly on the end of the board, before the dog has a chance to look up at you; want him focusing on the end of the board.  Ditto bang game.  (Zorro was doing fine then started skewing his back feet away from me off the board. Waited for him to fix it, which he eventually started doing again.)
  9. HOMEWORK: Work on strong touch to target held in your hand.
No class next week. It's USDAA Western Regionals Championship Weekend hosted by The Bay Team, as it is every year.  I have signed up to work just one day.  

Class for Zorro

SUMMARY: Foundations for Agility, mixed results

(The shadows--see what I did there?)

Three or four months ago, I signed up me and Zorro for a Foundations (of agility) class in Morgan Hill with instructors whom I know pretty well, but this is the first time I've taken classes from her/them.

First, let me say that the primary and backup instructors are wonderful. Their instructions are clear, their demo dogs are useful in demoing what they are trying to convey, they work their way through all of the basics in a careful, methodical, rational way so that in theory the handlers and dogs come away with the best possible foundation for becoming agility stars or at least fun companions.

I say theoretically because I'm a lazy, slovenly, excuse-ridden participant. More in a bit.

Second, let me say that the class is intended for (older) puppies. Zorro was 2 when we started, although I sure have seen a lot of puppy in him. Some of the students have never done agility or similar basic obedience training. Some students have trained and run multiple agility champions. So it's a mixed class of people, but the instructors are careful to make sure that the *dog* gets the information that he needs, and to remind us that every dog is starting from scratch even if we think that we know what we're doing.

Which is lovely for Zorro; just being there, in fact, is wonderful training for him as he learns to be around other dogs and to pay attention to me in an environment that's interesting in every direction. We've seen a lot of improvement in him in these 3-ish months.

In short, it's a great class and I feel privileged to be part of it.
Chip comes along for the ride and gets to get out for a while before class (if I'm early enough) and after class to practice some of the things that I practiced with Zorro in class.  Apparently the field is plenty interesting.

However, for me, here are the things:

  • I really wanted a Saturday morning class because weeknight evenings can be frantic after work, with traffic and stress and all, and so much else goes on on weeknights. However, this class starts at 8:00 a.m., sharp, and it's 30 minutes from here. Sooooo I'm getting up at 6:45 to the alarm, with barely enough time to dress myself, collect my stuff and my dogs, and be on my way.

    BUT: I had grown to despise getting up early to the alarm for dog agility after 18 years of it, and now I find that I still resent it deeply despite a long break from agility.  It was my choice to sign up, but, ugh, dragging myself out of bed, bleah.  Affects me more perhaps because I've not been sleeping well.  (That's a different story.)

    Also, if I've had a rough week physically and am particularly painful Friday night, I'm just not going to get up and go. Also, if I've had a very bad night and am awake until 4 in the morning, I'm just not going to get up and go.  Also, well, hmm, surprise, there are other things that happen on Saturdays sometimes that I really want to do but can't if I don't get home until 10 a.m. So maybe Saturdays and/or 8 a.m. are not good for me personally.

    I realize that I am WAY WAY WAY over the excitement of being out and about before most of the rest of humanity, on the road, in the early light--at least, for dog-related things.  The other day, I did it (up at same time on Saturday, drive 30 minutes) for something new and different, and it felt so much better.
  • I had been neglecting my dogs' trainings. Chip has been here over 2 years, Zorro over a year, and other than shaking hands and doing nose touches to my hand, they barely know more than when I brought them home.  But it was tough to do much with them, because my damaged bodily parts start hurting so quickly. At least, I think that was my excuse. I dunno, I would get excited for a day or 2 and then back to, eh, whatever.  SOOOOO I thought that going to class would be perfect for me. I've always been a bit competitive (duh) and I've liked being able to go to classes having done the homework and maybe more, over all these years.

    BUT: Turns out that it hasn't motivated me much at all, telling my that my reluctance is pretty deep (already knew, but just thought this would help). I think that some of it is how much I still miss my Merle Girls themselves and also all that they could do.  Maybe something else in addition to the physical aspect, but dunno what. Dunno. Dunno. I come home from class feeling excited and energized, but within a few hours, it's gone.  I occasionally practice some things.  Some things more than others.  But very little of any of it, in truth.  Zorro's amazing improvements in class have more to do with what I said earlier, him just learning to be in that environment and how to pay attention to me.

I haven't decided whether to drop the class.  I feel in some ways that it's my only chance to drag me out of my doggie doldrums and my training truancy.  Still, now I'm starting to feel that I'm behind so many other people with their little tiny cute puppies who now already do more than both of my dogs put together.

Well, OK, maybe not that much or for everyone, but some people, you know who they are, the people who go home and do their homework and also have experience training their previous dogs.

Instead of going home and blogging. Reading facebook. Editing photos.  Napping.

Mine are such smart, active boys, though, and deserve and need more intellectually and physically than I'm giving them.  So I can feel badly about it and still not get up and do anything about it.  Tsk.  Humans.  Yet I'm paying for a class that I'm attending barely more than half the time.  (That wouldn't have happened in the olden days, either.)

This isn't even what I was going to blog about.  So that will come in a separate post.
Well, OK, some improvement: A year ago I wouldn't have been able to get this photo at the park at all.  This time I barely got it; every time I moved away to set my camera, Chip sat up. And then start to move. And so then Luke would move. BUT I did get this, and they didn't run off while I wasn't holding their leashes here, and that's an improvement.

Wordpress Photo Challenge: Frame

SUMMARY: A fun bending-reality diversion with Tika and a jump

Blogging friend Change Is Hard likes to do the weekly Friday photo challenges provided by WordPress; She posted  this "frame" photo. I don't use WordPress (I'm in Blogger and like it), but I do enjoy seeing how different people interpret different challenges. Lots of beautiful photos. And sometimes I participate.

Here's mine, from an old photo; Tika always stretched the Possible.

I haven't looked at all of the Frame postings, but browsed some. I particularly like:
>>  See what others have contributed for "Frame" <<

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Googled My Dog's Name and This is What I Got

SUMMARY: Wordless Wednesday

FYI, just a couple of words:

  • Googled "Tika Clicker" (oops, messed it up; now these are the first images!)
  • I paged down and took screen captures until my photos (that is, my photos or from my blog or photos of me & my dogs) no longer made up at least 50% of the images on the screen
  • Purple blobs are items that are not mine

>>  Visit the Wordless Wednesday site; lots of blogs. <<

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Back on the Back Subject

SUMMARY: Yes, subjecting myself to this subject again.

If you've heard it all before, you may move along, nothing to see here.

My Life With Crapback is so prevalent  in my thoughts because it's so prevalent in my life.   Feels sometimes like I'm in limbo, as I seem to have improved as much as I'm going  to and my body is up one day, a little down the next, up one week, a little down the next, not getting much of anywhere any more.  Still, I have made a long, long journey upward from two years past!

Instead of having to go only to movie theaters where a friend can pick me up at  home and drop me off a few feet from the theater entry (and there aren't that many theaters like that here) so that I could hobble miserably through the entry and to a seat, I can now, as in the old days, park at the far side of the parking lot and cruise on over on my own.  But, in the old days, I could sit there carefree.  In the in between days, I could barely sit there if dosed up on painkillers and carrying a cushion or two to provide expert support here or there. Nowadays, carefree sitting just ain't gonna happen: I am either placing my hands under my hips or thighs and pushing up, or leaning elbows on both armrests and pushing up, to keep the weight off the spine, and adjusting frequently.  This, of course, is hard on my shoulders.

STILL -- I can walk into a movie theater! Across the parking lot! And sit and watch a movie more or less normally, munching on popcorn. As I did yesterday morning.

My paper-sorting days have been few and far between in the last 3 years or so (you know, taxes, bills, records of all kinds, interesting personal keepsakes, etc.) because it's hard to do that while lying or even merely reclining.  For over a year, I don't think I did any of it.  Now I am trying to catch up on those years.  In the old days, I'd just sit on the floor and sort things into stacks all around me  and power through all of it at once.  Now, sitting on the floor can be painful. Leaning this way and that to toss papers onto various piles is definitely painful after a short while.  So it has to be when I haven't already been sitting for too long or doing other activities that aggravate the back.

BUT this last month I have actually been able to make progress.  You know--work 20-30 minutes, maybe somewhat longer, then take a long reclining rest on the couch with ice on my back. But I'm DOING it.

My quality of life during these past 3 years has been so different from the first 95% of my life that it's hard to even accept that it is me that this is happening to. Hard to accept that it's not likely to ever get better.  Walking--I have to keep walking, and walking a lot, but not walking too HARD or overdoing it.  Have to keep doing this wide variety of exercises and stretches--knees, hips, shoulders, spine, core muscles...  and it's not merely a matter of toning up, it's a matter of surviving a normal life.

BUT lately I can actually function for a while  while skipping those physical therapy regimens, instead of needing them to even be able to get out of bed in the morning, and again to get dressed, and again to get in or out of the car, and so on.

And, hey! I can go grocery shopping!  I have to be vewy vewy caweful about how much weight I lift at a time for larger objects or shopping bags, but I can DO it! And walking normally?  Remember a couple of years ago when I could move around a store only by putting all my weight on the shopping cart and gliding carefully, smoothly, slowly? [hmm, was going to put a link to that, but can't find it in Mr. Blog. Must be on Facebook.  Will investigate later.] When getting something off a higher shelf or lower shelf required that I ask someone?  Can DO it now. I have to bend or stretch or twist carefully, but it has become a habit through necessity that I don't have to think about it too hard as I get through the store.

And I can drive--well, for whatever reason, driving in MUTT MVR has not been completely excruciating even at the worst of times-- getting in and out, now, that was a different subject for many long months.  But now I can get in and out of the car; I've adjusted how I do it and if for a moment I forget (which I hardly ever do any more), it's not going to lay me flat out for the next half hour as it used to.

My point is that pain and careful living are my constant companions, but that those are SUCH an improvement over agony and life-on-hold in a drugged stupor.

Every time I decide to take a stroll around the mall for exercise, or stoop carefully to pull a few weeds, or vacuum a room, or carry my own laundry upstairs, it still feels like a small miracle.

If only there were a big miracle around the corner. I keep on keepin' an eye out. As Scarlett said, "Tomorrow is another day."

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Doggy Scratchtoe

SUMMARY: More misbegotten lyrics from K-TMH radio and Mother Goose.

You know the English folk song/nursery rhyme--

Bobby Shafto's gone to sea,
Silver buckles at his knee;
He'll come back and marry me,
Bonny Bobby Shafto!
So. I'm very behind on trimming the Boy Beasts' nails.  I'm always very behind on trimming them. And Zorro has toenails like ... uh... like... untrimmed small dog toenails. Sharp! And then the weather was hot and I was wearing shorts, and then this happened with Zorro:

Doggy Scratchtoe paws at me,
Long red welts across my knee;
Will he stop? Let's wait and see.
Naughty Doggy Scratchtoe!
(Back in June. Just posting now. Whatev's.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

History of Dog Sports--the Taj MuttHall view

SUMMARY: Are obedience, agility, and rally-o "traditional" dog sports?

A friend's comment on one of my posts identifying those as traditional made me laugh out loud in bemused amusement.  Which are "traditional"? Which are "new"?   I suppose that this goes along with my own place in time, which begins in a global sense with "What were you doing when Kennedy was shot?" which I don't think that even any of my younger sisters can answer.

Not that I'm saying that I'm old.  I'm still in my 20s, just the face is changing.

Sooooo here is my immediate reaction.

Agility and rally included in "traditional" dog sports!  Rally-O wasn't even invented until about 4 years after I started agility, which in turn didn't have a presence in the U.S. until only 7 or 8 years before I started.  So they're both new in my world view.  (And both, incidentally, were introduced into the U.S. in a large way by the same man, Bud Kramer, whom, incidentally, I believe is in fact the inventor of rally-o because he was concerned about dog folks leaving obedience in droves for agility--and, incidentally about that, see my discussion on MBDCA below).

They're new sports, as are dock jumping (about 2 years after I started agility), freestyle (only about 6 years before), weight pulling (about 10 years before), Treibball (among the baby dog sports, just 10 years old), of course barn hunt and nosework, and a whole slew of others.

In other words, to me, most dog sports are "new."

To me, "old" sports include herding (forever), sled dog racing (forever), field trials (1866), disc dog (early 1970s), and lure coursing (around 1970) (which, incidentally, was founded by Lyle Gillette, a man for whom I did some work at his kennels* one summer as a kid--which, incidentally, I blogged about 10 years ago).

The rise of dog sport varieties has amazed me--when I got Amber, my first dog, nothing really existed in my world view except Obedience, and we couldn't compete in that because it was only for purebreds. The Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America, which provided  a place where non-AKC dogs could do conformation and obedience, was founded only at about the time that she came into my life, and I didn't learn about it for another 15 years, when Remington arrived in my life.

The MBDCA lived for only about 30 years. Remington won tricks contests there our first couple of years.  Dog agility gave that club a nearly mortal wound--people like myself found the new sport to be more exhilarating than obedience--and AKC allowing all dogs to compete has pretty much killed it off.  They still exist, but the CA branch, which was thriving when I first got Remington, has gone extinct as near as I can tell.

SOoooooo there you go, a short history of new vs. old dog sports!

Wikipedia has a pretty good list of dog sports: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dog_sports. --Which, incidentally, I created in 2004 and contributed to greatly -- and, incidentally, I refer to that effort in the old blog post that I mention above, where I said that I was researching lure coursing: It was for Wikipedia articles. And here are the sports that I listed off the top of my head in that page before saving it for the first time:
By the time I was pretty much done with it a year later, it had added:

And that is PLENTY of "incidentally"s for today.

The house and kennels, incidentally, went to the big house graveyard in the sky reserved for those cleared away by freeways (to which, incidentally, I also briefly refer in that previous blog post); CA State 85 was nothing more than a corridor cutting through the west side of the Santa Clara Valley for decades, and Gov. Jerry Brown in his first stint in office (incidentally, he's also the current governor) declared that it would never be built, so it stayed empty with occasional bold folks building in it, believing his statements.  When we were kids, my friends and I used it as a shortcut from one neighborhood to another. Decades later, when I was in my 3rd purchased house, just a quarter mile from the right-of-way, plans were finally finalized to start building on it. Friends who had bought a lovely new home facing the open space that "would never be built" 20 years earlier suddenly found themselves facing a 6-lane freeway. The day before the freeway opened to traffic, they allowed pedestrians and bicyclists all along it for a last shortcut from one neighborhood to another.  The point being that Phydelma and Lyle Gillette's home was in that right-of-way and is no more.  I still often think of them as I drive over the freeway overpass where, if you look to the right going south on Stelling, you can imagine the ghost of their spread.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Barn Hunt!

SUMMARY: Guess who had a good time?

Two nights ago, as I read through email and whatnot in my Couch Office, the dogs came and hung out and went and came again as is their wont. At some point I glanced over at Zorro scratching himself on the couch to my left and discovered that he had brought a gift for me and left it about 8 inches away from my arm: An adult, thankfully deceased although still warm, roof rat.

I told him that he was a very good dog, hurried into the kitchen, gave him some treats to distract him while I swooped back through the living room to scoop up the gift and store it safely in the trashcan out back.

Tonight when I got home from work, the male teenage Renter came out to say, "Just so you know, when I got home, Zorro was chewing on a squirrel." I rolled my eyes and started to say, OK, but he continued, "I got that away from him and threw it out, BUT... I don't know where its head is."

I don't know where, either, but all of that is ample confirmation that Barn Hunt just might be Zorro's sport.

A friend arranged for me to join her for training, starting about 2 months ago, but with one thing and another, tonight was our first night. Hard to find places to practice locally. Closest is up in Fremont, about 35 minutes away if freeway traffic is good--which, amazingly, it was! So I arrived about half an hour early, walked the dogs around for about 15 minutes, put Chip back into the car.

Clearly this is not our usual neighborhood. Had to herd the cluckers away from Mutt Mvr so I could extricate the boys.

 The friend who hooked me up with this night & trainer and I chatted and caught up a little bit on the years since I've seen her in agility, then we watcher her work with her dog for about 15 minutes.

In Barn Hunt, basically they built a multilevel maze with tunnels and hidey-holes. Then they hide sturdy containers with a pet rat in each (Zorro is sniffing an empty one below) and the dog finds them.

Well--there's training involved.

A container containing a rat, when introduced to Zorro, intrigued him quite a bit until he concluded that he wasn't going to be able to actually get it out.  That initial high level of interest was a great start, though.  So, that was about 10 minutes, then we got a 15 minute break.

Then we moved into the hay bales area and worked on getting him to take an interest in the container again--pulling it along the ground; holding him back while the instructor hid the container around a corner and under a bit of hay; like that.  Worked fairly well as far as my complete lack of experience could tell.  Then did a bit of shaping to get him to tap the container with his paw.  I think it took about 3 minutes, max, until he was doing it authoritatively.  All of that was about 15 minutes, then we got another 15 minute break.

Then we took probably less than a minute to confirm that he got the idea about the paw tap--yep, he sure did. He is soooo good at figuring things out and is suuuuch a fast learner. And we were done.

But the way the timing worked, poor Mr. Chip was in the car alone for maybe an hour and a half.

We stopped at a nearby AM/PM minimart/Arco gas station to fill upon gas, and I got Chip out for about 5 minutes to give him a chance to sniff around.  A friendly young man stopped to pet him and chat a bit, which Chip enjoyed, too.

Came home, gave the dogs dinner (Zorro almost nothing since he got so many treats), and Zorro crashed.  Now that's something I can get into, as he almost never does!  What a mental workout for him, not just the barnhunt learning, but being in a new place and new dogs all around and hanging out--all things that we don't do much of.

How come Zorro is get Human Mom for zillion hours but me is get 5 minutes,
him is get hundred bags treats but me is get a couple piece,
also he is get now whole side of couch that is belong to me? Not so fair is think me.

Next session is in 2 weeks.  We'll see how this all goes.