Monday, 31 December 2012

Year in Review

Another year draws to a close today and as I look back upon my goals for 2012 I am pretty happy with the outcome.  My goal for puppy Stella was "I need to improve my shaping skills and she needs to learn how to work through frustration".  My goals for Riley were "I also want to get Riley's rally excellent at trials in march/april" .

I have really enjoyed working with both dogs this year.  I believe my shaping and handling skills have improved a lot.  Stella still can get frustrated easily but she has improved and I have discovered how valuable play is in our working relationship.  I did not have any real 2012 trial goals in mind for Stella other than gettiing her CGN but we had quite a successful year.  She started with her Canine Good Neighbour (CGN) and then we added a CKC Rally Novice title (RN), CKC Pre-Novice Obedience (PCD) and a CARO Rally Novice Magna Cum Laude (CRN-MCL) to the mix.  We have also dabbled at conformation showing and currently have three points towards her Championship title.   Stella is only 19 months old and I am thrilled with my relationship with this wonderful little girl and look forward to lots more adventures in the year ahead.

Riley completed his CKC Rally Excellent (RE) in spring as well as his CKC Pre-Novice Obedience (PCD).  We had planned to try for our Novice Obedience title but things started going really wrong for him physically so I stopped training and trialing with him in May.  We did xrays in june and that started us down the path that ended with his recent surgery.  He is doing awesome now and is feeling pretty energetic.  Two more weeks of major restrictions and then we get to start increasing his activity levels slowly.  I'm not sure what our training challenges will be in 2013 but I am thinking of aiming for a tracking title and starting nosework with him.  A lot will depend on how the next few months work out physically for him. 

It was a wonderful year of learning for me.  I started with Clicker Expo and also attended wonderful weekend seminars from Michelle Pouliot and Denise Fenzi.  Now I'm hooked on seminars!  I feel that I am really starting to find my "style" but I can also see that learning will never end!

I am happy with our successes this year but the titles really aren't all that important to me except as a way of setting goals and working towards them.  Those goals help me figure out my path and keep some of the procrastination in check :).  I am blessed to have a supportive husband and good friends who understand this strange fascination I have with all things dog.  I truly treasure the "family" vacations and daily adventures with my dogs (and cats!).  That point has been driven home this year with Riley's problems and surgery and I hope for health and happiness for many years ahead. 

Happy New Year!

Here is a video of me skiing this week with Sam (my mother's dog) and Stella.  Watch to the end to see my crazy little wigglebum Stella being her happy self.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Lost and Found

It has been an emotional few weeks for many local dogs and the owners that love them.  Tonight a vizsla that has been missing on Vancouver Island for seventeen days was finally reunited with her family.  Closer to home in the hiking trails of the north shore mountains there have been other lost dogs.  I know the family of one dog lost and helped hike some trails with Stella this week to search.  That dog was actually lost while helping to track another missing dog.  Thankfully both the original missing dog plus the one I know were both found safe thanks to a ton of volunteers and lots of long, cold and scary days and nights for both the dogs and the searchers.  In our same North Vancouver mountains a flat coated retriever was just found after being lost for 6.5 months and a Bernese Mountain Dog needed a search and rescue team with helicopter to be rescued in dangerous snowy mountain terrain after going missing for 13 days while snowshoeing with its owners.

We live in a large city but are lucky enough to be a short ten minute walk to the wonderful trails of the North Shore mountains.  My dogs enjoy lots of off leash freedom on these trails and we generally stick to fairly easy trails.  Both dogs have very good recall and are very attentive about checking in with me but this has gotten me thinking.  It is a risk-reward tradeoff with off leash hiking and it would be my worst nightmare to lose one of my dogs.  My dogs LOVE to run and romp through the woods and I would hate to let my fear of losing them prevent us from enjoying those wonderful hikes we do daily.    I practice and reward recalls heavily but have decided to also start training a whistle recall.  A whistle carries much further than my voice and doesn't get tired or emotional like a human voice can.   Hopefully we will never have a situation where it would be necessary but I feel it is a good tool to have just in case.  I also make sure that both dogs gets to meet all sorts of people regularly so they are very comfortable with strangers.   

Meanwhile Riley has been recovering nicely from surgery.  We went through a variety of xpen configurations before settling on a location that makes him happy.  We had the staples removed last week and had my vet check out a possible seroma (fluid swelling) that was at one end of the incision.  We ended up putting him on a course of antibiotics just in case the fluid was from an infection.  The incision is now a normal size with just a small bit of scar tissue and he is getting stronger every day.  He wasn't happy when he couldn't romp in the snow this week but we are now almost three weeks post op and hope to start swim therapy next week so things are looking up for him :).  Stella is now nearing the end of her heat cycle and is feeling much more like her regular bouncy, happy self.  Her cycle makes her quite sleepy and more nervous/jumpy than normal so we haven't done much (any!) training this month but hope to get some stuff in over the holidays.

Hopefully we will soon be back to these sorts of scenes.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Riley Recovery

On my last blog post (last friday) Riley had just had his hemilaminectomy procedure to remove the cyst pressing on his spinal cord.  His official diagnosis was Wobbler's Sydrome with mild stenosis of the spinal canal at C4 and cystic synovial proliferation of the left C5-C6 articular facet.  The good news is that all of his discs seem to be in quite good shape.  The surgeon had felt that the procedure had gone well and "the rest is up to Riley".

I am happy to report that Riley was already up and mobile the morning after surgery.  I saw him in the morning and he tried to sit up to greet me and then we had a good snuggle together with lots of tail wags and licks.  When I saw him again that evening he stood up to greet me.  This is considered a painful surgery for dogs to recover from because there is a long incision on the back of the neck which involves opening up a lot of muscle as the spinal cord runs fairly close to the throat area.  A lot of dogs don't want to lift their head or move very much but my wonderful hard-headed labrador was able to cope well with that and by sunday evening he was able to walk out to see me for our visit.  Pneumonia is also a real risk after this type of surgery so having him mobile so quickly was very important in preventing that.  He was set to be discharged on monday afternoon but I had them keep him until tuesday morning so I could pick him him and head out on the long drive home.

The surgeon was very pleased with his progress and felt that he already had similar or better neuro function at discharge as he had prior to the surgery.  He walks well unassisted but we need to really watch him on slippery floors as he is still a bit wobbly on his right hind with some occasional mild scuffing.  That should improve as the inflamation from surgery decreases and hopefully the spine can recover from some of compression.  I really am quite thrilled with how he is doing less than one week from his surgery! 

I confess to fighting thoughts in the hours leading up to surgery of just throwing him in my truck and running away.  The care and compassion we received was amazing but it was still incredibly scary and stressful for me.  When we first checked in we were assigned a fourth year medical student who is then the chief contact for both the dog and the owner through the entire stay.  Our student was still a tad awkward with the human side of things but she was wonderful with Riley and he really liked her.  The surgeon was very honest, patient and thorough.  Everyone from the receptionist to the head of the neurology department was kind and caring to both humans and animals.  It was both inspiring and heart breaking to see and meet other owners and animals receiving treatment at the facility.

We returned home tuesday evening and are settling into the new "normal" for now.  Riley will be severely restricted for six weeks.  He is confined in an exercise pen and allowed out 3-5 times per day for five minute potty walks.  He objected loudly to this the first evening but we seem to be working things out now.  I have slept downstairs with him since we came home to settle him into the new routine and make sure he isn't experiencing any pain.  Hopefully I can move back upstairs to my own bed this weekend.  After the first six weeks we can then begin to slowly return to normal exercise levels over the next two months.  He should probably never play tug, on-land fetch or do a lot of jumping activity as he is always going to be at risk of cervical problems.  Swimming is encouraged during recovery so we will be looking into some local therapy pools.

Stella went with me on this trip and I was glad to have her along.  She was good company and kept me from going crazy waiting for news.  She unfortunately came down with kennel cough likely from a conformation show we attended the weekend before we left.  Luckily she seemed to bounce back very quickly and Riley has not shown any signs of kennel cough.  She also decided to start her heat cycle the day before we headed home after weeks of waiting.  Life is never dull with dogs!

Here are a few pics of my boy:

First morning after surgery

24 hours after surgery

48 hours after surgery

Friday, 30 November 2012

All About Riley

I am writing this blog post from a hotel room in Pullman, Washington.  Today Riley had surgery to fix the compression on his spine at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Washington State University (WSU).  He is currently heavily sedated and resting in ICU at the hospital.  I will be able to see him tomorrow. 

I last blogged about Riley here just after we had an MRI done in Vancouver.  It took a little while to get answers but we finally met with the neurosurgeon and viewed the MRI.  His recommendation was to do surgery to remove the cyst and relieve the pressure on the spinal cord.  The quote for surgery was between $7,000 to $9,000 assuming there were no major complications or extensive rehab required.  I facebooked about this and lots of friends chimed in with recommendations for the wonderful facility here at WSU.  I contacted them and long story short here we are and the quote is less than half price.  The neurologist in Vancouver was very understanding and cooperative about providing records.

The decision to do the surgery has been very difficult.  Riley has been coping fairly well with the situation but he is a true labrador with high pain tolerance and likely has been living with this for quite a while before the symptoms became as noticeable.  There have been signs of significant discomfort present for him.  He is very restless and rarely sleeps for long periods without shifting positions.  The angle when he poops seems very uncomfortable for him.   He has recently begun a lot of licking of his legs which can indicate pins & needles sensations to those limbs.  He holds his head low quite a lot while we are walking and has a roached back position.  We could have opted to wait but the risk becomes that the compression worsens and causes disc damage and quite possibly paralysis.  It was also possible that he may have continued as he was for quite a long time.  I explored some natural alternatives such as acupuncture but the experts I asked figured that it was highly unlikely it would help the situation.  Natural is my treatment of choice for most things but treatments can also be quite expensive.  We are stretching to afford this surgery and honestly spending a bunch of money to see if those alternatives would work just makes the surgery less of a do-able financial decision. 

We arrived in Pullman on tuesday evening and met with the hospital for a consult on wednesday.  They wished to redo the MRI as the machine here is much stronger and they wanted to determine if the disc below the problem area was affected.  That would mean a difference in the surgery plan.   We also did a spinal tap to insure that the symptoms were not being caused by an infection in the brain or spine.The disc ended up being fine but then his blood work showed some red blood cell abnormalities which could indicate liver or spleen tumour.  The same abnormalities were present in his prior blood work a few months ago.  He had an ultrasound yesterday to review those areas and all was determined okay and that the abnormalities were probably normal for him. 

I dropped him off this morning for surgery.  The procedure is called a hemilaminectomy and involves going in from the top of his neck down to remove a section of bone over the spinal cord and then remove the material causing the pressure on the spinal cord.  The neuro surgeon here refers to Riley's condition as a form of wobblers which is basically the name for cervical vertebral instability.  The goal of surgery is to prevent further deterioration.  He likely will always have a bit of a wonky movement but that depends on the level of permanent damage.

The surgeon said that the procedure went as planned and that they removed a lot of the pressure on the spinal cord.  The rest is now up to Riley.  Hopefully this is where that crazy labrador thing kicks in and he will be up and moving around in the next few days.  We have a long few months ahead of us for recovery but for now I will happily take everyone's good wishes and happy thoughts for my boy.  I will blog more in the next few days to update and tell more about the procedure.

Update here on post surgery.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Walk and Chew Gum

We all know that old joke about not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.  Well the dog sport version of that is can we walk and provide the proper body cues when needed?   In class this week my instructor had us working directional obedience moves such as left turn, right turn and about turn.  She also pulled out the dreaded metronome to experiment with pace and consistancy.  Stella works well with a nice brisk pace which doesn't come very naturally for me and is even harder when we incorporate direction changes.  I need to provide clear body signals for Stella about what is going to happen so that I don't leave her behind or disconnect with abrupt movements.  It makes me laugh at myself and perhaps gives me a bit of frustration to realize how darn hard that is.  I've been walking for a lot of years but it is gonna take practice to naturally do the nice smooth movements I want.  In this instance I'm gonna need to learn more than my dog I think! 

We have been working a little on our heel work and things feel like they are starting to come along nicely.  I've been trying to incorporate lots of fun and play to create good value for heeling.  I recently discovered that one of her favourite play moves is when I walk along with her and then pretend to stalk her.  She loves that game so I am experimenting with playing and then quick easy transitions from that position into short sessions of heeling.    I am also trying to use food less and be smarter with how I deliver it.   Spitting the food for her to catch is a fun game for her so gives us a double reward (food and chase).   It is helping to get the focus from what my hands might be doing and up to my face.  Riley didn't have good food catch coordination so that wasn't an effective tool for us but seems useful with Stella.  The downside is that I have a horrible gag reflex so I need to make sure it is stuff that I am comfortable having in my mouth.  That means expensive salami and cheese instead of cheap hot dogs or other training treats but at least I can snack if I get hungry :o).

Friday, 9 November 2012

Conformation picture

Here is the picture from our conformation show.  It would have been better if the collar was adjusted and her tail up more but I am still proud of my girl.   She looks so grown up (waaaaahhhh, where is my adorable puppy?).  No worries she is still a crazy puppy girl on the inside!

Monday, 5 November 2012


Stella and I attempted our second conformation trial recently and were rewarded for our efforts with her first points.  She took best of winners against three other dogs (two points) on saturday and then we came up empty on sunday.  We had a fun experience as all the other vizsla people were very friendly.  I am a total rookie in this sport but things went well and the ring steward was very nice and helpful to me.  Stella really liked the saturday judge and I think she might have actually been flirting with him :).  We were much better prepared for this show compared to our first last minute attempt.  We still have quite a bit of fine-tuning to do for the perfect stacking positions but thankfully she seems to have figured out the difference between stopping/sitting at heel position and the conformation stuff.  She also thinks that gaiting is kinda fun and roo-rooed at me part of the way to see if I was interested in playing with her.  I'm sure she is supposed to be more serious but honestly I would rather see that then one of the other dogs that was a bit fearful of the whole situation. 

I remain conflicted on conformation showing.  It seems very subjective to me.  A dog can go in the ring one day and be the winner and the next day against the same group of dogs under a different judge would get nothing.  When I go into the obedience or rally ring I know what needs to be done and if we do our job right then we pass.  That is clear and understandable to me.  Judges can vary on how hard they may mark but we all start with the same points and generally a judge is consistant with marking methods through all participants.   You also get feedback from the judges via your score sheets.  Conformation judging depends so much on individual tastes of a judge and perhaps the influences of where the judge is from.   Showing is expensive and time-consuming so I'm not sure how much further I will pursue this.  Part of me does like the idea of those CH letters in front of my dog's registered name but on the other hand I have no interest in breeding her.  I did have a picture taken to mark the occasion but it was a large show (800+ dogs) so I am still waiting for it to arrive.  

It was an interesting weekend even if it was waaaaayyyy to early in the morning (first in ring at 8 am) for them to expect me to be presentable in nice, clean clothes and makeup.  Thank dawg Stella didn't need any fancy grooming!  I had to laugh when I opened her crate door saturday morning and she just looked at me like I was nuts for being up at 6 am and jumped into bed with hubby to cuddle back to sleep.   Once she figured I was serious she was game and away we went.  We wandered a lot of the trade show booths over the weekend and Stella made lots of fans who wanted to meet her and ask about her breed.  I was proud to have such a friendly, easy-going dog that was comfortable in all the chaos.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Defining Success

This past weekend was a road trip with Stella and a friend with her dog to attend a CARO rally obedience trial in Kelowna.  We had successfully completed three rounds of novice at a trial a month ago but need to trial under a second judge to get our novice title.  I decided to enter Stella in two novice rounds and two advanced rounds.  

Saturday morning was our first novice round and Stella did very well scoring a 190/200 and successfully completing her novice title.   This was a new ring for her and a dirt floor so she was interested in the smells but otherwise was good and I was pleased.   When we had received our trial confirmation information I was informed that the facility is not heated.   Luckily CARO permits dogs to wear coats but I was still worried that she wasn't going to complete any "down" stations but she did them!

Saturday afternoon was the first advanced round.  I had minimal expectations of passing this but figured since we were there to try the rounds for the training experience.  Advanced is off leash which we have not done in competition and it has harder stations such as sending over a jump from a distance, stand for exam, moving down, recall front while running away etc.  A failed station in CARO will NQ the entire round.  I have just begun training the jump but we have not worked up to any distance.  The handler sends the dog from 10 feet in front and must stay six feet to the side of the jump.  The facility was very cold and we had quite a long wait prior to the second class so I took Stella out for a lot of running around and playing tug before our round to make sure she was physically warmed up and comfortable in the cold.  When we went into the ring I was blown away by the wonderful attention and attitude Stella had.  We NQ'd on the jump as expected but otherwise would have had a 195/200.  

Our last few trials Stella has done well and qualified with good scores but she has also been distracted by the surroundings and the smells.  I knew she was capable of a much better performance and felt we weren't connecting as well as I hoped in the ring.  I was super excited to have her connect with me on this round especially as she was off leash.

Sunday morning was even colder!  I did the same warm up routine for her and we went into our second novice round of the weekend.  Stella was fabulous and had the same wonderful attitude from the previous round.  I was an idiot handler and side stepped on the pivot so NQ'd us but otherwise we were headed to an almost perfect score.  Live and learn but honestly I was still so happy I almost bounced out of the ring.  At this point it had become fairly obvious to me that the warm-up routine of playing lots of silly tugging and running around was working for us :). 

Our final round was another advanced round and the first half went very well.  Unfortunately half way through our round we had a major visual distraction that Stella was pretty sure everyone in the building needed to be told about.  I did get her back but when we headed back towards that same line I opted to excuse us and end on a mostly good note.  The total at the end of the weekend was one qualifying round for four total attempts. A lot of people would count that as a failure but I left the weekend absolutely THRILLED with my dog.  Success for me was that connection in the ring that I wanted and feel that now I can just build on that.  This dog sport stuff is supposed to be fun and I had a wonderful time with my dog and she really enjoyed working with me. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

Riley's Roller Coaster

Riley had his MRI yesterday and the results were mixed.  The good news is that he does not have Wobblers disease and his discs are actually in pretty good shape.  The "not quite sure what it means" news is he has a cyst in his neck/cervical area that is pressing on the right side of his spinal cord.  That pressure is what is causing his symptoms.  This is an unusual situation and the neurologist is reviewing the results, making measurements to figure out exact location and implications of removal and researching similar situations in other dogs.   He will be getting back to me in the next few days with a plan.  I told him that I was going to take this as good news and he agreed and seemed confident that the situation could be dealt with.  I suspect this probably means surgery but I would anticipate that the recovery would be much easier than having surgery for any spinal disc problems or malformations.  The roller-coaster ride continues so stay tuned for more news!

It should be noted that he does not appear to be in any pain although some of his symptoms are worsening.  He seems to be losing more limb awareness and coordination but that has not dampened his enthusiasm one bit.  He went running across some wet grass the other day and tried to corner and slipped and then had quite a spectacular crash because he couldn't recover properly.  Luckily he seemed no worse for wear. 

The morning of his MRI I had to drop him off early in the morning so I left Stella at home and took just him.  They wanted him "emptied" so we headed off for a short walk to the local park.  The look on Riley's face when we left the driveway and headed off for a walk just the two of us was pure happiness.  He was bouncing and soliciting play with me for almost the entire time we walked and had me laughing like crazy.  It also broke me heart just a bit because it made me realize that he obviously misses our "one-on-one" training times as much as I do.  We still have cuddle sessions with just "us" but since this journey started back in early June I have discontinued our training sessions so I wasn't stressing his body any more than necessary.   I need to make sure my wonderful boy gets more time where he is the focus and perhaps look at doing some easy shaping type training until we sort all this out.  I am hopeful that we can get him functioning better again and that there are lots of new training goals and fun times together in our future. 

As you can see here in this short clip back in may my monster wants to be the one working with me :).

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Hard Habits to Break

A quote I've heard a few times this summer at seminars goes something like "the thing you hate most about a current dog is usually the thing that will never be a problem with a new dog".  This is very true of Riley and Stella.  Riley can be a total ass when asked to give up something he loves (ball, golf ball, tugging etc.) but Stella has a beautiful retrieve to my hand and a gentle mouth.  Some of that is her genetics but it also something that was a priority in early puppy training. 

So that proves that change is possible so then why the heck do we carry over so many other bad habits!

I went to two wonderful seminars this summer and came out full of excitement and all sorts of new ideas and plans to work with Stella.   I wish it was easier to translate all of that into actual working with my dog!  I did pick up a few new good habits from seminar information but I've been reminded the past few weeks that seminars aren't a substitute for the regular hard work.   I have neglected some training lately so have started back to  working a bit of heeling and various related positions and have noticed how much my bad habits are screwing up my dog.  When I used to heel with Riley he is a very big prescence so I could easily feel where he was in relation to me.  I still had a bad habit of looking at him and dropping that inside shoulder back but was mostly able to get away with it due to his size.  Stella is so much lighter and smaller so I have a much harder time "feeling" when she is in perfect position.  She has been working to give me eye contact but I drop that same damn shoulder to look at Stella and so now she is heeling farther back than I would like.   Sigh .... back to using a target stick to get her a bit more forward and perhaps a giant thumb tack that pokes me when I drop my shoulder and screw up my part of the equation. 

In Riley news we got back the test results for degenerative myelopathy and the results were NORMAL.  Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!  We are definately not out of the woods yet though.  I sought a second opinion this week from a vet that specializes in lameness and does chiro, accupuncture, laser therapy etc.  He agrees that there is something neurological going on and actually suspects Wobblers syndrome.  We are now proceeding with an MRI and surgery is looking more likely.  The vet thinks we are still fairly early stages of whatever is happening but I can also see his condition slowly getting worse so hopefully we will have answers and a plan soon.

We have had fabulous weather lately.  Here are a few pics of the dogs enjoying a romp this past weekend.  Riley is now back to leash walks until we know what is happening but it was good to see him so happy.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Riley Update

We finally had our appointment last sunday with the orthopaedic surgeon to evaluate Riley for hip replacement surgery.  Things didn't turn out quite the way I had expected.  The surgeon felt that although he might have some discomfort from his hip that his main problem was likely neurological or spinal.  She felt he might possibly have canine degenerative myelopathy (DM) which is a disease similar to MS in humans.  Another possibility is herniated discs or intervertebral disc problems which are preventing proper nerve language from his brain to his hind limbs.  Final possibilities include tumours or infections but that is not likely.

We saw the orthopaedic surgeon on sunday and I spent monday all snot and tears convinced of all sorts of horrible outcomes.  If he does have DM the majority of dogs have hind end paralysis within six months to a year.  There is no pain involved in DM as it is basically just all the nerves shutting down.  Monday was the day for me to wallow in my fears.  We had an appointment with the neurologist on tuesday morning so I sucked it up and moved on.  The neurologist did a good check over and we did a regular blood panel as well as the blood test for DM.   The DM test is sent to to the USA and will take 2-4 weeks for results.  The neurologist is leaning more towards disc problems than DM based on Riley's age and breed but it is hard to know.  Depending on the results of the DM test we may proceed with an MRI which should hopefully show the problem.  The MRI is very expensive (approx $2100).  Riley's regular blood tests did come back normal.

Riley's symptoms include intermittent dragging of his back feet.  The middle two toe nails are ground very short on those feet.  The dragging is generally worse at the end of our walk.  He has a very straight legged walk with his back end (minimal knee action) and when tired his stance gets wider.  His "bad" hip is the left one but he tends to swing and compensate more with his right leg.  I have thought that was strange but just assumed that it was his way of adjusting for the hip.   He sometimes shows general fatigue weakness in his back legs especially when more tired.   He also paces versus a regular trot gait quite a bit.  He is still my happy go lucky crazy boy always up for action and play and does not seem to be in any pain.  I discontinued his NSAID a few weeks ago when he had some tummy upset and it doesn't seemed to have made a difference to his comfort levels.  I believe that he did have some real soreness or injury back in June but it has mostly healed with his restricted activity levels.  We still walk for about an hour each day and this week I have given him more off leash freedom and he seems to be handling it well.

So it is a waiting game for now.  I have been mostly positive since my melt down day and just enjoying spending time with Riley.  He has so much joy for life that it is hard not to be happy around him.  He was so good when the doctors were poking and prodding him and even offered the neurologist his belly for rubs while we were talking.  Even when he was overwhelmed he just stuffs his head in my lap for comfort and let them do whatever was needed.  If it is DM there is nothing we can do and we will just enjoy the time together.  Some of his symptoms have been around for a long time (although much worse this last year) so now I'm probably inclined to believe it is a disc problem which could mean surgery and we will deal with that if it happens.

Keep us in your good thoughts please!

This summer in Oregon

Puppy Riley loving water already

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

CARO Rally Trial

Last weekend Stella and I participated in our first Canadian Association of Rally Obedience (CARO)  trial.   CARO is an option to CKC and trials are open to all dogs.  The judging requirements tend to be much stricter and there are time limits.  If a dog NQ on an individual station it will automatically NQ for the entire round.  Food is allowed but under strict guidelines (no luring!) and can only be used at the end of a stationery position.   There are some minor differences in the stations although not much at the novice level.  I find the advanced and beyond levels of CARO very interesting and think they would be a very good challenge compared to the advanced and excellent CKC rally.  A qualifying score in CARO is 170 out of a possible 200.  Unfortunately CARO trials are not very easy to find in our area but there are one or two per year that are within travel distance.

This was my very first time competing in CARO.  We entered in three novice trials and we did very well with three qualifying rounds.  The trials were all under the same judge so we weren't able to qualify for our novice title.  Trial one was a score of 197.   My pace should have been a touch faster to help prevent any sniffing opportunities but Stella did great!

Trial 2 was a score of 187.   We lost ten points on the sit, down, sit station because Stella did a "vizsla - don't want my belly to touch the ground" down.  I did notice that she hadn't gone all the way but from my angle it looked closer.   I should have done a re-do of the station.  When I viewed the video it was quite obvious and obviously the judge agreed :).   I probably should have asked for a down on the hip versus a sphinx drop down as that would have been more reliable.

Trial 3 was a score of 183.  In hindsight I should have only entered for two trials.   I was a little surprised when the judging schedule was released and the three novice rounds went one right after another.  I had expected more time for breaks in the schedule for the other levels to compete.  Stella is still very young (15 months) so by the third trial she was quite distracted.  This round had two stations with a down position which she wasn't thrilled with so we had two re-dos and one double command.   There was also a baby making some noises close to the ring gates which she found very distracting.

Overall I was very happy with our performance.  She had some beautiful positions in her fronts, sits at heel, left turns and pivots.  There was also some nice moments in heel work but that is a work in progress.  The trial showed me some areas I need to work.   I need to work on duration both in heel and holding positions before rewards.  I could see when watching the video moments when she seemed to expect rewards and then started to lose focus when she didn't get it.   I need to transition from working individual positions with rapid reinforcement to more incorporating those positions with other things and lengthening the reward schedule.  That should also improve with time and maturity.

The trial was in Nanaimo so we attended with our friend and her dog and went over the night before.  This was Stella's first experience in a hotel room complete with her first elevator ride.  She did hear something at 4 a.m. which needed her muffled barking from her cozy position underneath the covers on my bed but otherwise she handled things like a seasoned pro. 

Stella's aunt Shandy also completed a leg of her excellent title at this trial.  One of her cousins also had a very nice effort in Novice. Way to go to the relatives!   It it so nice to attend trials with friends and get/give friendly support.

Life With Riley & Stella has a page on facebook for anyone who is interested.  Please follow the link to like us Facebook - LifeWithRileyStella.

Here's my crazy puppy a year ago playing with her toy.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Recall back to basics

A few times over the last months hubby has complained to me that Stella didn't listen to him when he walked her.   I basically accused him of being to stingy with the treats but I don't think I really believed him.  In my head I thought she just wasn't reacting as quickly as she would with me if I called her.  I am the main dog walker in our home as I have a more flexible schedule but on days that I am busy he is happy to walk them and we often walk together on weekends.

Well ...... we were walking the dogs together last weekend and I got to witness that she really does ignore him.  The dogs went racing by us and he called her and she just kept going.  I called and she stopped dead and came right to me.  Hubby was not amused so I suggested we work on things a little bit.   I watched for a good opportunity and had him call the dogs.  When they came I watched and although he did have a yummy treat in hand he asked both dogs for a sit and waited until they were both seated before he gave the treat.   I gently suggested that perhaps he was confusing Stella and she wasn't understanding that the treat was reward for the recall.  By the time he actually gave her the cookie she thought it was just because she was sitting there.  I suggested that the second she got to him to give her the treat.  He walked the dogs a lot that week as I had a horrible cold and he was on holidays and commented by the end of the week that Stella was very much improved. 

Is this bribery or perhaps even a lure?  Good dog training or bad? I really don't care.  This is an easy fix that my husband is comfortable with.  It is important for safety that the dogs have a good recall so I am more than willing to pay them for that.  My husband is like most people.  He loves the dogs but he doesn't care about perfect heel position or if a sit is crooked.  He wants a well behaved pet that comes magically trained and so far that is working out pretty well for both husband and dogs :o).

Riley update .... We have an appointment coming up to meet the veterinary surgeon and have Riley assessed for hip replacement surgery.  It will be good to have a plan one way or the other. 

We were supposed to have gone to Tofino last week before parking the trailer for the season but opted to be work and fiscally responsible instead.  Here are a few pics from last year.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

One year later

September 13 is the one year anniversary of my first blog post.   It has been a fun year of sharing my life with these two amazing dogs.  This year really opened up my interest in training methods and dog sports.  I had started on that path with Riley and the addition of puppy Stella made things much clearer to me about the way I want to proceed with fun, positive training techniques.   This year my wonderful trainer Heather Lawson, CPDT-KSA, KPA-CTP took me to my first clicker expo which I found very inspirational.  I also got to see some great training seminars this year.

Riley's training and trialing has been on hold since early June while we wait for the decision about doing hip replacement surgery.  The surgeon we want has been away and is due back in September.  If she is unable to return then I will be moving on to another recommendation as I am defering a bunch of financial decisions until I know what will happen.  We have worked out a new "normal" for him to keep him active but he is mostly on leash and we keep the crazy stuff under control.  He does overdo now and then and is sore for a few days but we are managing with pain medications and supplements.

Stella is a happy, bouncy girl and has been a joy to work and train in her first year.  She is a much softer dog than Riley and doesn't handle frustration (hers or mine) well which has been a good learning experience for me.   I have come a long way with my skills the last few years but I am still a novice.  Dogs have a way of reminding us just how long this journey really is and how much more there is to know.   I am very pleased with Stella's progress and am thrilled to have already completed her Rally Novice title, CGN and her CKC Pre-Novice.  Next week we will be attempting a few rounds of Caro Novice Rally which seems quite a bit tougher than the CKC standards.

We have had lots of fun non-training time together this past year and labour day weekend marked the anniversary of Stella's first camping trip with us.  We once again headed back up to Summerland to camp and visit with family in the area.   There is a fabulous dog beach there where the dogs get to romp and swim.  We discovered that Stella can now swim faster than Riley which he was definately not thrilled with and screamed about the whole time he chased her in the water.  He can beat her with long leaps during takeoff but once they swim she is much faster and efficient in the water.  Lucky for him she is not super ball focused and is happy to give up her treasures.   We ended up distracting her away from him with a throw in the other direction so he wouldn't push himself to hard trying to beat her.  The two dogs get along better than I could ever have hoped for and it makes me happy to see them enjoying each other.

I look forward to another year of dog adventures and hopefully will have some interesting blog posts along the way.  I want to send a big thanks to my wonderful husband who happily indulges my "hobby" and my sometimes over-the-top care of the animals.  I also want to thank my trainer Heather Lawson for opening new doors to me and for being a friend at all the trials and seminars this past year.  Lastly a big thanks to Stella's breeder Sylvia Dorosh (Varazs Vizslas) for my beautiful girl.

I have also set up a Life With Riley & Stella page on facebook for anyone who is interested.  Please follow the link to like us Facebook - LifeWithRileyStellla.

Here are some pictures of last years labour day weekend trip to Summerland when Stella was approx three months old.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Denise Fenzi Seminar

I recently attended a seminar with Denise Fenzi on Drives and Motivations.  I stumbled on Denise’s name about a year ago and then it popped up on a few blogs that I enjoy reading plus she started her own blog where she talks about raising her own puppy. I really enjoy her style of training as she advocates relationship and play with our dogs.

The focus of the seminar was on various types of drives (hunt, prey, food, pack) and how they can affect training decisions, play methods and the overall needs of our dogs. This blog does an excellent job of summarizing the same seminar for anyone interested in the specifics (drives, tugging, relationship, working) so I will just blog about the moments that “clicked” for me.

A friend and I were recently discussing the science of dog training and she made mention to me that “science is good, but putting theory into practice is an art”.  I believe Denise excels in that.  She was able to assess each working team quickly and provide information that will work with that dog.  She gives dogs a lot of credit for figuring things out and believes we often under challenge our dogs. 

When it was our one-on-one time I asked for some help with heeling.  I taught the initial heel position with a target stick and had achieved some good position but need to progress that for duration and different heel exercises.  I had been concentrating more on getting a series of steps from start in a line but felt I was losing her attention.  Denise had me heel around with her for a bit and then told me she couldn’t tell by my body language what my dog was doing.  I was basically doing the same motions if she was with me or if she was distracted.  She recommended that as soon as I start to lose her attention I remove the opportunity for Stella to be in position.  I do that by moving out of heel position towards her tail which redirects her attention back to me.  Most dogs don’t like when we stand behind them so will shift to face us and will follow if you move backward.  Once I had her focus back I could then pivot back into heel position and praise and reward for correct position.  This exercise seemed to work very well with Stella and I look forward to working this more as well as doing some video to see what I am doing.

I also need to be aware of direction with Stella and move more to the right.  I tend to want to correct position by moving to the left (into the dog) but that puts way more pressure on the dog and going right removes the pressure and will help her to drive into position.  Denise also rarely heels in a straight line while training and uses lots of twists, turns, circles etc. to make it more interesting for the dog.    A dog that forges in training would use more left turns and/or backup steps to correct.

Denise is a big fan of making sure the dogs understand the link between their behaviour and a reward.  She does this partially by sharing “missed opportunity” with the dog.    When the dog knows a behaviour but makes an error she will show the reward and communicate “too bad, so sad” that the dog has missed the opportunity, put the cookie away and then try again.  If the dog repeatedly fails then there is a training problem and the dog does not understand the behaviour. 

She took that “missed opportunity” thing a bit further when answering some questions.  A dog that doesn’t want to go in the crate gets a handful of yummy food thrown into the crate and the door closed so the dog can’t go in after it.   A dog that downs during a sit stay has the “judge” go along and feed the other sitting dogs and the empty space where that dog’s head should have been.  A dog that breaks the stay is held by the ring steward while the owner comes back and has a reward party where the dog should have been.    It sounds strange but if it works what the heck!  Stella has been going through a strange phase being reluctant to go in her crate.  I have just waited her out with the cookies in my hand until she gives up and goes in and then feeding her.  After the seminar I tried throwing the treats in and closing the crate, then left to brush my teeth while she waited to be let in for the treats.  Within two nights she was back to her normal crate routine. 

Denise also believes ring preparation routines and an on/off position while training our dogs.  Her thinking was very similar to the Michele Pouliot seminar that I recently attended.  Dogs should be put into a down stay while we speak with our trainers or prep for the next exercise.  In a trial situation she has specific routines for each dog to prep for the ring.  She says at that stage it is not about drilling the dog as you should know what to do by then.  Instead she wants to connect with the dog with some easy, quiet games.  She also has a position called “squish” where the dog stands across her legs against her body and it knows that position is just to relax and look around (take a break).  She then has a set step sequence out of that that has been heavily rewarded and it reorients the dog into a working position.

Another thing I found quite interesting was Denise’s use of praise and silence.   She believes in vocally encouraging the dog as it is working to give feedback to the dog and then going silent as the dog achieves what you want.   She then rewards with play or praise after a short silent moment.  She makes sure there is a difference in tone between encouraging and the reward praise.  This conditions our dogs that silence is an indicator of success and good things so that when we get into the ring they don’t freak out that we are all of a sudden silent and serious.

Other odds and ends include creating a love for things you can take in the ring.  First on the list is you but it can be useful to have a dog that loves a dumbbell, glove and articles.  It is important to have a solid trained retrieve first to prevent the dog from incorrectly picking up the item.  We can create a love for these items by playing hide n seek games with them and using them as rewards.  Then when these items are used in obedience trials the dog has good associations and believes it is being rewarded.  This would probably work well with Stella but Riley’s personality would likely have him obsessing on those items and distracted.

I really enjoyed this seminar and was pleased with Stella’s performance in the various exercises we did.  She is young and I am a novice so it is wonderful to get information to try and head off some bad habits.  Denise has an excellent blog  and youtube channel for anyone looking for more information.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Vacation Part 2

This is a follow up post to Oregon camping vacation part 1.  The second week of our holiday was spent camping on the gorgeous Oregon coast near Florence.   Florence is about mid-coast and is surrounded by spectacular sand dunes and beaches.    There is something about the wild west coast beaches (OR, WA and Tofino) that speaks to my soul and leaves me feeling both rested and rejuvenated.  Oregon is very dog friendly and it is easy to find deserted stretches of beach to romp and play.  We had great weather the entire week and only had fog on the final day.

I would say based on the following pics that the dogs had a pretty good holiday!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Michele Pouliot Seminar - Part 2

This is a follow up post to Michelle Pouliot seminar part 1.

Visual cues are something I have obviously been aware of but did not give them the respect they deserve.  Michele spent a lot of time discussing how easy it is to sabotage our training with confusing signals and body language. The seminar convinced me that this is an area I need to pay more attention.  Visual cues for me break down into two main areas.  The first is the importance of clean training.  The second is the importance of environmental cues.

Before the weekend we were asked to identify our top three goals and the top problems I have in achieving those goals.  I identified my top problems as a need to improve my consistency, need to improve my mechanical skills and need to plan my training sessions better.  This basically all rolls up into the concept of clean training.

Michele's handout describes "Blocking" a marker (clicker etc.).  Blocking is anything that distracts the dog from its awareness of the behavior that it is performing.  Any action, noise or visual incident that occurs before or during the marker can prevent the dog from understanding what is actually being rewarded.  Handlers can easily block their audible marker with hand movements, a food pouch, body movenments or words spoken before or during the intended marker.   Michele only uses a bait bag when training new behaviours where she would need a high rate of reinforcement and even then makes sure that the bait bag is on the opposite side of the body.  Treats are normally hidden in her pockets and she uses toys that are easily hidden. A favourite trick of hers is to use those flat road kill toys for tugging and she hides several on her body.  That lets her pull one out, play and then put it away where the dog can see.  She then surprises the dog by pulling another toy off her body.  Her theory is that she wants the dog to think she is the source of endless good stuff even if it isn’t right in front of the dog. 

Clean training involves keeping neutral body language when teaching behaviours, marking the behaviour cleanly and THEN moving to reward the behaviour.  Dogs are very visual learners and it is sooooo easy to unconsciously give body cues that end up being the lure to get the dog to do what we want.  Haven’t we all have had those moments where we think our dog knows  a voice cue but instead stares blankly at us when we ask for the behaviour?  We need to remember to keep our bodies neutral (i.e. hands at side, standing casually straight etc.).  Mark the behaviour with a clicker or other marker and ONLY then we may move to reward the behaviour.  It is fine to praise in between the marker and the treat and that will classically condition the praise which can be beneficial.

My mechanics have really improved over the last year but I still find myself with my hands in the treat pouch before they should be or my body in some sort of luring position.  It’s fine to use our body language as a cue for behaviour (and many freestyle moves are cued by body) but we should only be using the position that will be the final clean cue for the dog.   Lures that become habitiual visual cues for the dog will evolve into required cues.  The good news is that I am recognizing my bad habits now which is a good step to stopping them.  This seminar just reinforced that I need to be constantly vigilant about keeping things clean. 

The second part about visual cues is to be aware of environmental cues.  Michele spoke of watching dogs compete the first few times in a freestyle or obedience routine and the moment where dogs that are heavily rewarded with food figure out that there is no reward coming.  Dogs learn very quickly that the presence of ring gates indicate long working patterns with no rewards.  When we throw in stressed out owners it quickly adds up to not much fun for the dog.  She believes in training the entry into the ring as a regular behaviour that is rewarded.  One exercise we did at the seminar was to enter through a set of ring gates with our dogs as if we were to start an obedience round or freestyle routine.   If you have access to someone who can act as a ring steward and usher you in and take the leash that is even better.  Do those types of actions and then stop and have a play party with your dog.  Mix up the reinforcement schedule by sometimes asking for a few behaviors and then having the party.   After the party return to exit the ring gates quietly, leash up and exit the ring.  Repeat often so the presence of ring gates becomes a strongly reinforced cue to start work and also have fun. 

These fun party moments are important ways to reinforce our dogs without using food or toys.  Be sure to note how your dog likes to “party”.  Some dogs don’t like their owners being all crazy and they should be rewarded with calm petting or other things they enjoy.   Stella loves to bounce around but that can also sometimes get her over stimulated so depending on her mood I should mix that up with butt scratches and goofy talk.  It was quite impressive to watch the seminar participants work this exercise.  Many dogs enter the ring very slowly the first time and then look totally confused at the “party”.  Pretty much every dog showed significant improvement in attitude by the third attempt.

These environmental cues are everywhere in competition.  In obedience think of two people standing with crossed arms for the figure eight or a judge following you around with a clip board.  Consider if we dress or move the same way in competition as we do in regular training?  Be aware of those sorts of things and work them to our advantage because if you don’t the dogs will figure out they are cues that another boring time in the ring is ahead for them.

I would advise anyone to take part in a seminar with Michele.  I very much enjoyed my time and hopefully these posts represent some of the information acurately.  If not it is totally my fault because she was fabulous! 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Seminar - Michelle Pouliot Part 1

Stella and I had a working spot this past weekend at a Michelle Pouliot seminar.  Michelle is a top-level competitor in Canine Freestyle and is also Director of Research and Development for programs at Guide Dogs for the Blind.  I saw Michelle at Clicker Expo and really liked her presentions plus once I viewed a few of her freestyle routines I was blown away. Anyone that can complete a long routine like that with no food or toys and a happy working dog has my utmost respect.  The focus of the seminar was freestyle but she also has a strong obedience history and adapted her information for both types of participants.

I came away from the weekend with two "aha" areas that I want to focus on going forward over the next little while.   The first was working attention.   The second was the importance of visual cues.  This really isn't new information for me but I feel that life has a way of slapping us upside the head with information when we need to revisit something.

Michelle feels that we need to train more attention and focus less on training skills in other environments.  This makes a lot of sense to me because once I have great attention behaviours in all sorts of areas then the dog will naturally be able to perform the exercises I request.  This doesn't mean that the exercises don't still need to be trained, generalized etc but the biggest first step is just to get the working attention on cue and with duration. 

I worked attention with Stella as a puppy but realized that it had fallen away as we moved onto "sexier" stuff.   When we competed our pre-novice rounds a few weeks ago we passed but I wasn't happy with her heelwork as she was fairly sniffy and distracted.  She is capable of much prettier work than we gave.  I tend to have a mindset where I still think of her as a puppy and excuse things like distracted behaviour .  She is still a young (14 months) dog but I now recognize that I need to set and maintain some better standards when we are working together.

When training attention we have the following progression of goals:
1.  Have the dog offer attention.
2.  Get duration attention. 
3.  Get attention on cue.
4.  Have on cue attention fluent. 
5.  Attention is reliable in goal environments. 

Attention is a trained, reinforced behaviour for most dogs.  We want our dogs motivated to want to work with us.  We need to have a strong history of reinforcement (food, toys, play, interaction etc.) and a mutual trust and respect with our dogs to be successful.   We can't take food or toys in the ring so the relationship will be what gets us through.  We can classically condition praise by using it after we click but before we treat/play.   Stella has a few pretty good non-food/toy reinforcers in that she likes when I clap my hands and she gets to jump/bounce but that can get her a bit over-stimulated for a ring environment so I'm going to also explore other reinforcers.   Michelle believes in using the dog's favourite natural behaviours whenever possible as rewards.  One of her dogs loves to jump straight up and down and the other loves when Michelle is laying down on the floor.  Stella does love when I get down on my hands and knees with her so that might be useful for us. 

Michelle believes one of the biggest problems we have with attention is that as humans we self-sabatoge by checking out on our dogs.  We do this to talk to our trainer or friends, to think about what our next trainings steps will be, to set up stuff etc.  This teaches our dogs to dis-engage with us and move onto other self-rewarding behaviours like sniffing.  Attention is a two way street and we need to give our dogs 100% when we are training with them.  When we get attention on cue that is our "ON" switch so when we cannot offer our dogs 100% of our attention in return then we need to use our "OFF" switch.  Dogs need to be taught to shift into a neutral off that will allow us to do things like talk to trainers/set up.  This is not the same as an "all done" situation.  With young dogs she recommends placing them in a down (sit or stand also ok), give a cue like relax etc and then step on the leash so it is very short and prevents the dog from exploring the environment.   This is generally not a rewarded behaviour as the object is to teach the dog that we are not going to interact so there is no point in doing anything other than just waiting for us to turn them back "ON".    If you need to remove your attention for an extended period then it is better to crate or tie your dog somewhere.

I did the "OFF" exercise with Stella and she went down nicely and then I stepped on the leash.  She got bored quickly and wanted to explore but while the leash would allow her to stand it wasn't a very comfortable position for her.  She struggled a bit and I totally ignored her so she didn't think this was about me.  She wasn't stressed or freaked out, it was basically a discussion between my dog and the floor and eventually she flopped down and settled.   We've done this a few times since then and each time gets better.  I can see how this will lead to a better understanding of when we are working and expect engagement.   Michelle actually takes the whole thing further and uses a set routine where she crates for a short period before and after each training session and uses a specific leash on/off routine.  This pattern becomes a strong cue to the dog that work is about to start and is also useful in a trial environment when our dogs are often crated.  It certainly works for her!  We were lucky enough to watch her work her dogs and it is impressive.  Her dogs obviously love to work with her and equally obvious how much she loves and respects them.

I've rambled on long enough now so will talk more about visual cues another day. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Remembering Lucy

August 14th marks the two year anniversary of saying goodbye to our beloved yellow labrador Lucy.  She was 14.5 years old when she left us and I miss her.  Lucy was our first dog and was a bossy, smart, stubborn, loveable girl who helped make us a family.  She was a very naughty puppy and we wondered if we would ever survive that stage.  Riley and Stella have seemed like dream puppies compared to her craziness.

Riley is the dog that taught me to love training but Lucy was the dog that introduced me to the world of natural dog health.  She developed food allergies as a young dog which eventually lead me to raw feeding.  When she was five years old she got terribly sick and was diagnosed with Chronic Active Hepatitis and was expected to live less than six months.   We chose to support and fight her liver problems with many supplements and healthy food and she rebounded and did not show liver issues again until much later in life.  She also had bad problems in her final years with mobility so we learned again about things like IMS therapy (similar to accupuncure), dog chiropractors, swim therapy and supplements.  Her smile was ever present no matter what life threw at us.

She had a bad experience with a jack russell when she was six months and held a life long grudge against small, bossy dogs.  I know now that we probably could have trained past that but luckily her situation was easy to manage as it was easy to know the type of dog that would bother her.  She was ten when we brought home puppy Riley so they never really played much but were very good friends.  Riley was always gentle with her and was her great protector in her senior, wobbly years.

When I think of her now I am flooded with happy memories.  Our recent camping trip to Oregon had us laughing at funny thoughts from years camping with our yellow dog.  I still have moments where I cry and  my heart aches from missing her so much but mostly I am just grateful to have known her.  Thanks for being our dog Lulubelle, you are forever in our hearts!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Gotcha Day & New Title

Today is the one year anniversay of our wonderful little girl coming home with me.  I love this dog and she has brought lots of fun and new experiences to our family.

We "celebrated" by competing at a show in Victoria.  Stella successfully passed her remaining two legs of her pre-novice obedience title so now can add P.C.D. to her name.   Next up will be training towards the Rally Advanced (RA) and Novice Obedience (CD) titles .  She did a pretty good job today although her heel work wasn't nearly what she is capable.  My fault for not working it very much lately plus I also entered her in our first confirmation class at this same show so have been cramming in last-minute training for that this week.  It has confused her to go from a heel with attention and automatic sit (obedience) to focus forward and stand/stack when stopped (confirmation).  I'm sure we could easily sort that out with some more time but it made things interesting today.  Luckily she is pretty easy going and adaptable.

The confirmation actually went pretty well and I didn't fall flat on my face or embarass my lovely dog :o).   We competed with some local Vizsla friends so things were very relaxed and friendly.  We didn't come away with any points but it was an interesting experience.  I am still evaluating if this is something I am interested in pursuing further.  I have no plans to breed and showing gets pretty expensive especially when there is any travel.  A lot will depend on how things progress with Riley over the next month or so when we meet with the surgeon to see if we will do hip surgery.  If that happens then the show and training budgets are going to be pretty tight for a while.

Here are a few pics from her first day home with us and then today at the confirmation show.

Already showing signs of her love of shoes

Sneaky cuddler


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Vacation Part 1

Hubby, the dogs and I headed off a few weeks ago to beautiful Oregon with our trailer for some summer camping fun.  First week was LaPine State Park near Bend, Oregon.  This is a great area that would likely be classified as high mountain desert.  The Deschutes River winds through the campsite and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument Park is close by with wonderful sights, lakes and hiking. 

We had a very relaxing, mellow trip.  Riley is okay with shorter (1-1.5 hours) hikes so we did some exploring and took advantage of swimming opportunities.  Stella ate some grass that irritated her throat badly on the first day which then caused her to want to eat lots more grass to throw up and repeat in a vicious cycle.    This resulted in a few miserable days for her where she had an upset gastro-intestinal system (vomiting and a few diarhea poops) and a sore throat area.  Through all of that she still was mostly her happy, bouncy self and everything got sorted out and settled down after a few days.   Both my dogs munch on grass often here with no problems other than the occasional stringy grass poop but this stuff was just longer, dry stuff with sharper edges.  She is also low to the ground and darn sneaky so it was very hard to keep it away from her unless she was tied up on a short rope in the campsite.  Luckily once she felt better it was much less attractive to her.  We still managed to have lots of fun and the warm weather was perfect for dog swimming.

  Stella swimming in Paulina Lake

Riley swimming in Deschutes River

Friends exploring the trails

We also met a fun three month old female vizsla pup in the campground.  Stella had a blast playing with puppy Olive who actually lives fairly close to us here in Vancouver.  It was funny to meet them when we are both so far from home!

Stella playing with Olive