Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Does Socializing End?

People have a lot of expectations these days for their dogs.  While the majority of people probably aren't interested in competing with their dogs in dog sports I would bet that close to 100% of people want a dog that has good public manners and is comfortable in most environments.   There is a ton of information out there on socializing for puppies but my thoughts are whether we ever really can stop "socializing" our dogs.  I don't think we need to do the super vigilent type of puppy socializing but I do think that it is important to regularly challenge our dogs with new environments.

A few years ago I stopped with Riley to run some errands that include some dog friendly spots on a very busy street.  He is a very confident dog but he was very distracted and a little bit stressed.  I realized then that although I had done that sort of stuff when he was a puppy we rarely did it anymore.  Those times had been replaced by hiking off leash on mountain trails in much calmer, quieter settings.  I began stopping in strange places and popping out to walk for a few minutes or do some fun training.  We had good puppy foundations so he adjusted back to being comfortable within a few short sessions but it was a good lesson for me.  That exposure is important for everyday living and has the added benefit of helping our dogs be comfortable in competition environments.

Stella is a very environmentally aware dog.  This was something I underestimated when researching the vizsla breed.   Vizslas are bred to hunt, point and retrieve so it makes sense that they are going to be always keeping an eye out.  Luckily even though she is vigilant she is also quite comfortable and happy to train in new and different environments.  We did a lot of puppy socializing but part of her comfort is the ongoing exposure to new places.  Our dogs travel with us, go camping and often go along just for a car ride.  Living on the west coast means we aren't subject to very many temperature extremes which makes it easier for them to tag along.  On our recent camping trip she barked about her observations a fair amount for the first few days but then seemed to settle down into the new routine.  She is a vocal dog (loves to roo-roo and talk) and the barking was not in an aggressive manner but she needed to figure out that not everything in the area is her business.   Things are also a bit different for her recently with Riley being activity restricted as I think she takes his cues on how to respond sometimes.  It sucks that he is restricted but has probably been good for her to have more "alone" time and make her own choices.

Here are a few more pics from our camping trip.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Hip Displaysia

It's been a while since I said I would post about Riley's hip displaysia but it turns out my brain needed more time to start coming to terms with what this means for us.  We also snuck away for a lovely week of camping in an area where there is minimal internet access.

Riley's xrays show his left hip is dysplasic and has significant degenerative changes (aka arthritis). His right hip is in fairly good shape. His knees are pretty strong but he has some degenerative changes in his hocks (bone spurs and arthritis) which are likely due to compensating for the hip and not considered a significant factor at this point.  When I received this news I was quite overwhelmed.  I have known for a long time that his structure is not very good but had wrongly assumed that any recurring problems he had were from his back not his hips.  If he was ten years old and I received this news then I would be willing to manage this with supplements, medications and therapies but he just turned six years old.  I have never expected him to be a super long-lived lab due to his size but I did expect him to have a good 3-4 more active years.  He is a very healthy and active dog but I do worry about the long term effects of using NSAIDs.

Our options are to restrict his activities and manage the pain or to do surgery.  Neither option is clearly defined at this stage.  He is currently on a NSAID and we have done a four week course of cartophen injections.  I have been supplementing him with good quality glucosamine products for years and using homeopathic remedies like Arnica or Traumeel when he had soreness in the past.  We usually walk 1-1.5 hours every day with a lot of that off leash hiking on local trails so he is actually in very good shape other than this problem.  He has been on leash more the past few months in an effort to treat his soreness and prior to our holiday we were starting to get back to more regular activity levels with some modifications. 

While on holidays I experimented with letting him have more off leash freedoms and unfortunately he paid the price.  We didn't do any major hiking but still a longer (1.5 hour) walk was just to much for him and he was sore later.  Darn dog has absolutely no filter on how to retrict himself and just go, go, goes while he is in the "moment".   He does recover with a few days rest and does well if kept mostly on leash.  It sucks for him because he loves to run and explore but for now I will closely monitor his activity and reactions.

The other option is surgery.  There are two types of hip surgery.  One involves cutting off the head of the hip bone so it no longer rubs against the joint causing pain.  The muscles can stabalize the joint and recovery is fairly easy.  Unfortunately that surgery is mainly successful for dogs under 50-60 pounds.  The option I am looking at is a total hip replacement just like they do in humans.  It will cost a small fortune (around 5 or 6 thousand) and involves a pretty major three month recovery.  The first month has the largest risk of dislocation so is basically no activity other than potty breaks and then gradually over months two and three we build up from very short walks to regular activity.  It appears there is a very good (90+%) success rate for the surgery but of course there are always risks and if things go wrong then he will be really screwed.   Despite that I am still leaning towards that option.  His soreness levels last week have convinced me that it will not be easy to treat this without surgery.  It is very expensive but I also know from experience with Lucy that supplements, meds and therapies add up a lot and there is a lot of time and travel involved for chiro visits, swim visits etc.   

I have asked my vet for a referral to the surgeon so we can assess if Riley is a good candidate for the surgery.  If it turns out that he isn't then I will look further at regular therapy like swimming, accupuncture etc as well as some other alternative therapies.  I have a friend who had good success with gold bead accupuncture implants for her dog and have also heard good things about stem cell therapies.  I don't know much about either option currently but I will research. 

Lots of information for me to digest and assess over the coming months.  If we proceed with surgery then I am hoping to do it early september which allows for our summer holiday. 

Here are a few pics of last weeks lovely camping trip.  It was good to get away and just enjoy time with hubby and the dogs.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

A trial and bad news

Last weekend the dogs and I headed over to Victoria for a dog trial.  This was Stella's very first trial.  I had originally planned to just take her along to introduce her to the environment and see how comfortable she was with the crating, noises and other dogs.  Last minute as I was submitting the entries I decided what the heck I would enter Stella in one round of rally novice each day.  Once I entered her there was a few mild moments of panic when I checked the exercises and realized I had a few things I had to teach quickly.

Riley has been injured the past month or so and had aggravated that injury the weekend before so he also had basically no training or work in the time leading up to the trial.  Needless to say I didn't hold high hopes for our success. We headed over on friday night in time for the "correction" matches and to set up all of our gear.  During the practice with Riley he slipped on the floor and again seemed quite sore.  I was all set to scratch him for the weekend but after a nights rest he seemed more comfortable.  He wasn't quite his normal self and his sits were slow but we did manage to finish off his pre-novice title and his final two rounds of Rally Excellent title so I was very proud of my handsome dog.  We moved up for a round of novice obedience which didn't go so well but considering he wasn't feeling great and there was a lot of distractions I wasn't that disappointed.  That same weekend there was a confirmation show and a horse show on the same grounds as our trial.  The trial was indoors but it was hot so all the doors were open and we shared some areas with the outdoor confirmation show.

Stella was wonderful in her two classes.  Her first round was a 96 and won her first place in the class.  She would have had a 99 but I screwed up and mishandled a turn.  I even managed to screw it up again on the redo!  Riley reads my body language better so I didn't provide the extra information she needed for the about turn.    Her second class also went very well and we scored a 95 and second place.  I was very proud of my happy, bouncy bean because even though she was a little distracted she was happy, comfortable and worked well in the ring with me.  I am even starting to see a few moments of lovely attention heeling with her which I have only just begun to start working.  She also seems quite at ease in all the chaos and other dogs which makes me very happy!

Here is the video of our first rally round.

It was a nice weekend away and on our return home we were all exhausted.  This week I took Riley in for his xrays and received the horrible news that his left hip is quite dysplasic.  I am still trying to digest that information and process all that means for the future.  I'm generally a pretty accepting person but when my furries are hurt I get all knotted up. I've had quite a few crying moments while this has been happening but will post later this week with more information.  Please keep my wonderful big dog in your thoughts.