Saturday, 21 July 2012

CKC Rally Novice Title

Today Stella completed her third and final leg of her CKC rally novice title.  It was her second trial and also my very first outdoor trial.  The conditions were terrible!  We arrived and within minutes the pouring rain started and it didn't stop.  We had thunder, the ring had puddles and I was soaked.  There was also a nearby blueberry farm shooting off a bird cannon consistantly through the day.  I was very grateful that those noises don't bother her.

We were registered for two rally novice classes and the first didn't go so well.  We were scheduled to be third in the ring but the first dog cancelled last minute and the next had a ring conflict so we basically got thrown right into the ring without a proper warmup.  My happy bouncing bean girl was not amused with the wet conditions and didn't want to do any downs so we NQ'd on that round.  I can't say I disagreed with her thoughts and I probably wasn't the best handler for her either on that round.

Our second round went much better.  The rain had dropped from a downpour to more of a light rain and we had warmed up properly.  She did awesome and we scored a 93 which was high in class.  Very proud of my girl!  She was distracted with all the activity and smells of the outdoors but still worked well for me. 

We also completed our first leg of pre-novice obedience.  This class is marked as a pass or fail and is an introductory class leading up to novice obedience.  It is a great way to get some ring experience for both of us and she was very good.   During the heelwork she was a bit distracted by some birds flying by but settled down more as the class progressed and we finished up very strong and passed.  I was especially pleased with how well she is starting to work for some happy praise and hand claps.

Outdoor trials are not very common on the west coast as most people prefer to trial indoors.  This was a good (although very wet) experience for both of us and I would do an outdoor trial again but hopefully be a little better prepared for bad weather.  We had had some lovely sun this week and the forecast I saw was for possible showers.  I really should know better being a good west coast camping girl but lessons learned.  We met another pretty Vizsla girl there today and the rain actually seemed to bond the participants in shared misery so there was some fun and laughter. 

We head out today for two weeks of fun and recreation camping in Oregon.  I'm looking forward to minimal communications with the outside world and lots of relaxation.  I leave you with a pics of a previous Oregon trip with a year old Riley. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Miss Mighty Hunter

Note to self .... Make sure to pack some benadryl for camping trips!

Stella has strong birding instincts which is true to her breed and also to her bloodlines.  Both her parents are accomplished dogs in the field.  I may in the future look into field trials but it is very hard to find positive based training methods in that area of dog sports.   For now we have lots to work on with rally and obedience and possibly agility in the future.

Her hunting instincts are not limited to birds.  She loves to hunt, stalk, chase anything she can which includes bugs, flies and the cats when they want to participate.  When we have been camping she amuses herself in the campground by playing with any of the bugs or flies she can find.  She stalks, pounces, repeats until eventually she catches her prey.  I'm sure that this is eventually going to result in her being bitten by something so hence the benadryl comment above.  If there is a spider or fly in the house she and the cats compete to chase it down. 

She loves to chase the cats which I stop as much as possible.  The cats know that she isn't going to hurt them but they still provide her with some chase opportunities.  Desi will just jump up on to the nearest higher ground to end the chase.  Fred almost enjoys the games and runs for a minute and then just stops and looks at her which brings her to to a screeching halt where she waits wagging her tail hoping for the game to start again.  Desi tends to mostly ignore the dogs but Fred is quite comfortable with them around.  Stella cracks me up offering all sorts of play bows to Fred but her best play moves just cause him to flick his tail and walk away from her.  She hasn't given up hope yet that he will someday romp and wrestle with her. 

Here is a picture of her pointing a bird in a bush on a recent hike.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Training Fun

Are we having fun yet?   Of course!

I am still very early on the training journey with Stella.  I hope to compete in our first pre-novice obedience class later this month and also to complete the final round we need for our CKC rally novice title.  Most people look at obedience competitions and must think that stuff looks sooooooo boring and they are probably right in a lot of cases.  I don't know how far our obedience journey will go but I have pledged to do my best to try to make training with my dogs fun for them.  I'm human so of course there are days that bring frustration but this is a learning experience for all of us.  I made some choices with Riley's earlier training that I'm not proud of but I was lucky that his personality is very solid and forgiving.  I learned some valuable lessons and learned to recognize his stress signs and we found better ways of working together.  

Stella benefits from that experience which is lucky for both of us because her personality is absolutely made for positive, happy training methods.   I think if I tried to use harsher training techniques with her it would probably shut her down.   It is something I will need to be very aware of as we progress in training to harder things.   Does that mean she doesn't occasionally get yelled at to get out of the damn cat litter box?  or to drop that underwear (sock, shoe, etc)? or to stop barking at the non-existant boogy-man that must be hiding in the trees behind the back fence?   I occassionally yell and she is just fine with that.  In fact it usually causes her to wiggle happily at me because mostly those things are her just looking for attention! She is still a puppy and at a year old likes to test things sometimes.  If I seriously need her to stop doing something I basically just need to hold her collar for a few moments to stop the reinforcement she is getting from whatever she is doing and that is usually all that is needed to reset her brain. 

When we are working on our formal obedience type training we work with a lot of food rewards but I am also working with play.  We can't take food in the ring so I want her to think that all this training stuff is about having fun with me.  I can clap my hands and call her my super star and that just makes her bounce with glee.  When we work heeling I sometimes just take off running from her because she loves the chase game.   Jumping nose touches and a few fun tricks are a good break between exercises.  She enjoys tugging although isn't quite the crazy tugger like Riley.  She prefers more the chasing of the tug as a toy but still can put up some pretty good moves when she catches it.  I've noticed a few times lately that she wants to prance around with her prize instead of engaging back to me so I will have to make sure that doesn't become a pattern.  I am making a note to myself to go back and review some of the recaller games and start using more of those.   I am also auditing a seminar in august with Denise Fenzi who does some fabulous stuff on playing with your dog for obedience.   I would love to hear other fun suggestions that anyone wants to share!

We are just back from a lovely, hot weekend camping at nearby Whistler.  Here is the latest "family" picture taken while visiting some waterfalls.   I think Riley was considering the 200 foot drop to the water but we convinced him that was a bad idea.

Family fun weekend camping at Whistler

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Heat Cycle Follow-Up

This is a follow up blog to the post on  Stella's first heat cycle.  Stella finished her heat cycle in the first few days of May.  She is now in the diestrus phase which means her body is hormonally pregnant even if she is not.   Some dogs will show symptoms of false pregnancy during this time.  This phase typically lasts two to three months until we go into the dormant anestrus phase between heat cycles.  We are just now closing in on two months since the end of her season.

The first few weeks after her heat were "interesting".  Although she was finished her season she seemed to retain a lingering smell that was attractive to other dogs.   She is generally a meek dog when she meets new dogs and initially throws out submissive, calming signals and then bounces more into her normal playful self.   While she was in this stage she became defensive of dogs smelling her and actually air snapped at dogs that got personal.  It was not a comfortable behaviour for her so I did my best to keep her out of those types of situations.  Riley also continued to be interested in her during that time but she was able to handle him better by diverting his advances into more play type behaviours or just sitting down until we would redirect him away from her.   Those behaviours from other dogs have greatly reduced but she continues to have an attractive smell to some male dogs that we meet.  Luckily those smelling episodes are not nearly as intense as the earlier ones so she is able to cope with being "checked out" and I can usually easily just call her away.  Apparently that is not very common but is not unheard of as their bodies return back to normal hormonal levels.  It is possible that because this is her first cycle that things are still kinda wacky.  I am hopeful that will stop over the next few weeks.

Her nipples and vulva reduced noticeably at the end of her heat and then there have been very slow minor changes since then.  I've noticed just this week that her vulva area is pretty much back to normal but is more pronounced than before.  Her nipples have lost almost all the puffiness although the actual nipples are still a bigger size and will also stay that way.

She had problems with her ears as well.  They developed little scabby cracks around some of the edges.  I'm not sure it this was from Riley licking her ears or if it was just a bit of her immune system recovering but again I hear it is a common happening with Vizslas.  My vet told me to keep them moist and protected from insects.  I tried a few things.  I'm not a fan of antibiotic ointments except in specific instances so did not use those.  Bag balm worked okay but is quite sticky and she hated the smell of it.  I then remembered virgin coconut oil which I tried and had very good success with.  It melts fast, absorbs quickly and has natural anti-fungal properties.  I just coated the ear a few times a day and within a few days they were healed.     

There have been a few minor changes in her temperment as well.  She never used to mark very much on walks prior to her heat but does a lot more of that now.  Some of her single dog to dog greetings when we meet on the trails are a bit different as well.  She seems to focus in on the approaching dog, then barks and bounces in a manner that borders on a ruder style of greeting.  I think that is probably a combination of her age, having extra attention from dogs smelling her, and also being walked more alone due to Riley's recent exercise restrictions.  She would normally just take her cues from him and now is working out more of her own thing.  Luckily it is easy to tell by her body language when she is going to greet like that so I call her back into heel, reward and walk a few steps and then give her the "go see" command which breaks up the pattern and she greets appropriately.

I have cut back her food a bit the past few weeks as I think she has put on a few pounds since the end of her cycle.   I haven't weighed her recently but she was 39-40 pounds heading into her heat which I thought seemed to be a good weight for her.  I will monitor that to see if she returns back to her normal food requirements over the next few weeks as she leaves the diestrus phase or perhaps this is just a symptom of her normal food requirements leveling off at lower levels as she is finishing growing.

Today is Canada Day so I leave you with a pic of my smiling Lucy on a sunny Canada Day a few years ago shortly before we said goodbye.