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Archive for June, 2012

I’m having that issue again where I want to get everything “right.” Apparently my brain still thinks that there are correct commands for each action you want a dog to perform. I know that my obedience trainer uses the “go out” command in Obedience which means for the dog to go forward at a brisk trot or gallop to a point about 20 feet past the jumps in the approximate center of the unobstructed end of the ring. This is for Utility Directed Jumping. My understanding is the action is for the dog to go straight out from you, until you command a sit. “Go out” makes sense to me for this. “Go out” over there, then “sit.” Words match the actions my brain is expecting to the dog to perform.

Tonight my Agility trainer talked about having to send your dog out away from you. She used “go out,” but in this case the dog will be going around an obstacle, curving around it, and not traveling in a straight line.

Immediate brain panic. Now, I suppose it’s good that I realized this is going to be an issue. I recognized that these two actions are different enough that I think they will need separate commands. But the fact that it sent me home googling commands to try to find “correct” ones to use — possibly not so good.

I need to remind myself that my dog doesn’t speak English. She won’t care what command I use. Apple, pear, peaches and orange could just as easily mean sit, stay, down and come to her if I trained it that way. I could train her so that the word “banana” means go out straight from me until I tell her to sit. But there it is. Some how this idea of “right” seems to be hard wired into me. I want a dictionary of terms — this action means the dog does this and this command should be used. This dictionary must encompass ALL dog sports, so that as I add to my repertoire of games to play with my dog there will be no conflicts.

Because we all know that the English language works that way with no one word having more than one meaning.

But, the commands have to be something I’ll remember and that make sense to me. Commanding banana in either location probably won’t come as second nature even if I train it.

I’ll have to spend a little time thinking about this, and deciding what command I want to use. But it would be nice to have a list to choose from. Maybe next dog show I’ll spend some more time watching the other levels of Obedience. I may not get a dictionary, but I’ll possibly get ideas of what others use!

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Beagles are scent hounds. They go out in the woods, find a rabbit and let off a hellacious noise to let you know where they are so you can come to them. They don’t find it and bring it back. They don’t really care where you are. Your job is to follow them.

They aren’t the first breed one thinks of when considering obedience. Or retrieving. Or well, anything that doesn’t suit their mood at the moment. One day the husband and I were lounging outside in our yard. The labrador was laying at my feet, gazing up at me as if I was a goddess. The beagle was across the yard checking out the new smells. She had no idea where we were, and honestly didn’t care.

I’ve had beagles before. The current one is my third. We never did much training with the beagles. Their only purpose in life was to cuddle with us. A purpose they all seemed just fine with. If they could sit, didn’t beg at the table, and sat contentedly next to me while I toiled away on the computer life was good.

And then we got the labrador. And I started doing obedience. And then flyball. And just started Agility training. One thing I started noticing was the sibling rivalry. The beagle suddenly remembered some of her early training and was happy to show it all to me because she certainly believed she deserved the treats more than this new pup.

Now back when the beagle was young we took her to a basic obedience class. Sits were ok. Downs were fine. Heeling — yea it wasn’t happening. That beagle nose was far, far too interested in the smells on the ground to focus at me. The trainer then tried several treats. I remember her bringing out this freeze dried liver. “This is puppy crack. She won’t be able to resist it!”

You know what they say about counting your chickens before their hatched? The beagle wasn’t interested. The trainer threw up her hands and heeling never happened.

Until now. On a whim I started goofing off with her in the backyard during those moments of sibling rivalry and heeling happened! Off leash! It was amazing!

So I started working with her more. I started playing with her more. I remembered how much she loves playing tug. And that I’d spent time teaching her to fetch.

Then today we attended our third flyball training session. The beagle has always come along, but until now I never considered doing it with her. It was fetching. It was running and jumping, not sniffing for rabbits, but I’d forgotten that she liked balls. Even more I’d forgotten how far she’d come in such a short time since I started being more her partner and not just her mom.

In the room, with other dogs and new smells I had her off leash. She stayed with me. She heeled off leash in a new location! She did a little box work. She took three jumps in a row (though that took some work, because she’s a smart beagle and she knew it was easier to go around then over!). She had a blast. I had a blast! I was so impressed and inspired by her. I never would have dreamed this little beagle would respond to her name in a new location and come back to look up with me loving eyes when she was sniffing new things.

At the last show we met a woman who is doing Obedience with her beagles. A few months back I contacted our breeder to get her papers again so I could register “just in case.” When I told him I was doing obedience, he laughed. “With a beagle?” Yup with a beagle. With a beautiful, smart, incredibly talented beagle, who after flyball training, followed by a nice fetching session out back with her new smaller sized tennis balls is collapsed on the couch too tired to even snore.

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Birthdays and Bedtimes

Yesterday the Beagle turned five. Last night was one week to the day of a miraculous change in her life. Over the years we have tried to get the Beagle to sleep in the bed with us. All of our dogs have, except this one. She would never settle down. She would pace, stand at the edge of the bed and bark, or jump down once she finally realized she could make it. The only time in her life she spent the night in bed with us was when we spent several days during a really bad snow storm without heat. Those two nights she hopped right up, dug her way under the blankets and settled in to be warm. The rest of her life she’s spent the night in her crate.

A week ago we were at the dog show. The husband took the Beagle outside around 11:00 pm. Now I’m not saying this is the whole reason, but while out there not more than a 30 yards away a black bear stepped out of the tree line. At first my husband thought it was a large, loose dog until it reared up. He and the Beagle immediately returned to the room, and as he unhooked the leash from the collar our little Beagle ran across the room, jumped up on the bed and proceeded to curl up in a ball against my hip. It was a very clear, “I’m sleeping right here and there is nothing you can do about it!”

So with Labrador on one side, and Beagle on the other, and husband somewhere on the other coast of the king sized bed we all fell asleep.

Like the heat issue, I expected this to be a one night thing. I wasn’t sure if it was the bear (since amazingly she didn’t react at all to it, not running away, or pulling towards or even letting out that wonderful wake the neighbors three states away beagle howl), or if it was just the fact she was sitting in her crate watching her sister getting all the attention and good sleeping space on the nice soft bed that did it. Normally the Beagle is in her crate in another room, not the bedroom at night. Either way, I expected that once we returned home life would return to normal.

On a whim that night we brought her up to bed, expecting five minutes of pacing, jumping down and barking only to find her curling up at my side and seeming to love laying between us. And now when we get up to go to bed, after taking them out she’s the first one at the door to the stairs waiting for us to go up. So, it took five years, but now the Beagle who is currently curled up in a ball at my side on the couch, will do the same on the bed. I have no idea what switch finally flipped inside the little hound mind, but other than the fact I really need a bigger bed I think I like it!

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According to my husband I am one of “those” moms.  He says I have “mommy” senses which are similar to Spidey Sense that lets me know when our dogs are getting into trouble.  I am also one of those moms that likes to know as much as I can about everything I’m doing to and with my dogs.  What this means is that I’m learning to ask more questions.  And it seems for everything we do there are always more questions to be asked.  Questions like what should I feed my dog?  Why?  When?  How much?  What vaccinations should my dog have?  Why?  How often?

Start asking questions.  Did you know that materials used to teach nutrition in many vet schools are provided by some of the big name dog food companies like Purina and Hills?  I didn’t.  I never thought about it.  Now, does this mean the information is automatically incorrect?  No.  But it does make me want to take a deeper look, especially when that information then promotes their own line of dog food.  I’ve also heard about other perks being provided to vet schools, vet students and then clinics from these big companies if they then promote, carry and prescribe the company’s products.  Again, does this make the information contained inaccurate?  No.  But questions are important.  And there are people on both sides of the spectrum from the dog food you can get at the grocery store is just fine — to you should only feed raw, natural food to your dog!  My answer is to read.  To learn.  To study.  To get as much information as I can and to make the best decision I can for me, my dog and our lifestyle.

Vaccinations were the subject of my conversation last night.  About two weeks ago someone who I respect greatly in the dog world mentioned she didn’t have her dog vaccinated for something vets (I’ve had a few over the years) had been vaccinating my dogs for on a yearly basis.  Sometimes it takes something like this to spark you asking questions.  For me I’d gone along with the idea that my vet knew best all these years.  After all, they are the ones that went to school to learn how to be a vet!  Wouldn’t they be the most knowledgeable?  In a perfect world — yes.

Yeah, I don’t live there either.

So I started reading.  I started asking questions.  I decided I wanted to understand to the best of my ability with the time I had before my next yearly check up with my dogs (which was oh, three days!) what exactly I was vaccinating for, why and the risks associated both with vaccinating and with not vaccinating.  Let me just say, staring to dive into this made my head want to explode.  Just like with dog food there are people all over the spectrum on this very hot topic.  It’s s hot topic for humans as well right now.  Over vaccination.  Do vaccinations cause illness?  Are they bad?  Are they good?  BOOM!

I read.  And I printed.  And I highlighted.  I dreamed about needles.  And then I went to my vet.  I warned the staff I wanted to have a conversation with my vet when I made the appointment.  I actually asked if I could just schedule an appointment for the conversation, but they said to bring the pup along either way.  I made sure my appointment was the last one on his calendar so that while I might upset his wife making him miss dinner, I wouldn’t cause the person with the sick pup waiting to see him any distress.  And then I got nervous.  With my research I read of vets unwilling to change their vaccination protocols.  Of vets being unwilling to even discuss it.  Of vets using scare tactics to frighten a pet owner.  I have a hard time challenging authority sometimes, but when it’s for something I care about well this little mouse can roar.  I didn’t have to roar.  I talked.  He listened.  He talked.  I listened.

I’m not going to tell you what vaccination protocol we settled on.  I will tell you this conversation with my vet was worth every minute of the hour and fifteen minutes of my time.  We came to a mutually acceptable decision on what was best at this time for my dog.  I feel I understand (and will keep reading!!) the risks I am taking with my decisions (to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, because there are risks either way!), and that I am doing the best thing I can for my dog with the knowledge I have.  That’s all we can do for those we love.

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We just returned home from our second dog show. Now before I get into the rambling about it: The labrador earned her first title! Hooray labrador!

So, that’s out of the way — now you can decide for yourself if you want to keep reading the rambles!

This was the first one where a little bit of distance was involved, so I reserved a hotel room, not wanting to spend the two and a half hours before I went into the ring on the road, nervous and hoping nothing went wrong with traffic!

I began packing on Thursday after spending all week trying to figure out everything I would need. I finished packing on Friday and we headed up the highway. Best thing I packed that I almost didn’t — paper towels. We almost used the entire roll! One thing I wish I had packed — an old blanket from home. It would have been nice to let the pups chew on their toys on their blanket and not the hotel room floor. The mess wasn’t too bad, but I would have liked to have left less mess for the poor staff! Apparently they host dog folks about twice a year, so I suppose they are used to it. They were all very friendly (staff and the other dog folk).

The one thing I packed that I was glad I didn’t have to use — Nature’s Miracle. Hooray no accidents in the hotel room!

I was looking for another show like the first — a small, relaxed show. I was told this one was. When I got the judging program and it mentioned seven rings going at once there was a bit of panic. That didn’t sound small to me! Turns out it was a confirmation and obedience show/trial (I’m still trying to learn the proper language here — seems like confirmation has shows and obedience trials, but I need to confirm that!). Five rings of confirmation were in one building, and the ones for rally and obedience were in another smaller building. That helped my nerves when I saw that.

I am glad we went on Friday and set up the Labrador’s crate, and our chairs, as the place was very crowded by the time we got there Saturday morning. Note to self, always go set up the night before if it’s allowed.  It also helped calm my nerves seeing the venue.

After that we headed off to a nice park recommended by the hotel staff, walked the pups and wore them and us out too.

Friday night, even with the walk it took a little bit to settle in. The dogs weren’t sure what to make of the room. The Beagle who sleeps in her crate regularly did not want to go quietly to sleep, but we all managed to get settled in by around 11:00 pm without disturbing the neighbors!

Saturday morning we qualified! The score was not as high as I would have liked, but high enough for that wonderful green qualifying ribbon! Our third leg complete! Our first title!  (Cue appropriate Happy Snoopy Dance!)

That night everyone settled in much better. The beagle even decided to join us all in the bed (hooray for king sized beds!) and slept through the night at my side. Two people, two dogs. King sized beds rock. I will always ask for one when traveling for a show!

Having earned the title, I knew we could move up to the next level for Sunday, but decided we weren’t ready for off leash. Sunday we stayed at our level, which we can continue to do for 60 days I believe and got a bumper leg (or so I heard it called — again still learning the lingo!). I thought I would be relaxed, calm and composed this day. I mean, I had the title, they can’t take it away — what was there to be nervous about? The butterflies in my tummy didn’t agree. I was still nervous. But we still did well, and earned another nice green ribbon!

So, not only did we come out of this with our very first title, but I feel I came away from this with a good idea of things to work on. I have a better idea where I want us to be as a team, now to figure out how to get there!

I’m not sure where or when our next show will be. We have work to do, and decisions to make before the next one. Do we move up in Rally? Move on to try for our CD? Both? We have agility classes starting Tuesday, so who knows what direction that might take us.

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The results are back. It was a trichoepithelioma, which means it was a benign hair follicle tumor. The staple is now out, and the beagle is none the worse for wear. According to the vet this was a better outcome than even he expected. They removed it all, and it’s not something likely to reoccur. It was good to remove it due to its location and the fact it could grow and cause other issues. After the staple was removed, the tail wagged happily as the Beagle asked the Vet for a treat! All is well.

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