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Archive for October, 2012

Earlier this month the Labrador and I finished a Beginning Agility class. We knew there was a NADAC trial coming to town and that our Instructor was involved, so I volunteered to help out. After I volunteered our Instructor looked at me and said, “You could do Tunnelers.”

I think my response was along the lines of, “Really?” Despite my disbelief, the seed was planted. The Labrador loves tunnels. She will happily race through any tunnel remotely in her path, which is both good and bad. We’d done a few sequences, and the two hardest sequences according to our Instructor during one training session and the Labrador was fairly good at figuring out where I wanted her to go, only once taking another tunnel extra just cause it was there.

But I still hadn’t run a full Tunnelers course. I didn’t even know how many tunnels made up a full Tunnelers course! And yet that seed was germinating. A week ago I decided why not! I got the Labrador a NADAC number and filled out the entry form. Monday I went over to my Instructor’s and she had a full tunnelers course set up. We ran it four times. Three of which the Labrador at least hit the correct tunnels in the correct order. My handling was bad, mostly because we haven’t worked much on crosses much (Beginner Agility only so far!). So there were a few swirl around mommy while trying to figure out where mommy is trying to send me moments. On the one where she didn’t hit them in the correct order, there was a moment of, “This tunnel, no this tunnel no… Oh hi dad! Oh sorry mom’s calling me gotta go back, but I’ll take this tunnel first.” There was also one midcourse collision since she got to the end of the tunnel faster than I expected and I didn’t make my cross very well! All you can do is laugh!

Laughing is what I absolutely loved about the NADAC trial. I went the first day and volunteered to help. It gave me a chance to watch and learn. I loved it. The people I met were wonderful, friendly and willing to talk, teach and explain. Errors in the ring for the most part were handled with laughter and jokes. I watched one team running and the dog just decided to make his own course. When he finally got back to his handler, the handler just laughed and said, “I love you,” and got back to finishing the course. The judge encouraged people to run with errors and finish the course if they chose, and even allowed people in running their own versions of the course to train their dog or just give the dog a good experience in the ring. Of course those people wouldn’t qualify, but from what I understand of AKC this wouldn’t happen. It’s a different environment.

I saw some amazing runs. I saw some amusing runs. I saw dogs go and greet the ring crew, leave their handlers to go sniff the grass and even one dog who wouldn’t stop sniffing to take even one obstacle. And yet everyone seemed to still be enjoying themselves!

It was wonderful. Of course it didn’t stop the nerves! Sunday I rose before the sun to get ready. The Labrador looked up from my pillow like “Are you serious?” when I told her “Come on.” She slept in the car on the way over. I helped set up and ran leashes for the first class to keep warm and try to work off the nerves. I paced. I couldn’t eat. And finally around 1:00 it was time. I walked the course. I realized I was completely unsure about the crosses, but worked out a plan with my Instructor. I expected about three places were there would be pauses as we adjusted and got through the cross. Amazingly there was only one! The Labrador shot through the first tunnel, tail wagging and grinning. She ran where I sent her, and I kept the course straight! We qualified earning 10 points towards our first NADAC title and a very pretty purple ribbon, which the Labrador tried to eat.

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When I got the Labrador I realized I was going to have a large dog on my hands. While her mother was small, her father was about 100 pounds. I wasn’t sure what we would end up with, but I knew she’d be bigger than the beagles I was used to dealing with. The last thing I wanted was a large, unruly dog I couldn’t handle walking, or having people over with, so for the first time my training took me beyond the puppy class to the Beginner and Intermediate classes. On the weekends there would be extra credit for these classes which I started attending religiously. I wanted to make sure from the start that this dog that might one day be stronger than I was was trained well by that time not to try to prove it! I wanted a dog that wouldn’t knock people over and would be pleasant to walk. In the beginning those were my only goals.

One weekend about a year ago a person showed up at one of the extra credit sessions with her Border Collie. She asked me if I planned to compete with the Labrador. Before I could open my mouth, my trainer replied for me, “Yes.” I blinked, responded with something like “I am?” and a bit of nervous laughter, but the seed had been planted.

Tonight I saw that Border Collie again. I recognized the dog, and the woman reminded me she was the one who asked if I was going to compete, saying she’d been very impressed with my dog. My response to her tonight was, “So this is all YOUR fault!”

And that’s how it started!

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The other day we attempted to measure the Labrador so that I could register her for NADAC. I put her in a stand/stay and we attempted to put a yard stick at her side and a clip board over her shoulder to read the measurement. She was having none of it! My helper made the comment, “She must not know that,” to which I protested, “But she does!”

At the house I’ve done stand/stays. At the park I’ve worked on stand/stays. At the very location we were she’s done stand/stays! She knows it! Except…. Every time I’ve done it I’ve walked away. Sometimes someone has come up to lightly touch her in preparation for a stand for exam, but stand/stay has meant stand there while I walk over here, turn and them come back to your side. It’s never meant stand there while someone does something else strange to you. So stand/stay doesn’t mean to the Labrador yet exactly what I think it should mean. But that’s because I haven’t fully proofed the exercise yet.

This means now it’s time to proof the exercise so that she understand stand/stay means stand there and stay no matter what. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I exclaim, “But she KNOWS that” while she proves me wrong. It just means time for more practice and proofing!

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The raw transition is complete! No upset tummies, no problems! They spent their first ten days getting chicken, and have now been introduced to turkey. Beef and lamb will be coming soon.

I can’t deny it is more work. Bags of kibble are so much easier. Portioning up the raw, packaging it, and making sure enough is thawed for feeding takes a bit more forethought than just coming home and scooping out portions from a bag of kibble. But I truly think it’s worth it.

During this transition we’ve also been working on the Labrador’s ear infection. I can happily report that the ear is currently a very nice shade of white/pink! All medication has stopped, and she seems to be doing fine. Now the real test will be to see if the infection returns.

Both dogs seem to greatly enjoy their new diet and lick their bowls clean. Weight ins have shown no loss or gain of weight since we began so it seems I’m feeding a good portion since we began this with them both at good weights. I will be curious to see if I notice any changes, though I do think both of their coats seem to be a bit softer, but that could just be that it’s turning cold here and they are currently curled up one on either side of me on the couch snoring!

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Since I intend to compete in Obedience, the word “come” now has a very specific meaning. Sometimes I just want the dogs to come over to me, but not necessarily sit in front of me. I realized I needed a new command. A helpful person suggested “Here.” This sounded good. Here. It was something I’d remember, made sense to me, and so I started using it and training it.

Only I forgot something. The other day the Labrador was sitting. I had her in a stay, and she started to look at a distraction. Wanting to get her focus back, but for her to continue in the stay, I gave my I want your eyes on me command — “Look here.”

Yes, she did exactly what I asked, she looked at me, then came over to me, breaking the stay. For a split second I almost corrected her, and then realized exactly what I had done, and exactly what she had done — exactly what I’d asked her to!!

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Yesterday we took the plunge. I bought my first two chubs of raw. I got home, took out my little spreadsheet, a bunch of ziplock baggies, my sharpie, a cutting board, scale and knife and took to dissecting it into meal sized portions.

The dogs were very curious, especially the Labrador. I have a feeling once we are at set amounts the packaging into meal sized portions will not take as long as it did this time, but since we are transitioning every three days to a new amount and the amounts are different per dog, it took a bit of time.

Finally I mixed the first portion with their vitamins and kibble and offered the bowls to the dogs. At first they started with the kibble, then tasted the raw. Since they both went back to lick their bowls twice I think it was a rousing success! For their second meal they started with the raw first, then ate their kibble. So first concern and obstacle easily overcome!

Portions for today and tomorrow are thawing in the fridge.

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We had our follow up tonight regarding the ear. Tuesday night I noticed it started getting red again. Wednesday there was scratching and shaking. Tonight it was definitely red. There is no wax build up, no junk, but definite irritation. We aren’t sure why.

We are adding an anti-inflammatory to her medication to see if we can’t keep it under control and let the ear drum heal. One thing that concerned me was we called during the week regarding the ear drops. I noticed about four days in that not only did it expire 9/12, it said to keep it refrigerated. Concerned my husband called the vet’s office. His staff assured him it was good for a month past the expiration date (which even human medicines can be, so that didn’t concern me), and that it was fine not to refrigerate it. With the ear getting red, I mentioned this during the visit. The staff hadn’t checked with him. He wasn’t so sure, and gave us another bottle that expires next year and said to keep it refrigerated. Not sure if that could part of the issue, but he didn’t want to take that chance.

I like that he gave me the new bottle. I don’t like that his staff didn’t check with him. I think I will make sure to check with him from now on when I have questions and speak directly to him.

He also told me, “because I know you’re going to go home and look it up, and I don’t want you to think I slipped something in there” that the anti-inflammatory has prednisone in it. We talked about that for a while, but I think it’s good when the vet gets to know you well enough to know exactly what you are going to do! He’s right. I would have looked it up, and I would have questioned it. We are using an extremely low dose, just hoping to control the ear for a little, so between what he told me and yes, what I looked up when I got home I’m ok with using it for a short duration.

So again, bonus points for being fully informative with me, and for knowing that’s what I as a consumer want from a vet.

He also earned a lot of bonus points with me for working with the Labrador. This issue has been going on for awhile now, and she’s hit the point where she tries to hide behind me when he comes in. We spent time working with treats tonight, to get her used to him, and get her more relaxed. We walked her around the entire clinic, including the exam room, his office and the kennels. I like being the last appointment of the day. He’s also willing to have me bring her by to visit in the evenings and walk her around, treat her, and have him visit with her without poking and prodding so she’ll get more relaxed. Bonus points for a vet who cares like that and doesn’t want to have to fight to make the patient accept treatment.

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