Monday, April 14, 2014

Springing into Action After the Winter of Our Discontent


It's been 4 1/2 months since my last post. The reason for that? I blame this past miserably cold and snowy winter - the worst in recent memory. All my energy was pretty much focused on picturing the light at the end of the tunnel, as that tunnel seemed to grow longer and longer, and trying to stay warm in the meantime. My ability to train ANYTHING was severely limited. Too cold to be outside. Too cold to go to the agility building. Even too cold in my basement.

Three of my four dogs didn't seem to mind the cold snowy days so much.

Hokey on the other hand...she and I are kindred spirits when it comes to the winter months. I'm convinced she suffers from a form of Canine Seasonal Affective Disorder. She was miserable for months. She didn't want to go outside AT ALL. Every time, I let the dogs out, it was an ordeal just to get her to take a couple of steps off the screen porch to do her business. She would go right there in front of the screen porch door and immediately turn around and ask to come back in. Inside the house, she spent the bulk of her time leaning up against the heat vents shivering or curled up somewhere glaring and grumping at all the other 4-leggeds. Sometime in late March, as spring FINALLY showed the occasional symptom of appearing, she turned into a different dog. Suddenly she was happy again, bringing me toys to play with and chasing Sprout around.
First storm of the season - I'm not going out there
Different storm - same scene playing out all winter. LET ME IN!!!

Spring is here at last! Time to play and celebrate!

The worst thing that happened this winter was that Sprout developed a case of demodex.
Hair growing back after a few treatments
He'd had something going on since late fall, but the way it presented at first was somewhat atypical for demodex and looked like allergies. For the first couple of months, it was confined to his armpit area, but then in mid-December it started to spread. He was finally diagnosed on New Year's Eve day. Then I ended up spending a good part of New Year's Eve night at the emergency clinic; I very nearly lost him after his first treatment. After that, we switched him to a different treatment, but I was still nervous with each successive one. He was never himself for about 24 hours after each one. His last scraping in early March revealed no more mites and his hair has grown back in most places. However, I still worry about it returning; his hair hasn't grown back in his armpits yet. So I continue to give him medicated baths once or twice a week and I apply Goodwinol ointment to his armpits every night. I watch him like a hawk for any evidence that he might be losing hair again. I'm also worried about an underlying immune issue that may have caused the outbreak in the first place. Skin issues aside, he's as active and happy as ever.

Speaking of which, Sprout has made his official trialing debut and is now a titled agility dog!
Loot from his first trial where he went 3 for 3

We just wrapped up a whirlwind debut tour of 4 trials in 5 weeks - 1 USDAA Intro trial and 3 UKI trials. Our first trial was a last minute decision on my part. I had read an article about USDAA intro only trials and decided to check the events calendar on the off chance there might be one coming up in this area - and there was! Soon. Luckily I had already registered him with USDAA. It's not really worth it for me to travel to a regular USDAA trial to run him in the 1 or 2 intro classes that might be offered in a day, but a trial dedicated to just intro classes is a different story. The only thing I wish was a little different is, unlike UKI where at any level you can decide right then and there to take a toy into the ring and announce that you are running "not for competition", in USDAA Intro you have to pre-enter as an FEO (For Exhibition Only). I wanted to enter at least one run, preferably, the 3rd or 4th, as an FEO so I could bring a toy in the ring and keep things lite and fun for him his first time out. Winter being what it was and having an effect on our contact training and maintenance as a consequence, I decided to pre-enter standard, the 3rd class of the day, as our FEO run. He had some really great runs for his first time out, including a smokin' 51 point snooker run, and Q'd and placed first in the 3 non-standard classes. Unfortunately, I don't have any video of any of those runs. But here we are practicing between this first trial and the UKI trial the following weekend.

The following weekend we started Sprout's UKI career. I really like UKI for him because he only has to jump 8" as his regular jump height (as opposed to 12" in USDAA) and the A-Frame is only 5'3" for the little guys. I also find the courses challenging from a handling perspective, which I really enjoy.

He did really awesome once again - Qing and winning all his beginner classes.  

Here is his jumpers run from that trial:

The following week, we did a small UKI trial on a Friday. Once again, he smoked the beginners courses, Qing and winning all 3 AND finishing his very first agility titles - the UKI beginner titles in both the Speedstakes and International programs.

Here are a couple of his runs from that trial:

And, after a week off, this past Saturday we completed our last UKI trial in this cluster. He's now moved up to the novice level. The courses are the same as beginners, but now refusals count. And in UKI runs have to be clean in order to earn a qualifying run. We Q'd and blued in jumpers, gamblers and standard. Sprout has always made some growly, whiny noises while running due to excitement, but at this trial he graduated to throwing in the occasional bark. Silly. Here is his gamblers run. You can hear one of his barks as he is landing off the jump between the 2nd set of weave poles and the dog walk.

In other news, I'd tried to enter Poppy in a nose work trial the first Saturday in April at the same site where Ollie's was held last September. I was particularly interested in trialing her at this site because of her aversion to golf carts; there aren't any in use at this Gettysburg site. I don't remember when the entries opened, it was months ago. After they closed, she was waitlisted. Since she ended up at number 19 on the waitlist, I'd given up hope for her doing any nose work trials anytime soon and hadn't been practicing much over the winter. Then 3 weeks before the trial, just as Sprout was making his agility debut, I got an email saying Poppy had been pulled off the waitlist and had a slot in the trial. YIKES! I had to cram a lot of practice in. Luckily, it was like riding a bike to her; she wasn't even rusty. So my one "free" weekend in the middle of Sprout's agility trial tour, turned into a nose work trial weekend for me (5 weeks of trialing in a row - I've never done that before!). This being my 3rd nose work trial, having already not passed once with Poppy, and having been to this particular site once before with Ollie, I was much more relaxed. Just like at Ollie's trial, the order was interior, container, vehicles, and exterior. She was insane during her interior search, which was in a less creepy area than Ollie's had been, but still involved A LOT of arcade game machines. I let her off leash this time, since I didn't have to worry about antique furniture, and she spent the first 40 seconds or so bouncing up in people's faces, trying to find a way back out of the search area, and generally running around like a nut. Most of her pictures from that search have some blur to them. And we won't mention the crazed look in her eyes. Finally she settled down and started to work. She found that hide in just over a minute. The first comment on her score sheet was "A LOT of energy". HAHAHA! Understatement! Later in the morning, we did our container search. She buzzed right through that and found it in 9 seconds, which earned her a 2nd place. Then came the heartbreak. Yes, it was SUPER windy out, but that wasn't the reason why we didn't pass vehicles. I am 100% responsible for her not passing. I was too quick to call it when she started lingering on an area and for the first time I heard "I'm sorry, no". Oh well. I pulled it together quick. I had to because we immediately had to move on to the exterior search. Well, apparently I DID really pull it together because she smoked that search - 6.46 seconds! Good enough for first place! So, although her title remained elusive, once again, we didn't go home empty handed. Poppy certainly has her moments of brilliance. I think we're trying for a record - the most placement ribbons at NW1 trials without actually finishing a title. We'll keep trying to get that title ribbon to add to the placements she's racking up. Gotta love that crazy gal!

Now What? I taking a little breather and figuring out the next steps for each dog. I have a
couple of demo days coming up. The first I just show up with a couple of dogs, and do agility with one and nose work with the other. At the second, I'm actually running the nose work station at a dog activity day event, so I'll be giving talks, demos and then offering a short intro to nose work session for anyone interested in trying it out with their dog.

I'm figuring out Sprout's agility trial schedule. I'd like to get in some USDAA here and there, so I think I'm going to enter one day of an upcoming trial at the beginning of May, then take the rest of the month off to focus on training. June looks like a very busy month for UKI and some USDAA and I need to figure out what trials/days, I'm going to be able to do. I probably won't do a lot of trialing in July or August due to the heat, but we'll see what comes up.
Hokey heeling along

I'm planning to train Hokey for rally/obedience in the hopes that she'll like it enough for
me to enter her in those classes at this year's JRTCA Nationals. She seems to like heel work and she's 100% food motivated and the rules will allow me to bring food into the ring in my pocket. So we'll see how that comes along. In the meantime, now that it's warm enough again, I'm starting to bring her along to the building with Sprout so she can do a little agility once again.
Hokey is loving nose work. I think mainly it's because she gets an instant payoff. I have her working on odor only now and think she'll be ready for an ORT sometime in the near future. Ollie and Poppy will continue to practice nose work. I'll be interested in seeing how the element specialty trials play out. I'm really interested in doing some of those. And, of course, I want Poppy to finally get that NW1 title! I got involved in nose work specifically for her sake and Ollie (AKA Mr. Perfect) swooped in late to the game and got his title first time out. Out of all my dogs, Poppy is the dog I've struggled with the most and I really want this title for her.

The warmth of Spring is finally here.  Time to get BUSY!!

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