Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Training 14

Once again, a sad preface to my training post.  Louie's family cat, Russell, had to be put to sleep today.  He got sick very suddenly, with some sort of advanced and aggressive cancer.  So sad, and so very unfair.



Godspeed, little dude.  Chase all the birds and toads and mice you want now.

--------------------------------------------------

After skipping the training update last week and having a mostly trick-related training update the week before, I feel like I haven't written my usual Tuesday post in quite a while.

Winning Back the Neighborhood
I was originally going to make this into its own post (and may do so eventually in subsequent updates), but, since my blog has been so filled with training (mostly agility) type news this past week, I decided to just stick it here.

Marge and I have fallen into a nightly routine.  Though we take walks throughout the day in the field, I've made it a point that every evening, between 6 PM and 9 PM, we head out for an approximately half-hour long walk.  We walk along the main road.  At those hours, there are a few passers-by, but we are mostly alone.  We have started creeping up a couple of the side streets as well, with the hopes of eventually being able to walk down them without a problem and extend our route.

Marge does surprisingly well on these walks.  Of course, some nights are better than others, but she does seem to look forward to going.  Sunday night's walk was absolutely wonderful, as Marge was very keen on continuing to walk and even interested in exploring new places.  Monday night's walk wasn't as good, mostly because Marge heard a high-pitched noise off in the distance at one point.  However, unlike her reactions to scary stimuli over the summer, she was able to calm down and continue walking, with just a brief few minutes of going into total flight mode (ie., when she won't take treats).

We extended the route even farther, despite the initial noise problem.  She seemed to be pretty relaxed - not perfect, but workable.  Her body position is very telling.  

When she's comfortable, her tail is curled over her back, and her head is low, nose scouring the ground for interesting scents.  This is how she was on Sunday. 
An example of a mostly comfortable Marge.  She gives the impression that she's just mozying along, being an ordinary dog:


When she's uncomfortable, her tail may or may not be up, but her shoulders are straight, head up, and she often looks from side to side.  She exhibited somewhat more of the uncomfortable position on Monday night.  
This is an uncomfortable Marge, though probably a bit more extreme than the way she carried herself Monday night.  Notice how her head is up, and, even in the picture, she looks like she's walking on eggshells:


Either way, it is encouraging that she continued walking and did not try to get home as quickly as possible.  The treats helped, I'm sure.

(She did hear the warning bark of a dog a few houses down who didn't realize it was only Marge out walking, and saw another dog standing by the fence.  She began to react, with every hair on her back raised, and letting out a little woof, but I removed her from their sight and she settled down before we went back inside the house.  Louie came over a few minutes later; I purposely brought Marge outside to greet him, but she did not have any reaction to the people and dogs still standing in the same location a couple of houses away.

She has had a couple of other hackles-raised incidents, without a full-blown reaction, mostly with men who are looking/facing in her general direction or appear, in her mind, to be acting strangely or dressed heavily.  Trying to minimize things like this from happening, but, unfortunately, it is inevitable sometimes, living in a suburban area.  Need to step up the clicking/treating for looking calmly at these oh-so scary individuals, and I'm also hoping that the fact that they don't actually pay any attention to her or try to interact with her will begin to make an impression as well.)

Another ritual that seems to have fallen into place is an explode of energy after this night walk.  It seems to me that, although Marge enjoys the walk, it is somewhat more intense for her to deal with than a simple walk in the field or park.  So, when she gets home, she burns off all of that stress (be it good stress, bad stress, or probably both) by zipping around the yard.  I usually bring out a toy to throw around as well.  She seems to enjoy it. 

I was originally worried by the fact that the walk might be stressing her out, but, since she enjoys it, since there are not typically too many scary things going on (and I carry lots of treats with me for when things do warrant them), and since she can really use the exercise, I don't see any reason why I should stop them.  Of course, the zoomies may also be partially related to the fact that the walk is a warm-up for her, so to speak, and after that warm-up she wishes to burn up some energy in the cool November air.

It will be interesting to see how her behaviors change as I continue this routine in the coming weeks and months.

L-Theanine Update
Marge is still getting 25 mg twice a day of the amino acid L-Theanine.  Though I did have some negative thoughts about it this past week, and considered switching to only using it situationally, I've decided that it's really too soon to pull her from it after merely a month of use.  

I'm not sure how much difference I see.  I did skip a dose Sunday night (only to wind up giving it a couple hours later, realizing my stupidity in tinkering with the dosage so soon), yet she looked and felt great on our walk.  However, on Monday night, she had her regular dose, but that walk wasn't as good.

I, personally, do think it's making some difference, though I'm sure the absence of fireworks and other summer distractions is making a sizable impact on her as well.  So, I guess the better question to ask is, what areas is it helping her in the most?  Will it be as effective in the face of those warm-weather situations, or will I need to find something stronger to use in the summer? It's still too early to tell.

The Return to Rally
In the spring, I'm hoping that Marge and I will be able to go back to training in Rally Obedience. Since the new training building is bigger, features multiple rooms and has two exits, she may do better in that setting. (If you recall, our first experience with Rally did not start out well, though it did improve as the weeks went by, with the proper management.)

In preparation, we've been infusing some old Rally exercises into our backyard agility sessions.  Working on fronts, pivots (she LOVES them!) and backing up.   Our heelwork is shoddy due to the emphasis on behavior the past couple of months, but I'm sure that with a little practice, it'll be passable in no time.  

I was going to compile a video of Marge doing some of the exercises, but decided it'd be cruel to wake her up at nearly 3 AM (when I wrote the bulk of this post) to do obedience.  Look out for some more info on the clean-up trick, too - I haven't forgotten about that.

Maybe CPE?
I'm considering a switcharoo in agility venue for Marge. While I like NADAC and I like the classes (especially being able to avoid certain obstacles), I am NOT happy with the hoops, presumably what partially doomed us during the Touch n' Go run at the trial last week.  If they weren't in Regular, I wouldn't mind, but the only classes that don't/can't have them are Jumpers and Tunnelers.

Can I teach the hoops as I would any other obstacle?  Yes, I can.  And, I probably will, since I don't intend to ditch NADAC altogether.  Many people like the hoops, too.  But, just because I can teach something doesn't mean I necessarily want to.  CPE offers more "games" classes than I'd like, just because I prefer a set course rather than having to strategize.  But, I think we can get by with Regular, Jumpers, Colors, and Wildcard for now.  

We'll see.  That's all I can say.  We're only one trial into this big ol' thing, so I still don't want to get too ahead of myself.

11 comments:

Frankie Furter November 10, 2009 at 8:46 PM  

Even though I don't know Louie, please tell him how sorry I am that Russell has moved on to another place.

Marge, you must insist that your mom give you some Keyboard time so that you can write your Adoption Story. BUTT tell her NO MORE PEEKING!!! I personally think that it would do you a world of good to have at LEAST one day of blog time EVERY week. You could tell us YOUR POV on how things are going. Talk to her Marge... use your ASSERTIVE voice.

The Army of Four November 10, 2009 at 9:06 PM  

Oh, no! We're so sorry to hear about Russell! Please pass our condolences along to Louie!
On a brighter note, it sounds like Marge is making some progress?!
Tail wags,
Storms

KB November 10, 2009 at 9:39 PM  

I'm so sorry to hear about Louie's cat. So hard...

On the Marge front, it sounds like your walks are going really really well compared to summertime walks. I'd keep doing them - maybe she'll learn to love them so much that it'll outweigh the scary stuff, especially next summer.

I often find that my dogs are really hyped when we return from a walk but never after a run. I think that a walk kinda whets their appetites but doesn't fully wear off their excitement. So, when we arrive home, they have a short nutso period where they play wrestle etc.

It's so hard to know if a drug is help, don't you think? The only one that's ever been super obvious for K has been her thyroid meds. Those make her into a different dog. Alas, that's not Marge's issue so the changes that you may be seeing are subtler. Definitely, keep your critical hat on and remember the placebo effect (I think that it sometimes happens to the dog owners when their dogs get new meds...). But, it could be truly helping...

BRUTUS November 10, 2009 at 10:07 PM  

Please pass along my condolences to Louie. Doesn't matter what the circumstances are, loosing a furry member of the family is always hard.

Interesting to hear you are considering CPE. I do find it to be the most relaxed, friendly group of all I belong to. Just mailed in entries for 2 trials myself (thanksgiving & new years' weekends), just doing level 1 (no weaves - yipee!!). I bet you'll like it, and the games aren't all that hard (I don't like gambler's much, though).

Assuming you'll do APDT rally? Does UKC do rally? I know AKC has recently begun allowing mixed breeds, but in very limited shows, & I think they have to compete separately. Odd.

I just got my APDT registration number, and entered our first trial for that venue for the first weekend in December. Along with an AKC rally trial (the following weekend) that makes - count 'em - FOUR entries mailed today! Gonna need to find more teeth to fix to support my habit!!

Good luck with everything! THe rally training will help your agility too (it has for us), and the dogs at those trials tend to be quiet & well-behaved; hopefully easy for Marge to be around!!

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom November 10, 2009 at 11:01 PM  

We are sorry Russell had to khross - I'm sure some of my Siberian furiends are making him feel khwite welkhomed!

Once again we are soooo taken by your devotion to Marge and her devotion to woo too!

It is so khool to see your journey!

Hugz&Khysses,
Khyra

Lorenza November 10, 2009 at 11:29 PM  

I am sorry to hear about Russell. Our thoughts are with his family.
I don't know anything about training and all those things but sure I enjoy reading about your experiences with Marge!
Kisses and hugs
Lorenza

Kathy November 11, 2009 at 12:16 AM  

I am so sorry about Louie ;-(. I love the nightly ritual you have set up with Marge, they sound very good for everyone. CPE is fantastic, the games are a lot of fun, I think you guys would love it. I love Nadac because you can train in the ring and fix things better, the courses are open and flowey, I like CPE because the games are fun and it is a great place to start out, a lot fo the games give you a lot of flexability about what you want to do...generally people have good attitudes.

Kari in WeHo November 11, 2009 at 12:31 AM  

Hopefully you can figure out whether or not the meds are working. If they are that is great news, if not at least you can say you tried that and put your money towards another option

Honey the Great Dane November 11, 2009 at 3:16 AM  

Hi Marge,

Sorry I haven't visited in ages!

It sounds like you are making great progress in your training - you are so lucky to have a human who is willing to spend so much time and effort on helping you - honestly, that is the best thing any dog can have - more than expensive toys or beds or treats, etc...

And it's great that your human is doing so much stuff with you, like Rally and Agility - I think doing more and more things like that will help to build your confidence and also the bond between you and your human.

Keep it up, Marge! :-)

Slobbers,
Honey the Great Dane

Mr Koda MD November 11, 2009 at 3:46 AM  

walking is fun, but treats are much better!!

Cheryl, Indiana, Shingo and Molly November 11, 2009 at 9:17 AM  

So very sorry to hear about Louie.

Looks like the new routine is working!!

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