Saturday, December 31, 2005

Puppy Practice

Laev rocked at Schutzhund practice this week -- she's finally figuring out how to focus on me despite other dogs' presence, and she's given me some really nice heeling in the training barn. That darn mulch flooring still lures her, though! We're working on that. Tonight I used it as a reward a couple of times, clicking for a sit and eye contact and then letting her sniff the floor.

I really need to find other practice venues as well, though; I am eyeing a local trial in February and want her to be prepared for it. No, I don't expect her to take High In Trial ;-) but I want her to have a good first obedience trial and not feel overwhelmed. That's our primary goal; she's got a lot of years ahead of her and I want her to think trials are easy and fun!

I have some photos of her doing her puppy bitework which I'll try to post soon.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Backstage practice

Last night I took Laev along with Shakespeare to rehearsal. Shakespeare has only one scene during Act 2, and that's the final scene, so it left plenty of time for me to fetch Laev from the car and expose her to some different environments. We did a little heeling in the lobby area (she was very distracted at first!), met some teens, did a little heeling in the house down the aisles (while Warbucks planned to adopt Annie, followed by song and dance -- lovely distractions!) and then went backstage, where she was petted by costumed orphans.

It was great kid exposure, though they were a little closer and tighter than I would have liked; they're very good about asking to pet the dog, as they must always ask before petting Shakespeare backstage, but I let many pet him at once, and it was hard to get them to slow down for Laev, who's *not* used to being overrun with kids! Still, she did quite well, and when she got a little excited I just had her lie down and nibble at some dried lamb heart while they petted her back. (I don't tell the kids what I'm feeding!)

Anyway, she was pretty distracted at first, so I kept the heeling in very short bursts, but I was overall happy with what she did. I have my eye on an obedience trial in February which is close to home and relatively small. It would make a great debut environment, but I want to make sure first that Laev understands she can heel *anywhere* and not just at home!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Snow!

Laev thoroughly enjoyed our 8" snowfall, though it's complicating our article training in tracking ("You want me to lie down in the snow? And stay there?")

Saturday after tracking, I took Laev to the park's sledding hill. I'd been reflecting that she hadn't met many children lately, as I don't have access to many when I have the dogs. I know a hill full of laughing, shrieking, sliding kids isn't the best place to start! but it was all I had, and I was relying on our previous foundation.

I passed out the remaining tracking treats for article indication and had Laev sit for them from four kids and two teenagers. She was bouncy, eager, a little uncertain at the oddly bundled people, but overall enthused. We'll take it for the moment.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Easy Medicating, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the i-Click

Laev had an inflamation of the third eyelid which was matting her eyes with nasty stuff, so we got some ointment on Nov. 21 for treatment. I had visions of wrestling with a ever-larger puppy to insert goo, and this was compounded by my own eyeball hangup (I'm one of those people who can listen to fingernails on a blackboard, but don't talk about eyeball contact).

Well, heck, I'm fresh off ClickerExpo and a series of wonderful workshops with video footage of tigers volunteering to get stuck with 6" needles. What kind of lousy trainer am I if I can't convince my dog to handle this minimally invasive procedure?

So I stuck an iClick under my foot so I had two hands (love that thing) and clicked Laev for resting her chin on my palm. Then I added handling her face. Then I added the ointment approaching her eye. Then I finally held her eyelide open (lumping!) and applied the ointment. Click! Treat! Repeat for other eye.

Laev probably won't solicit this as a game, but she has no problems with it, either. Ain't this stuff cool?

Her eyes cleared up pretty well, and we had no more problems. Then Laev woke up Friday morning and couldn't open one eye. It was filled with mucus and matter, and when we couldn't successfully clean it and it appeared to be bothering her (no pawing at it, but she sure wasn't happy with us handling it) I took her in to the vet again.

The vet took one look and was nearly positive of a corneal scratch. Stink! So we prepared to confirm it.

I'd brought my clicker and some excellent treats, and I told the vet I wanted to use our training with only mild restraint rather than making this an ordeal which would haunt us later. She agreed, and so we began. We cleaned Laev's eye, applied numbing drops, applied stain, flushed the eye, examined it, etc., all with only very mild restraint and guidance!! Laev was asked to rest her chin on my hand with my thumb lying lightly over her muzzle, and then we used some pressure to open her eyelid.

The vet kept telling Laev, "You're so good! You're so good!"

I was thrilled with how she did. Even though I can only imagine how irritating so much handling and intrusion must have been, even aside from the physical hurt of her eye, she was a real trooper and worked very well with our fussiness.

And I was also thrilled to learn that she did not have a corneal scratch, but only some truly massive conjunctivitis; probably she ground some stuff into her eye while doing one of her recreational headstands (she's a nutty dog) and started the whole process again. I swear, she needs a helmet with a full face shield.

Anyway, it was a fantastic example of how a little proactive training can ease the dog's (and human's!) stress levels in the vet clinic. Laev was still wagging and licking the vet's face at the end of the visit, which showed some small amount of stress, but she wasn't in any real avoidance. She was MUCH better behaved than I would have been in a similar situation! And, the process took only a few seconds longer than it would have taken if we'd relied on restraint alone.

I'm betting we'll make up those few seconds over the lifetime of the dog when future visits get progressively easier instead of harder. ;-)

Just braggin' on my dog....