Monday, August 29, 2011

Show N Go

This is just a really quick post to let you know that Malcolm and McKenzie will be "competing" in the Companion Dog School of Tulsa Show N Go tomorrow night starting at 6:30 and ending around 8pm.  I don't know exactly what time they will compete as it's first come, first served.  A show n go is a fun activity where dogs can compete as though they were in a real 'trial'.  There will be obedience (on several levels), rally and agility to /td>watch. No ribbons or trophies are awarded, in fact there are no winners or losers. And that's exactly why we're going.  We can't lose! It's just a fun way for owners to get used to the competition ring and work the kinks out of a routine, or see where more work is needed before having to pay a hefty fee for a real competition.  If you can, come down and enjoy the dogs.
Julie and Piper
Malcolm's first Girlfriend
Practicing Agility

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Real Agility Course.......Part ll

I've been waiting to post this update thinking I could get a wee video of Malcolm on his first real agility run, but so far, the video is unavailable.  (So too, is his commercial).  It seems every time he is taped, it takes much longer than anticipated getting the actual film.  Perhaps it has something to do with all his drool or perhaps it's just that he's so cool, the camera cannot capture such grace and magnificence.  Whatever.  I'm told his commercial is still in the works.  All good things come to those who wait.

As far as agility, he had his last class last week.  Same as McKenzie, he was required to try to run a course without a leash.  I didn't hang my hat on much hope that he could do it, especially after McKenzie's fiasco.  And he spent every moment of the class chasing after every one else's treat pouch.  I was just sure that this wouldn't turn out well.

Just when I think I know what my dogs will do, they surprise me.  I walked him to the start line and asked him to sit/stay.  Wow.  He did.  I moved into the ring a bit further so I could get a head start and asked him if he was ready.  "Yup!"  OK.  He didn't really talk back, but he seemed to understand what was going on.  I released him from his sit/stay with OK! Go! and quickly gave the first command, Hup!  Wow.  He did that too!  I gave the second, third and forth commands, Walk it, touch, hup, hup.  What?  He's actually listening to me.

We kept going but now, we have to turn a corner......(this is where I lost McKenzie).
Here! Walk it!.   Dang!  He did it!  Table/sit.  Hup.  Hup.  Hup.  Here (another corner), tunnel, tunnel, hup!   Oh my!  My dog was awesome!

I got a couple of leads while at Church today, for some work for Nessie.  There is a lady I know, who owns a beautiful retirement home and I asked her if Nessie could come and visit once a week.  She is not a registered therapy dog, but some places will let a well behaved, gentle dog come in to visit with the community.  She is checking with the people who run it and will get back to me.

While I was talking with her, another lady offered Nessie a job at the library.  Apparently, some children who are struggling to learn to read, enjoy practicing with a dog instead of a person.  I guess a dog doesn't spend much time on correcting the reading.  They just listen patiently.  So depending on the time slot, we will go there and help the kids learn to read.  Nessie will enjoy having some work to do and hopefully we can make a bit of a difference in some one's life.  I'll make sure to get some pictures of this, also.  Maybe she'll  wear the bonnet that she got for the Royal Wedding.

In the mean time, remember;  "God doesn't always give us the dog we want.  He gives us the dog we need."  Cesar Millan

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Real Agility Course

And a (Thankfully) Closed Ring

So.  Due to the Labor Day Holiday coming up, McKenzie had her last agility class on Monday.  BTW, they also skipped the week of the July 4th Holiday, so in the end, she's 2 classes behind Malcolm.  I've been working with her a lot on the teeter totter.  She got spooked on it early on, and hasn't recovered very well.  I finally got her to walk onto it with all four paws and stand there, but she still won't move forward without a lot of patience and coaxing.  Since there is only one other dog in that class, the class has moved a lot further than Malcolm's class.  That is probably why she got spooked on the teeter.  She was asked to do it without help and Malcolm's class is still putting a table at the other end so it doesn't go down all the way.  Kenz just wasn't ready for the full teeter experience yet.

She also wasn't ready to run an actual course either.  But that is exactly what the teacher wanted on the last day.  So she closed the course, taught us how to walk it and then let us take our dog on it with the leash.  She then put one handler, one dog, a judge and a ring steward in the ring and told us to run it off leash.  (I was allowed to skip the teeter completely).   I mean really?  No leash?  You've got to be joking, right?

So here goes..........McKenzie sit.  Stay.  (so far, so good).  Ready?  Go! Hup! ...First jump, 2nd A-Frame, 3rd jump, 4th hoop-tunnel, 5th jump........hey!  We're doing good!  
Out! Here! (I've got to line her up for the Dog Walk).........oops, too far out.  What's that? 
Oh. Crap!  I just saw a light bulb go on in her head...............She just realized the leash was not attatched.  Butt tuck, ears back, shoulders hunched.........................RUN!  and run, and run and run.  What a happy look on her face.  (Not mine).  McKenzieeeeee, Here...rrrrr!  Chick-ennnnn!  Nothing.  Run, run, run.  The ring steward finally caught her.  Then the instructor said, "You don't have a recall".  What gave you the first clue?  
"May I please do this with the leash on?"
"Sure, no problem.  I just wanted you to see you were'nt ready for trials".
"Dang.  I know we're not ready for trials.  We don't even want to do trials.  Forget about trials and just get me through this class."

So I put the leash on her and she did really well.  We did the course front ways and back ways and had a great time.  She likes everything but the teeter which I'm not pushing her on.  We will continue to practice both the agility obstacles and our recall and I'll get her enrolled in another class soon.  It will be Beginner Agility again, I'm sure.

This picture was taken in the beginning part of the class so most of the walks and teeters are flat on the floor.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mighty Malcolm and the Freedom No Pull Harness

I know he doesn't look that big.  But Boxers are all muscle;  not an ounce of fat......just like me!  (insert a lot of laughter)  Also, since they have such a big chest, they have a lot to pull with.  I swear, I nearly lost a thumb the other night in agility when the leash got wrapped around it and Malcolm decided to go another way than what I expected.  If he wants to pull toward another dog, believe me, he will.  And I with all my body weight and every ounce of strength and every bleepin' command in the book - and some not in the book- can just barely stop him.  

So I've been talking about this book I've been reading;  Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash Reactive Dog.
Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog
Just look at that mug!  It could be Malcolm!  Yes, it will take a while for her methods to work.  But I've been working on "LOOK" and it's starting to really take effect as long as I have chicken.  No chicken, sadly, no look.  Not yet.  She also suggested that I get one of two harnesses that can be a good tool in teaching a dog not to pull.  One was the Easy Walk and the other was the Sense-ation.  So I went on line and started looking around. I found the two she suggested on Amazon.  I wanted to see if there was anything new out there so I googled NO PULL HARNESS and found the Freedom.
I actually liked this one because it has velvet sewn over the strap underneath the legs to help prevent chaffing.  Yes.  Besides no fat on a Boxer, they also have very little hair and beautiful pink and tender skin.  So...this is the one I ordered.  It's pretty cool because it has a sort of double leash.  It hooks to the back of the harness where it works like a Martingale Collar around the heafty chest area and, at the same time, it hooks to the front of the chest so that you can guide the pulling dog back to you with your 'LOOK' command.  

OK.  So I researched for a couple of days, then I contacted the website to make sure of the fit, because I didn't really like their return policy.  So another couple of days went by and I finally ordered it, then waited for it to arrive.  Several days later, voila.  It came priority mail.  It was perfect and very easy to use.  It fits to a 'T' and as confusing as harnesses are to me, this one got put on right the first time.  So yeah!  Let's go for a walk and find a dog.

We walked around the corner and up the block that evening, but couldn't find any dogs.  We waited til the next morning and I slipped the harness on him for his morning bike ride.  But wait.  We don't just go.....we have to go potty once more before we can take off.  Otherwise, he's like a horse in the street if you get my drift.  So I'm out in the front yard just waiting and encouraging it to happen when low and behold, Malcolm's Nemesis walks by. Two nemesis(es) ?????  Every time he sees these two labs, it's a pulling, tugging, growling nightmare.  I'm prepared.  We have the harness.  We've practiced 'LOOK' and I have bits of chicken in my treat pouch.  I'm now just greeting my neighbor and waiting for the inevitable.  So she stops to tell me about her operation.  
Wait.  What?  Really?  She stops?  With the dogs?  We're talking?  Like adults?

What's wrong with Malcolm?  Is he sick?  Is he dead?  Has he gone blind?  Is something stuck up his sniffer?

My dog is sitting, looking at me and waiting for chicken.  He is not pulling.  He is not moving.  He is looking between the to dogs and me.  Back and forth, like a tennis tournament.  All is calm.  All is bright?  Hold on here!  I paid money for this harness!  I want to use it!  Pull, durnit!  No luck.  He just sat there.  So we take care of our business and go on our bike ride with no excitement to report.  We ran into our neighbor and her two labs again in front of her house and she asked if she could come and pet Malcolm.  I stopped and Malcolm sat (pretty wiggly) and waited to be loved on.  He again did not try to pull toward the two dogs in her yard.

It happened again this morning with a different dog.  Harness on.  No pulling.  No correcting.  What's up with that?
I haven't gotten to really use it yet.  But I guess he knows I mean business.  I'll give him some more challenges in the future and we'll keep working, but between the harness and the squirt bottle and the chicken, I think we're winning the battle.

Just as an 'aside' the other handlers in Malcolm's agility class were calling him 'awsome' and 'very cool dog', last Wed.  He went through the chute (a closed tunnel) for the first time on his own and you should have seen the light bulb that turned on in his head.  He was so prancy and proud.  There was no stopping him.  I think my child is growing up and he's making me so proud.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Raising a Boxer is a Spiritual Journey

Raising 3 Boxers could be a journey to Hell

I believe in One God.  Creator of all things. Everywhere present.  Who fills all things.  An understanding God who Loves in Purity of Spirit, who is compassionate, forgiving and is plenteous in mercy.  In His Divine Love, He gives us trials that purify us......that sanctify us.  That will bring us back to that place of being truly human;  that which He originally created and called Good.  We, however, are disobedient.  We ignore what He would teach us and stubbornly chase after our own desires.  In the trials He gives that we could use to benefit ourselves;  we instead fall even further from His Grace.  We fail.   And then we fail again.

This is why God created dog.  Dog is God spelled backward.  God is in all things.  Man loves dog unconditionally just like God loves man unconditionally.  Dog also loves man unconditionally.  Dog also is forgiving.  God uses dog to teach man.

One of my heroes is Cesar Millan known to many as the Dog WhispererHis words of wisdom stick to me.  I may not sometimes grasp the higher spiritual concepts that the priests and Holy Fathers would teach me, but I can get it by learning how to talk with dogs....................Or not.  Cesar says over and over again, "God does not give us the dog we always wanted.  He gives us the dog we NEED".

So with that background, I come to my story.....

As I've told you previously, Lord Malcolm and Lady McKenzie are in beginning Agility.  There is really so much to learn about this sport but we are doing pretty well at it, for the level we're at.  I have them in two separate classes but on Wednesday mornings the building is open for another small class and usually there are not too many other people there, so I take both dogs up to practice.There are some kennels there that they don't mind if you use, so I kennel one and work with the other while an advanced obedience class is in session.  Well.  Last Wednesday, we walked in and the class was working on off leash recalls.We walked by just as a lady called her dog to come.  The dog, of course, started running toward the handler just as it should.  Malcolm decided just at that moment, that he should do the same and lunged with all his mighty might.  McKenzie didn't think that was appropriate, so she jumped on Malcolm.  Dog fight ensued.  There I was using both knees to step between them and walk them back away from the ring.  I plastered them to the ground and waited till all was calm again.

Then I kenneled Malcolm and worked a bit with McKenzie.  When I traded dogs, McKenzie started screaming in the kennel.  So I went to quiet her.  Then I tried to work Malcolm a little more.  Every time I stepped away from McKenzie's kennel, she screamed.  I was so frustrated by that point I decided that working was not a good idea and got them ready to go home.  As we started by the obedience ring again, BINGO.  Another outburst.Their class was ending, thankfully, but still. Really? I train every day.......I read all the books........I go to dog school for Pete's sake.  I felt defeated and embarrassed and overwhelmed all at once so I just broke down and started crying.  

Two of the teachers at the club came over to help me.  Through my sobs I asked them if they wanted these two dogs because I just couldn't do this anymore.  I'm not a dog trainer.  But no matter who I hire, how often I work them, where I am, or what advice I follow, I can't get them to just calm down and behave.  I wanted to give up.  I wanted to admit defeat,  call the dogs a loss and try to move on.  I wanted out of the responsibility that I had agreed, in the beginning, to take.

They grabbed my dogs, one each, and went over to a place to sit down.  Laura started laughing at Malcolm who was in his wiggly, butt wagging, slobbery and extremely happy mode all of a sudden and Kim asked McKenzie to lay down.  Which she did, right away.

"See there?  That just proves that I can't do this.  You both need to take those dogs.  They mind you."

Yes.  God had given me a test.  And of course, I failed.  I was still in the process of failing when He began to encourage me..........

"Brenda.  Take heart.  You're just having a bad day!"  You hold McKenzie's leash and I'll walk my dog back and forth.  Look.  She's behaving.  Malcolm is behaving.  They are just puppies.  You just have to be patient, consistent and persevere."

They gave me much more encouragement and support.  They built up my defeated attitude and gave me a few good pointers. ( One being, squirting the dog with a stream of water every time it starts to lunge).  Well.  OK.   I do feel better.  The dogs proved that they were not aggressive and more importantly, that they KNEW  the commands and exactly how to behave.  But Boxers are puppies until they are 3.  And they display puppy tendencies and behaviours until they die.  They are also very bull headed.  Oh yea.  They are Boxers.

So I gathered my things with new-found hope.  I strengthened my resolve with their encouraging words and I went home to read more of  Dr. Patricia McConnell's book, Feisty Fido:  Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog.  By the way, this book does suggest that it might take months to get Fido to stop reacting to other dogs.  And I still have yet to receive the no pull harness that she strongly suggests I use.  

At any rate.  There you go.  In the Holy Services we say, "again and again, let us pray to the Lord".  I heard somewhere that Devils are creatures who, once fallen cannot get back up.  Angels are creatures who cannot fall.  And mankind are creatures who can, with God's merciful help, rise again and again for every time they fall.

With God's help ... through the hands of Laura and Kim... I was able to rise again.  Malcolm and I went to agility class that very night and he (of course) tried to lunge at another dog.  One squirt of the water bottle and it was over.  No more lunging.  (He looked at me as though I had completely lost my marbles)!  Malcolm was not the worst student that night.  In fact, he was one of the best.  He did everything I asked and did not wear me out lunging and pulling.  He had a good time and I had a GREAT time.  Even the other handlers in the class noticed the difference.

Perseverance.  Resolve.  A break down in public......I'd call that humility.  Cesar was right.  God gives us the dogs we need.  I thank Him everyday for what I have.  I also thank those whom He uses (Laura and Kim) to strengthen and guide me.  And I thank my joyful and beloved Boxers for being their bull-headed, strong-minded, wiggly, loving and forgiving selves.

We all live to rise another day.  With God's help, our next 'trial' will bring out the patience, wisdom, love and understanding He would like to see in me and not the vile, no can do, I hate my life, somebody else do this, knee-jerk attitude that more often prevails.  Again and again...................

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Struggling Through the Teen-Age Years of a Boxer's Lifetime Journey

Every where we go, on every road side picnic area and at every state-line welcome center;  someone runs up to me or my husband saying, "Can I please pet your Boxer?"  They then proceed to tell us about the Boxer they had to leave at home while they are on their travels, or the Boxer that they were raised with, or the Boxer that their Mom or Dad had or the one their Uncle or Aunt had, or the Boxer who lived two doors down, or that they used to breed Boxers.  We've even listened to very long stories about Boxers who just died while we actually try to comfort the owner who is crying so hard we can't understand all her words.

Boxer lovers belong to their own sort of 'cult'.  You either love them--and I mean REALLY love them in an obsessive bizarre and iconic sort of way--or you are indifferent to them;  or in the worst scenario, you are scared of them.  I mean REALLY terrified, like you would be scared of a lioness on the Serengeti.  We've been in cute wee towns and villages, walking our beloved Boxers down the row of shops and restaurants, leisurely enjoying our day and up ahead we have seen Mothers grabbing their wee bairns (children), scooping them up tightly to their chests and running for the relative cover of the other side of the street as though our dogs were devils of evil, marching like the headless horseman to torment and torture their young.  And, opposite...  And, more often.  People come running out of restaurants still chewing and wiping their mouths just to be able to pet our dogs and let them jump on them and lick their faces while laughing at their exuberant enthusiastic and very wiggly joy that a perfect stranger, who smells like hamburger, would take the time to come and play.

I'm always amazed at both types.  (I, myself, fall into the latter category).  In reality, (whatever that is), all Boxers have a different personality just like every other dog.  While they have certain traits that are common to the breed, many are calm and well balanced dogs and some may not be.  All depends on how the handler is able (or not) to control the behavior of their dogs.  My dogs, as you well know, are highly exuberant, enthusiastic, high energy and overly reactive.  I am not a dog trainer, although I am constantly working on how to train my dogs.  Lately, I have the two 'twins', as I call them, in Agility 1.  They totally love, love, love it.  They get to run and jump and touch and go through and sit and down and it all seems like play to them.  So, now, whatever control I had, has gone out the window.

Malcolm thinks that any time any other dog in his class does something right and gets praised by his handler, HE should get a treat.  If he can't get it from me, he tries to pull me over to the dog who got the praise and get a treat from that dog's handler.  Yes.  He pulls me over there to steal a treat from that handler's treat bag.  With 5 other dogs in the class, I am being pulled literally all over the ring.  When, on the slim chance that this doesn't work for him, he pulls me to an obstacle that he knows and likes to do--like sit in the box--and does that until he gets a treat.  Yes.  I AM that woman with the WORST DOG in the class!  On top of this, since he thinks all the dogs are just playing anyway, he lunges at every dog that gets anywhere near him.  And now, he does this same behavior on walks around the neighborhood.  I am beginning to feel like I will be banned, soon, from my agility class and my neighborhood.  Maybe those terrified Mothers are not so wrong to scoop up their children and run?

McKenzie is a whole 'nuther story.  There is only 1 other dog in her class.  A pit bull who is very sweet and well mannered.  McKenzie is really excellent at all the obstacles except the ones that move.  She got scared on the teeter-totter because it makes a loud noise when it crashes back down to the ground.  She is very sound sensitive, but we are working through it and she is making progress.  She is fast and bright and loves running, jumping and going in the tunnels.  And jumping at Petunia the pit bull.  Ok.  So I know who will win that dog fight when it happens.  Why do my dogs jump on other dogs?  HELP!

So I found a book that might help.  I've only just started it but it promises to help me and my dog be good calm examples of stress free energy.  I'ts called Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive DogIn it, Patricia McConnell starts with the basics and recommends you have the proper equipment.  I didn't know this, but apparently there is a NO PULL Harness you can get.  I always thought harnesses made the dog able to pull harder (like a sled dog), but these are specially designed so that they don't pull.  I'm ordering one and will let you know.  Here are the two kinds she recommends in the book.

I'll let you know about it soon.  I still have not decided which to buy.  There is another out there that I'm looking at called FREEDOM No Pull Harness.  Amazon has one named Freedom, but it's not the same as this one.  I'll order something today and when I try it, I'll let you know.

I also got another book called On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming SignalsI haven't started it yet, but will soon.  I'll keep you posted.

As for Agility and my crazy dogs..................Well, At least I'm TRYING to train them!

If you have tried any of these books or harnesses, please leave comments on how you liked them or email me to tell me what you think.