Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Our fun New York City Christmas!

For such a curious, persistent young man, Hardy has both enjoyed our Christmas decorations and has been pretty good about leaving them alone. We put unbreakable ornaments on the bottom of the tree; a good thing since Hardy has been retrieving some of them. But instead of eating them, he brings them to us; something for which we are grateful! 
After completing our holiday preparations, we headed to Brooklyn, NY, for our Christmas celebration with our children and their significant others. We stayed in our son, Devin's one bedroom apartment while he stayed with his boyfriend, Anthony. Our daughter, Kristen and her boyfriend, Sean, brought their 11 month old Pointer, Soapy.  On Christmas Eve and Christmas, we had three large dogs, one cat (with claws) and 6 adults in a one bedroom apartment. Thankfully, the dogs were all very well behaved - Laurel had taught both Hardy and Soapy about inside play (while laying down), the cat was extremely tolerant and the humans all animal-friendly. All the dogs are crate-trained and we had one for each of them which certainly helped with management. 
Since there was absolutely no grass anywhere around the apartment building, Laurel and Hardy got to practice their abilities to toilet just about anywhere. Since we do visit NYC on a regular basis, this is an important skill. 
Because Laurel and Hardy travel almost everywhere with us, it was wonderful to have them so well accepted! Because the apartment wasn't dog proofed, they slept in their crates and since I didn't want to leave Lab hair everywhere, we used Furminator's waterless shampoo. We put it on in the bathroom and then dried them off. Once they were dry, we used the Furminator on them and got tons of hair. They shed much, much less than they had been recently! We will continue to use it at our house (when we can't do showers) and will definitely utilize it when traveling and when staying in hotels or with friends/family.
One of the loveliest moments of many from the visit was Christmas evening when I looked over to see Anthony (who had been afraid of dogs because he'd been bitten in the face as a child) laying on the floor with his head resting on Laurel's side using her as a pillow and Devin, who was sitting on the floor cradling Hardy, sound asleep in his lap. 
We left early Sunday morning, the 26th, and beat the record-breaking blizzard out of NYC. We ran into some snow in the mountains but nothing too serious and were home safe and sound by the time the worst hit Brooklyn. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

We survived the Crown Classic Dog Shows at the IX Center!

So, we survived the Crown Classic Dog Shows at the IX Center! That may not sound very impressive but, I think that, especially for the dogs, it really is! The IX Center (International Exposition Center) is a very large, open, noisy, energy-filled, smelly (at least during the dog show), overwhelming kind of place! The Crown Classic consists of four days of shows sponsored by four different kennel clubs to make up one of the biggest dog shows in the country. Because it is at the end of the year, all of the most competitive conformation dogs come in search of "dog of the year" awards in each breed. There is a huge agility trial consisting of more entries that that in conformation. And there are four rings dedicated to rally and obedience. Laurel got her last two legs in Novice at the IX Center several years ago and went another year as my service dog. 
This year, Laurel and I were trying Advanced Rally for the first time and Hardy was attending as my service dog in training. 
We had to crate quite a distance from our ring and there was a huge black box fan (maybe 20 feet wide from the floor to the ceiling) right next to our crates that shook the floor and was very noisy. There was also one next to our ring. We had to walk past all types of competitors, spectators and through the vendors area to get back and forth. On Thursday, Laurel appeared to be very "energetic", which I knew was stress and we got a generous 93/100. I hoped that having been in the ring once, Laurel would feel more confident on Friday. Unfortunately, she didn't and the stress was very obvious - she was sniffing and disconnected; basically coming back to me to do the exercises. I don't think we should have Q'd but we did with a 79. I was very sad and frustrated because no one was getting to see what a great dog Laurel is and I wasn't sure what to do to help with her stress-level. 
After thinking about it and talking to Sue Alexander, I decided to change up our pre-competition routine. Instead of doing a warm up, I would bring her out close to our time and put her in a down stay. That would be it - we do a down stay prior to training so I hoped it would let her know we were going to work and that it would also help relax her. Saturday morning, a friend of mine, Pam, who was there doing canine massages, offered to do reiki with Laurel. She did some about 30 minutes before I expected to compete and then I took Laurel out with 3 dogs before us. We did a down stay next to the ring and then went right in. Whether it was the Reiki or the down stay; Laurel was still not completely her normal self but she was much closer to it and I was thrilled as we left the ring! As it turned out, we got a 98/100, tied for first place. With my power chair, we never win ties based on time because although we move right along on the course, it takes me longer to get around her and Laurel longer to get around me. The judge announced that the first place team had won by 5 seconds so when she called the number, "107", I sat there. It took me a couple seconds to realize that was our number. So we finished Laurel's Advanced title Saturday with a first place in the class, and got our photo taken by the show photographer. 
Hardy didn't seemed bothered by anything. He spent time in his crate and also went to man the Canine Affair booth with me for awhile, watched agility and went shopping. We visited with his breeder, who still seems to think he's a very handsome boy. 
We stayed home yesterday - Brent and I were tired so we rested and prepared for our trip to NYC for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hardy loves Holiday decorating

Ah, yes, Hardy's first Holiday season! Once again, I'm reminded how special the world is seen through the eyes of a child (even a chocolate Lab youngster). It's been an exciting time for our Mr. Hardy! First, cold and snow - what could be better than that! And, now we are decorating the house with all sorts of interesting, shiny, new things - poinsettias (fake), Nativities with lots of pieces, New England village complete with fake snow and best of all, the Christmas tree! Hardy's favorite cat, Maggie, likes to sleep under the tree which presents all sorts of interesting possibilities and although we use nonbreakable ornaments, we did put some on the bottom of the tree . Thankfully, Hardy tends to bring it to us if he does take something off the tree! 
With the big winter storm this week, most of our classes have been canceled but Hardy has been on crate rest quite a bit anyway. A couple weeks ago, while working at the training hall, Hardy tore one of his dew claws. The claw was hanging sideways off his leg and he was leaving tracks of blood where ever he went. Because Hardy is so stoic, we have no idea what happened! We took him to the Vet the next day where Dr Neal cut off most of the nail, prescribed pain killers and gave us vet wrap for when he was outside. I tried putting ointment on the raw area where he pulled the skin off but he immediately licked it off. He seems to be healing well and feeling much better - he no longer limps. 
We're headed to the IX Center for the big Crown Classic dog shows Thursday - Sunday. Laurel and I are competing in Advanced Rally and Hardy will be attending in his official capacity as my service dog in training. This will be a test for Hardy since the facility is huge, noisy, and overwhelming! So far, we haven't found many things that bother him (trains racing by on both sides of a platform being the exception); we'll see how he does with this new challenge!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The flu, Thanksgiving and trips out-of-town have waylaid my blogging efforts

It's been a couple long weeks since I last wrote - when I looked at the date of my last blog entry, I was stunned by how long it's been. And yet, there really hasn't been lots of noteworthy Hardy news over this time period. At 7 1/2 months, he is still an adolescent and hence, still has those butt head moments. But considering how boring it was for him the week I had the flu, he was actually very well behaved and found generally good things with which to stay busy. 
When I felt up to it, I did take Hardy on some short public access trips - we went to Costco a couple times and now, depending on how well he's doing, we are venturing into the food areas. He has also been to Target, Office Max, and World Market recently. He is doing well with these trips but they are still primarily for his benefit and I watch him carefully for appropriate behavior and for any signs of stress or his being overwhelmed. 
We attended APDT Rally trials the weekend after Thanksgiving. Laurel got her first Level 2 Championship (RL2X) and her APDT Rally Champion Excellent (ARCHX ) titles, which makes 6 rally or obedience championship titles this year.
In part because it got suddenly cold over the weekend, we put Laurel and Hardy into the same crate in our van; something they handled beautifully. I'm not sure that will still work when Hardy reaches full-size but for now, they settle in and snuggle together. Once again, we were thrilled with how well Hardy handled hanging around in his crate at the trials and then coming out to meet people and do some behaviors with me. He's also starting to appreciate one of Laurel's favorite activities - hanging out with us at hotels! 
Unfortunately, Brent slammed his back into our kitchen island on Thanksgiving day and although he felt okay through Friday, on Saturday morning, he was absolutely miserable with muscle spasms and radiating pain down his leg. He feels okay as long as he is sitting or laying down but the minute he gets up to do anything, he is just hobbling and hunched over again. This is the worst he has felt in a long time and it is reminding me how much of the physical things he does around the house. He is using Laurel to pick things up for him and do some of the other tasks she does for me. Hardy loves to join in but he is not real consistent ... he might pick the item up but that doesn't mean he's going to bring it to you - not yet. 
He is doing very well learning (and now that he's an adolescent, relearning) basic obedience skills and loves his classes - conformation, obedience and agility foundations! I know there are many people who say that dogs can't learn more than one thing at a time (which is the reason many people won't train conformation dogs in obedience - because then they might sit in the breed ring; and why some people won't do obedience with dogs they are training in agility - thinking that the dogs won't want to leave their sides to do obstacles away from them).
I know from my experience with Laurel that she has, in fact, been able to learn exactly what is expected with whatever activity we are doing. When she is "dressed" and out as my full public access service dog, she is very different than she is when we are doing those activities in which she is allowed to "just" be a dog - obedience, rally, agility and now, freestyle. Not only does she know the appropriate behavior when she is "working" and needs to be serious, focused on me and not overly enthusiastic or friendly; but she knows and understands what we are doing when she sees the rally signs, agility equipment, an obedience or a freestyle ring. I truly believe that Laurel is much better able to do her job as my service dog because she does have all these other opportunities to be her energetic, enthusiastic and incredibly friendly-self! Plus, it helps build our relationship - our connection, communication and level of teamwork.
Even at 6 - 7 months, Hardy has been showing the same ability to discriminate what behavior is appropriate when he is dressed and working; when we are doing conformation or obedience or when he sees the agility equipment. And, working together in these different ways is also building our relationship. In our agility class, for instance, we work off-lead and Hardy is learning to work away from me a bit plus, in addition to learning all the jumps and obstacles (with the teeter board on the ground), we are learning how to work together to get from one to another which is all about teamwork.
I include training and competing in various dog sports in my training plans which, I believe, keeps me from getting too serious or focused on the ultimate goal of having a full public access service dog when they are just puppies or service dogs in training . Also, I think that for me, doing the different dog sports gives me opportunities to do fun things with my service dogs as well as continuing to train and be tested as a team.
I'm including some of the photos Jack Powers took at the beginning of November below. One change since the photos, however - Hardy is now as big as Laurel! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hardy's living up to his nickname!

Hardy has any number of nicknames: Hardly, Pud, Pudly, Budly, Dudley, Dudley Do-right. However, keeping in mind that at 7 months, Hardy is in the middle of his adolescence - pushing limits, finding out if the rules are still in play and figuring out just exactly what he can get away with, Hardy is definitely experiencing some "butthead" moments and is living up to his nickname of "PB" or "Persistent Butthead"!
As a matter of fact, another student in our beginner's class asked me last week whether I realized that as Hardy gets older, he is getting less obedient! She hurt my feelings, of course, and I was feeling defensive when I reminded myself that her Golden is 6 years old and still in the beginners class! More objectively, I would say that Hardy now has a mind of his own and doesn't always do what I ask if he is more interested in something else ... but again, for an un-neutered male adolescent, he is still a very biddable, willing, co-operative, sweet young man! He is going through the transition from puppy to adult and is generally, giving us a minimum of trouble over it. There's a reason why most dogs in shelters and rescues are adolescents! 
We had our agility foundations class today and Hardy did the A-Frame at full height for the first time. He also tried two new obstacles - since they were jumps, they were still set very low - at 8 inches (although we normally jump him at 4 inches). He didn't hesitate over either of them - the solid high jump and the triple. We worked on more sequences including several that involved putting Hardy into the side of the tunnel that was farthest away and least obvious and he handled everything beautifully. We finished up with putting him through 6 channel weaves set far apart. Even during this butthead period, he continues to learn, is willing and makes me proud!
I think the moral of this story is that every puppy, no matter how balanced, self-controlled and biddable will go through adolescence. It is a normal part of development and if you aren't prepared for it or get impatient or intolerant of it, you are doing your dog and yourself a real injustice! This, too, like so many other things, shall pass!

Monday, November 15, 2010

We had a great day at Canine Affair Center's Open House!

Today was the first Open House at Canine Affair Center in Chesterland, OH! We were there from 9:30 until 5:00 and the time just flew by! There were agility, rally, obedience and freestyle demonstrations and then dogs and handlers had the opportunity to try some of the agility  equipment and a Novice rally course. I had a table where I laid out information on service dogs, Lake Erie Assistance Dogs, my Introduction to Service Dogs class and the Introduction to Training Levels classes. Besides hanging out by my table and talking to people, Laurel and I got to participate in the agility and rally demos. I knew it could be a disaster since prior to today, she had done agility twice since being off for 5 months & recovering from her foot injury. Overall, I thought she did very well - she got the entry into the weave poles and she confidently did the lowered teeter totter! It was a fun course and Laurel rose to the challenges beautifully! 
The rally course was a simple AKC Novice one. Laurel did it well and seemed even happier to be working than usual! I was more relaxed than usual when doing AKC rally which I'm guessing made all the difference! 
I took Hardy in wearing his vest. I believe one mistake I made with Laurel was not taking her to "dog" places (training halls, dog shows & trials etc) wearing her vest or harness. When she was older and I needed to take her to to dog events as my service dog, she found it very confusing and I'm sure she felt frustrated and conflicted. As a result, we had to work very hard to help her understand that even though we were at a dog-related thing, if she was dressed, she was working. It's fine now but I want to make it easier for Hardy so I'll be remembering to have him wear his vest at the training hall for special events, as well as at dog shows and trials. 
Hardy & I try rally
During the first "try it" session, Hardy and I decided to try rally. Generally, he did a super job - although he did keep turning to face me before sitting next to me. Based on threads on this topic on the assistance dog Yahoo list, this is a very common problem when teaching a puppy or dog to walk with a power chair. We'll continue using walls and gating to keep him from being able to swing his butt away from the chair.
Our agility foundations instructor, Ana, asked if Hardy could participate in the afternoon agility demonstration using a scaled down course of 9 obstacles. Because he is only 7 months old and hence, too young to really jump, each one was 4 " high. He has really gotten the idea of doing a "course" and galloped between obstacle. He did the jumps willingly and made the entry to the tunnel, even though it was right next to the A-Frame. He stopped at the A-Frame and then Ana & I realized that he had never done it full-height before. We lowered it and he did it beautifully! I've heard trainers & competitors say that agility isn't won or lost with the dog's performance at the obstacles but rather based on what goes on between each. And I'm so proud of my little guy - at 7 months, he worked beautifully off-lead and was able to work the various combinations in order to  successfully complete the little course. He had a wonderful time, especially since he got lots of turkey at different points in the course!
Now, he is sleeping and snoring his way through the evening!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hardy passed his Canine Good Citizen test today!

Brent, Hardy and I drove out to Tall Pines Dog Training in Middlefield, OH, today so that we could take the AKC Canine Good Citizen test! It was a beautiful day for the drive and we arrived a couple minutes early. The floor of the training building is wood chips on dirt so that's different from anything we've experienced before. Hardy did a super job with the test and we were very proud of him! We were very pleased that he passed ... Hardy wonders why we ever doubted! Good boy, Hardy! Now we have two Canine Good Citizens at our house!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Hardy and I are working on at home

Hardy is 7 months old today (November 10th) and we have developed a routine at home to work on the skills that continue to make him a well-behaved young man at home and in public and that will lead to many of the tasks he will eventually do for me. Of course, we work on basic obedience skills, lots of zen (automatic leave it), loose leash walking, tug, nose and foot touch and retrieving games. I work to control any items that he might pick up so that I never have to say "no" to him for getting something that in the future I might want him to retrieve for me. We are working on him picking up when asked all different materials: wood, plastic, metal; all shapes and sizes. He loves to pick up and carry things - bringing them to me is not necessarily his favorite activity.
However, I am also trying to be very intentional in not pushing Hardy and allowing him his puppyhood. We spend lots of time playing and make sure that training is fun. I have a training plan and when I am tempted to push too much or do something stupid, I go back to that plan. I always try to remember that I won't ruin Hardy by going too slow but I certainly will by going too fast. Even with his temperament and talent, I could still burn him out. 
And I have to admit that I feel very fortunate that I also have Laurel, my working service dog and hence, the luxury of being able to take it slow with Hardy without impacting my level of independence or abilities. I am not feeling the stress and anxiety I did while training Laurel that any mistake or misstep would lead to having to wash her out. Also, since recognizing that my girl does her job beautifully despite the challenges based on her temperament not be well-suited to the job, I am also fairly confident that with his more appropriate temperament and all the help we received while with Sue and John Alexander in Guelph, Ontario,  Hardy will make a super working dog. And now that Sue has promoted him from SD candidate to Service Dog in Training, I am scheduling short public access trips and events for him to practice appropriate behavior when out in public. Then I remind myself that just because Hardy can do something more advanced doesn't mean that he should.

Another Tuesday with classes for Hardy

Although we have had 4 classes on Tuesdays (2 for Laurel and 2 for Hardy), today we just had Hardy's two classes. During our beginner class, we worked on the CGC requirements (we have the test on Saturday) as well as some long sits and downs. Hardy is having a hard time right now ignoring things on the floor, especially anything that might be food (or fuzz, or drool or hair or ...) He's doing well at home so obviously we need to take automatic leave it (floor zen) on the road more! Hardy did great with the 3 minute separation even though I left him with a stranger, instead of Mary. I think we'll be okay with the test Saturday. Hardy still tends to lay down when he isn't sure what else I want him to do and he still has his sloppy puppy sit. We are working on that by asking him to sit and then clicking very quickly and throwing a treat so that he doesn't have time to sprawl or lay down. It seems to be working but I'm still careful how much I ask of him since his muscles aren't used to sitting up and straight yet.
Mary has turned the Intermediate class Laurel and I were attending into a Levels class so instead of taking it, I am assisting. I love seeing the people and dogs respond to the program!
Heather had an eye appointment so there was no competition class. Hardy and I came back for his agility foundations class. This is such a good class for him because we work off-lead and he is having such a good time pushing himself physically and mentally. He is getting the idea of doing jumps, tunnels & obstacles in combination and it is so much fun because you can literally see the light bulb turn on! We did the full-size dog walk set at about 3 feet tall and he trotted confidently over it from the first. After one small slip, which he recovered from beautifully while off lead, he was a bit concerned so we put him back on lead for a couple trips over it. We also worked a little combination of a jump into the tunnel with a front cross as he came out back to the jump. We then did the dog walk, jump, tunnel, jump and eventually added on another dog walk. He was super and moved confidently between, over and through everything. We also introduced him to the chute (closed tunnel). It took a little bit of work but by the end, he was trotting confidently through it without having the fabric held up. We also did the weave poles again - starting with three poles and me at the end to call him through and give treats. Prior to today, it was obvious he hadn't figured out what was expected with the weaves. Today, it seems he worked it out and we were able to add one pole at a time until he was running through 6 channel weave poles set wide apart. Based on the happy, confident way he handled everything, I would say this was an extremely successful class!

Monday, November 8, 2010

We visited Dr. Neal today!

Today Laurel and Hardy went to see one of their favorite people, Dr. Neal Sivula. Hardy weighs 47.5 lbs now and Neal seemed very pleased with his weight and body condition. I brought Hardy in because I wanted Neal to check his bad breath. When I realized that the smell was coming from his mouth, I checked his teeth but couldn't find any problem. Neal determined that the smell was coming from his digestive system - which makes sense since he gets gas very easily. It started when we added different types of treats - cheese, salmon, turkey etc. We had added acidophilus, a probiotic to help his digestion but it doesn't seem to have worked. Neal suggested that we stop it and try a probiotic he gave us. I didn't think to ask him about whether he thought we should switch foods so I'll call or send an email.
Laurel weighs 59 lbs so Hardy is catching up with her. As a male and considering the size of his dad, we are expecting him to grow up to be larger than her but she still has some weight on him to boss him around with. Neal checked over Laurel's structure and did a chiropractic adjustment/massage for her. She loves him and it is fun to watch her turn into a relaxed puddle under his touch. It was a wonderful, positive experience at the doctor for both of them!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another weekend, another dog trial

As my husband, Brent, likes to say, "all dogs, all the time" ... and I must admit that looking at our schedule until the end of the year, I'm having trouble disagreeing with him (well, and of course, there was my and the Labs' summer in Canada!)
Yesterday, we loaded up everyone and headed to the Medina Red Roof Inn by way of Mike Pruitt Honda in Akron, hoping to get the locks and alarm fixed. Wednesday, they said it was the fuse box (something not covered by the extended warranty, of course) so they ordered the part and installed it while we waited yesterday. Since the van was all packed up with double decker crates and my wheelchair, we left the Labs in their crates. All went well except replacing the fuse box didn't fix the problem. Next week we'll have to take the van in for at least a day - until then, I will have to continue to crawl over the seats, the crate and my chair to manually lock and unlock the doors!
Next, we headed to the Outlet Shops at Lodi in hopes of finding some Geoffrey Beene dress shirts for Brent. The store was out of business so we got some Christmas presents at the Harry and David Store, feeling quite out of sorts about the shopping. Again, we left the Labs in the van while we ran in and back out pretty quickly.
Last stop of the day was the Red Roof Inn in Medina, about 15 minutes away from the C-WAGS trials today at the Medina Kennel Club. Laurel loves staying in hotels - Hardy's not there yet but hopefully he'll learn to appreciate them since we do so fairly regularly. 
Today, Fortunate Fido held their C-WAGS trials at a new place, the Medina Kennel Club. The classes being offered were limited but we competed in 2 classes each of Level 1 and Level 2 Obedience and Starter and Zoom 1 Rally. We Q'd in 7 of 8 classes, the NQ was in a Zoom rally class due to no change of pace between fast and normal. I didn't think that had happened and no one else saw it but that is what the judge saw. Oh, well, if so, that was big mistake on my part but Laurel did super. Apparently, today was Laurel's day to be "bridesmaid" since we came home with 1 first and 6 second place ribbons. All our scores were 92 and above, including a 99.5/100 (we lost a run off and got 2nd place). Laurel earned her Rally Starter Championship (ACE) title (CW-SRA) with our first run in Starter and in Level 2 Obedience, she did the most beautiful off-lead figure 8's ever! 
Hardy was great! He lounges around his crate beautifully and came out to say hello to people and to do various exercises. We're working on the APDT Level 1 signs - especially having Hardy not turn around to face me when I do the "go around dog" exercises. He's doing much better staying still and I also need to really work on the right finish because that is the most difficult. 
We got a photo with Anne Kiser, the judge we finished the ACE title under and also got a photo with Anne, Brent, Hardy and me since Hardy passed his AKC S.T.A.R. puppy test under her.

We got home by about 5:00 and discovered a couple inches of snow on the ground as we came up I-271. It has been snowing here all evening but tomorrow it's supposed to be 50 degrees. Hardy did have his first opportunity to investigate the white stuff but he'd like several more inches before he decides whether he really likes it or not. And tomorrow, everyone is just going to be muddy when they come inside!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Laurel went to agility for the first time in 5 months and Hardy stayed home, alone

Laurel and I went to agility class today for the first time in about 5 months! It was great to see Susan and all our other friends (dogs and people alike)! Laurel had such a terrific time and did very well! We did some exercises and then a short course of jumps and tunnels. Once again, after this layoff, I have to believe in latent learning. Laurel watched the movement of my chair beautifully and paid wonderful attention! She is still not a huge fan of start line stays but cooperated quite nicely when I suggested that it wasn't optional! Other than needing to get Laurel fit again and to be careful to not re-injure her foot, it doesn't look like we have lost much with our extended time off!
Brent was at work so Hardy stayed home alone which I don't think thrilled him. However, when we got home, he was sleeping in his crate and all was peaceful. It does remind me that we need to find time to leave him home alone so that he is capable of doing that without separation anxiety issues.
Then, after dinner, we took Hardy with us on a short trip to Costco. Although we don't take him into the "grocery store" area yet - that just seems unfair until he's older and has better control, he did very well! He did well with the shopping carts and all the people and activity. It's a great day when each Lab gets some time alone with me and is fine with being left behind too!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hardy and I spend a couple hours at the Honda place

Hardy went with me when I took my van down to the Honda dealership in Akron (about an hour away) so that they could fix the problem with the locks and alarm. Hardy went there when he was about 9 weeks old when I was having the same problem. After several visits in June, the problem resolved itself although it's obvious now that it wasn't actually fixed. 
When we got there, all the service people came by to say hello and comment on how much he has grown. He had on his vest but when people asked if they could pet him, I told him to "go say hello". This is the part that is so much easier for him than Laurel. He likes people but he is not nearly as enthusiastic about it as she. I made an interesting observation while sitting in the waiting room. I don't have a patch on Hardy's vest that tells people not to pet him. I do on Laurel's and based on how many people ignore it, didn't think it actually worked. However, while we were in the waiting room, every other person there, at one time or another, came over to talk and pet Hardy. Usually, people are polite and ask first but every once in awhile, there is someone who has no personal boundaries and just won't act appropriately! We were lucky - everyone was very good with both saying hello to Hardy and then ignoring him. For his part, Hardy did very well. He asked quietly and politely when he needed to go out and actually fell asleep while we were waiting. We got to practice going in and out commercial doors, going into a restroom stall together and finding a place where he is out of the way in the waiting area. We did have to move at one point because we were being stalked by a millipede - Hardy really wanted to play with him and although I don't know for a fact that eating one is poisonous, I decided it wasn't a good time to find that out. When we got home, Hardy told Laurel all about his hard day working and then took a long nap.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another Tuesday filled with classes

It would be nice if the training hall didn't have so many classes we want/need to take on the same day! However, until then, we have four classes on Tuesday!
Hardy and I attended the beginner's class and worked on the various parts of the CGC test - which was excellent since we are taking the test on November 13th! Hardy did very well and shouldn't have any problems becoming a Canine Good Citizen (a certification that is part of our training plan). 
There were only a couple dogs in Mary's new Levels class so Laurel and I participated in that. We worked the "one hour down stay" - Laurel still struggles some with it and Hardy was expressing his displeasure about not getting to work by yelling from his crate, which I found very distracting. I eventually timed him out to the van, to both of ours relief, since he is much happier out there.
I also did a short rally course with Hardy during the competition class. I'm considering taking him to an APDT trial later this month that is offering puppy level classes. There are still some skills we need to work on - the right finish is always tough because I have trouble raising my arms and passing the leash over my head plus there are so many things on the back of my chair for it to get hung up on. Hardy is still turning sideways to sit at heel and instead of staying in a sit, he still tends to go into a down very easily. The puppy levels class consists of 10 signs picked from any of the Level 1 signs. I'll have to review them and see what else we need to look at. Anyway, Hardy ignored the signs  and although it was pretty rough, he handled the course fairly well. At this point, I'm thinking we might want to do the trial. 
Laurel also got to work on an AKC Advanced course. I'm thinking I should compete at the IX Center's Crown Classic in December. We'd have four opportunities to get her RA title and she did well there when we did novice rally. I need to review the signs again because some of them are done just a bit differently than the related signs of other venues. 
Then to top off the day, Hardy and I took his agility foundations class. We did some work on little combinations (the jumps are 4 inches high and won't be raised until Hardy is a year old) - we did a jump, tunnel, jump with a front cross thrown in. Hardy likes the tunnel but we need to keep working on his entry but once he figures out what you want, he is such a calm yet willing little guy! We added a jump, the A-Frame and another jump and eventually did that entire sequence. Hardy did a great job. Then we worked on the weave poles and it's obvious he still doesn't understand what we want there but we have plenty of time for him to figure it out. And again, we are not training my agility dog, we are teaching my service dog (although our instructor disagrees with me - she thinks he will be both my service dog and my agility dog. That's fine but first and foremost, he, like Laurel, is my service dog). Working together off lead with the different jumps, obstacles and sequences is just wonderful for focusing on our relationship, helping our communication and improving our teamwork!

Jack came over to take some more photos!

Jack Powers, the photographer who took the great photo of Hardy on the front of this blog came over to take some more photos of our Labs this afternoon. I was hoping that this photo shoot would be somewhat easier than the last, when Hardy didn't know his name, much less the most basic cues. We set up the backdrop in our living room and took some photos of Laurel and Hardy individually with them up on a stool. Hardy kept laying down and Laurel acted like a model - she took instruction very well! We took some more shots of them together on the floor and then took photos by our fireplace. It's still hard work getting two dogs to cooperate so that both of them look good in a single photo but Jack does a wonderful job and I think he got some terrific shots! We're looking forward to seeing some proofs within a week or so!
This evening, Hardy and I attended our conformation class. We really enjoy it and Hardy is doing great with the movement parts. We're not working much right now on his stacking - we're asking him to stand still while someone examines him but we're not focusing on him doing this while in a perfect "stack". Eventually, we'll have to work on that because if I'm going to show him, he will have to be able to do a free stack (one that he puts himself into - I can't move each leg into the proper position). But since he is young and we won't be showing him until he is 2 years old, we don't have to push him while he is growing and uncoordinated. We have a terrific time together taking this class!
While we were getting ready to leave, Hardy started alerting for my muscle spasms. I showed him that I took my medications and watched him relax. He has stayed close to me all evening, showing similar behavior to what Laurel does in the same situation. And for me, the most interesting thing has been Laurel's reaction. When we got home, she checked me over and it was obvious that she knew what was happening but Hardy was right there and she relaxed, didn't get involved and hasn't been worried. This is the first time that I feel like having two alerting dogs might actually mean that each of them has time off and isn't always working! That would be really wonderful!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween!

The Labs, Brent and I had a great Halloween! Yesterday, we were sorry to see Kristen, Sean and Soapy leave but we'd had a great time together and knew Sean wanted to see his family as much as we'd wanted to see Kristen! Yesterday afternoon, we dropped Devin off at the airport to get home in time for school and NYC Ballet rehearsals starting again Tuesday. Then we headed to the hotel in Elyria to spend the night before the C-WAGS Obedience trial today in Vermilion. It was Hardy's first hotel visit and all things considered, he did pretty well. He didn't really get the whole "lounge around on the huge bed together" thing and wanted to investigate every inch of the suite. We weren't excited about that so he did spend some extra time in his crate. 
We arrived at Canine Sports to discover that the mats would roll some under my chair but I didn't think it would be too bad. Laurel and I needed one more Q to complete our Obedience Level 1 championship - C-WAGS Obedience Ace Level 1 (CW-OAL1). We did that in our first Level 1 class with a perfect score (100/100) and first place. In order to show it wasn't a fluke, Laurel repeated that score and placement in the second Level 1 class. At the beginning of our first Level 2 class, Laurel alerted for severe muscle spasms. I should have listened to her and asked to be excused in order to take my meds but I didn't. Laurel went from concerned to anxious to annoyed and it didn't go well. She didn't want to be any distance away from me so we NQ'd one of the distance exercises. Hopefully, next time, I'll remember to do the right thing! After taking my medications, I decided to try Level 2 again, and we placed first with a 95 and Laurel seems to have recovered from my screw-up. 
Hardy was good as gold (and better)! He lounged around quietly in his crate and came out to do a bit of work and visiting. I'm sure I'm repeating myself when I say, "he is so easy!" 
We got home at about 3:30, in time to hand out candy! After her successful day, Laurel lounged on the bed while Hardy got to dress up in his shark (Lab Shark) costume and watch the kids in their costumes coming to the door and asking for candy. He loved it - well, maybe not the costume so much but watching the kids, for sure! None of the costumes bothered him and he didn't mind everyone coming to the door! 
When "trick or treating" was over, we all watched Rocky Horror Picture Show together (although some of us slept through parts). All in all, we had a great "Thanksgiving"/Halloween weekend!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wow! Our time together flew by!

Devin took an earlier flight than excepted so he got here Thursday afternoon. He met Hardy for the first time and fell in love with his easy-going, calm nature. Kristen, Sean and Soapy arrived that evening so the canine "cousins" had plenty of time to play. Hardy and Soapy behaved beautifully with each other and all three got along without any problems. Laurel did turn into the "fun police" and it was obvious that Soapy's "puppy license" with her expired while he was away. Soapy doesn't read older dog's social cues very well but Laurel is pretty persistent so she kept after him. Even with 7 adult humans and 3 dogs in our family room, Laurel, Hardy and Soapy were so well behaved that no one got run out of the room.
Yesterday was a wonderful day! Kristen and Sean took Soapy to see Kate Hornick, a veterinarian and friend who also owns Maynard, Soapy's dad. She was very pleased with how he is doing and gave him a clean bill of health. Everyone worked together to create an amazing Thanksgiving dinner. We made our traditional mushroom stuffing and my Mom & Ron brought some wonderful vegetables from their garden. Sean made a delicious pumpkin pie and we got  apple and rhubarb ones from Patterson's Orchard. We were so into it being Thanksgiving that we were surprised that other people weren't celebrating the holiday! It was wonderful to have almost our entire family (sadly, Anthony was missing) together!
This morning, Sean, Kristen and Soapy left to drive to Sean's family on Long Island. Devin, Brent and I are currently watching the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. We need to start packing though because we'll be dropping Devin off at the airport at about 4:00 and then heading to a hotel in Elyria, in preparation for competing tomorrow at the C-WAGS trial in Vermilion. 
Since Soapy left, Laurel and Hardy have been sleeping - it was a big couple days for them! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Quiet Before the Storm

Sue Alexander and D'fer, her service dog, left first thing this morning for New York City and then Brent headed to Toledo for the day. I had an infusion and found out that my lung capacity is currently below 20%, which is low, even for me. I'm wheezing and it seems like I have chronic bronchitis so next week, we're doing a CAT scan and some other testing. It's nice to know the reason I've been feeling crappy and the doctors seem to think huge doses of antibiotics will help. I've spent the day encouraging the Labs to relax and take it easy ... Tomorrow, our son, Devin flies in from NYC and our daughter, Kristen, her boyfriend, Sean and their Pointer, Soapy (9 months old) arrive for a quick visit (after being in Alaska since April). We picked Soapy up from the breeders and he spent time with us as a very young puppy so he and Laurel are good friends but he has never met Hardy before. 
I taught my Levels class this evening. The more I work with other dogs and their handlers within the Levels program, the better I think it is suited for group classes. I ask each handler to think about and write out their own goals (with the understanding that they may change) since Levels allows each team to work within their own ability towards their own goals. It's been really terrific to see relationships between the handlers and their dogs grow and to watch the handlers get excited about those changes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hardy visits the bank

I needed to go to our local bank branch to make a deposit and instead of going through the drive-thru, I decided to take Hardy inside with me. He did well ignoring other people in the bank, including the nice person who held the doors open for us. Hardy just came through the doorway right behind my chair as I had requested he do. While I was working with the teller, I asked Hardy to lay down next to me and he did very well with that. Other than a bit of sniffing the mat on the way out, he did a great job!
Once we got home, we worked a bit on "floor Zen" in order to remind Hardy of the automatic leave-it idea. Obviously, we have to work through even a small amount of sniffing before we take him into a grocery store, for instance. Now that he has been promoted to "in training" from "candidate", I will find more opportunities to take him out for public access outings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sue got to see a more grown up Hardy and we attended the seminar

Sue Alexander arrived here Thursday evening for her 3 day seminar this weekend and to see a much larger Hardy than she last saw at the beginning of September. Sue seemed very pleased with how he looked and behaved. We discussed that we are knowingly taking it quite slowly with him and that we have no desire to change our plans. 
Friday, Hardy attended portions of the seminar with me and did a super job laying on his mat and practicing some skills. We worked on his ability to untangle his feet from the leash and I dropped some things for him to pick up. He was absolutely certain that he should pick up a water bottle that was next to someone else's chair but we worked that out and he left it alone. 
For the last couple weeks, unfortunately, I have been having lots of muscle spasms and Hardy had a couple firsts related to them. While we were at the seminar, Hardy began alerting - the first time he has done so away from home and away from Laurel. He was very consistent and persistent. Based on his behavior at the seminar and what Sue has seen from him since she's been here, she says that I should stop referring to him as a service dog candidate - he has been promoted to service dog in training. 
Yesterday, we dropped Sue off at the seminar and headed over to Fortunate Fido in Columbia Station for our last class/test for the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy award. The instructor, Anne Kiser, had requested that we prepare three new tricks for class and as soon as we got there, she requested we show what we had done. Hardy and I had worked on a number of different things this week but what I showed was Hardy doing a spin to his left (his stiffer side); his ability to untangle his feet from the leash on cue and his favorite hoola hoop trick - he gets inside it, picks it up and turns around while holding it so it looks like he's hoola-hooping. It's pretty cute and he did it perfectly so we might eventually incorporate it in a freestyle routine for C-WAGS ARF class. We worked on some obedience things - sits, downs and stays; the puppies got to play for a bit and they experimented with some of the agility equipment. Hardy passed the class and got the award so he is now a S.T.A.R. Puppy. We headed back to the seminar but I started feeling really crappy and Hardy started alerting so I decided to head home. We missed most of the seminar today too but it seems to have gone very well and I was very proud of Hardy while he was there.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Laurel & I took obedience class; Hardy & I did agility foundations class

Laurel and I took obedience class this afternoon to work on C-WAGS Level 3 exercises - drop on recall, directed jump, retrieve over broad jump, and go out. The jumps are going consistently great while the drop on recall and go out are brilliant one time and dismal the next. Obviously I need to keep breaking them apart and making sure that Laurel really understands what I'm asking. It's great to be working together again!
Hardy and I had the agility foundations class - we worked on doing a rear cross behind the A-Frame, jumping the tire set very low, doing 3 and 6 weave poles, walking across the teeter totter board set on the ground and a couple little jump combinations. He is such a willing, steady little guy. Sometimes it takes him a minute to figure out what I want him to do but once he does, he tries his best. He was thrilled to see the equipment set up which seems like a good sign for having a confident young man who enjoys the various agility exercises!

Hardy has fun pretending to be a "show dog"!

This isn't going to be the most fun week for Laurel or Hardy - I'm not feeling great and have way too much stuff to get ready for the 3-day seminar beginning Friday. I'm definitely not going to have lots of time to do fun things with my Labs but will try to do a minimum of classes as well as some of our fun at-home activities. 
Anyway, this evening Hardy and I went to Dorothy's conformation class. He immediately noticed the A-Frame and tunnel stored against the wall and asked me to let him play on them. He didn't get to play but was delighted when he realized we were going to trot around, do various figures, and practice standing nicely while Dorothy "examined" him. He did a great job and we enjoyed the class a great deal!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's a Beautiful Fall Day and Laurel and Hardy play in the backyard

Hardy looks much redder in this than he is ... he is a nice dark chocolate

It's been a beautiful Fall day here and we took some photos of Laurel and Hardy playing in our backyard together! Laurel still has the speed advantage on the young lad but Hardy is getting faster every day! Laurel is going to be so surprised when Hardy grows up - his breeder believes he's going to be pretty big (certainly larger than Laurel). London, his father, is quite large and of course, Hardy continues to have ginormous paws as well as a long tail, large head and very long legs! Anyway, the Labs had a great time playing outside in the beautiful Fall colors today!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hardy's developed separation anxiety

Hardy attended his 5th AKC Puppy Star class today - next week will be the test and an opportunity to play "Show and Tell" with 3 tricks we're supposed to work on this week.
He did very well with all the exercises - "leave it" with something on the floor (we've been practicing with our cats); eye contact; sit and down stays (Hardy shifted position but never got up from the stay); loose leash walking and playing around on the agility and flyball equipment. He walked through the ladder nicely with good control over his hind end; went through the short tunnel; got up on the table and sat and downed; and jumped up on the flyball box. He had a chance to play with Pete and had a great time! 

Then, we practiced the separation part of the CGC test and discovered that right now Hardy isn't a big fan of being out-of-sight from us. A couple weeks ago, we worked on it and he couldn't have cared less but now, he is somewhat concerned and whinny about it. Apparently, we need to work on that some more right now! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hardy went home today ... to see his breeder!

And they say you can't go home again ... well, today, Hardy went home to see his breeder, Donna! Of course, it was raining when we got there so he couldn't play outside with his sister but we went inside Donna's house and had a lovely visit! I was so proud of him - he was very polite with Donna and with the adult dogs who were in the house. He was thrilled to find a bone to carry around (he doesn't get bones at our house because Laurel has a cracked tooth) but when one of the adult dogs claimed it, he was very respectful. And, of course, she only wanted it because he had it. 
Below is a photo I took on a disposable camera of Hardy and his breeder, Donna Reece.
Donna said that he was beautiful and looked very good for a 6 month old. I asked about showing him in conformation and she said that she didn't see anything that would indicate he couldn't do that. She suggested we wait until he was two years old and more grown up. Then he could gain a bit of weight for the show ring without damaging him in anyway. 
I left a couple of Hardy's baby photos with Donna and she asked that I send her some digital copies so that she could put them on her website. It was a lovely visit and we'll plan the next one for a nice day so that Hardy can play with his sister!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Laurel and Hardy are working together to alert and perform tasks

Laurel and Hardy have been working together to teach him to alert for severe muscle spasms and also to perform various tasks. With the change in temperature I've been having more muscle spasms than usual and Laurel has been alerting to them. What's interesting is that she works to get Hardy's attention when she alerts and actively encourages him to mimic her. Laurel knows what body part is going to spasm and it seems that Hardy is catching on to that as well. A couple times now he has alerted before Laurel and he has nudged the correct spot. Since I feel more confident in my ability to teach him to do the diabetes alert, I'm thrilled that Laurel is teaching him the other two. 
Over the past couple days, my two goofy Labs have also been tag-teaming picking things up for me. Laurel will find something under a table or tangled in cords and will get it out into the open. Then, she shows it to Hardy and will step aside so that he can come and pick it up to bring to me. I have some old credit and gift cards that I use for training so Hardy has gotten very good at picking them up off our hardwood floor. Of course, when he brings the object to me, we all have a big party involving dog treats or toys! 
I was concerned that I was going to have to crate Laurel or in some other way discourage her from doing all the tasks in order for Hardy to learn them. One time when Hardy was much younger, he went to pick up my shoe and Laurel pushed him away so she could bring it to me so I am thrilled that Laurel has now taken on the role of teacher. And I'm not sure which one of them is prouder when Hardy brings me something!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some More Firsts for Hardy!

After our successful weekend, Hardy started a couple new classes. Monday evening, we joined a conformation class (something I have never done before). We were the only new team in the class (read: only ones who had no idea what we were doing) but everyone, especially Dorothy (the instructor) were terrific and helped us feel successful. Hardy and I didn't work on stacking (and everyone else already knew how to) but we did a lot with moving our dogs. We moved around the ring in a group and on our own and then did the patterns ( L shape & triangle). As Dorothy explained, since conformation is a "beauty pageant", the goal is to always present our dogs at their best - whether standing or moving. Moving worked better than I expected ... my chair handled it well and Hardy caught on very quickly and moved out at a nice steady trot while in front a bit and nicely away from my chair. For all the people who don't think you can train a conformation dog in obedience because they can't learn the difference between sitting when doing obedience and only standing when doing conformation, Hardy figured that out very quickly. When we came back from moving around the ring or doing one of the figures and stopped "in front of the judge", Hardy stood right there and never offered to sit. We had a blast and are looking forward to class next week!
Yesterday, Hardy and I attended our obedience class in the morning. We worked on stays with distractions - balls, Frisbees, umbrellas etc. Hardy did quite well although he really wanted the Frisbee.  We worked on "scary" things - fans, the umbrella opening and closing, and Mary (the instructor) with a big jacket and hood covering her face. Hardy didn't think anything was scary. We did recalls with distractions - Mary standing & sitting between us and our dogs, then Mary holding treats sitting between us. Hardy just ran past her and came right to me. 
Next, Laurel and I had obedience class in which we did similar types of things. Laurel also did very well until she realized it was Mary sitting between us and she had treats. She broke her stay to visit but when I put her back, reminded her to stay, and then called her, she ran past and came right to me. Then Laurel and I did Heather's competition class. Laurel did very well on everything but the drop on recall. We have really gone back and forth on this. When we started it, Laurel would run and then drop so fast that she slid about five feet and got "rug burns" on her pads. After doing that a couple times, she became reluctant to drop so we went back and started over. This summer, her drops improved again and when she first came back after the injury, she was doing a great job. Now, however, she's struggling again ... she wants to come to me before dropping so we'll go back to basics and rebuild it again. 
Finally, Hardy had his first agility foundations class with Ana. He won't be jumping any height until he is over a year old but until then, we'll be working on groundwork, introducing him to the obstacles etc. There are three dogs in the class - the other two are much older and more experienced but with such a small class, we got plenty of personal attention. First, we worked on having Hardy switch sides while moving - from the left of my chair to the right. No problem there. Then, we asked him to go up the A-frame (not at full height) and again, absolutely no problem. From there, onto the tunnel (a dark green one) - first straight and then curved. Once he realized we wanted him to go through the tunnel, there was no hesitation. Then, he did his first jump (4 inches high) so that we could do a combination. Jump, treat, tunnel, treat, A-frame, treat with him to my right and Ana holding the leash without assisting and then we reversed it so he would be to my left. He did a super job going both ways! The only difficulty he had was a little jump combination (the start of a pinwheel). There wasn't enough space between the jumps for me to get through so I couldn't use movement to encourage him to go on. It took him a couple tries to figure out what we wanted but once he did, he did it very willingly. And then, finally, we worked on teaching him an automatic sit on the table and discovered that he is willing to sit or down without any difficulty. All in all, I'd say, an incredibly successful first class! 
It will be very different doing agility with Hardy but once again, he will definitely benefit from all that I have learned with Laurel!