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!