Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I wish Denzil could talk

First of all, Denzil is the least likely of the 3 to tell me off, so him talking would be o.k.

Really, though, I wish he could tell me what's going on with him. I suspect he's in pain, but he's so darn stoic that he won't admit it. Denz was at the vet on Friday because he's lost a LOT of muscle in the past month - particularly along his back and in his hindquarters. He's lost 4 lbs and it seems to be all muscle. He also lays down more than usual. On the other hand, he is still always ready to go and hasn't been overtly lame.

Denzil has a known problem with his patellas. I took him to Iowa State University vet school earlier in the year. He was diagnosed w/ Grade 2 luxated patellas. Sometimes he's toe-touching lame (after very vigorous exercise - the kind Denzil's like best), but with a day or 2 of rest he's just fine. The ISU vet didn't recommend surgery, but told me it's a consideration if the problems continue.

Our orthopedic vet here didn't really find anything in a physical exam last week, and Denzil's bloodwork was ok. Tomorrow we're taking in a stool sample to rule that out. The vet also had me up Denzil's food (Denzil thinks that's the best treatment regime EVER).

I suspect that his right knee is now bothering him, too, causing him to move around less, and carry less weight on his hind end - therefore losing muscle. This is why I wish he could talk - just tell me what's wrong so we can fix it!


Monday, July 27, 2009

Remind me why I took so many crates...

Here's a picture from our recent trip.  Yes, this is the trip that I brought 6 crates for 2 dogs.

I think Ziggy is trying to make the point that I could have packed a little lighter.  

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"That's a mellow breed"

Friday I took both of the boys to the vet.  While in the waiting room, I put them both in a down, and the three of us were waiting patiently for our names to be called.  A man walked in with his shi tsu or lhasa apso (I can't really tell them apart).  The boys looked up, but didn't move.  What good boys!

The man proceeded to ask me what breed they were.  I told him.  He replied, "That's a mellow breed."  This is not how I would characterize Cardigans.  The boys were mellow b/c they'd already been for 2 walks totaling 5 miles, and they know what down means.  I shared with him that the breed isn't particularly mellow - the boys were just being very good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Step 1: Listen to your name

Clearly, Ziggy and I have some work to do - so what's first?  Getting my youngest to pay attention when I say his name.

Right now I'm working on 2 of the things Celeste suggested.  I plan on adding some more in a day or 2.   
First, he is getting about 2/3 of his dinner hand fed to him.  One piece of kibble at time, while his head is up (he doesn't seem to know that a dog can eat small pieces of food w/out looking down) while I say his name and praise him.  This will help him make the connection between good things (food) and my verbal praise, my gentle touch (hands on the dog), and his name.

Next, we've started playing the "name game."  I grab a handful of kibble (or another treat that contrasts w/ the floor color) and my clicker.  I throw a treat, saying "get it, get it, get it."  When Ziggy's just got the treat, I call him back to me "Ziggy" and "right here" to indicate my outstretched index finger.  When he gets to my finger, he gets a click and a treat.  Repeat, repeat, repeat until the handful of treats/kibble are gone.

I've already noticed a change in his behavior.  We haven't been doing any "official" obedience work - I'm putting those exercises away until our relationship is better - but he's already looking at me with more interest and following me around the house more.  Right now he's laying next to my feet, and tonight in agility class he hung out closer to me than he usually does.  

I know it's one lesson, and just a small step, but I feel better knowing that at least I've got some tools to help get me past the stuck spot.  I'll let you know how it continues to go...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Private Lesson & Ziggy diagnosis

I rode and trained horses for 18 years.  One of my favorite riding instructors used to talk about "stuck spots."  Stuck spots are times when what you're doing just isn't working.  Stuck spots are times to try something new - something that will get you to where you want to go.  (Otherwise you're stuck in the "doing the same thing, but expecting a different result" cycle).

I was/am in a stuck spot with Ziggy, and had been for a while now.  He was a great, attentive, quick-to learn puppy, but when I started to put some "pressure" on him to perform,  the problems began.  I recognize that I am in a stuck spot, but unfortunately I didn't have the training tools in my toolbox to get me out.  That's what I was hoping my private with Celeste Meade would help with, and it did.

The lesson started with me doing a bit of work with Ziggy.  "Pretend that you've just rented the ring to work your dog.  And try to pretend that I'm not here" were the instructions I was given.  Of course I was nervous, and not so good at the "pretend I'm not here" part.  After a few minutes of me working with Ziggy, Celeste stopped me to discuss what she just saw. 

The highlights of what she saw:  
* Ziggy has no attention at all, and only pays attention when I'm moving.
* After I am done giving Ziggy his treat,  and when I'm praising him, he puts his head down, and looks away as if I'm not there.
* Ziggy ignores me when I call his name.
* These things are my fault as a dog trainer.

Basically, Ziggy and I have a good social relationship, but no working relationship.  

That was really hard for me to hear, and not because it's not true.  All of this is true, and I absolutely take ownership of getting us here (I am the trainer in this situation, and I can't blame the dog for being who he is).  It made me feel emotional because I've been frustrated for months and just didn't know what to do.  I have a strong working relationship with Maggie & Denzil, so I know what "good" is - and I knew Z & I weren't in synch.

The great thing is that the lesson provided me with some things I can do, and games I can play,  to help Ziggy become more attentive and care more about my touch and praise in a "work" setting.  No more flipping me the paw and ignoring the person who loves him, houses him, feeds him, and takes care of his other needs.

I've rambled on for a while already, so I'll post some of the things I'm working on tomorrow.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Celeste Meade: Day 2

So much to learn! My brain is full. I was frantically trying to take notes between exercises, but I'm sure I missed 1/2 of it. Sigh.

Today we worked on more games to build attention, attitude & confidence. We were working on some more advanced things today, which pushed Ziggy a little. He stuck with me, though, and learned some new things - including a more solid stand stay and the beginning of the moving stand.

In the afternoon, I worked with Maggie. I took Ziggy out for the first afternoon exercise, and he laid down, frogged out, and fell asleep. I'm a girl who can take a hint (especially one THAT obvious) so I pulled Maggie out for the next exercise. She was a very good girl, despite her uncoordinated handler, and she did a nice job on an exercise meant to build attention when the handler is walking away.

After the seminar today, the 3 of us went for a hike at a nearby state park. After 2 days in crates, and 2 nights in a hotel room, I figured it was time to get back to nature. Good for the dogs, and good for me, too. The problem is the corgis took "back to nature" a bit too literally.

As I've mentioned before, Maggie loves to roll. Ziggy, as her "mini-me," has learned from the Mistress of Stink. Both of them did quite lot of rolling on walk, and ended up smelling like raccoon poop. Locked in a hotel room with these 2.... Well, life with dogs IS special. I walked to a SuperTarget and bought some pet cleaning wipes. Now they smell likely flowery, slightly less pungent raccoon poop. Jealous?

Tomorrow I have a private lesson. I'm hoping it will help me pull some of the ideas I learned over the weekend into an actionable plan that will help me, Maggie & Ziggy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Celeste Meade: Day 1

Oh, perhaps I should mention - for those of you who don't know - Celeste Meade is one of the top obedience competitors and trainers in the US. She believes in positive, hands-on training, and focuses on control and drive. Her training motto is "Attitude is Everything."

I've got to say - I really like what I've heard so far. As you know, I'm trying hard to find a way to have a relationship with Ziggy like the one I have with Maggie. I think that Celeste's training philosophies will help. I also believe that what I learn here will help further build my relationship with Maggie.

Today we worked on some things to keep our dogs "up" between exercises, with the focus on us and fun. To get the dog thinking "Why would I WANT to be anywhere but with my mom?"

Ziggy did pretty well. He was a bit overwhelmed when we did things with all the dogs playing/active at the same time. He did very nicely, though, on the exercises that he did alone, and the ones that weren't quite so "crazy" with all dogs doing stuff at the same time.

Maggie was a wonderful girl - she waited very patiently while her brother worked, and was an absolute star when I worked with her at lunch time. I love that girl.

As an aside - those of you who saw my brace performance in obedience will appreciate this - who did I sit next to at the seminar? One of the obedience trial judges from Topeka! She is a very nice woman, and a very accomplished trainer, who happens to belong to the club hosting the seminar. I mentioned to her that I showed under her at the Cardigan Nationals. Then I told her who I was by admitting to my brace run (she was the one who judged Ziggy & Denzil - gasp!). She laughed and mentioned how much she likes to judge Specialties and how few Cardigans she normally sees at Obedience trials.

Anyway - I'm looking forward to tomorrow and Monday. Time to take the dogs out one last time and go to bed!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Packing light is overrated

I am not a fan of packing (or unpacking) and I think packing light is only to be done if absolutely necessary. This weekend I have the minivan to myself and only 2 dogs, so there's no packing light. Woo hoo!

A picture of what we took with us (except the 3 hard sided crates) is below. Ziggy decided to inspect everything before I put it in the van. Either that or he was trying to find the bag with the food in it. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt, and believe that he was checking our bags for any dangerous substances before we travelled. His next job just might be with the TSA.

Pete (aka The Husband) asked me exactly how many crates I was taking. The answer: 6.

That may seem a bit overboard, but I really think will result in a lot of saved time. Here's how it works:

* In the van: 2 wire crates for travel (too heavy to lug around)

* At the clinic site: 2 soft sided crates that will stay there all weekend (no need to pack them up & take them with me every night because I have 4 more!)

* And, finally, in our hotel room: 2 crates. The soft sided crate is for Maggie (she's a GOOD girl in her crate. All the time.) The hard sided crate is for Ziggy. He's not such a good boy in his crate in a hotel. At the National Specialty I came back from dinner one night to find him roaming around the room. He dug & chewed his way through a high-quality soft crate. It's now out for repairs, and has been replaced by the crate seen on the right in the picture below:

Maggie, Ziggy & I just spent a few hours in the car, but now we're safely in our hotel room, ready to get a good rest so we're in our best form for the clinic tomorrow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A fun weekend - Ziggy beware!

Since I'm not showing any of the dogs this summer, I'm using my dog show "allowance" to go to clinics, take private lessons, etc.

This weekend should be a new adventure.  I managed to secure a working spot at Celeste Meade's seminar this weekend, so Ziggy, Maggie & I are off to have some fun and learn, learn, learn!  My plan is to work with Ziggy, but I'm bringing Maggie along just in case.  In case of what, I'm not sure, but she's a more reliable worker than Ziggy, and you just never know....  

Do any of you have any "I wish I'd known this before I had a working spot at a clinic" tips for me?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nature in tooth and claw

This is the phrase my dear husband uses when viewing things like lions eating a zebra.  Yesterday I felt like I was cleaning up after the Wild Kingdom.  (Don't worry - no picture included today.  Trust me, this is best.)

Yesterday was the first nice weekend day we've had in a while.  I spent most of the day working in the yard, as it's rained a lot lately and the grass was going to seed.  As most of you dog owners know, mowing a yard with dogs is not as straightforward as just pulling out the mower.  First, comes "poo-trol."  Next, in our yard w/ 3 mature trees, it's stick-trol.  

Yesterday I got to add "dead-critter-trol" on to the end of my  pre-mowing tasks.  I found a dead, 1/2 eaten mouse (or chipmunk, or vole - due to the part eaten I couldn't really tell.)  I also caught one of my corgis eating an adult robin.  And we live in the city limits.  Our lot is 1/3 of an acre, but still - in the city limits.  They're really on a roll.  

I know this is the work of Maggie and her vermin-killing apprentice, Ziggy.  Denzil does not have the killer instinct.  I've actually seen a rabbit bump into Denzil and he didn't know what to do.    

So my question -- are any of your dogs sidelining as exterminators? Or are my dogs just blood-thirsty freaks?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Brotherly Love

It's sweet when the dogs groom each other.  Usually it's Maggie doing the grooming, but when I was petting the boys yesterday, Ziggy started to clean Denzil's eye.  Then Denzil decided to reciprocate by cleaning my leg.

They're good boys.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Max and the Bison

Stacy, a very adventurous friend of mine, drove from Portland with her dog Max for a trip around Yellowstone Park.  I love this picture, and thought I'd share it....

Friday, July 3, 2009

Beginners again

So this week was Ziggy's next-to-last class for beginning agility.  His performance this week was much improved.   I think this is due to him gaining confidence in what's expected, me having the furry squeaker stashed in my pocket for spontaneous reward/play, and - oh - perhaps a little bit about the leftover steak that I cut up as treats.

The instructor is planning what classes to run next session, and was providing us with guidance on who got to "graduate."  While our instructor was impressed with Ziggy's progress over the last 8 weeks, it isn't enough to earn our way into the next level up.  So beginners here we come, again! 

This really is the right move for Z, as he needs to continue to build confidence, and I certainly don't want to ruin what I've got.  Also, I have limited time to practice (job, family, remodel, yardwork...), so our progress is bound to be a bit slow.

Here's where Ziggy is so far:
  • Loves the table (who wouldn't love jumping up 8", laying down & getting a treat!)\
  • Loves the not-yet-full-height teeter
  • Likes the tunnels, but we need more speed
  • Likes the low-height dog walk, and starting to canter across it
  • Not so fond of the A-Frame (not a very corgi-friendly obstacle), but running over a 5' version pretty well
  • Looking straight ahead - but moving slowly - through 12 bent weave poles
  • Becoming a more confident jumper
  • Learning his flatwork well
I'm anxious to see what improves in the next session......

 ....and Ziggy's looking forward to more fun & treats!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Clearly I love my dogs.  I like to talk about dogs, learn about dogs, and spend time with my dogs.  So what do I like to watch on TV?  Animal Planet?  NatGeo? ......  Nope.  HGTV!  I love HGTV and find it to be great “low-involvement,” yet instructive and inspiring, television. 
Can you tell where the conflict lies here?  I’ll bet that all of you with more than one dog can tell….
Sadly, having multiple dogs is often incompatible with having an HGTV-worthy house. Especially when your house is of modest size.
Case in point (my family room):

Prior to the human child joining the pack, things were ok. The dogs hung out in the family room during waking hours and in our bedroom at night.  That meant only 2 locations full of dog beds and toys.  My living room was nice.  No clutter, no crates, no dog beds. 
Then along came the human child.  We couldn’t have him hang out in the dogs’ space, as small toys are just too tempting for corgi mouths.    And, although the dogs were properly “baby-proofed” before the child was born, I found separation of dogs and child to be a good idea, unless closely supervised. 
So there went my living room.  It now has magnets all over the door, an art easel, and numerous baskets of toys. What’s an HGTV-loving woman to do?  Dogcorate!  (Decorate with the dogs in mind)

Warning:  Digression
Yes, I like combining words to make new words.  The husband & I have a bit of a contest to see how many words still make sense while adding the word corgi – or some close variation (e.g.:  use corgfusion instead of confusion if the dogs are confused, or there is confusion thanks to the dogs)

Back on track: 
I finally decided to reclaim one room.  I think this decision came about when we had a guest come over and we had nowhere for them to comfortably sit.  The choice was:  sit on dog haired sofa and put drink on top of the dog-crate-turned-into-end-table or move the stuffed animals and crayons out of the way and put drink on sticker-covered coffee table. 
I decided to work on the family room (pictured above), and the room is now is nearly complete.  Our goal - something more stylish, but dog friendly.  I’m already taking pictures, and I’ll share the results once it’s all done.

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