27 March 2009

Gunner's visit, Part 6

Gunner's humans picked him up last Sunday. He was too distracted by his sister Diva on whom he was trying out and practicing his stud dog skills - to no avail, thank goodness - to notice his humans at first. Then it clicked. "They've come to take me home!" Of course, he wanted to jumped up on them and despite their commands "off", he didn't stay off. (I was embarrassed that my dogs were also trying to jump up on Donna and Scott too. So much for my training!)

I knew right away that Gunner doesn't really understand what 'off' means so instructed them to turn around and ignore him completely until he had 'four on the floor'. When he was not jumping up, they turned around and gave him their attention. Of course, this isn't going to cure him overnight but combined with a ton of reinforcement (treats) when he does have 'four on the floor' and social isolation as a form of 'punishment' when he jumps up, they should see him reduce his tendency to jump up. It's all about building value for a desired behaviour and lessening value for an undesirable behaviour. Donna asked if I use 'four on the floor' as a command & I answered "no". She wondered how a dog would learn without a verbal command and so I explained that reinforcement will build desired behaviours without having to use verbals if the reinforcement has value and if it's delivered at a high rate at first. Saying 'good boy' or 'yes' helps to mark the behaviour but isn't necessary if the rate of reinforcement is high enough at the beginning to give Gunner the understanding of what's expected of him.

Anyway, after he left, the house was extremely quiet. And I mean, dead quiet even with the remaining 4 of our dogs. Everyone including myself, was exhausted from Gunner's stay, but particularly Tyro and Diva with whom Gunner played or nagged constantly. It's not until we have visiting dogs that hubbie realizes and appreciates how much training I actually do with our dogs.

Before he left, I was building success with Gunner's stack for the show ring. His stack isn't perfect but given that he wouldn't even stand still for 1/10 second when he first arrived, getting some photos of him standing for several seconds was a huge improvement.

22 March 2009

4 titles in 3 months!

Wow, Corrine and Milo are doing fantastic work in rally and obedience since the start of 2009! This past Saturday, they earned yet another title - their Cdn Kennel Club Rally Advanced (RA) title plus 2 legs towards Milo's Rally Excellent title. How awesome! Given all the issues Corrine was having with his loss of confidence etc. in the past 18+ months, Milo has made a spectacular recovery and accomplished wonderful things lately.

They completed their CKC Rally Advanced title with two scores of 91/100. And in their first Rally Excellent trial on Sunday, they faced that challenging "backing up 3 steps" exercise which Milo performed perfectly but Corrine took an extra step and for that they lost 10 points. She decided not to try to repeat the exercise and confuse Milo because HE had done it so well. It was a handler error which resulted in a 10 point loss; otherwise, they would have had scored 99/100! In their 2ns trial, they scored 92/100. Great scores! I know how difficult the backing-up exercise is and I don't think Sasha or Nova have ever successfully performed it in the ring.

Anyway, that's 4 titles earned since January 2009 and they are well on the road to #5 with their two CKC Excellent legs. Hey Corrine - you're putting me & my dogs to shame!!!! LOL. Well done - we're so proud of Milo and so grateful to Corrine for providing Milo with a stimulating environment and life.

Milo (asleep sitting up) after 2 days of trials and travel to/from Belleville, ON

Gunner's visit, Part 5

Gunner is starting to go on point when I open the door to let him outside. He's learned that there are often squirrels and birds very close at hand. He definitely has a hunting instinct! Unfortunately, I never seem to have my camera in hand when this happens. Anyway, he does love to play and enjoys sticks.

21 March 2009

Gunner's visit, Part 4

"Reinforcement builds behaviour."

That's a mantra I learned from Susan Garrett and I try to keep this uppermost in my mind when managing, interacting with and training my dogs. I can tell that Gunner has had a lot of training because of his tendency to repeat behaviours that earned him treats/rewards with his humans: sit, down, wait in his crate before being released. His family, especially Scott the elder teen, has done a great job.

This past week, I've been doing a lot of rewarding of Gunner's "4-on-the-floor" to reduce his desire to jump up on me/people. Likewise with him resting on a bed or mat in our kitchen while we're preparing food and also learning to stack (stand) patiently for the show ring. I deliver a high rate of rewards in a short period of time. Being still or calm is a challenge for him because he's a very active (I hesitate to label him hyperactive but he's close); after all, he's a boy, he's a Vizsla and he's only 9 months old. But even in the evenings after a long day of playing with our dogs and he's ostensibly tired, he'll rest on the couch, then get off and lie on the floor, then move to another location every few minutes, unlike his sister Diva who will sleep in one spot most of the evening.

It appears Gunner has also been taught some of Susan's "It's YerChoice" game because he doesn't always dive for a treat and I can place treats on his paws without him touching them until he's given a release word. I've transitioned him over to his new release word, "Break". He dutifly waits by his food bowl (self-control; no command given) until I release him and he no longer goes crazy when he sees the other dogs getting their food before him.

Gunner is a very smart dog. So why then did he forget his house training habits this week? Numerous times he has peed in the house, not just excitable or submissive urination, but all out emptying his bladder. He drinks huge quantities of water and so must go out frequently but sometimes can't seem to hold his bladder for 10 minutes during the day when he's outside his crate. So he's kept me busy doing a lot of cleaning and keeps me active running to and from the door to let him out/back in. In the past 2 days, he's only had 1 or 2 accidents which is far better than the dozen or so times per day previously.

16 March 2009

Gunner's visit, Part 3

It takes at least one day for a dog to settle in and Gunner has clearly done just that. After his 2nd full day here, he slept through the night and never made a peep in his crate. He was quiet until I let him out in the morning. Getting a leash on him to take him outdoors with him getting all excited and peeing is still a little bit of a challenge. I seem to have that effect on him and his brother Quest who pees every time he sees me. Anyway, today Gunner was a different dog; more calm and relaxed. It was nice outdoors so I took him and Tyro on an hour's leash walk. Gunner likes to pick up something in his mouth and carry it home. Yesterday he did his part in cleaning up the environment by picking up a coffee cup; today it was a stick.

And Donna, if you're reading this while sipping Mai Tais in Jamaica, you'll be thrilled to read how perfectly behaved Gunner was for his pedicure! Wow, what a difference from the time you brought him over for me to help you trim his nails when he was about 3 months old. No longer is he doing his best to imitate a dog struggling and screaming from being cut up live into bits for goulash. I sure remember his theatrics. Today he lay quietly and allowed me to clip each nail (the front ones were a little too long still but you and/or Scott are doing a great job) without struggling or grumbling. Nor did I have to restrain him at all and he didn't try to run away. It was such a pleasure!

Today he didn't try to dive into the food bowls of the other dogs while they were eating. I figured his stomach would be OK after vomitting his dinner last night now that his stomach no longer contains foot apparel. No, I didn't try to wash the sock Gunner regurgitated. It's in the garbage.

We did some more shaping and also playing Susan Garrett's "It's Yer Choice" game and he was choosing to abstain from eating the treats that were resting on his paws until I told him it was all right. Tomorrow I'll try the game with some socks. And he gets along so well with Tyro and loves playing with Diva. What a great dog you are Gunner! Still gotta get some photos of you though!

Gunner's visit, Part 2

Morning . . .
After a short spell of crying, Gunner finally settled down in his crate and slept until 7 AM at which time he decided it was time for us to get up. 7 AM is better than 5 AM. To continue his shaping, I waited for him to sit (or lie down) in his crate before opening the door. If he rose as I was starting to open the door, the door closed. His behaviour determined whether the door opened or not. Success at last. I was able to open the door and he sat until I said the magic phrase "OK / Break". I am starting the process of phasing out "OK" but for him to understand his new release word, I say "OK Break" as if it's one word. Then I'll say, "O Break" and then finally just "Break".

Anyway, I quickly looked to see if there was a regurgitated sock in his crate from overnight. Nope. Onto a Flexi and outdoors to do his business. Nothing that looked like a sock came out the back end. Indoors and up to the kitchen where I spent time rewarding him for being on a mat/Bowser Bed. This used up 1/2 cup of his kibble. I delivered the treats at a very high rate within a short period of time & then would release him before he decided to do it himself. I waited to see if he got back on the bed - which he did pretty quickly. More treats, then "OK - Break". Then it was back into his crate while I read the paper in bed. Oh my but did Gunner protest. He carried on for several minutes. I usually try to wait this out but even my patience was wearing thin so I did shout at him to be quiet which he did, much to my surprise. After that point, I was able to verbally praise him from our bedroom when he was quiet. His humans say he's very smart so I am confident he'll learn quickly.

Afternoon . . .
Spring was in the air so we decided to do some work in the garden, cleaning up leaves that we didn't complete due to unexpectedly early arrival of winter and snow. Gunner was outside alone with us and he acted like a 3 month old puppy with my rake, trying to attack and grab it with his mouth and bouncing on the piles of dead leaves. How old are you Gunner? Not 3 months; you're almost 9 months old. What are you like with a vaccum cleaner? I did expose you to that when you were a baby but you didn't try to attack it.

Meal times . . .
At his home, Gunner lives with a senior aged Labrador Retriever named Boomer. Boomer is very, very placid and doesn't put Gunner in his place, which Gunner does need so Gunner is top dog at his home. Not here. He hasn't figured that out when it comes to meal times in our house. He acts like a Lab around food - all consuming - and because he's at the bottom of the pecking order in our house, he gets served last. That's not how he figures it should be though and twice dove his head into other dog's food as they were starting to eat. He was so fast that I estimated he ate almost 1/3 to 1/2 their food before I could tear him away. Now, he's put on a leash while I serve the others.

Evening . . .
My step-son came to dinner and things always get a little more chaotic in the house when there are visitors and extra dogs. I leashed up Gunner in case he decided to greet Mark by jumping up. That didn't happen. Wow, I was surprised. After the dogs ate their dinner, Gunner & Tyro started playing in the kitchen but it was turning into a dominance - submission routine where Tyro was trying to put Gunner in his place in a non-aggressive way and Gunner was submitting. That was fine. The only problem was that Gunner was submitting by peeing all over the kitchen floor as I was trying to get things ready for our dinner and the dogs were tracking all through it. Absolute pandemonium! Got the floor washed, the vegetables finally ready, table laid out, food plated and then Michael said he wasn't feeling well and warned us he was also feeling faint. He dropped down to the floor just to avoid fainting. More chaos as Gunner and Diva came over to investigate and lick his face. As I dealt with Michael, I was fully aware that there were 3 plates loaded with food, including very tasty roast lamb sitting on the counter - prime target for counter-surfing, chow-hound Gunner! Well, Gunner wasn't interested in our dinner because his stomach started heaving. Then he started to vomit. Where? Right at Michael's feet as Michael lay supine on the kitchen floor still. Sick husband, vomiting dog, upchucked kibble on floor, human food sitting out on counter getting cold, no paper towel in the kitchen. But there in a pile of vomit was the sock that Gunner ingested 2 days ago! Asked step-son to put the food in the oven to keep warm while I dealt with hubbie and cleaning up vomit. Hubbie went to bed, not the hospital (likely something he ate that really upset him) and Mark and I finally had our dinner. Later that night, Gunner curled up by my feet like an angel while I sat at the computer and when he went to bed, he didn't utter a peep. All quiet in the Moffat household after a full day of Gunner's visit. What's in store tomorrow? Well, I hope I can get some decent photos of him. All the ones I've taken so far are blurred because he won't remain still. Tomorrow is another day. Sleep tight Gunner. Sure hope your humans are enjoying themselves in Jamaica. We know you're having a great time in Moffat.

14 March 2009

Gunner's visit, Part 1

" . . . oh, and Gunner ate a sock. It's not his first one either."

These were the parting words of Gunner's alpha human before she and her 2 sons departed for a vacation in Jamaica, leaving me to board Gunner for the week. For those following my Blog, Gunner was Mr Black in our Ozzie-Miska breeding born June 16, 2008. Mr Black was totally fearless confronting his uncles Tyro and Chili (who has been renamed Tucker by his new owner) as a 3 week old puppy. http://varazsvizslas.blogspot.com/2008/07/mr-black-meets-big-boys.html In contrast, it was Chili who was more afraid of Mr Black than Mr Black/Gunner was afraid of him.

I hadn't seen Gunner for several months so was anxious and excited to see how he was turning out. I always love to hear news, see photos and ideally have visits from the 'grand-pups' so jumped at the chance. But I was just a little concerned about his visit only because Gunner had injured his shoulder a few weeks ago. I know from dog and personal experience how long it takes to heal soft-tissue injuries and how well dogs can mask pain. Boarding him means he gets to see his relations and that means he wants to play, race and have fun. Some of that wouldn't be possible because I want to rest him and ensure his injury heals. Hard to do when he's just a puppy and there are other Vizslas to play with.

Gunner is certainly a handful and very smart. It turns out he's your typical, somewhat out-of-control Vizsla, male puppy: counter surfs, jumps up on people A LOT, steals food, pulls in a leash, mouthes leashes, eats socks, sit-stays for 1 nano-second, etc. WOW! But I suspect my dogs aren't the most perfectly behaved when they go and stay at someone else's house either. However, the jumping up on people is a major concern for a dog that is going to weight around 55 lb. Gotta definitely do something about that before the owners return and teach them how to eliminate this behaviour.

First order of business - outfit Gunner with a Gentle Leader. Then I took him and Tyro for a nice leash walk. At least the boys get along well. Gunner understands he's not top dog in this house.

Second order of business is to change his release word from "Okay" to something else, e.g., "break". Talk to Susan Garrett about using Okay as a release word - NOT!!! Too overused in everyday human language- very confusing for a dog.

Third is to start shaping his behaviour rather than using lures. Unfortunately, most schools use lure training and it's almost impossible to avoid. The school I sent Gunner and his humans to introduce the clicker but really don't use shaping at all in their classes. There are no other schools I've found which teach the general public how to shape their pet's behaviours. I hate lure training now that I've seen the incredible results that well-timed shaping can produce but it's virtually impossible to avoid if one trains with anyone other than Susan Garrett.

Fourth is to use at least 1/2 of the kibble in his meals to shape various behaviours like go and stay on a mat, lie down, etc. He knows some of these behaviours from his school but most are lure-trained. I need him to figure things out on his own and especially learn some self-control.

That's all within the first hour of observing him. I've determined that Gunner has a lovely temperament. Like most male Vizslas, however, he's highly energetic, very kissy and has the attention span of a gnat for a not-quite 9-month old. Gunner, I'm looking forward to this week with you!

As to that sock . . . my experience is that socks don't tend to exit the back door. They are regurgitated through the front. How long will this take? I'll wait and see. Note to self- tell owners about inducing vomiting if they witness Gunner eating a sock again but also teach them Susan Garrett's "It's Your Choice" game using smelly socks.

8 March 2009

6 for 6 for Milo & Corrine

Wow - look at all these blue ribbons! Milo and his owner Corrine have been on a huge roll lately. This weekend, they were entered in a total of 6 obedience and rally obedience trials in Georgetown, Ontario AND qualified in ALL six trials!! Milo earned his Cdn Companion Dog (CD) obedience title plus his Cdn Rally Novice title. And they scored well. His rally scores were 96, 91 and 97 / 100, competing in the "B" class with some of the country's top competitors. Plus they earned their first CKC Rally Advanced leg with a score of 95 / 100. Woo-hoo! Correction - these were their 12th and 13th titles and they are close to earning another two to three more in rally! What an amazing accomplishment for both so a huge smile and round of applause from me, Milo's breeder.

7 March 2009

Mystery ailment

Whatever affected our dogs the day we departed Arizona, seems to have returned. First Nova began throwing up Thursday night. This time, I took Nova to see our vet. She really was under the weather, not herself at all. We drew blood; he gave her a shot for nausea & sent me home with more pills for nausea. Thankfully, her blood work was all normal. Then Tyro vomited in his crate overnight. And then when Miska vomited her breakfast, I took both of them, Tyro & Miska, to see the vet on Saturday. So far, only Diva has been spared but she is now on meds prophylactically.

They say, "know your dog", and I sure do. I am tuned into just the slightest change in their behaviour. It's not as easy with a puppy or young dog such as Diva but with Nova & Miska and Tyro, the signs are more obvious to me. Tyro slept all day in our den and didn't get up to follow me room to room with a toy in his mouth. Tonight, despite an injection of an anti-nausea drug, Miska hasn't been herself. She didn't go around the kitchen picking up dog bowls after their meals as she absolutely loves to do. This has been Miska's twice daily routine established before her dad, Sasha, died in January 2008. When she doesn't want to do her job, I know she's not feeling well.

Nova is definitely feeling herself again; Tyro is improving. But tonight it will be Miska's turn to sleep in mom & dad's bedroom as she's still not 100%. Most likely this is some kind of virus that is spreading amongst our dogs but I've never seen them this 'under the weather' before from something like a stomach bug.

Blaze & Piper update

Blaze (Varazs Kedves Quasar) was in his second weekend of shows recently. IMO from the photos that his humans sent me, he looks stunning & moves well, even though he wasn't awarded Winners Dog; he took Reserve Winners (runner up) instead. Aaah, the joys of showing dogs.

From Blaze, Calgary show

And pretty Piper (Varazs Kedves Quinn) and her young human, increasingly pretty Rae Brynn, recently graduated from their third set of puppy obedience classes. They make a great team! Rae Brynn shows cows at agricultural shows as one of her hobbies. I'm hoping to encourage Rae to show Piper in conformation since handling a dog is a whole lot easier than handling an ornery cow! Here are some photos of Rae & Piper together.

From Piper graduates Puppy 3

6 March 2009

Cdn Ch Varazs Napkelte Tyrone Am RN

Finally, I received the photo of Tyro taken in August 2008 when he completed his Canadian Championship. Pretty nice looking boy, if I do so say so myself and he is sooo sweet-natured and loving - just a wonderful temperament. His father is Am/Int'l/Cdn CH Kizmar Touch of Evil JH NA (Hudson) and his mom is Cdn CH Ferngold Varazs Innovation FDJ Am/Cdn CD, Cdn RA, Am RE, Am RAE, JH, CGN (Nova). Tyro was born June 17, 2006.

And below, Tyro is shown earning his Amer Rally Novice title (with two 1st placements in Novice B) and on the left is his mom, Nova, who finished her RAE (Rally Advanced-Excellent) title.

4 March 2009

Where's Tyro's CH Certificate?

It's now been 7 months since Tyro completed the requirements for his Cdn Championship but he still hasn't received his certificate from the Canadian Kennel Club. I keep pretty meticulous records of my dogs' wins and passes so I was able to construct a list of all the shows he been to, the dates, his wins and the points he accumulated. And to be sure I hadn't made a mistake, I spent a few hours today perusing the CKC's dreadful online system of show results to verify that my records were accurate. When I say dreadful, it's because it takes far too many clicks and screens to get to the information one needs and the way it's set up, past link selections aren't highlighted so you don't know if you've previously visited a page. And once you get to the desired screen, it doesn't actually indicate the date of the show so if you're looking at multiple days of showing for a particular club, it's very easy to lose track of what you've viewed and what you haven't. And, the download speed is dreadful. The CKC's online published results can be far worse because the files are HUGE and take an extremely long time to download for folks who have dial-up Internet. Anyway, I faxed the CKC a letter and now I'll wait to see how fast they respond.

The AKC on the other hand, is exceptionally speedy at processing show and trial results. I know they have already processed Tyro's scores for his rally title earned in February and that his certificate is in the mail, less than one month after the trials took place. Actually, Nova's AKC RAE certificate reached me early this week, less than 4 weeks after she finished her title, even allowing for mail to move between two countries. Now that's FAST! And the AKC's online system is so much better laid out and organized than the CKC. PLUS, it's open to the general public whereas the CKC restricts its show/trials results to CKC members only. How petty. Well, that's my rant for the day!

3 March 2009

Mila, the wonder Vizsla!

Mila (M-OTCH Szuni's Shooting Star UD FDX TD AGN AGI AGDC AADC CGC) who is a daughter of our beloved Sasha (Am/Cdn Ch Varazs Kiraly Sassy Sasha Am/Cdn CDX, Am RAE, FDJ, CGC, CGN) recently earned two more agility titles from the Agility Association of Canada:

Advanced Agility Dog of Canada (AADC), January 22, 2009
Advanced Game Dog of Canada (AGDC), November, 2008

Congratulations Susan and Mila! Mila isn't quite 10 years old but she's still going strong and these are her 14th and 15th titles. She's still burns up the agility course and is usually much faster than dogs half her age. Susan Scobie, Mila's owner & breeder, and I both hope she'll follow in her dad's paw steps and keep competing in something well into her old age as did Sasha (earning his Am RAE in his 15th year). Here's a photo of Mila at a younger age, doing the weaves. Mila is an 'awesome pawsome".

Sasha's grandkids

There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about my dearly departed Sasha. So it was lovely to learn that two of his grandkids recently earned their Canadian Championships. They were bred by Susan Scobie of Szuni Reg'd Vizslas in British Columbia and their mother is M-OTCH Szuni's Shooting Star UD FDX TD AGI AGDC CGC, "Mila", who is Sasha's daughter. Mila was mated to an Onpoint dog to produce these kids.

CH Szuni Shoot the Moon "Milo"

CH Szuni's Gypsy Moon CD "Gypsy"

2 March 2009

Miska's trophy

Yippee, we dogs are happy to be home so we can run off leash in the woods! But brrrrrrm it sure is cold in Ontario! Our people aren't happy to be home though. Hu-mom took us for a walk on Sunday just in the neighboring conservation property by our house. It was only for about 50 minutes since it was so bitterly cold. On our way back, I (Miska), disappeared into the woods 'cause I could smell something interesting (my nose is pretty darn good). Remember, I haven't been able to hunt for over 2 months when in Arizona so I was pretty excited to be able to let me nose take me places again. I surprised my hu-mom by bringing her a deer leg! She was shocked and didn't know what to say, except for "good girlie Miska!", but she let me carry it all the way home (about 1/2 mile) because she didn't have a large enough plastic bag to put it in. (If we bring her animal parts, she usually thanks us by giving us a cookie & then she puts the parts in a plastic bag and takes them home & puts them in the trash. What a waste but at least we get a cookie for our troubles.) Well, I didn't drop the leg once and it was a long way home. Tyro and Diva wanted to take it away from me, but I didn't let them. I had to hop over trees and logs and big rocks and sometimes the leg got twisted around but I still didn't drop it. See how proud I am of my "trophy"? Hmmm, I wonder what mom did with it?