Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Stella Trial Updates

Well it has been a busy spring for Stella and I.  Regular viewers might remember how we were robbed of our final conformation point due to an administrative screw up so in February we ventured back into the show ring and the dog-show gods smiled upon us and we got that last point (AGAIN!).    We also needed to take a new picture.  Probably should have had her standing on the ground as the platform makes it hard for her to be comfortable in a real stack so her butt is a bit wacky here but it is still evidence we achieved that goal!

CH Varazs Kedvesem Final Dance, PCD, RA, CGN
In May we headed out with a friend for a trip to Kelowna to attend a CARO rally trial.  This was the trial that last year ended in tears of frustration when my dog clearly expressed to me that she was not interested in working with me (see blog  Is-that-same-vizsla?).  That marked the start of a year off from trialing to develop a new training plan.  Well what a difference a year makes :).   I was super pleased with how the trial went.  My dog was engaged and we achieved our CARO Rally Advanced title with scores of 191 (my error), 197 and 198.  We also got another leg on our Rally Novice Team and finished up that title this past weekend. The video below is from the Kelowna trial.

I have a very loose goal of heading into the obedience ring to attempt our CKC Novice Obedience title in November.  That will depend on lots of things :).  Stella just turned three so we have lots of time and I am in no rush.  We are actively training the open and utility exercises while we also work on developing lots of ring skills, focus and confidence.   I plan to do lots of matches and attend venues like CARO rally that allow rewards to create lots of good associations with competitive settings.  Stella is not an overly sensitive dog as far as environments but she also is not a "high-drive" dog that loves to work and compete.   It will be a balance to keep her happy and engaged when competing at formal obedience and I want to make sure we are both as ready as possible.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Hannah Branigan Obedience

So this time last year I decided to take a step back from competing.  Stella had just turned two and we had achieved our Rally Advanced title but we had a long way to go mentally before we ventured into an obedience trial.  I have a picture in my head of what I want us to look like in the ring.  The exercises are necessary but attitude and engagement are what is most important to me. We are slowly working towards that picture and I have a very loose goal of entering late fall for our novice obedience.

While we work towards that goal we are also having a blast working ahead on the open and utility exercises.  I have been taking courses at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy and  I really like them.  I have a real life trainer that could easily teach me these exercises but I love learning about training so I like learning on-line and then working through how to apply it to Stella.  I can then work with my trainer friend and she helps keep me in line when I totally do stupid things :). 

One of the trainers I respect and enjoy following is Hannah Branigan.  She has a great DVD set on Obedience "FUNdamentals"  and teaches on line Obedience Skill Building Classes at FDSA.  She is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member and I got a chance to see her in January at Clicker Expo.  One of her clicker expo seminars was on "Breaking it Down" to build up exercises that our dogs understand fluently and enjoy doing. When thinking about training she wants us to be aware of our priorities.  Emotional State should be first, followed by engagement and only then can we train behaviours.   When training for competition we should start with concepts then work on skills and with those it is an easy transition to working on the actual exercises. Concepts include things like teaching dogs how to offer behaviour (operant conditioning), impulse control, speed, body awareness, focus, distance work and stimulus control.  Skills include things like targeting, jumping, retrieving, platforms, positions etc.  All her stuff is taught without force and with both the dog and handler having fun!

Hannah is great at breaking down all the exercises into little easy to manage and fun pieces.  Splitting allows focus on one thing at a time which reduces errors and frustration.  Drilling exercises is boring for both dog and handler so breaking it down lets us work pieces and makes it easy to troubleshoot problems before putting it all back together.   It helps us to isolate our challenges and identify areas where our dogs have weaknesses.

I SUCK at splitting and planning which is one of the reasons I am enjoying the on line courses at FDSA.  I find the working spots very useful as I video and review my sessions a lot more than I would without.  I have taken Obedience Skill Building 2 at bronze and 3 & 4 as gold working spots with Hannah and really like the results I am seeing.  Hannah walks us through series of skills that build on each other until you wind up with competition level exercises through to utility.  Stella is easily frustrated so breaking things down has helped both of us a lot in learning all these exercises.  There is a range of skill levels in the courses and Hannah  is very patient, encouraging and has great feedback when critiquing our videos.   She has made me more aware of back chaining, reward placement and is very helpful in keeping the exercises fun for the dog.  She is also good at busting the handlers on their unwanted body cues and movements.

I am very excited that I will also get to work with Hannah this fall when she comes to Vancouver, BC for a three day seminar!  It will be covering obedience materials "beyond fundamentals" and I am looking forward to it.  I know a few friends how attended her seminar in Oregon and they really enjoyed it.

This video is a mish-mash of working through a few of the exercises.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Rabies Vaccine Reaction

We had a very scary time in December with Stella as she had a bad reaction to a vaccine. I have never been a big fan of vaccines and do only minimal puppy vaccines. BC is a low risk area for many diseases prevalent in other areas of the country. Unfortunately we frequently cross the border and proof of rabies vaccine is a requirement. I needed to give Stella a rabies vaccine as I was considering flying her with me to Clicker Expo in January.  That was her second and it has been over 1.5 years since her first and I had planned for this to be her last and would titre after that.   Guidelines have been very slow to catch up to the new data showing the long term effectiveness of vaccines without need for re-vaccinations.  Rabies shots will now get you a three year certificate but that is only after the initial first shot which is exempt for one year.  Actual studies show that immunity is usually good for a lifetime.

Stella had her shot at around 2pm and appeared fine.  I administered the recommended homeopathic remedy at that time to help support her system and all seemed fine.  That evening about 6pm I looked over at her and her nose was covered in massive hives.  I quickly stuffed some Benadryl in her and called my vet. We monitored her closely at home for any trouble breathing or other symptoms all evening and she got another dose of benadry around midnight.   The hives were very slow to settle down so I administered another homeopathic remedy that showed noticeable improvement.   I had her sleep in the bed with us to watch her and then she puked in the morning around 4 am, again at 5 am and a little bit after that.  I was finally able to get a Pepcid in her and that settled her tummy enough that she was okay for a while.  That afternoon I convinced her to eat a few mouthfuls of canned food and chicken broth so I could get another Benadryl in her.  Unfortunately she started vomiting again after that.  The timing leads me to think the upset stomach was more a reaction to the benadryl than the vaccine but was much worse as her body was stressed.

The upset stomach continued for the next few days.  I fastws her for almost a day initially but she continued to not be able to keep anything down.  That of course meant I couldn't give her anything to help settle her stomach as it didn't stay in there long enough to work.  I ended up returning to the vet where she was given an antacid injection and we all finally got a peaceful night of sleep.  The next day we slowly introduced broth and a spoon of food at a time and kept it very controlled over the next 4-5 days until we returned to a normal feeding schedule.  I continued to supplement her with some herbal remedies formulated to support vaccine reactions for the next month.  She had a bit of residual itchiness and irritated eyes but that settled after a few weeks.

Here are a few useful links for anyone researching this topic:
Dr Jean Dodds Vaccination Protocol
Dr Dodds - Clinical-approaches-managing-treating-adverse-vaccine
Dr Schultz - Rabies Vaccines
Dr. Dobias - rabies-vaccine-holistic-approach
Rabies Challenge Fund - Education

Stella will never have another vaccine as it is likely her next reaction would be much worse.  I will titre in three years when her certificate expires and hope the border agent of the day will accept that when crossing the border.

I am sooooooo grateful I listened to that little voice inside my head who told us to stay home that night instead of going out for dinner as planned.   Things were horrible but they could have been much worse if she had been alone. Through it all her wonderful personality shined. I had to go to the store to get some new benadryl (mine was outdated) and when I got home she greeted me at the door with a wiggling bum and a shoe even though her whole face and one eye was swollen. 

This is actually after the benadryl and is better than when it was at the worst

Normal face for comparison

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Champion!!! or not ...

Stella completed her conformation championship in November and to say I was thrilled was an understatement.  I have found this whole process a great learning experience but often frustrating, political and confusing.  Anyway we were super excited to have finished and I had the official picture taken as shown below.

UNFORTUNATELY when I phoned CKC to confirm all of our points as I am hoping to spay Stella soon they were missing one of our points.  It appears a major screw-up happened at a show last april and the judge wrote down the wrong number as winners bitch.  I have the ribbons showing us as winners bitch and best of opposite sex and when I contacted both the owner and handler of the other bitch they agreed that I had won that day and are willing to vouch for that fact.  I provided that information to the judge but he has opted not to change his decision and correct the point.


I am pretty pissed off about the whole thing.  I understand that mistakes happen but find it quite appalling that he isn`t wiling to admit the error even though I have evidence stating otherwise.  Anyway I will give it one more shot and write a letter to CKC outlining everything but I am not holding out much hope as they have not been helpful at all so far.

So this is our picture which now probably turns out to be a big waste of money as we will probably have to go back in the ring this spring in search for one more point.