Saturday, April 29, 2017

Coming Down

I am not a naive person and while I like to think of myself as an optimist, I am a realist.  Even so I would have been hard pressed to have predicted just how crappy my 2017 State Agility Trial would be.  It was a warm weekend, just shy of 30 degrees on Saturday.  So it wasn't a huge surprise that Cassie didn't want to do agility.  To her credit she came off the start line like a cracker in all of her events but on the first day it was just too hot for her and she only managed a few jumps before running and hiding in the tunnels.  The second day it was the same for her first run but thankfully she was happy to run in her last event.  It wasn't a pretty run and I didn't handle her that well but she was happy and running fast.  It was a nice way to finish her weekend and while I'm disappointed that we seem to never have a great State Trial the most important thing is that overall she is going really well and no signs of ring stress.

All photos by Brett Sandells
 Veto was average at best on Saturday and progressively got worse over the weekend.  His Suprelorin implant was due to wear off in March.  In my "wisdom" I had decided to not re-implant him and see how things went with him as an intact dog.  Big, huge, stupid mistake.  I'd noticed at the end of March that some of the gross boy behaviours such as marking EVERYTHING, amongst other things had returned.  Then at the Cloverdale Agility trial at the beginning of April he was extremely distracted, wanted to pee on everything and really struggled to give me any focus because he was so busy keeping an eye on all the other dogs.  Cloverdale can be a challenging trial anyway just because it is held on a suburban oval so a strange ground coupled with a lot of different smells.  But his hyper-vigilance to all the other dogs (especially boys) and then reactivity if they stared at him made it a pretty unpleasant day.  With the State Agility Trial two weeks later I had a big dilemma on my hands.  There was no doubt in my mind that the testicles have to go.  Getting surgery done before the States was out of the question but I knew I had to do something immediately.  In the end I decided to go with another six month implant for now and then look at castration mid year.   As things transpired I should have just had him castrated and not worried about the States but I didn't realise just how bad he would be.

Unfortunately the implants take up to four weeks to work.  I had thought it was only two weeks but no, it's four...  Because I had allowed the last one to wear off it was pretty much like starting all over again.  The two week mark is normally when the testosterone levels are at their highest and guess what, that was the weekend of the States.  Because we were at Dogs West, a grounds that he is very familiar with, I had thought he might not be as bad as he was at Cloverdale but he was a nightmare.  His first day was the better of the two.  First run was pretty average, but the next three events were not bad with just one mistake in each.  But he was not with me at all.  I had zero focus because he was so concerned about the other dogs around us.  Every time I tried to warm him up he was constantly looking around for other dogs worried that they would be staring at him so he could amp up.  It was not my idea of fun.  To make matters worse his reactivity in the back of the car was off the scales.  He isn't a dog who likes strange dogs to come near his crate as a general rule but he was going off at anything that came anywhere near the back of the car.  We did our best to keep him covered up most of the time but it was incredibly painful to deal with.  I know he's only doing all of this because he's worried and he think he needs to protect himself but seriously.....

So whether I like it or not I have to put a plan in place and get this sorted.  Firstly I need to see the implant start to take effect which will be fairly obvious even from his behaviour around at home.  I had already entered him in the trial this weekend.  I'm judging in the morning but my intention is to spend some time walking him around to see what his responses to other dogs is like.  At this stage trialling him isn't an option at least for a few weeks so I might as well start working on creating distance and rewarding calmness around other dogs.  Then working towards him relaxing around other dogs again and being comfortable enough to refocus on me.  And of course deal with his reactivity in the back of the car.  I'm currently teaching him to love the Manners Minder which I never bothered to use with him before.  I didn't use it for his running contacts like I did with Cassie.  He initially thought it was an alien which had arrived from out of space but with chicken added is slowly coming around to realise that maybe its kind of OK.  Then I'll be able to put it in the back of the car with him so when dogs come past pair that with the food coming out of the MM and see if we can turn it around from a negative thing to a positive thing.

On the positive side out of this debacle at least I can move forward with his agility training at home.  He really loves his agility training here in his nice safe, no scary dogs he doesn't know environment.  This morning I took him for a walk around the property thinking he would enjoy some new smells and stretching his legs but when we got back he grabbed his toy and ran out to the training area.  He was most annoyed when he realised that I wasn't going to train him.  So I can continue to work on his agility skills at home and when I'm at the club grounds can purely focus on him being around other dogs, remaining calm and rebuilding his confidence *sigh*...  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Riding High

It was pretty exciting for me late last year when for the first time in a long time I had two sound, happy dogs out in the agility ring.  Cassie was only running Not for Competition and I was still rebuilding skills and strength with Veto but when you have been unable to compete to the level you wanted for so long it was still a thrill to be back out there.  Imagine then how totally blown away I was when last weekend Cassie won both Masters Agility and Masters Jumping and Veto won Novice Agility and was extremely unlucky to not win Novice Jumping, just clipping the very edge of the broad jump in an otherwise flawless round.

Proud pappy :)

I had become somewhat of an agility pessimist given that not a lot has gone right for me in a while with my dogs.  When Veto went clear in Novice Agility for our first run of the night and then Cassie went clear in Masters Jumping I actually felt greedy.  Like I didn't deserve to have both dogs go clear.  For Cassie to then go clear in Masters Agility was crazy.  To win all three classes, insanity.  I'm sure lots of people think that I'm being over dramatic but I've worked so long and so hard and I thought that maybe I was just never going to get back there.  It's only early days and so much more work to do.  Cassie went the wrong way on 9 out of 10 wraps, I lost her behind me on both courses and was just fortunate that she didn't go off course.  One of the funniest things is listening to the commentary outside the ring as people gasps and shriek watching Cassie and I all over the place!  She was also very hesitant to come off the line.  I don't believe she was stressed.  The normal signs of her being stressed weren't there but it looks like I need to make sure I keep that balance at training where by we do as much skill work as we do jackpots for doing a couple of jumps.  It was a good reminder for me not to let the small things go.

Veto was pretty much paw-perfect on both of his runs.  He was powerful, graceful, focused and 100% with me.  Watching him finally starting to drive out of this turns was a relief.  I know how powerful he is but you never really know if you will be able to draw it out of them on an agility course.  So much improvement yet to go but it's there and I can see it.  I can't wait to continue watching him grow and mature into the dog I know he will be.  The only glitch is his 'dislike' of a few dogs at agility.  Border collies who are quite "starey" and on the intimidating side are not on his list of happy things.  If they stare and growl at him he will not think twice about going back at them.  I do my best to avoid these dogs at trials and I know which dogs they are but as is they way, no matter where I go I always seem to get caught by one of them appearing when I least expect it.  To be on the safe side I am using his halti again when we are at trials.  I need to be able to have better control of his head should we have an encounter so I can create distance pronto.  I am going to have to do some specific work with him learning to be less reactive and feel less threatened by those dogs.  That will be a major priority at the next few trials until I can get him to relax and realise that he doesn't need to protect himself from them.

Next on our path is the State Agility Trial which is only about three weeks away.  I would dearly love for Cassie to do well.  Other than the first State Trial she ever did they all have been a disaster.  She's had a couple of wins in the qualifying trials but for the most part has been times when she hasn't wanted to run and it's been a frustrating and depressing weekend of feeling like a total failure.  She's in a good place though now and I'm hoping I can keep her there.  Having Veto there as well this year in Novice will be so much fun and I guess anything that Cassie does will be a bonus.