Sunday, September 26, 2010

August trial video

This is the video from our trial back in August. Took me a while to get it up. Mika wasn't too fast because of the incredible heat!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How to make eggshell powder

(Eggshells, from left to right: almost-finished product, slightly crushed, whole eggshells)

I'm making eggshell powder today for the first time, thought I'd share.

I feed a raw diet to my dogs. On a typical day, they get either Tollden Farms frozen patties and/or various other foods.

I don't believe that a dog's diet has to be perfectly balanced every day; as long as they get a fairly balanced diet during the course of a week or even a month (although a week is preferred), they'll be eating well. I don't feed my dogs the pre-made patties day in, day out because dogs' bodies don't respond well to eating the exact same foods every day. My dogs get their patties several times a week, but the rest of the time they get various assortments of food. Also, both dogs get Prozyme enzyme supplements every couple days and a fish oil capsule twice a week. Wall-e has been getting glucosime every couple days since his injury in April (he used to get 125mg, but now I've upped it to 250mg because of his re-injury).

But even though a dog's diet doesn't have to be exactly balanced every day, they should be receiving a good calcium/phosphorus (Ca:P) ratio as often as possible. This is pretty important for dogs. The Tollden Farms patties have a good C:Pa ratio, but when I feed other foods, I still want my dogs to be receiving a good ratio. The recommended ratio is 1.2:1, but many individual foods have more phosphorus than calcium. What to do? Add a calcium supplement.

I referred to one of my favourite books, Dr. Pitcairn's Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, to choose which calcium supplement to use. I narrowed it down between bone meal and eggshell powder. I chose eggshell powder because I would have to buy bone meal, and when there's an option between buying and making my own, I prefer to make my own (when possible).

I'll put the instructions from Dr. Pitcairn's book in my own words, adding some tips that I discovered today while making the eggshell powder.

1. Collect at least a dozen eggshells. I collected two dozen.

2. Wash the eggshells.

3. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. This makes the eggshells brittle and easier to grind, and also removes the coating that is sometimes added to the shells to keep them from drying out.

4. Crush the eggshells, as shown in the photo at the beginning of this post. This will make the shells easier to grind.

5. Grind using a mortar and pestle, blender, or nut and seed grinder. I chose to use a mortar and pestle. Grind to a "fine powder."

And you're done. Each eggshell makes about 1tsp of powder (1,800mg of calcium).

It's actually kind of fun to use the mortar and pestle. I'm only about halfway done making the powder, but it's going well. And soon I'll have some pretty powder to add to some of the foods my dogs eat.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Double box sequences...late late late!

Mika and I have been working on double box jump sequences for our past couple of training sessions at the field. (Well, we did add the DW and a tunnel into the sequences, but most of them were jumps set in a double box configuration.)

I need to tighten up my rear crosses...I'm always so late with them! When I'm late, Mika (being the good girl she is) still manages to turn in the right direction, but even so, I need to tighten up and cue quicker. Not just with RC's, but with everything. Mika is always so responsive to my handling, and since she is now pretty much back to her normal speed
consistently, it's harder for me to cue at exactly the right time. But even when I'm being a confusing handler, Mika is still snazzy and runs great. She's always having fun, even when she doesn't know where to go for a second.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Having fun with my crazy dogs

At Week 5 of room rest/rehabilitation, Wall-e is still looking sound. We haven't started getting back to agility yet, but I'm slowly starting to introduce him to short spans of running again with lunging. As soon as I got home today I took Wall-e in the backyard with some cheese to do a bit of lunging. Lunging, which originated from the horse world, is where the dog runs in a wide circle around the handler. For Wall-e, I use four pylons for him to circle around. Today was only our second session of lunging, so the "circle" isn't very big (maybe five feet across in diameter), but it still allows Wall-e to have some fun running around it. The look on his face is just great; he's super happy to be allowed to run again, even if it's just running around some pylons a few times! Next week I'll let him start running through straight tunnels (just one tunnel per session).

Later, I practiced retrieving with Mika with a toy that I've just recently found out she's totally bonkers for. I braided this toy out of a felt-like material for Wall-e when he first came home, but he's never liked it that much, so now it's Mika's. I want to start using it in her weave training. (I've been helping her with her footwork in 24" weaves by using four slanted poles). Anyways, we went in the backyard to do a bit of retrieving. The first rep was so cool that we didn't do any more reps. I threw the toy and Mika zoomed ahead to get it, grabbing it and racing back to me...but she was having so much fun that she just barreled on past me! As soon as she realized this, she turned around to bring me her toy and we had lots of fun tugging. The way she growled sounded like she was killing something. She always sounds like that when she's tugging, but today she was seriously crazy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

3 years since our last group class, and...

The last time I've taken a group class with Mika was in 2007, when we took two sets of agility group classes.

In 2007, it was a constant struggle to keep Mika, who was then aggressive and pretty unmanageable, calm and focused on me instead of reacting at other dogs. When we got out of the car, she was pull towards the other dogs, barking LOUDLY. If another dog got close, she would lunge toward them and snap. During class, she would bark the entire hour except when she was busy chewing a Zuke's bone or licking a Kone, which both didn't last long. I had no idea then, but I now know that she wasn't merely barking at other dogs; she stressed, freaking out, and worrying for her safety the entire time, even though all the other dogs were perfectly friendly. Mika didn't know that.

The first class we took in 2007, in June, was the hardest for us because the class involved a lot of individual obstacle training as well as sequencing. During the obstacle training, all of the dogs took turns on one specific obstacle, one after the other. This type of class would have been fine for a dog like Wall-e, but it was way too much for Mika to handle.

In the summer class, there was a JRT/Toy Poodle in the class that she was the most reactive to. She would fixate on it and wouldn't -- couldn't -- glance at anything else.

Halfway through this set of classes, on the recommendation of another class member, I got a Halti for Mika to help with her barking. But the first day we used it, Mika pulled towards that JRT/poodle as hard as she could and the Halti broke. I can still clearly picture the horrifying image of Mika thundering over to the other dog and the tussle that followed. We pulled the dogs apart and there was no damage except for a couple hairs that the other dog had pulled out of Mika's beard, but it was emotionally shocking. We had just started working through our challenges with the teeter and Mika's stressing in agility, and now we had this aggression that seemed huge, even compared to our other very challenging problems. That day, I was very seriously considering retiring Mika from the sport.

That was 3 years ago.
On Monday, I ran Mika in Wall-e's last sequencing class.

The whole week before the class, I toyed with the idea of running her in the class. On one hand, would it be too stressful and too risky to run her in a class with other dogs? On the other hand, hadn't I learned my lesson that with Mika, I should always go with my gut feeling, which in this case was to run her in the class? I am a worrier and an over-reactor (maybe Mika gets it from me), and it was hard not to think of the what-ifs while making my decision.

On Monday at the class, I didn't run Mika in the first sequence because she would've had to weave towards the group of dogs in our class. Mika stayed in the car; I knew that I would definitely be keeping Mika in the car at all times except when she was running.

The second sequence wasn't too close to the other dogs, so I decided to go for it. Armed with
lots of freeze-dried liver -- what else? -- I carried Mika in; she feels a bit safer when I carry her. But not once did I see her glance at the other dogs. When I put her down to start the sequence, she was in high-drive. She leaned back when I held her by the stifles and said our typical "Ready...Set...Go!" and then blasted off to the first obstacle! She ran the sequence like a dream. Very fast -- as fast as she was last year -- and extremely focused. Not only was she not worried about the other dogs, but she was driven!

I brought Mika in again to run the full Starters course. Again, FOCUSED and FAST! I skipped the weaves and a jump that would have brought her towards the group of dogs, but the instructor let us do the weaves in the opposite direction. They were the new 24" spacing (which went into effect this month in the AAC) and although she wasn't very speedy through them, she drove through them fluidly with her body low, and did the whole set of 12. She's only 12.75", so it'll take a while for her to get her usual speed on the new spacing. We ran the rest of the course and that was it; we'd done it. After 3 years of very hard work, Mika successfully ran in a group class without worrying about other dogs!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Continuing with our work on Wall-e's fears

This should be my last "catch-up" post from the 2 weeks that I didn't blog!

Wall-e didn't run in class on Monday this week either because of his injury, so we used class time to work on his fears again. We walked into the building with no problem at all. We even walked almost directly under where the fan was blaring. After 30 minutes of hanging around and doing a bit more fear training, we went home.

The way it's going now, I think Wall-e would definitely be able to do agility in the building. I won't trial him there this fall, but next spring he can probably do some indoor mini-trials, which are less chaotic than regular trials.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A big step for Wall-e and his fears!

Wall-e's classes are held at an indoor/outdoor venue. Although we've dealt with his fears of the indoor arena where his bad experience happened, he was still terrified of the arena/building at this venue. Well, he wasn't really scared of the building, more the commotion and noise made by other dogs inside the building, as well as the sound of the fan.

So before our class last week, I rented the building for 30 minutes. I'd planned to first train Mika inside the building, with Wall-e watching by the door, so that Wall-e could see that being in the building can be really fun. Then, I'd planned to slowly shape Wall-e to step inside the building.

The beginning of our rental went as planned. I just did simple stuff with Mika; running through a tunnel for a game of tug, doing the teeter a couple of times for freeze-dried liver. She was great. Then it was Wall-e's turn. It turns out that since the fan was off during our rental, Wall-e didn't have a problem with going inside at all. He just walked right in! Later, when the fan was turned on for the classes (which were held inside that day), I saw that Wall-e was very hesitant to go inside, so we shaped it. He wasn't as scared as he used to be -- going inside without the fan in our rental had helped that -- and within 5 minutes, he was able to step all the way inside. Within 10 minutes, he was trotting around inside the building with his tail up. Wow!! He wasn't even too nervous when the other dogs made a noise. He flicked his ears back for a second, but soon recovered and went back to being happy. Go Mister Meister!! (I don't even know why I call him that.)

I didn't run him in class that week because of his injury. He wasn't showing lameness when we arrived at the venue, but when it was time to go home, I saw that he was slightly limping again. Too much trotting? He'd also bounced in the air a few times during training, although I tried to prevent him from doing that by rewarding him close to the ground (I don't want to correct his enthusiasm that he shows through bouncing). Bouncing definitely isn't good for his knee!

I checked out what Kathy had written about Breeze's partial CCL tear a couple years ago. It was really informative! It also made me realize that if Wall-e does have a CCL injury (I really don't know if he does, but all of the signs are pointing to it), it's a bit more serious than I was treating it. When I posted about it in the middle of August, I said that I planned to have him back doing simple agility exercises in just 2 weeks. I realize now that 2 weeks is too soon for this kind of injury. After doing lots more reading from lots of different sources, I think that Wall-e can *gradually* get back to doing a bit of agility after a month of room rest, which will be 2 weeks from now. He'll just do one obstacle per session; not a lot of running at all. After 6 weeks of room rest (4 weeks from now), he can start doing sequencing again.

I'm following a home rehabilitation program that I found in the September 2007 issue of Clean Run Magazine. The program is meant for dogs recovering from surgery complete ruptures, so I'm modifying it a bit for Wall-e, since his injury isn't as serious; I'm dividing the days in half. For example, instead of waiting 30 days to do the second set of exercises, I waited 15 days.

I probably made it sound complicated, but basically, right now Wall-e is doing room rest, 10-20 minute walks, and the home rehabilitation program. I don't know if he does have a CCL injury, but I'm playing it safe, just in case.