Hazy Days

I just got back from a (dogless) long weekend visiting my parents out on Vancouver Island. I had such a great time enjoying their company, hiking, some books, and wonderfully hot beach weather!

It’s nice to come back and get a new perspective on things, Riggs put on some weight – and grew some more I think! He’s almost outgrown his harness. Tess seems to be feeling much better, she’s playing more again and has a lot more of her normal energy back. Yay!

Riggs was in dire need of a bath after having so much fun at the kennel and playing with all the other dogs. So I took him out to Barrier Lake to play, he swam a little bit, but mostly had fun catching his toys and running along the shore. Was he every filthy when we went home, but to make up for it he behaved himself at the dog wash for me!

The smoke from the nearby forest fires has been hanging around most of the summer, but was much worse yesterday than I was expecting, I could barely see across the lake.

Took Tess and Riggs out to Water Valley today for a romp, the smoke was much better than yesterday and they had a great time running around. Tess was really ripping it up, and being naughty running across the road. Riggs had a great time trying to keep up, those four legs still seem to be a lot to keep track of. He’s definitely taller than Tess now, and I suspect weighs more too. Can’t believe he’s seven months old already! He’s a bit of a raggamuffin right now, needs a haircut to tidy up a bit. He has a unique mohawk / Kramer hair style running down his back…and an interesting puff ball at the base of his tale! LOL!

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Creek tag

Handsome Boy

Clumsy Boy!

The stick dogs

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That’s all for now!

 

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The Pupdate

It has been an interesting couple weeks with the pups. I was hoping to have a little more info on Tess before posting this, but it still hasn’t arrived so here we go anyway…all subject to change! Or more likely a better understanding on my part.

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Riggs

Riggs has had a pretty good couple weeks, I think he’s officially overtaken Tess in height. I weighed him at the vets a few weeks ago and he was 51.4 lbs, I’d be shocked if he hasn’t put on at least 5 more pounds since then. Judging by his knobbly knees he still has some growing to do. He’s a little skinnier than I would like, so I’m upping his food a bit.

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About 2-3 weeks ago he seemed to go into a bit of a fear period. I think that’s a little early for the normal fear period (about 6-14 months). So I’m not sure if that’s what it was or if I just pushed him out of his comfort zone. I scaled his trips back a bit in case it was the fear period, since I don’t want to create problems if that can be avoided. He’s done well the last week or so, so he might be out of that fear period now, or I’ve found his happy place. I’ll have to up the adventures a little bit to find out I guess. Overall he’s still doing very well; very happy to meet people and eager to meet other dogs. Still very little impulse control! So polite greetings are a work in progress. Luckily his puppy licence is still valid, but I think that’s going to expire shortly!

I’m still trying to incorporate something new for him every day, it’s often something simple like walking down a new street or taking him to a new location. As much as I feel like I haven’t done much with him since we finished our classes, looking at my notes I’m surprised how many places we have been. I took him to the Bowmont off-leash area a couple weeks ago. I kept him on leash since there can be a lot of bikers using these side trails and I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be (this was during his fear period stage). He’s been pretty good not to pull on leash when I walk him alone, but on this walk the smells and mental stimulation must have been too much because he pulled like crazy!!! So we had some work to do on that! He also seemed scared and fearful of the bikes that went by us – even once we were back on the wider paved paths. So we needed to work on some counter conditioning to bikes again. So lots of good info from our trip even if it wasn’t the most fun for me. I know I don’t have the patience to work on this on a one hour hike so I needed a place we could do it in short stretches. So I tried a little area in North Glenmore Park with him. It’s been a spot I’ve taken Tess a bunch this summer, there’s a nice wide mowed green space back through a more wilderness area, with short little dirt trails connecting these wide grassy areas. It worked perfect, my patience was still tested, but we did get to work on his pulling in short little 2-5 minute stints. I’m not convinced anything sunk in with him, but I tried! More practice to do!

I’ve been doing some short training sessions in the house with the puppy bumper. I’m trying to use shaping much like I have with Tess, but he isn’t quite catching on. He’s figured out that he needs to bite the dummy, but when I up the ante and don’t pay that behaviour he quits rather than try something new. So I’m trying to incorporate a little more interest by tugging and tossing the toy as well to see if he’ll pick it up just with the extra excitement. So far still no luck, though it is looking a little more promising.

I took him downtown for the first time about a week ago, it was actually a pretty quiet night which ended up being good. It pushed him a little outside his comfort zone a few times. There are a few tight sidewalks on the bridges across the river which made him a little nervous when bikes went by on the sidewalk, or busses on the road next to us. There were also a few skateboarders and bikes that he was concerned about. He does have to be exposed to these things, so I think it’s good to start encouraging a positive association now; but it did help that it wasn’t over the top busy like it can be. He got to see a lot of new things, and did very well. His recovery time was really good, and he continued to show interest in all the people and things to check out.

I also took him out to Forgetmenot Pond in Bragg Creek with my Grandmother. It was a beautiful Saturday so it was pretty busy out there. There were a few people with dogs, luckily most were on leash or well behaved. Lots of families out picnicking and just enjoying the nice weather. Luckily for us there were also a lot of people out floating on the pond in boats, kayaking, and paddle boarding. He got to check them out while we sat on a bench soaking up the sun, but mostly enjoyed destroying a nearby bush.

Health wise he’s been struggling a little bit, amongst other issues Tess caught circovirus somewhere in her travels. She’s been over it for some time, but Riggs must have caught it from her. I think he’s been over the virus for a few weeks now, but he’s been struggling with diarrhea since then. He’s on antibiotics now which hopefully will help reset his gut. So far he seems a little better, but the jury’s still out. I can’t help but be a little over paranoid since my trouble with Tess. So I’m just hoping this does the trick. Not that any of this has slowed him down at all, other than the diarrhea he’s not showing any signs of not feeling well.

Tess

Oh Tess! I love her to pieces but there’s always something!

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We did see the specialist, I’ve been waiting to receive their written report before writing a post. We covered so much I wanted to read what they sent to make sure I’m not missing, or misinterpreting something, but I still haven’t received it. They faxed it to my vet a few weeks ago but I haven’t seen it to read myself.

Tess’ July urinalysis showed a higher than normal SDMA level, which indicated some kidney issues, but her BUN test was within the normal range, so not kidney disease yet (the good news!). The urinalysis also seemed to indicate some pancreatic stress, but we wouldn’t really know until the ultrasound with the specialist. A few days after running the urinalysis she also seemed to display symptoms of bladder stones (mainly urinary incontinence), we have suspected she’s had bladder stones before but x-rays didn’t show anything previously. We tested her urine again and found a bacterial infection, so assumed that was the case and started a round of antibiotics for that, as well as a cranberry supplement.

So August 15th we had the ultrasound, the kidney looked normal as did the pancreas. Huge relief! The issue appeared to be with the bowel. So the current diagnosis is inflammatory bowel disease. A biopsy would be needed to confirm, however at this point I’m unsure if we’ll jump to that right away. I’d like to read the specialist’s report before deciding. We talked through the options, and I’m a little more comfortable starting with the food changes and elimination diet to start – before progressing to more invasive testing, especially when she’s been feeling so run down already. So that’s how we’ve decided to proceed for now. The ultrasound also explained to some extent why we’ve been having the bladder issues on and off, as her bladder is not the normal tear drop shape but more open. So we’re also trying to address that. She was started on phenylpropanolamine to help with that, however she seemed to have a reaction to that medication. So we’ve taken her off of that and are trying a Lignan supplement that my vet has had moderate success with before. I think we will need to adjust the dosage to know for sure, but so far I wouldn’t say that it has been truly successful for Tess. So that issue remains outstanding. The retest on the urinalysis for the bacterial infection came back clear though, so thankfully that part of the issue has been resolved.

The inflammatory bowel disease appears to be a little trickier to deal with. With Tess’ suspected food allergies we have done many elimination diets using unique proteins over the past number of years – which would normally be the recommended next step to attempt for the IBD. So we’ve basically started over again rather than jump into even more exotic (and expensive) protein sources. We decided to start at the beginning  and start with a simple cooked chicken and rice recipe. She’s also on antibiotics and probiotics for two months to try and reset her system. She’s still having some trouble with diarrhea but it has improved (both on the canned gastro food she was on before, and now the home cooked meal) but the jury is still out on that. So time will tell if we see more improvement and longer term success, or if we need to try something different protein wise.

The best news however is that she finally appears to be feeling a little better. She’s walking more at her normal pace, showing more interest in things, and has started to play with Riggs again. It’s been heartbreaking seeing how miserable she’s felt the last few months, so it’s such a relief to see her starting to come out of the pain and discomfort. She certainly isn’t 100%, but I’m excited to see the improvement. I’m not sure what this means for our training classes in the fall, I love doing classes with her, it forces me to practice for one thing! But mostly it’s just fun and helps build a strong bond between us; but I’m not sure how to proceed. She still has stress around other dogs so the normal class setting is always a challenge, and the dietary issues are likely going to make managing that more difficult. So at the moment I’m thinking we might just relax and enjoy walks, maybe throw in a few private lessons in when possible. I’m also hesitant to start up a 6 week course knowing we are likely to have health setbacks and need to miss classes. So that’s the big dilemma at the moment.

Anyway, that’s the pupdate for now. As always with dogs, subject to change!

 

Water Valley In Black & White

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I have a proper post I’m working on with some updates, but in the meantime here’s some fun photos of the dogs.

 

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Finding A Great Park

I thought I would touch on what I look for in a training park. When I first got Tess there wasn’t a lot of thought put into where we trained. I knew I had to take her to new places, but I guess I really didn’t know what to look for in a location to make the experiences the best possible.

I’ve done a fair bit of work with Tess on reactivity towards kids and dogs the last number of years (still a work in progress) but it has given me some valuable information on how to counter condition towards those issues, which has helped me a lot with Riggs. So I thought I would share my thoughts.

The type of park you are looking for is going to change a bit depending on what it is you’re working on. I’m not going to get into the reactivity stuff very much here since it is well beyond the scope of what I’m comfortable giving advice on. So this will be more geared towards a new dog or puppy that doesn’t have any issues going in (or none you’re aware of).

 

On-Leash Parks

While this can change depending on what I’m working on (basic obedience, exposure/counterconditioning to objects or people, recall, greeting manners, agility, etc) I generally look for the same things.

Parking Close By

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This may seem like an odd requirement, but I like a park that has parking close to where I want to work. I really find this important when I am going to work on loose leash walking skills, or anything requiring equipment coming to and from the car. For training loose leash walking I know my mentality changes as soon as I’m on a sidewalk or pathway, all of a sudden my expectations change just because there is a path to follow. So I try to park somewhere close to a good sized open space, with a puppy I honestly would (and did) carry them to the open space, and start working on it. If I couldn’t park within carrying distance I might walk the puppy using a front clip harness, then when I’m ready to work on the leash walking hook the leash up to the collar only.

For anything requiring car stuff I obviously don’t want to drag equipment too far away. So if I had agility equipment to pull out, or when we play fetch, disc, or practice our tracking I like to be close to the parking lot.

If we’re just going for a hike or walk, this really doesn’t matter at all!

Open Field or Area

I like to have a good sized open space, depending on what you’re working on you might need more or less space. For basic obedience a 15’ x 15’ area might be enough, if I was working on exposure to kids with a puppy I’d probably want a good 200m or more approach if I wasn’t sure their reaction, or if I was working on a problem. You want to have a good amount of space to move away from the object or person if the puppy shows fear, and if all is well you can always move closer.

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The photo below is a great example of a good place for introductions, if anything its way over the top. There is probably more than 500 meters of open grass area leading up to the playground and plenty of areas as you get closer to move off to one side or another if kids were to start running out towards you or otherwise startle your puppy.

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Stimuli

Obviously if you are working on exposure (or counter conditioning) to an object or person you need that object or person around! For people, be it kids, men, skateboarders, bikers, or wheelchairs I love taking the dogs to dual pathway parks. Any park with a separated pathway for walkers and bikers. Usually these dual pathway areas are the more busy pathways, so you are just about guaranteed to see people, and people are usually pretty caught up in their own activity. So I’ve found they are pretty likely to leave you in peace to work on whatever you’ve set out to do. I find this really helpful for greeting manners. I can take the dogs to the pathway and just have them sit and stay every time someone walks by. I can get a tonne of repetitions in a very short period of time, it’s very low stress, if the dog doesn’t sit right away you can always wait get it right and try again. Plus it saves asking friends and family for help, so they might still say “yes” to some other hair brained training ideas I might get.

One thing I do look for is a fair amount of green space on either side of the pathway, if something is a little too scary for the dog I can simply walk a big semi-circle around it to lessen their concern.

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Photo above is what I would consider a good amount of space between pathways, I could move closer to one if I wanted to expose the puppy to something, or further away if I thought it might be something he’d find scary. The photo below is the same park, but a spot I would consider starting to get too close together, especially around the corner up ahead. If I were walking in the green area by the trees and a skateboarder were to come zipping around the corner we might not be able to move far enough away to make it a non-scary experience.

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If you are looking for something specific like skateboarders you might have to do a scouting trip or two to see if there are some around on that pathway, these photos were all taken at Glenmore Park and while there are little kids that scooter around fairly often, actual skateboarders are few and far between. So for that I’ve had better luck around Eau Claire Market, or often I luck out at Edworthy Park. Edworthy has a lot of green space between the bike and walking paths between about Shaganappi Trail and 29th Street NW. So I like that area since I can move further away from the path if I need to, or work our way closer for first introductions.

For kids I’d do the same homework looking for playgrounds, find one that has a long approach like the one above, but also that is likely to lots of kids there playing. Glenmore Park has numerous little playgrounds that all seem to fit the bill, I’ve also had good luck at Bowness Park, Reilly Park, many of the larger playgrounds in newer suburbs, and outdoor swimming pools.

Owners Following Leash Laws

Another challenge is finding on-leash parks where people actually follow the on-leash rules. I know a lot of parks in our city that are on-leash parks, but are treated by everyone that visits as off-leash. If you are really setting out to work on training something I would avoid these parks, it’s a distraction you don’t need.

So I would say make sure you follow leash laws as well when training, that doesn’t mean you have to go to an off-leash park to work on all your “off-leash” skills, just perhaps be mindful of others and use a long line or similar if you want to work on recalls or retrieval type skills.

 

Off-Leash Parks

I think like many people my attitudes towards off-leash parks have changed tremendously since first using them. I took Tess to many when she was quite young; and now having seen the impact it likely has had on her I wouldn’t do it again…or at least not the same kinds of parks. I still feel socialization with other dogs is very important so for Riggs I take him to a daycare that I really trust, and which is very well trained in dog introductions, communication, and that has very few fight incidents.  He still gets to play and have a blast, but I know all the dogs are being monitored to make sure play is safe and fun for everyone, and that they get appropriate breaks to rest. A lot of dog owners have no trouble at off-leash parks, but that’s not been my experience. However, as a condo person I do still like to take my dogs out for an off-leash romp or fetch session, so where do we go?

Private Off-Leash Parks

These can be a god send if there is one in your area. Especially if you have a reactive dog that you are concerned about, or a little dog that gets overwhelmed with the big dogs. With a private fenced area both you and your dog can relax and enjoy your time. Unfortunately there aren’t always options around like this so many people might not have access to one, but we are fortunate to have a couple around our city. They seem to run about $10-15/hour in our area to rent. I’ve also rented training facilities just to play or train in, they seem to run about $20-50/hour.

Walking vs. Standing Around

I like an off-leash park where the people and dogs walk around a circuit/pathway rather than stand around in an area chatting. I find the dogs less overbearing towards each other if they are moving around with their owners, everyone just seems more relaxed and interested in their own activities; rather than bounding over to greet the next dog to enter the park.

Large Area

I don’t know what the “ideal” amount of land space per dog would be in the mythical perfect off-leash park; but for me it’d be measured in acres. I find it very challenging when you enter a park that’s maybe 2-4 acres and has 30-50 dogs in it. Even if the dogs are friendly and everyone’s relaxed, that’s a lot of movement in a relatively small area and a lot of opportunities for problems.

One of my favourite off-leash parks in our city is Nose Hill, if we go to one of the quieter areas of the park we often can walk for an hour or more and only see a handful of other dogs. Not every city is going to be so fortunate to have such a great park inside the city limits. But hey, that’s my ideal!

The Edworthy off-leash park can also be a great option (especially if you skirt the visiting areas right around the parking lots) and is a very nice walk.

Bowmont Park near Silver Springs, Varsity, and Montgomery can be a great area as well.

The Sue Higgins Park (previously called Southland Park) is a great example of a park that unfortunately has been a little too successful (and popular for my liking). But is a fantastic example of what a great dog park would be.

Number of Dogs for the Size of Park

I know I’ve touched on this above, but I’d look for a good number of dogs for the size of the park. I have one favourite we go to to play fetch. I don’t think the park even has a name, but it’s a large green space in the middle of a cul-de-sac. It’s not huge, about the length of a city block and maybe 150m at the widest, but more often than not we have the park to ourselves. It’s by a moderately busy community road, but with a decent recall (and the almighty ball) I don’t worry about that very much. If I was worried I’d probably just leave a long line on. There’s another off-leash park that we go to occasionally, it’s about double the size of the previously mentioned one, sometimes we have it to ourselves, or more often share it with another person or two (and their dogs of course). You’re idea of the right number of dogs probably depends on how good your dog is with other dogs, or the size of the other dogs that attend the park. If you have a very gregarious dog your idea of the right number of dogs might be double or more than what I look for. But once you have an idea of what you’re after it’s much easier to scout out the right park for you and your dog.

I hope you find that helpful, or at the very least gives you some different ideas of things to consider when finding great parks to take your dog to.

Summer Fun

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It’s been another busy week or so, our classes ended last week – graduating our bachelor obedience class and pre-agility class. I loved these classes and Riggs did very well. As much as I am very excited to continue playing with Riggs with some of these skills, for a few reasons I’ve decided to take the rest of the summer off from classes. We might do a couple drop in barn hunts, but that’s it for a few weeks. Just going to enjoy the sunshine and have fun together. Right now we are signed up for Agility Level 1 in the fall, and I’d like to follow that up with a Novice Rally class. I’m not sure what Tess will get into, I’d like to compete with both of them at the fall Barn Hunt so we’ll probably work towards that. Tess is signed up for her agility class but I’m not sure now that we’ll do it, we might do some private lessons instead…decisions decisions.

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(above photo: our graduation photo and certificate from our Bachelor Obedience class, photographer – and instructor – Lauren Alexander of Kayenna Kennels)

I took the dogs out to Water Valley for another fun day last friday, they had a great time racing around. I did get some video of the pups playing, but it’s sure getting hard to tell them apart from far away! Of course with the good comes the bad, so of course Riggs got a bug bite. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but he kept bothering at his leg when I got home, I could see a little red mark, so washed it. But he wouldn’t let me check it out long enough to get a good look, so off to the after hours vet we go. Unfortunately it was a busy night for them so we had a bit of a wait. The vet was excellent and once he saw us he had us out of there in about 15 minutes. We are thinking a wasp or spider bite. Luckily nothing too bad and no long term effects 😉

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The professional photos from the Evelyn Kenny show arrived and Lisa Wysminity of JumpStart Imagery captured some lovely photos of Riggs. With excellent timing she managed to capture this shot of Riggs (not pacing!).

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Thank you Lauren for doing such an excellent job showing Riggs!

Riggs Novice Trick Dog Title arrived in the mail today, so I look forward to working with him towards his Intermediate Trick Dog Title over the next little bit.

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My mom finally had a chance to come back to town for a visit, she hadn’t yet had a chance to meet Mr. Riggs. Unfortunately she missed the cute little puppy stage and is now visiting at the bratty jumpy big puppy stage! He was his usual friendly self…unfortunately that still generally entails trying to climb in your lap, jump on you, or steal whatever you happen to be carrying. My laughing at all his crazy antics probably doesn’t help!

In the never ending story of dogs and vet visits Riggs has a diarrhea test we are waiting on results from – I’m thinking he may have caught the virus Tess had but it’s either hanging around a little longer than I would expect, or he’s just eating garbage when we’re on our walks and making himself sick! Tess’ urinalysis confirmed her bladder stone / infection issue. Our appointment with the specialist for Tess is booked and coming up in a couple weeks so hopefully I’ll have some better answers on the larger kidney / pancreas issue we are dealing with.

So here’s hoping for a quiet few weeks!

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Riggs First Dog Show

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It’s been a busy weekend for me and the pups, Riggs attended his first CKC Conformation Show (being the only one in his class) he won Baby Puppy Best of Breed both days, and placed second in his group class on Friday. He had a few puppy moments during his Sweepstakes class on Friday so no luck there!

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I’m still not sure if this is really something I want to pursue with him, but I wanted to see how he would do and give him some show experience. It was great to have him handled by multiple judges and work for different handlers. My whole goal for this show was just to acclimatize him to a show pen environment and have him enjoy it. On that front a big mission accomplished! It was a pretty busy area ringside and he handled it very well (for a puppy). I was pleased to see him want to visit the other dogs (even if he wasn’t allowed), be ok with all the commotion, meet a bunch of new people, and work on focusing in this sort of environment. I really can’t say much seemed to phase him, he had a look at a few generators working away at some nearby RV’s, but otherwise didn’t bat an eye at much of anything, and happily greeted anyone who wanted to visit. Yay!

His handler Lauren Alexander did an excellent job piloting him around the show ring – since I have no clue what I’m doing – even with my lack of practicing!

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To give Riggs a well earned treat I took both dogs up to Water Valley today (with my bear spray on hand, though luckily not needed) for a fun romp. It was great to see them both have such a great time.

FB-3865.jpgTess has had a really rotten couple of weeks and it was great to see her having a good day and Riggs helping bring it out of her.

There was a good reason we went after the show! And the two amigos had a great time playing together.

A few more of Riggs

FB-4010Tess’s test results came back last week and unfortunately it wasn’t very good news, it’s looking like she has kidney disease. We are waiting to see a specialist for some more tests and information on exactly what kind and how advanced it is. So I think I needed to see them both out having a grand time this weekend.