Monthly Archives: December 2014

To Strive, To Seek, To Find

2015 feels like a beginning of a new era. It’s hard to say why or what will change or even if it will have anything to do with dog training. I was never a very intuitive person, preferring logic over emotions, but as the 2014 is coming to a close I can feel the energies shifting.

Sometimes I get an urge to make a video. I will hear a song and it will just play on repeat in my mind until I make a video. It happens as it’s time to go to bed and makes me stay up all night. That’s what happened two nights ago… I heard All of Me by Jon Schmidt for the first time and knew I won’t sleep much that night. A quote danced on my brain “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”. I googled it and found Ulysses by Lord Tennyson:

Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

(you can find the whole poem here)

It was such a perfect description of my state of mind, my wishes for myself and what I wish for all of you in 2015. Peace? Yes. Joy? Yes? Healthy dogs? Yes. Fun trainings? Yes. But above all, the spirit that will take you where you truly want to go. No excuses. No regrets. Give it your all. Happy new year, everybody!

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The Unexpected Difficulty Of Going Straight

The other day I tested sending Ruby to the backside of the jump from 2m and from various angles around the jump. He surprised me by getting most of it right. It seems I keep forgetting that he knows this stuff and then I’m surprised when he can do it 😛 Actually he did everything right, but he kept curving into me before going to the jump and several times he almost ran into the wing because of it. What’s going on here?

Backsiding

I like to test/train stuff like this at home, far away from anything that looks like agility equipment. If I mess it up and really frustrate Ruby, this feeling of frustration won’t be attached to agility, only to my props at home (if any). Also, if I leave equipment out of the equation it helps me to analyze the situation and better understand what is going on.

So at home I took two food bowls. For the first two tries I only set one bowl 2m ahead, restrained Ruby and released with “Take it”. No problem, he went straight ahead and gobbled up the kibble. Next I set the second bowl to my left, so that it was slightly closer than the first bowl, but Ruby would have to go across my feet to get to it. The bowl ahead was full, the bowl to my left was empty. It should be an easy choice to just go straight ahead, right? Well, not for Ruby! He first started toward the bowl on the left and only after I took a step forward he changed his direction to the bowl that was directly in front. Looks like we replicated the problem 🙂

Obviously curving into me and going across my legs to get a reward is a strong behavior for him if he is drawn even to an empty bowl. It has nothing to do with agility equipment, not wanting to take the backside of a jump and the like – it’s based in misunderstanding of what I expect when I release him from a restraint.

We have been playing with it a few times and it seems I have thoroughly confused his poor whippety brain. Now he’s not sure if I want him to go ahead or stay close to me, go straight or curve in. He is slow and careful.

I attribute this to being a lazy trainer. I usually train with kibble at home and only bring out the goodies if I need more excitement or if I want to differentiate between a good try and a great execution of exercise. Of course yummy goods need to be chopped up first while kibble is just grab-and-go 😉 I think rewarding with something yummy could help here, because it would add value to going straight faster than kibble does. I’ll let you know how it turns out 🙂

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…and we’re back!

My poor tortured dogs during walk in Russi

My poor tortured dogs during walk in Russi

Last week we went to Ravenna to see dr. Piras. (Thank you all for nice wishes!)

This was the longest trip I ever took with Ruby and Java – about 5.5 hours each way. They did surprisingly well, settling down and not making a peep for the whole journey. I thought we would be hearing some complaining after two hours, especially with no stops. I remember going for my first two hour drive with Ruby and how impatient he got after just one hour of driving. We stopped at a rest stop, I let him out, he discovered it was freezing outside and was very happy to go back to his crate 😛 Well, there was no complaining this time. Maybe it helped that it was freezing cold in Ljubljana and they figured they would rather be in their crates than out there 😉

By the time we got to Ravenna they had enough, though. They were so happy to be out of their crates and we even had some time to take a walk. Not so happy when they discovered we drove all that way to see a vet of all people, but they were good patients nevertheless.

We found out that Ruby’s toe that gave him the most trouble in the past has become unstable – in other words it moves around too much 😦 Apparently there is nothing we can do about it that would stabilize it for good, so it needs to be buddy wrapped with the next toe to fixate it whenever he runs – forever. I have been wrapping it since we came back and I think he is driving from the rear more than he did before. Maybe I’m just seeing things that I want to see, but it really looks to me like he’s using his rear legs better.

I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t understand Java’s diagnosis very well… By the time of our appointment I was very very tired (driving in a car is very taxing for me for some reason), I slept only 4 hours that night and I think only half of my brain was still awake at that point. I *thought* I understood what dr. Piras was saying, but by the time we got back to Ljubljana it was all a haze.

Well, after calling Piras ten times a day all week I was finally able to get him on the phone yesterday and this time I was able to process the info 🙂 Here it goes: Java sprained the medial collateral ligament when she fell into the ditch and then some scar tissue formed. The ligament is doing OK. The swelling we see is a result of scar tissue pressing on the tendon sheath. The fluid in the tendon sheath is pumped up when Java runs, but because of the pressure from scar tissue doesn’t flow back down. It helps if I massage it or guide the joint through it’s range of motion.

He advised using DMSO on it, therapeutic ultrasound and to keep wrapping the wrist for a long time to help with proprioception and therefore stabilization. Just like in humans, sprains have a tendency to repeat, so it’s best to be careful… but he said she can run and even do light agility. Ahhhh… I feel so relieved that she doesn’t need a surgery or another 6 months of rest!

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Vet Time Again

Two weeks ago Java’s wrist swelled up after being trouble-free for more than four months. I guess the vet was wrong when he said that it should heal on its own in 6 weeks to 4 months. We were very patient and yet… Here we go again 😦 It makes me so sad to have to restrict Java’s freedom again even though she is a good little patient. She does very well with walks on leash, even with other whippets running around which seems to fascinate other whippet owners to no end. The only thing that really gets to her is if someone is throwing a ball to said whippets. Then she starts screaming her ALL! BALLS! ARE! MINE! song.

Last Sunday there was a Canine Sport Medicine Seminar in Croatia and Alessandro Piras, an Italian vet who works with racing Greyhounds and sport dogs of all breeds, was presenting topics on sport injuries. He came highly recommended from several friends, so I went. I brought Java with me and she was a demo dog for physical examination. Piras thinks something is up with her medial collateral ligament. Tomorrow we’re driving to Ravenna to have it checked out. Fingers crossed that he will find the real cause of Java’s swelling and that she will soon be able to run free.

I am also bringing Ruby along as I’m really curious what Piras will say about his fat toes. It bothers me that he has two fat toes next to one another on his hind foot and the knuckles rub together, irritating the skin. It doesn’t seem like it will work long-term. For those not familiar with sighthound foot injuries, a “fat toe” is a toe that has been sprained and then developed a lot of scar tissue to strengthen the joint, so now the joint is bigger than it used to be.

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