Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gilda The Wonder Pup

Many of you have heard this story. I'm putting it here for those who haven't...

Gilda's favorite thing to do in the whole universe is to play fetch in the water. We can no longer take her to Bow Wow Beach to do this because A) once in the water, she won't come out and B) she barks incessantly at anyone and everyone with a tennis ball in their hand which is very annoying for everyone.

{Pond Fetch!}

With the recent heat wave, I took both dogs to a friend's pond because it was far too hot to walk Gilda. I thought it would give me a chance to practice recalling Gilda from the water using the toss of the toy as a reward. Pico was tied to a huge Pin Oak so that he was in the shade.

While Gilda was swimming after the toy, I'd do some clicker training with Pico. Going back and forth in the 93 degree heat got old real fast and I decided to let Pico drag his leash for awhile. He was doing great staying near me, investigating the water, and watching Gilda.  And then, in a flash, he was off and running and headed straight for the road! In case you didn't know it, chihuahua's are speedy!

{Pico behaving &
Gilda in her glory}

I took off after him yelling, "Pico! Come!" in a panic-stricken voice. Before I knew it, Gilda was out of the water and blazing past me and all I could imagine was that they would both be hit by a car!

Before I finished my thought, both dogs were hurtling toward me and I realized that Gilda had gone to herd her brother back to safety! All I can guess is that she heard the distress in my voice and she came to save the day!

Once Pico was safely back in custody, Gilda was back in the water waiting for the toy to be lobbed for retrieval as if it was just all in a day's work for her. She truly is a Wonder Pup!

{Protective Big Sister}

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doggie Brigade Visit

After a lengthy hiatus, Gilda made a visit to some of the kids at Akron Children's Hospital today. I was a little nervous about how she'd do since it had been such a long time but she was great!

I wasn't going to post about her visits here because I was trying to keep the blog mainly about Agility. However, I think the two activities actually complement each other nicely.

Agility training has helped teach Gilda focus and handler-focus both of which help her in the often chaotic hospital setting. Hospital visits have helped with her noise and movement issues. She now willingly gets on the elevators, even the glass-walled ones. She is still a little too eager to get off but we're working on that. She is also better about navigating the stairwells which often echo and require her to walk with people behind her. We are hoping that some of this will translate to the Teeter!

Clicker-taught tricks help to get her focus back when unexpected noises happen or lots of people crowd around. In those cases, we do hand-touches, waves, high-fives, and downs.

I am always amazed at how well she does when she's there. She just seems like the most well-adjusted, confident, social dog which aren't usually words we use to describe Gilda (I'm so glad she can't read!).

The biggest payoff today was seeing a patient smiling and willing to sit up and move around to see Gilda. Mom reported that they haven't been able to get the patient to move much since surgery last week. It doesn't get more rewarding than that!

Friday, July 15, 2011

My New Dog, 'Sierra'

At least for a moment...
We had class outside Wednesday night and when Gilda wasn't sniffing the newly raked sand for treats and critter trails, she was moving through the obstacles like molasses through a funnel.
The heat and lack of shade were factors as Gilda does not tolerate either well. Also, we had just done some group Teeter work which had her a little concerned that she might be asked to get on it again. I really think she was wishing she was home dealing with Pico's antics rather than playing Agility!
After trying a tug toy with only a flicker of  success, Linda suggested that we put Gilda in a nearby kennel so that she would have a good view while I ran with Sierra, a 9 pound, cute-as-a-bug Jack Russell Terrier. The obstacles were: A Frame, Jump, Jump, (RC) Tunnel.
On a good day, Gilda is fast. Sierra, is a whole different kind of fast! If I wasn't out in front of her (which I wasn't!), she would flip her little muscle-bound body around and start barking as if to say, "Directions please and hurry up with them!" And, if my directions weren't clear, she'd happily choose her own course! She was just eager and willing to run for whoever had the treats!
Our classmate, Henry the Rat Terrier, had quite a crush on Sierra so after 3 runs with Gilda watching like a hawk, Sierra went back to her car crate and Gilda was released from captivity. Linda's ingenious idea worked and Gilda ran better and tugged like a champ on a borrowed lamb tail tug toy!

{No photo of Sierra available!}

It seems that the Agility Team often consists of more than just the Dog and Handler. Tonight our team included Linda and Sierra whose help we greatly needed! Watching Sierra run had an energizing effect on Gilda and I even got a tiny lick on my nose which in Gilda-speak tells me that she is happy and on board with what we are doing.
With my very limited dog experience, it has taken me awhile to understand Gilda and to pick up on her subtle cues. Unlike Bruno and Pico, most of Gilda's cues, like the infrequent nose lick, are subtle ones!
I really enjoyed the opportunity to run another dog and to experience even briefly the challenges that different temperaments and running styles create.
Kudos to Linda for coming up with a very unique way of motivating Gilda!

We ended class by running a Jump, Tunnel, Jump, Jump, Tunnel, A-Frame Jump sequence with everyone doing well despite the heat.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What Kind of Dog is That?

{Pico & Gilda at Peace}
Mike & I are asked this question a lot when we're out and about with Gilda. (I'm guessing the same will happen with brother Pico too).
Does it matter? Mostly No and a little Yes...
We looked into DNA testing for Gilda but ultimately decided against it after hearing that results can be quite unreliable. Her breeds don't really matter to us in the end but it's fun to try and guess and I find myself often attributing her tendencies to one of our guesses or another.
Last night, Jessica attributed her ability to learn new skills quickly to her Border Collie background and I attribute her aloof nature to her Australian Cattle Dog genes. I find it very helpful to remember that she most likely has genes from 2 herding breeds and by nature, herding dogs must be very vigilant and aware of the slightest movements and noises in order to protect the flock. This insight helps me realize that sometimes it's not my lack of handling skills causing Gilda to become distracted.
Along those same lines, I found this little blurb today and found it very interesting:

Australian cattle dog
The Australian cattle dog is a working breed that requires a demanding physical and psychological regimen. If left unfulfilled, cattle dogs become easily frustrated. They are remarkably sensitive to a pack leader's body language, owing in part to their impressive history as a herding breed. Unfortunately, this sensitivity can make them difficult to train for agility courses. Additionally, if pack leadership is lacking in any way, an Australian cattle dog is very likely to establish dominance or bond more closely with a senior dog, rather than with the owner. Examples of the breed include the Blue, Red, and Queensland Heelers. The unverified world record-holder for longest living dog is held by Bluey the Australian cattle dog who, according to anecdotal evidence, lived to be just over 29 years old.

We often talk about how Gilda is a difficult first Agility dog because of her speed. Now I understand that she is also a difficult first Agility dog because she is so adept at watching my physical cues and unfortunately they are often not the right cues and they often change as I practice and learn. How confusing that must be for her!

It's okay though because she pays me back daily as I struggle to understand what she is trying to tell me...

{" I really don't like the Teeter"}