Thursday, May 25, 2017

Agility Match - Riley

At one of the April trials, the evening match was offering practice in the Jumpers ring.  So I entered Riley at 16 inches and she had a blast.
She still has so much drive and speed.  We both had a blast!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Returning to the Agility Ring - Maddie

Our first trial back after the teeter rehab break was in March.  We practiced in a match Saturday night and then ran in the trial the next day. Maddie earned QQ #13. 

In April, we applied the same match/trial strategy with the same result.  QQ #14!

And then in May, we returned to our first 3-day agility trial with high hopes that teeter issues were behind us. But then... dang it!  She had a fly off. Maddie has never done that before!  She is much too cautious to make such a mistake. Seven on the other hand did it all the time!  I was worried that the fly off was going to scare Maddie and she would be avoiding the teeter all over again. The next day, the teeter was the 5th obstacle.  My plan was that if she did the teeter, we would leave immediately for her jackpot reward.  If she bailed, we would continue the course just so we would not end on a bad teeter.  Low and behold she did it!  Maddie teetered!

And then on Sunday, we double qualified (QQ #15).  I do wish I could speed her up at the start and especially in Jumpers.  I think all in all, she is doing better ringside as I am getting her to tug, be silly, and dig, and she is eating all of her treats.  Spraying her down also helps perk her up.  But I am just so relieved she handled the teeter so well.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Teeter Rehab - Maddie

Just when I was getting Maddie all figured out, she developed a problem with the teeter.  I had a feeling we were on the verge of it since late last year.  I had done some extra work to head it off, but then she encountered a couple of bad teeters early this year.
At the Invitational in December, the event is held on turf instead of dirt.  The teeter boards also have rubber bumpers on each end (probably to prevent damage to the floor).  Maddie did the teeter and when the landing end bounced, she got off of it quickly, the board scraped her leg, and she limped out of the ring.  She refused the teeter the next time in the ring so we left early.
We had some issues at the January trial, but were able to get through it and even double qualified twice. Then in February, Maddie got off of a shaky teeter too fast again, scared herself, and then refused it the next day. So Teeter Rehab began.
Maddie has never been great with wobble boards or movement under her feet.  In hindsight, it is not something I should have neglected. We worked hard on the wobble board when she was a puppy, but I had not maintained her confidence on it as an adult. She was very hesitant to put all 4 feet on it. But with lots of good treats and practice, Maddie will now put all four feet on the wobble board, move around on it, and rock it back and forth. And I will be sure to maintain it this time!
We also took 6 weeks off from agility trials to practice a variety of teeters.  I also made my own teeter unpredictable.  Sometimes it landed on a bouncy balance disc. Other times it landed on a brick so it made a louder noise.  I taped a rattle can to the underside so it was just noisier overall.
And most importantly, I made it unstable by putting a small chunk of concrete under the base so it was off center and would move from side to side when she got on it.  I would move the concrete to different places so the teeter would move a little differently each time.
This strategy worked great! We worked on going to the teeter at speed and also with no momentum.  I would walk her right up to the teeter and then let go so she would have to power through it starting from a standstill.  I also added the cue "hit it" so I would have something encouraging to say to her.
Once I felt we were ready to return to the ring, I started pairing practice matches and trials.  I was lucky that three upcoming trials were also hosting an evening match.  So I would give Maddie some extra teeter practice and then trial the next day.  This worked great and she even Double Qualified two out of the three times.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Precious - Riley

Riley has been doing great and handling retirement joyfully.  Her hock is completely healed and suffers no continued issues from the bad sprain.  She still bucks, spins, and twirls with her toys and never comes up sore.
I'm so happy Riley retired sound.  There is just so much more she can do than Seven can.
The laryngeal paralysis is definitely progressing and she sounds more and more like a smoker, but for the most part it is not giving her much trouble. We spent a lot of time hiking over the winter since since I think we will have to curb it in the summer to keep her from panting too hard.  I am hoping she will still be able to hike early in the morning periodically.
All in all, Riley is doing great and there is not much to report.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mental Rehab

A couple of months ago I was talking with my agility trainer about some concerns I had about Maddie. There was this video of Maddie running in a practice match when she was barely two years old that was going viral on many Greyhound Group Facebook pages. She was so happy, silly, and excited. She did her first weave poles in public and bounced up and down on her hind legs gleefully. She is completely adorable in it.  To see it, Click Here. So where did that joyful hound go?  She is more steady and purposeful today, but she seems to have lost her spark.
 Of course, when I watch Maddie's agility videos, I second guess myself.  She looks pretty good and she always ends the course with the speed and appears to be having a good time. But my gut says otherwise. For example, prior to our runs she loves to tug... until we get close to the ring.  She will usually eat treats, but sometimes she won't.  She seems to get very serious and it is difficult to get her to be silly.  She used to dig holes in the dirt ringside and I was constantly having to fill them in, but now I am lucky if I can get her to dig at all.
I also never lead out anymore. Maddie starts her courses slow (even trotting the first jump sometimes).  I start the course alongside of her because I can outrun her and it often feels like I am dragging her through the first few obstacles. God help us if the weave poles are the second or third obstacle.
So I was telling my trainer about these concerns.  I said that unlike my other hounds, I could see Maddie being uninjured and perfectly sound her entire life, but at some point just deciding that she had done agility enough times and quitting. My trainer said something that resonated with me.... You always have to rehab something.  If its not physical, then it is mental rehab.  So true!  Seven had to rehab physically almost her entire career..... but mentally was bombproof, driven, and highly motivated. Riley was seriously injured several times and also spent a great deal of her career rehabbing physically.  Despite getting hurt and falling off obstacles more than any of my other hounds, she never needed any mental rehab or retraining.  She is fearless and she loves it. So with Maddie holding all of the agility cards now, I am spending a lot of time thinking about her. Agility is supposed to be fun, but I think she is feeling a bit squashed by pressure and stress.
So I have adopted some new strategies:

Warm ups are completely informal. I try to get Maddie to play, dig, tug, or run around with me. I try to get into the ring earlier if possible to get her to dig or be silly while the prior dog finishes their run.  I poke at her front feet and try to get her to play bow.

I am trying to be very cheerful and praise her verbally throughout the run. I already did a lot of that, but I want to make sure I am not neglecting and if I can do it more.... do it more.

Hide all disappointment. Maddie is very affected by my feelings. When she would pop out of the weave poles, I would definitely correct her with my reaction or expression.  Nothing I (or my other hounds) would consider sharp, but it appears that Maddie's perception is that it is indeed sharp... so I must refrain.  It was not helping anyway. The other errors are 99% my fault, but if I am disappointed in myself, I am not sure Maddie can tell who the disappointment is directed at.  So I must not be deflated about how I handled something.  At the last trial, I think I did a good job and it showed.  She popped out of the weave poles once and I just said oops and started her over.  I tried to be very neutral.  And then the other error, was me calling Maddie and it pulled her right off the correct jump.  I praised her enthusiastically for responding to my call instead of dropping my head and silently scolding myself.

I have to be careful in training too.  I recall a couple of months ago, Maddie ran very well in training, but then refused the treats for whatever reason. I was disappointed she didn't want the reward.  And as I was driving away, I thought how stupid is that.  You want her to run agility well and she did that.  I shouldn't care if she ate the treats or not.  She was probably stressed for some reason, but ran well despite her worries. I should have been over the moon for her perseverance, but I was not. I felt really crappy later.
So mental rehab is in full swing and I think it paid off in the last trial. I was very happy with both of us. Mental rehab will just be part of our routine now. Maddie has been training great! We only train for a short time 1 to 3 times a week, but I am trying to make sure they end with my heart over flowing with how thrilled I am with Maddie.

Monday, February 6, 2017

NDTC Trial - Maddie

Year 2017 has started off great for Maddie and I. She ran very well and we earned two double qualifiers with one first place, two third places, and a forth. We now have 12 QQs towards her first agility championship.
Here are the qualifying runs from that weekend:

Monday, December 5, 2016

Agility Eggs - Maddie

It has been strange going from running three greyhounds to just one in half a year. All of the agility eggs are now in Maddie's basket. She is so different and challenging, but she is doing well. Her weave pole performance continues to be inconsistent. She is frequently popping out early.  But her contacts have been great!  I added a cue word and that has helped.  Sometimes her start lines are sluggish and she trots the first jump. I have mostly stopped leading out which has helped. Once she gets going though, she runs great and is really nice to run!

Agility Nationals are local in March (2 hours) so I really hoped Maddie would qualify. It came down to needing 9 points at our very last trial/chance. The trial prior we had no clean runs so I was starting to wonder if we would not qualify. Thankfully we ran clean in our first run earning 18 points. Here are our runs:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Retirement - Riley

So Riley is retired now. I got my signs.

The first sign was a husky sound when she was panting hard. It was kind of off and on over the last few months, but definitely becoming more consistently heard more often than not. The problem is that if I took her to the vet, he would not hear it since she would not be panting. A veterinarian friend mentioned laryngeal paralysis. I read about it. It sounded plausible, but there is not much you can do. It was not bothering Riley or slowing her down so I was not in a rush for a diagnosis.

Then a couple of weeks ago, we were at a trial and got our second sign. I was speaking to another veterinarian friend and mentioned the husky sound. She told me to google "geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis" and "polyneuropathy". Polyneuropathy sounded very much like Riley. A nerve disorder that causes muscle wasting and shakiness, lose of strength and coordinated movement and is often paired with laryngeal paralysis.  This is what I was seeing in Riley.
My dogs do lots of core, balance, and strengthening exercises on the peanut and balance discs, but Riley was getting weaker. I had noticed over the last year that her abilities and number of repetitions were lessening without explanation. I could not put my finger on it. My greyhound, Katie, who had a neurological injury at age 9, recovered from paralysis in the left rear, and rehabbed to regain about 80% of her mobility and she was never shaky even at age 12.

Then my vet friend was able to hear Riley pant after an agility run and she felt certain it was laryngeal paralysis. She felt I was catching it early, much earlier than most pet owners. As it gets worse, you eventually have to take precautions to keep them cool and calm as it will interfere with breathing and can be very distressing.  It will be a concern next summer.

And then the third sign, Riley sprained her hock. The next day, Riley was starting her usual zoomie/play session prior to the trial. She slipped and came up dead lame on the leg she had fractured 5 years ago. I had to carry her off the field because it was that bad. A friend's RV was nearby and I let myself in. Thankfully her German Shepherd knows us and welcomed us in. We were at a local trial, so Stephen came and picked Riley up so she could go home and rest.
I knew that regardless of what the injury was, it was going to be career ending. She would need time off and she would never come back from it. She was going to lose more strength and coordination and I would never feel comfortable putting her up on a dogwalk ever again.

And it is okay. It really is. Despite all of the injuries and rest periods, Riley ended up having the longest career. She always fully recovered and surprisingly did not develop much arthritis. Jumping 24 inches at 10 years and 4 months is really awesome and not very common. I just cannot complain.

I had Riley's hock x-rayed and the surgical screw from the hock fracture was as it should be. A little bit of calcification had grown over it, but otherwise the joint was very clean.  The tendons running along the inside of the hock were swollen and painful. Thankfully, the lameness disappeared within a few days.  There is still some swelling.  Typically, I would give her 4-6 weeks off, but I'm afraid she was lose too much muscle and coordination in that amount of time.  I only gave her one week off and have started her back on long walks, balance work, and am allowing her to climb stairs and jump on the bed.  All looks good thus far.

So welcome to retirement, Riley Greyhound.

Riley's second to last agility trial:
Riley's last agility runs:
And for fun, Riley's first agility trial.......... so funny how she would fling herself over jumps! :-)
Oh so shiny and new!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Nosework - Seven

Seven is settling into retirement in her usual unsettled way. I always thought she would be tough to live with if she were retired, but she basically the same. She is and has always been under foot. She is and has always been the dog that will follow you 30 feet from your closet to your bathroom 10 times in a row. She is and has always been the most excited about meals, the potential for doing anything, getting her teeth brushed, moving into another room, going upstairs, going downstairs, etc. So life is the same, just different activities.

If I could change anything, I just wish Seven could run.  Run across the yard.  Run back and forth between Stephen and I in a safe, straight line.  We do it occasionally anyway, but she generally ends up holding her left front leg up.

I have started walking her again though.  Since we put her on Deramaxx, I can see a big improvement in her overall comfort and so she is back to light hiking of up to 1.5 hours.  We also do lots of core and balance exercises on the peanut and balance discs.  She is pretty happy as long as she does something and gets a stuffed Kong.
A few months ago, Seven and I started Nosework.  It is a scent detection sport.  Instead of teaching our dogs to find narcotics, cancer, shell casings, or bombs.... we teach them to find birch, cloves, and anise. Seven is not yet searching for the designated scents yet.  You start with searching for food so the dog first learns how to find the source of the scent and is rewarded immediately.  Eventually you pair the scent and food.  You also start out searching boxes to help the dog search the whole area, but then you move the scent out of the box.  They learn to search rooms, outdoor areas, and vehicles.

Seven LOVES it!  Her passion in life is to find food so she has been wondering where this activity has been all of her life.  We have been taking private lessons and our instructor thinks she is "fabulous" and "awesome".  Seven is very driven and bold when she searches.  I was concerned this activity might turn into a constant search for food at home and everywhere we go.  So I am using a very specific, stinky, salmon treat. It is very distinct and it is not something that will accidentally be sitting on my kitchen counter. It appears the strategy has worked well.  She seems to connect wearing the harness with searching.

Monday, October 10, 2016

It's For The Dogs

In June 2015, we bought and moved to a new house. The backyard was one of the huge selling features. It was large and the fence could be moved further back for more space and it was mostly flat.
The property backed up to core property and we are on the end of a cul de sac so the backyard was also fairly private. We also determined that you would not be able to see an A-frame or dogwalk out back from the street. Perfect for the dogs!
Well, it turned out that we had a huge drainage problem and the section behind the chain link fence receives no sunlight from October to March so it never dries out during the winter.
We also found out that there is a storm drain on the next street over that collects water from about 300 feet of street and it empties out on our property line.
It also collects trash and newspapers that are lying on the street during the rain and dumps that into our yard as well.
Just 10 minutes of a heavy rain and this happened.
The river of water would cut through our backyard and continue through our neighbor's backyard. Not exactly conducive to year-around agility training.

So in February we got a few estimates and opinions.  We jumped through the Homeowner's Association and Georgia Power hoops. We crossed our T's and dotted our I's.  We got fence estimates.  This was not a project we could complete in parts.  If you were going to grade the yard, you had to take down the fence, and if the fence was down, you had to put it back up.  The shed was rotting and located in a bad place. If you have hardscape workers and a bobcat, you might as well have them haul it away and remove the concrete pad. A Big Thank You to Snookums for tearing it down! And while we could live without a shed for awhile, it made sense to go ahead and get it while the fence was down since it would not fit through the gate. So the expensive project turned into a very expensive project.... but hey.... it's for the dogs!
So Operation #NormalBackyardsAreOverRated began!
 The entire backyard was graded so it would pitch slightly to the back right corner. The gutters off the house were buried and piped out to the back.
Five french drains were installed across of the yard.

And we installed a dry creek bed to handle all of the water coming from the storm drain.
Then crushed stone and river sand mixture was laid on top of the newly graded ground. It is similar to what my other field  was topped with before the grass overtook it.
We got a new shed while the fence was down.

A retaining wall was installed.

And lastly the new fence was installed.  We did privacy down the sides and chain link across the back and around the smaller potty yard. We had to do two 16 foot gates in case Georgia Power ever has to come into the yard with big trucks.  Hopefully they never will.  We left space behind the fence so they can drive around our backyard for all of their routine maintenance and tree trimming.  It also leaves a little space for deer watching.
So here is how everything turned out.

Here is the creek bed in action.

The dog's potty yard. We put straw down to keep their feet clean when it is muddy.
Stephen built this temporary patio fence. We hope to cover the patio in the future so we just needed something that would allow dogs access to the potty yard from the back door for now.

Thank goodness we decided to grow grass.  I don't think we could have stopped it if we tried.

The grass keeps the dust down, reduces erosion, looks nicer, and is easier on the dog's feet. I will seed and water again next spring to hopefully fill in the remaining bare spots.

And then a little future garden in the corner.
All in all, I think it turned out great!  Thank you, Stephen!  I probably will not move my equipment for another year.  I really want to give the grass a chance to come in first.