Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sometimes it's the little things

Here's Dahlia in 2008 during a thunderstorm
Sometimes it's the little things that impress you the most.  Because I wasn't paying enough attention to the weather, Dahlia and I walked outside tonight to discover there was lightning in the air.  At first I thought maybe I was seeing things as Dahlia didn't really react to the flashes of light.  I no longer can hear thunder in the distance thanks to my hearing problems, but I can only assume she could.  Then there was a flash of chain lightning and that was enough for Dahlia.  She immediately bolted straight for the house and concerned about her stress level, I let her.

But then I had a second thought.  Dahlia needed to go out.  And she's gained so much confidence in the past year that I had a "what if" moment.  As in "what if I pull out some high value treats and my omg so excited voice..."  Would she go back outside and find a spot to do her business?

I decided to try it.  It was still lightning off in the distance (as I discovered, the storm is somewhat to our north and is not going to hit us right now) and Dahlia had a couple moments of nervousness, but I kept my happy voice going and I kept offering her hotdogs for continuing.  She did so.  And then she started to sniff around to find a spot to do her business.  Despite the presence of lightning she found a spot and then we celebrated with a lot of praise and a huge jackpot of treats and a quick racing back to the house.

This is huge for Dahlia.  Right now there is lightning and thunder still around and she just finished her Dogster ice cream and is relaxed and asleep on the ground.  A dog who used to shut down and panic over lightning and thunder has now gone outside with it in the area with only minimal stress.

I am so very impressed with my girl.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happy Gotcha Day Dahlia!

My gosh, where has the time gone? Three years ago today we woke up in the morning knowing that our lives would change that day. Later in the afternoon, we picked up a Cocker Spaniel named Coeby and transported him an hour and a half away from here, where we met up with the rescue that had Dahlia (and who were taking Coeby in). I still remember walking Coeby around waiting for Trish to show up with Dahlia, turning and seeing this woman walk by with this gorgeous black dog with this huge tail. And then suddenly it dawned on me. That was our gorgeous black dog with the huge tail. I really could not have imagined then how much this dog would come to mean to us. She's just the best and the past three years have been awesome.

What I have learned this year
by Dahlia F. Beast

1. To stop and sniff the flowers instead of peeing on them.

2. That no matter how wet you get, you must always always keep the tail dry.

3. That lily pads are almost worth swimming for.
(Please note that my tail is still not wet)

4. That Mommy comes up with the best photo shoots.

5. That stealing Mommy's chair is great fun.

6. That being kicked out of Mommy's chair is no fun!

7. That even though they protect my feet in the winter, I will get the utmost sympathy if I give the woe face and refuse to move off the couch when Mommy puts the booties on me.

8. That there is definitely a point when it becomes too much snow.

9. That climbing mountains is fun, especially in the winter!

10. That goats are great fun to herd, even if they don't get what I'm trying to do.

11. That D means dog! And also Dahlia...

12. To stop being so serious all the time.

13. To fly, even without a jetpack.

14. That tug is the BEST GAME EVER.

15. That Mommy dressing you in ridiculous things means hot dogs.

16. That belly rubs are the best.

17. Ok I'm lying. I knew that a long time ago. (See # 11 above)

18. That laying in the grass is the best way to spend a lazy afternoon.

19. That things learned in agility class apply to real life!

20. That I'm too sexy for these Doggles.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Action shots

Someone recently asked me about action shots on my camera. For those who don't regularly read the blog, I bought a Sony Alpha A230 DSLR camera back in April. I don't have a lot of money (understatement) and couldn't spend much on a new camera. I also needed one that was fairly light since I have wrist problems. I settled on the Sony because it was both cheap ($285 refurbished) and one of the lighter models out there.

I haven't had a lot of experience taking action shots with the camera yet, but I thought I'd share some that I had gotten with it.  Please note that all of these are taken in fairly bright sunlit situations.






I'm still trying to figure action shots out, but overall, I'm fairly pleased with the cameras ability to capture them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The hip doggy

Yesterday I bought Dahlia a pair of doggles.  I think she looks quite hip in them.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where did THAT dog come from?

So after my post yesterday about Dahlia's showing hesitance in class, of showing a lot of signs of being controlled, she decided to prove me wrong by being an absolute maniac last night.  And I don't mean that in a bad way.  Quite the contrary, I was thrilled with her all through class last night.

She was really amped up, to the point at which in between doing things I kept working with her because she wouldn't settle down.  We played a game of tug that was so intense that she was leaping for the toy when she lost her grip on it and once she actually leapt for it, bounced off my chest with her front feet. and snagged it mid-air.  Mid-air.  This is not a dog who does this sort of thing.  Even her games of tug are usually sedate.

Last night she went over jumps with speed I've never seen out of her.  She was focused and fast.  She looked like a real agility dog.

We began learning contacts and I severely underestimated her new confidence level.  She leapt up on the dog walk (which was only a couple feet above the ground).  She actually leapt up and put all four feet on a plank that was only a foot wide.  Without hesitation.  She turned around on it too.  Once she slipped off and it didn't even faze her.  She got right back on.

And to really top it off, she did a little bit of teeter work, just to get used to the noise of its banging against the ground and it didn't faze my super sound sensitive dog.  She reacted, yes, but she recovered quickly.  She even took off and got the zoomies during this.

This is not a dog who acts like this.  But it's a dog who I'd like to see some more of!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The controlled dog

I set Dahlia up near the first jump in the sequence and lead out somewhat past it.  After releasing her, she sails beautifully over the first jump.  We run as a pair to the second jump and she sails over that one like a pro.  I turn my body so that the set of my shoulder indicates that she should turn after she comes off jump #2 and go over jump #3.  Instinctively, she follows my body language and goes right over jump #3...

*screeeeeeech*  Put the brakes on for a moment.  That sounds nice, doesn't it?  It's the way it's supposed to work, after all.  Get the body language right, get the handling cues right, and the dog will race over those jumps with great abandon.

But let's go back and see what really happened.

I set Dahlia up near the first jump in the sequence and lead out somewhat past it.  After releasing her, she sails beautifully over the first jump.  We run as a pair to the second jump and she sails over that one like a pro.  I turn my body so that the set of my shoulder indicates that she should turn after she comes off jump #2 and go over jump #3.  She turns after coming off jump #2 and slows down, halts right in front of jump #3.  She looks at me as I stand awkwardly with my body turned and leaning over slightly, leading out toward the next jump in the sequence.  I freeze in place, keeping the body language the same.  Finally, she hops over the jump and looks at me again, just to make sure that she's done the right thing.  The remainder of the run continues in much the same way.  Always pausing before taking a jump that's on an angle to the last one.  Always checking in with me.  Always just slightly unsure.

This has been how it's gone all along in our agility class.  She's gained some confidence.  She will go over the jump, but she has to check in first.  She has to know it's the "right" thing to do.

I asked our instructor at class this week why Dahlia might be like this.  Her response?  If she had everything in her early life controlled, then it will be harder for her to break out of that, to just do things without always looking for permission.

I've sort of had a sense of this.  Dahlia was not adopted by us until she was around 2 years old.  We have no idea what her early life was like, but I've always had the impression that she was "well trained."  Looking at it now, I think "controlled to within an inch of her life" is a somewhat more accurate description.  I've never had the sense that she was abused.  Far from it actually.  She's a very well-adjusted, well-socialized dog.  But she's also incredibly polite and shows a lot of signs that her former people controlled everything she did.

I made a post once about how it's like living in a backward world with Dahlia. When she came to us, she wouldn't get up on the furniture or the bed.  She didn't jump up on us when we came home, no matter how excited she got.  She didn't bark or rush the door when someone knocked or rang the doorbell.  She had, as the rescue put it, "no bad habits."  But looking back at them now, I realize this was due to an awful lot of control her former people probably put on her.

Even now, nearly three years after we adopted her, she asks permission to get up on the furniture.  She will come to the couch and lay her head on it and stare at you until you invite her up.  She will shake her ears in the middle of the night and stare at us until we invite her onto the bed.  She will jump up on you only when you ask her to.  She's polite and many people love this in a dog.  But I wish she was still not quite so influenced by that early control.  This sort of "extreme politeness" doesn't work well with agility where the dog has to have the confidence to run out from the owner and do things on her own a bit more.  "Asking permission" to do things in agility doesn't work quite so well.

I'm trying to sort out, of course, how to break some of that control, but I'm not sure how to go about it.  She's learning to relax a little bit, but it's taken a few years and nearly a year of agility class to get her there.  This is now my new goal: Get Dahlia to relax and try new things without always having to check in with me.

So for those who are reading this, have you run into anything similar to this?  If you have any suggestions on how to get her to try new things without being overwhelmed by it all, I would love to hear them!