looking inward

I’ve discovered something really interesting about my girl.

Remember I posted a week or two ago about how we saw a roo hopping across the track and Lu hardly reacted? I think her wearing a halti has had an unexpected benefit, not just in relation to her chasing things either.

I first noticed that it seemed to make her ‘zone out’ when I tried doing a rapid-fire click and treat exercise and she didn’t really seem interested in the treats. I’d always said it gave me half a dog, but this just went to prove that she wasn’t as ‘aware’ as she usually is. Then we had the time with the roo hopping across the track, and even at school with the kids playing soccer, she hardly reacts unless the ball comes really close. I don’t think this is a comfort thing, I’m beginning to think that it brings her into her self, and aware of herself, instead of having to be alert and aware of the whole world.

I saw this most obviously one day after our rehab vet appointment. We were in the waiting room to pay and there were dogs everywhere. Lu was going off her nut- launching at the end of the lead, whining and barking to try and meet the other dogs. She was feral. I was fed up so I put her halti on, at the very least to stop her launching around… and BAM… I had a calm, quiet, and sedate dog. She was still looking around at what was happening but no longer felt the need to be a part of it all.

Similarly, we were driving back to our old, empty house the other night, and the dogs were roaming around in the back of Nic’s car- Lu was so restless, coming back and forth from my lap to the boot, generally being a pain. So I tested my theory and put her halti on. She stopped, lay down on my lap and panted away. She rode the rest of the way like that.

I just find it really interesting that it seems to have this calming effect on her. She doesn’t like me putting it on but she never tries to take it off. I did some quick research and it seems there are limited reports of other people having the same benefits, and then I found that T-touch uses a figure-8 elastic in the same shape as a way to calm animals! There’s seemed to be more to lessen barking and whining but for Lu it certainly seems to just make her look inward, rather than worry about everything in the world happening.

I wonder if anybody with anxious/overly stimulated (because I think that’s what Lu is, not anxious) dogs who read this blog could try it and see if it helps them? Even if you made a figure 8 with elastic and just see if it has an effect on your dog, too.

In other news, Lu got seen by the rehab vet yesterday and apparently she didn’t do any damage to her iliopsoas the other day when she was limping, and has been given the OK to run around with Loki and wrestle, and should be starting agility again next week. YAY!

 

Here’s a 30 days of Mallei, too, for your viewing pleasure. (Day 23) – Mal and Loki running amok together at their new farm.

Mal and Loki

 

blogging: why, who for, what for?

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with this post, just that it's a nice photo from the weekend and has Javelin being Javelin and also I think that all blog posts should have photos when possible.

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with this post, just that it’s a nice photo from the weekend and has Javelin being Javelin and also I think that all blog posts should have photos when possible.

I recently got added to a Facebook group for Australian Pet Bloggers, and instantly the talk turned to getting more traffic, or using this application or site, or that social networking outlet as a way to reach more people. And I’m ok with that, because that’s why some people blog, but I’m sort of feeling like the girl at the party sitting in the corner with her diary writing away about stuff that pops into her head. And so I actually posted on the group how I find the concept of blogging for somebody else to be really fascinating (which I do!) and that it can actually be used as a place to do something other than constantly obsess over training things and compulsively crop screenshots of handling that you’ve watched in slow-mo at least 23 times until you’re sure that you know all the precise handling things you needed to work on and also where the holes in your training can be found. Not that I do anything like that.

At all.

But then Bodhi over at 1st World Dog did a whole post about the same concept and very kindly linked over to my little corner of the internet as a good place to find a more traditional ‘journal style’ blog with useful training tidbits (once you sort through all the Lumen-specific problem solving I suppose!). She does say it very tactfully that I “analyse my dogs” – that’s one way of putting it, but I wonder what other people get out of coming here. I once tried to offer people advice on training tricks but then I felt like I was being a bit of a know-it-all, and although I quite like offering advice (it’s a teacher thing, maybe?), I like to do it on a one-on-one kind of basis and that advice is based on understanding the problem through thorough assessment. I don’t like to sit here and go: “I know how to teach this thing so this is how you should all do it”.. which is what, I think, a ‘training advice’ section would feel like, to me.

Which leads me to the point of this post which is to give a big hello shoutout to my readers.  Apparently I have 93 followers. 93!!! Maybe the 100th person will get a prize. I don’t know what that prize will be. Depends where you live.

Not that I’m going to give better prizes to someone from one country vs. a different country but the cost to ship something to someone in Melbourne is going to be very different to shipping something to someone in the UK.
Looking through my list of followers it seems like many people have been fooled by me tagging a post with ‘fitness’ or ‘adventures’ and have expected to find some BMX riding gym junkie. Sorry about that.

If you’re not here because you’ve been deceived, somehow, into following my blog, I’d like to know some things. Let’s call it market research.

Do you still read what I’m writing?

What would you like to see more of?
What would you like to see less of? (and don’t say ‘analysing your dog training problems’. That’s not gonna happen)

If you actually come to the blog, is the layout ok? It’s been around for a while and I get bored of things easily so maybe it’s nearly time for a change.

Is there anything I can do to make your blog reading experience a more enjoyable one?

 

Hurray! Let’s have a feedback party.

And…

Go.

 

career

That could be me. I’d wear a hard hat and everything. Even a shirt. Look out, world.

I took Monday off as a personal day and I lazed around the house and took Lu & Loki on an afternoon walk, and I thought, not for the first time, about what my future would be like.

I’ve never considered myself as a teacher forever. I feel like I need more than that, but I don’t really know what.

And how can I make enough money and work strange hours so I can walk and train the dogs every day for a couple of hours? Now that would be pretty cool. I need some job where I can work mornings, then come home, play with the dogs, and then like, teach people to train their dogs in the early evening. Then have dinner, then go to bed. I could deal with that. Or just be earning enough to work mornings… or afternoons… and have the rest of the day off.

 

Maybe I’d like to be an engineer. They seem like the kind of logical, problem-solving type people I could associate with. As a teacher, my problem-solving skills are limited to the abstract. How can you solve a problem when the problem is a person, and the person has, say, a learning disorder? Or how can you solve the problem of, say, teaching kids to read, when in essence that’s 27 (or in our case 53) individual problems making up the larger problem? And what if they’re not problems but people who need time and nurturing but I’m too impatient and want to see if my solutions work now?

But I don’t think I’d like to go back to school to be an engineer, and I’m not very good at maths and I’m pretty sure that engineering would involve maths.

A website about engineering talks about biomedical engineering and says: “By integrating physical, chemical, mathematical, and computational sciences with engineering principles…” all those things make me want to gag.

Now, a civil engineer… that’s something. Designing roads so people don’t get in traffic jams or smash into each other? I find that stuff cool. When I used to play SimCity, I would obsessively upgrade and fix roads rather than worrying about much of the other stuff in the game – I loved the roads. But then, if they’d need me to build a bridge or a dam as a civil engineer… well.. no, that could be interesting.

There’s a kind of engineering called Photonics, which just reads like a fancy word for “magic”: Photonics is the science of generating, controlling, and detecting photons especially in the visible light spectrum.

Ok. So it seems like as far as engineers go, I think ‘civil’ would be the way to go.

What else? I could become a researcher and university lecturer. I’d like to find things out about things. Like what makes schools good, or teachers, or why teacher education courses suck, or how to make parents read to their kids more, or how to optimally teach kids to spell, or why some kids ‘get’ maths and others don’t even if they’ve had the same education, and whether team teaching is effective for student learning, and what the actual cost (not monetary) of standardised testing and teacher ranking systems are. See, I could research. Now I already have a Masters degree, so that’s a bonus, but I suppose I’d need to go further and start doing a doctorate or something, and that sounds expensive (??) unless they’re paying you to do it, I suppose. I’d also still be teaching people stuff though it seems like at University you can just talk at people and show them a PowerPoint and expect them to learn so you don’t have to do much teaching. Maybe that’d be something to research: Why do university teaching courses teach in a method completely contradictory to what they’re wanting their students to be able to do?

Of course, I’d word it better than that.

So far: civil engineer, University Lecturer. What else?

Well, having spent the last half an hour doing career quizzes, seems like that’s about it. One suggested “inventor”, like you just pack up your bags and decide to invent stuff for a living.

That same one also listed civil engineer, and ‘environmental planner’ – I wonder if they’re the same thing. And curriculum designer. Yuck.

Oh, or how about for something completely left of field like event planning? I relish planning. Give me a holiday or a wedding and I’ll be there with timelines and things booked, and how long the bus will take from a to b and when we need to be getting to x location. I guess that’s sort of like civil engineering but on a more superficial scale. Like, you have to plan roads… OR… plan bridal showers. Totally the same thing.
Maybe event planning would allow me to work from home and therefore take the dogs for hikes.

Oh, but events happen on weekends.

And weekends are agility times.

Yuck.

 

Ok, who can just give me enough money to live off so I can just do this stuff? I’ll work half days even, as long as the rest of the time I can do dog things. Not too much to ask, right??

Lu and her… bits.

How could you not want 6-8 of these trundling around your backyard?!

How could you not want 6-8 of these trundling around your backyard?!

So… I’m having to face a fast-approaching reality, and that is what to do with Lu in terms of breeding, or not.

I suspect very strongly that she’s going to come into season again in the next few weeks. Which fricken sucks because she was just in season at the end of January, which means that it was only 4 months ago. Wtf. I’ve had a massive coat drop, lots and lots of little pees today at the park. Yup. Plus she’s been a right royal bitch for the last week or so, so possibly that’s hormonal too.

My original thought, when I got Lu, was that she was going to be this high-drive, awesome performance Aussie, and we’d do really well in agility, and then I’d be able to breed awesome performance Aussies and that could be my thing, and one day I’d have a Lu baby or grandbaby and that would be cool too…

But then… Lu is the way she is. Which is to say…

Points that I don’t like about Lumen:

  • ‘My way or the highway’ mindset/wilfulness – lacks biddability. If she wants to do something, you can get stuffed.
  • Not high drive, at all. Only now becoming more interested in treats and toys.
  • Weird jumping style, not that useful for agility.
  • Body sensitivity issues
  • Some other weird temperament stuff, like just generally not as outgoing or confident as I’d like, some resource guarding issues, etc. High desire to chase/hunt things which doesn’t translate into playing with toys.
  • Coming into season every 4 months means missing out on a lot of trials – that would mean we’d be competing for 3 months, then out for a month. That sucks.

 

Things I do like about Lu:

  • Gosh she’s gorgeous. I look at her and think she’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen. And I love her body type- she’s athletic and not square like some Aussies.
  • Her personality at home is great – she’s loving and happy and friendly. She’s great with kids and gets all happy and curly with people she meets at the park.
  • She has a killer stride – she’s so fast … when she wants to be!

 

Was this before I ruined her... or something?

Was this before I ruined her… or something?

… and… that’s it. And so I’m quickly facing up to the reality that maybe she isn’t breeding quality. Why did I want to breed? For high-drive, working, performance Aussies. Is Lu representative of that ideal? No. Would a high-drive male possibly balance that out? Maybe. But then I think about Lu in the hands of someone who isn’t experienced with dogs and feel frightened for them. She’s a handful for me and I’ve been training her! Do I want to deal with possible health problems, complications, and the exhaustion that would come from looking after a litter of puppies? Not necessarily, no!
And even though I don’t normally have a gut feeling about this, my gut is saying to spay her and just be happy with my dogs, and maybe look at another border collie down the line (when Mal goes to the rainbow bridge) and give up this idea of passing on my dog’s lines or whatever.

Or look I could have little red baby puppies like a little red Malmal

Or look I could have little red baby puppies like a little red Malmal

But I just can’t figure out why it’s making me so sad to be accepting this decision.

 

😦

sadface.

worries out loud

You know that feeling that I often get, where I feel anxious but don’t know why? Maybe because there’s lots of things weighing on me in the back of my mind and so they just feel like a general worry, ‘in general’? Maybe if I write them down, they’ll be actually visible, and therefore less worrisome.

  1. Dogwalk. Like, holy hell, what if her dogwalk is ruined right now? Surely I can’t ruin it from one session where I made her do turns. What if we never get turns?! We’ll get turns, I just need to figure out how to train it. It can’t be ruined. It was one session. She is usually unfaultable. It will be ok.
  2. Stupid f–ing calf muscle injury flared up this morning. I hate being injured. Oh, the angries.
  3. Work is annoying me. Prep/1 is annoying me. Ugh, they’re so young. And also, what am I going to do next year? Do I change schools and have to deal with change? Do I stay at my school and deal with a long commute?! And why am I even thinking about it? It’s not even halfway through term 2! (Is it? Maybe it’s halfway through. I don’t know what week it is)
  4. I have to cook for myself and the house is a mess and I’m tired. And Lumen is annoying.
  5. Lumen is annoying, seriously, this deserves its own dot-point. I swear to god her chasing behaviour has gotten worse lately. She’s not even chasing anything any more, she just runs off as if she is. Things get worse before they get better… right?
  6. I feel like I have a lot of ‘stuff’ I need to do for the play class, and we’re onto making play work and work play and making her actually do stuff for rewards, and this is the bit she’s not so good at, so I feel sort of… intimidated… by the idea of this lesson and I know me, and I know that that means I won’t do anything at all… hiding is safer than trying. So I need to try. but that also means I need some equipment and time… neither of which is particularly easy right now.
  7. Oh! And Lu has decided that ‘cik’ actually means a rear-cross ‘tok’. Which I can work with, sometimes, but sometimes I just need you to turn to the right
  8. What if they put a cloth tunnel in the course this weekend? Ugh.

 

Ok Now i’m just grasping at straws so maybe that’s all there is.

And hey, that’s not too bad, actually. See…. I knew there was a reason I wanted to make a list. Hopefully I’ll feel better after Saturday when she proves she can still do a running dogwalk without leaping off.

Hopefully.

full

This photo has nothing to do with the post, it's just adorable and Penny must have taken it secretly when we were at the beach last time because it just appeared on my phone.

This photo has nothing to do with the post, it’s just adorable and Penny must have taken it secretly when we were at the beach last time because it just appeared on my phone.

 

My head is full right now. Full of ideas and things and training plans. It feels as though I have a swarm of those little midgeflies all telling me lots of things. Good things, but lots of them.

I’m at the OneMind dogs seminar in Sydney right now, and last night we had our introductory lecture. It was a lot of information packed into about 5 hours. Lucky I took notes. I’m also beginning this play class with Polona, which should be really interesting, except for the fact that she recommends you stop all training for 6 weeks. And also there’s some compression jump grid/speed circle stuff I’d really like to try with Lu, and meanwhile I still need to close the weaves, and get her dogwalk back (I think I’ll back-chain this again, so start from a point on the top plank where she’s happy and I’m getting full speed and work my way back. At club the other day she had real issues with running up the up plank, until the first apex. So it’s like she’s afraid of the first plank, or of what’s going to happen after the apex. If I work backwards I should be able to get her back to the start without her realizing what I’ve done), and at some point find an adjustable A-frame so she can learn that, too.

In fact, I have so much information in my head right now that I’m not even sure where to begin writing about it. My thoughts are jumping here, there and everywhere. Maybe a list would help.

  • Play class with Polona: starting with food play. Pretty good at this already, I think. Not too concerned here. Missing a week anyway. Couple of things to try but not stressing over it.
  • Speaking of which, Noora from OMD had been talking about skills you can practice at home for agility, so I asked her later about whether there was a good way to reward recalls that tied in to agility training (I thought this was a fairly legitimate question) but she didn’t seem to have much of an answer other than to tell me don’t stress. Uhh… Yeah, no. And actually, I wasn’t stressing, for once, I was simply curious if we’re on the topic of ‘stuff you can do at home that will tie in to agility’, surely recalls can be a part of that too? Maybe my face was stressed.
  • Need to teach Lu sends better. Lots of this handling seems dependent on being able to send and go. Her sends to wraps were pretty good so it should be ok.
  • There is no such thing as a wrong obstacle. I think I’ve said this before but I’m saying it again so I remember. There were some great examples of the dog being pointed at a particular (‘wrong’) obstacles, and of course doing them. I really want to be ok with Lu doing the obstacles in front of her- I think this will do wonders for her speed and confidence, but to do that, I can never stop her for going ‘off course’ – I need to find the next closest obstacle (in training) and do that then reward her, or, just keep going and try again next time, or try and loop my way back to where the mistake was. This last option will be difficult- I’m not that good at thinking on my feet.
  • There were a couple of little jumping/bar/body awareness things I want to try with Lu, and some proofing exercises I want to do as well. These should be easy in the backyard. The great thing about all the handling moves we’ve learnt about in the seminar is that I can do them with just one bar, or at most, a bar and a tunnel. They have an interesting way of teaching a wrap that might appeal to the Lu, so I’ll be wanting to train this at home, especially since she’s forgotten how to do it.
  • The value and importance of reward placement, and rewarding on the dog’s line rather than from the hand. I realize that this would be better with a dog who drove to a static toy but I might have some luck with her food pouch tug. Or even just a plate with food on it.
  • That I haven’t been supporting Lu’s weave entries very well sometimes, in terms of where my ‘laserpoint’ is and just expecting her to do it, which is sort of ok because she should be able to do it independently but also sort of unfair in how I was doing it. I’m not going to baby her but I think I can provide clearer directions even while she’s still being independent.
  • Thinking of how to combine OneMind dogs, Justine Davenport, Silvia Trkman and Polona’s play class all into one glorious mess. This, I think, is what’s filling up my brain most of all. There’s so many ideas. So many. How do I choose what will work, be good, be what I need, and what I should leave behind?

 

I’m really enjoying a lot of what OMD has to say- the importance of showing your dog where you’re going very early so they know where they’re going! Of making sure their nose is turned in the right direction before they land! Of having very independent obstacle performance and great commitment (which I know Silvia says too, but theirs is said differently for me) so you can cue something and move on and know that your dog will complete it that way without you so that you’re then set up for showing them where to go next.  It’s actually been really nice seeing Noora use food with the dogs all day, like it’s ok to reward that way. In fact she says she teaches a lot more using food before she uses toys and only does toys later, and when the dog is eating its reward from the ground (because its rewarded on its line!), she gets people to move off, so the dog is performing the obstacle independently and not reacting to the handler’s motion so much. It sounds so counter intuitive, like teaching them to ignore the handler’s movement, which frightens me a lot, but it makes sense. I think. Maybe. Like, you should be able to cue “take this bar” and move off parallel to it as the dog has committed and know it will take it regardless of your movement after that point. I think it makes sense. My head is having a hard time with it but I think I like it.

 

My handling diagrams have gone downhill RAPIDLY. This is a prime example. It was meant to be a dog, doing a ... German turn... I think. I could open my notes and check but that would require effort.

My handling diagrams have gone downhill RAPIDLY. This is a prime example. It was meant to be a dog, doing a … German turn… I think. I could open my notes and check but that would require effort. Also the stick man on the left looks like he’s up to no good…

 

fear

I feel sleepy and dopey like this puppy.

I feel sleepy and dopey like this puppy.

warning warning: surviving on very little sleep, sore back & possibly hormonal.

 

Lots of emotions right now. Which of course, in typical Em fashion, is manifesting in me sitting in our office trying not to look like I’m crying and pulling my hair down over my face and appearing really, really busy on the computer. I’m that cool, it’s great.

Starting to see more of Loki’s ‘naughty’, which of course isn’t naughty, it’s just puppy, but it’s dealing with that stuff again. He’s getting much more bitey- SKIRTS! PANTS! FEET! SHOES! OMG YOU’RE WALKING, I’M GOING TO OUTRUN AND BLOCK AND BITE YOU! So, hello herding instinct, nice to see you. So interesting that it’s manifesting differently to Lu who as a baby would ‘heel’ and bite the backs of your feet, where he will cast around in front and tackle the tops of your feet and shoes. So, lots of gently nudging him off to the side and carrying on walking – sorry, you can’t herd me.

We’ve been playing lots, he loves to chase toys that are dragged on the ground, and when he catches them he holds on and makes adorable little grunting noises. He chases thrown toys but when I go: “YAY! PUP PUP PUP!” and run off, he ditches the toy to chase me. This is ok, we’ll just work on it. He’s super into pats and praise- going all wiggly and cute. I did some clicker stuff this morning, just easy ‘sit, click, eat’ and put out a box which he climbed into three times, showing some really cool and easy rear-end awareness. Which is awesome.

But then there’s this underlying fear that I’m not going to do this right somehow, that something I did with Lu made her hate agility and not want to play with me and not even be crazy about food. And which tricks do I teach first? Or do I not teach tricks and just play? Surely that’s not right! And when do I take him hiking? He’s so little and tiny, how on earth could he come hiking right now? And how do I build that awesome relationship that I want? And what about recalls? How on earth did Lu’s recall get so awesome? And how do I make sure he doesn’t chase wildlife? And how can I stop him being so pushy about food because surely Lu is going to go him one day because he’s being rude.

Penny sent me a link to Daisy Peel’s post which is sort of how I’m feeling, but I don’t know if it helped because it kind of suggests that you need to have faith in your brain and your abilities, and I don’t.

And then sometimes I look at Lu and I just want to bundle her up and hug her even though she hates that because she makes my heart burst with love and with wondering if I’ve done right or wrong by her with this puppy. And whether I played with her right as a puppy, or did something weird along the way but then I remember that I played lots of fun tunnel games and made tunnels really awesome and did the 500-ball tunnel game and she still didn’t love it.

So, a lot of stuff going on and I’d really just like crawl into Lu’s crate and cuddle with her (even though she’d walk off on me at the first chance. Loser dog.). Meanwhile all the kids are very excited to meet Loki so at least I have 150 willing participants for socialisation… it’ll just be a matter of managing them so he’s not overwhelmed!