Friday, June 28, 2013

Our Dogs = Our Babies?

Earlier this week an article on caught my eye because it stated something I know I'm guilty of: "Turns out our dogs kind of are our 'babies': study"

Sound familiar?

The article goes on to show a lot of parallel between human children and fur children and how their parents/owners treat them: special research into nutrition, ensuring their health with many doctors' appointments, spending money on bedding and toys (more than you probably should, for both species), feeling like you're their protector, etc.

The article states "It's no wonder: Our dogs react to us in a manner that eerily mimics how human children respond to their parents..."

I'm one to believe, yes, this is true. Matt and I don't have human children at this moment, just fur kids, but they act so much like human children at times it can be scary. Both of them love to cuddle with us--Dally likes to spoon when me in bed, her head resting on my pillow, at night. LaMesa reacts to our moods and commands like a child.

And, yes, there are times I'll have conversations with both of them--who doesn't? Maybe it's because I don't have much face-to-face interaction with other adults right now. But, with Dally, it's always been that way--for many years it was just me, Dally, and Mara, whether in Texas, Oklahoma, or Kentucky. We had many long road trips together, and you can only talk on the phone for so long.

Anyway, I digress....back to the study:

A researcher did tests to see if dogs tend to thrive due to what they call a "secure base effect" that's found in tight families, like children do.

Here's how the test went: Dogs were allowed to earn food rewards when they manipulated interactive toys. There were three different situations: an "absent owner," a "silent owner," and an "encouraging owner." And, like almost anyone in agility can tell you before reading the results of this study, the researcher found that the dogs seemed much less interested in working for the treats with the absence of their owner.

The interesting thing I read was that there wasn't much influence in the dog's motivation to work between the two tests of the dogs working for a silent owner and an encouraging owner. I would have thought there'd be more excited and more wanting to work for an encouraging owner rather than a silent one, after all that's how we're taught to train for agility, right?

In short, the report said: "The pooches appeared to be most comfortable and most willing to take a chance simply due to being near their owners--offering 'the first evidence for the similarity between the 'secure base effect' found in dog-owner and child-caregiver relationships.' "  

So what do you think of the study? Does your dog mimic that of a human child? 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Little Bruised

I guess it's a good thing we're in a quiet period of a couple more weeks, as far as agility goes, because Dally's been placed on the injury reserve list.

It all started Wednesday, when I noticed a little hitch in Dally's stride mid-way through the day. We hadn't done anything crazy that morning--just our typical walk around the park for a little more than 2.5 miles, so I didn't think it could be overuse. So I gave her some Traumeel and kept an eye on her.

Thursday she was only slightly better, and after a few hours she'd be hobbling around, barely putting a toe down to try to keep weight of her right hind leg. I consulted the "Corgi Chiropractor" and decided to keep an eye on her and give her time off from any walks, agility, and jumping (yeah, like that's an easy one).

Saturday morning I took her in to see Dr. Forry. She wasn't out in her hip like I thought, but it's more like a bruise on the top of her pelvis. Of course Dr. Forry tried to look through her fur to see if she could see any bruising on her skin, but when you've got hair like Dally, you don't see her skin!

We're not sure exactly what happened, but everything presents itself like a bruise--the area around the painful spot are fine to the touch, but you hit that one point, and she jumps. She wasn't out in the hips like normal, just sensitive in that one area. After a lazer treatment, we were sent home with instructions to keep with the Traumeel every 4-6 hours, icing the area (I was icing the hip, so just need to move the ice pack a little higher), and keeping her activities limited. That'll be the hard part, as Dally has not appreciated me taking LaMesa for walks and agility class without her. And LaMesa and I have been sneaking in quick weave pole sessions in the back yard (complete with tennie) while Dally was sleeping--unfortunately LaMesa's excited barks wake her up rather quickly.

I admitted to Dr. Forry that I'm always concerned when I see some sort of pain or weakness in Dally's hind end. Call it paranoia, but I'm so afraid of degenerative myelopathy (DM) in Corgis that I fear Dally will develop it one day. I know that doesn't neccearily mean the end of life, but it'd be the end of her life as she knew it--no more agility, no more hikes on rugged terrain, no sharp turns when chasing the tennie (she'd probably have to play that by herself so LaMesa didn't push her around)...

Maybe I'm over exaggerating my reactions to things, but lately I can't help but feel the worst is about to happen at any moment (the past few weeks will do that to a person).

Do any of my fellow Corgi owners fear the same thing? Does it make you want to take a step back and be a little more careful and mindful of how your Corgi plays? Or am I just being paranoid?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

LaMesa Got Shorter ... Jump Height-wise, That Is.

You've heard me talk a few times about how LaMesa is so close to the 8" jump height cutoff that many suggested that I have a challenge measurement, right? Well, after months of talking to people and trying to figure out who would be best for the measurements, I'm happy to say that LaMesa is officially jumping 8-inch regular in AKC!!

See, LaMesa's permanent card for AKC was 11.1". Yep, that's right. We were unlucky when it came to her permanent measurements after her second birthday--it was at the Swedish Vallhund National Specialty, which was held in conjunction with a big AKC event in Concord, N.C., and it was just days after her second birthday. The measuring wicket was placed next to the jumpers course, and we had to be measured first thing that morning, or they wouldn't let us run. The two VMOs got her at 11.1" and 11.5". It stunk, considering she had earned her Novice titles at 8" (majority of our first runs there wasn't a VMO, so she had quick measurements before each trial up until then). So for about 1.5 years, she's been jumping 12-inch regular (which always surprised people when they'd see her line up).

At AKC Nationals this year, I was lucky enough to run into a former World Team member who gave me the name of two patient and understanding measurers. I later found out one, Tom Slattery, would be our judge at the Hamilton AKC Trial in May. So Merinda and I plotted and decided we'd have both Porter and LaMesa measured at Hamilton. We waited until the very end of the trial on Saturday (and, of course, it went small to tall) and both dogs got their measurement--both at 11". Perfect! However, we then discovered you needed two measurements for a challenge--very similar to getting your permanent card. That night I talked with different people, including a Corgi friend from Colorado, and got more names of good measurers and I decided I'd wait until the right trial to get LaMesa's final measurement.

That ended up coming a lot faster than I expected. While at the Derby City Agility Association trial in Buckner, I mentioned LaMesa's challenge measurement to a couple of friends. Everyone instantly said I should Mary Mullen, a judge who was there competing with her husband, measure LaMesa. I had never heard that she was a good measurer, but after about the tenth person telling me to have Mary do the challenge, I bit the bullet. Mary agreed to measure LaMesa immediately after her jumpers run (which would be tight, since I needed to walk the course for Dally soon after). So I filled out the form, warmed up LaMesa, ran her (which ended up being a train wreck of my poor handling), then met Mary at the table.

It didn't take long for Mary to get LaMesa to relax. She had me step away from LaMesa (which is different from Tom--he had me scratch her under the neck/chin to get her to relax) and she worked away on the wicket. She couldn't believe someone wouldn't take the time to work with my pup to get her to 11"--she was so close! Mary ended up getting her at 10 7/8"--good enough for both of us! And that was it--LaMesa is now officially an 8-inch Regular jumping Vallhund! The relief I felt was massive--this will do so much for her longevity, not to mention help her keep the bars up!

Merinda decided to have Porter done, too, after hearing about the success with LaMesa. Mary ended up getting him close to 10.5"! So now Porter is in 8-inch Regular, 4-inch Preferred! Of course Dally isn't too keen on having her "boyfriend" compete against her in 4-inches, but she'll get over it. Just more competition, right Merinda?

So I was able to run LaMesa in 8-inch regular a week later at the Hoosier Kennel Club trial this past weekend. The AKC rules say that if I had gotten her measurement before our jumpers run, we could have run 8-inches because that measurement is final and is active. But, that's alright.

I'll give a full report on the Hoosier trial later--let's just say the only reason why bars went down for LaMesa was because of timing issues. But, still it's a relief to know she's now at the best height for her!

Here are some tips to do a challenge measurement:

  1. Do some research on measurers. Talk to people at your trials about VMOs and AKC representatives and see about others' experiences with them.
  2. Let the VMO know this is a challenge measurement. They'll want to know why you're doing it, and you can be honest with them. I think honesty is definitely good because then they know the situation and can work with you.
  3. Do not do a challenge measurement at the beginning of the day. If you're able to, wait until the end of the trial, when you've already run your courses and you, your dog, and the VMO are more relaxed and not pressed for time.
  4. Wear your dog out. LaMesa had run two courses, plus I really wore her out for the first measurement by having her run score sheets back and forth with me. You definitely don't want your dog amped up for the measurement!
  5. Listen to the VMO--if they give you tips like scratch your dog's neck/chin or to step away, do so.
  6. Do not bring treats to the table--that just amps up your dog because he's then looking for treats all the time and standing taller.
  7. Work with your dog on the measuring wicket with different people before you do your official measurement--I had friends of all types (male and female) work with me and LaMesa on the table for months.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013