Tuesday, October 23, 2012

T.A.R.D.I.S., RN

This past Sunday, T.A.R.D.I.S. and I earned his RN title.

This was not quite the run I had hoped for though. While I figured my dog was plenty able to handle it, I had actually sprained my ankle pretty badly the day before while running the Savage Race.

Due to the sprain, and the fact that it hurt pretty bad, I was limping. A lot. T.A.R.D.I.S. was apparently not used to my limping, and not sure how to heel along side me. He wanted to go his normal speed, which caused a lot of tight leashes. I also tripped on him more than once, causing a 'dog interference', and then towards the end, he got agitated with our slow speed in something that is normally fast and upbeat, so he started barking at me.

I was kind of embarrassed at our poor performance, but we still managed a 78. We still qualified. We didn't place, but we got our title ribbon.

As I'm not a die-hard competitor, I'm okay with this. My dog is doing his job.. and maybe next time I'll try not to put him through the ring with me hobbling around.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dogs Don't Live Long Enough

Thunder is very old. He's 13, which is ... old for a German Shepherd. He's very, very arthritic and he has a very hard time moving. He falls - a LOT. Cries to get up, cries to lay down, has to be carried up/down steps and in/out of the car.

He can't walk very far and he limps badly. His rear end just isn't cooperating with him.

But even through it all, he has such a good attitude, which is the problem.

He seems like he hurts so much, but at the same time, he still wags his tail to see us, gives kisses, talks all the time, harasses the cat, and tries to chase people along the fence in his slow, clumsy way.

He has rimadyl and tramadol for pain but they don't seem to be helping him any, as well as a glucosamine supplement twice a day.

He's so old that I don't think there is a lot we can do for him. You can't fix being old. You don't give a hip replacement to a 13 year old dog of his breed - emotionally, sure I'd love to just fix what's broken, but it doesn't seem the right move. That's a hell of a lot to put a dog through at this age.

Basically, I think I'm seeing the end of the tunnel coming up for him. I just don't know what I should do:

Leave him be, since he still seems in good spirits, and hope he passes in his sleep one day, all the while knowing it will slowly get worse and the pain will increase?

Or, do I put a stop to it while he's still happy and before it gets worse?

I don't know if he can hold one a few months or another year. The life span of a GSD is approximately 7-10 years. Hip and elbow displaysia is super common. He's completely deaf.

It seems so unfair to see him hurting, but I hate making that choice for him.

I think that relatively soonish, I'll take him in to the vet anyway to get some x-rays and talk to the vet about it and maybe get an extra opinion. It's just frustrating trying to decide what is right for him, when he can't tell me himself.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Two-Legged Dog

This past weekend was T.A.R.D.I.S.' first go at a Rally Obedience trial.

I have opted to start in Rally because I am the most familiar with it, having done a little with my old girl, Delilah, and my little old man, Cozmo.

Rally Obedience, sometimes just referred to as Rally or Rally-O, is a team sport done with your dog in which you go through a course set up by the judge. The judge simply tells you 'Forward!' and you move out on your own pace, while the judge takes notes based on your performance. You start with 100 points, and you begin losing them for various mistakes - 1 point for a tight leash, or 1 point for an out of position, or 10 points for an incorrect station. You must score 70 or higher to Qualify, and then the top 4 dogs are given placement ribbons. It is also timed, but time is used only as a way to break a tied score.

Unlike Obedience, you are allowed to talk to the dog. You can use multiple commands, praise, encourage them, but you can not touch them or correct them physically. If you yell or seem threatening, you can lose points as well.

I like Rally because it is done at my own pace, and it helps me learn some foundational items that will be used later on in Obedience. At the Novice level, where I am, everything is done on-leash - but at the Advanced and Excellent level, it is done off-leash.

When you receive a qualifying score of 70 or higher, you earn a 'Leg' towards your title. It takes 3 Legs to get a title, but must be earned under at least two different judges. After 3 Legs at the Novice level, your dog will have the Rally Novice (RN) title. Advanced level grants the Rally Advanced (RA), and Excellent grants the Rally Excellent (RE). Once you complete the RE, you can move on towards your Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) - to earn the RAE, you must qualify ten times in both Advanced and Excellent at the same trial.

To enter a Rally trail, you first need to find one! You can use the AKC's website to search for events near you. Once you locate a trial, you'll need to fill out the entry form and mail it in prior to the close of entries. When entering, be sure you send it off with plenty of time - both so your entry gets there on time, and so that you don't overwhelm the Trial Secretary. You will receive a confirmation when your entry is received, and closer to the trial, you'll get a Schedule and your arm band number so you'll know when to be in the ring. I suggest showing up at least an hour before your scheduled time, so you have plenty of time to find a seat (these events are usually very crowded!), and you have plenty of time to take your dog out to do his business, get yourself checked in, and have time to observe the surroundings and watch a few other competitors, and how the judge works.

Dress comfortably when you go in. Make sure you have closed toe shoes that you can potentially jog in for a short distance, and that won't come off your feet. Although I see competitors in all types of dress - everything from a suit to jeans and a t-shirt - it goes without saying that dressing to impress can help. I always try to dress at least business casual for events to show that I am serious, and that I have respect for the judge. You certainly don't have to, but it's what I feel most comfortable doing. That said, I try to make sure my clothes are easy to move in and not restricting - so I go with nice trousers, Converse, and a nice top. Don't wear anything with your dog's name on it, or anything from a club you train with.

I showed up both days about an hour early, and it was CROWDED. On Saturday, the weather was just AWFUL. The rain was so bad we could barely see the road. My husband and I left the house 2 hours early for an hour long drive, knowing it was rain... and we were so grateful we did. When we got there, we had plenty of time to take T.A.R.D.I.S. out as well as dry him off a little bit before his debut in the ring.

After his first run, he scored a 91! I was impressed with him, despite the rain, he performed quite well. We had a few tight leashes, and a few out of positions, but nothing to bad, and nothing we can't improve on.

Here he is with his judge from Saturday, sporting his green qualifying ribbon.

On Sunday, he scored an 86 - but still managed to snag fourth place along with his qualifying ribbon.

I'm proud of him! I admit that I am not the world's best trainer, but I have been working hard with him, and this is a sure sign of success. My goal is simply the green ribbon - as long as we qualify, we did fantastic. Any placements are just icing on the cake!

He currently has two legs towards his RN, and hopefully, we can net the third one at the IPOC trial in October.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fighting The Zoomies

T.A.R.D.I.S. is being trained for Agility. I'm always working on it, and he's constantly enrolled in classes, since he was maybe 8 months old.

He is actually quite good on the equipment - he is pretty fearless for the most part and takes it all with pride. He's fast too - almost... too fast.

So fast in fact, that he finds running to be rewarding.

Now I am by no means a professional trainer - I am always learning new things and trying things to see what works best.

So one of things I've never had to deal with before has come up with this puppy - The Zoomies.

All of my other dogs are very old - and were that way when I got them. Because they were older, they were a bit more 'clingy' and less likely to leave my side, and they didn't move very fast. I've never experienced The Zoomies in my own dog before - although I have seen it in others.

I was always grateful that it wasn't my dog, and usually felt a twinge of embarrassment for the handler.

Now of course, it's my turn to deal with it.

T.A.R.D.I.S. loves to run, and he loves to run fast. When I take him to agility class, he goes with his happy fun tug leash, a bag full of toys, and a squeaky toy.

I made this leash out of fleece, some faux fur, and beautiful Tardis material.

He knows the drill - showing up for agility class is just going to be a fun time, and he's always eager to get started. 

Lately though, he has developed a habit of just running off, and once he gets going it's hard to call him back. And in his new class, he has a favorite dog - a beautiful blue Merle Australian Shepherd dog. When he sees that dog, he can't contain himself - he stays with me for a few obstacles, but usually, decides the Aussie is more fun, and so he darts off.

The past few classes have ended up with him timed out in a crate due to over obsessive Zoomies. In one case he squeezed out of the fence and ran into the other agility class even.

I've found this frustrating. I'm sure that's no surprise. My brilliant puppy who does so well in obedience, and has such lovely off-lead heeling - completely loses his brain in agility class.

After many weeks of frustration, last night we had a mild break through. His favorite dog was not in class. This gave me a better opportunity to work him without that added distraction, and I tried a few new tactics based on a variety of suggestions:
  • I practiced a few obstacles on lead. Like sending him over a jump, then calling him back to me. Or sending him over two jumps, then calling him back. Doing figure eights between jumps. Sending him back and forth through a tunnel. Making him take the teeter 20 times in a row.
  • I never let him look around bored. Every time he was just standing while I was listening to the teacher, I let him play tug with his special tug leash. Every so often, instead of always using food, I sometimes played tug instead.
  • After every few obstacles, I stopped what we were doing, and played random games. Sometimes tug, sometimes fetch, sometimes I gave him a squeaky toy, sometimes a jackpot of food, and sometimes just cuddles. I tried very hard to keep it constantly varied.
At the end of the class we set up our course... and he DID try to dart away from me once - he got nervous of the teeter and thought he'd rather bolt instead. I figure this was a clear case of it being stress related, so when I saw him put his ears back like he was ready to go - I threw his tug in front of him and dragged it back to me, and he chased it and engaged in play instead. After a few tugs, I skipped the teeter and moved to the next set of stuff. He finished the rest of the course with no problem.

It was almost miraculous that we made it, but my little guy did manage to stay with me for the rest of class. I hope next week is met with as much success.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dipping a Toe into Conformation

This past weekend, T.A.R.D.I.S. and I got our feet wet with the UKC Conformation trial at IPOC. I mentioned previously that I am a complete novice at this, and I had no idea what to expect.

Although I tried searching the web for details on what to really expect, I couldn't really what I was looking for. So, I'm attempting to fill that gap with this post. Here's what I learned, what I did, and what I wish I had known ahead of time.

For starters, my breeder has been an amazing, invaluable resource for me. Without her help, I don't know that I could have done as well, never mind the fact that without her, I wouldn't have my dog.

When I had asked her about grooming, she quickly told me to just bring him over to her house. I had no idea what to expect - my definition of grooming meant a bath, brushing, and a nail trim. That was NOT what she had in mind!

To her, grooming involved a bath - getting shampooed twice, with whitening shampoo, a blow dry, hair product and chalking, trimming the hair on his paws, and brushing him. He lost quite a bit of hair in the process! She put in product and chalk for me - with the understanding that I need to brush it out pre-show, to help him stay a little cleaner and fluffier as this was done Friday evening before the shows.

To better illustrate the difference - this is my dog, stacked, pre-grooming:

Handsome boy right here, but....

He's handsome enough, but compare it to this:

Holy cow Batman, where did my puppy go?!

And it's night and day. After my breeder was done wit him, he looked AMAZING - like one of those dogs who you know, win stuff.

If you want my advice - when you're going to show your dog? Learn how to groom them! Let your breeder help you - hence the emphasis on always being sure to select a GOOD breeder who knows her breed. If I had shown T.A.R.D.I.S. looking like the original photo compared to a dog who looked like the second? It should be obvious who would have won!

Once he was groomed, we took him home and were tasked with keeping him clean. Do you know how hard it is to keep a one year old puppy clean? One who wants to roll in fresh mud, and fresh cut grass? Poor guy had to stay on a leash, and was confined to being mostly indoors.

The next morning, I had to be sure to brush him again, deal with any cowlicks, and dust off some of the extra chalk. I showed up early - 8:45 AM for a show that didn't start until 9:30. I wanted to be sure I knew when to go in - I was basing this off what I know for an obedience or rally trial.

Which this was not! When I got there, I checked in, expecting a schedule. Knowing when I should report to ring side. I was given a number, but no schedule. They don't give you one. They put up on a board near each ring the order of groups - like Northern, Companion, Herding, Gun, etc. (I hope you know what group your dog is in, too!)

T.A.R.D.I.S. fell into the herding group both days - so even though day two reversed the order, his group was about the middle, so it was the same place both days.

Then I realized... he was... the only Corgi. The only Corgi. He was going to get first place no matter what he did! With a little bit of relief, I sat down with a group of fellow competitors and my husband and friends, and we chatted - until it was time to get T.A.R.D.I.S. ready. When I saw the group ahead of us moving through their Group - I told my husband to take T.A.R.D.I.S. out to the bathroom. When he came back, I brushed him out again, made sure he didn't have any pee on his undercoat or front paws (I realize this sounds gross. But he is a male dog that is low to the ground, and when he tries to pee, bless him, he sometimes gets it on his underbelly fur, or on the backs of his front paws.), and went to wait ring side for my turn.

I was extremely nervous going in. Although I had a team of friends cheering me on, I couldn't shake my nerves. Lesson to be learned about dogs right here - if you are nervous, your dog is too. Your leash transfers your emotions right into the dog.

We started out okay, although I had trouble gaiting him correctly. I should have practiced more, and I will be sure to do so before the next show. I also need to learn to free-stack him better. Currently, we mostly train for obedience, so his default action is a 'sit'.

The around the ring was okay. The judge checking out his teeth was okay. Although silly looking.

See his pearly whites?

Now, here's something I'll tell you that is a little secret of mine for getting over your nerves.

Imagine the worst thing that can happen to you. Something really embarrassing. Like, say your dog poops in the ring on your first go out.

Because that happened.

It happened and it was mortifying. My nerves transferred down my leash, into my dog, and ... and he pooped in the ring. Now, I've only shown in obedience before, and if you 'go' in the ring, you are automatically NQ'd (Not Qualifying). I almost broke down in tears, because I thought... he's the only dog in the ring, and he still lost!

Fortunately, my breeder was present and she swooped in to help me clean it up, assure me it was okay - and then the judge handed me my dog's leash again, and told me to take him around.

What's this? Still? Yes, still. Going in the ring in Conformation, apparently, does not NQ you.

And since he was the only dog present, he won First Place, Best Male, and Best in Breed! Not bad, right?

Since he took Best in Breed, this also meant he was going to advance to Group. So, repeat the nerves.

I did have to wait until the rest of the herding dogs showed, so that the Best in Breed could be determined for each one, and then each Best in Breed would be put together in Group. There were several dogs in our Group (I did not actually count them... I was nervous), and I was a nervous wreck showing him against other dogs.

So imagine my surprise when the judge flagged me as Third Place!

Happy boy with his Day 1 ribbons!

The second run of the day was similar - we took the exact same ribbons and got two of everything. Since we placed in group, I splurged and got us a professional photo, too.

One proud Corgi.

After the second run of the day, we left to go home and rest - but I still had to be sure I kept him clean for day two. Day two started out much like day one - however I learned another difference between Obedience and Conformation.

In Conformation? Keep your arm band! In Obedience,  you get a new band each day - but here, we were expected to hold onto it. I wish I had known this, as I ditched mine at the end of day one. They had to hand-write me one for day two.

On day two, he took the same placements in Breed as he was again the only Corgi - but this time he didn't place in Group. I suspect this had much more to do with my ability as a handler, as I could not figure out how to gait him correctly for the life of me. Although at one point, a judge had a moment where she seemed to struggle between selecting him for Fourth Place, or another dog, but she decided to go with the other dog. Oh well!

Day two's ribbons.

Overall, he came out of this with 4 first place ribbons, 4 Best Male, 4 Best of Breed, and 2 Group 3 ribbons. I'd say for a novice handler and dog, that isn't a bad haul.


In summation, I feel like I learned a lot from this experience. I'm compiling a short list for you all here at the end, things I'd wish I'd known ahead of time. Things you can remember going forward:
  • The embarrassing things that could happen aren't really that bad.
  • Listen to your friends.
  • Listen to your judge.
  • Listen to your breeder.
  • Show up early, and watch the pattern the judge wants you to use.
  • If the judge says No Bait, don't bring in bait.
  • If you can bring bait, don't throw it.
  • Dress to win. If you have a black dog, don't wear black pants. Don't think you can hide flaws by dressing to match your dog - the judges are aware of these tricks, and it may cause them to look extra closely at you.
  • Your dog is the best dog in the ring. Act like it, and show him like the champion s/he already is.
  • Not placing does not mean your dog isn't good enough.
  • Be a good sport. Do not be upset if you do not place, and congratulate the winner. It may be you one day!
  • Don't be a jerk to your competitors by intentionally trying to distract their dog. Do what you need to do keep your dog on you, but some of them might be just starting out too. How would you feel if you've nicely stacked your dog and while the judge is looking at him, a competitor starts squeaking a toy? I know not everyone plays fair - but you can only be in control of your own actions. Rise above it, play fair.
  • Get a photo.
  • Pay attention to your environment. Your dog may be a saint, but not everyone's is. While waiting to go into the ring at one point, a doberman started staring down T.A.R.D.I.S. hard and growling. If I wasn't observant, it could have escalated quickly. Rather than picking a fight with the owner and demanding he remove his dog, I simply moved further away to give the dog more space to avoid confrontation between the two animals and made a point to be aware of it the rest of the day. It's not worth the potential injury to my dog should something happen.
  • Above all, enjoy working your dog! Showing your dog and being involved with them will increase your bond in the long term. Talking with other people can help you make friends who are involved in dog sports too.
  • Dogs are awesome, duh.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Taking the Plunge

T.A.R.D.I.S.' breeder recently contacted me, highlighting an upcoming UKC Conformation event. She urged me to consider entering him - he is just now over a year old, and I have yet to show him, after all.

I'm a little hesitant - while I've been in several classes to learn how to show in Conformation, I don't feel that I'm really ready. I don't doubt my dog, I don't think anything could phase him - but I've turned into a nervous nellie.

For starters, he is registered with AKC, not UKC. However, the UKC is kind enough to allow me to use a Temporary Listing number to put him in the show, and afterwards, I can register him fully and keep the points that he earns towards his title.

Now again, I've mentioned I'm a complete novice at this right now. However, T.A.R.D.I.S. has matured wonderfully. He really is a gorgeous dog, and I full admit that I am possibly a little bias in this evaluation.

Being that I am fairly new to the event - the first thing I decided to was to contact the secretary of the event and ask questions - and to help any other future competitors, I thought I'd share them with you.

  1. Who should handle him? I wasn't sure if I should use a professional handler, if the breeder should handle him, or if I could get a Junior handler. I learned by asking that first of all, Professional Handlers are not allowed in this event. My options would then be myself, a fellow competitor, or possibly a Junior handler. While she gave me several options, she also stressed that I should consider showing him myself. The UKC encourages owner-handlers as much as possible, and that showing your dog and helping them perform can help build your bond. I loved the answer she provided - and I am considering having someone else show him the first time so that I can observe, and then show him myself for the other three events.
  2. How should I dress? I have looked up several videos of conformation on YouTube and I have seen various styles of dress. I was told that I should dress to impress the judge. Wearing colors like blue can help put the idea that you want first place, however I should take care not to distract the judge from my dog. T.A.R.D.I.S. is primarily black and white, so she suggested not wearing either black or white pants, to avoid him being hidden or 'disapearing' into my clothing. She also said to keep that in mind for a shirt as well, as corgis will be placed on the table. She mentioned to me that while people may dress as they feel comfortable, a business casual attire is probably a best recommendation, along with flat, comfortable shoes.
  3. What kind of lead should the dog wear? I have been in classes and I've seen various things being used, but I wanted to know what is really appropriate. Between the secretary and my breeder, I have learned that I should look for a small, thin slip lead or leather lead, and I can borrow one from my breeder until I choose to get my own. She also warned that prongs are not allowed in the ring, but I don't use one on T.A.R.D.I.S. so I have no issues here.
  4. Should I have him professionally groomed, or can I do this myself? This question, varies greatly on breed. If I had, say, a poodle, I may want to have him professionally groomed unless I am experienced in working with that type of hair. Since T.A.R.D.I.S. is a corgi, he won't require much more than a bath, a good brushing, nail trip and making sure his ears are clean. My breeder has offered to help me prep him for the show so I know exactly what needs to be done for future events.

I would also like to point out that my breeder has been absolutely invaluable as a resource, and is everything I could have hoped for. She has helped me in training, ensuring that I am familiar with the breed and what to expect, and helping me prepare for showing him. She has been helpful in determining at which point a puppy tooth should be pulled, and continues to encourage me to further our own education and abilities.

I'm forever grateful to her for this wonderful dog, and all of the information she provides.

I hope someone else can find this information helpful, if you're just getting started. I haven't done this before, but it seems like so far, the UKC is a much more laid back environment, which may be the key to getting your feet wet in showing dogs in Conformation. I'll continue to share my experiences as I move forward in training and showing this wonderful little dog.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


T.A.R.D.I.S. earned his first title on February 28th, at 7 months old.

He finished his Basic Obediennce Class from IPOC with flying colors, and we happily marched over to take the test. The Canine Good Citizen designation is given by the AKC to dogs who complete a series of 10 tests.

I find this test incredibly important as I would like to continue performing Therapy Dog work with him, as I had with my Delilah and my other boys, before they became just too old to keep performing - and it's the first step for me in his showing career.

The CGC program started in 1989, the CGC Program is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs. All dogs who pass the 10-step CGC test may receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club. There are a few other benefits too - your homeowner's insurance is more likely to work with you, some hotels will allow you to keep the dog there or potentially wave the pet fee, and it's listed as your dog's first title.

I have put the CGC designation on all of the dogs I own, and will continue to do so. Whether they keep showing or not, the CGC will always follow my dogs name - it's the first step to making sure your dog is a friendly member of society.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shenanigan's Don't Blink - T.A.R.D.I.S.

On July 1st, 2011 - a litter of Pembroke Welsh Corgis was born.

1 Day old puppies:

19 Days old - I began falling in love with this pup just with every new photo posted.

Month old

1.5 weeks

Almost 2 months

8 Weeks to the Day:

14 Weeks

Though I had planned on getting a puppy from this exact future, I wasn't sure now was the time. He comes from a good background, wonderful dogs, I have met several other dogs from this breeder and have always been pleased.

But my husband was gone - he had left to Basic Training. Should I really get this dog without him? I had recently lost my Dane. I still had my boys, Thunder and Cozmo, but after years of living with my husband and all three of my dogs my house suddenly felt so empty.

Sometimes, the right dog comes along. I wasn't sure it was the right time. I kept telling myself I should wait.

This puppy was the right puppy. Everything about him is right. His personality is perfect. He is bubbly, affectionate, and a cuddle monster like you wouldn't believe. He is intelligent, learns fast, and has been a joy to have around. I brought him home in October, and he is now just a little over 7 months old.

His name is T.A.R.D.I.S. He's my buddy. We're training hard and learning a lot together. He will be taking his CGC test on Tuesday. He will be starting to learn about Flyball next week, and Agility the week after, and he will begin showing up for Rally classes as well. Together, we're going to take on the world!

He is my first corgi, and although I haven't had a puppy in over a decade - he has been an exceptionally easy puppy.

Well, either that, or all the classes I've been instructing on raising puppies have made it seem that way!