Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Journey Comes to a Bittersweet End

We were informed yesterday that Sierra has been released from the Dogs With Wings program. They feel she shows too much aggression towards other dogs, and are unwilling to take a chance on her. We've known for a couple of weeks now that she was very likely to be dropped, but the final reason came as a bit of a shock. Sierra, from the first day we had her, was infatuated with other dogs. She just loves them, and at least when she was younger assumed that all dogs loved her. There are some that don't of course, and she has the scars to prove it. This love of other dogs made her a big challenge to handle in the off leash area when she was younger, and in general much harder to train when there are other dog distractions. It was nearly impossible to get her away from dogs that did not chase her away. Fortunately she grew out of that, and learned to be cautious with the dogs that did not like to play. She now is a treat to take for a run and a swim in the off leash. There is no such thing as quit when it comes to retrieving especially from the water. She will even retrieve when dogs that do not like the water take her stick once she gets to shore. Her dog social skills have also matured such that we have never had any sign of aggression with dogs we meet at the off leash. She now knows when to roll over, and has taken quite a few bites without responding back.

While she does not show true aggression to other dogs as I would define it, she certainly has since her first day with us, shown that she will engage in rough play with dogs of a similar age and temperament. We saw this the first time at the Christmas party last year. While she has improved quite a bit since then, she still likes to play rough with the cooperative dogs, which in particular are her female siblings. So unfortunately for her, the DWW environment, where there are like dogs, restricted room to run and engage in more normal play, brings out her worst. While I'm convinced this is a puppy thing (Sierra is 10 months) that she will grow out of, I can't guarantee that. It also would seem that this peculiar kind of environment is unlikely to be experienced by a dog actually in service.

Enough with the "bitter". Sierra has been offered to us, and we have gladly accepted. While I am a hunter and believe in eating what you shoot (except for gophers!), I'm not very fond of ducks or geese. So, not sure Sierra will ever get to practice her water retrieving skills for real! We do love taking her to the off leash and getting some exercise for ourselves too. The drop in Agility fun sessions are also likely to be repeated. She is a pleasure to have around the house, and helps Jeanine with the laundry, and does her daily paper delivery. Sierra has to be on the same level of our house as me, and goes up and down the stairs exactly the same number of times as I do. Jeanine is scheduled for two hip replacements over the next six months, so Sierra's help is much appreciated by all. We all welcome the loss of a few DWW rules. Sierra had no objections to giving up the Halti yesterday. Mel let Sierra sleep on her bed last night, but I think after 30 minutes, they both concluded the idea was not as good it first seemed, and she was back on the floor (Sierra that is)!

DWW also graciously offered us one of the future puppies, but frankly we are somewhat burned out for the time being, and that offer will remain in rain check status for now. So we may not see any of you other DWW folk for some time. It was fun for the short time it lasted.

Take care,

Ron and Mel

Monday, July 13, 2009

Agility Meetup Session

We took Sierra to The Edmonton Dog Agility Meetup drop in session on Sunday, July 12. It was absolutely excellent. The facilities were just great, and combined with the outdoor setting, a good challenge for Sierra. Jozie and Rita organize the sessions and were very helpful in getting us started and provided tips on how to get the dogs into it, and around the course. There were two courses set up, and some additional equipment to try when it was free. We quickly got to the point where we needed to give Sierra some rest time to recover. Sierra has done a bit of this at Waggin' Tails, but overall there was much more to do here. The tunnel with a chute kind of worried me at first. However, Sierra only needed encouragement the first time through, and after that she never looked back and just barreled through. The dog walk ramps were quite high, and unnerved Sierra a bit the first time. After that she was fine with it too. There are some videos and slide shows below. A fun event that I could recommend to other puppy raisers. This first video is the longer course with Sierra on leash.

Here is one of Sierra's better runs on the short course while also on leash.

This is a video of Sierra on the longer course with the leash dragging. It was probably her best run of the day, except for a double back on the tunnel at the end. Every once in a while she remembers the treats in the tunnel at Waggin' Tails, and has to check to see if she missed them. Up until then she had done many good runs through the tunnel.

This is a video of Sierra on the long course without a leash. We had a little trouble with the weave poles in the beginning, but on a retry Sierra did probably her best with them. She now seems to be listening to left and right, which we use all the time on the street in jacket. This run did not end so well. Think she was getting tired. We knew it was time to quit when she laid down in the shade about half way through the course!!

Overall I was quite impressed with Sierra's performance on these courses. She made significant progress in the time we were there. It is a good controlled situation where you can practice obedience with other dogs and an outdoor environment for distractions.