Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Volunteering At Agility Trials"
Blog Action Day

A few days ago I received a request, along with other dog agility blog writers, to make June 28th a blog action day focused on volunteering at agility trials. Many thoughts came to mind about my personal experience with volunteering and what I would write. 

Today, after reading many other blogs that are participating in this blog action day, I realize that what I was planning on writing was not even close to what others were saying. I have read about advantages of volunteering, incentives clubs can give to get more volunteers, and having a appreciative attitude toward the people who volunteer. Yes, I couldn't agree more with all of these discussions. However, I can't seem to get my initial thoughts out of my head of what I wanted to write.

Reflecting back on the past few years of trialing, I can say that I have volunteered, but I am not a consistent volunteer for two reasons.

First, I have a high maintenance dog. It took several years of training with a dog behaviorist to be able to trial without my dog losing his head. This evolves relaxation exercises for my dog, physical exercise between runs, and learning to read my dog's behavior so I can do what I need to do, to relieve his stress.

Second, suffering from chronic migraines for years, getting through an long trial day without getting a migraine hardly ever happens. There seems to be so many migraine triggers at a trial, such as certain weather elements, types of lighting, lack or types of food, how early I had to get up, and the list goes on.  

It is safe to say, that if I am not working with my dog, I am trying to prevent a migraine or get rid of the one I have. When I do volunteer, it is generally at a indoor trial with set-up the day before or after I have completed my runs for the day when I feel well. 

My migraine pill, Maxalt,  really works well getting rid of my migraines, but it can make me dizzy, unfocused and light headed. I have run agility courses many times light headed successfully, and many times not, so I would prefer not to. On rare occasions, food can delay my migraine a few hours. I always try approach first when doing agility.

One day, at a trial, I was sitting down eating a snack because I was starting to get a migraine and a woman that I did not know walks up to me pointing in the direction of one the the trial rings saying, "You need to go volunteer over there". I assumed she got me confused with someone else, so I replied, "I think you have me confused with someone else. I didn't sign up to work right now". 

>She seemed to be irritated at this point and said, "but I need a volunteer and you're doing anything". Not happy with her demeanor at this point, I simply said, "I don't feel well so I'm taking a small break". 

She said, "Well, I'm not moving until you go volunteer". Not wanting to get into it, I just ignored her and continued to eat my snack while she stood there just staring at me. She  stood there a very long time while I ignored her. It was all very strange.

If she would have introduced herself, and said, "if you feel better later will you come find me so I can give you a job?", I would have been made a point to go help her later for being nice. However, since she was so rude, I secretly vowed to never help her. 

I read on some other blogs the suggestion of making the volunteer time not so long and time consuming. I love that idea. Due to the reasons above, making a long time commitment doesn't work for me. For me, being able to give fifteen minutes here and fifteen minutes there, would definitely help me be a more active volunteer.

These are my experiences and thoughts on volunteering at trials. What are yours? 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting To The Bottom Of My Dog's
Start Line Stay, Literally
(Part 1)

Recently, I observed my agility dog break his "sit" start line stay, yelping and looking at his rear end. Yelping at his rear end was nothing new, and neither was breaking the start line stay, but seeing the two behaviors together was new. Could this be a clue?

For the past year and a half, my Doberman Lucas, has been struggling with anal gland issues. These issues have been steadily getting worse. For example, after yelping at his rear end in practice and breaking his start line stay, I took him to the vet to have his anal glands expressed. The anal glands were impacted and his entire rear end was very sore. 

Five days later, Lucas had a sleepless night, standing and pacing. Having not ever seen Lucas act this way before, I was very concerned. Honestly, I thought he had bloat. After taking him to a different vet. for a full evaluation, the prognosis again was impacted anal glands.

Clearly, Lucas' anal gland problem is very painful. So much so that I can not express them myself anymore. All that can be done at this point is to add more fiber to his raw food diet, and regularly get his anal glands expressed. Having the anal glands removed does not seem like a good option at this point, for it could cause fecal incontinence.

Lucas' History With The Start Line
In the beginning (novice level) of Lucas' agility career he did not have a problem with his start line stay. 

Months later (open level), he started to have concerns with the dogs standing behind him, resulting in him breaking the start line stay. He would run around the jump to be with me. After working on this problem, he developed confidence and was holding his start line stay. 

Sometime, after moving up to the Excellent level, his anal gland problem started and his start line stay was off and on. (More off than on)

Wanting to fix this problem, I started implementing the popular start line solutions and games. I religiously walked him off the course in trials and practice if he broke his start line stay. The result, still Lucas was still breaking his start line stay. (We walked off more courses in 2010 than we ran)

My Light Bulb Moment
After watching Lucas break his "sit" start line stay, yelping and looking at his rear end last week, I realized, his anal gland problem and sore rear end, could very likely be a large contributing factor to why Lucas breaks most of his start line stays.

In practice, I have started putting Lucas in a "down" at the start line. So far, Lucas has held a solid down until his release cue is given. Could it be that simple? I think the true test will be in a trial setting.

Look for part two of "Getting To The Bottom Of My Dog's Start Line Stay, Literally" in mid March after our first trial of the year.

Note: Although Lucas' anal gland problem is painful at times, he has not exhibited any pain or discomfort running a course or playing. In fact, he is eager, happy, and energetic during his physical activity.

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Paw It Forward" & Help A Dog In Need

Two ways to "Paw It Forward" for Rommel, a Doberman in need of surgery, who has been diagnosed with Laryngeal Paralysis. Donate through the ChipIn donation site or purchase a "Paw It Forward" shirt, and a $5.00 donation will be made by Much About The Mutt to Rommel.

Laryngeal Paralysis And The Effects
Laryngeal Paralysis (LP), is a disorder in which, the nerves that control the muscles / cartilage that open and close the larynx, do not function properly. In short, this disorder causes difficulty with eating or breathing. LP may become so severe that the dog cannot take in sufficient air, which can become a life-threatening situation. Severe cases of LP can damage the windpipe so badly resulting in a respiratory collapse or even death.

What Causes Laryngeal Paralysis?
The cause of LP is currently unknown. It has been reported that LP is more likely to effect large dogs.

About Rommel the Doberman
Terise Anderson, Rommel's mother, affectionately describes him as, "the perfect gentleman to all creatures", a "big boy with a gentle personality and a huge heart", and "a true Doberman ambassador".

At the age of six, Rommel began his career as a therapy dog, working for Dogs On Call at the VCU Medical Center. Rommel was so important to this program that he even had his own business card. Sadly, his LP disorder now keeps him from being able to visit the sick and do his best work, which is cheering up others.

Rommel's Favorite Toy and Activity: 
Rommel loves stuffed toys, the bigger the better! His favorite activity is walking at the park (dangerous now, because of his Laryngeal Paralysis disorder) and spooning with mom on the couch or bed.

Rommel's Surgery
The good news, is that Rommel's vet feels like he can fix his disorder with a small surgery. The bad news is that it's expensive. Rommel's Mother, Terise, is a nurse who is currently in graduate school full time studying nurse anesthesia. There is not much time to work while in this program, so big expenses are a big problem. Hopefully, the dog-loving community will come together and "chip in" to help offset the cost of the surgery.

There Are Two Ways To Help

Make a donation for Rommel's surgery
through the  donation site, ChipIn.pIn.

Purchase a "Paw It Forward" t-shirt and 
Much About The Mutt will donate $5.00 
of each shirt sale to Rommel's surgery.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

8 Products This Dog Agility Handler Can Not Live Without

Living a little OCD, inherently particular, and believing my agility partner is a high maintenance dog, has resulted in keeping my 8 "Go To Products" that I can not live without, close at hand. 

1. K9 TOP COAT - Arctic Fleece Bodysuit (www.k9topcoat.com)

Product Description: A close-fit, water / snow resistant, Arctic fleece bodysuit for dogs. The 4-way stretch material moves with the dog, is easy to put on and stays in place even when the dog is quite active. Size range from pint size to extra large.

Personal Experience: K9 TOP COAT's customer service was knowledgeable and friendly with selecting the correct size for my Dog. Dobermans, not having an under coat, I purchased this "FULL BODY" coat as a tool in frigid temperatures to assist my Doberman in warming up his muscles before agility class and trials. 

2. Crash Test Toys - Custom Made Tug (website)

Crash Test Toys are Flyball and Agility motivators designed and made by Keith Lundy, near Brockville in Ontario, Canada. With a large variety of tug toys, they will also custom design tugs.

Personal Experience: This is the only training toy that I am able to play tug with my 83 pound Doberman. The custom made "Lucas Tug" is easy to hold on to, with a strong bungee, and quality sheepskin. The circular shape allows me to quickly and easily get a good grip and shift my weight to keep my balance. I have yet to find any other company to offer a combination bungee tug WITH sheepskin.

The owner of Crash Test Toys is friendly, customer service oriented, fast, innovative, and provides very reasonable prices for both pre-made and custom orders.

3. Igloo Gallon Jug (www.igloo-store.com)

Product Description: Compact, easy-to-carry, sturdy water jug, with a wide base that prevents tipping. Features a stain- and odor-resistant liner for easy cleaning.

Personal Experience: Perfect size water bowl for a large dog that won't tip, fits well in a large dog crate, and is easy to carry. I never leave home with Lucas' jug of water.

4. Small Book Bag

Why a small book bag? Rather we're at a trial, class, out-of-town, or off doing other dog sports, I'm prepared to go on a walk to get connected with my dog, provide an activity, or cool down after a run with my grab-n-go book bag. Small, light weight, and pre-packed, I never find myself without what I need for my dog.

My small book bag always contains:

  • Favorite Toy
  • Dog Poop Bags
  • Treats
  • Flexi Leash (for non-crowded areas)
  • Arnica and Rhus Tox
  • Rabies Certificate
  • A little cash
  • Sun glasses
  • Car keys
  • Depending upon the season, I may keep gloves, wind jacket, and a coat for Lucas in the bag.
    (Note: The small book bag is a separate bag from my training bag or my trial bag.)

    5. Large Kong AirDog Squeaker Donut

    Product Description: Air Kong Squeaker Donut is made with nonabrasive tennis ball material that will not wear down dog's teeth. Also features a great squeak that your dog will go crazy for. 100% Pure Tennis Fetch Toy features a nontoxic felt cover and it floats high in the water for your pup's spotting and fetching ease.

    Personal Experience: The Kong Donut Ring is Lucas' ultimate play toy. It is perfect
    for warm up, play, or dock diving. (This is always in the small book bag.)

    6. Premier Easy Walk™ Harness (www.premier.com)

    Product Description: The Easy Walk Harness is designed to gently discourage dogs from pulling while walking on a leash. The unique front-chest leash attachment stops pulling by tightening slightly across the dog's chest and shoulder blades. The gentle pressure steers your dog to the side and redirecting his attention back towards you.

    Personal Experience: Love the harness. Great for those who have A LOT OF DOG.

    7. Dog Foot Care

    • Tuf-Foot - Tuf-Foot's skin toughening properties is ideal for hunting dogs, working dogs, and all other dogs on the move. www.tuffoot.com
    • Firm Grip - Firm Grip is an all-natural rosin spray that can be applied to your dog's pads to improve traction when climbing obstacles, jumping, running on artificial turf. www.doggonegood.com
    • Epsom Salt - Good for soaking bruised paw pads.
    • Musher's Secret - Made from 100% natural waxes, I use this on cracks and dry paws. (Note: Wax stays on paw for a few days. Don't use right before competition.) www.musherssecret.net
    • Tresaderm - Heals torn paw pads quickly. www.us.merial.com
    • Dremel Tool

      8. Handler Care

      • Cleats - Best for training or trialing in mud, wet grass, or sandy surfaces.
      • Insoles
      • The Stick - The Stick warms muscle without expending vital energy stores, performs both general and segmental stretching procedures, removes trigger point barriers to peak athletic performance, enhances strength, flexibility and endurance, and accelerates muscle recovery and relieves pain. (www.thestick.com)
      • LOKI Midi Fleece - The Midi Fleece is ideal for winter layering and this light weight, quick drying 3/4 zip pullover. The fleece pullover comes with a built in face shield, mitts, hood, and large hand pockets. (www.lokiusa.com) DGTA8N3PJFPV