Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why we're not ready for Rally-O...

...But we're probably going to try a competition next weekend, anyway.

Last month Howie & I graduated from our 6-week obedience class with a local training group. This group is oldest-standing AKC affiliated obedience group in Michigan, and they offer affordable training. They offer everything from puppy classes, to obedience classes, to rally, agility, and even therapy dog classes - they're a really great group, and all of their training is by the AKC rules. Howie was the star of the beginner class we attended and quickly learned everything that was taught to us (we still have to work on long stays, but that's another story). I was really proud of him, over-all, and have been with our training since graduation. I knew we still had things to work on, but without some kind of "run through," I didn't know just much.

Last week, I found a dog training facility in Ann Arbor which ran fun meets in Rally-O and Obedience, and this is the same facility which will be holding a C-WAGS and APDT Rally-O and Obedience shows on the weekend of July 4th (which we are aiming for). I got excited, signed up for a Rally run-though (or so I thought) and con another friend into driving out there with me. The site advertised $5 run-throughs - what better way to see how ready we were?

On Wednesday I drive out to Ann Arbor, excited and nervous, but telling myself this is all just for fun. I get out there and set up my crate space, talk to some people, and begin to warm Howie up - putting him through all his paces, working on a few things, and watching other people run through obedience classes. Howie was nowhere near the class that these other dogs were in, but it was fun to watch them. Then, it slowly began to sink in there was no Rally course set up...

So, I asked someone, "What time does the Rally start?"
She seemed confused. "I didn't think we had Rally tonight...

I was told to go check out another building where it might be set up, but the building was empty. I truck back over to the other building, and inquire again. Nothing, no one knew a thing. I was both sad and upset - the website had advertised it, I was certain, otherwise I wouldn't have signed up! Luckily, the owner of the facility was willing to set up a Rally course for us to run through, although our time was limited because there was a puppy class coming in that evening.

I walk the course, trying to remember all that I had read - do the course without your dog, and make sure to do the movement before the sign. This should be easy, I thought, I've been riding dressage my whole horseback riding career, memorizing this course should be a piece of cake! Not so much...Once I went back to get Howie, it was a disaster. I was doing the movements behind the signs, doing right turns instead of lefts, and confusing the hell out of my dog. He was a saint, trying his best to do what I asked, despite the 90-degree day and sweltering humidity. A few times, I asked him to sit-stay, and ran through a sign on my own before trying it with him. Amanda didn't have a much better go at it, and she's an obedience trainer (mostly family/manners).

We left, knowing what we have to work on, and knowing that we're probably not completely ready for the APDT/C-WAGS show on July 3rd/4th, but we'll probably go anyway. The experience will be good, and we'll get to see how it's really done! So, my homework for the next week is work through the exercises we'll see in Level 1. Wish us luck! We'll need it!

(Next post: 2009 Bully Breed Summer Splash Bash - as soon as I get pictures back from Amanda!)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A near-disaster, and traveling

After my post about the foster bunnies, I had a bit of a scare the other day. The same day as the post, actually.

I came home talking to my aunt on my cell phone. I opened the door, and the alarm is going off. Over all this noise in my ears, I hear Howie's exciting whining - this is nothing new, he's normally excited for me to come home. I turn off the alarm, and his whining is louder. I open the door into the kitchen, and a happy pit bull is greeting me at the door.

I had locked him in his crate before I left for work that morning. I remember double-checking all latches (there are 4 because he has a crate with a side door in addition to the front door). Yet, here he was, so happy to have me home. I almost tip-toed through the house, "What did you destroy?" The house looked fine. All the pillows were on the couch, nothing was torn to shreds. "I don't see any poops..." Next, I had to walk into the guest room. I half expected bunny blood to be everywhere.

Howie is not aggressive, like I've mentioned. But he also wants to play with these bunnies so badly, and I am not exactly sure how strong his prey-drive is because I haven't seen this "in action." I do know that he gets far too rambunctious with dogs smaller than he is, and his eagerness to "play" with the rabbits tells me to never leave them alone together and to supervise him when the door to the guest bedroom is open.

So, I tip-toe into the guest bedroom, all the while talking to Howie and my Aunt is on the other end of the line. There was no blood. In fact, there was hardly a mess. Howie had tipped over Panda's cage, thus spilling her bedding, but other than that...nothing. Nothing was torn apart, everything was in his place.

This from the dog with such bad separation anxiety that he's destroyed the plastic venitian blinds in the kitchen (the window with the view to the driveway, next to the door we leave out of), who has shredded Very Important Paperwork from off the dining room table, and left couch pillows strewn about the living room.

I hung up with my Aunt, and got to cleaning the mess Howie had made. Then we headed over to my Aunt's house so we could ride with her to my mother's house for a visit. Which brings me to my next story.

Howie is a good traveling dog. He's not much of a fan of sticking his face out of the window for some air time, though he does like to stick his head out to look around when we're at a stop light. Usually, he's crashed out in the back seat, whichever side of the car has the most sun. In fact, during the whole 5-hour drive from Detroit to Pittsburgh in March, he was sleeping 5 minutes into our trip - we hadn't even left the city limits of Detroit, and he was snoring!

We rode with my Aunt to my parent's house, and she had laid the seats down flat in her Jeep Compass so that Howie had the WHOLE BACK to himself. He thought this was the bees knees! He hunkered right down and stretched out about as long as he could make himself. He did the same during the ride home. I love that I have a great traveling dog!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pit Bull & Bunnies

In addition to raising and training my dog, I am also dabbling in fostering small animals. I currently am fostering the meanest gerbil in the world (TM), and just got in two rabbits to foster while they recover from their spays. "Panda" and "Vanilla" are very sweet and love to cuddle, as long as the big mean dog isn't around.

Howie, on the other hand, thinks these guys should be his new playmates. The bunnies are housed in our guest bedroom where his crate is kept, and we do leave the door open and he is kept in his crate when we are not home - so cohabiting with these rabbits is not much of a problem. Still, when we are home and supervising his free time, he will often wander over to the guest bedroom door, careful not to step over the threshold into the room, and do a bit of whine - either wanting to play with this bunnies as if they were smaller dogs, or eat them. My mind likes to think it's the previous, but I know it's probably the latter, since pit bulls are known to have rather strong prey-drives. They are terriers, after all.

Still, he is practicing amazing self-control, which is a bonus to me. When cuddling on the couch, he will listed to my voice commands of "leave it" or "back," both of which he knows well. Even though we're not always training, manners are expected of my dog, and this has been the ultimate test of his self-control!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Doggy Playtimes

I find it baffling how many people think that they can just bring their dog to the dog park and magically believe that their dog is going to know how to act, and that all the training you have ever given them will magically carry over in this massive, playing group of dogs. The dog park is the one place I don't expect my dog to behave (save for attacking another dog or playing just a little too rough for a 60-pound pit bull vs. 10-pound Boston Terrier wrestling match), simply because he gets too excited and looses his brain. If your dog doesn't loose his brain at a dog park, I commend you for your training and your dog's attention, or I will scoff at you for bringing in a dog far too timid for the dog park. Dog park rules carry over to any situation where you have multiple dogs playing in a confined area.

Yesterday, Howie and I decided to hit up our local Big-Name-Pet-Store for their "Doggie Social." There weren't many dog there - Howie, a sweetheart of an older yellow Labrador named Amy, and a chocolate Labrador puppy named Lincoln. Howie is still young, and forgets how big he is, and so Amy decided Howie was too rambunctious for her, but Lincoln had an attitude I had never seen on a puppy. He was very in-you-face, and aggressive about it, too.

Our "ref" for the session brought out a few balls for the dog to play with, and Howie was content to run around, trying to fit all three tennis balls in his mouth. When he couldn't do that, he'd hold one with his paw while trying to fit in two. Amy was your stereotypical Lab, and would bring the ball over to anyone who would throw it for her. Lincoln, on the other hand, wanted any ball that he didn't have, and would get in either dog's face to get that ball. Several times he snapped at Howie, and a few times got a fold of skin in his mouth.

Howie had finally had a enough of this rambunctious little puppy and pinned him. There were no teeth involved, but the way this puppy was squealing, you would have thought that Howie had him by the throat. A closer look revealed Howie had his paw on Lincoln's chest and his muzzel buried into his neck - but not a tooth touched the dog. Lincoln's owner scooped him up and coddled the dog, baby-talk and all. I removed my pit bull from the situation and we went to sit on the sidelines. Howie was visibly confused about the whole sequence of events. The rest of Howie's play session with these dog was on-leash, since a couple of Westies had joined the group, so I wanted to be able to control his playing with the smaller dogs. At this point there was only about 10 minutes left of playtime.

After everyone had left, the "ref" and I marvelled at the agressive behavior on this tiny puppy. "Like I said," she reiterrated from a previous conversation, "All chocolate Labs are crazy."

Afterwards, Howie and I made the trek to our regular dog park (which we rarely frequent as it is), where the dogs are little more grown and a little more seasoned, but not without it's "stupid pet owners."

Having a pit bull, I realize that he is apt to want to be in the middle of everything. He isn't aggressive, he just wants to be in the middle of it. At one point, a German Shepard attacked another dog, and while the other dog owners stood around and simply watched what was happening, my dog (along with a few others) was booking it from the other side of the dog park to investigate. Luckily, said German Shepard owner knew enough to remove his dog from the park and the other dog left the incident unscathed.

Otherwise, it was an uneventful day at the dog park. My dog running around with the other dogs simply because they were running, and we met several nice people with equally nice dogs. It's also nice to meet people who understand that dogs can get a little rambunctious, and my pit bull is not out to eat your smaller dog - let me remove him and redirect his attention to the Pointer mix running around with a stick rather than coming over to scream at my dog, which will do nothing.

I understand that taking a pit bull to a dog park is risky and we will meet those people with wrong impressions about the breed, but being responsible is a prerequisite for taking your dog to the dog park in the first place. If he were aggressive, I would not even think to take him to the dog park; if an incident happens, I remove my dog immediately. Like I said, a dog is likely to "lose their brain" at the dog park, and so it is the sole responsibility of the owner to realize when to coddle you dog and when to remove or restrain your dog.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Beginning

I neither clever or witty. I am, however, painfully blunt and truthful, and so this blog will chronicle the adventures of Howie the American Pit Bull Terrier and his stereotypical Midwestern partner person in Obedience and Rally.

The Pit Bull
LO How Bizaare "Howie" was born on May 8, 2008 and lived the first 5 months of his life on farm in Lansing, MI. He is a purebred American Pit Bull Terrier, and while both of his parents have full pedigrees, he does not. He has his limited privilege registrations with the UKC, AKC (as an American Staffordshire Terrier), AADR, and the APDT. He does not fit the true breed standards for the UKC or AKC for either breed, and without his papers, he was neutered at the age of about 5 months old. This has resulted in a very, very cuddly, very smart, and very attentive obedience dog.

In addition to Rally & Obedience trials, Howie and I plan to get his Therapy Dog Certification as well as being in training as a Service Dog, on top of summer events and breed advocacy. Summer 2009 will be filled with many adventures!