Monday, May 31, 2010

Many Firsts In Kentucky

Melissa had many firsts in Kentucky...not first place ribbons, but first time experiences.

1) First time to spend a week in a hotel.......previously our longest stay was 3 days. I took along favorite toys to keep her interest and surprised her with a few new ones. Along with walking many many miles during the week, meeting new people and seeing new sights, Melissa was kept well occupied.

2) First time to hear music radiating through ballroom speakers as Borzoi Club of America Regional Director Ron Williams sang the National Anthem each morning. She lay at my feet as we all stood, I tossed treats between her elbows to help her stay in the down position...and in hopes of keeping her from joining in with Ron.

3) First time to ride an elevator..... well sort of. She did ride in an elevator when she was 10 weeks old, but she was in my arms. At 80 plus pounds that was not going to be repeated this time. We had the option of stairs, but if you have been reading about Melissa's adventures for the past 7 months you now know that I take every opportunity to expose Melissa to something new and different. All in preparation for her future work as a pet therapy dog as well as being a life long family companion who will be comfortable everyplace she goes. I wonder what dogs must think....enter a small room from one large room and exit into a totally different room. Plus elevators can make your stomach flip-flop. I made sure I had lots of treats.....I fed one treat after another as the elevator ascended, making a pleasant association to the possible flip-flop of her stomach. Melissa never took notice of the elevator moving. She just kept eating the treats. She exited onto a different floor and resumed life as usual.

4) First time to show on ballroom carpeting. I practiced the day before so Melissa would be accustomed to the feel and the visual pattern. Some dogs like to jump over the geometric designs. I liked running on it, smoother then some grassy rings. Melissa didn't seem to notice, she showed very well and placed second in both of her classes.

5) First time sharing ice cream. On our last night in Kentucky, my friend Margie and I walked to the ice cream store close to the hotel. The dogs, of course, accompanied us. A sundae for Margie, a sundae for me and a dish of vanilla for the dogs. We found a place in the shade and ate. Lab Lucy ate in Lab fashion, she took chunks of ice cream from the dish. Melissa is a good eater, I like watching her eat. She enjoys all food. Ice cream was added to her list. She licked daintily, never gulping. And if I may do a little anthropomorphizing, the look on her face was of pure enjoyment. More ice cream is in her future!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Melissa's First Dog Shows

The drive was about 4 hours, near Trenton New Jersey. The site was acres and acres of freshly cut grass in Mercer County Park. My friend Barbara and I, Melissa and Caedi Barbara's Pembroke Corgi left home at 6 in the morning. I felt Melissa was prepared. She was well socialized, she had met countless people and dogs, sights and sounds in her first 8 months of life. We had practiced standing still while people touched her head, her body, her tail, and looked into her mouth.

She handled the day fairly well. She stood still for exam. The first time she moved around the ring she did not have her usual up beat attitude. The one thing she was a bit hesitant about were the other Borzoi! She lives with Borzoi but the sight of others was new to her. She saw a Golden on the show grounds...and eagerly wanted to go greet. She saw a Beagle and a Terrier. Same response. Play bow from a distance, an invitation to greet. But she was hesitant to walk past other Borzoi.

Barbara assisted by walking with Caedi Corgi along side of Melissa and myself. That helped tremendously. Caedi and Melissa hike and swim together. Caedi was a source of familiarity for Melissa. Un-scientifically I would say Caedi was a source of comfort for Melissa. Where Caedi went, Melissa followed. By the end of the day Melissa was walking past other Borzoi with no hesitancy. Playing with Fionn, a large male Borzoi seemed the turning point: other Borzoi would play and were no cause for worry. Melissa's last time in the ring for that day found her totally focused on me and able to do a few skills such as targeting to my hand while in the ring.

The second show, two days later, the same show site found Melissa greeting other Borzoi. Caedi was not with us this trip but my friend Dave walked with me and Melissa up to the ring just to give us a barrier so no dog unintentionally would overwhelm Melissa. As much as she plays rough and tumble games with dogs she is familiar with, she is a soft dog. She is appropriate when meeting other dogs, doing all the right canine moves to show she means no harm. Some dogs greet more openly, they come closer, don't wait for an invitation to play, they just assume everyone wants to play with them now. I know those personalities, I live with one and it is not Melissa! Melissa now understands that one dog's play style, but is still learning that other dogs and breeds can play in similar fashion. Some of the Borzoi at the show paid absolutely no attention to Melissa, but still she wanted to give them space until she had more experience being close by.

Life is not perfect and our dogs sometimes have to face some unfamiliar circumstances that may cause hesitancy. I did not force Melissa to do anything, no need to pull on her lead. I let her proceed at her comfort level. I made sure she walked a comfortable distance from other Borzoi until she showed me she was ready to walk closer. Melissa had time in her crate away from the show scene so she could rest during the long days. She is used to the car and her crate, so they are both comfortable for her, she could relax. I also found ways for Melissa to associate the show scene with fun. We played games a distance away from the show rings. We found an empty ring to play near. We gradually got closer to the crowd, Melissa continued to play and be relaxed.

And I found Borzoi who played with Melissa and helped her be comfortable in the show setting. She met her first Irish Wolfhound, Jack.

Did she end up with grass stains on her hocks from leaping and jumping with Fionn, Doro and Jack? Grass stains I did not notice until another appearance in the ring? Oops....
Not sure if the judge noticed, but a little grass stain was worth the fun time Melissa had playing with some new dog friends. I set the tone not only for future shows, but for new scenarios during her lifetime. Whether it be different dogs, different looking people, slippery floors, wobbling agility equipment, or uneven surfaces while hiking I want a dog who is willing to explore and try new things.

By the time we spent a week in Kentucky for the Borzoi National, Melissa was well seasoned around other Borzoi. We walked with other Borzoi nearly every morning and evening. Melissa lay ringside and watched the other dogs show. She was comfortable with dogs in front of her and behind her while she stood or moved around the show ring.

The month of May has been full of learning opportunities in Melissa's life long chapter on new experiences. This summer we will be taking some rally classes, and preparing to take the pet therapy certification test this Fall. And of course, lots of time for hiking and swimming!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back home......

We've had a few busy weekends of traveling for Melissa's first dog shows. Sunday was a long day of travel, 778 miles to be exact, from Fort Mitchell Kentucky back home. We were away for the Borzoi National Specialty which is a week long event. I scheduled a 'light' work schedule for a day or two after we returned home so I could take Melissa for some hard core exercise.

I am a fanatic about getting my dogs exercised, and although we powered walked miles every day in Kentucky we still had two days of travel on either end of the trip, along with hotel time. During our stay we did a bit of training, we played some mental games, socialized with other dogs and people, and showed twice in the ring, but Melissa did not have any opportunity to run off lead.

Due to the excessive heat upon arriving home, temps in the 90s, we opted to go to the lake for a long awaited opportunity to run and swim...aerobic exercise!

My friend Lessa had camera in hand and took photos of all the dogs playing in the great outdoors. Buster enjoyed rolling in the sand. Melissa found a dead snake. Melissa discovered the art of blowing bubbles in the water. They ran, swam, leaped and carried bumpers. I hope you enjoy the photos of dogs just being dogs.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mud Puppy

Life for Melissa has not been all about preparing for shows. Melissa still has had lots of opportunity to be a dog...sometimes a very muddy dog.

She started an affinity for mud when she was just a little puppy, about 3 months of age. She first watched while her friend Kodi put his feet in muddy water.

She moved quickly to getting her feet muddy and then her entire body.

Winter came and with it snow, no mud for Melissa for a few months. But as soon as the ground thawed she resumed her love affair with mud. Sometimes she combines it with green slime.

Sometimes it is fun to share with a friend.

Then play in the old corn field to dry off.

Making her way up and over piles of dirt is another 'must do' event while out hiking.

I am not sure what it is about the mud. But lately it seems that Melissa is covered in lots of it. No need to worry, a bath in coconut shampoo and all will be clean......

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Much Exercise?

In order for our dogs to develop properly, they must be able to run full out, twist and turn until they are tired. Running free in a fenced area is best for puppies. See my Vacation blog written in February.

Now that Melissa is preparing for shows, just how much exercise should she have? I think of our dogs as athletes, we should prepare them for a performance event with conditioning of muscling in mind. Melissa has had months of running in fields, thru snow, thru meadows, and most recently swimming. No forced exercise for a young dog, there is time to road work her in another year or so. Getting a dog into good hard muscle does not happen overnight, nor in a few days. It is developed gradually, preferably starting when they are a pup.

Melissa has had plenty to chase and be chased and be pushed just that little extra by playing with appropriate dog friends. Those friends who race thru the fields with her, playing 'tag' until they come back with their tongues hanging out. It is good for our dogs to push that extra bit....they get tired, it builds and maintains muscle. They stop when they get tired. It is important the dogs are well matched as to size and stamina. The idea is to push that little extra during play to get a good work out while keeping it fun for all dogs involved.

A day or two before any future performance event, whether it be the show ring, obedience or agility, I will let Melissa have moderate exercise. She will go on a hike with some more of her sedate friends. For slow romps, brisk walks, and some swimming. Along with some games of tug and fetch with me in the woods behind the barn, she will maintain condition. I tend to be conservative, and don't want to take the chance of a pulled muscle by having Melissa play extra hard thru the fields a day or two before an event. Granted anything can happen, but like an athlete, the day or two before an event will be more for maintenance then a full work-out.

About a half hour before she enters the show ring I will give her a massage and allow her to move around on lead to loosen up. May is a busy month....details about the shows will be posted soon.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Trimming those fuzzy ears.....

Borzoi are a breed that requires little trimming for the show ring. A little stray hair around each foot, a few hairs around the tuck-up, and....those fuzzy ears. It's not necessary to trim anything for the show ring, but it does make for an prettier outline on head and body.

Melissa has LOTS of puppy curls, so many curls that her ears were hidden. I figured those fuzzy ears would look better if I trimmed a bit with thinning shears. For months Melissa has been learning how to stay still while I, and others, touch her body, looking inside her mouth,at her teeth, touching her ears, her neck her rib cage and her tail.

The actually trimming of the hair around her ears took several two to three minute training sessions.

I first reviewed holding her muzzle. She got to chew on yummy treats as I held her muzzle gently.

She sniffed the scissors and looked them over. Then, holding them away from her, I made a few snips in the air while she nibbled a treat from my other hand. At each of these steps Melissa got a yummy treat in order to make a pleasant association with the sight and sound of the scissors.

Then....the first snip, and another and another. Melissa chewed on more yummy treats as I took tiny amounts of stray hair from around her ears.

With a toss of her head, Melissa basks in the sun showing off her new look.

Looking less fuzzy around the ears and so mature! A bath and blow dry the day before the show and she will be ready to enter the ring. A big thank you to my husband Paul for the grooming photos, and to Lessa Shear for the other photos. It takes patience to photograph a puppy who stays still for only short periods of time.