Sunday, August 29, 2010

Catch Up

Long time no blog... in chief it's because it's been busy. Which is a nice term for "more complicated than I have energy and wherewithall to sit and put into words by the end of the day when I finally have time"! LOL But I did actually write much of it down the other day, so I'm going to pinch some.

Earlier this year Laurent has been diagnosed with a proprioception sensory integration disorder and we've been working on this and the behavioural difficulties we'd been seeing with an occupational therapist and psychologist team. Basically proprioception has to do with the input gained from your muscles and joints. He is under responsive and as a result, rather than the information his senses provide integrating into one useful world picture, all that unorganized sensory input creates a traffic jam in his brain making it difficult to pay attention and learn while also causing him to seek out that missing sensory input. Sensory seeking behaviour for him typically comes in the form of wanting to hang off things, climb, crash, push, jump, fidget, pinch, twist, fiddle and be overly physical with objects etc. In hindsight it explains so many of the things we'd just chalked up to being individual quirks about him!

A 'side effect' of this under responsiveness is that he is also largely insensitive to pain. Consequently, where most people learn that things that hurt are to be avoided, he hardly notices tends to hurt himself fairly often. Even when he was a baby he'd face plant and just giggle or bang his head on the floor and only be annoyed by it. It takes something fairly painful for him to feel it strong enough to register as 'hurts'. It also means his idea of what feels like normal, moderated amount of strength to him when he's playing with a toy is actually rather hard and he tends to rough on his toys and always engaging in a very physical manner seeking that sensory input. Some of it is minor but upsetting to him, while some of it can be much more annoying to us who have to fix or replace things if they break.

His OT is fabulous and has provided a number of immediate and practical tools and therapies that are designed to integrate all the sensory input into the brain and enable his days to go smoother. But we were all quite concerned he doesn't seem to learn from the experiences and has difficulty incorporating what he knows into self regulation to the degree an average 4-5 year old can. While he is very bright (actually has tested quite high) and is keenly interested in a wide range of things his psychologist and I feel his brain is processing, recalling, linking and utilizing the information it encounters in a somewhat atypical manner. Put together with his intelligence, confidence that he can carry out his plans and tendancy to pick his opportunities with impressive skill daily life is full on. When we've had our appointments done in home, they've all observed you can explain something to him in very clear and age appropriate manner, with explanations of why, what to do instead, what could happen if he does it and what action will follow it. This is followed through consistently and fairly, with discussion afterwards. In the case of things he's done before, he also recalls how it felt physically and/or emotionally, how it affected others, recalls if he didn't like that and would like to avoid it again as well. Even doing "all the right things" though, it can make little difference! He demonstrates understanding of all individual bits but he doesn't seem to be able to link it up to come to the conclusion he needs to.

So now we're involved in the headache of trying to access further assessments and services for him, which are entangled with a plethora of bureaucratic red-tape and nonsense which is both stressful, confusing and emotional. In the meantime our good days are gold- he is a funny, sunny little boy who loves his sister and is better with her than many kids I've seen are with their siblings, adores dogs and cats and would desperately love to play Flyball with Hope, wants to go to 'clicker class' with me, loves to garden and especially finding worms to watch or worm holes in the soil, is completely obsessed with food/cooking and all things cheffing, art - especially painting and experimenting with different sorts of paints, clay work and adores anything which lets him run, jump, bounce, crash, flip or otherwise act like he needs to run away to the circus! Bad days... well, we won't go there! We just try to get through them and remember that as bad as they can be there are people out there who have far more to cope with with far less resources so we really are quite lucky especially in light of the number of people I know of directly and indirectly who are seriously ill or who have lost their lives or loved ones lately.

In more cheerful and less serious news Miss Hopie will start competing in Flyball before very long and have several comps around Victoria this year and into next! We're very excited and can't wait! Here's a video of our recent practice, the order of run is Sam (black/white BC), Hope, Quiche (yellow/white BC)

It's also looking like our foster kitty Emi FINALLY has a new home at long last and fingers crossed she will go to her new home on 12 Sept! After 8 months I'm so pleased to see her get her 'happily ever after' and see the faith we had that there WAS the perfect home out there for her somewhere rewarded!

I also decided to be brave and enter Hopie in our first real trials (the PT title, HIC and such being 'test levels' vs open trialing) in Started A course on sheep. I knew she could handle it but I have still got heaps to learn, so the real question was if I could handle well enough. The weather conditions meant that mud was about calf-deep and footing was very difficult to maintain for everyone involved. The result was that we made the first pass, albeit it was not a terribly impressive run given I cut short on the 4th post and I didn't do so well on the center-line gate because of it - poorly lined up! The second run went a lot better and would have been about a 80 except I bodged the Z chute the first go and it took me time to recover enough to get them through - poor Hopie! We had an absolute blast though and it gave me a lot of ideas of what I want to practice as I can't wait to enter again for next time!

We've also had our lovely (and admittedly my favorite) ewe Star become ill for reasons the vet couldn't pinpoint as the symptoms were pretty nondescript. She had a mild fever, some scours, wouldn't rise and if lifted to her legs would wobble and fall. Despite his giving us antibiotics and goodies to help bolter her she didn't make it and I'm now bottlefeeding Timtam.

Random last but not least is Cinna - she's discovered that if I've gotten up the bed is still warrrrrrmmm and makes a cozy spot! Don't know what I'd do without my bunnahs!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why it's useful to have a sense of humor when you own a BC

Dear Rin-Dog-Who-Thinks-She's-A-Cat,

If I find it objectionable to have you on my counters I most CERTAINLY do not want to walk by and find you:
1.) perched neatly on the tray of the highchair so you can gaze out the window - beyond the fact you shouldn't be there at all, you're going to tip it!
2.) pulling books off the bookshelf to nap there - especially four shelves up - it's just WEIRD or
3.) on the chest drinking out of the fish tank - that's there for the FISH and you have a perfectly good water bowl.

I'd forgotten just how quirky and smile inducing teenage BC's were with their creative thinking processes I think! ;p

The good news is that the counter surfing business is almost gone. She is occasionally checking (and even that is not as often) but not jumping, does a very nice unprompted "mother may I?" down if she wants something and waits in place.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Herding lesson :)

They went fairly well and got some good advice. (I could so have done without having to do it with an ear infection, wingey 16 month old and sniffly videographer-who-didn't-video however!)

The things that had been concerning me with Hope's work is that she can do a nice job but also can be a bit sloppy in coming on too fast, can buzz in if she's frustrated with me, tends to rely on me giving direction with the staff where I want to get her doing it more automatically. My main frustration in working with her though is that she is so sensitive to pressure that little things feel big to her, so I tend to find working with that difficult because I'm used to average to slightly bull-headed dogs.

At any rate she had us go out and give an example of where we were at the moment and then gave some suggestions and exercises to try. The main positives she picked to mention were Hope's had the basic stuff pretty well, found/maintained point of balance and covered them fairly nicely, was willing to work out a fair bit at times (20 feet or so), listened to me ask her to walk up, steady her speed and such. When I used the suggestions of how to modify my movements for her she responded well to that also and was working smoother.

The bits we need to work on:
* long term softening the pressure picture for Hope because she is such a sensitive girl
* Too remember not to ask for too much, too soon on too high of criteria. Bad handler has been lumping stuff together in great fat gobs instead of splitting. Need to separate shape, then directions, then tricky situations, all in gradually increasing difficulty.

This was highlighted when we came to a point where the sheep were in a corner of the fence she was a bit unsure and I had to get in quite close to the sheep and encourage to get her to come in and lift them off. It felt like my timing was too slow as well in when I moved back to open space for them to move in, in response to her turning to engage.

Likewise when she got frustrated with a poorly given signal at one point she cut in on flanks. It's not something she knows, so it's not fair asking quite so much at this juncture.

The other real useful bit was to do with pressure pictures (from the dogs pov) and when to give slack. She was giving a nice shape and started to go bye when I'd wanted her to go away, so I blocked and then when she didn't respond followed it up. That was enough to hurt Hope's feelings. So Trudy figured that because she's so soft, I need to maybe give her more time to think about things and take her own initiative to correct rather than take it as a refusal (this is absolutely correct...) instead of being so quick to follow up. (Also spot on, bad me!) She figured the block alone would have been enough and the tap was too strong (yep) for how soft she is, albeit it'd have been not much for the average dog. (In fact far stronger barely merited a "huh? you were talking to me?" from Rin later on. LOL) But moreover, at this point, I created a problem that I didn't have to by insisting she go the way I wanted, especially given she doesn't know directional flanking commands, and I would have probably done better by letting her go in the direction she'd already started toward and then caught her next time for a turn before she committed to a choice. Instead I wasted a lot of time trying to tell her sorry for hurting her feelings and getting her back on board. That would also go to the 'one criteria worked on/taught at a time' thing. I also reckon the directional flanking commands when I teach them because they involve the -R pressure of the staff, would be good for Hope as an individual to be taught with the combo of -R/+R on dry runs like a giant reverse target wand.

Another thing with Hope was the staff I had was a dressage crop thingie with a small bit of contrasting coloured plastic that flared on the end. She'd asked how Hope would go with it and I said I wasn't sure as she is sensitive and we've only used a plain rod (best response) or old rake (too strong of a visual). We talked about it after and came to the conclusion I'm probably better off with the dressage staff minus the plastic bit as it makes too 'big' a picture, so it will be less visually pressure. Likewise if when I use it to block, I stepping back a bit and maybe turn my shoulder a bit off center that may make it easier for her.

Also trying to work where she can hear Lily (who grizzled at one point) is a pain as she wants to go check on her. X_x

Now for RIN... gee she's a little firecracker! It's looking like she will be the kind of dog I really enjoy working with, in this as in everything else. She is just plain FUN and full on! She was absolutely frantic to get to work the sheepies and seemed to be thinking, "Oh my gosh, where has this BEEN all my life?!?!?!?" The working switch is definitely flipped firmly to the 'on' position!

The main thing Trudy felt for Rin would be to insist that she only gets to keep working when she is not being all frantic about it and is using self control and moderating herself. Franti should not be a behaviour that works for her! Absolutely correct. We only had Rin in there for about 10 mins but she did get her to the point of starting to understand she needed to use some self control and moderation in pace and once she did, Rin was doing a super nice job, especially for only being young and only having come here 2 weeks ago. My manic little monkey-doo has loads of zip, no quit, good bounce back and handles pressure nicely! (And um have we mentioned she LOVES it??? Because wow-o-wow, does she love it!!!!!!!!!!!)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Exciting weekend, now can someone pour me into bed?

We attended the Trudy Viklund herding clinic this weekend and I have to say I am so excited about everything we learned! She is an American trainer and trialler who works Aussie Shepherds in AKC, ASCA, CKC and even 3 sheep trials successfully.

I was just auditing, as I'm just not feeling well with this whole gallbladder/godknows thing (waiting on an endoscopy to confirm, joys) going on and had to really argue with myself not to just huddle under the covers. I didn't think I'd be up to a whole weekend of physical activity. That proved to be a sound if disappointing choice as I was drained after both days even though I'd not been actually working a dog and then woke up feeling supremely lousy this morning with a painful ear, fever etc so I've hauled my carcass off to the doctors. (Huzzah for antibiotics!)

But the weekend was exciting enough that I'm going to attempt a private lesson Tuesday, quite possibly drugged to the gills. I'm hoping to mainly focus on Hope but also get Rin underway and get some specific pointers for her style of working! The techniques are very common sense, many use positioning and a fair bit of environmental management in the training phase geared to minimize the possibility the dog can make a wrong choice till the dog learns it's job and responsibilities, building up pressure tolerance towards taking the sheeps point of eye on balance, while others involve very mild amount of -R (dogs are still remaining quite opperant) for dogs who are quite persistent in slicing in on flanks.

While not a herding instructor, I want to look up some of Alexandra Kurland's stuff as I remember skimming around and reading how she has put quite a bit of work into nutting out a program that combines -R and +R when she uses negative reinforcement. My understanding (which is admittedly very loose and rusty) was that she doesn't use it in isolation (iow simple p/r) where the release is the only reinforcer but follows it up with a positive reinforcer. IOW p/r(-R) and (+R) which I think could apply to the herding situation quite well as access back to the sheep is a huge R+ for most working dogs, especially if it's side on vs head on on the point of pressure.

I'm hoping it will mean Hopie and I have the kind of Started title I want to get and am genuinely happy with rather than one that is gained on passes that are passable but sloppy or ugly. :)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

15 Months

At fifteen months Lily is still our little miss sunshine - placid, easy going and bubbly... however it's looking like she's going to be one of those sorts who is "quiet... till she has something to say"! Moodle on a Mission is a determined little critter!

She still crawls but she does it in double time and having discovered she can walk is toddling around at a good clip!

She has a fascination with picking things up, putting them away and closing drawers, doors and cupboards. I've got a TIDY one! Booyah!

She loves her brother and the feeling is (usually... bashed lego projects aside) mutual. They greet each other in the morning when we wake up with cuddles and kisses and "Hello Lilypillie, did you have a good sleep beautiful girl?" The two of them are gorgeous together... I can't express how thankful I am about that!

She flings herself into you for cuddles and gives very dainty kisses. She is the best snuggler.

She flomps herself into the dogs as well and adores them. She is definitely going to be her mumma's daughter in that regard! She growls if you annoy her and she tongue-clicks if you do something she likes. Dog trainers will find the humor here. ;)

She can whistle. She uses this to summon the dogs and loves it when they bowl her over and lick her from head to toe and quite often will click when they arrive before flinging bits of whatever she's got handy.

She's got a few proto-words.. ..pup pups for the dogs, 'dat for that, a word that sounds like dada and less charmingly 'hut UP... usually at barking dogs. (hm... wonder where she heard that one!)

Fifteen months of Lily is just loverly, loverly, loverly!