Monthly Archives: December 2012

Dusty’s Introduction to Agility

agility 001As you may have read last week, we introduced Dusty and Cora to agility a few weeks ago. Both dogs seemed really to enjoy it, but Dusty took to it as though he’d been doing it all his life.

When I first started taking Hogan to agility lessons in the spring, the only reason I didn’t take Dusty was that he has mild hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament issues (the ligament, we’ve been told, will surely tear someday, and it’s best to put off the tear as long as possible, so the vet recommended no agility for Dusty). Instead, I enrolled Dusty in rally obedience, which is very slow-paced. (Raring to go, he barked non-stop in his rally classes.)

Dusty's tail didn't stop wagging while we were there!

Dusty’s tail didn’t stop wagging while we were there!

However, we figured that since we’d booked private lessons for Hogan through December, we’d take Dusty and Cora along just for the fun factor. Little did we know Dusty would be an agility star from day one.

During his very first lesson, he ploughed his way through the chute (scary for most dogs) without any coaxing, and our trainer, Liz, declared him fearless. She even introduced him to the teeter-totter, which Hogan wasn’t put on until late in his first-level agility course or early in the second-level one.

Dusty had so much fun that we think we’ll continue occasional lessons with him. I’m tempted to compete him in specials (lower jumps), too, but we’ll see how things go. It may mean he has knee surgery earlier than we’d hoped, but we really don’t want to deprive him of this when he seems to love it so much. Besides, he runs just as hard in our backyard as he does at agility. He just has more fun with the obstacles of agility. We haven’t seen any signs of limping or favouring his bad leg, so all is good so far!

Here’s a glimpse into our star-in-the-making’s first and second agility lessons:

Watch for more on Dusty’s progress in future posts!

Cora’s Introduction to Agility

Cora on the pause table

Cora on the pause table

When Hogan completed his most recent agility course (Weaves and Contacts) in November, we had well over a month to wait before another suitable class would begin, so we decided to book private lessons for him to keep him up to speed. And we also decided it would be a good time to introduce Dusty and Cora to agility.

Although we knew that Cora would, of course, never compete or be remotely fast, we knew that agility helps build confidence, so we thought introducing her to it was worth a try. Teaching an old dog new tricks can be a challenge with any dog, but when dealing with a fearful dog like Cora, a trainer has to take things very slowly.

Cora at agilitySince we first got Cora, she has been afraid to walk through doors into buildings (the vet clinic, a pet store, anybody’s house but ours), so getting her into SuperDog Central was our first challenge. As it turned out, Wes had to carry her in the first time, but the second time, she walked—or, more accurate, nervously skulked—in all by herself!

Once she was inside that first time, though, she wagged her tail almost non-stop and even approached our trainer, Liz, without difficulty. (We were truly shocked by this!) Liz, though, understands nervous dogs and avoided making eye contact and approached Cora backwards. That really does make a difference!

Making a "run" for the next jump.

Making a “run” for the next jump.

In the two lessons Cora has participated in, she has gone over jumps, done the A-frame, learned the pause table, and even walked repeatedly through a straight tunnel—as long as she could sight her dad or me holding a treat at the other end of it.

I can’t express how happy it makes me seeing Cora do things like this—clearly pushing beyond her comfort zone and just being a dog. We have taken baby steps with Cora in our year and eight months with her, and I truly think it’s paying off. She will likely always cower from most people and shake with fear when we have strangers in our home, but if we can introduce her to even some of the joys of doghood, I feel we’ve made her life a thousand times better. And since dogs genuinely enjoy learning, agility, I believe, is going to prove to be a huge step in the right direction with her.

Here’s a video of Cora “running” her course. Go, Cora, go!

P.S. When we adopted Cora, she had no muscle tone whatsoever, but just look at her now!

Christmas Photo Shoot: The Outtakes

Ever try to wrangle three dogs into a Santa sack (heads sticking out, of course)? Yeah, it’s not easy, especially when one of the three—Dusty, of course—finds it comfy and decides to lie down.

Dusty and Hogan in the Santa sack

Dusty and Hogan in the Santa sack

Oops--have to lower the treats!

Oops–have to lower the treats!

All in all, in our attempt to get one good picture for our Christmas card, we took about 250 pictures—and the dogs weren’t in the Santa sack by the end.

Cora's the wiggliest one. She's always moving, and her tail is almost always wagging.

Cora’s the wiggliest one. She’s always moving, and her tail is almost always wagging.

Dusty was very well behaved. During each of the three photo shoots (we gave them hours-long breaks between), once I said, “Stay,” he wouldn’t move. So I have about 80 pictures with Dusty in one position in all of them, and Cora and Hogan (both of whom we clearly need to work on “stay” with) in different spots. He was such a good boy!

This would've been the winner if Dusty's ear hadn't been inside out! (There's always something.)

This would’ve been the winner if Dusty’s ear hadn’t been inside out! (There’s always something.)

Merry Christmas, everyone, from Cora, Dusty, and Hogan!

2012 Christmas card

Four-Dog Nights and Days

Misha wondering if those big teeth are real.

My mom recently spent four days in the hospital, and while she was recuperating, our three-dog home became a four-dog home.

When Mom adopted Misha, I told her that any time she went away or was otherwise unable to take care of her new dog, we would step in and help. I fell in love with Misha as soon as I saw her picture on Loyal Rescue‘s Facebook page, so in many ways, I looked forward to the first time Misha would stay with us. (I certainly didn’t want her visit to be a result of my mom’s hospitalization, though.)

Dusty trying to get Misha to play in the backyard. (This looks less friendly than it was!)


What I hadn’t really thought about when blanket-volunteering for the dog-sitting task was the possibility of my husband being away on business while we had four dogs in the house. Four is a whole different ballgame than three. (But, as I was reminded tonight, three seemed like a whole lot more work than two when we adopted Hogan, yet we acclimated quite well.) As much as I love dogs, I think I’ve determined even the occasional 4:1 dog-to-human ratio is a little too skewed for my liking.

Anyway, Misha has, of course, met Dusty, Cora, and Hogan on many occasions, but she’s always been a little nervous around them. Her first day here was no different. She steered clear of all three and got into the mix only when Dusty and Hogan were barking at a common outsider. In fact, barking at both imaginary (e.g., potential squirrels in the backyard) and real (e.g., the doorbell) intruders is what seemed to bond them.

We have had our trials, though:

  • Cora and Misha took turns growling at each other one day (Cora growled only once; Misha, twice) but eventually tolerated each other quite well, even curling up together one day.

    Cora and Misha on the love seat (their tails are interlocked!).

  • Walking our three by myself is a chore (really, walking Dusty is a chore—the other two are usually quite easy); walking four by myself was just not happening. Enter dog-walker extraordinaire, Nick, and very good friend Johanna. Thank God for them over the past several days!
  • For the first couple of days, we had to chase Misha and pick her up to get her in the house from the backyard. She was really timid about coming through the door. (We still have to pick her up to get her into the garage after our walks.)

    Misha, afraid to come inside.

  • Our long flights of stairs intimidate Misha. While she’s done just fine outside, she takes a long time to make it up or down the indoor stairs. I’ve taken to just carrying her (after chasing her around the kitchen island and finally catching her).
  • Misha is an extremely slow eater, so for several minutes after Dusty and Hogan finish their breakfast or dinner, I’ve had to protect Misha’s food while the boys hover like vultures and she lazily eats (while sitting!). She’s a pretty good protector herself, though, snarling if they get too close.

    Misha calmly sitting to eat. (What you don’t see is the two boys on either side of her wanting her food.)

  • Misha, although female, is a marker. I’ve had to clean up more than one pee spot, so she’s had to be crated overnight and whenever I’ve left the house. Crating appears to be something she knows and is comfortable with, fortunately.

A friendly game of chase.

Dusty tried on several occasions over the first couple of days to get Misha to play, and he did succeed in engaging her in games of chase outside, but he really wanted her to wrestle or play tug-of-war inside. Hogan is a great playmate for Dusty, but he’s not nearly as tireless, so having a backup playmate really appealed to our basset boy.

Finally, on day three, this happened:


Two terriers from Mexico living the high life.

It was great seeing Dusty playing with both Hogan and Misha, although Hogan seemed to have mixed feelings about it, occasionally raising a lip in Misha’s direction. Every time he did that, Dusty, ever the peacemaker, nipped at Hogan, redirecting his attention to the wrestling task at hand. Judging by his wagging body and tail, Dusty was thrilled to be ganged up on by the terriers.

By tomorrow evening, our household will return to a three-dog one. While I know I’ll miss Misha’s cuddles, I think I’ll relish the relative peacefulness of our evening routine: Dusty glued to my side on the couch, Cora high-fiving me for belly rubs, and Hogan tentatively climbing up me to give kisses. Wouldn’t change it for the world!