Friday, September 17, 2010

Proud of my boy!

(Note: I realize it has been since June that I have posted to this blog. Needless to say, Darwin has still been very busy (as has his mom between lab work and volunteering for the humane society as well as the typical summer vacations and weddings. I do not know what my posting rate will be from now until the end of the year as I am working on my comprehensive exam for graduate school, but, starting in January of next year, I hope to a) get Darwin into agility finally, b) get his canine good citizen, and c) start posting to the blog regularly.)

Darwin, for whatever reason, started to develop a fear of strangers about a year ago that became progressively worse to the point where he would growl, woof, and try to run away from any unfamiliar person that wanted to pet him (this made taking the canine good citizen test very difficult for us). I have been trying a variety of methods to help him realize that people are not scary, and that he should have nothing to fear from them (Calming signals, trying to praise him when a Scary Thing is in sight with treats/frisbee before we go over his threshold, diverting his attention elesewhere, etc.). He is afraid enough of them he won't even take a treat when offered. He seems to be making some slow, but sure progress. He has been better at the vet lately, and I've been trying to make him "check it out" when something bothers him. He understands that he gets to play if he goes and touches the object with his nose and then is not afraid of it any longer. This doesn't work quite as well with people.

A few weeks ago, we went out of town on a trip where Darwin couldn't come with us, so we kenneled him for the first time. This kennel is also a dog day care, and they speicalize in training and breeding Karelian Bear Dogs to help teach bears to stay away from civilization (their application was also 9 pages long when I was done with it and they required him to be there 4 hours for an eval prior to acceptance), so I felt very comfortable that they could understand some of his fear behaviors. Upon returning, Darwin had gone from being afraid enough of the people he wouldn't get out of the car to loving the entire staff, and they told me he'd even go up to strangers for treats! Of course, he is fantastic with dogs, so that wasn't an issue.

To see if this was something more than a fluke (and to get Darwin into a new place and out of our daily schedule of frisbee and play), we took him to Petsmart last night and he was the best that he has been there since he was a young puppy! He remembered the trainer and went up to her, was interested in smelling all the people, and would lay down and wait in the aisles while we got crickets, checked out the critters, etc. He was so much calmer and it was just wonderful to see! That made my week. I am hoping to take him on a walk in an unfamiliar park this weekend to help boost his confidence.

He has also been showing lately a willingness to at least approach people, or calmly walk by them without fear, which has been good. I think part of this is the body language I've been working on to communicate with and calm him, and part of it is that he's learning that these threats are not real.

"Mom, you know I'm awesome!"

I'm so proud of him!

I love this dog so much and can't imagine life with any other.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back seat surfin!

For longer car rides, Darwin opts to ride in style and comfort....

Inside of his kennel box...

(And don't worry. It has cushy padding in the bottom. Only the best for my little dog).

"Ooo, what's that over there?!"

"Okay, now let's see what's over here!"

"And behind the car! No one can escape my mighty corgi radar!"

"Wow. Still a lot of highway over here... *epic corgi sigh*"

"Okay, Mom. I'm bored. Entertain me!"

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Road trip!

A week ago, the husband and I decided we needed to go out into the woods on a picnic, so we loaded up the dog in the car along with some food, drinks, and the ever-important frisbee. This week will present highlights from the trip.

Darwin in the car as we turned off onto a dirt road. He gets really excited when we arrive on dirt roads and starts doing his cardi singing and appearing as a head and two paws over the back seat as in the example below:

Along the way, we passed some bighorn sheep on the side of the road. Darwin gave them quite the talking to!

Then we drove on, past a rickety suspended bridge and through the woods, until at last we found a campsite where we decided to picnic. Which will be the subject of tomorrow's post.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The weirdest positions....

Bringing one's first corgi home is certainly a learning experience. Not only was Darwin my first corgi, he was also my first puppy as a responsible adult (the last one I had at eight years old and don't really remember). I'd done four years of research into the breed, but, of course, they still manage to surprise you. One thing that amuses me is the way that corgis seem to be magnetically attracted to sleeping in the weirdest positions (usually upside-down, on their backs). Darwin, as a puppy, had the proclivity to find the most absurd spaces to sleep in. Below are a few images of his relationship with our cat's scratching post.

"Uh, oh. Where's the corgi? He was just here a minute ago..."

"Oh, there he is!"

"Mom. Why did you have to wake me with that flashy thing. Can't you tell I'm growing and need my rest? Maybe if I sleep more, my legs will grow longer!"

*Notably, the middle photo is really the only picture I have where Darwin is truly asleep, as he has become wise to the sound my camera turning on and always has to get up and check it out whenever he hears that mechanical whir of the lens opening. Being stealthy with something that has such large ears is quite the challenge.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I can haz chewable...

Back when toilet paper tubes were about as big as his head. His paws can grab them better now, but corgi legs are still not perfect tools for this sort of work (allowing for their intellect to take hold and fill in the missing paw length with nearby objects of holding).

We started his love of destroying cardboard tubes early on and this is a love that has stayed with him. (In fact, we have several bags of the things lying around and he gets to tear up one or two every day or so). He doesn't eat the cardboard, though. These things were made purely for the shredding into itty bitty pieces and distributing to the four corners of the apartment, so Mom's weekly cleaning job is made that much more difficult.

But he is worth it. :)

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunshine boy!

When we first brought Darwin home, he was afraid to cross the threshold into our apartment as it was an entirely new place (In fact, he was nervous enough, he had an accident in our doorway). However, he soon realized that this was our home, and also his new home, and turned into the smiley self he has been since then.

I swear, some days this smile is what gets me through the day.

He is definitely one of the happiest dogs I've ever met!

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A year ago today...

A year ago today, we went to look at some Cardigan welsh corgi puppies because I was feeling empty without a dog....

A year ago today, we made the decision that we would be bringing one of said puppies home with us...

A year ago today, the little cream puppy, the last of his litter at the breeder's, was named Darwin...

A year ago today, I found my heartbeat in a set of four stubby legs, a tail, some very large ears, and all the furry goodness in between.

We did not pick him up for a week, however, so for the next seven days you will be treated to baby!Darwin.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Monday, May 3, 2010

First "swim"

Well, Darwin is reasonably comfortable with wading now. However, he is not quite sure about the mechanics of swimming just yet. We are still just playing in the river, so haven't actually had a chance to take him somewhere where we can go out and have a true swimming experience.

Here's some photos of Darwin 'getting his feet (and belly) wet:'

"This giant water dish feels quite good on my belly. And the water seems to taste better. Can we get one at home?"

"Wait a minute. Something has caught my attention. Now if I can just pinpoint the source."

"Gotta go! The frisbee beckons!"

Nothing more alluring to this corgi than a Frisbee in the Wild....

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Agility Debut!

Well, it has been awhile since I have updated this blog. This has mainly been because my semester sort of got away from me and I was not on the computer as much as I expected to be. Suffice it to say, Darwin had plenty of adventures during my absence, the most recent one being learning his first agility obstacle! (And don't worry, there are pictures of his adventures this past month, and they will be posted shortly.... though probably not until this weekend, as this is the final week of my semester).

A week ago, the in-laws were in town and we all decided to go check out PVC pipe at Home Depot. We did, of course, purchase some with the intention of making two jumps to start Darwin's agility training on. (We also bought some stick-in-the-ground posts that will serves as rudimentary weave poles- but we haven't started working with these yet so they will be a topic of a later post). My father-in-law helped me create the jump you see below in the picture, though so far Darwin and I have only worked with one (we made two). I started him on 8", but believe that he will eventually need to be at 12" (thus the two height marks on the jump) - those with agility corgis feel free to validate this or correct me if I am wrong (Darwin is 13" at the withers). (My last agility dog was lab-sized).

But you probably don't visit this blog to hear me blather on, so, without further ado, Darwin's agility debut!

"Okay, Mom. I see this thing before me. What am I supposed to do with it?" (Note the lip-bitey expression on his face)

Getting ready to jump.... Just look at the concentration on his face.

And a very blurry leap over! Yay Darwin!

"You want me to jump over it again?"

Before his first leap over the jump, Darwin first tried to go under it. When he recieved an "uh uh" from me, he tried to go around it. When that also failed to please me, he decided that maybe he should go over it! A click and a treat later and he understood.

Darwin can now be called over the jump, be directed over the jump, and we are working on getting him comfortable going over the jump as I run beside him (he still thinks that he should go around it at that point every few times). Overall, I'm very happy with our progress and he seems to be enjoying himself. I'm excited to introduce two jumps, but know I need to take my time and make sure things are correct before going any further. (We have practiced jumping in two different locations so far - my deck and an empty parking lot near my residence).

*I also taught Darwin to close a door with his nose this weekend. He really is my little superstar!

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Salty Dog

...without the salt, as this is a fresh water river. Darwin has yet to have his first chance at swimming. Currently, the river is just one big drinking bowl to him. Someday, though. Someday we will see if he will be a swimmer. (Of course, we will do this in an area where we won't have to worry about him getting sucked downstream or anything like that).

On the bank of the Clark Fork river.

Such a goofy boy.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Monday, March 22, 2010

Corgi in the tall grass

"Hi. I'm hiding. See how well I blend in? My Mom will never find me."

"Uh, oh. She spotted me."

"Getting closer, Mom."

"Well, now that you're here, watch as I enjoy the sunshine in all my corgi glory."

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Tao of Corgi

In Taoism (ancient Chinese philosophy) there is a theme similar to acting as a 'stick in the river,' i.e. there are some things you cannot change, so rather than fighting them, you need to let go and float on like a stick in the river, letting the current take you where it will.

For Darwin, we call this philosophy 'frisbee in the wind' and he embraces it rather well. He may not know where we will be going on our next adenture, or what will happen, but whatever comes, he will be there to face it with a wagging tail and all his bright enthusiasm, embracing the change so long as his mom (or dad) is at his side.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dog on a Log

Darwin's Dad took him back to the state park yesterday while I was at work and thoroughly tuckered the little guy out. When I arrived home this evening, we decided to take him on a quick jaunt there again. What amazed me was that he recognized the place the third time pulling into the road that would lead us to the parking area and was making Cardi grunts of anticipation. It was rather adorable :).

In between thowing the frisbee and enjoying the nice day outside, I managed to snap a few pictures of Darwin in a new location for him: on top of a log. He wasn't quite sure about all this at first, but since he'd been asked to alternatively to sit or lay there, he did it.

The other thing that has amazed me in the last two days is that Darwin has been resorting to napping in his crate. He apparently sees this as his haven for finding deep sleep (as he sleeps in there at night and has since before he even came to us). He'd never really showed interest in sleeping in there on his own during the day until yesterday when he was tired enough it apparently seemed like the best place to nap. Tonight he has been switching back and forth between sleeping in the crate and under my chair, depending on my location. I really love this dog.

More pictures from this evening's walk coming throughout the course of the week.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Monday, March 15, 2010

Darwin is Official!

A few weeks ago, I finally decided what I wanted to have as Darwin's AKC registered name, so I sent in the papers. They finally arrived back.

He is: Shadowalk (the name of his kennel) Dog of a Different Color

I'm rather excited about this, as he is my first registered purebred dog! (The other was the golden retriever I had as a kid, and though I wanted to have him registered, we never did...).

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Day Out

As it was such a nice day and my husband and I actually had a morning off together, we decided to make an adventure out to a nearby state park we had never visited but had been suggested to as a good place to take your dog and running them off-leash was allowed. So, we packed the pup into the car, along with his breakfast, grabbed some doughnuts, and headed out!

Darwin was so excited to be going somewhere (and particularly, to be going somewhere with his frisbee) that he would not eat his breakfast before we left. I poured his food into a bowl and we took it with us. Once Darwin was secure in the knowledge that he wasn't going to be left behind (and, more importantly, that the frisbee throwing would not be happening immediately) he decided to eat his breakfast,unconventially, in the car.

We arrived, and Darwin was excited by the prospect of running free in the woods. However, he was quick to remind us that we weren't there only for a nice stroll in the park (i.e. see below).

He wasn't enjoying himself at all, now was he? (and also was deciding not to quite cooperate with my idea of taking his portrait by the river).

"C'mon Mom and Dad, my legs are much shorter than yours and I'm still faster than you!"

As we neared the end of our walk, the little pointy-eared one was given a few more rounds of frisbee to wear him out so that he might spend the afternoon asleep.

"Here I come!" Galloping towards us as top speed.

Getting closer....

And back at last. Those frisbees can sure go quite aways in that open space.

We were assaulted (and by assaulted, I do not mean these other dogs were aggressive, more that there were a lot of them all at once, they were all friendly, happy, goofy dogs) by a hound, two labs (one a pup), and a rottweiler on the way back. Darwin greeted each in turn (and at one point, we almost had a train of one dog sniffing the next dog's rear sniffing the next dog's rear, etc.), and then we were off to the car. No pictures of this as it was a rather chaotic moment and the camera was off and stowed away.

Happy dog on the ride home.

"Thanks, Mom and Dad. I'm ready for a nap now, but can we go again soon?"

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Eye C U

In a close-up, you can see that Darwin has glorious golden eyelashes. These are one of several orange "highlights" that he has.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Guardian of the Silver Chair

Sleeping on the job.

He suddenly becomes aware that someone is watching him.

"I see you! You cannot escape the notice of my enourmous ears."

This is Darwin's favorite spot when I am at my computer. In fact, I always make sure he has vacated the area before I move my chair anywhere, as I don't want to squish him. He definitely likes to be as close to me as possible no matter where I am located in the apartment.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

**Photos by Diane Hargreaves

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mortar boards kinda look like frisbees...

At least to the untrained eye....

"Mom, those two things are not the same!"

He insisted we throw the frisbee instead of the cap to celebrate his graduating.

*Note: Please forgive the shoes and the bag of empty plastic containers in the background. I should have moved them before taking pictures, but didn't.

We may not have quite passed our CGC this weekend, but we did finish advanced obedience, so that's what the hat is all about...

"See? I'm a good boy. I'm wearing the hat all nice. Can we throw the frisbee now?"

Proud boy.

"Really? Another one? At least I don't have to wear that insipid hat this time."

"Fine. I'll smile."

"And look. I will do a trick for you. Now throw that darn frisbee already!"

"Whatever you say, Superdog...." The frisbee is thrown. There is a clack of toenails and a flash of a fluffy butt, and the photo session is over.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canine Good Citizen... Almost

Well, we didn't quite pass our Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test yesterday, but we were so very close! In my mind, Darwin has already passed it. We will be retaking it on March 20th and will spend the time between now and then polishing the few things Darwin needs work on. His obediecne is flawless, which makes me feel good.

For those not familiar with it, the test consists of ten components. Dogs need to pass all 10 in order to get the CGC certification. They can miss one test and retake it an additional time the same day to see if they pass. Darwin, unfortunately missed two, so was not qualified for a retake. However, I understand exactly what we need to do to prepare for our next examination.

The tests, and how Darwin did with each...

The first three tests were grouped together and involved the same "stranger" in our exam.

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger - The owner walks toward a "stranger" and asks the dog sit and stay and his/her left side. The owner then steps forward to shake hands with the stranger while the dog stays in place.

Darwin was perfect. He sat and stayed as required for the test. Pass.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting - In the second portion of the exam, the "stranger" asks if he/she can pet the owner's dog, and the owner aquiesces. The "stranger" pets the dog. The dog is not allowed to show fear.

Darwin, who has been somewhat reluctant to greet people (we've been working really hard on this and he is becoming more comfortable with it) did just fine and went up to the "stranger" and allowed her to pet him. Pass.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming - The dog must allow a stranger to check his/her ears, paws, and run a brush down his/her back to simulate comfort with strangers such as the vet or groomer.

Darwin was not real excited to have the woman touch his paws (though he doesn't care if we do it at home - this is related to his mistrust of strangers that we are working on). He backed up when she tried to reach his paws, though was okay with the brush being run down his back. Fail.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead) - The dog needs to demonstrate that he/she will listen to the owner, walk on a loose leash, and respond to changes in direction.

Our test had us make a right turn, then a left turn, then a U-turn, then a stop, then continue walking until a second stop is made. Frisbees on the floor highlighted where we needed to perform each task. Darwin's heeling was flawless. I made him sit at all stops before continuing, which is not required, but something I've taught him to do for a good heel. Pass.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd - The dog is required to walk on a loose leash through a crowd of people and a few dogs. The dog can show interest in those around him/her, but cannot pull towards them, etc.

Our crowd consisted of Petsmart employees and fellow classmates who decided not to take the test (along with their dogs). I put Darwin in a heel and he pretty much ignored everyone around him as we made our way through the crowd. He was brilliant! Pass.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place - Dog must demonstrate the ability to sit and down on command. The owner may put the dog in either position in a Stay, walk away the indicated distance, then turn back around and release the dog from the stay upon arriving back at the dog.

Once again, Darwin's obedience was flawless. He performed this perfectly. A few of the other dogs taking the test were not so willing to down on the cold floor, which made me even prouder of my own dog. Pass.

Test 7: Coming when called - Dog is put in a Wait, owner walks the indicated distance, then calls the dog to come.

Darwin does this excellently. I make him "touch" my hand when he arrives, but his recall from a wait is always very enthusiastic. Pass.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog - Dog and owner heel to a specified location and stop. Dog is put in a sit-stay at the owner's side. At the same time, a stranger with a dog performs the mirror move, allowing both owners to get to a location where they can step forward, leaving their dogs in a stay, and shake hands. The owners then return their dog to a heel and walk past each other. The dog taking the test may not move forward of the owner towards the new dog, nor may he/she lag behind as the dog passes.

Darwin was perfect. I don't really need to say more. He was interested in the other dog, but listened to me and did not let his interest dominate. Pass.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction - Dog needs to be able to handle random and sudden distractions such as a book falling, a crutch being banged on the floor, etc. They can startle, but may not run away.

Darwin had a really difficult time with this. We were placed in the middle of the store, surrounded by the other dogs taking the test and their owners. Darwin was already a little uncomfortable with the chaos around him, and when the evaluator started shaking a poster next to his head, it was too much and he tried to run away. We will need to work on this in the next few weeks, making him comfortable when chaos is happening around him. Fail.

Test 10: Supervised separation - Dog is required to stay with a stranger on a 6 ft leash for three minutes while the owner is out of sight. They can show slight nervousness, but not overt anxiety or aggression, and may not whine or bark.

I left Darwin and came back three minutes later. The girl who had his leash said that he did really well, which I was glad of, as Darwin does not like being separated from me at all. Pass.

And that was the test. We missed two, so failed. But Darwin did so very well, and he has come a very long way with his training in just six weeks. Four more weeks emphasizing where we failed and we should nail this. With how perfect his obedience was yesterday, I am beginning to think maybe we should train for Rally at some point, as he seemed to enjoy it and did so very well. I'm proud of him, and while slightly disappointed we didn't pass our first time through the CGC, am confident that we will (and some of the other people taking the test with me confessed that in most classes, maybe one dog passed the first time, but most pass the second time). We were invited to join the Advanced class that will be in week 3 of 6 next weekend (and will be taking our CGC again with them in week 6). We will use this time to work on having people "groom" Darwin and getting him more comfortable in a chaotic situation.

Regardless, I have an amazing dog and am so very proud of him. We are really starting to gel as a team and I believe that we will accomplish great things together.

And, so I don't leave you with a huge hunk of text and no pictures, here are a few from yesterday.

Darwin was in an exhuberant mood yesterday, which was wonderful, particularly when we needed to go "show off" for a judge.

"Hi, Mom. I know you want a nice picture of me for graduation, but I'm not going to allow that. See, I stick my tongue out at you. Though at least the bandana is better than that stupid hat."

Here, we were attempting to get a class photo. Obviously, that wasn't working out too well.

"Mom, I'd look at you like you want me too, but someone is being rude and sniffing my butt without my permission!"

"Okay, he's leaving me alone now. See? I'm looking at the camera now. Though I'm still a little worried about a hit-and-run butt sniff from behind so I'm keeping my ears back."

**As you can see, Darwin was a bit stressed by having all these other dogs around him and owners rushing in and out, barking commands. This is what we need to work on getting him comfortable with.

But just so you don't think that was his only mode... Here's a picture from a minute later, when I went back up to him.

And, sadly, the best one of the bunch. My fellow test-takers were the little yorkie, the boxer, and the dachsund. The latter two passed.

"Mom, can I please come a little closer to you? These other dogs smell funny."

Tomorrow: Darwin in his graduation hat! (We got to take it home, so I made him pose for several pictures, but less you think it was all puppy torture and no fun, he got some frisbee time in between photos)...

-Mel, Corgi-keeper