Archive for June, 2009

Dead tail, drop tail, cold tail, limbertail, broken wag — this painful condition has lots of names and not-completely understood causes.

Cooper’s tail dropped after today’s personal best dock-diving practice.


You can see that his tail is hanging straight down and to one side — this is a classic presentation. He doesn’t lift his tail, and it doesn’t wag. He’s walking a little stiffly, too, and doesn’t seem comfortable sitting. And the weirdest thing is this grumbling noise he makes every time he tries to find a comfortable position.

I’ve read that it’s caused by cold water (even baths). But I don’t think that cold water is enough because even some flyball folks have reported it. In Cooper’s case, I think it must be the combination the over-exertion of today’s obsessed dock diving, plus the cold water, plus the fact that he often puts a lot of strain on his tail by using it as a rudder.

tail as rudder

tail as rudder

Rosemary confirmed my suspicion that this is dead tail — she said her dogs have gotten it in the past. And she cautioned me against one remedy — pulling on the dog’s tail. She said that someone had done that to “cure” her Stella’s dead tail, and that Stella didn’t let anyone near her tail for years afterward.

The best prescriptions appear to be rest, perhaps a baby aspirin, and maybe some chiropractic treatment or massage.

And as to preventing it? There’s lots of suggestions — I don’t know if any of them work, but here’s what I’ve read: giving aspirin ahead of time, giving the dog fish oils (Cooper already gets that daily), getting chiropratic treatment before sports events, making sure the dog is warm and dry after getting wet, keeping the dog in good physical condition, and not letting him over-exert.

Cooper’s in great condition, but didn’t want to rest — he wanted to keep jumping and jumping and jumping. Next time, I’ll just have to dry him off frequently and insist that we (both) rest.

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Cooper and I spent today dock diving with the Cascade Dock Dog club at the pond, where he got a new personal best!

Cooper just loves, loves, loves this, possibly to the point of obsession. As soon as we got off the dock, he dragged me back to get onto the dock to do it again. I mean that literally. At one point, Jeremy offered to help me hold Cooper, and Jeremy got dragged, too.

(I know, I know — I should be using a pinch collar, or a harness, or something…)

Some amazing jumps

All that practice paid off: By mid-afternoon, during the mock competition, Cooper’s two jumps both measured in (unofficially) at 19 feet!

taken by Laci Wentland

taken by Laci Wentland

The people who were doing measuring were caught by surprise — they were expecting the 14.5 feet he did last time, and had to do a quick shuffle along the side of the pond to get a good measurement.

What we did this time

I followed Tammy’s advice to make him down-wait at the back of the dock. Then, only when I was ready, did I release him to run. (It took several repetitions to convince him that I really meant down and wait.) By the time I was ready, Cooper was a coiled spring.

I want to thank one of my fellow X-Fido flyball team members, Laci, who brought her camera and her lab-pointer mix Marley to the practice.

She got some great pictures, and Marley, a first timer, got an amazing 18′!

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I groaned yesterday evening during flyball practice when Cooper decided to go running off AGAIN into the other lane to play, instead of returning down his own lane to me…

One of my teammates asked me how old Cooper is, and I told her, “2 and a half.”

She said, “Oh, just wait till he’s 3. He’ll be fine when he’s 3.”

Now, where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah — I remember. Rosemary, Tammy, and pretty much every owner of a male IWS has assured me of that.

I’m sure if he’s doing the same thing at 3, they’ll all say, “Oh, just wait till he’s 4.”

And then 5, and then 7, and then (god willing), 14.

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Andy, the hunt trainer, told us to get Cooper excited about ducks. Real ducks, not rubber squeaky ones.

Every day, until Cooper goes off to hunt school (scheduled for mid-July), we’re supposed to spend 5 minutes enticing Cooper with a duck, and allowing him to carry it around a bit.

So far, success. Cooper loves ducks.



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The vet tech stuck her head through the waiting room door where we were waiting for Cooper. “Next time,” she said, “would you please warn us that he’s going to jump onto the table?”

The story

Turns out that when she took Cooper into the exam room, he immediately leapt up onto the exam table. He didn’t notice (or care, perhaps) that the vet had just placed her tray full of records and instruments onto that same table. The clatter, the vet tech explained, what all that stuff flying onto the floor.

We tried to nod soberly. But as soon as the tech left, we both broke into smiles. Instead of trying to escape the exam room, Cooper had happily jumped up onto the exam table in a scary place, with strange people.

This all happened yesterday afternoon. Later in the evening, we realized that we had trained Cooper to do this — without realizing that training is what we had been doing. That means it is possible to train what Colleen at the Academy of Canine Behavior described as a “tough” dog to train.

How we think we did it

Cooper’s been getting various supplements and medications by mouth, and we discovered that it’s easier to give those on the grooming table. At the same time, he needs a little food to help him swallow the pills. Might as well be small pieces of his favorite beef roll.

So, we started by lifting him up on the table, giving him his pills, and then giving him the beef treat. After awhile, we started just asking him to get onto the table by saying “table” and/or patting the table, and he’d do it.

grooming table

Then, when he saw us getting out the pills, he would jump onto the table without being asked. Now, after a couple of months, all it takes is for him to hear us rattling the pill bottles.

The power of association — pills/table/beef treat — ain’t it great?

No reason to stop now

I’ve made it a bit harder recently — now, after he’s on the table and has gotten his pills, and before he gets his treat, I ask him for various small behaviors, like sit, stand, “five” (shake with right paw-right hand), and “ten” (shake with left paw-left hand).

Perhaps soon I’m going to have to train a command to not jump up on the grooming table so the vet tech isn’t surprised. But training on purpose is way harder than training unawares.

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Kristine, my X-Fido teammate, wondered something on her blog: “I don’t know how many Irish Water Spaniels there are running flyball, but I know of at least one…”

(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

Good question. I had to check. So I went to the North American Flyball Association database, and looked at their breed statistics.

IWS in Flyball

In the NAFA league, Cooper is the 10th IWS ever, and the only one currently active in NAFA flyball.

Some other IWS have done really well in NAFA in the past:

  • Madcap Rowanberry (retired) with Evelyn Velez-Crawford got 7033 points for a Flyball Master (FM)
  • Ballyhoo Encounters Renegade (inactive) with Renee Nappier got 2640 points for a Flyball Dog Champion-Gold (FDCh-G)
  • Martha (retired) with Patti Bourne got 2192 points for a Flyball Dog Champion-Silver (FDCh-S)

Cooper has 1 (yes, you read that right, “1”) NAFA point. I will be happy if (when?) he gets his Flyball Dog (FD).

I also checked the United Flyball League International (U-Fli) database, and they have no active IWS.


I also heard from a New Zealand IWS owner, who plays a similar sport, called “flygility.” It’s like a combination of flyball and agility. It looks like a timed race, instead of being a relay race. And instead of only jumping over hurdles, the dogs also work through agility-type obstacles.

Here’s a video of flygility from YouTube:

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Yesterday evening, warm with clear blue skies and white fluffy clouds, was the perfect time for the first outdoor X-Fido flyball practice of the year.

We set up on the lawn of the Garden Home Rec Center, including:

  • the fluorescent orange fencing (to keep the team dogs in and non-team members out),
  • two courses of bright white hurdles,
  • the two ball-launching boxes,
  • various flags,
  • several kinds of tennis balls (small, regular, squeaky, soft, etc.), and
  • a plastic tub for water.
(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

It was a good practice. We did:

  • a bunch of runbacks (where the dog runs only the last half of a run, from the box, over the hurdles, and to the finish line),
  • some practice box turns (where the dog practices getting all four feet onto the box in order to launch the tennis ball), and
  • a few full runs with 4-dog teams (from the start line passing a dog, over all the hurdles, to the box to grab the tennis ball, back over all the hurdles, and passing — with tennis ball — another dog at the finish line).

Experienced dogs first, then novice dogs. Cooper is a novice, and he got a turn at two full runs.

Cooper did one run 98% perfectly. The only thing not perfect was that he slowed slightly to look at the teammate dog passing him. The whole run, I had been yelling, “Yes, yes, yes!” Then, when he turned slightly to look at the other dog, I could see that his puppy brain was calculating the possibility of stopping to play. I boomed out a really loud, “NO!!!” That took his attention off the dog and toward me, and my running away, wildly waving the pink puppy toy, and again yelling, “Yes, yes, yes!”

Then, the other run… Instead of returning over our course of hurdles, Cooper ran over to the other course to chase a dog running over there. Nancy was closer, so she ran over to him, waved her arms, and yelled, “Cooper! No! What do you think you’re doing?”

Cooper stopped abruptly. Nancy said that his golden almond-shaped eyes got really big and round. Then he decided that running to me was the best possible idea. Good choice, Cooper.

He got a drink and then took a break in his crate, watching the other dogs run. Sigh… better luck next week.

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