Category Archives: poodles

Dremeling the dogs’ toenails

For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about the poodlie’s toenails lately. Maybe because Rush is back to clicking his nails against the bedroom door to wake me up during the night… maybe because I let them grow a bit too long and now have to get them back short, a bit at a time, so I’m doing a little bit every two or three days.

Years and years ago (March of 2010, in fact), I spent time training Elly and Dancer to allow me to Dremel their toenails. I remember holding a paw in one hand, the Dremel in the other, with a clicker under my foot so I could click. It was around then, in fact, that I started training “yes!” as a clicker substitute. It made it a lot easier. I started by rewarding them just for jumping on the grooming table with the Dremel in my hand; I moved on to lifting their feet and putting them down. I touched their nails with a silent Dremel. I picked up a foot and ran the Dremel and put the foot down. In short, I looked at every single part of Dremeling a dog’s nails and rewarded every step ten times before moving on. I fed them their meals with the Dremel running on the other side of the room, gradually bringing it closer. I did everything I could think of to make the Dremel, its noise, and the grooming table into very good things.

This morning I got treats and the Dremel and put the grooming table up… and Rush came running and jumped right on. With his new (post-neuter) interest in communicating his annoyance with me–rather than just snarking at me immediately–he was very clear about where the ticklish (or otherwise annoying-to-him) bits were. It took two treats per paw instead of the usual single treat per paw–but he was polite about it. (He was quite insistent, though, that the third toenail on his back left foot was especially challenging today, giving a slight growl-and-glare about it, twice. I stopped and checked for injury, quick location, pad tears… didn’t find anything; he let me finish the nail.)

The instant I told him “all done,” though, he jumped off the table and went right into his crate. I think he would have slammed the door behind himself if he could have. It was a masterpiece of communication: “that was tough!” But he did behave and he did lift his paws for me, and he did get eight liver cookies for his trouble.

I am consequently feeling quite smug. I spent months training all those pieces of behavior–and five years later I’m still reaping the benefits of that slow and painstaking training.

How was the PCA Regional? Funny you should ask.

The Poodle Club of America, unlike other breed clubs, does not move its national specialty around the country. It’s been held in Maryland for about a million years (at least since the 1930s) and I have to assume, given the traditionalist approach that PCA takes to all things poodle (such as the haircut), it will be held in Maryland for another million years.

Every so often, however, a few local clubs will get together and hold a regional specialty. The last one on the West Coast was in 2007 and I flew down to Long Beach to watch. I was thrilled that the Columbia Poodle Club and the Puget Sound Poodle Club got together to organize a regional specialty in Salem, OR! For them to include three days of agility was sheer unadulterated luxury for me. Three days of poodle-only agility? Three days of watching poodles? It was a joy, right there.

I entered both Rush and Dancer in every agility event for which they were eligible. In the end, I managed ten runs with Dancer and all eleven with Rush. I scratched Dancer from Jumpers on Friday because she seemed to be slightly tired and she’d done so well all week that I didn’t want to push my luck.

Dancer was great. I’d done so much work on her double jump and her teeter, and it all paid off. She ran around one double jump, but only one (which means she did nine of them). Her teeters were the best I’ve ever seen her do, no hesitation and a steady canter to the teeter from the obstacle before. In fact, when I did a front cross to the teeter on one course, she flew past me before I could finish the cross.

You can see how well she did, just in this one photo:

Photo by Zoe Zimmer

Photo by Zoe Zimmer

Rush? Well, Rush made me so proud that I had to go hide behind my car for a moment on Friday, when it was all over.

I had a dream, when the Regional was announced, that I could win high-in-trial with Rush. Then, the premium said there would be high-in-trial each day, and it would be divided by height. My dream seemed to be within reach.

There were fourteen 24″ poodles competing at the Regional. Most of them were in Excellent. Wednesday… no double Q; Thursday, Rush’s time was the fourth fastest. Friday? Well, Friday, Rush was the only 24″ dog to qualify in both Standard and Jumpers. On Friday, with almost everyone gone, because after Excellent was over and Open was over, with rain starting to come down in sheets and the wind blowing through the sides of the arena, Rush was the first dog to run in Novice Jumpers, and he put together a fast run even with two spins/refusals caused by my being slow(er than Rush). It was a challenging course, with a long run from the back corner across the back and down the side. A 90-point Q is still a Q. And that Q meant Rush earned High In Trial, 24″ dogs, at the 2013 Poodle Club of America Regional Specialty.

In all, Rush earned two titles–Novice Agility and Novice FAST–and the HIT at the Regional. He qualified twice in Time to Beat, twice in Open Standard, and put together two legs in Novice Jumpers.

The run I liked the best was his fast and furious non-qualifying run in Jumpers on Wednesday. He ran the 103-yard course in 16.38 seconds. His speed ended up making him knock a bar, but the run was nonetheless a thing of beauty. You can see it here.

My favorite photo of Rush from the trial is this one:

Photo by Zoe Zimmer

Photo by Zoe Zimmer

International agility has changed my dog’s life

Photo by Joe Camp

This article is part of the Dog Agility Blog Events discussion on Internationalization in agility (to see other articles, click here–but do it after you read my article!). Certainly the complex courses of international competition and the new moves handlers bring to those courses are having a significant effect on agility. Just this year I learned how to do a blind cross called a Ketscher…. But the most important effect of international competition on my dog’s life is an unintended side-effect.

In this year’s AKC instructions for qualifying for the International Team Tryouts (to be held later this year), I find this single sentence:

“Dogs born after January 1, 2006 with docked tails may not participate in the EO 2013 in Belgium.”

When Sonic and Jib, miniature poodles and brothers, qualified for the USDAA IFCS World Agility Championships–held in Belgium in 2009–(as described in this article), the Agility Poodle Yahoo Group (a discussion group for poodle people who do agility) exploded into discussion. Would Jib and Sonic be allowed to compete? They both are phenomenal dogs but they both have docked tails.

The discussion was fast and furious. Some people said poodles have always had docked tails (and also had their dewclaws removed). Some breeders said people wanted the poodles that way, that an undocked poodle would never win in the conformation ring. People provided video of undocked poodles running agility, showing how the dogs used their tails. It went on for months, and crops up regularly again.

But the discussion had a trickle-down effect. Breeders and handlers started thinking about whether or not it was really necessary to dock a poodle’s tail. I realize that discussion had been going on before that, but suddenly it was real: if your performance poodle had a docked tail, you might not be going to international competition, even if your dog was the best dog.

Vikki (Dancer and Rush’s breeder) docked Dancer’s tail when she was three days old (in June of 2006); her dewclaws were removed as well. When Rush was three days old (May of 2011), Vikki let him and the other puppies in the litter relax and enjoy the day. Rush has his dewclaws, and he has a completely unaltered tail. It is long and he uses it with verve and style. Just check out his tail in the photos of Rush weaving that I included at the beginning of this post. You’ll see.


NADAC top 10 by breed published. Dancer was #4 standard poodle in chances and regular, #3 in jumpers, and #3 in tunnelers. What an amazing girl she is!

To pluck or not to pluck…

This post is not for the faint of heart, nor for those without poodles. Fair warning.

Until 2:27 this morning, I was on the fence about plucking ear hair for my dogs. Yes, I did it, but not regularly and not often. At 2:27 this morning (why yes, I am grumpy about the time), Elly started shaking her head and flapping her ears, over and over and over and over and waking me up. I heard her ears hit the wall next to her bed. (Yes, they sleep in our bedroom.) Finally, reluctantly, I got up (and checked the time) and took her into the kitchen to pull out whatever stray ear hairs were offending her.

I started pulling ear hairs, and then suddenly I was holding a wad of matted, waxy, seed-filled ear hair, packed as densely as possible and in the shape of a poodle’s ear canal. It was at least two inches long and a quarter-inch in diameter. It was still attached, and I had to pull it apart and pull it out at the same time. Poor Elly! And after I finished with that, there was still more to pull. I ended up with a disgusting pile of hair on the floor. Then, poor dog, I had to pour in ear cleaner and wipe out the residue.

After that, I gave her and Dancer (poor Dancer sat and watched the whole thing) some treats, took them out to pee, and went back to bed. Elly is not speaking to me this morning, but she’s not shaking her head either.

Dog genetics

A new article in Science, which is a scientific journal full of articles only gnurds like me would actually read, summarizes some recent research into dog genetics, specifically the genes that determine what kind of coat a dog has. You can read a relatively straightforward summary of the article here: Untangling Canine Coiffures.

Basically, what the article says is that one gene (FGF5) determines coat length, one gene (a gene for a hair protein called keratin) determines curly or wavy hair, and a gene called R-spondin-2 determines whether a dog has furnishings. (Furnishings, for those of who who do not follow purebred dogs that have furnishings, are things like eyebrows, mustaches, and beards. Think airedale.)

A bichon frise has long curly hair and a mustache–and has all three gene mutations. A lab has none of the mutations. One assumes, therefore, although the article does not say so, that a poodle also has all three mutations.

Another damn sarcoma

This one is not mine.

Poor Elly. IBD. Hip dysplasia. A sore shoulder off and on for months now. I took her in to get the shoulder xrayed to see what the story is–and while she was there the vet, the excellent Evelyn Robertson, removed a mole from her flank and sent it for biopsy. It came back as a LOW-GRADE hemangiosarcoma. Low-grade hemangiosarcomas are not as bad as some others, but it still sucks, the prognosis is good but not great.

So today she had three more moles removed and biopsied. Sunday I washed her and checked her skin, and yesterday I shaved her all over with a 10-blade and Stacia and I checked her skin again. We found five spots that I pointed out to Evelyn, and she felt three of them needed to be biopsied. She did the removals under local anesthesia, apparently Elly behaved quite well. She is home and wearing a sweater, both to keep her warm and to keep her from chewing on the stitches. Results in a few days.

My poor baby Dancer…

She’s fine, really, but I’m completely traumatized.

Dancer managed to completely tear off one of the toenails on her back left foot. (In attempting to look on the bright side of this, it has already occurred to me that now I have one less toenail to trim.)

She accomplished this today at our agility lesson. Not on the equipment, mind you, she did it while she was getting out of her crate. She came out of her crate–I noticed she caught her foot, I checked it, didn’t see anything wrong, she didn’t even limp, she did several complete training runs–I was focusing her working at a distance and she did beautifully–and then went back into her crate so I could work with Elly. Which was when I noticed that her foot was a bloody mess.

I dunked her foot in her water bowl to clean it off a little, carried her to the car, went back for Elly, and drove straight to the vet.

Notice that I didn’t say “wrapped it in a towel.”

There was blood all over my car. I was pushing my luck on the speed limit, trying to walk that hairy edge between making the lights and getting stopped, and I kept imagining trying to explain the pool of blood on the front seat (where Dancer was curled up).

At the vet’s, they put me in a room right away when the saw how much blood Dancer was dripping everywhere. They only had to trim off the tiniest bit of remaining nail, and she didn’t flinch at all–I sat on the floor with her across my lap–and then they bandaged it. Layers of bandage. Lots of layers.

Then she got up and walked across the room with me. Leaving a trail of bloody footprints.

So they took the bandage off, doused her foot with a ton of styptic powder, and rebandaged it.

That one held; we came home, and now she’s sound asleep.

Dancer with bandage

Poodle Grooming

Yesterday I spent two hours with my regular poodle groomer learning how to do a basic sanitary clip (feet, face, “pooper” (her choice of description)). I took a short course about three years ago, when Elly was a puppy, but I nicked one the demo dog’s between-toe webs, and it scared me so much I never really did much after that, besides cleaning ears and keeping the toenails trimmed. Plus, it takes so much time. But, what with having two dogs, and having developed a fondness for a clean-shaven face, I thought I’d give it another try.

Once again I have developed a new appreciation for a good groomer. Katrina demonstrated the foot on Dancer’s left front paw, which took her about ten minutes. It took me twenty minutes to do half as good a job on the next foot. However, by the last foot I did (seven in total), I was getting to be… sort of okay. I’d put up photos but Katrina went around and polished things up when we were done, so all you’d see would be nice clean poodle feet.

I did do  a fabulous job of cleaning up Elly’s anal area. This is not something I ever thought I’d write about in a public forum. I also shaved the base of her tail. All by myself. I have a little Arco Moser Mini clipper, and it’s quiet and light, and for that light trimming, it worked very well. Also, after doing seven feet, I was feeling pretty confident.

The face was scary. Katrina did Elly’s face (while I was doing her feet and her tail) and I did the left side of Dancer’s face. When I was done, Dancer had eyelashes on the left side and not on the right. I think she looks cute with eyelashes, but one-sided eyelashes were not a good look. Katrina cleaned that up too.

I did not nick either dog with the clippers, but I did clip one of Elly’s toenails too short and made it bleed. Back to the Dremel, I think, for her toenails. They get really long, and she hates having her toenails clipped, probably because I’ve gotten the quick twice now. Bad dog mom.

I will get better with practice, I expect. It can’t be that hard, people do it all the time. I just want to be able to keep the feet and the face looking neat.