27 March 2013

Vision Redux

Yesterday i was feeling pretty optimistic about continuing to run Kiba, I even took her out and started working on a new verbal command, which will eventually signal her to "unlock" from the obstacle she is heading for. For now I am just working on it as a "recall at all costs" cue, so I am trying to break it down and just put her in a stationary position near obstacles, and then say the new verbal and move away and she runs to me and we play with the toy. I want this to be a very high value verbal. I don't use a lot of verbals on course, so this should be pretty easy to use, it will stand out.

But then I put her in the crate to go teach class. Because their dinner would be delayed, I dropped a few treats in front of her as a snack. The treats are similar in color to the mat in her crate. She could not locate the treats :( She knew I had dropped them, and she was sniffing all around her own feet, I saw her make a quick visual sweep of the front of her crate (it's not a huge crate), then go back to sniffing around her feet. She could not differentiate the outline of the treats (they were approximately an inch long, hard biscuit type treats), against the similar colored background of the mat. They were about a foot in front of her. I had to point at them with my finger for her to locate them. Now, I only gave her about 10 seconds or so of searching before I felt bad and pointed them out, but what hungry dog takes 10 seconds to find treats that are 12 inches in front of her face? Poor little thing!

So I think for now I will begin to track what I think are vision related issues with her. The trial I want to enter her in opens on the 9th of April. So I have until the 8th to decide whether I should or should not enter her.

So far, her history of "symptoms" looks like this (some are new-ish but most have always been around, just are worse now than they were before):
Staring at cars "on the horizon" but not up close near a road
Staring at other things far away - my neighbor in the field adjacent to ours, in his tractor
Taking off early for jumps, sometimes with a stutter step beforehand
Locking onto obstacles very early
Difficulty judging obstacles and tracking my position at the same time
Inability to locate treats on a similar colored background
Wrapping uprights in a different manner when turning left vs right - tilting head inward on the right-hand turn to get a better look at the upright.
Prefers to be farther away from me on walks than my other dogs, despite lots of training to the contrary (she prefers to be 50+ feet away, but still within sight)
Occasionally trips stepping onto the edge of a raised surface
ETA: In the opthalmologist's office, Kiba was standing still with her right eye VERY close to a piece of furniture. Like 1 mm close. I could not see any of my other dogs standing with their eye THAT CLOSE to something, and I pointed it out and the assistant also thought it a little odd.
And another one I realized today was probably related - Kiba has always been really upset when I am playing tug with her and a toy whips back and hits her in the face. I always chalked it up to her being sensitive, but maybe it is because she has trouble seeing the toy up close??

All of these things combined led me to believe she was far-sighted, and she is. Now her diagnosis says it is not very bad, but her behavior leads me to believe that for HER, it is not "normal" sight. It was also suggested to me that the lens hardening of a middle-aged dog may make it seem worse to her, and that is certainly a real possibility. As of today, it is impossible to simply ask Kiba, "hey, is your vision worse than it used to be?"

I don't tend to think, at this time, that she is a danger to herself running agility, but I have to keep in mind that she is a really fast little dog, and a mistake running at 5 to 7 YPS can really hurt. So far she has not had any catostrophic crashes.

You can see I am not fully decided on this issue. That's OK. That's part of the reason I have a blog - to blather into cyberspace and record things.

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