Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
and UWPCH... 36 and counting...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Nosework (2/31)

We had a skip week scheduled since our last class, then last week it was only Dorothy to instruct us and she was sick, so we ended up with a two week break.

The first two searches were set up so we could watch our dog's behavior as we approached the startline... They were based on something interesting Dorothy saw at a recent nosework trial where she was the certifying official (CO).

Vehicle 1 video - This first search was set up so we would approach on a path parallel to the startline, which was also parallel to the two vehicles set up in a staggered overlap. We were instructed to walk the full length of the startline (marked by cones). You'll see Gimme wants to cross the grass headed straight to the truck. It could have been odor blowing from the truck's rear bumper hide or the car's far front wheel hide blowing under the truck. She gets the truck bumper hide in under 20 seconds. The other dogs got the other hide first. She was just as fast getting the second hide. She wasn't the only one to show interest in the bumper of the car - we think the shape of the molding above the bumper may trap scent from one or both of the two hides.

Vehicle 2 video - We again approached on a path parallel to the startline and the truck, while the car was moved to a position perpendicular to the truck. Gimme again wanted to cross the grass to enter the search area, but didn't pull as hard. She went past the bumper hide (actually in the electrical hookup), but quickly turned back to it. The hide on the car didn't move, but leaving the wheel turned made for a very different search. This search was almost 30 seconds faster than the first time.

Vehicle 3 video - This time our approach was straight to the startline. Dorothy turned the car around so the hides on the front wheel well and the bumper were pretty close to each other, about five feet. Gimme chose to go all the way around the car before going to the truck's bumper - probably because of the angle she approached the startline. After she went around the truck and came back to the area between the two hides, I stood in front of the truck bumper hide, blocking the hide and disrupting the converging odor pattern. Ordinarily I wouldn't do so in practice, but I figured since she already found the truck hide, I might think to block it if it went like this in a trial. From the moment I stood in front of the truck-bumper hide until Gimme found the hide on the car was 7 seconds. She cut the overall search time by another 20 seconds! Really nice given this included a converging odor puzzle.

Vehicle 4 video - The last search was on the big truck. Gimme was dragging me to it well before we even got close. The hide at the front wheel was a challenge because the spacing was so tight and Gimme went a bit past it, then couldn't turn around. Fortunately backing up is her special power, so it wasn't hard, it just surprised her. The second hide wasn't hard, but Gimme tried to give me a close-enough indication. In a trial it probably would have been accepted, since we're only talking six inches between the source and the step below it. Gimme wasn't wrong, the scent was falling on the step and her nose was only inches from the hide, but training for accuracy is always a good plan.

In May, we have trials every weekend, three weekends are for nosework trials. Two of the weekends are for three AKC trials and we are on the waitlist for a fourth - so it's a good chance we'll get some titles there. We also have a weekend of UKC, with a lot of titling possibilities. The other weekend is barnhunt - 8 classes in two days. The first weekend in June is a three day seminar with Sil Sanders on TDX tracking, which is why I've been working so much on aging Gimme's tracks. We're gonna be busy...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

RFE practice (67)

We started with some heeling practice and distraction work. So I expected Gimme to have her full brain when we went to work on other stuff. Not so much. 

Down-Stand video - I can't explain why Gimme had such difficulty getting to "down" - clearly she wasn't using her listening ears. Maybe because there really isn't much listening required in heeling, so we haven't warmed up her attention to cues. I wanted to focus on where her butt was on the down, often angled out about 45º. I gave her an extra cue one time, but then went to simply moving away without rewarding. When I get her to stand relaxed in heel it is better, but still out 30º. I was also rewarding waiting-for-the-cue. We never got better than 30º in "heel", but she did it perfectly at "side". So will need to practice "heel" more and maybe with a barrier to get better muscle memory. 

Switch back video - Just an easy run through of both sides for the switch back - done beautifully.

Circle transitions video - Another easy run through - done beautifully.

Figure-8 video - More quick run throughs. It's too easy to forget the novice behaviors, so I want to try them from time to time. 

Circle Handler 3x video - The biggest challenge I see here is her going around and always nosing my hands, checking for a treat. I didn't have any food in my hands, she just expects it. I think I want to train this with her special bowl. I think if there aren't treats coming from my hands, I can use the clicker to mark clean "around" & "behind". I think it would look better. 

"Thru" to front video - I don't know why she was hesitating about going "thru". I can see my cues where terribly late, but there were some where it was late and she was doing it just fine and some where she wasn't. I did see some hand checking, so special bowl might help with this, as would not having treats in my hands. I saw my posture was getting more and more bent over as we were having problems, but I don't think it was the reason. 

"Near" & "Close" video - I'm teaching Gimme to move her rear feet a step or two on cue. It's similar to "izzy" and "otto", except I only want a couple of steps. I think it can help with a couple of behaviors, in particular backward weaves, but without confusing the meaning of "izzy" and "otto". "Near" is clockwise and "close" is counter-clockwise. Gimme has picked up the meaning really quickly, but isn't comfortable using it to "beep". I think I need to set up for "beep", do it a few times so she's comfortable and then introduce these new cues. 

Walking weave video - I wanted to do a short practice with Gimme finding the smaller opening when I walk the way Ray Underwood said is more elegant. It doesn't look more elegant to me, though it does feel more elegant. Gimme did a good job; I need to reward in position. 

"Away" video - The goal here was to get center-stand with her facing "away", using her special bowl. It seems her release to the "bowl" cue has lost it's power. I'm not sure why, since I haven't ever put emphasis to avoid the bowl. I think I need to do a bowl tune up, so she really dashes to it when I release her, with something along the lines of a restrained release.  Maybe I need to run to the bowl with her, to add power to her dashing.  I'm also considering a cue to stare at the bowl - not sure. Despite this issue, at times it looked like she was getting the idea for "away". Maybe some foot targets, in addition to the platform, would help. 

"Fanny" video - Happily, this is coming along better than I thought - seems to be clicking for her. I think I'll just keep doing the same thing and when it's solid, mixed with other positions, then I'll fade the platform. 

"Izzy" & "otto" video - Just a quick run-through to keep these strong. Nicely done Gimme...

Backing in heel positions video - Backing in "side" continues to be more challenging than backing in "heel". I am seeing a little improvement with the use of "near" to get her heiney in. I do think I'm progressing too fast on the distance/duration.  And, I probably should use a barrier for "side". 

"Back" in center video - Gimme does this better than backing in "side" position. J'Anna thinks Gimme can't back except with a target, which I then show her. I'm using the target to establish a habit of backing straight. I noticed something interesting in this video. When Gimme is backing from center, her tendency is to drift her rear clockwise, just the opposite of what she does in "side". She does start offering "scoot", but with better clicker timing I was able to clarify what I was going to pay for. 

"Scoot" video - I'd like a little more distance, but if not, this is still good. Gimme really enjoys this - probably because she invented it. You know how she is about doing her own thing.

I think we are making better progress on many behaviors with my new approach to a training plan.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Tracking (41 & 42)

Gimme and I tracked at Flaming Geyser on Saturday, March 24th.  Since I was in the area, this was a perfect time to start working on older tracks toward a TDX. So, I laid a simple field track for Gimme and then went to visit my mother. I was aiming for 2 hours, but it turned into 2:10. Just before we started, a guy walked out and set up one-third of the way down the first leg, to fly his drone (red dot). Gimme struggled on the first leg and having a man just five feet from her track was a really huge distraction. Once she got past him, then she was able to focus on her work.

She did a great job on the first corner and quickly found the first article and then got through the second corner easily. Unfortunately she was going too fast and overran the third corner substantially, at least 50 feet.  Clearly I didn't make a detailed map.  She caught the drift of the glove on the next leg and was able to work back to it. From there to the end she did a lovely job. 

Since this track was an increase of 40 minutes from next oldest track she's ever run, I was very impressed with her efforts. What a good girl!

Yesterday, on Thursday, April 12th, Nadine had a conflict, so I used the opportunity to set up another well-aged track at Flaming Geyser. This 505 yard track was aged 2:18. The ground was wet, with a slight breeze. Gimme spent time getting her confidence on the first leg and took her time to work out the first turn. She did fine on the second turn, but overran the third by 15 yards. She caught her mistake quickly and I only needed to move her back a bit to get in the vicinity of the next leg so she could find the track. She often overshoots turns, so I always assume I need to move back when she searches - I can count on the corner being somewhere behind me.

Gimme aced the fourth corner, which was in a bit of a depression.  Then she was going too fast and passed the last corner. It didn't help to have the breeze blowing the scent in the direction of the turn (away from her). Still she realized her own mistake and started swinging around to search for the track. She found it pretty easily with a bit of me backing up (always a good plan).

While it took her a little time, usually the whole first leg, to get confident on these two old tracks - from there to the end she did nicely both times. She has an AMAZING nose...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Urban Tracking (83 to 87)

Again, I'm far behind on blogging. I have 7 tracking reports to share.  I am blogging two of them separately since they are field tracking.

Nadine and I met on Friday, March 23rd at Game Farm Park. She laid a marked track of 575 yards. The conditions were cool and damp. You have to look carefully to see where the track starts on the left side on grass under the trees.  It turns left and quickly crosses a blacktop path, before turning left again. I asked for a challenging transition, so Nadine set it through the small playground. The track entered the playground (wood chips), then angled right and followed the short wall as it arced left. The turn around the end of the wall heads out into the field. Then there was a left turn going straight across another blacktop path and up into the grass to end.

Gimme did a really nice job on this track. The only challenge was the transition. She wasn't quite sure what to do about the wood chips, but she figured it out. The track on the paved path along the wall was pretty easy, since the scent pooled along it. The next hardest part was the turn around the end, going between 3 large rocks. Once she negotiated the turn, it was easy through to the end.

On Thursday, March 29th, we met at Auburn Cinema. Our tracks were two simple 150 yard tracks on pavement, aged 50 minutes. They are supposed to be straight, but we often have to put a slight bend in them to get the length. The top one in the picture is the one we ran first, aged one hour. Gimme spent a little time getting into the plan and then did nicely. While there weren't anywhere near this many cars, by the time we got to her second track there were a few cars nearby and one right on her track. Gimme wasn't bothered by them at all - not even with one of them running. She went between the cars without concern, to the side of the car straddling her track and luckily, about 20 yards after we passed it, she was rewarded by an article.

She is such a good tracker.

On Saturday, March 31st, I took Gimme to Medline. I decided while I was focusing on track age for hard surfaces, it would make more sense to just do straight legs like we do at Auburn Cinema. So I laid her four tracks in a square of 65, 100, 106 and 70 yards, with a short walk between the end of one and the start of another. I planned them to start into the breeze, but by the time we ran them, wind direction changed. As we were running the second track the direction changed 90º, then went back to it's original direction on the fourth track. It occurs to me this may be why she has more difficulty here than at the cinema with Nadine. Gimme did a really nice job on these 50 minute old tracks, which she finished in ten minutes, the same time it took me to lay them.

On Friday, April 6th, we met at Game Farm again. This was to be an unmarked TDU-like track and it was aged 1 hour. It started on a sidewalk along a chainlink fence and passed through another paved area between two ball fields. The large red dot is where there was an open gate. Gimme went through the opening (the gate jutted out into her path) so she had a little challenge to figure out how to get to the track which was now on the other side of chainlink. Fortunately there was an article right past this spot and she was highly motivated to get to it, so she wasted no time solving the gate puzzle. She had no problem on the pavement after this.

It always surprises me how hard it can be for her to transition from paved to grass when she started on paved, because I think of grass as being easier than paved.  I believe grass is easier, but Sil says the dogs have it in their heads to follow one smell and then they are presented with a different smell combo, making it a very different task .  Gimme spent the whole of the next short leg before she was certain the track was really on the grass. There was a lot of dog contamination near the fourth turn, but Gimme didn't act like she noticed it. She did a great job following the track along the outside of the ball field.

Going around the curve of the ball field we were actually tracking in a shallow ditch, but Gimme didn't think it was an issue.  I love how she can experience new things and just works through them, if she shows she noticed at all.

On Saturday, April 7th we went to Medline again. I repeated the same pattern as before, but making my tracks run in the other direction; 94, 70, 98 and 70 yards. My initial plan had been to age another 5 minutes, but this time the wind was quite strong, so we ran it at 30 minutes. Gimme breezed through this very quickly, so the strong wind clearly wasn't the challenge I thought it would be.

The pavement was saturated - we arrived in the first break from two days raining - so this likely accounts for how easy it was for her. In any case, its always a good thing to have an easy and motivational track.

I think the best thing I ever did was teach her to love articles.  I pay very well on every one, so she's always motivated to find them. 

Just workin' the system, doncha know...

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Nosework (1/31)

Naturally all of our searches were easter themed.

Exterior search video - We had an area outdoors with a bunch of easter eggs and were told there were 1-5 hides. The breeze was blowing at our back from the start line. Gimme found the first hide in 4 seconds and the next three really quickly, but the last one took her a long time. I tried standing upwind of the last hide to see if I could block any air current and make it easier (they were all in blue eggs, so it was easy to know which were hides), but it didn't seem to help. Two eggs she'd already found were converging over the last one, making it a hard puzzle and the breeze was stronger when she was searching. She finally goes out of the search area (at 3:17) and then comes back in and right to the last hide. Note she comes back to the search area before the leash ever gets tight. Gimme has used this search strategy for a long time and Dorothy commented on it.

Container 1 search video - There was only one hide and Gimme had it verrrrrry quickly.

Container 2 search video - This time there were two hides and again, Gimme was verrrrry fast.

Container 3 search video - And now we have three hides - Gimme aces this.

She was so fast on her containers tonight, there was none of her usual demolition behavior. Yayyyy Gimme.

BTW she came in season today. I've been expecting this for several days. With luck she'll have another really short season and we'll still be able to go to the trial - otherwise I'll loose the entry fees.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

RFE practice (66)

You can't tell it from watching, but Gimme had a jammed toe. I knew she'd been a little off for a couple days, had scheduled her for the chiropractor later in the day, and was prepared to take things easy on her. I had no idea what was wrong and she isn't limping or anything, she was just off her game and I was hopeful Dr. Powell would be able to help.

Distraction work video - We had set up a prop weave and I used stuffed animals for the props, knowing it would be a distraction challenge. She does pretty good overall. She had one moment when she needed a lot of help to not get sucked in by the distraction. Probably the hardest part was when I was asking her to sit/setup near them. The third time was the best, with a much faster response to the cue. After this we heeled through the course, stopping for every sign, but not doing the behaviors.

Behavior warm-up video - This was just a quick doodling session with different behaviors to end the heeling/distraction session. Looks like "otto" and "izzy" are back - amazing, especially given how little we've worked on them.

Down-stand video - I wanted to focus both on alignment and getting a full down (butt and elbows down). Remember, since I wasn't sure what was going on with her physically, I was trying to keep things short and sweet - getting a couple good reps and then moving on. It went nicely.

Alternating front cross video - This is mostly for me to practice making sure I take a full step forward before pivoting around her. Gimme does her front cross beautifully. The only other thing I see we need to practice is her not moving as I step into place. Since she had a sore toe, it's possible she was worried about it, but I seem to remember seeing this before.

Step back center video - We hadn't done this in a very long time, so I thought it would be a good one to practice. Gimme did fine at it. I need to practice the transitions to/from "heel" or "side" to "center" more, but the step back is fine.

Switch-back video - Just a couple of switchbacks because we haven't done them in a long time.

Paw lift video - My goal was to click when only one paw was off the ground - easier said than done. She's much better at keeping her other foot on the ground when lifting her right paw "high". I also did some treats when she was not offering. Getting her to wait for the cue is always a challenge. I did discover fiddling with my fingers distracted her from offering so I could get the cue in. Gimme is pretty certain waiting for the cue is a bunch of crap.

We were running over time, as we often do, and there were others scheduled to use the big floor, so we moved to the puppy room. We haven't worked in there for well over a year, so Gimme was distracted by the change.

Circle the cane video - It may be the distraction of the environment was affecting her concentration and since it was our last session, she may have been mentally tired. However, seeing this video and knowing about her sore toe, I also think she may have been reluctant to move so close to my big clodhoppers. In any case, this proved very challenging. I want to practice it at home a few times before bringing it to Pawsabilities again.

About U 180 video - We hadn't done this in too long to remember, so I tried it out. The key is to let the dog get started on their circle before the handler starts their turn. So Gimme did it flawlessly.

Alternate position, no video - I had planned to teach Gimme to stand in front of me and perpendicular as an alternate position, but it wasn't working this day. Gimme just didn't want to do it. It may have been the toe thing or maybe something else. I'll try it again at home and if she still objects, we'll try a different position. She'd likely do fine with a reverse "heel" or reverse "side", which may be more useful in any case.

Fortunately Dr. Powell was able to un-jam her toe. Then he went over the rest of her in great detail and found nothing but minor adjustments. We spent the full 30 minutes and he petted her and she got cookies. So then at the end of the appointment, Gimme let him check her foot/toe again and happily the adjustment was holding. I'll be watching her and if I see anything, I will get her in to see him when he comes to town again (8 days from now). So far, so good...

Monday, March 26, 2018

Nosework (6/30)

These were interesting searches.

Vehicle search video - We were allotted 2:30 for this search. Gimme finds the first hide in 14 seconds. The back tire on the green machine must've run over something interesting. All the dogs were fascinated by it. I was just really pleased to read her right and know she wasn't alerting on it. Basically because she never sourced and didn't act like she was trying to source an inaccessible hide. She was giving me "the look", but it wasn't convincing to me - too much dancing around - and then she left it on her own when I didn't call it. Based on where the second hide was, it's possible some of it was blowing against the stinky tire and maybe accounts for "the look". In any case, her alert on the basket looks very different. Her third hide was solid too.

Interior 1 search video - This was all the same search area, rows of chairs, with one hide. We were supposed to refrain from going down the same aisle as our dog, so they would have the freedom to change direction without having us right behind them. I knew this intellectually, having noticed it at the UKC trial when watching advanced classes, but I still did it. There was only one hide and Gimme found it quickly.

Interior 2 search video - This time there were two hides, the first right in the squeeze spot up front. On the second hide, she actually showed me where it was and for some reason I paid her low. Paul told me it was high, so I paid there too. Gimme did great.

Interior 3 search video - There were three hides this time. Gimme was quick to find the first hide and then managed to bump her sore toe against my foot - I didn't even know about it at this time. Poor baby. I can't believe she worked so well despite it (she gets it adjusted on Thursday). She finds the second hide readily enough, but then has difficulty with the third hide because the two of them are converging. You'll note she goes back and checks the second hide, and then is able to commit to the last hide in just eleven seconds. Nice work!

Interior 4 search video - This time they stacked all the chairs with hides to make one big odor bomb and Gimme got to do it without the inconvenience of having her handler holding her back. She seemed to get stuck in a loop around two aisles, so I stood in her way to shape a turn into the aisle behind where the hides were. It worked beautifully and she had the hide in 5 seconds.

Odor bombs present their own special challenges - sometimes more odor is not better. It creates such a big plume and the dogs tend to skirt the edges, instead of diving in. I'm sure this is why she was looping around the two aisles. Too too interesting.

BTW, since there was only the one instructor and she doesn't do a good job as videographer, I asked Paul to do it (he is dad to August). He always does a good job and this time was no exception.