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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Parkour (4/5)

We had another substitute instructor and he wasn't nearly as good as who we had last week, who is nowhere near as good as Jo (she'll be back next week).  He's the person who teaches agility for this facility and now I know why his students don't do well and why the facility isn't well thought of in agility circles.  So, we didn't really learn anything new tonight; the sequences were pretty simple.  Its just as well, because the dog Gimme took a dislike to 3 weeks ago was back and she struggled to  focus.

The owner had moved them to a Sunday night class and was just here for a make-up class.  The dog is a very shrill barker and disrupts the focus of all the dogs, not to mention frustrating the heck out of her owner.  On a positive note, I was able to talk to the owner after class and she was very receptive to my suggestions.  I knew class was about to end, so I quickly took Gimme out to the car so I could talk to her.  I pointed her toward Control Unleashed and especially the Look-at-That game.  She said someone else told her to get the new BAT book.  So, as a graduate of their instructor course, I was able to tell her what was good and not so good about the program.  CU is really much better for her needs and the problems the dog is exhibiting.  In a few weeks I'll be taking a Sunday class as a make-up, so maybe we'll see some clear progress.  Hoping so.

Sequence 1 video - In any case, this is a clear example of totally unfocused Gimme.  Happily her tail is back to normal.

Sequence 2 video - Gimme did much better this time.  I had trouble all evening getting my timing right to call her out of the hoop stand on the side.  She wasn't focused and my timing was off. 

BTW the reason I call her so quickly as she comes out of the barrel is because there is another dog just out of sight behind the PVC barrier to the left.  In fact that dog is only about 5 feet from us all through class, with just a sheet over another PVC barrier.  It was hard for Gimme to have another dog so close for so long.  I did a lot of rewarding calm behavior and calm looks at it and other dogs as they came into view.

Sequence 3 video - Gimme did much better with this one.  Partly I think it was because the sequence started at the other end, so far from the other dogs.

Boardwalk with control points video - He wanted us to do the boardwalk up to the scaffold again, but adding control points.  Gimme knows how to do this, but it took her a moment to remember she knew - then she was awesome. 

Sequence 4 video - This time we combined the two sequences into one.  I worked control points through the whole thing, but still couldn't get the turn I wanted coming out of the hoop stand.  At least I got it going into the hoop stand on the return trip. 

Sequence 5 video - Gimme was supposed to do "hands" (2 on) to the step, but it was big enough, so she ignored me and jumped on with all 4 feet.  This is a continual problem for us.  I got the hands and then moved her away to re-present it to her and this time she offers a "below".  Still didn't get the turn out of the hoop stand.  Again she gives me 4 on to the bench when I cued "hands".  She did quite well with the "box" to "box", only inches apart, especially since she'd never seen this combination before.

"Table"-"hands" discrimination video - The task here was to do both "table" and "hands" in an unpredictable sequence to work on discrimination.  I basically didn't reward her when she didn't follow my cue.  She was starting to get it. 

I need to think of some obstacle I can have at home which has several different behavior possibilities, including "hands" and "table", so we can spend some time working discrimination. I may have to make something.  I have lots of cinder blocks and some scrap wood, so it wouldn't be hard to some up with something safe and suitable for "hands", "table", "out", "below" and "bacon".  I just think it would be really helpful to be able to work off leash. I also want to be able to cue not-doing (i.e. waiting for a cue), so being off leash would make this go really well.  And, of course, conveniently training at home whenever I had time would be a big plus. 

"Box" to "box" video - This is an interesting challenge for the dogs.  I think having the two boxes right next to each other makes it seem like just one box, so Gimme didn't see any reason why she couldn't have her front feet in one box and her back feet in another.  Once she got it right and got rewarded, then she figured out the deal.  She had this MUCH faster than the other dogs. 

Of course she is a genius, doncha know.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Nosework (3/23)

Several class members got into a trial this weekend, so the plan was to have one search of each element.  Dorothy was the "judge" for the interior and container searches.  The co-instructor judged the exterior and vehicle searches.  It was set up with searches going on in two different places, just like a real trial.  There was also one extra search at the end.

Exterior search - This search was of a large L-shaped area, with a lot of stuff creating barriers and challenges.  I asked the "judge" to video us, but she must've hit the button twice, because there was only 4 seconds.  Gimme did a really nice job and I let her make her own decisions about where she went.  She found two hides, and then I took her back to an area I didn't feel she had really given any attention to - as opposed to seeing her briefly check and then discount it.  She gave it a quick sniff for me and then tried to drag me to a hide we'd already found, so I called "finish" and was correct.

Interior 1 search video - So Gimme races in and nails the first hide in 4 seconds.  Quick or what!  I learned later the sniffing she did at 25 seconds was where a dog had bloody diarrhea the day before - one of our classmate's dog got totally stuck there and couldn't leave it.  Gimme nailed the second hide in 27 seconds, including the time spent where the accident had been.  When I said "find me 'nother one", Gimme went to the gate between this and the other search area.  Maybe she was trying to tell me something.  She diligently continued searching for me and was at least rewarded by getting a treat out of the plastic shoebox on the grooming table.  Knowing there was nothing else, she tried to tell me about the chair hide she'd already gotten and I still wasted another ten seconds.  I could have saved 35 seconds of search time had I taken her word for it when she pointed out "nother one” was in the other search area.

Container search video - This is a good example of me not-working our indicator; despite recently saying I was going to every time <sigh>.  I also didn't work my container plan when she got to the bag.  I should have kept moving around her and then she would've been more likely to leave it and not have sucked me into her interest in the Butterfinger distraction.  You'll see once I said "alert" she's pretty insistent she should get rewarded even though I caught her in a lie.  When we got moving again and she went to it, I kept moving and she didn't even pause.

Vehicle search video - Sorry this video is so hard to see; it's very dark over there.  She finds the first hide in 44 seconds.  She finds the second one in 50 seconds.  Then I call finish because "we can only have three".  Except we only had 2 hides, so they made me keep searching.  There were only two hides and after I had her check the whole area again, then they accept my finish call. 

I normally can count beyond 2, so I think there were two things going on.  First, I noticed her tail was getting droopy looking as we walked over there, so I was distracted.  Then between the two hides she paid a little attention to the back bumper on the truck and I made a mental note to get back there... hence three hides in my distracted head.  BTW I wasn't really aware of the rain, but you can clearly hear it on the video.

Interior 2 search video - You can clearly see in this video how droopy her tail was.  It just droops limp behind her and while she can wag the end of it, much of the movement you see is caused by her movement.  When she moves faster, the tail comes up a bit and she can almost wag it normally - which goes with Doc's idea of it being a "power" issue, caused by interference with nerve transmission. 

You can also see she is still eager and happy to search and nails the first hide in 10 seconds, the second - 18 seconds later, and the third 24 seconds out.  Droopy tail and all, she is still significantly faster than her classmates, by half a minute or more.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Gimme's wiggy-wagger

As I mentioned about the Parkour class last Wednesday, Gimme was unable or unwilling to pull her front feet up into the chair for "bacon".  This is unusual for her, so I was happy to know we had a chiropractic appointment scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

During the RFE practice on Thursday, I noticed Gimme wasn't listening to cues well at all.  At the time I chalked it up to her false pregnancy, but in hindsight I'm sure it was also hard to focus through the discomfort.  Its a tribute to her tenacity how she keeps trying - she's always been very persistent.  At the end of the third session, I tossed a treat for Gimme and she flipped to get it and halfway fell.  From then to just before her chiropractic session, Gimme wouldn't or couldn't lift her tail or wag it normally.  It started to come back right before her appointment.  As I reviewed the video of the practice sessions, I see a number of stumbles and missteps by her rear.  I couldn't see it in real time because with her positioned next to me, this was happening behind my field of view.

Dr. Powell found she had one subluxation in her thoracic area and three in her lumbar region.  Her hips and other joints all seemed good.  He did a number of things to work on loosening up what was going on.  We discussed whether it was too painful to lift the tail or what.  He thinks the subluxations were interfering with nerve transmission, so she wasn't getting good info to her rear end for it to have normal strength and coordinated movement.  Based on what I see on the RFE videos, this seems likely.  At the end of the session, Gimme had her tail back to wagging normally.

By evening her tail was drooping again, so I cancelled our tracking for Friday morning, not wanting to have her out in the cold.  I contacted Doc about another session and he was able to fit us into an appointment for Saturday morning.  I hated having to wait when Gimme was so uncomfortable, but at least it wasn't too long. 

I assumed some part of the adjustment didn't hold.  Instead Doc found the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae were just as he'd left them and the problem was now a tipped sacrum.  He explained it was likely her body had to readjust its balance after the Thursday adjustment and the sacrum just ended up out of alignment.  I've actually experienced this myself, so it made sense to me.  Gimme seemed to be tip top and initially there was a lot more tail action than usual, as if she was trying to make up for lost wag-time.

Unfortunately it didn’t last.  She started out okay in nosework class, but then I noticed her tail drooping.  It was so pronounced others could see it.  Gimme didn’t act like it was uncomfortable, like before.  However, at one point she saw Janice and ran over to see her and scooted her butt low to act silly and in doing so, I think she jammed her tail against the floor – which clearly was painful.  Poor baby.  I contacted Dr. Powell the next day and the earliest opening he had was Saturday morning. 

Gimme's tail was coming back up and sometimes even looked normal.  Then during the evening, she came to put her feet next to me on the couch and yelped in pain and then wouldn't come near me.  She obviously thought *I* did something to make her hurt.

Saturday (today)
We met Dr. Powell this morning and he found a couple vertebrae in her lumbar region were jammed up again.  I asked him if there was anything I could do to help her body re-balance.  So, he taught me how to do the "tail pull" he does.  I was really surprised to learn how hard he pulls on her tail - dang near pulled my finger off.  Anyway, its also a lot to do with the pull angle and how I support her loin area, providing resistance, during the pull.  Gimme really seems to like it, so I hope it helps.

We  have a follow-up appointment on Thursday.  Cross your fingers for my munchkin to get back to normal...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

RallyFrEe practice (36)

As I said before, this month we are doing a Transitions workshop with MDSA.  Our assignment for this week was to turn in a video of some variations of spins, circles, and throughs, toward transitions.  So my goal for these practices was multi-purpose.  First I wanted to keep Gimme busy, happy and working with focus.  I wanted to be sure to keep the sessions closer to my target time of 8 minutes.  I wanted to play with some ideas I had for the Transitions workshop.  And I wanted to do a better job of keeping Gimme moving more.  Kathy pointed out to me after reviewing videos from our last session, I tend to get stuck working behaviors and she thought Gimme needed the hard stuff broken up with more movement.

Session 1 video - We started with some heeling on the left and then switched to "side" position for more heeling.  Gimme clearly wanted to work, but if you watch carefully, you'll see she's not consistently responding to the cues I'm giving.  Much of the time she's hearing me speak and then just doing the last thing she was rewarded for.  So we did some "side" position setups and single steps of heeling to get more focus.  Whenever I could, I tried to break out into rapid heeling - which Gimme liked.  Of course, she tried to throw in a few "Otto" reps here and there.  Interesting that her understanding of "wait" was almost completely gone this day.  One of the things I wanted to include for the MDSA assignment was the move Gimme created when I was first trying to teach her an inside "turn" - so starting from "heel" position, its "thru", followed by ½ "turn" and ½ "Otto", back into "heel" position.  When she did it on her own, it was smoother, but I like it and want to keep it as a move - which we'll call Spinotto.  Catchy name, doncha think.  We haven't done the "thru-right-behind-thru-left-around" sequence in awhile, and especially the "right" and "left" (single leg circles).  So I had to warm it up before we could get the sequence successfully. 

I made a new rule for myself about how many behaviors I'd do after the alarm goes off, since my sense of time is completely skewed.  I will do either 2-3 repetitions of well known behaviors or work on 1 behavior.  As a result, this session came in right at 8:00 minutes, which is what I'm usually aiming for. 

Session 2 video - I had an idea for a handler-front-cross and dog-front-cross repetitive sequence, so we played with it.  Gimme needed the support of my hand to hold her "wait" while I did my movement.  It's not fancy, but I think it could be cute with some dance movement on my part, after we get her "wait" back.   You'll see what I mentioned before about her not really listening to cues, but just repeating the last thing she was paid for.  So after the hfc/dfc sequence, we heeled a bit and then I wanted to work on "Otto".  Given how much she loves the move, for her to not respond to the cue really surprised me.  In hindsight it's pretty clear (see below).  I gave up on "Otto" and decided to work on inside spins.  I was having difficulty getting these at home.  I'd lure the inside spin and before I could reward it, Gimme would back-spin, as if to show me how it's supposed to be done, because the inside spins are the reverse of what she'd expect for the position based on all the training we've done to this point.  By moving forward immediately, it interrupted the tendency to back-spin and got me the chance to reward what I was trying to get.  This session was 7:45.

Session 3 video - For this third session, I worked on a couple of sequences I'd thought of.  Some things are just better in my head than on the ground, eh.  Some feel okay, but then look awful on video.  Pawsabilities has some handicapped people doing simple jobs for them and at one point one of them did something to attract Gimme's attention, which she found very distracting.  I felt I needed to report it to the front desk.  I didn't report it because it was a problem for me, but rather had J'Anna been working her dog, it would not have been pretty since her dog is not people social.  I heartily support the program, I just think there needs to be more supervision for safety.  Just about 45 seconds before the end of this session, I tossed a treat for Gimme and it seemed to me she lost her balance in jumping to get it. 

Now that I have the video to review, it looks more like her rear crumpled under her.  From then until just before her chiropractor appointment 4 hours later, she was unable to lift her tail or wag normally.  The chiropractic went well and I hoped this would be the end of it.

BTW the assignment for MDSA I submitted is Transitions 2 homework video.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Parkour (3/5)

The dog she had a problem with during the first class was again not present.  Hope everything is okay with them.

"Thru" sequence video - It's not easy to see them, but behind the carwash are several things (foot obstacles) to walk over.   If you watch you'll see Gimme's head get higher.  None of this is a challenge for her.

Ladder work video - The ladder is set with the easy side up.  The dogs have 5½-inch wide steps to work with and Gimme finds this really easy.

Sequence 1 video -  This sequence starts with the carwash and foot obstacles, then the hoop stand, the ladder, a box (out of video), ladder, hoop stand, foot obstacles and carwash to end.  Gimme does great with it - she loves to do-do-do.

Boardwalk video - The boardwalk is set up using two benches, so the dogs have to step over the arms of the benches to walk the boardwalk.  Gimme is completely unconcerned by this challenge. 

Sequence 2 video - You'll notice right away that I was having Gimme "halt" (stop) on the boardwalk.  Since Gimme was so unconcerned about the boardwalk made of benches, our guest instructor wanted me to up the ante by adding repeated control points on the boardwalk - always a good idea with Miss Go-Go-Go.  I was proud of her responding so well to the cue and once I was even able to "halt" her with her front and back feet on either side of the bench arm.  From there she has a chair to go "below" and a milk crate to do "hands" (2 on), which she turns into 4 on.  It takes me a moment to get positioned so I can interrupt her and get the "hands" I wanted.  From there we do the hoop stand, ladder, and box.  You'll see while we are practicing our stay in the box, the guest instructor turns the ladder over, so Gimme now only has 1½-inches to work with.  Initially I was moving her too slowly, but once I moved her faster and got her to think about what she was doing (instead of thinking about the treats I had), she got it pretty well. 

Putting on my trainer hat, I think it's too much of a change in increment to go from 5½-inches to 1½-inches.  I've been thinking about it and have come up with a way to add a mid-point increment to the basic ladder.  I'm going to talk to the guy who does the building of stuff for Pawsabilities about building the ladder the way I'd want it with the ability to set it up with a 3½-inch surface for training.  It's really not that hard to make the change and would be very secure/stable when using it. 

Sequence 3 video - A plastic tarp was put down as part of our sequence.  The other dogs danced around it before getting on it, while Gimme walks right up and starts walking on it while she checks it out.  It just doesn't occur to her to do otherwise.  Another change was to reverse the order of the foot obstacles on the other side of the carwash, making an additional challenge for the two taller dogs, since they needed to bend a bit to step up on the higher platform while they were still under the carwash.  From there we did the hoop stand, ladder, open barrel, box, open barrel, hoop stand, foot obstacles, carwash and back over the plastic tarp. 

Sequence 4 video -  For this sequence, the tarp has been moved inside the open barrel and a small platform has been placed where it was.  The sequence is boardwalk, go below a chair, 2 on a milk crate, hoop stand, ladder, open barrel with tarp, 4 in box, barrel with tarp, ladder, hoop stand, carwash, foot obstacles and table for 4 on.  Gimme really enjoys the sequences. 

"Bacon" 1 & 2 video - Gimme tried throughout the evening to sneak in "bacon" at any opportunity.  So when we were given the chance to do individual work, I gave her a chair to "bacon" onto.  She's done higher obstacles and this kind of chair before, so I was surprised at her reluctance to get her front feet into the chair.  I gave her a couple of chances before moving to a lower obstacle.  I wanted her to end on a positive note.  Gimme is very honest and doesn't just refuse to do something without good reason.  She so loves "bacon", when she wouldn't finish the behavior, I had to assume something was bothering her.  So, I was glad to know we were scheduled for a chiropractor appointment the next day.

Nosework (2/23)

Too dang cold to be outside playing nosework, just sayin... 

Exterior search 1 video - The search area was about 40 feet of sidewalk and either side of it.  The other instructor just walked down the sidewalk and tossed two tins into the snow.  Gimme was the only dog to start her search going to the right, though she doesn't stay there; later you see her checking the pee-mail there.  Every dog checked the pipe coming out of the ground.  Even with the time she wasted reading pee-mail, Gimme still completed the search in equal or less time than her classmates.

Interior search 2 video - At the very beginning of this search, you'll see the red cart against the wall.  One dog paid attention to it and when they checked, they found there was a hide left on it from the Friday before - so five days old.  The dog that found it is the slowest in class and was also the first dog to search, so the door nearby hadn't been opened and closed multiple times.  The search was set up to try to duplicate an "impossible search" from Friday - which the instructors' practice group dogs had so much difficulty with it.  While the hides were set the same, there must've been some other variable that changed, because none of our dogs found it impossible.  The first hide Gimme found was the one her classmates found second.  She did an awesome job finding the second hide.  The one on the chair was oddly the most challenging for all the dogs - she checked it four times, sniffing quickly and then moving on.  When she tried to get me to pay her again for her first hide, I chose to put her on leash.  I thought it might help her slow down and focus on the chair.  She still checked the chair three more times; third time was the charm.  It took her 2 full minutes to find the third hide.  Although the room configuration is a mirror image of the old building and the fans are the same, we do think its somehow different, based on how the dogs act.

Interior search 3 video - For this search they moved the 5-day-old hide to the edge of the grooming table right inside the door and we were instructed to move our startline to the door.  You'll see she spends more time at that end of the room, but doesn't settle down to find it.  Of course, she was responding to my behavior, since I was staying toward that end of the room (just like I do for thresholds in trials), to draw her in that direction.  I didn't move with her to the other end of the room until she was clearly working a hide there.  She had to sort out source for the hide on the exposed beam - which I didn't expect to be such a big deal.  This time the chair wasn't nearly as hard, having been moved about 15 feet - location-location-location.  The hide on the shelf bottom was easy.  From there she spends 2½ minutes finding the 5-day-old threshold hide.  I supported her by hanging out in that area.  If you watch her, when she can't sort it out, she starts sniffing high, but finally gives that up.  Bless her persistent little heart, she never gives up.  She got a lot of goodies for that hard find.

One thing that is different about this training building is the exposed steel beams at each end.  I wonder if they do something to change the airflow.  I know I've learned a lot from Sil about how tiny changes can make a huge difference in the way air moves.  For instance chainlink fences do really bizarre things with scent.  So, its conceivable the beams could be making a big difference.  There is also the back door, which is opened and closed with every dog that leaves.  I'll see if Dorothy will bring her smoke toy to class some day.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Freestyle Doodling and BH practice

Last Saturday was a busy day for us. 

I know I've told you I'm a member of the MDSA online workshops list.  If you are interested in canine musical freestyle, I highly recommend it.  At just $25 a year, its well worth it. 

Last month we did a tribute to our living and past freestyle dogs.  You may remember I posted this posed picture with Gimme and I "doing freestyle" and submitted pictures of Lucy and Michael.  I tried freestyle with both of them.  Michael just didn't get enthused about it, preferring the high activity level of agility.  Lucy loved learning the tricks and dancing with me, but was adamantly opposed to "performing".   Our Freestyle Journeys video

This month's workshop is about transitions and the instructor is none other than Julie Flanery (creator of RallyFreestyleElements).  Our first assignment was to post a video of our baseline spins, circles and through - from both sides.  So before heading over to the Barn Hunt practice, I squeezed in a quick session at the tennis court, where I could safely have Gimme off leash and not get my shoes soaked by wet grass.  After a quick potty walk, Gimme performed flawlessly and I thought surely this would go quickly.  I put her back in the car and set up the camera. 

For our second session, she was so distracted and unfocused.  I really couldn't understand where her brain went.  Since we haven't worked there in 6 months, I think she needed more time to acclimate.  So, in hindsight the potty walk before the first session served as a "perimeter walk". Another thought I had was, the time in the car was only a couple minutes and usually at our RFE practices in Fife, she gets at least 15 minutes down time to regroup mentally.  I should have spent a lot more time warming her up mentally, but the camera was sitting exposed in the rain and I was in a hurry (next time I'll put a plastic bag over it).  It took 7½ minutes to get good repetitions of just 6 behaviors. Transitions 1 video

From there we drove to Eatonville for a Barn Hunt practice.  The last time we trialed (Nov. 2016) I found Gimme had forgotten how to tell me where the rats were hidden.  She totally remembered how to find the rat, but thought standing in the middle of the ring barking at me would be enough to show me where it was.  Janet pointed out that its not fair to not do something for a year and then expect to come out and be perfect again.  Well duh... 

So I rejoined the practice group in Eatonville and this is the first time we've had a chance to get over there for a practice.  As it turned out, on this day Gimme communicated her finds very nicely.  I set up the camera to record a video: Second practice session.

Since its 1:20 drive each way and we were there over 2 hours, this pretty much ate up the rest of the day. Gimme was sooooo ready to be home resting with her babies.  I was myself soooo ready for a long soak in a hot bath.