Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
NW1, NW2, L1I, L1E, L1C, RATI, RATN, RATO, RATS, L1V, L2C, L2I, L2E, RATM,
R-FE/N, PKD-TL, PKD-N, ADPL1, ADPL2, TD, UWP, ADPL3, NTD, TKN, L2V, ADPL4,
SDS-N, ADPL5, ADPCH and ADPL1(2GC)... 30 and counting...






Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter 2013

Here's some pictures from today...

Spent Easter with family.  It was fun.  Here's a picture of Gimme with my parents.  She's decided she likes having bunny ears... though I think its because she believes it will help her sneak up on a bunny.  We didn't see any rabbits all weekend, so she didn't get to test her theory.


She spent a good part of the day playing with a ball she found and lounging around on the lawn.  My parents have an actual lawn...  I just have patchy grass...  Real lawn makes for better lounging.







Gimme here:  

You can have all the eggs you want.
I'm just here for the bunny...
~ HAPPY EASTER ~

Friday, March 29, 2013

NW Food Distractions

Today I set up another food distraction exercise.  I used the Costco boxes again... this time I put the same bite of cheese in each and cheese-and-odor in one.  I'm trying to make clear to her that even though she gets to find food a lot (like every time we pair), its only FOOD WITH ODOR that will pay off for Miss Gimme.

The first one she found right away.  The second time there was a couple of false alerts... the same for the third round.  The fourth round... she was just batting the snot out of the wrong boxes, over and over again -- then she suddenly stopped looked at me and then went to the right box and was much more insistent with that one. Time will tell if this approach works.

I do think I need to set them up and then come in the office with her and read emails for 5-10 minutes... to let the odor "cook".  That means to let odor escape. 

I'm also thinking about drawing up a plan so that I can use my tiny space in such a way that I don't place a "wrong" box in the same spot where the odor box was.  I know she has to learn the difference between source odor and lingering odor.  Howevah... we all know that part of good training is, as much as possible, to break it down so you are only teaching one thing at a time.

Well - Gimme is teasing and tormenting me with one of her toys.  I think she's trying to tell me something...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Push-Push

Gimme is learning a new game.  I read about it on the Treibball list as a way to teach dogs to use their nose to push.  She knows the general idea of "push" from our class last year and can use her nose to push a door closed, though she'd much rather use her feet to slam a door.

So the trick is to unroll an exercise mat and put treats in the end and then roll it back up.  The dog has to push with their nose to unroll the mat and get to the goodies.  At first you only roll it a couple inches, so any push exposes the treats.  Then you gradually roll it more and more so they have to work harder to get it open.

Of course, Gimme being herself meant that the moment the roll had any size to it, she started using her feet.  My part was to make sure that didn't lead to success and to tell her "yes" when she used just her nose to push it.  I also had to make sure that sniffing and pushing on the ends of the rolls (where channeled treat smells were coming out) weren't successful either.

Gimme did pretty good and I'm sure this is a trick that we can have solid and ready to demonstrate by the next time I visit my parents on agility night.  They were disappointed that we didn't have anything new this week.  When she is a little better at it, I'll get a video done.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nosework (2/12)

Its been a long time since I'd had Gimme in for a bodywork session and lately I've been noticing some warm spots, so today we got to see Tonya.  Boyoh did Gimme need it.  She was very stuck in two places on her back (loin and midback), and her right shoulder was very stuck.  Because of those three, basically her whole spine from right behind her ears to her tail, plus her hips needed fine tuning.

It was bad enough that Gimme yelped during one correction and then wasn't going to let Tonya touch her again.  Of course, a liberal supply of peanut butter convinced her that she could endure it.  Tonya was pretty surprised to hear Gimme was willing to jump in agility, but I've noticed she can be a pretty tough little cookie.  (not that I think that was the issue last night, since it was only that one jump she was having trouble with)

After the appointment we came home and Gimme curled up on the couch and slept for 45 minutes... at which point I had to wake her up to go to class.  We just got home ten minutes ago and she is already sound asleep.  Sometimes when I'm really bad, after an adjustment I'm so relaxed all I want to do is sleep for a couple hours.  I've put it on the schedule to get her in for another fine tuning in three weeks.

Tonight Joyce started us out in the little room full of stuff, with three hides.  Then out to the big room with two hides.  Then last in the little room with one hide.  All of them were level one hides... stuff we were doing a year ago.

For her first search Gimme wasn't getting anywhere and was dithering around.  So I spoke to her to remind her to get to work and moments later she indicated the first hide and found the other two right after that.  Joyce told me I shouldn't have said anything to her, saying she was working.  When I took her outside, Gimme peed twice and then pooped.  Proof that I know my dog - I know when she is searching without focus (for whatever reason) and when she is really working.  In this case she had something else on her mind (even though she had the opportunity before her search) and wasn't really focused.  Speaking to her served as a reminder and she did what she's there for.

The second search I thought she'd do better.  She was more focused, but not like usual.  She did find both hides.  Likewise for the third search.

It occurs to me that one of the corrections Tonya made was to Gimme's "atlas", where the spine connects to the skull.  I know that sometimes when mine is out of whack and Doc does a big adjustment, I can be kind of muzzy-headed for several hours.  So, in the future, no bodywork on class days or in the day before a trial.

Agility Distractions

Last night was agility class.  I don't know why, but Gimme had been whiny and fussy most of the day, so I honestly wasn't expecting much.  Some days she is just needy - which is so out of character and I think I don't recognize and respond to it in the way she needs.  Fortunately it doesn't happen very often.

Actually class went fairly well.  It took a bit, but then she was giving me good focus and working well.  We had the oddest issue with a tunnel-jump-jump-tunnel sequence.  Gimme just would not take the second jump and the first conclusion was that it was my handling.

T
The sequence was to start with the green tunnel, then orange jump, green jump and into the orange tunnel.  It was truly a straight line between the two nearest tunnel ends.

Even after we made sure my handling was right, Gimme just would not take the green jump.  Each time she would veer out around it.  We tried several things, even having her jump one at a time.... but when we put them together in sequence and at speed, it went back to the same issue.

I finally slowed everything waaay down and then she got it.  Then we reversed course and did it again coming the other way, and again reversed course to go as the course numbers dictated at full speed.  She has done jumps at an oblique angle before, but it occurs to me that has almost always been from a stay, or following a strong turn where she was slowed down.  So my guess is that there was something about this presentation that just didn't seem doable to her; it may be that the angle seen at speed just looked too narrow to jump through.  Of course once she got it the first time - then she was perfect at it.

For our second run through, Blynn had everyone out on the course standing around the edges.  Given what a social butterfly this girlie is.... I really thought my whole job was going to be trying to keep her attention.  She went to the closest person once and was ignored.  Then she made a wide loop and went to another person and was ignored.  After that she pretty much decided that these people were all too too wude and didn't deserve any of her attention.

She did a great job on this course and only had one little problem which was 150% my fault.  After Blynn fixed my handling, Gimme did it flawlessly.  Another spot, Gimme got it, but we did it a few more times while Blynn tweaked my handling to give Gimme a better, faster and shorter line.

After class Gimme was happy and content for the rest of the evening.  Sometimes a girl just needs to get some of her busy out...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nosework Success

We had a very busy weekend.  Since our last post we've walked 13 miles.  Late Friday night I finally finished a baby quilt I've been working on for Olympia, my brother's first grandchild.


On Saturday I went to Linda's for a few minutes to help her cut some border fabric.  Since she was confused by my instructions for how to sew on the border... I ended up staying for 5 hours to help her.  She fed me lunch partway through and then afterward we went walking on the fort.  Gimme enjoyed that, since its been a long time since Linda has walked with us.  She also enjoyed meeting the range control officers that we ran into.

After we got home I did our first attempt at introducing food as a distraction.  We had minimal success, mostly because my setup wasn't right.  I used big boxes, the kind that Costco gives you to carry your groceries in.  I put a plastic dish with holes in the lid and kitty kibble inside under one as the distraction.  I had both Birch and Anise odor under another.  Also two boxes with nothing.

The first time Gimme got the odor box right away and I was thinking - "damn we're good."  That was followed by three times of her getting stuck on the kitty kibble box and me having to put my foot on that box to get her to leave it and find odor.  Part of the problem was that she could knock the Costco box away and get to the plastic container, which she then proceeded to batt around the floor.  I think she was finding that self-rewarding just because there was the possibility of getting to it.  Besides, we all know how much she loves to use her paws to play with things.  So I made a plan to improve my setup for next time.

Sunday we met Mary and Grafton for a 4 mile walk and then followed that with a visit to their house so the kids could have a much needed play date.  Afterward, Mary and I watched a dog training video together.  I'd planned to do nosework when I got home, but was inundated with phone calls all evening.

Tonight I also had a couple really long phone calls and a big computer project.  After that, I was determined to do another nosework food distraction session.  My plan is to do this 3 times a week.

I set the boxes up again, but made sure I tucked the food distraction container in one of the inner flaps, so there was no way to access and play with it.  I set another box with both odors and paired it.  Two times she got it right very quickly (with pairing).  The third time I didn't pair and she was distracted by the food distraction, but then realized on her on her own that she should find odor.  Her reward was HUGE... a big handful of marshmallows!

BTW I did email Joyce about my idea of having a separate class for those students who are ready to or already competing.  Her response was, to say the least, interesting.  Every other instructor I've ever known places a premium on helping their students to be a success... if for no other reason than to make themselves look good.  Too too strange.

We are scheduled for a NW2 match on April 7th.  I hope we will soon get the info for the master containers seminar, which is supposed to be the weekend after that.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nosework (1/12)

First, last night was agility class.  Gimme wasn't as focused as she can be, mostly because she hasn't gotten to run for five days.   She really needs that about twice a week.  It didn't help that the arena was pretty messy either; tons of "field cookies" to self reward with.  She did better when I remembered to bring out the peanut butter...

After that I went to my parents and fed them dinner.  After dinner we did the Gimme Show... showing off the latest tricks we are working on.  They were suitably impressed with her learning to crawl backward - its very cute.  Unfortunately, she offered me a "grape" (roll-over) in a spot I would never have cued it, and rolled right into the low brickwork curb around their wood burning stove.  I know it hurt a lot.

After that she wouldn't even do grape in another spot where she had plenty of room.  I spent about ten minutes encouraging her and she finally did it - so she got paid with a leftover slice of pepperoni pizza.  Today she is doing grape very willingly.

Tonight we were supposed to be getting introduced to food distractions in a container search.  Our trial is just 5 weeks away and I think we should have been doing that a long time ago.  When we got to class Joyce was setting up to play another game.  It was a fun game, but doesn't really get us ready for the challenges we'll face at a NW2 trial.

Thus, I've decided I need to just get busy and do what I can to get us ready, instead of relying on Joyce.  She is giving us challenges that are barely more than NW1 stuff and calling that prep for NW2.  There are two of us entered in the NW2 trial the end of April and I know she isn't covering half of what we'll need... so I'm just going to have to get in gear, make a plan and train it on my own.

Tonight our class consisted of multiple chairs scattered around the room (11) and multiple hides under the seat.  Joyce said she wasn't going to tell us how many there were, but quickly let slip that there were 6 hides.  The goal was to see how many each dog could find in 3 minutes.  Naturally Gimme did the best, finding 5 of them.  This was despite being distracted by people from the private lesson (upstairs) coming and going to the bathroom.  No one else got more than 3.

The second time Joyce set the chairs in sort of a row and turned some over and some on their sides.   Again Gimme found 5 of them.  All the dogs improved and a couple found 5, but that might be because their owners were kinda helping them, by subtly guiding them near chairs where they could see the odor.  I didn't help Gimme, but then, she doesn't need it.

Gimme did get into some major paw whacking toward the end of the second search.  Joyce sees that as evidence that a paw indicator is going to cost us faults.  I think Gimme did it because we stayed there so long because she hadn't found the 6th one yet and was caught up in converging odor - Gimme was basically doing her best to get me to pay for that one again and when it didn't work, she got frustrated.  She would never be faced with this kind of set-up in a trial... besides I'm willing to take the occasional fault to maintain her enthusiasm.

For the third search - we had 7 chairs in a row and one hide.  Gimme took waaaay too long to find it.  It didn't help that our friend Mary got up right as Gimme got started, to go get Grafton.  So Gimme had to go visiting and that ate up time.

I did ramp up my enthusiasm for her finds throughout class and could see that she liked it.  I am also encouraging her to pull into her harness at the start line.  Joyce didn't like that... oh well...  I have some ideas for how to train that a little at home.  I want her to know she can pull hard even when she has not yet been given the search cue, in preparation for implementing some of the things Josh suggested.

After class we went walking...  my toes are still cold...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nosework (6/11) & Seminar

Class was all about interiors.  Joyce choose to use a smallish room, made even smaller by the amount of furniture that was crammed in there.  There were bookshelves/desks along two walls, a filing cabinet on an end wall, a bunch of wood stacked against the opposite wall and a u-shaped set of tables with chairs in the middle.  There was just enough room to walk a medium sized heiney between the furniture.  Add to that Joyce and 2 or 3 spectators, the handler and the dog...

So the environment was very crowded.  I was surprised to see that all but two of the dogs were intimidated by the conditions the first time around, especially since they've all been in there before, just not with all the furniture set up.  Not Gimme, of course.  The other one that was unaffected was little bitty Kia.  Gimme just zoomed around like it was no big deal.  I think Kia is so small that it still seemed spacious to her.

The hides were set up to be a bit inaccessible.  Gimme didn't find them challenging at all.  I wish Joyce would come up with a separate class for those of us who are competition ready, so she can focus more on getting us ready.  Gimme, Tucker and Una would be a good advanced class.  I'm going to email Joyce and suggest it.

This weekend we had the Master Vehicles seminar, called such because we get to train with someone who is a master at that element.  We trained with Josh McCorkle; it was great.  I learned tons and have lots of ideas and things to try.  He's a creative thinker and I sure love the opportunity to train nosework with someone who isn't restricted to only using the NACSW-approved training method.  Josh is mostly reward based, though as someone who works with his dogs for a living (a police officer doing bomb searches at the ports), he's also no-nonsense and willing to use the very occasional punishment.

One idea I learned that I think will be a good one for us is what to do when Gimme notes a hide as she goes by, but keeps on scanning the environment, which he calls "cataloging".  He said dogs will do that to see if they can find something better... and that its usually a function of not being totally odor obedient.  In Gimme's case, I think its because she enjoys the hunt more than the reward of finding and wants to keep on hunting.  But his approach still applies because his philosophy is that we have to make finding odor soooooo important that the dog can't even think of passing it by.

His approach is similar to what Joyce suggested, but only slightly.  When Gimme goes by a hide with the tell-tale nose tilt that shows she's noted its location, Joyce suggested that she lose a turn and get taken away without getting to finish the search.  I find that approach punitive and frustrating, with no upside.

Josh uses that same basic idea... but turns it up several notches in a couple of important ways.  First, he said that in addition to making sure I'm using really great goodies, that I need to be more exciting and make each find a real party.  This is kind of the opposite of what Joyce has told me so often - that I should be more low key and to not rev her up.  With Josh its all about building so much drive that she lives to win by finding odor.  As for the losing a turn, he suggests throwing down a toy right by the odor she just passed and then dragging her away, meanwhile pumping her up to scratch and claw at the floor to try and get to it.  This should build drive.  Then when I bring her back in (the reward would have been removed), she'll go directly to odor and try to get me to pay up.  He said he'd done this with many dogs and it never failed.

Since I'm not training with toys, I asked Josh how to handle that, without contaminating the search area.  I thought I could quickly lead her to the odor and place the treat down in a dish or something, while not letting her get it and then pulling her away.  Josh said "NO", that he doesn't want me to be part of a no-reward-mark (NRM)... which that would be.  I sure hadn't thought of it in that way.  He suggested training with someone who can take the reward to odor and tease with it, while I drag her away, pumping her up.  I'll see if I can set that up with Mary.  I am also going to alter a tennis ball to make a food toy out of it that I can toss when I'm working by myself.

Gimme did great on her first search.  She was really fast and these pictures come from that search.  These pictures were taken by David Welton and given to me to use.  This one of her under the edge of the firetruck is the first hide...





These two were taken while I was getting my critique.











I live with this girl and yet sometimes I am still surprised by what a stunning beauty she is...


The second search proved a bit more challenging.  As we were waiting in the holding area, someone came out the door and started sawing on some plastic thing, making a really weird noise.  Generally Gimme isn't too concerned about noises, but to begin with she couldn't see them and found it spooky.  I had the guy show her what he had and she was better, but still suspicious, plus the noise kept going on and then we got called for our search.

Right as we started the search and she was detailing for the first hide, someone walked quickly by, really close, but half hidden by the bushes.  That distracted Gimme and it took her just a bit to get back to work, at which point the neighbor next door to the firehouse let their large barking dog out into the yard.  That also proved a challenge that ate up valuable time.  Gimme again got back to work and indicated the first hide, in a challenging spot.  I really whooped it up, making a big deal and Josh even whooped with me - joining us in the party.

I saw that Gimme got really excited by that.  She went on to find the second hide in a another challenging spot, but was 15 seconds over time.  Again we partied.  I'm going to do the party thing in class and practice - adding to the reward value of the treats.  I'm also going to rev her a little at the start line and let her start when she gives me a good pull forward.  Joyce may not like it, but she'll just have to get over it.

I asked Josh how to address the potential for a barking dog distraction, since that is one of her triggers.  He suggested getting someone with a recreational-barker who wouldn't mind having their dog in a car barking while Gimme searches nearby.  Generally she ignores dogs barking in cars, so we'll probably have to open the windows enough to make the sound more apparent.  The idea being to search nearby and as she is able to ignore the sound, to move closer until we are doing searches on the actual vehicle.  Now the trick is to find someone with such a dog who is willing to cooperate.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Busy Gimme

Yesterday was a very busy day for us.

We started the day with a quick training session at home.  Then we went out to the fort for a 2.5 mile walk.  There's a space where we come out of the woods and its hard to see what might be going on, so I always put Gimme back on lead until I verify there are no loose dogs nearby.  Yesterday I turned it into a training session on heeling.  Clearly I don't practice heeling in enough strange places, as Gimme was amazed and delighted to discover she could earn treats for heeling there too.  Who knew...

Then I put in two hours at work, followed by racing home to pre-cook dinner for my parents.  Then more racing out the door to drive an hour to agility class.

Class was great - though I have to admit Gimme wasn't as focused as our last class.  In hindsight, as always, it was my fault.  I was trying to do sequences that were too long.  One of my classmates taped our second run in class...  It took a few tries for us to get it right.  Here is a short video segment I put together that shows Gimme playing agility.  She has a lot of talent...  Do enjoy...


I'd gotten there early enough to set up the expen so we could work on "whazzat" while another dog was running.  Now that I've fine tuned that behavior, its working much better.  Having the "office" means I can be more relaxed.  Gimme did very well at that - the best ever.

After class I drove to my parents', cooked them dinner and generally hung out.  My Dad has always loved Gimme, so I brought her in and did a training session, showing off the tricks we've been working on.  They aren't anything special, but my folks were suitably impressed and Dad really laughed at her.  That's the first time I've seen him laugh like that in a very long time.

I noticed that Gimme was very gentle with her interactions with Dad, and yet more boisterous with Mom.  Later as Dad was walking down the hall, Gimme came zooming down the hall and I stepped in to be ready to steady him if needed.  I didn't have to, she very deliberately curved around him.  My Dad is very weak and frail, unsteady on his feet - and Gimme recognizes that special care is necessary.  She's a long way from doing formal therapy dog work, but I'm seeing the instincts are clearly there.  This excites me, especially since I've always noticed how many people are drawn to her.

Today I'd planned to go the fort for another walk, but it rained all day.  Then to top it off, nosework class was cancelled.  So, we met Mary and Grafton for a walk around the lake in the rain.  Now Gimme is snoozing contentedly...


Monday, March 4, 2013

NW Comment

I have decided to answer Chris' comment in a separate blog entry, because I think there is a lot of information about the nature of the nosework sport that I can share in this discussion.
  • Try anything once twice if you like it. Nothing says that you need to stay with the short line. 
I would try it, if I thought it was a credible idea.  I don't try strychnine as a desert topping - its not a credible idea.  I don't discount the idea out of hand - there are a number of reasons I think an ultra short line isn't credible/feasible.

This 18 inch thing is just the latest thing Joyce heard about at an instructor's seminar.  Every time she comes back she wants to make all these changes and try everything out on her students.  I went through that with agility instructors who had to try out everything on every student every time they came home from a seminar -- all it ever did was mess up what my dog already knew.  I'm not inclined to let her experiment on my dog.  Besides she isn't even suggesting this to the other students in class, who run slower dogs where it would be more feasible, and most telling, doesn't do it with her own dog.

Working Gimme on an 18 inch leash would be too inhibiting for both of us.  She'd have to drag me around to perform her search and I wouldn't be able to handle her in a way that keeps me from selling her on odor that isn't there.  I'll have to get another video of Gimme working that gives you an idea of just how fast I'd have to move.  Gimme changes direction a LOT and very fast as she is chasing odor to solve the puzzle.  The mental picture of me chasing Gimme chasing odor - well its not pretty and its not something I could do effectively and not interfere with her searching.

I watched some handlers at the NW3 trial work fast dogs on a short line.  It looked ridiculous as they were scurrying and scrambling around, trying to keep up and not give the dog a leash correction.  Even more important than the looks though... is that as we handlers move through the area, we are disturbing and moving the odor around.  At the converging odor seminar we saw video using a "dragon puffer" (a tiny smoke generator) that showed how a person moving past the source changes it in huge ways.  Even dogs as they are searching and moving through the odor cone change the odor - they showed a Golden Retriever and its big plume of a tail scattered the odor every which way.  The more odor is disturbed from its natural dispersal pattern, the harder the search puzzle is for the dog.

So as handlers, we don't want to be flailing around (moving erratically) in the search area, stirring up tiny breezes that scatter odor.  Instead we want to move calmly and slowly to create as little disturbance as is possible.  Always assuming that Gimme is working the odor and getting as close as she can, I want to be further away, never between her and odor, not moving in a way that disturbs odor or sells her on odor that isn't there.
  • How about a bungee cord for a lead. You cam buy that by the foot until you decide to get one.
I honestly don't think we need a gadget.  I've practiced my line handling and I'm good at it.  I get compliments from judges on my handling.  The only reason I'm entertaining the 12-15 foot line is that it might be less likely to catch on stuff in confined searches, like vehicles and interiors.  I plan to stick with the 25 foot line for exteriors and containers - where Gimme often works at a greater distance from me.
  • The correction you keep talking about. What happens when she gets to the end of the twenty foot line?
The unintended correction never happens on the 25 foot line, because she never goes that far during her searches.  In class I saw she stopped at 8-10 feet when she was intentionally moving in and out of odor, so she wasn't getting a correction even with a 12 foot line.  The start line is usually no more than 10 feet from the nearest box or vehicle, so she wouldn't get a correction then either.

I've practiced my line handling, so that I can gradually increase tension on the line as it slides through my guiding hand when she moves away and that way she can feel that more tension means she is getting toward the end.  She doesn't hit the end any more; probably not in almost a year.
  • There will be times that having the versatility to use any length of lead will be important.  I am only basing that on what I have seen of videos on tracking dogs. Some time they give the dog its "head" by a long line and other times they keep it close.
I'm not sure what tracking you are watching where you are seeing them work close to the dog.  I do know that in AKC tracking, the handler must be a minimum of 25 feet from the dog after they leave the start line.  In practical tracking (real world), there might be times they take up the line in confined areas...  but you'll see they never track on a short line.  I've read several books on tracking and trailing and no one ever suggests a short line; though they do carry a traffic lead for use when they aren't working.  When they are working, they use a long line that they take up and let out.

In any case, you just made my point...  I can't give Gimme her "head" on a 6 foot lead, much less an 18 inch lead.  With a 6 foot lead she would hit the end in one stride - certainly not much of a "head".  An 18 inch lead she would always be at the end.  At the start line, I hold the line at 12 inches from her harness.  Sometimes I walk her on that 12 inches to the nearest vehicle or container if she's not already focused and straining toward it.
  • I know you can come up with an idea to get Gimme to gently lead off, but time is the issue. You are trying to beat the time. Joyce may only be focusing on completing the search.
The whole point of nosework as a sport is to teach the dogs to find odor and tell us where it is.  We want to stay as far away from any hint of obedience as possible.  Joyce gets after me for "doing obedience" with Gimme before her searches.  Sometimes when Gimme is particularly scattered (usually because she's been cooped up too much), I do a few little exercises to settle her mind.  Its not about getting her to focus on me, but rather to engage her thinking brain.  If I don't do it when I recognize Gimme isn't focused, then the first search is pretty much a waste.  Joyce doesn't even let us encourage the dog to walk on a loose lead anywhere near the search area.  I've learned to do our focusing exercises where Joyce can't see me, to avoid the lectures.

The dog is the one with the nose, so she is in charge.  We are not supposed to be guiding them.   So teaching her to "gently lead off" would be the opposite of that fundamental idea of the dog being in charge.  Even for threshold hides, we don't restrain the dog near the threshold.  Instead we do a lot of those hides, so the dog learns to check the threshold.  That's also why we use the allowed 10 seconds behind the start line to let the dog get a scent inventory and potentially identify any odor near the threshold. 

An 18 inch lead is so weird, my gut reaction is that we might as well just heel around the vehicles and give up the pretense that the dog is in charge.

Besides, having watched a lot of handlers in matches, trials, classes and seminars - handler interference is THE single most common error that causes a team to fail a search.  With a dog as fast moving as Gimme, there is no way an ultra short lead would not cause interference.
  • Glad to see you and Gimme are having fun.
And therein is the whole crux of it...  Gimme is having fun and doing well.  I believe that is because I let her run the show and I don't interfere with her way of playing this game and solving the puzzle.  I am also careful not to unduly frustrate her efforts.  Thus I don't take seriously suggestions that would interfere with her.