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, ADP-L1, ADP-L2, TD, UWP, ADP-L3 and NTD...
23 and counting...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

NW2 Trial - So Close...

We got soooo close to titling, but there was an unusual distraction in the vehicle element that tripped us up (along with most of the dogs).  Out of 33 entrants - only 3 titled today.  Here's our blow by blow: 

Interior Element
Gimme did a very nice job.  1:40.53 for two hides in the first room and 16.56 seconds for one hide in the second room.  Our total for the element was 1:57.09 and we were awarded a Pronounced rating.  The judge's written comments were, "Blew past threshold hide! Great search!"

After we'd completed the element, she talked to me and said how much she loved Gimme's enthusiasm.  She also asked why I let her go off lead from the doorway and didn't try to keep her near the door for a possible threshold hide (which was the case).  I explained that Gimme was already a bit frustrated by all the waiting (three stops and waiting for several minutes each, before getting to search [they move you from station to station - to keep things moving and the dogs separated]) and that its a problem for her so I didn't want to risk getting her too frustrated to work.

She then said her initial thought when she saw me cut her loose, followed by Gimme blasting into the room was, "what is she thinking?"  But after watching Gimme search and how jazzed she was for the second interior after getting the freedom to do it her way in the first room, she said it was clear that I know my dog best.  She also complimented my handling - all off lead and how I moved about the room, always where I could see, but not crowding or pushing or drawing her away.  She called it lovely teamwork.  I can live with those kinds of comments, eh.

BTW it turns out there was an open bag of Fritos in one of the desks and many dogs were distracted by it, causing multiple false alerts.  Gimme never seemed to notice it and she loves chips of all kinds.  I was surprised by that, since the rules say that they will only challenge with distractions in the container search.  However, lesson learned, they also use the area as they find it and don't make any special effort to remove distractions.

Another BTW, in the debrief afterwards, the certifying official said that the majority of dogs who miss a threshold hide on the way in, do not get back to it and qualify.  That hasn't been the case for us - Gimme is good about going back to check out the area.  Still note to self -  do more threshold work.

Vehicle Element
We were not so lucky in the vehicle search - which is normally very strong for us.  Gimme found the first hide very quickly, but then got really hung up on the tires down the right side of the jeep.  She was fixated with both right side tires, even licking the top of one.  She also searched up and down that side and the front, paid a lot of attention to the front of the running board (where the second hide actually was), but never settled or indicated.  So we timed out.

The judge's written comments were, "Dog went right into source and gave a very good alert on 1st hide.  Dog very distracted on odor on tires of Blue Toyota.  Dog walked away from 2nd hide on Blue Toyota after putting nose on it several times.  Good leash work and handling."

In the debrief, it was discussed that most dogs had the same problem.  From where the judge and gallery sat, he said you could see the dogs get on those tires and then their eyes would practically roll back in their heads and they'd just lose all focus.  Apparently one of the male dogs did that teeth chattering thing and several of them licked the tires like Gimme did.  There is supposition that the owner may have driven through some roadkill or other unusually powerful smell.

In hindsight... I think I could have done a couple things different.  When they called 30 seconds, I could have taken Gimme out of the search area for a few seconds to clear her head and then taken her back.  The other thing is that I could have repeated the search cue "wherezit" or "show me" and that might have broken through the fog for her.  In any case, I'll be looking for an opportunity to collect some roadkill, coyote dung, deer poop and etc... for our stash of distractions.  I'll also see about getting some dirty litter from my friends with small kids and caged pets (gerbils and rabbits).  You just never know what you'll find in my freezer.

Exterior Element
This search area was half of a jungle gym (wood piles and plastic/steel poles) on wood chips.  It wasn't a very large area, but a lot of things to get your line stuck on.  By the time I got to the start line, Gimme was raring to go, so I let her.  She shot straight forward, one sniff of a piling, stood up to her full height against it, sniff two and paw whack.  No way I believed it was that simple and almost didn't call it, but decided to and she was right.  One hide in 5.19 seconds!  (first place went to a dog in 4.09 seconds)

The judge's written comment was, "Woooo Hooo!"  We got another Pronounced and a pretty 2nd place ribbon.  I admitted to the judge that I almost didn't call it and she said I would have had a LOT of company, since at least two-thirds of the dogs went straight to it and most of their handlers ignored their initial alerts.

Container Element
25 containers of all sorts including three nosework boxes, paint cans (unused with holes in the top), luggage, gym bags, plastic and wood containers - really everything, set up on a gym floor.  Gimme did a great job finding both hides in 1:22.02, including time to try to fake me out on one of the food distractions.

The judge's written comments were, "Dog gave aggressive indications on a box next to hide, then gave aggressive alert to the hide."  After all was said and done, I went back in to find out what and where the food distractions were and in particular what was in the paint tin (scrambled eggs).  Several people said they were completely unable to discern why I ignored her indication on the distraction and yet knew to accept her alert on the real deal.

After I explained what I waited on - sniffing, sticking, pawing and looking (versus sniffing, sticking and pawing)... I got a lot of comments about how well I knew her and how nicely we work together, along with how driven, enthusiastic and confident Gimme is.  It occurs to me that the people who asked didn't have access to her score sheet, where the Final Response description I'd given was - 1-multiple nose touch, 2-pawing, 3-impatient look at handler.  That's m'girl...

So now I have to get busy and find another trial to enter.  I just know she'll get it next time around.  Even though we didn't title today - I still feel verrrrrry good about how the day went.

This is nosework stuff is fun when you work with a canine genius who also happens to be Empress of the Cosmos...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

K9 Genius Strikes Again

Gimme was insisting that if I wasn't going to play nosework with her, then she needed more training... she does love it.  So we dabbled with some behaviors.  Then I decided to see what it would take to change the cue for her left and right high-fives.

I tried the traditional method - new cue, old cue, behavior, then reward...  After a dozen attempts, there was no sign that Gimme was getting it.  I tried another half dozen times with the treat in the new cue hand, to draw her attention to it - still nothing.

So I decided to just reteach the behavior, using the new cue hand.  She offered the behavior after just seeing the new cue, on the third try!!!  We did it a dozen times and by the end she was offering it 80% of the time on just the cue. 

Too damn smart!

Follow up -  The next time we worked on this... it seemed really confusing to her, so I've decided to leave the behaviors' cues the way they were.  Just means I'll have to work harder on getting them to a reliable verbal -- which is a good project to work on, especially given our difficulties with stimulus control.

Never Enuff NW

I meant to tell you, but figured yesterday's entry was long enough...

I have figured out how to read Gimme in containers when she is faced with food distractions.  I know I said before that the big difference was with odor she sticks the container and with food distractions she doesn't stick.  I also had noted that she was more nosey with food distraction and more pawing with odor.

Since then I have seen an evolution.  She is sticking to food distractions and sometimes leaving odor.  There are three things that she does when she has odor...
     sniff intently
     paw at source
     look at me

With a food distraction, she certainly sniffs intently and sometimes paws, but doesn't look at me.  The look is her "hey, pay up Mom" expression.  When its distraction, she's just busy trying to get to it.  I've been rewarding the look a bit more in containers and she's starting to do it before pawing part of the time. 

I also discovered that her reaction to Anise is weaker than her reaction to Birch and that she doesn't stick Anise as well.  If there is one of each, she almost always indicates the Birch first and then Anise.  A recent exception would be the search I set up at Home Depot (see entry Damned Hard Hide).  In that case, the Anise hide was the easiest of the three - so it makes sense that she would find/indicate it first.

I mentioned this preference for Birch to Joyce and she said that she'd been hearing that at instructor trainings over the last year and they think its because the dogs have a much longer reward history with Birch than with Anise.  I can't believe she's been hearing this in instructor trainings for a year, but hasn't been watching for it in class, designing exercises to address it and hasn't even considered it important enough to cover for the two of us who are trialing.  <sigh>

In any case, this becomes another thing I have to work on.  My plan is during practices to set up mostly Anise hides and reward them heavily.  At least for awhile, until we build up a good reward history.  She'll get enough Birch in class.  Later when we add Clove, I guess we'll have to do the same thing there. 

Tonight I had to run to Target to get a battery for my new Jumbo Sport Watch, which had already died - fortunately the battery was indeed the issue (I'm writing to the sellers, since it certainly ought to last more than 2 weeks).  I also bought a nice "cube" cooler, with a really tight fitting lid to keep my odor things in.  I notice that when I pick up the box I've been keeping them in, that I can smell it.  So I'm sure Gimme smells it too and pretty much all the time she is in the car - which can't be a good thing. 

When I got home I set up two simple searches, with two sources and both Anise.  Gimme found them very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed all the cheese and celebrating for her efforts.  So much so that when I put it all away, she took to whining and fussing because the fun was over so quickly.

A funny thing happened - for the second search I put one of the hides in the bathroom trash, in a shotgun shell wad holder.  Gimme went in and stuck her head in the trash but didn't indicate or stick to it.  Then she kept going in and out of the bathroom, without paying attention to the trash again.  She kept turning and looking at me like I was more-than-slightly-stupid.  I cued her "show me" and she finally went over and paid some attention to the trash basket, so I rewarded her for that.  Then I got the trash and started fishing around looking for the odor source to put it away.  For the life of me I couldn't find it... until I turned around and saw it on the floor right where I'd been standing!!! 

It seems she'd retrieved it for me and I had failed to notice.  Poor Gimme, saddled with a person who is clearly more-than-slightly-stupid.  I hope she knows how much I love her and sees that as a redeeming quality...

Cross your fingers for us...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Nosework (5/12)

Joyce did come with an exercise for food distraction that was different than what I'd heard and have been doing.  We set the food distraction exercise inside the building for Gimme and Tucker (both trialing NW2 this Sunday - do cross your fingers for us).  Outside we set up a regular box container exercise for the other dogs (one is trialing NW1 this Saturday).

The food distraction exercise inside the building was set up with about a dozen containers, two with odor and no food distraction.  Then the room dividers were pulled across the room dividing it in half and another drill was set up on the other side that was another dozen containers that had food in most of them.

The exercise was to bring the dog into the first side (with the odor containers) and let them find both odors.  Then you move through the dividers into the other side and the dog sniffs them, but isn't permitted to "linger" too long by gently pulling them away or jiggling the leash.  After the dog is less distracted by the food distractions, then you move back through the divider and work to find the odor containers again.  Gimme was very good at this and I was sure glad we'd done all the work on it before this class.  There is no way that one exercise would have gotten her ready for the trial this weekend.

After we'd done that search twice, our third search was to do the outside boxes.  Gimme was just coming from her second inside search and was thrilled to see all the boxes.  She started searching and picked the wrong box and I called "alert".  It was actually quite a ways from the correct box, so I'm not sure why she thought it was correct, but her indication had all the features I look for, so I think it was a genuine error.  In her defense, it was a pretty strong wind and the odor box had been down no more than a minute.  I encouraged her to try some more and she did.  Then she picked another wrong box, which was actually right next to the correct one and again I called "alert".  Then she got really frustrated and started just trashing every box, one after the other, without even trying to search (not sniffing them).

After the fourth trashing in a row, I took her out of the search area saying "that's enough" to her, walked to the other side and restarted her.  Joyce expressed how happy she was to see me "finally correct her for something".  After the search where we were able to settle down on the right box, Joyce and I talked.  I explained that I only removed her from the search area because she was no longer searching as evidenced by the serial-trashing, thus she needed to be restarted.  Joyce says it would be perfectly "legal" to be presented with a bunch of boxes at any level of container search, so she thinks I should correct her by removing her from the search area any time she trashes a box (even if its the right one!).  She did admit she hadn't actually seen an all box container search for NW2 or NW3, but it could happen.  Personally, I don't think it would be fair to suddenly start correcting Gimme for trashing boxes, and certainly not the odor box, especially given that she has been allowed to trash boxes until now.

Joyce and I are clearly not on the same page.  I have explained my philosophy to her so many times, but she just doesn't get it.  I want to protect Gimme's enthusiasm and confidence in every way I can, while gently nudging her into better search habits.  Gimme enjoys any training/work and given the choice would be doing much more (darn that pesky day job of mine).  She is enthusiastic and confident... as evidenced by her ability to do a hard exterior search (at converging odor seminar) that lasted well over 7 minutes.  Most NW3 dogs won't persist that long if they don't find odor and I think I have every right to be pleased and proud of that kind of attitude.  Joyce's priority is that Gimme learns to be "efficient" and she's inclined to use corrections (a/k/a punishment) if need be.  That's just not going to happen while I'm at the helm.

I told Joyce - again - that until my nose is as good as a dog's and I know for sure what Gimme is smelling, I'm not going to correct her for a mistake.  Joyce said that Gimme has too good of a nose to be making mistakes.  Seriously!?!  Because she has a lot of innate talent, she can't make mistakes?  I find that an utterly bizarre line of thought.

So anyway, I've been pondering why Gimme got so frustrated.  I don't think that search was really too hard for her.  I also don't think that coming from the indoors exercise was too much for her.  I do think the excitement of seeing the boxes could have been a factor in her initial error, but not by itself enough to cause the frustration that led to serial-trashing.

Then it occurred to me as I reviewed it over and over and over again...  I think Gimme believes "alert" is a verbal click and when she didn't get rewarded the second time I said it, she got frustrated.  And as we know, frustration is her Achilles heel.  Up until now, she has almost always gotten her goodies right after hearing the a-word... so she has every reason to expect a treat after hearing it by her understanding.  It was never my intention that she think it was a verbal click, but logically with its usage, that's a fair conclusion on her part.  I tested that theory by saying "alert" to her awhile ago and sure enough, she whipped around with an expectant expression. 

So from all of this I see three training issues that I'll want to address (though, naturally, not until after this weekend):
  1. Undo "alert" as a verbal click association.
  2. Desensitize the distraction potential of a field of boxes.
  3. Teach a new behavior that doesn't include trashing boxes.
This is how I propose to cover each issue:

Undo the "alert" as a verbal click association
  • say "alert" frequently when not near NW practice or stuff, so it looses the association
  • in practice or class use another word in place of it, such as "tree", "ball", "truck", "popsicle", picking a different word each time
  • use "alert" only at trials, which will be infrequent enough that it shouldn't be a problem
Desensitize the distraction potential of a field of boxes
  • when setting up container practices for myself, set up a field of boxes nearby
  • first set them up on the far side of the container exercise
  • later set them up closer and/or walk near them on approach to other containers
  • goal is to walk through boxes on the way to search other containers
  • then mix in higher and higher number of boxes with other containers
Teach a new behavior that doesn't include trashing boxes
  • teach her a "perch" behavior where she puts two feet on an item
  • use non-box items to start, like a bucket or stool
  • transition to boxes that are unlike nosework boxes
  • do the behavior on nosework boxes
  • when its solid, put odor in a box and when she indicates, cue "perch"
also...
  • put trashing on cue - its like the scratching for doing her nails
  • set her up with situations where she can have the fun of trashing - like all the boxes that come into my life that have to be cut up into small pieces for recycle


Sunday, April 21, 2013

K9 Genius

I've been teaching Gimme to high-five... something I usually work on when I'm at my parents' place.  I start with her sitting on the bed and then I stand in front of her to train it - with the bowl of treats on the night stand..

Initially I'd present my hand with verbal "paw" for her to touch with her paw.  Once she did it with the presentation, I stopped giving the verbal "paw" cue and also gradually started pulling my hand back before she touched it.  She didn't like me pulling my hand back and I think that was related to some other stuff I've done where I'd take my hand away if she got it wrong, thus she perceived pulling the hand back as saying she was wrong.  So I did it much more gradually and rewarded copiously and we got through that hump.

Over time we've gotten a really nice high-five to my hand signal... she's facing me and I keep my elbow tucked and present my right palm at my shoulder.  I wanted the hand signal to be distinctly different from the "down" hand signal - my hand going up over my head and down again.  Gimme responds by high-fiving with her left paw.

Last night I decided to teach her to high-five with her right paw... which I signaled the same way, but using my left hand.  It took just a dozen treats to work her through the whole shaping sequence up to a reliable right paw high-five on the hand signal.  Then I was able to alternate cues and have her know which paw to use for the high-five. 

As if that wasn't enough... I then decided she needed to understand the difference between left high-five, right high-five, and a high-ten.  She already knows "pretty", so I just spent a dozen treats attaching a hand signal (both hands up in the high-five signals).  She was able to give me one of the three behaviors with about an 80% reliability.  I was suitably impressed.

I tried to show it to my Mom today, but that was too much distraction for such a young behavior.  We have a lot of work to do... the goal is for Gimme to give me the correct behavior:
  • on verbals alone
  • regardless of my orientation to her
  • with her on the floor instead of raised surface
  • siting or standing
It occurs to me that I probably should have planned ahead when devising my hand signals... because now I'm going to be having to keep it straight in my head that when I want her right paw I use my opposite hand, and vice versa.  It probably would have been much simpler for me if I'd done it right-hand-right-paw.  I doubt it would make any difference to her.

I'll have to think about whether I want to do that.  If I decide to change it, I'll alter the cue... to be more like hand over my heart.  She's so damn smart that I'm sure she'd get it very quickly.  She still has issues with waiting for cues (i.e. self control), but in other ways her understanding of stuff is sooooo sophisticated.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Damned Hard Hide

Got done with work in plenty of time and needed another trip to Home Depot... so I set up three hides in the flooring aisle on my way in.  Then shopped and made my purchases and got Gimme for a search.  Even setting them up before I shopped, they still only had about 10 minutes to cook, which isn't a lot given the difficulty of the hides.

The first (Anise) was close to the threshold, but partially blocked by a column between it and our "start line".  The second (Birch) was about 45' away, further down the flooring aisle and five feet off the ground (we only need 4' for NW2).  Then I set another (Birch) just 8' from that hide and close to the ground, on the same side.

Gimme did find the first hide fairly soon, but not until she had passed it going both directions a couple of times.  I think her passing it stirred the air enough that she then caught it on the far side of the column.  I love watching her work out how to get from where she smells it to where it is.

It took a long time to find the next hide - the low one.  I had purposely set up the two of them to present a difficult converging odor challenge.  They were at different levels (which often makes it easier), but the same odor and really close together (both of which makes it harder).

She was actually catching the odor where it was pooling on the other side of the aisle against a bunch of flooring product.  I think the low hide was drifting across, pooling and then drifting up the front of the product.  And the odor from the high hide was basically drifting across at its level and only slightly falling to join the pool.  The reason I think it wasn't falling (or if it was, not enough to reach nose level), is because it was high enough that she couldn't follow it across the aisle to source.

Gimme went back and forth, up and down repeatedly where it was pooling.  I didn't see her getting it sorted out and then all of the sudden she raced in a beeline to where the low hide was.  One quick sniff and that paw was whacking the odor.  I was really surprised by the absolute directness of her movement to the odor and an instant later identifying exactly where it was.  I'd set the hides, so I would have noticed if she had done the infamous "cataloging" nose tilt.

From there to finding the last hide was really challenging.  She still kept searching the same pooling area, with an occasional diversion to searching the other side (i.e. away from the low hide), but she just didn't ever go up to find the source.

I let her puzzle at it a very long time and then finally "made a corner" with my body near the high hide.  That is something I learned at the converging odor seminar - though honestly, even though it was very clear that she was in converging odor, had I not known where odor was, I'm not sure I would have made a corner in that spot.  In any case, the next time she came back to that side of the aisle... it didn't take long at all for her to zero in on it.  She was verrrrry pleased with herself and naturally I rewarded her copiously.

I wish I had used my new jumbo sport watch and timed this search.  To me it felt like 10 minutes, so it was probably less than five.  One thing about Gimme, she never gives up...  I purposely wanted a really difficult search, resulting in success.  By comparison, the trial searches will be easy-peasy...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Moving Whazzat

I had a lot more planned, but the day conspired against me.  Hopefully tomorrow will be more cooperative.

We walked around the Capital Lake, making it a training walk.  Gimme continues to have difficulty with loose leash walking - I think its conceptually just too darn vague for her.  Though we are making some progress.

Because it was early afternoon, we only met a few dogs.  For one of them we were actually able to pass while doing a moving "whazzat" (look-at-that).  That's the first time I have tried that and only did so because we had room to play with it.  Even though the dog (a Boston Terrier) was staring and pulling toward Gimme, she did really well.  So while its been slow progress, we are making headway.

After that we met Tonya at the barn.  I had noticed some warm spots after exercise, so I scheduled an appointment.  Gimme is MUCH improved over her last treatment, as I expected.  Tonya said much of what was wrong now is not about being stuck, rather she has some soreness and tension in muscles in a couple of places.  Tonya suggested massage.

I know TTouch and bodywork would be very good for Gimme, but she has real difficulty with the whole stillness thing.  Every time I've tried she hasn't been able to just be still and accept the work - instead always wanting to turn around and lick me or try to play and other things.  So now I have to get serious about teaching her to just be still and calm...

A funny -- when Tonya was showing me where I need to focus the TTouch/massage, it was hard for me to see, because someone is such a wiggle butt.  Only Dalmatians come to us with a full set of pre-installed locator spots, so we used those...

I also talked with Tonya about exchanging training lessons for treatments.  She doesn't really have a lot of money for classes and I'd like to get Gimme treated more often.  So this could work out well for both of us.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nosework (4/12)

Tonight we had class in a realty office downtown.  The hides were more like NW2 level hides and as always Gimme did well.  She was very busy, but found all the hides and fairly quickly.  Nothing about the environment fazed her at all.

An interesting thing is that her tendency regarding paw alerts in classes is much more forceful than what she does in practices or at seminars, matches or the trial.  I just took a few minutes and looked at the vehicle and interior videos from the match.  Then I looked at all the lengthy videos from the converging odor seminar.  In doing so, I verified that my impression matches reality - Gimme's paw alert on the videos is well within the acceptable range.

I freely admit her pawing on containers is over the top and I do realize that we'll probably get a fault for it.  But, the rules say we can only be assessed one fault of a fault type, per element... so even if she assaults each odor bag and/or the distraction bags, its still only one fault.  You can have three faults overall and get your title.

Joyce is practically obsessing about it and the more she obsesses the worse it gets during the space of one class.  Which leads me to believe that its something about the class situation that exacerbates Gimme's pawing tendency.  The two possibilities I see (probably a bit of both) are:
  • Joyce talks to me while we are searching, thus distracting me so that I'm not as responsive - so Gimme dials it up a notch to get my attention.  No one talks to me at trials and I'm able to focus on every nuance of what Gimme is doing.
  • The things about class that annoy me make me tense, which Gimme senses, feels frustration and reacts by going over the top.
In any case... I came home and did a little exercise with Gimme.  I got out odor in a menthos bottle and presented it to Gimme and then "yes" marked her paw and gave her cheese.  We did it over and over and over again.  As long as I was holding it, there was a paw and hold.  When I put it under my foot, there was mostly paw and hold or two whacks.  When I tried it in other places - she started getting wound up and pawing more, so I stopped.  She often finds repetition a bit frustrating and thinks that if a little is good, more is better.  I'm going to set up some more exercises of this type.  I'm not really worried about it, but it never hurts to cover something.

BTW there are now three of us in the upcoming trial (someone dropped out and that opened up a spot for another gal from our class to get in).  Joyce instructed the three of us to email her before next week's class and tell us what our biggest concern was for the trial and that she'll plan the class around exercises to address them.  Seriously!  The week before a trial???

In my experience of years of agility competing - one thing I learned is that you NEVER introduce something new or change something the week before a trial.  Fortunately Gimme and I have been working on my greatest concern for a month... so it won't be new and different for her.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nosework (3/12) and more...

Joyce is just back from camp and naturally brings back new games.  She was all about high hides and a new way to teach them - sort of shaping (without a clicker or marker word) by rewarding any look in the general direction of where the hide was.  Based on what I saw with the five dogs in class, I don't think this new way is any better.  
In the past we have gradually increased the height of the hide from the floor in a carefully incremented way, as the dog demonstrates success.  That has worked fine for all the medium to large dogs in class.  The only two that are having trouble are both small dogs and not as focused in general.  Honestly, I think the hides have not been carefully moved up for those two little guys - since they usually are doing the same hides as the larger dogs.
Joyce was determined to have hides at 5 feet high this week (which is beyond the 4ft our dogs need for NW2 and well beyond what the other students are ready for [most haven't even gone to ORTs]).  Joyce put the odor on the handle of an upright hand truck.  I questioned the safety, pointing out that at if any dog tried to put their paws up, at the least it would move and worst, tip over.  She guaranteed that she would be there to steady the hand truck so no dog would be scared.
I accepted that, taking her guarantee at face value.  The other dogs did okay, since they aren't that bold and Joyce had all the time in the world to get there and steady the hand truck.  Gimme was at it and had her paws up on it in no time.  It scooted away - Joyce was still 5 feet away and just standing there, not having started to move.  Needless to say, Gimme wouldn't put her feet up on the hand truck after that.
Our next hide was on the bottom of a 6ft table tipped up on its end - yet another unstable surface for a bold and pushy dog like Gimme.  Fortunately, at least the other students learned from the hand truck experience and volunteered to brace/stabilize the table from the back side during Gimme's search.  I was also prepared to stabilize the table by reaching up and grabbing the leg.  It took Gimme much longer than usual to get up and indicate odor.  Since then, she has shown a reluctance to put her feet up on things that are new/different.   She's never had that concern before; honestly I don't think it occurred to her that things might move.  
On Sunday we went over to Grafton's house for a play date.  She spent much of the time squealing at him.  She'd squeal, he'd dance away and then immediately come right back to bounce up and down close to her and make her squeal again.  Grafton is definitely the boy who would have been guilty of sticking some cute girl's braids in the inkwell.  Lest you think I'm a mean Mom and subjecting the Empress of the Cosmos to unconscionable torment - she was having fun.  Yes, she is in season, but he was neutered very young and barely seemed to notice THAT. The two of them have a funny relationship and both really like the back and forth. Gimme knows perfectly well how to get Grafton to leave her alone when she really doesn't want to deal with his uncouth.  If she completely ignores him, he'll stop.  She can trot along with her nose stuck in the air, just dripping "you are so beneath my notice" attitude.  Her other method is to drop into heel with me, again with attitude.
After the play session, Mary and I did some hides in her exercise/laundry room.  I had her set mostly high hides that would require Gimme to get her feet up to properly indicate them.  It took several hides before she regained her usual confidence about putting feet up on things.  Of course, she then decided there's a new rule that odor will always be high.  For the third round she came in and started the old business of trotting around the room with her nose stuck up in the airSo we set a couple of hides very low.  I hate having to repair problems caused in class.
Joyce did say she was going to do a class on food distraction next week, but then pushed it off a week in favor of going to a strange location for an interior search.  Given how many times she said that the container element is the most frequently failed - I just don't understand her leaving this until the last class before two of her students are entered in a trial.  Seriously...

I'm looking for someone else to train with after we get the NW2 title.  I've reviewed the list of CNWIs on the NACSW website... there are only a few anywhere close that I'd consider.  One is close enough for weekly classes, but I don't know anyone who trains with her.  The others are pretty far away, so I might have to take monthly or semi-monthly private lessons and continue working on my own.  It isn't that I don't want to drive... I just don't want to spend twice as much for gas as I'm spending for the class itself.  Its a pickle...
Gimme has been really bored lately.  We haven't been getting out as much because of her "condition".  Also my foot has needed a break.  Then there was the 5 days I spent updating my filing so I could do my taxes.  None of which are adequate excuses for Gimme.

Today we went out to the training area and walked 3.75 miles.  Then I set up our food distraction exercise.  I set up 9 bags with food in a large circle, with two odor bags in the middle.  Gimme got to sniff and snoop all she wanted and we had a party when she went to the odor bags.  I haven't done this as often as I'd planned, but she's getting it.   Today I noticed there is a difference in the way she acts around distraction bags vs odor bags.  There is a lot more sniffing, nosing and nose pushing on distraction bags.  She only pawed at them the first time or two and if I walk past them, she leaves them pretty quickly. With odor bags, she goes to pawing faster and sticks them much better.  So I feel like she'll have a solid understanding by the trial date (Sunday 4/28).

Naturally then my car wouldn't start.  I was able to flag down a motorist who checked the car and said it was likely the battery, but he didn't have his jumper cables.  We dithered around about a solution and finally settled on calling Les Schwab in Yelm.  They came out and jumped the battery at no charge, provided I buy the battery (if needed) from them.  So the guy drives 10 miles to the middle of nowhere on "sorta" directions, checks out my car, jumps the battery and gets me started, drives back to Yelm, verifies the battery was broke and installs a new one.  That took about 1:45, all for the profit on one battery sale.  Now that's service.  

While I waited for him to find us - Gimme and I walked another mile along the road he'd be on - for a 4.75 mile total today.  My foot is killing me, but Gimme is very content and we all know that's what is important.  Long walk AND nosework on the same day!  Woohoo!!!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Match Container Video

Here's the video for the container element without.  BTW I discovered it was blogspot that was keeping my video's from uploading - not because of the Apple app on Linda's phone.  In any case, this video is complete.   

video


Here's what I saw:
  • she immediately finds the first bag (the red one) but doesn't stick it 
  • at one point she got caught up in fringe odor from the red bag on the black bag behind it
  • when she goes from the fringe to the odor bag, there is a decided change of behavior, as well as the clear snap-back for the red bag... whenever I see that snap-back there's a 95% likelihood there's odor there, but there isn't always a snap-back for odor (depends on variables)  
  • the judge commented that we spent too much time away from the bags, but after looking at this, she didn't spend that much time away - just did it repeatedly, probably due to frustration and I think I can bring her back sooner; she's handling it better than she used to
  • the most time wasted was the repeated skiing around on the first odor bag, which resulted, I think, from the frustration that was building up when she couldn't find the second bag
I can see in the video at about the 2 minute mark is when she gets most frustrated and is pretty much just going through the motions.  The biggest clue is that she looks up at me much more frequently - perhaps her way of asking for guidance.  Up until then it seemed she was really trying to puzzle it through.  I think from her behavior that she was in converging odor, probably made worse by her own actions of moving the first odor bag closer to the second odor bag.  That should be the point at which I could take charge and direct her searching.  Which, of course, we need to practice beforehand.

Also the first odor bag was a much looser construction and weave than the second odor bag.  So the odor from the first was probably overpowering the other, especially after she moved it closer.

Match Interior Video

Again I'm finding that my memory of what happened doesn't exactly match reality.  Gimme does a nice job on both these interiors.  I'd totally forgotten that the judge suggested Gimme needed her Wheaties in the morning to give her more energy for nosework...

video


To give you another idea of how out-of-it I am regarding my surroundings - I didn't think we'd even get video's for the interior searches.  The rooms were so small that I was sure there wasn't enough room for a videographer.  Nevermind that there was one standing there taping the whole time.  Duhhhhhh...

We haven't done the food distraction practices for a couple days... so I was determined to do it today.  Naturally it was pouring down rain.  I went to Costco for gas and groceries, hoping the rain would stop, collecting a Beef Taquita sample for a distraction.  Then went to McDonald's for some more distractions.

We lined the bags up down the length of a covered walkway outside a office building that is closed for the weekend.  It was still pouring rain and so Gimme only got a very short potty walk.  We went up the line six times...  Gimme was only distracted by the rice krispies the first time, because she hadn't figured on the possibility of french fries or a McChicken.  She didn't seem impressed by the Beef Taquita.  I had fries and the rest of the McChix for her treats.  She quickly figured out that the good food that she could actually HAVE was tied to the two odor bags.  Of course, the minute we finished and I was packing up the bags and such, the rain stopped and the sun came out.  Next time I'm hoping we'll have more room so I can try this setup in a mixed circle.

BTW Joyce has announced that we'll be doing this exercise in class, a week from this Wednesday.  By then Gimme will be an expert and its a good thing, since four days between class and our trial wouldn't be enough to get her ready...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Match Vehicle Video

Terri has been busy trying to get all the video's from the match downloaded.  Its a very time consuming task for Terri to upload all of them and I know we all appreciate it.

This is Gimme doing the vehicle.  Keep in mind wind was very strong and blowing away from the startline toward the videographer.  So Gimme really doesn't catch any hint of odor until she just starts to round the end of the trailer.  It is pretty obvious when she does, since her tail suddenly starts wagging faster when she gets in odor.  And do note how precisely she indicates where the odor is with her paw.

video

The lesson learned here is that when the wind is blowing away from you... there could be a benefit to passing through the startline, then moving straight through the vehicles to approach them from the other side.  Of course Gimme was working her own plan, but if you watch carefully you can see her saying - "are you sure?" to me.  Certainly I would want to move downwind if she hadn't found this one so quickly.

BTW I've ordered the Champion Jumbo Sports Watch (lucked out, it was on sale)...  My original reason for ordering it was to know when we had a minute left and that I might need to direct Gimme's efforts.  But I can also see that it would help my nerves as well.  I thought we were close to 2 minutes when Gimme indicated this hide, when it was really only about 50 seconds.

I'll have more videos in the next couple days - I've downloaded the container disaster and the interiors.  Haven't seen her exterior show up yet.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

More NW Match

Here is more detailed information about the match:

Vehicle: 1 hide - 50 seconds.  
Exterior: 2 hides - 1:06.  
Interior: 2 rooms & 3 hides - 1:06 and :17 seconds.  


At the converging odor seminar, a friend showed me a big timer that she wears on her wrist and starts at the beginning of each search, so she knows at a glance how much time she has left.  It has a big face and she wears it with the dial on the inside of her wrist so she can glance at it.  It'll be a really handy tool when you get to NW3 (where she is) and have time limits in which you have to call "finished" or "clear".  And now I'm seeing a use for it here.  I got the info from her and need to find my notes and order one.

I also noticed how incredibly sloppy my line handling is with this shorter line.  You know I'm going to nip that in the bud.  Using the much longer line forces me to handle it well.

Today we set up the food distraction exercise again - twelve bags, 2 rows of six.  Eight with food distractions, three blank and one with odor.  I didn't plan it that way, but where I set it up, there were two large dogs behind a fence about fifty feet away.  They started barking their heads off the moment I got Gimme out of the car and never stopped until I'd packed up and left.  We did three quick searches and Gimme did very well.  She was clearly distracted the first time and had a little difficulty sticking the odor bag, but after that paid less and less attention to the barkers.  So while that wasn't the goal for our exercise... it was a nice side benefit and I was quite pleased with how well she did.  Sometime soon we'll do that again and on purpose.

Again she was most distracted by the rice krispie treats.  She paid no attention to the dog biscuits and very little attention to the cooked chicken.  I got a slice of bread from a friend (since I no longer eat wheat), will toast and butter it and use that for a distraction.  Gimme has always had a fondness for bread of any kind.  I'll probably buy her an order of McDonald's french fries too; another favorite. I can get some saltine crackers when I'm at my parents' this weekend.

BTW we are working on a cute trick for my parents.  Its a variation of ring toss... where I'll toss and Gimme will "catch" the ring on her nose.  I made a very soft and light ring with a wrapped fleece cover.  She's already catching on to how advantageous it is for Miss Gimme to carry the ring on her nose.  She really will do almost anything for food, doncha know...

Monday, April 8, 2013

NW2 Match

Yesterday Gimme and I went to a match on the Washington-Oregon border, a two hour drive.  Best friend Linda came along to help with volunteering and see what all this nosework stuff is all about.  Since she's not a dog person - its a mark of true friendship that she's interested enough to devote an entire day to learning more about what I care about.  Even though it was a cold and wet day... we three had fun.

Gimme is in season and had to wear her hot-pants, not that she thinks that is relevant.  She really doesn't pay any attention to them.  One of the judges commented, "don't you know its a fashion faux pax to wear stripes with spots?"  I told her, "If its good enough for Princess Di, its good enough for the Empress of the Cosmos."

Gimme did a fabulous job on three of her elements: vehicle, exterior and interiors.  The great thing about NW2 is that they tell you how many hides there are. You don't know how many there are in NW3.

Vehicle took less than a minute, with no help from me.  The wind was blowing away from us... so she was pretty much just scan-sniffing the vehicles, really staying with them, until she got into a spot where she got a drift of odor - then she went really direct and detailed until she was sure where it was.  Her change of behavior when she was on odor was very clear.  The paw whack was decisive.

Exterior had two hides and covered a very large area, containing 5 park benches, a dozen trees, a trash container and a picnic table and benches, along with miscellaneous other things.  Again, the wind was blowing away from us.  Gimme got down along the far edge of the area right away and headed immediately to the trash can.  She stood up and sniffed in the can and then sniffed the base and found her first odor, again with the very clear paw whack right where it was.  Then she continued to scan the rest of the area and got on the other side of the odor again.  So I took her around to the benches and trees, which got us downwind of the second odor source.  Gimme found that pretty quickly - under the edge of a cover to the lighting electrical unit.  Getting both hides in about 2 minutes.

Interior had two rooms, two hides in the first room and one hide in the second room.  Gimme got the first hide very quickly - it was on the foot to a cabinet.  The rooms were so small that they didn't close the door and the judge stood in the doorway.  Gimme squirted out past her knees and when I called her an instant later, she turned on a thin dime and got right back past those same knees.  That put her in the ideal spot to find the second hide, which was right near the threshold.  I don't remember the exact time... somewhere around one and a half minutes.  I do remember the time on the only hide in the second room - just a smidgen over 16 seconds!  She was on it so quickly, I really didn't have time to get in gear mentally.  Not that it affected Gimme, the Hottie Spottie Dottie.

One thing I noticed about this judge is that every hide she set, other than the trailer hitch, were low, almost on the ground.  Its a good thing I did that little exercise a few weeks ago when I noticed that Gimme was spending all her time trotting around with her nose straight up scanning for odor.

Container was our first element and the one we had trouble with.  And not a surprise at that.  Linda tried to take a video with her phone because someone forgot to bring her camera.  So I'm trying to turn it into a video for you guys to watch, but so far am not having luck with it.

Basically Gimme was caught up by two issues.  One seemed to be converging odor, but the main issue was the food distraction (saltine crackers) in one of the containers.  It was very close to the one hide she did find and so she kept going back to that hide to ski on the bag  - though I really think she was being drawn by the food distraction.  From what I can see on the video, she never even sniffed the second odor container, which was one in from the far left corner - instead she was rounding that corner, though she did hit the far left corner container once.

When I saw she was having difficulty, I should have gotten more involved and given her more direction.  Though in my defense, we've never searched that way - clearly something I need to practice for just this situation.  To a large degree I blame this on lack of adequate training in classes.  We should have been doing a lot more container work and have addressed the food/toy distraction issue long before now.  Gimme isn't distracted by toys, though Tucker (a classmate who is entered in the same trial) is a real toy fanatic.

I did get to talk to a number of people and pick their brains on how to train through the food distraction issue.  What I've been doing isn't bad, but there is an exercise out there that is much more direct to the issue.  Basically you set up a bunch of containers and have food distraction in every one... then further away you have a series of containers, mostly blank and one with a ton of odor in it.  The dog gets to walk through the food distractions and if they alert you ignore it and keep walking - then when they get to the odor container and alert, you reward with the biggest party ever.

Last night I gathered up every bag I could find.  I had a bunch that I'd already started collecting.  I planned to do the exercise after work today and was going to use a covered sidewalk near a vacant office building across the parking lot from my store, but there was a creepy looking guy hanging out in that area.  So I picked another spot and set the 13 bags in a long line.  I put food distraction in the first 8... mostly boring dog cookies, a bit of chicken, kitty kibble and then rice krispie treats in two.  I put the odor in the third of the four bags on the far end.  The line was set up so the breeze was blowing toward us.  We did five searches and I'd read for about ten minutes between searches...

Round 1 - Gimme raced down the line barely sniffing the food and got to the odor bag really fast.  Partly I'm sure it was because I'd just set it up, so the food distractions hadn't had time to really cook.  There were 10 q-tips in the 2 odor tins.  The party was prolonged...

Round 2 - She kept getting distracted off to one side - maybe odor was drifting that way.  This time she paid more attention to the food bags... in particular one that had a rice krispie treat in it.  That one continued to attract her attention.  Again she got to the odor bag quickly and enjoyed her party.

Round 3 - She again was getting distracted off to one side.  Again interested in the rice krispie treat bag.  I'd flipped the odor bag over, so she didn't catch it until she came back toward it from the other direction the second time... the breeze had picked up.  On this round I noticed she was sticking the odor more intensely and naturally we partied.

Round 4 - I moved the bags around a little moving the odor bag between the two bags with rice krispies.  I also moved her along more quickly when she got distracted.  She got all the way to the end of the line and then found odor bag on the way back.  We had a hearty party.

Round 5 - I took one of the odor tins and moved it to the last bag, so she would have two.  She found the first odor bag quickly, we partied.  We went to the end and past the second odor bag... she didn't find it until the third time.  That's probably not surprising, since it hadn't had that much time to cook - at least not compared to the other odor bag.  Again, we partied.

I found that the partying really intensified her stickiness on odor... a very good thing.  I'm trying to do more of that in all our searches.  That's one thing I'd learned from the seminar with Josh McCorkle - that there's more to rewarding than just the food.  I knew that, but hadn't really internalized it, so wasn't actually doing it.

Gimme also seemed okay with being drawn away from distraction and didn't show any signs of frustration.  So, I can start doing that sooner and a bit more directly/forceful in the future.  I think that means she may also be okay with some directed searching... to get her used to the idea for some time when we need it in the future.

I was going to do this every other day... but that would put us on Wednesday and that is our nosework class day.  So I may do a quick session tomorrow.

BTW I had noticed that she never sniffed the first two bags in the line, even though one had that cooked chicken in it.  Those were 2 of 3 bags I'd found in the woods.  I'd washed them when I got them; tonight they are getting washed again.  It'll be interesting to see how she reacts to them tomorrow.  If she continues to pointedly ignore them - they'll find their way into the trash - easy-come-easy-go.

Friday, April 5, 2013

We're Puzzled

Mostly we are puzzled by where I put Gimme's fancy pants the last time we needed them.  I've turned the house upside down and can't find them.  We are also puzzled by her coming in season three weeks early, after having been sooooo regular - always in the afternoon and always exactly 180 days after the last time.

Being in her condition means we haven't been out and about as much.  And now the weather has turned ugly.  So we've been putting together a puzzle Kathleen gave to Gimme, knowing of her fondness for all things bovine...

Here Gimme is posing with her handiwork...