When we got back to the group, the task we did the best on was to pick an aisle and walk around and around and around the same aisle, clicking and treating as we went. The idea was that each time we were walking the same area, so it would be less and less distracting and the dogs should be able to go further between clicks. The goal was to see how infrequent we could get the c/t, the ultimate goal to get around with just one c/t. Our first aisle had guys working on shelving at the other end, so I moved over an aisle. Despite her mental condition, Gimme was able to go all the way around on one c/t.
Wednesday we met Susan and Tucker for nosework practice. I set tins low on the uprights of the fencing around a tennis court. Diagram shows black dots for fencing uprights, purple for odor and orange for prime pee places. When I devised this plan, my idea was to give the dogs multiple low and easy hides. First we went in one direction and then took a brief break (walking the dogs out far enough and offering them the opportunity to potty). We first searched coming in from the right and even though we couldn't detect the breeze, both dogs would over-shoot odor by a foot and come back to it. I hadn't planned for the pee distraction, but realized as we were doing it that the distraction was there. Its feasible to run into it in a trial, so certainly worth training through.
After the potty break Gimme tried to pull a fast one, running to the nearest post and indicating before sniffing. It was kind of funny as she then brought her nose down and realized there was nothing there. After that she checked very carefully. Tucker had the opportunity to work through his greatest distraction BALLS!!! There were kids playing ball in a field really close and he was strongly attracted to them, got very aroused and had to let it go to work.
Our second search set was also a bunch of low hides in an area of landscaping. I set the first two hides on two posts with a chain between them (to keep people from driving on the park grass), then four in the landscaping. As I was setting the other hides, I saw someone walk their dog along and it peed on the post right where I'd placed the odor. I was glad that I had placed that one about 12" off the ground, so the tin didn't actually get peed on. I'm sure those two posts and the one tree were prime pee spots for dog walkers. So both dogs got to work through that distraction yet again.
So while the hides were easy, the distractions were hard. Happily neither Gimme or Tucker even tried to mark over any of the pee-mail they found.
Today we had Public Dog class at Ursula's new training building and got a tour of the new facilities. It is very nice. The kennels consist of a separate room for each dog. Ursula reports that most dogs are much happier and calmer in these. The floors are heated concrete. There are still the traditional chain link kennels for those dogs that object to the isolation. There are now two large play yards and they have plans to add four smaller play yards. There is circulating air exchange for each room. They have electronic combination locks at each door for security for the boarders. It will be interesting to see which Gimme prefers. I think the rooms would be less stressful; on the other hand, she may not like the social isolation.
The training room is upstairs and about twice as big as the building we've been using. Today we did exercises to wean the dogs (and ourselves) off treats on our person. Gimme was a little distracted by the totally new environment, but got into working nicely. We did three sequences.
- With treats placed on chairs at each end of the room, we each practiced LLW in a zig zag path around a series of small room dividers. Ursula reminded us of the human tendency to wait until we are close to the food to mark and then reward. It is as much our reliance on food as it is the dog's that we have to wean away from. I was third, so picked a bit of good LLW to "yes" and then raced to the food stations. Gimme thought that was fun.
- Using the dividers to form two "gates" we practiced having the dog go through and then reorient to us, marking it and then returning to the nearest chair. Again, we each showed our reliance on food by tending to non-verbally require another behavior when we got to the food, before giving the dog the treat they'd earned at the gates. Gimme totally knows this behavior at home, as she basically pivots through the gate to end facing me for her treat. I realized that one reason she doesn't transfer the behavior to class and other locations may be that I don't use the "g'won" cue at home - so she sees them as separate things.
- The last exercise was to place two treats on each chair and leave our treat bag in our chair. Then we'd walk to the center of the room, cue a behavior the dog knows well, verbally mark it and walk to a chair to give one treat. Then repeat three times. I cued "down", "touch", "sit-wait" and walk around, and "grape". Gimme did really well with this and was the only dog who clearly understood that a verbal marker still counts even when the food is 25 feet away. You could tell whether the dog understood by observing their body language when they heard the marker. Of course, we've done a similar exercise a long time ago. Interesting though, when she realized that was the game we were playing, she voluntarily slipped into heel position on the way to the chair.