Gimme had a blast and as I suspected, is a natural. She thinks this is about the most fun she's ever had. Sadly blogspot is not cooperating and won't let me upload videos. I will try to upload them in a separate entry.
We arrived just before 10:00 and I watched practice runs for two hours. I was surprised to see how much people are directing and micro-managing their dog's efforts. For the most part they talk to their dogs constantly. I'd seen a blog where someone who said it was boring to watch
(I didn't think so) and many dogs are very subtle in their
indications. I saw some subtle indications during the practice, but mostly the dogs were either very into it or not very committed.
I hoped Gimme would not be one of the subtle ones. I need not have worried. I mean seriously - has she ever been subtle about anything? After lunch we started the workshop with a short explanation of the rules, how to play the game and what to watch for. Then the rest of the time was different exercises and learning to read our dogs.
First the dogs each got to meet a rat in a wire front cage, repeated 4 times. The rat had solid wood on 5 sides. Gimme was very intense. Twice she put considerable effort trying to get into the back door, so the rat wrangler had to keep turning the cage. Gimme sucked in a ton of air, trying to get all that rat smell, so when she exhaled the force literally blew the litter back from the front two inches of the cage. You can't really tell from the video, because she was wagging her tail and butt so fast, but her body was hard with tension.
After the meet-n-greet, we did two short mock instinct tests. Gimme had no trouble figuring out which tube held the rat and also no trouble letting me know which tube it was.
After that we got to take them in a small ring and teach the dogs to go through the straw bale tunnel and climb on the bales, both of which are required to title. Gimme had already discovered the joys of climbing on the bales while we were waiting. I knew that wouldn't be a problem, given her lifelong propensity for climbing on things. It only took her two tries to realize she could do these tunnels just like the ones in agility.
Then I let her spend some time in the car relaxing while waiting our turn for an off leash, in ring Instinct Test. It was quite interesting; she was fast and accurate.
Lastly we got two runs set up like an actual novice level trial. Gimme did great. The person who was videotaping for me only caught the very end of our first run, so there's only video for the second run.
One thing I learned is that I will have to get her to do the tunnel right out of the start box, because once she starts searching, I cease to exist. She was willing to climb on the straw bales for me, but would not have done the tunnel because it would have taken her away from where she could smell rats. Both times I had to bring her harness and leash to her - she sure wasn't going to leave the man with the rat tube to come with me.
Interestingly she ignored the other dogs most of the time. In the early part of the workshop, she'd notice them and we'd "whazzat" when they got within about 12 feet. Otherwise she was intently focused watching over where the rat action was happening. I had some concern that she might try to leave the ring, which was far from secure. I need not have worried. She was intent on rats and nothing else mattered.
I also noticed when the rats were combined with searching that she no longer had interest in treats. Part of me worries that she isn't getting rewarded for "vermin" finding. On the other hand, I think this is an intensely primal experience for her and just the possibility of getting to a rat is reward enough.
The only downside from Gimme's point of view was not getting to bring home a live trophy. She seriously wants a rat... I'm just saying. During one of our trips into the building she took a side trip to sniff around the trunk of a nearby car (dragging me straight to it from our car 30 feet away). Turns out it was the car owned by the rat-man and he had a cage with half a dozen rats inside the trunk. Gimme was trying to convince me to cooperate and distract people, cuz she's just sure she could sneak one out of there, inside her tummy...