Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Barn Hunt trial
We did not Q this weekend, but I sure learned some things and we had other successes.
Saturday a.m. - Gimme found one rat, then climbed to the top of the bales and peed, despite having been walked for 20 minutes beforehand.
Saturday p.m. - Gimme found only two rats.
Sunday a.m. - Gimme found three rats and then blasted into the tunnel. I heard a loud whack and then she backed out. She tried hunting some more but didn't seem to be focused.
Sunday p.m. - Gimme found all four rats with plenty of time to spare, but would not complete a tunnel. She entered as I cued it, but when she came to the first turn, she backed out.
So, what did I learn?
Working on extinguishing Gimme's in-car whining really fried her little brain on Friday and she was still affected a bit on Saturday. Yes the whining is back, and with a vengeance. I thought the Kongs would be the answer, but she only got better at emptying them and I needed more and more of them (and she was getting plump). I have a plan and though the progress is slower and time consuming, I am seeing progress.
It was really hot and clearly the heat affected Gimme's hunting ability. None of the senior dogs qualified in either hunt on Saturday (Sunday was better; it was just a little cooler). Also, because of the heat, dogs drink more water. Gimme had water available in her crate 24/7 and I also brought some out to where we waited for our turn. She did drink a bit more just before our turn. In the future I'll make sure I have some way to make water more enticing earlier in the day (and again right after our first run) - she's not into plain water. Then perhaps she won't feel the need to tank up right before we go in the ring. Between this strategy and getting to walk before her run, we should be okay.
On Sunday morning, the judge got mixed up and so we were asked to leave the ring while they confirmed what was set up. I was worried Gimme might do poorly with the restart; she did fine with it. Yayyyy... its a relief to know she isn't negatively impacted by disruption, even if I am.
This was the run where she blasted into the tunnel and smacked into the first turn. The loud "whack" likely resulted when she threw her head up as she ran into the turn and smacked it on the plywood support. They have pieces of plywood over the tunnel area to keep the straw bales from sagging into the tunnel as the day goes on. [note for anyone with really large dogs - be sure to check the leading edges of tunnels to be sure there is a straw bale along the front, to protect the dog from running into a plywood edge]
In Senior and Master rings, the tunnels will have 2 or 3 ninety degree turns. I don't think Gimme has actually seen a three turn tunnel before. And now since she's hurt herself, she clearly needs some training on the advanced level tunnels, along with confidence rebuilding . I've arranged to have access to the trial site the night before our next trial in a private lesson. We'll backchain from simple tunnels to more turns.
Gimme will also have to learn to slow down, since the turns are sharp and there is very little light in there - if any. I've decided to train it with a distinct cue, different than the "tunnel" we use in agility to reduce the possibility of bleed over slowing down her agility tunnels. I'm certain we'll get her back to doing the tunnels with confidence. Knowing Gimme, I'm sure she thought those tunnels were broken.
Even though Gimme normally doesn't pay much attention to other dogs at barn hunt, this site is particularly challenging and she was paying more attention to them than usual. Partly I think the whining extinction program causes some stress and makes her more sensitive. The distance between the two rings is only ten feet.
During our last run, she happened to be at the edge of the ring when she saw another medium sized dog searching in the other ring, about 11 feet away. She stopped and gave him a steady look, not over the top, just focused. I reminded her, "c'mon Gimme, we're here to find vermin, let's get back to work." And she did go back to work. There was another time during the same search when she saw the other dog as he was leaving, so between the rings (at about the same distance since she was further into her own ring) and she stopped to look. She only saw his butt going away though, so she went back to work without me prompting her. This was the last run of the weekend where she found all four rat tubes. Anyway... I count it as a big success. Q'ing be damned, eh....
Lastly, its going to be important to consider trial sites as a factor. I'd noticed before how tight the spacing is for this site, but they seemed to work it out as the weekend progressed. This time it didn't get worked out and we seemed to have a particularly clueless bunch of competitors. Three near-misses in one weekend is too many. Once I had to stay in the ring and wait while the steward asked someone with a dog to move so they weren't blocking the exit. They moved, but just barely and we still had a near miss as we blasted through the door to Gimme's reward. Most barn hunt competitors are not dog savvy.
We have another barn hunt trial the second weekend in August...