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...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

While Gimme is normally very cooperative about her costumes, such was not the case today.  In fact, she is so mad at me now, she's still wearing half of it because she won't let me "fuss" with her to take it off.  Its much cuter in person than this picture would suggest...

In any case, here she is:

Empress 
of the 
Mummies

RallyFrEe (5/1) & Agility (5/6)

Yesterday was very interesting, to say the least.  We started the day the night before.  I went to Auburn to see my Dad at the memory care facility, then joined Mom for dinner out and spent the night, leaving for RallyFrEe class in the morning.  I have decided to change this up for next week, will be going to class on Thursday morning, then going to see Dad, followed by lunch with Mom.  This way I'll be able to sleep in my own comfortable bed and Gimme and I will be less tired for class.

As it was, Gimme adopted two babies.  Mom has the guest room decorated with all her stuffed animals and dolls.  I'd been sleeping in my Dad's room downstairs, but the bed is so hard I am really stiff and sore for more than a day after sleeping in it.  So I tried the guest room because the bed is a little softer.  Gimme discovered a small stuffed lamb and claimed it as her baby and carried it around for much of the evening.  Then later Gimme also claimed a brown and white beanie baby puppy.  Mom said she could keep these babies because she couldn't let the grandchildren play with them after Gimme dog-slobbered on them.  How rude!  In any case, Gimme was happy and I didn't tell Mom how many of the other stuff animals Gimme has dog-slobbered on in the past - I just didn't have room to bring them all home, doncha know.

Gimme has been better in this false pregnancy, though its clearly still here.  We've added a flower essence remedy for it and I am awaiting the arrival of red raspberry leaf extract.  Up until Wednesday night she was only doing a lot nesting.  At times the nesting looked more like humping, especially when she managed to move the dog bed out of the office down the hall and into the living room on two different occasions.  I kept it in the bathroom with the door closed for a few days.  After catching Gimme standing waiting by the door a couple times, I disappeared the dog bed into the back of my walk-in closet.  I don't really care about her humping the bed from time to time, but she seemed to be getting stuck in the behavior.

She is in full baby mode now.  After we finally got home, she immediately found her SuperCow (the baby last time around) and kept it for most of the day.  When we got home from class last night, she decided MrFroggy is the chosen one.  She's been carrying him around ever since.  She's pretty whiney and clingy.  I don't know how this will work for the barn hunt trial this weekend, but time will tell.  She has done a trial before in false pregnancy, but I don't think it was this early - when its most intense.  I'll be taking MrFroggy, along with SuperCow, NewLamby, and BeaniePuppy, so she'll have any puppy she wants.  In the past she's done fine with leaving babies for short periods of time (such as the length of class) as long as they are there when she gets back to the car.  So hopefully it will work well for her barn hunt runs.  The car will be pretty full of stuffed critters, especially when you consider her four large puppy buddies are already there, and now we're adding four pseudo babies.

About RallyFrEe class, it was again good.  Kathy had set up for mini courses of 4 to 5 stations, which we got to rotate through.  This meant all four dogs were out on the floor at the same time, which was challenging for Gimme.  I ended up having to put the treats back in my hand to help her focus.  It was challenging for me because of the treats in my hand AND managing the leash.  Kathy said we don't have to have them on leash for Novice, which is good.  Its damn hard to do leg weaves and thru's with the leash.  

Gimme did a good job with relaxing in her crate.  The only time she got really upset was when a person from the next class started to come in with her dog (at the gate closest to where we set up).  This was sudden environmental change and Gimme was pretty much maxed out by this time, so I had to move her farther away so they could come in and get to their crate.  For the last part of class we each told what we were having the most challenge with during our mini-courses and then the class brainstormed different solutions.

I mentioned how I'd had to put the treats back in my hand (not luring just there) to help Gimme focus.  Much of the solutions were stuff I already know, but two ideas were stand outs and came from my classmates.  One was to actually move her soft-crate onto the course and use it as a target for her to go to after performing well.  She loves her soft-crate; its her safe place.  I found it interesting how once its set up in place *I* think of it as permanent, when its really so easy to move around.  The other idea was to use a food target to help her focus, know the reward is "right there", and yet not have to resort to food in my hands.  Of course, our special bowl would be perfect for this and we'll start by trying it next week and then use the crate on course if its needed.  

Kathy is setting up a RallyFrEe video event, so we'll be entering it.  I understand the RallyFrEe World Competition is coming up before then, so I may enter it as well.  I'm not sure we are really ready, but both are video events and I think it would be a good opportunity to work out the bugs of getting a place to practice, set up the course (I'll get the course 10 days before deadline) and doing the video.  I talked to Chris last night and we've discovered I can do it on Wednesday night before agility league and William is happy to video us - an hour rental is just $16 and he doesn't charge for video.  I will want to go at least once in advance to train so Gimme knows we can do something besides agility there.

Speaking of agility.  Class went pretty good, better than I expected after her clinging and fussy day.  In an interesting change of pattern, Gimme actually did better the first run than the second.  In hindsight I think this was because she'd already been away from the baby for an hour and a half by then, and this after class in the morning.  It might have been different if I'd thought to bring the pseudo baby along.

I have decided to discontinue agility training for the time being.  Its clear we are not making enough progress on her reactivity to compete in agility any time soon and maybe never.  Moving dogs are a much bigger trigger for her.  So it doesn't make sense to keep expending $$ and effort in this direction, especially now since we've started RallyFrEe classes where we can both video and live perform.  I am looking into VALOR, a video event for agility as a possible option later.  

I told Blynn we taking a break after the last class of this session (next week).  It was sad and Blynn said she'd miss us, but also thanked me for telling her in advance.  I've had students just drop out without saying anything and I always found it very frustrating, so I didn't want to do this to Blynn.  She's a great instructor and I'll continue to refer people to her.  If we get really involved in VALOR, then maybe we'll be back.

Well, Gimme is resting nearby with MrFroggy, but its time for me to get off to work and she needs breakfast.  I need to check the dose on all her homeopathics and supplements and it'll take time, so need to get going.  

Remember we have barn hunt trial this weekend.  Given Gimme's condition and the changes I'll be making to our reward system - I have no clue what to expect, so do cross any body parts you can spare for us.

Mini-Courses:

Course 1
Left heel FWD
CCW spin TRX to center
Thru to right heel
Pivot left 360
CW spin
Circle around CCW

Course 2
Right heel FWD
Pivot left 360
Sit stand
Pivot right 360

Course 3
Left heel FWD
Front cross dog
Walking weave x 3
Down stand
Figure 8 thru 2x

Course 4
Circle around handler x3
Circle around CW
CCW spin
Front cross handler
Bow
Left paw lift

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Mom, make it challenging"

I told you once about Gimme finding her collar for me (it had fallen from its usual place).  Since then I've tried to get her to bring it to me when its time to put it on.  She will do it, but makes it pretty clear she thinks its stupid.  I thought it was because it was usually right within arms reach and she thought I should do it myself.  

So then I started leaving it farther away, usually on the floor.  I see her noticing where it is, but then she pretends for awhile it isn't there.  Usually after about two minutes she suddenly finds it and then brings it to me.  Since I always put it on her prior to us leaving to go do something fun for Gimme, I didn't understand her delay.

Lately I've noticed her doing a more extravagant "search" for her collar before discovering it in plain sight.  She'll get up on the couch, check behind furniture, on the bookshelves, etc.  Yesterday I realized she really wanted to hunt for it - she wanted a challenge.  Today I tossed it on the other end of the couch when she wasn't looking.  She was so excited when she found it.

This means I'll have to start putting it in novel places when we come home.  Its likely I'll forget where I've put it, so she really will have to find it for me.  Never a dull moment...

St. Helen's Barn Hunt

We went to a barn hunt trial in St. Helens, Oregon, on October 11th and 12th.  We didn't come home with any legs, but did learn some things and had interesting experiences.  

Janet always promotes a pot luck for lunch the first day and often there is rat-themed food available.  This time I was the only person to make rat-themed food - my now-famous rat-cheese ball.  Despite being delicious, it took a long time before anyone tried any of the cheese because they thought he was too cute.  Finally someone started picking away at the hind end.  When the rest of the food ran out and the after-lunch munchies hit, suddenly he disappeared and the plate was scraped clean.

Trial 1 Search - Gimme did a great job.  She found the only rat in the first minute.  Sadly I didn't believe her and made her keep checking and checking and checking until we ran out of time.  She tried her best to tell me there were no more, but I didn't believe her.  I've studied this video and the others to see what clues there are to say she is done and can't find anything.  So, if you see something, do tell.  At different times after she found the only rat, Gimme tried to show me the rat decorations on the scribe table, the rat decoration on the support beam and finally, the rat stickers on the wall.  

Trial 2 Search - Gimme was really concerned about this search and right away was very clingy.  She even tried to leave the ring.  She did check the ring at my insistence and found one rat, but couldn't find another.  Since she was so determined to be out of there, I thought maybe there were no more.  I called it, but we still had one more to go.  I called Tonya and asked her to communicate with Gimme and find out what was going on.   Gimme started out saying the ring was spooky and then tried saying it was because people laughed at her earlier in the first hunt.  Tonya persisted to find out what she thought was spooky about people laughing and finally Gimme reluctantly told her she was really scared of the two spirit-dogs in the ring and just wanted to leave.  

When you watch the very beginning of this video, you'll see she looks in and immediately turns and tries to leave - so unlike her.  Hugging me she does at different times, but when she is really worried or upset, it gets very clingy, as it was here.  It takes me 30 seconds to get her facing into the ring and as I'm undressing her she is still trying to turn away - another thing she never does.  She goes to the gate six times after she starts hunting.  On the video you can see she found the second rat two times, but leaves it without indicating.  She told Tonya the spirit-dogs kept coming over there and so she left it alone.  

Gimme had a very long conversation about them.  Gimme asked if there were any bad ones and Tonya said yes, but none of them could hurt her.  She told Gimme if the good ones are in her way, she can just move in and they will have to move out of her way because she is physical and they are not.  Tonya also told her the evil ones can only hurt her if she gives them some of her power by paying attention to them.  If she ignores them (she'll recognize an evil one if she ever sees one), they are powerless and can't touch her.   While I don't know what I think about spirit-dogs, I do recognize there is a Biblical basis for not interacting with evil spirits, so I suppose there could be spirit-dogs.  The next day when she asked about what was going on with Gimme, I gingerly told Amy (the judge) about the spirit-dogs.  She told me an animal communicator who had come to watch her trial in Salem a few months earlier told her she'd seen spirit dogs near the rings.  I don't know what to think about this, but you know I share everything.

Trial 3 Search - There was only one rat tube, which Gimme found quickly.  Then I kept taking her around and basically "sold" her on alerting for a litter tube, which I then called getting us a false alert.  She's a good girl - me not so much.  I don't have video for this.

Trial 4 Search - Gimme found the first two well enough.  After the second one she seemed lackadaisical about more searching and went to the gate a couple times, as if suggesting there were no more, so I called finished.  We had another.  She had shown interest in the spot, but didn't stick to it.  

Her hunting for the second day was not as strong as it usually is.  I was talking to Dennis Bell afterward - he's the gold medalist in the Barn Hunt Nationals, with Loki, a Norwegian Elkhound.  He saw the same thing, saying Gimme now seemed to be more interested in what comes after the hunting.  He said he sees this as a common problem because most of us take the rat tube away so quickly, so all the real reward happens outside the ring.  So the dogs start to think, find a rat and then leave to get the good stuff.  Of course, this is what I do.  I tumbled to this epiphany once before (according to my blog it was at the Salem trial back in June)...

So for the upcoming trial, I'm changing our reward cycle.  When Gimme finds a rat, I'll let her continue to sniff and paw at it, while I praise her excitedly - aiming for 5-10 seconds of real play.  I know the clock is ticking, but we won't Q anyway if she isn't committed to and excited about finding the ratties.  I'm also reducing the rewards out of the ring.  I think I've gotten in the habit of rewarding for just participating.  So I've decided on a system.  She'll get a piece of peanut butter cookie in her special bowl for each rat she finds.  If she finds them all and successfully communicates to me when there are no more so we Q, then and only then, she'll get a peanut butter Kong back at the car.  I also plan to do a lot less food-play with her before our run, if I can.  I'm hoping some of the relaxation-is-its-own-reward we've been doing elsewhere will work here as well (of course, much will depend on how the blind is set up, i.e. how much room there is).

We've never had more than 3 rat tubes since we've been in Masters.  I hope at the trial this weekend we get some with 4 or 5, preferrably for the first run.  It would be great if Gimme got to repeat the in-the-ring-reward several times in the first run.  I don't know how we'll do or if we'll get legs toward our Masters title, but its most important we get back on track and restore the fun in this game.  We still need four more legs, so its unlikely we'd get the title.  

For me and my girl, this weekend its about having fun finding ratties.  Cross your fingers for us.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nosework (6/5)

Dorothy comes up with the most creative ideas for searches.  They teach so many classes, so they don't go out on field trips (as the other class did), but I don't think we lose anything for lack of field trips.  She is very talented at making our usual area "interesting".  Right now we are on week three of four weeks focused on containers.  Statistics show more dogs fail on containers than any other element.

Tonight there were a dozen plastic containers, two luggage pieces, several cowboy hats and a couple other odd containers.  Each of us brings a container and a distraction.  Tonight I brought cheddar fish crackers and a small piece of luggage.  Gimme loves fishes and apparently so do other dogs; there was a LOT of interest in them.  At the recent NW3 trial a huge percentage of dogs (23 out of 25) failed a hide in a pocket on a piece of luggage. So tonight Dorothy replicated this search.  

All the dogs noticed the odor in the pocket, but didn't commit right away (with the exception of the slowest dog in class).  They all treated it like it was lingering odor.  There was a big difference in which direction the dog was moving when they passed their nose by the pocket.  Dorothy says many times the pockets are made from fabric which really traps or hugs the odor, not letting a lot of scent escape.  

We did two searches with this scenario.  On the first search Gimme went by the bag/pocket three times before she really decided to chase down the odor.  In hindsight, on this search she approached it from the same direction each time.  She found the other hide very quickly.  On the third search, we approached it twice from different directions and the second time she found it very quickly.  

Another thing Dorothy does is to set up searches themed according to the holiday.  Of course, with Halloween approaching, all the containers were orange or black.  For the second search, they had a bunch of glow necklaces.  Each dog got a glow necklace as did each handler, and then we did an interior search in the dark.  
 
There were three hides and each was liberally paired.  As we came in from the lighted entry, we waited to let the dogs acclimate as they shut the door.  I shared from my background as an aviator how it takes a lot longer than a minute for the dog's eyes to adjust to total darkness.  When we had a night flight we'd stay in a dimly lit area for half an hour before a flight.  And if you got spotlighted (such as from vehicle headlights), your night vision was basically gone for half a hour.  Of course the minute was more to let the dogs and handlers adjust to the idea of a dark room.

All the dogs pretty much did fine in the dark.  Gimme took a moment to adjust to the glow necklace seeming to "follow" her, but then dismissed it.  Our job as handlers was to focus on what we could hear of how the dogs breathed as they searched.  I noticed Gimme blows out in a more pronounced way when she close to odor. 

So, as always, it was a very interesting class.  Gimme was her usual talented self.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Relaxing Day

Gimme and I are pretty much just hanging out.  I am waiting for the full effect of her combined supplements and homeopathics to come together.  She is doing well so far - still hasn't adopted a baby.  Though she does want to be near me a lot, so much I dragged her dog bed into the bathroom so she could be comfortable and close.

I've just received word we are:
  • in the top 10 wait list for the level 1 Container element trial, and 
  • on the short wait list for the level 2 Interior element trial.
I assume being on the short wait list is closer to being in the trial than being in the top 10 wait list.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.  Either one or both would be fine with me...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

RallyFrEe (4/1) & Agility (4/6)

What a day this has been.  I'm trying very hard not to get a cold, so tried to build a lot of rest into my midday.  So far, so good.

We started the day with RallyFrEe class.  Because I thought I might be trying to get a cold I didn't go to my parents' - no reason to be sharing, eh.  Gimme was unfocused from the moment she got out the car.  I tried clicking any offered attention and she wasn't even focused enough to be able to keep attention to get the treat.  If I took the treat to her face, she was happy to gobble it down.  She was just giving me a whole lot of hit-n-run attention.  Plus she was much more concerned about the other dogs than she had been for the last two weeks.

As I was trying to get her brain engaged during our first session, I suddenly realized what the problem was.  Miss Gimme is officially into false pregnancy mode.  Once I tumbled to her reality, I made it even simpler still and was able to get some attention.  By the end of our first working session, she was able to actually work and do the exercises.  On our second session, she did some really credible work and then when class was over, she was able to walk to the car on a loose leash.  So I was able to get her brain and use it.

I had hoped this new supplement from the reproductive specialty vet would do the trick - for most bitches it prevents false pregnancies entirely.  Apparently not going to be the case for Gimme.   Its interesting the onset was so rapid - yesterday she was fine, today not.  Because I wanted to see what the supplement was doing, I didn't start her on the homeopathic remedies until today after I got home.  Normally I would have checked and been using them a month ago.  So it'll probably take a couple days for them to take full affect.

Tonight in agility class it was a challenge to get her attention, but I did and it went well.  I basically work with getting her to focus and sit in heel, treat and repeat.  Then we focus and "set-up" and one jump, treat.  Then the same with another jump - adding one obstacle at a time.  When we got to five obstacles, Blynn suggested we move to another place and start over.  This actually worked very nicely.  By the time we got three obstacles there, I had Gimme's full attention.  So then we were able to do some longer sequences, about half a course worth.  

Our second session went even better.  Gimme was still a little distracted to begin with, but came around much faster and after she did, she was really doing some nice work.  Although we didn't do anything which was great shakes, I was still very happy to have her working with me much better and sooner than has been the case in the past.  To a large extent I think its because we've established a new pattern of attention and working together over the last few classes and its starting to really pay off.

RallyFrEe class was about pivots and combination signs.  I found the timing of cues for Gimme and my own handling and footwork challenging for the combination signs.  Once I got it, Gimme did a very nice job and seemed to enjoy it.  The combinations we worked were:
  • starting with dog moving on right side, clockwise-spin-to-center-trx, thru-to-left-heel
  • starting with dog moving on left side, counter-clockwise-spin-to-center-trx, thru-to-right-heel
  • starting with dog moving on right side, clockwise-spin-to-center-trx, step-back-center-3x, thru-to-left-heel
  • starting with dog moving on left side, counter-clockwise-spin-to-center-trx, step-back-center-3x, thru-to-right-heel 
It was a fun class and I think once we got through the fog Gimme really seemed to enjoy it.  From there when we went back to our chair/crate, she was more able to relax than earlier in class.  Clearly she still wants to work, just needs some help getting there.

I'll be interested to see how the new supplement works with the homeopathic remedies.  Clearly it isn't going to prevent the false pregnancy entirely, but if it reduces the intensity, I'll be happy.  Gimme hasn't adopted a baby yet and usually she would have by now.  She got SuperCow out the other day, but just left him on the floor and didn't notice I put him back in the toy basket.  She did beat up BrownBunny during the ride home from agility class and since we've been home beat up MrFroggy and DeadThing.  So she is clearly more emotional, but is now resting and relaxed.  Time will tell how this all shakes out.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Caterpillar Chronicles

Gimme and I have been very busy lately.  I have to catch up a lot of miles for the Dalmatian Distance Log program before the end of the year, so we've been walking as much as we can.  Plus its my job to cater to all the Empress' needs and whims - those belly rubs can take up a lot of time.  Gimme prefers to train 6 times a day and anything less than 3 times a day is completely inadequate.  

I'm still working on projects to finish the decorating for the bathroom remodel project.  I had a huge scare last week.  I was cleaning in the bathroom, happened to lean ever so lightly against the tub and felt it give way.  I turned around to see one corner of the tub dipped down several inches.  I looked and saw what appeared to be the leg broken off.  I was heartsick as I called my remodel guy, who lives just up the street.  He came right over and fortunately it was just a case of the leg working its way loose and coming off.  Thank heaven I wasn't in the tub at the time.  Ted said the nuts should probably be tightened regularly, so I'm going to get him to show me how, will get the right tool to keep in the bathroom, and will put it on my calendar for a monthly reminder.

I've also been busy trying to get caught up with other end of year stuff.  And as much as I can and the weather allows, I'm trying to get the yard ready for winter.  Ideally I'd like to weedeater the yard as short as possible - otherwise it'll get away from me come spring.

Today I shirked tummy duty to spend half the day volunteering at an NW3 trial just 8 minutes from home.  They were a tad behind when I arrived, so I got to watch a lot of runs in exteriors and containers.  Then I got officially trained for my volunteer duty as timer for vehicles. One of the things I really love is to watch how the dogs approach each search.  The way they puzzle through a challenge really tells me so much about what the scent is doing.   Handlers still tend to make the same mistakes, which are: 

Not-trusting-the-dog is the number one issue and it takes a couple different forms:

Form 1 – Not believing the dog when they say something.  I realize we on the sidelines have an advantage, but seriously, when a dog spends 1¼ minutes without moving more than two feet - there just might be odor there.  And when a dog come back to the same place 6 times and indicates no less than twelve times, it really is time to believe what they are saying.

Form 2 – Many handlers not only don’t believe the dog, they drag them away to search elsewhere.  If they don’t do so physically, they do so with their own motion and intention.  Most of the time these dogs don’t return to where they know the hide is.  After all, they weren’t believed the first 2 or 3 times, so why should they?

Form 3 – Some handlers believe they personally know where the odor is and they repeatedly take the dog to this spot.  Then the handler starts hovering and paying a lot of attention to the spot.  These people should get a job in sales, because it doesn’t take long and they “sell the dog” and get the indication they expected.
I am really good at this, especially lately in barn hunt, and you all know I’ve had to eradicate “show me” from my vocabulary.  It occurs to me we didn’t have a problem with “show me” until we started using peanut butter as a reward for nosework and barn hunt.  With such powerful motivation, Gimme is willing to tell me anything she thinks I want to hear.  
The other big handling error is getting between dogs and where they are searching.  Granted, the handlers don't know where the hide is, so it can be a challenge in some searches.  Of course if the dog is encouraged early in training to lead the way and the handler lets them, it pretty much becomes a non-issue.  In vehicles - I can guarantee you source is going to be somewhere ON THE VEHICLE.  There is just no reason why you should be between your dog and the vehicle (except if you want to block the dog from a hide they've already found).  The same is true of container searches - source is going to be IN A CONTAINER.

I know you are wondering why I titled this blog post Caterpillar Chronicles, and "no" its not because of how slow I walk.  Today as I was timing for vehicles, I saw one dog who clearly knew where the hide was and was detailing for source.  She was really homing in on it, when she suddenly leaps away and then completely avoided the area, moving wide around it.  Only after the team left did I learn there was a large fuzzy caterpillar traveling through the search area.  It had come out from under the next vehicle and "rushed" into the path of the standard poodle, who was not having anything to do with such a scary creature.  

We all watched the caterpillar through two more searches.  Then the judge went out to "rescue" it and placed it in an empty coffee cup for safe-keeping.  Finally someone showed up with a small nosework jar, complete with holes in the lid.  During the awards ceremony, the story was shared and the caterpillar was presented to the poodle's owner.  

Dogs will be dogs, doncha know.  Though, to be certain, this close to Halloween I'm sure this dog thought it made good sense to avoid spooky black and orange things.  Just sayin...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

RallyFrEe (3/1)

Class was again very good.  Kathy is a methodical and organized instructor.  She has a solid ability to watch and provide feedback to several students at once.  She remembered where we were last week, so noticed Gimme's big improvement with the pivot platform on my right and how much her pivots had improved.  

At one point we'd finished the exercise, so Gimme and I were reviewing her independent pivot behavior (i.e. not tied to heel position).  Gimme was a little frustrated and was "talking" to me with a whining tone.  Kathy asked me about the noise and what it meant.  I told her I thought Gimme was a bit frustrated.   Kathy reminded me, if I'm still using a prop to get a behavior, I should break off and do something entirely different before using the same prop to get a different behavior so as not to confuse Gimme.  Well duh, I should have known it...

We started class by reviewing the things we worked on last week and seeing where we are now.  As I said, Gimme had a huge improvement and was able to demonstrate it well, even in the distracting class setting.  Kathy teaches the side pass based on the pivot with the dog's front feet as the pivot point.  Its an interesting way to teach it, one I'd never seen before.  She said the advantage to this method is the dog moves their rear end toward you and then their front end, so you don't end up with a dog with a side pass done at a 45° angle, where the front end stays with you and the rear end lags.  Kathy also said a side pass is a totally unnatural behavior physically speaking, so once you are actually side passing, never do much at one time. 

She had us start with the footwork for a 90° pivot.  We move our inside foot (the one closest to the dog) 90° to a point in front of the dog.  As the handler steps the outside foot up to join the inside foot, the dog will pivot their rear into position parallel with you, as they turn their front feet.  The 90° step starts teaching the dog the physical cue for the side pass, by creating exaggerated hip and knee movement.  If you are doing 
it correctly, it takes four 90° 
pivots to do a circle.  

After you have done this a few times, you switch to a 45° pivot.  It is all the same, except you move your foot 45° instead of 90°.  This will create a hip and knee movement which is a bit more subtle than before.  Your dog will notice these hip and knee movements and they become a physical cue for a side pass toward you.  Obviously it takes eight 45° pivots to do a circle.

When you are ready to actually work on the side pass, you will turn your inside foot as if to take the 45° step, but instead of placing the foot in front of your dog, you'd place it in front of or past your outside foot.  The dog will "read" your hip/knee cue and start pivoting her rear behind/toward you and then when they realize you aren't in front of them, they'll move their front end over to remain in "heel" or "side" position.  Thus you train a side pass where the dog leads with their rear and develops a habit which doesn't degenerate to the 45°angled side pass.

Kathy then demonstrated four different ways we could use this physical cue to do a side pass, showing us different ways to dance in a side pass.  Its intriguing.  Gimme isn't ready for the side pass, so we just practiced the 90° and 45° pivots with my foot work.  She does it better when she's on my left, but did pretty darn good on the right.

Another thing I did in class was to be very conscientious about not doing all the work for Gimme about relaxing in the class setting.  I realized over the weekend at the barn hunt trial (which I've not yet blogged about), I'm doing all the work for Gimme and its getting to where it takes more and more from me.  Its a bad habit I've fallen into.  

Last year I noticed Gimme was really unable to relax when we were out and about.  So based on Kathy's advice, I took Gimme out for some relaxation walks.  This is just me walking 100 feet and then stopping and standing or sitting in one place and waiting until Gimme relaxed on her own before moving on.  She actually picked it up very quickly.  Unfortunately I haven't stuck with it and haven't done enough of it in different, less calm settings.  So I've fallen into a bad habit of managing her behavior with lots of treats and such.  Managing her is doable, but it also means Gimme never relaxes, which is ultimately stressful and tiring (for both of us, eh).

So today was the first of my planned instances where I will just wait for Gimme to relax.  She was doing a lot of pestering and hinting, trying to get me to pay up like she is accustomed to.  I just repeated to her, "relaxation is its own reward", and waited.  Gimme thinks this new mantra is a load of horsey poopy.  However, she did get more settled.  She was still pestering and hinting from time to time, but overall was much more relaxed than she has been this year.  At times she needed a hug from me, for reassurance.  I think its entirely normal with such a big change.  Whenever she was close enough and calm, I made sure to stroke her.  She's very tactile, so this is a reward which actually supports a calm state.   

I think this will pay big dividends as she learns to relax and calm herself in public and other challenging situations.  I look at it as part of the process for her to grow up, where she takes more responsibility for her own emotional state.  I also plan to get back into practicing the relaxation protocol.  Its more boring than dirt, but I know its good for high mental energy dogs.

We met up with Tonya on the way home to get more flower essences for the both of us, body work for Gimme and a very quick communication session.  Tonya noticed how much quieter Gimme was in the car and when she communicated with her how much calmer her mind was.  These things are all coming together methinks.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Nosework (5/5) & Agility (3/6)

Quickly about agility class...  We worked some more on getting the connection before heading off down the course.  Gimme did well, but was slow as mud (at least for her) and not as focused as she'd been the last couple of times we did this.  Partway through the first session, Blynn stopped me and asked me if I was hurting or something.  When I said "no, I'm fine," then she wanted to know why *I* was moving so slowly.  Really I was just tired because of things going on.  So then when I moved out, magically Gimme did too and was suddenly very engaged.  

So now Blynn has two things to remind me when needed.  She already says, "Get your leadership on."  Now she's adding "Run like you stole it."  ☺☺☺

For nosework, tonight we had another class on containers.  This afternoon I heard the front door banging in the high winds we are having and thought to myself, "I'll bet we do a container search outdoors in the wind."  You know how much I love to be right... and I was.

We had about 20 containers laid out in a large blacktop area.  The wind was blowing about 7mph and gusting to 10mph.  I knew Gimme wouldn't have any problem with the search because her very first match was in much stronger winds and she aced it then.  We started at a position where the wind was blowing at our backs.  She did as I expected, racing around and quickly finding odor.  One would think with the strong winds and gusts the dogs would be challenged - it seemed just the opposite from watching them.  Several of the dogs found the windy search more exciting. 

On our second search of the same setup, we started from the other end of the search area with the wind blowing in our faces.  Gimme was eager to go and just as I was about to release her, an even stronger gust whipped across the blacktop picking up half the boxes and tumbling them right at us.  Another dog might have been frightened, but Gimme seemed to like the additional challenge of trying to find odor among moving containers.  I'm sure she thought Dorothy had arranged this especially fun aspect just for her.  My challenge was rewarding at source, since the boxes were trying to skitter away the whole time.  Sadly I didn't bring the camera - this would'a been a helluva video to show the world.

The third search was 25 containers indoors, with three distractions.  The distractions were catfood (the most favorite), a biscuit with peanut butter (mine), and some dog treats.  We had an artificial wind created by a fan.  The three hides were in the two closest corners and the furthest right corner (from the startline).  Gimme did a great job and found all her odors very quickly.  I think she was the fastest to find the odor on the tall bag, which was right in front of the fan and odor on the side nearest the fan.  

Interestingly Gimme was not very interested in my biscuit and peanut butter - perhaps because I told her before the search she was going to get to eat it on the way home.  ☺  What she was most intrigued by was the new tool bag I brought, which I won in a raffle this weekend.  I just tossed a few tools in it, so it smelled of a combination of new and Mom's tools.  She was just fascinated by it (and the catfood container).  One of the things we often hear at trials is how dogs are sucked in the most by novel smells - its not just about food for them.

From the way the dogs worked it, we think scent was skipping over the top of the tall luggage and then coming down about four feet away.  The black box with the blue squiggly is the fan, the 3D black box is the tall bag, the red arrow points to where odor was on the side nearest the fan and the green lines represent what we think was happening with scent.  The dog which had the most difficulty was also the shortest and we think he was actually moving under the arch of scent - he didn't find it until he got between the fan and the bag.


Our last task was to search the same area again and let the dogs direct the search and once they have found all three odors, then we were to take control of the search and direct the dog through the area having them check each bag as we indicated it.  Even though they might know where the odor was as they got close to it, we were not to let them rush ahead to it and instead, supposed to get them to check each container as we presented them.

I thought Gimme might have some trouble with this - less than a year ago it would have been a big deal, but though she's improved a lot, I still thought she would find this exercise frustrating.  Instead she aced it and completely accepted my direction as if it was the way we always did it.  I realized halfway through, I was using the same informal wording I use in barn hunt when I need her to check an area.  I've only been using this a short time since we got to senior and masters, but apparently she understands the cue.  I say "check" this or "check" it and in barn hunt she gets into the area and sniffs wherever I'm pointing.  Without thinking I said the same thing in this search and she was perfect, putting her nose down to search everthing I pointed at and told her to "check".

I absolutely love how smart this girl is.  The way she takes something from one sport and so readily applies it to another sport is just amazing.  

What's not to love, eh.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

RallyFrEe (1&2/1)

Gimme and I are starting a series of Rally FrEe classes with Kathy Weaver.  I run into Kathy at events (we both do nosework) and at seminars, plus I've taken a few seminars she hosted, but have never taken a class from her.  Based on 1¼ classes, I think its going to be pretty good.

I joined her class in Lynnwood for Tuesday evenings, but didn't realize the drive would be so impossible.  Who knew rush hours starts at 2:00 in Seattle - making a 1:15 drive into 3 hours.  I'd left so early since I'd never been there before and wanted to be ahead of time to scope the place out and acclimate Gimme.  We got there in time for the last 15 minutes of class.  Kathy was so nice and had all of us work on an extra training exercise after the discussion (using up her between class break) - just so I'd have something to go home with.  
 
The handout she gave us on analyzing behavior progress looks good after a quick glance.  If its as promising as the first few lines suggest, I'll probably blog about it.  Just the same, in the fifteen minutes of class we got, I discovered how stuck Gimme is on our "close" behavior - where she backs around me, starting and ending in hip (standing heel).  So to help her get unstuck, I've started teaching her "bacon" (a cue made from back-on) to back to and on a platform, even if she must back around something.  The first session went well.  This stems from something I talked about last month and you can see it at the link out and around.  I talked then about cleaning up Gimme's backing up concept, so now I have another reason to do so - thus "bacon".
 
Fortunately Kathy has another much closer classes in Fife on Thursdays.  I never even looked at the Fife schedule, assuming they were afternoon/evening and would conflict with agility.  Turns out they are morning classes, so we've joined this class and went this morning for the first time.  Also Kathy arranged for me to get a prorated refund - even though the Lynnwood facility handles the enrollment in classes and they have a no-refund policy after 48 hours before the first class.  The class we joined this morning started last week, so she has arranged for me to get into this class prorated to 5 of 6 classes. 
 
The class this morning was really good.  I've never worked with Kathy as an instructor, so I didn't know what to expect.  She started by introducing Gimme and I, making sure everyone was clear on her space needs.  I found all her explanations good and answers to questions were clear.  The class had a definite plan and we all knew what we were going to learn before we even started (you know how much I love this style of teaching).  I sure hope all the classes are as good as this one.

I learned an important distinction about Rally FrEe pivots, which I was completely unaware of.  If you pivot and turn toward your dog, then your dog's front feet are the pivot point and should remain roughly in one place.  If you pivot and turn away from your dog, then you are the pivot point and your feet should remain roughly in one place.  So you have to think about which way you are pivoting relative to where your dog is.  Gimme has a really good counter-clockwise pivot in heel, so I volunteered her to demonstrate.  I thought I was doing it with Gimme as the pivot point, but Kathy pointed out our pivot point was actually between the two of us, so another thing learned.
 
The exercise was a series of graduated tasks, teaching the dogs to use their rear end as you do a 90° turn.  She wanted us to work our dogs on the weakest side, which was a great reminder because I was already mentally ready to do it on our easy side (dog on left).  There was four ring gates forming a square with 6' sides, guides forming a square with 2 foot sides, a large cone and two flat-bottomed bowls to work pivots on.  

The first thing I discovered was how incredibly sloppy and lazy my training technique has become without an instructor to keep a watchful eye on me.  The second thing I learned was Gimme doesn't work many tasks nearly as well as I thought when I get food out of my hand.  I'm not luring her in the sense of having food at her nose, but food in my hand presents a mental lure and if its not there, she doesn't focus.  This despite our training at home with all food off my body.  This will be invaluable for our long term goals.

Case in point was how poor Gimme's "side" (right side standing heel) was with no food in my hand (resting on my hip).  So I started on the 6' box just click/treating for moving at "side".  By the second time around we were able to focus on clicking her rear movement on the corners.  Then we repeated the process with the 2' box and then the cone.  
 
I discovered another interesting thing at the pivot platforms.  Even though Gimme has a ton of experience with our wooden pivot platform at home and did it in class from my left side, she was clueless when I asked her to get on it from my right side.  Here is a behavior I would have thought she had 100% fluency and yet it is clearly not one she has generalized.  So another thing to train.  
 
I really have a lot of things to work on between now and next Thursday.  Its kinda exciting.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Nosework (4/5)

Tonight started our four week focus on containers.  We are supposed to bring a different container and a different distraction to each of these four classes.  Tonight I brought a cookie tin and butter.  Our first two searches were outdoors. 

Search one was a dozen blank containers in a parking lot.  Blank means no odor.  Search two was three containers on the sidewalk next to the training building, with all of them having odor.

The dogs consistently did pretty much the same thing.  Gimme went around and checked all the blank containers and then not finding any odor, decided to bap a couple to see if I would pay up.  I did the same thing I always do with containers; I keep moving and if necessary walk around her to see if she sticks the container.  When she is faking or intent on a distraction, she leaves it.  Tonight this worked for her faking these blank bags.

From there we walked across the street and she got to find odor in all three bags.  She got the first bag and then the third bag, the the first one again.  The middle (second) bag was tighter and didn't have as much odor in it.  This made it very challenging because to the dogs, the slight odor between the two stronger odors seemed invisible.  

I posed the question of how the search would change if we'd 
  1. put the weaker bag on the end 
  2. between two blank bags
  3. simply spaced them further apart.  
Between two blanks the dogs surely would have found it right away.  On an end with two stronger smelling bags, it may or may not have helped.  I think distance between them would have helped as well.
 
Our third and fourth search was 18 bags/containers set in three lines.  Odor had been there since Saturday and much of it was very strong (like 15 q-tips in one container), so the area was saturated with odor.  First we did the search as it was set up.  Then some of the containers were replaced with boxes with distractions in them.

Gimme did a lovely job on both these searches.  She really consistently leaves distractions if I keep moving, so we had no real problem with any of the distractions we had tonight.  I learned they've discovered dogs are most distracted by food items which are a combination of carbs and fat.  Who knew?  In any case, none of the dogs paid any attention to my butter.

We had a discussion about leash length and during our first search, both instructors wanted me to really rein Gimme in.  I do work with a shorter leash, but first I let her blast off the startline and then after the initial burst, I gently reel her in and if necessary provide direction.  If I kept her on a short line, she'd get an unintended correction as she left the startline, which is not a good thing.  I can't possibly keep up with her, so the unintended correction would be inevitable.  

They also think I should always keep her on a short line when we enter an interior or exterior search area to make sure she checks the threshold.  I haven't found it effective to start our searches pretending I'm an anchor.  The prevailing "wisdom" is - dogs who miss a threshold hide as they enter a search area rarely go back to find it.  This has not been the case for us - we've never missed a threshold in a trial.  If the situation allows for it, I stay close to the threshold (like for off leash interior searches) and Gimme comes back and checks it, without being frustrated.  If we're on leash, I know enough to bring her back by the threshold after she has scanned the search area.

I've found as she's gotten more mature she is more willing to take direction from me, but she still likes to burst into the search area.  We started nosework on a 25 foot line and now we use a 12 foot line for most searches.  I let her use most of the 12 feet to begin, but then I take it up and we do most of the search on 6-8 feet.  Since neither of these instructors were with us when we started, I told them where we'd started and the improvement since then.

They seem to think class is a good place to experience frustration.  I disagree.  I can see trying new things in class, but I'm disinclined to experiment to the point of frustrating my eager and talented girl.  Gimme is wonderfully persistent when the search itself presents frustration in the form of a challenge - she just never gives up.  I think she is this way because searching has always been a positive experience for her and she has learned she will eventually win.  Winning is important to her.  I doubt she would feel the same way if nosework included having to drag a 200 pound anchor around the search area whilst solving a scent puzzle.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Agility (2/6)

In addition having the puppy buddies join Gimme in her "special place" for rides in the car, I also added a snug coat for her to wear.  Overall I would say she did much better.  I watched her in the rearview mirror, and for most of the ride, she just lay in the back alertly looking around and silent.  Her whole demeanor was very different.

I put all four puppy buddies in the puppy pen and when Gimme got in, I distinctly heard her say, "I didn't know they'd take up so much room."  I'd placed one in each corner, figuring it would be the least impact on her space.  The two she interacted with were Kermit (naturally) and brown rabbit, so I may try taking the other two out, and they can be nearby, but not inside the pen.  I'm thinking the space between the pen and the side of the car will work.  She tended to lay right next to Kermit and I noticed later she had moved brown rabbit.

I think she liked the snug coat, once we got it on her.  She was unimpressed with getting it on.  Its a child's vest and just a tad too small.  If she continues to do well with it, I will probably alter it, make it a little larger in the forechest and replace the zipper with velcro.  I have another one I will also try on her to see if it fits better with less alteration required.  I'm going to wait and see what Tonya says before making changes.

Class was very good.  Gimme did really well and was overall very focused.  The only places she lost focus were when I made mistakes, not having walked the first course.  I started with my plan to get her working with me - it starts out looking very much like obedience, but its all skills she knows quite well and has lots of confidence in how to win.  I think it works well to put her in the right frame of mind.  Everyone was commenting about how good she was doing.  I was not altogether clear-headed myself, though I don't know why, so I also made mistakes on the second course, even though I walked it.  Still Gimme did very well and was running fast and was really responsive.

Because Gimme was having so much fun and working so well, we were able to focus on a couple of skills and tweak specific parts of the course to get a tighter line.  For the first time since we started agility I was able to send Gimme 20 feet to a tunnel while peeling off laterally and layering a jump.  It was very exciting because then I was able to easily get into position for the section of the course which followed.  It put me 20 feet down course when she exited the tunnel, so Gimme had fun running to catch up.  I also was able to get more lateral and slightly forward of her in the weaves, which also helped me get down course sooner.

Fun stuff.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Frustration & Fun

I'm frustrated with barn hunt right now.  Certainly not with doing it.  Gimme is brilliant and fast and so its lots of fun.  What is frustrating is how the rules, or more specifically the rules interpretation, changes from month to month.  It is getting so I don't know what to expect from trial to trial.  

In past trials we've always been allowed to blind separately, so Gimme didn't have to deal with being in close confines with other dogs.  No one has ever questioned this.  A few months ago it was discussed on list and there was no suggestion by the list-owner (barn hunt originator) to say a separate blind was not allowed.  One person even said some clubs provide a separate blind for reactive dogs, even though its not the club's responsibility.  The list-owner moderates all the posts to the list.  Now all of the sudden, even though there has been no rules change since the discussion, the only dogs who can be in a separate blind are bitches in season or dogs who are loud and disruptive.  The list-owner defined disruptive as "dogs whose actions are are loud and disruptive; excessive barking, growling. lunging".  

So it seems ill-behaved and poorly controlled dogs can have a separate blind, but dog's who need more space for their own comfort and security cannot.  I suppose I could let Gimme lunge at a few dogs and then we could have a separate blind area, something I don't want her practicing.  Mostly its not an issue, but sometimes the space provided for the blind is rather small.  Such as one time when the blind was a 10x10 canopy, in which there was supposed to fit 5 handlers and their dogs.  I think if they are going to say no separate blinds, then the rules need to clearly specify the minimum space to be provided for 5 handlers and 5 dogs.

Harrumph...

Now a funny story to lighten the mood.  I know I haven't mentioned animal communication more than once before - though my friends surely know what I think about it.  I don't know what you think, but I'm a confirmed believer.  I've had too many experiences where no other explanation fits.  I can do some communication myself and Tonya says I'm much better than I think and most of what I "say" for Gimme and other dogs is like an echo of their thoughts.   When I work with communicators I'm careful to not give them clues.  Tonya is really gifted in this respect and she comes up with many things she could only have gotten from Gimme.

Tonya and I are working on Gimme's whining in the car.  Its gradually improving.  One of the things I needed to change was to give her a bigger space in the car than the crate she had - Gimme said she felt tied down and unable to move, which Tonya interpreted as claustrophobic.  The crate was a perfectly adequate space for a dog her size.  Still I modified a puppy pen so I could get it in the car - increasing the space she has to ride in by 2.5 times.  On her first ride in the "special place" Gimme was better, but not quiet.  I said to her, "since you have this nice big space, I thought you'd be quiet now."  I very clearly heard her say with a lot of sass in her voice, "I'm not cured in one day!"  

Last Friday as we were driving down to the hotel for the barn hunt trial, Gimme was kinda fussy off and on the whole time.  Usually she is much better when we are driving on the freeway.  I thought to myself, when Tonya gets back from her trip, I'll have her ask if there is anything else Gimme needs to make her "special place" more comfortable.  Immediately a picture of Gimme's puppy buddies popped into my head.  

I was thinking in terms of foam padding to 
go under the blankets, not puppy buddies.  
Hadn't even thought of them in a long time.  
There are these three in the expen and then 
Kermit the frog.  My mind's eye was drawn 
to Kermit.  Naturally  I couldn't remember 
where I'd stashed Kermit; I was sure I could 
put my hands on the other three right away.  
I didn't really have a clue where to look for 
him.

Yesterday I was headed to the laundry room 
and since my arms were full, I didn't get the 
gate latched.  As I was going down the 
stairs, I heard the gate bang open and I knew I couldn't delay, since I hadn't put everything away after breakfast.  I dumped what I had and turned around to run back upstairs... but... there she was a few feet away.

First, given the choice between counter-surfing and following me to the laundry room - the kitchen counters are winners paws down.  No contest.  Yet here was Gimme, having bypassed food on the counters and she had her face resting on the second shelf of the unit where I store the dog bedding.  There was her nose, mere inches from Kermit.   She stayed there and wouldn't budge until I reassured her I would have all the puppy buddies, and certainly her Kermit, in the car for her next ride in the car.  Upon hearing me, she dashed up the stairs and was busy counter surfing when I got there.

This tells me a few things:
  • I must never expect any privacy in the confines of my own mind.  You may not be able to read my thoughts, but Gimme is apparently in there rummaging around on a regular basis.
  • Gimme understands much more than I ever thought she did.  I already suspected she'd learned to spell some words.  Such as p-b-u-t-t-e-r, k-o-n-g, c-o-w-s and r-a-t-s.
  • Gimme may not be able to tell me where things are when I can't find them and indeed shows no concern about such things.  My house is chaotic and I'm always looking for something.  However, as the prior story about her pointing out her collar (see the blog post at: collar) and this story about her Kermit - clearly Gimme knows where her things are.
Shades of the strange and wonderful...