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...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tracking Photos

Here are some tracking pictures Nadine took for us on the 19th...

This is me metronome feeding Gimme at an article.  This is before I started emphasizing her stopping aligned with the track.



This is Gimme figuring out a corner.  If you look at my posture, you'll see she is really pulling hard.
More...
And more...

RallyFrEe (2/4)

I got there early, waaaaay early, so Kathy and I talked about our prop for "can".  She thinks it is too high for Gimme to learn the behavior on and it might need to be a bigger diameter.  She gave me a shorter prop to play with before class started.  I spent some time getting Gimme used to just getting on with her back feet and by the time I finished, she was able to take a pivoting step or two at a time.  So, clearly its not too small in diameter, which is great since its very close to the size of our intended prop.  Kathy also gave me some better ideas for how to both stabilize and weight our prop, which I hope to get done this weekend.  Meanwhile, I'm certain I have a detergent bucket I sawed off short to use as a outdoor water dish which should be the perfect size for the initial part of training the rear pivot.

Today's class was mostly about charging up our training so the dog is very eager to play the game.  Kathy set up two simple courses of 8 stations, with a line of gating between them.  
  ~  The first time out, we were to do our start-work routine, approach the first station (a right or left side heel sign) and break off for a big party.  
  ~  The second time we were to do our start-work routine, approach the first station, take one step past it and break off for a big party.  
  ~  The third time we were to do our start-work routine, then work the course, with a party-reward following each station.  If the dog did a station poorly, we were to do what was needed so they could do it right and earn the party-reward.

Kathy was careful to select pairs of dogs who wouldn't be likely to create problems for the dogs with issues.  We have six dogs in class and three of them have issues.  The way it was set up, the dogs should not be closer than 30' to each other, but of course its always possible as each team has different timing.  I really appreciate how thoughtful Kathy is.  Gimme did very well paired up with Jazzie, a laid-back Sheltie.  She looked at her briefly at first and then ignored her.  After we did our course, Kathy had me coach the handlers on our side of the room, while she worked with the two beginners one at a time.  

After this exercise we were each given a margarine lid and instructed to use it like a bait plate in special bowl style.  We started with very simple exercises and then released our dog to reward from the lid.  Gimme seemed to find the lid very distracting, so I had to work a bit farther away from it so she could resist the distraction.  As I recall we had this issue with special bowl.  Naturally she was doing brilliantly, until Kathy came over to watch.  I really should get back to doing more special bowl work.  I liked the results I was getting and then kind of got away from it when I was working on other things.

For our last exercise, we worked one of the courses, one at a time.  Kathy set up a bait plate strategically located for each station, so we could release the dog to it for a reward.  The four more advanced dogs did the full courses; the two beginners did an abbreviated course of 4 simple stations.  If the dog did a station poorly, we were to do what was needed so they could do it right and earn the reward.  

Naturally I think Gimme did the best.  There were a couple of places where she had difficulty, but with a little help she was able to get it right and earn her reward.  

I really do have to get back to training the special bowl.  In case you've forgotten what its about, you can read what we did before at:
http://atozdals.blogspot.com/2014/05/special-bowl.html
http://atozdals.blogspot.com/2014/05/special-bowl_24.html 
http://atozdals.blogspot.com/2014/05/special-bowl-2.html
http://atozdals.blogspot.com/2014/07/more-special-bowl.html

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tracking Genius (7)

We met Nadine at our usual place yesterday at 9 a.m.  Since we were early, we used the remote airplane field, since they can't start until 10 a.m.  We didn't really expect them at all, since it was raining when we arrived.  It stopped raining and went to a soft drizzle right after we started laying tracks and we even had a brief bit of sunshine.  It started raining again just as we were packing up to go. 

Nadine set the track I've shown here - 340 yards, three articles.  We set food drops at 14 yard intervals, with two at 7 yard intervals after turns.  For one turn, Nadine set an article instead of the second post-turn drop.  Gimme did well with it, but was not as focused as I know she can be.  

Gimme really seems to need a practice track to get her mind fully focused on tracking.  I was contemplating how I would ever work in a practice track when we get entered for a trial.  Then I remembered how I used to have to set up a practice search off-site before nosework trials and now I don't even worry about it.  I'm guessing as Gimme gets more experience/maturity with tracking, then she'll be able to get to work faster.

While Nadine was setting the big track, I set a shorter article training track.  It was four 30 yard legs, with 6 articles.  The idea was to get many chances to train the article indication with a small amount of tracking.

Gimme did very well and was very focused right away.  There were only three food drops, but each of the articles had cheese in them.  Nadine had selected a wide variety of articles, so Gimme wasn't sure a couple of them counted, but was happy to receive pay nonetheless.

I'm happy with her indication overall.  She always stops.  I'd like her to lower her front end, but she can keep her butt up - like a bow.  As often as we train in the rain or on very wet grounds, I have no desire to battle over whether she wants to lay down in wet grass.  I don't even care if she puts her elbows down.  We are working now on getting her to stop and hold position with her nose pointed down track.  Her initial tendency is to paw at the article, so she turns her butt around until she's facing me.  So for now, I just encourage her to get into the correct position and then I metronome feed.  

This week I was able to stand up straight between treats.  And by halfway through this track I was able to remain standing and just drop treats in place.  It was as if she was applying what she learned in the new nosework game - where she learned to keep her head in the box and wait for treats to get tossed in.  Maybe there is no relationship, but I noticed she didn't lift her head up to look at me or try to catch the treats, which is what I expected.

Tonight we went to DaPaws for practice.  Out of 30 minutes, we got 27 minutes training time.  She got two very brief breaks to get a drink of water while I was setting up props.  She did really well and was very enthusiastic about working.  It was a good session.

I just got an email from Kathy about class tomorrow.  She wanted to know if I'd ever figured out how to stabilize our pretty can for the free choice behavior I want to teach Gimme.  She wants to have each of us select a free choice behavior to work on for the six weeks.  As it turns out I had just gotten a detergent bucket from William, which is nearly the perfect size.  It needs to be washed and modified slightly - otherwise its just right.  So this is my project for the evening.  

Being a socker-Mom to Gimme is a lot of work...  with a ton of love and joy as my reward.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Nosework (6/8)

I learned tonight our nosework class will be discontinued because a few students have dropped out and Dorothy can't justify keeping it open for just the three of us (one of whom gets the class free for helping instruct another class).  For the time being I'll be switching to a Tuesday night class, same time.  I have some concerns it might be too much for Gimme, since we'll be doing tracking on Tuesday mornings.  The other drawback is the interference with my Tuesday night quilting meeting with my friend Linda.  We are going to try just having me come over later and simply missing dinner, but time will tell.  This is kinda frustrating, since I just went through changes with my RallyFrEe class.  Gimme and I have so many activities, its not like we can just switch things around readily.

Class started with a vehicle search of two white vans.  We were told generally where the hides were (2), on the driver's side rear quadrant.  Our job as handlers was to watch our dog's searching style and based on what we see, determine if each hide was accessible or inaccessible.  Gimme went to the first vehicle and quickly settled on the spot where the odor was.  Since she made no further effort - I called it inaccessible.  On the second vehicle, she at first went right by it and then ended up checking the rear bumper and all down the far side of the first vehicle.  Because of this, I was further convinced the first hide had been inaccessible.  When Gimme got back near the second vehicle rear quadrant, she quickly localized at the tire, pushing her head in front of the tire, between it and the wheel well.  Because this seemed to satisfy her, I called it accessible.

Turns out I was exactly wrong on both counts.  Gimme so often makes inaccessible hides accessible, so I've been a little vague about them.  Further, because she has figured out on her own, if she smells scent all down one side of a vehicle and can't get to source, she moves to the other side on her own.  Apparently most dogs don't figure this out and so their handlers have to watch for it and move the dog to the other side.  Gimme goes to the other side, dragging me behind her, so I haven't had to observe her in the same way other handlers often do.  Being blessed with a naturally brilliant dog, in some ways, lets me be lazier than other handlers.

Our second search was a repeat of the treat tossing game of last week.  Gimme enjoyed it thoroughly and thinks its quite simply one of the best things she's ever taught us.  They had dressed up the area with a lot more stuff and the other dogs were distracted by checking it out, but not Gimme.  She didn't bother with stuff which wasn't part of the search.

Our third search was in the front part of the room and there were two hides.  Again, inaccessible or accessible.  Gimme was quite distracted by the smells coming from the other side of the room (beyond the expens).  There is always the smell of odor over there, since they store it in a mini-refrigerator and all the dogs seemed more distracted by sort of smelling it than when they are searching in the area and know where its coming from.  They've all learned the refrigerator will never pay.

One hide was in the center of a 3x6 folding table - one of the ones which folds in half, kind of like a clam-shell.  Apparently all the dogs indicated in exactly the same spot, at the top of the hinge.  Since it was leaning against the garage door and it was cold outside, we theorized the coldness of the door was sucking the odor more on the hinge end than the other end.  Gimme seemed so certain and settled on a spot to indicate so quickly, I was sure it was accessible.  The other hide was on the bottom edge where another 2x5 table was leaning against the wall.  I called this one accessible too.

Because all the dogs indicated the same spot on the clam-shell folding table and were all so quick and certain, without showing any indication of it being inaccessible, they decided to modify the search and run it again.  The hide on the other table was removed and they laid the folding table flat on the ground, a bit further from the garage doors.  The goal was to see how this would affect where the dogs indicated.  No matter what direction they approached it from, all the dogs now indicated at the hand indents on the end, where you would grab the table halves to open the clam-shell.  All the dogs checked out the spot on the hinge where they'd indicated before, but didn't accept it and each settled on the other end.  It was an interesting experiment.

I have to say one of the other students went to great lengths to try to convince me tonight how her dog is like the male version of Gimme.  Not!  Yes he's fast moving and lively (think of the word "flibbertigibbet" from Sound of Music), but he's nowhere near as talented or brilliant as Gimme.  Of course, to be polite, I agreed with her.  Then I apologized to Gimme all the way to the car.  Just sayin'...

We have tracking early tomorrow morning.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Practice and Tracking Genius (6)

Gimme was overdue for a long walk, an important part of her regular mental enrichment, so it was very high on our list of things to do today.  On the way over I decided to drive by the tennis court.  I thought I was being foolishly optimistic to think there was any chance it would be available on a weekend, but since its only 1/2 mile from my house, driving by for a look-see is a worthwhile effort.

Amazingly it was vacant, but I almost kept going.  There was a lady outside and just behind the courts, throwing a ball for her Golden.  My initial thought was it would make it impossible to get any valuable practice in.  But at the last moment my trainer brain kicked in and I decided to at least use the situation for distraction training.  I took Gimme into the court and kept her on my 15' leash.  We did a bunch of perimeter walking, clicking for offered attention.  I usually just start at the gate and keep walking around the inside of the court, but this time I kept to a "C" pattern using the part of the court away from the distraction.  We gradually got closer and closer.  

Much quicker than I expected, we were able to work along the side of the court closest to the dog, within 15-20 feet of it running back and forth and Gimme was able to stay in her thinking brain!  She was able to look and then voluntarily turn her attention to me.  I was so proud of her.   I could have left then and been completely satisfied with the session.  However, the lady chose this time to leash up and head off... so I decided to see how much brain Gimme had left.

We did a bunch of "heel" and "side", along with moving "spin" and "turn" (she still needs a refresher before she can do it without me pausing).  Then we did our variation of what I call "the move" (something I saw on a Julie Flanery video).  It is: "left" "around" "thru" "right" "behind" and "thru".  Its a cute little sequence I can start with her on either side and either end up with a side transition or back where we started.  After this we did a 360 degree center front pivot, in both directions.  She had plenty of brain to work with me, so clearly she was doing even better with the running dog than I thought.  Yeah Gimme!  

Afterward we went to the place we've been walking lately, for a 4 mile walk.  We met a number of dogs and were able to manage space well enough with most of them to just keep walking by.  For the one where we couldn't, I just lured her past with her peanut butter go-toob.  After all this, she is contentedly snoozing.

I promised you a report on Gimme's tracking last week.  She did nicely.  Keep in mind our big focus right now is to reinforce nose-down tracking.  She's always had a tendency to air scenting, so we'll need to really reward this to make it a strong tracking behavior.  This week we did our drops at 12 yard and 6 yard intervals.  Its 12 yards most of the time, with two 6 yard interval drops after each turn.  

I got there early, so set a simple warm-up track (180 yards).  Gimme seemed confused at first and I thought it was because she was unaccustomed to following my scent, though she'd done it when she was still a puppy.  She got over it by 1/3 of the way down the first leg and then did very well afterward, finding all three gloves easily.  When the other dogs worked this track, they also acted distracted in the same place on my track, so it may have been caused by previous visitors or wildlife passing through the area. 

Once Nadine arrived, she set another course of 300 yards.  We alternated back and forth between the two tracks, so Gimme got to run Nadine's track twice.  The first time it was with the 12 and 6 yard intervals and then the second time it was a little bit variable from about the same interval.  It seemed to me she paid closer attention and kept her nose down better with variable drops, but it could just have easily been because it was her third track of the day and she was getting more focused by then.  

Gimme is a good tracker and really loves it.  She spends much of the time waiting, whining in anticipation.  When one of the other girls is out and tracking - Gimme steps the whining up to a proper screech.  She does not think she should be kept waiting.  And she especially doesn't think she should be kept waiting while some other d-a-w-g is having fun on the tracks.  Just sayin...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

RallyFrEe (1/4)

Today was the first of the new series of classes.  Kathy has combined a couple classes together to reduce her costs and keep the classes going.  So this class is now a combined beginner/intermediate class.

It was challenging for Gimme because now there are 6 dogs in class, instead of just the two others she'd been accustomed to.  One of the new ones is supposedly a Chinook, but looked more like a large yellow mixed breed to me - even after I double checked pictures online.  He's supposedly a nice dog, but I caught him right away giving Gimme a hard stare.  Happily, Kathy was right on top of it and put a sheet up so he couldn't practice eyeing Gimme (he wouldn't go in a crate, so he and owner sat in an expen).  His owner doesn't have much control of him, so I'll be keeping an eye out on them all the time and am sure glad knowing Kathy is so aware.

Gimme did well despite the new dogs.  We started with the three more experienced dogs out together to practice several of the Novice RFE behaviors.  Our goal was to note which areas need work in terms of fluency.  Oddly Gimme did most of them better regarding end position on my right "side" (i.e. not swinging her rear out).  I really can't explain this.  I have not been practicing behaviors more on the right than the left and really haven't felt like we've made as much progress as I'd hoped in repairing her association and accuracy with "side".  

Then while the beginner dogs were out practicing the same behaviors, we each went one-by-one beyond the divider to work a small RFE course.  Kathy made sure to position the students so the dog closest to the divider was a very mild-mannered Sheltie.  So, while Gimme was distracted, we were able to successfully work through it in a nice, positive way.  

Then we repeated with the three more experienced dogs doing some more behaviors.  Kathy immediately saw Gimme was the only one with any duration to her "salute" (bow).  So she had me demonstrate how I was teaching duration.  Gimme does really nicely once I get her started and will hold "salute" for 30 seconds while I do metronome feeding.  Our next step will be to add some of me straightening up between treats.  

While Kathy had the beginner dogs out on the floor again, one at a time, the rest of us started packing up.  I took Gimme along the wall did part of the course again on our way out.  As we entered the course, there was another team starting at the beginning (about 4 stations behind us).  It was a good distraction for both teams and Gimme handled it well.

We also went tracking again and I'll blog about it tomorrow.  Gimme has really had a full day and is snoozing as we speak.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gimme to a "T"

I saw this quote and I immediately thought of Gimme...  

               She has a good opinion of her own opinions. As Bill Gates
               is reputed to have said, "that's not a bug, it's a feature!"

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Demolition Gimme Strikes Again

We went to Newberg, Oregon, this last weekend for a barn hunt.  It was a great facility and the way they constructed their ring fencing/gates was particularly nice – it was very stable. There were some rules violations (nothing affecting us) and quite a bit of delay, but it was this group's first trial and overall they did a great job.

I had some minor concern Gimme might have leftover reticence, because of our last trial and recent practice.  At the last barn hunt Gimme was deep in her false pregnancy and upset all weekend.  She really had no desire to hunt.  Then at the practice we went to, I didn't know it, but she needed an adjustment, so didn't want to do a bunch of climbing.  I need not have worried, this time her natural love of all-things-vermin rose up immediately. Gimme was on fire.

I'd also made the decision before the last barn hunt to be sure to praise her excitedly whenever she found and indicated a rat tube.  I did this at the last trial, but, as I said above, she had no desire to be hunting, so I don't think it made an impression on her. 

Trial 1:
Gimme did a lovely job.  She found three rats pretty quickly, went in and out of a Y-shaped tunnel three times and generally had a fun time.  The first two rats were under angled bales on the floor.  She totally moved the angled bales, both times, pushing them aside and to the floor.  Later on she moved one of the bales on the top of the big piles, so they had to reconstruct the course after our turn.  She didn't seem to be finding any more and I thought we had covered the area, so I called "finished".  Actually there were two more.  One was on the top layer she checked and then left without indicating - you'll see her sniffing there 45 seconds into the video.  I think she was saving it for later, in case it was the only one – she loves hunting more than finding.  The the other was also high on a side of the big pile we checked, but I didn't get her high enough.  I should'a made a mental note of it and gotten her back to it.  Still it was a very good run and I sure loved her enthusiasm – as did every one else.  I'm seeing I have difficulty keeping track of where she has been in this 3D environment (as opposed to nosework which is more 2D as far as keeping track of where you've been).


Trial 2:
Another great job with not quite as much course demolition, though she did move several bales.  She enthusiastically found four rats, went in the tunnel when I cued it and was generally having a great time.  You'll note she barked at the rats twice during this run.  After the tunnel I took her around one more time, having her check everything.  I thought I detected a very subtle aspect of "humoring Mom" to her checking and was opening my mouth to call "finish", when the judge said "time".  If I'd been two seconds faster to make the decision, we'd have gotten a leg.  Still Gimme did a fabulous job and the loss was all mine, so I celebrated with her all the way to the gate and while getting her leashed up. I was so enthusiastic in our celebration and several people thought we'd gotten a leg.  Its what I want, a genuine party when Gimme does well, regardless of whether it results in a leg.


Another plus was how well Gimme did in the blind.  We were outside in a canopy with lots of wind and rain, so being further away was not an option.  There was only one other dog there with us, a mild mannered Swedish Valhund, and she played a bunch of "whazzat" with me, but otherwise ignored him.  We were supposed to be first up so I was positioned near the door.  Unfortunately there was a mix-up and they called him first and his handler in her hurry ran him right in front of Gimme, just a foot away from her nose.  She leaped toward him, but I had her on a short leash so there was no contact.  I think her reaction was more in response to surprise and his movement so close.

Saturday night while lounging in the hotel, I detected a warm spot on Gimme's back, in the area where she is most likely to have trouble.  So I took one of my therapeutic magnets and repeatedly stroked her back.  Within minutes the warm spot went away.  On Sunday I did the same thing between her runs and again in the evening.  So far I haven't had any recurrence in warmth.  Am waiting to hear from Tonya and we'll see if she needs adjusting, which she often does after a trial.

Trial 3:
We did well in this run.  Gimme was very enthusiastic and hunting well.  I called "finish" too soon, with one more rat to find (she got three out of four).  I just don't know when she is done.  And when I can't keep track of where we've searched, its going to be a problem.  Still it was a good run and I can't fault her enthusiasm and focus.  I have no video for this run.

Trial 4:
Gimme found 4 out of 5 rats this time and then we ran out of time - though to be honest, I was about to call "finish".  She finds a rat 25 seconds into the video, but leaves it.  She even goes back to it at 50 seconds, but didn't tell me about it until 3:45.  She barked at every one of the rats this time.  I wouldn't mind if she kept this indication style, since its very clear.  Though this early on in its development, you'll see I sometimes wait for her to bark more than once - I want to see her demanding my attention to her find.  

I think we are losing a lot of time with my celebration.  I love how she is so enthused about being encouraged to "kill it, kill it double dead" and "we'll kill this one four times", etc.  Given I can't kill anything, it just seems funny to me for these words to come out of my mouth.  I think Gimme is responding to the energy I'm generating.  We also have an issue because some rat wranglers are very slow.  Now with me revving her up so much, she is much more inclined to follow and jump on the rat wranglers.  These judges were good about it, but others might not be so lenient, so I have to hold her back longer.  Between these two things we are losing a lot of time.  So I may try removing the rat tube myself and celebrate with her as I go... it may be faster.  We have a 3-day trial in April to try this out on.

Before we ever got in the ring this time, I had big concerns about the blind.  They had moved the canopy indoors and I was last in a blind of 5 dogs, which I knew would be waaaay too much for us.  I talked to the trial host and she came up with the solution of moving the canopy a bit from the wall and with the tarps up, it almost doubled the amount of space we had available.  So I brought in our soft-sided crate, with a sheet over it and bedding inside, plus my chair in front of it.  I waited until all the dogs were in the blind then came with Gimme.  We spent about 30 seconds playing "whazzat" so she could look at and get comfortable about the idea of the other dogs.  

The trial host talked to the judge (without my asking) and moved us to first in the blind - which was a big help.  Even this short time, about 4 minutes, was hard for Gimme.  She did well staying in the crate and getting treats.  However, when we were in the ring and I got down down at her level, she had to cling to me and get a lovin'.  Everyone laughed and thought she was just being kissy, but I know this is her way of asking for reassurance.  I was happy to hug her and tell her how good she was, knowing how hard the proximity of the other dogs was for her.  I think having it be so short of a time (instead of the 25 minutes it could have been) will bode well for the future.  And getting to find more rats afterward sure doesn't hurt, eh.

We have a lot coming up this year.  Three days of barn hunt in April, three element trials (two weekends) in May, AKC Judges seminar for tracking the end of May, a Nosework 3 trial in June (if we get in), barn hunt trial in June, a 3-day tracking seminar the last weekend of July and then two 3-day tracking seminars the first two weekends of August.  I haven't planned anything beyond August.  Meanwhile we'll keep up our weekly Nosework and RallyFrEe classes.  Plus its just about time to start back up with our summer Public Dog classes. There won't be any moss growing under our feeties...

Monday, March 16, 2015

RallyFrEe (6/3) & Nosework (5/8)

RallyFrEe class last week turned into an interesting lesson, which wasn't part of the planned curriculum. Gimme was really distracted, mostly because we hadn't been walking since the Saturday before and even it was a short walk.  Kathy had set up a course for us to work and there was not much good about Gimme's first attempt.  She just had no focus.  Then J'Anna and her dog had pretty much the same issues.  Both of our girls were out in LaLaLand.  

So when Kathy was about to work with Dennis, she gave us instructions to take our girls into the other part of the building (adjacent to where we have class, but dividers between the two areas) and work on focus.  We were to try three different techniques.  She gave us two: capturing attention and eye contact game.  Then we were to pick a third technique on our own.  

When we went into the area, Gimme was very distracted by the presence of J'Anna and her Beauceron, Ginger, so we did some "whazzat'.  Then I started with my perimeter walk, which is very Give Me A Break (from Control Unleashed) as Gimme got used to the area.  Its what I do any time we are working in an area away from home.  It took Gimme about two minutes to be ready to work and I considered this my picked technique.  After Gimme was checking in, then I started capturing attention and she was more and more focused.

I was quite surprised to find eye contact game was the one that really got her intense about focusing on me.  I taught this to her as a puppy and got very little effectiveness from it, even though I teach it to all my students and get good results.  So I left it and waited for her to grow up some more.  We tried it some more after she was a year old and she was better at it, but still it wasn't as effective as I expected, so didn't do anything more with it.  Yet in class, she was totally turned on by it.  The harder I made it, the more she got into it.  This is really consistent with who she has become - because she loves a challenge.  I got her to the point of having my hands with treats moving on both sides of her muzzle, while expecting eye contact.

Then we got to do the course again.  Since there was a little break.  I warmed Gimme up with 30 seconds of clicking offered attention... then some eye contact game.  This time our work on the course was much better.  She was a very different dog - yeahhhhh.  Afterward we each practiced whichever move we had difficulty with (we did prop weave followed by switch back).

For nosework class, we had some interesting work.  We were told last week to bring a LOT of large throwable treats.  So I brought 12 sticks of string cheese, in addition to our regular treats (small cut-up cheese and peanut butter).  

Our first search was outdoors with the odor under water.  All the dogs got it, though of course Gimme was the fastest.  She was walking through the center of the search area and then made an abrupt turn and a beeline to the odor from 20 feet away.  The other dogs needed to be within 5 feet to catch odor.  I think Gimme knows this puzzle because when we walk on the fort, I often drop chunks of cheese in puddles as we walk out, so then Gimme gets to find them on the way back.

The large treats were used in two interior searches.  The co-instructor took half our cheese and we had the other half.  The search area was mostly an interior, with five large sturdy open boxes set on their sides with odor in them.  The box was to help us have a target area to throw treats.  If the dog went near the box, both handler and instructor would start lobbing treats in.  If the dog came out or left the box or looked at either person, the treats stopped.  

All the dogs found this very fun and it was a lot of fun for the people as well.  Gimme quickly figured out the rules and would just stand with her head in the box snarfing up the cheese chunks until I cued "thank you, find another".  She thinks this might be the best game she's ever taught us.  She ate at least 11 sticks of string cheese between the two searches.

Our last search was an odor tin stuck to the leading bottom edge of a cart on wheels.  In front of it, blowing across the odor was a fan.  About five feet behind it was some chairs.  The dogs were allowed to work the puzzle, then we moved them away and the instructor turned the cart around.  So the first time the odor was being blown under the cart toward the chairs and the second time it was turned so odor was blown directly to the chairs.

Gimme had a little challenge in sourcing it the first time.  She checked the chairs and then went to the cart.  She went around it a couple times and gave me a half-hearted indication at the far end of the cart, but when I didn't rush in to pay, she continued working and pretty quickly got to source.  When the cart was turned around, she caught the odor again from about five feet behind the chairs, went directly to the cart (skirting around the chairs) and had her nose on source in two seconds.  

And now, being full of cheese, she's resting comfortably, though I'm sure she'd be up for training if it was offered. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tracking Genius (5) & Nosework (4/8)

I cannot find the detailed map from last week's tracking, so I've provided a simple line drawing of the course from memory.  I'm sure the map will rise to the surface at some point.  I don't think this is exactly to scale.  I believe the second leg may have been longer.  It was a verrrry long track, nearly 800 yards.  One leg was 125 yards and a couple others were in the 80's.  

When talking about our prior week of tracking, I said this field wasn't part of the mole farm.  Yet this time I saw a zillion mole hills.  I guess now with her paying them no mind, if Gimme don't see them, Mama don't see them.  

It was warmer weather than we' been tracking in until now and I don't think I had Gimme as well hydrated as she should be.  She can be challenging to get to drink enough water.  We saw signs of fatigue between the third and fourth turns, so we stopped at the fourth turn.  I enticed Gimme to drink a lot of water and then put her up to rest while I followed Nadine with Skookum.  As I followed behind her, I dropped treats for Gimme on the first four legs.  Then we ran Gimme on those legs.  Then I followed Nadine with Sugar and on the last three legs, I dropped treats for Gimme.  We ran Gimme on those three legs.  Then Nadine followed with Cricket to clean up the few treats Gimme missed.

Gimme did better on her second and third runs.  I think the water helped and I made sure to entice her to drink more between them.  The food drops were at about 10 yard intervals, with two drops spaced at 5 yards after each turn.  We didn't track this week because I had a conflict with work and Gimme really missed it.  I told her she has barn hunt this weekend, so I think she forgives me.

Next week we'll increase the distance of food drops to 12 yard intervals and two drops spaced at 6 yards after the turns.  We are trying to build a habit of keeping her nose down to the track, while not staying at any one interval - gradually increasing the distance between drops.  Once her nose comes up, she seems to have difficulty leaving air scenting and getting her nose to the track again.  It'll be essential to have her nose to the ground once we start aging tracks.

Nosework class was different this week.  We had three container searches outdoors.  Dorothy wanted us to reward before the dogs pawed or otherwise interacted with the boxes.  She said she wanted us to reward even if they didn't sniff at it, just passed by - no explanation why or how this was of value.  The only thing I could think of is the possibility of classically conditioning them to pause near odor in the expectation of treats.  I think our dogs should already be highly classically conditioned, so if they didn't pause its because they didn't smell the odor.

Anyway, with Gimme this is a near impossibility - I think I accomplished it one time (the third search) and nearly fell on my face doing it.  To do so every time, I'd have to be ahead of her and have her on a very short leash, which I think would be unnatural and very frustrating.  I suppose I could have heeled her down the line... 

The first search was 18 boxes (in 3 lines), with three odor boxes.  Gimme found them pretty quickly and I was able to reward her before she trashed the boxes, but not before a paw hit them.  Then we were to take the dog up and down at least two of the three lines in directed search mode.  Gimme tolerates directed search mode, but doesn't see any point to me with the puny nose trying to direct her efforts.  When we got close to any odor box, she left me to go to it.  Good girl.

For the second search they added three distraction boxes.  For the third search they added three more (6 distractions in 24 boxes total).  Gimme did very well with these and paid no real attention to the distraction boxes.  She sniffed two of them a tiny bit extra, but left them quickly on her own.  There was more directed searching with these and Gimme continues to think its just daft.

Then they had placed four hides with self-serve treats in a large exterior area and we were able to search off leash.  The two instructors watched the dogs and had chalk (we each picked our own color) to mark any decision point.  There was a lot of consistency.

Gimme enjoyed not being encumbered with the leash.  I probably could have kept up if I'd used my 25 foot leash, but it might have become tangled in a couple of places.  She has such a wonderful recall, so I have no qualms about letting her go.  Of all the dogs in class, her recall was the fastest.

One thing which was very interesting was watching her leave the search area and sniff along an adjacent area, then to some logs and from there a beeline to the hide.  After self-rewarding, she made another beeline to the next nearest hide.  I remember getting a lot of heat from our old instructor about letting Gimme leave vehicles to follow what she called a rabbit trail - saying I should keep her on a short leash and make her stay with the vehicles, to "be more efficient".  I know my dog, so I didn't heed those instructions.  I figure Gimme is the one with the nose and she knows what she smells.  Gimme always turned around to come back well before hitting the end of the leash and it was always direct to odor from there.  I thought then and still think, letting her do what feels right will always be the most efficient way to search.

Anyway, the interesting thing was watching two other dogs do the same exact thing in this search.  We talked about it and I relayed our prior instructions, comparing them to my observation of Gimme's search technique over time.  She doesn't always do it, but does so often enough for me to know she is getting value from running the odor out and then coming back.  Dorothy agreed and said there are dogs who use this technique sometimes.  She added, it clearly had value in this search since two other dogs did much the same thing.  She said each dog has its own ways of dealing with scent puzzles and it makes sense to let them do what works for them.  It felt great to have my instincts confirmed.  

This weekend we are going to Oregon for a barn hunt trial.  I was originally going to go down Friday evening, but have changed my mind and altered my hotel reservations.  Now with the schedule finalized, we won't go in until close to noon, so there's no reason for the extra expense.  We have plenty of time to drive down Saturday morning and volunteer for other classes before our own classes.  

Cross your finger for us.  I'd sure like to come home with a Masters leg or two.  We have one Masters leg and need a total of 5 legs to title.  I'd like to get there sooner rather than later.  Then we'll start working on a Rat Championship (RATCH).  I'll play as long as Gimme is having fun.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Practice & RallyFrEe (5/3)

Wednesday night we went to DaPaws for a practice session.   I had one big goal.  Gimme has this thing where she sees Chris and she can't really think until she's greeted her.  Chris is a friend Gimme met when she was a puppy and so there is a lot of love between them.  Chris is also the person who ran Gimme in a couple of agility classes last year when my hand had me out of commission.  I've basically ignored the issue, but decided recently it was time to address it.  So I emailed Chris ahead of time and asked her if she had time to be our big distraction.  

Initially Gimme was so distracted we had to sit Chris in a corner (she brought a book) so we could be far enough away for Gimme to offer me snippets of attention.  We needed 3/4 of the arena length to begin with.  We worked the basic plan from the distraction class Kathy taught us last week.  Our order of progression was: 
1 -- Start-work cue, then walk Gimme around from far away (3/4 of the arena
       length) and letting her look and sniff toward Chris and click/treat any
       offered attention.  End-work cue.
2 -- Start-work cue, cue “heel” and walk nearer and sorta toward Chris, still
       with enough distance so the Gimme could work (about 1/3 of arena width).
       If Gimme erred, I gently moved away (no leash correction) and restarted.
       Gimme could look, but needed to stay with me.  Click/treat for heeling,
       aiming for a steady stream of treats.  End-work cue.
3 -- Moved Chris to center of arena.  Start-work cue, cue “heel” and walk
      closer to Chris, about 10 feet.  If Gimme erred, I gently moved away (no
       leash correction) and restarted.  Gimme got clicked for staying in heel
       position and maintaining attention.  End-work cue.
4 -- Start-work cue, cue “heel” and walk ever closer to Chris.  Moved away as
       needed and click treat for staying in heel position and maintaining attention.
       By this time Gimme was totally into the game and I was able to heel around
       Chris, with just inches between us, with Gimme on both the outside and
       inside.  End-work cue.

As I said before, Gimme really likes the challenge of distraction work.  For her its one big game and she knows she can win.  I really should have been working it all along.  Now with this pattern to follow, I plan to do a lot more of it.

After Gimme showed she could work around Chris, I let her go off leash and she greeted Chris as her long lost buddy.  Then we did some easy stuff, to give Gimme a mental break.  At one point I sent her away to take a complete break and she sniffed briefly and was back in 30 seconds, demanding to work.  So I decided to work on a recently discovered flaw in her generalization of "spin" and "turn".   It seems Gimme believes you can only do a "spin" or "turn" from a stationary position (after all, its how I taught them).  She was adamant about it.  So, we decided to work on it.  

I'd forgotten my target stick, which I wanted to be able to "lengthen" my arm.  I originally taught it with luring, but figured this would work better, since I'd need her to move further away from me.  Chris found a 2ft length of PVC and I quickly showed Gimme it worked just like a target stick.  I tried clicking this myself, but it was just too awkward.  So Chris did the clicking for me and things went very well.  Basically we used it 3-5 times to get her doing the "spin" or "turn", then she'd start doing them when she saw my hand starting to move to bring the target stick down.  Chris has excellent timing so we made great progress.  Once Gimme started anticipating based on a hand twitch, I reattached the cue.  In 7 or 8 clicks total, Gimme was doing the behavior on a verbal cue, even with me moving.  Its so much fun to work with a genius.

I've noticed recently - Miss Gimme is finally getting verbal cues more readily.  Perhaps she is matured enough and has decided its okay to let me drive the train some of the time.  We are doing a lot of training now with the RallyFrEe class and this may make a difference.  Also it could be partly because of the flower essence formulations for her ADHD and stress.  It may even be partly because of the MareMagic (raspberry leaves) she is getting every day.  I'm sure all these things are coming together now.

Our RallyFrEe class last week was not as good as past ones.  Kathy had set up a short course and the second exercise was a side-step and neither of us had mastered the skill.  So we spent most of class trying to get it.  Kathy had us trying to capture/shape sideways movement with our dogs beside us, but we didn't make noticeable progress.  So Kathy removed the station from the course and we worked the course without it before the class ended.

I came home with the idea of using platforms to get the side-step.  I got Gimme doing it, but she always moved her front feet first, then her back feet.  I made sure to only click the back feet and thought she might learn to lead with the rear, but it never happened. Remember we want them to lead with the rear so we don't end up with a dog who follows your side-stepping at a 45 degree angle.

I checked on the internet and every link I found showed teaching side-step in center-front position.  It might help a dog learn footwork and I'll probably teach this using the platforms.  But I don't think it will translate well for side-step at "heel" or "side".  So I went back to the original way Kathy showed us to teach side-stepping several months ago. 


I found by focusing on this and clicking when Gimme moved her rear, she quickly started moving the moment I turn my foot.  This is great since it will work naturally as a cue for a side-step where my foot action is in grapevine style.  In the blog I noted Kathy showed us four different ways to move sideways using this foot cue, so I want to ask her to show them to us again. 
Anyway, I did it with the pivot platform until Gimme was moving her hips in on just the foot cue in "heel" position.  I repeated the lesson in "side" position and she did very well.  I want to repeat this once more, then I'll try it without the pivot platform.  
Gimme is standing beside my chair heaving ginormous theatrical sighs of impatience, so I better get off this computer.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Nosework (3/8)

Class was actually a lot of fairly easy stuff, with only one big challenge.  Only two of us showed up for class, so we got to do 6 searches.

We started with playing a version of "running bunny" on vehicles.  When I saw it before the instructor kept moving ahead of the dog/handler picking up old hides and placing new hides, in a continual moving game for about 20 hides.  The way they played it here was to set 6 paired hides along one side of the two vehicles.  In their view, I guess hides near each other on vehicles constitutes "running bunny". 

Gimme did great finding all 6 hides very quickly.  The hides were paired and the instructor kept telling me not to give her extra cookies, but I just ignored her and did so anyway.  After we got to the end of the line, we were to go back and let them re-find the same hides.  Sure enough, Gimme bypassed one before it occurred to her to see if I was available to pay up.  Her hesitation was all I needed to get in there pay and then she stopped at all the others.  The other dog had missed 2 on the way down and on the way back missed those and two more.  So I think Gimme's 11 of 12, versus the other dog's 6 of 12, shows my strategy was better.  The other dog is normally a very good hunter, so I was surprised to see him miss so many.

Then they removed all but 2 hides and placed one more, none paired.  Gimme found the original two very quickly.  The third one was very challenging and Dorothy called it a "disappearing hide".  Basically there was only a very slight breeze, almost imperceptible to the wet-finger test, it was kinda chilly (so not much scent dispersal) and it had just then been set.  Gimme got most of the scent on the far side of the vehicle, but couldn't find source, so she knew enough to go to the other side, but then she couldn't seem to find it there either.  Gimme went back and forth four times trying to find it. I knew where it was and didn't want to give her hints, so the only thing I did was, the fourth time I encouraged her to go around the front of the vehicle instead of the back, so her approach was from a different direction.  She almost missed it then, catching it 3 feet after passing it, but then wheeled around and worked the tiny scent trail until she found it.  She got copious rewards.

For the third vehicle search, they left one of the original ones and set another up under a huge jutting front bumper on the industrial vehicle.  The bumper hide was intended to be inaccessible.  Gimme found both very quickly and says "inaccessible is a matter of opinion".

Our fourth search was 3 little pots of odor with food in the top, in a section of blacktop which is also a storage area with pallets and other piles of industrial stuff.  Because only two of us were there for class and this location is well away from any traffic, we were allowed the possibility of doing the search off leash if we were comfortable with it.  I know Gimme has a stellar recall, so I let her go off leash.  She had a great time going around to find the three pots and self-rewarding.  Unfortunately she was far away fast enough, so there was no way I could add treats.  On a positive note she came to me immediately when I called her name.  The other dog did the search just as fast, but was not as responsive on his recall.  Not to suggest I'm competitive or anything like it - no not me...

Then we had two container searches indoors.  On the first one I called a false alert.  It was totally my fault as I was not working my plan for containers.  I recall having this happen once before in recent weeks.  I find myself not working my plan because of unconscious social pressure to do it like everyone else.  Clearly this has to go.  When I work my plan we do well.  

I will work my plan - I will work my plan - I will work my plan - I will work my plan...

Monday, March 2, 2015

RallyFrEe (4/3)


I didn't get this written sooner because we went to a seminar all weekend and I had lots of things to do before we left at the crack of dawn.

We practiced at DaPaws Wednesday night and it went really well.  Gimme had a lot of fun and out of our 30 minute session, we got over 20 minutes working.  We started with the perimeter walk.  Then worked for awhile practicing all kinds of behaviors.  Then I let Gimme take a break of a couple minutes.  Then we worked some more.  Chris showed up and I let Gimme take a break to visit.  Then we ended with a couple minutes of work with Chris there, showing off some new moves we've been working on.  Gimme loves her, but we really need to get past having to stop when she shows up, so at some point I need to get Chris to help me by being our distraction of the day.

RallyFrEe class last Thursday was all about proofing distractions.  When I came in, Kathy told me to take Gimme directly to her crate without our usual perimeter walk.  I was kinda panicked because I know how important it is for Gimme to acclimate to the building each time if I want focus from her.

Kathy talked to us about the day's focus - dealing with distractions.  Our exercise was a line of four wads of paper towels, set up as if they were a prop weave exercise.  I didn't really think Gimme would be very distracted by them - boy was I wrong.  The points she made during discussion were:
* how important it is to have a start-work cue
* how important it is to have an end-work cue
* the best way to deal with distractions is to teach the dog
   to view the distraction as a cue to look at you

So we each had to tell her what our start-work and end-work cues are.  Start-work for Gimme is "setup".  This is simply a behavior where she sits in heel position with rapt attention.  I even have her do it before right side heeling - starting with her "setup" on the left, then move to the right "side" to begin.  I do this because I don't want her to default to a sit in "side" position, since we'll never need it there and on the times when I do, I can give her a verbal cue.  I don't really have an end-work cue, so have decided to use "all done".

After the discussion Kathy let us do our perimeter walk for 2½ minutes, provided we didn't include the area of the distraction exercise in the walk.  Gimme is getting faster and faster at turning her attention to me in the perimeter walks.  The first time I did it at DaPaws it took 15 minutes, now Gimme is working me with offered attention in under 2 minutes.  Our first time at Pawsabilities where we take RallyFrEe classes was about 10 minutes and now she's usually done well before we've gone halfway around the room.  She doesn't seem to need as much time, but she still needs some.

Then we did exercises working around the distractions in ever increasing difficulty.  Kathy says if you do this with enough different things, over time the dog will view the distractions as a cue to look to you for reward.  The exercises in order were:
1 -- Start with the start-work cue, then walk the dog by the distraction with enough 
       distance so the dog couldn’t get to the distraction. If the dog stopped to look, 
       we stopped with them and moved on when they were ready. We let the dogs 
       look and sniff toward the distraction and click/treat for any offered attention.  
       Finish with the end-work cue. 
2 -- Start with the start-work cue, then cue “heel” and walk the dog somewhat 

       toward the distraction, still with enough distance so the dog can’t get to it. 
       If the dog stops working, i.e. leaves heel position, then gently move away 
       (no leash correction) and restart.  Dogs can look, but need to stay with us.  
       We click/treat for heeling, aiming to get a steady stream of treats.  Finish 
       with the end-work cue.
3 -- Start with the start-work cue, then cue “heel” and walk the dog closer to the

       distraction, but still with enough distance so the dog can’t get to it. If the 
       dog stops working, i.e. leaves heel position, then gently move away (no 
       leash correction) and restart.  Dogs got clicked for staying in heel position 
       and maintaining attention.  Finish with the end-work cue.
4 -- Start with the start-work cue, then cue “heel” and walk the dog ever closer to 

       the distraction.  Move away if you need to and click treat for staying in heel 
       position and maintaining attention.  Finish with the end-work cue.

Gimme did very well with all of them, though she was quite intrigued with the paper towel balls at first.  Who knew?  By the end of the fourth exercise Gimme was able to heel right over the distraction without looking at it.  This was much more than the other dogs were able to do.  Gimme figures out distraction training very quickly.  During this class her tail was wagging the whole time, so she was having fun and I clearly had the right level of incrementation.  It was always like this in our classes with Ursula, she had to wrack her brain to come up with new distractions because Gimme had figured out the drill and you couldn't suck her in with the same thing a second time.  This worked nicely, so I plan to start including distraction training in our sessions at the tennis courts and at DaPaws.  I think Gimme will enjoy the challenge.

Then Kathy helped each of us with one thing we wanted to focus on.  I elected to work on Gimme's right "side" heeling.  This week we introduced stopping in position with me.  At first Kathy had me stop, click immediately (before Gimme could get out of position) and then toss the treat.  After several repetitions of this, she had me stop, click for stopping, treat in position, then click for her staying there and toss this treat.  We also did some instances of leaving Gimme in a "wait" walking two steps and calling her into "side".  Initially she was clicked and the treat tossed, then we went to the variation of click/treat in position followed by a click in position and tossed treat.  The idea is to keep this a very fun game, so Gimme really wants to be in "side" because the game could begin at any moment.

Kathy is talking about moving this class to Sunday mornings.  I hope she doesn't for a bunch of reasons.  We'd still continue with her, but it would be a big inconvenience and suck a lot of extra time out of our week.  Cross your fingers...