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.
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).
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.
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.
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...