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, ADPL1, ADPL2, TD, UWP, ADPL3, NTD, TKN, L2V, ADPL4,
SDS-N, ADPL5, ADPCH and ADPL1(2GC)... 30 and counting...






Monday, December 28, 2015

Nosework (5/14)

Class Tuesday was very different.  The building was "divided" into three areas, but we had the whole thing as one interior search for our first search.  The entry area is about 10x10.  Then the door opens into the front part of the training room, about 15x20, separated from the back part with expens.  The back part is about 25x40 and includes a tiny bathroom.  The entry and front part of the training area were pretty much just like they always look.  The back part of the training area was just full of stuff.  They'd set up two canopies, with Christmas ornaments and little packages hanging from them, and then there were other boxes, wrapped boxes, containers of ornaments and various other items with a Christmas theme strewn everywhere.  There were an unknown number of hides and we were allotted 7 minutes for our first search.

Gimme was third to search.  She found one hide in the entry on the gumball machine and then left to enter the front of the training room.  There she found the same hide the other dogs found on the back side of the fan and then was able to locate an inaccessible hide under a shelf (4' from the fan hide).  From there she went into the back part of the room and quickly snagged the hide on the thermostat.  She's been wanting a hide to be there for a very long time (high up doncha know).  Then she went to the area next to the little refrigerator they keep odor in and really investigated it at length, but never committed (it was an inaccessible hide).  She left it at one point to get the hide in the bathroom.  Then she dithered around under the leftmost canopy, but never indicated.  I knew where some hides were from watching other dogs, but wanted her to find them on her own.  We finally ran out of time. 

We found out there were 3 hides in the entry room, 3 hides in the front of the training area, 1 hide in the bathroom and 7 hides in the back part of the training area.  So Gimme got 5 out of 14.  This is the first time Gimme wasn't the star of the class.

This search area was set up like an elite search, so there are going to be areas of overwhelming quantities of odor.  I haven't read the rules about elite searches, so I don't really know what the parameters/rules are.  I think 3 hides in a 10x10 room is a LOT.  But then found out, 5 of the 7 hides in the back of the training room were under one canopy!  Basically, there was so much odor Gimme didn't know how to sort it out into all the individual source locations.  She's never seen anything like this before.  The dog who did the best is an older female Jack Russell.  She found 7 of 14 hides on her first search. 

We were then given the choice of searching the front area (6 hides) or the back area (7 hides), with 6 minutes to work it.  We all chose the back area, except the Jack Russell's owner who wanted to work the front area, which was where her dog had been weakest.  She got 5 of 6 her second time around - she's talented, determined and methodical (very un-JR of her).

For her second search Gimme had the back area of 7 hides (bathroom was closed off).  She got the thermostat hide and then went over to solve the inaccessible hide by the odor storage refrigerator.  From there she went to the canopy and got one of those hides.  There were 5 boxes, with odor in each.  The center box was at about 3 feet high.  Two boxes at opposing corners were at 2 feet high (nose level) and the other two opposing corners were at 1 foot.  Gimme got one of the nose level hides and then just kept going back and forth and around and around.  At times she'd put her nose right next to a hide or bump it and just not catch it.  I thought for sure she'd get the other nose level hide and the highest one, but not.  So she only got 3 of 7 hides - which is dismal for her.

So I've been thinking about how to give her more opportunities to do this kind of search.  I need an area where I can let the hides really cook (stay in place for a long time), which leaves out anywhere I would normally practice.  It occurs to me I can use my parents' big garage (for the motorhome) and could even do a similar set up using the basement.  I might even be able to do the same thing in the woodshed - its a 12x12 building which is open on one side.

I can set up a search series where I keep adding hides to a relatively small area.  My usual day to spend time at Mom's is on Thursday and at least once a month, on Sunday too.  So, on weeks where I'm going to be back on Sunday, I can leave my hides so they have a couple of days to cook. This should give us some really good training to help Gimme understand how to deal with this much odor. 

Gimme really tried and while I was a tiny bit disappointed to not be the star of class like we usually are, I was still pleased with her efforts. She never quit working and never showed any frustration.  It'll be interesting to see how the training goes.  And knowing Gimme it will be a lot of fun...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

RFE Practice (5)

I've been holding onto this clip of distraction training since we taped it on December 17th.  There isn't anything really special about the clip, but the realization I had afterward is enlightening.

I set it up by putting a life-sized stuffed Dalmatian in the middle of the room - one she's never interacted with.  I wanted to work it as a distraction from the moment we came in the door.  So I clicked/treated any offered attention.  Some of the clicks are terribly late.  Early into the session, I wanted to treat it sort of BAT-ish, basically setting her up for and then rewarding good choices.  A lot of what I did was good, but then I pushed her a little too far (at 1:10) and she was able to reach the "dog", sniff it and realize it wasn't real.  You'll notice then she is no longer having to work hard to resist the dog, and is totally into the game.   I again pushed her too far at 1:50, so she sniffed his tail and got in another sniff at 2:00.  She did really well for two close circles around him, then got in a sneak-sniff at 2:35.  From there to the end she did fine and couldn't be fooled.

When she was a puppy in classes, we learned early on, as soon as she figures out it is game-time, you just can't fool her into making a mistake.  Even though it took her longer to get totally into the game this time, I was still very pleased.  We haven't focused on distraction work in a very long time, so I thought she did really well.

We followed this with a focus session where I was playing the eye contact game with her while J'Anna tried to distract her waving food in her face.  It took one time for her to not get the food from J'Anna for her to realize it was the game again.  Then she couldn't be fooled.  We also did some heeling with J'Anna trying to distract her and she couldn't be fooled at all. 

Then I set up to begin the course we were practicing and she was beautifully attentive, until I said "heel".  Then she immediately started looking around.  She didn't leave me, but she wasn't focused either.  She understands her job is to resist distractions (within her capability), but doesn't seem to understand I want the same attention and focus when there's no distraction.  I am certain I could set up a couple dozen open dishes of food along our course and she'd no doubt be amazing.  But when its easy, she doesn't focus.  I know she enjoys a challenge and I believe she wants to do well and please me.

Like I said, I think she just doesn't understand what I want.  Which of course puts the onus on me, clearly I've failed to teach her well.  I've asked a couple of people how they'd train this.  While they claim to be reward-based trainers, their solutions though not strongly punitive, are not reward-based either. So I'm looking for a truly reward based solution.

I know the answer is out there... feel free to share your ideas.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Title Fifteen - R-FE/N

I got the word a few days ago - Gimme qualified for the third leg of her RallyFrEe Novice title.  We again improved our score, by twelve points.  She now has fifteen titles (9 nosework, 5 barn hunt, 1 rallyfree).  The video we submitted is available at:

Here's what I see when comparing the video to the score sheet.  First, we got a total gift on the paw lift.  By the time we videotaped this, Gimme was pattern trained to do a paw lift there - I hadn't given a cue.  I've never used the pivot on the brick as a free choice before because I always thought the behavior should be independent of a target, so I was happily surprised to see the high marks I got for performance and difficulty.  I didn't even notice Gimme's incomplete sit on the sit-stand so was surprised to see the comment, but its there in living color.  The judge saw a "spin" instead of a "stand", I saw a "stand" followed by a "spin".  Still I had already noted it as something to work on - Gimme doesn't quite believe standing in one place doing nothing has value.  Clearly I have failed to make it valuable.  Her circle transition and thru transitions were both nice.  I didn't know what the judge meant by "slightly out of position at end" for the thru transition until I watched it and could see Gimme heeled a little wide after.  The right turn thru transition had problems - going back to the issue with listening skills, mentioned in the last blog entry.  I hadn't really given much thought to accuracy of position in our 360 pivot at heel, which accounts for the judge's comments.  Its interesting she gave me the exact same score and free choice difficulty points when she judged it last time.  Have to say the judge doesn't miss a thing - she even noticed the brief moment when Gimme looked away on her CW circle.  Can't disagree with her comments on the switchback or the center-front pivot.  Remember this is where Gimme was concerned the practice right before this run by seeing a dog so close outside the ring.  And I'd already noted we need to tighten up the accuracy on the center-front pivot.  This also is a repeat of the issue I notice with Gimme seeing no value in standing and doing nothing.  I didn't understand her comments about our circle-thru-combo and am going to ask for clarification.  Interestingly we earned a point more than the last time she judged it and then it had a number of errors.  The assessment of our right 270 and bow seem perfectly reasonable.

I've put together a comparison of all three of our video entries.  Again the most noticeable difference is an increase in higher scores for stations.
I earn 8-10 points for "Performed Very Well to Superb".  Our first time we got this for 4 stations, second time 8 and this time 9, of which 5 were 10 points for a Superb performance!  I earn 4-7 points for "Performed Adequate to Well".  Our first time we got this for 11 stations, second time 6 and this time 5. I earn 1-3 points for "Performed with Significant Deficiencies".  Our first time we had no stations with significant deficiencies, last time we had one (the failed bow at the end) and this time one (sit-stand).  Our difficulty points for free choice stations came up by 2 points.  Again an overall trend toward a much better end result. 


Last time we got a nice 5 point bump up in our score for overall scores in the category of heelwork, attention and teamwork. This time we lost a point, taking a little hit on attention, which is understandable, since Gimme was concerned about the possibility of there being a dog near the ring from her last practice session. 


Again I did a side-by-side comparison of the stations/free choice between the two events.  There are some interesting trends.  I continue to move forward before Gimme establishes an end position.  I'm still trying to use my movement to hold her attention.  And we continue to struggle with attention - more on this for next blog entry.  It will likely take more work to consistently improve my handling than to improve Gimme's attention, though the two are related, eh.


Here are the free choice comparisons and you’ll see the same issue with end positions and for the same reasons.



Here are the judge's comments:  "Congratulations on your new title! Excellent performance at many stations. To improve your score, work to increase attention to verbal cues and pay attention to positions, making sure the dog is in the correct position at the end of a behavior before heeling to the next station. Heelwork in this run varied; sometimes it was wide, sometimes forged, sometimes she was distracted by the environment. Increasing understanding of and desire for heel position in motion and at rest would increase your score."

I don't disagree with her comments.  I have a different take on the causes for those places where we have issues, but she was really on target... 

Friday, December 18, 2015

RallyFrEe Practice (4)

On November 23rd we practiced (which I've already blogged about), then again on the 30th - followed by taping for the competition.  I asked J'Anna, my practice partner, to tape our warm-up sessions.  To be clear - this is not intended to be a training session.  This is video day, so if she doesn't know it by then, its too late.  Mostly I was just trying to warm her up on the sequences and get myself flowing on my part of the job.

This first clip is a two-part station, CW-circle, followed by figure-8 twice.  You'll see Gimme was distracted here and there, then she gets up in my face for kisses.  She seems to have "performance anxiety" - which is always worse on video day.  I've learned this kissy-face is how she asks for reassurance.  I find if I don't give her the reassurance then, her performance goes downhill from there.  The next try was better, though still a little distracted.  The next station was a switchback, which she did well, with a bit more airs above the ground than it called for.  The next station was free choice, which I intended to be a center front pivot around me.  She was into major offering.  At times she seems impatient with my choices.  The second try at this she did much better, though threw in a CCW-circle at the start.  The next part is a little sequence I made up - this time she did it flawlessly.  The 270 right turn and bow were very good too.  I have to make a pretty big circle on those 270's when she is on the inside, otherwise she turns it into a pivot and that is points off.

On this second practice clip, she again starts out with offering.  I think this is often a product of a life long issue - poor listening skills.  Too often Gimme hears me speak and then just does what she thought I was going to say, instead of waiting and listening to hear what I actually said.  I need to revisit my earlier training notes and see what was recommended to work on this.  Of course, suggestions are welcome.  In her defense, we just started seriously training the paw lift behavior ten days ago, so she could have been confused.  On the pivot on her "brick", I intended have her do it twice... in our final video for submission she throws in an extra and I just let it ride.  She likes this behavior.  The next station is supposed to be a CCW spin followed by sit-stand.  Gimme has taken to moving a lot with the stand part of this, so its something we'll have to revisit.  She gets distracted here and at the next station, causing her to get out of position.  After she got in heel and offered me a nice bit of attention, I said "bowl", which is her cue to run to her special bowl for her reward.  The first couple of times we do a sequence using the bowl, its actually a distraction, but once she wins that reward a few times, then it serves as motivation to keep trying.

On this third practice session, you'll see she does the two behavior station very cleanly.  I noticed in this clip I was saying, "and thru" each time.  So I'm going to be watching to see if "and" serves as a pre-cue and helps her stay focused.  I'm thinking it could be like the military's use of pre-cues, such as "parade rest" and "atten shun", where the action comes on the second part of the cue.  She bobbles on the switchback but does it nicely with the repeat.  You'll see here I'm playing with having my hands on the front of my thighs to get her to hold center front for the pivot.  I don't intend to keep this, but tried it as a band-aid for the video.  She bobbled on the multi-part sequence, but got into the correct end position, so I sent her to her bowl as a reward for effort.

For our fourth practice session, we went much through the whole course.  Her heeling to start was really nice.  Still not clear on the paw lift, but gets it with the hand cue.  We ended up with four pivots on the brick.  You'll notice her embellishment on this stand was different than the time before.  We had a bobble there on the right-turn-thru-trx - this is a good place for a pre-cue to tell her something is coming.  Next is a free choice, she loves this backing around me in heel.  In fact I've had to clean up my handling because at one point she thought the cue was a twitch of my shoulder and I'm still working to make shoulder twitches meaningless. ☺  She does the circle and thrus nicely and then is distracted in the switchback by a surprise appearance of a person and dog nearby.  I chose not to repeat this station, because I wanted to reward and encourage her being able to move away.  You can see she is unable to focus at the center-front-pivot and goes into kissy face.  I wasn't surprised.  Dogs are a very hard distraction for her and even when she does well, she often needs reassurance afterward - needing confirmation of how well she did.  I chose to move her on to give her more distance.  She did well on the remaining exercises through to the end. She self-released to the bowl, but came back when I called her.  The video cut it off, but I had her do two more behaviors and then released her to the bowl.  I try to never release her to the bowl after a "take-a" (bow).

Just in case you missed it, Gimme did qualify with the video we submitted this day.  She improved on her prior score by 12 points.  This was her third qualifying entry, earning her FIFTEENTH title!  My next blog entry will show the final video we submitted and an analysis of her score sheet, with a comparison against the two prior score sheets. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tracking Genius (22)

Yesterday we met at Flaming Geyser for tracking.  We decided to work at the far end of the park where the grass is kept mowed short, so it would be more like a sports park.  Also, Nadine wanted to take advantage of the chance to track through standing water.  The conditions were misty and cool.

We started with a short track of a large double serpentine curve.  The water was a large puddle on a driveway and where we crossed the corner it was no more than a couple of inches deep.  It had aged 10 minutes.  Gimme did well with this and had a good time, though she was a little pussy-footed about the water.

The second track was also mostly on short grass, except for crossing a road right at the start and then crossing (and turning) on a cement pad near the end.  We had several chances to track through standing water - good thing I keep my wading boots in the car all the time.  Again Gimme got to go first, it was aged about 15 minutes. 

It starts on the far right with a sock and immediately crosses a road.  Gimme did an excellent job of keeping her nose down as she went across the road.  In fact, all the girls did, which we credit to the recent work in urban.

Gimme made the first and second corners, but missed the first article, an eyeglass case.  I think she was just going too fast.  There was no flag on the second corner because it was marked by a drinking fountain (tiny blue square).  She did fine on the next turn, but was really confused by the firepit (two-tone grey circle).  It was full of ash and burned dirt, so I'm sure it was a big puzzle.  She did finally go through it and was the only one of the four girls to do so.  The others walked around it (4' diameter) and picked up the track on the other side. 

From there she got a glove, made another turn and then went through a shallow puddle in the grass, right to a glove on the edge of the cement pad for a covered picnic area.  From this glove, the track turned left and went between the covered area and three support poles.  This leg was the longest - easily 150 yards, with a glove in the middle.  After the glove it approached a playground area, with a lot of standing water on one end, which transitioned to puddle on grass. 

The next turn brought us to a large covered picnic area with many picnic tables.  The track went right into the covered area between two tables and then turned right to end at a glove 8 feet away.  Gimme had no problem following the track into the covered area, but then started sniffing the tables.  It was like she was momentarily confused and thought we were suddenly doing nosework.  I cued her "track-on", then she went "Oh yeah, tracking..." and went back to work.  She easily made the turn and got to the last glove.  She's never tracked into this kind of spot before, but has seen picnic tables/areas many times in nosework practices, classes and at a few trials.  So I think its an honest mistake and we need to practice tracking through that kind of area again.

Even after all this tracking, Gimme wasn't convinced she'd done her share, so I set her up an article oval.  One long leg of the oval went through some really rough ground and Gimme never missed a beat.  She found all her articles and then was happy...

LATE BREAKING NEWS FLASH
Just got notice that Gimme passed on her novice RallyFrEe video entry, giving her the third leg (to a new title).  This makes her 15th title!  Can't wait to get the individual score sheet and see how the scoring came down.  She improved her score by 12 points.  We are going to focus on fundamentals over the next couple of months.  We have to have 140 points to pass an intermediate entry (125 for novice) and even more for higher classes.  So I want to make sure we are doing the best we can at the basics.  I'll probably enter novice at least once more - if its allowed.  Yayyyy Gimme...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nosework (4/14)

Last nights class had a Christmas theme and we are being told next week will be all Christmas.

When I walked into the entry room for class (its a small room which doubles as the "store"), I was greeted with this layout.  There were sixteen Christmas ornaments laid out on the floor in a grid.  My first thought was, "Omigod, I hope they're plastic."  They were.  I didn't know what Gimme would do.

I haven't shown where odor was because honestly when we got done I still didn't know.  Dorothy said Gimme found two of the three hides in the first ten seconds.  She was doing fine until she bumped one and it moved.  Then she had to bump them some more.  I never could tell when she was playing and when she was alerting, so had to rely on Dorothy to tell me which was which. Apparently this was exactly the same thing all the dogs did.  Many found odor quickly, but just couldn't believe it was in the ornaments, so they didn't stick it.  Some dogs went into play mode right away, others did it after accidentally moving one.  All dogs seemed to be really enthralled by the ornaments when they moved.

From there we went into a container search in the big room.  There were 21 containers in one long straight line.  There were chairs stacked against the wall right at the end of the search and there was a line of chairs against the side wall.  All the dogs seemed to have difficulty finding the hide in the flat box because it was between two taller plastic tubs.  It was like they came down the line of boxes, lifted their nose to go over the plastic tub and then didn't lower it until they got to the second tub on the other side of the box with the hide.  Gimme went by it three times and finally stopped for it the fourth time.  I was sure it was there the second time, but waited for her to solve the puzzle herself. 

After these two searches they took up the odor ornaments, but left the rest in the entry (for the next class).  When we came through there the second time to go to the next container search, I could tell from Gimme's demeanor she knew there was no hides in the room.  Of course that didn't stop her from reaching out to bap an ornament with her paw,
just before we went into the other room.  She seemed really
pleased with herself.

For the second container search they moved some of the boxes into the chairs along the side wall, one of which had odor.  The odor box between the two tubs stayed in the same place.  It was interesting to see Gimme catch the odor for the hide box up in the chair from the startline.  She went directly to it, from about 30 feet away.  She still had difficulty catching the odor box between the two tubs.









For the fourth and final search, they moved half the chairs into a parallel row on the other side of the line of boxes.  They kept the tub-box-tub hide sequence, moved the one from the chair to the end of the new row and added odor to the second box from the startline. 

None of the dogs stopped for the threshold hide and they all immediately turned to the new row of chairs.  Gimme didn't really pay any attention to the middle row or the side chairs until she had checked out the new row and there only actually checked the last two chairs.  She again gave the appearance of having caught the odor on the low stool from the startline.  Something about the air flow seemed to come down the room on a horizontal plane and Gimme would go right to it.  After she found the hide at the end of the row of "new" chairs, then she started down the other row of chairs and caught herself, coming back to the tub-box-tub hide.  From there she went to find the threshold hide.

The point of the evening's lesson was to see how the dogs responded to novelty.  The ornaments were intriguing because they moved so easily, even without the dogs purposely moving them.  Once they did, then the dogs would be attracted to the novelty of the movement, which looked a lot like their usual indication in some cases.  We noticed a couple of dogs accidentally moved boxes in the second search and then would be suddenly stuck on them.  This didn't happen to Gimme, probably because she's always knocking them around a bit, so for her it wasn't novel.  Then on the last search there was suddenly a row of chairs to the left and all the dogs had to go there first.

So dogs are really attracted to novelty and feel compelled to check it out.  This tendency is likely true across all dog sports.  Its our job as owner/trainer to expose them to so many unusual and different things, until it becomes harder and harder to create novelty in their work environment.  Then when you go to a trial, they are more likely able to get right to work without being distracted.

12/17 Note:  It occurred to me - this tendency to check out novelty makes perfect sense in a survival sense.  Sure, our dogs don't live in the wild and don't have to be ready to fight to protect themselves, still - those instincts are strong.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Urban Tracking (7)

Last Thursday was supposed to be a field tracking day, but with all the rain we'd been having, the rivers were waaaaay too high and we thought it might not be wise to be out in a field so close to a river nearly over its banks.  This picture pretty well sums up how incredibly wet its been. 

When we got there, the weather was passably tolerable.  It was raining lightly, a bit cold and everything was really wet.  We rationalized how the wet conditions would be ideal for the dogs in tracking.

We started with an article exercise on the longest sidewalk.  Nadine took about 30 urban articles and laid them out along the sidewalk, about ten feet apart.  The idea was to click/treat for any interest in the articles.  Nadine said two of her three were clicker savvy - if so, I didn't see any indication.  When we clicked, they just never looked up for their treats, so we switched to a word marker and it was a little better.  Gimme did well, but then she'll do anything for a click and a treat.

The biggest problem we had was the wind.  By this time it was really picking up - a good steady wind with gusts.  I have no sense of what the MPH is with wind, but there were times I had to lean into it because it was pushing me back.  It was flapping my rain poncho in a major way.  In any case, it was blowing our little urban articles around.  Some disappeared entirely, while others were just blown far enough to no longer be on the sidewalk.  We collected them up as this happened.

Our schedule was to do two tracks of island hopping, 80 and 100 yards.  By the time we finished with the article work, it was starting to get really nasty, so we modified the assignment.  We did one really long island hopping track of over 100 yards for each dog. 

Gimme went second and her track was likely close to 150 yards.  I'd told Nadine I didn't want to put down any food drops between the islands because of my concern about Gimme getting too "visual" in the urban tracking.  It was too easy for her to run to the next drop when she could see the white string cheese against the dark pavement.  Nadine said okay, then laid treats anyway, but using her pork treats, which blended into the blacktop.

Gimme did a marvelous job.  Without anything visual to rely on she just got right to work figuring it out for herself.  Most of the pork treats were left for the crows because Gimme blew past them so quick.  She loves to solve problems and "go", so I didn't bring her back to the treats.  She lost the track twice.  She had problems with one corner and then another time on a straight away across the open space (as Sil calls it "a corner which might go straight").  Both times I was able to see her behavior change when she lost the track, unlike the prior time when she just pulled along like nothing was amiss.  I just held my ground and let her sort it out and she did, very well.  She really is a very talented girl and loves a good challenge.

We still had two dogs to do and the rain was coming down in sheets.  Nadine suggested we call it a day, but by this time my bottom half was already soaked to the bone, so to me, another half hour was of no consequence.  Of course I didn't expect a sudden drop in temperature.  One minute it was okay and the next the temps dropped and then the sheets of rain contained a lot of ice crystals. 

There's a certain amount of insanity to playing the game in this kind of weather.  Meanwhile I'm looking for a good rain suit.  I figure if I'm better prepared, I'll never need it.

Gimme and I are trying to squeeze in walking whenever we can.  We are 18-3/4 miles away from our yearly goal of 500 miles.  I don't mind walking in a drizzly rain, but don't want to go out in a downpour.  I don't want Gimme getting that wet either, so its been challenging. 

Needless to say, Gimme is BORED and says she never gets to do anything fun.  It didn't help for work to run so late yesterday, so we didn't go to barn hunt practice.  Of course, part of the reason it ran so late is because the weather was decent, so I took Gimme for a 5 mile walk in the morning, thus getting a late start at work.  Gimme says its a flimsy excuse. 

Now I must go, its time for nosework class...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Nosework (3/14)

We had five interior searches tonight, all using the same basic layout.  There were two tables with chairs, the red cart, three stacks of chairs against the back wall, and three other chairs.  The three white circles were two big white buckets with a paint can. 

Search 1 - The area was purposely set up to have all the "stuff" on one side of the room.  Its pretty common for dogs and handlers to focus on the stuff and ignore blank looking areas.  Gimme didn't ignore the blank area, she quickly trotted in a loop through the area midway through her search and then rapidly went straight to the hide.

Search 2 - Search 1 and 2 were back-to-back.  We briefly left the search area and turned the dogs away while they moved in the second hide item, a small plastic cabinet. This time Gimme paid no attention to the blank area, found the new hide first and then the previous hide.


Search 3 - For this search another hide was added on the back of the chair nearest the threshold.  All the dogs found the hides fast enough, but none went to the chair hide first, even though for NACSW purposes it would be considered a threshold hide.  Dorothy talked about how they are seeing threshold hides are rarely as straight forward as they seem.  Gimme liked having three hides to find.

Search 4 - This search only had one hide about a foot up on the wall in the blank area.  We were instructed to use our body and motion to aim our focus toward the stuff, but let the dog search however they wanted.  This search was about having the owner act like a "dumb handler", ignoring the blank area and focusing, as we and our dogs would tend to, on the stuff.  Gimme scanned the stuff and then as she got to near the three stacks of chairs, she caught the scent and went directly to the hide.

Search 5 -This was set up just the opposite.  The hide was on the wall in the stuff end of the room and we handlers were instructed to use our body and motion to aim our focus toward the blank area, but let the dog search however they wanted.

Gimme did what I thought she would do.  She rushed into the search area going toward where she expected odor to be and then noticed I was somewhere else.  Then she came to check out the area where I was standing, but quickly dismissed it saying, "Mom, you don't know what you're doing." 

To me this was exactly like the way we typically do search areas - especially interiors which are commonly off leash.  She rushes into the area, past any potential threshold hide.  She has always rushed into the area, she's always going to and I see no point in fighting it.  So I go with her and then wander back toward the threshold.  She notices what I'm doing and comes over to do a courtesy sniff - and sometimes I'm right.  If I'm right, she alerts.  If not, she goes back to work in the way she thinks best.  So this time, noticing I was hanging out away from her, she came over to give the area a courtesy sniff, then went back to work - and had the hide in about five seconds.

She knows my nose is worthless, but even a broken clock is right twice a day, eh. So she's always polite about humoring my ideas. 

Now my friends, the couch beckons...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Rat Practice

We went to Eatonville tonight to attend one of the rare Monday night practices.  They used to always have them on Monday night, but then it got changed to Saturday (when I teach classes) or Thursdays (when I'm in Auburn).  It was decided to offer a couple of Monday night practices in December.  I figure Gimme needed an outlet after being cooped up all weekend.

The first time in the ring they put out three rats for her.  She did a great job finding them and all her barking was directed at the rat tubes, with pawing for indication.  Then she did the tunnel for me - all in 4:05... a good solid time.

I spent time helping some novice people with their dogs.  One terrier would find the rats right away (within the first 10 seconds in the ring) but wouldn't indicate, though the owner said she used to.  So we really ramped up the play with the tube.  The first time she paid any attention to the rat tube, the owner really played with her, moving around the ring with it teasing her, patting her side and praising her.  The dog loves the rat tubes - I think she has figured out they will be taken away if she indicates. 

We kept her in the ring, just having the owner and dog turn away while I hid the tube again.  We did the re-hide 5 times and by the third time she was really indicating strongly.  She loves having her Mom play with the tube with her.  Later on they came in for another turn.  We'd hidden two tubes and she found them very quickly and indicated them beautifully.  She's gonna be a fun dog to trial.

I also got to help introduce a 4 month old Cattle Dog to barn hunt.  She was immediately fascinated by the rat in the tube, set out in the open, and didn't want to leave it.  Then we set it out next to a litter tube, to see what she'd do.  She sniffed the litter tube first (because it was closest), but then completely focused on the rat tube and again didn't want to leave it.  She could have passed an instinct test right then and there.  Very cool.

For Gimme's second turn, we hid three rats and then as she'd find them, I'd draw her over into another area in the ring and they'd be hidden again.  Gimme thought this was the best fun EVVVVER.  She got to find seven rats out of three.  Her indications were all really good and I only had to remind her to use her paws one time.  There was more barking than earlier, but I'm okay with it, provided she isn't just wasting time, standing around barking.  Gimme was a little less cooperative about doing the tunnel this time, so when she did it (the 4th time), we made sure there was a rat tube right in front of her as she came out. 

Her reaction was kinda funny, she kept nosing at the tube like she couldn't believe it was just laying right there.  I think she's forgotten her times in Instinct when the tubes were out in the open.  Her eyes were huge.

She's contentedly snoozing as we speak.

Nosework (2/14) & tracklaying

One nosework class was cancelled because of weather and then Thanksgiving week no class was scheduled.  So this week (Dec 1st) was our first class following a two week break. 

The plan was to revisit edges and corners.  In  nosework so often hides are on things toward the middle of the room, so dogs can get out of the habit of checking the edges/corners.  For the first and second searches there were 6 hides around the sides or in corners of the room.  One of those hides was about 5 feet high on the inside of the garage door.

Gimme was the third dog to run and she did very well.  She started on the scattered stuff in the middle of the room, but finding no odor, she quickly moved to the sides and corners.  She was as fast as August at finding the hides on the perimeter.  This is interesting, since August is a German Shepherd and they are known to be "perimeter dogs" who tend to check perimeters of an area first. 

Gimme actually beat him a lot in overall time because of the high hide.  August went past the high hide repeatedly and didn't indicate until the sixth pass.  Gimme got it on the second pass; really it was just a re-check from her first pass.  She was moving so fast when she passed it the first time, she had to swing back around to it to check it out.  It took her no time at all to go high and indicate.

The third search was one hide in the middle and three on the edges.  Gimme aced this too.  For her these were all pretty easy searches, so hopefully they will do something more challenging this week. 

Of course she's been so bored all weekend, she'll probably be happy to do anything, even basic stuff.  I was away most of the day on both days to lay track for WSOTC's TDX test.  It was fun and I was able to use things I learned at the Sil Sanders seminars to improve my performance as a tracklayer.  Sil was in charge of all the track-laying and cross-tracks and coordination of timing.  Its really quite a complicated thing to get everything done at the right interval, so his analytical approach made it flow nicely. 

Sil instituted two procedures years ago for clubs holding tests in this area (well after my last tracklaying efforts), which made it much better.  1) After the tracklayer walks the track with the judges while they are plotting the track, then she goes out and walks it again solo.  Sil says too often the tracklayer will be distracted by the judges and doesn't get their count down or landmarks, so its important for them to have the opportunity to walk it again solo, which builds their confidence and reduces tracklaying errors on test day.  2) Tracklayers got to walk the course as the team was working it, staying just behind the judges.  This means the tracklayers can hear the judges' discussion of what they are seeing and their decision making process.  This was very informative for me.  And, if the judges blew the dreaded whistle, then the tracklayer would take the working team to the nearest known point and walk the course with them, so the dog ends on a positive note.

Honestly, I think Gimme would have passed on the track I laid.  The Border Collie who drew my track only made it a bit past halfway before they blew the whistle, though honestly it was a mistake he made well before then which led to him getting off track and quitting.  For the first part of what we walked he was still very uncertain, but once he found the second article, then his confidence was restored and he barrelled through to the end.

Gimme made it very clear I'd neglected her and should be doing something to make it up to her.  She had zero sympathy for my desire to lay around like a lump and wait for my migraine to go away.  Tonight we are going to Eatonville for a barn hunt practice, so she should be happy when we get home from it.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Urban Tracking (5 & 6)

Thanksgiving morning, Nadine and I met at the Auburn theater parking lot for tracking.  It was wet and cold.  The tracks on the program included island hopping again.  We started with an article circle, then we did our two tracks, 40 and 60 yards.  After reading my last urban tracking blog entry Sil Sanders reminded me to include aging information.  Its important to record this information, so we know where we are in the overall scheme of things.

So for Gimme, the article circle was 10 minutes old, followed by the two tracks back-to-back, also at about 10 minutes.  Gimme did okay, but not as well as she has in the past.  Before we were laying then running immediatley, so I suspect aging them is a bit more challenging for her.  There were moments where her talent really showed through, but overall just not as stellar as I'm accustomed to.  I saw a tendency to try to look for articles, instead of following her nose.

Skookum was great.  She's such a solid little tracker.  Cricket did real well too.  We again did a simpler track for Sugar.  She has a lot of natural talent, but she's also very soft and so we want to bring her along and make sure we build her confidence so she stays enthusiastic.  So for her track, we used a really long curb and then just one hop to an island.  She did well.

This week we had planned to go to Flaming Geyser for field tracking, but the weather report included a lot of potentially nasty stuff, so we elected to stay in town.  We repeated everything pretty much like before, except the track lengths were 60 yards and 80 yards.  We again started with an article circle, then we did our two tracks, and again at 10 minutes for age.

Gimme did pretty much the same as last week. Again I saw the tendency to look for stuff (articles and food drops in the gaps between islands), rather than follow her nose to them.  I do plan to bring meaty treats to urban tracking from now on, as they won't be visible on the pavement like pieces of white string cheese.  At one point Gimme went off on a likely path and I thought she was really into it.  She had her head down and was pulling steady.  Then Nadine told me Gimme had turned the wrong way, was well away from the track and moving further away.

She did a very credible impression of tracking and I had no clue she wasn't on the track - and Nadine couldn't see any clues either (and she knew the instant Gimme was off track).  I've gotten better at reading her in field tracking, but it didn't help me today on pavement.  We've decided to tape her tracks next time we do urban and see if we can see anything different.  Since the tracks are short, it'll be easy for Nadine to tape her.  BTW we saw Skookum do the same thing, going the wrong way and looking like she was tracking.  Not sure what this means.

Skookum did well, though I threw her a couple of challenges she had to sort through.  For her start I had Nadine take her to the start article at a 90 degree angle and let Skookum figure out which way to go.  And twice, instead of leaving one island at an angle, so it's apparent where the course goes - I went straight across and she had to turn at the curb.  These were good challenges for her.

We set a different kind of track for Sugar.  I used two long parallel lines of parking "stops", thinking it would be easy.  It wasn't hard, but she seemed to want to work the track from the wrong side of the stops.  She had no problem finding her articles from the wrong side of this little "curb", but we couldn't understand why she did it like this.  In each line, she was on the "wrong" side, so it didn't make sense from a wind direction p.o.v., (really only a tiny breeze). 
Note: As I was just reading this for errors a day later, I think I figured out what was happening.  The parking stops are just 6 foot long curbs.  As I walk along the "outside", I am leaving foot tracks on the outside right next to the stop, however skin rafts and other debris from my body are falling on a wider pattern.  Its likely they were falling on top of the stops and on the inside.  So Sugar was following them when she found them.  We'd move her to the outside and she'd stick there for a bit, but when she was passing from stop to stop (over a gap of about 4 feet), if she angled and got to the inside, she'd resume tracking there.
Cricket actually did the best today and she was the only one who didn't go from article circle to her tracks.  Nadine was trying to make good use of time, so she did the circle with Cricket, then put her up and did it with Skookum while I was laying tracks.  Gimme also did article circle and then tracks.  I'm wondering if the time back in the car to rest her brain, and percolate on what she just did, actually helped Cricket's performance.  So next time we'll try the same pattern with all the dogs and see what we see.

Sugar didn't get to do the article circle, because while we were running Cricket's tracks, someone came along and picked up ALL 8 of our articles!  We didn't see them and have no clue why they did it - since they left other parking lot junk.  Tooooo strange.  Obviously we will be keeping a better eye on our stuff in the future.

I have to say I don't like what I'm seeing with the article circle on pavement.  The dogs aren't trying to track from article to article.  Gimme did at first, but now she's going visual.  My intention was to increase the value in urban articles for the dogs, so at first I didn't care.  I can't get Nadine to break out of her minimal rewards (1-3 treats), so I don't know how much good its doing her dogs, though it does serve as a warm-up.  I certainly don't like seeing Gimme rely on sight.

So I have two ideas:
  1. No more article circles out in the open, since the dogs can too easily see them.  I'm concerned they are learning a bad habit, especially since I'm seeing bleed over with Gimme.  Instead we'll go back to doing the articles on the grassy strip, but using the more urban type articles.  This'll give us the ability to make them less visual, meanwhile encouraging our girls to use their noses.
  2. The other idea is to do a sidewalk article game - much like I originally did when Gimme was a puppy to see what her natural indication would be.  Its just a matter of laying out a whole bunch of articles along a sidewalk, ten feet apart.  The dogs are on leash attached to a collar (no harness) and just get paid for interacting with each one.  By not having a harness, I'm thinking it'll separate this mentally from tracking, meanwhile building article love.
Meanwhile, Gimme is snoozing contentedly...