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 and ADPL4...
26 and counting...


Thursday, March 31, 2016

RFE Practice (12)

Last Thursday we met for a practice and I have to say I had very little focus from Gimme.  At the time I thought it was because of her false pregnancy, but since she had a seizure the following day, now I'm wondering if it was a precursor.  Hard to know.  I can't say I've noticed any onset pattern in her seizures, certainly none of the common patterns.  Since I increased her Keppra dose, her false pregnancy has just evaporated.

Session 1A video - As you can see she was very distracted.  I try to keep the leash on her until I know I have her focus, so she doesn't have a chance to practice wandering off.  The downside is how my crappy leash handing sometimes throws her off.  She started this course kinda needy, which in hindsight makes me think she didn't feel up to par.  Even when she was trying to do well, her lack of impulse control was pulling her into errors.  This felt very much like we'd backed up a month.  <sigh>  Hard to believe it took seven minutes to get through the course with all the repeats.  

Session 1B video - I saw a laundry basket sitting at the side of the ring and decided I may as well get some useful Parkour practice in.  I brought the basket into the middle of the ring area and cued "box" several times and Gimme immediately got completely focused on what we were doing.  It was surprising to see the transformation in her and it gives me a real clue to how much harder RFE is for her.  I think the difference is the element of duration impulse control needed for RFE, while Parkour is all about doing-doing-doing.  As we know, Gimme is all about doing-doing-doing.  Anyway, I had so much focus from her, so I did some heeling (both sides) and used a send to the "box" as the reward.  It was her best heeling of the day. Of course, you'll see she doesn't quite understand the send part, which is something we really haven't worked on.  Also I started out training this kinda sloppy, doing a lot of treating outside the box... so she was jumping in and immediately jumping out.   We did the course again, using "box" as a reward and it only took us 4 minutes, including the time spent on the reward.  This time around she was only distracted moderately 2 times and enough to leave me once.  Not perfect, but a significant improvement.

Session 2 video - I set up the course with three Parkour props, one for "box", "table" and "hands".  Before this session I would have said "table" was her favorite, but it became obvious she likes "box" best.  I started the session clicking for check-ins and took a moment to cue her for each of the props.  It wasn't as good as when I just added "box" on the prior session, but better than what we started with.  Honestly, given her condition, I think I'd just used up her brain.  On the other hand, we did two run-throughs during this session and she was more focused on the second one.  So perhaps it just took more time to get her mentally there.  She reeeeally liked the sequence of all three Parkour behaviors as a reward.  She kinda lost it right afterward, so perhaps it was too exciting.  It was really hard for her to heel past the box, so I was proud of her for doing so.

Session 3 video - There were a group of people and dogs getting ready for class and the dividers aren't very sturdy, so I decided to keep Gimme on leash.  Given the degree of distraction, this being her third session of the day and where we started - I thought she did pretty good.  One thing I see in these videos is a need to click for the first step when I start "heel" or "side", since this is where she is most likely to forge - she gets moving faster than I do.  She always gets it the second time, but I think I need to add more value to the first couple of steps. 

Interestingly, the owner of Pawsabilities was watching some of what I was doing using Parkour as a reward and after we were done, asked if I'd be interested in teaching for them.  They've been wanting to add Parkour and she liked what she saw.  They have a really great puppy and continuing puppy education program with tons of body awareness work, which would segue perfectly into Parkour.  And she showed me around at all the stuff they have to use for the puppy program - so they already have almost everything we'd need for Parkour.  She specifically commented how I must be doing it right if I can use Parkour as a reward for more challenging work.  She's always been impressed by the large number of titles Gimme has.   I told her I'd consider it, but I want to wait at least until I have training level and novice titles on Gimme.  They do have a slot available on Thursday afternoon which would fit my schedule, so it wouldn't involve any extra driving.

And now I have to hustle, since Gimme and I have to be out the door real soon to meet Nadine for tracking.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Damn Seizures...

On Friday I took Gimme out planning a short walk and some video taping for a Parkour training-level title.  We'd only walked a short distance when I stopped to use this empty planter for a 4-in behavior.  I had the camera all set up, then we practiced doing the behavior a couple of times.  So I turned on record and cued Gimme to "box".  She got right in, but didn't stop.  I moved her around to do it again , when she started moving odd and I realized she was having a seizure.  
All I could do was hold her until it passed.  Fortunately I was so close to the car and where we were there was an elderly man working in his garage.  I yelled to him that my dog was having a seizure and I needed to get her to the car, could he watch my stuff.  Gimme was still a little unsteady on her feet as we started walking back to the car, but I was able to support her with the harness and she was moving under her own steam after a couple of steps.  After 50 yards she was herself again. 
I spoke with my vet and he said to put her back on 500mg of Keppra three times a day.  I was hoping to keep her at 500mg twice a day, since it doesn't impact her thinking as much.  <sigh>  The prior seizure, was on the fourth day after I reduced her meds from 500mg twice a day to 250mg twice a day.  With such an immediate reaction, it was clear she needed a higher dosage.  Prior to that reduction, she'd been on 500/2x for 3 months with no problem.  So after that seizure we went back to 500/2x and after I had ran out of the regular Keppra (about 2 months ago), I changed to Keppra extended release, which should keep her blood levels on a more even keel.  This seizure came pretty much out of the blue after 4 months on this dose.
We were scheduled for a barn hunt trial Saturday, but Doc advised against it.  First, changes in dose take at least 3 days for them to adjust to, so her balance could be off.  And second, they are more likely to have another seizure in the first few days after having one, so he didn't think she should be exposed to stress. 
Gimme was pretty disappointed about missing the barn hunt trial, but I promised her vanilla ice cream with peanut butter drizzled over it.  She thought this might be an adequate substitution if she got it every couple of hours.  As it turned out I was able to get her some Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.  I didn't realize it would have these big chunks of chocolate, so I had to eat those.  Gimme reeeeeeally enjoyed peanut butter flavored ice cream.  After I finished her chocolate chunks, I ate a whole carton of the Ben & Jerry's Chocolate and Carmel Swirl.  Yesterday we finished off her peanut butter ice cream and again I was forced to protect her from the chocolate chunks. 
Gimme used to say she should get vanilla ice cream every day to prevent seizures.  Now she says she was wrong and it needs to be peanut butter flavored ice cream.  Since I wasn't giving her ice cream and she's now had four seizure episodes (in 16 months), she's sure this constitutes proof for her peanut-butter-flavored-ice-cream-prevents-seizures theory.  If I thought it would work, I'd happily do it.
All the anti-convulsants affect mental clarity and I know Gimme gets really frustrated by not being as brilliant as she is accustomed to.  I keep telling her not to worry about it, even with reduced mental clarity, she is still twice as smart as every dog we know, eh...  Right now her mental clarity is out the window, along with self-control - its very much like when I first put her on Keppra.  
Today we went for a walk and I had her do some Parkour stuff and was surprised to see she didn't have the same sense of balance and confidence on a couple things she did easily just last week.  So she's still adjusting and this is day four.  She still wanted to do it, but I could see there was a difference and its going to take a bit I think for her body to adjust to the higher dose again.  Sure made me glad I heeded Docs advice and didn't go to the barn hunt trial on Saturday - I wouldn't want her to have a bad experience.
I want to get her dose as low as it can safely go and still keep her seizure free.  I think it will be better for her physically and mentally, even though Keppra is really safe.  I'm going to keep her on 500/3x for 9mos to a year before I try reducing it again.  If we can't go that long at the higher dose without a breakthrough seizure, then I won't even consider a reduction.  If we can go that long, then I may try 500mg twice a day, with an additional 250mg right before bed.
One thing I've found really interesting is how superstitious I am.  I've had a real hard time getting out for walks since the seizure on Friday.  And, I really have anxiety even thinking about going back to where it happened.  Logically I know there is no connection between walking or that location and her seizure, but the feelings persist.  It gives me a real appreciation for the superstitious behaviors dogs develop.
Gimme says more ice cream would help with my anxiety too.  Just sayin...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

Nosework (5/16)

Nosework class followed an Easter theme this week.  Dorothy likes to find cool ways to bring the holidays into our searches.

Our first search (blind) was 6 open egg cartons with plastic eggs in them, on the front sidewalk.  I brought my camera, but Dorothy forgot and didn't get us recorded.  Gimme was a bit unfocused.  She went right past the hide in the first egg carton, though I did notice she sniffed it and number two, with a little hesitation.  When she got to the end of the line, she happily bashed the number six carton and enjoyed getting paid.  As we went back toward the other end she was clearly bashing any old egg carton trying to get me to pay up - probably because I was being clumsy in my peanut butter delivery.  I'd put my bait bag and vest in the wash, so couldn't really do what I had planned and was trying something new.  When Gimme didn't get paid for bashing numbers 4 and 3, then she settled down and sniffed intently at the number 2 carton.  I called it too soon.  Odor was in the number 1 carton and probably drifting up against number 2.  

Our second search (blind) was indoors, with a large plastic egg on each of a bunch of chairs set in an oval, with the seats facing out.  We found out later the hides were in green and orange eggs.  Note the cute start "cone" Easter baskets.  We were told handlers couldn't go inside the ring of chairs.  Second search video

Gimme went up the right side and sniffed the orange egg a bit, but didn't stick it or indicate.  Of course, I was rushing her a little to get her off the bookshelf nearby.  She really worked hard to sort out which egg it was for the first hide and she was all over three chairs before deciding.  You can't see in the video, but she stuck her head under all three chairs trying to decide.  For the second hide she found, she pushed in between the chairs to check it from behind to confirm which it was and then shoved the whole chair to indicate.  Unfortunately her distraction to the table and the way I moved her away from it (at 1:55) served to move her past the green egg too quickly.  You'll see she sniffed at the purple egg and then looked to me and since I was already moving past it, she just came with me.  I think if I hadn't been moving past it, she might have checked the chairs on either side.  On a positive note, I did take her back to the area of the orange egg she sniffed earlier, so she found this third hide.  If you watch when she gets back to the green egg, I was actually coming right behind her and we are funneling into a tight area, so I think I pushed her past it - to where she re-alerted on the second hide she found.  

My impression of this search was Gimme wasn't very focused, but after watching the video I don't see lack of focus.  Instead I see somewhat minor timing issues on my part which served to interrupt the flow of her search.  In hindsight, Tuesday night was the start of my head cold, so its likely *I* was the one with lack of focus.  I should know without looking at the video who's fault it is...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Parkour Walk for "hands"

Today we walked on a different part of the Chehalis West rails-to-trails and did 6¼ miles.  As I said, I planned to focus on our 2-on "hands".  Here are two collages of the things we found to do "hands" on. 

I started with a focus on tall stuff where Gimme would be unlikely to offer 4-on "table".  Several different shapes and sizes of trees, signs and barriers.  Some of the signs she wasn't too sure about - like the black arched one and the plexiglas area on the Chehalis trail map (she was fine with the wood part).  On the gasline pipes she was content to put her feet on the bigger center post, but had to be lured for the smaller pipe to the side.   The sign with the angle-iron legs was a real challenge because it was so narrow.

To begin I lured her to put two feet on things and paid her while she stayed there.  Then I switched to just motioning and when she was consistently doing the behavior, started preceding it with the "hands" cue.  By the end of the walk I could simply stand near an obstacle and give the verbal and she'd do the behavior.  Of course the true test will be when we can use both "hands" and "table" interchangeably, but it will be awhile methinks.

I added lower things with the potential for 4-on after we'd done many "hands" already, hoping she'd understand it was a 2-on paying day.  She did.  I started with the bench approaching from the back where she'd see a more vertical surface.  When we went to the front she did get up once, but I just had her get off and then cued "hands" again.  She quickly figured out to only offer me "hands" since it was what was paying today.  She did only "hands" on the two big rocks, though I could see she was thinking about getting on one and then decided to give me "hands" instead.

I also found this cool forked tree and we did some "g'won" to it.  This is where Gimme must go between two obstacles for her Parkour through.  For the training level title the requirement is: the two obstacles must be less than dog’s body length apart.  For the novice title it is: the two obstacles must be less than twice the dog’s shoulder width apart.  There is no through in the higher levels.  One of the very cool things about Parkour is how the tasks are scaled to the dog's size and you can even ask for variences in special cases. 

The ground is lower on the back side of this tree, making it a bit more of a challenge.  Gimme would have no difficulty with either level, as this is more than is required.  We had fun playing with this.

I've always enjoyed our walks as watching Gimme sniff and snoop is fun all by itself.  Interacting with stuff along the way is even more fun.  Gimme is dead to the world right now.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Parkour (3/1)

Sadly I forgot to take my camera, so there are no videos this time.  Gimme was awesome, naturally.  Its really not fair to compare the other dogs to her, since I raised her with performance goals in mind, so she has oodles of body awareness and confidence.  There really isn't much she won't try to do for me.  

I do enjoy watching the progress of the other dogs when Gimme is taking a break in her soft crate.  I love how this sport focuses so much on taking each dog on his/her own merits and working them within their comfort zone.  There is a lot of emphasis on respecting the dog and providing for their emotional safety along with their physical safety.

We started class with our warm-up and I did a nearby ladder for cavaletti style work.  Then we did multiples of "spin", "turn", "around", "behind", "sit", "down", "stand", "thru" and "bow".  Gimme was still very distracted by the presence of the other dogs, so most of this was lured the first time or two.  In essence its a warm-up for her brain and her body.  Once her brain was warmed up, she was pestering me to let her do some stuff - she really likes this Parkour.

Our first exercise to work on was "hands" - putting 2-on something.  I really should have focused on this before I started so much rewarding of "table" (4-on).  Gimme has a lot of experience with getting on things, so its easy and fun for her.  It was challenging to find a way to lure just two feet on and get her to stop there.  I did find luring her onto surfaces where she couldn't get 4-on helped.  Such as the wall, back of chair or one of the dividers.  I was glad to see she had no angst about the dividers, especially after the first time when it moved.  One of the Parkour skills as we advance is for the dogs to have confidence about things which move.  I will be focusing during our walks on just putting her "hands" on things and rewarding heavily so it gains value.  I suspect I'll need to really work to get this one on a verbal cue, which we'll definitely need since discrimination is another Parkour skill.  I will have my hands full getting her listening for the difference.  After each set of skills we get to show-n-tell with what our dog did.  Gimme showed her feet on the wall and the top of the divider.

Our next exercise was 4-on, "table".  Gimme is very strong on this, so I picked some obstacles which were on the small side so she'd be challenged.  As I said, she's very enthusiastic and confident about getting on stuff.  Since everyone now kinda knows the drill, there is a lot more moving around and busy-ness, and this also makes the environment a little less predictable for Gimme.  All the other dogs are pleasant and well behaved, so I used this time to work a little closer to the other dogs.  I could see I was stretching her comfort zone, so I was watching her very carefully to be sure I didn't push her too far.  I was very proud when Gimme told me clearly she'd had enough and needed a break in her safe place (the soft crate).   I honored her desire, though I did stop before we got there and asked for one behavior.  I wanted to reiterate for her to make a calm decision to retreat - not a frantic dash.

While Gimme was taking a break I watched for a time when others were done with it and got the little round wobble board (about 16" across) and brought it into our area.  We have a corner of the room which is "ours".  Gimme has been on a wobble board before, but never one this small.  Mine is 40x40 inches, so it doesn't tip nearly as much.  Plus this is small enough to make it a challenge for a girl her size, even if it wasn't tipping.  Gimme enjoyed working on it.  She wasn't the least bit concerned by its movement, though it did take her a few tries to get all her feet on it.  Then we got on the bone-shaped balance disc.  It was a little challenging for Gimme to get all four feet on it and by then another dog was working nearby.  Gimme stopped to watch him for a few seconds, then turned back to what I was asking her to do, doing so successfully.  She assessed something which concerned her and then chose to go back to work.  I couldn't have been more proud.  For show-n-tell we showed her on the little platform (6"H, 6"W, 12"L), the wobble board and the bone-shaped balance disc.

Our third exercise was pivots.   Gimme knows to "pivot" on her brick, a 7-inch diameter octagon shape cut from a piece of 2x12.  She sees it and immediately knows to "pivot" CCW with her front feet on it.  I'd always intended to teach her "tivo" a CW pivot, but waited too long and I didn't have any good success free-shaping it, since the environmental cue of the brick was too strong.  So for Parkour we are learning two new things.  First Gimme needed to learn she could "pivot" using something besides our brick.  It took a few times of me luring it and then she got into it and was doing it on cue almost as fast as she does with the brick.  Of course these things were all taller, so its a different physical skill for her.

Then I switched to luring the CW "tivo" and she was getting this too.  I think it made a big difference to have a completely different prop.  Jo came over and watched us and suggested I slow her down on luring "tivo".  Gimme is so fast when she does things, she thought it was important for her to slow down and think about her foot placement and get as comfortable as she is going the other direction.  So now I'm hopeful we may one day get the other direction on cue.  Woo hoo.  

For show-n-tell she did pivots in both directions, one on verbal cue and one lured.  None of the other dogs had any experience with this behavior, so Gimme was able to show them what it will look like someday.

Gimme and I are both having a lot of fun with this.  She slept halfway home.   But then she woke up and fussed off and all the rest of the way home.  We'd left home in a hurry and I forgot to bring along SuperCow-baby (and the camera), and she was missing it.  The first thing she did when we got home was to get her baby and play with it for awhile.  Imagine squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeeeeeeak for about thirty minutes non-stop.  It took her a long time to settle down, but she finally did. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Urban Tracking (11)

Its hard to believe this is only our eleventh session of urban tracking.  Gimme continues to do well.   We haven't tracked at all for several weeks because our tracking partner has been ill.  Today Gimme seemed a bit distracted, but better than our last field tracking outing. She was a lot fussier on the drive to and from and certainly didn't appreciate having to wait in the car while I serviced two accounts on the way home.

We again tracked at the Auburn Cinema.  It was cool (in 40's) and dry, with almost no breeze.  From time to time we'd notice a breeze, but it didn't last.  We laid one track for each of the girls, with Gimme and Skookum getting the more advanced tracks - all aged about 15 minutes.  Our tracks were mostly island hopping, with a few 90 degree turns.  Gimme's track had 6 turns, all of which were away from the curb, or coming perpendicular to the curb and then turning right or left to follow the curb.  Gimme did great at the turns coming perpendicular to the curb.  For the turns which turned 90 degrees away from the curb, Gimme overran all of them and didn't show noticeable signs until she was 15-20 feet past the turn.  She seemed to get rather frustrated when she realized the track was "gone", but then with encouragement was able to work through it and find her own way without hints.  Overall she did well, especially since she wanted to get back to SuperCow-baby.

After tracking Nadine and I went to IHOP for lunch to celebrate the news from her doctor's appointment yesterday, where she passed a major milestone - she's Cancer-Free...  Yippee!!!  I can only imagine what a relief this news was for her.  I am certainly thrilled beyond words.

Gimme is still reluctant to do her "grape" (roll over), so we'll be keeping our chiropractor appointment for next Thursday.  Right now she is snoozing under the desk with SuperCow-baby.  Motherhood is so exhausting, doncha know.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Going to the Green

I am not Irish, but I still look good in green - even this dopey outfit.  

I saw a picture of Sister Grace in this same get up last year and absolutely forbade my Mom from dressing me this way.  Clearly we still have some work to do on her training.

In any case...
          I wish each of you...

Happy 
St. Patrick's 
Day 







Nosework (4/16)

We had a most interesting class Tuesday.  I didn't make diagrams, since I have videos.  Though actually *I* don't have the videos.  A classmate had them on her computer and sent them to me via Facebook through messages.  Sadly I've been unable to download them and transfer them to a more permanent record, so don't know how long they will last.

Gimme was much more motivated knowing I had real peanut butter (not PB chips) and this, despite being in full baby mode.  She wouldn't leave the house without the SuperCow-baby and whined and fussed when she was away from the car (and baby) and not searching.  So clearly the peanut butter chips are not enough motivation for her to work with focus.

Video of Searches 1 & 2

Search 1 - Interior - Gimme found the first hide in 34 seconds.  Unfortunately the frozen PB didn't stay frozen and was already very soft in the 20 minutes since it left my big freezer (perhaps the glass of the shot glass makes a difference).  With the open top of the little snack container she was able to get a sizable glob and spent 30 seconds cleansing her palate (licking her leg) before she could resume searching).  She had the second hide in 15 seconds.  Actually I think she knew basically where it was from her first tour about the search area.  I was careful to make sure she only got a little bit of peanut butter, so she was able to move on more quickly.  She did check other things, but after the third time she returned to one or the other hide, I called "finish" and was correct.  She did really nicely.

Search 2 - Container - You'll note she gives a strong sniff on the second box on the right, but didn't indicate.  She did the same on the black bag.  She came back to the black bag pretty quickly and indicate for the first hide in 42 seconds.  I tried to control the amount of PB she got, but she still spent 40 seconds cleansing her palate.  You'll see I got her to move, but she'd go back to the leg licking.  Once she moved on her own, she had to get in one last lick and naturally it was right as she went by the box she'd sniffed earlier (the other hide).  I spent another half minute getting her around the boxes and twice more by the box in question, but still no alert, so I called "finish" and was wrong.  After a small break discussing with the instructors what went wrong, we went up the right side and Gimme nailed the box immediately.

There were two more back to back searches, just more of the same.  Unfortunately the video for them didn't get sent to me before it was deleted.  Gimme did well on both searches and was nicely focused.  I went back to using the go toob and was very careful to make sure she only got a little bit.  It does take a little bit of time to control how much comes out of the go toob, so I want to find a better way to give her what she wants/needs/desires faster - since time becomes much more critical at the higher levels.  I've since had the idea to try using peanut butter in the snack container, but just dab a bit of it with a fingertip for a reward.  Obviously I want to try this in class first.

Video of Search 5

Gimme did an awesome job on this search.  Only one other dog was as fast as Gimme and she's a nice thoughtful hunter and her owner is a good handler.  Of course, she's not flashy and beautiful like Gimme.  Gimme nailed the first hide in just 3 seconds.  Normally she blasts past threshold hides, but there was a little delay while we were waiting at the start line, so she had time to figure out where it was. I always try to remember to hold up at the start line, and take a few deep breaths - we can use no more than 10 seconds at the startline before being faulted (not including if the handler is asking questions - something I always do at element specialty trial searches since you don't get any walk through).  Time to the second hide (including the first hide, being rewarded, a quick leg licking and then finding it) was 27 seconds.  From there to the third hide was only 15 seconds!  

This was a really difficult search, since the hides were set up in a triangle, close to the same plane - it was a really challenging three-way converging odor vortex.  Gimme was AWESOME to solve this puzzle in 42 seconds.  Of course she's always awesome.

Yesterday we met with our new chiropractor.  I've known for two weeks she needed a tune-up and was trying to get with our regular person, but getting no response.  I finally decided it was time to find someone else.  Dr. Powell actually does chiropractor-day at Pawsabilities every 2 weeks and the price is quite reasonable.  I didn't want to wait until the next scheduled day, so drove an hour to meet him.

Gimme liked him immediately, as did I.  He does a non-force style of adjustment, which I especially love for animals.  In addition to the non-force, he's also very aware of the dog's attitude and pauses here and there to give the dog time to get ready to continue.  There was only one place where Gimme hesitated with what he was doing, but he still stopped 5 times to stroke her and tell her what a good, brilliant and beautiful girl she is.  He's very thorough and tells me everything he's doing, what he's finding, how he evaluates it, etc.  He did find the warm spot I thought needed adjusting, though it was one of the last things he adjusted, since he has a certain system he follows to make sure he doesn't miss anything.  He checks each toe all the way to each and every vertebrae in the tail.  He checks and rechecks each vertebrae and each adjustment along the way - as I said "very thorough".  

He did find the top two vertebrae in her neck were out of alignment in opposite directions and said it might be causing headaches and could indeed be behind her lack of focus.  I haven't checked this with another training session yet, since I like to give 24 hours for an adjustment to get to full benefit.  He said he thought she was a little stiff in her spine, but not enough to be concerned about.  Then he went on to say most of his clients are border collies (he works a lot with the agility community), so her level of flexibility may be entirely normal for a Dalmatian.  I had already put her on the calendar for next Thursday, his regularly scheduled chiropractor-day at Pawsabilities, just in case we need it.  He doesn't think we will, but I've decided to take her in for the tune-up anyway, since we have barn hunt on Saturday.  

He also gave me suggestions of things to do every day to keep her spine moving so its less likely to have a problem.   And we discussed how to focus some massage to ensure things are staying limber.

Meanwhile I've noticed the warm spot is back to normal.  I also did the grape-test.  "Grape" is her cue to roll over, which she normally loves.  When she doesn't want to "grape" I know she is experiencing pain/discomfort.  It took her a bit to decide to do it, but then she did.  I think she may have been worried about it hurting.  Later on I'll cue it again and she if she does it more quickly - which would tell me it didn't hurt when she did it.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Parkour Class (2/1) & Walk

We walked on Saturday and I started introducing some Parkour style obstacles.  It was our usual place and I didn't remember this many options, but I guess I'm already developing Parkour-eye.  I had her climb on some large rocks ("table") and walk down benches ("walkies").  I got her to walk on a curb around some landscaping.  Because it wasn't high off the wood chips, it took her awhile to figure out to put all four feet on it.  Toward the end I found some more options, but they'd be hard to describe.  We'll do them again and I'll take the camera.

The thing I observed which was really cool was how much fun this was for Gimme, and me.  Mostly our walks are about me getting mileage on my chubby tushie and Gimme getting to sniff and be a dog.  We occasionally do a little training.  What I saw was how much Gimme enjoyed this interaction and exploring stuff together.  I've always enjoyed walking with her and watching her sniff and be a dog.  I've always been sure she enjoyed, even needed, the sniff-and-be-a-dog time.  But I think this interactive exploration of our environment brought a whole new element of togetherness to our walk.  Fun stuff.

Last night was our first class with the dogs and it was every bit as good as I'd hoped.  To start with Gimme was completely unable to focus.  I'd set up an alcove for us in the far corner with her soft crate, bedding, room dividers and sheets for visual breaks.  It was a challenge to get her in the building and to begin with, I found she wasn't able to be Operant.  For you non-trainer-geeks, this means she was not able to thoughtfully use her own behavior and actions to get me to give her something she wanted.  
 
We started out with PVC ladders and a wonky cavaletti. 

 





Gimme got to interact with these and she did okay, was able to slow down and start thinking about her feet more than the environment and the other dogs.  The instructor, Jo, was very good about making sure we had the room she needed to be comfortable and noticed and commented each time Gimme started making moves toward being thoughtful.  She's very supportive and I felt good about the environment.  Gimme needed a lot of peanut butter go toob to start with, but then was able to do with less and less.

Jo had us do cookie stretches and other warm up behaviors to get their bodies ready and we are supposed to do it at the beginning of each class.  Lots of "spin", "turn", "thru", "behind", "around", "sit", "down" and "stand".  Gimme could do these, but in this environment I had to lure her through them.  We got a couple to the cue at the end of the warm up session.

I was able to set the camera on a chair and get a little video of part of our "box" training session.  We'd already done quite a bit and then she'd taken a break in her crate before she did this little session.  By now she was getting into what we were doing and was thinking about her feet and how to get me to pay up.  At the end of this part of class, Jo went around the room and had each of us show off what our dogs were doing.  Even though one dog had been through this class before, Gimme was still the most advanced.  We did so much rear foot work when she was a puppy, so she has a lot of awareness about the part of her body behind her elbows, which is not true of most dogs.  Of course, knowing how challenging this environment was going to be for her I'd have been thrilled even if she wasn't the best.
"box" work video

After this Jo discussed the importance of the dogs learning to back up for some of the higher levels of Parkour.  Gimme and one other dog already had some understanding of backing up.  In fact when Jo came to see how well she could do it, she said she thought Gimme was ready to back onto things - which I had to admit she already does.  So I showed her off backing onto the oil pan.  Then we decided to work her on something higher - a small table they have.  This little video is our first attempt at backing onto the table.  You'll see she assumes I just want her to do the 4-on "table" behavior, and when it doesn't produce treats, she listens to me and puts the "back-on" cue together with the obstacle and goes right to offering the exact behavior I wanted.  This is one of the really great things about Gimme - her ability to make intuitive leaps in understanding.  
"back on" video

She really is a canine genius...  This is why I love training her - she makes me look waaaay better than I am.  Of course sharing this intuitive leap sure lets the cat out of the bag...

Gimme says, "Cat!  What cat?"

Friday, March 11, 2016

Parkour & RFE Practice

Tonight I wanted to do another Parkour practice of "box" (get all four feet in) and some other stuff.  For the other stuff I especially wanted to encourage Gimme to do tighter turns.  

I know Gimme needs a chiropractic adjustment and I've been trying for over a week to get in touch with Tonya with no response at all.  So I've been wondering if this lack of focus has to with her need for a chiropractic adjustment.  She has the warm spot and I was remembering how she sometimes gets her atlas really stuck and it gives her very bad headaches, so this may be behind her focus difficulties.  I think the self-control issues are more typical of her false pregnancy.  I've finally given up on Tonya and started looking for another option.  I checked into vets locally and found one who does chiropractic, but she charges $125 for an assessment and then $65 for each visit.


There is a guy who comes to Pawsabilities every other Thursday, which is the day I go to see my Mom, so it works out for me and he charges $45 which is more reasonable.  He has a devoted following.  Of course he's not going to be there until the 24th and I didn't want to wait that long.  So I am meeting him next Wednesday in Port Orchard (1 hr drive).  I've also put us on the appointment schedule for the 24th in case she needs a tune-up, which sometimes happens if I can't get her treated when I first notice she needs it.  We have barn hunt on Saturday, 3/26 and I want to make sure she is ready for all the jumping on and off the bales of straw. 

So tonight  I didn't want to push for really tight turns, just enough to have the behavior look like it was supposed to, showing she was working the behavior, without her mind wandering.  Since I don't know how much her back might be bothering her, I didn't want to risk her experiencing pain to train. 

I started with putting the largest box down and sent Gimme to it, click/treat.  Then I inserted a behavior ahead of it (one of the circles "around" or "behind), then "box", click/treat.  From there I added another behavior until we were doing a sequence of five behaviors for one click/treat.  Sometimes the "box" was in the middle of the sequence, sometimes first and sometimes at the end.  Other behaviors I added in the strings were, "spin" or "turn", "touch" and "sit".  So this required her to really focus to know which behavior to do next.  

This sequencing works on the principle of Tertiary Reinforcement.  I explained Tertiary Reinforcement a long time ago (follow the link and go almost to the bottom of the blog entry).  Its a cool concept and the dogs find it a fun game.  Instead of clicking to reward a behavior, give the cue for the next behavior, which reinforces the behavior just completed. Do this several times and then add click/treat at the end.  You could vary the number of behaviors in the sequence.  Tonight I was doing sequences of five, such as:
  • box, around, spin, sit, touch
  • box, behind, turn, behind, sit
  • behind, turn, box, around, spin
  • around, touch, box, behind, sit
  • touch, behind, turn, sit, box
At first Gimme had difficulty listening and getting the right behaviors to go with the cues she was hearing, but I just kept her going and pretty quickly she got into the game.  She worked hard to focus enough to get it right and toward the end she was doing 100%.  I even noticed she'd start to move toward the box (its a visual cue and thus a big draw), but then she'd check herself.  I'm very proud of her efforts.

Then we switched gears and worked with the next size box, just doing "box" between two boxes, the biggest and the next size down.  She was having fun.  When she was consistently doing it I removed the largest and replaced it with another of the next size (a second one I happened to get at Costco today).  I rewarded her with multiple treats for staying in the boxes, so she'd understand to do it and stay there, building value for being in the box.  At one point she got the box turned sideways and so was getting into it with the narrow side (making it smaller).  It was a challenge for her, but she persevered and finally hopped her back feet in.  She got a big jackpot for that.  Then I turned it back the long way.

I'm not pushing for too small of a box footprint until after she gets adjusted.  Gimme hasn't learned to crouch her butt down, which allows the back to get straighter.  Instead she is curving her back and I don't want to put stress on an area which might be sore.

She did really well tonight and seemed to have a lot of fun at it.  I think using the brain remedy I made for her helps and I think she enjoys being able to think clearly.  She's sleeping soundly as we speak.      

RFE Practice (11)

We met at Pawsabilities yesterday for practice, doing course #126 from the book.  Gimme struggled with focus and self-control the whole time.

For the first session, I started off with walking to the center of the room and cuing "whazzat" and getting Gimme to look around at things, then get paid for looking back to me (edited out).  I didn't see where this was any better than what we'd been doing.  Next time I think I will combine this with with a perimeter walk (from a distance of 10') and see if that helps.  Of course, she was mentally "out there", so this may not be an adequate test.

Session 1 video - She started out well, but then showed confusion at the second station, probably because she was distracted and didn't hear the cue.  She just didn't have the same level of attention throughout, her turns/spins/circles were wide and/or bigger than they should be and she was looking around.  She was very distracted by the stuff in the first corner.  On the second run through, on the second up-touch, I think she was either confused by my hand placement or the gitchy spot in her back is bothering her (we have chiropractor scheduled for next week - I've had to find her a new one).  Another possibility is - the correction of backing up when she was distracted made her unsure.  For the third run through I tried moving a bit faster and just forgetting about precision and it seemed to improve her attitude and focus a little bit.  The one place where she got confused about the "turn" CW spin, I can see in the video I brought my right shoulder back, which she takes as a cue for backing around me in "heel" or "side" - bad me.  You'll see at the end of this run through - she just couldn't get her "take a" bow right, though she did it well the first two times.  She got into her food obsessed  mode, where she just can't think for wanting food.  This and the focus issue are related to the false pregnancy.  I finally had to put my hand under her belly to remind her to keep her fanny up and then she was able to do it right several times (but the person videotaping cut this off).

Session 2 video - Our second session was less focused than the first.  It didn't help for people to walk by right as I was asking her to do an "around" CCW circle.  It took the longest time to get her attention back on me and even then it wasn't as good as the first session.  I really should have stopped right then and done "whazzat" until she was done with the distraction.  I tried various things to help her get focused.  I used touch to bring her back, but it didn't work consistently.  More rewards, didn't help.  I broke off the course and just focused on heeling with thrown treats - helped a little.  From there we did another run through and it was better. 

Session 3 video - Parts of this session were good, parts weren't.  I had added peanut butter chips to my mix of treats, thinking they might inspire more focus than cheese, but not so.  They sure weren't enough to keep Gimme from sniffing for J'Anna's dropped food - which clearly shows they aren't as high in priority as I'd thought.  I probably shouldn't have actually handed the bit of food from the floor to Gimme, but it wasn't something I wanted to put in my pocket.  We are missing a middle section of this video.  Anyway, I started using the clicker and should have done so sooner.

This was really her best work of the day.  I think the clicker has a positive Conditioned Emotional Response (CER) and it helped her break through the fog.  Years ago when I had intact bitches and an intact male, when they were in season he couldn't function and could barely eat.  But I could bring out the clicker and suddenly he was all there for me.  I always have a clicker in my treat bag, but of late I've been working without the treat bag in these practices.  And I am lazy and don't want to break off to get one from the car.  I think I'll add a clicker to my music bag, along with the iPod and speaker and such.

J'Anna said she didn't think it was as bad as it seemed to me.  She thinks its because Gimme has been doing so much better lately and so my expectations have gone up.  Maybe, then again...

Meanwhile Gimme is snoozing, still dreaming hopefully of another side-by-side preference test.  Last time after I got off the computer she ran into the kitchen expectantly.  When I didn't immediately produce peanut butter chips, she went over, put her paws on the counter and pointed to the go toob.  Subtlety isn't in her nature, eh...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Nosework (3/16)

We started class with an exterior search, out in the rain.  I was happy to have purchased the FrogTog suit a couple months back.  Haven't used them for tracking yet, but this is the second time I've worn the jacket in nosework class.  It keeps me dry and warm.  While we were doing the exterior search, Dorothy was inside setting up two container searches in element specialty trial style.  The key things for an element trial are: the search may be unusual compared to what we are used to AND we get no walk through.

Our exterior search started with a row of four stacked pallets with these concrete and pipe electrical things on them.   There was only a light breeze, so it shouldn't have been a difficult search.  I found it challenging to get Gimme to focus on searching.  Once she did, then it went quickly, but she really had her head somewhere else. 

I'd noticed this lack of focus the week before and had given her a dose of the Bach Flower focus/self-control remedy I made for her.  While it seems to work well at home in our practices, there was no evidence it helped us here.


Our first element style container search (blind) was
in the entry/store of the building.  The two big grey rectangles are the toy shelves, which Gimme is very able to focus on.  The start line was in the door to the room.  The containers were plastic shoe boxes and the hide was in one right next to a water bowl.  The search was further complicated by a heater vent on the wall right above the hide shoe box, which we are sure helped to move the scent in a different way.  Small rooms can be really challenging.  Gimme was very distracted by all the toy possibilities.  With a little encouragement she got to work and found the hide. I called finished because after she got paid for her hide, she went right back to the toy shelves and really wasn't interested in searching any more.

From there we went into the main room for another blind search, to find dozens of boxes up on chairs.  Gimme went to the left side of the room (to a shelving unit with toys on it (naturally).  I got her searching, well, at least walking nonchalantly along the line of chairs.  When we got near the actual hide, I saw her stutter-step, before opting to go check out the shelf nearby (more toys).  I let her check it briefly and then encouraged her to come back to work.  Just as we got past the hide, she went back to it and indicated.  From there I walked her back along the line of chairs and she paid almost no attention to them.  As I got to the chairs against the left wall, I turned her and cued her to "check".  Then she did check those boxes and seemed to be paying a lot of attention to them, but not really settling on one.  I walked on and she came with me.

So I called "finish" and was right.  I can't explain why I call finish when I do - its just a feeling in my gut of either a) an impression she is just humoring me or b) she is thinking about indicating for some "other" reason (like last week wanting to get out of the rain).  Dorothy thinks "a" is the most common reason and when I get to "b", its because I am ignoring "a".  Dorothy also said her personal strategy in a trial is to call finished the first time she gets a inkling to do it and the vast majority of the time she's right.



Our 4th and 5th searches were combined, sort of.  We had six plastic shoe boxes in a line in front of twelve chairs.  We were to keep our dogs in the first search until they completed it and then go on to the chairs.  The nearness of the hide in the chairs was a complicating factor for the hide in the shoe box, since the dogs would be able to smell it too.   Gimme did go past the hide in the shoe box, but then turned back to it quickly.  She had to sort it out between the right one and the one just past it.  These were her best searches of the evening.

For the chairs, she was working well, but it proved challenging for her to find the hide.  She was trying, but all the dogs found it difficult.  It was also quite a handling challenge to move around in the close spacing in the chairs and also to keep from getting the line caught on the chairs.  All container searches are done on leash.  





For our last search we just had the twelve chairs.  Three of the boxes were replaced with shoe boxes, which vent different.  The shoe boxes have holes in the lid, so scent goes up instead of coming out the joins.   Gimme did pretty good on this one too.  She found the shoe box hide first, and then went back to get the other hide. 

After class I had a thought about this lack of focus.  It seemed to come on about the same time as it showed up for other work, but I usually don't see it so obviously with scent work (nosework, tracking & barn hunt).  It occurred to me this is also the time when I changed our rewards.  In order to speed things up, I've been rewarding her with peanut butter chips (like chocolate chips, only peanut butter flavored).  The other instructor is often impatient about how long it takes Gimme to cleanse her palate (she licks her leg) after she gets peanut butter from the go toob.  I can't use the chips in trials because she sometimes gets one stuck in her flews and then it falls to the ground.  In class its not a problem, but in a trial I can get faults for it.

She seems to like the peanut butter chips, so I thought it would be a workable solution. But I've since done a side-by-side preference test.  Peanut butter from the go toob was the clear winner.  Gimme only left the go toob when my hand was so close the chips were practically in her mouth, and then she gobbled them and immediately went back to the go toob.  I think I could use the chips from time to time, or maybe for the first of multiple hides and then end with peanut butter from the go toob.  Then I can use it to lure her from the search area.  Still it may just be she needs her best reward right now when she's not quite as focused.

I am also going to try a trick from another competitor with a peanut butter obsessed dog.  She freezes peanut butter in shot glasses, so her dog doesn't get a big glob of it.  When I first heard about this, I didn't want to risk dropping and breaking a shot glass, with broken glass everywhere - so I didn't try it.  But I think I'll try it and I can use some small plastic container.  It'll be challenging for trials to keep them frozen hard, but I'm sure I can come up with something.

Meanwhile, Gimme is sound asleep, dreaming of another side-by-side preference test...

Monday, March 7, 2016

Parkour practice

Training "box" (getting all four feet into something) started out well last night.  I put the box down and Gimme was in it with all four feet before I could pick up the clicker.  We did twenty repetitions.  Then I put down the next size and things didn't go as well.  I didn't have gradual enough changes in size, so Gimme got frustrated and I decided to quit.  Today at work I snagged a couple more different sizes of boxes, smaller than the biggest, but bigger than the second size I had from yesterday.  I brought them home and cut them down so they weren't as tall.

So today we did a refresher with the biggest box and Gimme had a great time with it.  Then I brought down the next size and for some reason she decided the job was to back into it.  This was one of the original "Project" behaviors.  We'd named it "apple" and the behavior was to back into a box.  The trouble with her backing in is, in the original behavior it was only a back feet behavior - so I found her getting stuck there.  So I lured her to walk into it front feet first a few times and then she understood it was a different thing.  After many reps with box size 2, I put the first one out again and had her going back and forth between them on cue.  I don't think its actually on cue in the strictest sense of the word, but she is getting it. 

Then we worked on her paw lifts some more.  I was hoping to have taken the edge off her excitement, and I had, but just a little bit.  I have her get up on the couch and face me in a sit, because then she'll stay put.  I really need to get out the sit platforms.  I mostly worked on extinguishing offering by not rewarding it, then when she was slowing down I was giving the cue followed by the hand signal.  She tends not to listen real well - listening skills have never been her forte.

I'm seeing some progress, but its slow.  I think its complicated because of an earlier snafu in my attempt to put it on cue.  My plan was to name all her paws, "one", "two", "three" and "four" and teach her to do a paw lift with each.  Because we needed the "two" paw lift for the last novice course (where we finished our title), I was focusing on it and it was clear she was really confused.  It was only later I realized the source of her confusion.  "Two" sounds identical to "thru".  Which explains why the "thru" behaviors on our course video seemed slow to me.  Since then I've decided to call them "uno", "dōs", "three" and "four".  In the meantime, I think she's become more dependent on the hand signal.  In the next session, I will stretch the time between the verbal and hand signal.

Meanwhile I've been deciding what to call the various Parkour behaviors.  Some are the same as agility cues she already knows, so I believe she will make the connection very quickly.  They are going to be:
box               4-in
hands           2-on
table             4-on
pivot             pivot with 2-on
cane/orbit    send around an object
over              jump over
tunnel           dog crawls under an obstacle
g’won          dog walks between two objects
back            backing up
walkies        balance beams

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Parkour

Gimme and I are starting a course on K9 Dexterity Parkour.  Its on Sunday nights and is an hour away.  Tonight was the first class (without dog).  I think I'm really going to like it and am sure Gimme will have a lot of fun.  The instructor is very thorough and spent a lot of time talking about safety, spotting, making sure the dog is having fun and working within their comfort zone.  She also explained how its all reward based and the only "punishment" is when a dog gets no treats.  I talked to her after class about how best to set up our "station" so Gimme has her own space.  Its not a really big room, but there are only five students, so we should have plenty of space.

I think Gimme will do well because she's naturally agile and confident.  Also we did a lot of early work on rear foot awareness.  One point I will have to think out before class is what I will use for cues for the behaviors.  So many of the cues which seem to go with behaviors are already used for other behaviors.

Exercises we'll cover include:
  • Proprioception - walking through agility ladder and cavaletti work
  • 4 in: dog puts all 4 feet in an object, such as a box
  • 2 on: dog puts 2 paws on an object
  • 4 on: dog jumps or climbs onto an object, where they may stand, sit or lay down
  • pivot with 2 on (Gimme already does this)
  • send around an object (Gimme is learning this already)
  • over: dog jumps over an obstacle 
  • under: dog crawls under an obstacle
  • through: dog walks between two objects that stand next to each other or dog walks through an object (without crawling), such as between two barrels or through a tunnel
  • backing up (Gimme is learning this already)
  • balance beams (walking, turns and stops)
  • beginner's gap jumps: dog jumps between two obstacles, such as jump from a lower to slightly higher object
  • moving obstacles: 2 on, 4 on and balancing on moving obstacles, such as a sway bridge
  • beginner's sequencing: performing multiple Parkour behaviors in a row where the sequence should look fluent!  For example: using a park picnic table with benches and garbage bin close by - dog goes around the bin, then under the bench, balances the length of the other bench and jumps onto the table.
  • multiple behaviors with one obstacle: dog performs multiple Parkour behaviors with the same object.  For example: using a chair and performing a crawl under, 2 on, 4 on and go around the chair.

In this sport they use the word "balance" to refer to walking/moving on an obstacle (like a dogwalk, or cement wall).

Gimme has been bored all day.  Apparently the 2½ mile walk this morning was inadequate to suit her needs.  So I'm going to do a little free shaping session and teach her to get all four feet in a box.  I've already got a selection of boxes in several sizes we can work with.  We'll start using a large box with low sides and then go to smaller boxes with low sides.  Then will start working with some other objects.

Well... Gimme is sighing impatiently.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Nosework (2/16)

Since the recent seminar, Dorothy has decided we need to do at least one blind search in every class.  We started off this new trend with 2 blind searches.  There was a lot of distraction because of their recent Spring cleaning, purging and furniture rearranging.  All the dogs seemed to find this more interesting/distracting than going into a completely strange place.  Gimme wasted no time in finding out where the shelving with the toys on it had been moved to. 

Our first search was a blind container search of eleven boxes with a standing ladder in the middle of it.  The ladder presented a handling challenge. 

My first difficulty was getting Gimme to leave the van.  She was happy to get her harness and line put on, but when she got out of the van and realized how hard it was raining - then she only wanted to get right back in.  It took me a moment to convince her she could make it to the door of the building without drowning. 

Gimme entered the search area, immediately swung up the left side and located the hide, but she didn't stop for it - though I saw a stutter step.  She continued around the boxes, checked out the nearest shelf unit (the one with the toys).  It was off to the right side of this search.  I didn't want to pull her off it in case she was using it in her search, but after a moment I moved on without pulling on the line and she quickly came with me.  The second time she came to the hide, she very definitely alerted on it.

Our second search was a blind 2 vehicle search outside in the rain.  We were second to search and I took the time to put on my FrogTog jacket.  Gimme was completely unimpressed with getting out in the rain again, but at least it wasn't coming down in sheets like earlier.

She went from the startline up the right side of the nearest vehicle and across the top right to the hide, bypassing it a couple of feet and then whipping back to it.  From there I took her around the other side of the vehicle, between the two and around the other vehicle.  She showed interest in the spots I indicated in brown.  I did not call any of those spots

There were a couple of times I thought it might lead to something, but she never committed.  I did see these spots were in a sort of line from the actual hide and wondered if scent was drifting and catching on other spots on the vehicle.  Also, I'd noticed recently how Gimme glances toward me when she is getting ready to source a hide.  I wasn't seeing "the look" before "The Look".  I can't say why, but I got an impression Gimme was thinking about indicating, to see if I'd take her back to the van (and out of the rain).  So I called "finish" (I was right) and took her to the van.  Dorothy said she was almost certain I was going to push it too far and talk her into a false alert.

For our third search we had 3 hides.  Gimme came off the startline like gangbusters as usual.  I was fiddling with the leash and the door, so she came back right away to check on me and caught scent.  So for the first time ever, she got the threshold hide first without being held near it.  From there she scanned the room, kinda checking things out quickly (she'd been on leash for the container search) and ended up in the far corner and got the hide on the stool.  Then she came back and got the one on the ladder - she seemed to take awhile to source it.

I talked to Dorothy about what I was seeing in "the look" before "The Look", asking if she'd ever noticed it.  She said she hadn't specifically, but she'd seen how often Gimme checks in, so she might not have attached any significance to it.  She also thought it might be a case of her wanting to see if I was paying attention - especially when she was getting close to a hide.  She's going to watch for it in future classes, as will I.

I also noticed Gimme seemed a little less focused than usual.  She seems to be in a place in her false pregnancy where her focus and self-control are less than normal.  I've since created a Bach flower essence remedy for focus and self-control.  It seems to be working well in our training in the evenings, so I may try it before class next week and see if it makes a difference.

Right now Gimme is napping, since we just came home a bit ago from a 3 mile walk.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Tracking Genius (24)

We've done mostly urban tracking this year because of my time constraints.  Now since my family is no longer providing 24 hour care for my mother, time has loosened up a little bit.  Last Friday Nadine and I met for our first field tracking in two months.   She has since come down with the flu, so we won't be tracking this week.  Hopefully she will be recovered by next week.

We met in the afternoon, on a cool, but dry day.  Nadine laid a track with a couple of road crossings.  Meanwhile I laid an article "circle" of sorts.  While she took Sugar on her track, I took Gimme on the article circle, which had aged about 20 minutes.  The flags were set 10-20 feet before each corner.  After the start sock there is a shallow ditch.  The first leg has no other article and goes through some small trees and up a steep bank before turning. The corner at the top of the diagram is on a short mowed path.  The last short leg crosses the same ditch again.

Gimme did well with this track.  I again saw her tendency to work off the first leg instead of staying right on it.  She seems to start off at an angle, then turn back to the track, and repeats this a couple of times - especially on the first leg and sometimes for the first part of the second leg.  It creates a sort of saw-tooth pattern. Still she did well, found all her articles and was quite quick about it.

Nadine's track started in the field and then crossed the road with a glove at the base of a telephone pole (brown circle).  From there it crossed the road back to the field, turned and crossed the road again to another glove.  Back across the road and into the field with two more turns before a glove at the end.

Gimme did well with the start and end of this track, but showed a real resistance to crossing the road, all four times.  She would search and search and search and not consider putting her nose to the pavement until I urged her to.  I thought she'd do better since we've done so much urban work on parking lots.  But, then I remembered Sil saying how much of a challenge these kinds of transitions are, harder than doing the whole track on pavement.  Since we hadn't done any field work since the 1st of the year, it seems her skill at transitioning between fields and pavement has become rusty.  We'll have to be sure to include a lot of these in future tracks.  Still once I pointed to the pavement, she'd get her nose down and follow it right across like, "ohhhh there it is."

Nadine took Skookum on my track and when she came back we discovered she'd missed an article.  Not knowing which one it was and since she'd already taken up all the flags, I decided to take Gimme out and let her find it.  Gimme was stellar, doing the whole track accurately.  She showed me where every article had been and looked diligently in case it had burrowed underground.  It may be she was smelling residual cheese odor, since I drop a lot of cheese treats at every article.  Anyway, it seems Nadine missed the last leg (I hadn't put a flag there).  Skookum is normally so accurate, I'm sure she was annoyed at being dragged away from following the last leg - though Nadine probably thought she was wanting to follow my exit path.  Fortunately Gimme was more than happy to find the last glove.

She sure does love using her nose...

BTW this is my 700th blog entry...