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...


Sunday, July 31, 2016

RFE Practice (23)

Last Thursday we went to Pawsabilities for RallyFrEe practice.  I thought these were damn good efforts, especially considering Gimme is getting into a false pregnancy.  Her "baby" is a very large stuffed Racoon toy.  I initially named it Rocky, but apparently its a girl.  Gimme only gets it if I ask here "Where's Rockette?"  And here I thought a toy was just a toy.

I brought my timer, but discovered the battery was dead.  So had to rely on J'Anna to tell me the time.

Session 1 video - Sorry for the glare, we moved the camera location for later sessions.  Her stays are usually pretty good, but sometimes she forgets what she's there for.  I really should take her back to the car after our potty walk, then go in the building, take off the treat pouch and load my pockets, then get her - so we can get directly to work when we come in.  I wasn't too concerned about her early distractions as we approached the sides of the room - its such a far cry from where we started with several minutes sniffing perimeter walk.  I spent a bit of time working on her 180° turns, getting her to maintain focus.  No consequences for failure, just no rewards either. I gave her a jackpot for mostly keeping her attention on me as we approached J'Anna behind the camera - this is very hard for Miss Social Butterfly.  The stay in the middle was to reload treats and to shut the divider between our floor and the rest of the building.  Interesting I notice she turns much tighter on a 180° turn when I turn toward her - possibly relates to earlier agility training.  As we worked on finding "heel" and "side", we also did some of them moving.  She had one spot where she seemed to get distracted, though I couldn't tell why and one time when she went to the wrong position.  We tried a bit of finding "center" from "heel" and "side" and this proved difficult.  We haven't worked on it anywhere near as much as finding "heel" and "side", so I shouldn't have put it at the end of the training session.  Overall I was very happy with this session.  Gimme was trying really hard and its clear how much improvement we are getting with Kathy's coaching. 

Session 2 video - I put the camera on a tripod to make it easier for J'Anna and smoother overall. She started out really good and then 30 seconds later was Miss Distracted.  She's doing good with the up-"touch" and seems to like it better.  It helped a lot when I started using the clicker to mark it, plus I think she's building stamina.  She did much better finding "center" this time.  J'Anna is having trouble getting a good back-up with her dog, so I showed her how Gimme did it - using the platform as a target.  And yes, I did tell her to go check it out.  J'Anna was suitably impressed with how Gimme looks for the platform with her back feet.  Of course she's got amazing rear end awareness - its one of the first things she learned.  We are at the stage of fading the target, so this huge target was totally too easy for Gimme.  [BTW if you look at our back in the Parkour Novice compilation, Gimme barks at me because she's frustrated by there suddenly being no target - she's not shy about expressing her opinions.]  We worked on tightening her turns on some other behaviors - with a bit of heeling thrown in as needed.  I sure wish I had someone who could click for me at times, so all I'd have to do is manage treat delivery where it would do the most good.  J'Anna cut the video when I was going to reload, so I've clipped on the little end bit. 

Session 3 video - Gimme was more distracted this time by J'Anna being so close to the door than she was the first time.  My plan was a quick session focused on 180° turns.  Since Gimme was distracted at the door, it was really no surprise to have trouble for the first turn.  The first click was mostly to prime the pump.  Since she hadn't had a good turn yet (thus no reward), I picked a moment when she was turning to mark - even if the turn was late.  Many of these turns included momentary ganders, but I tried to click the moment she turned her attention back to me.  When she did particularly nice ones, then she got a jackpot.  From there to the end was just some doodling, finding position and the like.  We ended when I ran out of treats - with just 15 seconds left on the disk.  While she started distracted, I was really happy with the focus I was getting at the end.

I'm really pleased with how this is coming along.  I really appreciate how hard Gimme is trying, even when she can't quite do it.  I am really blessed to have such a great dog.  And, to have Kathy so willing to invest the time in helping us be our best.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Parkour (6/3)

I've been busy preparing handouts for the Parkour class I'll be teaching.  I have 12 pages so far.  I really like this and I think it has a lot to offer the average person and their dog, many of whom would not be interested in a competitive dog sport.  Still, this gives them a structure to measure progress against and those who want to can submit for titles. 

Parkour class this last Wednesday was interesting.  Traffic was a complete mess, so even though I left home on time, we were 20 minutes late (a 2:20 drive).  Gimme started out okay, but was very stressy for the last half hour of the drive.  I thought maybe it was the false pregnancy, but when we got there, she dumped a big one...  For the first part of class, an exercise outside, she couldn't get her focus into it - which may be false pregnancy, maybe just keyed up from the late arrival and my own tension of trying to get there on time through traffic which repeatedly failed to cooperate.

In any case, the exercise was about teaching the dog to send to a box or table.  She had a lot of difficulty doing it and when she did, couldn't focus enough to stay there.  I didn't get video of this.  I did get some success toward the end by tossing treats to her in position.  Of course I'm an awful treat-tosser, so it wasn't as effective as it could be.  I can always practice those things at home.

Balance board sequence video - This was a very simple balance board exercise, really similar to what we did last week.  Gimme did very well with it and I think this easy success went a long way to helping her get focused.  If you look at the ladder trainer laying against the backdrop - pay attention to the proportions of the parts to step on and the parts which are holes.  You'll see Gimme do something in another video and knowing how big the spaces versus steps will make what she does all the more impressive.

Raised ladder trainer sequence video - For this sequence, Jo put the ladder in place of the cross board.  I thought Gimme might be concerned about how high it was, since she's never done it more than a foot off the ground.  She showed no sign of caring about the height.

Send training 1 video - At the very beginning of this video, Gimme doesn't understand what I wanted her to do, so she just guesses and jumps straight up to land on the ladder trainer.  I was scared to death about what she'd done, but also impressed at how well she adjusted her footfalls in an instant, so she landed safely.  We were all a bit awestruck, after we got past the shock.  By the third time, even though she anticipated and started coming to me before I got into position, she then corrected herself, finishing well.  I was amazed she did this well, given the yappy dog next door in agility, which started up just as her turn started.

Send training 2 & ladder trainer sequence video - This time I threw treats ahead of her a couple of times and it worked well to clarify what I wanted.  The final time I threw the treat to her after she did the behavior.  Up until then it was acting as a lure, but she understands the "lure a little" sequence (max 3 times) and usually offers what I want the next time.  Then we did the ladder trainer again.  This time she decided to hop across, and while it showed great style, its not really safe and it won't work when she starts working on an actual ladder, so I turned her around to do it again.

Sequence 2 video - This time we put the send into a sequence.  There is another small platform at the end which is out of the camera p.o.v.  Gimme enjoys sequences, so she did well.  She was momentarily distracted by a speck on the floor near the chair, but then she got back in gear.

Sequence 3 video - This was the same sequence and Gimme did well with it.

Since we arrived so late in the class, this is all there was.  We have one more class in the series before starting another round.  The other Border Collie won't be back right away due to complications in his neutering.  SAC has a 4 dog minimum for classes, but Jo convinced them to go with this class even though there are only 3 of us.  She hopes they'll agree to keep it open since the other dog plans to come back after he's recovered.  Cross your fingers...







Thursday, July 28, 2016

Parkour and Nosework (3/19)

We spent time on the weekend through Tuesday morning getting together the last of the videos we needed to submit for our Novice Parkour title.  Gimme was a bit on again, off again in working - regarding focus and ability to listen.  At first I didn't know what this was about, but then Monday night (early into Tuesday) I heard her nosing around in the closet, nesting.  So it seems she is finally (a couple weeks late) going into a false pregnancy.  There were several video's I had to redo.  There are things you don't see when you are recording or things in the background, or things I didn't think about.  I got them all submitted then was reading the rules in preparation for the class I'll be teaching and realized I'd made another mistake.  I contacted them and asked if they'd hold off on processing my title submission and fortunately they have agreed.  The changes I found I needed to make were:
  • A child was enamored of Gimme and following us around as we were recording.  At two points we were using playground equipment.  Since he was in the shot, it would have been an automatic NQ, so I went back the next day and re-recorded those two without the juvenile stalker.
  • My balance (board walk) didn't show all of the board walk plus a couple feet on both ends so they could see her get on and off.  In the video it also wasn't immediately evident if the board was narrow enough.  I re-recorded it from an angle showing more down the length of the board.
  • The one I discovered after I submitted the video was, I used the same kind of picnic table as one of her examples of 4-on, then again (though at the other end of the park) to do 4-on as part of her Creativity.  I recorded 4-on on a different obstacle.  I'm also going to re-record the Creativity sequence tomorrow morning since the camera p.o.v. doesn't completely show both benches and when Gimme is doing her 4-on at the beginning she is partly out of view.  
I also spent quite a bit of time making two compilation videos with detailed description of what each behavior entails, for Pawsabilities to use in promoting the class I'll be teaching.  I don't see it on their website yet, but I think they must be sharing them around the staff because one has 24 hits and the other 37, in just two days.  I only shared it with one other person.

On Tuesday we had nosework class and it was quite interesting.  The searches were not especially difficult, but what they wanted was for us handlers to give a running commentary of what behaviors we were seeing in our dogs and what it meant.  This is based on Dorothy's observations at recent trials.  She saw many people didn't really KNOW what their dogs showed when they got "in odor", but before they indicated.  So a dog could just be showing interest in something, probably because it was a novel smell, and the handlers would misinterpret it as an indication or being in odor.

It is surprisingly hard to verbalize what you are seeing, with interpretation, as you are moving and handling, being prepared to reward the dog - all in real time.

What I noticed most was the difference in how Gimme moved when she was in and out of odor.  When she is out of odor, she moves loosely, with a ground covering stride and happy tail wag.  I call this scanning mode.  When she gets in odor, her stride is quicker and shorter, often still covering the same amount of ground.  Her tail wag still wags, but is not as loose. 

There are so many things you can watch about your dog and every dog is different.  I remember a very long time ago in the old classes, Susan said Gimme "hunched her back" when she got into odor.  When I watched her after hearing this comment, I realized Susan was seeing how her stride changed, which brought her rear feet under her (moving with more collection) and rounded her croup a little.  And, this is entirely consistent with what I saw during class.  Some of the things to watch are:
  1. head carriage and gestures
  2. topline
  3. mouth open or closed 
  4. breathing or chuffing
  5. eyes and ears
  6. tail carriage, wagging or still
  7. movement style
  8. changes of direction
  9. tension vs. looseness
I was thinking it would be handy to do searches and focus on just one body part at a time.  Great minds must think alike, because this is exactly what Dorothy assigned us for next week.  We are to decide on a body part which we will focus on for our searches.  I presume we will do other body parts in other classes.  I plan to review some of our videos and see what I can detect ahead of time.

Gimme loved doing class, but was happy to get home to her toys. She hasn't selected a baby yet, though she pulled MrBigCow out of the bottom of her toy basket and he looked like the odds on favorite (until tonight).  At other times she has focused on InchWorm, SkinnySquirrel, SuperCow and PurplePuppy.  Any time we are away from home when we return she is obsessed with getting to her toys.  At the same time she pays no attention to the toys in her puppy pen in the van.  Tonight she was looking at the top of the bookcase whimpering - presumably hoping I'd get down Kermit (he's up there waiting for me to repair his neck).  Instead of handing over Kermit in his delicate condition, I gave her one of the new toys (new is relative, I bought it a year ago and he was hidden with 25 other toys I've yet to give her).  She's been obsessed with RockyRacoon ever since.  Time will tell...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

RFE practice (22)

On Thursday I didn't have anyone to do tracking with and wanted to participate in the MDSA workshop, so I stopped by Pawsabilities for an extra practice.  Ended up having a long discussion with the owners about the upcoming plans for me to teach Parkour there.  They asked me to write a paragraph about Parkour so they can use it in promoting the class.  Here's what I came up with:
Parkour is a fun activity where dogs learn to move through their world exploring and overcoming obstacles. They jump, climb, run on, rebound against, and go around and under things found naturally in their everyday world. In class you will teach your dog these skills on objects that gradually introduce the behaviors, learning safely and at your dog’s own pace.  Dog Parkour is low impact and challenging, and increases confidence while overcoming doubts and concerns.  Any dog can do Parkour because skills are based on each dog’s size & proportions.  There are no competitions, but you can earn titles by video.  Creativity and imagination is all you need to have fun with Dog Parkour anywhere you can take your dog.
I think I outdid myself.  ☺  Now I need to make a video they can link to, so I'm reviewing all my video's for clips I could include.  Meanwhile I'm also looking for clips I could submit for our novice Parkour title.  Might as well, since it saves me time scouting around for suitable locations and having to make other videos.

Session 1 video - Sorry about the places where I went out of the camera f.o.v.  Gimme did pretty good during this session.  If she seems to be having trouble focusing, she was.  They are remodeling the offices and the door to the training space was open.  I closed it before going to get Gimme and right as we started a MAN came out and was kneeling in the door! (behind the camera location)  He was there for half the session.  Gimme loooooooves men, so this was the ultimate distraction.  We did our best to work through it, but there were times her eyes were about to pop out of her head.  When I took the leash off, he'd just left, closing the door.  The segment at 5:00 for about 35 seconds is the MDSA workshop assignment to make a path forming an "M" on the floor.  I spent some time in this session working on tightening her 180º turns and circles around me.  We also worked on finding "center", simultaneous spins and finding "under". 

Session 2 video - I reset the signs to give me an idea of where to work to stay in the camera f.o.v.  We started this session practicing some up-touches.  Gimme is getting more enthusiastic about them.  During this session, the man came back and was working on a ladder - so still a lot of distraction (for me too).  She learned a CCW pivot on the brick when she was still young, so it makes sense the center-front-pivot is better in CCW direction.  We practiced a few other behaviors she knows well, but which could use tightening up.  We worked on the 180º turns again and they were much better than the first session. 

I'm again really pleased with how Gimme is progressing. And still baffled by her not having a false pregnancy this time.

Parkour (5/3)

No one else showed up, so we got one giant private lesson.  We were careful to give Gimme breaks, to not overdo it.

"Below" video - Gimme still makes assumptions about what I want.  Getting her to use her listening ears is a struggle we have never gotten past, it shows up at the beginning of EVERY training session, Every walk, Every everything. She likes doing what I ask, its just never her first inclination.

"Walkies" video - We did some balance work.  You'll see Gimme thought I might want her to jump down.  Later in class she jumps from the ground up and onto the balance board when I was trying to get her to do something else and she didn't understand. We work a lot in class on control, getting her to slow down and think and especially listen.  I left in a little segment of what Gimme does when she's bored by too much talking.  Of course, you'll see I rewarded her effort once, so it surely makes sense from her point of view. 

Sequences 1 video - Here we do several sequences, including a "flip" (180º turn on balance).  Gimme really likes just doing-doing-doing. 

Sequences 2 video - In this sequence, Gimme does "flip" on one balance board and then we repeat it a couple times on the other board.  The second board is narrower than the first.  Its still wider than the one we practice at home, but its also much higher, so this adds to the challenge.

Through & combos video - The thing about Parkour is, much of it is not about doing stuff which is physically challenging, but rather about doing stuff which is unfamiliar or with different conditions.  Its all about confidence building.  BTW all the panting you see is not stress, it really was quite warm during class.  In the second part, Gimme didn't think she could "below" if there was no sheet.  She has before, but it just looked different than what we'd done earlier. 

Sequences 3 video - I had to repeat the "pivot" cue until Gimme actually listened, even though we'd done it earlier in our warm up.  I find I still need to refresh her on things if too much time has passed.  I suspect this is a side-affect of the anti-seizure medication and just something we have to live with.

"Hands" on a Moving Object video - For much of this either I or Jo was steadying the hand truck or making it move.  Gimme seemed to really get into doing this.  Of course with her, anything which pays is worth doing and doing often.  One thing which is really key to Parkour philosophy is for the dog to have permission to say, "this is too much" or "I can't".  So when Gimme gets off, its no big deal.  She gets another chance.  We keep it all light and fun, with silly noises at times, so the dog knows this is all just a game

Sequences 4 video - The part we ran into trouble here was trying to get Gimme to do the through followed by going "below" the chair.  We struggled with getting her to keep her hiney low enough so it wasn't uncomfortable for her.  I tried placing treats as a lure under the chair and while she would stretch in to get them, she wasn't willing to go completely below the chair.  The end of this sequence was to "box" under the scaffold.  Gimme didn't understand what I wanted and jumped up on the scaffold instead.  Parkour is adamant about not letting dogs jump down from heights, so we took the table-steps route down and tried again. 

Crawl from Table video - When we switched the two tables so the lower one was under the scaffold, then Gimme was willing to go from there "below" the chair.  We did it a few times in the other direction.  She never would go from the higher table "below" the chair.  We took the chair away and then she did go from the higher table "below" the bar on the scaffold, but then wouldn't do it again.  So I concluded it was still uncomfortable.  There is no special reason to teach her this, other than teaching her another way to use her body.  She needs to keep her hiney low as she comes off the table, but couldn't figure it out herself.  I could probably teach her separate from this exercise, but don't know if I'll put the time into it.

Gimme did a LOT during this class, since she was the only one there.  She does love her Parkour.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nosework (2/19)

Dorothy wasn't there, so we only had the one instructor.  We basically repeated the drill from last week, but outside.  Thus we had an introductory search, with the two chairs.  From there we went to do two searches in area 1, 2, or 3.  There was also a self-serve search indoors, which we didn't have last week.

Introductory search 1 video - This was a search of the hides on two chairs right next to each other.  Gimme found the first hide very fast.  On the second one she was inclined to accept close, without sourcing, so we waited for her to source the hide.  There may actually have been some scent blowing from the first hide to make her think it was source.  Still a very fast search.

Search 2 video - Since I was a few minutes late for class I didn't really know what was included in the search area and wrongly concluded it was just the heavy equipment.  Fortunately Gimme doesn't need me to have-a-clue to find odor.  She was very quick.

Search 3 video - What is cool about this search is how Gimme passes odor by a few strides and then turns back to it and sources it.  In the past she's been happy to catalog the area and then come around again to find source.  She did a nice job.

Didn't get the first self-serve search recorded.  Too bad, since Gimme did really nicely.  The hide was in a crack in the floor, so it took her a little bit to find it, but not too long, especially since she prefers high hides. 

Introductory search 4 video - Gimme again found the first hide very quickly.  As you watch her on the second hide, it looks like she concluded the timing of my "yes" was for paw-whacking the chair, not indicating source.  So you'll see her go to the other chair and just whack it before she even used her nose on it.  And since this is the fourth time she's seen the two chair search, she may have figured out the drill.  So I had to wait for her to get down to business and source before I rewarded her.

Search 5 video - Gimme wasted time finding a dropped treat, though she may not consider it a waste of time.  She localized the area of the hide, so I knew she was "in odor", it just took her a little bit to locate source.  Fortunately in trials we won't be challenged by all the lingering odor (these hides were moved for every search).  She was nicely focused and given the multiple locations of lingering odor and the distracting smells from inside the trash can, I thought it was a nice, fast search..

Search 6 video - The thing with lingering odor is to just let her check it out and determine for herself whether its the real deal or not, because it adds to her experience base.  You'll see as I start to turn to take her to the other side of the search area, she catches the scent and drives ahead of me, having made her decision well before I got there.

Self-serve search 7 video - Sorry about the jiggly-ness of the video, I was handling my dog, moving around and recording all at the same time.  I liked seeing how she actually caught the scent bouncing off the table and chairs and then triangulated it directly to the spot where the hide was on the easel.  She's very smart about using her nose.

A friend was talking to me about how disappointed she was to go to a traveling nosework class and only get 1 search of about 3 minutes, for $25 per class.  I pay $140 for six weeks of class, so about $23.50 per class.  Tonight I got about 5 minutes of actual search time, which after looking back at videos from prior classes, is about average.  I remember a class where we got 1 search, but it was a very long search (about 7 minutes) with many hides.  $25 for one search is comparable to a trial at novice... where you get 4 searches, for $100, but it takes up the whole day.   It seems a little high to me, but might be right for the area.  You also have to decide if the benefit is worth it.  Are you going to go to the effort to set up searches in strange places and do you have the resources/contacts to use strange places?  So just a bit of food-for-thought for our loyal readers.

Now Gimme wants me to get off the dang computer and do something interesting for HER. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Urban Tracking Clinic

We left right after tracking with Nadine on Friday to head up to Bellingham for a TDU/VST clinic.  Clearly we are part of the TDU crowd.  Each of us lay a track for someone and then get to run a track laid by someone else.  We spent all day Saturday tramping around on 8 out of 9 sites, following Sil as he plotted the tracks and explained the why/how of it all.

Gimme's track was supposed to be TDU light, with transitions from vegetation to non-vegetation and back to vegetation.  When they got to the site on Sunday to lay our track, it had to be changed from what was plotted because there was an event going on and using part of the area.  This really wasn't an issue.

What did turn out to be an issue was how late in the day it was.  It was getting hot, mid-to-high 70's.  Usually it wouldn't be a big issue, but Gimme had basically been in the car for two days straight (other than nights in the hotel where I was excessively boring).  Plus the age was only supposed to be 30 minutes and it was nearly an hour.

Gimme did really well on the first leg, but overshot the turn and just went right across the little road, then turned to take up a parallel path.  (the red line is the path she took).  We were only about 15 yards from the track, and Sil wasn't sure if she was following scent which had drifted over there or a jogger.  When she went steaming past the third leg without even pausing, it was clear she was on a jogger.  So Sil called me to bring her back and take her over the little road and get her back on the track.

I re-scented her and then she got to find the first article in the sand pit.  From there she made the second turn.  She really struggled with getting across the road this time.  Sil said it was probably because she was slightly off the track, so only had a few yards from the corner to the transition.  Once she did decide to cross (with a lot of encouragement), then she got to the article easily.

The rest of the third leg went well and she made the turn and drove to the next article.  When we got to the road again, she angled somewhat and went across the road at a 90º angle.  The actual track sliced the corner as the road turned.  From there Gimme picked up a diverging line, staying in the shade of the trees.  Right on the other side of the trees was a chain link fence, which Sil says is famous for pushing or pulling scent and leading the dog astray.  I don't quite understand how this can be, since chain link doesn't seem to impede airflow, but I accept Sil has seen the connection often enough for it to be part of our tracking reality. 

As Gimme passed the area of the glove, Sil had me hold her back.  When I did she caught the scent of the article, then she figured out she needed to go across the road again to get to the glove.  She was happy to get her treats, but declined to play tug.  Idiot me forgot to bring her water bottle - I set it out, but then walked off without it in the rush when everyone showed up 20 minutes late.

While this wasn't a stellar example of her abilities, I did learn some things.  First, Gimme still doesn't understand the question part of corner communication, "Is this the good track?"  Sometimes she is quite content to be off the track and lead me astray.  If she pulls hard, I follow and in these situations, she thinks this is good enough.  Second, she likely believes all hard-surface crossings are 90º.  Third, and most important, she seems to think her job is to simply go across and find the track again on the other side.  Sil recommended we back up a bit in our hard surface work, do more island hopping, and ensure she is following her nose across the gaps.  She has to get this skill or we won't be able to progress.  As it would happen, I had just read this in his manuscript the night before, in the chapter on the Canadian TDU.

So we have some work to do.  Its going to be especially important for me to know where our urban tracks are in the near future, thus they'll need to be well marked.  Then when Gimme goes out in a false direction, I can hold where I am and play out the whole line and allow her to sort out what she is smelling, without following her myself until she gets on the right track.  Gimme interprets me following her as reinforcement for what she is doing - essentially saying what she is doing is good enough.  Indeed I've known its rewarding when I follow her and I've used it purposely to reward good work.  So, now I need known tracks so I don't unintentionally reward not-so-good work. 

Sil also wants me to work urban tracks with my longer field line (40 foot).  I'd heard we could use a shorter line for urban tracks and its less likely to get caught on all the extra stuff in the urban environment, so I'd been using my 25 foot line.  He thinks it will be better for me when Gimme needs all the extra line to sort out these challenges, so I'll just have to become proficient at keeping it from getting tangled.  Fortunately the Biothane doesn't tangle as readily as some other lines.

Tomorrow was supposed to be an urban tracking day for us, but Nadine had another commitment come up and can't get out of it.  So we are going to head to Pawsabilities for a quick RallyFrEe practice.  After our last RFE practice, Kathy wants me to put a special effort into getting Gimme out and about for some quick practices of just a few minutes, focusing our efforts on attention.  A few years ago she told me she often goes to a parking lot, gets Wesley out to work briefly.  Then she puts him back in the car, drives 50 feet and does it again.  She gets three short attention practices in a parking lot this way and to the dog each time out of the car is a new location.   The other thing she wants me to focus on is tightening up Gimme's 180º turns.  I think this may be symptomatic of her 360º circles around me, which are also loose.  So I'll be working on those tomorrow as well.

BTW one thing I forgot to mention - on Saturday during some downtime, I got Gimme out for a little bit of set-up and RFE training.  She was distracted briefly, but then got right to work.  We even worked on our side-passes, which she is just learning.  I think she was so happy to have something to do, she was giving me her best effort.

Tracking Genius (31)

Last Friday we met with Nadine and her girls at Flaming Geyser park for tracking.  I got a late start leaving the house because I was doing last minute packing for the weekend.  Then I-5 was a parking lot.  So I was really late.  Nadine already had a track for us and a track for Sugar.

It was fair, with moist grass and only a light breeze.  The track was 600 yards and 1:10 old when Gimme started on it.  She did an excellent job on this track and it would have been a qualifying test.

At the first turn, Nadine told me Gimme was cutting the corner too much and had me call Gimme in and move past it.  Gimme cooperated and basically turned as soon as I let her, then she angled into the same line she'd been on and was right at the first article in no time.  The orange line is the path our interference caused her to take to get back on track.

From there she just aced the rest of the track.  In the middle of the third and fourth legs there was a meander section as Nadine went up and then down narrow paths to get off the plateau.  Gimme had no difficulty with either meander.  In fact the uphill one she was pulling so hard it was really good assistance for me to get up the hill. 

She did stall a bit at the last turn.  So I re-scented her on the sock and then encouraged her to search again.  She found the turn and drove to the end.

Given how much interference she got at the beginning, I should feel privileged she is willing to take me tracking at all.  Fortunately she is a very determined girl.  I think she is determined to teach me this tracking stuff.  She does love a good challenge.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

RFE Practice (21)

This is from last Thursday.  I continue to be pleased with the steady progress we've made since Kathy started coaching me.  I don't know if its connected, but Gimme seems to be bypassing having a false pregnancy for the first time.  At the last practice I was sure she was about to go into Mommy-brain any day, but then it hasn't materialized.

I wanted to keep the sessions shorter, but my practice partner was too challenged by using the timer on my phone and doesn't know how to use the one on her phone.  I have another timer I can set ahead and then she'll only have to push one button - if I can find it.

Session 1 video  Gimme gets focused and ready to work much quicker.  She no longer seems to need the perimeter walks - she looks around a little bit, but doesn't take her attention away from me and her distraction is less each time.  When she is briefly distracted, she'll seem to go a bit wide for a step or two, but then moves right in again.  She hasn't been very enthused about learning the up-touch, which I think is partly a fitness issue, but using the clicker made it clearer for her and then she was into it.  I'm trying to break the heeling up with other stuff here and there, but not too much.  I think one of the issues with RallyFrEe is she barely gets a stride or two before we stop again, so I try to do a fair amount of moving, then stop and do a couple of behaviors, then move some more.  And sometimes the girl just wants a hug.   I like the new game Kathy had us doing - tossing a treat and then having Gimme find "heel" or "side" while I'm moving, she's really running into position.  At the end when I ask for a "thru" and she gives me "under", I petted her - not very effective training.  Fortunately she's very patient.

Session 2 video  More good stuff.  For this and the prior session, I'm trying to add some play in.  I've never trained/rewarded with play before, so it doesn't come naturally to me.  Luckily, Gimme is willing to overlook my ineptitude.  I was pleased to see her do the simultaneous spins the very first time - its been about a year since we last worked on it, in the KathyW class.  There is one time each when I cued "heel" or "side" and she went to the opposite position and I didn't realize it.  Later on I cue them and she goes to the correct position.  Since I accepted the wrong ones, it makes me wonder if I had something in mind other than what I cued and maybe she is cuing off of something beside the verbal cue.  Still a good session.

Session 3 video   This session did not go as well.  Gimme was distracted by something right as we came in the door and it took her a long time to focus on me.  J'Anna thought it was the sound of someone using a toy in the next room over, but I didn't hear it.  I did hear a squeaky sounding small dog or puppy from the daycare room.  My plan for this session was to quickly do a corner 180 turn for each of the four corners.  I should have abandoned the plan and gone back to basics until Gimme could completely work through the distraction.  When I got our toy, I could have used it much more effectively, rather than just as a distraction from the distraction.  I should have used it to reward focus, to get her more into our game than worrying about someone else's game.  No harm done, I just don't think she learned anything there.

I'm just damned lucky to have such a patient and forgiving Empress to share my life.  Just sayin'...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Title Number 16!

I'm a bit behind in blogging about what we've been up to, but just got some news I wanted to share.

I just got an email from the International Dog Parkour Association, saying:
Thank you for participating in International Dog Parkour Association's program.  You have met the requirements for your Parkour Dog In Training Title.  Congratulations to you and Monumental A to Z High On Liberty on your Parkour Dog In Training Title!
So its official, Gimme, aka Empress of the Cosmos, has earned her 16th title!!!

Now I have to get busy setting up and collecting video's for the next level.  Gimme doesn't care about titles, she just likes doing stuff and getting well paid for her efforts.  Yaaaaay Gimme.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Parkour (4/3)

Since last week when we did the balance board against the wall, where Gimme had to tuck her butt to turn, I've had her do our 6" board a couple of times.  She's dropped the pivot/hop turn she was doing.  Just the one session against the wall and she is now tucking her butt and doing the turn (the cue will be "flip").  She's a very smart cookie.

Jo had some other obligation, so Diane was our substitute instructor.  Class was a bit challenging for Gimme because all three dogs were there.  Plus, with the way the course was set, we all spectated from the end of the room where we had our station set up.  Thus the last half of class was closer proximity than Gimme is completely comfortable with.  Still she handled it well and I was proud of her.

We started class with individual warm up.  I tend to focus more on warming up Gimme's brain, to get her thinking and responding to cues.  From there we did a session on the sway bridge, which I didn't get video for.  Gimme was very good.  I had her sit and down on the sway bridge, which is pretty challenging and for which she gets paid very well.

Sway platform video - This is Gimme's least favorite obstacle, so she gets lots of treats to make this the best place ever.  It got to where she didn't want to leave the platform.  At one point you'll see I get her off the platform and she immediately wants to go back on.

Crawl trainer video - Gimme likes the crawl trainer and is really good at scooting through it.  Too bad you can't see it better on the video.  She is awesome.  Later when we are doing it in course work, I used the peanut butter go toob, since she's headed toward other dogs and I want to make sure her mind is on getting back to me and getting paid.

We did several sequences and Gimme did well on all of them.  Sequence 1 video  She started by walking through the ladder (out of view), then forgot to listen to what I wanted her to do with the bench.  From there to the end she did well.  After the crawl trainer and before the flaps-thru, there is a cone she had to go out around.  Sequence 2 video  She did a nice job on this sequence and was very focused.  After we finished everyone was commenting about her speed-ladder (out of view).  She trotted through it very quickly. Sequence 3 video  She did equally well on this third sequence.  We have an egg-ball of our own and she's been on it many times, so she made an assumption about getting 4-on, when I asked for "hands".  I often have to remind her to use her listening ears.

Gimme continues to really enjoy parkour and is making steady progress.  I'm also loving the opportunity to work when other dogs are around, in a controlled environment.  She always sleeps contentedly most of the way home.

Birthday For Me

I spent Friday evening working on Gimme's training level Parkour title submission.  Unfortunately we were going to be well over time in the 4-on, which requires two examples (one at elbow height) in a 30 second or less video.  I have a really skewed sense of time and was making her wait way too long for 5 seconds, plus the video has to show her getting on and off the prop.  So I got up early Saturday and took her to a nearby park to film another example.  Training level title compilation video

You see in the first "table" she looks a bit uncertain and this is because a man walked by just a few seconds before this with 2 large dogs on leash.  The path they were on came pretty close to where we were working.  The other thing to notice is in her creativity, for the "hands" portion, I see the right rear foot was starting to come up, but halted when I said "yes".  So this is a good thing to know in training as we keep trying to get stimulus control between these two behaviors.  I also noticed during "box" when my Mom spoke ("box" and "walkies" were filmed at her house), my hand which was up to remind Gimme to wait, turned toward Mom - shame on me.

After we got the video title submission done, I had a quick breakfast before Glenn showed up.  My friend Bonnie recommended him to reclaim my yard.  He's a very hard worker and did tons of work.  Because he was using a brush cutting blade and Gimme has no fear of weed-eaters, I made her stay in the house all day, for her safety.  Plus the back gate was open much of the time.  We worked for 9½ hours straight.  I was helping move and sort stuff he uncovered as he removed ivy, blackberry vines and general overgrowth.  I was also working to finish clearing the stuff from the carport and to power-wash it in preparation for bringing my agility equipment home from the arena.  The yard is a work in progress, but Glenn is reasonably priced and I plan to have him do all the mowing from now on.  This means the yard won't get away from me next spring like it has each spring for the last ten years, plus I can focus my efforts on other things.

By the end of the day I was thoroughly exhausted.  It wasn't your typical birthday activity, but I'm very happy to see the progress in our yard.  I took a hot bath and soak for 2 hours, then indulged in a late night, more usual, birthday activity.  Went to see the movie Free State of Jones, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Matthew McConaughey outdid himself, easily his best acting ever.

After we finished the work and the gate was securely closed, I let Gimme out to see the changes.  Her reaction was quite comical and I sure wish I had it on video.  She trotted around, with her head on a swivel, looking here and there with a definite "Whaaaaaat happened."  Because of the ivy and blackberry overgrowth, Gimme hasn't see the back part of the yard for two years and so I'm sure she'd forgotten there was anything there.

I did it all for her...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Nosework (1/19)

We had two different types of search tonight in class.  As is often the case, there was a puzzle for the dog to solve, plus a handler challenge.

The searches in the foyer involved letting the dog work at a distance from the handler (handler had to stay behind tape on the floor except when rewarding) and for the dog to work through close converging odor.  In both searches the two odor sources were only 6 feet apart.  The hides were just under the front outer edge of the chair seat.  Gimme really was kind of over-thinking this search.  At one point early in the search her nose passed within inches of the hide on the left chair, but she was moving so fast she didn't get it.  Once she got one hide, the other quickly followed.  First search in foyer, video

The searches in the big room contained two hides.  The room was divided into thirds based on the cracks across the concrete, and numbered areas 1, 2 and 3.  For each search, Dorothy and the other instructor moved the hides, so each was a blind search and as students we could watch all the searches.  We were told which areas the hides were in and were to treat them as two separate searches.  As handlers we were to try to verbalize what we are seeing and what we think it means.  All these years I've been chastised for talking too much when my dog is working and now when I have permission, I couldn't get a word out until Dorothy asked me a question.  The puzzle for the dogs was to find source and not get fooled by lingering odor, which was plentiful.

Area 2, search 2 video  I let Gimme select her own way of searching and just tried to support her and made sure my body language wasn't selling her on lingering odor.  She spent a lot of time on the one side of the room and wasn't finding anything, so when she went toward the other side, I moved with her to encourage her choice.  From the time she moved over there to when she located odor was only 10 seconds.  I wasted 6 seconds before calling alert.  Gimme liked having a little boy there and it took me a bit to get her to leave him to do another search - she thought he should be part of her prize.

Area 3, search 3 video  This hide was inaccessible and Gimme actually located it right off the startline.  She left it and checked a couple of lingering odor options and then took herself back to it.  Dorothy wanted me to reward earlier than I chose.  I wanted to wait until Gimme made a decision and you will note she never looked at me, but then did her paw indication.  It was a nice quick search.

Foyer search 4 video  For the second foyer search, the chairs were folded and leaning against the wall, with the hides less than 4 feet apart.  As close as they were, it only took her ten seconds longer to sort out the puzzle.  I didn't register at the time the comment "she isn't wrong to look up", which was in response to my comment about how much Gimme loves high hides.  The instructor was thinking she might be following the plane of odor coming from the hides, which could be true.  But honestly she checked the same window sills when the chairs were out and the hides were about 16" lower. 

Area 2, search 5 video  Gimme had this one soooooo fast, but they wanted me to wait for more from her.  It was still a very fast search.  Don't blink!

Area 3, search 6  This was kind of a hard puzzle because the hide was very close to a lot of lingering odor.  There is a stack of skateboards next to the chair where the hide was.  There had been a hide in those skateboards about five minutes earlier.  Gimme did an awesome job sorting this out quickly.

She's sound asleep as we speak...

Urban Tracking (17)

We met last Thursday at the Auburn Cinema for some urban tracking.  The conditions were dry (no rain for a few days), cool (low 60's) and a slight breeze.  We set up a series of mini-tracks with turns away from the curb.  The tracks were about 15 minutes old.  Gimme had five of them and the layout looked like this:


We'd start with the one on the right, run the track and then arc over to the sock starting the next track.  Though not shown in this diagram, we did vary where the turn was relative to the curb, though all were in the second half.

Gimme really struggled with these.  She spent a lot of time turning into the curb and checking in the dirt and vegetation - as if expecting the track to go in the other direction.  Granted this area is often frequented by overnite RVers and their dogs, but only once did she seem to be crittering.  Once I helped her a little bit, then she put her nose down and was able to go directly to the glove. 

It seemed to me she was drawn in the direction where the slight breeze was coming from.  So after we finished our five mini-tracks, I had Nadine go ahead of us and lay another one turning toward the breeze.  Gimme nailed this one.  Of course it was only a few minutes old.

I hope to get everything packed up Thursday night, so we can leave right from our field tracking on Friday morning to head up to Bellingham and Bow.  We are entered in a TDU & VST clinic with Sil Sanders.  We will each get one track and will lay a track for someone else.

I told him I wanted: a Partial length, partial complexity TDU.  Saying: length and number of turns is not an issue; no Hard surface moment-of-truth (MOT) turn (okay with turns on hard surface at a curb, but is challenged by turns away from the curb, unless they are into the wind); 30 min or less Age in minutes or hours; an article in the middle of each leg; marked corners with chalk on hard surface; marked corners with clippies on vegetation; coaching desired; does well on pavement OR vegetation, it’s the transition she’s having trouble with.

We're waiting like the cat that ate cheese and sat breathing down the mouse hole -- with baited breath.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Parkour (3/3)

I actually got our mini-boardwalk put up last weekend - its 6" wide.  My plan is to work this until Gimme is completely comfortable walking and turning on it, then will take a saw to it and just trim down ¼ inch at a time until we are at the width she needs.  Gimme's approach to doing the "flip" (180º turn) is to pivot on her forehand, while hopping her back feet around.  She doesn't always get it and I'm not sure its a good habit to get into.  I want to catch it on video and then post it to the Parkour list to see what the experts think.

I left home by 4:00 and got to class in a reasonable drive, with a little bit of time left over for some manuscript review.  Class was great, as always.  One person wasn't there, so it was only us and the young BC mix.  Jo had us start with some warm up, so I used the time to review stimulus control between "hands" and "table" for Gimme. 

In class the first thing we worked on was a balance beam against the wall.  Balance beam against the wall video #1  The dogs have to learn how to tuck their butts under to turn, since the wall is in the way.  And, of course, since its low, they see no reason why they shouldn't put feet on the ground to make the turn.  I treated her the first couple of times even though her feet went on the ground, but then didn't unless she could do it with her feet up.  Gimme didn't seem to understand what the heck I wanted, so Jo had me block Gimme so she couldn't put her feet on the ground and then support her with the harness.  To motivate her to want to get turned around, I put a pile of cheese on the board behind her.  Of course, being brilliant, she thought it would be much simpler to back up on the board until the cheese was no longer behind her.  She did much better for the second session.  Watch her and you'll see her getting the idea to lower her bum.  Balance beam against the wall video #2
For much of class, Jo had us do sequences.  She adds on things and changes the route.  Of course by this time Gimme had forgotten all about stimulus control, thinking "why go behind or below when you can get on".  Sequence 1 video  I am always amazed by how quickly Gimme catches on.  Lure her through something once and she pretty much has it from then on, such as going through the sheet.  Through a sheet video  Then we repeated the exercise and had them go through in a different way.  More through video

We did more sequences and Gimme did well.  She remembered what she learned before and wasn't the least bit concerned by the rolling barrel.  Sequence 2 video  Gimme did a nice job on her next sequence too, though she momentarily forgot about going behind the chairs.  Sequence 3 video  You can't see the first part of this video on a balance beam, where she must stop, "sit" and "down".  Sequence 4 video  Jo added bars behind the chairs in the through at the beginning and a box was added under bench to make it a tighter "below". Gimme did much better "sit" and "down" on the balance beam you can't see.  She did an excellent "hands" on low item she'd done "table" on before.  I forgot to have her pivot.  As it turned out we never really got the pivot, since we've been working on "dumbo" ("spin" on a prop).  Plus it was hard because of the distracting noise from agility part of building.  Sequence 5 video

We ended with training Tic Tacs.  The other team used a toy and once Gimme heard it squeak, she was all about wanting to have his toy.  She thinks all toys are hers.  I got her somewhat interested in another toy and got some play there.  Then for the second session I got SkinnySquirrel from the car.  She wasn't as interested in him (tonight I'm seeing some evidence he may be the baby this time around), so we went back to the other toy.  Tic Tac video  For the third session (not on video) I used her peanut butter and it worked well.  I think next week I'll make sure I have some raw steak to toss for Tic Tac work.  I have a TicTac board made for her, just need to add traction strips to it.  Unfortunately there's a bunch of chaos going on, so probably won't get it done before the next class.

Gimme really likes Parkour and is always very content on the way home.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Nosework (6/18)

We had a two week break from classes while Dorothy and the other instructor went to the big annual nosework camp.  Sadly I forgot to take my camera last night, so no video.

Class was about "odor bombs" - about 30 q-tips.  The dogs are used to searching for a tin with 3-5 q-tips.  So when there is so much odor, they have to learn what it means and how to work it.  Think of it like being around a person who wears waaaaaay too much perfume or cologne. Luckily for humans after a certain point, we don't smell it anymore.  It takes a very long time for a dog to go nose-blind to a smell, like hours.

We started with a vehicle search - 3 vehicles and 1 odor bomb. Gimme quickly eliminated the blue truck as part of the search.  It didn't seem to take her any time at all to decide it was on the white trailer.  It was inaccessible between and behind the two tires (on an axle).  I was pretty certain it was the trailer, but Gimme kept leaving it.  She checked out the white van's front bumper and near tire.  She went around the trailer a twice more and kept wanting to check out stuff nearby which wasn't part of the search.  At first I thought she was goofing off, but I belatedly realized she was really trying to avoid so much odor.  I think she was trying to figure out a way to get paid without getting her face near the bomb. 

For the second search, they added another bomb on the wheel of the van and brought the first bomb out so it was accessible too.  This time Gimme didn't avoid the bombs as much as before.  It probably helped she was very motivated to get more raw steak - just sayin...  She found the bomb on the van first and then went to the other.  She was more reluctant for it than for the other, but still got in and indicated much faster than before.

Our last search was in the training building.  Two odor bombs at opposite ends of the room and one regular hide.  The front bomb was in an expen and the other was in an airline crate.  The regular hide was in a floor crack between them.

Gimme found the bomb in the crate at the far end of the room first, but didn't indicate.  She went around checking other things before going back to it.  Then she found the bomb in the expen at the front of the room, but again didn't indicate.  From there she got the hide in the floor crack and then went to indicate the bomb in the expen. 

I can't say she particularly likes odor bombs.  I get it, I don't like people who wear too much perfume or cologne.  I find it intrusive.

Dorothy shared something she learned at camp about odor bombs in the real world.  There was a time when drug sniffing dogs had difficulty with detecting drugs.  It was because the drug pushers learned to ship huge amounts and it had the effect of an odor bomb.  The dogs would avoid it.  They had to be trained for this circumstance so they knew how to react.  We won't see an odor bomb at a trial until we get into Elite.

Gimme says she wants to be trained on a steak-odor-bomb.  She got steak last night because I got a super good deal on some steak.  I did a side-by-side test with peanut butter to see which Gimme preferred.  It was pretty clear she still likes peanut butter best, but was able to leave it for a brief moment to grab the steak in my open hand.  She was very excited by the raw steak as a reward, but we know dogs are attracted to novelty.

Urban Tracking (16)

Sorry I'm so far behind in blogging.  Too much to do and too little time.

We met last Thursday at Auburn's Game Farm Park.  Our last time there Gimme's track was unintentionally aged too much, so we made sure it was only 35 minutes this time.  The weather was just perfect - overcast, pleasantly cool with a very slight breeze.

I'd bought golf tees to mark corners, since you can't see them until you are within a couple feet of them and if we lose a few, no big deal.  Plus we don't have to worry about them being an issue for park mowers.

This track is nothing complicated. The two rectangles at the start are two large cement blocks.  The track started in an outdoor amphitheater and immediately went through an area with a lot of mole hills. 

Gimme was completely unconcerned about the moles.  However she was fascinated by the squirrels.  We figure there are 3 squirrels per tree and at least a hundred trees.  They are everywhere.  Gimme is convinced squirrels are just rats with better tails.  The squirrels proved to be a very big challenge for her and its going to take awhile for her to learn they aren't part of this game.  Her best part of this track was crossing the sidewalk, which is sometimes a challenge.  She did well on leg 3 and leg 4, which were out in the open and so may have had less squirrel contamination.  The last leg took us back into the trees.  The final article grew legs and walked away, so Nadine reminded me to toss an article "ahead" of where Gimme was, when she wasn't looking. 

Gimme was relieved to find the final glove, but she really thinks she should get a better-tail-rat for her efforts.  Tomorrow we are meeting at Auburn Cinema for more urban tracking, then next week will be a field tracking week.  The weekend of July 16/17 we will be up in Bellingham for an urban tracking seminar.  Cross your fingers we do better tomorrow without so many better-tail-rat challenges.