August 28, Day 2 - On Sunday morning we met at the Barkley Village cinema for an urban tracking session. Since we have been having problems with Gimme rushing across the gaps and then looking for the track on the other side (which will be no help when we get to moment-of-truth turns), I asked Sil on Saturday what I should do. He suggested putting treats down in the gaps to get her nose down.
Knowing how she will "go visual" in an instant, I knew I couldn't use white cheese against dark pavement. So I bought a package of beef jerky and cut it into small squares the night before. It was really kinda funny - as many things are with my girl. As I cut it up, I gave her the occasional piece. Then I decided to take the package out to the car right then, so I wouldn't forget in the morning. Gimme was laying on the bed watching me. As I picked up the package, her ears perked up. Then when I started to open the door, clearly taking the jerky with me, her mouth dropped open in a classic look of astonishment. I really wish I had a picture.
Island Hopping with jerky treats in the gaps video - I didn't think about it at the time, but in the video, you can see Gimme was a bit distracted right at the start. She got into the game and did well from there to the end. At the last gap, she assumed it would go straight across and then had to back track and find the scent. I did notice most of the time she'd eat the first 2 of 3 treats which were laid down spaced across the gap and then just bypass the last treat to get to the curb. So in the future, we'll just lay a treat at ¼ and ½. No sense overfeeding the crows.
Sports field with intentional contamination video - The plan for the afternoon was to do intentional contamination tracks on sports fields. Since Gimme had done the start and corner contamination before, I wanted to do it again, expecting her to ace it. Boyoh was I wrong.
She started well, stopped to pee and then got to the first article without a problem. From there she struggled. The first contamination was at the start, but she didn't have a problem with it. The next was right after the mid-leg article on the first leg. I could see the corner flag, so I knew what was contamination and what wasn't. When I wouldn't go with her she came up, laid down in the soft grass and said, "I quit". I tickled the grass a bit to encourage her interest and then she started out again. She struggled with the "slice" contamination at the first corner, but finally got through it and happily found the next mid-leg article. She had more difficulty with the next "sliced" corner, but with encouragement got through it and on to the next article. She actually did quite well with the third "bisected" corner and enjoyed another article find. You can see then she is less enthusiastic about going on. I encouraged her to keep going and she finally worked out the fourth corner, again "bisected". She seemed to be doing well, but then got sucked in by the contamination leading her to the big tree. Then there was some pee-mail. She did decide to get back on the track and soon came upon the final article.
She is normally much more focused than this and had very little trouble with intentional contamination at corners when we did this exercise a few months ago, so I chalked it up to her hormonal condition. I've been trying to understand why her tracking is affected during this false pregnancy, when she's never had a problem with any nose-oriented behavior before. After thinking about it, I think its because we ran out of the flower essence remedies and I delayed getting them made up. I have the recipes and make them myself, but sterilizing the bottles is a big convoluted process for me. Normally I start the false pregnancy remedy about a month after her season ends, but I didn't this time, plus she wasn't getting her two other remedies for several weeks. The false pregnancy remedy helps within a week, but one of the others takes 3-4 weeks to see results. So I think her being off it too long contributed to the difficulty she was having, especially since it seemed to be a focus issue. I'm going to buy a baby bottle sterilizer to I don't delay again.
Often we have to find ways to intensify scent so we can make a learning task easier for the dog without "help" or "hints" coming directly from us. There are four main ways to intensify scent, they are:
- Scent in a bottle - soaking handler's used t-shirt (not having been washed with bleach) in water (well water) , then putting it in a sprayer and spraying it on the ground as the track is laid.
- Hydration - spraying plain water (from a well) on the ground as the track is laid.
- Sandals or bare feet - leaves more scent than feet in shoes.
- Hand swipes - swiping the hand on the ground (preferred) or a raised surface can be a help as well.