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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

RFE practice (45)

J'Anna had set up an intermediate level course-from-hell, which means it has a ton of the hard intermediate behaviors. She assures me you only see 2 or 3 intermediate behaviors in an actual titling course, so I entered for the West 1 Regional. We got the course the other day and while she is right, there are only 3 intermediate behaviors - two of them are ones we haven't mastered.

Session 1 video - I brought in our brick and special bowl (which I didn't ever use). I warmed Gimme up doing "pivot" on the brick. I had also set up our guides to work on "izzy", her clockwise back around me, which is one of the behaviors we don't have mastered for filming this Thursday. It was getting better, but has since fallen apart again. I am thinking I want to try free-shaping from a back-chaining approach. It is the end she has the most difficulty with and where she tends to turn around and try making it into "otto" (counter-clockwise). We also practiced sidepass toward me. Of course our West 1 course has a sidepass away, which we'd never even tried, but am making progress on it.

Session 2 video - This time I started with a refresher on backing up in "heel" position. From there we went straight into working the course. Ignoring a butt lick, a stepped on foot, misreading the course and a few other flaws, it went pretty good. Especially since we haven't done much course work in recent months. I realized later her reluctance to getting all four on J'Anna's prop was back discomfort. She had chiropractic later in the day and he said it was probably a factor.

Session 3 video - This time we started right off doing the course. Gimme was a little distracted by background noise, but overall she did well.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Parkour (7/7)

We had the substitute instructor. She had some interesting exercises for us.

Bridging practice video - We were to take two props and then teach our dog to get on one and then step just their front feet onto the other prop. Naturally Gimme thought this was easy peasy. It was so easy for her, I tried to get her to "bacon" from one to another. I haven't even taught her to back along a prop yet, so we didn't get anywhere with it. She just didn't have any idea what I was asking her to do. Doing it on the two oil pans was only partially successful. She could walk onto them, but if she stepped off, then trying to get her back feet on again made them move too easily until they were too far apart.

Backing corner practice video - We each had a channel to back through, with a corner in it. Gimme did really well the first direction, her easiest direction. All it took was a couple of tries for her to figure out what I wanted. Then we added backing through the channel without walking in first and lastly, removing panels. The second direction was harder for her, because she isn't as confident backing clockwise, but she did get it before we were done. We didn't get nearly as far clockwise, but it was a good opportunity to reinforce what we are working on for RFE ("izzy" backing clockwise around me). I can't decide if she was offering "hands" because she thought I wanted it or because she was frustrated.

Distance sequence 1 video - Here our goal was to get them to go out around the dividers and do "thru" the barrel. Gimme did a lot of distance work in agility, so this was easy for her. Gimme did things so well and easily, so she didn't get as many turns, but she got more time at once so she could show off.

Distance sequence 2 video - This time was the same sequence, but with a "box" to get in. Easy peasy. Gimme pretty much thinks she invented this stuff.

Distance sequence 3 video - This time was to a table, which was snagging the leash, so I took it off her. It makes me really uncomfortable to have her off leash with other dogs around, but she did well while she was working. She briefly started to go toward another dog after we finished working, but before I got her leash on. Fortunately she came back immediately when I said her name.

This was a fun class - the best one we've had with the substitute instructor.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nosework (6/25)

The idea for the first three searches (done back-to-back) was to take one trip around each vehicle and be able to say whether there was or was not a hide on it. I thought this would be harder than it was.

Vehicle 1 video - I must be learning to read Gimme (finally!) because I knew whether there was or was not a hide on the vehicle about halfway around. Even losing a couple seconds for me stopping to respond to questions, Gimme still had this done in 55 seconds.

Vehicle 2 video - Gimme did a lovely job on these, finding 2 hides in 51 seconds. She really didn't waste any time. Had we not been doing this exercise, I think she would have found the hide on the lift truck first.

Vehicle 3 video - Within 8 seconds into this search, I knew Gimme would be taking me to the other side to find the hide. I can't tell you what I saw, but I do remember thinking it. I've never understood why they want me to reward Gimme just for being in the vicinity of a hide, so I just don't do it. She's an experienced dog and this isn't a tough hide, so I want to see her to make a decision. Do note as we are coming up between the two vehicles and searching the second one, Gimme gives me a look clearly saying "And we are searching this one... why?" (at 1:13) I was sure then, but still waited for her to dismiss it from the other side because the direction of the breeze had changed.

The second set of searches, again back-to-back, had three vehicles with two hides. As handlers we were to say whether we thought the hides were accessible or inaccessible. This is a nebulous definition. Unless the dog can get their nose right up close to the hide, then I think its inaccessible. Since hides are placed so we can't see them, we have to go based on the dog's behavior. So if Gimme is really quick sourcing the hide, I say its accessible. If she takes her time sourcing the hide, I call it inaccessible.

Vehicle 4 video - Watching these on video, they were probably both accessible, but at the time I wasn't sure, so I called them inaccessible. Gimme initially wasn't interested in the third vehicle, but do note how Gimme humors me making a thorough search of it even though she knew there was nothing there.

Vehicle 5 video - Nice search and very direct. I would say Gimme seemed to like the speed in which we were doing these searches, i.e. no more than 30 seconds to make a decision. She could detail a specific area to find source beyond the 30 seconds, but I had to have made a decision at 30 seconds.

An interesting and fun class.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Urban Tracking (36) and Field (41)

On Thursday Nadine and I met at Auburn Cinema. Gimme had the exact same tracks as before. Two tracks of 75 and 100 yards, 5 yard drops, 45 minutes age, cool and damp.

Gimme did a decent job of it, though not as precise as her last track. She missed several drops. At times it seemed she was going too fast to bother and at other times it seemed the treats weren't worth bothering over. I usually use beef jerky and Nadine either uses my jerky or uses her Chinese pork. This time she laid the track while I was still driving in (traffic was unbelievably bad) and used some commercial treats. Gimme ate them, but I didn't get the feeling she was impressed with them.

On Saturday I met Jon and Stella to track at Flaming Geyser. Stella and I both laid tracks at the same time. Since Gimme has her TD and Heidi doesn't, we ran Heidi first so her track was the younger one. She had some difficulty getting started and as a short little Cocker Spaniel, I don't think she cared for the really tall-thick grass. Happily, once she did get started, she did well.

Gimme's track was 415 yards, cool weather (about 62º), wet grass and 65 minutes old. We had a start sock, end article and an article midway in every leg except the last leg.

Gimme was on fire and really thought we should run the whole thing at top speed. I ran with her for short bits from time to time, just to make her happy. However, even if I could run full tilt for a quarter mile, I wouldn't in this terrain. She was pulling really hard and was very enthusiastic. Under these conditions it must have seemed like a scent freeway compared to the urban work we've been focusing on.  Getting a really fun track like this is good motivation for the girl.

We did have one little snafu at turn 3. The actual turn was 90º to the left, but Gimme only turned 45º left. She was pulling hard and steady, so I had no reason to think she was misbehaving. However, when she stopped briefly at a Ziploc freezer bag full of luncheon meat (red dot) and then kept going with another slight turn (dashed line)... I began to get suspicious. I knew there was another team tracking on the adjacent field and I thought maybe our tracks had overlapped and they were leaving meat baggies in lieu of articles. Now I think Gimme got to a point where she was circling at the corner and then got a whiff of the luncheon meat. Once she found it, she wanted to continue down their track to see what other presents they might have left for her.

Of course Stella ruined Gimme's little plan and called us back to the track. Once back on our track and re-scented... Gimme harrumphed "Dang, foiled again", and then motored down our track to the next article, right turn and then ending at a glove. She was paid heartily for those valid finds.  I let her eat every last treat from my pouch at the last glove, to give her added motivation to find our last glove.

Clearly we have to work through the distraction of baggies full of luncheon meat and other appealing goodies. If we don't, she could easily be lured from her work by a half-eaten sandwich left in the bushes on a college campus. Just sayin...

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Parkour (6/7)

The weather was unseasonably warm, in the mid-eighties.  Gimme repeatedly told me she was thirsty by going to an empty bowl in the building and trying to lead me outside to where the other bowl usually resides.  I ended up taking her out to the car to get her bowl and a coconut water.  She drank it down like she hadn't had a big bowl of water before we left home.  After class she got another coconut water before we headed home.  It was her day to pretend she's a camel.

Sequence 1 video - This was a simple little sequence starting with the narrow 6" boardwalk, then over the barrel onto the wider boardwalk, "flip" and then back to the beginning. There was a little table on either side of the barrel, so it wasn't too hard getting onto the next board walk regardless of its width.

Sequence 2 video - The idea here was to do "hands", "table", "thru", "out" (around the little blue chair now obscured by the bench in the foreground), then back to the beginning. The goal is to do the "out" without stepping over the boardwalk. We tried several times, but never could achieve the send. I tried tossing a treat, but the cheese stuck to my hand. I actually have a barrel, so we can practice this exact send. 

Sequence 3 video - This easy platform jumping sequence had such a small space between them, there was no jumping needed. Another goal was to have the dogs pause on each platform.

Sequence 4 video - These were a little farther apart, but still easily doable.

Sequence 5 video - These were even farther apart. Gimme starts out well, but then on the last segment decides she can't do it. I don't know why she suddenly couldn't do it, but after several tries, we ended without a reward. I have some unfinished platforms at home and when they are done we'll work on this, making the increase in spacing more gradual. Another option is to place a jump between them to encourage jumping.

Sequence 6 video - Here we put the three short sequences together into one sequence. We still had difficulty with sending to an "out". It's just something we'll have to work on.

Sequence 7 video - This short sequence was easy peasy for Gimme. Going up the boardwalk to the scaffold against the wall is challenging because it feels crowded, but Gimme quickly figured this out a long time ago. Her biggest challenge was keeping all four feet in the "box". She doesn't get her treat until she gets all four in, but it still remains a challenge.

Sequence 8 video - Here we added another segment to the sequence. We did a little better with my treat-tossing strategy to get the send to an "out", but then my timing was off, so she jumped onto the little table instead of returning through the barrel.

In watching this, I'm struck by Gimme's bit of reluctance to get all four feet onto the little stool. This hasn't been an issue before, but it did seem to be an issue this night. I'm thinking of this along with her sudden inability to jump from one platform to another and wondering if there is something more to this. It may be that she was experiencing some discomfort with the jumping, especially since she was jumping from a stand still and needing to land in a stop, as opposed to a jump in the context of multiple strides. In any case she has a chiropractor appointment scheduled for next Thursday. I'm making a mental note to not push her to do anything next Wednesday if she shows reluctance.

Sequence 9 video - Here we were to practice something with backing up. I chose to use a baby tunnel on its end, just because it would be a little weird. She did fine at it, though I do note a tendency to back through it and not stop with her back feet in and follow with her front feet. This may also be happening if she is having an issue with discomfort.  I'm sure glad we have an appointment scheduled.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Nosework (5/25)

The class focus was on endurance, so we only had two searches, both of which were really long. It was also pretty hot, about 80º.

Exterior 1 video - Gimme was going pretty fast off the startline and missed the threshold hide. She passed the second hide, but turned back to it on her own. She also overran the hide on the corner of the building, but came right back to it. There is another hide high on the building, about 6 feet before the drain spout (white), but Gimme gets caught in the scent of the rock hide. There was a hide about halfway up on the side of the dirt mound and it takes Gimme a verrrrry long time to find it. This was surprising to me, since she's gone up those mounds many times when there was nothing there and it was like she didn't believe there could be anything there. I wish the instructor had either moved closer or used the zoom, since you really can't see what was going on. It was amazing for her to get the wall hide from so far away and then she goes wide to the right side (past the rock hide) and then takes us back down to the mound area. She really checks all around the area and goes halfway up several times, before she finally goes straight up to it. She finds the threshold hide on the way out. This search lasted almost 6 minutes. 

Interior 1 video - There are four hides in this room - all inaccessible - in the stacks of chairs. Gimme worked for over 9 minutes, steadily. At one point she does find a ball and considers playing with it, but then left it on her own to go back to searching. The short stack of metal chairs against the wall is the easiest to find and the first one Gimme indicates, 5 minutes into this search. The tall stack against the far wall is the hardest for all the dogs. Based on watching Gimme when she's at the far end of the room, you know the hide is high - she's air-scenting high-headed and when she sniffs stuff, she's sniffing high on the stuff. I'm sure this is the longest search she's ever done and you can see she never gives up and is determined throughout to solve the puzzle.

When the instructor got out the smoke generator, we discovered all these hides, the scent was going straight up. The smoke disappears after a couple feet, but we figure it went up to a certain level and then spread out on a plane before falling down on other things. This is consistent with how all the dogs searched the area.  We think the heat on the roof was drawing the scent up.

After all this, Gimme slept soundly all the way home and then for several hours more.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Urban Tracking (34 & 35)

On Friday, Nadine and I met at Game Farm Park for tracking. She laid a track for Gimme with lots of changes of surface and transitions. It was more than I really wanted, but none of them were too hard. The biggest problem was track age. If we both lay tracks for the other at the same time, then one of the dogs will get an older track. Since Cricket has more difficulty with urban, she usually goes first which means Gimme's track is older. I think next time I'm going to wait to start laying Cricket's track until I see Nadine coming back, then we can get the timing better for both of them.

This time Gimme's track was 1:05. She can do this age with many surfaces, but she's only done 45 minutes for hard surfaces (there were 3 different kinds), so it made this a very hard track.

Cricket's big challenge on her track was all the squirrels - she is really vermin obsessed. Gimme saw a squirrel on her track and stopped to watch it for a moment and when it scampered off she went on tracking. This week we are going to teach Cricket the Look-at-That game. I'm hoping it will work since the punitive method Nadine is using doesn't seem to be working. Given how soft her dogs are, it's not the right answer for them (not that I think it would be the right answer for any dog).

On Saturday, I laid more straight tracks in the Shopko and Burlington parking lots. The temperature was right at 60º and I aged them to exactly 45 minutes. The tracks were 70, 100 and 125 yards. I set food drops every 5 yards. She really motored down these tracks nicely. I saw she was more distractible about halfway through the third track. She could either have been tired or someone may have driven over her track (maybe more than once).  I could have adjusted some factors, but since her last two tracks were frustrating, I wanted to make sure this one was motivating for her.

We meet Nadine on Thursday for urban tracking at the Auburn Cinema and on Saturday we're meeting Jon and Stella at Flaming Geyser for some field tracking. It's supposed to be drizzling and cool both days, so it should be ideal tracking weather.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

RFE practice (44)

We are getting ready to enter an intermediate level RallyFrEe video trial; so much of what we did today was to get ready. We still have some behaviors we need to learn and some to tune up.

Session 1 video - We started with a couple of setups to warm up Gimme's brain. Her "side" is weaker than "heel", so I do try to spend more time there. I even try to give her the bicycle PB in "side" most of the time, to increase the value for being there. I started working on backing up in "side" position, but it's not as clear for her as it is in "heel", so we usually end up using a target. I have her doing it at home without a target, but it's not strong enough to do elsewhere. 

On the course, the second sign is for the position behind me, which we call "fanny", followed by the third sign where she walks behind me. We had just started learning this the other night. Part of the cue will be when I put my hands on my hips. The idea is for me to feed her from either or both hands, randomly, hoping she will stay more centered. This is the first time we've tried to do it outside my living room, so she really did fine. I thought we'd already worked every possible spin or circle variation, but apparently not. Still Gimme very quickly picked up the "around" with me turning the opposite direction. After our free choice with her pivoting 360º in "center" position I messed up and put her on the wrong side. We haven't done "otto" in awhile (though she sometimes offers it), so it took her a moment to be clear I was really asking for it.

After we finished the course we practiced backing up in "side" position. I was concerned she might be thinking any time I stopped she was to back up, but such was not the case.

Session 2 video - I started with some more backing up in "side" position. I find she gets it better if I heel across the target and then stop and back up to it. She's getting it - I just need to practice it more. This, the "fanny" behaviors and "izzy" need the most work.

On the course, on the far corner, I was confused about which side she was supposed to be in and thought it was wrong when it wasn't. I did do it wrong the time before and hadn't realized it. Fortunately Gimme doesn't care how confused I get as long as I pay well. Then follows a big discussion with J'Anna, which I've edited out. J'Anna sometimes gets to watching us and forgets to keep us in the viewfinder. You just can't get good free help these days!

The point at which I took her by the collar, there were two loose standard poodles right outside our ring gate. The person was getting a tour of the facility and I wanted to be sure what was going to happen next. She used to do a lovely forehand "pivot" on props, but nowadays it's all about backing up. If I decide to use it as a free choice move, I'll have to bring in our brick prop. We ended with a bit of "izzy" practice, but it really begs the use of guides. I've set it up with chairs before and that is workable.

Session 3 video - Before I went out to get Gimme, I set up the chairs and ring gates to form a small space to work "izzy" in. The key thing to getting this to work right is to do my shifting in the right order and timeliness... clearly I wasn't getting my part correct right away. We got some good ones, but I finally decided to create another side to our guide. I need to pack one of my extra guide sets in the car so I'll have it when I need it. She first learned stepping to her right with her back feet, so she's very good at that. I waited far too long to teach her the other direction. We worked on it until she got a couple of good repetitions and then moved on.

She does a pretty good job on the course. Do note at the end how ready she was to do "take-a". When it comes to bowing at the end, she learns the pattern very quickly. Then we end with a bit more backing up in "side".

From there she spends the rest of the day in the van while I visit my Mom and then do a long shopping trip in the wholesale Costco in Fife. Gimme is always eager to get home after any outing, but especially after a long day in the van.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Nosework (4/25)

The layout was exactly the same as two weeks ago, containers inside a circle of containers, times three. This time the boxes were on chairs. I didn't see the circles this time, I think because the chairs were facing every which way, so it had a more chaotic look.

Container 1 video - Gimme has seen containers on chairs before, both in class and in element trials. She actually sniffs the second hide she comes to, but then moves on. Dorothy makes the point about how elevating the containers changes the scent picture for the dog, so they may not recognize it right away. Overall she did a lovely job, finding all three in 1 minute.

Container 2 video - Dorothy moved the hides and Gimme was even faster. She seems to think this is a lot of fun.

Interior 1 video - This time Dorothy removed all the boxes, putting the hides on the chairs. Gimme finds the first hide pretty fast and the second hide shortly thereafter. Then she gets a little stuck and has to check out the rest of the room... and even the boxes on the shelving unit, as if she thought it might be in a box. Then again, as Dorothy mentions, odor hadn't been sitting very long. Gimme was the first dog for every search in this class, so the hides didn't have very long to cook which adds to the challenge. I don't know why the one hide was so much more challenging than the others, but she's seriously working the problem (i.e. not goofing off) so I'm sure there was something different she needed to work through.

Mixed search 1 video - This time there were 2 box hides and 1chair hide, so I think of it as a mixed search, though I suppose it's really an interior search, since there could be boxes in an interior and it's possible a hide could be slipped in one. Gimme found the two box hides quickly, but it took her a little longer on the chair hide. It was a respectable time of 1:25.

It was an interesting class, as always. I love the clever ideas Dorothy has for searches. Even though we never go on field trips, she manages to expose our dogs to a huge variety of search experiences, which is key to success.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Parkour (5/7)

Jo set up a low platform in the middle of a circle of  8 props, which were: bucket, carwash, box, barrel, jump, jump upright, table and bench. Each sequence we had a different task. Sorry you can't see it all, I had to have the camera out on the floor and didn't realize I didn't get the angle right.

Sequence 1 video - For this first sequence we were to start on the platform in the middle and do each prop one at a time, then return to the platform before going on to the next. It was challenging to get the presentation right for some of them.

Sequence 2 video - This time we just went around the ring doing each behavior in turn, which goes really fast. You'll see Gimme does "hands" then steps across the prop doing "table" as I'm trying to move her around it and onto the next prop. I really have to move her away in a larger way to prevent this.

Sequence 3 video - This time we repeat the first sequence and follow it immediately with the second sequence. Since we've just done a fast trip around, the challenge is to have the dog respond to cues and not just assume it's another speed circle. You'll see how I pull her away after doing "hands", to prevent her from stepping across the prop.

Sequence 4 video - The challenge here was to do props in pairs across from each other. It wasn't hard to do physically.  The hard part was keeping it straight in your head.

Sequence 5 video - The task for our last sequence was to use each prop in a different way. Naturally I chose to use this sequence to show off Gimme's backing up skill on every prop. Everyone thinks she's amazing and would make a very heroic action figure. Her special power will give her the ability to get really close to the bad guys while they think she is moving away - truly a very special power. There are plenty of action figures for boys and a few for girls. It's about time there was one for dogs, doncha think...

This next Wednesday is a skip week for us. Gimme will be disappointed to miss class, but I welcome the extra time in my week.

Linda and Ron just moved and before they left they gave me a nice couch and loveseat, almost new. They are currently outside, between the house and carport, covered in sheets and a tarp. I have some guys who will be moving them in and the old stuff out on Friday and I have a lot of decluttering to do before then. The forecast shows sprinkles on Thursday and Friday, but I hope the forecasters are as wrong as they usually are.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Nosework (3/25)

I forgot to take my camera, so I just have a description of our three searches.

The first search was 14 boxes lined up behind the building, with 4 hides. The wind was strong, 6-8 mph. There was some light trash behind the building and it was swirling around and up in the air as the dogs were searching. It was really interesting to see what the air current was doing. All the dogs did well on the search, though Gimme seemed to have the most fun with it. She enjoyed getting paid for finding the hides again on the way back to the start.

The second search was 2 vehicles and 3 hides. We got to pick where to place the hides. There was one on the bumper, one on the stabilization leg (inaccessible and likely to have scent show up on the far side of the truck). The third hide was in a back wheel, aligned with the stabilization leg. We alternated the dogs' start position from left side to right side. Gimme was last. Based on how the dogs searched, the front bumper was the easiest. Then the stabilization leg and finally the dogs would get the back wheel. Both of the not-bumper hides were locations I suggested.

Gimme started from the right side.  She went around the near front bumper, straight to the back wheel hide (pale green line). She was the only one to get it first. I saw her tip her nose toward the bumper hide. She started back to the front and then turned back, reading the front tire (pale blue). She went up and down the side until she settled on the hide location. From there she went around the front of the other vehicle (lavender) to the far side, sniffing briefly before coming to the bumper hide. She was really very fast.

The third search was a submerged hide in one of six water bowls. Gimme charged into the area so fast she went right by the hide, then quickly circled right back to it.

Dorothy said she thought it looked like Gimme enjoyed searching in the wind. I think this may be true. She is talented and experienced enough to not be confused by it and I think the way it pushes odor to her is exciting. I believe it may be a little bit like the high dogs get from sticking their heads out a car window.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Urban Tracking (31-33)

I decided to drop back quite a ways in our urban tracking to straight tracks on hard surface, but with no curbs. In fact, I'm trying to stay away from curbs and greenery - sort of going cold turkey on weaning away from Gimme's reliance (preference) on them. I know she is capable of tracking on hard surfaces without them, but she knows they work and its natural for her to gravitate to what she knows and is comfortable with. Thus the cold turkey approach.

Last Saturday (5/20) - I laid her two straight tracks in the big rig parking lot behind my Shopko account. The first was 100 yards and the other 75 yards, with drops every five yards, aged to 40 minutes and the weather was neither warm or cool. For the first track Gimme was all over the place, only coming in to the track when she caught the scent of a food drop (beef jerky).

We walked along some vegetation on our way to the second stop and Gimme showed me she really wanted to track there. I brought her out to the start sock and she was happy to get paid for it, then went over to a curb around a light pole, about 20 feet away. I let her check it and then encouraged her to come toward me and didn't give her enough line to get back there. She started her all-over-the-place approach and then caught her first scent of jerky. She continued going back and forth (much checking of bits and pieces of parking lot trash), until she'd catch the jerky scent and come in to get it. Finally for the last 30 yards it was like a lightbulb went on and she started following right on the track and scooping up the treats. Woohoooo!

I talked to Sil about it (via email) and he recommended repeating the exercise until she was comfortable and reliable at following these tracks. He said they are comparable to U2.x in the new book (still a manuscript, which I'm reviewing for him). He has developed a really exciting and thorough program to get you and your dog all the way to a VST. I am continually amazed at some of the creative ideas he uses, woven neatly into his usual methodical approach. If you are into tracking, Modern Enthusiastic Tracking, is a must have for your training library.

On Thursday (5/25) - we met Nadine and her girls at the Auburn Cinema. I asked Nadine to lay us the same 75 & 100 yard tracks, aged the same, and again with drops every 5 yards. Right as we were about to go run the track, Nadine laid a 30 yard warm-up track, with drops every 5 yards and no age. We ran it as soon as she finished and Gimme had a great time.

From there we went over and ran the other tracks. Gimme did sooooo much better. She mostly stayed right with the track following her nose along and getting all those goodies. It was so exciting to see her getting into the game. Of course, she did sometimes have to go check out some piece of parking lot trash and would then have to check another and another. When I reminded her with "C'mon Gimme, let's track-on"... she'd give me her "Oh yeahhhh" look and would then come right back to the track and go back to work.  I wasn't reminding her where the track was, so she clearly knew all along.

I don't know if the practice track was the reason she did so much better or whether it was just latent learning from 5 days before. Either way, it was quite exciting.

Today, Saturday (5/27) - I laid her another series in the Shopko rear parking lot and one more in the far end of Burlington's parking lot. We had three tracks of 75, 100 and 125 yards. I spaced the food drops at 7½ yards and aimed for 40 minutes in age. The age turned out to be 45 minutes by the time someone finished dawdling at her potty break.

Gimme did not do as well as she had on Thursday, though she was much better than last Saturday. I realized right away it was just a lot warmer than before. When I got back to the car the temp read in at 68º, but the car was parked in the shade. By the time we got to where we go walking, it was saying 75º. I figure down at nose level, closer to the asphalt in direct sun it was likely 80-85º.

In hindsight, I should have accounted for the heat. Temperature is not a factor I can control directly, but I certainly could have gotten there earlier while it was still cooler. Otherwise, I could have adjusted the other factors which are more directly under my control - treat spacing, age and length. I could have kept the drop spacing the same 5 yards from the week before. I could have reduced the aging a bit since warm/hot asphalt dries out and disperses scent molecules faster. I could also have opted for shorter tracks.

Now that we are into summer (finally) I'll have to start taking weather seriously and factoring it into our tracking plans. It got to a high of 85º today and Gimme has been expressing her inner camel all day. So I'll also have to make sure she is extra well hydrated before tracking. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

RFE practice (43)

Last week's RallyFrEe practice was so frustrating. My goal was to do the video for this month's MDSA project. We practiced last time (two weeks ago) and Gimme did very well, so I expected it to go smoothly. NOT!

It's always distracting with the daycare and other things going on, but this time was the worst ever, multipled.  We came in the building and were just starting when they started squeaking toys in the daycare room. Gimme lost her brain. I worked with her and was just getting her focus when they started up again. Of course, this time it was even harder to get her focus. Unfortunately the turn was facing the same direction as where the squeaking was coming from, so I kept losing her there. Each time the turn was really wide as she'd take a gander.

On the second session, I started with some other work. First was side-stepping - Gimme is better when she's moving to her left than to her right. This is the direction she first learned to pivot, so she's more comfortable moving her rear left. I see I need to click while she's moving, instead of when she stops with me. From there we practiced backing in side position. She's much better in heel position, so I practice it more in side position. Naturally she threw in an offered "otto" for me. We got two instances of good backing in side position, so I quit there.  Side-stepping & Backing video

As soon as we moved into place to do some sequences for the MDSA project, then the people for another class started traipsing by. They can't just walk by and be done with it. They have to stop and watch and talk and play with their dogs. Gimme left me and started over there once, but stopped halfway when I said "leave it", then a moment later came back to me. A year ago she couldn't have stopped and come back to me without me taking her by the collar, so I was proud of her. When I got her focused and was starting up, then the private lesson people squeaked a toy in the ring next to ours and Gimme lost her brain, again.

When we came in for the third session, I brought one of her toys in. We played some and it helped to get her focused. As luck would have it, when we were doing final runs, then the daycare dogs all started barking really loud. It was so loud I couldn't even hear our music and it would be intrusive in the videos. We could have waited until they stopped, but Gimme was pretty much used up, so I just quit and hoped there was something useable. I did find four clips to meet the criteria and one was better than the rest. I will include the link for the MDSA project when its ready.

In hindsight I should have moved our ring markers and to the other end of the space. Then we would have been further from all the distraction and our corner/turn where she was getting distracted would then have been toward a boring wall. I wish I was better at thinking of these solutions in real time. At least now I'll have it as a back up plan the next time we have problems.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Parkour (4/7)

Jo wasn't there, so we had a substitute. She's not nearly as good as Jo at coming up with creative and fun things to do. The one positive is - she often has me do the exercise and then demonstrate some part of the next exercise, so Gimme gets a little bit extra floor time, because then she gets to do it again when her turn rolls around.

"thru" sequence video - There's almost no video to show here, since the instructor chose to stand in front of the camera. Gimme got to go through the dividers with the pool noodles and then for extra measure, to "back" through the carwash. I started cuing "bacon", but it only seemed to confuse her. Then when I tried "back" she was still trying to find some way to get her feet on it. What finally worked well was to let her come through normally and stop her halfway, then encourage her to back up from there. Then she totally got it.

Sequence 1 video - You can see our Tervuren classmate through this video. He's a nice, calm boy and Gimme is completely unconcerned about him. I know I can rely on his owner to be careful, so I'm sure my attitude helps. The big deal about the ladder was because it was on the ground and the other dogs just walked through it, instead of on it. Gimme was the only one who immediately walked on the rungs, but she's done it enough to know she won't get paid unless she does it right.

Sequence 2 video - This was a nice sequence and you get to see Gimme "back" through the carwash. She really picks stuff up so fast - this time on cue after getting it right once in the first turn. You'll hear the instructor ask me to show Gimme doing a 180º turn on the boardwalk ("flip"). I don't have to tell her to "halt" first, but I do sometimes if I'm not sure she's completely focused.

Sequence 3 video - This is another sequence. The big to-do was because I had Gimme "bacon" on the tub. We were told to do "two on" and since she didn't specify which two, I was making a funny. Gimme loves backing on stuff, so I try to work it in from time to time.

Sequence 4 video - This short sequence was just more of the same, except with the narrow board. None of the other dogs had done the narrow board. Next to Gimme, her Tervuren friend was the best. It took him a bit to figure it out, but then he did it nicely, being his usual calm and thoughtful self.

Unfortunately this was the end of class for the night. Gimme could have played parkour for another hour.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nosework (2/25)

Here is a picture of our container search layout for class. How would you work it? Do you see any pattern?

Dorothy asked us right off the bat what strategy we would use on this search. Everyone else was really at a loss, whereas I saw three circles of boxes with a box in the middle. So I said my strategy would be to work the circles or at least be aware of how Gimme had worked them, without getting stuck in the middle and blocking the center box.

I can't say why, I just saw it. I was sitting there looking at it and thinking about strategy while everyone was chatting before class, and then I just saw the circles. Probably my arts/crafts background. Dorothy said only one other person saw the circles. My classmates needed to be shown the circles. Here is the same layout with the circles in different colors.

Container 1 video - The first search was just one hide. Gimme finds it really quickly and then checks the other boxes. One of the things we were watching was to see if the dogs seemed to react to the circle shape. Dorothy has seen dogs react to the 2 lines of boxes for an ORT, but she said it wasn't clear here. Gimme seemed to be doing the third circle, but it could also be she'd done the other two and they were behind her, so it made sense to travel the perimeter.

Container 2 video - Dorothy changed the boxes and put a different odor in the spot of the hide from the first search and you can see Gimme doesn't alert to it right away because it doesn't smell "right" to her. Clearly she remembered from the time before. This time there were two hides and she gets them both fast. Note how her intensity drops after the second hide, as if she knows there aren't any more. She still checks the last group and then goes back to the second hide. I don't usually pay her again, but did this time and then she heads to the door on her own.

Container 3 video - This time there were three hides and we did the search off leash. You'll almost never get to do an off leash container search. Gimme was much faster off leash, 20 seconds less than for two hides. On the second hide she hadn't really indicated. I thought she was going to and had started to move in, but she was moving away by then. She notices I'm coming in and hops back to the hide. I'm sure she thinks she's training me.

Container 4 video - This time Dorothy moved all the hides to the edge of the circles. It looks a lot more like Gimme is responding to the circle shape without the center boxes. Gimme was another 6 seconds faster here. Clearly I and my leash are just one big impediment!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Urban Tracking (30)

Last Sunday I set another track for Gimme and let it age while I worked my Safeway store.  It was one hour old, cool and damp, with no breeze.  I started on the left side of the picture and went back behind the store and to a space in parking on the right side.  Red line is the track and light blue is what Gimme did.  Dark blue dots are articles.

I wanted to try it again to see if what I saw the day before was really dependence on other stuff instead of following my track on hard surface, OR if it was because she was uncertain about following my track after so long.  What I see is, Gimme is still tending to use grass and curbs and the edge of the building to find the track.  If it weren't for articles bringing her along and the constraint of the area, I'm not sure she would have gotten to the end.  It's also possible I'm unconsciously helping her.

We didn't have tracking this week because Nadine had a conflict.  So tomorrow (Saturday) I'm going to lay simple straight line tracks in the parking lot behind Shopko.  Its a very big space with no curbs.  Thus, there will be nothing else for her to rely on.  It's either sink or swim.  I've seen her be able to do it when there are no "crutches" to use, so I expect she'll be able to do it there. 

I think maybe we need to do this many times until she has confidence in her ability to follow those tracks and then maybe she won't be tempted to take the easy way out.  Normally she loves a challenge, so I think she'll do it when she realizes it'll show off how smart she is.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Parkour (3/7)

We had class outside and there were a dog Gimme hadn't seen before, two newer dogs (Akita and Tevuren) as well as the dog we've been in class with for a couple of months. Overall she did very well with this. The Akita was very distracted, so his owner didn't take any turns. I certainly appreciate how very careful she is. 

"Out" practice video - Jo had us each pick an item or two and warm-up by practicing "out" on it. I decided to use the tree right on the edge of the area behind our cubicle, though it was challenging for leash handling, since I didn't want to let go of her leash until I was sure she was focused. Jo brought me a flowerpot to use as well. I was very happy to see Gimme start off so well, usually she can take a few turns to get her brain in gear. BTW you'll also see Jo carrying out a divider to put in front of our cubicle. I was going to get one, but she beat me to it. 

Sequence 1 video - Easy sequence, but Gimme was distracted by the front of the child's kitchen. Jo said all the dogs with nosework experience had been the first time and she thought it might have been used for a hide, especially since they were all sniffing the front side of it. BTW this sequence ended with "hands" to the low rim around the tree planter. "Hands" on low things has been a challenge for us; Gimme loves to turn them into "table", but she followed my cue this time.  

Sequence 2 video - Walking on the rim of the tree planter and then onto the narrow board was added to the sequence. All the other dogs had a real challenge making the turn from the rim to narrow board. Gimme got it easy peasy. 

Sequence 3 video - Jo added a lot this time. I had Gimme repeat a couple of behaviors because they weren't crisp enough. They would have been okay and I did reward her for them, but wanted to encourage her to do a nicer job. 

Sequence 4 video - Jo added a couple more items. One thing you can't see is the little riding toy (after the table-out-table combo). We were supposed to get the dog to do "hands" on it. The challenge was that it moved. Gimme was the only one who could do it - moving stuff just doesn't bother her. 

Sequence 5 video - This is another short sequence. Gimme did nicely for all of it, though she did manage to turn one of the "hands" into "table" as she was supposed to be getting off of it. So, I had her do it again. Otherwise she did nicely at everything. 

There was one more sequence, which I suggested as Jo was pondering what to have us do next. I suggested we do a creativity sequence where each of us have to figure out our own route and try to come up with novel uses. Jo correctly figured out I suggested it because Gimme hadn't gotten to do even one "bacon" for the whole class. When we did our sequence, I had Gimme "bacon" onto several things, ending with her very talented "bacon" onto the narrow board. Sadly I messed up and so I don't have video. <pout> 

Everyone was suitably impressed and we got clapping and cheering for Gimme's special talent.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Nosework (1/25)

We had two searches of a huge exterior area. We were told there was an unknown number of hides. We were also told we would have 3:00 minutes to complete the search, wouldn't get a 30 second warning, couldn't go over time and must be prepared to say how long we'd been in the search area at the end.

Exterior 1 video - Gimme dives into the search area, clearly heading for the other end, so I was certain she'd gotten no hint of anything at the start end. Of course right after I thought this, she curls back along the building toward the start. I'd forgotten entirely about her crossing the start end of the search area and checking down the other side on her way to go to the far end. I remember, after she spends some time on the small rocks pile, thinking I needed to make sure she got into the side away from the building. I was pleased with myself for not getting sucked into a false alert when she spent time sniffing at the small rocks pile. Gimme is so good about not peeing in the search area, I really think she thought... "There's nothing here, maybe we are really just taking a walk, so I can pee now." There were no hides.

When asked how long I thought we'd been in the search area, I said 2:15 seconds. Honestly I have such a skewed sense of time, so I always say 2:15 and some day I'll be right. But not this day, since we ran to 3:20, well over time.

Exterior 2 video - The wind died down right before our search which probably accounts for why Gimme was the only dog who didn't immediately turn to the building. Right after she gets to the far end, a little breeze kicks up. She comes up the side away from the building catching the rock hide at 40 seconds. While it's almost a minute to find the next hide, 15 seconds of it was spent on rewards. So she was actually pretty direct.

When asked how long I thought we'd been spent on this search, I again said 2:15 and I was still wrong. It was more like 1:40. Its interesting how Gimme finds two hides in half the time she spent finding no hides.

They'd only planned for the two searches. While Gimme was substantially faster the second time around, the other dogs weren't so fast, so we were really close to the end of class time when we finished all the dogs. It just so happened we also had a very full class.

I no longer have quilting on Tuesday nights, so Gimme enjoys having me stay at home with her and spending part of the evening stroking her tummy. As Empress of the Cosmos, she deserves special treatment. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Urban Tracking (27-28-29)

I have three urban tracking reports for you. I have just learned how to download images from GoogleEarth and edit them to show a bird's eye view of our track. This will have multiple advantages. First, I can show the track and how Gimme worked it. Second, I can give Nadine a printout of the area and ask her to mark it showing where the track went.

Third, when I want something very specific I can send her a picture via email showing what I want. My descriptions over the phone never seem to result in the track I envision (especially when we are at Auburn Cinema). I'm reviewing Sil Sander's manuscript for his new book, starting from TD training to a VST. Doing the manuscript review makes me eager to find where we are and then follow the plan he's provided. The book includes a plan for teaching urban to a dog who is already well-skilled at field tracking. Sil is brilliant at breaking things down in a logical flow, with everything you need to teach your dog the skills they need. So with the plan as he's laid it out and the ability to give Nadine a picture of what I want, I'm hoping to move along without any more problems.

Last Friday we met at the Game Farm Park. I asked Nadine to lay pretty much the same track as two weeks before, but to turn the opposite way after the large hard surface crossing, then to come around the other end of the ball park and see if she could get another hard surface crossing.

This track was 1:20 minutes old. The conditions were wet and cool, with minimal breeze. The day before there was a huge thunderstorm  traveling up the I-5 corridor, so the ground was saturated. Nadine went through the edge of a large puddle in the parking area on the last leg. Gimme did a better job with the first hard surface crossing than she had two weeks earlier. She goofed off under the trees, checking for squirrels methinks. She found the transition back to hard surface challenging and resisted, but finally did it. Gimme declined to actually step in the puddle, skirting around the edge and then going straight to the last article.

Thursday of this week we met at Auburn Cinema. I asked Nadine to lay us a 4-corner zigzag and to avoid the curbs where she could, though she could start along a curb. When it comes to large expanses of hard surface, Gimme either shops for anything that "looks" like it could be a treat or article and/or try to find the track along curbs. Both are habits we need to move beyond.

Her track was 1:20 old, damp conditions, cloudy sky. It wasn't what I was aiming for. We spent far too much time near curbs, so when we did have to move out into the open, Gimme wasn't doing very well. I find she does better if we spend most of the track out in the open, so she doesn't start out in curb-dependent mode. As we got closer to the end, there was one turn to the right.  Gimme started to take it, but not very close to where it actually went, so I wasn't ready for her and she got an unintended correction. That was enough for her to decide I didn't want her to go there, making an entire third of the compass off limits. Thus, she'd only try toward the other two-thirds and we were both getting frustrated. I got her moving around me in a circle, searching, but initially she would move only 2 feet from me on the side where she'd gotten the correction. As she moved a little farther from me on the "bad" side, I side-stepped a bit toward her and each time around she moved more strongly toward where the track went. So we finally were able to get going again and she finished nicely, despite a car being right on top of her track. She never hesitated and just curved around the car and continued past it confidently and was rewarded with a nice fat article very soon after. At least it ended very well.

I had to work two accounts today and I decided to lay a short hard surface track at the second store. This is normally our long walk day, but the sky was looking dicey, so on the chance we wouldn't be able to walk, I thought we could do a short track. Even  if we ran it in substantial rain, we could be home and dry 15 minutes after we finished. As luck would have it, the weather held so we did get to walk 4 miles, after we tracked.

I laid a track starting on one of the side areas of the parking lot, passing behind the Safeway and then coming up on the other side, ending in grass. I don't know what I was thinking, since I didn't put out any food drops for her. Bad me.

It was 1:15 old, on wet pavement and grass, with almost no breeze. This is the first time Gimme has followed one of my tracks in a long time. She seemed uncertain about doing it. When she did get going, she was determined to follow scent as it drifted against curbs or buildings. She started out following the curb to our right, which was diverging from the track. When it hit a bump out toward the track, she crossed over and followed alongside of the building, still not on the track. She did get to the curb behind the building where I'd bumped against it and made a 60º left turn. She followed along the curb until she caught the scent of the first article, then turned straight to it. After the article she moved along the building on the other side until she got to the place where the track turned left and onto the grass. She got the next article quickly. She had no issues crossing a 30ft paved circle, back onto grass and then to the final article 15 yards beyond it. 

Between tracking and a four mile walk, Gimme is snoozing contentedly beside me.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

RFE Practice (42)

Session 1 video - For the first session, we worked on our segment for the MDSA video.  I wanted to use "touch" in our routine, so we did a bunch of those in our warm-up. Then we did dry runs for the choreography I'd planned. Naturally, once I put the music on, it had to change. Gimme was really distracted by the corner, so I had to work though this with click/treat for turning with me. On one run (you'll hear a crackly noise) it is from the little speaker vibrating itself off the table and then starting across the floor. We had to put it in a little corral. The last two runs, starting at about 6 minutes, are the best.  I have to get together festive ring markers and wear the right outfit (khaki pants and bright top) during the final filming.

Session 2 video - We started the second session working on "fanny", where Gimme is in position behind me and follows me. In hindsight, I think this would be better in a channel of guides. Next we practiced "otto" (backing around me from and back to heel position). J'Anna set up an oval of signs she wanted to work on, so we tinkered with them. On the handler-dog-handler-dog front crosses, I have to remember to take a step forward before I turn to cross, otherwise Gimme assumes she's supposed to turn with me - whether I say "wait" or not. She's been reading the shoulder movement too long and I can't convince her it doesn't mean anything.  Sometimes it does mean something, so I guess she's right.  Our last thing was backing in side position.  As much as Gimme loves backing up, I was surprised at her difficulty. I get a few steps, but she really didn't understand what I wanted. When people started filing by with their dogs for another class, I switched to easy behaviors, so she could stay engaged with me. She couldn't do this last Fall. We ended with some quick heeling. BTW you have to forgive J'Anna. She gets distracted watching Gimme and forgets to turn the camera.

Session 3 video - I used a different approach to working backing in heel using a target (carpet square). Gimme is quite adept at backing to any kind of target, so this made things easier to understand. After she was doing this well, I changed my relative position in a couple of steps until it was what we needed. She did really well and then suddenly kept trying to turn it into our "spinotto". I can't see any reason in the video why she was doing this - maybe just a bit brain tired or bored with too many reps or both. From there we switched to working on "away", where she is in front of me, but facing away. The target stick just wasn't working, so I did a bit of naming the position.  I think using a platform would be helpful in training this.  Then we did more heeling and working the distracting corner (where all the stuff happens). Last was treat tossing with finding position. 

All in all, it was a good session. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Parkour (2/7)

The Akita didn't show up. Instead we had a big calm Tervuren boy. He was very well behaved and they did well. His owner was suitably impressed with Gimme, so I'm sure she is brilliant.

Interestingly with the recent Wait For The Cue work we did, Gimme was much better in class in a couple of respects. Usually as we walk out to the start point for a sequence, Gimme is trying to do 3-5 things on the way. You never see this because I edit the videos to only include the actual sequence, not the silliness on the way. This time there was almost no silliness. Also, I reminded her one time to wait for my cue to do the first prop and rewarded her waiting, and she waited every time after. I'm surprised and pleased at this. I like what we are doing with WFTC, but I really didn't think we'd gotten very far with it, so wasn't expecting it to carry over.

Sequence 1 video - I left in the video the reminder about waiting at the first prop. The second board was one of the narrow boards. Gimme has done boards skinnier than this one, but she wasn't expecting it. Our classmates in the classes this year have been just fresh out of beginner class, so this is the first time we've seen this one in a long time.

"thru-out-thru" video - Sorry I didn't aim the camera better. This was just too too easy.

Sequence 2 video - I was especially pleased with her quick response to the first "halt". Normally we have to do a couple before she is fully focused. I made it a point to do a control point on the narrow board so she has to focus to balance on it. Slow and/or stopped is often harder than fast. Try it yourself some time.

Sequence 3 video - I asked Gimme to "sit" on the narrow board for an added challenge. She had to remember what to do with her feet to get her heiney down on this smaller space.

Sequence 4 video - Gimme remained very focused for this sequence, even though we added little excursions off the boardwalk.

Sequence 5 video - Same sequence. I'm seeing a lot better focus during this class, almost no instances of her missing a cue or doing her own idea. She really had her listening ears working.

Send practice 1 video - Here we have a bit of individual practice for sends.

Sequence 6 video - Here we added the sends into the sequence. The first one we hadn't done even close to it, so Gimme needed a little help. The second one was just like what we'd done before, just with me a bit further back, so naturally, she aced it.

Sequence 7 video - This was so funny. I'd been paying Gimme for waiting for the cue, so when I said "box", she wasn't sure. Then when I encouraged her, she had to do it with flair, hopping in sideways. She can be such a clown at times. Of course, then she was so impressed with her own cleverness, so she turned off her listening ears for a minute. Seriously, this was her 9th time working, so she may have been getting a bit brain tired.

Sequence 8 video - Same sequence. This time I didn't have to help her with the first send.

Send practice 2 video - This shouldn't have been so hard to start, but I think the appearance of an open door distracted her. Speaking of which, I made sure we finished our send work before people would be likely to start showing up outside the door. After more distance, we switched to using the toy bucket for an added challenge. Overall she did very well, given having two distractions at one time (toy bucket and open door).

With only two dogs in class Gimme got a lot of working time, so she was sound asleep before we got out of the parking lot.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Nosework (6/24)

Exterior 1 video - There were 7 hides set in the potty area!  The idea was to have a lot of opportunities to reward the dogs for working through this level of distraction. We were given all the time we needed and we spent 4:45 doing this search. Gimme did a great job resisting any urge to mark the many marking posts. When we left the search area and crossed into a grass patch, she immediately dropped her heiney to do her "business". I was so proud of her.

Exterior 2 video - This time there were still 7 hides, but they were moved closer together, increasing the scenting challenge in this very distracting area. Gimme was treated to a really strange noise coming from the truck yard at the end of the search area. As I was editing this video, she was laying beside me on the couch and as the sound came up, Gimme lifted her head and listened again. She did a nice job, working this out in less time by a full minute, despite the increased difficulty of the hides. Only two dogs found the high hide on the mailbox and Gimme was faster by a significant amount.

Container video - This was a simple row of boxes on stools, run three times with the instructors moving the 1 hide each time, (while we faced away at the end of the room). There's a funny thing about my comment "good sticking it on the stool". Each dog knocked the box off the stool and the co-instructor kept trying to stick the box down, to no avail. Well she finally got it well stuck, as evidenced when Gimme knocked the whole stool/box over. This went really fast for all the dogs, but Gimme was the fastest tonight.

Great class!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wait For The Cue (2)

WFTC, session 1 video - I repeated the sessions from last night, so this was "stand" and "down". I really do know I'm supposed to click, then treat, but I was trying to keep her still as I got the behaviors. I also accepted her coming up into a "stand" from "down" before it was cued, because I wanted success and no frustration. It'll be harder, later. She is already getting the idea somewhat, and I'm able to pull my hand away between treats. This was a big improvement already from last night. 

WFTC, session 2 video - This time the two behaviors were "turn" (CW spin) and "paw" (touch whatever body part I offer with your paw). Gimme keeps touching my hand with her nose, the "touch" behavior, as well as trying to offer other "paw" behaviors ("high"). I get the "paw", but after "touch" and had the same issue the night before. It takes me awhile, but I come to realize she is simply confused and unable to transition from lots of treats from the hand and "paw" to hand. At some point I need to work through the distinction between "touch" (nose touch) and "paw" (paw touch) to my hand, but this is not what we are trying to achieve today. When I start offering my knee for "paw", then she does a great job. At one point she is losing focus and not hearing me, so I gently put my hands on her, with some stroking on her neck, and then she is able to come back. She's very tactile, so touch can be soothing for her, but I can't get grabby about it (which has happened when I've gotten frustrated). Both hands up is a "I don't want this" marker. I don't use it very often and only did so here because I couldn't stop her "turn" offering. We end with a nice "paw" to knee where she holds her position and then gives me a good "turn" on the first cue. Nice work there. 

WFTC, session 3 video - This time we have "touch" (nose touch to hand) and "sit". Gimme starts off with a bit of mugging me, which needs to be worked through. BTW the criteria for stillness is related to the behavior if it has a specific position (like "down" or "sit" or when she sits to "paw"), otherwise I want her to stand, since I need this the most for RallyFrEe. You can see she is getting the idea since she holds the sit while I fish in my pocket for more treats. This wasn't the best of the three sessions, but it was still an improvement from the night before. 

Another part of this process is to teach Gimme a green light cue for offering, "show me". So we are doing some free-shaping sessions where she is free to offer whatever she wants. I am trying to only click the same thing 2 or 3 times, though I made an exception here and there for behaviors I might want to use. She is tending to repeat behaviors she knows, but is starting to think. The other night when we did this I got only known behaviors and a whole bunch of "bacon". Today I think she did better. 

Free-Shaping, session 1 video - For this first session I had a tote lid available for her to interact with and predictably got "bacon" right away, but she did move on to other things when I didn't click it again. I think I've lost my eye, it takes me a bit to recognize the little things with promise. We clicked: "bacon", barking, head turn to the left, sneezing, brief stillness in front of me (to get off the barking), backing in a clockwise arc, head turn to the right, front paw lifts, right paw raise, and "high". 

Free-Shaping, session 2 video - This time I didn't have any prop for her to interact with, hoping to get more behaviors (since she can get quite stuck on "bacon"). We clicked: "thru", "heel" position, "stand" in front of me, head turn to the right, swinging toward "side" position, "sit", "turn", and backing in a clockwise arc. I kept this session a bit shorter. 

This is turning out to be a very interesting process. We'll see where it takes us.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Wait For The Cue

Recently it's become really apparent what an issue it is for Gimme to be in charge of over-offering behaviors which stems from not listening, all rolled up with problems about stimulus control. It has been a weak area all along, I just haven't put the focus on it. Its not an issue in some sports, where it's perfectly alright for Gimme to be in charge, such as: nosework, barn hunt and tracking (all sports which rely on her special nosey talent for success). Naturally, I don't blame Gimme - she is just doing what has worked for her all along. It's my job to wrestle to controls from her and be the grown-up here.

This last month we've been looking at cleaning up the alignment in her "take-a" bow behavior, since she's developed a tendency to swing her butt out 45º. I think this might be because she also offers "take-a" as her tracking indicator, where she swings out so she can look back and see if I've noticed and am dutifully trotting up to reward her find. In any case, her tendency to go right to offering when she thinks she knows what we are doing made it hard to get more than one or two reps in before she started offering. I needed to start her from a balanced stand to get a clean "take-a" and when she's offering, she's not balanced.

Anyway, efforts to teach her the value of being still as suggested on the list weren't working, so I decided to revisit a wait-for-the-cue game from yesteryear. To get ready I listed seven behaviors she knows well and can do in a small space. Then I used a random number generator to create a long sequence of numbers from 1 to 7, replaced the numbers with the behavior names and made up behavior lists... starting with 2 in a row (8 sequences), then 3 in a row (8)... and so on.

We couldn't get correctly through the first one! With all the work we've been doing with "take-a", Gimme decided any "down" from a "stand" (the first sequence of 2) really means, "stand"-"take-a". So I had to teach her she really can do "down" from "stand". The time it took me to realize what was going on gave her time to get frustrated, so she started throwing every behavior in her book at me - especially "bacon" (her fave). This game involves a lot of treats for waiting for the next cue, but she wasn't waiting long enough for me to get treats in her so I could interrupt the offering. Once I achieved teaching her she can "down" from "stand" I broke off the training and thought about it.

I decided to do short mini-sessions with the plan of focusing on one two part sequence at a time. I planned to start with a constant stream of treats and then gradually start to space them out from 1 nano-second to 1 milli-second to 1 micro-second to 1 centi-second to 1 deci-second to 1 second and so on...

So after 45 minutes, we did another session, with thirty treats and just the two behaviors "stand" and "down". I cued "stand", clicked it when she assumed it and then rapid fire fed her 8 treats... then cued "down" (lured and waited for the rump to drop) clicked and then rapid fire fed 10 treats... then cued "stand", clicked it when she assumed it and then rapid fire fed her the remaining treats...

This went better, she didn't have a chance to offer other behaviors and the behaviors I got were clean, even though I had to lure the down and wait on her rump. Then I cued "all-done" and went back to my evening project. She stood there dumb-founded for several minutes, "what the................." I finally had to call her to get on the couch to convince her it really was "all-done".

An hour later we did another quickie with the next sequence of two behaviors, "sit" and "turn" (CW spin). This went well and I was able to insert tiny pauses between treats. Gimme was a little more accepting of my "all done", though I still needed to call her to the couch.

Much later we did another sequence, "touch" (nose touch to hand) and "sit". This went really well and I was able to begin to take my treat hand away from her lips briefly, while she remained pretty still. When I said "all done", Gimme sighed, but then was ready to go to bed. I was nearly 1:00 a.m. after all.

I think this is promising and will likely improve as I work out some more bugs. I notice my click timing is not as good as it should be. Fortunately Gimme is pretty tolerant of my ineptitude.