Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
NW1, RATI, RATN, RATO, NW2, L1I, RATS, L1E, L1C, L1V, L2C, L2I, L2E, RATM, R-FE/N, PKD-TL, PKD-N, ADPL1, ADPL2, TD, UWP, ADPL3, NTD, TKN, L2V, ADPL4, SDS-N, ADPL5, ADPCH, ADP1(2), ADPL1(GC), ADPL2(2), ADPL2(GC), VPN, AP, UWPCH, ADPL3(2), ADPL3(GC), NC, NI, NE, SCN, SIN, SEN, CZ8B, NV, NN, ADPL4(2), ADPL4(GC), ADPGCH, ADPL5(2), RATCH, CZ8S, AI, TKI, AV, AE, AC, AN, R-FE/X NW3-V, NW3-E, SI, RN, R-FE/NS, CZ8G, SC, SV, SE, SN, SEA, SBN, SWN, SIA, SCA, ADP-1(Th), ADP-2(Th), ADP-3(Th), ADP-4(Th), ADP-5(Th), and ADP-CH(Th)... 81 and counting...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Gimme wishes you each a very Merry Christmas.  Meaggi and I wish the same for you;  however, we are not as photogenic.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nosework (4/2)

Class tonight was great - as always.  We did some new things that really showed the dogs' skills emerging.   On the very first hide of the first session the odor and food were placed on the desk, just 6 inches from two open bags of dog treats.  About five feet away the instructor's jacket, with treats in the pockets, was hanging on a doorknob.  All the hides were harder to find, obscured from view and more difficult to get to.

All of the dogs found the correct source, bypassing the food distractions.  Given that they don't get tested on finding the odor while ignoring food distraction until level two - Joyce said this shows they already understand that finding the odor (not just any food) is the bigger payoff. 

Because it was harder, all the dogs (except Gimme) were taking a very long time to find their hides.  Class is 90 minutes with six teams and we usually get 3 hide sessions and tonight we only got 2 sessions each because we were running over time.  Even though it took them longer, they were all enthusiastic and happily searching. 

Gimme sailed through hers in the same time as usual - it really seemed almost faster to me.  Of course there was some delay during the second session when Joyce and I ended up at one end of the room and Gimme suddenly dashed to the other end and stuck her nose into her baggie, polishing off all her garlic toast.  She hasn't even tried to get to the motherload since the first night of class, but for some reason tonight decided to.  So much for her outstanding work ethic and so much for baggies.

Anyway, we had a short discussion with the class about why Gimme is so much faster.  Partly its because she learned to use her nose so young, having had her first baby tracking lesson when she was about three months old.  So, she's had more practice using her nose before starting nosework class, understands the concept of finding things with her nose and getting paid for it and thus, has a lot more confidence.  Plus I bragged on her relatives and all their tracking titles.  It stands to reason that she has inherited excellent scenting ability.

I also discovered she knows how to count.  She let me know in no uncertain terms AND all the way home -- that she was due one more hide session.  She was quite emphatic!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Arf-Angel Michael

A to Z Who's The Boss
Mar. 8, 1998 – Dec. 12, 2011

The rub with loving these wonderful dogs is: they leave us too soon. Old age sneaks in to rob them of vitality, taking away their quality of life and dignity. We who love them are faced with the most painful decision. Then we are left behind to deal with the guilt and grief, trying desperately to find our way back to all the wonderful memories.

Michael’s last day was filled with the favorites he still enjoyed. After his usual breakfast, breakfast #2 was at McDonalds - 2 sausage biscuits and hash browns. Then on to the woods for our last walk together. His nose still worked as well as ever and he had a blast sniffing and snooping. On the walk out I dropped chunks of cheese behind me, which he thoroughly enjoyed finding on the way back – so excited to discover they were growing cheese out there. After agility, McDonald’s was his favorite thing, so we stopped there again for lunch - McChicken, McDouble, fries and holiday pie.

At the clinic we sat and hugged until doc was ready. They had placed a big thick blanket on the table so he'd be comfortable and the lights were turned down low. Doc doesn’t want dogs to experience any stress when the time comes. He gave Michael a sedative and yet, thirty minutes later Michael still hadn't fallen asleep. Doc suggested it might have been the holiday pie, but I think he was just enjoying the non-stop petting, hugs and kisses too much to drift off. Doc gave him another sedative and he did finally go to sleep. When the lights came up, with all the tension and cares of the world gone, Michael looked so much younger. I know he is in heaven, young again and eagerly waiting on the start line for me to come play with him.

I’ve been looking at old pictures and remembering. Michael was such a scaredy cat when he was a pup, so afraid of other people. Agility was a grand discovery and a big part of helping him get past his fears. We dabbled in other dog sports, but it was agility he loved.  He had so much fun playing the agility game that it was always a surprise to see his oh-so-serious game face in pictures. We never set the agility world on fire, but we always had fun. I learned too late how to be the handler Michael needed. No matter how clumsy I was, he always ran his best and we enjoyed the game together. We made it half way to a MACH before having to accept the inevitable retirement. His heart was still young and so willing, but his body just couldn’t cooperate.

Throughout his life, Michael was devoted to me and wanted only to please me. He was always watching me, looking for a clue to making me happy. He never stopped trying because he loved his Mom most of all.  Michael was sent to be my teacher. I learned so much from him; he made me a better trainer and a better person. Like ripples in a pond, his life touched, and still touches, so many others.

Michael in Pictures

Though he loved agility, he was also very serious about it.

 Our first and second Double Q's.

Michael loved riding in the car.

He loved it best when he didn't have to ride in a crate.

Walks in the woods were a lifelong fave.

Even the last walk still contained discoveries since
they'd started growing cheese out there.

I miss you Boy-san. I miss your Noodle-Doodle moments. No one else can be my Noodge. Wait for me and when we meet again you will be my Adja-Litty-Man. Rest well my beloved.   Love, Mom

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Breakthrough Imminent?

We didn't train yesterday because Gimme up-chucked in the car on the way home.  Obviously I didn't want to fill her up with treats.  She seemed a bit "off" for a couple hours, but then got back to normal. 

Tonight we did another session on scent discrimination.  It went fairly well.  She brought me an unscented tin a couple times, but mostly got it right.  At one point when she brought me an unscented tin and got nothing for her efforts, the next time she went back to the pile she spent a little time sniffing the correct tin and one next to it.  As it turned out she brought me the wrong one, but at least she is using her nose to try to sort out the difference.  I realize she was likely just trying to smell a hint of food, but all the same I figure a breakthrough is imminent.  Its only a matter of time until she realizes what the difference is.

We also did some heeling and front stuff, mostly the same things we did the other day.  She didn't do nearly as well as she had then.  That's not unusual for her.  She often follows a really good session with one that is several steps backward.  I'm not sure why that is, but I don't worry about it anymore. 

Her learning pattern usually contains fairly steady progress followed by a leap forward and then her version of a plateau, which is several steps backward.  I've never had a dog that does it that way - most seem to have a plain plateau, whereas Gimme backs up a few steps.  Then again, I've never had a dog that takes such large leaps in performance.  If I factored those out, perhaps her progression is more "usual". 

Unless I miss my guess, she will have another session much like today's and then the next session after that will either resume steady progress or take another leap forward in understanding.  It is what it is.

Happily using the little gates really helped her "around" behavior (clockwise circle around me ending up in heel position) - its been nice and tight ever since we did that.  Now its time to work on "behind" (counter-clockwise circle around me ending up in "side" position).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cool Happening

It was a long weekend.  Went to my parents' yesterday afternoon.  Then drove them to Seattle (they don't drive in Seattle and seldom at night) to meet with my brother, Sam, and his family.  We did some light sightseeing (my Dad can't do much) and then headed out to dinner.  My other brother, Mark, and his girlfriend Dana joined us for dinner.  It was fun and there was a whole lot of laughing going on.  By the time we got back to Auburn it was almost midnight.  Spent the night and then joined Mom for church this morning.  I was going to help her get her tree up, but basically the afternoon got dawdled away.  I made them a big pot of chili for supper before leaving.  Just got home an hour ago.

Naturally the dogs didn't get to do much and spent far too much time crated.  When I got home here, Gimme was fit to be tied and wanted ATTENTION.  So I decided to do a training session with her.  I had thought before I might do scent discrimination tonight, but since I wasn't sure how focused she would be, having been cooped up so much over the weekend, I decided to hold that until tomorrow.

We worked on the forehand "pivot".  I've worked on it several times recently really reinforcing the front feet on and tonight she finally seemed to understand I really didn't mean for her to put the back feet on at all.  She's gotten so reliable about keeping the front feet on during the pivot execution, so I started putting the cue on it.

Then we did some heeling work.  She was already getting the 90 right pivot, but the last time I tried to pivot left, she wasn't getting it, so I moved on to other things.  She really seemed to get it tonight that if I pivot in either direction, she can swing her butt and stay in heel.  Now all the sudden, its like she invented it.  One of the things that has been hardest for her is staying in heel for the first couple of steps.  So tonight I did a couple of one-step-halt and after the first one she got it.  She claims she invented heeling, but I seem to recall hearing someone talking about it before Gimme was even born.

After that we did some front work.  I could leave her on a stay and walk away, stopping either with my back to her or side to her, cue "front" and she did a very credible job of getting into front position.  Once I tweaked my own treat delivery it got even better.

I was mighty happy with all that and yet it was clear that Gimme wanted to do more, so I decided to do some of our nosework homework.  I have to confess I haven't done any nosework outside of class until tonight.  But I know we need to do a bunch of it to get going on the pairing of the level one odor with food.  I shut Gimme in the office, got our tin and a treat, put them in a shoebox and hid it in the walk-in closet off my bedroom.  Here's where it gets cool...

When I let Gimme out of the office I gave her our nosework cue "where-zit".  She had come out bouncy and ready to play and when she heard that she paused to look at me as if to say, "you mean it?"  Then her nose instantly and OBVIOUSLY went to work and it took her no time to find the hide in the bedroom.  I really didn't think she'd learned that cue and was assuming she knew what to do in class based on the location.  So to see such an demonstrable understanding was just waaaaay cool. 

We did three more hides, one in the bedroom, the bathroom and the living room.  It was really neat to see her look for them and find them.  Her nosework scenting behavior is getting clearer for me to see, which is also waaaaay cool. 

This nosework is lotsa fun and I highly recommend it.  Gimme seconds that recommendation.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Nosework (2/2)

We had nosework class on Wednesday night and it was great.  She did a fine job of finding the hides on the vehicle.  She's really very intent about the car and more deliberate than she is in a whole room search.  She's been tending to put her feet on the car, which isn't something they should do, so Joyce showed me how to discourage it with leash handling and without using a verbal cue.

The dogs in this group are doing so well that we were introduced to the level one odor a week early.  The way you get the dogs to find that scent is by repeatedly pairing it with the scent of food.  I love the smell of birch - who knew...  I'd love to use that smell for room freshener... but I guess that is out of the question.

Yesterday I did the second session of scent discrimination with multiple tins (not on tape).  I saw an interesting thing that I thought I'd seen in the previous session.  However, after reviewing that tape I realize it wasn't the same at all.  Gimme only brought me an unscented tin one time during the first four repetitions.  But then the fifth try, she basically brought me every tin other than the one I wanted.  I'm not sure what to make of that.  My thoughts of what it could be:
  • the scenting is hard work and four tries was too much, except I don't really think she is picking them by scent yet
  • maybe she was already tired when we started, since we'd gone walking on the fort
  • or she was doing a bit of "are you sure you don't want this one, or this one, or..."
I know she saw me put them down, so that should have been a big clue.  I'll try it again on Sunday when she will be more rested.

We are back to walking on the Fort Lewis training areas.  They've had area 22 open and it has a nice open area where we can walk in plain view.  The bow hunting and grouse hunting season continues, but those are both hunting sports where they tend to be closer to the prey and so would see that we ain't critters.  I still plan to make Gimme and me neon-orange vests before next season.

It was fun walking out there again.  And it was clear from her behavior that Gimme finds that much more fun than the place we walk near home.  I'm sure walking on the wild side is more to her liking. 

Academe' Performers pictures

Here are a couple close-ups of Gimme during the recent performance.  I have to admit a bit of concern regarding the last one - I don't care for her choice in bedfellows.  I sure hope that doesn't mean she'll want to go into politics when she grows up...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Academe' Performers

It seems that Gimme and some of her feline friends have been busy putting together a short performance.  I don't know when she found the time to participate, but I do so hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Plan Change

Only a small part of this entry is about a change of plans, but I have to call it something...

This first video is our first session with many tins.  Overall Gimme did about as I expected.  Based on what I've been reading, I was intentionally letting her see me put the scented tin down.  However, in this particular session, I don't think it helped her.  The reason was, I think, my choice of treats.  I was using popcorn and she is just crazy about that stuff.  So I think the possibility of the popcorn was distracting enough that she wasn't focused - especially as compared to previous sessions.  So we won't make that mistake again, though I'll continue to use popcorn for other things.  I like having so many tins, since I don't have the non-rewarding aspect of not taking the tins when she brings them to me.

The second video is the second session today on "pivot" (the camera didn't record the first one).  Based on what I was seeing when I edited this video, I've decided to abandon training the rear pivot ("twist") until I have this on cue.  Then I will also probably go on to teach the forehand pivot in the other direction, which I'll name "tivo".  (chose that name because it uses letters that are in its companion behavior)  The thing I was seeing that got me thinking this way, was her tendency when frustrated or unsure to start putting her back feet on.  In the video there's a fair amount of bouncing back and forth between front and back feet.  Since I'm trying to teach her to use her front feet in a specific way during this behavior, it means I have to withhold clicks for what she may think is a good enough version.  When that happens, I don't want her just throwing some other behavior at me.  After "pivot" is on cue, I'll start on "tivo".  Then later after "tivo" is on cue, I can start the pivots on the rear ("twist" and "twirl).

Of course I hadn't really come to that decision until I did the editing of the pivot video, so I have this short video of the last (for now) session of "twist".  At times I think she is getting the idea and then I don't.  Since the camera angle provides a new perspective, I see two issues.  One, when I do resume training this, I really will have to put up the mirror so I can see that both back feet are on the brick.  Two, I think I also have to do a session or two of just rewarding her putting both back feet on, to get that behavior more solidly.  And three, I've got to do something about the brick sliding all over the place.  I have some scraps rubber shelf liner, so am going to glue that to the back of the brick, as well as some other platforms.  That way they will stay put and when I get this floor refinished, I won't have to worry about it being scratched. 

A confession:  I have had more difficulty with teaching Gimme to refrain from jumping on people than any dog I've ever owned or worked with.  Its clear in watching her that she really does try to be good and stay down, but then people start petting her and its more than she can handle, so she jumps up out of exuberance.  She really loves people, so I don't want to dampen her enthusiasm in teaching her to keep four on the floor.  Add to that the frustrating tendency for people replying to my instructions not to let her jump up with, "oh, its okay".  She's so dang cute that many people really encourage or, at the least, don't discourage her. 

I have friends that have worked with her, following my instructions, and it just doesn't seem to sink in.  This week I decided to try something a little different.  Given how quickly she learned to come to me when she sees bicycles, I'm taking the same tactic with people.  When she sees a person, I call her to me and give her treats until they pass.  Then if interaction is mutually desirable, I'm at least there to reward her when she has all four on the floor. 

What was so incredibly cool was seeing the light bulb go on - flashing brightly - when she realized, see people = go to mom.  The first time you could see the light, she ran up to and around a stranger, then looked at me and came running for goodies.  Then he wanted to pet her and she got lots of treats for four on the floor.  The next person she saw, she went running toward them, then stopped and looked back at me, then came running.  The same thing for the person after that.  My non-dog friend that was walking with me even recognized what she was seeing as Gimme "got it". 

She's such a smarty...  I love seeing her figure things out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Wish

Gimme here:  I am thankful that I only have to wear this dumb thing once a year.  I'm also thankful that Mom has promised me many delicious things for being so long-suffering.  I hope you have much to be thankful for, now and in the years to come.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Because Talent Knows No Bounds

Awhile back I talked about Gimme's forehand pivot behavior... don't recall if there was a video or not.  I don't have one on file, so probably not.  Here is a video composite of two short sessions.  I was trying to get her to both start and end with her front feet on the brick and I do think we are getting there.  I want this to be a true pivot on the forehand and especially don't want it to to devolve into a spin in place.  I started by withholding the click until she got her feet back on the brick after the pivot... very quickly she figured out to keep them on to get the click and treat faster.  I also talked before about holding off putting a cue on this behavior, since I'd planned to name it "get in" and realized there was a conflict with another cue, "get it".  I was going to rename the "get it" behavior to "yours".  However, in the meantime, I've discovered that that cue is too entrenched, so decided to go with "pivot" for this behavior.  In editing this I was doing some slow forward and noticed there are places where she is actually crossing her back feet.  I never expected to see that.  Enjoy my cutie...

As much training as I do with her, she's still bored.  I've just learned that hunting season goes through the end of the year.  Arrrrrgh.  So will have to use the local walkway until then.  We are having a really wet spell locally - landed over an inch of rain in last twelve hours.  It rains a lot here, but often it doesn't really get going until afternoon.  Of course, that doesn't apply to the last 48 hours where it hasn't let up.

I've also just started working on teaching her a rear pivot, which I'll call "twist".  It takes her a bit to drop the insistence on a forehand pivot.  That will probably go away once its on cue.   It may be a bit too soon to start this since I don't have the forehand on cue yet, but I figure she needs a bit of a challenge to puzzle through. 

She goes through several interesting concepts here - what she believes I may want vs. what I actually want.  First there was – pivot then walk your back feet onto the brick. Then the same behavior with a barking embellishment. We had a few times when she thought it was put the back feet on, then back up until the front feet are on the brick. You can’t always clearly see what I’m clicking – in addition to back feet on, any sideways movement from the front feet. Often there was a backward component to that – so I tried to click where the sideways was the more prominent movement. She moves so dang fast, its like clicking a chicken and unfortunately that means I miss good opportunities or am late. Gimme holds strong opinions (boy I totally get that, doncha know) and she gets frustrated when I don’t click when she thinks I should. Barking is her default expression for frustration during free-shaping only (for which I’m eternally thankful).

BTW have emptied and washed up 6 Altoid tins.  There have also been some interesting follow-up posts about the method.  I'm eager to get back to it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Second Tin Day

Today is the first time I've introduced a second (unscented) tin for Gimme.  I really need to have several more to do it exactly how Denise showed it.  I'll have to empty several of them into some Tupperware and get them washed up. 

Denise dumps a bunch of unscented tins on the floor and then places a scented tin in among them.  If the dog brings the wrong one, she takes it and the dog gets no treat.  That tin is set aside, since it now has Denise's smell on it.  She only rewards the retrieves of the correct tin. 

Since I only had the one unscented tin, I just ignored her attempts to bring it to me and heavily rewarded her bringing the right one.  Since she has gotten so good about bringing it to my hands, I think not giving her hands to put it in, serves to non-reward that attempt and tell her try something else.

I started out with just the one tin and you'll note she very neatly brought it to my hands.  After that we worked with two tins and you can see how it went.  I didn't think she's realized yet that there is a difference between them.  A couple of times, I think she saw me moving the unscented tin as I was trying to mix it up... so I made a special effort to work faster and get them out while she was still turned away.  She really likes to ski on the tin before she picks it up - that's a silly behavior that started with the Melon cube.  It will be interesting to see how this progresses.  She has a damn fine nose, so I'm sure she'll get it figured out.

A pleasant side affect from this showed up yesterday.  While I was doing some yard winterizing, I gave Gimme a good stick to chase (so she'd stop trying to steal and/or play tug with the ones I was putting in the yardwaste bin).  Always in the past she's brought them back and dropped them about two feet from me.  In all fairness, my attention is usually divided between what she is doing and what I'm trying to accomplish, so it isn't like I've really worked on a retrieve to hand.  Anyway, yesterday, she brought the stick back and dropped it and when I was ready to throw it again, I just stopped and pointed at it.  It took her a couple of tries and then she picked it up and handed it to me.  Before long she was bringing it to me every time.  If I was ready and paid attention to her quickly, she'd hold it until I offered my hands.  Otherwise if it took too long she would drop it and wait for me to turn my attention to her - then she'd pick it up and hand it to me. 

I'm sure she is thrilled that the training she is doing with me with the tins is paying off for the important stuff of throwing sticks.  She's a pretty smart cookie. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Conflict?

Just got home from my parents' house.  I was there to clean the oven.  Last time Mom was asking me how to clean an oven.  C'mon, she's surely cleaned many more ovens than I ever have.  So I took that as a hint (despite her denials) that she'd like help with the oven.  Today or tomorrow were the days I had available to get it done before Thanksgiving.  Since we woke up with a light snow on the ground, this seemed as good a time as any - perhaps tomorrow will be nice enough to spend some time winterizing my own yard.

So what's the conflict?  Apparently they use small tins in teaching nosework when you get the dog on odor and we won't want her retrieving those tins.  We'll start that in about two and a half weeks.  Joyce and I have discussed it at length and will make a few changes to the way we use the tins in nosework and hope that it won't be a problem.  Some things are already big clues that there is a different expectation.  The differences are:
  • she'll be in harness for nosework; just a collar for scent discrimination
  • we're at the training building for nosework; at home for scent discrimination
  • we can use smaller tins for nosework; Altoid size for scent discrimination
  • plain tins for nosework; printed tins for scent discrimination
  • no scent of mine on tins for nosework; with my scent for scent discrimination
  • we'll hide tins off the floor for nosework; tins will be on the floor for scent discrimination
  • tins for nosework will be secured making them hard to pick up; not secured for scent discrimination
  • I move in to reward her for finding them in nosework; I remain stationary for scent discrimination
  • "where-zit" cue for nosework; when its on cue will be "find mine" for scent discrimination
With all those differences, I think she will figure out very quickly that these are two different behaviors with different expectations.  After all, Gimme is a canine genius.  She'd probably only need a few of those cues to realize it was different, doncha know...

Tonight we did a quick session of retrieving the tins.  Five retrieves with me kneeling on the floor and then five with me sitting on a couple of cushions.  Took her a couple tries to figure out that she still needed to bring them to my hands when I moved off the floor, but once she did figure it out - she nailed it repeatedly. 

Besides, we were using her favorite treat in the whole world - pieces of hamburger bun.  This dog loves bread more than anything.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nosework (1/2)

Tonight was our first class of the second session of nosework.  Gimme was soooooo glad to be back for this.  She really likes this work and the first time in always imitates a freight train, dragging me into the building as fast as she can go.  She's a little less intense about dragging me after that - thank God.  I realized after class on the way home that she was completely quiet riding in the car both to and from class and I didn't even hear a peep from her when we were there and she was waiting her turn.  Sure am happy she's getting past most of the whining.

This time they had driven a vehicle into the building and we introduced the dogs to vehicle searches.  The dogs will only be searching the outside of vehicles.  For our first hide we started by holding the dog back while they watch the instructor put food on the bumper and then get to go and get it.  Repeated that and then the third time the dogs were mostly very focused on the bumper and didn't necessarily see the instructor place the food there.

For the second hide, we pretty much repeated the process, but without the dog getting to watch the instructor and then encouraging the dogs to continue around the vehicle to find more.  It was interesting to see that when Gimme finally found the little bit of food that was stuffed in the crack around the headlight - after that she became very aware of the cracks/seams on the vehicle and checked them all thoroughly.

The third hide was more of the same.  Gimme did a great job and worked her way around finding all but two of them.  Then on her own she decided she should make another pass and was rewarded by finding the other two. 

This girlie looooooooves to use her nose. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Scent Discrimination work

My internet access was out starting Saturday night... so I've felt deprived and out of the loop.  Finally received the replacement modem this afternoon and got just short of 500 emails that I had to plow through.

Sunday we did another session with the tin.  I started with letting her get it twice with the food still in it, then went to no food inside.  There was no sign that she thought that was a problem.  She was doing pretty good at picking up the tin and then dropping it into my hands.  Then one time she picked it up and turned away from me before she dropped it.  I waited and she picked it up and dropped it again.  The third time she picked it up and turned toward me, so I was able to get my hands under it.  After that she started picking it up and then seeking my hands to drop it.  SMART GIRL!

This time we started right out with no food in it.  Twice I accepted just picking it up get the ball rolling, then after that I wanted her to at least try to get it in my hands.  You can see how twice she'd pick it up, but kept missing my hands.  I just waited and let her sort out how to get it in my hands and get the reward.  Clearly she has figured out what gets the reward, because after two times of taking multiple tries to get in in my hands and get the reward, the next time she was more deliberate about getting it into my hands.  The final time I resisted the urge to make it easy for her and she brought it to my hands on her own! 

I just can't help but love working with such a Smart Girl. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Learning All Day Long

Today has been especially busy. 

After teaching agility, I let Gimme have a
play session with Sadie (boring old BC)
and Izzybella (young Beardie). Normally
I wouldn't let her play where I expect her
to work at other times, but for now this is
the priority so I'm willing to bend the rules,
knowing I'll have work to do later. Sadly I
don't have enough friends with appropriate
dogs for her to interact with, so I especially
treasure these opportunities. 

It was a good session and I see Gimme
improving all the time. At one point she
did get mad at Izzy (a very rough playing
girl) and the flash of anger was quite
obvious, but it very quickly passed. I
could have missed it, it was so brief.
Later even Sadie played with her for
about a minute and then gave a clear
cut-off signal, which Gimme instantly
accepted, going back to play with her

After that I did a few errands, then
headed to Elma for some agility
watching (hence the pictures). Elma
is a really great place to do this
because its not as crowded. Since
Gimme has just come out of season,
I used one of the side doors that let us
get into the stands on the far side
without being near any dogs - just in
case there was any residual odor.
Gimme did very well and was more
relaxed compared to other times. We
watched for well over an hour and she
did well the whole time. Of course she's
convinced she could start out at the top
level in agility. Another way I knew that
she was more relaxed is that she didn't
sleep on the way home as she usually

The video at the end of this blog entry is
our first session introducing scent
discrimination, using Altoid tins.  I saw it
demonstrated on Denise Fenzi's blog.
What she showed seemed so simple
that one of today’s errands was to go to Costco and buy a 12pack of Altoids. I guess I’ll have great breath for awhile now.

Denise’s puppy had already been doing a lot of retrieving and I haven't worked that very much with Gimme (my bad). I started just praising her and letting her eat the food out of the tin for any interaction, then gradually waited for more. Within just 2:45 she was picking up the tin. With a little quick action on my part, she was mostly dropping it in my hands. The original video was eight and a half minutes, but Gimme pushed the tin under the couch, so I cut out the sizable portion of time that it took to retrieve it. On the very last one, the little sneak managed to drop it out of range of my hands and it popped open and she got some of the treats. Fortunately there were enough left for her to end by dropping it in my hands one last time. You can see the tail never stopped wagging. She really does love to train me...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today's Training

Since our schedule has been off for the last couple of days, I decided to do a couple short sessions today, even though Friday is normally our day off.

I started with "around" using the guides.  As soon as I set them up Gimme jumped in (edited out).  I was sure she'd be eager to get in there when she figured out that was where the rewards happened.  I opened the guides and had her go out and re-enter, wanting to reinforce how she should enter.  This session was really short - only 7 click/treats.  Do note two things... first, she never left until I indicated the session was over (unlike prior sessions) and as soon as we were both in the circle she started moving around me.  I think the idea of the guides is becoming clear to her.

This next session is a bit of target stick training related to waiting for the cue.  The idea is to present the target stick and give her the cue.  Then toss the treat and wait before giving the cue.  If she comes back and touches right away, I do nothing and just wait her out.  The moment she pulls away, I give the cue and reward her for doing the behavior with a click/treat.  This is something I think I am slow to do and the video confirms my impression.  If I give the cue and she doesn't do the behavior in a reasonable time (for now I count five) then I am lift the stick out of range to indicate a loss of opportunity.  I also lift the stick out of range when she bites on it, which still seems to happen a lot, though it is diminishing.  At some point I can also start clicking her for not touching the stick when she begins hesitating more often.  I think her touch-touch-touch and then sitting is an indication that she is starting to figure out the game.  There are clearly some missed opportunities during this session; Gimme will just have to figure it out in spite of me.

Then we did a bit of noodling about stays and heeling around food on the floor.  I haven't done it for quite awhile and obviously we need to go back to it.  It wasn't training so much as testing. 

Because life isn't exciting enough around here... now that Gimme is coming out of season, Meaggi has decided to give it a go, for the first time in several years.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More Guides

Its been a busy couple of days.  I was invited to a Veteran's Day celebration in Auburn that was set for early today, so we went up last night.  We were supposed to resume nosework classes last night, but our instructor had to make the decision to euthanize one of her old dogs and obviously wasn't up for class.

Today after the celebration, I went back to my parents' and performed some minor repairs.  If only I could get them to stop trying to fix things themselves, it would be so much easier not having to fix a twice-broken.  After that Mom and I spent a lot of time burning brush, getting kindling made, yard winterizing and other outside tasks.  I'm very tired. 

Gimme was her usual angelic self...  She had her first experience seeing fire and found it spooooooky.  Naturally within minutes she was acting like an old hand and swore me to secrecy (I had my fingers crossed behind my back).  Her help with the brush burning (stealing many of the things I was trying to get into the fire) was, shall we say, less than helpful.

Here I have two clips of training with the guides.  The first one is practicing the "around" behavior (clockwise circle around me).  Gimme still tries to jump out now and then (edited out of this clip), but I'm encouraging her to come back in and believe that will fade once she realizes that inside the circle is where the rewards happen.  You'll notice the first click it looked like she was thinking of jumping out, but since she had moved in the right direction, I preempted her exit with the click/reward.  I think I may have pushed her a bit too much for more and that caused the barking.  You'll see I was able to demonstrate spinning the opposite direction and it didn't faze her at all.   Note: This was only 8 repetitions, but when I watched the timing... it slowed down between reps after the fifth one.  Again, I see evidence that 5 good repetitions does seem to be optimum for Gimme.

This second clip is a short sample of how you could teach the dog to go around the cane.  I've edited this down to just the best repetitions.  I realize it was far too soon to introduce Gimme to this idea (I just did it for demonstration purposes), since she'd only had two sessions with the simple "around" using the guides.  The first thing she did was get "stuck" sitting and I used a click of her stretching her neck out to get her moving.  Once we got past that, she seemed to think I was shaping her for position relative to the cane.  I can see in the video that I missed a few good click opportunities.  I used treat delivery to get her past the hump to move between me and the cane.  Clearly Gimme hasn't made the connection to moving in a circle inside circular guides.  Still once she figured out what I wanted, it seemed to go well, which I think bodes well.  Do note that her tail never stopped wagging, no matter how confusing she thought I was being.

We have a lot on our plate for the weekend.  I plan to drive to Elma and let Gimme watch some agility from the stands after class on Saturday.  Then on Sunday we are going to an obedience/rally training session where you can buy personal ring time (PRT).  I'm buying 15 minutes and have asked them to break them down into three 5 minute sessions.  After that I plan to come home and do some winterizing of my own yard.

Monday is the one year anniversary of my nephew Josh's death.  Its going to be a hard day. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Freestyle Seminar

The weekend proved to be a real learning experience and not just about freestyle.  I learned just how much seminar excitement Gimme can handle and what the best way is for her to experience it.  After how well she did at the agility seminar this summer, I expected her to be able to handle this better.  But in hindsight, there are several notable differences.
  • agility seminar was outside, this was inside
  • at agility seminar I was able to position us further from the other people/dogs and still be able to see and hear everything that was going on
  • about a dozen teams at agility vs 20 teams and 10 more auditors at the freestyle seminar
  • at agility only one or two dogs were out of crates at a time; here there were often all 20 teams out at once
  • agility seminar was quieter overall
  • this weekend she was in season - obviously not by plan, having come in almost a month early
By the end of Saturday Gimme was just about shut down.  I had tried hard to keep her up and happy, but it wasn't working well.  I made big changes in how I handled things for Sunday and it worked much better.  At the end of Saturday I was about ready to cancel our working slots for the seminar in April.  At the end of Sunday, with the changes I made she did much better, so knowing that she won't be in season again, I decided to let things stand.  However, I do plan to email both seminar presenters (Sdao and Pouliot) and ask them some questions before I make a final decision.

I was really disappointed in the people attending this seminar.  Many years ago when I was taking Michael to freestyle seminars, people were much more respectful of others' space needs.  Most people back then were fairly novice dog owners, whereas this group was more experienced owners.  I asked the seminar host to make an announcement and remind people to be more respectful of other dog's space needs, but it didn't seem to make any impression.  I repeatedly asked people to keep their distance and not crowd us.  Only two people got the idea that I was asking for consideration for the weekend, not just a few minutes.  Other people I had to remind over and over and over again.  I asked one lady to move herself and her dog so we could get to our crate, explaining that we needed more space.  She moved and then moments later walked her dog within inches of my crate with Gimme in it.  Fortunately I happened to have Gimme distracted at that moment.  I really had the best spot that was available - had anyone shown even a smidgen of common sense and courtesy. 

Naturally I think the person who allowed their dog to pee on my cooler, which was sitting next to my car -- well that's just well beyond R-U-D-E...

I chose to work off to one side during the working sessions and gradually got further and further away until I could find a place where Gimme wasn't too distracted by the other dogs and yet not too close to the food tables, which she also had a huge interest in.  Unfortunately this meant we got ZERO personal attention from the seminar presenter, Julie Flanery.  Ordinarily I think Julie is very good, but a couple things conspired to make this one the least positive experiences of the several seminars I've taken with her.  The fact that the seminar was being taped made it a logistical pain.  Also almost all the exercises for the second day were geared toward people with much more experienced dogs.  Since that wasn't made clear in the information about the seminar (and since I expected her to run the seminar as she had in prior ones), I don't think we got our money's worth as a working team. 

Since I'd paid to be a working team, I made the best of it.  I worked on as many of the exercises that we were supposed to be doing as I could.  But once I hit a snag, without any help, I couldn't go any further.  I learned between day one and two a bit better how to "read" Gimme and know when she is done.  She is not obvious in the way she shows it (remember what we went through when we were taking classes with Ursula and she had the false pregnancy to go through).  For much of the time we worked on other things, things I knew Gimme could do getting a high rate of reinforcement, so she was having a positive experience.  On the second day I kept her out in the car when she wasn't working, except for one brief time in late in the afternoon.  Often this meant by the time I went out to the car, got her "dressed" and got back inside, the working session was half over. 

Still, for all that, I learned a lot.  Julie has some interesting new ways to teach the freestyle staples in ways that the dog learns very quickly and so can get a higher rate of reinforcement while they are learning.  She makes these "guides" out of ten 12" x 12" grids (the ones you normally snap together to make little shelving sets), put together with zip ties.  Using those the dogs learn some really quick concepts, so you aren't teaching the same thing over and over, just using a different "prop".

For instance, if you set up the guides to form a circle and stand in the middle with the dog, you can just wait and the dog will move around you.  Click and treat that and soon the dog will really be going around.  Within two or three sessions you'll have a very solid behavior that you can put on cue.  Then you can do it again, but position the dog facing the other way and since the dog already knows the concept of moving in that circle of guides, you can get the other direction on cue even faster.  Then there is always backing up in each direction.  You can stand outside the circle with just one leg in and the dog will quickly figure out to move around that one leg.  Or stand outside the circle with a cane held in the middle of the guides and in no time you'll have the dog going around that too.  As you can imagine, there are any number of things you could teach the dog to go around in very short order.  Develop a routine that has a prop you need the dog to go out to and circle around - no problem, you can teach the concept to your now more experienced dog in a single session and that's likely including a cue. 

The beauty of this is that there is no luring that has to be faded later and its faster than free-shaping, because the dog learns that the guides in a circle mean one thing.  And in particular, for getting the dog to move around one leg, since you aren't luring or using your hand target, you aren't leaning over the dog, which means you aren't crowding them socially while trying to teach them something.  The guides can also be used to form a channel, a u-shape or a v-shape and any number of other configurations (limited only by your own creativity).

We did our session at the seminar in a 36" expen, since I wanted to be able to have Gimme off leash and know she wouldn't jump out.  Here I have a short video of a session that we just did with the set of guides I made.  You'll see that Gimme jumped in and out a couple of times.  I think she felt crowded because I hadn't made her circle big enough.  You'll see that she stopped jumping out and was more conformable moving around after I make the circle a little bigger.  She even tried backing up, she does love moving backwards.  To stop her all I had to do was briefly step back so I was in her way.  Sadly the camera battery died so you don't get to see the end of the session.  Another thirty seconds and she was going around me in one direction while I was spinning the other way.  It never occurred to her that there was anything for her to do other than continuing in a circle, something that often happens when you try to teach this part of the move without the guides. 

Gimme already knows "around", but its not very tight.  So I'll be interested to see if using the guides makes it a cleaner move.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Big Fat Negative

Gimme finds being in season a big fat negative.

She's not getting the walks she's used to, adding to the frustration she feels. Last time she was in season we were able to go to the fort's training areas for our walks. However, its hunting season. The last time we were there, on a day when the area was supposed to be "open" for general recreation, we found deer entrails from a fresh kill. Clearly someone isn't honoring the schedule, so to be safe, we won't go back until hunting season ends.

The local place we walk is pretty busy with other walkers, bikers and dogs, so I only feel comfortable using it at its least busy times, given Gimme's "condition". Unfortunately it has been raining every chance I had to get there during quiet times. Today we got a walk and Gimme practically split a seam trying to check out everything at once. She was noticeably happier when we finished.

I was going to give an update on the whining front, to say how much better she is doing. However, that progress has evaporated since she's been in season. She was only a little worse until the day we were heading home from the bank and there were two deer trotting up the sidewalk. I guess they know its not safe in the woods. There's a small green belt near here, but they were several miles from any place they could be living. They didn't seem too concerned about their new digs. Gimme, however, was very concerned and has been on deer alert every time we've been in the car since then. This too shall pass.

To keep her happy and entertained I've been trying to get in some extra training. I haven't done much with the fruit behaviors. Instead have been trying to put together some behaviors for our freestyle seminar weekend. We've got some cute stuff. Nothing ready for cue attachment, but good enough that I can get the behavior when I want it.

We continue to work on backing up. I taped two lines on the hardwood, making about an 18" wide corridor. Gimme didn't seem to be making headway with that and was clearly frustrated. I don't think the tape stripes were noticeable to her, so it wasn't clear enough and the reinforcement levels were falling off, dampening her enthusiasm.

Since she is very comfortable with backing up to a target from the apple behavior (back into a box), I decided to use that. I got one of my small rectangular platforms and quickly shaped her to put her back feet on it. Then I moved further away and after each click dropped the treat in front of me. After that she would back to the board. Right now she is at a stage where she is backing up so fast (and verrrrry straight) that she is overshooting the board. I'll try to get this on video.

She has a very sophisticated awareness of her back feet. Its interesting how the fruit behaviors I picked were things I chose because I didn't want them to resemble any "important" behaviors for later… and yet, the dividends from them keep growing.

The weekend should be interesting. Julie Flanery is the seminar presenter and I know her from past seminars. It should be really good from that aspect. I don't know how well Gimme will do, since her emotions are really right at the surface. My independent girl becomes very needy when its "that time".

I talked to my veterinary and given Gimme's history with a false pregnancy before, he wants to wait three months after she comes out of season before spaying her. That will put it about mid-February, which is right at 18 months, the time I was aiming for.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Copier Pictures

I've already sent off the 4 best pictures from the 9/11 photo shoot.  I had to tidy the office before taking pictures, so it looks better than any time in the last five years.  Of course now I'm sneezing my head off from stirring up all that dust. 

Gimme was very good about getting into position and sitting there waiting through all my picture taking nonsense.  She really does have an excellent sit-wait.  In the first picture, Gimme is patiently waiting after I pushed the button for the copier to take the picture of her cute little tushy...

In the second picture, she is clearly impatient to see the final results and is actually watching the paper come out of the copier.

Afterward I spread her pictures out on the floor and let her look at them.  She spent quite awhile examining them, before tearing a couple to shreds.  I should have gotten pictures of her doing that.

There's another picture I would have loved to get, but needed someone to take the picture... I didn't want to risk Gimme breaking her stay and jumping off to get to me since its a long way down.  I may get that picture some day, simply because Gimme is so photogenic and it would be a cool shot.  But obviously not until I have another set of hands to take the picture so I can make sure she stays safe.

I have a great Halloween costume idea for her, but was too busy with other things to get it done.  Maybe next year.

We've only done a little training in the last couple days since I was fighting a cold and needed to work some extra rest into my days.  The second session with the target stick went really well, so I attached the cue.  Next time I'll start working on the exercise that I learned from Ursula.  I'll try to videotape it.

We have a working slot in a freestyle seminar next weekend.  I have been so focused on the fruit project that I wasn't even thinking about it and now here it is almost upon us and I really haven't taught her any of the behaviors I wanted to have ready. 

So, I'm also using free shaping to teach Gimme to back away from me.  The hardest part seems to be getting her to understand that I want her to go straight away from me.  On the hardwood floor, I lined up with the strips and started by clicking any time she kept one foot between the strips, then two and finally three.  Still, I'm not sure she is getting the idea and it was kinda frustrating for her.  So I'm going to lay down two strips of duct tape to form a corridor for her.  Then as she gets the idea I can cut away at the edges making the tape narrower and narrower to fade it. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Private Lesson & Target Stick

I wanted to do one of the exercises we did in our private lesson, but needed to attach the cue to the target stick behavior first.  Silly me, I thought Gimme would remember how to do her target stick behavior, even if we haven't done it for at least six months.  Whereas Gimme thought it was really nice of me to bring a stick in for her to chew on. 

So I quickly dropped the idea of attaching a cue to the biting-the-stick behavior.  I basically had to free-shape it from the start.  By the time we finished she was doing really nice nose touches on the end.  So if she does that again next time from the start, I will attach a cue to it.


We started with some discussions, based on some questions I had been thinking about. 

Q1a.  Are we complicating the wait-for-the-cue process by using her two default behaviors (sit and down) in the mixed sets?   When we did so much work on her relaxation protocol in classes, the down turned into a second default.
  • Maybe we shouldn't use them in the mixed sets for wait for the cue training.  Its possible we'd get better stimulus control, but lose them as default behaviors.
  • However, just because they are defaults, doesn't mean we shouldn't expect some level of stimulus control, we just may not get all four elements.
  • If I cue sit or down, she only gets click/treat/reward if she does what I cued.
  • If she offers either default I don't have to click/treat it, but could do so randomly.  I can also reward in other ways.
  • If she offers a default in place of the behavior I cued, no reward.
Q1b.  (based on the last question) What are the four elements for stimulus control?
  • If I cue X, you do X
  • If I cue X, you don't do Z (or others)
  • If I cue Z (or others), you don't do X
  • If I don't cue X, you don't do X (doesn't apply to defaults or naturally occurring behaviors)
Q2.  Are there times when we should change the training order for the last three of the six stages of learning?
  • Yes, there are times when we would.  Actually the last four stages are what makes up stimulus control. 
  • Those last four are usually on a circular cycle where they are each being taught over and over, or in random order, as understanding and difficulty of behavior increase.  Its important to specify, that when I say random here... that doesn't mean within one training session.  It merely means that between different sessions, these don't have to be in a specific order.
  • Different behaviors have a different logical order for teaching.
  • Plus, some dogs do better with a different order.  For instance, a dog as smart and active as Gimme will be bored with most duration work, so it works better to teach her distraction and/or distance first.  Then the duration develops along the way without boring her.
  • And, which "stage" you are working on may depend on the environment in which you are working at any given moment.  IE. What I train and expect in the living room will be different than what I can train and expect in a parking lot.  I would be more likely to train for distance or duration in a familiar environment, while distraction is present in a strange environment, so initially that is what you are training for.
Q3.  In classes we discovered that stopping after 5 good repetitions gave us the best results. Am I doing too many reps at a time and is that undermining the process?
  • Probably yes – even though the sessions are still relatively short, 3-5 minutes, there may be too many reps in a set.  It's better to focus on repetitions rather than time.
  • We did a plan for this private lesson, where for the most part, after 5 reps we'd break off that set and let Gimme relax and refresh.  Then after a minute come back for another set. In this way Gimme was able to stay with us for a session that lasted 30 minutes, even despite the distraction of a new location (never been in that room before), despite her knowing that nosework was happening elsewhere in the building, despite the brain intensive nature of some of the work and despite the fact of her being in season.  Woohoo Gimme…
Q4.  Does Gimme know the behaviors (peach and orange), does she simply believe she should do whatever prop she is looking at, or is it still a listening skills issue?
  • We didn't really address this issue in depth, rather went into training and working on listening skills.  We initially found she couldn't do a number of well known behaviors, as well as the two fruit behaviors, in that distracting environment, so we had to show her that it still applied there too.  Then she did much better.
  • When we set up a different chair (folding no less), after just a moment of attaching the cue to that chair, Gimme went right to work, if slowly, so she does know the cue.  Initially the quality was lower, nose under instead of head under.  Then as the lesson progressed she went back to putting her whole head under the chair.
In other blog entries I'll talk more about the exercises we did.  There is much to do and it has become quite a fascinating process.  Gimme always keeps me on my toes.