Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gimme Does Presents

After spending Christmas Eve afternoon, evening and night at my parents' and part of today - we finally got back to town.  Gimme was in need of some activity, so we arranged to meet Mary and Grafton for a walk.  Then we came home and Gimme got to open her presents.


To be clear... all her gifts were in this bag, start to finish.  I video taped her present opening.  The original video was more than 45 minutes and I've cut it down a LOT.  After getting out the second toy, she spent time playing with each toy in turn, before checking the bag to see if there were more.  Later she went back to play with the first two.

Clearly, while Gimme has a great life, I have no life other than being her doting minion.  Enjoy...

Here are most of her presents (realized I'd left out the tug toy) and am too lazy to set them up on the table again...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nosework (2/10)

We've been staying busy.  Naturally Christmas is a very big holiday for my work (American Greetings) and I am doing too much as usual.  Gimme is totally unimpressed with me spending so much time sewing gifts.  She thinks I should have started all this stuff back in January and not waited until the last minute.  Clearly, sewing that interferes with what she thinks is the barest minimum amount acceptable for training is just wrong on so many levels.

I keep trying to tell her that a little break from training would be good for her and that she'll be more enthusiastic after the break is over.  She's not buying it.  If it weren't for the walks, she probably would have fired me by now.  She is also concerned that I may not fully understand her pre-eminent and exalted position as Empress of the Cosmos. In any case, she is starting to express her creative cleverness at getting my attention in a somewhat naughty way - so I am making a special effort to resume daily training sessions.  Obviously I don't want her going down THAT road.

Today's nosework class was fun.  We had two container searches and then one interior search.  There were 24 containers, mostly boxes, plus 4 chairs, one piece of luggage and 6 cookie containers (those clear plastic round ones that you get at the bakery).  Some of the cookie containers were on the floor and some on chairs.

The first search had odor in one of the boxes and also in a cookie container on a chair.  Gimme went full throttle, as always.  Stomped a few boxes in passing, tried to convince me that one was it, but didn't hold to it when I started moving around her - then finally settled on destroying the right one.  After that she stomped a couple more before finding the odor on the chair.

Joyce is not quite as amused by her box demolition as I am.  You know me, I'm inclined to let her be who she is when it doesn't have long term consequences.  Before long there will be no boxes except for the Clove ORT and she doesn't do that over-the-top indication with anything except boxes, so I don't see it as a big deal.

On our second round, odor was in the handle of the luggage and in another cookie container on a chair.  As handlers we had to identify which of two handling tasks we were going to focus on.  1) to keep moving when the dog was indicating (something I've gotten really good at), or 2) keeping the line either consistently loose or taut.  I chose keeping the line taut.

Gimme found both hides very quickly.  I was so focused on the line handling that I wasn't ready with the treats fast enough for her first find on the luggage hide, so Gimme walked around to the other side where she was facing me, looked me in the eye and put a paw on it - just to be sure I was paying attention.  The one on the chair came so quickly after that, so I didn't really get too engrossed in line handling and she got her steak treats fast enough to suit her.

Our third search was an interior search of the room.  Gimme found odor in a corner and kept wanting to go back and re-indicate it for more treats.  Early in their training we do pay them a second and even a third time for returning to a hide they've already found and then ususally pick it up.  But then there comes a time when they are getting ready for level 2, that they have to learn they are only getting paid once on each hide and the hides stay down.

This is a change to the rules as Gimme sees it... so she was pretty persistent about trying to show me that hide again.  Of course, she thinks I'm broken and just need to be given another chance to remember that I'm supposed to pay up.  Basically I just got in her way a bit to discourage her from trying to find that one again and she finally moved on.  Then she found the second hide very quickly.  She tried to re-indicate it too, but moved on much quicker to go find the third hide.

She's a very smart cookie and it doesn't take her too much to figure out what does and what does not pay for Gimme.

Cross your fingers that tomorrow is not raining and that Mary gets off work in time, so Gimme & me and Mary & Grafton can meet for a walk.  It'll probably be dark by the time we get together, but the walk around the lake (2 miles) is well lighted and so we do it whenever we can. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nosework (6/9 and 1/10)

Sorry I haven't been blogging this last week.  I've been busy getting ready for Christmas and have had a bad cold for a couple days and someone ran into my new car and I spent a day helping my Mom.  Gimme has been mostly bored to tears with just a couple of walks to keep her from going stir crazy.

Class last week and this week has been at the Sportsmen's Wharehouse.  Mostly its just been hides here there and everywhere.  The challenges for the dogs are:

First there are lots of interesting and distracting things.  There is tons of stuff made of leather, which the dogs all want to check out.  They seem to find rough-out leather more interesting.  Gimme had a particular fascination for the shelf where all the bottles of critter scent were.  And then there was the wall where the beef jerky display was.  In all those cases, she checked things out and then moved on.

Second there are customers walking willy nilly through our search areas, sometimes right when the dogs were actively searching.  Gimme doesn't seem to pay any attention to them and if she does its very brief.  Grafton worries about men, but he ignored them all tonight.  Maddie is highly anxious about all strange things, but did well with it tonight.  Even little Becca, who is very people reactive, basically ignored them and only let off one woof and then went right back to work.

The third challenge was the type of shelving they have, its got a wire grid backing, so air and odor easily flows through the backing, presenting on the other side - which is a puzzle for the dogs on how to get to source.  In this building the air flows consistently from right to left (as you enter the store).  As handlers, even though we knew where the odor was, we were mostly letting the dogs puzzle through to solve the problem and find source.

Last week, Gimme's best search was the first one and they she got flitty on the second search as we were in the aisles where the wire grid shelving was, so she was just all over the place and it took her a long time to find source.  The third time she did better and found odor must faster.

This week she was kind of all over on her first search - which I tribute to having been so pent up this week as I've been laying around.  The second search she was very serious and really worked the problem to find source.  The third search the two hides were between gun safes.  The first one there was air current coming through from the back and all the dogs found that quickly - Gimme had it in just a couple seconds.  The second one was harder because there were giant solid boxes backed up against the back of those safes, so there was no air current.  All the dogs found it, and Gimme was the fastest. 

While there I bought her a neon green bumper toy. When I first tossed it for her, she spent awhile pushing it around the floor with her nose and then came to me without it.  I sent her to go "pick up" and clicked while she was holding it.  Within just a couple of clicks she was going after it and bringing it to hand.  So then I put it away while she was still excited about it.  I thought it might be a nice toy to take to the fort with us, so I can throw it for her to retrieve when we don't have Grafton there to run the pants off her.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dilemma Solved

I've been trying to teach Gimme to do repeat/alternating lifts of her front feet, for a freestyle move that I will call "tap".

I tried doing this in class the way Ursula suggested but ran into difficulty.  Her method was to use the "paw" that we'd taught, cue it and then as the dog reached for it, to pull the hand away and click/treat.  What I discovered was that Gimme found that punishing and quit trying after 2-3 repetitions.  I believe this comes from my snatching my hand away when she muggs me for food. 

So I've been trying to free-shape it with minimal success.  I got lots of repetitions, but not much height.  We've done several sessions and just seemed to be stuck.  Tonight I decided to try it on the grooming table.  Then I could stand back far enough that Gimme really had to reach for it - and click before she whacked my hand and not have to pull back.  We made some amazing progress very quickly - probably a three minute training session.

I realized that my hands could be the signal for the move, and that I could make them kind of dance like.  So I tried to tape this little video of the hand signal I envision to see what it was going to look like from a different angle.  Clearly this signal needs to be refined.

I only share this with you because the moment Gimme saw me doing it, she tried to get into the act.  I can hardly believe that my brilliant little girl picked it up so quickly.  Though why it should surprise me after so many instances of brilliance, doesn't make sense.  I guess I'm just a slow learner...

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Today we went for a walk on the fort's training area... and while it was raining when we started, it really poured it on while we were there.  When we got back to the car, Gimme was eager to get in, to say the least.  I wanted to towel her dry, but she wouldn't come to me at all.  However, when I opened her crate she dived in.  I think she somehow thought I wanted her to come back out in the rain and she wasn't going to cooperate with THAT plan.

After we got home, she was happy to be dried off and snuggled under some blankets.  Toward evening I was getting tired of rearranging her blankets for her every time she got out from under them.  Apparently I needn't have bothered - since she clearly is able to get herself sufficiently snuddled in without my involvement.

Here's a picture of Gimme with boyfriend Grafton... from August, when the weather was still warm and enticing...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

3 For 1 ORT

What a day!  I entered Gimme to get one Anise ORT and came home with three ORTs.

Gimme got hers without too much problem, though she did still give me the whole attitude thing.  Sometimes I think she does this to make the "fun" last longer.  Basically she stepped on or pawed all twelve boxes, then did several more, crushing one, on her way back to get serious about the real box.  Still its better than what she did for the Birch ORT where they had to replace 5 boxes and the odor box - this time it was only 1 box and the odor box.  Susan's husband was nice enough to video it for me.

While you are viewing this... if you really watch carefully, you'll see Gimme tilt her nose toward the correct box between stepping on the 4th and 5th boxes.  So she knew it was "over there" that soon.  I have to admit that I didn't see that nose tilt in real time, though its very clear in the video.  And lest you criticize me for not calling alert the first time she scratched the correct box - I've learned that when Gimme is searching with the multiple hits like she is here, to make sure she is more specific in her alert.  So I wait for her to "stick" the box, which means that she stays with it even though I move past it.  The first time she didn't stick it and the second time she did (not to mention she got more serious about demolishing it).

Nova arrived with her dogs just after I finished with Gimme.  So we didn't have to take any special measures to ensure Gimme, Empress of the Cosmos, didn't get her nose bent out of joint.  Within a half hour of her arriving, we went in for Freea's first run of the day on Clove.  It occurred to me that we could have someone in the room to videotape, so decided it might as well be Nova, so Freea would be happier.  She's still a Momma's girl, and you can see where she wants to go to Nova in a couple places, but I was able to get her to work again and she did a good job.

After that we had two hours to waste, so Nova took me Ridgefield for lunch.  Found a sweet little Mexican restaurant and pigged out.

For Freea's second run (Anise) I had Nova go into the gymnasium ahead of us.  That way, Freea could see her and then move on without looking back to see where Mommy was.  As you can see in this video, it worked very well and she got it in 8.5 seconds.  She's a good girl and it was fun to play with her.

Gimme is miffed at me right now.  She was just sure as soon as we got home that we'd have a training session - and yet, here I am, on the computer.  So, I better get off the computer and get on to doing the things that SHE deems important...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nosework (5/9)

Class tonight was very interesting.  Since so many of us are entered for the ORT this Saturday, we started with two container drills, using the odor that each of us is entered for.  Also Nova was there with Freea (black GSD) for me to handle.

First round, Gimme did great.  She found her Anise odor in 9.5 seconds!  She was focused and determined.

Second round, she started off a little distracted by the guy standing on the stairs timing everyone and Joyce had me swing her around to the start and begin again by taking her directly to the nearest box before letting the line feed out.  Well!  The Empress of the Cosmos was highly p.o.'d by that effrontery.  She stepped on, stomped on or pawed at - every box... some more than once!!!  She was definitely flipping the middle toenail at me.  She did finally settle down to trouncing the correct box, but not until she had thoroughly expressed her displeasure.

That's the first time we've seen that in 5 or 6 months.  She'd been doing so well dealing with distraction and frustration, so this kind of surprised me.  Even Joyce commented about how obviously annoyed and over-the-edge she was.  Fortunately I learned how to read her when she was doing this more frequently, so I knew how/when to call "alert".  I'm almost wondering if she wasn't primed to this response by smelling Freea on me, since I'd already handled her once at that point.

Fortunately, I won't really need to do anything but a potty walk with Freea before I handle Gimme at the ORT.  I'm going to ask that Nova attach her to the line, so that I get as little of her smell on me as possible and I can also wear gloves that I won't have on when I'm working with Gimme - just in case that was a factor in her acting out tonight. 

For the third run we did a room search - starting with a threshold hide on leash and then turned them loose to find the other hide off leash.  Gimme did really well with this - finding the threshold hide much faster than usual for thresholds.  Then she raced around the room a turn or two and found the second hide quickly.  Just as if there were no earlier disturbance in the force.

As far as handling Freea - it went really well.  She's a very sweet girl, but clearly a Momma's girl.  She didn't really warm up to me, but she was eager enough to work that once she knew that's what we were doing, she didn't care much about who was hanging on to the other end of the line.  She's a nice moderate speed girl and very methodical and direct.  Where Gimme got the first container in 9.5 seconds, Freea got it in 11.5 seconds.  In that time, Gimme made two turns around sniffing all 12 boxes the first time and then picking the right one the second time (in just 9.5 seconds!).  Freea, just went down the line until she got to the right one and stopped right there, giving a clear indication.  So I feel hopeful that I'll be able to do well with her on Saturday.  We are meeting tomorrow for a practice at the local Home Depot - then both girls get a day off before the ORT on Saturday.

BTW I picked up the car tonight.  Its nice and all brand spankin' clean.  Its fun to drive and I'm sure it'll do us well in the years to come.  Still have to figure out how I'll secure the crate in the back so it won't move around, but can still be taken in and out without a lot of trouble.  I'll work on that tomorrow, along with a dozen errands.

Agility Pairs

Last night for class we played pairs, USDAA style.  Its like a relay, with a baton to pass.  We did the first run and our partner kept her dog out of sight until I had Gimme leashed.  Then she came out, put her dog on a stay and came to me to get the baton.  Even with that time wasting - our team won the first round - woohoo.

Gimme wasn't very focused for the first round, so we had to repeat a few things (multiple run bys).  She didn't really pay any attention to Seek when she came out, preferring me and the PB tube.  After they started we moved so we wouldn't be where they were going to end - and then played Whazat (Control Unleashed: Look at That).  Gimme did well, even when Seek was the closest and doing the weaves.  I was very pleased with her ability to focus and work for PB.

The second round, Gimme did a much better job on course and the only thing we had to repeat was the weaves.  Our team didn't win this time, now Seek was higher than a kite and it took four tries for her to get through the weaves correctly.  Again Gimme paid no real attention to her.

I've been putting extra effort into getting down to the lake to walk around and work her in the presence of other dogs and its paying off.  Gimme is at the point that she can ignore other dogs and/or play Whazat if the dog is about ten feet away and ignores her too.  If the dog pays attention to her or if there is more than one, we need 25 to 30 feet.  That's a lot of progress for her and it showed in how well she did last night. 

For our third round we did a short course all by ourselves.  It started with a jump to the weaves and Gimme had a mistake despite two tries.  I find if I show her the really good stuff she is going to get in after the weaves, then she can blast through them accurately.   For instance, after I showed her the marshmallow, suddenly we could weave.

I talked with Blynn after class about this.  She suggested I set up obstacle-weaves-obstacle and train with food off my body, but nearby.  When Gimme gets the sequence, correct we run to the food and have a big party.  After we get good at the first sequence in both directions, then we use different obstacles before or after the weaves and do it again.  Later we'll do it all more with different handling options mixed in.

The idea is for Gimme to learn that the weaves always pay and pay well, but that there will be no "luring" by showing her the reward or even her knowing in advance where the reward is.  It isn't that she can't or won't quickly figure out this lesson; more that I've been a lazy trainer.

And, in Gimme's defense, we probably haven't done any weaves since the last time we were in class a month ago.  I have to say, that Gimme is making more progress than any of our classmates.  They all had a lot more experience than we did before we joined the class (its a competition level class).  Gimme has passed some by in overall skills and, at this rate, it won't be long before she catches up to the class star.  It sure is nice working with a canine genius.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nosework Practice & More

Last week we were supposed to have nosework class earlier so everyone could get started on their Thanksgiving weekend.  Joyce got held up in traffic, even after allowing an extra hour, she was still an hour late.  The three of us that stayed got a free practice for our dedication.

Gimme did very well.  Joyce is giving her some level 2 challenges and for the most part she does very well.  Gimme is certainly bold and confident and doesn't have any problem pushing in.  I however, may have to get better at reading her, since on some inaccessible hides, she won't be able to indicate source by pawing.

There was one hide that was inaccessible and she went back to it several times before giving up.  I'm just so used to her pushing in where no other dog would, but in this case the odor was weak as well.  Joyce pointed that out and that I should ask permission to move some stuff, which I then did.  By then Gimme was giving me the proverbial middle toenail, so I had to persuade her to come back and check it again.  So I will need to start setting up some inaccessible hides for her and then really rewarding her in a very special way when she pushes to get to them.

This coming Saturday is our Anise ORT in Ridgefield.  Cross any body parts you can spare that she does well.  Fortunately the ORTs are all patterned the same, as a simple box-container drill.  So I just have to do my job right and chances are very good that Gimme will do hers.

I spent Wednesday night through Friday morning at my parents' house and was able to help Mom with some last minute preparations Thursday morning.  Then did the bone picking for Dad's homemade chicken and noodles.  Rhonda was helping him and Mom suggested that I see if she would like me to get the bones picked.  That worked great since she'd been up all night making homemade rolls for our family of 50 people.  Rhonda got a late start on the rolls because she spent all day Wednesday helping Dad make the noodles.

After that I went out to the motor home and spent over an hour cutting up cucumbers, carrots, celery, zucchini, red bell peppers, broccoli and romaine to make salad for 50 people.  I get the same job every year because I still make the best salad in the family.

Gimme was so funny.  She spent the whole time sitting on the other bench seat across the table from me.  In this situation, Gimme has a very clear concept of what is hers and what is not.  If a piece I cut was 1) misshapen, 2) dropped and missed the individual bowl, landing on the table, or 3) dropped and rolled off the table to the floor - it belonged to Gimme.  The ones that hit the floor, she jumped down and snatched up herself, before getting back in her seat.

Otherwise she sat across from me very patiently watching and waiting.  If criteria 1 or 2 was met and I failed to deliver, she would lift up one paw and place it on the edge of the table in the most ladylike reminder.  She never stood up, put two paws on the table or tried to help herself.  She just put that paw up as if to remind me, saying, "Uh excuse me, I believe that is supposed to be mine."  She was so cute and so proper, that I finally set out a plate to put her pieces on.

I have no idea where this comes from.  Its not even remotely like anything we've ever done before.  Next year I'm getting a picture.

BTW for those who know of my auto-woes...  I have purchased a nice Ford Taurus wagon, which my crate just fits into.  It is two years and 46,000 miles younger than my Saturn was and costs right at what I got for the settlement.  I'll be picking it up Wednesday night.  We'll be doing our first road trip on Saturday for the ORT.

OBTW since I started writing this - got a call from a person I know from eons ago in dog training.  She's injured her back and is entered for the ORT and wants to know if I'll handle her dog.  So I may be handling Gimme and a german shepherd.  Hopefully she can drop in on nosework class Wednesday night and we can get together probably on Thursday for a practice.  The dog sounds like she might be almost as much fun as Gimme, almost.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

NW1 Title Pictures

My friend Diane just emailed me and let me know that the pictures were available for Gimme's NW1 title.  So here they are...

Exterior search:
Since this was at the veterinary facility at Emerald Downs, a statue of a jockey was a given.  Gimme had to give him a good sniff to make sure he wasn't hiding odor in his hand.

I'd just told Gimme "show me" after restarting her and she whipped around heading right for the odor, which is in the corner next to the doors on the right side.
Container search:
I had sent her with "wherezit"... that line at the doorway was threshold, which I'm stepping across. 

And just a second later... she moves so fast its hard to keep her in focus.  You can see how close the boxes are to each other and to the wall.  It was a challenge to keep from stepping on them.  Also being that close together increases the likelihood of fringing (odor that drifts from source and piles up next to another item, creating the appearance of "source").

I am receiving Gimme's third place ribbon for the vehicle search and then her title ribbon... by which time I was practically spinning in place from excitement.  Then a close-up of her ribbons.  They are very pretty, doncha think.

I don't think I ever shared this picture from her first nosework trial, taken right as she is lifting her foot to alert during the exterior search.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nosework (4/9)

We were supposed to have agility this week, but I killed my car and had no way to get there.  Gimme was at home; I was unhurt.  The insurance company totaled my old Saturn (sniff - pout) and so now I am hunting for a new car.  Meanwhile my friend Linda is driving me the 1 hour trip tomorrow to get to my parents' house; they are loaning me their extra car.  Pray that the right car magically finds its way to my attention - soon.

My insurance company messed up, so I had no rental.  Long story.  I will say I was and am continually blessed to have great friends who pulled out all the stops to ferry me around so I didn't have to miss work.  Mary came over twice and picked us up, so Gimme and Grafton could walk with us around Capitol Lake.  On Wednesday Mary came by and picked us up for nosework class.  We stopped by Lacey Collision and got the crate from the car.  After class we dropped by again and cleaned the car out entirely.  Geez I sure do manage to accumulate a heap of junk in my car.

Class went well.  Gimme did fine, even despite the unusual accommodations - being crated in the back of Mary's SUV with Grafton right there, loose in the seat.  I think Grafton thought it was finally a dream come true and that he was going to get to take Gimme home for keeps.  Each time it was her turn, he whined when I took her out of the car.  BTW the training areas have been closed for about a month - this Sunday is the first time we get to go and the kids will get to run loose together in all that time.  I'm certainly looking forward to it; I know they will love it.

Our class consisted first of three container drills - one hide each.  Gimme did good, getting faster with each round.  Joyce has already started pairing the third level odor (Clove) with her level one (Birch) or level two (Anise).  It doesn't take the dogs long to figure out that those odors pay.  Gimme still sometimes gets distracted by stuff on the periphery during a container search and I wasn't as effective at reeling her in.  Partly I think that is because I'd forgotten to grab her nosework harness and the long line, so I was working with unfamiliar feeling equipment.

Our last search was a series of four chairs and a wheelchair, set in a line, about five feet apart.  Joyce set a hide on the first chair... if the dog went past it, we circled back to the beginning and started again.  We did an exercise like this during one of our field trips over the summer.  When the dog got the first hide, while we were rewarding, Joyce set the next hide on the third chair in the row.  We continued our movement down the line and if the dog passed the second hide, we circled back at least one chair and approached again.  We repeated that until they found the second hide, and Joyce set the third one on the wheelchair while we were rewarding.  The same routine of circling back if they passed or drifted away from it, applied to the third hide.

Gimme got the first hide pretty quickly - just one circle.  The second one took three circles.  The third one was her scent seeking missile approach to nosework.  She was getting steak for the earlier container hides and I switched to a big marshmallow for each hide on the chair drill.  I don't know if Joyce's efficiency drill did the trick or if Gimme simply figured out that I was paying with a marshmallow and didn't want to wait.

I asked Joyce why she thought efficiency was so important for us - since Gimme always finishes in plenty of time and I'm sure time won't be an issue for us when we trial for NW2.  Joyce agreed that we could probably get by at that level, but said she thought we'd need to be more efficient before NW3 and unless I wanted to train for a year between them, to get ready, I'd be better off to start work on it now.  I can't argue with that logic.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nosework (3/9)

First let me tell about agility class on Tuesday night.  Gimme did well.  I decided to jump her at 20" for the first time and I could see that made a difference.  She was just a little bit less enthusiastic, since she had to put forth more effort.  Still she did well, as long as I did my part.  She is so fast and we don't have the distance skills yet - so sometimes I get rushed and my cues aren't as clear, then her performance falls off.  Obviously its not her fault, since she doesn't have the experience level to know what I want when I'm not being precise.  She is going to be really good and have I mentioned, FAST...

At nosework class last night she did well.  We started with one search of three hides in the main room.  We did it on leash and after the dogs found a hide, we used the leash to not let them go back in that area.  One of the hides was on the back leg of a chair that was in the line of the chairs we were sitting on.  Gimme did well with all of them.

I asked Joyce if there were any judging guidelines about how close to each other hides could be at the upper levels.  She said there isn't.  She said closeness isn't an issue for the dogs, since clearly we can toss a bunch of kibble into the grass in the dark and the dog will find every morsel.  Their ability to find each source is not the problem.

I do think if the hides were too close together, the handler might have trouble reading when the dog indicated - especially for those who have indicators where the dog isn't being as precise about pointing out exactly where the hide is.  Still the dog should be clearly indicating source before you get to that level.  I sure like the precision of how Gimme is using her paw to point out exactly where source is - her toenails are like little arrows.

Our last two searches were just one hide each in a tiny room (a bathroom) that we haven't searched before.  Joyce set Gimme's hide first with a NW2 level challenge.  There was a small grey plastic trash basket in the room and the odor was on the back side, between the basket and the wall.  Gimme went right to the basket, sniffed it, stuck her head all the way in to sniff inside it (all that trash raiding paid off) and then sniffed around it and pushed in to the source.  She was very fast.  The second time the hide was in a bracket that held the stall wall to the wall.  She found that very quickly. A couple of the dogs were a bit intimidated about going into the bathroom, but not Gimme.

Another thing, as we were walking back to that bathroom, we passed the other bathroom, with the door partially open.  Gimme pushed in a little ways and sniffed a bit, then turned and came out on her own.  Good to see, since she clearly knew there was no odor in there - something we'll need to know when we are presented with clear rooms at NW3.

Just got the last two pictures from the photo shoot.  As always, Gimme is gorgeous.  The one with the model isn't the one Katie put on the website... since the model's head is cut off.  Still it doesn't matter, since Gimme upstages anyone in a picture with her.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Scent Seeking Missile

"Scent Seeking Missile" was one of the judge's comments about Miss Gimme, who qualified today, being the fifth Dalmatian to get a NW1 title.  There are as of yet, no Dalmatians with a NW2 title.  I'm signing her up for the anise ORT on December 1st and then will try to get her in a trial as soon as I can.

Our day started out at 3:00 a.m. with her waking me because she had diarrhea, and then again at 6:00 a.m. for a repeat episode.  At the trial she had two more episodes and then that cleaned her out and she was fine for the rest of the day.  I know what it was from, so it was just a matter of seeing if she was ready to hunt.  She seemed fine and every indication was that she wanted to play.

She was in season and had to wear panties for her searches, but at least didn't have to wait until the end of the day and do all four searches back-to-back, as I'd been led to expect.  They started by running all the dogs through the exterior search, one after another... then all through the vehicle element.  Then the two girls in season came through and did those two elements.

Gimme wasn't very interested in the practice boxes, so I wasn't entirely confident that she wanted to play.  For the EXTERIOR search, Gimme buzzed right by the odor (not at threshold) and I missed the nose tilt, though the judge saw it.  So then she went all through the exterior search area, looking everywhere.  When they called the 30 second warning, I walked her into an area she didn't pay much attention to and repeated the cue "wherezit" followed by "show me" and she went right to it and paw whacked it.  It took her less that 10 seconds, when I essentially re-started her, so her time was 2:39.67...  It didn't seem to take more than thirty minutes to me.  It occurs to me to wonder if she hasn't decided that the real cue to find odor is "show me" and that "wherezit" means blast off the start line.  So I'll be watching that and considering that possibilty in the weeks to come.  The judge's comments were:
"Nice line handling.  Don't block dog w/ your body.  Don't plant your foot and stop!  Nice change of behavior, then went out of odor & went into hunt mode.  If you see the COB, take her back for alert.  Solid alert once she was @ pin point."
I appreciate the comment about line handling, since most of the time I do think I do that well.  I didn't intentionally block her, sometimes she just moves too fast and changes direction and I am not nimble enough to get out of her way.  I'm really not aware of planting my foot - wish I had that on video.  I totally missed the first nose tilt.  I think for the next few classes I'm going to make it a point to watch only her nose and see if I can get better at seeing her doing the nose tilt.  Sometimes I see it and sometimes I don't.

Next was the VEHICLE element which Gimme did a stellar job on.  She went right along the side and around the back of the nearest vehicle without even looking at it - instead looking off to her right.  She passed by the space between the first and second without looking at that and I was worried that I didn't have her attention even though she wasn't really leaving the vehicles, then she turned to the truck and started sniffing the bumper.  She had her paws up on it walking back and forth along it.  Got down and started up the side, checked out the wheel well and then turned back to the bumper.  Got her paws up and sniffed again and then gently lifted and tapped her paw in one spot and I called alert.  She did that in 25.58 seconds and got a third place for her efforts.  The judge really liked her and said:
"Great Job!  Good Team!  * Warning about food drop - you were last dog and away from hide, but still in search area :-) "
The food drop was a tiny crumb that fell while I was trying to put her regular leash back on her.  They are getting really strict (weirdly so, in my opinion) about making sure we immediately get the dogs back on a 6 foot leash (no longer than 6 feet allowed) before  leaving the search area.  I had to put her back on the 6 foot leash between the exterior and vehicle searches, even though there was no delay/wait and no other dog within 100 yards and even though she was already attached to a line with her harness.  Since I'd never run into that before, I was fumbling to get it done.  Clearly something I'll need to practice in classes. 

We had a long wait between those and my afternoon searches.  Next up was the CONTAINER element.  I was really worried about this because the room was so small that even using the star pattern, some of the boxes were just a foot from the wall.  I knew it was going to be hard for me to move around and not step on boxes and was worried about the possibility of fringe odor.  While I was challenged to keep moving and keep my feet off the boxes, I need not have worried about Gimme.  She gave me a couple of half-hearted false alerts to see if I'd fall for it and stepped on an extra box, but when it was clear that I wasn't paying for no junk, she kept searching.  When she came on the right one she reared up and pounced on it with her two front feet, crushing it and then proceeded to shred it.  I called alert and in just 27.55 seconds, that was that.  As I was feeding her, the judge commented about how "clear" Gimme's indication was.  I'll say - when Gimme starts demolishing a box, call alert.  This is the same judge that we had for vehicles, so she got to see our two best searches and put us down for pronounced on both of them.  Her written comments were:
"Gimme the scent seeking missile!  Great energy, fun to watch.  You handle her well.  :-)  Good Job!"
Last was the INTERIOR element.  This was off lead and Gimme made a couple of quick loops and settled into searching near a table and two chairs.  She left ever so briefly once after that, but only moved two feet before riveting back on it.  She really stayed at it detailing and trying to find out exactly where the odor was... the two chairs were too close together and she couldn't totally get to where the odor was and I didn't think to ask to move the chairs... but not being shy about such things, Gimme finally pushed one out of the way.  Then she got her nose on odor and her paw was a half second behind it.  Her toenails were pointed exactly where the odor was - this in 53.87 seconds.  The judge put us down for a pronounced on this search.  Her comments were:
"Nice change of behavior and commitment to odor.  Very enthusiastic and quite clear when in odor.  Good job."

I didn't realize until I was writing this up that we had gotten "pronounced" on three of the four searches.  That's very nice.  If you get pronounced on all four, you get special recognition during the award ceremony.  Only one dog tonight got that.  Out of 35 dogs entered, only 12 got their titles (including both girls in season).  I am sooooo glad I didn't chicken out.

Gimme has been sound asleep ever since we left the grounds.  She gets up to move if I leave the room, but it takes her awhile to realize I've moved.  Once she was laying across my lap, like a big heavy blanket, breathing so deeply.  I called her name a couple times to try and wake her up and she slept through it.  Then about ten seconds later, she suddenly startled and woke up to look at me - it took that long for her name to register through that sleepy girl brain.

Anyway, I am very pleased and proud of my girl.  I think she will enjoy the more challenging training for NW2 and NW3... 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Nosework (2/9)

Class was all about vehicles.  We did seven searches on vehicles, one hide at a time.  Gimme did well.  She still sometimes gets distracted by things nearby, but nothing like what we were dealing with before.  Now I can call her away from them and she responds pretty quickly.  As much as she uses a vigorous paw whack as her indicator on many of her hides, when she is doing vehicles - its a gentle paw touch, which is nice to see.  We can get a fault assessed if its vigorous on a vehicle.

 I was feeling nervous about containers - since that is what we failed last time and so asked Joyce to run me & Gimme and Susan & Tucker through a quick container search.  Good thing too, since little Miss, went straight to goof-off mode.  She did a quick indication on a couple boxes that weren't it, but fortunately I knew what to look for.  When she got to the right one, there was nothing quick about it - she went straight into box destruction mode.  She hadn't been doing that as much lately and I admit I like seeing it.  Its just so Gimme...   BTW in her defense, she had just done seven separate searches, so she was probably a bit tired. 

Joyce also showed us a training trick for teaching the dogs to eat the treats from our cupped hand - so there is less risk of dropping treats at a trial.  Dropping even a tiny crumb in the search area will get a fault assessed against you, so its to be avoided.

Basically you just feed the dog many treats, one after the other, from a cupped hand and the other hand places treats in that hand.  If the dog pays any attention to the hand holding the treats - they get nothing.  When they focus on the cupped hand - treats magically appear there.  Its really easy to teach and dogs pick it up quickly.  Gimme thought that was just about the most fun she's had all week.  Tomorrow while I'm at my parents', I'm going to practice doing it with her harness and line, since you aren't supposed to drop the line either. 

Today I was reading an article about children and self-control, based on the "marshmallow test".  Just thinking of marshmallows got me curious about how Gimme would react to them bought a bag today.

The first one I gave her, she kept dropping - not knowing quite how to eat it, but then decided it was wonderful.  I turned the next one into four pieces and she gobbled them down like they were food of the gods.  Later I gave her another whole one and she devoured it immediately.  I think I could buy the small ones and use them now and then as nosework treats. I realize they aren't healthy like the other stuff I feed her, but she was very excited and clearly that is very high value.  That seems to be the norm across species for junk food. 

Well cross your fingers... the weekend is almost upon us.  Gimme is still in season, so we'll wait all day and then do all our searches one after the other at the end of the day, while wearing her patriotic red, white and blue striped britches.  I'm packing up tonight so I can leave right after I teach class in the morning.  I'll thank you to cross any body part you can spare for us...

BTW that article is: "Marshmallow Study Revisited: Delaying Gratification Depends as Much On Nurture as On Nature", has some fascinating applications to dog training.  It is available at:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011090655.htm

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

What Costume?

I am the
Empress of the Cosmos...

Let all my minions
Adore me...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Woo-hoo" moment

I haven't really talked about what I'm doing with Relaxation Protocol (ala Karen Overall).  Its one of the basics behind Control Unleashed work.  I confess its very boring. In any case, I've been rewarding any laying on her mat, a LOT.  We've done it in many different places and she definitely plants herself the moment she sees her Dal-spotted mat.  If I don't have it, I can also throw down a towel or jacket, or anything really.

Working on RP has been a study in challenging.  This little girl is part pop-up toaster.  If I gave her a "down" and "wait", I'm sure she'd do it, but that's not the point.  The idea behind RP is for her to learn/understand that when she is chilling, that she is safe there and doesn't interact with her environment.  It needs to be a choice she makes, where she decides on her own to chill.

The goal is also for them to be really relaxed in that context, what Leslie McDevitt calls a "rule structure".  Many people strive for their dog to look really zoned out.  I think relaxation is a relative concept.  What would be another dog's "on alert" look is Gimme's "chill".  I think as time goes on she will be more relaxed than she is now, but I doubt this girl will ever get a sleepy-eyed relaxed look.

Anyway, our "Woo-hoo moment" is because today for the very first time, Gimme made it all the way through Day 1 on the first try.  That is HUGE for her.  To be clear, I did it at the end of a training session, so she was not as keyed up as usual.  Still - that's a big break through for us.  Definitely the hardest task for her was me counting out loud.  She was gripping the mat with her feet, but stayed.  Hard work for that girlie brain and she's sound asleep now.

BTW I recently mentioned our training journal.  I used to have it in spiral notebooks, but recently reorganized it and put it in a three ring binder.  I investigated what other people do for training records.  Some are pretty involved, but I knew I'd be unlikely to keep it up if I was too detailed, so I wanted mine to cover just essential information.    I divided the different things we are working on into different categories:
  • Basics
  • Control Unleashed
  • Obedience-Rally
  • Freestyle-RallyFrEe-Tricks,
  • Nosework-Tracking
  • Agility
  • Treibball
Each behavior has its own page.  At the top of the page is the verbal cue in large capital letters and a description underneath of what I want the final behavior to look like.  Each time I work on a behavior, I date the entry and describe what I did, what went well, what to try next, etc.  I make note of anything that seems useful.  If the location or conditions were significant, then I put a word or two about that under the date.  Typical entries look like this:

10/23/12 --  Intro ANTI-TARGET
in season    took a bit to get her to
                   understand - used food lure
                   to keep her nose off it & touch
                   various body parts - toward end
                   would pick-up/move for pawing
               -- offered stick w/both ends exposed
                   c/t for touch to bulb only, varied pos.
10/29/12 -- anti-target - much less trying to
in season   target the stick - except at end
                  as Rt/reward dropped

When I'm ready to train, sometimes I flip through the notebook and pick out the things I want to train and plan the whole session in advance, putting a sticky note on each page where I'll need to record what we did.  Other times, I flip through as I go.  For each behavior, I read the last couple of entries before starting, thus I know where we left off and can see what I wanted to do next.  When I finish the session, I leave a sticky note as a tab where I left off for the next time around when I start picking behaviors to train.

This is working for me and I'm pleased with it.  I've never kept a training journal for any length of time, so I'm just pleased to have found a system that I can keep up with.  Given that we have over 60 cues on our list -- its good to be organized.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shaping "tap"

The other day I knew Gimme needed a bit of training and also knew I wasn't really in the mood to review our training notebook and work out a plan of what to train.  So decided to just free shape for creativity and see what came up.

The way I do that is to basically click/treat whatever Gimme offers me.  Of course, she likes to run the show, so tends to settle into repeating things she knows, to MAKE me click/treat.  When that happens I stop clicking whatever behavior she is repeating.  She quickly offers something else.

We got to a behavior where she was sitting in front of me and moving her front feet, up and down, basically tap dancing in place.  Because she was sitting in front of me, I had some concern that free shaping a sitting tap dance might pollute our obedience front.  So I turned it into a standing tap dance.

The behavior I want is for her to stand in one place and lift her feet up, noticeably high, alternating feet.  I don't want side-to-side or forward or back motion.  A little bit of side-to-side is just going to happen, but I want the main action to be up and down.  For the final "tap" behavior, I want it either in "hip" (standing heel), "thigh" (standing off-side heel), or "center" (standing front) position.

I was having real difficulty getting her to not lift and step backward.  She'd have the backward motion in mind, so even though I was clicking the lift, the treat was coming after the motion.   Thus it was getting rewarded too.  If I could see her whole body, I could predict when a lift would involve forward/back motion and not click, but I'm concentrating on her feet to click the best lifts, so can't see the motion tip offs.

During one of Gimme's bark fests - which happen whenever she thinks I'm missing good clicking opportunities... while I was taking a break to wait out her yelling, it occurred to me to use jackpots to strengthen the behaviors I DO want and the behaviors that are rewarded with a single treat will diminish.  That way I can click anything that is close to what I want and use the treat to give her qualitative information.  I know the big names in dog training say that jackpots don't work, but I think they've never worked with a really smart dog.  Gimme totally understands the jackpot concept and when she gets them, she works very hard to figure out what behavior pays better. 

Toward the end of our session, I was starting to be more selective about the height of lift I would reward with a jackpot.  Its tricky, because I don't want it to look like she is pawing forward - rather more like a hackney trot in place.  She actually started lifting and holding it there ever so briefly on her own.  Then when she thought I wasn't paying well enough (cuz I didn't jackpot a couple), she'd hold and sort of jiggle her foot.  It was so damn cute, I captured that with a couple super jackpots and ran out of treats.  If I can get that consistently, it would be perfect.

Next time we'll work on getting that with the left foot too.  She will do alternate lifts, left and right several times for a click.  But the best action was coming with her right foot. 

She's sound asleep now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nosework (1/9)

Class tonight was very interesting.  I've been hit with a pretty bad case of neuralgia of the sciatica.  Its verrrrry painful and I'm hobbling around like an escapee from the over 100 ward of a nursing home.  I did figure out that I can move along pretty quickly with a lot less pain if I bend a bit at the hips and keep my knees bent, with a rapid shuffling of my feet in little 4-6 inch steps.  It looks so ridiculous that when I came in class, everyone thought I was pulling some joke.  Of course I can only walk that way for a couple of minutes since it makes my back hurt.

Any normal person would have stayed home, but with a trial in eleven days, I didn't want to miss a class.  The last time we trained containers in class it wasn't as good as I'm used to with Gimme and I knew we would be working them tonight.  Next week we train vehicles, so this was going to be my last chance in class before the trial.

I'm happy to say that Miss Gimme did very well.  She was pretty excited the first time, so not as efficient as she can be.  I still gave her the "good stuff" because it was her speed that was causing the inefficiency - not goofing off.  The second two runs she was blazing fast and very accurate.

I was very pleased with how she did.  And especially because she paid no attention to the weirdness of what I was doing with the super-shuffle.  She noticed it briefly and then figuratively shrugged her lovely shoulders, saying, "whatever..."

Apparently, while funny, it was also painful to watch, so class mates insisted on bringing Gimme in from the car and taking her back for the second and third searches.  Its great to be in a class where everyone likes and genuinely cares about each other.

Now I'm going to take some more drugs and return to the couch where I belong.  :-)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Photogenic Girl

Here's pictures from the photo shoot.  The first one is my favorite.  There are two that she converted to black and white.  Nice pictures, but its not clear that she's a liver, when the pictures are converted.  There's another picture I want to get a copy of - Gimme with the model.  I'll post it when I get it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nosework (5/8 & 6/8)

I've been so bad about keeping the blog up.  Not like me at all, since I like nothing better than to blather on endlessly about you-know-who.

Last week in nosework first we did a single hide search on a vehicle, then a search game called Running Bunny, followed by another single hide search.  That is where you have a vehicle with 2 hides on each side/end (making it 8 total).  Before you approach the vehicle the hides are all paired.  Walk the dog to the nearest point on the vehicle and let them start searching.  They can go in either direction and you just keep following them, rewarding each hide they find.  Joyce walked behind me by about two hides, moving some and reloading all the hides.  It teaches the dogs to really focus on the vehicle.

Here I have a composite video of Gimme playing Running Bunny.  You'll note that to start with she missed a hide here and there because she was going so fast.  The first time around, when she goes to the back end of the silver car - we had a hide there in the prior search.  As the game progresses (lasted about 4 minutes) she becomes more focused, really keeping her nose on the vehicle.  My camera-person accidentally clicked the camera off and on recording - signified by the frames that say "hiccup".

Tonight we met at a longarm quilting service shop, where one of the students works.  It was three rooms, an alcove and a bathroom.  You could walk from one to the next to the next, all the way back to the beginning in a circle around a central support wall.  Each transition from one room to the next had a doorway, plus the doorway into the shop.  So Joyce set up a series of five threshold hides and then at the end we turned them loose to find the first hide again.

It was quite interesting.  Gimme just came in season on Sunday and was clearly not very focused the first time around.  On the other hand, none of the dogs did very well in this setting.  For one thing, the shop owner and workers bring their dogs in to work, so there were a lot of those distracting smells to work through.  Plus, based on watching the dogs, the configuration of these rooms made for some pretty dead air.  The dogs had to be really close to the hides to find them, since the air wasn't moving the odor around.

Then we did another search off leash with a hide in each of the three biggest rooms.  Gimme was more focused and enthusiastic, but still had trouble finding them.  She was clearly searching (i.e. not goofing off), but having trouble homing in on where the odor was.  All the dogs were having the same problem, though it was a little easier for the two slowest dogs.

Jeff Schettler explained in his book that often times when a dog is searching, their nose can pass right right over odor and its like they don't "see" it... and they may move several feet and then snap back to it.  So, what the nose smells isn't necessarily processed instantly and the dog may have moved well past it.  Sometimes they'll snap right back to it; other times they've gone too far and have to go by it again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Knowing of Gimme's fondness for all things "moo", sistah Grace sent her a picture.

Gimme was fascinated.  I'll probably never get the monitor clean again.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rally FrEe seminar

First, a quick note about the photo shoot.  Gimme did very well, but was exhausted afterward.  I thought she was still awake, until I looked closer in the rear view mirror and realized she had already fallen asleep, with her head held up by her chin resting on the crate bars.  And this before we got out of the parking hi-rise.

The photographer volunteers at the animal shelter and teaches with a clicker, so we had much in common.  Gimme continues to be the most incredible people magnet.  We were almost late because of all the people who just had to pet her, despite me planning extra time to find where we needed to go and have time to acclimate to the situation.  While we were getting Gimme accustomed to the flash, Katie took pictures, so our private shoot at the end went faster.  I could see some pictures pop up on the computer screen and they are going to be DAMN CUTE!  Can't wait to see them.

Naturally Gimme totally upstaged the professional model.  On an interesting side note... despite tripods and stands and wires and stuff just everywhere - Gimme never bumped into anything or stepped on the wires snaking across the floor.  She didn't even wag her tail into stuff.  I think that is because of all the early body awareness work we did - so she is just much more aware of her body parts relative to "stuff" in the environment.  Things went so well that we got back to town earlier than I expected.  Very good since I had scheduled an evening private lesson with Pumpkin, my behavior case; the boy is making progress. 

I want to talk about the Rally FrEe seminar before all the impressions fly out of my head.  We went two weeks ago; the weekend before I lost Meaggi.

Rally FrEe, stands for Rally with Freestyle Elements.  Its like a rally course in that it has a course with signs, otherwise it is very different.  In fact, I'd say that's pretty much where the similarity ends.  On a plus note, I think its an excellent way to dip your toes into freestyle.  And especially for those of us who are choreography-challenged.  One very nice thing is that if you enter a trial, you will receive the course 7 - 10 days in advance of the trial.  To be honest, you really need it in advance so you can plan free choice signs - otherwise the transitions will eat you alive.

Almost every sign has some freestyle behavior included.  One-fourth of the signs are free choice, which means you can plug in behaviors you know well and want to showcase.  There are no do-overs.  If you make a mistake, you are expected to pretend that was what you planned on and smoothly transition despite the error - as you would in a freestyle performance.  Also, you start with zero points and earn them along the way.

I really think Rally FrEe requires a lot more precision than rally if you want a decent score.  They also discourage (i.e. you won't earn higher scores) luring type hand motions.  You don't have to use dance like hand motions, but will get better scores sometimes if you do.  You aren't expected to dance through the course - which would be kinda hard anyway, though there are places where you could.

I think Rally FrEe requires more precision than obedience, since the moves are more complex and the team is scored on minute details.  For instance, if you are heeling and the sign calls for a counter-clockwise spin at your side, the dog must both start and end the spin in heel position to get full marks.  Likewise if the dog starts in center-front position, the dog must both start and end the spin in that position. The last sign is always a bow sign, which must be performed in position at your side (depends where they were during approach).  How many of us had taught our dogs to take a bow from in front of us?  Oh, 95%.  Back to the drawing board.

Each sign will have a visible clip on either side that tells you what side the dog should be on when approaching the sign.  If your dog isn't on the correct side, you are going to have a problem correctly performing that sign.  While this sounds easy, it can be really hard to keep it straight and I watched time and time again as teams got mixed up on these very short sample courses of just 4 or 5 signs.  Its also easy to miss a sign, even though you walked it correctly, because there is more stuff out there than just signs and the course may wind back and fourth through itself.

Gimme and I had a lot of fun.  We had a partner assigned and I surely groaned upon hearing this (because of the dismal experience at the last seminar with partners).  However, my partner was very nice and we had a good time together.  I also have to say that Oregonians are much friendlier than people from Washington.  I thought I'd noticed that before, but it was really apparent during this seminar.  Julie Flanery does a great job presenting and is fun - so if she is coming to your area for a Freestyle or Rally FrEe seminar, do sign up.

Gimme did very well in the environment, getting better and better as the weekend went on.  One thing I've known all along is that she has more difficulty with sudden environmental change (SEC).  So, once she became accustomed to working with the other dogs all around, she put most of her attention on me and did well ignoring them.  Sometimes that works to our advantage.

One working session, we were delayed getting in the building, so when the session ended and break was starting, I continued working a few minutes (as did a couple other teams) because we were making headway.  What I didn't realize was that even though Gimme seemed to be focused entirely on me, she was very well aware that other dogs were leaving.  So a minute later when she and I came out of a circle and another dog was moving by us, Gimme reacted.  Dogs had been closer to us than that, so I certainly don't blame the other handler.  Possibly coming out of the circle suprised Gimme too, but I think, more than anything, it was SEC.  She noticed the other dogs leaving, even if I didn't and thus was more likely to be bothered by a dog moving close, even though that proximity hadn't bothered her before.

Lesson learned for me.  I was keeping such a careful watch after that, I started feeling like a hyper-vigilant bobble-head doll.   On that note, another thing I really like about this wonderful new sport is the possibility of video-titling.  All I have to do is recruit two other people who want to do it at the same time and who are all within 200 miles each other.

You can find out more about this new sport at the RallyFrEe Website.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Nosework (3/8 & 4/8)

I'm so far behind on blogging... its just hard to sit down to the computer for any length of time.   Gimme is doing her best to cheer me up and help me adjust to losing Meaggi.  She has been testing the limits of her patience during this time.  When it gets to be too much for her, she works on her other favorite pastime, which she calls Pre-Cycling.  You've heard of recycling... well pre-cycling is what the dedicated do to make sure that processing of used paper and cardboard goes faster for the company that turns it into new paper and cardboard.

Her main job is to keep me cheered up.  If I appear to be settling in on the couch for a good long mope - Gimme feels compelled to interrupt such inclinations.  For the first week, she patiently snuggled with me, but now she believes its time to raise the bar.  Within minutes, she'll leap into my lap, roll on her back, wiggle and bite at my hands or do other things to get me to play with her.  If that isn't effective, she repeats the process with a toy in her mouth.

We've been meeting Mary and boyfriend, Grafton, for lots of walks.  Both kids have felt more cooped up than usual.  Mary isn't able to do our regular distance yet (following her surgery), so we've been trying to get in more frequent walks - lest the two kids go bonkers.  We've tried unsuccessfully for months to get this footage.

Here's another video of the two of them playing...  you cannot miss seeing why Mary and I enjoy watching them so much.  For some reason they always do their best running and playing on that side of the road, so the camera is facing into the sun.

Nosework for the last couple of weeks has been good.  Last week we met at the medical center and did a bunch of hides outside.  The hides were in the lee side of the building, so the air current was unusual.  All the dogs went direct to the first hide, then right past two and three to the four and five, catching two and three on the way back.  Sometimes the air moves in a way that they don't catch the scent until they come at it from the other direction Since I decided to only reward Gimme's efficient searches with the really primo rewards, she hasn't had a clear instance of not going direct to the odor.  Naturally I don't want to mistakenly give her the average treats if she validly didn't know where it was, so I'm careful to assume in her favor.  Gimme did a good job of finding them all and a couple of the later ones were amazingly direct and fast.

This week in class we met at the building and worked container hides.  Joyce had purchased an iPad and had the ability to tape our runs.  So we only did one hide per run, three runs.  We got to see each one.  Gimme did well, but was tending to revert to box trashing a little bit.  The air current was really still and the dogs showed us that it did strange things to the scent.  They all would walk right by a box, inches to one side and not catch the odor, and yet from a couple of feet away on the other side, they'd home right in on it.  I was really glad that Gimme was later in the line-up, so I could see what the others were doing and know when it was her turn that she wasn't being inefficient.

She did make it pretty clear on the way home that three searches of one hide each was not sufficient for her.  So we did some other training when I got home.

Joyce has promised to try and send the clips to me - when they come, I'll post them.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Amazing Agil-Gimme

Gimme did so well in class tonight.

We started with our calming mat work and she did very well.  We set up in the same place, then a horse came out of the run behind us and was challenging.  A short bit of "whazzat" and Gimme ignored him from then on.  Then one of the other students brought her dog from the car to the area between us and the building - continually playing and tugging in a barking, whipping frenzy.  Naturally that was a LOT for Gimme to deal with just thirty feet away.  Still she held it all together and did admirably.  We played "whazzat" as needed and then she proceeded to mostly ignore the dog - though I noticed when she laid down on her mat again, it was diagonal so she could keep one eye on that crazy border collie.  So then what should happen, but the pony comes to the front of his stall to one side of us (turns out it was actually a dwarf horse).  That elicited a couple barks, then she was able to work me for goodies.

I was very happy that through all this, she did not once pull the leash straight.  She stood up a few times and expressed her concern, while still showing SELF-control.  It wasn't me imposing control, maybe helping her a bit, but she chose to work with me over and over again.  She makes me very proud.  Honestly after that prolonged gauntlet of what is supposed to be our calming prep time, I wasn't expecting her to do that well during her actual run.

Instead she was the Amazing Agility-Gimme girl.  I could not have been happier.  Every mistake was either clearly mine or something she was not ready for yet.  In several places on course, she did things we'd not yet trained for.  She started the course with a really oblique angle to the first jump, for the first time.  Many dogs when first exposed to that will come around the jump - it never occurred to Gimme to bypass that jump.  Even though we haven't really done much with the teeter in the last couple of weeks, she went over it and slammed it to the ground without the least bit of concern (several times, in fact).  I wasn't expecting her to transfer her chute training yesterday to this strange chute, but she went right through it... slightly slower, but without hesitation.  Then she went on to do the weave poles beautifully.  She had a bobble or two, but when she got them - She Got Them - all TWELVE of them!  Remember from the video, we are only training four poles at this point.

Blynn is great to train with.  She picks up things in my handling that I'm not aware of, explains it in a way I can understand and do, and when I get it right, then Gimme is right too.  Gimme has so much natural talent for agility, its amazing.  Even things that go wrong the first time, when we repeat them - she just leaps ahead of where her understanding should be and does it right.  Based on how well Gimme did, Blynn is under the mistaken conclusion that we did a lot more training than actually happened.  I should also point out that these are not simple courses - they are world team level challenges.  Gimme sure makes me look good. 

Gimme was great with seeing the other dogs as we were moving around outside the building.  For our second run, we were in a time crunch to get everyone another run, so there was overlapping during entry/exit.  Thus there was a dog on course when we moved out there... which Gimme noticed and then turned to me demanding I pay up.  Likewise as we were leaving another dog was entering the arena and she acted the same way. 

She is such a smarty pants and it shows.  Have I mentioned that before?

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Gimme and I are still adjusting to the changes following losing Meaggi.  I'm depressed and she is uncertain, probably because of my sadness and the changes in our routine.  I think she likes having me all to herself... she just wishes it was a happier me.  I've been trying to keep up with outings, but it doesn't help that Mary had gallbladder surgery during the same time.  So, what walks we have had, have been shorter.  Gimme and Grafton literally shriek for joy when they see each other and run around with crazy wild abandon.  I've also been puttering with some training.

Yesterday Gimme and I joined our cat-person friend Carol at the Thurston County Republicans picnic.  We weren't there two seconds before Andrew Barkis made a beeline to see Gimme.  Lots of people came over to see her and admire what a good girl she was.  While I ate, Gimme lay beside me on the grass and I tossed her treats for being good.  She really stayed put, except when people came a visiting -- she is after all, the Official Worldwide Dalmatian Greeter.  There were even the occasional dogs passing by, that she'd look at and then turn back to me for treats.  All the time we've put into chillin' paid off.  Here's a couple pictures...

Today I thought I better get serious about some agility training, since we have class in two days.  Haven't actually done any weave poles since our last class.  Gimme did such a great job at it, that I set a jump up in front of them, since that was an issue at the last class.  She missed doing the poles a couple times, either the entry or didn't finish.  Since I haven't yet put the poles on a verbal cue, I'm completely okay with that.  Right now I am just aiming her at them -- won't put it on a verbal cue until its closer to what I want.  She was doing so nicely that I went and got the camera and made this little bit of video...  You can see she is going to be speedy.

Of course, watching that clip to edit it makes it painfully clear how late my clicking is...  Good grief!  She really does learn in spite of me.

After that we did a little session on the chute.  This is about the third time we've done it since our last class.  I decided to attach the chute firmly, instead of draping it over the edge.  Smartly I tipped it up on its end, but really should have put Gimme in the house while I set it up.  She tried to go through it while I was laying out the chute and got all tangled up and finally managed to get out the way she came in.  Naturally after that, she didn't want to go in again.

So I basically stood at the far end of the chute and free shaped her to leave me and go to the barrel opening and enter on her own.  Since I was holding the chute end open, a couple times she went in the chute end and turned around to get treats.  She got clicked and treated for doing that - in the sense of priming the pump.  It took a little while, about ten minutes (including distractions), but she figured it out.  I was holding the chute completely open and dropping it a little earlier each time as she came through.  After about five times coming all the way through and since I'd already dropped it right after she entered the chute part,  I went with her to the other end and sent her.  She raced through it no problem - for which she got a mega jackpot and we quit.  I'll let her percolate on that now...

I just love the way free shaping helps a dog get over what might otherwise provoke anxiety.  Of course, Gimme always likes things that she "invents".  And it certainly helps to start with the smartest dog on the planet.

Friday, September 28, 2012

I promise

I promise to get caught up blogging this weekend.  In the meantime, to give you something to read... I recommend the following site for a good article on nosework.


Monday, September 24, 2012


A to Z Mad About You
Titles: NAJ, NJP, OJP
March 8, 1998 – Sept. 24, 2012

It never gets any easier.  We love them so much and we feel so responsible.  When the time comes that our feelings of responsibility come into conflict with reality, we are faced with a decision that robs peace of mind.  Meaggi has been healthy most of her life, a blessing we both enjoyed.   My sweet girl was gracious enough to have two problems go critical at once, so I won't second guess my decision.  Either one alone would have taken her from me in just a few weeks.  Together she was in discomfort that could not be relieved and would soon escalate.  The only thing I could do for her was release her from this old failing body, the last kindness.

Meaggi was weak and didn't want to eat.  Clearly a last walk was out of the question.  On Saturday when she had a better day and was still interested in food, we spent a bit of time sitting in the grass - me tossing treats for her to find.  After awhile, even that was too much.  Today she didn't really want to eat, but would take special goodies if I hand fed them.  So McDonald's for breakfast was a natural place to start.

We arrived early at the vet's office and sat waiting in the car.  I fed her M&Ms... the first of her life.  She seemed to enjoy them and sucked the sugar coating off before biting down.  Still after half a package, she'd had enough.  All their lives together I referred to Meaggi and Michael as "M&M".  So it wasn't lost on me that when the last of M&M was leaving me, she spent time during her last day eating M&Ms.  

We spent the rest of the time waiting with me petting her while she fell asleep, for the first time today losing that shivering that dogs do when they are hurting.  When the time came to go in, it seemed so wrong to wake her up, but had to be done.  It can't be coincidence that this grand old spottie-dottie lady, at fourteen and a half years, according to the 7 year dog-to-human conversion, leaves me at the age of 101. 

Doc had the room ready for her.  It was a very peaceful passing... He gave her a sedative with a lot of narcotic in it, to ease her pain as she went to sleep.  Within a minute the shivering passed again and soon she drifted into a relaxed sleep.  When he gave her the final shot, my hand was resting on her heart and I swear it stopped beating before he'd even pushed the plunger all the way.  She was ready to go.  All good things come to an end.

Meaggi was always both a happy girl and a good girl.  She was clearly her mother's daughter.  Her biggest job in life was to be my couch buddy.  This is Meaggi on her fourteenth birthday, doing couch duty.  Do note, she was still wearing her heart on her sleeve. 

When she was young we did a lot of walks in the woods.  There was never a puddle that couldn't be mucked around in.  Sometimes she would roll and come up covered in mud.  She was happy to walk, no matter what the weather - even when the mud was frozen.

Early last year, at age 13, Meaggi was still getting around well enough to enjoy showing Gimme how to explore during walks.  I loved watching them, because everything Meaggi did, Gimme copied a few feet away, her little shadow.

We dabbled at agility and Meaggi earned three titles, despite all odds.  Although she was focused and responsive in training - at trials all that went out the window.  Somewhere she got the idea that speed was the most important thing at trials.  She would throw on the afterburners and warp through courses leaving me in her dust.  Although we weren't often successful, it was always a fast, fun and wild ride.  Clearly she had the same intense and serious look as Michael.  Unfortunately the pictures don't capture how fast her tail wagged.  It always seemed about to fling off into the farthest corner of the ring. 

Meaggi always had very involved false pregnancies.  When the time came she would find a toy and mother it for several weeks.  She'd carry the baby everywhere, even bringing it to bed.  Once while she was sleeping, I snuck in six more and she was very big eyed when she awoke to see how her brood had grown.  Within minutes, about half of them had been rolled off the couch.  Certain toys were not acceptable as substitute babies no matter how many times I tried to sneak them in.  I finally offered her a whole basket of toys to choose from - you'll see here that she has a certain theme about what was appropriate.

Meaggi was also known as the "Supreme Queen Duchess of the Universe".  So of course, it was only appropriate that her babies be celestial bodies - suns, moons and stars.  She was completely consistent about this throughout her several false pregnancies.

Even when she had a large brood of six to ten babies, Meaggi carried them everywhere.  She'd make many trips to move them from one couch to the other, or to my bed.  In the morning she'd carry one outside with her to pee and then drop it on the couch on the way back in - resuming her job, moving them one by one until they were all in one place again.

Michael used to drive her crazy during these times.  He would watch her and wait for her to fall asleep.  Then very stealthily, he would kidnap a "baby", laying in front of her, waiting for her to awaken and notice.  As soon as she did, he'd begin tossing the baby in the air to either catch it or pounce on it, while emitting his high pitched goofy-boy bark.  I always pictured him saying, "I'm socializing, I'm socializing..."  There was no mistaking the meaning of the wail that came from mother Meaggi, "Mommmmmmmmmm!"  That wail wouldn't stop until I took the baby away from Michael and returned it to her.  Some things are universal, no matter what the species -- brothers tormenting sisters seems to be one of those.

Following her last season, I wasn't expecting a false pregnancy, since the season only lasted a few days.  Thus the celestial bodies weren't available when Meaggi was ready to mother a baby.  Then what should happen, but that she brings an apple in the house.  She carried it around for days, everywhere she went.  She slept with it, always being sure that it was tucked up safely next to her.  I got the basket of toys out, but she was not interested in them.

On the tenth day of motherhood, Meaggi woke from a nap and must have been a bit hungry.  Finding an apple close by, she started munching away.  Suddenly she realized, in horror, what she had done!  She was distraught, spitting out the piece in her mouth and pushing the pieces all together in a pile.  She was so upset and really didn't know what to do and wouldn't settle down.  I had no choice but to find another apple of the same size, and distract her with one hand, while using the other hand to sweep the baby-remnants into the trash and replace them with a new apple baby.  She still seemed upset and uncertain.  However, after another nap, she woke and was apparently happy and content again; obviously having concluded that the cannibalism episode was all just a very bad dream. 

I miss you already Meaggi girl.  For all the joy you brought me, I thank you.  Until we meet again, run free and be happy.  Wait for me.   Love, Mom