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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gimme's Fast Nose

After our walk today I was going do a Home Depot field trip, but Linda and I spent too much time jabbering.  And since Linda had never seen Gimme do a nosework search - decided to set up a quick hide and let the girl demonstrate her prowess.

She started whining the moment I opened the jar - even though the car was all closed up and she was inside.  Its amazing how quickly that scent permeates and how certain she is that its important for her to be searching for it RIGHT NOW.  The wind was about 8-10 mph.

The first hide I set up was just about 40 feet from the car on the ground, with the tin tucked behind a scotch broom bush.  Scotch broom has a particularly strong and obnoxious odor of its own, but isn't as bad this time of year.  I started Gimme from a place upwind of it and let her head into the area and she had it in about 30 seconds.  Boyoh she was all over it. 

After that Linda set up two hides for us and I was careful not to watch.  Gimme kept trying to peek around the car and see where Linda was going with her tin.  The first hide was about 75 feet from us and I never even got to give her the "where-zit" cue.  The scent was blowing across it right toward us and Gimme was at a dead run dragging me behind her, stumbling and tripping, as I tried to keep up.  If she goes that fast for tracking -- I'm going to be in very big trouble.  As it is, my knee is killing me from running on such rough ground.  She was very persistent about that hide and really had to wait for me to get there.

The next hide I asked Linda to head toward and put the hide somewhere in an area on the near side of a big long pile of stumps.  We approached from upwind and Gimme took me around the back side of the pile, then down the edge of the road and was moving away from the area I'd designated.  In a search we have a clearly delineated area to search, so I let Gimme play out some line and then guided her back toward the area I knew it had to be in.  She made a couple circles around me and then headed toward the downwind end of the stump pile.  I knew she was in odor when she tried to climb onto the stump pile.  Then she thought better of it and came around the edge as if to approach from a different angle.  Suddenly snapped in the other direction and dived in under the edge of a stump to the tin...  She was so excited and so pleased with herself.

That was actually a very hard hide because the tin was tucked under the edge of a stump and protected from the breeze on three sides by the stump pile and some long grass on the other side.  Based on how Gimme acted, I'd say the scent was probably pooled right where the tin was and then some was drifting up and getting caught and blowing down the line of the pile.

There's a neat gadget called a wizard stick that is a hand held fog generator.  Joyce brought one to class and it was cool to see how the scent moved and how it "follows" you when you pass through it.  I'm thinking I'll have to get one just to see for times like this.  Its under $25 including s/h.

BTW this is only Gimme's second time doing an exterior area search.  Her first exterior search was at the match back in January.

She was very persistent about these hides and demanding me to get there and pay up.  I think the frustration she had going into and during the ORT may have been much more of a factor than her not understanding to persist.  Time will tell.  BTW at one of my stores I raided a cache of shoe boxes that were set to be crushed.  I got several boxes - five of which are identical.  They'll be very handy for our training here at home.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Ahah Moment

Tonight I suddenly figured out something that had escaped me before.  I've been wondering why it is that Gimme is so good about stimulus control on some things and so awful on others.  There are things that I've put a cue on that she never questions and sticks with me and then there are the others...

It occurred to me tonight that the behaviors which Gimme has difficulty ceding control are all behaviors we created through free-shaping.  Every last one of them.  I suspect that in her mind, part of the picture of that behavior is the offering of it.  I'm definitely going to talk to Ursula about that.  I've been diligently working on the things she and I discussed in that private, but we are only making a smidgen of progress. 

Any behavior we created through luring, targeting or guides - those she generally is good with.  Though if she gets frustrated during a training session, all listening goes out the window.  Boy I'd sure hate to have to give up free-shaping.  Gimme is so good at it and so creative.  She's also mighty creative in coming up with clever embellishments on any behavior I'm teaching through other means as well.

We've been working on backing up using the guides.  She figured it out so quickly.  Now though she's in embellishment mode.  Who knew there were so many ways to move backward.  I swear she just sprinkles a little pixie dust around and that's why she is so bewitching.

Another project we have going is teaching her to close the door - after all, she is the one that keeps leaving it open.  We are on day two and she already has a strong idea of what to do.  What a character...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nosework (5/3)

Class tonight was very interesting. I realize now that Joyce doesn't quite "get" Gimme. She talks about her reactions as if Gimme is a sensitive little wilting flower, instead of a tough little tomboy who is also the Empress of the Cosmos. She is sensitive, but to frustration, not other stuff. She doesn't get her feelings hurt, she gets annoyed (read that royally p.o.'d). We talked a lot as a class about the ORT.

Joyce was much more focused on handling and teaching our dogs to commit to odor and stay there until we get there and pay up. She hasn't pushed that in the past.  I wish we had worked on it sooner - especially before the ORT. She did say that her students that failed all had fast dogs and/or were testing two odors. So tonight we did a lot more moving around the dogs and were not quite as fast to pay up, letting them wait a second first.

So while we were working things, I kind of did what made sense to me based somewhat on Joyce's comments mixed with my own understanding of Gimme.

For instance, Joyce commented that when dogs hit the end of the line it feels like a correction, so we should be going with them. Of course, even with my longer than usual line (25ft), Gimme can hit the end in a nanosecond. Joyce is always saying I have too much line; yet, I find it very useful because I can play it out to let Gimme check out something briefly and then reel it in as she turns back to me. I looked at the video again and each time when she snapped at the line was just after she'd hit the end. Joyce thinks the unintended "correction" hurts her feelings and undermines confidence... my take is that it annoys Gimme and is frustrating to her. Snapping at the line is her way of telling me to get with the program.

The other issue at the ORT is that Gimme wanted to check out the room and I stubbornly stayed near the boxes and wouldn't let her go. Joyce still thinks I should keep her near the containers and not let her snoop, and kept telling me to move her back tonight. Given how easily frustrated she gets, I've decided to use that long line to give her more freedom, and then gently keep reeling her back to the boxes.

So tonight I really focused on my line handling. I let her have more freedom to snoop around the perimeter even though we were set up for a container search and when she'd turn back in my direction, I gently reeled her back. I also made it a point to keep tension on the line as much as possible, so if she did try to squirt off in some direction, she was getting the sensation of a steady pull as the line slid through my hand, not a jerk when she hit the limit. My impression was that Gimme seemed more content with this way of doing things.

When we had the threshold hide, I let her go a bit further past it and then gently used the line to encourage her back toward it. She did a really nice job.

I also talked to Joyce about how much freedom I have at an ORT or a nosework test to do management things once we enter the search area and before the search starts. Turns out I have more latitude than I'm used to from other sports. As long as I don't hold up things, I can use the time walking to the start line to play "whazzat" with her and I can be rewarding her as I go. So that would help to prevent a buildup of frustration and perhaps lessen her need to snoop once the search starts.

We can hold them behind the start line for up to ten seconds. Before I've just been holding her for a good long pause and then letting her go. Tonight I counted to myself "one-banana, two-banana, three-banana..." I couldn't stand it and sent her to search after six-banana. Ten seconds is really a very long time.

After class I explained to Joyce what I was doing and why I might have seemed to not being paying attention to some of her direction during class. She understood and said it was worth a try. In an ORT I could certainly let Gimme snoop, realizing that I'm on the clock and eating up time. Which, fortunately isn't an issue with Miss Gimme, the Nose That Knows...

A funny from class - Gimme's nosework search cue is "wherezit". So tonight after she found one of her hides and Joyce had set another, I gave her the cue and one of the girls in class started telling me where it is. We've been in class together all along, but this time I happened to be pretty close to her - I guess she'd never noticed our cue before. We all got a chuckle.

We came home and did a nice session on some skills. I am still seeing that Gimme just doesn't want to give up control of behaviors. Once they are on cue, she still wants to get paid for offering them and finds it very frustrating that I'm so obviously failing to live up to her understanding of how the world works.

It must be hard to be a genius surrounded by such gross ineptitude.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

We here at Castle Baker,
abode of Gimme,
Empress of the Cosmos,
want to wish each of you a very
Happy Valentine's Day. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I did a little session tonight and it was interesting.  My idea was to cement in her mind that she needs to keep telling me until I get my heiney over there and pay up...

I set up two identical boxes, one with odor and one without.  We did 7 hides where I'd move them around and change up which one was the one she would get to first, where they were in the room, etc.  Obviously I knew which was the correct box, but I purposely waited for her to be more persistent before rewarding her.  She was right all but once and that time the boxes were pretty close to each other and I think she was getting frustrated.  The next time I made it a little easier.  I'll do this some more, though I won't repeat 7 hides in a row - I think that is probably too many.

She wasn't frustrated by doing the nosework or the difficulty of the challenge, more like by being taken out of the room between hides.  She doesn't like that interruption and wants to keep playing the game.  Sometimes at class after finding a hide if she is off leash she tries to keep playing the game and won't come to me.  If she is off lead, I try to get my hand in her harness while I'm feeding her at odor to avoid that issue.  Of course, she isn't going to be off leash very often in the foreseeable future.

BTW one thing I forgot to mention in the earlier blog entry was that she nailed the correct box in the practice area both before and after her test. 

Bummer ORT

As you may have gathered from the title - our ORT attempt was not successful.  I am soooooo glad that Susan brought a friend who was able to tape our run, since reviewing it multiple times makes things clearer.

What you will see is that Gimme was distracted throughout.  Early in her search she does sniff the correct box three times very quickly (the third one on the line closest to the camera position), but then immediately moved on.  I wondered at the time if that was it and almost called alert, but then she moved on so quickly I thought maybe she was just catching a breeze of scent.  You will notice that she never goes back to it.  Later in that search as she is moving down that line again, she actually steps away and avoids that box.  If I had called alert sooner we'd have gotten our ORT, but I don't think that would have benefited us in the long run as we moved into trialing... since this has pointed out some holes in our training.

Anyway, she finally goes to another box and is all over it, pushing it around the floor like she usually does - so I called "alert".  That was incorrect and we are then directed to the correct box so she can be rewarded at it.  You'll see how excited she gets when she gets rewarded there.

BTW in NACSW lingo, this is not called a "false alert" or a "failure", but rather a "miss".  Ya gotta love politically correct stuff - felt like a failure to me.

After looking this over (several times) and reviewing recent events, I have some ideas about what went wrong to conspire against us here.

First, we've never done a blind hide (where I don't know the correct answer).  I don't think I did anything wrong in my handling to pull her off and I don't believe I'm helping her in other instances.  What I do think this shows is that Gimme has a different idea of what she is doing.  When I didn't rush in to tell her that she was right, she moved on.  She is normally more persistent in class/training and I think I need to build on that persistence.  In class and training I am there very quickly (as fast as I can be and yet not so fast that I'm coming in too soon and not waiting for her indication).  In this case, with the distraction and my not being there instantly, she decided that wasn't it after all and moved on.  I think the fact that she tried showing me a box that was obviously not right, shows that she was toying with the concept of maybe just acting like there is scent there would work. 

Second I do think she is experiencing some frustration now that things are a little harder, though certainly not too hard for her.  On Wednesday our first hide was at threshold and Joyce wanted us to keep them on leash and in the vicinity until they found it.  Because Gimme was persistent in her interest about the food kept there, Joyce moved in and stood there blocking her access.  That put Joyce really close to the hide - adding social pressure.  Gimme wasn't concerned about Joyce, but I can't help but wonder if that experience paired the feelings of social pressure to what was already a frustrating experience for her.  Thus when she was frustrated by my staying close to the boxes today... perhaps it just added up.  Three times I saw her turn her head and snap toward the leash (only one of which shows up on the video) and that is something she has done before when were are working on LLW and she gets frustrated.

And last, this was not a great week for our walks.  Our last two walks (last Saturday and then Tuesday) were shorter than usual because my knee is giving me problems.  We would normally have walked again on Thursday and Saturday.  Thursday I ended up working an extra long shift and Saturday it was raining.  Besides which Tonya didn't wanted her to have some rest time for a few days after her treatment yesterday.  So that adds up to her being more restless than usual and thus more subject to distraction.  She was more distracted this time than she was when we were at this location for the match early last month. 

So this shows us training holes: 
  • I've got some ideas of how to set it up so that Gimme learns to be more persistent, demonstrating the courage of her convictions, until she convinces me that she KNOWS she is right.  I'll also talk to Joyce about ideas she may have. 
  • Also we need to do some blind hides.  Susan said she'd be willing to do them with me.  We can set them up for each other and videotape each other as well.  So I'll contact her and start adding a few of those into our training.
In the category of lessons learned:
  • I need to be certain that Gimme gets enough physical outlet in the days leading up to a trial/test so she can be at her best.
  • On a positive note I did remember to park further away and was able to get Gimme to do her business before her test.
I'm trying to have a positive attitude about this "miss".  Still feels like a failure to me, but at least I have a fair idea of what went wrong and a training plan.  I'm going to enter her right away for the ORT on April Fools Day in Oregon City, Oregon.  If we don't pass that one, we have to wait until September for the next one.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Gimme got her bodywork treatment today.  Tonya didn't find anything that would affect the way she was sitting, but did find an area in mid-back that was seriously in need of correction.  It took a bit of doing to get it to move.  I'm sure that is a holdover from the reason she needed her first sessions last year.  So we'll be re-checking that in a couple of weeks and will be keeping an eye on it.

What happened next is where the title for this entry comes from.  Tonya also does energy work.  I am a huge fan of alternative medicine, but had never experienced any energy work.  Though, I've been told that when I do TTouch, I actually move energy (when I worked on a person that was sensitive to it)... but I don't know how that is happening.  TTouch isn't designed as energy work.

Anyway, I asked Tonya to check Gimme's energy and let me know if there was anything she could do to help her calm down.  Gimme is particularly wild this week.  She said that any calming affect wouldn't show up right away and might take more than one session. 

She checked Gimme and said her energy around her head, neck and shoulders were fine.  She said to that point she was very balanced.  Then about mid-back, right where her back was stuck, there was a small amount that she needed to work on. 

When she got farther back on her spine, her hands were just drawn to the hip and thigh of the leg that Gimme is holding oddly in her sits.  She said Gimme had a "huge ball of stuck energy" on the inside of that thigh.  Up to this point, Gimme had been her usual fidgety self.  But when Tonya started working that area to release that stuck energy, suddenly Gimme got very calm (at least compared to what she'd been like thirty seconds before).  She described the stuck energy as "very dark".  I asked her if that meant dark as in Darth Vader.  She said it means that it had been built up and stuck there for a long time.  She said the stuck energy isn't uncomfortable or painful in any way, but that it can make some things feel "unnatural". 

Anyway, when she finished, Gimme stood up and wagged her butt... and then offered a sit for the remaining treats.  The sit was flawless, everything in its right place and perfectly balanced!  I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it.

BTW cross your fingers and any body parts you can spare.  We leave at o'dark-thirty tomorrow to drive to Oregon for the ORT.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nosework (4/3)

Class tonight was great as usual.  The first hide was a threshold hide and Joyce wanted us to keep them on leash and keep them in the vicinity until they found it.  Tonight Gimme was very interested in the food kept right there too.  So Joyce went and just stood blocking her access, but that also put her really close to where the hide was - adding social pressure.  Gimme certainly isn't concerned by her presence, but adding it to the restriction of being kept in the area when she wanted to explore just seemed to annoy her.  It took her a long time to find it.  She did better on the next two hides when I wasn't restricting her, even though she was still on lead. 

The Empress of the Cosmos
does not like being interfered with.
Imagine that! 

This video is from the last session, with another threshold hide.  This time we let her go for it off lead and she found it in 16 seconds.  And that included a 6 second delay while she sniffed a bone on the floor behind the plastic container.

Her next hide was great.  I had it videoed, but sadly messed up and ruined it before I got it saved.  One of the first things Gimme did was go over and step on a message board that was leaning on a plastic milk jug, crashing it to the floor.  After a momentary startle, she was right back at it, checking it out - trying to see if it would make noise again.  Everyone was commenting about Little Miss Fearless.

For that hide, there was a line of chairs down the center of the room and the tin was on a back leg.  Because of the way scent was traveling tonight, the dogs were catching the scent from the front of the chairs.  All the other dogs found it, but then had to puzzle through how to get to the actual odor.  Not Gimme - she just kept pushing until things moved enough and she got to it.  I about half expected her to send those chairs flying.

This video is of our buddy Grafton.  He's a really sweet Boxer mix that was in pet classes the same time Gimme was.  He's always been a very soft, shy guy - though he loves his Auntie Carla, cuz she's The Cheese Lady.  He has really come out of his shell and gained a lot of confidence from nosework.  Grafton and Gimme have some play dates scheduled and I'm looking forward to expanding her circle of friends.

This weekend (Sunday) is the Odor Recognition Test (ORT).  I fully expect that Gimme will do a stellar job.  I've just discovered that there are no Dalmatians listed on the titles list for nosework.  So, with a little luck and a fabulous nose, Gimme could be the first one.  Do feel free to cross any body parts you can spare.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Clickers Are Great

I noticed a few days ago that Gimme is tending to sit with her right rear foot splayed a little out (no more than 20 degrees) and a bit far forward (the toes are about three inches further forward than the toes on the other foot, if you are looking down over the top of her).  She is sitting back on her bum on that side, instead of over the hock.  Its not completely a puppy sit and she's balanced nicely over the left rear.  I suspect its something I didn't notice when she was at heel because I'd have to be looking for it.  She sits so close to me that my own hip is in the way.  I actually noticed it when she was sitting in front position.

She doesn't act like anything is bothering her, but I'm going to have her checked anyway.  In the meantime we are approaching it as a bad habit and a training issue.

I started on my knees with her sitting in front of me (facing sideways).  I just held off and then clicked any movement of that foot, which happens when she fidgets.  After a few of those I switched to having her do tuck-sit-scoots around me.  If the foot isn't where it belongs, I help her once or twice, and then c/t for it being correct.  After that I just touch the toes to bring her attention to it and we try it again.  She ended up doing 6 in a row of tuck-sit-scoots bringing the foot under her and sitting forward balanced over it.  Isn't it amazing what you can do with a clicker!?!

I'm inclined to think its just a bad habit that I missed.  Still I'll have her checked just to be sure.  One of my Milestones Class students does bodywork, so I'm going to see if she can check her after class on Saturday morning.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Nosework (3/3)

Class continues to be great.  This time we did various hides, some paired and some not.  There were q-tips in the tin, in a straw and in a plastic packaging thing (folded over and taped shut).  They were placed in various spots in the room.  Probably the hardest one - that all the dogs had a tough time finding was the odor under a leather glove.  You've no doubt noticed that YOU can smell rough-out leather, so you can imagine what a strong smell it is for the dogs.  It doesn't mask the odor of the birch oil, just complicates sifting it out of the scent potpourri. 

I keep saying I'm going to take my camera and get someone to video Gimme in class and I still plan to do that.  Wish I'd done it this time because she'd sniffed the leather glove twice and passed on... then another time she was streaking by it and suddenly skidded to a stop (a good 3 feet of skid) and snapped back to it.  That building is so strange in that the air currents are just not predictable.  Both of the other times she went by it she was going in the other direction, passing through the area where she caught the scent the third time.

One thing I really love about her scenting work is her determination and persistence.  I did a field trip to Home Depot again.  I placed one hide near the leather/canvas work bags in the tool aisle, another in the plant section of the nursery, and the last was in some plants on the sidewalk outside.  Gimme seemed to not be up to par on her scenting that day, but she never gave up - she is a persistent little squirt. 

It occurred to me that both of the other field trips we'd just come from our walks on Fort Lewis, where she drinks a lot of water from puddles.  On this day, I'd been at work and she'd been in the car.  Hydration is very important when a dog is doing scent work.  So possibly she needed to have more water.  I'll have to refill the water container I keep in the car for her.  I hope to do another session tomorrow and will make sure she's had something to drink before we go - and for a comparison will set the hides in much the same place.  Another possibility is that the q-tips in the jar in the car had been used before and maybe they were losing scent.  So, I'll have to make sure I have some new ones out of the main jar.

We are continuing our walks on the fort and Gimme loves it.  My right knee has been bothering me lately, so I'm sore afterward.  Monday I have a chiropractor appointment and sure hope there is something he can do.  I think I over stressed it on one of our first walks after the big snow when I was doing a lot of stepping over branches that had broken and fallen all over the road.

Today during our walk, I decided to spend a little time teaching Gimme to look at my index finger on my right hand.  Been planning to do this for awhile, but just hadn't gotten to it.  She picked it up very quickly, then went off to play.  When she came back I was just walking along and she came over and nosed my left hand (where I was carrying treats) and when that didn't work, she went to the other side and licked my index finger - not the hand, the exact finger.   She's just so darn smart.

Training is coming along nicely.  We continue to have listening skills and control issues.  Gimme is so smart, but she really thinks she should be the boss all the time; whereas I have this weird notion that I get to be the boss, at least part of the time.  I put a cue on something and after that, she isn't supposed to get treated for it, except when I cue for it.  Gimme is not convinced that is how it should work.  She picks up the cues right away when I put them on, but then she wants to snatch back the control right away.  Ursula says her dog Wyl-E is the same.  I'm lucky because Wyl-E is about six months older than Gimme, so I have the advantage of Ursula going before me on this stuff.  Basically the answer is to persist and be very, Very, VERY consistent.

I swear I'm going to get Gimme a little conductor's hat - since she always wants to drive the train.