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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Great Nosework Match

Saturday was our nosework match and it was a great experience and very successful.  It was set up just like a nosework trial would be and after our runs in the morning, I stayed to work for the NW2 folks in the afternoon. 

Gimme ran true to form and squirted off to check out a distraction on the vehicle search.  I gently reeled her back in and then she went to work.  She did pay a bit of attention to one wheel well and then was off to go around the vehicles again.  I kinda thought that might be where the odor was and she did come back to it.  Our time was about 1:45.

Then we went straight to a container search inside the building.  Gimme was very interested in the room we would be exiting through (which was also serving as a lunchroom for the workers), sniffing repeatedly at the door and wanting to go there.  I had to reel her back twice before she got to work, finding the hide in 24.29 seconds.  Again she found the box, kind of checked it out and then goes on, coming back to it later (this will be a consistent behavior in all her searches).  With less distraction she would have been much faster, obviously, but it was still a good time.

Late morning she had her exterior and interior searches.  She did a good job on the exterior search and found odor in about a minute and a half.  The interior search was again close to 1:45 on time.  Both times she found and then bypassed the odor to come back to it later.  Keep in mind, these were all blind hides for me, so I don't want to react prematurely to a weak indication.

I opted to have my runs taped and will get the tapes later this week.  I want to study them and see if I can learn to read her better.  Joyce asked me to forward them to her and she'll upload them to her laptop and we'll use them for discussion in class.  I do sometimes notice in class that Gimme's tail wags a bit faster when she is in odor and finds source, but I confess it is hard for me to "see" in real time.  I'll be getting the files for her runs on Thursday, so will probably get them edited and uploaded that evening.

Watching the NW2 dogs was very interesting.  Some unusual and some great things.  There are a number of people who are distracting their dogs with their efforts to be helpful - one person totally micro-managed her dog and he didn't find hardly any of the hides.  A lot of people have problems reading their dogs - I resemble that remark.  Afterward, we set up for NW3 and got to watch Joyce run her 15 year old dog and then Cindy ran her Bulldog.  That was quite interesting.  At that level you also have to call clear when you are sure you've found all the hides - so that's interesting. 

Sunday I spent the whole day with my parents - went over the night before, right from the match.  We had two big goals.  First was to get their truck and drive to my house and break down and load up all the aged cedar I'd gotten from my neighbor who is replacing his fence.  It'll be wonderful stuff to start fires with (my parents' heat with a wood stove).  Getting the panels cut up was taking forever until Damien (a young man from across the street) came over to help.  He only had 20 minutes to devote to us, but showed me that just breaking them apart was much faster than trying to cut them.  We got 3/4 of the wood loaded in the truck (taking twice as long as I'd estimated) and then drove the hour back to my parents' and sorted it as we unloaded.  Some of it will need to be pre-cut before they can use it, which I'll get there and do.  We staged the ready to burn stuff near the house.  Much of this wood has nails and staples still in it, so any cutting of it requires someone be alert to that - something I don't want my father to be doing. 

After that we got the riding mower in the truck.  The advice from Home Depot proved to be correct and we were able to move the mower more easily with the gearbox disengaged.  I decided to use the tractor to push the mower up the ramp into the truck; it hung up right at the top of the ramp.  At that point, we backed the tractor off and then Mom and I lifted the ramp boards off the ground enough for Dad to get the tractor bucket under the ends - which he then lifted up and the mower rolled right into the truck bed.  Haven't quite figured out how we'll get the mower out of the truck once it is fixed, but I am sure the tractor will be a featured player. 

Last night was our last rally class for awhile - until Fall.  Gimme graduated again and for our judged run through had the highest score of the class, a 95.  I think that is far too generous. 

Today we were going to go to the fort, but the rain arrived just as I would have been going out there.  During the "winter" I don't mind walking in the rain, but when its "spring" I just have a strong objection to it.  Can't explain it, it just is what it is.

So we went to Home Depot to do a search.  Gimme did pretty darn good.  I set up the first odor just outside the door, then two down the electrical aisle.  Gimme kept finding the odor on the way in, but was distracted by the automatic doors opening/closing over and over.  When we moved inside, I found someone had moved a pallet full of some lawn stuff with a strong chemical smell right to the beginning of the aisle.  That was close to where our hide was.  Gimme caught the odor, but just couldn't find it.  So we went down the aisle and found the other hide - despite there being three men standing around it.  On the way back up the aisle, Gimme was able to get to the source on that hide, despite the nasty chemical smell.  Bless her little spotted nose.  On the way outside, she got in the odor and was again distracted by the automatic door.  I let her smell around and when she got back into it, as soon as the door opened, I stood in it, keeping it open until she was able to get to source. 

We came directly home from that and she's been sound asleep ever since.  Seriously, as fun as it is for the doggies - scent work is hard work. 

Next Sunday is our next ORT attempt, so keep your fingers and paws crossed for us.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Whatta Day & NW (3/4)

Today we had our first private agility lesson with Daisy Peel.  Wow, what a jam packed hour and Gimme had a great time.  At times when we got talking about stuff, Gimme would wander off to snoop around the arena, but when called, she dashed back for more fun and excitement.  We packed more learning into that one hour, than we got in the five private lessons with our old instructor.  I like how everything is approached and the thoughtful and fun way Daisy builds a foundation. 

It was challenging and yet the goal was always for Gimme to think she was training me.  Just what Gimme needs, a whole bunch of new ways to teach me to play her game and give her rewards.  You gotta know she loved that!   Now that Gimme is "all growed up" we can focus on agility; its gonna be funnnnnnn.  I sat in the car after the lesson and wrote up four pages of notes, leaving with enough plans for the next several months.

I know I always say Gimme has no fear, but seriously - the kid has no fear.  She hasn't even been on a teeter yet and yet nothing about it bothered her.  Gimme was thrilled to create a new game, crash-the-board-down-and-make-a-big-noise.  Woohoo.  Of course I had to explain that Gimme thinks that helicopters are her friends because they listen and obey.

One thing I particularly enjoyed was a complete absence of sentences that go, "You've done a great job with her, but..."  Naturally those kinds of sentence always ended with a litany of what I'd done wrong.  I was always taught, that in a sentence that contains the word "but", everything before it is negated by whatever follows.  If you watch how people structure sentences with "but" in them, you'll see what I mean - that rule holds true 90 percent of the time.  "He's a really great guy, but we didn't click."  Translated means, "I have nothing in common with him, he's a moron and you are welcome to him." 

Instead I heard a lot of, "That's good.  The next step is...  Here's how to do it."  I am sooooo pumped.  I'm excited to get going on stuff and looking forward to our next lesson, which is months down the road.  Gimme is going to be a very fast agility super-star. 

Unfortunately the rest of the day didn't go as well.  I spent 3.5 hours trying to help my parents get their riding lawnmower into the truck.  We were not successful.  <sigh>  It's a long and frustrating story, which I won't go into.  Hopefully the tip I got from the guy at Home Depot on my way home from nosework will prove to be the solution.   I'm going to call in the morning and have Mom see if she can find the "thing" on the back that releases the gearbox.  Cross your fingers.

I was really looking forward to nosework class; howevah...  While Gimme is still doing great, as I've mentioned before Joyce just does not seem to retain what we talk about from one week to the next.  Tonight was the fourth time we've covered the same information and, since I was tired and frustrated (having just driven in from the mower fiasco) I'm afraid I was a bit short in my reply. 

To make it worse, she doesn't read Gimme well - I know I've said that before.  It may not be her intent, but it seems like she doesn't think I know my dog.  For instance, I think Joyce sees Gimme's tail wagging, and thinks she's not frustrated.  Not!  On the ORT video, where she clearly was frustrated, she wagged her tail the whole time.  She was even wagging her tail when she turned back to snap at the leash and when she was reared up on her back legs trying to get to something.  If Gimme is awake, her tail is going. 

I also think she's misreading Gimme's expressions - tonight I saw her shoot two looks of annoyance in Joyce direction when she was trying to attract her attention to a different area.   Whoa, that's not something I normally see.  Perhaps Gimme was tired too -  having come from that agility lesson and then a long day in the car.  I know I was tired.

She's only had half a dozen vehicle searches, including the match and the one practice I did at Shopko.  So she may not have caught on to the idea that if presented with a vehicle there is nothing else to look at.  Gimme is easily frustrated (she is, after all, still a baby) by being "made" to stay by the search stuff (vehicle and container searches is where this comes up).  Yet, if I let her squirt off and quickly investigate something that catches her attention and then gently reel her back in, she isn't frustrated and goes right back to work.  If she gets to snoop briefly, then she is satisfied and able to turn her full attention to what we are doing.  Given how enthusiastic she is about her nosework and how incredibly fast, I don't think there is any reason she can't have a few seconds to check something out.  I believe she will grow out of it.  Even if she doesn't, with her speed, I can readily afford a few seconds rather than frustrate her.  I've already seen what she does when frustrated (our first ORT attempt) and that is not an experience I want either of us to repeat. 

I wish could make this clearer to Joyce - perhaps I should remind her of what I'm doing before we start vehicle or container searches. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Much Going On & NW (2/4)

Gimme and I remain very busy, which is the only excuse I have for my lack of blogging. 

First, Gimme has a new best friend, Grafton.  He's a boxer-coonhound mix; they love to run and chase.  (I've mentioned him before, since he's in our nosework class)  Grafton tries to go "vertical" during play and she quickly puts him in his place.  She lets him know in no uncertain terms that he can't be pawing at her - she's not that kind of girl!  So we've been getting extra walking time in.  Its really funny because Grafton hides in the long grass (he's lion colored) and Gimme trots close to him very obviously pretending she doesn't see him, then she suddenly "startles", springs aside and races off - and the chase is on.  I'll get pictures soon. 

I have two other potential playmates lined up for her.  There's Tucker the lab and Molly the Aussie.  We'll get pictures of them too, when it happens.

We are continuing training - some things are coming along quite nicely.  We've had rally classes on Monday nights for the last seven weeks - with just one more to go.  They are running another class right away, but I think I may pass.  The next two months will be very busy almost every weekend and that class is kind of a chaotic environment, so I'm looking at other options.

In Nosework last week - we were doing some handling things differently.  Basically the handler stood still until the dog found the hide.  Everyone observed closely to see how much each dog checked in with their handler and how.  Gimme checks in more than is immediately apparent, because she uses her peripheral vision to do it.  She always knows exactly where I am.  I think that is because during our free walks, if she goes out of sight I'm prone to disappearing behind a tree, a bush, or laying down in deep grass.  So she's learned to really keep one eye on me or I'll get lost and now its a habit for her.

I was concerned when I saw that Joyce had put one of the hides inside a cardboard middle.  That is what I call the cardboard tube that toilet paper and paper towels come on.  Gimme loves those things and plays with them all the time.  She closely watches the toilet paper roll in the bathroom and if it gets really low on the roll - she carefully unrolls it all before ripping the cardboard middle off the holder.  She knows she's not supposed to waste toilet paper.  So I was just sure she was going to make off with the cardboard middle and destroy it.

She did knock it down, but otherwise was more interested in the odor inside.  I was very proud of her.  Joyce called that "odor obedience".  That means she was on the job at hand and not distracted by other things.  She also checked out the mother load location (where all the treats are for Joyce to pair with our hides), but got down before either of us could get there - not finding her odor there.  Again, another sign of odor obedience.  What a good girlie she is.

Tonight she's been a real silly pill.  She found her baby Kong out in the yard yesterday and brought it in the house.  She has been pestering me with it every chance she gets.  If I'm on the computer she brings it and drops it on the keyboard (thank God for spell-check).  I was sitting on the couch with her watching a movie and had a comforter over my lap.  She'd drop the Kong on the comforter, and repeatedly pick it up and drop it again - trying to get me to toss it for her.  When that didn't work, she'd stick her head under the comforter and nose around until the Kong fell to the floor and then she'd leap off and grab it.  The first time *might* have been an accident.  After that it was decidedly deliberate.

That's m'girl - workin' all the angles...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Oh Happy Day

Gimme still isn't exactly fond of wearing hats and such,
but I think she's realized I'm going to put them on her either way,
so she may as well try to look her best.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Happy Fourteenth

Meaggi celebrated her 14th birthday with steak
and an evening snuggling on the couch.

At 14 she still wears her heart on her sleeve...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nosework (6/3 and 1/4)

Gosh, we've been so busy lately that I've really been remiss on keeping up with blogging.  I never did blog about our last class and that was two weeks ago.  

At our last class (2/22), Joyce had set up all the room dividers criss-crossing every which way, along with a bunch of stuff we each brought in from our cars.  Obviously that had to be an off lead search.  Gimme did great at it and all the others.  She enjoyed having an evening searching off lead.  She is so fast.  That presents problems when she overshoots scent, but she is still usually the fastest in class to find the hides. 

The following Wednesday we didn't have class, so I made it a point to do a search that day.  Poor Gimme goes through withdrawal if she doesn't get to use her nose and find Birch oil often enough.  I set up two hides in the parking lot behind my Shopko account.  One was in a crack on Bonnie's car and for the other I used the tin to stick it up under the edge of an eighteen wheeler trailer.  I started Gimme from a position where the breeze was blowing away from her.  She still found the hide on the vehicle almost immediately.  The tin on the trailer was harder because it was underneath, on the backside of a flange and about 8 inches over where the tip of her nose was when standing up on her back legs.  Still she did find it - actually finding both of them within 3 minutes (which is what's allotted for one vehicle find).  She was very pleased with herself - as was I.

Last night (3/7) since we had daylight when class started, we started out with a vehicle search.  Gimme found the first spot right away.  Then as we went around the side to look for the next one, Gimme squirted off to the side to check out something next to the building.  I let her check it briefly then reeled her back in.  Even with the distraction she was still among the two fastest dogs in our class to find both hides on the vehicle.

I find I have to remind Joyce of my decision to let Gimme check out the distractions and then gently bring her back to work.  Joyce voiced the concern that Gimme should understand its all about the vehicle and not search elsewhere.  I believe she clearly does understand that, but I don't think that means she won't be distracted.  Besides I don't see how its any different than when she is presented with an obvious container search and still gets distracted - which Joyce didn't seem to think was a problem. 

I just think Joyce has forgotten our discussion before - not that surprising given how many students she is teaching nosework to.  I'm going to continue doing what I think is best for Gimme.  She has plenty of drive for nosework; however, she is still a very young girl.  I believe it is more important to let her satisfy her need to check something out and then gently encourage her to come back to work.  Of the times I've needed to do this since making the decision, we are talking a few seconds (3-5).  I find that far preferable to having her frustrated and with divided attention.  I think she will grow out of the distractibility with time and experience - that's my theory and I'm sticking with it.

While the light lasted last night, we also did an exterior search.  The first hide was on the ground behind a piece of broken concrete.  The second was stuffed in the end of a pipe over her head.  By the time our turn rolled around, we were searching in the dark.  It took Gimme about 45 seconds to find both hides and that included about ten seconds to gobble up treats at the first hide.  She is really very good at finding things over her head - a skill that many dogs have trouble with.

After that we moved inside for two more searches.  Gimme got to do those off lead and was very fast and persistent.  One thing we did that was different was to set up three hides and then leave them down after the dog finds them and is still looking for the others.  We are at the point where the dog learns that they only get paid once for each.  Gimme did great with this. 

The other thing she did well was for the threshold hide that was set up.  As always, she tends to zoom into the room, passing by the hide on the fly.  This time I saw her note it as she went by, with just a subtle little tilt of her nose in that direction.  She did a quick swing around the room, found another and then after getting rewarded for it made a beeline to the hide at the threshold.  It was very clear that she knew where it was.  Gimme was very efficient last night.

There is a local nosework match later this month that we've entered.  Gimme is scheduled for her ORT on April 1st and I am so sure she'll do well.  Then I plan to enter her in the trial in June.  So far there are no Dalmatians listed with nosework titles - perhaps we can be the first.  Cross your fingers.

BTW after the suggestion that I read Jeff Schettler's book on trailing, I ordered it and his other book through the library.  "The Straightest Path" still hasn't come yet, but "Red Dog Rising" did.  I've just finished it.  Its a very compelling read - the story of Jeff and his K-9 police partner, Bloodhound Ronin.  Anyone who is interested in any facet of canine scent work should enjoy it and will find a lot of useful information in it as well.