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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Portland NW Match

The match went really well today.  It was verrrrry hot, so hot that the blacktop was making the dogs really fidgety.  So I was really pleased that Gimme even chose to work through that. The site was challenging, since there were no real grassy areas to walk the dogs.  Since I had the time, Gimme and I did a 2 mile circuit that took us to a place where she could have grass to pee and poop on.

Our start at the practice boxes did not bode well when Gimme decided to destroy all five boxes multiple times.  I was thinking it was not going to be a good day.

Vehicle Element
Gimme found the hide in 1:12, a really good time.  Our vehicles were three trailer rigs from 18-wheelers.  I was glad that we'd done searches on those when some were parked behind Shopko.  Most dogs did well enough, but some didn't know what to make of them.  The judge commented that she thought Gimme was great and enthusiastic, but needed more experience to overcome distraction.  Yes, that is a train blaring its whistle in the background.  Given that she'd never heard one before today, I think she did a great job ignoring it.  I think the judge might have read "distracted" when she watched Gimme search - that wasn't my take. 

Container Element
Wow, oh WOW!!!  Gimme did this search in 18:57 seconds!  She indicated just the one correct box.  This is the best container search she's done in a long time.  Very clean and efficient, certainly not what I was expecting after killing all the practice boxes.

We went to the practice boxes again before the second set of searches and I had a hard time getting Gimme even interested in them.  She didn't feel the need to kill them, but wasn't interested in indicating either.  So I just waited until she decided to do something, a light sniffing of the correct box and rewarded that.

Unfortunately I forgot to grab the camera, so don't have video of the other two searches.  Someone told me that the group putting this on had taped all the runs and would be making them available for us to download.  I hope that is true.  It'll be nice to see the last two searches, as well as seeing the first two again, from a different perspective.

Exterior Element
Gimme did a great job in the exterior search.  She did her usual thing of running about scanning the area before getting down to searching.  She often does that and will know where the hide is, but wants to make sure there isn't another one before she indicates it.  This time I saw her head tilt in the middle area, but didn't know what she was noticing.  When she came back to it in just 1:06, there was a weed pushing up through the concrete and they had placed an odor tin under it.  She was all over that weed, pawing at it and I actually heard the tin scrape along just as I called alert.

Interior Element
This was our worst search. Gimme had a hard time finding source and I don't think she ever did decide where it was.  She kept searching the two bottom shelves on a bookshelf and a bunch of bedding on the rack beside it.  She went over that general area three times and just didn't settle in on a particular spot.  Then she decided to go break down the baby gate to the room where the dogfood was, so we lost some time there.  When I got her back was about the time they called the thirty second warning.  So next time she snooped around in that area I called alert.  Thus our time was 2:51.5, just 8.5 seconds to spare.  The judge asked me where and I sort of indicated generally where I thought it might be.  He told me where it was and it was a spot that I'd thought to myself, "if I were a judge, that's where I'd put the odor".

He said if it'd been a trial he would have passed us.  His comment was that he thinks Gimme needs a stronger indication behavior.  Honestly, I don't think she ever committed to one spot.  I don't know if it was a particularly hard hide for her or maybe she was just tired.  It had already been a very long and hot day.

On a very positive note... where we parked there was a fair amount of traffic from people walking by with their dogs to the only spot that was remotely "green".  I was very pleased that Gimme noticed them, but mostly ignored them.  She only responded to one dog who's idiot owner allowed it to stand and stare into our car.  How rude!  She ignored the other dogs and even ignored the pair of dogs that barked very loudly when we walked by their car even though we were 20 feet away (the only way to get to the staging area for both sets of searches).  So she's getting better about those things too.

All in all a real good day.  Gimme is exhausted and sound asleep.  I'm very tired myself.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Match Videos

I took the plunge and changed browsers so that I could get blogger to work right.   So far so good.  Here are the video's of our four searches, in the order that we ran them.  Enjoy!

Exterior Search
I didn't intend to correct her when she peed... it just happened.  You can see she wasn't too crushed by the experience.  She definitely pegged where the odor was the first time around, but she just really likes checking the whole area before committing.  Sometimes she does that when there are two hides, finding both and then indicating one and immediately going to indicate the other. 

Container Search
When Joyce (our match judge and my instructor) said, "she's better already" she was referring to the amount of box killing that Gimme likes to do and our recent training with differential rewards for indicating the correct one first.  This was already a great improvement, since the Wednesday before, Gimme indicated 10 out of 18 boxes.  During this search she only really indicated 3 out of 21 - so that's pretty substantial.  You'll note she indicates the right one early on, but doesn't stick when I kept moving.  I do think I was moving too fast initially and partway through the search when I was nearest the camera I caught myself and slowed down.  It was shortly after that when she indicated and stuck the right box.

Vehicle Search
You will notice that Gimme seems a bit distracted to start with.  After you know where the hide is, it becomes clear why - she was walking by vehicles that had no odor smell to them and thus had no interest in them.  When we come around the edge of the second vehicle and she gets a whiff of Birch, she just dragged me over to the running board on the truck.  Unfortunately you don't get to see that because the cameraman can't get there fast enough and ends up coming up between the vehicles.  Taking videos is a hard job to do well and get enough accurate representation of what the dog did, without intruding and distracting the dog from the search.

Interior Search
Gimme did a nice job on this interior search.  Interestingly that was the first time she ever pawed at a chair, even though we've had plenty of searches on chairs.  Of course, then she goes straight over the top and starts rearranging the furniture.

She did a very nice job during this match.  She has such a talented nose, doncha know.  With the exception of marking in the grass, she really is the best dog around for nosework.  Not that I'm bragging or anything like that....

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nosework (1/7)

I was going to upload the videos from the match, but have messed up my toolbars, thus don't have the button to download.  So while I have them all edited and ready to go, you'll have to wait until I fix that little thing.  I'm also missing the button for spell-check, so do be kind.

Its hard to believe we are starting our seventh run of classes already.  Gimme continues to be fabulous.  I'm sure she is the star of our class, but have to confess a couple other dogs are trying to catch up to her.  Grafton (boxer/coonhound and Gimme's boyfriend extraordinaire) has really jumped along in confidence and is getting much more deliberate in his searching.  Maddie, a very reactive mixed breed dog, is also getting to be a very good searcher.  Tucker (lab) does well, but has missed a lot of classes recently and I think the heat affects him.  Tia (Pomeranian) is very new to this sport.  Una, a BC mix, is doing nicely - very steady with enthusiasm.  And lastly standard poodle Jamie, does well - he's just very laid back.

Class this week was two exterior searches and I'm happy that Gimme didn't mark either time. 

In the first search she found both hides pretty well, but seemed challenged by the one in a tube stuck up in a chainlink fence.  The breeze swirls around in that area and she just had a difficult time deciding to look up.  Normally she excels at looking up.  Even with the time it took her to sort that out, she was still well within the three minutes she would have been allotted.  The other hide was in a tin with a bit of dirt and a leaf sprinkled on top of it.

In the second search, we had three hides.  This is the area where so many of the dogs from classes are potty walked, so I was especially pleased that she didn't mark.  She found those hides really quickly.  One was in a glove tucked in a metal cabinet, another under a thin piece of concrete in the dirt and the third under the edge of a wading pool.  Today the wind in that spot was blowing right across all of them toward where we started, so she took a pretty direct path to each of them.

This week in our classes with Ursula, Gimme has been "emotional".  She's easily frustrated and not her usual focused self.  I suspect that its the week she has her false pregnancy blip.  The first time was very noticable.  The second time we didn't happen to be doing anything, so I didn't notice anything.  This time, its noticable because we are in classes.  I am  carefully asking her to work through her frustration and rewarding heavily when she does. 

We do have the match this weekend, so I'll see how she does.  Its a great chance to do searches in a completely unfamiliar environment.  They have a person that will tape your searches, provided you bring your own camera.  So I'll have mine freshly charged and ready to go.

Cross your fingers for us.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Today's Match

Gimme did very well, finding all her hides with good solid times.  Her focus was very nice and even though one of the hides was a bit on the hard side for NW1, she still found them all.  The only downside was that she marked in the exterior element.  Marking is an elimination fault and would keep us from titling that day, no matter how well she does otherwise.

We started with the warm-up boxes and I was very happy to see that she didn't whack all the boxes.  She sniffed the first two, went right past the next and straight to the fourth box and indicated it.  That was certainly promising.

Our first element was exterior and as I said, she marked in the grass.  We'll continue working on that and in the meantime will pray that our exterior and vehicle searches are on concrete at the trial.  It didn't help that where this was set up, is a spot where everyone potty walks their dogs before classes.  I'm going to take my camera with me next time we walk Capitol lake and video her and see if I can find other precursors.  Sometimes she does a little sidestep into position, but didn't this time.  I have to confess a sharp "No" and a reflex jerk on the line happened - the look she gave me was priceless.

The hide was in a hard spot and while she went by it the first time with just a nod, she was one of the few NW1 dogs that found it.  As a tribute to her scenting abilities, I noticed she also paid attention to the two places where I'd set odor for Mick on Thursday.  So that's pretty impressive that she caught that residual, especially since the odor we'd set was in tiny plastic containers, so none of it actually touched the area.  It took her 1:42, including the naughty-potty and restarting her.

Our next element was the container drill.  I was thrilled that she did this in very nice time.  She actually indicated the correct box early, but didn't stick it.  She indicated two other wrong boxes and whacked two more in passing.  So that is already a bit of improvement from our little exercises, even though there isn't that much showing in actually doing them.  The second time she stuck the odor box and was very insistent.  She did this in 25 seconds... probably would have been 5 seconds if she'd stuck it the first time.

Then she had a nice long break in the car - about an hour and a half before our second set.

Next was the vehicle element.  There were three cars/trucks set in a triangle.  We lost some time because we started up the wrong side... it was just in front of us.  She was tending to be drawn away from the vehicles as we walked around those two, but in hindsight I think that was because she clearly knew there was no odor there.  When we got around to the third one, she was right on business and very close to the exact spot rather quickly.  It was up under the edge of the truck, but behind the running board/step.  So she had a little trouble deciding exactly where it was, but when she did, she paw whacked right on the step in line with where it was hidden.  All that in 58 seconds.

We followed that with the interior search.  Gimme quickly scanned the entire room and then was all over/under/around one table, finally settling on the chair.  When she persisted in one corner of the chair, I called alert and she was right again.  That took 32 seconds.

All of those are very solid times.  I was pleased that she was very focused and determined.  Even though I've been trying to teach her a nose touch indication, it doesn't seem to be progressing.  She paw whacked all these hides.  There is the possibility of being faulted if she paw whacks a vehicle abusively, but as time goes on she is moderating the forcefulness of her whacks (except on boxes).  I'll keep working on the nose touch indication, but am prepared to accept the paw if need be. 

Gimme and Meaggi are both very tired (as am I).  They were stuck hanging out in the car in their crates all afternoon after our part of the match, because I was volunteering for NW2. 

We had a preponderance of small terriers (Border, Westie and Cairn) for NW2 and I have to admit I was surprised to see what great little scenting dogs they are.  I hadn't expected that, but, of course, it makes sense, since they are bred to locate and exterminate vermin. 

All in all a fun day and I feel very positive about Gimme's abilities for the trial in three weeks.  Do cross every body part you can spare that she does as well as she did today AND that our exterior element and vehicles are on concrete.

BTW I should have the video for the match in a few days and when I do will get it all on line for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Morning NW Practice

Did that two box practice again today and took notes.  Thank God.  Her wrong choices were sometimes quite spectacular.  Two more boxes were sent to box heaven.  This is what they look like when Demolition Gimme finishes with them.
I moved the boxes around between most trials (except twice).  There didn't seem to be any correlation between her proximity to the correct box upon entering the room and whether she got it right.  Remember, the criteria for getting the good stuff is that she indicates the correct box first.  Sniffing the wrong box is certainly okay, but the best pay comes when she indicates right without first indicating wrong. 
She got the criteria right 6 times out of 10, trending toward right (Y) more at the beginning and end:  
     Y  N  Y  Y  N  N  Y  N  Y  Y
#1 - sniffed wrong, indicated odor
#2 - indicated wrong without sniffing,
       then indicated odor
#3 - indicated odor without apparent sniffing
#4 - indicated odor with minimal sniffing
#5 - destroyed wrong box and required help to
       get to odor.  can you spell frustrated?
#6 - indicated wrong repeatedly, then indicated
#7 - briefly indicated odor w/o sniffing, then
       indicated wrong briefly and went back
       to odor
----- started slowing down & taking her time -------
#8 - indicated wrong, then indicated odor 
#9 - sniffed wrong, indicated odor
#10 - indicated odor quickly
I'm not sure if this is an improvement or not - she got it right 5 out of 10 tries last night.  I won't do this again until after the weekend and will just let her little dog brain percolate between now and then.
We have a match tomorrow, so it'll be interesting to see how she does.  Cost of having your runs videoed went up from $15 to $25 since last match.  I'm volunteering in the afternoon for the NW2 teams as the volunteer coordinator - so my match day is free, thus I'm splurging to have my runs videoed. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Busy Day

We met Joyce at the training building early to set some nosework hides for her old dog.  Mick is a 15 year old Border Collie and Joyce is trying to get a nosework 3 title on him.  He's a sweet old boy and gets around really well, especially given his age.  Joyce was concerned that he was losing scenting ability.  I didn't see that.  It was really clear when he caught odor and he seemed to do so in a reasonable time/fashion.  I think possibly he doesn't have the same mental clarity as he once did, that he's losing focus.  I suggested that she develop a routine to warm up his brain -- wish I had some suggestions of what that routine should include.  I enjoyed watching him work.

After that Gimme and me had our Targeting and Shaping class.  She did well and made progress on the things we worked on - especially shutting a door.  

After that we went to the trail and had a 4.5 mile walk together.  She is such a good girl and really acts so grown up sometimes.  I continue to be pleased with how well she remembers her job to seek me out whenever she sees a bicycle.  It doesnt' matter how long its been since we've been there - she knows that rule.  She has also gotten really good about not rushing up to every person she sees.  She still wants to, but wants cheese just a little bit more. 

It was really hot on the walk, so we were both happy to get home and take a nap on the couch in front of the fan.  Life doesn't get much better than snuggling with the prettiest puppy on the planet.

I just got home a bit ago and decided to do a quick run through of the nosework training Joyce suggested.  We did 10 trials.  In addition to her only getting one treat if she bopped the wrong box first, that treat was just cheese.  If she got the right box first, she got 5 pieces of sugared beef heart. 

It was a little bit hit and miss, but it was also clear that she knew there was a difference and was trying to figure out how to get the good stuff.  Twice she deliberately sniffed the wrong box and then went to sniff and pound the right box.  I think that's a very good sign.

I should'a kept notes.  But it seemed to me that although it was 50/50... there were more first-correct indications toward the end of our ten trials.  I'll do it again tomorrow before work and will take notes.

Nosework (6/6)

Tonight was all about containers... and Gimme continues on her mission to whack and otherwise trash as many boxes as possible.  She seems quite gleeful about it.

We did four searches, one hide each.  There were 18 boxes in three rows.

Our first turn was pretty true to Gimme's new found identity as the great masher.  Joyce had the brilliant idea to turn the boxes over that didn't have odor in them - since that makes them a little sturdier.  Joyce said Gimme only stomped 5 or 6, but everyone else thought she only missed stomping 5 or 6.  At least she is still sticking the right one when I keep moving, so that is very positive.

The second turn I tried moving faster and while that did keep her from being so forceful in her box attentions, it didn't really make her any more accurate.  Joyce thought it might be revving her up too much.

Turns three and four were off leash (even though container elements and ORTs are always on leash) with the handler standing still at the end we started from - only moving in when the dog indicates the right one.  Gimme does still indicate wrong boxes and then looks at me to see what I'm doing.  The second time off leash she didn't do that as much... "as much" being a relative concept. 

Interestingly the second time off leash with me stationary the box with odor was at the far end and she wasn't as inclined to go that far.  Its not like she isn't perfectly comfortable moving away from me... certainly on interior searches that are off leash she is perfectly happy to be all over the room without me in tow.  I think its likely she was just trying to figure out "what is wrong with her now". 

Joyce wants me to try an exercise at home with identical boxes.  Basically I start with two boxes and Gimme gets a treat when she indicates the correct one and nothing when she indicates the wrong one.  If she gets the correct one without first indicating the wrong one, then she gets a lot more reward - a jackpot.  When she is consistently getting the right one first, then I add a third box, then a fourth and so on. 

We don't know whether Gimme just thinks its incredibly fun to trash boxes (which would mean she isn't "odor obedient", which hasn't been the case with her other fun things).  Or perhaps she has somehow gotten the idea that its about indicating a certain number of boxes.  After all, she is still getting rewarded when she indicates wrong boxes - it just takes longer.  For her that's not necessarily a bad thing, since she enjoys the game so much.  She clearly knows which box has odor in it, since she sticks it when she indicates it and I keep moving - there just seems to be something in the process that isn't clear.

I expected Joyce to suggest taking her away from the boxes for indicating the wrong one, but there is a pretty strong bias to stick with reward based solutions in nosework and Joyce knows me well enough to know that's the only answer I'd be comfortable with.  There are times to interrupt rehearsing a wrong way of doing something, but my strong preference is to explore reward based solutions first.

I like this solution and will be interested to see how it works.  I use jackpots on other things (differential reinforcement) and Gimme understands the concept.  For instance I was using it yesterday with the light switch training and it was very effective.  So I think this is a good plan for Gimme.  Naturally I'll report back.

Of course, I have to confess that part of me will miss the fun of watching Demolition Gimme go postal on the containers.  I do love her antics...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Targeting & Shaping

Our day yesterday was pretty normal.  I had errands to run downtown, so took Gimme for a long walk around Capitol Lake.  The carnival is being set up for Lakefair and we were there close to lunch time.  Gimme put a lot of effort into extra cuteness, in hopes that one of the carnies would share.  She's certain there's something wrong with those people, since not one of them did.

Class last night was a bit wild.  All the dogs were unfocused and acting out.  Every last one.  Gimme was no exception.  We continued working on stuff, even though Gimme was not really making headway at anything.  She'd do about three repetitions and then give me her "Izzat all you got?" look, before finding the rest of the room more interesting.  I spent the whole time switching from one behavior to another to keep her attention. 

Then at the very end of class she finally got her brain in gear and focused.  By then we were working on the light switch behavior.  This time we had a toggle switch and this mock-up was hooked up to make a little tone when they flicked it up.  We worked in short bursts and then took a break.  I used jackpots whenever she flipped the toggle and just one treat for strong nose touches.  By the end of class, she was flipping the switch in a very deliberate way. 

It was good to have my genius back.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meaggi NW (#2)

Meaggi did just as well on her second session as on her first.  I think she was more excited and thus, a bit less focused, but overall she did nicely and found all the food.  She thinks this is a whole bunch of fun.  Meaggi tends to gravitate to where I am standing and searches the boxes nearest to me, so that is useful information. 

I notice she has a hard time knowing when to stop searching, since she really can't see me putting the boxes away and so keeps looking for them.  Soon I will start putting her in a little harness, so that will become the cue of when to search and when she is done.  I also see that if a box has a closed lid, it takes her a lot more effort to get into it, since she can't really see how to open the flap.  Of course, that only slows her down, doesn't stop her.  She is certainly persistent.  After we are done, I do find her more settled for a few hours. 

Interesting and possibly unrelated, last time for the first time in over a year,  I noticed that evening she actually wanted to drink water.  I didn't see that last night, but its possible she went to the bowl outside.  Getting her to take in enough fluids is a struggle since she doesn't drink water anymore.  I have to add water to her meals and I float treats in the water or add flavors to it to get her to drink up.  Once she gets started she does well, just tends to sniff water and then walk away.  Now that its summer, I'm going to make her up some tuna-water ice cubes. 

Gimme has been meeting with Grafton for nosework field trips and is doing well.  There have been some really hard hides for her to deal with and she's being challenged with drifting or pooling odor and having a hard time following it back to source.  I just let her work through it.  Another challenge that is an issue is that the hides aren't out for very long before she is searching for them, so there hasn't been time for the odor to spread out.  This weekend we have a match, so it'll be interesting to watch the video's of that afterward and see how it compares to the last match.

Gimme and Grafton also went out to the fort to run and play on Saturday and had a great time.  On Sunday we walked on leash around Capitol Lake.  Gimme does well on that, but Grafton doesn't quite understand that you can't wrestle-play with your girlfriend while you are both on leash.  So they get their leashes tangled a lot.  Silly kids.

Gimme and I are still working on all the behaviors we'd been working on before.  She is so smart that most things are going really well.  We did a session on the 2x2 weave poles for the first time in many months.  Our last session hit a snag and I couldn't get us past it.  So I just put it away until now.  Suddenly she pops right past that as if it was never there. 

That is often how it works with her.  Any behavior that was presenting a problem or stump, if I leave it alone for awhile, when I come back to it, suddenly its as if the stump was never there.

Our schedule for the last four weeks of Ursula's classes is 2 days a week of the Targeting & Shaping class.  Ursula has plans to add a CGC class to her offerings and I hope she gets it ready to go in the next month.  If she does, I'll sign us up for another ten weeks, otherwise we'll have to wait until next year.  Once the holiday season starts (late October) I really don't have the ability to get to classes with any regularity and just getting to nosework every Wednesday will be enough of a struggle.

Cross your fingers on the match.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meaggi NW (#1)

Poor Meaggi, at 14 years and 4 months, she is getting older by the minute. She's really weak in the right rear and so loses her balance a lot. She's deaf now and almost blind. I think she only sees very large stuff and only in good light. Every day could be her last, but she persists. Fortunately she's not in any pain and God knows she still loves to eat.

I've tried to think of things to do with her for enrichment, but she seemed to have lost her ability to remember from day-to-day. The physical weakness is a limitation too. She gets several hours of cuddle time with me on the couch each evening, but that's really all there is for her. I used to have her sleeping with me, but was getting completely exhausted by her restlessness, waking me 20+ times each and every night. So now she sleeps in a crate.

Getting her to do things just as part of our daily routine was a real challenge too, since she can't hear and really can't see well enough to even follow my hand. Then I hit on the idea of luring her with food and putting food where I wanted her to go. That helped a lot and over time (about a month of consistency on my part) she relearned our routine and now goes where I want without the luring. I make sure the goods are there when she gets there.

So, I started tossing food out for her to find in the yard just for entertainment value. I broadcast it all over and she finds it all every time. I watched once and she managed to find a tiny fragment of popcorn that I could barely see and snarfed it up without any difficulty.

Last night I tried to sneak past her and get in the house for a training session with Gimme. Meaggi didn't see me and I know she can't hear me, but she knew I was there right away. I'm sure she caught my scent within five seconds of me getting out of the car, from about forty feet away.

It occurred to me - why not train her in nosework? Based on the results I got with food luring to re-teach our routine, she is still able to learn and make associations and obviously her nose works just fine. So I decided to start her tonight. It doesn't matter how far we get, only that she has fun and enjoys herself.

Tonight I laid out the boxes on the floor and put a bit of food in one. She tripped over a couple boxes before she caught the food scent and then she was all about finding it. It took her no time to figure out this new game and she had a great time with it. She is contented and sound asleep as we speak.

It was clear from watching her that she can tell the difference between source odor and lingering odor. She has no concern about pushing into and through the boxes, even though she quickly figured out to slow down so she didn’t trip on the boxes. Time will tell if she is able to make the association between birch odor and food. I’m just glad to have something we can do together.

Nosework is so cool.

Kisses By The Dozen

Gimme has always reserved her kisses for me.  She's verrrrry friendly and inclined to "greeting by assault" (though improving a lot), but has saved her kisses for me - until now.  Yesterday Gimme met a lady at face level and immediately kissed her. 

The lady says, "Thank you for the kisses".  Gimme kissed her again.

"That's a great kiss."  Kissed again.

"You sure are a kissy-face girl."  Kissed again.

"Wow, those are wet kisses."  Slurp.

"You just never stop kissing."  Lick-lick, lick-lick-lick...

That all transpired in about 30 seconds, when I finally got in a "Shut up".  Followed by, "Don't say the k-i-s-s word, that's her cue."

Guess I should'a used a different word when I put her kisses on cue.  Oooooops!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nosework (5/6)

I'll start by catching up on our targeting and shaping class.  The class last week, Gimme made solid progress on pushing a door shut.  And she went straight to awesome on turning the rocker style light switch on and off.  That's easier than the toggle style, but still a challenge.  That's only the second time she's ever seen that, so I was very pleased with her progress.

This week we were doing stations.  Her first station was the door and she did really well, pushing it a solid 9 inches to close it.  Second station was to get in a box and lay down.  Naturally she was in it instantly and offered me lots of things before laying down.  She lays down sphinx style for most things, so chose the option of flattening both ends to make room for herself.  At the door she was in a cubicle and for the box although she could see another dog it was further away.

For the third station, going around a cone, she had dogs on either side of her about 8 feet away and the distraction of another dog's cubicle, so it took her longer to get it, especially with the periods of needing to look at the other dogs.  Still she was well behaved.  She did pretty good for the fourth station, a large plastic crate and a chair to get on.  Since she already has the "apple" behavior - this went very well.  She applied it to the crate, which is very like her red box, and to the chair when I pointed at it.  We also did some sequencing between cues she knew and those two.  Then Ursula said to teach her to put only her front feet on - that was more challenging and we didn't make a lot of headway.  Gimme is so primed to jump on things, that it was hard getting the timing right to stop her with just two feet - so something new to work on.

Our last station was the light switch and the regular toggle kind at that.  By then I'd used up most of Gimme's brain.  I scooted my chair back in the cubicle so she didn't have to see the other dogs.  She was at least able to focus on it and target the toggle, but wasn't really moving it.  Its interesting how those classes seem to alternate between easy and hard for Gimme's issues... which is about perfect and each time she does better and better.

Nosework tonight was another field trip to Home Depot.  The first search was with three hides across the street on the sunny side of the Costco building.  It was very hot and made searching more challenging.  Interestingly the dogs all had the most trouble with the hide right out in the open - two tins stuck on a manhole cover.  Gimme did well.

Second search was along a shady side of the Home Depot building.  Gimme scented the first hide from the start line and had it in less than two seconds.  Finding the other two took her no time at all - she was very efficient.

Our third search was inside Home Depot in the lumber aisle.  The first hide was on the lumber support about ten feet from the threshold.  The second was at the other end of that half of the lumber aisle, but back against the wall so the dogs had to go back in between two stacks of lumber to get to it.  Gimme did well at these.

This kid has no end of confidence.  The heat did slow her down and make her more deliberate than usual.  Our buddy Grafton did well too - showing good improvement from our last class at Home Depot, which I'm sure is in part because of our recent field trips.  He even did well in the search in the lumber aisle, despite never having searched inside any building other than where we have class.  Its great watching all the dogs improve.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Birthday Girl - Me

Yesterday was my birthday and I pretty much swore off the computer for the day, though I did check in to read all the birthday wishes.  Thank you to everyone who remembered the big event.  Having turned 29 once again - I'm sure that accomplishment constitutes "momentous".  <eg>

I started the day with another therapy dog class at 10 a.m.  Gimme did very well, much better than last time.  She even managed to ignore the young BC that fell in love with her and kept trying to come see her.  He unfortunately could barely function and his lack of focus was quite frustrating for his person.  Gimme just turned her nose up at him; she has her Lancelot and has no interest in the amorous intentions of anyone else.

Following class was the chiropractor, which was much needed after a weekend doing yard work at my parents'.  Met the glass repair guy there, who declared my windshield unrepairable.  Fortunately, over the weekend, the crack took a turn south, so at least I can put off a replacement for a good long time.

Two more errands - one to Cabela's to buy ultra loud whistles and the other to Costco.  I splurged on a rotisserie chicken.  Love those, but don't normally buy them.

Then home to goof off and watch TV, lounging on the couch and eating chicken.  Gimme helped me by laying beside me and drooling.

At 6:00 we met up with Mary and Grafton at a local elementary school for a nosework field trip.  Grafton hasn't done nosework anywhere, except home and class.  So when we had class at Home Depot, he found it very challenging.  So we are giving him some field trips in conjunction with our walks.  This is the second time and he did better, though he is finding the new setting and the carrying-on of his girlfriend in my car, quite a lot of distraction.  Next time we'll do Gimme first, so she'll be quiet when he's working. 

Gimme did well.  The hide in the rock wall she found in decent time.  The hide in the pipe proved challenging, since it was a small pipe and the other end was closed.  The one under a leaf near the portables she just rocketed to. 

After that we went to the Fort Lewis training areas for a 4 mile walk.  On Saturday I met a couple at area 22 and they said that recently when they were riding with their one dog (Gimme sized)... their dog was right behind the horses, when a coyote came out of the woods toward it.  Their dog cowered down and the coyote was standing over it and poised to attack when they were able to drive it away.  As they looked where it went they could see all the brush moving and what appeared to be as many as ten coyote in a pack.

Coyote are known to send out a "scout" that will attempt to lure a dog to where the other coyote are waiting to attack.  Gimme would be likely to follow a single coyote.  I'm not sure if the presence of both Gimme and Grafton (50 pounds) would be enough to keep them away.  I read online a report of coyote attacking two large dogs in a suburban area (Illinois).  Right now mated pairs are raising young and they can have from 1 - 19 in a single litter. Further online research says that the WA coyote sightings this year are on a sharp rise compared to last year.

The whole reason for going out there has been so the dogs can run and play off leash and snoop and sniff like dogs.  Mary and I have revised our Ft Lewis walking habits with Gimme and Grafton, sticking to the open areas, especially during this time of year.  I'll only be using the training areas when Grafton and Mary are able to come, otherwise I'll walk with Gimme in other places. 

We'll only let the dogs off leash in the most open areas - especially now as coyote are raising their young and tend to maintain a pack structure and get bolder as they try to feed more mouths.  When we are walking on roads with trees on both sides, the dogs will be on leash for their safety, to keep them from following any scout coyote and because the coyote would be unlikely to come that close (within leash distance) to humans.  Mary is bringing her walking poles and I'll be making a walking stick.  We'll both have pepper spray and I picked up some very loud whistles at Cabelas.  The prevailing wisdom is that coyote look for easy prey and will back off if you act big and intimidating, making noise, etc.

Our walk was uneventful and enjoyable.  Gimme fortunately has never shown inclination to go into the woods.  Over the last month I noticed she is sticking closer to me (especially when we walk alone) and I just assumed I'd somehow conditioned that, but now am wondering if she has smelled the coyote and is thinking to stay away from the woods and closer to Mom for safety.  She and Grafton play a lot, but between bouts of play she sticks pretty close to Mary and me.  We called the dogs any time they went out of sight (Grafton kept snooping in the tall scotch broom).  We also called them in any time we were going over a rise or around a bend where we couldn't see what lay ahead.  We were on the pipeline, so the whole walk was pretty open.  We started accustoming the dogs to the whistles and also conditioning them as a recall cue. 

I got the whistles since we could easily make a lot of noise, even if panic took our voices away.  It certainly took nothing at all to turn us both into Mama Bears, ready to protect our kids.

After the walk I stopped at Albertsons and treated myself to a pint of Ben and Jerry's Vanilla Creme Broule' ice-cream.  Sadly I had to give up all my favorite B&J chocolate flavors, since they all have wheat in them.  The one I chose was pretty good.  Then spent the rest of the evening lounging on the couch eating my ice cream with Meaggi helping me by laying at my side and drooling.

Life is good with dogs who are so helpful.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th

 I hope everyone is having a great 4th of July. 

Gimme and I were in another parade.  We have to be there so early - classic "hurry up and wait".  We got there at 9:00 for a parade that starts at 11:00.  There were 118 entries in the parade and we were number 100... so our truck pulled out from the curb around 12:30.  Then the parade lasted an hour.  Gimme and I were both very tired when this one was done

Needless to say she looked stunning in her festive patriotic wear.  Gimme generally doesn't mind me dressing her up, but she's decidedly unimpressed with the whole hat thing.

The setup for this parade was very different.  We all had to be in the vehicle, so Gimme wasn't able to interact with the crowd like she did in Rochester.  That sure didn't keep her from being the center of attention.  All along the parade route I kept hearing, "look at the dog", "wow, a Dalmatian", "isn't she pretty" and "are those spots brown?".  The rest of us definitely felt like we were just there to frame the real attraction.

The funny thing was watching her during the parade.  Since there were people on both sides, we humans alternated which direction we were facing (sitting on hay bales).  Gimme ended up facing toward the back. 

She would look to the left at people for a little bit and then shift her attention to the people on the right.  She went back and forth with this the whole time and fast enough that I'm sure everyone got to see her pretty face. 

Now all she has to do is learn the beauty queen wave.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Therapy Dog Class

This morning we had our first of a couple "therapy dog" classes. I know we aren't anywhere near ready for this, but scheduled it anyway to take advantage of two classes a week. The schedule of available classes is limited this week and next. I was fully prepared to sit in the furthest corner and give her treats the whole time, if need be.

Actually Gimme did pretty good. There were four dogs in class, in a small room with no visual barriers. Our first task was to sit in chairs somewhat near each other and get our dog's to lie beside the chair and just wait calmly. As you can imagine - Gimme didn't quite succeed in the calmly department, though she wasn't too awful. The interesting challenge for her was to lie parallel to the direction I was facing, as she kept wanting to turn 90 degrees. This is something we can work on at home. The nearest dog was Tor, about 6 feet away... so that was pretty close quarters.

Then we got up one by one and move against the walls. The other dogs found that challenging to remain still when other dogs were moving around. Gimme did well at this.

After that, to give the dogs something to do that permitted them to get up and move, Ursula set up intermittent visual barriers down the center of the room and we all practiced loose leash walking around the oval. The size of the room and barriers made it so there was always a dog either behind us or that we were following - within about 10 feet, the closest ever. That was hard for Gimme and she made it clear when she needed a break -- so we'd go to her crate and give her a minute or two to recover.

Lastly we had our dogs in down stays and a person they didn't know rolled up to us in a wheelchair, without interacting with the dog and just talking to the handler. Gimme is so people social that this was really hard for her to not go to the person and she needed a couple reminders that she was on a down stay. I saw her looking at the wheelchair, but she clearly wasn't concerned by it. That happened twice and she was much better the second time around.

Then last, Ursula came around to each of us on crutches and again the dogs were to remain in a down stay. Gimme understood the drill by this time and so she did better. She sooooo wanted to get up and wiggle-butt over to her friend Ursula, but managed to refrain from doing so.

It was a hard class for her and yet Gimme did better than I expected she would. I was very proud of her that she was able to make all good choices in a challenging setting and that she is very clear about letting me know when she needs a break. I really like that she is taking some responsibility for herself. She is getting better all the time. I also like that even when a task is beyond her skill level, she still tries to do what I want. She has an amazing work ethic and desire to do what I want of her. I would say "desire to please me", except I know its really all about the treats.

I had planned to go down to Capitol Lake today for a walk around, but have decided after that challenging class that it would just be asking too much of her. So in a little bit we are going to have a simple training session here at home.