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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Last Parade

We've been staying busy - as always.  Gimme was invited to the last parade of the season for Rainier Roundup Days.  I think they only invite me because someone has to be her chauffeur.  Its a smaller town and a fun event.  Gimme was a hit as always.

The only downer for the parade was that the only way to get there (without driving 20 miles out of our way) was to go down the same road where we usually meet Grafton.  Gimme got more and more excited, thinking that was where we were headed. When I actually passed the last possible turn, she shrieked in her highest teenage girl voice to let me know I'd missed the turn.  She was certain I was just dazed and needed a reminder to turn.

Gimme has always liked Andrew Barkis; he's running for county commissioner.  Andrew is one of those people she is perfectly content to sit beside and have her picture taken - no holding her, no bribes... just hanging with her buddy Andrew.  They say dogs are good judges of character and I agree.  Clearly she has good taste; I like him too.

This is our whole group, getting ready for the parade to start.  Gimme thought this parade was especially nice because there was a lot more candy being thrown than there were children to snatch it up.  Much as I tried to stop her - she was able to gobble on the fly and got a number of tootsie rolls and such.  I thought she might end the day with a bellyache because of the dietary indiscretions.  

This last picture is Gimme with state Senator Randi Becker.  We support Randi wholeheartedly.  She's a very nice lady and a great senator.

I've been promising a video of Gimme and Grafton playing.  Here's a short clip I discovered on my computer.  Young love is such a joy to behold (especially to us two doting Moms).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nosework (5/7)

Gimme was stellar again tonight, but so what else is new, eh.  I noticed some of these hides were paired Birch and Anise (in separate containers).  We played the same games as last time.  You can find the detailed description of how to play the games at:  

First we did the Line game, using a chair with the odor stuck to it.  We started with it right in front of the dogs, about five feet away.  After getting it right twice, going directly to it, then it was moved about 15 feet. They got two or three direct to the chair at the longer distance.

Second we played the One-Two game.  The first hide was on the upright pole for a handicapped parking sign and the second one was on the chair about 15 feet away.  This was repeated doing: one, one-two, one-two.

After that we did a search with four hides out.  Gimme was really direct on the first two.  Then the two that were on the low ledge took her a little longer.  I noticed the fourth one was Anise odor (no Birch).  I made sure to reward that with a lot of treats.  I commented to Joyce, "Oh, that was just Anise".  She said we'd been doing Anise for quite awhile now.

I guess I need to get an Anise jar of q-tips going.  Also means I have to get separate hide containers for Anise too.  People who are serious about this make sure to have a collection of little containers for each odor.  Typically they have a little sticker with the letter "B", "A" or "C" on them.  That way you know the dog is responding to that particular odor and not residual odor of another type from a prior search.  If you want to put out two odors, you do it with them in two separate containers.

I just got a notice of this picture from the recent trial.  Its her indication on the Exterior Search.

Well, I promised Gimme some steak for dinner, so I better get on it.  Can't keep the birthday girl waiting...

Birthday Girl

It's so hard to believe the munchkin is 2 years old today.  It seems like just yesterday I was sitting on the floor in the puppy pen, with half a dozen puppies biting my shoes and my fave, Gimme, biting my lips.  But yes, I look at her and she does look pretty grown up.  And I know her behavior is getting more grown up all the time.

In a bit we leave for nosework class.  I was going to get treats for dogs and people to help celebrate, but didn't have the time today.  Besides, Gimme says they should be bringing treats and presents to her.  When we get home, Gimme gets steak for dinner, thawing as we speak.

Meanwhile I've come to the momentous decision that I'm going to have to start taking a clicker and treats with me to the bathtub.  Gimme almost always comes up to me at some point during my bath with a big Dally grin on her face.  That's the only place and time she does it.  I love grinning Dals and would love to have it on cue.  You know its commitment (or else commit-able) when a person starts taking clicker and treats to the tub with them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Agility Natural

Tonight's class with Blynn went well.  I have to say at first I had my doubts.  I'd planned to arrive early, but didn't plan on two accidents on I-5.  So got there, was rushing around, setting up our crate and getting ready.  Meanwhile Gimme is in the car, shrieking her head off and throwing a bonafide fit.  I don't know if she remembered the place from when we had our private lesson with Daisy, or if she was responding to my rushing. She was pretty high when we came in, bug-eyed with excitement and not really calming down, despite a lot of peanut butter Kong ball.  Every little noise had her jumping up and wanting to investigate.  I confess I was thinking this was not going to be workable.

When our first session on the floor came, I kept her on leash, mostly dragging it.  I used the peanut butter tube as a lure, passing it from one hand to the other.  I started out rewarding her after every obstacle and we got through all 15.  We needed Blynn's help with the curved tunnel and the full height teeter, but everything else went smoothly.  The full height dogwalk didn't faze her.  She did a full height aframe over a year ago, went at this one without hesitation.  We did 12 inch jumps, since I had her in her EasyWalk harness.  There were twelve weave poles and since she hasn't been trained to weave, I lured her through six, then pulled her out.  Blynn pulled those away and then we did the last six the same way.

Then we still had time left to our turn, so I just did the same course, rewarding after 2 or 3 obstacles and without dragging the leash.  Gimme is highly focused when I have the peanut butter tube.  Blynn helped again with the tunnel and we spent a little extra time getting Gimme to do it independently.  After her first working session, she calmed down considerably.

For our second turn later on, we spent a little extra time on the teeter, since Gimme was rushing it and I didn't want her to crash it and scare herself.  Everything else went smoothly.  By the second time through the course, when I was luring the 12 weaves, Gimme got ahead of me at the end and finished them without me!  She had great single-foot striding and just did it as if we'd actually trained to that level.  Sometimes this girl is just too damn smart.

I had her sit in the car for a bit between that and the second course.  When our turn came, we spent some extra time on the tire jump, which she'd never done before.  Blynn put it down on the floor and I was tossing cheese through it.  After a few tries of that, Gimme left me for the first time all evening.  Turns out she was headed to her crate for the jar of peanut butter that sat on top.  When she came back I whipped out the peanut butter and put her to work.

She did everything so quickly, that we got further down course than Blynn was prepared for and the last couple jumps were still set at 20 inches.  Gimme took the first one and then balked at the second.  I swung her around and she took them both in stride.  Since she's never jumped more than eight inches, I was very pleased with her at that.  She really has a beautiful efficient jumping style and seems to like jumping.

I love that the Mecklenburg handling system is so intuitive to the dogs. Yes, I've done a lot of flatwork training, but there were many things I had not trained and Gimme just did them as if they made perfect sense.  Because of that, we were able to move through the course smoothly.  I did have to be closer to her than I would for an experienced dog, but I didn't have to be right on top of her.

I think she will learn to work distance pretty quickly.  She clearly likes this agility game and did so well that she made me look good.  I should probably mention... she is going to be fast...   REALLY  R E A L L Y  F A S T

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Running Girl

Its been so hot here lately and Gimme and Grafton, while enjoying their walks, are not as enthused about the unaccustomed heat.  Toward the end of our walks, they have a tendency to run ahead and find a tree that is shading the road and then will hang out there waiting for us slow pokes to catch up.

We try to get them out at other times when its not as hot, but too often my schedule means those have to be shorter walks in town.  We went out last night at 7:30 and it was cooler, breezy and nice.  They have both finally accepted that they can't play on leash, much as they might want to.

Last night they met a concrete deer.  Gimme rushed right over to let that deer know who was boss.  Grafton was not so bold.  Later after we were done, I drove around to pick up some really nice clothes that had been dumped along the path, which I've taken to Goodwill.  While doing so I saw a much more realistic deer statue.  It was a more realistic size, the color was more correct and it authentically turned its head when I slowed down to look at it.  Don't know how we missed it when we were walking.  <eg>

Mary and I committed to getting an early start for a walk with the kids today.  Its been significantly cooler all day and the kids just thoroughly enjoyed their run this morning.  They ran more than they have in a long time and it sure was nice to see them have so much fun.

We will try to get video of them running together sometime.  They just run and run and run out in the big open fields (which you can see in the background of the picture above).  We just have to remember and be prepared, because if we stop to fish out a camera, they rush over to see what we are doing. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nosework (4/7)

Joyce has just come from an instructor training and brought back some games.  Gimme did well at them, though I'm not sure she considers them "real" nosework.  Usually after she's done her first search, she settles down and waits patiently and quietly.  Not tonight.  She whined and fussed throughout the whole class until after our third set, which she considered a "real" search.  Then she was quiet.  After class we went with Mary and Grafton for a short walk.  Then she proceeded to whine all the way home - having done only one "real" search.  At least that is my take on her behavior - it could be something entirely different.

Raced home to make sure I got my trial entry in for the November 4th trial in Renton.  If I don't get into that one, will enter another trial for the same weekend in Oregon.  Of course neither are guaranteed and even if we get in, if Gimme comes in season at all late, we'll pull rather than have an experience like our third ORT attempt when she was in season.

So about the games in class.

The first game I'll call the One-Two Game...
  • The purpose is to teach the dog to go directly to odor when they notice it nearby and its also about letting them tell you its there, instead of them waiting for you to tell them to look.  
  • ONE hide is set up in a spot that is super easy to find.  You start the dog from five feet away, and without giving them a search cue, let them notice the odor and pull you toward it.  A dog with less desire than Gimme might not pull, so you keep a very light tension on the line and let them tell you the odor is there.  If they get to it in a direct line and don't pass source, then reward at source.  If they go past it, then you walk in a circle turning away from the odor and returning to the start line.  Do this as many times as it takes until they go directly to source.
  • Repeat three or four times so they understand the pattern.  After each iteration, circle away, returning to the start line.
  • The next step is to repeat the ONE hide and as the dog is getting rewarded, someone sets the TWO hide about five feet away.  Wait for the dog to notice the second hide and head toward it.  If they get to it in a direct line and don't pass source, then reward at source.  If they go past it, then you walk in a circle turning away from the odor and returning to the start line.  Your assistant will take up the TWO hide while you are returning to the startline.  Repeat starting from the start line and the ONE hide.  Once the dog is successful, repeat three or four times.
Gimme was pretty good at the One-Two Game.  Once she realized she had to go direct, she got very good at doing it.  Even though it wasn't "real" nosework, she was happy to get the treats.

The second game I'll call the Line Game... 
  • The purpose is the same - to teach the dog to go directly to odor when they notice it nearby and also letting them tell you its there, instead of them waiting for you to tell them to look.  
  • The hide is set up in a spot that is directly in front of the dog, pretty much in plain sight - such as a tin on rough pavement.  You start the dog from three feet away, and without giving them a search cue, let them notice the odor and pull you toward it.  If they get to it in a direct line and don't pass source, then reward at source.  If they go past it, then you walk in a circle turning away from the odor and returning to the start line.  Do this as many times as it takes until they go directly to odor source.  
  • Repeat three or four times so they understand the pattern.  After each iteration, circle away, returning to the start line.
  • After that, as you are circling back to the start line, your assistant will move the hide about three feet further away, in a straight line from their original approach.  If they get to it in a direct line and don't pass source, then reward at source.  If they go past it, then you walk in a circle turning away from the odor and return to the start line.  Each time they are successful it gets moved a little further away.  
  • You will only move it away four iterations from the original location and the last two can be less visible.  Such as in a spot where there was a chunk of concrete missing and then behind the little concrete curb you often see in parking places.
Gimme was pretty good at the Line Game.  She is normally moving so fast that she had to collect herself and move slower to not overshoot the odor and be circled away from it.  This was especially apparent as it was moved further away and she had a chance to build up some momentum.  What I liked about this game especially was that Gimme chose to slow down, rather than me slowing her down.

Joyce says we will play these and other games again and that over time the dogs will learn to be more efficient.  Gimme loves searching and she could stand to be more efficient, because no matter how good I make the rewards, its clear she still loves the hunt more than the goodies.

Our last search was a "real" search, three hides out for her to find in a courtyard.  She was very content and quiet after that - until she realized it was the only real search she was getting.

Joyce also asked me to share with the class about the trial, how we did and what I learned.  She asked about whether Gimme indicated any boxes other than the one she fringed on.  When I said "no", we talked about how she has basically given up the extra indications.  I had to laugh when two of my classmates said they would miss seeing Gimme destroy boxes because she's so funny.  So, its not just me...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Our New Game

I taught Gimme the names to a few of her toys, with more to come.  Ball (her black rubber Kong ball) and Flossy (a frayed rope toy) are the  most solid.  I ask her to get one for me, by name, and reward when she brings them.  She carries one or the other around a lot, so she is often leaving them in some part of the house.   That entertains her as she goes looking for them.

A couple weeks ago, I started sneakily, pushing them behind things or setting things in front of them, so they weren't visible unless she got to the right spot.  I expected she would just keep "looking" for them and investigate more extensively.  Instead I noticed that after she visually scanned all the rooms in the house and didn't find them, then she started air scenting for them.  Naturally with that keen nose, she always finds them.

Today I put her in the office and then hid her ball in a deep box.  When I let her out, it took her awhile, but she still found it.  The first time she walked by the box and sniffed, she didn't detect it, but ten minutes later when she sniffed in that area, she caught it and homed right in on the ball.  It probably took that long for the ball smell to drift up and out of that narrow steep-sided  box.  She couldn't actually get to the ball, so whined at me until I helped her and she's been proudly carrying it around ever since.

I'm just amazed at her persistence.  When we first started this game, she'd look for about two minutes and then if she didn't find the one I'd cued for, she would offer the other one to me.  This time she spent close to fifteen minutes looking for her Kong ball without giving up, even though Flossy was in plain sight.  I could have actually accomplished something in that amount of time, if I hadn't been so fascinated watching her search.

When I get that confidence and persistence applied to our competitive behaviors, this kid will be unstoppable...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

75 Percent Club

Gimme and I did not title today, still she did very well and I’m very happy with her.   We ended the day with 75 points (out of 100 possible) and 2 faults (assessed for a false alert).

Our first element was the container search and Gimme was not well focused – my fault, which I’ll explain. She alerted on the wrong box, fringing on the one next to the correct box. It was a definite alert, she stood both front feet on the box and pivoted on it as I walked around her. She really thought it was right – she certainly had me convinced. This happened in 19.43 seconds. The judge’s comment was: "Slow down, take a deep breath. Good try." I have noticed that I sometimes get a little rushed, matching Gimme’s speed on containers – then I catch myself and slow down and she slows down with me. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, I was just starting to slow down when she alerted. On a positive note, she didn’t do any extra indications. Woohoo…

From there we went on to the exterior element, which was on grass. Gimme did a great job on this, finishing in 47.69 seconds and without marking. The judge’s comment was: "Rewarding quickly – literally at the source – every time in training will build more ‘stick to it’ and ‘don’t leave’ in your dog. Well run search – good patience." Those are things we do in training all the time.

Gimme has a consistent pattern to 90 percent of her searches. She blasts into the area, moving around quickly air-scenting for odor. She’ll go right by the odor with a quick nose tilt in the direction of it. After she has scanned the search area, then she’ll come back to spend some time detailing, trying to find source. More often than not she will break off detailing and go briefly check out some other interesting spot. Then she’ll return directly to the odor and usually indicates without hesitation. I’m not sure whether this is a good or bad thing, or just is what it is. While it eats up time now, when she gets to level 2 and 3, I think it may actually work to our advantage. I talked with Joyce briefly about it and I’m sure we’ll talk about it more. Keep in mind that <48 seconds is a very respectable time.

In the afternoon we started with the interior element. Gimme had it in 1:00.52 – again, a very respectable time. She followed the pattern I described above. I talked briefly with the judge after we alerted and he definitely noticed the nose tilt as she entered the room, blasting by the threshold hide. His verbal comment was that her hunting pattern might be a product of too many multiple hide searches, but we haven’t been doing that for awhile. I mentioned to Joyce that I wanted to expand on the no-multiples theme by actually removing Gimme from the search area for just a moment as Joyce sets a new hide and picks up the old one. I think that might make it clearer to Gimme, about them being single hides. The judge’s comment on the sheet was: "Obedience to odor! You had fun and got the find. Good job."

Our last search was the vehicle element. It was very hot out and the search was on asphalt, which was hot on the dog’s feet. As I gave Gimme the search cue, "wherezit", she took off along the near side of the three vehicles, appearing to be heading to our car! The breeze was blowing away from us and just as I was about to call Gimme to cut short her flight, she caught the odor and turned on a thin dime herself. Those were very trying conditions and she cared more about finding odor than her comfort. Good girl! She made a quick pass around the near vehicle, detailed a spot briefly, moved away and sniffed an area nearby where I’m sure the odor was pooling. Then quickly returned to the detail area, sniffed once and paw touched right where her nose had been. Her attitude was, "This is it, pay up and lets get the heck off this hot stuff." She did that in 27.98 seconds – a very nice time. The judge’s comment was: "Nice odor recognition! Was worried that you were both going to leave odor, but dog stayed true. J "

So, the thing I learned that really sticks out is to never again let the club officials rush me and my dog. They told us in the letter to exhibitors not to arrive early, so I didn’t. Which meant that by the time I got the car set up for the heat, I had just enough time to check-in and then the briefing was supposed to start in five minutes. Of course it didn’t start for another half hour. Then the club sent out a person to give us "pre-briefing entertainment" while the judges got ready – it was implied that the judges would be out in a few minutes – in reality it was 25 minutes. So that was essentially an hour wasted that I could have used familiarizing Gimme with the area, getting her walked and relaxed, as well as walking Meaggi and relaxing myself.

Once the real briefing started… it was another 55 minutes. First we heard from Ron Gaunt, the sport originator and then the judges. Then we had a walk-through familiarization with the pattern and the search areas. That was followed by the post walk-through question and answer period. Then we were told the first three dogs of both groups need to be ready to go in five minutes and we were number three of the A group!

Naturally I felt rushed and that traveled down the leash. It was not sufficient time to get a good potty walk, much less get either of us mentally prepared and relaxed. Gimme didn’t even make any effort to pee. I almost had her interested in a spot where I’d just seen another dog pee, when I hear them yelling across the parking lot that they are "looking for the Dalmatian". So I hurried up to the staging area and they were going to rush us inside without letting us use the practice boxes. I said we needed to and they held another team back so we could. When we moved inside – we ended up sitting and waiting for FIFTEEN MINUTES!

Needless to say I was annoyed – all that rushing for freaking nothing. I was trying to breathe and relax and help Gimme to relax, but she wasn’t falling for it. The first few minutes she was okay, but then the waiting was starting to annoy her and I saw her repeatedly turn her head to air-snap at what was a loose leash. That is her way of telling me its time to get the show moving. So by the time we did get taken in, she was not focused, which I saw at the start line. Thus, the false alert.

I don’t blame Gimme – managing our time and protecting the team from interference is my job. I vowed right then and there to never let it happen again. It’s a good thing too, because they tried to rush us again for the afternoon searches and I just told them they had to wait. In the afternoon they wanted us stacked up and waiting on them and I just said "no"… not gonna happen with two reactive dogs among the first three dogs. Even taking my time and making them wait, we still went inside, waited five minutes each at stations 1, 2 and 3, before starting the interior search. Again a fifteen minute wait, but at least since we were moving from one station to the next Gimme didn’t find it annoying, though she was very eager to get on with searching.

BTW the point of the stations is to keep teams separated visually from each other. The sport really is intended to accommodate reactive dogs of all types and Ron gave everyone a reminder of just how important it is to respect other teams’ space. It doesn’t take a dog having a reaction to impact their (and your) experience in a negative way.

Unfortunately, this club seems to think that separation only applies in and around the search areas, they wanted to stack teams up waiting outside in close proximity. That’s what they tried to get me to do in the afternoon and I didn’t fall for it. After we were done, I saw they had four teams lined up, some of the dogs had red bandanas, too close for comfort and people were body blocking to keep the dogs from getting visuals on each other. Shouldn’t be done that way.

And if a club tells me not to come early, I’m coming early anyway, by at least an hour more than I need for physical set-up. If they won’t let us on the grounds, then we’ll stop up the road and spend some time walking and relaxing and connecting. Naturally the first time I do that – you know we’ll be the number 24 dog in our group!

I did find out that the group that puts on these trials is notorious for their poor time management and that chaos is the norm. Unfortunately there aren’t many groups putting on trials, so I may have to put up with it again.

Another issue that was bad was that after I’d gotten parked and my car set up for the girls’ comfort, a car came to park on one side and a truck on the other. They proceeded to run their engines all day to keep their dogs in air conditioning. So we were getting exhaust and hot air off the engine from one or the other all day long and, of course, by then the parking was all full and there was no place to move to. In the future I’ll use the reactive dog parking, which is more spaced out.

Others were complaining about this issue and talking to club leaders fell on unconcerned ears. I’m going to write a letter to NACSW and suggest some changes. I certainly don’t want to say that people can’t run their air-conditioning if their dogs need it to stay comfortable. But I do think they should identify those who will be doing so and make them park together, so those of us (the majority) who are relying on air flow as part of our comfort measures aren’t subjected to toxic fumes and heated air when its already hot. I also plan to mention that they need to firm up their guidelines to the clubs about how they manage staging areas outside the search grid. People shouldn’t be encouraged to place their dogs too close for comfort to other teams – if they are using body blocking, that’s too close. It’s the nature of this sport that there is a lot of hurry up and wait, but it shouldn’t be done in such a way that it negatively impacts the teams – especially not while the organization is trying to promote themselves as user-friendly for teams with challenges.

To end on a positive note. While I didn’t do a good enough job managing our team at the start of the day, I learned from my mistake and I feel I did well in the afternoon. And I also felt I did a good job handling on the actual searches all four times. I managed to keep moving and not put any social pressure on Gimme while she was working.

I’m very proud of Gimme and I think she did very well, despite trying conditions. I feel confident we’ll get it next time – whenever that is.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nosework (3/7)

Before I start, this was our last week of classes with Ursula. She wasn’t able to get the format and training booklet for the CGC class finished in time for us to continue on without interruption. If we skip even one week, then the ten weeks would end after the holiday season gets going and I would be too busy to reliably attend classes. So we won’t be back in classes with her until next spring. We’ll miss them. Meanwhile we are checking out a group agility class to see if it’s a good fit for us.

This week we had nosework class on Thursday morning because of a family event the night before. Gimme did great as always.

We met in the big rear parking lot of a local Lowes. The first two hides were a container drill. I'm proud to say that Gimme only indicated the correct box and did so with great speed even though we had a pretty stiff breeze going. Maybe she just enjoys having more of a challenge. I have to admit a big part of me misses Demolition Gimme -- though I know with certainty that she WILL find some other way to be entertaining, doncha know.

The third and fourth hides were in the landscaping islands. The hides were: under some wood chips, tucked in under the edge of a boulder, on the concrete base of a light pole tucked under a leaf and under a piece of broken concrete. Gimme did a great job with those too. She seemed to be all about efficiency this day.

I’m happy to say that she didn’t mark when she was searching on areas that gave her opportunity. She actually hasn’t marked since the match three weeks ago. I hadn’t intended to give her a leash correction or blurt out "no" when she marked then, it just happened. At the time Gimme gave me a stink eye. Time will tell if it made a lasting impression – so far so good.

Joyce instructed me to do no other nosework between then and our trial tomorrow. I’ve been concentrating on ways to make sure she stays comfortably cool and relaxed in the car. I do think that is why she didn’t do as well at the last search of the match two weeks ago – just too hot and tired and that impacted her focus.

I went out to the garage to get my battery operated fans and they, the batteries and the charger had "disappeared". I guess someone needed them more than I do. Clearly I have to get a new key for the garage and get back to locking it up again. I bought a new fan and charger set for Gimme from Home Depot. I’ve also installed reflector panels in the back side windows of the car and am cutting one today for the hatchback (to be held up with velcro). I’ll have one really big one that I can put on top of the car. I’m also doing the finishing touches on some white mesh panels that I can hang over the open windows and I’ll hang sheets around the back of the hatchback too. Not only am I going for cool, but also a bit of seclusion so she can rest well.

Yesterday I went to Auburn to volunteer for the Nosework 3 trial and it was very interesting. Nosework 1 is pretty simple, level 2 gets harder and level 3 is like real scent detection work. Because it takes so long to do the searches at level 3, they can only trial 20 dogs in a day, versus 45 in level one and two (thus the entry fees are higher). They do random draw to determine who gets in at level 1 and 2… level 3 entry is based on how long its been since the dog passed level 2. The pass rate at level 3 is about 1 in 7, many dogs take a lot of attempts to get there. Keep in mind, the dogs must pass each element all on the same day and not have too many cumulative faults to get a title.

There are food and toy distractions and the odor challenges (birch, anise and clove) are sometimes hidden in spots where there is less scent escaping. Also all the elements require the handler to call "finished" and since the handler doesn’t know how many there are, they need to really read the dog. The interior element has three separate rooms, one of which may be without any odor in it – so the handler has to be able to read the dog and call "clear" if they have a room without odor. The judges have that information and are watching for it, so if the dog’s indication is different than what you wrote and you call alert, even if you are correct, you can be assessed a fault. Many of the judges they recruit come from the detection field.

I got to watch about half of the container drills. They don’t use boxes after you get past level 1… instead its mostly suitcases, backpacks and some other containers. In this case, in addition to the suitcases and backpacks, they had an odd shaped cardboard mailer, some new paint cans with holes in the top and several wooden boxes with holes in the top. In addition to the hides, there are food and toy distractions in some of the containers. A few of the dogs were really attracted to the oatmeal cookie distraction. A false alert is the kiss-of-death, so handlers at that level really have to be able to read their dog and know when they are working odor versus when they are after something else.

I also watched the corresponding half of the exterior searches. Most of the dogs seemed to do really well there, though there were a few false alerts. A couple dogs were attracted to the air conditioning unit. Made me wonder if it was blowing air out, in which case it could have been emitting weak odor from the interior search rooms. The handlers that called alert there had dogs with indicator styles that are open to interpretation, like the dog-looks-at-handler that some people are using. Many handlers don’t seem to have a clear idea of when their dog is working and when they are just coming along for a walk, so they are late in calling "finished" which affects their time.

I was timer for the vehicle search and that was educational too. Even though from where I sat I couldn’t see much, there were still things to see and learn. I noticed the handlers that kept moving, even when their dog was detailing an area had cleaner alerts. This was very late in the day and a couple of dogs were just too hot to work effectively; some handlers were clearly tired too. One lady would have had the fastest time by six seconds, but after finding the third hide (the handler knows they are done because there are never more than three) started to walk away without calling "finished", so she pushed her time up by another thirty seconds before she caught herself. The judge said he had known people to walk away and forget entirely and in that case the time runs until they are over time and despite finding all the hides correctly, they still fail the element (and lose the title that day). Many people upon calling their third "alert" and getting the "yes" from the judge, proceed to reward their dogs and only afterward think to say "finished". They could save about ten seconds on their time if they said "finished" the moment the judge says "yes" and it wouldn’t impact their ability or timing to reward the dog. That’s a multi-tasking issue.

The other big problem in vehicles was that handlers loose track of where they are in the set of vehicles and so they miss areas. Keeping in mind that the scent is strongly affected by the wind or lack thereof (really variable direction and speed this day), its important to know which vehicles you have been around and in which approach direction. Sometimes the dog will go one way and not catch the odor and then approaching from the other direction, they home right in on it. Many of the failures in vehicles were people that lost track of where they were and called "finished" before they’d found the last hide, while still having plenty of time.

This business of not keeping the search area and where you’ve been and from which direction in your head was also an issue in containers. One of the hides was in the handle of a brown suitcase on the outer edge of the search area. For some reason, many dogs didn’t scent it until they walked outside that suitcase and most of them (except 2 out of 10) didn’t do that unless their handler moved outside with them. So if the handler didn’t know where they’d been with their dog, they could miss that entirely and a couple did. One person missed a group of four containers repeatedly, fortunately the odor wasn’t in one of them, unfortunately she had a false alert on the oatmeal cookie.

It was very clear that having a clean and precise indication style on your dog is very important. Most of the errors in calling alert came with dogs that had that look-at-handler style. Level 3 is much more handler dependent than 1 and 2. Level one is mostly about the dog, probably 95%. Level two is a mixture. With the exception of resisting distractions and somewhat more subtle hides, the dog’s job doesn’t change. At level three, its at least 90% handler knowing and reading the subtleties of the dog’s behavior and having your own job clear in your head.

Although it was hot and I was really tired on the drive home, it was a great day and I learned tons by watching.

Tomorrow is our first trial in this sport. I’m already very nervous and will, for sure, be taking Rescue Remedy along – for me. Please cross every body part you can spare for us.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Since yesterday was such a busy day for Gimme-girl, I was going to give her the day off.  I should point out that she doesn't consider a "day off" as a good thing.  Her preference would be to train multiple times a day, everyday and with lots of field trips each week.  She thrives on using her brain and doing stuff.

I just got home from teaching a private lesson to Pumpkin, a severely overweight, 4 year old Lab mix.  He's a sweet dog, but completely untrained and very much out-of-control.  This is our second lesson.  The first lesson we spent half the time trying to get some essence of focus - this time only took 15 minutes to really get his focus.  So that is a substantial improvement.  Plus by the end of this lesson he was volunteering behaviors AND some of them involved self-control.  I love that he's showing signs of becoming operant and the glimmers of taking responsibility for his own behavior.  This couple have 6 large out-of-control dogs, of which Pumpkin is the youngest and most ill-behaved.  Anne, his owner, was very enthusiastic about the clear progress we made this time.  Hopefully she will be enthused enough to start applying the lessons to the other five dogs.

Anyway, that put me in the mood to train SOMETHING.  So we did a short session of nosework.  I set out four paired hides, one at a time, and made them all threshold hides.  Threshold is our weakest skill at this point, so thought it made sense to warm up the concept before the trial next weekend.

The first one Gimme blew past a million miles an hour and searched much of the room before coming back to it.  The second one she went by just one-hundred-thousand miles an hour, but came back to much more quickly.  The third and fourth hides she paid more attention to the threshold and got them very quickly. That was all we did - short and sweet.

Now I'm going to camp out on the couch and read the book I got from the library.  I ordered it about 8 months ago and had pretty much given up on it ever coming in.  It is "K-9 Trailing, the Straightest Path", by Jeff Schettler.  I read his book, "Red Dog Rising" quite awhile back and it was great.  This book is supposed to be more of a training manual for man-trailing.  I have no real interest in man-trailing or search and rescue, but I figure there will be a lot of overlap between it and nosework and tracking.  He talked a lot in the introduction about how important it is to learn to read your dog - so if I can pick up info just on that, I'll be well ahead of where I am now.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Nosework (2/7)

We had to switch nosework class to this morning so I could go to my Dad's 84th birthday party last night.  Then at noon Gimme had her Targeting and Shaping class.

In nosework we did a field trip to Shopko and Gimme did her usual stellar job.  The first session was three hides set up in a corner of the building.  One was set up on the ground in the inside corner and she went directly to that.  Corners like that can be hard since many dogs round them off.  Then we found the second one in a nook on the building's old air conditioning unit.  The third one was stuck up about three feet on the wall, tucked behind a bit of conduit.  All the dogs, except Joyce's Mick, had difficulty finding that - probably because it was right next to the open corner of the building, so the breeze was blowing past it really quickly.  There was a cement post about a foot past the open corner and the odor was pooling against it, so all our dogs kept looking all over that and they each took awhile to turn around and find it right behind them.  Mick went past it once, caught the pool and immediately turned right around to source.

The second series was three hides on the back deck landing - on the base of a grocery cart, the edge of a box roller thingy and behind a concrete post near the gate.  Joyce set these one at a time for Gimme - since we are entered in a trial next weekend.  Gimme found the grocery cart and box roller hides very quickly.  The one behind the concrete post proved a little more challenging.  Even still she had all three within 3 minutes.

Next we did four hides in one of the docking bays.  On a railing, under the axle of a truck, in a pipe coming out of a wall and in a spot under the docking lip.  Gimme found the one in the pipe first, though she kept sniffing around the docking lip (residual odor from the other dogs).  Our next one was under the truck axle and Gimme was more interested in the fried chicken skin and a bit of bones.  I tried to keep her from them, but she managed to snag the bones and so I grabbed her and took it away.  After that she wouldn't go under the truck again - having attached that "correction" to the truck, not the chicken snatching.  I encouraged her and then she did go under the truck and found the next hide very quickly.  She found the others in order almost as fast as I'd let her go for them.

Our last hide was a single black q-tip in a crack in the concrete.  Gimme first checked two small pieces of trash and then went right to the q-tip and pawed at it.  I thought she went to the trash based on visual.  Joyce said she may have, but her line from the second piece was direct to the odor - so she probably caught some odor pooling against it.

In Targeting and Shaping, Gimme actually did better than I expected.  She's usually kind of mentally wiped out after nosework.  Expecting that we were careful in giving her challenges that were a bit easier on the scale of things she is learning.  So overall, she did pretty well.

I have arranged for a test drive of a group agility class on the 21st of this month.  We'll see if she is ready for a group setting and if so, will be signing up for what will be roughly every other week.  I'm looking forward to it.

BTW it doesn't look like I can download the video's from last weekend's match.  Thus far I've only been able to find the same two that I have already loaded here.  If I find the others, then I'll put links to them in one of the blogs.

The yard beckons...