Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
NW1, RATI, RATN, RATO, NW2, L1I, RATS, L1E, L1C, L1V, L2C, L2I, L2E, RATM, R-FE/N, PKD-TL, PKD-N, ADPL1, ADPL2, TD, UWP, ADPL3, NTD, TKN, L2V, ADPL4, SDS-N, ADPL5, ADPCH, ADP1(2), ADPL1(GC), ADPL2(2), ADPL2(GC), VPN, AP, UWPCH, ADPL3(2), ADPL3(GC), NC, NI, NE, SCN, SIN, SEN, CZ8B, NV, NN, ADPL4(2), ADPL4(GC), ADPGCH, ADPL5(2), RATCH, CZ8S, AI, TKI, AV, AE, AC, AN, R-FE/X NW3-V, NW3-E, SI, RN, R-FE/NS, CZ8G, SC, SV, SE, SN, SEA, SBN, SWN, SIA, SCA, ADP-1(Th), ADP-2(Th), ADP-3(Th), ADP-4(Th), ADP-5(Th), and ADP-CH(Th)... 81 and counting...

Sunday, September 30, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 28, 2012

I promise

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


Monday, September 24, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 21, 2012

Who's Training Who Here

I recently noticed that when I sit down on the couch to put on my shoes in the morning, Gimme brings me a tug toy and tries to entice me to play with it.  I thought to myself, "Isn't that cute, she wants to start our day with a little playtime."  Then I started noticing that every time I sit down on the couch, she brings me a toy.

She bounces around in front of me, flipping and throwing the toy.  She tosses it, shakes it back and forth, and kills it with great theatrical ferocity.  She rolls on her back and wiggles to and fro.  If I don't respond after she goes through her whole repertoire, she goes and gets another toy from her toy basket or the training box.  She'll keep this up until...   well, then I discovered that, almost of its own volition, my hand reaches out to take hold of the toy. 

Omigod... she's trained me.  Its official, Gimme really is in charge here.  I see the play cue and I can't help myself! 

Please don't get the idea from this first two pictures that her offerings are still and calm.

I took over 100 pictures to get 4 that weren't too blurry.
These two were the least blurry of the on-the-back-wiggling sequence.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nosework (2/8)

I was so tempted to name this post "The Magic Wallet".  I managed to drive out of the place where we held our nosework field trip, leaving my wallet on top of the car.  Got home and fished around in the passenger seat for it, then realized what I'd done.  I immediately prayed to find it and drove the 6 miles back to the sports complex.  Then sloooooowly drove home looking along the road for it... and didn't see it.

You can imagine my angst, knowing all the things in my wallet and that I'm away from home this weekend and would need my VISA card.  I almost broke down in tears, when a little voice said, "but you didn't check the top of the car before heading out, maybe it was still there and you lost it in the alley".  So first, feeling foolish, I got out and checked the roof of the car.  Not there.  Then feeling even more foolish, I drove slowly down the alley with my high beams.  And there it was in the middle of the road, right after I'd turned out of the alley!  Everything still in it...

God is good.  He seems to be particularly good to this old fool.  You'd think I'd be cured of leaving things on top of my car given the last time it was a friend's 3 dog training DVDs.  We never found those and the replacement cost came in at precisely $101... a notable number for a Dalmatian lover.  So my new mantra is:  "I will not set things on top of the car...  I will not set things on top of the car...  I will not set things on top of the car...  I will not set things on top of the car...  I will not set things on top of the car..."

Nosework class was interesting and fun as usual.  We worked in a picnic pavilion, a six-sided covered area on cement.  Joyce set 7 hides (4 of them on the undersides of picnic tables/benches) and we had 4 minutes to find as many as we could.  Each dog entered from a different side in turn.   We were to hold them in the area, because each side had a hide that would be threshold.  After they found the threshold, then the dog could search wherever they wanted.

Gimme found 5 of the 7.  It was a difficult search for three reasons.  First, there was almost no air movement and yet we were not in an enclosed space - like we are when we search indoors.  Second, the dogs had to find the hides, which were essentially 7 pooling and slowly expanding overlapping circles.  Third, there was a lot of foot traffic going by and some of them were with dogs.  Gimme was most distracted by "ooooh a Dalmatian, can we pet her?".  Being the social butterfly that she is, Gimme kept turning when she heard that "cue".  My classmates were running interference, keeping people from interrupting our search.   Still is was distracting.  The two hides she didn't find in the allotted time were the two nearest the walkway.  My classmates also became adept at explaining, "Yes they are brown spots, its called liver..."  We all ran interference for our two severely dog-reactive classmates.

After our search, I let a toddler pet her.  She had the highest pitch squeal and every time Gimme moved she would squeal.  The first time Gimme gave her the funniest look, like she thought she was clearly aberrant.  After that she ignored the squeals.  She got petted by three more people on the way back to the car.  My little beauty-queen never fails to attract attention.

For the second search, Joyce set up one hide at a time on one of two tables, for a total of three hides.  We were again practicing finding things under tables/benches.  Gimme continues to be good at this.  For one of them, she kept trying to approach from the side, the direction of the tiny breeze, but the bench was in the way.  So bim-bada-boom, she leapt up on top of the table and indicated from there.  Not shy, not my little girl.

The discussion we had was about "detailing".  Apparently the instructors have decided that much detailing is not a good thing - not efficient.  "Efficiency" does seem to be the current buzz/focus.  Joyce said that the instructors are seeing more detailing (i.e. not going direct) when they are unpaired.  She suggested that we each try three box drills paired and three unpaired and see if we see the same thing.  This I will do, but probably not before the weekend.

Gimme is currently sound asleep.  Nosework always zonks her out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Agility Class

The week started out busy and is likely to get more so.  I had a full weekend.  Got the yard mostly caught up on Saturday and took Gimme for a hike on the fort's training area.  On Sunday I went with a friend to a women's safety/security seminar.  Very informative.

After getting home, I packed up the car with the dogs and headed out to my parents'.  Mom had a doctor's appointment the following morning, to receive news on a recent CAT scan.  Given that she's a cancer survivor, she was anxious about the results so I volunteered to accompany her.  Turns out all is well, they don't have a explanation for the pain she's experiencing and think it may just be a soft tissue injury.  However, they found something suspicious and she now has a referral for that.  Worse case - surgery, but because of where it is, not especially threatening.  So that was very good to know.  She's getting that referral appointment this week and hopefully they can do an in-house biopsy right then to decide what's next.

I've been having an email discussion with our nosework instructor - Joyce.  I understand better what she was trying to accomplish by telling me not to use a verbal cue and have some other ideas to support that, while eliminating ambiguity.  Plus I've figured out a way to use jackpots (increased quality and quantity of reward) to help Gimme want to be more efficient.  So, I think we have a more well-rounded approach to promoting efficiency for Miss Gimme and I feel a lot better about it. 

I decided to approach agility class in a different way.  Trying to have Gimme in the building the whole time was just too much pressure and she was not able to really calm down.  Tonight I got there 25 minutes early and took her for a long walk.  Then I focused on rewarding check-ins and doing some "whazat" to things she saw.  Still had plenty of time so I set the chair and mat up in front of the car.  It was a spot where it initially was calm and quiet, but as we were there, different things happened.  Gimme was able to see them, stand up to look with intensity and then decide to lay down on the mat to resume work with me.  That included a horse in a paddock within 20 feet, another horse walked by, lots of neighing, whinnying and snorting, several people walked by, and a couple dogs in the distance. 

Then I left her in her crate while I walked the course and participated in the discussion.  She wasn't exactly quiet, but more so than the last couple of times.  Blynn thought she was fine.  I just want her to be able to camp out and rest like she does at nosework trials.  Of course, maybe if I had the car decked out like I do for those trials, she would rest better.  Then again, she is used to the idea of nosework including a lot of waiting. 

We were going to be third up to work, so I set up my chair and a mat for her about thirty feet from the door.  I brought her over there and let her look and snoop around and then did the same pattern as before, rewarding check-ins.  After that I sat and rewarded her for laying on her mat.  She did nicely and when it got closer to our turn we walked closer to the building.  I practiced some heel, side and front and just a lot of rewards for choosing to work with me and being calm.

When our turn came she did really nice.  She's still a bit of a wild child and clearly novice, but she was enough better that Blynn was able to focus a little more on my handling.  Its challenging because Gimme is green so I need to be there more to support and direct her, while at the same time she is already so speedy that I have to move faster than ever before.  I'll really have to step up my handling in a way I haven't done before.  Frances and Michael were always covering for my mistakes.  Gimme is NOT forgiving - she's never learned to do it any other way, so she doesn't compensate for my shortcomings. 

She was so quick in the four jump opening that I never could get my front cross in.  I finally had to work it from the other side, which required her to hold a sit stay while I led out 30 feet.  I was amazed and proud that she did it without a problem - something I hadn't expected and the reason I initially chose to work from the other side with the front cross.  She did the teeter really quickly and with a lot of confidence.  I whooped it up and made a big deal about her doing the teeter - so she got better each time.  Blynn could really see that we'd put in a lot of work on that..

Gimme did have difficulty with the chute, so I have to get to work on that now.  I think I said something about that after the last class, but I've been focusing on weaves and teeter.  Her aframe and tunnels and jumps were all good.  At the dogwalk she jumped off when I got too far ahead.  When we did it again and I stayed with her, she was fine.

I was also very pleased with her weaves.  It took us many tries to get into them and do them, but when she did, she was showing how fast she is going to be.  Blynn noticed that too.  Blynn is good about noticing how I use my body and is coaching me to be light and happy, but not so much that I amp Gimme up beyond what she is ready for.  Its a fine line that I need to work on.

We only got the one working turn... but it was fifteen minutes non-stop and Gimme did great with it.  She's going to be one awesome agility girl.

One of my other goals is to get busy working on Relaxation Protocol at home and then start to take it on the road, so Gimme can learn to be more calm in strange places.  I don't think she will ever be laid back, but I'd like to see her able to be more chilled.  I don't want her exhausting herself when we go to events because she is bouncing up to check out every little thing she sees.  Unfortunately RP is not exactly exciting stuff to train, but I can see (especially after tonight) where she'd benefit from it.

I spent some time recently taking the Relaxation Protocol lists and editing them so that its one page per day in a nice size font.  Thus I can print them and put them in document protectors, take them along and be able to read them from a bit of a distance.  I think that will make it go more smoothly.  So if anyone wants them the way I've redone them, let me know as I'm happy to share - just email me.

Tomorrow night is nosework.  Thursday is going to be a long work day as I get everything caught up from not working yesterday and make sure I'm far enough ahead that I don't have to work Friday.  Mary, Grafton, Gimme and I will go walking on the fort Friday midday.  Then I'll get home, do the last bit of packing for the weekend and take off.  Gimme and I have a working slot in a RallyFreE seminar this weekend.  Its a 4:30 drive each way, so I'll be exhausted by the time we get home. 

She keeps me busy... 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nosework (1/8)

The first search was a three-part search.  First we had a hide right inside the door (threshold) and then went outside through a different door and came around again.  Meanwhile Joyce had paired food on the threshold hide again and set another paired hide behind the water dish, about 6 feet away.  Then, outside and come around to enter again.  Joyce had taken up those two and set hides under two tables, which we did off lead.

Gimme has to be reminded to check the threshold.  After our first run, Joyce had me not give her a verbal search cue.  Her reasoning is that Gimme is so excited by hearing the search cue, that she might be down a notch if I simply let her slowly reel out more line.  Its not that we don't want her excited, we just don't want to feed her excitement - in hopes that she'll become a more efficient hunter.  I'm not sure I agree with this assessment.  I think Gimme takes the "wherezit" cue as a release to "go" and all we'll do with this is teach her to pull harder all the time.

Gimme still seemed to hunt and find the same to me.  She did take a little excursion to the upstairs area, but came back the moment I called her.  This is the first time back in the building since our ten weeks of classes ended - so I think that may be why she went up there.  Honestly I didn't notice any difference in her searching - she knows the drill by virtue of the "clothes" she is wearing and drags me to the door where the search starts.  I have my doubts about whether this will have any affect, but at least it can't "hurt".

Our second search was four hides, one at threshold, one under a drawer on a desk, one under a table blocked somewhat by a pushed in chair and one on the side of the mop bucket.  We were to bring them in and keep them on lead and near the threshold until they got the threshold hide and then turn them loose to search the rest of the room.  Gimme again started up the stairs, but turned around at the landing and came back before I even had a chance to call her.  She found all the hides pretty quickly, though naturally with a lot of flair.

Tonight we were focusing quite a bit on hides on the underside of tables and desks.  The little dogs have trouble getting up to where the hides are and need to be made comfortable with the process.  The Standard Poodle also had difficulty because he's too tall, so he needs to lower his head, plus Poodles don't like to brush their poofy hair on things.  Gimme really is just the right size, especially since she has no fear about getting up to look for things that are above her head and certainly no hesitation about pushing things out of her way to get to odor.

Its natural when we know where the odor is to have our body turned toward odor and just turn our head and shoulders to watch the dog.  That is a huge red flag to the dog and can create an expectation of that unconscious cuing.  So our discussion point for the evening was to always keep your body turned toward your dog, no matter where you are and what you or the dog are doing.  Then when you get to an ORT or trial, you won't know have a problem with your dog relying on which way your body is oriented to know where to look.

Mary is working late on Friday and all day and late on Saturday... and I'm gone on Sunday.  So, lest the kids go through withdrawal, we are going to get together tomorrow when Mary gets off work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fast Weaves

In an effort to change it up and keep weaves interesting - today we used Gimme's breakfast for the reward.  That was 8 chicken necks.

It was hard for her to begin with, because she was so focused on breakfast that it presented a huge distraction.  I brought the yard-waste bin over and set it in a direct line with the end of the  4 weave poles, about 6 feet away and set her dish on top.  A lot of the time I leave treats in a dish at nose level to let her practice exercising self control, but didn't want to try that just now.

My goal was to do four weaves on each side.  It took her a number of tries to get it right, but when she did she got the big payoff.  I started with her better side, to make sure she could win pretty quickly.  She did it right away and then the reality that she would get a chicken neck bumped the distraction level up a few notches.  So we had 6 tries before she got it right and then I had to slow down my approach to help her.  After that she had a couple misses and then got it right again.  The last time I took her by the collar, led her up close and then pulled back as I released her for the slingshot affect.  She gave me a really fast weave and I was hooting and hollering for her.

Then we changed sides.  She immediately got one at moderate speed.  Then she did one that was accurate, but kinda slow, so I only gave her the skin from that neck.  The look she gave me was priceless.  "Only the skin...  Seriously?" The next one was faster and the last two were amazingly fast.  I got chills just seeing what she is capable of.

The neighbors likely thought I'd finally flipped out as I was hooting, hollering and dancing around the yard waving my arms in celebration.  If she weaves that fast consistently, she is going to make a lot of people very jealous.  And I'm going to soooooo love being along for the ride.

Now I'm exhausted and I need to go to work to rest up.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Salmon Run

Yesterday we did another 4.5 mile walk with Grafton and Mary on the fort's training area.  I always enjoy those.  Today we did the two mile trip around Capitol Lake, again with Grafton and Mary.  It has taken us many walks to convince Gimme and Grafton that they can't play on leash, but they still try at least once every time.

As we were walking, Mary noticed the sign was up indicating the salmon were running.  It was across a busy street from where we were walking, so we waited and and parked at what used to be a KFC, after our walk.  Watching the salmon was interesting.

There was a guy there talking to his family about how to tell hatchery salmon from wild salmon.  He explained that there is a big fin midway down the salmon's back and then another tiny fin between it and the tail.  That tiny fin is called the adipose fin and its removed from all hatchery raised fish so they can be identified when caught.  Wild fish must be released, while hatchery raised fish can be kept.  You can read more about it at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/hatcheries/mass_marking.html

While there we saw a harbor seal hanging out and obviously wanting salmon for dinner.  He'd hang around about a hundred yards away, just treading water.  The salmon were schooled up at the base of the ladder, but hardly any tried to make the trip.  You could always tell when the seal came up under the school, because the salmon would instantly scatter.

Two young girls informed us they had named the seal Carlos Mustache.  I'm not sure what the significance of that name is.  Mary and I were both rooting for Carlos to get a nice salmon dinner, but it didn't happen while we were there. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Field Tripping

Today we met Grafton and Mary before it got too hot, for a 4.5 mile walk.  We'll do it again tomorrow.  Those two sure have fun running and playing together.

Later I had to go to the library, so brought Gimme along to squeeze in a nosework field trip.  We did three separate searches, three hides each.

The first search was in an alcove outside the back door.  One hide she found near instantly.  She must've smelled it from thirty feet away, because she made a beeline for the spot where it was between two dumpsters.  The one I put on the gate proved to be more challenging than I expected.  The way the wind was moving, I expected her to be drawn right to it when she found the first one.  Instead the scent was pooling against the side of the dumpster and then spilling from there in a curly motion along some vegetation.  When she finally found it, she was in a spot that was the last place that I expected her to catch the scent from.   In hindsight, part of the problem may have been the proximity of a book drop, that essentially made the odor's location in a corner... so she was rounding that corner.  Obviously we'll be doing more corners.  The last hide was in a vent that was sucking air - I was trying to replicate what we did at Lowes the other night.  It was actually harder than Lowes, since there was no return air, so she had to be right on top of it to find it.  She'd catch little drifts of scent, but had a hard time following them back to source.

The second search was on the opposite side of the giant air conditioning unit where we'd used the sucking vents for the other side.  The air was blowing out, but more of a soft drift.  Gimme found that without too much trouble.  I set another hide under a leaf and her snap back was so dramatic its a wonder she didn't hurt herself.  I noticed that she sniffed all three things I touched with the tin to see if I could stick it to them with the magnet.  That's a really tiny amount of residual odor and yet she picks it up.  The third hide was at the bottom of a sign pole sticking up out of some vegetation.  I'd stuck the magnet to it about 18" up and then slid it down below the vegetation.  Gimme went past it a million miles an hour, snapped back when she caught odor and then tramped in a direct line through the plants.  When she got to the pole, her nose homed right in where I'd stuck the magnet and then slid right down the pole just as I had slid the tin.  Too cool!

Our third search was a strip of grass and sidewalk along the street.  She found the first hide at the base of the tree, hidden under an abandoned t-shirt immediately.  She went so directly, it was like there was a giant arrow pointing to it.  She went by the hide stuck in the edge between the sidewalk and grass.  The third hide was stuck to the bottom of a parking meter, well above her head.  She kept catching a drift from that, but was finding it hard to follow it back to the source - though she did.  The one in the edge between the sidewalk and grass she caught easily on our way back toward the car, since we were now coming from the other direction.

I just finished the book, "K-9 Trailing: The Straightest Path" by Jeff Schettler.  It was very good reading and one I'll read again when I get back to tracking.  One of the things I read today as I was finishing the book, actually underscored why Gimme had a challenge getting to the hide on the bottom of the parking meter. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Height & Speed

Blynn recommended that I play the "bang it game" with Gimme to help her get over her concern about the teeter (due to two recent events when she startled herself by going at it too fast).  I've played that training game with dogs that were afraid of the teeter, but it didn't occur to me to use it for temporary uncertainty.  Today we tried it and Gimme had loads of fun.  Anything that nets her lots of treats is a plus.

If you don't know the "bang it game" here's how its done (if you do know it, feel free to skip ahead.  For purpose of the discussion... the "down" end is the end that is on the ground when the teeter is at rest, and the "up" end is, obviously, the other end.
Start with a teeter and one chair.  Lift the down end of the teeter board up and prop a chair under it to hold it up off the ground.  In the beginning, set the chair close enough to the teeter base that the up end is held only an inch or two off the ground.  Then free shape the dog into pouncing on the up end, banging it into the ground.  Initially its not much of a bang because its only traveling an inch.  As the dog progresses in comfort level, move the chair further from the base, so that the up end is further off the ground when the dog is pouncing on it, giving them more bang. 
You want the dog to approach the bang end of the teeter from behind the pivot point, so they can bang and exit normally.  I clicked and tossed treats ahead of her when she banged it.  Then I tossed another treat behind me, to reset her for the next go at it.  I also use my body position to channel her approach correctly.
My goal is for Gimme to pounce happily on an up end that is 12 inches off the ground. We got from 2" to 7" in one session.  I'll increment slower from this point on.  Gimme loves free shaping and found this a ton of fun.

After that we practiced her weave poles.  I didn't advance the around-the-clock entries tonight.  Instead I worked on speed of entries we'd done already.  Gimme loves a challenge, so she found this a lot of fun.

She was smiling from ear to ear for the whole session, both teeter and weaves.  I was purposely keeping it upbeat and fun - which is not easy at the end of a ten hour workday.  I'm sure it helped that last night I spent a bunch of time cutting up a zillion small bits of pork loin to add to her treat mix.  I also mixed in a handful of kitty kibble that we inherited from General Patton.  Gimme and Meaggi both really like kitty kibble, though I make sure they don't get too much at one time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Nosework (6/7)

Before class today we did a quick weaves session.  A couple times Gimme sped up and lo and behold - did the two step footwork after the entry.  Mostly with her on my right, but once on my left too.  Nice to see that, since I was thinking I might have to get out my weave-o-matics to teach her some footwork.  I like the two step footwork, since I think its a lot less stress on their joints than single-foot.  
I also think I'm being boring.  Because weaves is largely mental work, I have a tendency to go slow and methodical.  When I jazz it up a bit, while she makes more mistakes, she's more enthusiastic overall.  So I need to find a happy medium between them.  I'm sure it'll be more fun for her when we start adding other obstacles.  I am considering putting in one jump and then one tunnel to do the around the clock with four poles before adding the third 2x2.  I could also play with starting her from the table.  The last thing I want is for Gimme to see weaves as drudgery.
Class was good as always.   We were outside the garden center at Lowe's.  Had planned to work inside the garden center, but they closed the outer gates early.

We had two searches, five hides the first time and four the second.  The first search Joyce set out each hide individually as we were rewarding the one just found.  The second search they were all set out at once.  All were paired.  Gimme found all of them fairly quickly, if not directly.  We were all sitting on the edge of this tall planter to watch the other dogs and after our first search, I went out around the planter to leave the area so the other dog could start sooner.  Got halfway down the side and Gimme just hopped up there, like the light footed gazelle that she is, and trotted down that makeshift dogwalk.  This girl's mind is always thinking up something.

The hides were a bit challenging, not because they were hard locations, but rather because of the direction of the breeze.  So the hides that were on the gate/fence surface, the odor was blown away from us to an area that was inaccessible.  Occasionally there were little swirls and that would give some lingering scent near the odor, but it didn't seem to be enough to tell the dogs exactly where it was.  They all found those hides both times, it just wasn't easy for them. 

Twice there were hides in the little sheds and for some reason a couple dogs found that intimidating, but obviously not Miss Gimme.  She was all over the inside of those sheds in no time.  The sheds were odd, since they were mock-ups and only about 2.5 feet deep and I think for some reason the dogs found that weird - since they had no problem with the normal depth sheds at Home Depot last month.  I don't agree with Joyce's method to pick the little dogs up and put them in the shed, certainly not how I'd do it and those dogs were in quite a hurry to get back out again.

On Monday I met family at the Woodland Park Zoo for my Mom's birthday surprise.  Since she'd been cooped up all day, that night Gimme just couldn't settle down.  She was driving me a bit nuts and needed to do more.  Apparently the short weaves training session when I got home wasn't enough to make up for spending the day crated.
So I did a free shaping session with her, goofing off with some odd objects to no purpose, then decided to put her dumbbell down and see what she'd do.  In no time she was retrieving it from a 6 foot toss.  By the end of the session, she would sit and hold it briefly for me.  Holding has been a real problem for us.  The first couple times I asked her to sit when she brought it to me, she dropped it.  I cued her to pick it up again and paused a little before taking it from her.  She quickly learned to hold it until after she was sitting and that my hand would then come to take it.  Clearly we have a ways to go, but this is a big step forward for us.  
Tonight when we got home, I did three quick retrieves.  This time I introduced the sit at my side and by the third time Gimme understood she had to wait until I sent her for the dumbbell.  She races out and prances back with it in her mouth.  We are still working on the sit and hold, but the third time was the best.  
Gimme says she's been thinking about inventing this for quite awhile and is glad to have finally taught it to me...

Agility Class

Lately we've been focused on learning weave poles and working on the teeter.  I discuss what we are doing about the teeter further into this post.

For the weave poles I started with the 2x2 method and we'd get so far and then progress just didn't happen.  Then after an online discussion with Kathy about how she had modified the method for use with Wesley, I decided to try it that way.  Gimme has made huge progress since then.  We are training-wise up to four poles and working the angles around-the-clock style, but she will do six poles.  

Gimme had her agility class last night and did well. At the first class there were only large dogs, last night there were two small dogs and one medium.  Large and medium dogs aren't as much of an issue for her, provided they ignore her.  We still have to work LAT and get her into game-with-mom mode, but she can ignore the large and medium.  Small dogs just send her over the top and she basically can't LAT then.  So I'm doing counter-conditioning -- see small dog, get PB...  That's where we had to start with large dogs and horses, so I'm sure it will work, but will take time.  

She is pretty much over the top the instant we arrive... it will take time to get her to be more settled at those classes.  She's still getting near constant PB when we aren't working, otherwise she gets too hyped up. This is a work in progress.
As for her course work, she did really well.  Most of our issues were timing on my part.  I had Blynn pull the 12 weaves apart into two sets of 6.  She was very distracted and is pretty hyped, so her focus suffers.  She does well on stuff that is fast moving, chase-the-mommy style.  But brain work like weaves is a big challenge.  Gimme did them but it took her several tries each time (4 total sets of 6).  Still we got them and I rewarded her a LOT for completing six poles. 
Blynn is a good teacher and I feel very comfortable with her.  She's helping me apply APHS consistently with a green dog, which is somewhat different than what I did with experienced Michael.  She sees things I wouldn't be aware of and is very patient.  She is able to nudge me to changes without being pushy.  She also has a good sense of humor.  She likes Gimme and thinks she'll be very fast - she's quite fast already.
For instance when it came to the teeter - I sent Gimme to it with "teeter easy", she ran up it and then slowed and controlled the tip.  That led to Blynn asking me what I wanted for a teeter performance, drive to the end and ride it down or what.  I said I wanted Gimme to learn to control the tip and do what she is comfortable with as far as speed and slamming it down.  I also told her that she is already getting faster.  She pointed out that I shouldn't be telling her "easy" since that is telling her to slow down.  So next time I sent her with just "teeter" and Blynn said she slowed down on hearing that, so there is already some connection/pairing happening. 
After thinking more about this:  At home I haven't even been saying "teeter" because I don't feel like we have the behavior I want to attach a cue to - so don't really know why I said it at class.  In hindsight (i.e. I didn't really think it through when I did it) I think I was using the "teeter easy" and then "teeter" to slow her down because I didn't want her to startle herself again as she had the week before when she rushed up the full height teeter.  She rushed up the teeter at home when I first brought it out again a month ago and startled herself.  She wasn't afraid and did tippy board and teeter when she was little.  I think she didn't realize it wasn't the dogwalk - so we are still recovering a bit from the resulting hesitation.  I'm still only working half height at home and she is speeding up.  So I have a few options for the teeter in class...  
Blynn and I have "discussed" this online and decided that I will remind Blynn each time to move in after Gimme gets on, to control the teeter enough that she doesn't slam it down and startle herself, but not so much that Gimme is aware that she's not controlling it herself.  Gimme goes at everything in class full tilt and so I don't want to risk her charging up the teeter and slamming it down or flying off.  I think having Blynn moderate the teeter action will cover this.

Now we are going out for our almost daily weaves and teeter practice.  I have to get my chute barrel and fabric out and add that to the lessons, but not today.  We won't have enough time since we'll have to head out to nosework class pretty quick.