Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

What Costume?

I am the
Empress of the Cosmos...

Let all my minions
Adore me...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Woo-hoo" moment

I haven't really talked about what I'm doing with Relaxation Protocol (ala Karen Overall).  Its one of the basics behind Control Unleashed work.  I confess its very boring. In any case, I've been rewarding any laying on her mat, a LOT.  We've done it in many different places and she definitely plants herself the moment she sees her Dal-spotted mat.  If I don't have it, I can also throw down a towel or jacket, or anything really.

Working on RP has been a study in challenging.  This little girl is part pop-up toaster.  If I gave her a "down" and "wait", I'm sure she'd do it, but that's not the point.  The idea behind RP is for her to learn/understand that when she is chilling, that she is safe there and doesn't interact with her environment.  It needs to be a choice she makes, where she decides on her own to chill.

The goal is also for them to be really relaxed in that context, what Leslie McDevitt calls a "rule structure".  Many people strive for their dog to look really zoned out.  I think relaxation is a relative concept.  What would be another dog's "on alert" look is Gimme's "chill".  I think as time goes on she will be more relaxed than she is now, but I doubt this girl will ever get a sleepy-eyed relaxed look.

Anyway, our "Woo-hoo moment" is because today for the very first time, Gimme made it all the way through Day 1 on the first try.  That is HUGE for her.  To be clear, I did it at the end of a training session, so she was not as keyed up as usual.  Still - that's a big break through for us.  Definitely the hardest task for her was me counting out loud.  She was gripping the mat with her feet, but stayed.  Hard work for that girlie brain and she's sound asleep now.

BTW I recently mentioned our training journal.  I used to have it in spiral notebooks, but recently reorganized it and put it in a three ring binder.  I investigated what other people do for training records.  Some are pretty involved, but I knew I'd be unlikely to keep it up if I was too detailed, so I wanted mine to cover just essential information.    I divided the different things we are working on into different categories:
  • Basics
  • Control Unleashed
  • Obedience-Rally
  • Freestyle-RallyFrEe-Tricks,
  • Nosework-Tracking
  • Agility
  • Treibball
Each behavior has its own page.  At the top of the page is the verbal cue in large capital letters and a description underneath of what I want the final behavior to look like.  Each time I work on a behavior, I date the entry and describe what I did, what went well, what to try next, etc.  I make note of anything that seems useful.  If the location or conditions were significant, then I put a word or two about that under the date.  Typical entries look like this:

10/23/12 --  Intro ANTI-TARGET
in season    took a bit to get her to
                   understand - used food lure
                   to keep her nose off it & touch
                   various body parts - toward end
                   would pick-up/move for pawing
               -- offered stick w/both ends exposed
                   c/t for touch to bulb only, varied pos.
10/29/12 -- anti-target - much less trying to
in season   target the stick - except at end
                  as Rt/reward dropped

When I'm ready to train, sometimes I flip through the notebook and pick out the things I want to train and plan the whole session in advance, putting a sticky note on each page where I'll need to record what we did.  Other times, I flip through as I go.  For each behavior, I read the last couple of entries before starting, thus I know where we left off and can see what I wanted to do next.  When I finish the session, I leave a sticky note as a tab where I left off for the next time around when I start picking behaviors to train.

This is working for me and I'm pleased with it.  I've never kept a training journal for any length of time, so I'm just pleased to have found a system that I can keep up with.  Given that we have over 60 cues on our list -- its good to be organized.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shaping "tap"

The other day I knew Gimme needed a bit of training and also knew I wasn't really in the mood to review our training notebook and work out a plan of what to train.  So decided to just free shape for creativity and see what came up.

The way I do that is to basically click/treat whatever Gimme offers me.  Of course, she likes to run the show, so tends to settle into repeating things she knows, to MAKE me click/treat.  When that happens I stop clicking whatever behavior she is repeating.  She quickly offers something else.

We got to a behavior where she was sitting in front of me and moving her front feet, up and down, basically tap dancing in place.  Because she was sitting in front of me, I had some concern that free shaping a sitting tap dance might pollute our obedience front.  So I turned it into a standing tap dance.

The behavior I want is for her to stand in one place and lift her feet up, noticeably high, alternating feet.  I don't want side-to-side or forward or back motion.  A little bit of side-to-side is just going to happen, but I want the main action to be up and down.  For the final "tap" behavior, I want it either in "hip" (standing heel), "thigh" (standing off-side heel), or "center" (standing front) position.

I was having real difficulty getting her to not lift and step backward.  She'd have the backward motion in mind, so even though I was clicking the lift, the treat was coming after the motion.   Thus it was getting rewarded too.  If I could see her whole body, I could predict when a lift would involve forward/back motion and not click, but I'm concentrating on her feet to click the best lifts, so can't see the motion tip offs.

During one of Gimme's bark fests - which happen whenever she thinks I'm missing good clicking opportunities... while I was taking a break to wait out her yelling, it occurred to me to use jackpots to strengthen the behaviors I DO want and the behaviors that are rewarded with a single treat will diminish.  That way I can click anything that is close to what I want and use the treat to give her qualitative information.  I know the big names in dog training say that jackpots don't work, but I think they've never worked with a really smart dog.  Gimme totally understands the jackpot concept and when she gets them, she works very hard to figure out what behavior pays better. 

Toward the end of our session, I was starting to be more selective about the height of lift I would reward with a jackpot.  Its tricky, because I don't want it to look like she is pawing forward - rather more like a hackney trot in place.  She actually started lifting and holding it there ever so briefly on her own.  Then when she thought I wasn't paying well enough (cuz I didn't jackpot a couple), she'd hold and sort of jiggle her foot.  It was so damn cute, I captured that with a couple super jackpots and ran out of treats.  If I can get that consistently, it would be perfect.

Next time we'll work on getting that with the left foot too.  She will do alternate lifts, left and right several times for a click.  But the best action was coming with her right foot. 

She's sound asleep now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nosework (1/9)

Class tonight was very interesting.  I've been hit with a pretty bad case of neuralgia of the sciatica.  Its verrrrry painful and I'm hobbling around like an escapee from the over 100 ward of a nursing home.  I did figure out that I can move along pretty quickly with a lot less pain if I bend a bit at the hips and keep my knees bent, with a rapid shuffling of my feet in little 4-6 inch steps.  It looks so ridiculous that when I came in class, everyone thought I was pulling some joke.  Of course I can only walk that way for a couple of minutes since it makes my back hurt.

Any normal person would have stayed home, but with a trial in eleven days, I didn't want to miss a class.  The last time we trained containers in class it wasn't as good as I'm used to with Gimme and I knew we would be working them tonight.  Next week we train vehicles, so this was going to be my last chance in class before the trial.

I'm happy to say that Miss Gimme did very well.  She was pretty excited the first time, so not as efficient as she can be.  I still gave her the "good stuff" because it was her speed that was causing the inefficiency - not goofing off.  The second two runs she was blazing fast and very accurate.

I was very pleased with how she did.  And especially because she paid no attention to the weirdness of what I was doing with the super-shuffle.  She noticed it briefly and then figuratively shrugged her lovely shoulders, saying, "whatever..."

Apparently, while funny, it was also painful to watch, so class mates insisted on bringing Gimme in from the car and taking her back for the second and third searches.  Its great to be in a class where everyone likes and genuinely cares about each other.

Now I'm going to take some more drugs and return to the couch where I belong.  :-)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Photogenic Girl

Here's pictures from the photo shoot.  The first one is my favorite.  There are two that she converted to black and white.  Nice pictures, but its not clear that she's a liver, when the pictures are converted.  There's another picture I want to get a copy of - Gimme with the model.  I'll post it when I get it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nosework (5/8 & 6/8)

I've been so bad about keeping the blog up.  Not like me at all, since I like nothing better than to blather on endlessly about you-know-who.

Last week in nosework first we did a single hide search on a vehicle, then a search game called Running Bunny, followed by another single hide search.  That is where you have a vehicle with 2 hides on each side/end (making it 8 total).  Before you approach the vehicle the hides are all paired.  Walk the dog to the nearest point on the vehicle and let them start searching.  They can go in either direction and you just keep following them, rewarding each hide they find.  Joyce walked behind me by about two hides, moving some and reloading all the hides.  It teaches the dogs to really focus on the vehicle.

Here I have a composite video of Gimme playing Running Bunny.  You'll note that to start with she missed a hide here and there because she was going so fast.  The first time around, when she goes to the back end of the silver car - we had a hide there in the prior search.  As the game progresses (lasted about 4 minutes) she becomes more focused, really keeping her nose on the vehicle.  My camera-person accidentally clicked the camera off and on recording - signified by the frames that say "hiccup".

Tonight we met at a longarm quilting service shop, where one of the students works.  It was three rooms, an alcove and a bathroom.  You could walk from one to the next to the next, all the way back to the beginning in a circle around a central support wall.  Each transition from one room to the next had a doorway, plus the doorway into the shop.  So Joyce set up a series of five threshold hides and then at the end we turned them loose to find the first hide again.

It was quite interesting.  Gimme just came in season on Sunday and was clearly not very focused the first time around.  On the other hand, none of the dogs did very well in this setting.  For one thing, the shop owner and workers bring their dogs in to work, so there were a lot of those distracting smells to work through.  Plus, based on watching the dogs, the configuration of these rooms made for some pretty dead air.  The dogs had to be really close to the hides to find them, since the air wasn't moving the odor around.

Then we did another search off leash with a hide in each of the three biggest rooms.  Gimme was more focused and enthusiastic, but still had trouble finding them.  She was clearly searching (i.e. not goofing off), but having trouble homing in on where the odor was.  All the dogs were having the same problem, though it was a little easier for the two slowest dogs.

Jeff Schettler explained in his book that often times when a dog is searching, their nose can pass right right over odor and its like they don't "see" it... and they may move several feet and then snap back to it.  So, what the nose smells isn't necessarily processed instantly and the dog may have moved well past it.  Sometimes they'll snap right back to it; other times they've gone too far and have to go by it again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Knowing of Gimme's fondness for all things "moo", sistah Grace sent her a picture.

Gimme was fascinated.  I'll probably never get the monitor clean again.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rally FrEe seminar

First, a quick note about the photo shoot.  Gimme did very well, but was exhausted afterward.  I thought she was still awake, until I looked closer in the rear view mirror and realized she had already fallen asleep, with her head held up by her chin resting on the crate bars.  And this before we got out of the parking hi-rise.

The photographer volunteers at the animal shelter and teaches with a clicker, so we had much in common.  Gimme continues to be the most incredible people magnet.  We were almost late because of all the people who just had to pet her, despite me planning extra time to find where we needed to go and have time to acclimate to the situation.  While we were getting Gimme accustomed to the flash, Katie took pictures, so our private shoot at the end went faster.  I could see some pictures pop up on the computer screen and they are going to be DAMN CUTE!  Can't wait to see them.

Naturally Gimme totally upstaged the professional model.  On an interesting side note... despite tripods and stands and wires and stuff just everywhere - Gimme never bumped into anything or stepped on the wires snaking across the floor.  She didn't even wag her tail into stuff.  I think that is because of all the early body awareness work we did - so she is just much more aware of her body parts relative to "stuff" in the environment.  Things went so well that we got back to town earlier than I expected.  Very good since I had scheduled an evening private lesson with Pumpkin, my behavior case; the boy is making progress. 

I want to talk about the Rally FrEe seminar before all the impressions fly out of my head.  We went two weeks ago; the weekend before I lost Meaggi.

Rally FrEe, stands for Rally with Freestyle Elements.  Its like a rally course in that it has a course with signs, otherwise it is very different.  In fact, I'd say that's pretty much where the similarity ends.  On a plus note, I think its an excellent way to dip your toes into freestyle.  And especially for those of us who are choreography-challenged.  One very nice thing is that if you enter a trial, you will receive the course 7 - 10 days in advance of the trial.  To be honest, you really need it in advance so you can plan free choice signs - otherwise the transitions will eat you alive.

Almost every sign has some freestyle behavior included.  One-fourth of the signs are free choice, which means you can plug in behaviors you know well and want to showcase.  There are no do-overs.  If you make a mistake, you are expected to pretend that was what you planned on and smoothly transition despite the error - as you would in a freestyle performance.  Also, you start with zero points and earn them along the way.

I really think Rally FrEe requires a lot more precision than rally if you want a decent score.  They also discourage (i.e. you won't earn higher scores) luring type hand motions.  You don't have to use dance like hand motions, but will get better scores sometimes if you do.  You aren't expected to dance through the course - which would be kinda hard anyway, though there are places where you could.

I think Rally FrEe requires more precision than obedience, since the moves are more complex and the team is scored on minute details.  For instance, if you are heeling and the sign calls for a counter-clockwise spin at your side, the dog must both start and end the spin in heel position to get full marks.  Likewise if the dog starts in center-front position, the dog must both start and end the spin in that position. The last sign is always a bow sign, which must be performed in position at your side (depends where they were during approach).  How many of us had taught our dogs to take a bow from in front of us?  Oh, 95%.  Back to the drawing board.

Each sign will have a visible clip on either side that tells you what side the dog should be on when approaching the sign.  If your dog isn't on the correct side, you are going to have a problem correctly performing that sign.  While this sounds easy, it can be really hard to keep it straight and I watched time and time again as teams got mixed up on these very short sample courses of just 4 or 5 signs.  Its also easy to miss a sign, even though you walked it correctly, because there is more stuff out there than just signs and the course may wind back and fourth through itself.

Gimme and I had a lot of fun.  We had a partner assigned and I surely groaned upon hearing this (because of the dismal experience at the last seminar with partners).  However, my partner was very nice and we had a good time together.  I also have to say that Oregonians are much friendlier than people from Washington.  I thought I'd noticed that before, but it was really apparent during this seminar.  Julie Flanery does a great job presenting and is fun - so if she is coming to your area for a Freestyle or Rally FrEe seminar, do sign up.

Gimme did very well in the environment, getting better and better as the weekend went on.  One thing I've known all along is that she has more difficulty with sudden environmental change (SEC).  So, once she became accustomed to working with the other dogs all around, she put most of her attention on me and did well ignoring them.  Sometimes that works to our advantage.

One working session, we were delayed getting in the building, so when the session ended and break was starting, I continued working a few minutes (as did a couple other teams) because we were making headway.  What I didn't realize was that even though Gimme seemed to be focused entirely on me, she was very well aware that other dogs were leaving.  So a minute later when she and I came out of a circle and another dog was moving by us, Gimme reacted.  Dogs had been closer to us than that, so I certainly don't blame the other handler.  Possibly coming out of the circle suprised Gimme too, but I think, more than anything, it was SEC.  She noticed the other dogs leaving, even if I didn't and thus was more likely to be bothered by a dog moving close, even though that proximity hadn't bothered her before.

Lesson learned for me.  I was keeping such a careful watch after that, I started feeling like a hyper-vigilant bobble-head doll.   On that note, another thing I really like about this wonderful new sport is the possibility of video-titling.  All I have to do is recruit two other people who want to do it at the same time and who are all within 200 miles each other.

You can find out more about this new sport at the RallyFrEe Website.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Nosework (3/8 & 4/8)

I'm so far behind on blogging... its just hard to sit down to the computer for any length of time.   Gimme is doing her best to cheer me up and help me adjust to losing Meaggi.  She has been testing the limits of her patience during this time.  When it gets to be too much for her, she works on her other favorite pastime, which she calls Pre-Cycling.  You've heard of recycling... well pre-cycling is what the dedicated do to make sure that processing of used paper and cardboard goes faster for the company that turns it into new paper and cardboard.

Her main job is to keep me cheered up.  If I appear to be settling in on the couch for a good long mope - Gimme feels compelled to interrupt such inclinations.  For the first week, she patiently snuggled with me, but now she believes its time to raise the bar.  Within minutes, she'll leap into my lap, roll on her back, wiggle and bite at my hands or do other things to get me to play with her.  If that isn't effective, she repeats the process with a toy in her mouth.

We've been meeting Mary and boyfriend, Grafton, for lots of walks.  Both kids have felt more cooped up than usual.  Mary isn't able to do our regular distance yet (following her surgery), so we've been trying to get in more frequent walks - lest the two kids go bonkers.  We've tried unsuccessfully for months to get this footage.

Here's another video of the two of them playing...  you cannot miss seeing why Mary and I enjoy watching them so much.  For some reason they always do their best running and playing on that side of the road, so the camera is facing into the sun.

Nosework for the last couple of weeks has been good.  Last week we met at the medical center and did a bunch of hides outside.  The hides were in the lee side of the building, so the air current was unusual.  All the dogs went direct to the first hide, then right past two and three to the four and five, catching two and three on the way back.  Sometimes the air moves in a way that they don't catch the scent until they come at it from the other direction Since I decided to only reward Gimme's efficient searches with the really primo rewards, she hasn't had a clear instance of not going direct to the odor.  Naturally I don't want to mistakenly give her the average treats if she validly didn't know where it was, so I'm careful to assume in her favor.  Gimme did a good job of finding them all and a couple of the later ones were amazingly direct and fast.

This week in class we met at the building and worked container hides.  Joyce had purchased an iPad and had the ability to tape our runs.  So we only did one hide per run, three runs.  We got to see each one.  Gimme did well, but was tending to revert to box trashing a little bit.  The air current was really still and the dogs showed us that it did strange things to the scent.  They all would walk right by a box, inches to one side and not catch the odor, and yet from a couple of feet away on the other side, they'd home right in on it.  I was really glad that Gimme was later in the line-up, so I could see what the others were doing and know when it was her turn that she wasn't being inefficient.

She did make it pretty clear on the way home that three searches of one hide each was not sufficient for her.  So we did some other training when I got home.

Joyce has promised to try and send the clips to me - when they come, I'll post them.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Amazing Agil-Gimme

Gimme did so well in class tonight.

We started with our calming mat work and she did very well.  We set up in the same place, then a horse came out of the run behind us and was challenging.  A short bit of "whazzat" and Gimme ignored him from then on.  Then one of the other students brought her dog from the car to the area between us and the building - continually playing and tugging in a barking, whipping frenzy.  Naturally that was a LOT for Gimme to deal with just thirty feet away.  Still she held it all together and did admirably.  We played "whazzat" as needed and then she proceeded to mostly ignore the dog - though I noticed when she laid down on her mat again, it was diagonal so she could keep one eye on that crazy border collie.  So then what should happen, but the pony comes to the front of his stall to one side of us (turns out it was actually a dwarf horse).  That elicited a couple barks, then she was able to work me for goodies.

I was very happy that through all this, she did not once pull the leash straight.  She stood up a few times and expressed her concern, while still showing SELF-control.  It wasn't me imposing control, maybe helping her a bit, but she chose to work with me over and over again.  She makes me very proud.  Honestly after that prolonged gauntlet of what is supposed to be our calming prep time, I wasn't expecting her to do that well during her actual run.

Instead she was the Amazing Agility-Gimme girl.  I could not have been happier.  Every mistake was either clearly mine or something she was not ready for yet.  In several places on course, she did things we'd not yet trained for.  She started the course with a really oblique angle to the first jump, for the first time.  Many dogs when first exposed to that will come around the jump - it never occurred to Gimme to bypass that jump.  Even though we haven't really done much with the teeter in the last couple of weeks, she went over it and slammed it to the ground without the least bit of concern (several times, in fact).  I wasn't expecting her to transfer her chute training yesterday to this strange chute, but she went right through it... slightly slower, but without hesitation.  Then she went on to do the weave poles beautifully.  She had a bobble or two, but when she got them - She Got Them - all TWELVE of them!  Remember from the video, we are only training four poles at this point.

Blynn is great to train with.  She picks up things in my handling that I'm not aware of, explains it in a way I can understand and do, and when I get it right, then Gimme is right too.  Gimme has so much natural talent for agility, its amazing.  Even things that go wrong the first time, when we repeat them - she just leaps ahead of where her understanding should be and does it right.  Based on how well Gimme did, Blynn is under the mistaken conclusion that we did a lot more training than actually happened.  I should also point out that these are not simple courses - they are world team level challenges.  Gimme sure makes me look good. 

Gimme was great with seeing the other dogs as we were moving around outside the building.  For our second run, we were in a time crunch to get everyone another run, so there was overlapping during entry/exit.  Thus there was a dog on course when we moved out there... which Gimme noticed and then turned to me demanding I pay up.  Likewise as we were leaving another dog was entering the arena and she acted the same way. 

She is such a smarty pants and it shows.  Have I mentioned that before?