Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nosework (5/9)

Class tonight was very interesting.  Since so many of us are entered for the ORT this Saturday, we started with two container drills, using the odor that each of us is entered for.  Also Nova was there with Freea (black GSD) for me to handle.

First round, Gimme did great.  She found her Anise odor in 9.5 seconds!  She was focused and determined.

Second round, she started off a little distracted by the guy standing on the stairs timing everyone and Joyce had me swing her around to the start and begin again by taking her directly to the nearest box before letting the line feed out.  Well!  The Empress of the Cosmos was highly p.o.'d by that effrontery.  She stepped on, stomped on or pawed at - every box... some more than once!!!  She was definitely flipping the middle toenail at me.  She did finally settle down to trouncing the correct box, but not until she had thoroughly expressed her displeasure.

That's the first time we've seen that in 5 or 6 months.  She'd been doing so well dealing with distraction and frustration, so this kind of surprised me.  Even Joyce commented about how obviously annoyed and over-the-edge she was.  Fortunately I learned how to read her when she was doing this more frequently, so I knew how/when to call "alert".  I'm almost wondering if she wasn't primed to this response by smelling Freea on me, since I'd already handled her once at that point.

Fortunately, I won't really need to do anything but a potty walk with Freea before I handle Gimme at the ORT.  I'm going to ask that Nova attach her to the line, so that I get as little of her smell on me as possible and I can also wear gloves that I won't have on when I'm working with Gimme - just in case that was a factor in her acting out tonight. 

For the third run we did a room search - starting with a threshold hide on leash and then turned them loose to find the other hide off leash.  Gimme did really well with this - finding the threshold hide much faster than usual for thresholds.  Then she raced around the room a turn or two and found the second hide quickly.  Just as if there were no earlier disturbance in the force.

As far as handling Freea - it went really well.  She's a very sweet girl, but clearly a Momma's girl.  She didn't really warm up to me, but she was eager enough to work that once she knew that's what we were doing, she didn't care much about who was hanging on to the other end of the line.  She's a nice moderate speed girl and very methodical and direct.  Where Gimme got the first container in 9.5 seconds, Freea got it in 11.5 seconds.  In that time, Gimme made two turns around sniffing all 12 boxes the first time and then picking the right one the second time (in just 9.5 seconds!).  Freea, just went down the line until she got to the right one and stopped right there, giving a clear indication.  So I feel hopeful that I'll be able to do well with her on Saturday.  We are meeting tomorrow for a practice at the local Home Depot - then both girls get a day off before the ORT on Saturday.

BTW I picked up the car tonight.  Its nice and all brand spankin' clean.  Its fun to drive and I'm sure it'll do us well in the years to come.  Still have to figure out how I'll secure the crate in the back so it won't move around, but can still be taken in and out without a lot of trouble.  I'll work on that tomorrow, along with a dozen errands.

Agility Pairs

Last night for class we played pairs, USDAA style.  Its like a relay, with a baton to pass.  We did the first run and our partner kept her dog out of sight until I had Gimme leashed.  Then she came out, put her dog on a stay and came to me to get the baton.  Even with that time wasting - our team won the first round - woohoo.

Gimme wasn't very focused for the first round, so we had to repeat a few things (multiple run bys).  She didn't really pay any attention to Seek when she came out, preferring me and the PB tube.  After they started we moved so we wouldn't be where they were going to end - and then played Whazat (Control Unleashed: Look at That).  Gimme did well, even when Seek was the closest and doing the weaves.  I was very pleased with her ability to focus and work for PB.

The second round, Gimme did a much better job on course and the only thing we had to repeat was the weaves.  Our team didn't win this time, now Seek was higher than a kite and it took four tries for her to get through the weaves correctly.  Again Gimme paid no real attention to her.

I've been putting extra effort into getting down to the lake to walk around and work her in the presence of other dogs and its paying off.  Gimme is at the point that she can ignore other dogs and/or play Whazat if the dog is about ten feet away and ignores her too.  If the dog pays attention to her or if there is more than one, we need 25 to 30 feet.  That's a lot of progress for her and it showed in how well she did last night. 

For our third round we did a short course all by ourselves.  It started with a jump to the weaves and Gimme had a mistake despite two tries.  I find if I show her the really good stuff she is going to get in after the weaves, then she can blast through them accurately.   For instance, after I showed her the marshmallow, suddenly we could weave.

I talked with Blynn after class about this.  She suggested I set up obstacle-weaves-obstacle and train with food off my body, but nearby.  When Gimme gets the sequence, correct we run to the food and have a big party.  After we get good at the first sequence in both directions, then we use different obstacles before or after the weaves and do it again.  Later we'll do it all more with different handling options mixed in.

The idea is for Gimme to learn that the weaves always pay and pay well, but that there will be no "luring" by showing her the reward or even her knowing in advance where the reward is.  It isn't that she can't or won't quickly figure out this lesson; more that I've been a lazy trainer.

And, in Gimme's defense, we probably haven't done any weaves since the last time we were in class a month ago.  I have to say, that Gimme is making more progress than any of our classmates.  They all had a lot more experience than we did before we joined the class (its a competition level class).  Gimme has passed some by in overall skills and, at this rate, it won't be long before she catches up to the class star.  It sure is nice working with a canine genius.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nosework Practice & More

Last week we were supposed to have nosework class earlier so everyone could get started on their Thanksgiving weekend.  Joyce got held up in traffic, even after allowing an extra hour, she was still an hour late.  The three of us that stayed got a free practice for our dedication.

Gimme did very well.  Joyce is giving her some level 2 challenges and for the most part she does very well.  Gimme is certainly bold and confident and doesn't have any problem pushing in.  I however, may have to get better at reading her, since on some inaccessible hides, she won't be able to indicate source by pawing.

There was one hide that was inaccessible and she went back to it several times before giving up.  I'm just so used to her pushing in where no other dog would, but in this case the odor was weak as well.  Joyce pointed that out and that I should ask permission to move some stuff, which I then did.  By then Gimme was giving me the proverbial middle toenail, so I had to persuade her to come back and check it again.  So I will need to start setting up some inaccessible hides for her and then really rewarding her in a very special way when she pushes to get to them.

This coming Saturday is our Anise ORT in Ridgefield.  Cross any body parts you can spare that she does well.  Fortunately the ORTs are all patterned the same, as a simple box-container drill.  So I just have to do my job right and chances are very good that Gimme will do hers.

I spent Wednesday night through Friday morning at my parents' house and was able to help Mom with some last minute preparations Thursday morning.  Then did the bone picking for Dad's homemade chicken and noodles.  Rhonda was helping him and Mom suggested that I see if she would like me to get the bones picked.  That worked great since she'd been up all night making homemade rolls for our family of 50 people.  Rhonda got a late start on the rolls because she spent all day Wednesday helping Dad make the noodles.

After that I went out to the motor home and spent over an hour cutting up cucumbers, carrots, celery, zucchini, red bell peppers, broccoli and romaine to make salad for 50 people.  I get the same job every year because I still make the best salad in the family.

Gimme was so funny.  She spent the whole time sitting on the other bench seat across the table from me.  In this situation, Gimme has a very clear concept of what is hers and what is not.  If a piece I cut was 1) misshapen, 2) dropped and missed the individual bowl, landing on the table, or 3) dropped and rolled off the table to the floor - it belonged to Gimme.  The ones that hit the floor, she jumped down and snatched up herself, before getting back in her seat.

Otherwise she sat across from me very patiently watching and waiting.  If criteria 1 or 2 was met and I failed to deliver, she would lift up one paw and place it on the edge of the table in the most ladylike reminder.  She never stood up, put two paws on the table or tried to help herself.  She just put that paw up as if to remind me, saying, "Uh excuse me, I believe that is supposed to be mine."  She was so cute and so proper, that I finally set out a plate to put her pieces on.

I have no idea where this comes from.  Its not even remotely like anything we've ever done before.  Next year I'm getting a picture.

BTW for those who know of my auto-woes...  I have purchased a nice Ford Taurus wagon, which my crate just fits into.  It is two years and 46,000 miles younger than my Saturn was and costs right at what I got for the settlement.  I'll be picking it up Wednesday night.  We'll be doing our first road trip on Saturday for the ORT.

OBTW since I started writing this - got a call from a person I know from eons ago in dog training.  She's injured her back and is entered for the ORT and wants to know if I'll handle her dog.  So I may be handling Gimme and a german shepherd.  Hopefully she can drop in on nosework class Wednesday night and we can get together probably on Thursday for a practice.  The dog sounds like she might be almost as much fun as Gimme, almost.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

NW1 Title Pictures

My friend Diane just emailed me and let me know that the pictures were available for Gimme's NW1 title.  So here they are...

Exterior search:
Since this was at the veterinary facility at Emerald Downs, a statue of a jockey was a given.  Gimme had to give him a good sniff to make sure he wasn't hiding odor in his hand.

I'd just told Gimme "show me" after restarting her and she whipped around heading right for the odor, which is in the corner next to the doors on the right side.
Container search:
I had sent her with "wherezit"... that line at the doorway was threshold, which I'm stepping across. 

And just a second later... she moves so fast its hard to keep her in focus.  You can see how close the boxes are to each other and to the wall.  It was a challenge to keep from stepping on them.  Also being that close together increases the likelihood of fringing (odor that drifts from source and piles up next to another item, creating the appearance of "source").

I am receiving Gimme's third place ribbon for the vehicle search and then her title ribbon... by which time I was practically spinning in place from excitement.  Then a close-up of her ribbons.  They are very pretty, doncha think.

I don't think I ever shared this picture from her first nosework trial, taken right as she is lifting her foot to alert during the exterior search.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nosework (4/9)

We were supposed to have agility this week, but I killed my car and had no way to get there.  Gimme was at home; I was unhurt.  The insurance company totaled my old Saturn (sniff - pout) and so now I am hunting for a new car.  Meanwhile my friend Linda is driving me the 1 hour trip tomorrow to get to my parents' house; they are loaning me their extra car.  Pray that the right car magically finds its way to my attention - soon.

My insurance company messed up, so I had no rental.  Long story.  I will say I was and am continually blessed to have great friends who pulled out all the stops to ferry me around so I didn't have to miss work.  Mary came over twice and picked us up, so Gimme and Grafton could walk with us around Capitol Lake.  On Wednesday Mary came by and picked us up for nosework class.  We stopped by Lacey Collision and got the crate from the car.  After class we dropped by again and cleaned the car out entirely.  Geez I sure do manage to accumulate a heap of junk in my car.

Class went well.  Gimme did fine, even despite the unusual accommodations - being crated in the back of Mary's SUV with Grafton right there, loose in the seat.  I think Grafton thought it was finally a dream come true and that he was going to get to take Gimme home for keeps.  Each time it was her turn, he whined when I took her out of the car.  BTW the training areas have been closed for about a month - this Sunday is the first time we get to go and the kids will get to run loose together in all that time.  I'm certainly looking forward to it; I know they will love it.

Our class consisted first of three container drills - one hide each.  Gimme did good, getting faster with each round.  Joyce has already started pairing the third level odor (Clove) with her level one (Birch) or level two (Anise).  It doesn't take the dogs long to figure out that those odors pay.  Gimme still sometimes gets distracted by stuff on the periphery during a container search and I wasn't as effective at reeling her in.  Partly I think that is because I'd forgotten to grab her nosework harness and the long line, so I was working with unfamiliar feeling equipment.

Our last search was a series of four chairs and a wheelchair, set in a line, about five feet apart.  Joyce set a hide on the first chair... if the dog went past it, we circled back to the beginning and started again.  We did an exercise like this during one of our field trips over the summer.  When the dog got the first hide, while we were rewarding, Joyce set the next hide on the third chair in the row.  We continued our movement down the line and if the dog passed the second hide, we circled back at least one chair and approached again.  We repeated that until they found the second hide, and Joyce set the third one on the wheelchair while we were rewarding.  The same routine of circling back if they passed or drifted away from it, applied to the third hide.

Gimme got the first hide pretty quickly - just one circle.  The second one took three circles.  The third one was her scent seeking missile approach to nosework.  She was getting steak for the earlier container hides and I switched to a big marshmallow for each hide on the chair drill.  I don't know if Joyce's efficiency drill did the trick or if Gimme simply figured out that I was paying with a marshmallow and didn't want to wait.

I asked Joyce why she thought efficiency was so important for us - since Gimme always finishes in plenty of time and I'm sure time won't be an issue for us when we trial for NW2.  Joyce agreed that we could probably get by at that level, but said she thought we'd need to be more efficient before NW3 and unless I wanted to train for a year between them, to get ready, I'd be better off to start work on it now.  I can't argue with that logic.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nosework (3/9)

First let me tell about agility class on Tuesday night.  Gimme did well.  I decided to jump her at 20" for the first time and I could see that made a difference.  She was just a little bit less enthusiastic, since she had to put forth more effort.  Still she did well, as long as I did my part.  She is so fast and we don't have the distance skills yet - so sometimes I get rushed and my cues aren't as clear, then her performance falls off.  Obviously its not her fault, since she doesn't have the experience level to know what I want when I'm not being precise.  She is going to be really good and have I mentioned, FAST...

At nosework class last night she did well.  We started with one search of three hides in the main room.  We did it on leash and after the dogs found a hide, we used the leash to not let them go back in that area.  One of the hides was on the back leg of a chair that was in the line of the chairs we were sitting on.  Gimme did well with all of them.

I asked Joyce if there were any judging guidelines about how close to each other hides could be at the upper levels.  She said there isn't.  She said closeness isn't an issue for the dogs, since clearly we can toss a bunch of kibble into the grass in the dark and the dog will find every morsel.  Their ability to find each source is not the problem.

I do think if the hides were too close together, the handler might have trouble reading when the dog indicated - especially for those who have indicators where the dog isn't being as precise about pointing out exactly where the hide is.  Still the dog should be clearly indicating source before you get to that level.  I sure like the precision of how Gimme is using her paw to point out exactly where source is - her toenails are like little arrows.

Our last two searches were just one hide each in a tiny room (a bathroom) that we haven't searched before.  Joyce set Gimme's hide first with a NW2 level challenge.  There was a small grey plastic trash basket in the room and the odor was on the back side, between the basket and the wall.  Gimme went right to the basket, sniffed it, stuck her head all the way in to sniff inside it (all that trash raiding paid off) and then sniffed around it and pushed in to the source.  She was very fast.  The second time the hide was in a bracket that held the stall wall to the wall.  She found that very quickly. A couple of the dogs were a bit intimidated about going into the bathroom, but not Gimme.

Another thing, as we were walking back to that bathroom, we passed the other bathroom, with the door partially open.  Gimme pushed in a little ways and sniffed a bit, then turned and came out on her own.  Good to see, since she clearly knew there was no odor in there - something we'll need to know when we are presented with clear rooms at NW3.

Just got the last two pictures from the photo shoot.  As always, Gimme is gorgeous.  The one with the model isn't the one Katie put on the website... since the model's head is cut off.  Still it doesn't matter, since Gimme upstages anyone in a picture with her.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Scent Seeking Missile

"Scent Seeking Missile" was one of the judge's comments about Miss Gimme, who qualified today, being the fifth Dalmatian to get a NW1 title.  There are as of yet, no Dalmatians with a NW2 title.  I'm signing her up for the anise ORT on December 1st and then will try to get her in a trial as soon as I can.

Our day started out at 3:00 a.m. with her waking me because she had diarrhea, and then again at 6:00 a.m. for a repeat episode.  At the trial she had two more episodes and then that cleaned her out and she was fine for the rest of the day.  I know what it was from, so it was just a matter of seeing if she was ready to hunt.  She seemed fine and every indication was that she wanted to play.

She was in season and had to wear panties for her searches, but at least didn't have to wait until the end of the day and do all four searches back-to-back, as I'd been led to expect.  They started by running all the dogs through the exterior search, one after another... then all through the vehicle element.  Then the two girls in season came through and did those two elements.

Gimme wasn't very interested in the practice boxes, so I wasn't entirely confident that she wanted to play.  For the EXTERIOR search, Gimme buzzed right by the odor (not at threshold) and I missed the nose tilt, though the judge saw it.  So then she went all through the exterior search area, looking everywhere.  When they called the 30 second warning, I walked her into an area she didn't pay much attention to and repeated the cue "wherezit" followed by "show me" and she went right to it and paw whacked it.  It took her less that 10 seconds, when I essentially re-started her, so her time was 2:39.67...  It didn't seem to take more than thirty minutes to me.  It occurs to me to wonder if she hasn't decided that the real cue to find odor is "show me" and that "wherezit" means blast off the start line.  So I'll be watching that and considering that possibilty in the weeks to come.  The judge's comments were:
"Nice line handling.  Don't block dog w/ your body.  Don't plant your foot and stop!  Nice change of behavior, then went out of odor & went into hunt mode.  If you see the COB, take her back for alert.  Solid alert once she was @ pin point."
I appreciate the comment about line handling, since most of the time I do think I do that well.  I didn't intentionally block her, sometimes she just moves too fast and changes direction and I am not nimble enough to get out of her way.  I'm really not aware of planting my foot - wish I had that on video.  I totally missed the first nose tilt.  I think for the next few classes I'm going to make it a point to watch only her nose and see if I can get better at seeing her doing the nose tilt.  Sometimes I see it and sometimes I don't.

Next was the VEHICLE element which Gimme did a stellar job on.  She went right along the side and around the back of the nearest vehicle without even looking at it - instead looking off to her right.  She passed by the space between the first and second without looking at that and I was worried that I didn't have her attention even though she wasn't really leaving the vehicles, then she turned to the truck and started sniffing the bumper.  She had her paws up on it walking back and forth along it.  Got down and started up the side, checked out the wheel well and then turned back to the bumper.  Got her paws up and sniffed again and then gently lifted and tapped her paw in one spot and I called alert.  She did that in 25.58 seconds and got a third place for her efforts.  The judge really liked her and said:
"Great Job!  Good Team!  * Warning about food drop - you were last dog and away from hide, but still in search area :-) "
The food drop was a tiny crumb that fell while I was trying to put her regular leash back on her.  They are getting really strict (weirdly so, in my opinion) about making sure we immediately get the dogs back on a 6 foot leash (no longer than 6 feet allowed) before  leaving the search area.  I had to put her back on the 6 foot leash between the exterior and vehicle searches, even though there was no delay/wait and no other dog within 100 yards and even though she was already attached to a line with her harness.  Since I'd never run into that before, I was fumbling to get it done.  Clearly something I'll need to practice in classes. 

We had a long wait between those and my afternoon searches.  Next up was the CONTAINER element.  I was really worried about this because the room was so small that even using the star pattern, some of the boxes were just a foot from the wall.  I knew it was going to be hard for me to move around and not step on boxes and was worried about the possibility of fringe odor.  While I was challenged to keep moving and keep my feet off the boxes, I need not have worried about Gimme.  She gave me a couple of half-hearted false alerts to see if I'd fall for it and stepped on an extra box, but when it was clear that I wasn't paying for no junk, she kept searching.  When she came on the right one she reared up and pounced on it with her two front feet, crushing it and then proceeded to shred it.  I called alert and in just 27.55 seconds, that was that.  As I was feeding her, the judge commented about how "clear" Gimme's indication was.  I'll say - when Gimme starts demolishing a box, call alert.  This is the same judge that we had for vehicles, so she got to see our two best searches and put us down for pronounced on both of them.  Her written comments were:
"Gimme the scent seeking missile!  Great energy, fun to watch.  You handle her well.  :-)  Good Job!"
Last was the INTERIOR element.  This was off lead and Gimme made a couple of quick loops and settled into searching near a table and two chairs.  She left ever so briefly once after that, but only moved two feet before riveting back on it.  She really stayed at it detailing and trying to find out exactly where the odor was... the two chairs were too close together and she couldn't totally get to where the odor was and I didn't think to ask to move the chairs... but not being shy about such things, Gimme finally pushed one out of the way.  Then she got her nose on odor and her paw was a half second behind it.  Her toenails were pointed exactly where the odor was - this in 53.87 seconds.  The judge put us down for a pronounced on this search.  Her comments were:
"Nice change of behavior and commitment to odor.  Very enthusiastic and quite clear when in odor.  Good job."

I didn't realize until I was writing this up that we had gotten "pronounced" on three of the four searches.  That's very nice.  If you get pronounced on all four, you get special recognition during the award ceremony.  Only one dog tonight got that.  Out of 35 dogs entered, only 12 got their titles (including both girls in season).  I am sooooo glad I didn't chicken out.

Gimme has been sound asleep ever since we left the grounds.  She gets up to move if I leave the room, but it takes her awhile to realize I've moved.  Once she was laying across my lap, like a big heavy blanket, breathing so deeply.  I called her name a couple times to try and wake her up and she slept through it.  Then about ten seconds later, she suddenly startled and woke up to look at me - it took that long for her name to register through that sleepy girl brain.

Anyway, I am very pleased and proud of my girl.  I think she will enjoy the more challenging training for NW2 and NW3... 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Nosework (2/9)

Class was all about vehicles.  We did seven searches on vehicles, one hide at a time.  Gimme did well.  She still sometimes gets distracted by things nearby, but nothing like what we were dealing with before.  Now I can call her away from them and she responds pretty quickly.  As much as she uses a vigorous paw whack as her indicator on many of her hides, when she is doing vehicles - its a gentle paw touch, which is nice to see.  We can get a fault assessed if its vigorous on a vehicle.

 I was feeling nervous about containers - since that is what we failed last time and so asked Joyce to run me & Gimme and Susan & Tucker through a quick container search.  Good thing too, since little Miss, went straight to goof-off mode.  She did a quick indication on a couple boxes that weren't it, but fortunately I knew what to look for.  When she got to the right one, there was nothing quick about it - she went straight into box destruction mode.  She hadn't been doing that as much lately and I admit I like seeing it.  Its just so Gimme...   BTW in her defense, she had just done seven separate searches, so she was probably a bit tired. 

Joyce also showed us a training trick for teaching the dogs to eat the treats from our cupped hand - so there is less risk of dropping treats at a trial.  Dropping even a tiny crumb in the search area will get a fault assessed against you, so its to be avoided.

Basically you just feed the dog many treats, one after the other, from a cupped hand and the other hand places treats in that hand.  If the dog pays any attention to the hand holding the treats - they get nothing.  When they focus on the cupped hand - treats magically appear there.  Its really easy to teach and dogs pick it up quickly.  Gimme thought that was just about the most fun she's had all week.  Tomorrow while I'm at my parents', I'm going to practice doing it with her harness and line, since you aren't supposed to drop the line either. 

Today I was reading an article about children and self-control, based on the "marshmallow test".  Just thinking of marshmallows got me curious about how Gimme would react to them bought a bag today.

The first one I gave her, she kept dropping - not knowing quite how to eat it, but then decided it was wonderful.  I turned the next one into four pieces and she gobbled them down like they were food of the gods.  Later I gave her another whole one and she devoured it immediately.  I think I could buy the small ones and use them now and then as nosework treats. I realize they aren't healthy like the other stuff I feed her, but she was very excited and clearly that is very high value.  That seems to be the norm across species for junk food. 

Well cross your fingers... the weekend is almost upon us.  Gimme is still in season, so we'll wait all day and then do all our searches one after the other at the end of the day, while wearing her patriotic red, white and blue striped britches.  I'm packing up tonight so I can leave right after I teach class in the morning.  I'll thank you to cross any body part you can spare for us...

BTW that article is: "Marshmallow Study Revisited: Delaying Gratification Depends as Much On Nurture as On Nature", has some fascinating applications to dog training.  It is available at:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011090655.htm