Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

May the new year bring you: 
comfort on sad days, 
laughter every day, 
true and lasting friendships, 
faith to lift you up, 
confidence when you doubt, 
the strength to know yourself, 
courage to accept the truth, 
and most important...           

         Love in abundance ~

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

Gimme is all decked out and ready for the white stuff...
                   Let It Snow - Let It Snow - Let It Snow...


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nosework (3/17), Agility and More

Gimme continues in her false pregnancy.  For awhile I thought it was going to pass without any real affect, but then we ran out of one of the two homeopathic remedies.  To make matters worse the store was out and it was 6 days before I found another place to get them.  So Gimme got a little needier during that time, but now that we are back with both remedies she is steadily improving.

Nose work class was at a local Home Depot.  The searches for the class were nothing special or even particularly challenging.  One hide 8 foot from the start line Gimme found in under 2 seconds.  To say she is fast is an understatement. 

This was our last class with Joyce.  I won't go into detail... just suffice it to say that the differences between her approach to training/instructing and what I would do is substantial in many ways.  No one who was present for the actual situation can really figure it out what made this particularly troubling to her.  I have my own thoughts, but they aren't really a proper topic for the blog.

In any case I have already found a class with another instructor and we start with her on January 6th.  Both of Dorothy's nose work dogs are fast, enthusiastic and confident like Gimme.  She has a number of students that are doing quite well and their dogs seem equally fast and confident.  Dorothy is well known and well respected in the nose work community.  Because she is used to working with faster dog, I think it will be a good match for us.  The only downside is that because so many of her student's dogs are fast - Gimme won't stand out like she has in the past.  She will just have to bring her game up to new levels, eh.

We also went to an agility fun run this week.  Gimme was very distracted for the first run in this totally new location.  The second run she was much better and the third run was nearly flawless.   I don't know if I've mentioned that Blynn is going to be teaching classes here every other Thursday night.  This will be wonderful for us and I'm very excited.  We are currently going every other week AND class in this location will cut an hour off our drive (each way).  I can hardly wait.

Plus Chris is going to start a two night a week agility handlers fitness drop in class.  I'm going to go at least once a week.  I think it will be good to have someone to be accountable for about fitness and weight loss.

Also after the first of the year I will be trying a new massage treatment for my foot called Gua Sha (pronounced gwa-shaw).  This technique is used to break up scar tissue and reduce inflammation.  While my plantar fasciitis has improved a lot with the new orthotics and better shoes, its not resolved and probably won't be until I lose some weight.  I can't lose weight without more exercise and can't get more exercise while my foot is so bad.  So I'm caught in a catch 22.  My chiropractor and I hope that Gua Sha treatment will help enough for me to get back to exercising like I was before.

Also after the first of the year (its going to be a busy and change-filled January), Gimme and I will be trying Barn Hunt.  We are going to Oregon on January 11th for a private lesson and group practice day.  Then we'll be doing four trials the last weekend of January.  I'll sign Gimme up for the instinct test both days, as well as two novice runs a day.  She already has a strong interest in all things rodent as evidenced by her fascination with enlarging the entryways for all the mouse holes on the Weir prairie where we walk.  So I'm sure we'll pass the instinct test.  Amy is pretty certain that we'll be able to get a novice title that weekend as well... Gimme needs to qualify 3 out of 4 novice runs.

We are 12.3 miles from our annual walking goal.  Gimme thinks we could/should do it all tomorrow.  I think we need to spread it out over several days.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Most Clever Girl

Gimme continues to be on-again-off-again with the false pregnancy.  One minute she is fine and seemingly normal, the next she goes all hormonal and fragile.  As a result, I haven't been doing much.  Basically we are sticking to our routine stuff.  Mostly walking (still have 19.5 miles to goal and 14 days to do it in) and our usual nosework and agility classes.

I'm taking an online course with Fenzi Dog Sports Academy called "Relationship Building Through Play".  Denise is known for her focus on play both as a relationship building activity and as a training tool.  While Gimme and I have things we do together that are fun, I wouldn't say we play as such, other than tugging and tossing toys.  Sadly Gimme is too weird and unpredictable right now to actually try any of the things I'm learning.  I don't want to risk her being spooked by something because of her hormonal state and the possibility of creating a permanent icky association.  So, I'm taking copious notes and will have to save trying things until she is back to normal. 

Meanwhile, Gimme is up to her usual smarty pants stuff.  Her nails have gotten a little long, so that they are clicking whenever she walks on linoleum (bad Mommy).  While on the computer I heard her nose at the gate to the kitchen, but I thought I had latched it and didn't bother to check.  When I finished what I was doing and walked toward the kitchen, I saw the gate was nosed open.  Gimme was in perusing the possibilities - walking around silent as a church mouse.  Apparently she has learned to walk silently so as not to attract attention.  Who knew she had the stealth gene.  I just never know what she'll come up with next...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nosework (2/17) & Agility Ketchup

Class tonight was about high hides.  Not something we really need, since Gimme is quite prone to going high.  In fact, I'll have to make sure our next practices include a lot of low hides to remind her they can be down there.

Joyce used a bunch of folding chairs and set the hides gradually higher and higher.  Then there was one on an upended crate, followed by hides on chairs on top of a table.  Gimme got them all just fine and her indications were lovely.

We have a very new dog in our class that is still on boxes and they meet before class, then he stays and does a couple searches with us.  Usually Joyce picks up his boxes between our searches.  I asked her to leave them down for one of our searches, while still keeping the hides on the chairs and such.  Joyce thought that was unfair and couldn't understand what I was trying to accomplish. 

I explained that I was testing to see if Gimme would/could refrain from box trashing just because they were there, while the odor was elsewhere. Joyce still didn't understand.  I explained its a test, it doesn't diminish her interest in containers.  I am simply checking to see where she is with the excitement of seeing boxes and having odor in the same area, but not in the boxes.  I wouldn't test if I didn't think she would pass - I don't set my dog up to fail.  If she failed, I would gently encourage her to leave them. 

As it turned out she did great.  Twice she went over to sniff a couple of them and I just let her satisfy herself that there was no odor there.  She left them on her own to look for odor elsewhere and did not even touch any of them with a paw.  I am completely happy with that.

Yesterday was agility and I didn't expect much.  Gimme is right at that hardest part of her false pregnancy - whelping any minute now.  She was very hormonal when I got home last night, but did pretty good in class.  The first round she was more distracted than usual, but the second round she was very focused.  I couldn't have been happier.

I have noticed over the last two classes that when we have problems with a sequence, I always assume it is my handling.  So I try it 2, 3, or 4 more times, tightening up the handling, before concluding its something Gimme doesn't understand.  Then I slowly take her through the sequence one obstacle at a time.  The next time I can do it pretty much at full speed and she nails it.  She is the quickest dog I've ever known about picking up things. 

Well, my girlie wants some Mommy-n-baby time.  When we got home she ran in the living room, grabbed her baby and jumped up on the couch.  Then when she saw me looking, she reached her paw out and patted the couch next to her - showing me where to sit.  It was so obvious, it was quite funny.  Your old maiden auntie couldn't do a better job of patting the couch to show you where to sit.

Anyway, she's been moaning and fussing the whole time I've been writing this... so I think I best tend her to little needy self.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nosework (1/17)

We had class at Ursula's training building.  Good thing too, because its unbelievably cold out.  Its just 22 degrees and falling rapidly.  After class we met with Linda for a quick walk.  I still have to get in 35.25 miles before the end of the year to make my 500 mile goal.

Class was pretty good.  Our first hide was under a table edge, then after Gimme found it, Joyce set another one.  That second hide was under a chair pushed under the table, just three feet from where the first one had been.  That was a bit challenging for Gimme to sort out.  The third hide was in a bookshelf and in indicating it, a board fell down at her feet.  Gimme jumped away and then went right back in to make sure I knew where the odor was.

Our second search was all about corners.  We haven't done corners in awhile, so it took all the dogs a bit to remember to check them.  Gimme used to be really great about corners, but I can see I've kinda taken them for granted.

The third search presented a good challenge and a wonderful demonstration of thinking-Gimme.  The odor was under the back corner of a chair seat, with the chair pushed into the corner.  Gimme didn't have any trouble finding it, her dilemma was how to indicate it.  She could get her nose to the odor, but not her paw.  So her solution was to place her paw on the front top of the seat, then put her head underneath and put her nose right on the odor.  Then pop out and paw on seat, followed immediately by putting her nose on odor again.

To me that says she is really understanding what I want.  And more importantly, she is thinking about how to communicate to me where the odor is in the best way she can, using the tools at her disposal.  I was impressed that she chose to sequence the two parts of the indication, since she couldn't do them together, like usual.  I totally love my brilliant girl.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Wishes

Gimme Here:  I hope everyone has a Thanksgiving as wonderful as mine.  I am blessed with a Mom that loves me and caters to my wishes, a Grandpa that pats my head and calls me "brilliant", and a Gramma that forgets how to count when Mom says I can only have 1 cookie. 

I am also blessed that Mom says I get a share of turkey every year.  This year she said I could have the wishbone and all the meat attached to it.  It looks to me like there is a whole turkey attached to that wishbone.  I'm just saying....


Monday, November 25, 2013

Gimme Tries Duck Diving

No, that's not a spelling error.  We were walking around the lake and had gotten to the second half of the walk, by which time Gimme settles down.  That means I just barely had the leash draped across my fingers.  So when Gimme darted off to the side, there was nothing to stop her.  Imagine my surprise to see her crashing into the brush after something, followed by hearing a quack and considerable splashing.  Who knew a duck on land could move that fast - I'm guessing she was inspired. 

Gimme came out of the water pretty fast, but was more than willing to go and try again.  The only part of her that wasn't wet was her head.  She really was interested in a re-match against that duck.  "C'mon Mom, I can catch her, I know I can."

So now the question is...  if I want to try dock diving, do I have to throw a bumper?  Or could I throw a live duck?  With the right motivation, I think Gimme would do it, I'm just saying...

On another part of our walk we passed a lady who had just finished running and was doing yoga to stretch and cool down.  We saw her doing Downward Dog pose.  Gimme was annoyed that I wouldn't let her go over to teach the lady how to do Kissed By A Dog pose.  She's always trying to be helpful doncha know.

Then I did errands galore.  After which we stopped in at Home Depot for a quick heeling session.
Note to self:  Wait until you get past the store greeter and all Gimme's friends.  Its kinda counter-productive to have your attempt at heeling ruined by the Home Depot chapter of the We-Love-Gimme fan club.
Once we got away from them, she did pretty good, especially since we've never tried heeling there.  It took her about a minute to realize that I hadn't simply forgotten to put on her nosework harness.  But once she figured out what we were doing, there were some really nice moments.  It'll be a good practice opportunity for us during icky weather.

Now its time to snuggle on the couch...  I might even practice that Kissed By A Dog pose.

Friday thru Sunday

We've had a busy, busy weekend....

Friday after working all day, I met with my client with the puppy mill rescue.  Harry is a sweet and fearful Silky.  Since our first meeting 3 weeks ago, he's made great progress.  Unfortunately he is now biting more often than before.  The honeymoon is over.  After getting this news and from something the owner said on the phone, I expected to see a dog that is much over-stressed.  That was not the case.  He napped just six feet from me during our follow-up interview.  The client had done a beautiful job on keeping a journal for me, so it was easy to see what the triggers are - not obvious since he voluntarily snuggles with the person he is biting the most.

Originally I thought BAT would be farther out in time, while we got him generally used to life outside a puppy mill or kennel and in a real home.  We were just about to get down to the nitty gritty, when the client's daughter and granddaughter arrived with their two dogs.  I was pondering how to politely say this wasn't the best time for a visit, when the phone rang.  The daughter says, "Mom you have to take that, its why we're here."  It was someone calling to say that someone in the family had died that day!  As soon as I could I excused myself and we'll get together again when life settles down.  

After that I met with Susan and Tucker for a nosework practice.  It went well, but Gimme had real difficulty with one of the searches.  I will be setting that one up again, so she can learn to sort it out.  Afterward Susan and I went out to dinner.  Susan told me something interesting that really strikes home to me because I'm planning to use my Home Depot to do obedience heeling work over the winter (we really need to work on duration).  Our mutual friend had her class of three asked to leave a local Lowe's last week.  She's held classes there many time and with more students and there's never been a problem, so she assumed they'd hung out too long in one spot.  It turns out the real problem was that the students were using clickers and one of the store employees, a military veteran, has PTSD.  Apparently the sound of the clicker was really upsetting to him and the store chose to ask them to leave.  

I'm so used to using/hearing clickers, it never occurred to me that it might be a trigger for someone with PTSD.  Both Lowe's and Home Depot hire a lot of veterans.  So, you can bet I'll be using "yes" to  mark Gimme's efforts when we train there.  

We spent the weekend at my parents' house.  Because it was so cold I brought Gimme in the house for most of the time on Saturday evening and for part of the day on Sunday (she usually stays in a crate in the car).  It took her a long time to settle down.  Mostly we had to wait until Grandma settled down on the couch.  She treats Gimme like a canine garbage disposal unit.  While I dont' like it taken to such an extreme, Gimme thinks its a fine idea and that its her personal mission to help her Grandma deal with all that excess food
.  Thus, every time she moves, Gimme is right there demonstrating her willingness to help.

Such a wonderful partnership for Gimme and her Grandma... such a "fragrant" evening for me in the car and after getting home.  I am choosing to feel blessed that my parents welcome Gimme in their house, since they haven't had a dog in 35 years and were not so welcoming to my other dogs...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nosework (6/16) & Rally practice

I got my card set out and practiced five behaviors today.  They were mostly parts of heeling, so nothing earth-shattering.  Don't know if I mentioned on here that I made a set of 3x5 cards with each of the Rally and RallyFrEe signs on them.  Then I just shuffle them and pick out five.

Anyway, Gimme was so excited to be training again and she especially loves heeling anyway, so she was forging quite a bit.  Given that I only this summer discovered I had trained her to heel a bit too far forward and have only worked on it a few times since then - I'm not yet concerned about it.  In any case, I'd rather forging than lagging. 

After that we practiced our nosework indicator.  I confess I haven't practiced it since I first changed the way of doing it - about 3 weeks ago.  Been meaning to work on it since I got home from CA.  It just hasn't happened and tonight was our first night - just an hour before leaving for class. 

It took all of 30 seconds for her to remember the new drill.  I probably used about 100 treats.  I started with the tin in my hand and treating for a combination of paw-hold and nose touch.  I do notice she is more inclined to do pawing the closer it is to the ground.  So for now I'll work about a foot or higher and just gradually move it down.  I ended with placing the tin in the top of a box of clothes, without my fist there.  She did it beautifully - placed her paw on the edge of the box and just never moved it.... with repeat nose touches. 

She's one smart cookie...

Then we went to class and she was W O N D E R F U L.  We were the fourth dog and had plenty of time to do a quick warm-up of the concept (odor in fist, paw-hold and multiple nose touch).  I can always do that warm-up at a trial too.  Gimme was so good in fact that Joyce just started talking to me about it and asking questions and I had to remind HER to wait to talk until Gimme was done searching.  He He He....

Joyce even said after our second set of hides that if I can keep what I have right now and apply it to all the different kinds of searches and variations and if it doesn't break down in a trial - its a very nice and very accurate indication.  She admitted she never thought I'd get it even close to this good.  Nice to finally hear... keeping in mind that I don't consider it at all finished.  Several of the other students commented about how good it is and were asking questions about what I'd changed.

I have to admit it was a conversation with the owner of Gimme's sister, Candy Powell, who helped me see the next piece of the puzzle.  Who knows... there just might be something special in Grace's Christmas stocking.

I know there are going to be several special things in Gimme's Christmas stocking.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Now that we're home and our summer classes have ended, I'm trying to get us back into our regular routine.  During the summer with so many activities on our plate, I tend to let obedience/rally training slide.  So we're getting back to that.

First though...  During the seminar I was "subjected" (and I use that word with full understanding of its meaning) to multiple daily videos of myself working.  While we were supposed to be analyzing the video for good things we did, as well as things that need improvement, it was very hard for me to concentrate.  I realize the camera is known to add ten pounds, still I think ours was adding a lot more than that.  Or else, I have to conclude I've become a bit of a porker.  So I am freshly determined to work diligently to trim off the excess me.

I've known I need to - the video just gave me fresh motivation.  I will have to lose and get in shape if I'm ever going to be able to run agility with Gimme.  And, its likely that my plantar fasciitis will not go away as long as I'm carrying the extra weight.  So I'm making a concentrated effort.

Gimme thinks its not the best idea, or I need to do it differently.  We have a system.  Since I eat most of my meals on the couch, Gimme has learned she will get her share in tidbits, provided she is well behaved laying next to me.  Well behaved is defined as no drooling, no begging, no whining and no pestering.  She totally gets the system.  What she does not get is why she has to eat lettuce too.  Seriously, who thought up that plan?

So tonight we started a training session by having her do her nails.  I need to do that more often.  BTW the strips I put on the front steps don't appear to have any affect on her nails.  Too bad - it seemed like a great idea.  Maybe next summer when she is coming and going much more frequently.  After all I did put them in just a couple of weeks before I closed off the dog door for the winter.

Then we practiced a dozen "fronts".  I'm still working on getting Gimme to come in closer.  She is close enough that I wouldn't lose points for it, but figuring on some drift in ring performance, I wouldn't want her farther away.  Thus I want her closer to start with.  Besides I like the look.

We also did some heeling.  Man-oh-man she does love to heel.  Tonight I introduced her to the idea of scooting back into position if I move a step back.  I stopped and treated her for a sit, then took a step back and repeated the cue "heel".  You could literally see the wheels turning as she tried to figure out what it meant in that context.  The first try she just kept her butt planted and turned her front 45 degrees toward me.  That got her nothing.  So I heeled off and stopped to set her up again.  The second time she scooted back a couple of inches and got a click/treat.  The third time she scooted back almost into perfect position - again click/treat.  Two clicks was all it took and after that she was literally hopping back.

Then we had to do some repetitions to get rid of the pop up for a treat, but overall I was really pleased with how quickly she picked it up.  I don't have any specific plan/need for this behavior.  I just want to teach it to further her understanding of what and where "heel" is.

I just love how quickly a clicker trained dog picks things up.  Never having experienced any compulsion, she is free to experiment, knowing with confidence that she won't be punished.  What's not to love, eh?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

We're Home

I'm back from my trip and it was fabulous, the best ever.  The only downside was not having Miss Gimme to snuggle with and play with and walk with.

My flights up and back were uneventful.  I had arranged to share a room for the duration and was pleased to discover Doris and I are sisters who never met.  We were instant friends.  Every night we stayed up late talking and talking and talking.  I never thought I'd meet someone that could talk more than I do, but now I have.  It was awesome and I am inspired to new talkative possibilities!

The whole seminar followed that pattern.  My practice partner on the first day was Sherry, who it turns out I'd had email list conversations with.  Midway through the second day we joined up with our teams and I had full working partner Megan and auditor partner Naomi.  We would work together throughout the rest of the seminar.  Megan is another awe inspiring talker.  Two in one week, who knew! 

Our team leader was Ellen.  Ellen is the kind of person who can dish out a large helping of criticism in such a way that you walk away feeling good about it.  That's a talent that too few people have.  The hosting group were great and kept us all well fed and well cared for.  The site was great.  I ate so much and so often that I should have gained several pounds - instead I think I kept it from sticking by laughing my butt off all the time.

The seminar itself was great.  Grisha Stewart has become a very good presenter since the time several years ago when the 2 day seminar DVDs were taped.  She's very approachable and pretty darn funny.  She kept things moving and disseminated a ton of information.  We had practice sessions all the time, so it worked well to learn something, then get up and do it.  There is a lot more to BAT now than when the seminar was originally taped.  We were the 8th BAT Instructor seminar, so teaching that level is still an evolving process.  I have some suggestions and thoughts, but will be saving those to share with Grisha and Ellen when I have the time to write them up.

The written examination was very thorough, a combination of short answer and multiple choice.  I used all but 8 minutes of the 2 hours we were allotted.  It wasn't that I didn't understand the material; rather, as you who read my blog regularly know, I can't write anything briefly.  Can't believe I wasted 8 minutes when I could still have been writing on my little novella.

On the evening of the fourth day, I gave a presentation following the pizza party on the Fatal Fifteen reasons why people continue to use compulsion-based methods for dog training when the science and evidence shows that reward-based methods work better.  I ran over time, but everyone was so engrossed that Grisha allowed me to finish.  I got a lot of positive feedback about it.  I plan to write up the talk and will share it on this blog.

I had so much fun at the seminar, that it was hard to leave.  At the same time, I was eager to get home to Gimme.  I flew in at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday morning and got home an hour later.  By then I was so wired I stayed up another two hours.  Then got a few hours sleep before going to pick Gimme up from Camp Ursula at 9:00 a.m.  We spent the day snuggling on the couch, sleeping and watching old movies.  Since then we've gotten in two walks and a lot more snuggling.

All reports were that Gimme did fine, especially given she is 3 years old and had never been to a kennel before.  I'm sure I was more bothered by our separation than she was.  Gimme ate well and wasn't obviously stressed.  Sadly she did not get to play with any other dogs, since there weren't any suitable playmates there during her visit.  I understand Gimme did try to convince Ursula and Dave that their dogs could fit into her kennel, so she could be in the house and show them how a real dog snuggles. 

As it turns out, she got a lot of training on grinning.  She would grin at anyone who walked by her run and then they made a big fuss over her.  So when I got there I got the biggest grin I've ever seen.  In the past I've only seen the occasional small grin in the bathroom... this one was reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver and the Aliens movie. 

Since then she has been a little clingy, believing she is due all my attention when I am home.  She was fine on Friday when I went to work for 7 hours - then all evening insisted that I needed to devote every breathing moment to her.  She also has decided that if I'm not giving her the requisite attention, it is now entirely appropriate to indulge in misbehavior, such as trash diving and counter surfing; behaviors I haven't seen in a year.  Again, this only happens when I'm home and she "needs" my attention.  Envision me on the phone and someone getting a candy wrapper from the trash, to wave it in front of me.  As soon as I take one step toward her she drops the wrapper and leaps onto the couch, stopping just short of patting the couch beside her to indicate where I should sit. 

What's not to love?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nosework (4/16), NW Practice & PD (34)

Last Thursday Susan and I met with our kids for a nosework practice.  Overall both dogs did very well.  Gimme got a shock on her nose when she touched a downspout (too close to a lighting strip), while the building owner stood and watched, without warning us that it could give shocks.  So while we hadn't planned another exterior search, we did one to make sure Gimme wasn't put off downspouts - no problem.  She did well in the interior as well.

Happily she also did a good job with her indicator.  The way I worked on it at home is making it more clear to her what I want and she offers it pretty quickly and without fuss or escalating in frustration.  I had wanted to do a quick warm up with it at the car before class yesterday, but we were first up.

We met at Home Depot.  Joyce moved the hides to a new location in the store after each dog... so they all got two searches that hadn't been searched by anyone else.  It was a little time consuming, but there were only 4 of us in class.

Gimme had her first search in the entryway.  Fortunately it was her searching, since the HD workers dropped a heavy and loud thing very close during her search and the noise didn't bother her, though I jumped a foot.  I did see her again tending to offer an indication in the general vicinity (but 3 foot away) for an inaccessible hide.  I mentioned what I saw, that it had started with the seminar and Joyce agreed. 

On our next search, Joyce set another inaccessible and put it 2 feet in on a 18 inch high shelf, placing insulated outdoor spigot covers in front of it.  As Gimme started concentrating on that spot, I'd move them one at a time.  Until she was finally getting to it and even then she had to get her nose on the odor tin to get paid.  All that was left of her outside the narrow spot on the shelving was her back legs and tail.  This teaches her to persist, ask for help, and persist some more.  I'll be setting that up some more in practices.  She's always been so clear and accurate on her indications, I certainly want that back.

For the last search we all did the same one, two hides on two circular door carousels.  It was an interesting challenge because the openings at the center near the upright and under the doors made scent flow in a way that might lead the dogs to the wrong opening.  So, a scenting puzzle for them to figure out.  All the dogs did very well at sorting out the challenge.

Joyce concluded after watching me that I'd given up on the paw indicator and asked me about it.  I said no, I still wanted them, I was just adding the multiple nose touches to the picture.  She then congratulated and praised me for giving up the paw indicator and told me how happy she was to see that!  Proof positive that she doesn't actually listen to what I say, eh...

Yesterday we had Public Dog class too as well as a long walk.  Class was simple working on different Therapy Dog behaviors.  Gimme had fun.  I think they've backed off on the more chaotic stuff because we have a couple new dogs that are coming to these classes who couldn't participate at that level. 

BTW I noticed at agility class that Gimme got out of the car, did her potty walk and then went around the building to the holding area without pulling on the leash.  Yesterday on our 2 mile walk, she only pulled once.  Getting to class yesterday, she didn't pull getting out of the car or going to the building.  Methinks she has finally generalized loose leash walking as a lifestyle concept.  Yippeeeeee...

Yesterday was our last Public Dog class until next spring.  And this is my last blog entry until I come back from my trip. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gimme Loves Agility

I was prepared to see a lack of focus from Gimme at class tonight.  Instead she was very focused and doing better than the last two classes.  I was quite pleased.

She started a weird thing on the teeter, so we spent much of our first session working on that.  She would drive into the yellow and then leap up and over the end.  It was technically an acceptable performance since she was in the contact zone and the board did slam down to the ground; however, not what I want.  We did many repetitions before it was consistent, though even then she was still bouncing out of the contact instead of running through it.

Blynn thought it might be because I was both moving faster and further away at the same time.  It didn't feel like either was true to me.  Still when I moved in or slowed down, her performance became more normal.  If I was close and slower, it was normal.  I'm inclined to wonder if at some point she hasn't gotten a butt-bump from a teeter.  In any case, as soon as I return from California, I'm going to weed-eater a section of yard and move the teeter into it for some practice on days that are dry.

On a total plus note, Gimme did all four tunnel-dogwalk discriminations flawlessly... even though we've never trained them.  That's what I love about APHS handling - if I do my handling correctly, the right behavior/obstacle is pretty much intuitive to Gimme.

On our second session Gimme did everything very nicely - again well focused.  We were able to concentrate on my handling.  I was doing a rear cross on the flat and Blynn commented that my outside arm motion was pretty much wild and wooly, sending Gimme where I didn't want her to go.  She was doing it into a tough weave entry, but not efficiently. 

I was using my arm in too big of a sweeping motion and not using my shoulders to tell Gimme where to go.  Blynn suggested bending that arm and that would bring my shoulder into play.  It worked and Gimme's line into the weaves was much tighter and more direct.  Interestingly, in order to bend my arm, my body thought I needed to bend my knees too.  Who knows where that comes from.

Anyway, a great class.  I'm left wondering why Gimme was that much more focused tonight, than she was yesterday.
  • Is it because agility is that much more fun than the Public Dog class? 
  • Is it because there's no other dogs in sight when she's working in agility, so less stressful?
  • Is it because I checked her supplements/homeopathics this morning and increased most, while adding in another homeopathic remedy?
    • The homeopathic remedies are for her false pregnancy symptoms.  I haven't seen overt symptoms this early before; however I don't discount the possibility.  
    • She's at the end of her fourth week, which would correlate to a fourth month in a human.  I did some internet research and found that mood swings often start that early for pregnant women... so it stands to reason she might experiences mood affects at this stage.
  • Is it because I got a lot of work done on my presentation today, so am feeling less pressured and stressed myself?
Hard to say, could be any, some or all of these.  In any case, she was brilliant in class, despite her Tinkerbell approach to the Teeter...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Public Dog (31, 32, 33) & Nosework

Gimme continues to do well in this class.  We have one more Public Dog class and then are off for the rest of the winter.  I'm noticing that Gimme's attention is wandering and she's a bit more emotional and needy lately.  Its too soon to chalk it up to a false pregnancy; only four weeks from her hot date.  So I'm wondering if she is simply reacting to my stress getting ready for the big trip.  Then again everyone has an off day, even brilliant Gimme.

She wasn't totally off, just took her longer than usual to get focused.  It probably didn't help that Tor had a run-amuck moment and went blazing past us (about ten feet away) a couple times.  She likes him and has walked with him... so it shouldn't have been too stressful for her.  There's also a new dog in class that has a growly way of "talking" and that may be uncomfortable to her.  His owner uses a fair amount of corrections (though a lot less than when I first met him and encouraged him to call Ursula).  He's not that reliable yet, so we made sure to set up away from him.

We started working in the tennis court with our dropped leashes and just did parallel (lines 15 feet apart) walking 20 feet, doing a behavior and then returning to our station for treats.  Gimme did okay at this, she just lacked really solid focus or her usual precision.  After we went out on the grass and I was further away from the others (in particular the instructors), when she did a really good bit of LLW, I rewarded her with PB.  After that I had a lot more focus and she did some really lovely things.  And, I didn't use the PB all the time, just for the best efforts.

That leads to something I've been planning to talk about.  Ursula thinks that sometimes peanut butter raises Gimme's arousal level.  We've had this talk before and basically Elizabeth's answer was to never use it.  Obviously that's not going to happen.  At the time I sewed some loops of elastic in my treat pouch so I could have a peanut butter filled film canister, to dip my finger in and give Gimme stealth PB.  I did that for several weeks and never had any problems with Gimme becoming too aroused.

Recently this came up again and I was very frustrated, because it was sounding like Gimme could never have peanut butter and this was coming from Ursula, who's opinion I have a lot more respect for.  I had a long talk with Ursula after class and we realized we weren't communicating well.  Ursula doesn't think I should let her lick it off the Go Toob.  She thinks that Gimme gets a more aroused that way because she doesn't know when its going to end.  Which explains why there was no issue when we were doing stealth PB, because it was a blob off my finger and that's it, plus no licking.

Ursula also thinks I shouldn't give it to her when she is already aroused or overly excited.  I mentioned teaching Gimme to behave better about getting treats (no jumping up, no putting her feet up on things to get closer to the treats, etc).  Ursula doesn't think that will help, that arousal is the issue, not behavior.  After our talk, I thought it through and decided to continue with that plan anyway.  My thinking is that once she is more clear (requiring consistency from me) about how to behave to get the treats she's earned... if she can't keep four on the floor, then she's too excited/aroused for PB and gets her regular treats.

So I've been doing two things.
  1. I've been working on stimulus control with her target stick.  This is an ongoing project that I work on for awhile and then get bored with it and slack off.  Now what I'm doing is using that to teach Gimme how to win PB.  I stand next to the table where there is both the Go Toob and a dish of regular treats.  When Gimme does her best work I reach for the PB.  But, if her feet come off the ground - the PB stays put and she gets other treats.  This has proven very challenging for her.  She's working at it, but its still really hard and she's still sorting out the rules for how to make the PB come to Gimme's lips.
  2. I'm also using peanut butter more in training, not less.  I'm using it as much as I can for differential style reinforcement.  When she puts forth a superior effort, I want to give her a super reward.  I notice once I get a really good effort that I reward with PB, the quality of all the efforts that follows goes up quite a bit.
Time will tell how these two approaches work.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween At The Train Museum

Ever since Gimme first entered my life she has wanted to drive the train.  Not once has she ever contemplated letting me drive.  So for Halloween, we decided to celebrate by going to the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum.  They have train rides and other events, such as a dinner train, Santa train, and Polar Express. 

Like any kid, Gimme wore her best train outfit for our adventure.

"Can't we get this old thing moving?"

This train was so old and rusty, nothing could make it look good - except when Gimme graced it with her own lovely self.

"I don't think this old rust-bucket is going anywhere."

"Here's the ticket... wait at the station, surely ours will be along very soon."

"Did you hear that?  I think its coming now..."

"I hate waiting."

"It's been hours.  Are you sure they are coming?"

Broken Indication, NW (3/16)

Classes have been getting increasingly frustrating over the last three weeks.  By the end of class tonight I was certain I'd broken her indication for good.  She was so frustrated and she was pawing worse than ever, having a hard time settling in.  Poor kid – she was just so confused.  This is in large part because of the recent focus on containers, with lots of boxes which we weren’t ready for.

She has a long history of having fun shredding boxes.  So they get her really excited, just by being there.  Then you add odor, which also has a long history of excitement attached... and she's just mighty revved up.  We weren't  ready to focus on containers and I didn't have an adequate plan for when they showed up in class.

I tried to manage the issue, but that was just confusing to Gimme.  I tried doing some extra training outside class to work with boxes, but that only confused her more and got us both frustrated.

Candy and I have talked about it and have concluded that I need to have the behavior solid before I bring in boxes, the ultimate in distraction factor.  I've tried working on it since we talked and Gimme just seemed to get more and more frustrated.  So the container part of class tonight was pretty awful.

Fortunately we ended class with a multiple room search.  Joyce put a single box in each of four kennel rooms, with the doors propped open.  Rooms 2 and 4 had odor in their boxes.  We were to walk down the hall and see whether the dogs were interested in going in any of the rooms.  Noting how you could tell from their behavior which rooms had odor and which didn't (getting ready for clear rooms in NW3).

Gimme did EXACTLY what I thought she would.  She'd sniff at the clear rooms, without entering and veer slightly away, pointedly ignoring the rooms with odor.  This is exactly what she does with a line of sheds at Home Depot.  She walks down the line and veers away from any that have odor, every time.  As with sheds, when I walked her to the door of one she veered away from, she goes in and goes straight to odor.  I made a joke about her being a contrarian.  In reality Gimme just loves the hunting more than the finding, so she sometimes tries to make the search last.

Anyway, I was thinking about her indicator on the way home and pondering what I could do to make it clear to her.  I've been focused on teaching her that the "paw" cue means paw & hold, not pawing.   Initially that was working well and I was already seeing a bleed over of more moderate paw action in searches.  That is, until recently when we started doing all the container searches.  Once frustration kicked in, her pawing went into overdrive - especially tonight.

So then it occurred to me that she knows to paw and hold on my hand... so why not add odor to that particular picture and build up from there.  So I got one tin of each odor and worked them one-by-one.  I held a tin in my hand and extended it to her.  Naturally she sniffed and then I cued "paw".  I started by just recuing "paw" each time she put it down, while giving her a continual stream of treats for holding it there.

Then I used the same technique to add in a nose-touch along with the paw-hold.  By the end of three tins and 45 treats, Gimme would put her paw up and hold it there and then bump-bump-bump... clearly showing me where it was... and she'd get a rapid string of treats.  She was so happy to know exactly what I wanted and I was thrilled at how fast she picked it up.  It was honestly a beautiful thing to see.

Next step is to set up hides and then as she finds them, I'll move my fist in and let her paw-hold with nose-bumps... gradually transferring it to the hide itself.  If tonight's little session is any indication - this should go quickly.

Cross any body parts you can spare.

Agility Girlie

The most exciting thing to report about agility class, isn't agility per se.

A long time ago I brought one of my expens to the class location for our use and its been really handy.  Since then Blynn has taken to using it for all the classes.  That way we can form an expen bubble (for the hold) right at the giant sliding arena doors.  It saves trying to move those things or having to come through the side door and speeds up getting in and out.  Usually the sliding doors are open just far enough to squeeze in and the expen forms a 4x4 foot enclosure - the hold.

So Gimme and I were in the hold watching the dog before us running and practicing "whazzat" whenever it was in the near end of the arena.  At the end of its run, the BC jumped the last jump and then ran full tilt toward us, heading for the water bowl, just 8 feet away.  Gimme watched intently, but did not do anything inappropriate, no vocalizations or anything.  When she was satisfied that all was well, she turned to me and gave the look that sez, "more treats please."  I was just thrilled at this clear evidence of the progress she's made this summer.

As for our run, there were some good things and some not so good.  For the first time Gimme let me converge on her line and didn't push out around the next jump.  So she is getting more comfortable with the understanding that coming into my space (and vice versa) is a good thing.

Her weaves appeared to be irreparably broken, until we figured out what was going on.  Suddenly she has decided to turn up the speed another notch and I was still moving at the old speed.  In looking toward me to see what I was doing, it was causing her to pop out.  When I got my pace right and smooth, she did fine and significantly faster.

She got a couple of really tough weave entries, though having difficulty holding onto them afterward. To motivate her to work harder at holding on, I showed her the goodies I had and then set her up for another try.  She nailed it and blazed through to the end.  Then she demanded her pork loin.  She's never been shy about such things...

Ya gotta love her 'tude...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Public Dog (28-29-30)

I've been remiss in keeping up with the blog.  Classes have been good - though challenging.  The goal of these classes is to get the dogs to work reliably off leash and without treats on our person.  These three classes met, twice in Ursula's new training room (above the kennels) and once in a tennis court.

We do a lot with the dog dragging the leash - in fact virtually the whole class is with the leash on the ground.  We also station our treat bag... in the building the first time mine was on the floor behind a divider and across the room, the second time was up in the window sill.  At the tennis court, I started with it on the ground, but my back was bothering me, so I hung it on the fence so I didn't have to keep bending over.

Gimme is into the concept of helping herself... and each time Ursula needs to remind me to use body blocking instead of a hand signal (for wait).  I can use the hand signal and Gimme will wait, but have to use it every time.  When I do use the body blocking, it only takes once or twice and she remembers it for the rest of class.  She completely gets what it means.  It just is not my first inclination.

Class is following a pattern.  We let the dogs drag the leash and then one by one walk out to the center of the training area, cue a behavior, verbally mark it and then go to our treat station to reward.  Gimme is completely fine with working without the treats on me - she gets the concept of delayed reward since its something we've done before.  Once or twice we unhook the leash, letting it fall to the floor and do the sequence completely off leash.  Over a few repetitions, we advance to asking for two and then three behaviors.  In that case we only verbally mark the last behavior - the reward for the first (and second when there are three cued) is another cue.  This is called Tertiary Reinforcement which you can find by following the link - the explanation is about halfway down in the entry.

Anyway, once we've done several repetitions, then we start going out in pairs and later threes and finally all of us (4 or 5).  The pairs don't bother me, but more than that I find stressful.  In addition to going out on the floor with another team that is moving at the same time, we are supposed to go someplace different than the middle of the room.  Each time after that we are supposed to go someplace in the room we haven't been before.  This usually means passing each other.  When we get to three or more teams going at once, its quite a circus.

That is a lot of chaos and stimulation and moving dogs in close proximity and Gimme does okay with it, she really tries so hard. Sometimes it just amazes me how much progress she's made.  I think its more stressful for me than it is for her, because:
  • There are two dogs in class who's owners don't have good control AND are so slow to react.  When those dogs get out of control they always seem to rush in our direction.  So I have to pay attention to instructions, work with Gimme and watch both of them all the time.  Both are friendly dogs and I certainly appreciate their owner's efforts to continue with training; still it adds a lot to my "job" while in class.
    • In the tennis court, Echo (smooth collie) came rushing at us and the owner barely got her back before contact.  Gimme had just realized the dog was there when it was already being moved away.  I gave her treats and congratulated her on being such a good girl.
    • Then yesterday in the training room, Lily (labrador) went out on the floor for her first exercise and immediately rushed over to us.  I grabbed Gimme’s leash to do an emergency u-turn, just as she hit the end and it flipped her on her side.  She scrambled up and ran with me, not seeming any worse for wear.  Though I noticed a bit later she had that look in her eyes telling me she was having difficulty.  So I took her outside for a potty break and to decompress.  She didn’t potty, just sniffed around.  When we went back in she was ready to work again.
  • When we are out on the floor as a group, it seems there is always someone sneaking up behind us.  Okay, I realize they aren't "sneaking", still they are often crossing so close right behind or to the side outside my view.  Even if they aren't right there, when I verbally mark a moment of good behavior and turn around to head back for our treats, there is always someone within one step.  I can literally feel my blood pressure spike at these moments!
So for me, the class is stressful and I'm always tired afterward.  I'm happy with Gimme and certainly thrilled with her efforts and progress, I just have zero moments when I can let my guard down.  I feel like I need a couple extra sets of eyes.  I have come up with a couple ideas to take the pressure off me a little bit.
  • When we are waiting our turn, my tendency is to have Gimme sitting on the side of me,  between me and the nearest well-behaved dog (Tor or Tucker).  Which means when I am focused on her, my eyes and attention are turned away from the dogs that have been an issue.  So in the future, I'll have her on the side that is closer to them... so at least I'll see them coming with my peripheral vision and have more time to react.
  • And when we are doing the group exercises, when I mark a behavior, I always do a sharp 180° turn.  So effectively I'm turning sharply into a blind spot.  My plan is to try more of a wide arcing turn, so I'll see what's behind me with my peripheral vision before I'm stepping right into it.
I had something else to talk about, but this is already quite long, so it'll have to wait.  Besides its late and Gimme and I are due for a couch snuddle...

    Wednesday, October 23, 2013

    Nosework (1/16 & 2/16)

    The last two classes have been focused mostly on containers.  Once last week we also did a vehicle search on two caterpillar backhoes that were parked at the parking lot (empty store) where we were practicing.  Tonight we were indoors at Ursula's new building, using the downstairs open area where they have not yet put in the runs. 

    Gimme did great with the vehicle search.  She is doing well with the container searches as far as resisting distractions and in finding odor.  However her paw indicator is still a work in progress.  

    We've hardly done any containers this summer, so I've been working on her paw indicator.  I've been focused on clarifying what I expect of Gimme when I say "paw", which is, that I want a paw-hold instead of pawing.  I've been doing it on all kinds of different things, but have not yet put it together with odor. 

    So when it was presented last week, with odor and in a cardboard box, that was really too big of a jump for Gimme.  I was working with her to understand the training applies here too, when Joyce snatched the box away.  Joyce neither agrees with or understands what I'm trying to do - even though I have explained it to her more than once.  Very frustrating.

    Happily when we did the other container search, with odor in an upright bag, Gimme did her paw indicator the way we have been practicing, so she got multiple cookies.  Tonight when we searched, she got it faster for most of them.  However the one that was in a box, still threw her.  I had asked Susan to put it in an open bag I'd brought just for that purpose, but Gimme still had a lot of difficulty with that one. 

    It occurred to me on the drive home, while I've practiced her paw behavior on a lot of different things, I haven't practiced on enough different kinds of bags that are more like what she'll see in a container search.  I'm thinking that may be why putting the odor box inside my open bag didn't work - she gets it right on stuff that is more like luggage.  So when I got home I brought almost all of my bags in the house and we'll just have to practice with each one.  I'll also have to bring in some paint cans and other weird stuff from the garage.  The more variety the better.  Then we have to add odor into the picture.

    We have also been putting in some odd distractions for the container searches - not food or toys.  Instead its been things like hand sanitizer, cleaning soaps, make-up, deodorant...  I thought that was maybe some new trend in trials and Joyce explained it tonight.  It seems they are finding some dogs are really attracted to novel smells and many of the bags and such used in trials are coming from thrift stores.  When one dog spends a lot of time investigating a novel smell, then other dogs will be attracted there because of the smells the first dog left behind and they were excitedly investigating in one spot.  So there can be a lot of false alerts once one dog gets a bit excited, because the other dogs react to that dog's smell.  So the trend is to make sure the dogs experience a huge variety of novel smells in containers, so they don't get sucked in. 

    I haven't blogged about Public Dog class, though I have a lot of interesting news to share.  It'll be a long post, so I'll wait until after class tomorrow...

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Agility Rock Star

    We got in a three mile walk before driving to class, so Gimme was pretty focused.  We were held up in traffic, so was 25 minutes late, still Blynn had us come out and I just made up a couple quick sequences. 

    First, Gimme was inclined to run amuck right off the bat and I used Blynn's suggestion from our last class - multiple hand touches - left-right-left-right.  Gimme finds that very fun and its like a reward by itself.  I was trying to think of what I was actually rewarding, so I guess its more like a game that increases focus.  Anyway, once we do it, she's really engaged with me.

    For our quick sequences, we did an opening that included two jumps and a tunnel.  Then we moved down course and did the weave-poles multiple times and from various angles.  Blynn pointed out that when I give Gimme a challenging entry and she misses it, I reset her for the challenge, but then I manage the entry.  So I'm not actually setting her up to learn something from it.  That is something I wouldn't ever see on my own. 

    Gimme did some really good weaves and a couple times was blazing fast.  Sadly, like an idiot, I did it too many times.  I was trying to get too much and forgetting that "less is more".  So our last weave while successful for a tough entry, was pretty slow - slower than usual.  I knew as I was leaving I'd overdone it and essentially made weaves not-fun.  I should have not done the last couple of challenges and ended with the earlier successes.  Bad me.

    When we came in for our second run on a course I had walked, it started out nicely.  However when we got to the weaves, Gimme simply wouldn't do them.  It was kind of weird what she was doing - trotting by and tipping her nose toward each gap in the poles as if she was going to go through, but not doing so.  In a way, I think she was saying "I know what to do, I'm just not going to do it."  So I finally walked her through once and then we moved on down course.  We bypassed them using jumps when we came back to that part of the course later.

    Parts of the course were really great.  Of course, my bypassing the weaves when I hadn't walked that option led to a crunchy effort.  I am not really good at handling on the fly.  Still some of our best work was in the second half of the course.  Gimme got up to full speed.  Its awesome.  I've always known she is going to be fast, but tonight I was seeing speed I had not anticipated at all.  It was killing me trying to keep up.  I'm gonna need oxygen when I start running her for real.

    Interestingly, while I was still trying to get her to do the weaves and some other small bobbles... Blynn kept telling me "don't reward her for that".  She said that so often in a short space of time that I realized how often I reach for my treat bag... whether I intend to give her a treat or not.  Too strange.  I had no idea I do that. 

    As a result, I handed the treat bag to Blynn.  There was no sign that Gimme even cared.  While we were running and jumping and go-go-going, she was having a blast.  Sure she was happy when I said "woohoo" and then ran to Blynn for the treat... but mostly she was just having fun doing agility for agility's sake.  This tells me its time to take it to the next level...

    Another cool thing, there is a gal in class with a reactive terrier and we are going to do some training together.  She's a snowbird, and so this is her last class until February.  But, once she returns and it starts staying light later, we'll be working together after class - doing BAT set-ups outside.  That's a nice thing to look forward to.

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Public Dog (27)

    Gimme and I have walked a lot, trying to get ahead of plan since we'll be separated for a week while I'm in California.  I want to be sure to make our annual 500 mile goal together.  Meanwhile Gimme claims I don't do near enough with her.  We also got in some other light training over the weekend.

    Today was Public Dog class at Auto Zone.  I was glad there were only four of us, because it was a small store.  We all started by handing over our treat bags to Ursula.  Its another exercise to work without food on our person -- the idea being to work a little bit and when we got something particularly nice... verbally mark it and then rush over to Urs for treats.

    I tried this, but every time I tried to go to Urs for treats, there were one or two other dogs right there and it would've been too close for Gimme.  I think having to walk the dog-gauntlet to get treats would have really taken the fun out of the cheese.  We did get treats twice, but it was 15 minutes into class, just not a high enough rate of reinforcement.  So when I could I told Ursula it wasn't working for us and why.  She gave me our treat bag, told me to put it on a shelf and work away and then back to it.

    I did that and it worked very well.  I moved our treat bag to other locations (4 different places), so we weren't working in the same spot.  I have to say Gimme got a real charge out of this exercise and even the worst of her efforts, still had a lot of good attention to it.  Ursula noticed and said the same.

    I've said before I think I'm boring.  That's why I'm really looking forward to the Denise Fenzi online academy courses that we'll be starting in December.  I'm sure that will help me be less boring and more fun.  As I see how Gimme responds to these different challenges - I also realize I don't challenge her enough.  I've always said she thrives on challenge and I clearly am not giving her enough.

    When I got to class, Gimme was very unfocused, but this level of challenge just sucks her right in.  She just can't resist it.  We did a sit stay with Tor, just 7 feet away (I even dropped the leash and was about 8 feet away from her).  Gimme was completely fine with it -- that's pretty close to the separation we'd have in competition.  We even did a sit stay with me at the end of the leash when the black Lab was standing nearby and just as they moved away, Susan and Tucker walked by kinda close.  

    What excited me the MOST was the unintended exercises in Sudden Environment Change.  Any dog with issues is likely to be really challenged by SEC and Gimme is no exception.   Because the racks in the store were so tall and the aisles so narrow, there was really no way to know if someone was about to walk by as we'd come to the end of the aisle.  Repeatedly  we'd be within a foot or two from the end when a team would walk by suddenly and close.  Gimme was fine every time.  She'd watch the dogs, but showed no concern.  Of course, she knows these dogs from class, but its still huge progress.

    In thinking about this after class I realized that in our other walks, she has stopped scanning the horizon looking for other dogs.  At some point, she dropped her constant on-alert behavior and I didn't even notice it.  This is really exciting....

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    NW Practice & Public Dog (25 & 26)

    Monday's Public Dog class was at Lowe's and Miss Gimme was not mentally present.  I lose one to two days when she is in season.  I just worked on attention and by the end of class I had a bit of really nice focused work.  When I could, I wandered away from the group and meandered over to electrical to get something I needed - rewarding Gimme for attention along the way.  I think relieving the pressure of the proximity of other dogs helped a lot. 

    When we got back to the group, the task we did the best on was to pick an aisle and walk around and around and around the same aisle, clicking and treating as we went.  The idea was that each time we were walking the same area, so it would be less and less distracting and the dogs should be able to go further between clicks.  The goal was to see how infrequent we could get the c/t, the ultimate goal to get around with just one c/t.  Our first aisle had guys working on shelving at the other end, so I moved over an aisle.  Despite her mental condition, Gimme was able to go all the way around on one c/t. 

    Wednesday we met Susan and Tucker for nosework practice.  I set tins low on the uprights of the fencing around a tennis court.  Diagram shows black dots for fencing uprights, purple for odor and orange for prime pee places.  When I devised this plan, my idea was to give the dogs multiple low and easy hides.  First we went in one direction and then took a brief break (walking the dogs out far enough and offering them the opportunity to potty).  We first searched coming in from the right and even though we couldn't detect the breeze, both dogs would over-shoot odor by a foot and come back to it.  I hadn't planned for the pee distraction, but realized as we were doing it that the distraction was there.  Its feasible to run into it in a trial, so certainly worth training through.

    After the potty break Gimme tried to pull a fast one, running to the nearest post and indicating before sniffing.  It was kind of funny as she then brought her nose down and realized there was nothing there.  After that she checked very carefully.  Tucker had the opportunity to work through his greatest distraction BALLS!!!  There were kids playing ball in a field really close and he was strongly attracted to them, got very aroused and had to let it go to work.

    Our second search set was also a bunch of low hides in an area of landscaping.  I set the first two hides on two posts with a chain between them (to keep people from driving on the park grass), then four in the landscaping.  As I was setting the other hides, I saw someone walk their dog along and it peed on the post right where I'd placed the odor.  I was glad that I had placed that one about 12" off the ground, so the tin didn't actually get peed on.  I'm sure those two posts and the one tree were prime pee spots for dog walkers.  So both dogs got to work through that distraction yet again.  

    So while the hides were easy, the distractions were hard.  Happily neither Gimme or Tucker even tried to mark over any of the pee-mail they found.

    Today we had Public Dog class at Ursula's new training building and got a tour of the new facilities.  It is very nice.  The kennels consist of a separate room for each dog.  Ursula reports that most dogs are much happier and calmer in these.  The floors are heated concrete.  There are still the traditional chain link kennels for those dogs that object to the isolation.  There are now two large play yards and they have plans to add four smaller play yards.  There is circulating air exchange for each room.  They have electronic combination locks at each door for security for the boarders.  It will be interesting to see which Gimme prefers.  I think the rooms would be less stressful; on the other hand, she may not like the social isolation.

    The training room is upstairs and about twice as big as the building we've been using.  Today we did exercises to wean the dogs (and ourselves) off treats on our person.  Gimme was a little distracted by the totally new environment, but got into working nicely.  We did three sequences.
    1. With treats placed on chairs at each end of the room, we each practiced LLW in a zig zag path around a series of small room dividers.  Ursula reminded us of the human tendency to wait until we are close to the food to mark and then reward.  It is as much our reliance on food as it is the dog's that we have to wean away from.  I was third, so picked a bit of good LLW to "yes" and then raced to the food stations.  Gimme thought that was fun.
    2. Using the dividers to form two "gates" we practiced having the dog go through and then reorient to us, marking it and then returning to the nearest chair.  Again, we each showed our reliance on food by tending to non-verbally require another behavior when we got to the food, before giving the dog the treat they'd earned at the gates. Gimme totally knows this behavior at home, as she basically pivots through the gate to end facing me for her treat.  I realized that one reason she doesn't transfer the behavior to class and other locations may be that I don't use the "g'won" cue at home - so she sees them as separate things.
    3. The last exercise was to place two treats on each chair and leave our treat bag in our chair.  Then we'd walk to the center of the room, cue a behavior the dog knows well, verbally mark it and walk to a chair to give one treat.  Then repeat three times.  I cued "down", "touch", "sit-wait" and walk around, and "grape".  Gimme did really well with this and was the only dog who clearly understood that a verbal marker still counts even when the food is 25 feet away.  You could tell whether the dog understood by observing their body language when they heard the marker.  Of course, we've done a similar exercise a long time ago.  Interesting though, when she realized that was the game we were playing, she voluntarily slipped into heel position on the way to the chair.
    I'm thinking she got her brain back...

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013


    I've been busy cleaning and repairing gutters.  Not a formidable task, but my foot limits how long I can stand on the ladder, as well as the number of trips up and down it.

    I've been working on Gimme's fence running and barking all summer.  She's gotten so much better, now seeing it as a big game that she plays with me.  That's good because she doesn't bark as much, plus the attitude is better, thus no risk she'll decide to not-like what she's barking at.  Though she does still have 'tude about people who walk dogs past our house (we'll do set-ups to train that separately).

    Gimme now stands eagerly watching from one of the two front corners of the yard, looking up the street for something bark-worthy, wagging her tail in happy anticipation.  She had to learn that stuff 2 blocks away, doesn't qualify for cookies.  She is always trying to game the system.  She sometimes doesn't bark, but then if I'm not paying attention has to bark to show me that she's not barking, doncha know. 

    Anyway, she's making headway.  However being up on a ladder puts a kink in the training, since there is no way to give her the favorite - anything peanut butter - from up there.  Multiple trips up and down the ladder really shortened my ability to make headway on the gutter project.  And coming down the ladder to reward her is not timely.

    Then I hit on the brilliant idea of buying her Nutter Butter cookies, since they have real peanut butter in them and would be a big enough chunk (even broken in pieces) to throw down to her.  So I bought a bag of Target's generic version and had them in my work bag when I came home.  Gimme is really good about not getting into things, so I didn't think anything of setting it down with the cookies in it. 

    I didn't think anything of it, until I went looking for them and discovered the plastic bag and cookies were missing.  I figured she'd gotten out the dog door with them when I wasn't looking and made short work of them.  Imagine my surprise to find she had stashed them in the corner behind my sewing table, without opening them.  I think she put them away for safe keeping, especially after seeing me give Grafton one of her rawhide chews (for his birthday).  I guess she didn't want me to get carried away with the whole gifting thing.

    Anyway, the PB cookies are working great and she's made good progress over the weekend and today.  I've even started tossing her the random cookie for just hanging out near me without scanning for bark-worthy things.  A couple of times when I saw her in time, starting to run up and bark at something, when I called her she turned on a thin dime to get back to me.  Yay Gimme...

    Wednesday, October 2, 2013

    Nosework (6/15)

    I set the hides in the same place as I'd done for Friday, but at 10:00 a.m. for a 6:00 p.m. class.  And, of course, making sure I had fresh q-tips for the tins.  

    Gimme did a great job with the sheds, getting the ground hide outside shed 7 first.  Then she got the wall/vent hide in shed 9, followed by the hide in the door crack.  She kept bypassing shed 4, actually veering a little bit away from it.  So I didn't want to guide her, but instead to act like I might in a trial.  In a trial I if I knew/thought there was more odor and was presented with this set up, I'd take her briefly into each shed, so that's what I did.  I started at shed 1 and went down the line.  When we entered shed 4, she found it almost right away.  I asked Joyce what she thought of that handling strategy and she said it was okay - but that if I took her in one and she wanted to leave, I should let her (which is what I did).  She did these four hides in 3:18... real close to what she did on Friday.

    For the interior with the converging odor and fresh q-tips, she was very fast.  Again finding the high hide first and then the lower hide.  Interestingly, this time several of the dogs were catching odor for the low hide in the shelving on the same side about 15 feet away.  We think it was somehow getting sucked along the back behind the boxes and coming out there.  The dogs would get stuck in that area for a bit and then decide to work further, carefully checking everything on that side until they got to odor.  Gimme did this search in 2:48, compared to 7:09 on Friday.

    Gimme spent too much time checking high when the odor was lower.  It occurs to me that we've been doing a lot of high hides with her lately.  So I'm going to make it a point to do a bunch of low hides in the coming weeks.

    The last search I forgot to start my stopwatch, but I'm thinking it was about a minute, a LOT faster than Friday.  I was conscientious about making her wait at the start line and about 5 seconds into the wait, she started to pull to the right, so I let her go (which was direct to the threshold hide).  The second hide was on the back side of a front shelf support, in the middle of the shelf.  There was no bottom shelf, just some boxes on the floor.  Once Gimme had the general location, she went under the shelf, turned around and put her nose right on it.

    All in all a very good class.  We had a lot of people, since it was a combined class.  We have no class next week.  At least we'll be resuming Public Dog, so Gimme won't be too bored. 

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Agility Moments

    Gimme is so good for me.  I know I wouldn't get a tenth of the exercise if it weren't for this kid.  Today after work, I was ready to go home, prop my feet up and take a nap before heading out to class.  Instead, knowing how much Gimme needed it, I went to the training areas and walked 3.5 miles with her.  Happily, my foot was still okay after that much walking, so its improving.  However after the little bit of running in agility class - its really hurting, but not as much as it has before.  So again, improving.

    Gimme is in season - today is day 6.  I've always noticed while in season, she still wants to train and is eager for any opportunity to work me for good stuff.  The downside is that her focus and impulse control take a nose dive at this time.  Around day 15 she has a day, or two at most, where she's not able to focus much on training, despite how much she wants to do it.  It was the 15th day where she failed an ORT.  We work on very easy stuff then.

    Blynn again commented on how much Gimme is maturing.  That's the fifth time in a row that she's made similar comments at the beginning of class.  She also said she thinks we are "almost too closely bonded."  She was referring to how we want to be close and yet how Gimme needs me to work at a distance.  Its interesting she said that, because its similar to something Ursula has said.   She said we are so closely bonded that it seems like we are always trying to occupy the same space.  Hence her encouragement for us to separate a little more. 

    Tonight Gimme was eager, but unfocused and lacking impulse control, just as I expected.  I focused on basics, setting her up for success to get opportunities to reward her.  I also made sure she knew there was plenty of PB available to win.  Sometimes she got cheese, sometimes PB. Toward the end of our first set, she was doing nicely, though not as good as I know she is capable of. 

    She started off unfocused again in the second set, but came around much quicker.  Toward the end of that we pulled off a sequence that was freakin' amazing.  It was not an easy sequence, but the way we got it was so smoothe.  For parts of it, Gimme had to come in really close and for other parts she was working independently at a distance.

    Now I know exactly what agility is going to be like with this girl.  It is going to be fast.  It is going to be hot, and it is going to be really fun.

    Monday, September 30, 2013

    Nosework Practice

    I'd forgotten to put my odor kit back in the car, so I didn't get the hides set in the morning.  Instead I went over well before we planned to meet, set them, then took Gimme for a 3 mile walk on a nearby trail.  That gave us a cook time of roughly 2 hours.

    As you watch this, note that Gimme only goes into one shed that didn't have odor in it, quickly ruled it out and left.  Odor was in the 3rd, 7th and 9th sheds (relative to the startline).   She does "catalog" the first two and then goes on to find the others before coming back to indicate them.  I let her go behind the 9th shed, because the wind was blowing away from us and I wanted her to have a chance to detect the inaccessible odor from a vent 5 feet off the ground.

    The 9th shed has that one in a vent at 5 feet up and then q-tips in the door right above the hinge  which you see in passing at 1:37 and 2:04.  At 2:57 she pulls the odor out from under the support of the 7th shed.  At 3:29 she finds the last hide (3rd shed), which Tucker had pulled down and we neglected to reset, so it was in the middle of the floor.  Gimme found all four in 3:22.4... a very respectable time for 4 hides in one search area - which she'll never see in a trial.

    Gimme, even with her cataloging, is fast and accurate.  Our training buddy took over 9 minutes to find all four - with a little help from us.  He's not nearly as driven as Gimme.  Sometimes he is faster than she is, because she blasts by hides.  However, when they are hard, she's always faster.

    When Susan was picking up the tins after the indoor searches, she noted that the odor was very faint.  Certainly enough for the dogs to detect, but the lack of air movement other than shoppers going by, would make it a tough search.  I don't remember when I last refreshed the q-tips in those tins.  I'll be setting these same hides on Wednesday for class - using all fresh q-tips and with 7 hour cook time.  So it will be interesting to see how that affects Gimme and Tucker in their searches.  The q-tips for the shed searches were all fresh, having only been used once.

    You can see that she localizes one of the hides at 27 seconds...  she doesn't get up to it, but knows generally where it is.  The odor is up above the second shelf, in line with the support between shelving sections, so it could easily be pooling where she puts her nose under the lower shelf, still she didn't indicate there.  She brackets the second hide at 52 seconds.  It takes her 4:38 seconds to find the first hide.  She does get a bit frustrated 6 minutes into the search and throws a false alert at me...  given how quickly she leaves it, I'm certain she knew odor really wasn't there.  At 6:42 seconds I try to "make a corner" with my body to help her find the second hide, but it didn't seem to help.  If you watch carefully at 6:55, her tail wag speeds up (fast enough to strobe on the video) as she finally gets a real bead on the second hide - interestingly well above it.  She found both hides in 7:09.  That's a very long search - Tucker was just a little longer and would have quit if Susan and I hadn't helped him.

    Gimme got sooooo close at 1:22, but didn't persist.  While this search was very long, Gimme never needed help or encouragement.  I'm sure she smelled it just enough to make her keep looking.  She never lacks for persistence.  She makes me think if the little boy optimist in an old joke, where he's placed in a room full of horse manure and when they come back hours later he's still happily digging away, just convinced that with all that manure, there has to be a pony in there somewhere.

    That's Gimme's approach.  All she needs is success in the end - it doesn't matter to her how hard the challenge was, so long as she wins - she thrives on challenge.  

    Another note... I did notice my handling sucked in this video.  I got stuck standing still frequently - especially when I knew she was pretty close to the hide.  Of course it doesn't help that the aisle was narrow and cluttered.  Fortunately I handle well enough most of the time that Gimme doesn't pay any attention - never having learned that I might cue her where it is by getting stuck myself.

    We did another search, but ran out of space on my camera's disk.

    Gimme had a bodywork treatment after class on Saturday.  I had noticed Gimme was willing to sit, though responding a bit slow, but she didn't want to stay seated unless the rate of reinforcement was high.  She was doing pop-up toaster sits.  Sure enough Tonya found both hips were out of whack, but her right hip was really locked up.  It was so bad she had to do the energy work first, so it would relax enough for her to do bodywork - otherwise it would have been very a forceful and painful adjustment.  So Gimme got energy work twice - once to release the hip and again at the end, as usual.  I did some TTouch and energy work later where Tonya said would need it.  I could really feel the heat from the inflammation when I started, but it would be almost normal by the time I was done.  Gimme is doing much better now.  I'm going to get her treated again this Saturday.

    Thursday, September 26, 2013

    Nosework (5/15)

    Class last night was held at a classmate's friend's house, we searched her garage.  It was a 3-car garage and cars were taking up two bays, so we only searched one bay and the area between it and the door to the house, filled with a lot of interesting stuff.  The start line was the threshold of the garage door.

    A couple of the hides were threshold hides and Gimme did a great job on them, pretty much going right toward them.

    I've noticed lately on harder hides or when there is a lot of residual odor, Gimme tends to get frustrated and then throw an indication at me to see if I'll pay for it anyway.  So for the foreseeable future, I'm going to continue to search blind in class, but then have a hand signal or make eye-contact with Joyce when I'm ready to call "alert", "banana", "truck" or whatever verbal I'm using that day.  Then she can give me a thumbs up or thumbs down.  I don't really want Joyce to tell me where it is, preferring to let Gimme sort it out, but I do want Gimme to believe I always know where it is, so she'll push to source.

    I wasn't seeing this before the inaccessible hides seminar, so I'm thinking its a by-product of that day - an unintended lesson that its not necessary to try to get to source.  Gimme is also tending to leave odor without indicating, which she used to do a lot and then had stopped.  Now its back.  <sigh>

    On the last search there was a hide that normally Gimme would have accessed, instead she was bracketing all around and not pushing in for it.  So we left the search area and Joyce paired it.  Then Gimme really pushed in and got it.  Since we had the time, at the end I asked Joyce to leave it set and let us run it unpaired.  I wanted to see if Gimme really learned anything from the pairing.  In fact, she did search the whole area and when she caught that odor, this time she did push in.

    So that tells me the pairing does in fact teach the dogs something when a hide is difficult.  I know we all believe it does, but I've never actually had the chance in class to search it again without pairing to see if it really taught them to solve that puzzle.  As a training practice, I think we probably should repeat the search without pairing, to cement the lesson. 

    So all in all a good class.  Tomorrow Susan and I are going to search at Home Depot.  I'll go there before work and set some hides for us.  I've also offered to do that next Wednesday for class. 

    This morning we had a walk around Capitol Lake with Frank and Tor.  There was some kind of walking event held by a local casino and many had brought their dogs.  I think we passed at least 25 dogs - overall Gimme did well.