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Monday, January 14, 2013


Gimme and I are doing a lot of free-shaping lately.  I am working on tightening up her spin.   I'm also trying to get her to go in the other direction.  She prefers counter-clockwise (left turning) turns/spins/pivots, so I want to get her going the other way to keep her body balanced.  Not to mention that we'll need spins in both directions. 

I'm also teaching her to file her own nails.  I have to confess, I really hate doing nails, but have done them all my dog-owning life because its a necessity.  Now though, its gotten to where doing them really makes my back hurt.  There is something about the posture that just does me in.  So I read on line about making a nail board and free-shaping the dog to scratch (front feet) and kick (back feet) to do their own nails.  

So I made a board and thought I'd put it in a spot where she walks through several times a day... wouldn't you know she neatly steps around it every time.  For now I'm placing it right inside the dog door, where she goes through about ten times a day.  Since she doesn't really see/notice it, she doesn't try to avoid it.
Plus we've had two free-shaping sessions where I prop the board up and shape her to scratch at it.  I tried it laying flat, but she kept thinking it was a platform that she should stand on.  Last night I was able to easily get her to scratch with the left front foot.  At the time I thought it was the location of the board relative to where I was sitting and planned to reverse that tonight to do her right foot.  However, it turns out that isn't the issue at all.  Gimme is decidedly left-pawed.  It took longer, but I did get her scratching with the right foot. 
I was pleasantly surprised how well the nail board works and could really see where it had filed her nails.  Come summer I will video tape her coming and going on the front and back stairs to identify where she steps.  I'm guessing it will be toward the leading edge.  Then I'll put that stuff on on the stairs and she can do her own nails for life, eh...   I don't actually know if that will be enough, but usually her back nails stay reasonable length, so it should keep them down enough.  And if it doesn't keep the front nails down, it won't take anything to just spend ten minutes a week clicking and treating her for doing them herself. 
BTW the "stuff" I'm talking about is that adhesive backed "outdoor tread" made by 3M.  I bought a roll of it from Home Depot in the paint department; its 4" wide by 180" long for $20.  Most people put it on stairs for added traction and safety.  It'll stick to wood or cement, can be used outdoors and lasts a long time. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sticks and Stuff

We've just been dinking around with some training and trying to get in a bunch of walking.  Mary will be working for 22 days straight with no opportunity to take the kids out together to play.  We'll still be able to get in a couple evening walks around Capitol Lake each week, but that's not the same as the free play sessions in the training areas.

So we took them out both yesterday and today. We see this a lot...

Gimme originally had the stick, then tired of it and left it behind.  Once she moved far enough away, Grafton went back to get it.  Naturally, she suddenly wanted it again.  

It took a bit of conniving - but she persisted in teasing, taunting and throwing play bows at him.  He momentarily forgot how sneaky she is and dropped the stick to give chase.  That was all it took and she dodged around him to retrieve the suddenly invaluable stick.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nosework (4/10)

Gimme had nosework class this morning and did a great job, as always.  Nosework really wipes out her little doggie brain for a few hours.  Usually I've been at work all day, so there is rarely time to train before class and too lazy to train at midnight after class.   So one advantage of having morning class is that later in the day I can have another training session. 

Joyce put out some really tough hides for her.  I have to say Gimme is very persistent.  I remember when she was a puppy riding to the airport, screaming her head off because she didn't appreciate confinement to the Sherpa bag.  At the time I said, "one day I'll appreciate her persistence, but not today."  Well I was right, today I certainly appreciated it.  One hide was on the wall between a rolling mop bucket and a chair.  You can ask to move things, which I did, but Judge Joyce said "no"... because at level 2, inaccessible is part of the challenge.  Gimme bracketed all around it and then just got as close as she could and streeeeeetched her neck over to within inches of it.  She might have a contortionist in her pedigree, hitherto unknown.

None of the other hides were completely different, just less accessible than usual.  One threshold hide was on the side of the metal furnace unit where all the treats are, so she was distracted and tempted by them, sniffing all around them, but not stealing.  Then finally homing in on the actual odor.  We repeated the drawer hide in a different cabinet.

I think the hardest one for her to actually find was a q-tip in a crack on the floor.  She was just all over this one section of the room, kept checking stuff around the sides and going  back and forth.  Joyce asked me where I thought it was and I said the toy bookshelf.  Turns out I was practically standing on top of it.  Since we keep moving to prevent the dog from using our location as a clue - I was pretty much dithering all over the spot where it was.  When I finally got a little off of it and it coincided with her going by, she went right to it.  Me and my big feet.

Later we did another session of the leg-weaves and figure-8-weaves.  I did randomize as I said I would and we quickly moved the mean up to 4.  I discovered I was being boring.  She wasn't all that hot about doing "thru" when I first taught it, so I went slow and unthinkingly have kept it slow.  Today I pumped it up, giving the cue for the next thru before she'd finished the last and she got into it.  She's gonna be flashy.

We also did a little more work on listening skills.  Started out well and I was pleased with what she was doing.  When I tried to do a second/different listening skill exercise, I discovered I'd used up her brain.  So obviously, on nosework day, we can only do one brain-intensive exercise.  She still wanted to train more, just couldn't focus enough for that.

I considered giving her a quick session when I got home tonight, but she zoned to nap-land awful quickly, so it'll hafta wait.

Agility Class

Last night Gimme did well enough in class.  We started with a bit of emotional-girl stuff due to a false pregnancy which makes her more sensitive.  I walked her out to the start line and she peed where I was placing her for the start and then naturally didn't want to sit anywhere near that.  So we had a bit of a challenge figuring out how to set her up that still made the opening doable and yet didn't put her too near you-know-what.  After we got past that, it took a bit before she was sure I still loved her.  She can be kinda needy during this time.

However from there on, she did the course beautifully and again afterward.  And when we did the other course later, she was brilliant.  This was the first time Gimme had ever seen the broad jump and she tried some very interesting variations on jumping it.  Once she figured out how its supposed to be done, I think she actually enjoyed it.  After that she was just flying over it.

Her weaves were especially nice and Blynn really complimented us on how much work we'd done to get them so nice.  I had to confess the truth that we hadn't been anywhere near any weaves since our last class, the last week of November.  I think the little break just bumped her enthusiasm some.  I hadn't intended it to be a 6 week break, but that's the way it worked out.

After our second turn, Blynn suggested that we could stay in the arena and work Gimme's dog reactivity issue while Kia was having her turn because she never shows any interest in other dogs.  Things were going quite well until Kia spotted Gimme from the top of the aframe and turned "never" into "almost never".  So that was a little set back and I had to bring out the PB and switch to counter-conditioning.  Afterward Blynn very wisely had me take Gimme out on course and do a couple obstacles so we could end with a totally positive association.

Lessons learned -
  • always switch to her front hook harness for the reactivity work, so that she's not getting an unintended collar correction. 
  • always set up with a good exit route or a safety barrier of some type

I have been trying lately to work on our leg weaves and just was having trouble figuring out what I could do well with my hands that could also be part of the cue system.  Today I watched a Carolyn & Rookie youtube, to get the hand gesture she used in one routine firm in my mind.  It worked really nice and Gimme picked it up in no time.  We are kinda stuck on 4 repeats whether doing leg weaves or figure-8-weaves.  So next time I'm going to try doing a random number of repeats, using 3 as our average and work up from that to get more duration.

I also worked on some of the listening skills exercises.  Its been a long time since we worked on those and its clear that Gimme hasn't magically gotten better at it on her own.  My girl just wants to do-do-do and not have to listen and think before doing.  I did discover that if I said the next cue while she was actually eating her treat from my other hand (i.e. before she started moving toward the object), then her accuracy went up dramatically.  I think it gives her just a little more time to process what she heard before she decides on her own what to do next. I plan to work on that more in the near future.

That was a lot to cover in one session, but Gimme really loves to train.  There were a high number of repetitions and the listening skills work is a brain challenge.  Still, she was disappointed when I said the session was done.  Always leave them wanting more...

BTW we are trying Thursday morning nosework classes for a few sessions to see how that works for us.  So I'll report on that tomorrow night.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Nosework (3/10)

Last night we had nosework class and Gimme did well, as always. The first search was outdoors on vehicles and while Gimme found the first Anise hide quickly enough, the second one was more challenging for her.  She kept searching around and around the vehicle next to it, probably drifting odor.  She's usually very good at following drifting odor to source, so I don't know why she found this so hard.  She finally found source and pawed at it.  Her pawing indicator is really nice since she resorts to that when she is sure and thinks I'm being kinda obtuse.

The second search was indoors (thank God, it was really cold I was under-dressed for standing around outside).  Joyce is setting harder hides for us and inaccessible ones.  Gimme gets frustrated and walks away, but always comes back - this is one time that I'm truly thankful for her persistence.

For the first hide, Joyce put the odor in a drawer and told me to watch carefully where she was sniffing and especially when I thought she was alerting.  There were four small drawers, in a stack.  Gimme was sniffing all around the edge of the third one down, which was sticking out a tiny bit - so I assumed that's where the odor was.  She never really persisted in one spot though, so I just waited.  She moved away twice to sniff around the room and each time came back.  She finally alerted, pawing on the left side of the second drawer down, which was fully closed.  Joyce said that was the correct drawer and the odor was in that side of the drawer.  This girl's nose KNOWS!

Joyce also set two more easy hides for her to find in that room.  She said that as I am increasing difficulty, to keep it 20 to 1, easy to hard.  I need to start practicing some inaccessible hides and will have to do a lot more practicing than I have been doing so I can stay within that ratio.

For the last search we did a simple on leash room search.  The odor and a treat was dropped in the top of a medium size cone.  Our job was to make sure we kept moving no matter what the dog did and not let our body movement give clues to whether the dog was right or wrong where they were searching at that moment.  Our other job was to delay in rewarding a bit to see if the dog would offer a stronger indication.

Gimme found the odor in the cone pretty.  She went round and round it, pushing it a bit on the floor, nosing it aside and then looked up to me as if to say, "Not one of your brightest days, eh..."  Then very deliberately pawed at it, saying "Hellooooooo...."  Sometimes the looks she gives me are really funny - she is very expressive.

At the end of class Joyce demonstrated with one of her dogs how to move around the dog.  She recommends that you do your moving more in an arc that keeps you behind the dog most of the time, because the tendency as you move across in front of the dog is to move in closer, which means you might be moving toward the odor and giving them clues.  If you do move around in front, you need to be sure to keep out at the same distance from the dog.

Today I got to have a short training session with Nova handling her two GSDs one at a time.  I do a lot of work with Gimme's reactivity concerns, but I usually have to rely on using the opportunities as they arise.  Since I don't know the people or their dogs, I can't really push the envelope.  It was great having Nova, who could take direction and who's dogs were a known entity.

We started with Kubi, who is very calm and had very little interest in Gimme until we got much closer.  We started at 30 feet doing "whazzat", did some walking behind them and finally were able to walk with them, with Gimme on my left and Kubi on Nova's right and about 6 feet between us two.  Gimme is more likely to trigger if the other dog pays any attention to her and by the end of this walk she was ignoring Kubi or calmly watching him while he was looking at her from about 8 feet away.  That was nice and substantial progress.

She didn't do as well with Freea (the one I handled at the ORT).  Freea is much higher energy and all black.  Plus we had two other dogs move in and out of the area where we were working and which likely contributed.  By the end of our shorter session, Gimme was comfortable with about 15 feet distance.  By comfortable, I mean that she was more interested in working me for food than she was concerned by the dogs.  Then I ran out of treats and it was getting very cold, so the session was over.

Nova and I will be doing this after nosework class on Thursday mornings (I'm changing classes), so that will be helpful.  After doing this, its clear that I really have to find some other people to train with to make more headway. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year

I haven't blogged since last year.  Where does the time go?

Even though I haven't blogged much, Gimme and I have been staying busy.  We've been doing a lot of walking, both on the fort and downtown around the lake.  Naturally I've been busy changing over from Christmas to Valentine's at my accounts.

I've made New Years resolutions to eat healthier, to add more aerobic and strength training to the walking I do, and to train more consistently.

Yesterday Gimme and I walked five miles with Mary and Grafton.  We did a lot of recall training since I'm helping Mary retrain Grafton's recall.  Gimme already has a phenomenal recall.

Afterward we went to another place where Mary lost her glasses a week ago.  I quickly taught Gimme to search for Mary's stuff, by having Mary trot ahead of us, wave to get Gimme's attention and then drop gloves, her whistle and other things, one at a time.  As I saw Gimme "find" each, I cued her "show me", which we already use in nosework.  Each time she went back and indicated what she'd found and I rewarded her.

We were searching an area that was about an acre and a half.  I thought I spotted the glasses about 20 minutes into our searching and as I headed in that direction, Gimme changed where she was looking and moved ahead of me, finding them before I got there.  I cued "show me" and she went right back to them.  This isn't necessarily anything I'd planned to teach her, but it is similar to an exercise they do in Ring Sport and its certainly useful.  I do love watching this girl's brain work.

She is soooooo damn smart.