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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nosework (5/11)

Tonight we met at a parking garage so we could work vehicles and stay out of the rain.  As I have come to expect, Gimme did very well.

After talking to Gretchen at the converging odor seminar, I decided to try a shorter line than the 25 foot one I have been using.  Joyce has wanted me to go to a short line all along, and always says six feet is all I need.  Still, I KNOW that I would get my arms jerked out of their sockets when she blasts off the start line, plus Gimme would get a huge unintended leash correction.  Besides, I like having the ability to play out more line especially on exteriors and containers.  Gretchen said she could see that and suggested that I make up a cheap, shorter line for vehicles and interiors and see how I like it and what I really need and then when I've decided I can invest in another biothane line in the size I want.

She suggested 10 feet, but that still seems too short - so I made it 15 feet.  Since I knew we were doing vehicles tonight, I made sure I had it ready for class.  After the first search I did decide 15 was a little longer than I really needed for vehicles so I folded it over and tied a knot, making it 12 feet.  That actually seemed pretty comfortable for the next two searches; so now will try that with interiors.

Naturally Joyce still thinks its far too long and again suggested six feet.   The thing is, Gimme leaves the vehicles goes 8-10 feet, then turns around on her own to come back.  To me it looks deliberate (not in response to a distraction) and I think she is doing something I heard about at the seminar.  Barbara, the presenter, said some dogs intentionally move out of odor and then go back in while sorting through puzzles.  Gimme did that three times tonight - all on one side, moving away with the air current and turning around to come back on her own before I could say or do anything.  She also left twice to go sniff high on a wall very close to the front end of the car and then came back on her own and the breeze was blowing that way.

I'm not the one with the nose, so I think as long as she is clearly working and coming back to solve the puzzle... well, I'm inclined to let her do it the way that works for her.  If she wants to check the wall and be sure that its fringe odor - I'm going to let her.  If she feels the need to leave odor and return as part of sorting through an odor puzzle - I'm going to let her.  Gimme is still the fastest dog in class. 

So, if I didn't leap at the chance to try a six foot leash on vehicles... you can imagine what I thought when Joyce suggested at the end of our last search that Gimme really should only have an 18 inch leash!  Is she freakin' nuts?  That would be so inhibiting that I can't imagine it would be any fun for either of us.  I'm sure Gimme would find it very frustrating dragging me around like that.  I also don't know how anyone would handle a fast moving dog with that short of a leash.  I do a lot of moving around on my end of the line, so that my stillness or the direction I'm looking isn't "selling" her on odor that isn't there (a very common handler error).  One of the things the Barbara suggested repeatedly during the working sessions is that people should take a step back from the dog when they are detailing.  How could I do that with only 18 inches of leash?

Its almost like Joyce is developing a short leash fixation about Gimme, which I find frustrating.  Gimme is the best and most enthusiastic dog in class.  Why would I radically change something that is working so well?  Not!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sassy Saturday

Today was fun.  After teaching agility I had to go service an account I don't even own anymore.  It seems the store wanted me to come back and give them some tender lovin' care.  The store is closing, so I'll be working it for another couple of weeks.  They don't have a right to service, but AG is giving it to them to protect the good relations regarding the overall contract with that chain.  Not my style, but I guess that's why I don't get paid the huge bucks, eh...

After that Gimme and me went to the training areas and walked for four miles.  I'm not sure what about this walk was so difficult, but my feet have been killing me ever since... my feet all the way up to my hips...  It'll probably all be fine by tomorrow.  Gimme enjoyed the walking, but sure missed her buddy Grafton.

Grafton developed inconsistencies in his recall due to some unfortunate circumstances that happened in a couple of walks, so he can't come out there with us until the retraining is finished.  Gimme and Grafton get to walk around the lake once or twice a week, but its sure not like playing together off lead.  So today, we went to his house and the two got to play in his nice back yard.

Grafton is a very gracious host.  He ignored the fact that Gimme got in his food dish and proceeded to snarf up a bunch of his kibl.  He didn't begrudge her the rawhide chew bone that she stole from his crate.  He was appropriately forgiving when she snarked in his face after Mary dropped a treat and Grafton foolishly attempted to gobble it up when Gimme felt it had fallen within her domain (the whole freakin' universe IS her domain).  Grafton was sweet about letting her hog his ball, even when she was being obviously rude and taunting him with it.  We are hoping he didn't learn from her bad example when she put her feet on the counter, trying to get closer to the chicken Mary had cut up for training treats and actually licked the cutting board.

Gimme was not as enthusiastic about playing as she would have been had we gone over there before going to walk on the fort.  However, Grafton is not without resources in the making-her-chase-him-whether-she-wants-to-or-not department.  He basically torments her in ways that he KNOWS will get her annoyed at him.  He does things like sneak up behind her and put a paw on her body or he gets in her face, teasing closer and closer.  She screams and squeals and chases him around the yard and then they spin about and he chases her.  If she ignored him (which she has in the past), he'd stop these obnoxious-boy-behaviors (as he did when she ignored him before), but what fun would that be.

They make me think of a little boy pulling the hair of the girl he's sweet on.  The little girl always carries on and makes a big fuss... and yet the ritual continues.  It may be noisy, but we've come to realize its how they show their love...

Here are some pictures that Mary had taken last year and finally sent to me.  They show the two of them together - doing what they do best.

 There is love there I think...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Doing Nails II

I made this quick video of Gimme doing her nails.  Early in the video, the board developed a split down its length.  I'll have to screw a couple 1x2 across the back to fix that.  In the meantime, used one of our platforms to support it.

I think I edited it out, but there was a spot where she was catching the top edge of the sticky back tread texture stuff and peeling it up.  If/when I make another, I would wrap the stuff over the ends to the back and tack it down.  In any case, you can see Gimme likes doing her own nails - since her tail just never stops wagging.

BTW I forgot to mention yesterday that our little game during the walk where Gimme was learning to sniff out bread I dropped during our walk... it seemed to pay off during nosework class.  She did indeed bring her head down during her searches.

I'm sure it helped that Joyce kept all the hides at or below her usual nose level.  I'll have to watch in the future and make sure to do a session of low hides any time Joyce does a bunch of high ones during class...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Nosework (4/11)

Tonight was all about corners.  Joyce set up two tables diagonally and about 8 feet from the walls.  The usual desk is still against the far wall.  (tables/desk purple rectangles)  The funny looking "x" shaped thing is an expen folded to free stand with a container on top (to mimic a table).  The blue rectangle is where we all sit to observe.  The grey and green squares are chairs.  The red is the door we enter through with the dogs.

Our first three searches... it started with odor on a chair in the upper right corner under the table (grey).  After that we moved the our dogs to the door area while the chair was moved to the upper left table.  Then for the third search as we moved over by the door, Joyce moved the odor chair to the expen contraption.

Our job was to observe the dogs and see if they went into the corners or if they rounded corners.  Keep in mind that corners are more than just the four corners of the room, they can also be formed by furniture and other things.  Gimme is pretty good about getting into the corners and checking out the walls.  She found all three hides pretty fast.  And I might add, was very pleased to get Grandma's leftover meatloaf for her reward.

For our second search, Joyce moved the odor off the chair and put odor out in two places -- on the expen contraption and on a rolling mop bucket.  She also moved two chairs close to the corners - about 3 feet from each wall.  Our goal, while the dog was searching was to see what we could do with our own movement, to encourage our dog to go into the corner behind the chair.  This doesn't mean that we walk into the corner.  Instead you use your movement as slight pressure or to draw the dog with parallel movement.

Of course, I didn't have to do any of that, since Gimme checked out the corners on her own.  She also found both hides so quickly that it was like we didn't get our money's worth.

I'd left her harness on her, thinking there might be another hide and then forgot to take it off her for the drive home.  Gimme knows her harness means searching and she yodeled her objections all the way home.  So while she was outside, I set up a corner hide in my bedroom's walk-in closet.

I thought it was a very hard spot to get to and would give her a nice challenge to solve.  Right!  Took her all of five seconds to find it and indicate it.  I guess she has a very different idea of challenge than I do.

BTW we have signed up for a special Master Vehicle seminar in March with Josh McCorkle.  I've met him as a judge at both matches and trials (he was one of the two for that recent NW3 trial).  They guy is very nice and thinks the world of Gimme and her attitude.  His other qualifications are that he has been a law enforcement officer since 1998 and an explosives detection K9 handler since 2004.  Josh and his K9 partners have specialized in vehicle searches for 9 years at the WA State Ferry terminals, looking for explosives in many thousands of vehicles over the years.  I'm pretty excited - should be a LOT of fun and very informative.

Agility Evening

We started the day with a nice 4 mile walk.  Both of us had a fun time.  I dropped chunks of bread behind me on the walk out and Gimme had fun finding them on the way back.  I did it just as a fun diversion for her, but it seemed to have the added advantage of getting her nose down.  We'll see how/if that carries over for nosework class tomorrow.

My day was hectic and I was running late leaving for class - caused by the inventory folk.  I was fretting and wondering if I'd make it anywhere near to time.  There were also traffic snafu's and I was kinda agitated.  I'm not sure if that affected Gimme; I'm sure it didn't help.  As it turned out we were only 15 minutes late for a 90 minute class.

I'd brought an expen so we would have a nice safe space to do some work having Gimme  watch the other dogs/teams and learn to stay in her right mind.  I didn't have time to set them up before we needed to come in.  Blynn has given me space to store it with the agility equipment, so it'll be there and available whenever I want to use it.

As we came in, I got her started settling down in the space where we usually do our mental connecting/focus work, but then the person before us went waaaaay over the top loudly celebrating with her dog and that really seemed to bug the heck out of Gimme.  So we spent our first turn working being calm, controlled and connected.  I was soooooo glad that I remembered what I'd learned from our last class about being clear on where Gimme is in her agility learning and keeping the training and challenges realistic for where she is, as well as very rewarding.  So, we got to some real nice moments at the end of that turn.

Gimme was trying when we came in for our second turn, but she was still clearly very wired. I can only imagine what it would have been like if we hadn't gotten the walk earlier.  Again we got to some really nice sequences, about mid way through that turn and through to the end.

Even as far off as we were from what I hoped to be working on tonight, its clear that Gimme is really learning to love this game, and man-oh-man, is she ever going to be fast.  There was one straightaway sequence of three jumps coming out of a tunnel, which forced me to really race to be in position for the last jump.  Even with the ability to get well ahead while she was in the tunnel, this kid had no problem catching and passing me.  Running that fast felt so unnatural, it seemed like I should have body parts flinging off me.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Watching NW3

I got up before dawn cracked and drove to Enumclaw to watch a NW3 trial.  I was hoping to bring luck to my friend Cindy and her Bulldog, Rigel and friend Paula and her GSD, Grace.  Sadly neither team was successful... and I only know for sure of one team that was.  Though there may have been another in the other group.

NW3 is much more complicated and while the dog's searches aren't really any more difficult than they are in NW2, the handler's job is significantly harder.  There is a saying that, given good training and decent natural ability:
  • In NW1, the dog is 95% responsible for success,
  • In NW2, its 50/50, and 
  • In NW3, the handler bears 95% of the responsibility...
I totally believe this.  I saw so many times where the dog was right on, telling the handler the truth and the handler's didn't believe it.  Or they didn't read the dog right.  Or they over-handled the search or under-managed their time.  Or they mean to say one thing and say another.  Or cross into the search area without taking the dog between the start line cones, incurring a fault.... or, or, or... the list goes on.  Its really pretty astounding how many different ways there are to mess up your search.  I hope that by watching NW3 trials, that I can learn enough so I don't have to repeat all the possible mistakes myself. 

I love the camaraderie of nosework.  The vast majority of people are very friendly.  When I wasn't watching searches, I hung out with Cindy and friends, toasting marshmallows over a "campfire in a can", talking and absorbing info and just generally having a great time.  I hope the nosework community always stays this way.

Gimme was cooped up in the car most of the day, so when I got home, I set up some hides in the house: two in the living room, and one each in the office, bedroom and bathroom.  They were all set at ground/floor level to counteract a hole in her training that I discovered at last weekend's seminar.  She found them all very quickly, except the one in the bathroom.  In fact she left the bathroom a couple times to bang on the bedroom door, wanting to get in there for that one.

I think the one in the bathroom was challenging for a couple reasons.  First, I put it under the corner of the bathmat, in an open ended odor holder - so the odor wasn't wafting out as strongly as the others.  Second it was in a corner in that room, where there isn't much air current.  Third it was in the space between the toilet and tub... so when she'd go into that space, every time by the time she got her head down, she'd already turned her back on it.

I tried shutting the door and letting it "cook" for thirty minutes, but that didn't help.  She was more interested, but just couldn't get the job done.  So I brought her out and paired that hide.  Then she was able to find it.

So in addition to doing a lot more ground/floor level hides, I'm also going to do a lot more corners, the edge of a wall at floor level and some floor level threshold hides.  She's contentedly snoozing now.  For awhile anyway...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nosework (3/11)

Gimme did very well last night.  Joyce tried to set up two converging odor hides last night, even though I don't really think the other dogs are ready for it.

She used the room dividers all tipped over to break up the big open space and that proved to be a big distraction.  All the dogs spent a lot of time sniffing the bottoms, where the dog hair and pee odor was trapped.  She thought the dogs were all getting caught in the "vortex"... but I interpreted it as them going in a circle pattern scanning all the newly disturbed dog odors from the dividers.

The first hide Gimme got one pretty quickly and it took her a long time to get the other; the one she had trouble with was on the floor.  I noticed at the seminar that she had trouble with the floor/ground level hides and that she does most of her scenting with her head held higher.   A couple of the video's they showed were of dogs that do a lot of high head searching and said the reason was too many high hides.  Joyce does most of them at calf height or higher and is going higher to make inaccessible hides.  There are other options for inaccessible, but that seems to be her fave.  So I'm going to be focusing on very low and ground level hides during our practices to counteract that tendency.

During the second search, the odors were up higher and Gimme found both of them fairly quickly.  She was much faster than the other dogs in class on both searches.

I'm pleased that she was doing so well, since I was too out of it to be of any real help.  Took some drugs for my sinus infection and that left me with a wuuussszy head.  On a positive note, the sinuses are much better today.  In any case, just goes to show you Gimme mostly just needs me to sign the checks and drive the car.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Converging Odor Seminar

It was a long and tiring weekend and I came home with a sinus infection.  Gimme was a good girl throughout.  I learned that in the future I should ask for an upstairs room, so we don't have to deal with people tramping around on the ceiling at all hours of the night.

I thought we had two days of working slots, but it was only one.  Probably a good thing, since Gimme was very tired after her working day on Sunday.  She was both the youngest and the least experienced dog there.  Most of them were getting ready for NW3.  While she had trouble with some of searches, she got them all eventually.

One thing I have to love and that was repeatedly commented on by the seminar presenter, Barbara, is how persistent Gimme is.  She had one search that ran over 7 minutes and another over 5.5 minutes.  We'll never face a 7 minute search even at NW3 and even the other was still verrrrry long for a level 2 dog.  She never gave up, even though she'd stop and look at me from time to time, as if to say, "Mom this is hard."  It took only a smidgen of encouragement for her to go back to work. 

I actually think she is ready for more challenges than she is getting in class.  Of course, they need to be interspersed with regular and easy searches.  For the seminar day, they were all pretty challenging and she was mighty impressed with herself when she'd get them.  She never gave up and was just as eager for the last search of the day as she was for the first.

I have to admit I was feeling a little down at the end of the day, thinking we'd uncovered a huge hole in our training and that we were grossly under-prepared for the trial in April.  But a couple people told me not to worry, that Gimme is doing great and will easily handle the NW2 challenges.

So we have a lonnnnng list of things to train... and we'll just keep on keepin' on.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Nosework (2/11)

Class tonight had some really interesting new stuff.

First we learned how to enter rooms with a closed door - which I'll see possibly at NW2 and for certain at NW3.  Basically the idea is to make sure the dog is set up on the side of you that is away from the hand you'll use to open the door (so that you aren't reaching across your body to open the door).  Also, don't burst the door open, which will cause a big air current and scatter odor.  Instead you want to open the door slowly and just as much as you need to.  Before even starting you want to watch the dog and see how they react to the door.

Of course, I have a tendency to start Gimme from my left (heel) side.  So since this time I needed to start with her on the other side, I was fumbling at it.  Gimme got impatient and basically assaulted the door, shoving it open and bursting into the room.  We had to do it a couple times before I could manage it smoothly (who knew it would be so awkward).  That, of course, was frustrating for the Empress, so when she found the first odor, she assaulted it with her paws, scratching at it in destructo mode like she does for boxes.  That's a first.  For the other hide, she was her usual self.  For the second room, a small bathroom, I was ready and smooth, so she did fine.  She found the first hide and then zipped under the stall wall and was right on the hide before I got in there.

I did learn that when there are multiple rooms for an interior, we are expected to reconnect to the dog and have them under physical control, though its not required to leash them up again.  I have a short leather leash somewhere that would make a good tab leash, with a few extra knots in it.  So I'm going to find it and put it in the car - since it would be perfect for that circumstance.

Our second set was a hide in that bathroom again and we approached the room from the hallway with the door already open, so we could watch how they approached and their behavior.  Gimme was eager and pulling me down the hall.  She was on that hide, just around the edge of the support for the stall, practically standing on her head.

Our third set was just a single hide on the back of a wheelchair.  Our instructions were to hold off rewarding them and see what they would do.  Most of the dogs gobbled the pairing treat and then went off snooping around.  In that case, the handler was to wait until they went back to it and then could move toward the dog as long as they were at the hide, stopping if the dog left it.  Two dogs had to be restarted to get them to go to it again.

Gimme was the only dog that found source and stayed with it.  She never left it at all.  At one point she sort of hopped away toward me, but then bounced back toward it.  It looked like she was almost doing a play invitation, using her movement to try to entice me to come over and see it.  Afterward Joyce confirmed that was the way she interpreted it too.  Anyway, then Gimme went to paw whacking, gently over and over - three times by the time I had moved in to reward her.

This shows that Gimme really understands her part in this game; that is, to make me pay attention when she KNOWS she is on odor.  As opposed to the other dogs that were inclined to believe they were wrong when the handler didn't dive in to agree with them.  I was SO PROUD!  There is nothing bashful about this girl; she has no hesitation about demanding that I get my heiney over there and do my part. 

Agility Epiphany

I was thinking on the way to class that since Gimme and I have done so little lately, that I needed to make sure our class time was highly rewarding, to help her through the distractions.  So I had planned to reward more often and unpredictably... every few obstacles, but not in any pattern.  And, of course, if she did anything especially well to jackpot the stuffing out of it.

It occurred to me that I have a tendency to do too much - for instance, too many obstacles in a sequence.  In some ways, Gimme looks ready for that, but really, given how much actual agility training she has had, she's really still a novice at agility.  Sequencing is rewarding for me, but I'm not sure that is true for her yet. Not that she doesn't like agility, she just isn't addicted to it yet.

When we started our first turn, she was pretty distracted and it took me a bit to get her focus.  I spent about a third of our first turn just working on focus at the startline, moving with me in "heel" or "side", setting up and staying put.  With lots of rewards to make it meaningful for her to work through the distraction.  When I had the focus, then we moved on and did sequences.  She did well, but not as well as I know she is capable of.

When I was walking the second course, I asked Blynn if backside-sends is the new thing in agility, since we see so much of it in class.  She said they are seeing a lot of it in advanced levels, depending on venue.  She also said I didn't have to do that and could alter the course to make it more flowing for Gimme.  So I walked the course with the plan to leave out almost all the backside-sends.

That time around Gimme did verrrrrry well, was very focused and did some really nice stuff.  She was highly focused and really worked nicely with me.  She is really getting the idea of working at a distance on big arcs and yet, reads me correctly and jumps in collection where my handling calls for it.  Another thing she did that was so nice was after Blynn nagged at me to get the cue out sooner, when I said "poles" Gimme, turned and looked for them and headed right over to them.  She missed the entry a couple times (not an easy one), but she is really ready to start moving along and doing them independently.  I expect we'll make big progress when spring comes and we can train them at home again.

On the drive home I was thinking and realized that I'd been doing the backside-sends in class because I could, because they were rewarding for me.  I remember the first time we tried it how impressed I was that APHS handling makes so many things intuitive to the dog, so that Gimme could do it even though we hadn't trained it.  And we still haven't trained it... which means its crunchy for her and lacks flow.  Heck, we haven't actually even trained a plain forward send, which the backside-send is based on.

So, bad me, I've been guilty of sucking some of the fun out out agility for her.  Because she is a big girl, all grown up, and since we do so much training on so many things, its easy to forget that she's still an agility-baby.  Gimme didn't learn much from class, but she had a lot of fun.  I learned a lot, though, and my learning will lead to her learning in the future...

Monday, February 4, 2013

NW News

Meant to mention that Gimme and I are slated for a three day seminar on converging odor this weekend (Sat-Sun-Mon).  The first day is all theory and lecture and we got working slots for two days.  Now that I know how to manage her off duty time, I'm sure she'll do great for both days.  The money I got from that part time job means Gimme and I can stay at a motel.

Also, just got word that we were the seventh team selected in the draw for the NW2 trial I entered.  That is April 28th - feel free to start crossing body parts now.  I guess its time for me to get back in the groove doing field trips.

As of yet, there are no Dalmatians with a Nosework 2 title... so we are still in the running.  Not that I'm competitive or anything...   Nooooooo, not meeeeeee...

Nosework (5/10, 6/10, 1/11)

I can't believe its been three weeks since I last blogged.  How can that be?  I'll tell you how - I've had a part time job that has just sucked my brain dry.  It was supposed to last one week, then stretched to two weeks... then two and a half.  Now it looks like it may continue even further.  For the first two and a half weeks, I was putting every possible hour into it (99.5 hours in 18 days, along with my regular job).  I was told it was data entry, but didn't realize I'd be creating my own data.  Also, much of the work is creating trusts and making trust entries...  That's controlled by state law and is very tedious and demanding - accuracy is essential.  So check, Check and double-check. By the time I got home at nights, there wasn't enough of me left to train Gimme, much less spend time on the computer.  If it weren't for going to our regularly scheduled classes, I think Gimme would have run away from home by now.  People say its good to give our dogs a break from training now and then, but Gimme is damn good and ready for this break to be ovah.

Honestly I don't remember what we did three weeks ago in nosework class.  I do recall that she was especially intrigued by having class in the morning.  I'm sure Gimme was a star as usual.

Two weeks ago, we did several interior searches.  Joyce is making a special effort to make more challenging hides for Gimme to get her ready for the NW2 trial.  Some of the hides are really inaccessible and we've done more threshold hides.  Also that week we did one container search.  This class has a mixture of levels, so we had Gimme go last, since she was sure to crush a bunch of boxes.  She did not disappoint us.  The newbees find her drive and enthusiasm fascinating.  Joyce continues to roll her eyes when Gimme goes into box demolition mode.  I don't care about it, since the boxes will be going away and she saves all the rough treatment for the boxes.

This week we did a game called High-Low.  The setup was 4 chairs in a line of sorts, spaced about 4 feet apart.  The odor on the first chair was very low, almost at ground level.  The second chair it was at about chair rung level.  The third at seat level and the fourth high on the back.  The first time around Gimme did very well and we had all four of them in under a minute.

The second time around Joyce put the fourth one on top of the chair back and for some reason, even though she found the first three very quickly, Gimme had a tough time with that.  She was all around the edge of the seat and under the seat, but couldn't seem to get the idea to look up.  The only guess I have is that the odor was drifting down the front of the seat back and pooling on the seat itself and only then drifting off the back of the seat to the floor.  It was clear that she knew she hadn't found the source, but it just seemed to take her awhile to find it.  Of course, she did find it.

We've also had an agility class since I last blogged.  Nothing memorable to report.  Gimme did okay, but wasn't very focused.  That was about 5 days into the part time job, which meant we weren't really walking, going to the fort or training - so she was pretty distracted.  Blynn is a great trainer and very patient.  She gently keeps nudging me to expect more from Gimme and to be more consistent myself. 

Tomorrow night we have agility again.  So we are going to train tonight and be sure to get a walk in tomorrow.  After class I'll be going to my parents' house to deliver dinner, along with my Mom's Christmas present.  I bought it many months ahead of Christmas and carefully put it away for safekeeping.  So safe that I've only just found it this weekend!