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Friday, May 31, 2013

Nosework (4/13) & Public Dog (3&4)

Since I last wrote we've had nosework class, two Public Dog classes, and nosework practice this evening.  Gimme continues to do fabulously all around.

Tuesday was Public Dog class - we met at the local county fairgrounds outdoors.  I started by working on focus, lots of "whazzat" and auto-check-ins.  She did well until all the dogs started moving around and then we had to almost start over.  By the time they were ready to do the group exercises, so was Gimme.

We used a large quadrangle to practice LLW.  To start with we walked with 15 feet separating us from the dogs in front and behind.  I used the 300 Pecks format so I knew how she was doing.  The best we got to was 14 steps, which I think is great given the level of distraction.  Then they added having the person in the back speed up to pass everyone on the left (about 10 feet away), taking up the lead position.  That didn't seem to bother Gimme.

Our next exercise was with the dogs on a down stay in front of us, while another dog and handler walked in a serpentine through the line-up.  The first dog that went by Gimme popped up, but then she quickly figured out that the way to win lots of treats was to ignore them.  I'm into making hard stuff worth her while and she's into letting me.

The last group exercise was to split us into twos and do parallel walking.  We were paired with Tor on our right, which worked well, since Frank walks him on the right, so that added additional space.  She did about half of that and then got really distracted and I thought she needed to pee - so peeled off to the grass.  When I did that, it became clear the co-instructor didn't really understand my goals for the class, so I stayed after to clarify.

Wednesday was nosework class and we met at the county's fireman training facility.  We had three different searches, one inside the climbing tower and two in an outdoor area that is set up to resemble indoors.  While a couple other dogs were intimidated by the noisy metal steps in the climbing tower, I don't think Gimme even noticed them.  She did stellar in all her searches.

The last search was a single blind hide.  Gimme had difficulty finding this one, but it was really hard.  There was a full size plastic barrel full of loose wood scraps and the hide was about 5 inches down into the scraps.  Add to that the reality that it had only had about 2 minutes to "cook"... which made it really challenging.  I knew pretty quickly what the general area was where it was, but I really had to wait for Gimme to source it.  If we ran into that same challenge at a trial, it would be much easier because there's a minimum of an hour between when they set the hides and when the first dog runs them - so there would be a lot more odor drifting out.

I stayed after class to help one of the students with her line work.  She doesn't use a very long line (about 9 ft), but still its always getting tangled around her dog.  Also, since its loose most of the time, whenever the dog gets odor and dashes toward it, on such a short line she is getting an unintended correction.  Minutes after I made the offer to her, Joyce talked to the class about one of the issues this person was having in her line handling.  Either great-minds-think-alike or someone was eaves-dropping.

Thursday Public Dog class was at the main training building, with six dogs in that small space.  They had set up the class in a "stations" format, where the dogs were learning tasks that are from the Therapy Dog class.  Joyce had set aside a space for me to set up Gimme's crate (which we only went back to one time).  None of the tasks were hard... just done in a different way than I would do them or have done them.  So it took more for me to get into their way of doing it than it did for Gimme.

One task was quite interesting, they call it "wall".  The idea is to teach the dogs to move into a sit, leaning against a wall, so the handler can be right there leaning against the wall too.  You might need it in a hospital setting if they needed to move a gurney down the hall.

Gimme actually already knows this behavior - its something I've been clicker training her to do in the front seat of the car.  She's gotten really good about staying quiet in the car... except when we are headed out to the fort or down to the lake - in which case she does a LOT of anticipatory whining.  So I put her in her seat-belt harness in the front seat.  Then I use the clicker and reward her for laying down or leaning back into the seat.  It keeps her quiet and I can do it without taking my eyes off the road.

So when I moved Gimme close to the wall and cued a sit and then waited for the slightest shift of her body, it took just 2 clicks for her to figure it out and then she was leaning against the wall over and over again.  We are supposed to gradually rotate our body position so that we'd be standing in front of the dogs with our back against the wall.  Of course, I was able to rotate really quickly.

What I didn't realize was how much that changed my visual for what Gimme was doing.  She was repeatedly leaning her ribs against the wall, but I was watching for her shoulders - thus she wasn't getting clicked.  Naturally that was very frustrating to her and she started whining and fussing.  I saw the co-instructor was approaching with her itchy trigger-finger and the evil spray bottle... so I moved between her and Gimme to make sure I could stop her if need be.  In doing so I looked down from a different angle and saw that Gimme was indeed leaning against the wall - clicked her and we were off and training again, with no more whining.

So add to all that two long walks on the fort and nosework practice tonight -- suffice it to say, Miss Gimme has been one busy little girl.  She is sound asleep as we speak.
BTW I made it clear to the co-instructor at the very first class that I am not interested in her "generous offer" to squirt Gimme in the face, should she ever whine or bark during class.  I believe I said that any attempt on her part to do so would result in her having a bloody stump where her hand used to be.  However, it seems her eagerness to dish out this particular punishment overrides her sense of self preservation.
I am not surprised to know she is happy to use punishment - since I'd heard things before about her.  I hoped what I'd heard was wrong, that Ursula knew better and that's why she was okay partnering with her for these classes.  What I've been most sad to learn is that Ursula is completely okay with this being done in her classes and even chatting it up about how many squirts it takes to shut the dog up.  I'll have more to say about this in another blog entry...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

By George She's Got It...


Gimme has the whole Loose Leash Walking thing in her repertoire!!!  I have been avoiding (and terribly missing) walking around the lake with Mary and Grafton because I didn't want to set back our training.  Grafton is always trying to get her to play and she has to yell at him to stop being a boy AND she has always had a burning need to walk in front of him... so much so that even at her best moments she couldn't do LLW.

Tonight I broke down and did it and she did GREAT!!!  I was really very proud of her... she only needed a tiny bit more reminders than without Grafton.  Honestly that may have been because its been nine days since we last walked the lake for LLW training.  I really couldn't walk and talk and count, so the 300 Pecks wasn't happening consistently.  However, when I did count, we were right at the same distances as we were last time.   Mostly I just clicked/treated on a random schedule, with reminders as needed.

Of course, it probably helps a LOT that we walked 7.5 miles yesterday.  I didn't plan to walk that far, but just kept going "a little farther".  Then I got around the back side and when I wasn't sure where the road was to get back down to the car, I walked the long way... which was at least a mile more than needed to do that circuit. 

It also may have helped that we met Mary and Grafton early this afternoon for a nosework practice.  Grafton was just not into searching at all.  Gimme did a great job, though it proved to be challenging for her.  Since both dogs were having difficulty - I went back with a hair of mine and checked the breeze next to the hides and it was really flat or blowing back into the rock wall.  Turns out Mary had already done a bunch of nosework practice with Grafton earlier today, so that accounts for his lack of interest.  We have plans to meet with Susan and Tucker tomorrow, so we'll see if Grafton is back up to his usual interest level.

Yesterday when we were walking on the fort's training area, my shoes kept coming untied and so I had to stop three times to re-tie them.  The first two times Gimme came up and mugged me while I was bent over, so I leaned toward her until she stopped (in keeping with what we'd done in class).  Then when I was done with the shoes, I encouraged her to stand against the front of my legs and gave her some petting.  The third time I stopped, she just came up and waited until I was ready and then got her petting.  So I think I'm going to do it that way - Denise Fenzi has a name for it, but I can't remember what it is.  She uses it as part of her routine before entering the obedience ring. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Public Dog (2)

Yesterday was our second Public Dog class, at the training building.  Class was evenly split between people who are almost ready for the test (they went elsewhere for a mock test) and those who were just starting.  The first thing they did was ask each of us what our goals were and I said:
While I'd be happy to get a CGC and the Public Transportation certificate, I most want to use the class to help Gimme with her reactivity issues and to take the next steps in "growing up" and [for a laugh] I'll probably need help letting go of my "baby girl". 
Little did I realize how true the last part would be.

The first thing we worked on was teaching Gimme to act more "adult".  She has a real tendency to mug me for attention, or if my face is in range lots of kissing and hugging.  First Ursula described those behaviors as submissive, but then we decided since Gimme surely doesn't lack confidence - the "submissive" label doesn't fit accurately.

So Ursula thinks she is using puppy behaviors to get tactile reinforcement.  She has two dogs (of her 7) that have a much higher need for tactile contact.  The other five dogs gave up the puppy behaviors as they grew up, but they didn't crave the contact, so they had no reason to hold onto them.  Whereas for both of these dogs, she had to actually teach them how to ask appropriately for physical contact in public settings.

It isn't that they can't get physical contact in public - it would just be different, more appropriate.  The idea is to teach them another level of impulse control, where they monitor there own needs and then ask for contact and support in a more suitable way.  Ursula has taught her two dogs to target her thigh with their body and then she gives them the contact they need.

We then talked about how or whether this would change her behavior at home -- since I was already suffering anticipatory withdrawal anxiety just thinking that Gimme wouldn't be my cuddle bug at home.  I admit it, she really is my baby and I love all her hugs and kisses...  Ursula likened it to the relationship between a husband and wife...  in the privacy of home they express affection in often intimate ways, whereas in public, they express affection with less intimate contact, such as holding hands.  So, we just teach Gimme that distinction.

The way to do it was to simply reclaim my space when Gimme intrudes inappropriately.  I say "simply", because its a simple concept.  However, putting it into practice is anything but simple.  So any time Gimme intrudes on my space in public settings, then I am to gently move into her until she gives way - at which time I immediately back off.  Ursula wanted me to be really fast about backing off when Gimme responds, because that is part of the reward and we don't want her to get the idea that I'm mad at her.  The other part of the reward is to reach down and give her the contact she wanted in the first place.

Part of what made this so challenging is that I have been a positive reward trainer for a very long time and, as Ursula said, we as a rule don't intrude on a dog's space - instead we respect their space.  Ursula also noted my habitual response when Gimme moves into my space is to take a tiny step back and let her have it.  I did that about 15 times in ten minutes.  Also Urs pointed out how much I use a baby-talk tone (not words) with Gimme.

So not only was the timing a challenge, it was timing while trying to overcome an unconscious habit.  I don't think I ever did get it exactly right.  Mostly I'd move slightly back as a reflex, then catch myself and lean or step slightly toward her, then rock back.  Gimme responded very well and very quickly - I was the one having the problem.  Gimme adores Urs so we were able to set her up to demo it.  She figured it out in about 90 seconds with Urs' perfect timing and all it took was a subtle shift to send the message.  She did better with me, but it wasn't as crisp or as obvious as how fast she did for Ursula.

I'm thinking I'll work this weekend on teaching her to lean into my leg and then will pet her while she's there.  The trick I think will be to distinguish between this behavior and heel position...  since I don't want her heel to morph into a lean.  I think maybe I'll have her do it at 45 degrees, where she is sort of leaning against the front of my knee and possibly standing.  I'll have to play with it.

The interesting thing was that overall she seemed calmer.  We did a lot of LLW out on the floor with a calm Bernese nearby.  Gimme was able to handle that much closer than I would have thought.  Though after awhile, she did let me know she really needed some time in her crate to decompress.  Later we came out on the floor and resumed.

I had something else I was going to talk about, but my head and throat are starting to ache...  I thought late last night that I might be coming down with something.  So I've been taking Cold Calm and made it a very short work day.  Now to have a bowl of hot soup and curl up on the couch with my baby girl...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nosework (3/13)

Tonight for class we met at Mary's house - not our friend (Grafton's mom), but another Mary who is a friend of Susan's.  She let us use her house to search in, a very large double-wide mobile home with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, laundry room, kitchen/foyer room and living/dining room.  Joyce was able to set up 13 hides for us.

The first time Gimme got to search 2 bedrooms, both baths and the laundry room.  She enjoyed having so many hides (6), but was frustrated by what Joyce was doing.  Because these were all separate rooms, once the dogs went in a room, Joyce wanted them to stay there and search until they found the hides.  Gimme would try to move through a doorway and Joyce would body block her.  I could tell Gimme found that frustrating and I decided to do the other searches on leash, which worked fine.

The other thing was that Joyce was particularly talkative tonight.  She's just convinced that Gimme will damage someone's stuff with her pawing, though she never has.  She's also convinced Gimme will be faulted for excessive pawing at a trial - though it never happens at trials or matches.  I've told her this, but she doesn't remember it from one class to the next.  What I've noticed before is that the more Joyce talks, the more excessive pawing I see.  At trials and matches and practices, no one talks to me while we are working and Gimme does fine and is moderate in any paw action.

During our second search... while we were searching the living/dining room, Joyce watched quietly.  Gimme did a great job and was very calmly pointing out hides with her paw or using her nose, no scratching/scraping.  When we got to the kitchen/foyer area, suddenly Joyce starts talking to me and the next thing you know, Gimme is more actively pawing.

After we did that search and I came back in, I shared my observation with Joyce.  Basically, I think when Gimme knows she has my full attention, she is able to give me a less forceful indication.  When she knows my attention is divided between her and Joyce, she dials it up a few notches to get my attention.  Joyce's response was that Gimme is just like some dog she had, that had to be watched every second or else crated, because he would "take advantage of it" any time he didn't have her full attention.

I have to admit right up front that it really bugs me that she is so willing to ascribe conniving intentions to Gimme, who is the best dog ever.   A little while ago she came in the office to see what I was doing, and then returned to the living room where she is calmly napping on the couch - not taking advantage of my inattention to get into things - though God knows there is plenty of possibilities for misbehavior if she were so inclined.  She just doesn't have the need or desire to do so.  If Joyce had a dog that did - then I suggest that was an issue between her and that dog and has nothing whatsoever to do with Gimme and me or this situation.

When we are working together, I expect Gimme to give me all her attention (within the limits of her abilities and training) and in turn, I give her all my attention.  I don't abruptly end training or leave her hanging, I don't answer the phone in mid-session, or watch TV while we are training.  While we are working, I expect her to give me all the focus she is capable of and I return the favor.  That's the deal and she knows it.

So I suggested that Joyce should refrain from talking to me while we are actually searching and her answer was that she has to give me coaching.  I didn't reply at the time, but thought about it on the way home.  Coaching does not have to be while we are actually searching.  When I'm running agility, Blynn rarely gives me directions while we are running.  Mostly we do a sequence and if we need to talk about it, Gimme and I stop and I pet her while Blynn talks to me or sometimes I put the leash on.  When Ursula is working with me and wants to give me feedback, I stop and pet Gimme while we talk. 

So from now on, I'm going to ask Joyce to do the same.  If we are searching and Joyce starts talking to me, then I'll either interrupt the search (if I can possibly do so without unintentionally punishing Gimme's searching behavior) or ignore Joyce.  If need be, I'll wear ear plugs.  Gimme and I are a team and its not fair to her to just drop the connection.

The other thing Joyce said that I thought about on the way home, was that Gimme goes to excessive pawing because its been rewarded before and has a long reward history.  That is true.  However, the answer is not to start punishing pawing, which was Joyce's suggestion.  The answer is to reward more nose touching... which we've been working on and are getting more of.

From Gimme's point of view -- she's learned that when I'm distracted, it takes a stronger behavior on her part to get my attention.  She plays this game with me because its fun and she wants to win her reward.  So, it makes perfect sense that she would dial it up a few notches when she sees my attention is divided.  I think that shows she is motivated, determined and persistent.  I see that as a good thing.

In any case...  for our third search, Joyce remained quiet and Gimme did a lovely job... indicating the hide in the cabinet with repeated nose touches and the one on the door hinge with her nose and one paw whack.  I rest my case...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Agility Tonight

I had planned to get in a walk today on the fort's training areas, but by the time I was ready to go it was pouring rain.  Thought I might go after a short stint at work, but the rain hadn't stopped when I reached a potential stopping point...

Thus, Gimme was not as focused at class.  I'm sure it made a difference the rain also kept me from standing outside with her to do focus and RP work, which gets her brain engaged.  She did alright, just not as smooth as she has in recent classes.  While she blew right by the straight on weave entry, she did a lovely 100 degree entry and held onto it.

Usually when she isn't focused I try to take up the slack, but tonight I decided to take a different approach.  So for our second run, I put the PB tube in my pocket, zipped up my treat bag and threw it down in the middle of a section of course I thought would be easy for her to do.  Then we worked those three jumps.  Naturally she was distracted by the obvious presence of the treat bag and we spent about half our allotted time working through that.

We also discovered a hole in our training, based on my handling.  Gimme has developed a very late take-off (commitment) point and is always ready to pull off a jump.  Most of the time, I go past jumps I want her to take and she's come to rely on that as the true cue that I want her to jump it.  However, she's ready to pull off at any tiny indication.  Also Blynn told me when that happens, my tendency is to call Gimme to me and praise her and I often treat her as well.  In my head I'm praising her for coming to me and giving her a screw-up cookie... since I assume its my screw-up, not hers.  However, Blynn thinks I'm unintentionally rewarding her pulling off jumps and indirectly rewarding the late commitment point.  A valid point.

So we worked on me not doing that, being more precise about supporting my sends, without a slinging arm motion, and only rewarding when we both got it right.  Of course, I rewarded it well - to keep her motivated to work through this issue on both of us.  And we did get there.

It occurs to me that I need to let go of my "need" for screw-up cookies.  Its one thing to use them if she's becoming demotivated by repeated failures - but in that case, I should be breaking it down further, eh.  I think I've fallen into using them as a crutch to keep her from getting distracted.  And, the other lesson is that its time for Gimme to do some more growing up and develop more self-control and I need to let her.  Hopefully our summer classes with Ursula will help us get further along that road.

The other thing Blynn pointed out is my tendency, as I complete a sequence, to turn away (usually 180 degrees) and reward Gimme at my side.  Clearly I'm teaching her, again, be ready to turn and pull off at all times.  I need to vary that - sometimes straight, sometimes 45 or 90 degrees, sometimes with a front cross...

I love training with Blynn.  She always has some insight (or two) to send me home with.  She's patient and able to be flexible.  I like that she keeps nudging me toward better handling and better training. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Public Dog (1)

Today was our first Public Dog class, in a park.  There were 7 other dogs and a good amount of area so I was able to adjust her exposure as needed.  Three dogs of the group are reactive and the other 5 are not. 

Overall I thought Gimme did well.  It was very challenging for her and most of her known behaviors deteriorated considerably.  Class started with 20 minutes of everyone working on heeling and/or LLW.  From being able to heel 25 steps on one treat, we had to start over with one step.  From time to time we needed to stop and just do "whazzat" so she could get her bearings and know where everyone was. 

After that, everyone met on a very large cement pad to train other behaviors.  It had several picnic tables, public grills and trash cans and today, 7 dogs.  To start with we stayed further away and just worked on doing her chill behavior, giving her a break.  As I saw that she was ready, we moved in closer.  We practiced sit stays, down stays and recalls in the vicinity of the other dogs - about 10 feet away from the nearest.  She did a long-line recall past Tor, a dog she's seen many times before.  At the very end of class she did a long-line recall between 2 dogs she didn't know (10 feet away). 

I really expected her to be exhausted after class, but she's been her usual self ever since we got home.  So that tells me I did a good job of managing the amount of challenge and stress. 

She isn't real obvious in how she displays stress - for instance, her tail just never stops wagging.  I have to watch her eyes for a certain look, her ears are carried a little different, and the corners of her mouth are "stretched" looking.  I noticed (after reading it on another blog) that she gets a bit sharky while taking treats.  When she's getting too far over the edge (but not yet over threshold), she gets "needy" and insistent about wanting/needing all the treats now!  Now that I know the drill for this class, next time I will pre-station our RP blanket, so we can use it more.

Yesterday Gimme and I met with Susan and Tucker for some nosework practice.  The container drills were too easy for Gimme, but she thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the exterior search.  Tucker is the dog having the challenge with the food distractions and you can see his searches at Tucker 051913.  We are also working on increasing his speed/enthusiasm.  These are Gimme's searches.

Container 1:  We started with three container drills... all waaaay too easy for Gimme.  Its interesting, if we are doing nosework and she doesn't think she's getting enough search time, she'll carry on the whole time (which you can hear in the background of Tucker's videos).  Give her one good challenge though, and then she settles down.  She really does thrive on challenge.  [hope that carries over to her Public Dog class]

Container 2:  Watch for a lovely change of behavior at about 17 seconds.  She couldn't be more obvious without carrying a sign.  She definitely had odor at 19 seconds, but you'll see I waited until she gave me the whole 4-part package - which took another 12 seconds.  That's as much for my training as for hers.  I am finding the "look at Mom" to be the last of the four parts to her indication and that's the one that distinguishes it from intense distractions.  These were all pretty easy food distractions, but I don't want to develop any sloppy habits.

Container 3:  You will see her purposely ignoring the odor bag a couple of times during this clip.  She really does not appreciate short searches and if there are too many in a row (like 2), then she will start making them longer on her own.  If you watch really carefully, at 24.5 seconds, you can see her sniff in the direction of the odor bag, right before her nose tilts away and she veers off - pretending it isn't there - doncha know.  She put off finding it as long as she thought she could get away with it.  Imagine her surprise to find it right where she first discovered it 40 seconds earlier...

Exterior:  Gimme did a great job on this.  Two were challenging hides - underground.  Gimme found the easiest one in 24 seconds.  You'll note she starts to pee (after all my bragging from class last week) and I stop her, which doesn't phase her at all.  She turned on a thin dime at 1:04 when she caught the drift of the second hide.  Nice!  And she did a good job getting the last hide, which was placed intentionally in a spot where the dogs would be likely to round the corner and miss it.  

This girl sure has a lot of scenting ability.  She just never seems to get tired of doing it...  and luckily, I never get tired watching her excel at it.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Last night Mary and I met at a Home Depot to do a nosework practice.  She and Susan couldn't meet on the same day this week, so Susan and I will get together Sunday afternoon.

Grafton did well, but he's so soft and needs more confidence.  Mary and I have talked a lot about ways to boost his confidence and make rewards more meaningful.  He likes food, but it doesn't completely excite him.  He likes touch and "good boy" and playing, but won't tug much.  We discovered he really likes the paper bag treat delivery method... and that really got his tail wagging.  I've downloaded his video's to a different blog, so if you have a burning desire to see them, the link is:  Grafton 051613  There's also other entries there for Grafton and Tucker at our last practice.

These are Gimme's videos:

Exterior 1:  The breeze was coming from our right as we entered the search area.  Gimme did a great job finding the first hide in 30 seconds.  (ignor the blips - camera person Mary is "trigger happy")  The second hide she found was very hard.  The dogs could only smell it low to the ground unless they were right on top of it and it was hard to source. Gimme did a nice job there.  There was a nice change of behavior at 2:40 for the third hide and she sourced it in five seconds. 

Exterior 2:  The breeze was coming from our left, blowing odor toward us.  Yes, that blur was Gimme blasting by - there's a reason I don't want too short of a line.  This bright green line is 12 foot and she almost ripped it out of my hand.  There was a gust just as I told her "wherezit" and she just took off for the furthest hide and nailed it in eleven seconds.  She had all three hides in 47 seconds, including the time it took to reward the first two.  Personally, I think she's pretty darn efficient.

Exterior 3:  This was a series of open sheds, only three of which had odor in them.  The thing I was looking for was how Gimme would react to the sheds that were blanks.  As we get to NW3, for interiors we could have a blank room and I need to know what she does.  I have to admit, even though I set those hides and the sheds are all different colors, at the time I couldn't remember which had odor and which didn't.  (Dark Tan, Lt Tan, and Green had odor)  You'll note she totally ignored the red and light grey blank sheds.   The tan shed she went by twice - the odor was waaaay at the back of the shed and had only had a few minutes to "cook" - whereas at a trial it would have an hour minimum and the first time she was moving pretty fast.  I thought it was interesting that the second time she passed it, she went into the shed next to it and then came out and turned right to it.  Who knows what they smell.  I did note that after she's found a couple hides, if the search continues, she is more inclined to check out blank sheds...

Exterior 4:   This starts with Gimme going to the grass intending to pee, but I saw it in time to interrupt her.  Our routine is a pee-break before each search and we came from the sheds right to this one - so it was my bad.  I was pleased that she was ready and able to get back to work  The hide is tucked in the sod and Mary set it, so I didn't know exactly where it was.  At 1:46 she paws right where the hide is, but in the course of moving in, I edged her out of the way and she ends up pawing on the next one over.  When I asked her to "show me" at 2:04 she put her nose right on it.  She's that good...

BTW that sound when I bumped into the shed was me catching my face on the edge of the corrugated roof - to which I have a shallow 1" cut right in front of my ear.   Its the price I pay for keeping my eyes on my dog, eh.

Today we went to the lake and practiced loose leash walking again.  I'm working on duration using a modified version of the 300 Peck method.  The method is: take one step and click/stop/treat if she's in LLW position.  Each trial you add one step (or one second if you are working on a timed behavior).  Any time the dog fails, you stop and then start over back at one.

What I found is that Gimme found 1 thru 5 the hardest.  I think it takes her that long to figure out what my pace is going to be and I'm just notoriously inconsistent in my walking speed.  Once we got past that, she progressed to 10 steps very quickly and from there fairly quickly to 15 steps.  However, any time we had to go back to 1, it was just so frustrating for us both.  So once I saw the pattern, I only went back to 5 and worked forward from there.  About halfway through the walk I moved the restart point up to 10.  She stayed between 10 and 15 for a long time.

At one point we stopped and talked to a lady for awhile and Gimme got to veg out.  After that she progressed again and by the end of the walk we were consistently up at 20, so clearly she had needed a break.  The other modification I made to the 300 Peck method was to repeat certain iterations as much as I felt she needed to get solid on them.  So we did a lot of repeats at 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, and 20.  We ended with eleven 20's in a row, which I was happy with. 

This is a substantial improvement in LLW duration from what we had been doing.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nosework (2/13)

Tonight we met at a local park - very small and off the beaten path, by a lake.  Because it was cloudy (after two weeks of sunshine) there was hardly anyone else there.  Just a couple walkers and these crazy people practicing rolling over in their kayaks.  That water is cold!  No way would I do that.

We started with a series of four hides down a blacktop walkway with grass on one side and dirt and trees on the other.  One hide was about ten feet into the grass.  Because of the location, a lot of dogs have been walked there and peed.  Out of our five class dogs, Gimme and Grafton were the only two to find all four hides and not pee once.  There was one spot where I thought Gimme was thinking about it, so I hustled her away from it.  The other three dogs peed about halfway down, though on different sides of the path.

Then we did a series of three hides with one distraction in the top edge of a block wall...  you know those retaining wall blocks that are slightly wedge shaped.  Gimme and Maddie were the only dogs that paid no attention to the empty potato chip bag.

Then Joyce set up three hides in the grass in a straight line... one was a foot from the blacktop, the next was three feet later and then another three feet after that.  There was one spot between the first two hides where all the dogs did some crittering, so I'm sure some dog peed there before.

Our last search was in the grass where there was a series of five utilities covers in a space about 10x5 feet and Joyce put hides on four of them.  All the dogs did really well with that, though Grafton did pee and Joyce reacted by taking him by the harness and marching him off the search area.

Grafton is far too soft for that and Mary and I have since had a discussion about not letting anyone correct her dog - she's even very careful about it herself because he's so easy to deflate.  Mary said she was just kind of surprised and caught flat-footed, not expecting Joyce to do anything like that, but she'll sure be prepared next time.  I let Joyce know I thought it was inappropriate to correct Grafton and I'm sure she knows she'd better never even think about doing that with Gimme.  No one corrects my dog!

In any case, Gimme, the worst marking dog I've ever known, worse than any male dog I've ever known, was the only one to make it through a whole class without peeing - with four searches on tempting surfaces, no less.  Woo hoo! I think I have actually learned to tell when she's gonna mark.  Three clues:
  1. Sniffing in one spot, with her nose still...
  2. Her tail goes still, and then...
  3. And sometimes as she is sniffing she moves so that she's over the spot, where its almost between her front feet and her neck is actually curved kinda under her.
Her tail wags faster when she gets in odor and is detailing and tonight was the first time I noticed it goes still when she's crittering.  The key about sniffing is that when they are crittering, they'll tend to sniff one spot for a long time.  However, when they are detailing odor, they may sniff a lot in a small space, its still moving as they are following it (almost looks like stippling for you quilters).  The difference is sorta like this:

I've been studying her for the longest time trying to spot her "tells".  Every dog has them and I think I've finally found them.  That's a great relief since its something that has worried me about doing exteriors.  I think I may have spotted Grafton's too - he doesn't always lift a leg, so can be hard to catch.  Mary and I will watch him during the next walk and see if I'm right.

I know it always sounds like I'm bragging about Gimme - can I help it that she's that good...  Is it still considered bragging if its justified?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More LLW

Today we went to the lake again and practiced our LLW...  Before we started the program I described... it took 1:05 minutes to get around the lake, because of how many times I had to stop, every time she pulled.  Today, at just our 3rd practice it took only 50 minutes!!!   Clearly that is a dramatic difference.

We've started videotaping the practice runs we do when Mary, Susan and I meet for nosework.

Threshold 1:  These threshold hides were done inside the quilt shop where Susan works.  She brings her dogs in on training class days and they spend the day in the shop, so Grafton and Gimme found it very distracting.  Here, you can see how distracted Gimme is, how she doesn't start searching until about 35 seconds into the video and then around the 40 second mark - a dramatic change of behavior when she caught the odor.


Threshold 2:  I am using these practices to introduce controlled levels of restriction.  Enough that she notices it, but not so much that she is getting frustrated.  At the last practice I did containers and an exterior on a 6 foot leash, which isn't nearly enough.  My plan is to mix it up and carefully nudge her into accepting these things.  I don't know if I'd ever hold her at the threshold in a trial, since there might not be a threshold hide and I'd be wasting time.  But I do want her to get used to looking around the threshold.

Threshold 3:  You can see that by this third search she has lost interest in the distraction of the environment and is all about the search.  Verrrrry nice!

Threshold 4:  This is a particularly hard search, as we discovered when we ran it.  All three dogs had a lot of difficulty and when I did the wet-finger test, I discovered the air was not moving at all.  So the dogs had nothing to go on until they happened to get their noses close to it.  Also, this is the room where the dogs spend the most amount of time, so it is more distracting.  Again she gets in odor at around 40 seconds... but then leaves it to go behind me and hit again on the odor from our third search (55 seconds).  Even with all that, she found it in 1 minute.  We want to do this search again, off leash as an interior search and see if the dogs ever get back to that hide and how it works for them.

Threshold 5:  For the second set of 4 hides we were experimenting with how the dogs did if we moved in the room with them and then just kind of kept them in the area.  Grafton and Tucker both improved noticeably, Gimme didn't seem to care.  You'll note a dramatic behavior change when she catches odor at the 24 second mark.

Threshold 6:  She did much better this time... a litte blasting in and then coming back and just nailing it. 

Threshold 7:  She was clearly distracted by the yelping of the puppy behind the door right at the start line.  Still it was a good solid search and I was very pleased that she was able to leave that level of distraction. 

Threshold 8:  Remember this is the room where the dogs spend most of their time when they are there and its also the hide where there was a real dead zone with no air movement.  You'll notice I was basically trying to use my movement to keep her in that space.  25 seconds was a very nice time for that level of difficulty.

Containers 1:  Starting from the approach end, bags 1, 2 and 3 have food distractions, 4 is a blank and the 5 has odor.  Gimme does a very nice change of behavior around 18 seconds on the odor bag.  You'll note that I wait for all four behaviors - sniffing, sticking, pawing, and looking.  Its what she does on containers, but not for any other element.  Also note that I keep walking around her when she sticks on a container, until I get the whole package.

Containers 2:   Starting from the approach end, bags 1 and 2 have food distractions, 3, is odor, 4 is a blank and 5 has food distraction.  Again I wait for the whole package; she's very consistent.  Keep in mind this is not an indication sequence that I taught her; rather its what she does and I observed her to discover it.  She's really getting good at not buying into the distractions.

Containers 3:  The bag nearest the edge between pavement and gravel is odor.  The small one with the handle is blank and the other three have food distractions.  You'll note she gets quite persistent with one of the food bags, but she never looks up at me.  She knows I'm not going to help her get it so there's no point in looking at me.  And, once I walked all the way around her, I was confident she was "goofing off" and called her away from it.

Our next practice will be back at the closed store.  We will probably repeat the exercise Joyce did with us last week, but will use the rock wall so it can be more spread out.  We'll always do containers.  Susan and Mary can't be there on the same day, so it'll be two practices for Gimme.

Dead "Bug"

My back is all screwed up right now, so I wanted to give Gimme a training session without having to move from the couch.  I thought free-shaping a "bug" behavior, as in "what does a dead 'bug' look like?" would do it. I had some specifics that I wanted to be part of the new behavior.

First, I don't want to start by cuing "down" because I don't want there to be any vagueness of what the behavior means; i.e. I don't want her to get the idea that she can use it as a transition to other behaviors.  The last thing I need is to be in the obedience ring some day and have her show her dead "bug" behavior during a drop on recall, or to "grape" during stays.

Second, I wanted her to roll the other direction.  For "grape" she rolls onto her right hip and then rolls over.  So for "bug" I wanted her to roll onto her left hip and then stop on her back and hold the position.  She almost always rolls onto the right hip when relaxed and curls in that direction when napping, so I also wanted this specificity for her flexibility.

I thought I'd free-shape it all the way through, but hadn't counted on how really challenging it would be to overcome the pre-existing motor pattern.  Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  I was able to shape a down with ever so slight of a lean toward the left hip, but that was as far as we could get.  She just couldn't seem to wrap her mind around the idea of actually rolling onto her left hip and she was getting very frustrated and basically yelling at me.

So I resorted to luring her from there to get that roll and then from there onto her back.  I clicked any time she was on her back with all four feet upward.  She's so muscular that she tended to continue the roll on over and that wasn't what I wanted.  So a couple of times, I didn't click, instead just feeding her treat-after-treat-after-treat in position.  She'd use my hands to steady herself, otherwise she'd just flop on over.  Then she figured out on her own that if she curved her body in a c-shape, that it would steady her in position and she got more treats that way.

Then she leapt up and had to show me that she could do "bug" by rolling onto her right hip.  You may well imagine how frustrated she got and how much doggie yelling ensued when I didn't reward her version.  After she calmed down, I lured her the way I wanted it twice more - rewarding a lot in position.

After that she demo'd her way again.  Then she stood there talking to me - I'm sure if I could speak dog that she made a eloquent case for her approach.  Naturally I let her speak her mind, after which she just stood there staring at me as if I was bereft of any understanding regarding her plight.  Then, to humor me, she dropped and gave me "bug" the way I wanted it and got at least twenty treats in position.  After which we ended the training session.

I'm sure she finds my insistence on doing things my way, to be my most annoying and frustrating character flaw.  Fortunately I have redeeming qualities - like believing that the sun rises and sets in her shadow.  Not to mention that I pay well...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

LLW Progress

I recently read something that sparked a rather different approach for me in trying to attain credible LLW.  First let me say that I've been teaching it the same way ever since I crossed over to reward-based training and I've never had any problems, until Gimme.  I've also been teaching proper people greetings in the same way all those years and never had any problems, until Gimme.  Hmmmm - what does that tell you?

The book is "Scaredy Dog!" by Ali Brown.  No, Gimme hasn't become a fearful dog - I just read a lot of good books and there are gems in all of them... this book is a perfect example.  Ali has a quote early in the book that I really like... as a reminder to not fall into bad habits, creating a dependent dog.  The quote is:
"The more you help your dog, the stupider you teach him to be."
Ali's approach is that it isn't about LLW (saying that's the easy part), rather its about self-control, attention, and ability to ignore distractions.  Her approach is that until you can reliably achieve the following six levels of self-control, the dog isn't ready for LLW.  The levels are:
  1. Quiet in the car... which she defined as being able to remain quiet and calm while you let them out of the crate, leash up, and then remain in the car until released.
  2. Outside the car - attention (reorient to handler) and 1 target.
  3. Outside the car - 3-5 commands.
  4. Outside the car - 5-10 commands.
  5. Ten feet from car - 5 commands.
  6. Twenty-five feet from car - 10-15 commands.
None of that is huge, but it does require the dog being capable of focus and self-control.  Ali recommended taking an incremental approach.  Rather than starting with the car, she suggested the front door.  Then the gate from the yard, maybe the car in the garage and then the car in the driveway, etc.

For me it was an interesting to realize that Gimme can do all levels in some places and none of them in others.  In parking lots where we do a lot of training... not a problem.  At Ursula's training building... not a problem.  At the Fort Lewis training areas or places where we regularly walk... not a chance.  Hmmmm - what does that tell you?

It tells me that I've worked much of this in some settings and not at all in others.   Yes, Gimme is a challenge in her ability to distract, going from zero to ninety in a nanosecond (thank God we did so much self-control work when she was a puppy).  It tells me that I've been lax in some places and have not taught (or even asked) her to think when we first arrive.  It wasn't that she couldn't do it, its just that I didn't make it part of our routine - call me lazy.  After about a block of walking at the training areas - we've always done a bunch of training interspersed throughout our walk.  It occurs to me that Carla was as eager to get on with the walk as Gimme was.

So, I started several weeks ago working on this in those places where it was problematic.  Gimme has done very well and is readily transferring her ability to those places where it was a challenge.  Yes, she still needs reminders... but its coming along very nicely.

And the beauty of this is... that without changing the way I'm teaching LLW, suddenly she is getting that too.  Twice this week I've done 3 miles with her and she's done very well.  She needs reminders at first, but very quickly falls into the rhythm.

And a side benefit that just is surprising for me - though maybe it shouldn't be - is that her reactivity has dropped way down too.  By engaging her thinking brain before we even leave the car, it's helping her to be in a mental place where she can make better decisions.

There's a place about 2 miles into our walk, where the path is much narrower, with a small grass strip on one side (dropping off into the lake) and a busy city street on the other side.  So when we meet dogs, it can be challenging to manage the spacing.  There was a couple coming toward us with two small dogs on flexi-leads and no sign of any awareness that they should reel them in.  I stepped as close to the drop off as I could and was fishing out the PB Go Toob, when Gimme turned sideways on her own and started sniffing the bushes.  The moment the little dogs passed she turned back to the path and was ready to go!

Woohoo... she appropriately chose to ignore the distraction and display calming signals.  She has never done anything like that before.  I was so proud of her and gave her a huge blob of PB.  I'm misty-eyed now just thinking about it.  My little girl is growing up...

Nosework (1/13)

Class met outside a recently closed store.  Joyce repeated an exercise from months before.  Using a large metal clothing drop-off container, she placed 4 hides on it.  The hides were spaced about 4 feet apart and we were to approach from one end.  On that end the first hide was 4 inches from the ground.  The next hide was about 18 inches off the ground.  Then one at 3 feet and one at almost 5 feet.

The idea was to not let them pass the hide they were on (1, 2, 3 or 4) more than about a foot.  Once they finished with a hide, they were to be restricted to half the distance between it and the next and no more than a foot past the next hide (essentially 3 feet).

What Joyce wanted us to do, but didn't explain in advance was to repeat the nose touch and multiple rewards at each one, just like we'd done last week.  So the first few of us found out we were doing it wrong in the course of doing it and being criticized.  I told everyone who followed Gimme and me what was expected, so they had that advantage.   In Joyce's defense, her 92 year old mother has congestive heart failure and recently has declined substantially, so she was half expecting "the call".

Gimme did not respond well to this exercise.  She did well for hide 1 and pretty good for hide 2.  But, after that, the restriction of only having three feet to move in just really annoyed and frustrated her, so she stopped searching and resorted to "lying" to me instead.  That means she would pick something and paw at it, trying to convince me there was odor there.  Fortunately I've seen this before and so I understood what was going on - the key element is that she stops sniffing and just starts using her feet.  I don't think Gimme got anything from this exercise, but we'll be trying it again.  The other dogs did better with it, since they are all slower moving to begin with, so the leash restriction didn't really bother them.

The second search was a very large exterior under cover, with three hides and one food distraction hidden in a cinder block.  We knew where all the hides were, but were told to act as if these were blind hides.  Gimme did very well at this... she just went from one to the next to the next and never went anywhere near the food distraction.  I was very pleased with her efforts and she was certainly happy to get to search more normally.

Susan (with Tucker) and Mary (with Grafton) and I have committed to get together once a week to practice nosework.  For instance we are meeting after hours this Friday where Susan works, using the building for a bunch of threshold hides and then a container drill in the parking lot.  Next time after that, I think we'll meet at this same closed store location.  There is a 200 foot long rockery wall, so we can repeat this exercise, spacing it out.  With that much room we can probably set up a dozen hides along the wall and fifteen feet apart.  Some other time we can meet at the same location and do vehicle searches on the six semi-trailers parked end to end.

On Sunday we met in the afternoon at this same location and did a number of container drills with the food distraction.  Tucker gives whole new meaning to distracted - he tries to pick up the container and drag it off.  I stood on one end of the most delicious bag a few times; we finally resorted to putting a cinder block in that bag.  After several container searches, we did one exterior search in some cabinets sitting outside.

Susan has her work cut out for her because of the trial.  Purposeful food/toy distractions at trials are supposed to be inaccessible, but Tucker was #28 out of 34...  Somewhere along the way the lid came off the plastic container holding the muffin, inside the distraction bag.  He was able to get his nose in the bag and swallowed the muffin whole.  Needless to say, Susan was quite upset and also needless to say, we have a real challenge now that Tucker believes food distractions can be had with the right amount of effort.  He's so "vigorous" that my usual snap top disposable plastic dishes won't hold up - so I'm going to be looking for some sturdier stuff.  He's entered in a trial next month... so we really have to get him over this before then.  So no matter what else we practice - we will do container drills every time.

By the way... last night was agility class again and Gimme did well.  I got stuck in traffic and didn't get there in time to walk the first course, so we were not smooth.  Of course, lack of adequate direction is not Gimme's fault.  But we got through the course and she had some fun.  I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating - she is so fast and fun.  She manages to make challenging weave entries with no help from me - she totally gets that part of her weave job.  If the entry was hard she often can't hold onto the weaves and pops out around the 5th pole, so we have more work to do.  Still, she gets the whole package on the second or third try.

The other challenge we had was that she again decided she couldn't take the first jump at an angle.  She doesn't have any problem when she approaches jumps on a slice mid-course.  We ran into this once before... mid-winter and had to break it down for her then.  We haven't had an angled start like that since, so I'm sure that one experience wasn't enough to cement the lesson.  The really nice part was that once we broke that down... she was doing a fast two jumps into weaves... where she nailed the entry and held on for the whole 12 poles.

We spent our turn just doing those three obstacles, so Blynn had me find something else fun to do while the bars were being reset. 

So I selected a straight tunnel to L-shaped tunnel where I used the body of the L-shaped tunnel as a layering exercise.  The first time I sent her into the blue tunnel and ran ahead to position H1, cuing her to "tunnel" as she came out of the first tunnel.  I wasn't surprised that she took the path shown by the dotted line.  So I repeated it, this time running to the position shown as H2 and naturally she got it.  The third time I went back to the H1 position and she totally understood.  Since I'd never even thought of doing that with her... I was very pleased that she totally got it after just being shown what I wanted one time.

She's a smart cookie, but then we all knew that...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Puppy Logic

I've been putting extra effort into getting the first cutting done of my hayfield, also known as my front yard.  It always gets away from me each Spring because when I'm home its too wet... then with the alternating sun and rain, it gets too long for the mower anyway.  So right about this time every year when its consistently dry and the grass is mid-thigh height, I'm out there using my weedeater like a scythe to cut it down.

Naturally Gimme is supervising.  She likes the idea of barking at everything that goes by... which is not exactly my idea of good behavior.  One or two barks is okay, but not barking up and down the fence the whole time someone is walking by.  So I have a film canister filled with peanut butter in my tool belt.

When Gimme barks at things, I call her and she gets peanut butter for coming.  Sometimes this approach can be risky... because the barking can be rewarded by the opportunity to get cued for another behavior that is then rewarded.  For my pet clients I call that the, "I'll be bad, so I can be good and get rewarded" syndrome.  The trick is to not do it too often or too consistently.

So after a few times of that over the last few days, this morning I went out on the front porch to watch Gimme do her morning toilette.  When she saw me watching, she proceeded to run bouncing back and forth across the front of our yard, stopping at each end and looking back at me.  When I didn't call her, she'd run to the other end and then look again to see if she'd done enough - that's puppy logic for you.

During the course of today's efforts, she got down to two barks, "bark barroof" and then runs to me for peanut butter, mostly without me calling her.  I'm perfectly okay with a couple of barks as I see a bit of alert barking as a good thing.

However, when I was actively running the weedeater, I noticed she barked much more.  "Bark barroof" -pause- "bark barroof" -pause- "bark barroof bark bark" -pause- "bark barroof bark bark bark".  I couldn't figure out why she thought she needed to bark more when I was weedeating.

Then suddenly it occurred to me... she'd concluded that her barks were my cue to look at her, which was then her cue to come running to me for peanut butter.  I had failed to realize that this behavior chain we'd built included Gimme waiting for me to look at her, which I was slower to do when handling the weedeater.

Ahhhhh more puppy logic.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nosework (6/12)

Class tonight was really good.  Joyce came with an exercise designed to get the dogs to stick their nose to odor.   We did it in two different ways.

The first version is that you put out one very simple hide.  The instant the dog finds it, you treat - not waiting for any indication.  Then you continue standing there with a handful of small treats and each time the dog touches the tin with their nose they get another treat.  If need be, you can shape by treating for a nose dip toward the tin.  As they get the idea, you move your closed hand full of treats near the tin (about 12") and wait.  So the hand presents a distraction and the dog learns "you have give it up - to get it, grasshopper". You do about thirty treats in a row that way.  Then take the dog away and let them find it again - doing this drill three times total.  I've named this "Nosework Zen", since its so similar conceptually to Doggie Zen.

The second version is three very simple hides, such as, spaced along a wall.  And then do what you just did with the other, with each of them.  In both versions, if your hand is starting to come in to give the treat (always feed at odor) and the dog's nose comes away, your hand stops.  This was easier said than done with Miss Gimme.  The idea is to shape the dog to more or less hold their nose on odor, or multiple touches.

Gimme doesn't hold well in this kind of exercise (not to be confused with her stays), but she very quickly moved to tap-tap-tap multiple touches of her nose on the tin.  At first Joyce was trying to get me to feed her before her paw came up, but, as I've learned in other exercises, sorting Gimme's paw out of a behavior that she thinks is paw-worthy is much easier said than done.  Joyce tried to show me how to do it and was then forced to admit that Gimme's reaction time is much, much faster than the other dogs. 

Then she said not to worry about the paw, that we may end up with a nose touch and paw lift and that would be perfectly fine.  I told her (again) that we'd never had a problem with excessive pawing in matches or trials, never faulted or anyone even said they thought about faulting her, and that it seems to be something that mostly shows up in class.  Thus, its not something I worry about.

Interestingly, even though Gimme wouldn't hold her nose on the tin, she was very inclined to place her paw there and keep it there.  In trying to get holds or multiple nose touches, we got a bit more paw action, but once Gimme started giving me multiple touches, the paw pretty much stayed still.

It was a good exercise for us, so I plan to do it some more.  Probably the best class I remember having in quite awhile.  Not a lot of searching, but nice, clean and incremental training to a point and strictly reward-based.   And Gimme thoroughly enjoyed getting 200 treats.

BTW we did all this on Clove...  Joyce said she's been giving us clove now and then for awhile.  So I'm going to look for an ORT that we can go to and knock that off our list.  (just looked, nothing closer than 2 hour drive this year)

Also, just learned that the rules have changed and you can enter more than one trial at one time.  So we could have entered the Fife trial in June.  Darn to missing that.

And, having checked the trial results for the day.  In addition to Gimme getting 2nd in Exterior and a ribbon, she was also 6th in Interiors...  

Trial Pictures

Here's those pictures... of us walking up to the practice boxes.  (the car in the background is ours...

And then doing the practice boxes...

This is us doing the practice boxes in the morning...

Ain't she cute...

Agility Girl

Gimme was so happy to get back to agility class last night (we wuz taking a break while she was in that condition).

She was so focused and taking direction very well.  All the mistakes except one were mine and even that went away with a little clearer handling.  Gimme was doing so well that Blynn was able to really focus on my handling and she was brutal... On top of that while we were waiting and watching, for the first time Gimme offered me her "whazzat" behavior when the dog before us suddenly popped into view 6 feet away.  I was so proud. Blynn commented that it was like Gimme suddenly did a bunch of growing up and was so much more mature this week.  I don't know about that, but she was sure on her best behavior.

After class we went to my parents' to say "Hi" and just hang out for awhile.  Gimme got to come in and show off all her tricks.  She's getting really good at the crawling backwards and I need to get that on tape, cuz its waaaaay beyond cute.

In a couple of weeks we'll be starting our ten week round of summer classes with Ursula.  She has a new program that looks like it'll be perfect for us.  We're sure gonna stretch someone's brain...  I'm looking forward to it.

BTW someone took pictures of Gimme at the trial as we were walking up to and doing the practice boxes.  Unfortunately I'm having problems getting them to upload, so will have to try later.