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...