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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...

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