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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reaction Time

One of the things we clicker trainers must do is see behavior and be timely.  Obviously we want to be as accurate as possible, so the dog knows what we are trying to say with our clicks.  There's always a lag time and while some people are able to click in under one-tenth of a second (you know they are playing a lot of computer games), the average person is going to be .215 seconds late.

This is because your brain has to process what you see and then there is still, on average, a .130 second lag time between the decision to click and the time it takes for the nerve impulse to go from your eye, through your brain to your thumb.  One of the reasons we use a clicker is because it is so much faster (and thus more accurate) than the significantly longer time it takes to say a click-word.  That impulse has to travel from you eye, through your brain, through the speech center of your brain, then to your mouth and finally for all the parts of your mouth, tongue, vocal cords and breath to come together and form a word.

If you want to know how fast your reaction time is, you can click on this link: Reaction Time Test   I found out that I'm completely average and indeed came right in at 215 milliseconds.

The good news is that we can improve our time by carefully watching our dogs, because as you become familiar with how your dog moves and behaves, you can predict that clickable moment.  In any case, the clicker gurus all agree that in terms of the final result and how long it takes to get there, its always better to click early, rather than late.

So what's your score?

Saturday, June 29, 2013


I have screwed up how I’ve handled Gimme’s issues in class.  Its hard when you have to make all the mistakes yourself so you can learn from them.  <sigh>

In Thurs classes, Gimme starts out fine, but then she gets into a frantic feeding frenzy, with dilated pupils!  I've been trying to use metronome feeding when that happens, but she continues and gets worse.  Thursday night was the worst. I had noticed 4 months ago that our Relaxation Protocol work was deteriorating, so the beginnings predate her season and false pregnancy.

Urs thinks I'm contributing to Gimme's frantic behavior and even the way I give her treats is a factor.  She suggested placing the treats, one at a time with two fingers, into her mouth - instead of letting her nibble them out of my fingers.  I did that and it helped; I think it makes it clearer how many treats she is getting for a reward. I spent the last half of class just sitting on the floor with Gimme, giving her one treat on her matt for shutting her mouth or taking a breath (without clicker) and using petting whenever she was relatively calm.  That also helped. 

I was so frustrated that I could have cried when I got home.  I tried to schedule a private lesson with Ursula to get her insights into what I’m doing wrong, but the timing couldn’t be worse coming into the 4th of July week.  So I’ve been talking over the situation with Kathy and Candy; they’ve helped me to analyze what was happening.

I had noticed that I could train her tricks non-stop during class and she'd do them or try, but she just can't get herself calm.  Still even during tricks training she is more distracted and not herself.  After thinking about and discussing the history, I’ve concluded some things are combining to create this problem.   Here’s my thoughts:
  • When I was trying to use RP outside agility class this year, I made too big of a jump from where we’d been the year before to where we started this year, so I undid the matt’s association with calm and safe.
  • When she was in her false pregnancy, I may have fed into it by trying to use food to calm her down during classes and not using distance enough.
  • Possibly I’ve been misjudging her state of mind - thinking she was too close to threshold, so I switched to classical conditioning when she was still operant.  As a result, I unintentionally taught her to "act overwrought" for all the rewards it gets her.  Of course, how you act quickly becomes how you feel - hence the dilated pupils.
Since then I have taken her for two rest-and-walks around Capitol Lake.  The first time I started on the Capitol Campus with 15 minutes of hanging out.  She did well, though it took awhile to get the idea that nothing was going to happen.  It occurs to me that we often meet Mary and Grafton there, so she was expecting them.  We left after she was consistently relaxing, which means calmly watching all the different things going on.  I gave her about ten treats during that time, when I saw especially nice stuff, like rolling on one hip or taking a deeper breath.

Then we moved down to the lake where we'd walk about 100 yards and then stop and sit for five minutes.  After we got halfway around the lake, then we just walked the rest without stopping.  She quickly figured out that when Mom sits, Gimme might as well chill, cuz ain't nothing gonna happen.

I did notice her look-at-that behavior ("whazzat") was broken.  Almost every dog she saw she couldn't look away from.  So I had to add a lot more distance and refresh her brain on how we do that.  Clearly I let her get re-sensitized from not managing space better during the intensity of classes.  Bad me!

Today we walked around the lake again and she did even better, relaxing quickly each time.  When I stopped to talk to people, she laid down and stretched out.  I can't remember her ever voluntarily laying down while I was still standing up - huge progress.  She even laid down while I was talking to a lady with a very small dog about 10 feet away.

Much of the time I'm petting her as the reward for relaxing and only giving her the occasional treat for the best signs of relaxation.  I think that makes a difference.  While she enjoys the "freebies", she isn't getting into work mode.  I'm pondering doing Relaxation Protocol without treats, using petting instead.  Gimme is very tactile, so perhaps that will work better and keep her from going into work mode.

I got smarter and used peanut butter today, so got better "whazzat", but she's still more inclined to get stuck looking than she has in the past.  The cheese just wasn't enough reward for her to work through it, which tells me her threshold has grown greatly.  Before 8 feet was pretty common, and now its 20.  If it is dog types that she especially dislikes (ones that look intently at her, pull toward her or bark) then she needs 35-40 feet.  Yikes!  That's a big loss and one we'll have to do a lot of work to recover ground.  I'm sure we'll get it back, but it will take time.

Her LLW was good both days, especially today.  It takes reminders, but then she gets into the rhythm and is going really long distances.  I started counting, but stopped when we hit 60 steps.  She was also adjusting her pace on her own after lightly bumping into the end of the leash.

Yesterday and today I only occasionally used treats for the LLW, instead relying mostly on the functional reward of moving forward.  If she was hovering at the end of the leash, I just slowed down and that was enough to remind her.  If she actually pulled then I'd stop and only continue when she was back beside me.  If she didn’t come back beside me, I'd back-pedal 5-10 steps. I consider this a step forward.  I think its better to get more and more behaviors on life rewards.

Kathy suggested I train Gimme through Susan Garrett’s crate games because she’s seen it to have a calming affect on dogs.  Fortunately my friend Chris has that DVD so I can borrow it.  It also occurs to me I need to watch my Control Unleashed DVD set... it has some rev-up-settle-down games that might be helpful for Gimme.

The trick will be transferring this to classes and will very much depend on managing space much better than I've done.  I need to set up so she can deal with the chaos successfully and feel good about the experience.  There are two cubicles that will give us more flexibility and options, so I’ll talk to Ursula about making sure we get one or the other.  One has an outside door so we can always go outside to take a break.  The other is at the foot of the stairs and we could go up to the landing for more space.

Kathy also suggested creating a calming association with the smell of lavender where she sleeps, which I can then spritz on her matt.  Initially I thought of both the bed and the couch, but with it being warmer, the door is open to outside.  Last night I noticed she alerted a couple of times to noises outside and alarm barked once, so I will stick with bed only since she snoozes through the night there.  I love lavender so have a lot of it and can make sachets for the bed and have a perfume that I can use on her bed.

I still feel very bad that I failed my precious darling.  But at least I now have a plan and am optimistic that we can recover lost ground and get over this hump. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nosework (2/14)

Tonight we had class in a back office off the bottom of a split-level local veterinary hospital.  A couple of the dogs spent a lot of time crittering, but not Gimme.  I think it helped that we've done searches at the quilt shop where Susan works and where her dogs stay with her most days, so the dog/animal smells were not as distracting for her.

It was a long distance from the parking lot to where the room was, so we basically only got to watch one other dog.  Joyce kept moving the hides so we were always getting blind hides for each search.  Unfortunately that meant the dogs were dealing with a lot of lingering odor from a place where odor had been just a few minutes before and Joyce would tell us when the dog was sniffing, "that's lingering odor" so we'd know.  That makes it a harder challenge for the dogs and its not one the dogs would face at a trial.  However, the dogs have been dealing with lingering odor all along in classes, as hides are moved between rounds of searches.

What was frustrating to me was that for Gimme's second search, when she was sniffing around the base of an exercise bike - Joyce said it was lingering odor, so I urged Gimme away from it.  She went back there a couple of times and I kept ignoring her behavior and not really supporting it.  Finally she went back and was really insistent that it was on the bike and lo and behold, it was under the seat.  Joyce said, "I didn't say it wasn't anywhere on the bike".  Seriously!  Odor falls to the ground, so Gimme was probably in odor when she was at the base of the bike and I was urging her away.  Had I left her alone, she would no doubt have followed the odor up to where it was.  To her credit, Gimme knew it was there somewhere and kept going back despite my idiot handling.

Then Gimme found a place on the bottom of some cages and insisted odor was there.  Joyce said it was lingering, so I urged her away.  The fourth time she went back and indicated, Joyce said, "I wonder if I picked up that odor" and when she checked, indeed it was there.  Again, to her credit, Gimme knew she was right and persisted.  Honestly, that just shouldn't happen.  I was just thankful that it didn't happen to Susan and Tucker, since they are trialing this Saturday and don't need to confuse the dog right before a trial.

Gimme let me know that class wasn't enough to meet her needs (because she finds odor too fast... so she only gets about five minutes of searching).  She let me know by killing one of her toys - which she had dissected last week - today she dismembered it.  So I decided to do a little tricks training.

One of her tricks "pretty" is to sit up and beg and she's really good about doing it, but I've always been disappointed that I couldn't get better duration on that trick.  Those paws just come up and go down really quickly and yet I see other dogs that are able and willing to hold the pose for awhile.  I was thinking about this earlier today and it occurred to me that she gets paid when those feeties are back on the ground... so I am actually rewarding that part of the sequence as well.

So I decided tonight to practice it and concentrate on feeding in position.  So even if the paws went down, the treat was delivered as if they were up.  This is the same solution we had to do on her "take-a" bow... even if she popped up from the bow, the treat was delivered down on the ground and she had to resume the position.  Quickly she learned to hold her bows.  Likewise tonight, after the third time, she was holding the "pretty" a little longer.
Basically I am following the rule - "Whenever possible, feed in position."  I tell my students this and that's how I set up their exercises and training.  But - smack my forehead - I forget to apply it to my own training.
Of course, then I had to sort out two other issues.  Gimme has a tendency to want to stand up rather than sit.  The other thing is that she wants to use her paws to hold onto my hand.  For both of these the hand gets pulled away.  I see both as symptoms of the same issue.  As muscular and strong as Gimme is, I don't think she has a strong enough core to hold this position - its just not something she does.  So as we practice this... keeping her up getting 5 or 6 treats in succession, we'll be building her core.

The other thing we worked on is "chin" a behavior which will be used to build a better hold on her dumbbell.  Gimme was only really pressing into my hand if the treating hand was basically luring her to do so.  Tonight I decided to try doing it more like a Doggie Zen exercise.  First I did luring a couple of times to get her started.  Then I started holding the treating hand out to the side and she had to leave it, moving her head to press into the other hand to get the treats.  If she mugged my treat hand she got nothing so that triggered her Doggie Zen mindset and she quickly started giving me nice pressure into my hand.

She's a smart cookie... its just a matter of discovering what works best for any given exercise.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Public Dog (10)

The weather cooperated, so we were able to meet Mary and Grafton out at the training area for a nice long walk.  The two of them thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  They were clearly thrilled to get to really play with each other. 

An intriguing thing I noticed and Mary commented on was how much more actively playful Gimme was.  As she has gotten older, she has tended to stick closer to me and be less interested in boisterous play with her Grafton.  So it was interesting to see that.  I don't know if its because its been so long since they got to play free like that or if it relates to the homeopathic remedies we are using.  It'll be interesting to see if it lasts.

After that I had a couple of errands and then Public Dog class.  Gimme did much better, pretty much just like she did at the first couple of classes.  She was eagerly working me for treats.  It clearly wasn't easy for her, but she was not over emotional and she was acting like herself again.  I guess we can unequivocally say the homeopathy is a success.

BTW I worked on her loose leash walking using 300 Pecks and was able to get consistently up to 8 steps, several times to 10 and once to 15.  It occurs to me that it was one of the things we'd really just been starting to get solid before the false pregnancy - so that may explain why it was the one thing that suddenly disappeared.  Gimme had the best recalls of the class and Elizabeth praised us on them.  And we also did a mock of the greet a friendly stranger and Gimme was able to keep her footies on terra firma.

Then we had about a 2 hour break before we met Susan and Mary for roving nosework practice.  Susan and Tucker are trialing on Saturday and we didn't want to do any nosework in the couple days before the trial, so we decided to do it tonight - one search on each element.  Then class on Wednesday will be his last before the trial. 

For roving nosework... we went to three different locations.  We did one two room interior search at the quilt shop.  Both Gimme and Tucker did well with 2 inaccessible hides. 

Then we drove a few blocks to the park and did an exterior with 1 inaccessible and 1 accessible.  That inaccessible was really a hard one and both dogs had to work quite awhile to find it.  If they'd done that at a trial it wouldn't have been as difficult, since it would have had much more time to cook.  Plus the breeze was very light and variable direction.  Gimme was repeatedly distracted by a lot of barking neighbor dogs nearby.  Grafton joined us here and was also very distracted, but he's always been environmentally sensitive - we basically had to help him find both paired hides, so he could end on success.

From there we went to Home Depot and set up two hides on their rental equipment (1 truck, 2 trailers and 1 chipper).  All the dogs were very interested in the strip of grass right behind them - though none of them tried to mark there.  We had to restart Tucker, but then he got down to business - so the lesson for Susan is that he needs time to acclimate.  Gimme found one hide right away and then totally ignored where I knew I'd put the other one.  Instead she went to the other trainer and indicated near the hitch... and I called her a "liar".  Then Mary 'fessed that she'd moved it while I was giving Gimme a chance to potty.  I believe that falls under the category of TRUST YOUR DOG.  Grafton did a nice job of finding both the hides and the big chunks of chicken I paired them with -- this location was much quieter.

After that we set up a container element - two odors, two distractions and twelve bags.  Tucker didn't do as well at this... he was slower to settle, so Susan called two false alerts.  Gimme did very well... tried to sell me on the box with the peanut butter in it, but really only alerted on the right containers.  We removed the distractions and paired odor for Grafton and he did a nice job. 

So now Miss Gimme is pretty well spent.  Its been a really full day for us both.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Weekend

We've been getting a little more exercise, though not as much as I'd hoped.  Even though Friday was officially the first day of Summer, it started raining late yesterday and still hasn't stopped.  Mary and I had big plans to take the kids, Gimme and Grafton, for a big walk tomorrow - since Mary has the day off.  Unfortunately the forecast is for rain and lots of it, so that may not happen.

On the phantom pregnancy front - things are going well.  I discovered the effect of Ignatia wasn't the same the second time around, which is when I realized that without intending to, I'd stopped giving her the Pulsatilla.  That is the homeopathic I started with, because I had it on hand, so she'd been getting it for five days when I first tried the Ignatia.  Now that I'm back to giving both of them, she is doing great.

Honestly she's being a big puppy girl, wanting to play all the time.  She is constantly bringing me toys and trying to engage me in play.  I've even put away the two babies and after a short while she stopped looking for them and transferred her attentions to her other toys.  There have been no more emotional outbursts or unusual sensitivity episodes.  Yesterday I took her to the park where the skateboarders are and she did much better with them.  She did show concern about one guy on roller-blades, but both times he seemed to appear out of nowhere.  I'll have to make sure to set that up properly.

We've also had two training sessions in the last 36 hours and she was completely focused and eager.  I'm also seeing that her impulse control is returning.  Of course, tomorrow's Public Dog class will be the big litmus test.  I hope she does well; if so, we'll get back to walking around the lake.  I'll also be eager to find where our loose leash walking has been hiding.

Yesterday we met Mary and Susan for a nosework practice; with containers, exterior and vehicle hides.  Gimme was enthusiastic and 100% focused throughout.  We have learned some very interesting things about these three dogs.  Gimme will basically do the same kind of element over and over and over again.  She doesn't get bored, though she may start showing some "creativity" as things go along - especially if she thinks she has been finding the hides too quickly.  Both Tucker and Grafton are lower drive than Gimme.  Tucker does best if we only do the same kind of hide a few times, then he wants to do another element.  Grafton will do one or two searches and then loses interest - even if Mary has really good rewards.  However, if we pair the hides, then he gets back into it -- so we'll be doing a lot more paired hides with him in the future.

I love nosework.  It is so natural to the dogs and its one time when they get to do what comes naturally to them.  It builds confidence in the dogs and teaches us humans to really carefully watch our dogs and go with what they are telling us.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Puppy Class & NW (1/14)

After our talk on Monday, I changed Gimme to a different, less chaotic class.  Originally I put her in a different Thursday class, but someone else needed that slot, so I changed to puppy class yesterday.  I took our milk crate to work on that trick and we worked on some other behaviors.

There were supposed to be three puppies, but only two showed up.  Gimme did better with that quieter class.  She paid no attention to Ursula dropping a crutch nearby - noticed, but unconcerned.  Everyone wears funny hats and a boy wheeled around the room in a wheelchair, so she got to practice sitting politely while he pet her.   She enjoyed walking over and through all the different things that were on the floor (this class is about puppies exploring different experiences).  I can't say that she enjoyed walking down the metal grate see-through stairs, but she did it.  She's clearly not afraid of it, but the stairs are uncomfortable on the feet (Ursula tried it barefoot herself).

We also played "pass the puppy".  The puppies actually stay put and the humans rotate.  Gimme thoroughly enjoyed all the people who came to see her - she can never get enough attention from people and is just sure that a stranger is simply someone who has not yet had the blessing of meeting her.  Interestingly, after that she was clearly tired.  I was pleased to see that, as I expected, she wasn't overly concerned about me leaving her with strangers - though she was happy to have me come back.

I researched different natural and alternative approaches to false pregnancy symptoms.  Before class that day I made sure I got her out to run off leash for a three mile walk, so I'm sure that helped.  Today after nosework class Mary with Grafton and me with Gimme went to walk around the Capitol Campus.  Gimme was THRILLED to see her Grafton and they had fun taking every opportunity to get their leashes tangled.  There are rarely dogs there, so it was a nice chance to get in 1.5 miles.  Her loose leash walking is absent; she claims she's never heard of it.  We'll probably go tomorrow as well. Today I was able to get some of the other natural/alternative remedies, one of which made a DRAMATIC difference.  I am thrilled with how much it has helped her - she got her single pellet 7 hours ago and is still a happy relaxed camper.  She's also getting Raspberry Leaf Tea in her drinking water and Evening Primrose Oil.

For class tonight we met at a park and did three exterior hides.  Gimme did a great job on two of them, finding them very quickly.  On the third one she blew by it and just gave a nose tilt (which I missed, but Joyce saw it) and then spent all her time having fun searching every other spot she could.  We also did an interior hide in one of the bathrooms and she found that very quickly.

Now we are going to camp out on the couch, watch a movie and I'm gonna massage my foot for about 2 hours. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Public Dog (9)

Today we met at the park for class.  I mistakenly thought Gimme would be completely okay with the skateboarders, since she'd seen so many when we were out walking without any sign of concern.  What I didn't account for was how many different and unusual sounds they make on the ramps and the different way people move.  Gimme did not think that was proper at all.  It probably didn't help that the sidewalk we used to get to where class was being held was between the skateboard ramp area and the open basketball court where a game was in progress.  

We worked on lots of "whazzat" with the skateboarders as we moved through.  Later we worked on it some more during class from the other side where I could play with the distance more.  Ursula coached me on some things I could do better in that respect.  After class we took the long way around so she wouldn't be sandwiched between the skateboarders and the basketball players.

Interestingly I've found she is doing much better right now with simple impulse control games than she is with moving things (like LLW).  And her stay test in class today was absolutely flawless.  

Ursula is concerned about how much worse Gimme "seems" during this false pregnancy than before.  I put that in quotes because after thinking about it, I believe it may not be an accurate assessment. 

I'm wondering if her false pregnancy is really that much worse this time around - or if its the nature of the Public Dog class and how much more it "pushes" her.  Before whenever she was in classes when her false pregnancy came around - we were working on behaviors that might be a challenge for her, but nothing that challenged the emotional side of things for her.  In fact the only notes I have in my blog related to her false pregnancy and class was when we were working on the distraction of doing a stand for exam, even though we've been in class during her summer f.p. a couple times before.  It occurs to me that she probably also has a false pregnancy following winter seasons (mid October), but I don't even notice them (which would be about mid December) - probably because we aren't in any class other than maybe one agility class that month and nosework.  
It also occurs to me that she isn't getting the amount of off leash recreation that she has in years past.  I have plantar fasciitis and I have been trying to get some rest of my foot.  And since she was acting more emotional, I thought it might be a good time to get that rest.  Perhaps that is exactly the wrong approach for her - maybe she needs more opportunities to relax and be a dog, not less.
Throughout this time, Gimme continues to do very well in nosework.  Admittedly she is not quite as focused as normal, but she's probably at 90-95% of normal.  Nosework takes intense concentration and can be hard work, but it doesn't challenge her on emotional issues...  

Also she is continuing to train well at home.  Again with a little less focus and intensity than usual, but for the most part she is eager and enthusiastic.  Tonight we worked on the perch trick again (getting on a little stool and turning around).  She wasn't doing that well, so I put it aside, brought in and washed a milk crate that was outside.  I'll probably cut a piece of carpet for it and zip-tie it on, but for tonight I used a folded towel.  With that increase in size, Gimme was working nicely.  I still wasn't getting the turn, so used a target stick to help her get the behavior and ten clicks later she was offering it.  During this effort, she managed to kick the milk crate over a couple times getting on and off, but she was basically unconcerned and impatient to get back on (not always waiting for me to get the towel in place).  

I would think that if she was really in that fragile of an emotional state, that kicking over the milk crate as she was dismounting would be upsetting.  And this is all while having just whelped two "babies".  Both are Dalmatians and neither will ever be show quality, but we love them both (though she does have a favorite).

Anyway, I've changed her to the another class on Thursday, since it'll be less chaotic.  We'll continue to go to Public Dog on Mondays and will just plan to stay further away from the crowd until she is back to normal. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Public Dog (8)

Gimme did okay for class.  I've received the stress support supplement for dogs (Serenity Now) and have now given it to her for a couple days.  I don't yet notice any benefit, but even though the hormones cause stress, I think her condition is more about the hormones.

I'd discovered that her understanding of how to win while relaxing had deteriorated and essentially turned into a feeding frenzy.  Hormones are driving her to eat everything in sight and she's actually gained a couple of pounds.  So during class on Thursday, I worked on reestablishing a calmer routine and focus on self control.  It was hard for Gimme, but she is getting it. 

The class was working on all the things the dog needs to accept comfortably from other people.  During class we each did them to our dogs, while observed by an instructor and got signed off as either "good" or "needs work".  For instance one task is brushing the dog.  I didn't bring a brush (don't even own a dog brush), so I just used my wad of keys in my hand and stroked them over her body.  Gimme did fine with that - thought it was a bit odd, but she is really so good about any touch that nothing fazes her.  The other tasks were: examining teeth/mouth, ears and feet, pulling tail, and hard patting on the head.  Gimme got signed off on all the tasks - easily...

Yesterday we met Susan and Mary for a nosework practice.  We met at Lowes and set up container drills in the parking lot.  Gimme was not as focused as usual and more whiney than usual.  Tucker is doing so well in the beginning and less so on later exercises; his attitude and drive have improved now that Susan is bringing better goodies.  I think he's gotten good enough with the food distraction concept that he gets bored with repetitions.  So in the future we are going to do just a couple of container drills and then some exterior searches.  Grafton did well on his first search but after that he was mostly checked out.  Turns out Mary brought unexciting treats and once Grafton found out, he wasn't inspired to work through the distraction of the environment.  We made Mary give up her dinner to use as treats and that helped quite a bit.  Right now his natural indication is in a state of flux... so we are working on strengthening a component of it.

Now am off to my parents' for Father's Day and painting...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nosework (6/13)

We met at Diane's house tonight for class.  We did two exterior searches and one indoors.  I honestly had no idea of what to expect from my little "expectant mother".  I figure she is "due" any day now - caught her examining the floor of the closet this morning and she's getting more emotional by the moment.  She's been very needy and has to be with me every moment.  Usually she naps on the couch while I'm on the computer, but tonight she is right here with me.

Despite my concerns, she did really well.  Her first search she was a bit less focused than normal, but still did great finding both hides in the exterior very quickly.  One was in a garden hose caddy, tucked under the edge of the hose.  The other was in a pen cap stuck into the ground and covered with bark dust. 

The second search was in Diane's tiny garage - good thing she has a sports car or you couldn't get in or out of the car.  A couple of the dogs found this space disturbing - it was really crowded and the lighting was very dark at one end.  Gimme didn't have any problem with that.  She found where the NW1 level hide had been, but had difficulty finding the inaccessible hide in a drawer, which was a hard one.  She tried to tell me the lingering odor was it, but I didn't fall for it and so she persisted and found the real deal.  We would not be faced with that kind of lingering odor at a trial - they won't even reuse a room on the next day.

The last search was around a fountain.  Gimme just had me running around behind her and found those very quickly.  I was sure glad to see that she does this well at nosework even in her "condition".

Last night in agility class - she was not very focused, so for her first run we just focused on teaching her to do the chute without curling toward me as she finishes it.  We probably did the chute 25 times...  Gimme thought that was very fun.  We also did the weaves.  She missed the entry, but when I put her in again she did them nicely.

For our second run, we did do the course until we found a spot that challenged us... It was a two jump straightaway with a big distance between them and in a place where she'd easily get ahead of me.  She curled toward me and missed the second jump.  I did it again and used a forward hand signal to send to the second jump.  Then Blynn had me do it again using my hand to push out to the side.  She said the problem was that she was collapsing in on my line and that I needed to push out to the side not thrust forward.  It worked beautifully.  I love APHS handling because its so intuitive to the dogs.

We've been doing a little bit of free-shaping of two new tricks for use in RallyFrEe.  One is to send her out to run through an upright hoop - which took her all of three clicks to figure out.  I wanted it to teach her to go out to the dogwalk up-ramp and have her mount the end, not the side, without me being there.  Of course Gimme wanted to embellish it... so once we are done using it for its intended purpose I'll retool it using her idea -- which is, to back to it and through it...  She's so clever.

I bought her a cute little stool for our other trick - which is to get on the stool with all four feet and spin around.  She's happy to get on it, but not yet comfortable enough to offer turning around.  If I'm right there moving around her she will to keep facing me.  The stool is small - 8x11 top and ten inches high.  Its not too small for her to do that, but enough that she's not yet completely comfortable.  I think I'll use a milk crate to shape the intended behavior (with something to make the bottom comfortable on her feeties) and then will transfer it to the stool.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Public Dog (7)

I tried giving Gimme some Rescue Remedy before class today and it seemed to help.  She still wasn't her usual brilliant self, but she was able to focus better and at times did very well.  We lucked out that the co-instructor was gone this week and only 4 of the 5 dogs scheduled for class showed up.  Plus we had a huge park to work in, so it was much easier to adjust distance between Gimme and the other dogs. 

We did a lot of check-ins, pretty much any time she seemed unable to do more.  Also we practiced our loose leash walking... not getting very many steps at a time, but at least no hard pulling.  She was distracted with lots of sniffing, so I focused on making sure that I clicked when her nose was off the ground and the leash was loose.  

She seems uninterested in Tor - probably because he's so big (Alaskan Malamute) and always fairly calm.  Max is a big black Schnauzer-mix and is sometimes reactive, but usually good.  Gimme is fairly comfortable with him.  At one point he was laying down and his owner was standing talking with Ursula, so I eased closer and told Gimme to "chill".  We started about 12 feet away and gradually got to about 8 feet.  Then Tor came up and joined our group in the shade, about 15 feet away.  At that point Gimme got up and re-positioned herself so she could watch both of them and in doing so, moved closer to Max who continued to ignore her, so that she was then about 6 feet from him. 

The only dog she didn't like, indeed none of the dogs like him, is Bo.  He's a very stressy yellow Lab, who is always whining and fussing.  All the dogs seem to be uncomfortable with him to some degree or another.  They act like he's contagious - though in reality I think they are trying to send him calming signals and he doesn't seem to get it.  Gimme always knows exactly where he is.  I told Ursula about a stress-support supplement that I just learned about and she's very interested in it.

I came upon this quote by Walt Disney:
“I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true.  This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four Cs. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence.”
That to me sums up the attitude we most want in our dogs -  curious, confident, courageous, and constant (faithful, dependable and steadfast), and the greatest of all is confidence.  You really only get that kind of attitude with consistent positive reward training. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Today was a relaxing day for us - though the original plan was to stuff a lot more into it.  First I went to Linda's to help her finish the quilt for her first grandchild who has moved up his arrival date.  The sailboats come from a paper pieced pattern that I created just for this quilt - I think they are very cute.  I thought I'd be able to get the binding on in less than 2 hours, but instead it took four.  Nothing ever goes as quickly as planned.  It was worth it - this is certainly a special one-of-a-kind quilt for what is sure to be a one-of-a-kind grandchild...  I always enjoy time spent with Linda and Ron.  Not to mention, they always feed me so well.  We followed the quilting with beer-chicken right off the grill.

Then Linda, Gimme and me went to the fort to walk 3 miles.  Gimme thoroughly enjoyed herself running about.  Her hobby these days is to find and enlarge the entrances to all the mouse holes in those fields.  She expects one day that her efforts will be "rewarded".  Linda got these pictures...

I feel so blessed to have such a great place to walk with my girl and my friends. 

The sky was a particularly pretty blue today...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Public Dog (6) & NW Practice

I did get Gimme a bodywork treatment session yesterday and Tonya said she was better than before.  She thinks the energy work I've been doing is helping.  I was talking to my friend and she said they can start a false pregnancy well before the due date.  So, since I've confirmed Gimme has "fluffy boobies" - I'm chalking her weirdness up to her delicate condition.  I'm searching high and low for her baby lamb.

Yesterday in Public Dog class, she did not do well with the chaos of having 6 teams in that small space.  We played Doggie Tic Tac Toe again.  Gimme was mostly able to do her part - 5 out of 6 tries, but not to the standard we normally would do.  There was a practice round that ended up a draw, then four rounds.  They kept switching the teams around and even so, the team we were on won all four times.  So between Monday and yesterday, Gimme and I were victors each time - Doggie Tic Tac Toe CHAMPIONS...

The rounds were: LLW into a square and sit in the square with luring; butler style LLW into a square and sit in the square with luring; LLW into a square and sit in the square with food on us but no luring; and butler style LLW into a square and sit in the square with food on us but no luring. The leash had to remain in a J shape the whole time and we did it 4 out of 5 times, but it required a lot of me talking and helping her hold her position.  Once we were done and she got her treat, the moment I took one step toward our area - she was dragging me to get back to her sanctuary.

Tonight Susan and I met for a nosework practice on containers again.  We did eight rounds of searches with gradually increasing difficulty.  Gimme thoroughly enjoyed it - along with her marshmallow rewards.  Being false preggers does not affect her nosework ability.  She is contentedly snoozing as we speak.

Tucker did very nicely and I'll be eager to hear how he does this weekend - they are going to a match.  I did talk to Susan about possibly not coming to any container class with Joyce between now and her trial.  She didn't say whether she would or not.  I explained to her my reasoning and now its up to her to make a decision. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nosework (5/13)

First, about agility class last night.  Gimme was not at all focused, even worse than the day before.  I basically did the courses treating after each obstacle.  I said I thought the lights weren't even on, but Blynn said they were - just at a substantially lower wattage than I'm accustomed to.  We did the math and Blynn thinks its too early for her to be affected by a false pregnancy.  However this season was weird - coming early and lasting longer than usual, so everything could be off.  In any case, I'm going to get an appointment with Tonya (we're about due anyway).

Tonight at nosework Gimme did pretty good, but there were only two searches.  Joyce had set up a container exercises with food distractions.  There were 19 boxes, one odor and the rest all food.  Our instructions were to let them do whatever they wanted with the boxes and reward even a casual sniff at the odor box.  She had her own dog run first as a demo and she did such vigorous pawing that we had to re-tape three boxes (imagine my eyebrows practically arching off my face).

Two of the dogs (both NW1 level and very mild mannered) did well enough with the exercises set up this way.  For Gimme, I did not reward a casual sniff of the odor box and treated it just like I would have for a trial - waiting for all 4 parts of her indicator for containers.  Of course, Joyce talked to me the whole time, so needless to say Gimme stomped on several boxes, but only trashed the odor box and even that wasn't as vigorous as I'm used to seeing.  And then she just had to tell me that when the day comes that we are faulted-out-of-a-title, she's going to remind me that she's warned me.  I just said, "don't you mean IF we are faulted out?"

They had taped our searches so we got to watch them afterward.  On the second video I heard Joyce say to the class "I don't know why Carla pays me for classes and doesn't do what I suggest?"  I almost got a hernia not replying "I've wondered about that myself" OR "I only follow your good suggestions" OR "I know my dog and I only do what I know works for her" OR...  <sigh>  If only there were better instruction available within a reasonable drive.

Tucker did really well the first time and found the odor box very quickly.  Clearly what we've been doing in practice has really paid off.  But then Susan let him get to one of the food boxes as she was leaving the search area and Joyce had her let him continue sniffing it until he decided to leave - except Susan finally had to drag him away.  So his next search was awful and he was in total food search mode and could care less about odor.  He was picking up the boxes with his teeth biting into a corner and trying to carry them away.  For him, sniffing food is self-rewarding, so letting him do it only increases the strength and frequency of the behavior.

Susan and I hung out and talked after class.  We talked a LOT about different ways to reward him so that we can increase the value of finding odor.  He's a "strange" dog and not easily motivated.  So we'll be trying some new things.  I also spent a bunch of time trying to impress on her that letting him sniff boxes until "he decides to leave them" is not going to work for him.

I further explained to her the immutable characteristics of behavior strength and frequency, that it can only do one of three things: increase, stay the same, or decrease.  If its increasing - then its being rewarded.  If it stays the same - its getting enough reward to be maintained.  If it decreases - then its not being rewarded and/or is being punished.  What we've been doing in three weeks of practices, by not letting him linger to sniff the distraction boxes and heavily rewarding finding odor is decreasing the distraction sniffing and increasing odor finding.  Yet one instance of being allowed to sniff distraction and he's suddenly (but not surprisingly) aggressively sniffing again.

Unfortunately Susan would never just ignore Joyce's way of doing things, so I'm going to talk to her at our next practice this Friday.   I'm going to suggest that she not come to class when Joyce lets us know she's going to be doing food distraction exercises (we have to bring the food distractions) - at least between now and her trial the end of this month.  Probably will only come up once at the most.  That way there is a chance we can get him through this enough for her to do well at the trial - since it clearly only takes one instance of self-rewarding to re-strengthen the unwanted food searching behavior.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Public Dog (5)

Today was out and about Public Dog class.  It was in a small park and we used a rather narrow trail through the woods.

I knew right away that this was not going to be our most stellar class - Gimme just had no focus or attention at all.  The co-instructor kept giving me suggestions/advice for how to teach her LLW.  She kept ignoring my replies saying it wasn't a LLW issue, but rather a focus issue, so I basically ignored her. Our best 300 Pecks sequence was 5 steps, but for the most part we couldn't get more than 2!  When it came time for everyone to be playing leap-frog to come back up the trail -- I just used the PB GoToob to lure her past them so we were in the back again and then we declined to play. 

It was about that time that I suddenly had a duhhh-uhhhh moment.  All weekend Gimme has been Little Miss Clingy.  I spent the weekend getting my yard more or less caught up, so we didn't do any training and thus I didn't immediately trip to where her brain is.  Anyway, while walking it occurred to me and I did the math - she's having her false preggers.  So we'll have a week to ten days of less focus and then she'll be back to normal.  I find it interesting that I lose 7-10 days for the false pregnancy and 1 day during her season.

In any case, once I realized that - I simplified things greatly and finished the walk dawdling along and click/treating auto check-ins.  By the time we got to the trail head where everyone was taking a break, I had much more of her brain. 

After the break we all got together and played Doggie Tic Tac Toe.  They made a big grid on the ground and broke us into two teams of 3.  There was the "down" team and the "sit" team.  We started in the "down" team (which goes first because its supposed to be harder) and all three of our team got our pieces (one at a time) into their squares, doing the behavior with two cues or less.  Technically we won, but the co-instructor gave the other team another move and called it a draw. 

The next round we were in the "sit" team, starting second.  Susan and Tucker were first up and he just wouldn't sit.  So that had the other two up on us, but Gimme and I were able to cut them off.  Since it was a sit, I got us close to the board and then just heeled the last few steps into our square and stopped, so she sat.  Of course, then I had to get her up so I could prove that she knew how to sit on cue.  Anyway, our team was vindicated when we won this round.

I'm happy to say, despite her earlier lack of focus, Gimme was the only dog of the six that was able to do her sits and downs on the first cue each time.  Not that I'm competitive or anything like that... 

She's been being a lap dog ever since we got home...