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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Attention & NW (6/14)

I decided that I want to walk all the rails-to-trails in both Thurston and Lewis counties.  So, yesterday I started with the beginning of the Western Chehalis set.  We didn't get very far because Gimme was so distracted and unfocused.  She just had the worst time even trying to do something that resembled LLW.

Partly I think that has to do with two things that happened at home.  First a deer walked through the yard, hopping over the 4 ft fence like it wasn't there.  So I'm sure Gimme smelled the intruder and possibly it made her more intense about the rural smells.  It probably doesn't help that she hasn't been out to the fort to stretch her legs and run around in a week and was very cooped up for most of the weekend.

Then before we left, Ted came over and was working on some of the projects I have going on.  I don't think I've mentioned that I'm having the house painted, along with a lot of other exterior work.  The power washing and house painting hasn't bothered Gimme, probably because it is so quiet.  But the tree removal and tree topping are pretty noisy. 

In any case, practicing attention exercises is our big focus right now.  Tomorrow I plan to do another Attention O.T.R. to see if she is getting it.  Some things she seems to pick up pretty quickly - others seem pretty sketchy.

Since the last class I got in a late entry for an ORT this Sunday.  I wasn't originally planning to do it, but its right here in town, so I figure I may as well.  We do need to get Clove out of the way.

Tonight was our last nosework class for this session. Joyce set up a container search using clove, an exterior search with three hides and a vehicle search with one hide.

Gimme did very well with the container and clearly knows what to do when she smells clove.  I feel really confident that we'll get the ORT.  She did bust the stuffing out of several boxes.  I have been working on moderating her paw indicator, but its just in the beginning phase.  I realized that the "paw" cue is not specific - sometimes its pawing (repeated strikes) and sometimes its paw and hold.  So if I'm going to use it as a part of a behavior chain for an indication, I have to be specific about what "paw" means.  So we're in the process of redefining "paw" before going any further.

Our second search was the exterior and while Gimme found the first one very quickly, she dithered all over for the other two and then peed and I walked her off the area.  She was repeatedly distracted by playing-people sounds out of sight, which she's usually better about.  Also, that's the first time she has peed in an exterior in a very long time.  Later as I watched others try to find the odor, I understood why it was so challenging for her.  Joyce had placed the three hides really close so it was essentially a three-way converging odor exercise.  Only two dogs of the 6 got it and Joyce was helping them.

Our third search was a vehicle and while it wasn't a particularly hard challenge, Gimme was taking her time about it.  Since she wasn't getting it fast enough to suit Joyce, she stepped in trying to "help" her... but her idea of helping was essentially getting in Gimme's space, which then Gimme would back out to let her have the space - being a polite girl.  When I told Joyce to back off and let Gimme solve it herself... she got back to work and did solve it.  She was positively strutting her stuff on the way back to the car.  She always gets really impressed with herself when she does something challenging.

So not our best class, but I do feel really good about the containers and the ORT this weekend.  Cross any body parts you can spare.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Weekend & Public Dog (14)

We spent the weekend at my parents' house.  It was pretty crazy all weekend.  I don't know how my 82yo mother takes care of my father who is almost 85, in declining health and has Alzheimer's.  It was chaotic and tiring for me.

We had a little excitement on Saturday at dusk.  We were all watching TV when Dad said, "Gloria, look at that!" And there it was... a HUGE Barred Owl, sitting on top of the bird feeder. It sat there at least 20 minutes - long enough for me to run over to get Scott, hoping he had his camera, since mine was at home. Finally she dove to the ground and caught something for a light meal. Mom is really hoping the meal was not one of her squirrel friends...  We didn't have a camera available... but this is what it looks like.  I was surprised to see how big it was.  I found on the internet that the females are much larger, up to 2.5 pounds.  The one we had visiting was easily that big, if not larger, so that's why I refer to it as "she".

Gimme came in later to entertain everyone.  She ran through her whole repertoire of tricks and even showed off the new one we are working on, "jumbo", where she backs onto a perch and spins around (like elephants do in a circus, hence the name).  She has the backing-on solid, since she's always been very back foot aware and confident.  But until then I had never gotten the spin without luring it.  I'll be darned if she didn't do the spin the moment I said "spin".  I think she just likes having an audience.

Today was our out-and-about Public Dog class - held at Petsmart.  I decided in advance that I would treat it as one giant attention training exercise.  We spent a lot of time outside as a group... working the first exercise.  While we were waiting our turn, Gimme did whine some and so I put her to work doing some tricks and that settled her down.  I think standing around not-doing is frustrating to her.  On a positive note, doing a few tricks works and she is able to then go for longer and longer without whining.  I could have worse problems than a dog that really wants to train all the time.

The exercise was LLW without sniffing, using the uprights on either side of the door where many dogs had clearly marked.  We walked by and body-blocked the dogs when they attempted to sniff.  I'm pretty good at body-blocking, but not so good at relieving the pressure.  I see her give way, but there's a huge lag time between me seeing and being able to change my motion to relieve that pressure.  I think next time I'm just going to block-then-unblock in one continuous motion... because Gimme is so good at giving up the space, that if I just assume she will give it up, my unblock "response" will be more timely.

Then we went inside and I quickly got separated from the group.  So Gimme and I just walked the aisles, practicing not sniffing, being attentive and LLW.  She was most intrigued by the rodent, bird and fish food aisles.  IE... "intrigued" means "challenged".   I did have to bring out the peanut butter to help motivate her to resist that level and duration of distraction.  But... I was able to give it randomly.  Overall I was very pleased with how she did.  I plan to go back from time to time on my own.  It'll be a great place to train with distractions in the winter.

The small poodle showed up late again, but this time Gimme didn't pay much attention to it.  I think since there was a fairly constant stream of dogs coming and going, it didn't seem as big of a deal to her. 

And, kudos to me - I think I did a good job managing her proximity and exposure to the other dogs.  She did well and only got sticky from time to time.  She is contentedly snoozing as we speak.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Today was our big hiking trip with Frank & Tor and his friend Clydia & Freya (another Alaskan Malamute).

We did the Buckabush River trail, also known as The Two Brothers trail.  It was beautiful and enjoyable.  One drawback was the 1:45 minute drive one way.

I have the book called, "The Creaky Knees Guide to Washington: The 100 Best Easy Hikes in the State".  I am clearly way out of shape as my big question right now is what hurts worse, my right knee or my left foot.  I’m going to see if the book shows some easier and closer hikes we could do.

Gimme thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and drinking from all the wild, water sources – far better than water in a dish, doncha know.  She did say that if she is going to have to drag this big anchor around, she could get one of those cute navy hats to wear.

She may have flirted with Tor the other day, but she had second thoughts today.  I hope to set up some opportunities to do parallel walking with Frank and Tor; it would be good for her.

Frank walks Tor almost every day and I’ve
seen him walking around town - so I’m
hoping we can get together for walks on
the rails-to-trails paths, where we can
parallel walk with about 8 feet between
us.   Since I walk Gimme on my left and
he walks Tor on his right, that'll add
another 3-4 feet of separation.

I continue to be amazed at how little people understand about dogs in general and dog interactions specifically.  Put another way – there’s a reason I decided a long time ago to never believe ANYONE who tells me how perfect their dog is with other dogs.

After the walk, this nice lady says we should arrange a play date between the her dog and Gimme, because her girl plays really gentle. Then as I ask her questions she tells me (as if it couldn't possibly be a problem) that she sees that Gimme would "push", but that her dog will "push back, but it'll be over with real quick". I'm thinking NOT!

Hmmmmmm... what part of Gimme needs to be around dogs that "will not engage" didn't you understand?

And now friends, my couch and ice are calling me…

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nosework (5/14) & Public Dog (14)

It was pretty hot for nosework class, so Joyce set up drive-building drills for us.  Also they were all on grass, so we had to be alert to the possibility of the dogs wanting to mark.  It went so fast, Gimme never even thought of it. 

Drill #1 - Consisted of 4 open boxes, set 4 feet apart in a straight line.  Each box had odor and was paired.  The idea was to let the dogs pull us to the box... then continue to reward them for keeping their nose in the box for 5+ treats, after the pairing cookie. 

Drill #2 - This was the same 4 open boxes, set 6-8 feet apart.  Each box had odor, but only the first and last boxes were paired.  Again the idea was to let the dogs pull us to the box... then continue to reward them for keeping their nose in the box for 5+ treats.

Drill #3 -  This drill was set up along a curb, with odor every 6-8 feet, in the space between the curb and the grass.  The second and last hides were paired.  Again, encouraging pulling and then continuing to reward them for 5+ treats.

Needless to say, Gimme thought these were all brilliant games.  She was definitely dragging me along and having the best time with the self-serve cookies.  After her speed on the interior and exterior elements at the recent trial, I'm not thinking she actually needs to have her drive built upon... but at least she had fun.  The most challenging thing from the handler perspective was making sure I could still be delivering the last couple of treats, while getting my hands ready on the line so she could pull me to the next hide.

Then Joyce set up a "real search", with a hide about 4 foot up a small tree and another under the base of a fire hydrant.  Honestly those were pretty simple even for NW1 and Gimme found them without even having to think about it.  The only challenge for her was trying to get her feet on that little 3 inch diameter trunk to steady herself while getting cookies at source.

All in all a very simple class - which is sometimes a good thing.  I think all dogs benefit from going back to the basics now and then.  We have one more class left in this session, then we'll be taking 3 weeks off between this and the start of the next session.  That'll give us three classes to get back in the swing of things before the Bend-Oregon trial, which Susan and I both hope to get into.  Susan and I plan to resume our weekly practices starting with the first break week.

After class Mary and I took Gimme and Grafton down to walk around the lake.  At one point a person nearby dropped her flexi-lead and the little dog came right for us at a dead run.  I had noted how the lady was holding the flexi handle, while yakking on her cellphone,  and surmised, obviously correctly, that if anyone was going to lose control of their dog, it was going to be her.  So being prepared, I cued "Let's Go" and did an emergency u-turn and ran away, ending with "treasure hunt" at the end.  Treasure hunt is where I scatter a handful of treats on the ground and Gimme gets to scarf them up, which she thinks is a fantastic game.  As we went to resume our walk Gimme watched that little dog with interest.  Not because she was concerned, but my impression was that she was hoping the lady would drop the leash so we could do "Let's Go" and "Treasure Hunt" again.  That Gimme, she's always working the angles...

Tonight was Public Dog class.  All the behaviors we worked on were pretty easy.  The set up I had worked well for Gimme and she stayed relaxed and ready to work almost the whole time.  Mostly we stayed in our cubicle or went outside now and then for water, pee breaks and just a little training in the shade.  We went out on the floor with the other dogs one time, after Ursula had them all turn so no one would be facing Gimme as she came by.  She did very well handling their proximity and did well on the three variations of the exercise.  Though, truth be told, she was clearly relieved after we completed the exercises (envision spottie-dottie pulling) to get back to our cubicle.  Its the best she has worked since the false pregnancy began.  I really feel like the seminar weekend was a break-through for her and now we are on our way back to where she was before this all started...  Phwewww... its a relief to see her do so well.

Tomorrow we are going hiking with Frank and some of his dog friends.  Frank's dog is Tor, an Alaskan Malamute.  We aren't telling Grafton, but Ursula is sure she saw Gimme throwing some flirty looks at Tor during Monday's class.  He's nice and calm, so will be a good walking buddy for us when time permits.  And as it is, they accepted my military disability, so I now have a lifetime pass to all National parks - so we'll be going to try some of them out.  I even bought a book, "Creaky Knees", devoted to identifying bad-knee-friendly hikes.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Attention O.T.R.

O.T.R. stands for on-the-road, as in taking it O.T.R.  Its been a long time since I've done really focused attention work.  Yesterday in Public Dog class, while I was able to manage her exposure so she could work - her attentiveness left a lot to be desired.  We never could do more than a few steps of LLW.  My impression was that as soon as Gimme knew where we were, she started checking out, instead of checking in.

Don't get me wrong... she wasn't bad or misbehaving.  I just thought she wasn't really focused or putting in her best effort, even though I managed space so she was clearly well under threshold.  My thinking is that, we've been to class often enough and had it go awry often enough, that she's developing a habit of being inattentive.  Of course that is my fault.  I wasn't managing the pressure well enough and as a result didn't feel right about expecting more from her.  Thus she is thinking that's the new normal.

Kathy once shared with me the idea of taking her many different places and working only attention.  What was a great about the idea was the suggestion that in a large enough parking lot you can get back in the car, drive two rows over and get out to train again and its just like a new location.  I used to do that a lot and was seeing good results.

I decided to use much the same technique and just pull over every little place on the way to the fort's training areas.  I am also using a technique to measure and track attention that I saw described on line.  It was such a good idea that I've kept the email for 15 months.  I'm such a procrastinator that I haven't done anything with it for 15 months.  The idea is:
With a dog that gives you attention, go count out 20 treats, and go somewhere new. Time how long it takes 1) for the dog to give attention when you get there, and 2) how long it takes him to earn the 20 treats for returning attention with distractions of the new location or by visibly working to maintain attention under the circumstances. Write these numbers down. You should see decreases in both numbers, the second one helps you know that the dog is learning to rebound from distractions. This is important. HOWEVER, the FIRST number is the one you *really* need because that's the one that tells you how much time your dog needs to adjust to the surroundings before entering a ring.
I modified this to ten treats, just so it would go faster.  I also did a baseline at home to teach her the game.  At first she thought we were free-shaping something and so was throwing behaviors at me and that ate up a lot of time.  After that first round I put her on leash to limit her options.  At first she found that frustrating and was snapping at the leash.  But you can see she really started getting the rhythm of it for the last two rounds.


Then we took it on the road.  She did okay to begin with, then regressed substantially.  The last two were her best and I was very happy with them. 

I found it a useful exercise and plan to do it once a week.  These Out and About we did on the way to the training areas and it added almost an hour to a 20 minute drive - so it isn't something I'd do all the time - at least not ten rounds.  Two to four rounds could be doable when I'm out doing something or when I'm on the way home from classes.  I also plan to incorporate the rhythm of this into classes - to teach her that attentiveness is important no matter where we are.

From there we went to the fort's training area and walked 3 miles.  It was hot and dry and now my feet hurt...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Seminar and Public Dog (13)

We had a two day seminar this weekend in Corvallis Oregon.  I drove down Friday and came back Sunday night. 
Debbi Decker was fun, nice and entertaining.  That day was mostly about clever ways to teach tricks, though nothing really "exciting" (I'll describe them in the blog).  She relies a LOT on luring, which isn't my favorite way to teach things and not as useful for Gimme.  Kris Hurley on Sunday was all about Mental Management ("With Winning in Mind", Lanny Bassham), though that was only mentioned in passing in the seminar promotion materials.  She's about to become a certified MM instructor.  There were no exercises with the dogs - or even with people, even though it was advertised as a working seminar for people.  I guess she thinks a 6.5 hour "discussion" qualifies as a working seminar.  It was okay, but I wouldn't pay money for her again.
It worked out great for us because the seminar was in Julie's new building with 5000 sq ft usable floor space. Early sessions only had 5 dogs out at a time.  I used wire guides to make a reminder barrier, so that other teams wouldn't unintentionally encroach on our corner.  Also, I told the instructor we'd signed up for a working slot when Gimme was doing much better, about our recent regression, and to please look for us in the far corner.
We started the day by walking the grounds and coming in before others arrived to work on focus. She wasn't worried - just distracted. So I worked with her until I was getting good check-ins and cue responsiveness.
During the seminar, Debbi came to us last for each session, by which time I had already done a lot of "whazzat", so Gimme was focused and working.  Debbi was really impressed with how smart Gimme is and had a lot of nice things to say about her, calling her "exciting" and "gorgeous".
For the 3rd and 4th sessions, there were 8-10 teams on the floor and Gimme  was still able to work nicely.  It was a little harder for her, so I made it a point to cue "pretty" (a sit up "pretty", as opposed to stand up "dance") and then rewarded her with PB.  I've been using the PB to get her to hold the position with the intention of building her core strength.  With regular treats its hard to dole them out smoothly and she has a greater tendency to try and grab my hand with her paws to steady herself.  Plus she's not as inclined to work hard like she will for PB.  So in this case I was able to get two benefits from it.
During one of our sessions in the building we were doing LAT and I noticed that Gimme had stopped turning her head all the way to look at the dogs when I cued "whazzat". Basically she was looking at the wall behind and to my right and then looking at me. I immediately thought someone was *sneaking* up from that side and turned to look. Instead I discovered my little canine genius was using a wall mirror and dog reflections to play LAT.  She's always been fascinated by mirrors and particularly likes to pose in front of them and admire her lovely self. She'll even turn so she can admire the other side of her lovely self. So she obviously knows what they do - I just never thought she'd be aware enough conceptually to use them in that way.
We skipped one session because I found her sound asleep and I didn't have the heart to wake her. Then for the last session when I brought her in, she wasn't nearly as focused. A couple of teams were close... though not any more than had already happened. I saw her getting stuck and even with helping her get unstuck, she couldn't work for the cheese. So I worked through her slow and minimal behaviors to a known cue until I got a good response and then rewarded with peanut butter. Cued it again, got a faster and better response and I rewarded her heavily and headed back to the car.  It was particularly helpful for me to have looked at the descriptions in what I was writing and to distil it down to a short list of clues that she was reaching her limits.  Having just done that, when I saw two things from the list, I immediately recognized it and changed gears. 
One thing I noticed when she was getting a little stuck was that when I touched her she didn't turn to me right away. She's so tactile and normally responds to any touch by turning to see what she can get from it. So, I decided to play with that during class today, where she was immediately responsive to it every time (even for the poodle - see below).  I will try it in other situations to see if its consistent that she doesn't respond quickly when she's concerned.  If so, it may be an easy "test" for when I suspect the environment is getting to her and before it other clues become evident. 
In hindsight I should have let her take the rest of Saturday off when she slept through me walking up to the car the first time (she's "psychic" and usually wakes up when I even *think* about getting her). Still I found it encouraging that she was able to work through it...
Interestingly, after noticing the difference in her evening behaviors last week... Friday night when we arrived at Motel 6, she was calm and barely noticed the motel noises. She'd lift her head and softly wuffed once or twice. On Saturday, she was much edgier and barked several times. I went to bed leaving the TV on to obscure much of the hotel noises, turning it off at 3am. So I think evening behavior will be a consistent after-the-fact assessment of how well I managed her exposure during the day. 
On Saturday night when Gimme was alerting to motel noises with alarm barking...  one of the times I said "what's that" after she bounded off the bed to the door.  Instead of continuing to bark as I tried to cajole her to stop (as I had the other times), she immediately ran to me with a change of attitude, thinking I'd cued "whazzat" (which is why I picked that cue). It worked in the morning too...
I got "Through A Dog's Ear" CDs from the library and thank God I did instead of spending money on them.   For one thing, I didn't notice any measurable improvement for Gimme.  And equally important, I found them intensely annoying. I kept waiting for the next note and it was like Chinese Water Torture, just exhausting...  I may consider getting a white noise machine or a small CD player and some white noise type CDs, for when we travel.  And could use it here at home when she's had a stressful day.
For today's class, she did pretty well.   We were in the park, so it was easy to move around and use space effectively.  She was whining a lot, but I took it more that she was wanting to be "doing" something rather than stressed.  This class tends to include a fair amount of standing around and that frustrates her.  Once we started really working the dogs, then she got quiet and worked well.  I did notice that she often was watching the dog that came late (small poodle) keeping one eye on it almost the whole time.  The poodle did look in our direction a fair amount, so that could have been part of it - it could also be sudden environmental change, because of them joining our group so late.  She responded instantly every time I touched her, so I'll watch to see if that turns out to be a good test for us. 
Ursula saw her flirting with Tor (Alaskan Malamute) and she has always been more comfortable with him.  So Frank and I are going to try to get together to go walking together, maybe Friday.  She needs more opportunities to walk with dogs that are well behaved.

For class on Thursdays (and all classes in the building) I have pretty much decided to continue grabbing the area that has the the only separate door to the outside. I'll also take the expen and stretch it around our space, enclosing the door. I can park my car right outside the door, backing in, so I can use it as a station as well as having her matt inside.  There are also visual dividers that I can set up as needed.  My initial approach was to start in the building and then leave for breaks... but that didn't seem to work well enough. So now I'm going to flip that and work outside and then dip in for short times, building up from there. Which of course, in hindsight makes perfect sense. Far better to start from a calm place and add small amounts of challenge than to start in a pressured place and try to relieve it. Duhhh...
Also I've been thinking I should try DAP again and see if its beneficial.  I tried it and it didn't work when I was trying to solve her car whining, back when I thought it was a stress issue.  Perhaps that wasn't a fair test, since I later realized its anticipatory whining, which is a rather different thing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Nosework (4/14)

Wednesday's class was held at a park where we used the individual public restrooms.  Most dogs did 3 searches then rested and did 3 more.  Gimme did all 6 back to back to teach endurance.  The endurance wasn't a challenge for her, since I've done practices with 8 hides before.

Mostly she did verrrrry well.  Two searches presented difficulties.  For one the hide was on the side of the toilet between the toilet and the wall and she alerted on the near side.  The space was very tight.  It was about 9 inches, so not too tight to get in there.  That is something I'll have to set up and practice so Gimme gets into those tight spaces.

I don't think she was worried by the tight spacing, just didn't see any reason to get into it when she could indicate from the near side - which is only 3 inches away.  Inaccessible hides could be a couple feet over the dog's head or many inches away behind a barrier.  So I am left wondering if doing a lot of inaccessible hides teaches the dogs that they really don't need to get to source. 

The other one she had problems with was two hides in the same bathroom and only about 18 inches apart.  So definitely converging odor and even the strongest parts of the odor cones would have been overlapping.  That's another problem I can set up in practices for her to solve.

Then we did two hides outdoors around some enormous utility covers.  Gimme found those so fast it almost wasn't any fun.  She went from one directly to the other as if she'd seen them placed.

I had another pondering the other day about motivation.  Joyce has been saying over and over and over again regarding Gimme's excessive pawing that I should fix it.  Its always bothered me that there is never any mention of how she's improved AND that the only solutions she gives are punishment, which I'd never do.  Her plan to motivate me is to mention repeatedly the possibility that Gimme could fault-out (more than three faults) at a trial and cost us a title.  Of course, that is unlikely to the extreme and until this last weekend we'd never received any faults for pawing...  so the threat was vague and unbelievable.  Thus it had no motivational value whatsoever.  If anything, I was almost determined NOT to do anything.

Then I go to a trial and Gimme gets her first fault for pawing.  It was annoying and no more, since I've been prepared all along for the occasional fault.  The reason we didn't title was solely because of my dunce-head mistake.  In our last trial we were a couple minutes behind the HIT Aussie (the same dog that beat us by over a second on that exterior) so it never occurred to me that we could be in the running.  However, in reviewing the trial stats... it becomes evident that had I not screwed us up and had there not been a fault, Gimme would have been High in Trial by a comfortable margin.  Now suddenly I'm motivated to work on modifying (de-excessifying) her paw indicator.

Just goes to show that reinforcement, even one that could easily never happen, is far more motivating than the threat of punishment, that is also unlikely.  Hmmmmm...

Well now I really must get to work... and when I get home, quickly pack up for our weekend seminar in Oregon...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Comparing Public Dog (13) & Agility classes

Monday was supposed to be our out-and-about class, but Ursula wanted the opportunity to work the dogs off leash in a fenced in space so we met at the training building.  The rest of us were in the building, with the enormous industrial door open to the outside.  I set up off to one side with our own personal door leading right to my car.  I also set up a visual divider, but only one so Gimme could still see the dogs around the side.

While Ursula and I have discussed using distance more to relieve pressure, I am still not doing it effectively.  Partly I unconsciously think I have to listen to exercise instructions, despite whether Gimme needs a break.  I agreed to Ursula's recommendation to follow along in the class and heed hers and Elizabeth's suggestions.  So I think I have to live up to that too.  Also there is a certain social pressure to look like I'm not babying Gimme.  In reality I'm not living up to my primary obligation, which is to look after Gimme's needs.

I want to talk to the Ursula again to say that I want to remove any "expectation" that I will participate in class exercises.  I will participate only when Gimme is comfortable and able to have a decidedly positive and confidence boosting experience - not just get through it.  Maybe its okay for pets to simply "get through it", but with my performance goals I'm going to need a lot more than that.  I want confidence and attitude.

I also have to talk to Ursula about Elizabeth's lack of familiarity with Gimme.  Ursula and I learned early that Gimme does not show her stress in obvious ways.  One deceptive thing is that she has what I call "leaky tail" and her emotions leak out her tail.  All of her emotions: happy, joy, fun, stress, anxiety, fear and uncertainty; they all result in wagging.  To complicate things there isn't much difference between the quality of the wag either.  Her tail only stops wagging when she is totally relaxed, asleep (though it often wags then too) or when she is about to have a reactive outburst.  Frankly, a wagging Gimme tail just means she is still breathing.  In any case, I'm going to tell Ursula that I'm going to "Just Say No" when Elizabeth suggests things unless I am confident that doing the exercise will be "a decidedly positive and confidence boosting experience".

During this last two classes in the building, while Gimme wasn't becoming emotional or reactive, no feeding frenzy, etc... I've noticed a couple of things. She is externally still, but not able to relax.  Her responsiveness to cues has dropped way down.  Sometimes she doesn't hear me at all.  Other times she responds with the wrong behavior (like down when I cued "sit") or responds very slow. This tells me the environment is still putting too much pressure on her and she's still too close to threshold.

Also, after the first few minutes in class, she is no longer able to work for cheese - which she's always loves. She still eats cheese, but after that first few minutes the only way she can "work" is if I bring out the peanut butter. On a scale of 1-10, PB is a 20 for her. I refer to it as her "doggie crack". She will do anything she is physically capable of doing to get it. In the past, I've used it in tight situations to lure her through and as a reward for her best efforts.  Now in this situation, I find I have to use it to get any focus and still her responsiveness has an erratic quality to it. She does what I ask and we get through the exercise, but its certainly NOT "a decidedly positive and confidence boosting experience". I think of her desire for PB like an addict's desire for their drug of choice.

In this case I think her knowledge that I have PB and will reward with it for everything, is acting as a lure, but one that has a compulsive nature to it - as in obsessive/compulsive.  I don't mean compulsive as in compulsion training - though there could be that element as well, since I'm essentially using it to "force" her to work when she otherwise couldn't.  I am also concerned that she may be learning undesirable lessons - such that working around other dogs is uncomfortable, Mommy doesn't look out for me and the training building is no longer a fun place.  There is also the possibility of peanut butter becoming poisoned.  For example, if it shows up most often when she has something to worry about, then it could become a predictor of yucky stuff.  I want to get back to where I'm using the peanut butter for a lure in a pinch, counter-conditioning as needed and to reward her best efforts.

The other concern I am seeing is there is no increase of offering rewarded behaviors. For instance, if I reward check-ins with PB in this situation, I don't get a noticeable increase in the frequency of check-ins. She is still looking at the other dogs, somewhat intently and getting stuck. Then she'll offer me a check-in, almost like when she needs another "hit" and once she gets it, she goes right back to looking.

To me, it all comes down to the same thing, I must manage the distance better to help her feel comfortable.  Gimme could easily do all these behaviors if she were starting from her usual comfortable base.  I need to step back and regain the stable footing we had, before I can ask her to stretch to achieve more. After all, if you have to stretch up to get something way out of reach... do you pile up a bunch of unstable boxes and other stuff - or would you prefer a nice sturdy a-frame ladder.  So, I think we are going to be spending a lot more time right outside the building.  Frankly, I would be perfectly happy to spend our whole hour sitting right outside the door next to my car with Gimme relaxed and doing light training, while knowing the other dogs were nearby. I'd rather do that, than spend the hour inside with the dubious benefit of "getting through" exercises, where no positive experience is accruing. 

So, in reviewing this I made a list of signals that she is near/over threshold.  Thus far I have: 
  • inability to work well for rewards other than PB
  • incorrect or slow responses to cues
  • lack of response to cues
  • getting stuck looking 
  • lack of offering rewarded behaviors
I know that was a long blather about where we are at and what I'm seeing in class... but indulge me and read the difference between that and tonight's agility class...
Blynn, our instructor, is a real gem and lets me do what I want. We started out relaxing 40 feet from the building and Gimme was distracted and unfocused, unable to LAT... not because the distance wasn't enough, but just that her mind was not in the training game, yet. Our first turn on the course was a bit wild at the beginning, the middle was lovely with some nice work and then I messed up and let the rate of reinforcement fall off when we were working the final challenge, so I lost her attention. 
Our second session of relaxing 40 feet away was much better, she was at times comfortably relaxing and even playing LAT while still laying down sphinx style. We walked on a loose leash into the arena and she did a really nice job on course with pretty close to full attention. When we were walking off the course, another team was walking in just 25 feet away and Gimme was able to LAT a couple of times, still on a loose leash, and then just ignored the dog in favor of getting to the water bowl. 
BTW this was all done with a combination of cheese, peanut butter and toy. I used a little more PB to start with, but then was able to reserve it for her best efforts.  This really encourages me. It feels like my instincts are supported by the results when I do it my way. Ideally I'd want to have focus and attention throughout the session, but if I can't have it all the time --- I think its better when I have more focus and attention at the end of class than at the beginning. To me that says our rewards are working, the training is progressing and she is learning. 
Another thing I realized today was how different Gimme was driving home and throughout the evening between Monday after Public Dog class and last night after agility.  On Monday Gimme was exhausted after class and was asleep before we got to the main road, but still alerting to every little road bump or noise.  When we got home she continued to act tired and when I tried to train there was no brain left.  During the evening she was more edgy - alerting then barking at noises outside.  Candy can testify that during the course of our phone conversation, I repeatedly had to check to see why Gimme was barking and all four times it was things I couldn't see or hear.  I had noticed that Gimme has been edgier since the false pregnancy and I just thought it would take time to dissipate.  However, last night was an eye opener. 
After agility Gimme snoozed comfortably all the way home.  She woke up from time to time and looked around, but then quickly resumed napping.  Once we got home she remained relaxed.  While outside she found a toy that had been unearthed by the yard man, and brought it in to destroy it.  After that she laid around comfortably snoozing, without alerting to anything outside even once.  And last night I heard noises outside.  She'd have happily trained if I asked her to. 
This comparison makes it clear to me that the classes are still too stressful for her.  With agility class, she leaves contented and happy.  I should also mention that while we were outside before our second session, we were snuck up on by an off leash black lab (black dogs are a special trigger) and I had to do an emergency u-turn to get her out of there.  Minutes later she was working with focus and attention and a happy waggy butt - which shows what her bounce back should be like. 
It all gets back to me doing my job to honor and support her needs... first and foremost, above all else.  PERIOD - END OF DISCUSSION...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Trial Results

We didn't title, through no fault of Gimme's.  She was amazing, focused and determined.  I just discovered she was 17th overall, out of 33.  That' doesn't sound like much, but you have to know the context.  She was assessed full time from the element we missed and even with that was 32 seconds faster than the #1 dog for the trial.  Had we gotten that element within time, she would have been 7th for the trial (out of 33) - including her fault.  Without a fault (see discussion below) she would have been first.

Vehicle Element - The wind outside was pretty strong, but that wasn't the issue.  The problem was that it came in strong enough and was chanelled so that it bounced off the nearby building, trailer and a/c unit, to come back at the vehicles from another angle.  I let Gimme lead me through to the far end, so we'd turn and face the wind.  She came up the left side of the grey trailer and along that side of the blue truck.  She spent a lot of time along that side of the truck and just as I was thinking to move her to the other side, she led me there on her own.  She checked briefly between the trucks before hustling to the other side of the red truck and zeroing in on odor (see the tiny black arrow).  Given how my time sense is so skewed, that probably only took a minute.

Then she continued down the right side of the yellow van ending up detailing all over the back end of the grey trailer.  The third time she put her paws up in the same spot on the trailer's bumper I was thinking to myself, "I wonder if she's trying to tell me something", when I heard my voice say "alert". We call that a "blurt alert". 

She had more than a minute left and, as the judge said, she would have found it like she found the first one, if I'd let her do her job.  The judge's written comments were "Darn wind!  Love the energy & teamwork.  Keep moving in wind like this to get Gimme to source or she will stop in pooling odor.  Overall very good  :)"  While the wind came from behind us at the start line, it was being chanelled by other buildings (brown) and a big trailer (light grey), then hitting another building (brown, across bottom) and then spiraling back toward the start line before hitting a huge air conditioning unit.

In the past they've let us walk through the area more, so we can do the wet finger test and know what the heck the wind is doing.  This is the first time I've been to a trial where they wouldn't let you walk around in the search area (without touching) and figure out what you have to work with. 

Interior Element - Our second search was the interior.  Two rooms with one hide in the first and two in the second.  Gimme found that first hide in 6.15 seconds!  If you blinked, you missed it.  The first hide in the second room I'm sure she found even faster, with an impressive full speed snap back.  The second hide seemed to me to take a long time, but she had that by 40.52 seconds.  If you had asked me, I would have said we spent 1:30 in that room.  So to say the least, I was floored when they called her name for 1st place in Interiors.  The second place dog took a full 15 seconds more than she did.  

Container Element - Gimme did a great job at this.  I was thrilled with her performance and only saw her focus on one container that didn't end up having distraction in it.  Her indications were nice, more moderate than in the past.  Still the judge assessed a fault for too much pawing.  Her comments were, "Too much scratching as an alert.  Good drive.  Needs to settle more in search.  Good waiting dog out on distracter and not calling it!"  I'm not sure what she was talking about waiting her out, because Gimme never did a sniff-stick-paw any of the wrong containers.  Perhaps she thought the sniffing was an indicator, keeping in mind that she knew where everything was.  Remember, sniff-stick-paw-look is her final indicator in containers.  There were at least 35 containers - more than I'd ever seen before and Gimme checked every one, some more than once and still found the two correct ones in 1:30.44...  I don't understand what she was saying that Gimme needs to "settle more in search". 

The Certifying official filled in to judge this class because the real judge had to leave to catch a flight.  She went on-and-on-and-on-AND-ON during the briefing about pawing.  Basically she will assess a fault if the dog puts their paw on a container and even draws it back toward themselves.  Joyce harangues me all the time about Gimme's pawing, but until she can come up with a reward-based solution her instructions to punish Gimme will continue to fall on deaf ears.  That is something I'm completely unwilling to do.  I value Gimme's enthusiasm and persistence and I won't risk dampening that.  I'm willing to live with the occasional fault for excessive pawing if it comes to that, because she's never excessive in the other classes.  Plus I have other behaviors that involve pawing and I don't want to risk bleed over to them, even if I were willing to use punishment in the first place.

Exterior Element - Our last search was a HUGE exterior area, with those same swirling winds.  Because the area was safely enclosed, we had the rare option to search off leash.  I didn't, because I didn't want to risk Gimme peeing.  I need not have worried.  She was so fast that for awhile they thought she was #1, but I think they had forgotten about the Malinois from the other group (about 90 minutes earlier).  Gimme found both hides in 1:00.08 and even took it upon herself to access the inaccessible hide.  It may have been inaccessible to some dogs, but not to my girl.  

The videographer was sitting on the ground with her back to a portable and Gimme leaped right over her on her way to find the second hide... meaning that the judge had to hustle to keep from getting caught up in our line.  She did another impressive full speed snap back to get the second hide.  She was moving so fast that I was very thankful to have all 25 feet of line, since I was only able to hold on by wrapping the last few inches around my hand.  If Gimme had ever turned into the wind, between her speed and the wind speed, I think I might have gone up in the air like a kite.I totally love her enthusiasm.  Obviously I will have to get in shape before I get serious about tracking or I'll never keep up.

BTW my strategy of bringing enough stuff and our odor kit to set up a search area off site seems to be working.  Gimme was much better on her first searches than she was on prior trials, classes or our usual practices.

Friday, July 12, 2013

NW Practice

I intended to get in a practice yesterday, but I couldn't get to it before Public Dog class and I didn't think she had enough brain left to do it afterward.  Not wanting to do it close to trial day, I decided to do it tonight. I set up three inaccessible hides - one in my bedroom nightstand, one in a block of modeling clay on top of the faucet in the bathroom, and one stuck to the pan under the magic crate in the living room.  She did a nice job all around.

Gimme started by running all over scanning all the rooms one after the other and not settling down.  Partly I think this is because we haven't done searches at home in forever.  It may also be because I woke her out a sound asleep snooze to search, so she wasn't focused yet.  And lastly, because I let her.  After she had scanned each room twice, I used casual your-Mom-is-a-clutz-and-in-the-way body blocking to keep her in each room.

The first room she went in after I decided to block her was the bedroom.  I really thought she was going to find that one right away as she had her nose very near it early on.  The nightstand is right inside the door, so it was a threshold hide.  She never went into the walk-in closet at the far end of the room, where I've hidden odor before.  She got stuck on the edge of the door and even pawed at the doorknob twice.  I was not using gloves or tweezers and while I don't remember touching the door, I must have, transferring odor - bad me.  She finally found source though and got rewarded with a nice big chunk of chicken.

I closed the bedroom door as we left and she next went in the bathroom.  Since the hide was in the tub end that would be obscured by the door, I walked in and shut the door behind me.  Gimme found out pretty quickly that the odor was in the tub, but no way was she going in THERE.  As she focused her attention on the correct end of the tub I moved some things out of her way and she managed to streeeeetch her neck out to where the odor was and then just lifted her paw toward it.  It was awkward, so I accepted that as close enough and rewarded her close to odor.

Next we went to the living room and this time she trotted all around scanning the room.  On the third pass she found it and neatly pawed right on the front edge pointing exactly where the tin was hidden 6 inches in. 

An interesting note - I wondered how she would do with the bathroom hide, since she has developed a concern about that room.  I saw no sign that she even thought of it while she was in search mode.  I've continued my desensitizing program of just tossing treats on the floor in there from time to time.  She is tending to check it out more often.  We've done the peanut butter licking thing three times and one of them she stayed in the room afterward while I took a bath, even though the door was open enough for her to leave.  She used to always snooze on the big fluffly dog bed in there while I bathed.  I hope we get it back - I like seeing her contentedly snoozing nearby.

It occurs to me that I may freeshape her to get in and out of the tub on her own.  She never gets baths, so I'm sure she hasn't any lasting objection.  I used to keep my dogs' water bowl in the bathroom when I lived in Alabama (until they got too old to get in and out of the tub easily).  If it ran dry, Anthony would wait in the tub for me to refill it. 

Once I had a dinner party and had pulled the shower curtain to hide the stained grout.  All was going well and only one chicken fillet had been stolen, everyone was happy and having fun.  Suddenly there was a blood curdling scream coming from the bathroom.  It seems the bowl was empty and Anthony had been patiently waiting for a long time.  When someone came in and didn't reach in to turn on the tub and refill the bowl - he stuck his head out and goosed a bare bumm. 

Living with dogs is such great fun, doncha think...

Public Dog (12)

Yesterday was our 12th Public Dog class.  Since it was Thursday, the day we are all crammed in the training building (last night 7 teams), I gave Gimme some supplements designed to help with stress.  Its hard to say if it worked, since every class is different and thus, its hard to gauge whether its better or not.

They didn't have any barriers up for this class.  As I'd said, I set up in the area closest to the little door and parked my car right outside that door.  During class, on an as-needed basis, I took Gimme out for brief breaks.  We went out 5 times, and just long enough to visit the grass strip and have an opportunity for a pee break.

First, Ursula on crutches and then Elizabeth in a wheelchair came around to visit each of the dogs.  Gimme is totally unconcerned with the medical equipment...  her biggest problem is no greetings until cued and then calm greetings.  Anyone wanting to bask in the fullness of her glory is just so very exciting.  I could have worse problems, eh.

Later on, Ursula came by with a broom sweeping around us and then asking us to move so she could sweep under the dog.  Gimme thought this might be a new game that her best friend Ursula wanted to play with her.  She's never paid any attention to my housecleaning efforts.

Then we worked on teaching the dogs another secondary reinforcer (besides clicker and marker words).  The goal is to have 3 additional secondary reinforcers.  Fortunately we already have one that I never intended, but works anyway because I'm in the habit of using it at the end of weave poles (a holdover from agility with Michael) and its always followed by very generous rewards.  Its the word "woohoo" said with enthusiasm - it gets Gimme's tail wagging faster every time. 

The idea behind these other secondary reinforcers is that we can use them as rewards, to wean the dogs off food... just being sure that we continue to pair them with food 80% of the time.  Unlike the clicker, which should be paired with food 100% of the time to keep the association pure.  I first heard about this concept the day I audited Public Dog Class.  Since then I read that Ken Ramirez promotes this method.  I plan to also condition a thigh slap.  Gimme is very tactile, so any touch is possible - though I'm finding that she's especially fond of deep ear rubs.

After that we worked on toy play.  I hadn't brought any toys, so was happy to see that Ursula had a Skinneez, which is Gimme's favorite toy.  She played with it long enough to demonstrate that she's an avid tugger AND has an awesome "release" on a verbal cue.  Then she noticed other dogs watching her play and wouldn't play in the building again.  However, I took it outside with us on our next break and she was quite happy to play with it outside.  BTW she's also fine with HER watching them play with toys, just doesn't want THEM watching her - kinda like the way most kids think, eh.

The last part of class was more greeting practice.  We set the dogs on a sit-wait and stood beside them.  If they broke the sit-wait when the "stranger" approached, then we moved to body block, followed by resetting them in the original spot and trying the stranger's approach again.  Gimme broke on the first two strangers, but on the third one she started to and then caught herself.  So, on that success we partied all the way to the car (it was the end of class in any case).

Overall I thought the strategy of setting up near the door went well.  I do still need to improve my own skills.  I believe I'm too slow to interrupt when she gets stuck (like watching the other dogs play).  Also, I need a better gauge of when she needs a break than just noticing that her ability to reliably/promptly respond to cues is falling off.  Ideally I want to give her that break just before she needs it. 

We had walked 3 miles on the fort earlier in the day.  Then after class, met Mary and Grafton for another 2 miles on the Capitol Campus.  I did notice that Gimme's LLW was nowhere in sight, but I figured her brain was gone from class.  My feet still hurt today...

BTW I'm reading Temple Grandin's book, Animals in Translation.  Temple has autism of a high functioning type.  She believes that the way people with autism view the world is very much like the way animals do - with visual thinking.  Everything she says rings true with my experiences and I expect to learn a lot from the book.  It is a very interesting read and one I highly recommend to anyone who works with and/or loves animals.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Nosework (3/14)

Class was held at Diane's friends' place in the country.  They have a humongous 2 motorhome size garage. We each got three searches and Joyce paired the first two searches.  The air current was almost non-existent.  It always moved toward the door, but really slight.  There was one of their trucks parked in the building, which was not part of the search.  I think I would have asked them to move it outside, since it proved to be a significant distraction and is not a challenge we should ever be faced with at a trial.

Because Joyce paired the hides on the first two rounds... Gimme decided that indicating she'd found it wasn't all that important.  That is, until after she decided my treats were better than Joyce's.

Gimme's first search was pretty wild and flighty - since she hasn't done anything nosework since our last class.  Still she found all three in the allotted time.  For the second search she was more settled and did better indicating.

The third search was unpaired and blind - so Joyce moved odor for each person's search.  I don't know how she did it, but she picked hides that were hard enough that each dog timed out.  Gimme was the only dog with two hides since she's at that level.  She found the first one really quickly.  Then she got stuck in a corner area of the room and was just all over that space looking and looking and looking.  I even tried taking her out of the area and then going back to it.  She never did find anything and honestly we have no clue what she thought was there.

The second hide was actually high up on the back side of a water heater up on a stand (inaccessible) in the corner of the room with the room's miniscule air current moving into that corner.  Joyce had me take Gimme over there and while she searched that area, I never saw any sign that she caught the odor.  We finally just fed her near it.

I'm not especially thrilled about going into a trial weekend after ending on such a dismal note.  So tomorrow I'm going to add a nosework field trip to our day, so we can end on a more positive note.

Remember, keep all your body parts crossed for our trial on Sunday...  Its at an elementary school, so we're unlikely to have a truck sitting in the middle of the interior element, eh...

Space, the Final Frontier

Yes, I do love Star Trek, the shows and the movies.  No, this blog entry is not about Star Trek.

I have a fairly mindless job.  It is mostly routine and seldom requires much of my attention.  So, my mind is free to wander and ponder.  I do much of my best thinking while on the job.

Today I was thinking about where Gimme is at in her reactivity training and how our efforts are going in regards to the Public Dog class.  I was thinking about the relapse in her abilities that was caused, or at least exacerbated, by her recent false pregnancy.  I was thinking about what I've been doing long-term and in the recent short-term.  I was thinking about my future plans to become a certified BAT Instructor.  Naturally, that led me to think about the studying I've been doing to get ready for the BAT course in November.

All this thinking came together in a realization.  All that has happened, the failings and the successes, the relapse and the progress... indeed, the issue itself...  it all relates to issues with space.   (thus, with my fondness for Star Trek, the title popped into my head)

BAT uses distance as the main reward for the dog making good choices.  A BAT training set-up manages distance very carefully.  And by "set-up", the intention is always to set the dog up for success.  So:
  1. First, the dog must be well-under threshold,
  2. Yet, close enough to notice the trigger,
  3. And, having a decision to make, 
  4. Still, able to choose well, and
  5. Then, is rewarded with more distance (which relieves even the slight pressure regarding the distant trigger).
We've already made a lot of progress, with her just working for treats and trying to win.  Gimme is determined, if anything.  Still it occurs to me that my use of distance is not as skillful as it needs to be, both to recover lost ground and take it to the next level.

Thus the title for this post:  "Space, the Final Frontier"  
  • Space is about "distance", which is both important for where we are and where we need to go...
  • Final refers to the "decisive" factor...
  • and Frontier is another word for a "new field of learning" for both of us.
I'm fond of my thesaurus... indeed these are all synonyms that popped up as I was playing with the title.  Appropriately so, methinks...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Public Dog (11)

We had class at the park today.  We started with parallel walking.  Where the class was held, we were walking around a track and there was very little space outside the track... so I took the inside position so I could manage the distance.  I made a joke was that everyone that parallel walked with us must feel like they are walking alone.  They changed pairs frequently.  When we started, Gimme just couldn't focus enough for cheese.  So I pulled out the peanut butter.  Initially I lured her to get her brain engaged and remind her what was available to win, and then made her work for additional licks.  We started at 35 feet away, but by the end we were at 12 feet from our last walking partner.

After that everyone just sat down with their dogs and encouraged them to lay about calmly.  We were on the outer edge and the nearest dog was 10 feet.  I would have liked to have more space, but that would have put us sitting out in the hot sun.  Gimme would do okay for short bursts, but then she would pop up again.  She wasn't misbehaving... just couldn't get relaxed.  In hindsight, there was another shady patch about 60 feet away and I should have moved over there.  That was much more space than she needed, but it would have made it easier for her to relax and made it a more positive experience for her - next time.

After that they had us all move one-by-one to another dog.  Gimme didn't do as well as she has in the past.  I think it was too much at the end of class and with 7 other dogs in sight, to be left with a stranger.  She didn't do badly, just never relaxed, even though Elizabeth was shaping her to lay down.  The second stranger resorted to non-stop treats and that pretty much got her all amped up again. 

Mary called later and we met to walk the kids around the lake.  Gimme did pretty good with her "whazzat" work and got admired and petted by a lot of people.  She also got petted by a number of small children.  On a positive note, she was able to relax enough during some of our "whazzat" stops to lay down all stretched out.  It was closer than she's done before and I'm thinking it probably seemed easy compared to class - at least she didn't appear to be trigger-stacking, so that's good.  I do think that I need to improve my game and do the "lets-go" much sooner when she gets stuck...  In the future I plan to count in my head during "whazzat" and when I get to three if she hasn't looked back to me, then we'll do the "lets-go" and increase our distance. 

I sure wish there was going to be an opportunity to get Gimme and Grafton together out at the fort for an off leash romp before Sunday.  That's our trial day (second NW2 attempt) and I'm sure she'd benefit from a good rousing play session.  Its going to be a verrrrry long day, since its almost a 4 hour drive to/from where the trial is held, so we'll be leaving home at 4 a.m.  Its a resort town and, being summer, all the hotels within a 2 hour drive are booked solid (and expensive to boot).

Dang hormones - I know I've mentioned that Gimme's dog-dog threshold has gotten significantly larger since her false pregnancy and we're working to recover lost ground.  I've also noticed a couple other things that she's gotten "weird" about since then.  Neither of these are huge, but I don't like it that she has these concerns in her own home.  The one is an old issue, that I hadn't really worked through, since it was not that much concern to her, and easy to avoid.  Of course, now it and the other have become a bigger deal, so they are moved to a front burner.
  • One is that she's very concerned about the bathroom - that stems from something that happened a long time ago and it used to be just a very mild concern to her.  Since the false pregnancy, she doesn't want to go in there at all.  I'm letting her spend a minute or two once or twice a day licking peanut butter in there... and also tossing cheese in there when she isn't looking, so she can find it later.  These I hope will desensitize her to the concern she feels.  I'm thinking I may play the name game in there as well...  I'm sure it won't take too long to resolve this.
  • The other is that she's acting concerned every time I take a deep breath or make any blowing sound.  She's the only dog I've ever known to notice my breathing.  I first realized she was tuned into it because she picked up on the fact that I take a deeper breath when I'm about to get up from the computer (other dogs keyed in on me sliding the keyboard in), but she wasn't concerned about it.  Well, during her false preggers, I think I must've taken a deep breath and then coughed or sneezed and startled her, because now she is more vigilant about it and actually concerned.  I recently read something that said when a dog is pretty anxious about something, that your goal should be to work on it no more than every other or every third day.  So I'm taking it slow with this and trying not to breath in the way I know concerns her (i.e. no blowing on a spoonful of hot soup, etc). 
Tonight I hope to watch the next section of Crate Games to see what is next.  Meanwhile Gimme is following me from room to room and snoozing contentedly whenever I stop in one place..