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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Public Dog (19 & 20)

We have been quite busy all week and I want to post about these two classes before the details slip completely out of my head.

In last week's Public Dog class, I was told by both instructors not to use peanut butter to reward Gimme for an especially good effort.  Their reasoning was that they saw tension,   thought it got her too amped up and she needs to be calm to work.  That is not consistent with my observation of Gimme and I've always given her PB for her best efforts.  Yet, during that class, between our turns I rewarded her with peanut butter for being calm on her matt and she did not get aroused from it.  I have worked with Gimme from time to time about still having a working brain even in the face of her Kong ball filled with peanut butter.

I think they saw the body tense in excitement and both just assumed she would go over the top.  Possibly they are remembering the couple of weeks when she couldn't calm down in class and are blaming it on the go toob. Given how fast it resolved when I stopped reinforcing the overwrought behavior - I think it was more an unintentionally rewarded behavior.  I never really talked that much with Ursula about what I was doing/thinking, so she may not know all the other things that played into the issue.  Of course she tenses up in excitement when she sees her favorite PB coming - that doesn't mean she will get over the top.

So I decided to do a little test and modified my treat bag with 2 strips of elastic to hold a open film canister (filled with peanut butter, what else) upright and in the right hand corner.  During the first class I got kind of mixed-bag results.

Gimme learned that if she is really subtle, Mom won't notice when she gets her nose in there and helps herself.  She has a long-standing habit of nose-bumping the side pouch that holds the go toob and I mostly ignor her bumps.  So when I wasn't fully paying attention to what she was bumping, she just eased her nose in the edge of the bag and quietly licked up some PB.  Since she could get the PB without getting her whole snout in the bag and just using her tongue, she was able to help herself for who knows how long.  Sneaky little girl.

Our exercises included a couple of tiny Rally courses.  Gimme was the only one who could do all the exercises as they are intended.  I did discover her heeling has deteriorated a lot and I think I know why - so have some work to do resolve that.  Using the PB in that way was fine for when we were working exercises.  She was eager to work and putting forth a ton of effort.  She even got through a potentially troublesome spot when another class dog "swore" at her (lunged and barked at her) - she was inclined to respond, but readily turned back to me and working.  And she didn't hold onto it either... she sensibly kept an eye on that dog when we were near it, but wasn't on high-alert and readily working.

However, when I wanted her to chill on her matt while we waited our turn, the PB in the bag worked against us.  Since she never knew when it would be cheese or PB, she was more alert than I want her to be for chilling.  In that context, she ended up being a bit whiny.

One time Gimme gave me some decent chill and I gave her a glob of PB from the go toob... then she was calm for awhile.  So perhaps in that case, more IS more.  My thinking is that when she gets a bunch of PB, she is satisfied for awhile and it has a calming affect.  She always spends a bit of time licking her leg (I think to get the PB all down and not remaining stuck to the inside of her mouth).  However, when she only gets a little bit, it leaves her wanting more and she tries to figure out ways to get it.  So, I need to effectively use that difference for what attitude I want in a particular moment.  At the second class I found I could consciously use the difference to my advantage and it worked quite well.  One thing I had to make clear to her is that when she is in chill position - she has to stay there to keep the go toob coming toward her.

In that class we focused on Secondary Reinforcers and I overheard Urs telling a student that you could condition anything the dog likes to do as a reinforcement. Gimme is a very kissy face girl... so after hearing that, I decided her newest SR is "love me".  I hold my arm in butler position and she puts her paws up and gives me a kiss.  Took me 3 seconds to get her up there and then all I had to do was get my face in range.  To condition this SR, we were to cue it and then reward with a treat, ten times in a row.  I thought Gimme was going to split a seam - being invited in, getting to kiss her Mom and then getting a treat!  Well that's almost more than a little girl can take, doncha know.  By halfway through she was getting so excited, that she'd give a little hop and I was getting a vigorous bump with my kiss.  Not enough to hurt, but noticeable.

So now I already have three SRs... and they want us to bring a toy next time so we can condition that as an SR too.  I just have to decide which toy to bring.

Gimme and I are taking off to Vancouver in a couple of hours for a nosework seminar on Inaccessible Hides.  So, gotta git packing...  but first let me close this with some pictures.  

Gimme and I got out to the fort for a walk and got caught in a rain squall, which didn't last too long. One of her favorite activities when we walk there alone is hunting for mouse holes and then digging in them.  She'll be cruising along and all the sudden her head whips around and she darts off for a hole which subsequently gets the treatment.  She hasn't caught a mouse this way, but is nonetheless determined.  Naturally she gets very dirty doing so.  I'm sure this is an indication of what a fabulous Barn Hunt dog she will be when we are able to get to a workshop.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stress, part 3

The authors surveyed the owners of 224 dogs and their lifestyle.  The survey contained 40 questions, covering individual data, lifestyle, and stress symptoms.  Results were weighted to determine a point system of stress levels. The surveys were rated to determine average acceptable stress levels as well as stress levels that fell above and below.

Keep in mind that these are conclusions based on symptoms of stress and that individual results may vary.  The point is to take these factors (as well as the stress causes in part 2) into account when making decisions about our dog's life.  The more you know, the better you can make changes to allow your individual dog to live well and free of chronic stress. 

Survey Results
  1. Working dogs and Nordic breeds had significantly higher than normal stress points.
  2. Neutered male dogs had higher stress points than intact male dogs – males had higher stress than females.  Spayed females were slightly higher than intact females.
  3. Dogs that slept/rested less than 17 hours a day had higher stress.
  4. Dogs left alone for more than 5 hours a day had higher stress levels.
  5. Dogs enjoy their walks, but more than 2 hour walks slightly increases stress levels and over three hours significantly increases stress levels.
  6. Dogs who have opportunities to run free and come into contact with other dogs have less stress than other dogs who run free with no contact.  Dogs who never run free, whether or not they have contact with other dogs, have a little more stress than dogs who run free and have contact with other dogs, but less than run-free-no-contact dogs.
  7. It should come as no surprise that dogs that "frequently" or "often" feel threatened showed 50% more stress than dogs that "never" or "seldom" feel threatened, regardless of whether there is an actual threat.  Feeling threatened is based on the dog's perception, not our human "reality".
  8. Surprisingly dogs who are not played with by the owner have significantly less stress than average stress and less than dogs who do play with their owner or with children.  These were mostly experienced dog owners, so it can be assumed the children were well guided/supervised.  Dogs who are played with are only a little bit more stressed than the average dog – though type and length of play periods would have a bearing.
  9. Dogs engaged in no dog sports up through two different dog sports are within the normal range.  Dogs engaged in three or more different dog sports are at higher risk of increased stress.  Owners who participate in multiple dog sports need to be sensitive to not overburdening the dog.
  10. Dogs that are frequently or often ill have 50% higher stress levels than normal.  Of the dogs reported for allergies, skin problems and digestive issues, those with frequent digestive issues or diarrhea had the highest stress levels of the group.
  11. Of the dogs with frequent or often digestive issues and higher than the group's average stress levels, the surveys were further analyzed for whether the dogs were exposed to stress causing factors. These common factors were found:
  • 78% sleep or rest less than 17 hours
  • 39% stay alone for more than 5 hours per day
  • 61% go for walks of 3 hours or more per day
  • 56% of the dogs felt frequently or often threatened

For the stress symptom list, those where owners reported the symptom was observed frequently or often – the breakdown from most reported to least reported is:
    • 39% reported Very Frequent Display of Calming Signals
    • 29% reported Frequent Barking or Whining
    • 22% reported Aggressive or Anxious Behaviors
    • 19% reported Lack of Concentration
    • 16% reported Hyperactivity
    • 16% reported Displacement Activity
    • 16% reported Very Frequent Urinating
    • 14% reported Restlessness
    • 11% reported Dog Appears "Distant"
    • 11% reported Panting
    • 8% reported Compulsive Behavior
    • 8% reported Excessive Self-Grooming
    • 6% reported Underweight
    • 5% reported Muscular Problems
    • 5% reported Destructiveness

Obviously there are some exceptions to a straight up application of these survey results.  For example, it would not reduce stress for a reactive dog to meet unknown dogs while running free, though there is a definite benefit to finding a suitable playmate where possible.

As always Know Your Dog...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stress, part 2

This picture is Gimme snoozing on the couch after consuming her birthday steak.  Clearly she is not suffering from stress...


Continuing in our series on Stress in Dogs...

Dogs have stress for a variety of reasons, just like we humans.  What is stressful for one dog, will be fine for another.  Its all highly individual, although there are some things that are going to be universally stressful.

Stress is unavoidable.  There are two types, eustress and distress.  Eustress is moderate or normal psychological stress interpreted as being positive for the individual.  It is not defined by the source of stress, but rather by the individual's perception of it.  Persistent stress that is not resolved through coping is distress.  The body responds in the same way to both distress or eustress, so both are equally taxing to the body and cumulative in effect.

You will note some things on this list of causes that you might think are a good thing, especially from the dog's point of view, but that can actually become a significant source of stress for the dog.

Causes of Stress
  • Disorders Affecting the Dog's Functions – such as lack of mobility or cardiovascular or kidney problems.
  • Disorders Affecting the Dog's Senses – deafness, blindness, limited sense of touch, where the dog must constantly compensate for deficiencies.
  • Disorders Connected to Temporary or Chronic Pain – injuries, blood loss, infection, trauma, shock, arthritis, hip dysplasia, etc.
  • Hypersexuality – due to pent up sexual drive, especially when around bitches in season.
  • Female Dogs in Season – from warding off overbearing males.
  • Lack of Sleep – insufficient places to withdraw or when need for rest is not respected.  Dogs need 17 hours of rest daily.
  • State of Exhaustion – from lack of sleep, over-exertion during walks, dog sports or games.
  • Sudden Changes – such as moving or new addition to the family.
  • Grief – due to loss of their person, other animals they lived with or playmates.
  • Threat – real or imaginary, the body goes into a state of alarm.
  • Expectations Anxiety – when dog doesn't understand what is expected or cannot assess the situation.
  • Failure – dog is unsuccessful, fails at task, and is repeatedly frustrated.
  • Harsh Training Methods – can frighten and/or hurt the dog, from severe or uncomfortable training equipment, as can harshly spoken commands and stiff body postures.
  • Agility, Dog Dancing, Obedience Training – despite positive reputation, the pace and high performance pressure can stress the dog.
  • Schutzhund / Protection Work – physical strain and psychological pressure.
  • Service Dog Work – higher incidence of kidney, cardiovascular and digestive problems, common to individuals (all species) with chronic stress issues.
  • Puppy Play Groups – when inappropriately managed/supervised can cause short term stress as well as long term behavior concerns.
  • Play is Too Rough and Wild – either with other dogs or people, leads to raised arousal and in particular when the dog is not able/allowed to withdraw.
  • Violence, Anger, Irritation, and Aggression Around the Dog – arguments, stress and angry voices within his family and/or daily environment.
  • Children – unsupervised and engaging in inappropriate play, as well as wild, loud play and use of noisy toys.
  • Too Much Coming And Going at Home – a home with a constantly revolving door and ongoing selection of strangers and "friends".
  • Too Much Noise – interferes with dog's need for rest.
  • Too Much Emotional Excitement – positive or negative, too many unknown situations, even when not dangerous, exploring new things and processing stimuli can be exhausting.
  • Hunting Games and Races – too much of games that simulate the prey sequence of detect prey, tracking/stalking, attack, and kill, results in release of adrenaline.  Stick and ball games result in repeated adrenaline release.
  • Un-doglike Behavior – unpredictable and unexpected behavior by others, possibly due to misunderstanding by human of dog behavior.  For instance belief the dog was "being dominant". 
  • Discomfort – hunger, thirst, cold, warmth, noise, lack of possibilities to relieve themselves.
  • Bad Weather – thunder and lightening, storms, heavy rain, hail and natural disasters.
  • Boarding Kennels – unusual surroundings, strange smells, separation of owner, and change to familiar routine.
  • Veterinary Visit – dog already feels bad, smells of fear from other animals, unpleasant past experiences, owner anxiety, staff intruding into dog's personal space, and possibly painful treatment.
  • Grooming Salon – different noises, staff intruding into dog's personal space, not enjoying grooming procedures, time spent on the table and left by owner.
  • Exhibitions / Fairs – generally chaotic environment, over-stimulation, and lengthy travel.
  • Car Journeys – many dogs find car travel stressful.
  • Reduced Possibility of Movement – time spent confined by kennel or on a chain, or only walking on leash.
  • Loneliness / Boredom – from being left alone too much.
  • Separation Anxiety – whether in strange environments or at home, many dogs find being left an anxious experience.  The test of being left with a stranger for mere minutes in the CGC test is a commonly failed exercise.
  • High Population Concentration – too many dogs in too small a space without enough opportunity to withdraw and where individual space is not respected.
  • Bad Canine Mix in One Household – dogs that are not compatible, even if just having to repeatedly get out of another dog's way.
  • Dog Suffocated By The Owner's Emotional Needs – from being treated as little humans and then ignored, a virtual hot/cold emotional shower.
  • Too Frequent or Too Little Physical Contact – little dogs get handled too much (lifted up, kissed and stroked), while others get almost no stroking or affirming touch.
  • Too Many or Almost No Rules in Daily Life – dogs that are constantly ordered around get stressed, as do dogs missing security or routine in their daily life.
  • Bad Dog-Human Suitability – poor pairings where the dog cannot fulfill human requirements and where dog's needs are not met.
Again, the source of this list is the book Stress in Dogs: Learn how dogs show stress and what you can do to help, by Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt.  Its an excellent book and gives much more detail than I have included here.  I highly recommend it for your personal dog library.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Happy 3rd Birthday...

Sadly I had the camera settings all wrong, so these are not the best of pictures, but I hope you enjoy them all the same.  I also planned to get a picture of Gimme's six new toys, but "someone" has already spread them all over the yard.  The quilt you see is the one I made for her using the fabric in the colors she picked out.  Clearly Gimme has an inspired fashion sense...

We've already had a busy day, starting with meeting Frank and Tor for a five and a half mile walk this morning.  She does well with Tor and pretty much ignored the three other dogs we saw, as well as bikers, joggers, skateboarders, and walkers.

She did say she thought Tor should bow down before the Empress of the Cosmos on her birthday.  Unfortunately he's a big hairy guy, not at all cultured, and doesn't know how to bow, much less when he should.

After that we had a break at home before going to Public Dog class (19).  Class was focused on walking on a loose leash, getting ready for off leash walking.  We start by walking "butler style", with the leash draped over our forearm.

The room had two dogs on one side and four on the other, with us one of the four at the farthest end.  There was about 20 feet between the two sides of the room.  Gimme was very comfortable the whole time and even volunteered a bit of "whazzat" when one dog got a bit out of control and too close for comfort.

We had three turns:
  • Walking butler style between the two groups of dogs, the length of the room and back,
  • Parallel walking butler style with a team consisting of a black Lab she doesn't know, down the room and back, between the two groups of dogs (which put us closer to the dogs on our side),
  • And last, walking the length of the room and dropping the leash altogether after a few feet.  Ursula walked behind us and was ready to step on the leash if a dog started to leave their handler, while Elizabeth was positioned to body block in the most distracting spot (different for each dog). 
Gimme did very well with these.  She did start to distract and Ursula did step on her leash... which in reality acted like a leash pop - so I was glad it was attached to her harness, not the collar.

Lastly they set up two stations.

One was Elizabeth with her dog Angel (who they use as a neutral dog - even though she doesn't like other dogs), who we were to work through walking around in butler style. First we did it with Gimme on the outside and then with her on the inside.  She needed a few reminders, but did quite well walking around her with such a small amount of space.

The other station was to practice precision walking on stairs.  The dogs are supposed to walk with us keeping their front feet no higher (going up) or no lower (going down) than our most forward foot.  Its been a very long time since we've done this, but with one little reminder, Gimme got right into the swing of it.

Clearly a girl with both Beauty & Brains...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stress, part 1

Tonight we had a nosework practice and some of the signs of stress on the list below were present (I've asterisked the ones I noticed tonight or other nosework times).  She does these at nosework classes, but not at trials.  I don't think she is stressed, so much as impatient and frustrated (though that certainly can lead to stress).  At trials she just realizes its going to be a long day of waiting, whereas in classes and practices her turn is coming soon.  BTW she did brilliantly at practice...

I am reading Stress in Dogs: Learn how dogs show stress and what you can do to help,  by Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt.  Its an excellent book that analyzes in detail the signs and symptoms of stress in dogs, as well as causes and things you can do to help.

The authors start by explaining that all of the medical issues that happen to people as a result of stress, happen to dogs as well.

Signs of Stress
Its important to note that many of these signs show up when a dog isn’t stressed, so consider in context, how often and how intense.  In particular noting changes in these respects is a strong indicator.
  • Nervousness – dog easily startled.
  • *Restlessness – dog fidgets, difficulty relaxing, can’t calm down.
  • Overreaction – especially when in same conditions he’d be normally relaxed.
  • Calming Signals – dog shows calming signals. 
  • Freeze – lack of calming signals in appropriate situations.
  • *Defecation and Urination – release of adrenaline activates sympathetic nervous system that signals rectum to empty and shifts in water balance may cause diarrhea and more frequent need to urinate.
  • Unsheathing Penis in Males –
  • Mounting – often occurs in mixed groups of dogs and may be mistaken for dominance, though its not a reliable sign.  May occur with humans.
  • Hypersexuality/Hyposexuality – excessive libido or complete loss of sexual drive.
  • Altered Sexual Cycle – changes in usual cycle of seasons for females, including cessation of seasons.
  • Exaggerated Self-Grooming – can lead to self-inflicted wounds.  Open or swollen wounds cause the body to release endorphins (happy hormones).
  • Destroying Objects – especially when left alone is a serious stress signal.
  • *Exaggerated Noise Making – continuous barking, whining and howling.
  • Disorders of the Digestive System – diarrhea and vomiting are among the most common.
  • Allergies – to food, mites, flea bites, pollen, grass, insecticides, etc. can be stress induced, since chronic stress suppresses the immune system.
  • Appetite Loss – including inability to eat treats.
  • Over-Eating – gulping down anything and everything, edible or not. 
  • Unpleasant Body Odor and Bad Breath – stress raises the secretion of gastrointestinal acids that create bad breath and can affect body smell.
  • Whiskers – when they become stiff or tremble.
  • Raised Hackles – stiffening of the hairs on the back and neck occurs whenever a dog is aroused and often when stressed, feels insecure, is very happy, and other emotionally charged situations.
  • Tense Muscles – dogs need to move to relax their muscles, so movement is essential when a dog is stressed.
  • Dandruff – like seen on a veterinary exam table.
  • Sudden Molting – like seen on a veterinary exam table and also observed at shows/trials. 
  • Bad Coat Conditioning and Heavy Molting – over a long period of time can result in bald patches.
  • Unhealthy Appearance – along with symptoms listed above, their eyes can seem dull and sunken, posture sagging and crouching and tail hanging limp.
  • Skin Problems – such as eczema, itchiness and open wounds.
  • Eye Color Changes – unclear why this happens.  Also eyes can appear blood-shot due to high blood pressure.
  • *Panting – unrelated to warm temperatures or exertion. 
  • Dripping Nose – from increased nasal fluid production.
  • Sweaty Paws – usually noticed because of damp paw prints on floors.
  • Trembling – when muscle contraction occurs during stress, the body tries to loosen the muscles by moving them.
  • Frantic Teeth Snapping – air snapping that is not directed toward the thing that concerns the dog.  Deliberate, off-target and usually audible.
  • Startled Eyes / Flickering Gaze – extreme strain can cause uncontrolled eye movements.
  • Staring Intensely at Things That Are Worrisome – inability to look away from what worries them.
  • Compulsive Behavior – behavior that is repeated over time with no obvious reason.
  • *Biting or Snapping at Leash – can include tugging at the leash.  Can seem to be a game until you notice patterns regarding when it occurs.
  • Poor Concentration – slow and absent responses to cues or training.
  • Forgetfulness – seeming to forget things they normally know well.
  • Re-Directed Behavior / Displacement Activity – behavior that seems to be unrelated to what worries the dog.  Sometimes calming signals.
  • Staring Intensely at Unrelated Things – such as flies or beams of light.
  • Passivity – quiet, withdrawn, or learned helplessness.
  • Shaking – dogs “shake it off” when they realize that something isn’t threatening, so this usually follows stress.

This is certainly a comprehensive list and seems to cover everything.  Remember, many of these symptoms are normal in certain situations, while some are never normal.

For more information on calming signals, see the book On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, by Turid Rugaas.

Agility Maven

Gimme was particularly good in agility class last night (with one little exception).  Her contacts were all flawless and her weaves were pretty good given the challenging entries.

She started the first run distracted, held her sit at the start, but when released did zoomies instead of the course.  I got her back and she worked, but was still distracted.  I thought she needed to pee, especially since I knew she hadn't even though she had the opportunity.  Once she peed she did better, but still not as good as I know she is capable of.  Between her times in the arena, she also pooped - so that explains a lot.  The second time in she was very good... except for doing the start line release zoomie.   She's never really been one to have the zoomies, so I'm going to guess the first time was cuz she needed to relieve herself and then she thought it was fun and decided to try it again.  That is something I'll certainly have to be prepared for next time (in two weeks) so it doesn't become a habit. 

The second time in, she was amazingly good.  So much so that Blynn was really able to focus on my handling, which has become awful in the years since I ran with Michael.  Frances was always so forgiving and would do anything I asked, regardless of whether I gave her adequate information in time.  Michael was faster and not nearly so forgiving or accomodating.  Gimme makes Michael look much easier than I thought he was at the time.

Interestingly she is very sensitive to encroachment on her space.  So much so that when she was focused like she was last night, Blynn was able to really see that the scooting outside a curve of jumps isn't about inconvenience on Gimme's part.  Actually it is subtle handling pressure on my part that pushes her off the line.  That subtle handling pressure was just a slight turn of the shoulders toward her line.  Technically that should push them, but I always needed much more shoulder turn to push on my other dogs' line.

When she is not focused, I feel like I have to turn more toward her to keep an eye on what she is doing and give her more direction... but doing so is actually causing some of the difficulty we experience.  Gimme really intuitively understands the APHS rules and is going to make me much more accurate in applying them.  She really will not let me fudge them.

I know I've said how much she wants to drive the train... well, she insists that if I ever want to have my hands on the controls and sit in the conductor's seat, then I have some improving to do!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Public Dog (18)

The break week has passed and we were back in class today, in the park. Gimme did really well.  She was well focused from the moment we got out of the car.  I let her walk to the working area using the whole leash, provided she kept it loose.  Once we got to where everyone was gathered, she was ready to get to work.

Most of the class was working on our secondary reinforcers.  They are reinforcers that we have conditioned so we can reward behavior without using food (not to be confused with a reward marker, which is also technically a secondary reinforcer).  Our best one is me saying "woohoo" in a really excited tone.  We are also working on slapping my thigh.  Basically you condition a SR the same way you condition the clicker, being careful to pair with a primary reinforcer at least 80% of the time.

Our task was to do a sequence of three:
  • cue "sit", word marker, food reward
  • cue "touch", word marker, secondary reinforcer
  • cue "down", word marker, food reward
We did this sequence at least three times, and making sure once or more was with one of the instructors observing.  Elizabeth observed us the first time and pointed out that Gimme has shown a lot more excitement upon hearing "woohoo" before and she suggested I pump up my own energy.  I did and it worked well.  She also noticed that I was tending to reach for treats before I said the word marker.

Then we repeated the sequence, again three times, and with an instructor observing, but using another of our secondary reinforcers.   This time I used the thigh slap.  Ursula observed us and noted Gimme wasn't very excited by the thigh slap - I told her we were only in the beginning stage of creating it as an SR.  She also noted that I was reaching to my treat bag too early and suggested I turn it to the side or the back (soooo awkward).  Anyway, we got that right.

For the last exercise they set up two distractions about 30 feet apart and we indivdually got chances to loose leash walk our dogs around the distractions.  We started walking a race track with the dogs on the outside.  Then as they showed they were ready for more intensity, we changed up the pattern to sometimes put the dog on the inside. 

The two distractions were:
  1. Ursula sitting cross-legged on the ground.  At first quietly and then as the dog showed they were ready, doing sweet talk to the dog.
  2. A baby stroller with a lifelike doll in it and a phone playing a crying baby app.  
The goal is again the auto leave-it, just like we did for the person in a wheel chair.  We are teaching the dogs to wait to be released to investigate or go say "hi".   We used body blocking to stop them when they tried to go to the distraction.  When the dog is on the inside, the body blocking basically turns into a small circle until you are again moving around the distraction.

The crying baby stroller distraction was not that hard for Gimme.  I don't recall that she's been around strollers before, she was more intrigued by the weird sound than anything.  So she was driven by curiosity and that wasn't too intense for her.

However, Ursula sitting on the ground level was REEEEEEALLY HARD for Miss Gimme.  She has always adored Urs and having her down at face level was about the highest intensity distraction she has ever experienced.  She was wagging her whole back end so hard at the mere thought of the possibility, I feared we might loose some of her spots.  Once Gimme figured out this was just more of Ursula being naughty, she did a good job mostly ignoring her.

Then Ursula started talking "Hi girlie girl, aren't you the cutest ever".  I thought Gimme was going to split a seam.  She wanted to smother Urs in kisses sooooo bad.  She was able to restrain all of her body, except her tongue.  She'd turn her head about 20 degrees and repeatedly did "air kisses" toward her as we'd pass by the front of Ursula. It really was very funny.

Overall she did great in class and is really learning a lot.  She has interestingly learned to not pee while we are working, though when the need arises, she gets really distracted and will pull to the side.  We did this whole class on the park lawn and she never peed there.  I've gotten really good at reading when she needs to go.  I used to think all her "marking" was just that.  But I do notice in classes and such that she needs to go more often and more urgently, so I think she also has stress pees.  As long as I am tending to her needs for pee breaks, she does really well.  The last time we had class, I twice saw her start to squat and then catch herself and stop without peeing and then just let me know that I needed to take her "over there" so she could do her "business".  I'm really pleased to see this, since it will take some of the angst out of the situation for exterior nosework searches.

Another thing I've realized...  You'll remember at the beginning of the Public Dog classes, Ursula suggested I needed to teach Gimme to not be so familiar in her affections when we are out in public.  The thing to do was the body blocking - i.e. moving slightly into her space when she intruded on mine.  Urs suggested that I make sure to give her plenty of tactile rewards to satisfy her needs, but in a more appropriate way.  So I've basically taught her squishing - standing perpendicular to me and leaning against my legs and I scratch her chest with one hand while petting her side with the other.

Ursula assured me that restricting our PDAs would not affect how Gimme behaved with me at home.  Actually that has not been the case.  I've noticed recently that she no longer insists on giving me hugs and kisses when I am putting on my socks and shoes each morning.  She now brings me toys and tries to engage me in play, but no hugs and kisses.  That made me really sad because I love those moments with her - its something we've done since she was a little bitty puppy.  Fortunately I have learned that if I lean back half laying on the couch and throw my arms open wide, she will come in to hug and kiss me.  Gimme just needs the invitation now.  This hasn't affected our evening cuddles...

After class we went over to visit Mary and Grafton.  We had planned to take the kids to the fort's training area this morning, but they were all closed down.  They haven't gotten to play together for at least a month.  Mary said that Grafton has been mopey for a couple of weeks and she thinks he misses playing with his girlfriend.  Gimme was happy to see her boy and especially thrilled to pointedly ignore him.  She really liked his Kong Wubba, more to keep him from having it than to actually do anything with it.

I'm going to get her one to toss around in the yard.  I figure there is a good chance she won't want the one I buy, in which case Mary and I have worked out a deal.  We'll let her steal Grafton's and then I'll give them the new one.  Who says I'm not smarter than a dog?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Helfers NW Seminar, part 4

The last part of the seminar talked about training.  Fred has a four step approach to each training experience to ensure the dog has a successful and positive experience.
  • Develop a Plan - You get greater consistency if you have a plan, short, medium and long range.  Still, be prepared to be flexible when things don't go according to plan.
  • Conduct a Safety Check - Check all areas/equipment/etc for hazards to both dog and person.  
    • Each environment has a potential to contain hazards, usually sharp or protruding objects.  Also watch for things that could tip over.  Remember vehicles could be dripping unsafe fluids, such as antifreeze.
    • Also be aware that you don't put hides in places that will cause the dog discomfort, such as on a hot metal surface they might touch with the nose.
  • Check the Environment - Check for air flow throughout the environment, air conditioning, temperature, distractions... which all combine to tell you what to do to make sure the search/training is successful.
    • Air is always moving, even in interiors - kitchen & bathroom vents, doorways, windows, a/c, sun shining through windows, duct work, even switch plates and electrical outlets.  Know the wind direction and strength so you can estimate how the odor will flow around buildings and other items during exteriors and how it will flow under and around vehicles.  Whenever possible start from the downwind side - even if that means quickly passing straight through the search area to get there, though be prepared to follow the dog's lead.
    • Temperature affects how much scent molecules disperse, humidity levels and how much water your dog needs before and after searches.
    • Distractions are everywhere and not just for the dog - verbal and physical from other people, food, other animals, and new environments.  Handlers can be distracted by their own dog and forget to cover all the things they identified in their plan.
  • Have a Plan "B" - Fred says that training and testing are two distinctly different things.  Always have a plan so that your training challenges don't unintentionally turn into testing.  Always end on with success.
 Make sure your training plan covers all the contingencies you can think of, such as:
  • hot vs. cold
  • dry conditions vs. humidity
  • different floor/ground surfaces
  • food distractions
  • use of heat from a wall heater to convect air up to curtains (like in a hotel room)
  • in the rain and snow
  • high wind, low wind and no wind
  • buried source odor
  • low quantities of odor, normal and super saturated odor
  • on and off leash
  • be aware of even tiny amounts of scent transfer
    • NOTE:  I often see this in practices where I try to stick a tin somewhere and it doesn't attach, so I place it elsewhere.  Still even though the odor/oil is safely contained in the tin, the dogs ALWAYS pay extra attention to those spots.
  • odor may be intensified when placed in a patch of sunlight
  • odor pools in cool spots
Distractions in Training - always know the answers to the following:
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Are you trying to fool the dog? 
  • Are you setting up challenge proofing?
  • Are you conducting a test?
  • Are you teaching the dog to work unfamiliar smells?
  • ESSENTIAL - Are you training or are you testing?
Change of Behavior - Your job is to be able to tell when the dog is IN or OUT of odor.  You must learn to identify what your dog's "tells" are for when he is in odor.  There will be some change of behavior (COB).  The COB occurs when the dog first gets in the area of odor, but is distinctly different from his detailing behavior to get to source.  Some are readily observable, such as snap backs (don't we all love those easy ones).  Some body language indications include: tail flag, tail wagging faster, tail stiffening, body stiffening, change in body carriage/posture, change in mouth (closed vs open).  Know your own dog. 
Handler Error - is defined as "verbal or physical communication by the handler which when interpreted by the canine will lead it to manipulate or not detect the odors for which it was trained".  He gave numerous examples, including but not limited to:
  • over detailing - guiding the dog too much so it learns to become handler dependent and only sniffs where the handler indicates
  • handler belief creates subtle handler behavior that "sells" the dog
  • insistence on working to a pattern and ignoring the dog's vote
  • failure to work the pattern 
  • cuing the dog
  • poor detailing/guiding skills
  • unable to read the dog properly
  • little to no search pattern
  • belief that the dog should do all the work
  • poor leash handling skills
  • lack of knowledge of odor movement
  • handler doesn't hold dog accountable
  • preconceived idea that odor is or is not present
  • preconceived idea that odor is or is not in a specific place in search area
REMEMBER ALWAYS - the dog is the EXPERT. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Helfers NW Seminar, part 3

First a little update on our project to moderate Gimme's paw indicator.  I have been working on it away from nosework - focusing on clearly defining the desired "paw" behavior... using the nearest paw, place it on the object (one paw only) and hold it there.  We are having to weed out Gimme's creative embellishments.  I just came home from NW practice with Mary and Susan and they both commented that Gimme's paw indicator is a noticeably lighter touch.  So the training is already affecting her indicator and we are nowhere near pairing it to the indicator cue and/or working with odor.  How cool is that?

Scent discrimination describes a dogs ability to match one odor from the overall scent picture he's presented with to the one he's looking for.  Dogs have a far superior ability in this respect.  If you were trying to find the source of an icky smell in your house, you'd go sniffing all around moving your whole nose from place to place to try and find where the smell is stronger.  Dogs can actually tell which way the odor is stronger based on the difference in concentration of scent molecules between one nostril and the other... the difference in location might only be one-quarter inch, but they can tell.  Dogs can control the little flaps at the side of their nostrils to let in more or less air.

Comparing scenting capability between dogs and humans.  Dogs have 25 to 60 times more scent receptors (depending on breed) than humans.  The dog's devotes 40 times more of its brain to scenting than humans do.  The area inside the nose that is devoted to turbinates is 60 times larger for a dog.  Dogs can detect smells at 100 million times lower concentration than a human.  Add to those physiological differences the way a dog's nose can move and process scent and the difference goes up as much as a dog being able to smell a million times better than you and I.  Fred talked about a dog he'd trained that could find a gas pipeline leak, that was buried 20 feet underground and when analyzed by a mechanical sniffer at source was only 2 parts per million!  That sounds amazing enough, but we now have evidence that dogs can detect odor in parts per TRILLION!

Different environmental conditions affect how odor molecules behave.  You need to take these into account to train all the different conditions and remember they may increase or decrease the setup time.
  • Temperature - Warmth expands the scent cone and causes the release of more molecules.  Cold causes a reduction in the release of odor molecules.
  • Organic vs. Synthetic - Generally organic sources respond more to warmth, with some notable exceptions (such as ether).
  • Buried Sources - Soil conditions affect the release of odor.  The ground is warmer than the air in the early evening, so more is released, but once it reaches the surface it stays close to the ground and may attach to dew or other moisture.
  • Air Movement - Strong breeze creates a narrower, but longer scent cone.  Slight breezes create shorter and wider scent cones.  Air movement can channel odor, such as through cracks in the body or under a vehicle to the other side.  Air conditioning units move air, as do heaters and fans.
    • Air conditioners also dry the air reducing a dog's scenting ability - remember that need for moisture.  So a dog kept in a running vehicle with the a/c running will have less capability as their noses dry out, unless the handler takes care to rehydrate the dogs nose.
  • Quality and Quantity of Source - Higher concentration source will clearly put out more odor molecules.  Don't assume that its easier to find source with a higher quantity of odor.  Dogs have to learn to work through a super saturation of odor, just as they do for a miniscule amount.
  • Packaging and Concealment - Be sure to vary the type of packaging you use.
  • Humidity - High humidity means more molecules in the air and low humidity means less.
  • Moisture - More moisture means more odor, lower moisture means less odor.
    • OPTIMAL is Moderate Temperature and High Humidity... we are so blessed here in Washington state to have ideal scenting conditions most of the time.

During our practice today I buried an odor container in the ground - about six inches under.  I arrived early to bury it so it had about 90 minutes setup time.  There was a light rain, so plenty of moisture and humidity.  It was evening, so the ground was warmer than the ambient air temperature.  Birch is an organic source and there were 4 q-tips in a very open plastic package.

All three dogs found it quickly.  Tucker was faster than Gimme, but he's more methodical and slower.  Gimme blew by it numerous times.  Grafton found it, paired with cheese, plus the ground had been disturbed by both Tucker and Gimme, releasing lots of odors and causing him to focus on the area sooner.

More to come...

    Agility Silly

    We started the day with a 3.5 mile walk, which was bumped up for Gimme by a half mile run at the start.  She had fun running along in the grass.  It was a warm day, so we got good use of the water bottle/dish combo that I found among some things I've been sorting.  I've been thinking I should get one for our walks - who knew I must've had that thought before, eh.

    Came home and I put a second coat of paint on the front porch.  I'd run out of the original color and they can't make it in this new kind of paint, so I selected a stronger blue/grey that goes along with the overall color pallet for the house.  Its a new kind of paint by Behr, designed for maximum coverage of cement/deck.  It's very thick paint (almost gel like) does cover nicely, but has a very strong ammonia smell.  I was worried that I might end up with a migraine, but I finished with the steps where I had good air flow, so that didn't happen.

    Class was a good learning experience.  Gimme was pretty silly and not as focused as I know she can be.  That is at least partly because she hasn't been to class in nearly a month.  Still there were some really good moments. 

    Her start line stays were mostly nice, especially given I purposely bumped up the distraction level.  Both times on the weaves she missed the first time, but when presented again from a couple obstacles back, she caught the entries and did a nice solid job.  Since we haven't practiced weaves since the last class, that's understandable.  Her contacts were 100%.  She did have a problem getting on the dogwalk the first couple of tries.  Blynn thinks an optical illusion was throwing her off, caused by the yellow tunnel passing right under the up-ramp and visually right behind the up-contact.  I continue to see a tendency for her to swing wide around a jump if its "inconvenient".  Blynn says she can do those jumps, but chooses not to.  I think is mostly a confidence issue and not entirely knowing her job.  So that is something we'll train at home, now that the yard is cleaned up and ready.  In the final exercises she did a nice call to tunnel from a start line even though we've never trained it.

    I was most pleased that she had some good focus outside and was loose leash walking almost right away.  She wasn't phased at all by the gelding that was repeatedly stomping around, kicking and bucking, right where we had to walk by.  Since she used to have concerns about horses, I was pleased with her nonchalance. 

    For our first turn, they changed the run order because one of the students injured herself and the student that was supposed to run between us and her, worked her dog for her.  So we didn't get the mental warm-up time that I was planning for. 

    For her second turn, we were moving toward the arena as that team was finishing up and as we approached, the large black GSD left the lady handling it and came rushing toward the fence (not aggressive, just wanting to get to its Mom).  I was focused on Gimme and didn't see it coming, but fortunately someone yelled at me, so I was able to do an emergency u-turn.  We've practiced that so its not a huge deal for her.  Once we were in the arena, partway through our turn, they again lost control of the shepherd (behind a large barrier, but we could hear it).  Gimme left me to go check that out, but others ran interference, so there was no real issue.  However she did have to do a short zoomie before she could come back to work.  On a positive note - she was totally back with me when she did return and did some nice work.

    So, while not our best class... there was still a lot to like.

    Once home we settled in on the couch for a bit of TV and cuddle time.  Gimme often likes to lay belly up, having her chest and tummy rubbed - she definitely likes to have her boobies "fluffled".  This is one of the times in our days that I completely love and it occurred to me, if I could stop time and live forever in one moment - that would be it...

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    Helfers NW Seminar, part 2

    Our dogs have a wonderful ability to identify and discriminate different odors.  While humans smell in fruit salad style (all smells lumped together), dogs smell and recognize each smell individually even though they are presented together.

    The other analogy he shared was that of entering a flower shop.  Humans walk in and are overwhelmed by sweetness, a combination of all the flowers there.  As we decide to buy one kind, such as roses, we hold it up to our nose to focus on that one flower.  A dog would smell each of the flowers individually, as well as leaves, plastic basins, wood of the door, linoleum, the shop owner's clothes... and everything else that is present.  If searching for one particular odor, dogs can focus and separate that one out of the potpourri.

    This reminded me of something I had learned about watching/listening to an orchestra or band with singers.  As humans, we mostly listen to the music and voices as a whole.  What some people don't realize, is that if you focus your visual attention on one singer or one instrument, you will hear that singer or instrument over the rest of the performers.  Likewise most people can pick one voice out of a melange of voices and background noise to listen to that person (this ability is lost with hearing aids).

    Everything gives off molecules and in order for that thing to be smelled, the molecules must make it to the nose.  Molecules come in three types:
    • lightweight - move in the air
    • volatile - evaporate easily
    • soluble - broken down by moisture
    Moisture and heat are necessary for scent to be processed.  Moisture from the mucous membranes combines with warmth, is passed over two types of turbinates (bony ridges covered in mucous that control air movement) and then information from the olfactory cells (receptors) pass information to the olfactory lobe of the brain.  The vomeronasal organ is located in the roof of the mouth and has basic scenting ability.  This is why your dog sometimes appears to be "tasting" smells.

    As I mentioned yesterday, dogs process air in two ways, directly through the olfactory structures for scenting or in a curved path for simple breathing.  Dogs actually have the ability to re-process air through the olfactory structures!  Dogs often sniff more forcefully when they are focusing to find an odor and you can sometimes hear the difference.  There are times that I can really hear Gimme make a huffing noise as she is searching, which sounds like a tiny cough to me.

    Fred told us that scent memory is the strongest memory of all for dogs.  This likely explains why imprinting a scent associated with feelings of calm and safety is so powerful.  Gimme and I both sleep on large flat sachets of lavender, so I'll have that available as a scent cue for her to feel calm and safe in challenging environments.  I asked about the practice of some handlers to re-scent a dog while tracking and he believes its completely unnecessary. 

    He also cautioned against the practice of some trainers to whack their dogs across the nose with the leash or cuff them on the side of the head by hand.  The olfactory structures are located in the top part of the nose and any blows can damage those structures.

    We watched a LOT of videos of dogs doing scent work (mostly from his time as a police canine trainer).  Fred told us to watch the dogs' mouth and note when it is open and when it is closed.  A dog with an open mouth is still taking in some scent information through the vomeronasal organ, but when they sense a smell that interests them, they will close the mouth (or partially close it) and start using the nose.  Some of the videos were shown at regular speed and again at half speed.  Once I understood about the importance of whether the mouth was open or closed, It was fascinating to see it in action. 

    In tracking and nosework, we are mostly behind our dogs and not able to really see this.  One advantage to nosework is that we can move alongside or around the dog to take advantage of seeing the working end more clearly. This is an obvious clue as to when a dog is scanning versus when they've started detailing.

    Our dogs are looking for a scent picture... that is "the combination of odors which are present that a detector dog identifies as a trained odor."  He touched on the importance of making sure that we use many different types of odor containers in training, so we don't unintentionally teach our dogs that they are searching for birch+plastic or anise+tin.  We need to vary the container so the dog understands its birch, anise or clove that is the odor picture they are looking for.

    More to come...

    Sunday, August 11, 2013

    Helfers NW Seminar

    Yesterday I went to a seminar by Fred Helfers; it was great.  Before retirement, Fred was a police detection dog trainer, training all kinds of detection skills, including bomb, drug, fire accelerant, insect, and pipeline gas.  Now he's retired and naturally couldn't get totally out of dogs, so is teaching nosework and giving seminars.  My brain is still reeling from all the things I learned.  I will write more about the seminar this week. 

    Still I wanted to share something.  I am reading "Cracker!", a novel, by Cynthia Kadohata.  There are two passages that struck me.  First:
    "She lifted her nose to the air and breathed deeply, the way she did when she wanted to know what was going on.  This was different from the way she took in air when she was just breathing.  All she knew was that the air went someplace different when she was just breathing versus when she was trying to figure out a scent."
    Interestingly this is one of the things I learned yesterday.  Dogs have the ability to direct the flow of air through their nasal chambers into different areas.  When a dog is sniffing scents, the air flows directly through olfactory sensors, sending information directly to the olfactory center of the brain.  When a dog is simply breathing, the air is detoured around the olfactory sensors.  

    Fred told us there are only four species that can do this and of those, only canines are "useful" in this respect.  I find it interesting that an author who has written no other books featuring a dog would know something so specialized about how dogs process scents.  In fact, until yesterday, I would have considered this passage as just flowery prose.
    Rick snapped back, 'People see what they want.  Dogs see what they see.'  That was a line Rick heard Cody use sometimes.  Humans saw in wholes, not in pieces.  They saw a total picture, colored by what they believed.  Dogs used their senses to 'see' all the details, uncolored by expectations and beliefs."
    I am also reading "Animals in Translation", by Temple Grandin, this passage is spot on with her observations. Hers is a fascinating book that delves into how animals perceive the world around them, written from the perspective of someone who has autism.  Temple has become very influential in food producing industries and she designs facilities used worldwide for humane handling of livestock.  Her ability to "see" their world the way the animals do is instrumental in her success.

    I recommend both books:
    "Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam" and
    "Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior". 

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Public Dog (17)

    First, I'm rereading "When Pigs Fly" by Jane Killion.  I wanted to review some of her excellent ideas.  I was fascinated to realize how often she talks about Gimme in her book, which was written in 2007, many years before my girlie was born.  At one point she says of pigs-fly dogs, "You are not going to get a Gimme when it comes to attention."  How did she know that Gimme would have such good attention skills (well, most of the time).  She mentions her many times in the book, but this one really stood out to me.  <g>

    Today in Public Dog class Gimme did so well - the best she's done since we started this ten week round of classes.  I was careful with management - especially so after going in the training room to set up and having Max (giant Schnauzer) go off on me.  He's unpredictably reactive and his owner just corrects him for it, but isn't really working on the issues that set  him off.  So I made sure there was a good visual barrier between where we were setting up and where his owner was sitting with him.  I absolutely wasn't going to risk him going off when Gimme was near.

    Our exercises were interesting and challenging.  First we were to walk a figure 8 with a dish of french fries for one pole and a person in a wheelchair for the other AND we were not supposed to cue "leave it".  One of the goals for this class is to get such things on an auto-leave-it when the dogs are working.  We were supposed to body block any attempt to engage either.  Obviously we want the dogs to be friendly and comfortable with people in wheelchairs, but we also don't want them to assume they are free to greet any person they see.   As it was set up, there was also the man with the creepy shepherd sitting nearby to observe, so Gimme had to walk between them and the person in the wheelchair.

    I was very pleased with how she did.  It took a couple reminders to start with to get her into LLW mode, but then she was really very good.  As we went back in the building, they remote rang the doorbell - which was of no interest to Gimme, unlike two other dogs that had a barking fit.

    After that we did a session in a cordoned off section of the room with Ursula for "join up".  I'm not totally sold on the concept of this, but still it can't hurt and Gimme enjoys the treats.  Once she realized I was going to pay with peanut butter, she was almost unable to be distracted from me.  That is no small feat given that Ursula was using a whole jar of peanut butter (opened) to distract her.  After that we went out to repeat the exercise in the fenced in play yard.  By then Gimme realized Ursula was back to her old tricks of trying to distract her but never paying up... so she did really well and didn't fall for it (well hardly ever).

    Then we did a session with Elizabeth and her dog as one post and the food as the other post, again with the man and creepy shepherd observers.  So LLW between Elizabeth and her dog and the man and the shepherd was a significant task.  I cut the space in half and paid well the moment after we passed between them, so the second time Gimme never even looked at them.

    Then Elizabeth had us stop and she cued her dog to bark for us.  That's a special trigger for Gimme and I didn't expect it to go well.  However, it was a single controlled bark and she barely took notice of it.  We were able to get within about 6 feet and she was still able to "whazzat" for a treat.  Then we lined up for down stays and rewarded the dogs heavily for staying put as Elizabeth heeled by with her dog.  Gimme did great.  She did not do as well when she went behind us.  In her defense the poop bucket was between us and the wall and when they detoured around it, their their line of motion changed so it was headed more toward us.  I made sure when I reset her in the down that I moved her a couple feet forward and the next time she did great.

    Then Elizabeth cued her dog to get crazy with active play and barking.  That was almost too much for Gimme and I had to move her a little further away.  With a little more distance she was able to work through it nicely - about ten feet away.  Given that kind of thing is very difficult for her, it was a huge achievement.  We ended with a short session of all the dogs LLW around randomly in the play yard.  After all the other exercises, this was pretty easy for Gimme.

    All in all it was a very challenging class and I was totally happy with how Gimme did.  She got stuck once or twice, but her recovery was excellent.  She was quiet and content up until I had to leave to meet friends at the Freedom Shootout.  I left her loose in the house for what turned out to be 4.5 hours (the longest time I've done this) and she was a good girl (she likes having light classical music playing on the TV).  I think she is showing that she has fully recovered from our earlier discombobulation and is ready to work on some of the bigger challenges.

    An interesting note from the Freedom Shootout -- where we got to shoot trap, which I hadn't done in 20 years and have a major bruise already coloring up.  We got to shoot some practice rounds with an instructor to coach us and the one I got was very good.  He figured out right away that I am left-eye-dominant, so was able to tell me what to do to correct for it.  As he talked I was reminded of stuff Lanny Bassham says in his book "With Winning in Mind".

    Its not at all easy to keep your mind out of the way and to go with your unconscious mind.  I was thinking as my instructor was talking about how easy it is for us to go on a sort of auto-pilot when we are free-shaping a behavior.  If you wait to consciously note the behavior, your click is always too late.  So, I found if I treated pulling the trigger like clicking a clicker, that it went much better.  After that, for my round I hit 17 out of 25.

    I understand that is considered very good and people who shoot a lot don't do that well much of the time.  One guy at our table had shot 23 the first round and 3 the next... so I beat him percentage-wise and he shoots all the time (I was uncharacteristically gracious and didn't say anything).  Still the word got around and a few people came up and congratulated me on doing so well.  I don't know of any other sport where a 68% success rate is considered good - I've gotten so used to dog sports where the standard for success even at the lowest level is much higher.

    Walking & NW Practice

    Yesterday we got out to the fort for a romp.  I pulled a fast one on Gimme.  Once we were safely on the training area, I let her out and then slowly drove off to where I usually park.  She cantered along just behind the car and well in sight of my side mirror.  She has a lovely effortless canter at 12 mph.  I thought a half mile might take the edge off, but when I stopped, she was even more excited - seems it only warmed her up.  I'll probably do it again.  It might be good for her to really stretch out like that from time to time over a nice distance.  Afterward we walked 3.25 miles.

    Today we joined Frank and Tor and walked 4.5 miles.  I'll probably die, but Gimme is really enjoying the extra exercise.  We basically parallel walked with them, keeping about 8 feet between the dogs.  Frank assures me Tor wouldn't engage if she were less than friendly, but I think I want to continue with this approach and do a more gradual approach.

    After we got home, I continued working on the house, etc.  The painting and yard are done and the team did most of the touch up today.  There is one last thing to be completed.  I'm really happy with how it looks.  I'm trying to get the front porch and steps scrubbed, so I can paint them.  I'm leaving for my parents' Friday after work, so I'd like to paint the porch and stairs right before we leave.  That'll give two full days to dry before Gimme and me return Sunday evening. 

    Tonight we met Susan for a nosework practice at the school district bus barn.  Mary had hoped to come, but it was just too hot for Grafton.  We've discovered he doesn't do well with searching in the heat and so she avoids it whenever possible.  In classes when its warm, she has Joyce pair all his hides.  He's a soft boy, so I think these are wise accomodations to maintain his interest and enthusiasm.

    They had a row of busses outside the fence that we could get to for a vehicle search.  I set blind hides for Susan and Tucker and she set them for me and Gimme.  It was interesting to see how the dogs puzzled it through.  Things I thought would be hard weren't and something I thought would be easy was tough.  In hindsight, while the overall breeze blew in one direction, in between the busses it was completely different.  Gimme is not convinced that the idea of "inaccessible" actually applies to her - she IS persistent.  Then we did an exterior area search using some of the landscaping.  Susan reset it for us.  Both dogs did very well. 

    Lastly I set up what I thought would be a challenging converging odor puzzle, with two hides just three feet apart and under a hard plastic sign that was laying on the ground.  I expected the breeze to blow under the sign and push one odor toward the other.  What I expected was not reality.  Both dogs got both hides very quickly and easily because the air didn't move under the sign the way I thought it would.  The windward hide seemed to squirt odor out the side, instead of going straight to the other source.  The downwind hide apparently poofed odor out when the dogs walked on the sign, making them go straight to it.  While it didn't turn out to be the puzzle I expected, both dogs enjoyed it and I'm sure it does them good to have an easy hide from time to time.

    BTW I'm also still going through all the "stuff" that has accumulated in the carport and around the house - I'm calling that de-junkafying...  Gimme thinks she has landed in doggie heaven.  Many of these plastic tubs of stuff has extra dog toys (from Michael's agility competition days) and Gimme thinks they are primo.  Mostly she hangs out nearby watching me unearth treasures (though many of the toys are going into another tote for washing).  From time to time she pushes me out of the way, pokes her head in and comes out with a prize.  She has found no less than four tennis ball, which she plays with until she manages to bat them under furniture.  I stubbornly refuse to retrieve them for her.  Retrieving is a dog's job...

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    Public Dog (16)

    Today we had class in the park and focused on the task of meeting/greeting another person with a dog.  We started with parallel paths, with every other team going the opposite direction.  To begin with the lanes for the teams were 20' apart.  We had three scheduled "breaks" for the dogs/handlers to disperse, give the dogs a sniff and potty break and relieve the pressure.  It looked something like this...

    To start we each heeled in our lane to the other end,  and then turn and sat our dogs.  We repeated that a couple of times, bringing the lanes a little closer.

    The next variation was to stop in the middle (the long grey box) and place our dog in a stay.  This too was repeated a couple of times, bringing the lanes a little closer.  For this and every exercise - after the stay, we all heeled to the end of our lane, turned and sat our dogs.

    Then we stopped while pretending to shake hands with the person on either side of us.  We were still about 12 feet apart, so it was just getting the dogs used to our hand motion and that we might seem to turn our attention away from them.  Again repeating and bringing the lanes a little closer.   Two of the younger dogs broke their stays, but not Gimme.

    Our last version was to bring them even closer and then actually step away from our dogs to touch the finger tips of the person on either side, one at a time.  This was a much harder challenge for the dogs and by this time we were only 8 feet apart.

    Gimme did well all along until just the very end.  During the last break, a person came to the park with his large dog and that really bothered Gimme.  He was at least 100 feet away, but Gimme didn't like that "intruder".  She always has difficulty with sudden environmental change.  So five dogs sharing a 32 foot line is okay with her, but add another 100 feet away after she has accepted "her" group, and that is decidedly not okay.  We did a lot of "whazzat".

    Gimme was okay with me moving away from her to touch fingers with Frank, until Tor moved toward me (he probably thought I had something in that outstretched hand that he needed to know about).  We did all these exercises without ever taking our attention from our dogs, so I saw Gimme get up and was able to step back to her.  I reset her and did some "whazzat" to reassure her, then we repeated the attempt, taking it slower and Frank made sure Tor stayed put that time.  Gimme did well and was rewarded copiously.

    We did one more walk and stopped to end with an easy stay.  Frank was out of line and when he realized it he moved up to get aligned with the rest of us.  That was just the final straw for Gimme and I heard a little "grrrr" from her.  I just moved her a couple feet farther away and we played copious amounts of "whazzat" until she just wasn't interested any more.  Her little brain was all used up, so I wanted to make sure we ended on a good note.  That was the last line up and class was over.

    I discovered an interesting hole in our training.  I can put Gimme on a stay and walk away from her and she's pretty darn solid.  But, if we are heeling and I stop and don't give her any more direction - she'll get up from the sit.  Also if we are heeling, I stop and give her a "wait" cue, but don't leave her - pretty soon she'll get up from the sit.  I didn't try it, but if I leave her on a sit "wait", go away and then return, and don't release her - I'm betting she'll release herself.  That's something I never thought to teach her and something we'll have to work on.

    Sunday, August 4, 2013


    Here is an interesting article I just read...  it's not nosework, rather its a Smithsonian article about bomb detection dogs, their training and related topics.

    Check out this picture -->
    To think we nosework training fans get a bit panicky if there are more than 25 containers and yet the professional dogs deal with whole hangars full of them.

    Another article about  Scent and How Airflow Works with lots of interesting diagrams.  Of course all this is theory based on what we deduce by the dogs' behavior.  We humans with our puny noses haven't a clue.  Not really...

    Did you know that your dog's scenting ability could be affected by Dental Disease

    If you are as fascinated by this topic as I am... check out the following books:

    Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz.  She provides an analogy between a human's scenting ability and that of a dog, saying "We might smell a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of coffee. A dog could detect a teaspoon in a million gallons of water—nearly enough to fill two Olympic-size swimming pools."  The book discusses the senses of a dog and gives you a good idea of how your dog experiences the world.

    Scent and the Scenting, Dog by William G Syrotuck.

    Soldier dogs: the untold story of America's canine heroes, by Maria Goodavage.

    Red Dog Rising, by Jeff Schettler.

    K-9 Trailing: The Straightest Path, by Jeff Schettler

    There are also any number of good books about tracking...

    Clove ORT

    We awoke at the crack of dawn (mostly because of the tree removals and resulting sun shining into my eyes)...  I puttered around the house and tried not to get nervous, then we headed out.

    Naturally when I went to put Gimme in the car, she was limping on her left front.  I almost didn't go, but rationality prevailed.  I figured it was only a ten minute drive, so we could easily bail out if she continued limping and didn't want to play.  Where the yard-guys have been removing the blackberry overgrowth, there is still a lot of bramble pieces on the ground and that's right where she goes to watch me put stuff in the car.  So I was hoping that she had just stepped on a thorn.  As it turns out, when I got her out for a potty break 30 minutes later, she was fine.

    We got to the site early enough to get one of the very few shady spots.  The grounds layout was nice and they had set up two canopies for queuing up, with chairs, water, shade and visual blinds.  From the time we arrived until we pulled out was less than 90 minutes.

    Gimme didn't seem very interested in the practice boxes, but finally deigned to indicate one.  Once she realized that I had really big hunks of juicy beef heart - then she was more motivated.  As we walked in the search room, she looked around and then strained forward and I let her go.  She trashed the second box and looked up at me to see if I would call it and pay her, but as I stepped past her to start my walk around her she left it - so that told me it was a fake-out.  She stepped on several boxes in passing; she just likes doing that.  Then she trashed another box in the right-hand row, but quickly left it.  She went down the left-hand row and paid almost no attention to any of the boxes.  Then from there she went back up to the end and demolished a box, sticking it while I walked around, so I called "alert".  All that sounds like a lot of stuff, but it only took 20 seconds!

    Demolition Gimme Strikes Again!

    Peggy was the judge and commented that I "need to work on that", referring to the serial trashing of boxes.  Actually we have been working on it and she is getting better.  At her first ORT she killed six boxes in addition to the odor box; at the second ORT she killed 4 in addition to the odor box.  So only killing 2 extras is a huge improvement.  We are continuing to work on modifying her alert so that its a little less "vigorous", with more of a paw-and-hold rather than scratching.  I'm ready to start working with some boxes, but held off on that until after today.

    I was going to take Gimme out to the fort to run, but forgot to take my cellphone with me.  Then we got home to find a full crew of guys continuing the work on the yard and they had a gate open to load the brush for removal.  So, that means Gimme can't even be out in the yard and she's not too happy about that.