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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Wishes

Gimme Here:  I hope everyone has a Thanksgiving as wonderful as mine.  I am blessed with a Mom that loves me and caters to my wishes, a Grandpa that pats my head and calls me "brilliant", and a Gramma that forgets how to count when Mom says I can only have 1 cookie. 

I am also blessed that Mom says I get a share of turkey every year.  This year she said I could have the wishbone and all the meat attached to it.  It looks to me like there is a whole turkey attached to that wishbone.  I'm just saying....


Monday, November 25, 2013

Gimme Tries Duck Diving

No, that's not a spelling error.  We were walking around the lake and had gotten to the second half of the walk, by which time Gimme settles down.  That means I just barely had the leash draped across my fingers.  So when Gimme darted off to the side, there was nothing to stop her.  Imagine my surprise to see her crashing into the brush after something, followed by hearing a quack and considerable splashing.  Who knew a duck on land could move that fast - I'm guessing she was inspired. 

Gimme came out of the water pretty fast, but was more than willing to go and try again.  The only part of her that wasn't wet was her head.  She really was interested in a re-match against that duck.  "C'mon Mom, I can catch her, I know I can."

So now the question is...  if I want to try dock diving, do I have to throw a bumper?  Or could I throw a live duck?  With the right motivation, I think Gimme would do it, I'm just saying...

On another part of our walk we passed a lady who had just finished running and was doing yoga to stretch and cool down.  We saw her doing Downward Dog pose.  Gimme was annoyed that I wouldn't let her go over to teach the lady how to do Kissed By A Dog pose.  She's always trying to be helpful doncha know.

Then I did errands galore.  After which we stopped in at Home Depot for a quick heeling session.
Note to self:  Wait until you get past the store greeter and all Gimme's friends.  Its kinda counter-productive to have your attempt at heeling ruined by the Home Depot chapter of the We-Love-Gimme fan club.
Once we got away from them, she did pretty good, especially since we've never tried heeling there.  It took her about a minute to realize that I hadn't simply forgotten to put on her nosework harness.  But once she figured out what we were doing, there were some really nice moments.  It'll be a good practice opportunity for us during icky weather.

Now its time to snuggle on the couch...  I might even practice that Kissed By A Dog pose.

Friday thru Sunday

We've had a busy, busy weekend....

Friday after working all day, I met with my client with the puppy mill rescue.  Harry is a sweet and fearful Silky.  Since our first meeting 3 weeks ago, he's made great progress.  Unfortunately he is now biting more often than before.  The honeymoon is over.  After getting this news and from something the owner said on the phone, I expected to see a dog that is much over-stressed.  That was not the case.  He napped just six feet from me during our follow-up interview.  The client had done a beautiful job on keeping a journal for me, so it was easy to see what the triggers are - not obvious since he voluntarily snuggles with the person he is biting the most.

Originally I thought BAT would be farther out in time, while we got him generally used to life outside a puppy mill or kennel and in a real home.  We were just about to get down to the nitty gritty, when the client's daughter and granddaughter arrived with their two dogs.  I was pondering how to politely say this wasn't the best time for a visit, when the phone rang.  The daughter says, "Mom you have to take that, its why we're here."  It was someone calling to say that someone in the family had died that day!  As soon as I could I excused myself and we'll get together again when life settles down.  

After that I met with Susan and Tucker for a nosework practice.  It went well, but Gimme had real difficulty with one of the searches.  I will be setting that one up again, so she can learn to sort it out.  Afterward Susan and I went out to dinner.  Susan told me something interesting that really strikes home to me because I'm planning to use my Home Depot to do obedience heeling work over the winter (we really need to work on duration).  Our mutual friend had her class of three asked to leave a local Lowe's last week.  She's held classes there many time and with more students and there's never been a problem, so she assumed they'd hung out too long in one spot.  It turns out the real problem was that the students were using clickers and one of the store employees, a military veteran, has PTSD.  Apparently the sound of the clicker was really upsetting to him and the store chose to ask them to leave.  

I'm so used to using/hearing clickers, it never occurred to me that it might be a trigger for someone with PTSD.  Both Lowe's and Home Depot hire a lot of veterans.  So, you can bet I'll be using "yes" to  mark Gimme's efforts when we train there.  

We spent the weekend at my parents' house.  Because it was so cold I brought Gimme in the house for most of the time on Saturday evening and for part of the day on Sunday (she usually stays in a crate in the car).  It took her a long time to settle down.  Mostly we had to wait until Grandma settled down on the couch.  She treats Gimme like a canine garbage disposal unit.  While I dont' like it taken to such an extreme, Gimme thinks its a fine idea and that its her personal mission to help her Grandma deal with all that excess food
.  Thus, every time she moves, Gimme is right there demonstrating her willingness to help.

Such a wonderful partnership for Gimme and her Grandma... such a "fragrant" evening for me in the car and after getting home.  I am choosing to feel blessed that my parents welcome Gimme in their house, since they haven't had a dog in 35 years and were not so welcoming to my other dogs...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nosework (6/16) & Rally practice

I got my card set out and practiced five behaviors today.  They were mostly parts of heeling, so nothing earth-shattering.  Don't know if I mentioned on here that I made a set of 3x5 cards with each of the Rally and RallyFrEe signs on them.  Then I just shuffle them and pick out five.

Anyway, Gimme was so excited to be training again and she especially loves heeling anyway, so she was forging quite a bit.  Given that I only this summer discovered I had trained her to heel a bit too far forward and have only worked on it a few times since then - I'm not yet concerned about it.  In any case, I'd rather forging than lagging. 

After that we practiced our nosework indicator.  I confess I haven't practiced it since I first changed the way of doing it - about 3 weeks ago.  Been meaning to work on it since I got home from CA.  It just hasn't happened and tonight was our first night - just an hour before leaving for class. 

It took all of 30 seconds for her to remember the new drill.  I probably used about 100 treats.  I started with the tin in my hand and treating for a combination of paw-hold and nose touch.  I do notice she is more inclined to do pawing the closer it is to the ground.  So for now I'll work about a foot or higher and just gradually move it down.  I ended with placing the tin in the top of a box of clothes, without my fist there.  She did it beautifully - placed her paw on the edge of the box and just never moved it.... with repeat nose touches. 

She's one smart cookie...

Then we went to class and she was W O N D E R F U L.  We were the fourth dog and had plenty of time to do a quick warm-up of the concept (odor in fist, paw-hold and multiple nose touch).  I can always do that warm-up at a trial too.  Gimme was so good in fact that Joyce just started talking to me about it and asking questions and I had to remind HER to wait to talk until Gimme was done searching.  He He He....

Joyce even said after our second set of hides that if I can keep what I have right now and apply it to all the different kinds of searches and variations and if it doesn't break down in a trial - its a very nice and very accurate indication.  She admitted she never thought I'd get it even close to this good.  Nice to finally hear... keeping in mind that I don't consider it at all finished.  Several of the other students commented about how good it is and were asking questions about what I'd changed.

I have to admit it was a conversation with the owner of Gimme's sister, Candy Powell, who helped me see the next piece of the puzzle.  Who knows... there just might be something special in Grace's Christmas stocking.

I know there are going to be several special things in Gimme's Christmas stocking.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Now that we're home and our summer classes have ended, I'm trying to get us back into our regular routine.  During the summer with so many activities on our plate, I tend to let obedience/rally training slide.  So we're getting back to that.

First though...  During the seminar I was "subjected" (and I use that word with full understanding of its meaning) to multiple daily videos of myself working.  While we were supposed to be analyzing the video for good things we did, as well as things that need improvement, it was very hard for me to concentrate.  I realize the camera is known to add ten pounds, still I think ours was adding a lot more than that.  Or else, I have to conclude I've become a bit of a porker.  So I am freshly determined to work diligently to trim off the excess me.

I've known I need to - the video just gave me fresh motivation.  I will have to lose and get in shape if I'm ever going to be able to run agility with Gimme.  And, its likely that my plantar fasciitis will not go away as long as I'm carrying the extra weight.  So I'm making a concentrated effort.

Gimme thinks its not the best idea, or I need to do it differently.  We have a system.  Since I eat most of my meals on the couch, Gimme has learned she will get her share in tidbits, provided she is well behaved laying next to me.  Well behaved is defined as no drooling, no begging, no whining and no pestering.  She totally gets the system.  What she does not get is why she has to eat lettuce too.  Seriously, who thought up that plan?

So tonight we started a training session by having her do her nails.  I need to do that more often.  BTW the strips I put on the front steps don't appear to have any affect on her nails.  Too bad - it seemed like a great idea.  Maybe next summer when she is coming and going much more frequently.  After all I did put them in just a couple of weeks before I closed off the dog door for the winter.

Then we practiced a dozen "fronts".  I'm still working on getting Gimme to come in closer.  She is close enough that I wouldn't lose points for it, but figuring on some drift in ring performance, I wouldn't want her farther away.  Thus I want her closer to start with.  Besides I like the look.

We also did some heeling.  Man-oh-man she does love to heel.  Tonight I introduced her to the idea of scooting back into position if I move a step back.  I stopped and treated her for a sit, then took a step back and repeated the cue "heel".  You could literally see the wheels turning as she tried to figure out what it meant in that context.  The first try she just kept her butt planted and turned her front 45 degrees toward me.  That got her nothing.  So I heeled off and stopped to set her up again.  The second time she scooted back a couple of inches and got a click/treat.  The third time she scooted back almost into perfect position - again click/treat.  Two clicks was all it took and after that she was literally hopping back.

Then we had to do some repetitions to get rid of the pop up for a treat, but overall I was really pleased with how quickly she picked it up.  I don't have any specific plan/need for this behavior.  I just want to teach it to further her understanding of what and where "heel" is.

I just love how quickly a clicker trained dog picks things up.  Never having experienced any compulsion, she is free to experiment, knowing with confidence that she won't be punished.  What's not to love, eh?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

We're Home

I'm back from my trip and it was fabulous, the best ever.  The only downside was not having Miss Gimme to snuggle with and play with and walk with.

My flights up and back were uneventful.  I had arranged to share a room for the duration and was pleased to discover Doris and I are sisters who never met.  We were instant friends.  Every night we stayed up late talking and talking and talking.  I never thought I'd meet someone that could talk more than I do, but now I have.  It was awesome and I am inspired to new talkative possibilities!

The whole seminar followed that pattern.  My practice partner on the first day was Sherry, who it turns out I'd had email list conversations with.  Midway through the second day we joined up with our teams and I had full working partner Megan and auditor partner Naomi.  We would work together throughout the rest of the seminar.  Megan is another awe inspiring talker.  Two in one week, who knew! 

Our team leader was Ellen.  Ellen is the kind of person who can dish out a large helping of criticism in such a way that you walk away feeling good about it.  That's a talent that too few people have.  The hosting group were great and kept us all well fed and well cared for.  The site was great.  I ate so much and so often that I should have gained several pounds - instead I think I kept it from sticking by laughing my butt off all the time.

The seminar itself was great.  Grisha Stewart has become a very good presenter since the time several years ago when the 2 day seminar DVDs were taped.  She's very approachable and pretty darn funny.  She kept things moving and disseminated a ton of information.  We had practice sessions all the time, so it worked well to learn something, then get up and do it.  There is a lot more to BAT now than when the seminar was originally taped.  We were the 8th BAT Instructor seminar, so teaching that level is still an evolving process.  I have some suggestions and thoughts, but will be saving those to share with Grisha and Ellen when I have the time to write them up.

The written examination was very thorough, a combination of short answer and multiple choice.  I used all but 8 minutes of the 2 hours we were allotted.  It wasn't that I didn't understand the material; rather, as you who read my blog regularly know, I can't write anything briefly.  Can't believe I wasted 8 minutes when I could still have been writing on my little novella.

On the evening of the fourth day, I gave a presentation following the pizza party on the Fatal Fifteen reasons why people continue to use compulsion-based methods for dog training when the science and evidence shows that reward-based methods work better.  I ran over time, but everyone was so engrossed that Grisha allowed me to finish.  I got a lot of positive feedback about it.  I plan to write up the talk and will share it on this blog.

I had so much fun at the seminar, that it was hard to leave.  At the same time, I was eager to get home to Gimme.  I flew in at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday morning and got home an hour later.  By then I was so wired I stayed up another two hours.  Then got a few hours sleep before going to pick Gimme up from Camp Ursula at 9:00 a.m.  We spent the day snuggling on the couch, sleeping and watching old movies.  Since then we've gotten in two walks and a lot more snuggling.

All reports were that Gimme did fine, especially given she is 3 years old and had never been to a kennel before.  I'm sure I was more bothered by our separation than she was.  Gimme ate well and wasn't obviously stressed.  Sadly she did not get to play with any other dogs, since there weren't any suitable playmates there during her visit.  I understand Gimme did try to convince Ursula and Dave that their dogs could fit into her kennel, so she could be in the house and show them how a real dog snuggles. 

As it turns out, she got a lot of training on grinning.  She would grin at anyone who walked by her run and then they made a big fuss over her.  So when I got there I got the biggest grin I've ever seen.  In the past I've only seen the occasional small grin in the bathroom... this one was reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver and the Aliens movie. 

Since then she has been a little clingy, believing she is due all my attention when I am home.  She was fine on Friday when I went to work for 7 hours - then all evening insisted that I needed to devote every breathing moment to her.  She also has decided that if I'm not giving her the requisite attention, it is now entirely appropriate to indulge in misbehavior, such as trash diving and counter surfing; behaviors I haven't seen in a year.  Again, this only happens when I'm home and she "needs" my attention.  Envision me on the phone and someone getting a candy wrapper from the trash, to wave it in front of me.  As soon as I take one step toward her she drops the wrapper and leaps onto the couch, stopping just short of patting the couch beside her to indicate where I should sit. 

What's not to love?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nosework (4/16), NW Practice & PD (34)

Last Thursday Susan and I met with our kids for a nosework practice.  Overall both dogs did very well.  Gimme got a shock on her nose when she touched a downspout (too close to a lighting strip), while the building owner stood and watched, without warning us that it could give shocks.  So while we hadn't planned another exterior search, we did one to make sure Gimme wasn't put off downspouts - no problem.  She did well in the interior as well.

Happily she also did a good job with her indicator.  The way I worked on it at home is making it more clear to her what I want and she offers it pretty quickly and without fuss or escalating in frustration.  I had wanted to do a quick warm up with it at the car before class yesterday, but we were first up.

We met at Home Depot.  Joyce moved the hides to a new location in the store after each dog... so they all got two searches that hadn't been searched by anyone else.  It was a little time consuming, but there were only 4 of us in class.

Gimme had her first search in the entryway.  Fortunately it was her searching, since the HD workers dropped a heavy and loud thing very close during her search and the noise didn't bother her, though I jumped a foot.  I did see her again tending to offer an indication in the general vicinity (but 3 foot away) for an inaccessible hide.  I mentioned what I saw, that it had started with the seminar and Joyce agreed. 

On our next search, Joyce set another inaccessible and put it 2 feet in on a 18 inch high shelf, placing insulated outdoor spigot covers in front of it.  As Gimme started concentrating on that spot, I'd move them one at a time.  Until she was finally getting to it and even then she had to get her nose on the odor tin to get paid.  All that was left of her outside the narrow spot on the shelving was her back legs and tail.  This teaches her to persist, ask for help, and persist some more.  I'll be setting that up some more in practices.  She's always been so clear and accurate on her indications, I certainly want that back.

For the last search we all did the same one, two hides on two circular door carousels.  It was an interesting challenge because the openings at the center near the upright and under the doors made scent flow in a way that might lead the dogs to the wrong opening.  So, a scenting puzzle for them to figure out.  All the dogs did very well at sorting out the challenge.

Joyce concluded after watching me that I'd given up on the paw indicator and asked me about it.  I said no, I still wanted them, I was just adding the multiple nose touches to the picture.  She then congratulated and praised me for giving up the paw indicator and told me how happy she was to see that!  Proof positive that she doesn't actually listen to what I say, eh...

Yesterday we had Public Dog class too as well as a long walk.  Class was simple working on different Therapy Dog behaviors.  Gimme had fun.  I think they've backed off on the more chaotic stuff because we have a couple new dogs that are coming to these classes who couldn't participate at that level. 

BTW I noticed at agility class that Gimme got out of the car, did her potty walk and then went around the building to the holding area without pulling on the leash.  Yesterday on our 2 mile walk, she only pulled once.  Getting to class yesterday, she didn't pull getting out of the car or going to the building.  Methinks she has finally generalized loose leash walking as a lifestyle concept.  Yippeeeeee...

Yesterday was our last Public Dog class until next spring.  And this is my last blog entry until I come back from my trip. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gimme Loves Agility

I was prepared to see a lack of focus from Gimme at class tonight.  Instead she was very focused and doing better than the last two classes.  I was quite pleased.

She started a weird thing on the teeter, so we spent much of our first session working on that.  She would drive into the yellow and then leap up and over the end.  It was technically an acceptable performance since she was in the contact zone and the board did slam down to the ground; however, not what I want.  We did many repetitions before it was consistent, though even then she was still bouncing out of the contact instead of running through it.

Blynn thought it might be because I was both moving faster and further away at the same time.  It didn't feel like either was true to me.  Still when I moved in or slowed down, her performance became more normal.  If I was close and slower, it was normal.  I'm inclined to wonder if at some point she hasn't gotten a butt-bump from a teeter.  In any case, as soon as I return from California, I'm going to weed-eater a section of yard and move the teeter into it for some practice on days that are dry.

On a total plus note, Gimme did all four tunnel-dogwalk discriminations flawlessly... even though we've never trained them.  That's what I love about APHS handling - if I do my handling correctly, the right behavior/obstacle is pretty much intuitive to Gimme.

On our second session Gimme did everything very nicely - again well focused.  We were able to concentrate on my handling.  I was doing a rear cross on the flat and Blynn commented that my outside arm motion was pretty much wild and wooly, sending Gimme where I didn't want her to go.  She was doing it into a tough weave entry, but not efficiently. 

I was using my arm in too big of a sweeping motion and not using my shoulders to tell Gimme where to go.  Blynn suggested bending that arm and that would bring my shoulder into play.  It worked and Gimme's line into the weaves was much tighter and more direct.  Interestingly, in order to bend my arm, my body thought I needed to bend my knees too.  Who knows where that comes from.

Anyway, a great class.  I'm left wondering why Gimme was that much more focused tonight, than she was yesterday.
  • Is it because agility is that much more fun than the Public Dog class? 
  • Is it because there's no other dogs in sight when she's working in agility, so less stressful?
  • Is it because I checked her supplements/homeopathics this morning and increased most, while adding in another homeopathic remedy?
    • The homeopathic remedies are for her false pregnancy symptoms.  I haven't seen overt symptoms this early before; however I don't discount the possibility.  
    • She's at the end of her fourth week, which would correlate to a fourth month in a human.  I did some internet research and found that mood swings often start that early for pregnant women... so it stands to reason she might experiences mood affects at this stage.
  • Is it because I got a lot of work done on my presentation today, so am feeling less pressured and stressed myself?
Hard to say, could be any, some or all of these.  In any case, she was brilliant in class, despite her Tinkerbell approach to the Teeter...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Public Dog (31, 32, 33) & Nosework

Gimme continues to do well in this class.  We have one more Public Dog class and then are off for the rest of the winter.  I'm noticing that Gimme's attention is wandering and she's a bit more emotional and needy lately.  Its too soon to chalk it up to a false pregnancy; only four weeks from her hot date.  So I'm wondering if she is simply reacting to my stress getting ready for the big trip.  Then again everyone has an off day, even brilliant Gimme.

She wasn't totally off, just took her longer than usual to get focused.  It probably didn't help that Tor had a run-amuck moment and went blazing past us (about ten feet away) a couple times.  She likes him and has walked with him... so it shouldn't have been too stressful for her.  There's also a new dog in class that has a growly way of "talking" and that may be uncomfortable to her.  His owner uses a fair amount of corrections (though a lot less than when I first met him and encouraged him to call Ursula).  He's not that reliable yet, so we made sure to set up away from him.

We started working in the tennis court with our dropped leashes and just did parallel (lines 15 feet apart) walking 20 feet, doing a behavior and then returning to our station for treats.  Gimme did okay at this, she just lacked really solid focus or her usual precision.  After we went out on the grass and I was further away from the others (in particular the instructors), when she did a really good bit of LLW, I rewarded her with PB.  After that I had a lot more focus and she did some really lovely things.  And, I didn't use the PB all the time, just for the best efforts.

That leads to something I've been planning to talk about.  Ursula thinks that sometimes peanut butter raises Gimme's arousal level.  We've had this talk before and basically Elizabeth's answer was to never use it.  Obviously that's not going to happen.  At the time I sewed some loops of elastic in my treat pouch so I could have a peanut butter filled film canister, to dip my finger in and give Gimme stealth PB.  I did that for several weeks and never had any problems with Gimme becoming too aroused.

Recently this came up again and I was very frustrated, because it was sounding like Gimme could never have peanut butter and this was coming from Ursula, who's opinion I have a lot more respect for.  I had a long talk with Ursula after class and we realized we weren't communicating well.  Ursula doesn't think I should let her lick it off the Go Toob.  She thinks that Gimme gets a more aroused that way because she doesn't know when its going to end.  Which explains why there was no issue when we were doing stealth PB, because it was a blob off my finger and that's it, plus no licking.

Ursula also thinks I shouldn't give it to her when she is already aroused or overly excited.  I mentioned teaching Gimme to behave better about getting treats (no jumping up, no putting her feet up on things to get closer to the treats, etc).  Ursula doesn't think that will help, that arousal is the issue, not behavior.  After our talk, I thought it through and decided to continue with that plan anyway.  My thinking is that once she is more clear (requiring consistency from me) about how to behave to get the treats she's earned... if she can't keep four on the floor, then she's too excited/aroused for PB and gets her regular treats.

So I've been doing two things.
  1. I've been working on stimulus control with her target stick.  This is an ongoing project that I work on for awhile and then get bored with it and slack off.  Now what I'm doing is using that to teach Gimme how to win PB.  I stand next to the table where there is both the Go Toob and a dish of regular treats.  When Gimme does her best work I reach for the PB.  But, if her feet come off the ground - the PB stays put and she gets other treats.  This has proven very challenging for her.  She's working at it, but its still really hard and she's still sorting out the rules for how to make the PB come to Gimme's lips.
  2. I'm also using peanut butter more in training, not less.  I'm using it as much as I can for differential style reinforcement.  When she puts forth a superior effort, I want to give her a super reward.  I notice once I get a really good effort that I reward with PB, the quality of all the efforts that follows goes up quite a bit.
Time will tell how these two approaches work.