Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Monday, January 27, 2014

Nosework (3/1)

Class tonight was really great.  Even though Dorothy is a CNWI and still only uses the NACSW approved method (their one-size-fits-all approach), in other ways she is really a very good instructor.

Tonight's exercises were designed to teach us how to handle our dog when we needed to be more directive than usual.  Usually in nosework, the dog takes the lead and we follow them around.  Yet, as we advance in levels, there will be times when we should help or direct the dog more - especially when the dog gets stuck or is having difficulty.  Dorothy designed these exercises to address that possibility, so we could practice the mechanics before we are caught  - as she was - trying to do it on the fly, at a trial.  It also gives the dogs an opportunity to experience this style of handling from us, when they are not facing the excitement of a trial setting.  Another plus, Dorothy explained the exercises so well that we all knew right away what to do and what to look for.

The first exercise was to bring the dog into the big room, give a search cue and turn them loose, but there would be no odor out.  Our task was to simply observe what the dog looked like when they were not getting any odor.  Then as we were finishing that, Dorothy set odor in the entry alcove.  We were to gather up our dogs and start a new search with the entry, so the dogs got to end with a hide.  She said you can create a problem if you do too many searches of clear areas, so its best to always immediately follow them with a search where there is easy odor to be found.

Gimme did pretty much the same as the other dogs.  She made a stab at searching in this big clear area, but without the intensity she shows when she can smell odor.  I only heard her chuffing noise once.  Like the other dogs, Gimme was also more readily attracted to distractions.  She didn't obsess over them and went back to looking, but it was still more than usual.  When we went into the alcove, she was intense again - clearly knew there was odor there and went right to it.

The next exercise was also in the big room, but staying on leash and keeping a somewhat shorter than normal leash.  We were to move them around the room perimeter in a clockwise direction.  As we got to the far end of the room, Dorothy set odor on a chair at the front.  Our task, in addition to working the dog with less line, in a more directive fashion, was to note how their manner changes when they got that drift of odor.  Then as we were at the odor on the chair, another hide was set on an easel we'd already passed.

What I saw in Gimme was that she went around the room kinda looking, because I'd cued her to... her attitude said, "La la la la lah...  La la lah..."  And as she caught the drift of odor, her intensity changed, as if she said, "La la la la lah...  La l...  Hey, what's that..."  She picked up the pace too.  Then as we continued back around the room, I could see she didn't expect to find anything, because she'd been through that area twice without finding anything.  She almost went right by the easel, but then snapped back to it.

Our final exercises were done outside.  Dorothy delineated a big fat "L" shape with cones.  Our task was to move the dog around the perimeter inside the cones, in a counter-clockwise direction and as we got to the far corner from the start, a hide was set in a crack on a curb.  Then as we were moving up on that, another was set on a metal door at about nose level for Gimme, again at the far end of where we were.

So we got a chance to move around, with the dog on our right side this time, as well as observing how they dealt with this artificial boundery.  Three of the five dogs moved downwind of the odor on the curb, but then when they did, they couldn't find the hide from there.  Hard to say what the breeze was doing.  If they passed odor we did an about turn (kinda like an agility front cross) to take them back by it. 

These were very valuable handling exercises.  Gimme has always been so frustrated in nosework by any shorter leash work and frustration is her Achilles heel, so I never would have tried it myself.  I think it worked to our advantage that she's still tired from her big Barn Hunt weekend.  She was still eager to work each time, but I could tell she was kinda tired.

Our last search was to do the same area, in much the same way (more directive handling), but the two hides were out the whole time and in more "usual" places.  This turned out to be another example of how the dog's expectations affected their searching... they all went directly to these two hides.  Much like they tend to go to a chair set against a wall all by itself.

So class was really neat and fun.  I like having exercises that are targeted toward a specific thing to learn and I left knowing I learned a lot.  I also like a running commentary that tells me what I'm doing right as well as what to do better (who doesn't, eh).  And I sure like the nice things said about Gimme's working style, drive and persistence, talent and recognition of her odor obedience. What's not to like...

Sunday, January 26, 2014


We spent the weekend in Damascus, Oregon for our first Barn Hunt trial.  It was a lot of fun and Gimme is clearly a natural talent.  Me not so much.

Our first run was Instinct class, where Gimme quickly indicated (12.62 seconds) and qualified.  At which point I was thinking I was so good and this was sooooo easy.

Then I watched ten searches in the Novice class, of which only 2 qualified.  Six failures were false alerts to the litter-tube and two teams went over time.  I was determined we would not be one of those.  It was just starting to dawn on me, perhaps this isn't as easy as I thought.

Gimme and I went in for our novice run, she did the tunnel, quickly alerted and then left it.  She never left a rat-tube before, so I concluded it was a litter-tube.  She scanned the ring and went back to the same tube... as I congratulated myself for being too smart to fall for an alert on the litter-tube.  She left it again, scanned the ring again, and went back to the same tube AGAIN!  Still I didn't call it, practically thumping my chest in smugness and encouraged her to search an area she hadn't gone near.  As she was dutifully following my dopey directions, the judge called "time".  When I asked him where the rat tube was, he said sweetly, "Right there, where she indicated three times."  Ooooooops.

How can this be?  My dog is brilliant and I'm relatively competent...  Why did I miss her indications and why did she leave the rat for the first time?  I believe my problem was letting what other people were doing (or not doing) affect how I worked my dog AND not trusting-my-dog.  When talking about the workshop I commented how focused Gimme was when around rats and how I ceased to exist.  I believe the reason she left the rat-tube was because she sensed my new uncertainty, even if she didn't actually listen to me, and it affected her performance.

I was very nervous going into the ring for the afternoon trial.  Gimme alerted quickly on a tube and just as quickly left it.  She scanned the ring a couple times and alerted on another tube, leaving it very quickly.  When she came back to the first tube, I thought "What have I got to lose", so I called "Rat!" and it was.  I spent the rest of the time getting her to focus on me enough to do the tunnel.  We finished just barely in time at 1:55.19 (with a 2 minute limit).  Talk about cutting it close!

At night Candy called my hotel and we discussed a plan for the next day...  I realized I needed to really commit to trusting Gimme and see what happened.  One of the issues I had concerns about was not having any treats available after a run.  Because of the way things are set up, I didn't want to go back behind the blind to return to my car and since I left my treat pouch there, I had none with me to reward her efforts.  So I also decided to preposition a peanut butter cookie outside the door I was using to leave.  She likes them almost as much as peanut butter itself.

Today we started with another Instinct test.  Gimme sniffed the tubes and left them.  I called her back to the tubes a couple times encouraging her to "find the vermin".  The tubes are really close together, so without her original focus and intensity, it was hard to tell which one she was most interested in .  I decided it was the middle tube and called it.  She was right... I celebrated enthusiastically with her while getting her dressed again (the dogs run naked) and we rushed out the door to discover a peanut butter cookie.  Who knew!

I was glad to have been right in my interpretation of her efforts, but also concerned because I knew how much slower she was than the first day.  It was 35.47 seconds versus 12.62 seconds - almost three times longer.  I tormented myself, agonizing about the possibility I'd taught her - sometimes the rat is not the rat...

I didnt' have time to worry long though, because there were not nearly so many people in the Instinct class today and they were running the dogs from tall to small - with Gimme up first.  I put Gimme back in the car, then placed another peanut butter cookie outside the door and retrieved my treat pouch.

After the briefing I rushed to get her for another potty walk and ran back to the ring with her.  We went in and she very quickly alerted on a tube and would not leave it.  I called it and she was right.  Then I got Gimme to climb and do the tunnel.  Our time in the ring was only 39.72 seconds!  She shaved 66% off our time from the day before.  As soon as I had her dressed, Gimme dragged me outside to her cookie.  I was elated - we seemed to be headed in the right direction.

This afternoon I followed the same plan and we were done in 31.37 seconds!  Which shaved 20% off the morning time.  So we finished her Novice title annnnnnndddd it turns out we got FIRST PLACE.  Gimme thoroughly enjoyed her peanut butter cookie, as well as two more when we got to the car.

I am so proud of my girl.  She did so well and showed she still has the instincts to keep a stable clear of vermin.  She is going to love it when we trial in Open and she gets to find more than one rat.

This picture shows all the ribbons we brought home.  Sadly Gimme is too tired to pose like she usually does when there is a camera around.

Gimme says Oregon has a very severe rat problem and doing her part to help them out really wore her out...

Monday, January 20, 2014

88 Percent Club

It was a very good trial, even though we didn't title.  We got 7 out of 8 hides, thus the subject for this entry.  The trial site layout was really nice and the hosts were very good.  Only 4 dogs out of 34 titled (12%).  I didn't really think we were ready so soon after our holiday training vacation, so I'm happy it went this well. I started the day doing a container drill at a local post office.  I also set up three hides on some mail trucks.  I like this and when we do it, I notice she gets right down to business on the first search of the day.


We had two rooms, the first room, the hide was under a table leg.  Gimme found it fast (24.37 secs).  The second room had two hides, one six feet in along the wall on a hinge, close to the floor.  The other was in a stapler on a desk along the opposite wall.  Gimme found it really quickly.  She kept going back to investigate a group of desks nearby, going around and around them, checking up on the desks and the chairs below.  She'd gone through the rest of the room, so I just believed she was onto something.

The picture below roughly represents the room.  The triangle low and on the right side is the doorway.  The black are all big desks or tables.  The orange are children's desks, with the "x" at the top where the stapler was.  The green are wall cabinets, with "x" for odor on hinge.  I've drawn the swirling area where she got caught up.  Her searching pattern is pretty classic for a converging odor vortex and I should have recognized it and drawn her out of it.  I also failed to notice the air current from ceiling vents, which complicated the search.  My bad.

The judge's comment was "Very good job moving dog on from found odor."  I think she is referring to when Gimme goes back to where she'd already found a hide.  I always just repeat "Thank you.  Find me another one."  Gimme knows what it means and moves away on her own.

The judge commented in her debrief, while most people took time at the start line to let their dog scent in front of them, she noticed those who didn't wait for their dog to scan in both directions were more likely to miss the threshold hide on the cabinet.  Usually the dogs tend to scan left and right taking in the area ahead of them.  Gimme did turn right into the room and likely rounded the corner when she came through the area of the second hide going counter-clockwise around the room.  Also she does tend to search high more than low, especially if I haven't worked a lot of low hides.

NOTE TO SELF:  Wait for her to scan both directions before starting search.  And work a bunch of low hides in the week before trials.


This search was a pretty big area, including a wall and part of a driveway along one side and then moving out into a picnic area of about 10 tables in a pavilion, with a couple trash cans.  The start cones were set up on the near end of the wall.  In starting, even though I had us in between the cones, Gimme stepped to the left of the cone.  The rules say they have to pass through the cones to start, so I swung her around and through them (taking up probably 5 seconds).  I was told by several people she might be faulted anyway, but she wasn't.  I think the reason she stepped left was because the hide was along the bottom edge of the wall, so she was going direct to odor and when I swung her around I was actually pulling her away from odor!  I'm lucky she didn't get too frustrated and refuse to work for me.

The second hide was on a joint on one picnic table.  Gimme was all over the table as soon as she got close to it, even jumping up on it.  She worked the hide well and indicated dead on odor.  We got both hides in 57.35 seconds.  Judge's comment:  "Good Job!"

NOTE TO SELF: Line the dog up centered between the cones (not self).  Make sure line is short enough so the dog can only go forward through the cones.


There were four vehicles, set up as shown in the picture.  One small motor home (dark pink), two SUVs (green & blue) and one small trailer (orange).  The grey shows brick buildings and the red cones and line is the start.  The two SUVs were nosed in facing each other and odor was behind the license plates on both, about 3 feet apart.

Hides this close really isn't too hard for the dogs, but its a total psych-out for the handlers.  Gimme found the license plate on blue SUV very quickly, but then spent a lot of time on the other end of the green SUV.  She also briefly checked out the trailer and the far side of the motor home.  She checked the end of the motor home and the side nearest the green SUV.  The breeze was blowing from blue toward green and was probably swirling toward the motorhome because of the walls.

Gimme came back to the hide on the blue SUV twice.  Then she finally came back between them and searched all over the front of the green SUV, settling on the license plate and gave me her alert again.  I fell for the psyche out, but when her paw came up and I got the look, I had no choice, I had to "trust your dog" and called alert.  The judge said, "You already got this hide".  Then she went on to say she'd seen me pull her away from the other hide on the other license plate three times.  To which I said, I thought the other was the one we'd alerted to first, thus why I'd cued her to find another hide.  Fortunately they video tape all runs, so she was able to check the tape and verify we were correct.  Gimme got this challenging search in 1:56 minutes.  We had a laugh when I said, "Gimme often proves herself to be smarter than me and now she's shown she is smarter than a judge.  Welcome to my world."

Judge's comment on the sheet:  "Great Work!"  She was very apologetic for the mix up...  Another funny was, when she went to check the video, the judge instructed me to move myself and Gimme to a specific place so we weren't standing in odor and not working.  So the stewards from the next search (possibly thinking I was confused and leaving the area) were calling me, "No Carla, come this way for containers.  We're ready for you."  And I yelled back, "I can't.  I'm following instructions, for once."  Everyone there who knows me laughed a LOT.

Gimme did earn a fault for putting her feet up on the door of the motor home.  Dogs can put their feet on bumpers, running boards and tires, but not on painted surfaces.  Hides will never be placed in a way which encourages the dogs to go up on the sides of vehicles, still odor can climb a surface based on air current and a dog might chase it up the side of the vehicle.  And of course, she is allowed to put her feet up on desks, desks, cabinets and walls in other searches as needed.  This is something we'll have to work on, but I'm still puzzling through how to make the various okay versus not-okay distinctions for her. 


There were 26 containers of various types and 9 boxes, set in a sort of spiral out from the center.  Gimme quickly moved along the right side of the spiral, giving an extra sniff to a floral patterned box.  Then she quickly moved along the far side of the spiral, doing an impressive snap back, followed by intense sniffing on another box, which she left on her own as I moved past it.  Right next to it she got serious and alerted on the handle of a bag laying flat on the floor.  She did this in 19.93 seconds.  Judge's comment:  "Yay for you!"

We found out during the debrief that the floral box contained two tennis balls.  Gimme likes to chase balls, but she's not a maniac about it.  The other box contained a muffin with peanut butter on it.  That's the one Gimme left when I moved by it.  She's the best!

I thought she was too vigorous with her paw on the bag, but we did not get faulted.  Still its not the behavior I want.  I remembered to move her out from the search area, so she wouldn't be attracted to any boxes in case she had an urge to demolish something.


I was very happy with Gimme's efforts all day.  She worked intently and with focus and going right to odor every time she could.  There was none of her recent tendency to indicate "close enough" to odor, without getting to source (which has been happening a lot since the inaccessible hides seminar).  I have finally decided how I want to train this issue; I'll use differential reinforcement, which is a concept Gimme understands.  In training I'll set up an inaccessible hide and when she indicates what I consider only "close enough" she will be rewarded with cheese.  Then I'll show her exactly where odor is and reward as close as she can get.  Then we'll leave and re-enter the search area and when/if she goes and really tries to get to source, then she'll get the good stuff, either pork or peanut butter.  She's a real smarty and I'm sure she'll figure out how to get the good stuff.

The other thing I was very happy with was her paw indicators.  They were all very nice, except the one on the container search and even so, it was not bad enough to earn a fault.  I did notice Gimme did something new for the warm up boxes.  The first indication would include a scratch on the box, but then as I stood there, she'd stand beside the box and reach out to the side and tap the box with her paw, asking for more goodies.  I'd repeatedly give her treats for the taps... probably 25 taps over the course of the day.  This tells me she is really starting to understand what I want and is trying to give it to me.  In the heat of the moment, she may do an indication which is too vigorous, but she's really trying and making substantial improvement.

We are both tired and staying home today to rest up.  Gimme has an appointment at 3:00 for a bodywork session.

LATE BREAKING:  The bodywork session went very well.  Tonya was surprised, but all the corrections from last week held.  She did mostly energy work today. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bodywork & Agility (3/1)

We got to see Tonya on Tuesday.  Gimme really needed the session.  Her usual spot mid-back was really bad this time.  Tonya corrected it twice and both times it immediately popped out again.  So she did some energy work there, corrected it, did energy work again and then it stayed in.  She was also locked up at the very top of her neck where it attaches to her skull (probably why she was popping out of and avoiding the weaves).  She totally didn't want Tonya working on her neck - not even cooperating with peanut butter at her nose.  Once we got it corrected (I say we, because I had to restrain her so Tonya could do it) then she was much happier.  She also had the first joint of her tail locked up.

When I took her walking yesterday, she just ran and ran and ran and ran.  Like the wind she ran.  I was really beating myself up for not having noticing how "off" she was.  Then it occurred to me, I was attributing all her changed behavior to the false pregnancy. 

So, I've decided to simply schedule the treatments regularly, like every 4-6 weeks...  and hopefully it will be more preventative in nature.  As it is, Tonya wants to see her twice more over the next two weeks.  She had me jump her at a lower jump height last night and instructed me to see how she did with the weaves and then make a decision.

At class she was a dog with a mission.  She wanted to run and run and run and run.  It took a bit for her to settle down and work, but once she did, it was all great stuff.  She did fly off the a-frame for the first time in her life, "Look Mom, I fly..."  The only problem we are really having is with the tire jump.  The last time I thought it was the proximity to the wall, but last night it was in the middle of the course and she still had a problem.

We don't have class next week, but I'll be meeting Chris for fitness.  So I'll take Gimme and do a practice with her, doing lots of tires.  I think it just looks different to her and she's got it in her head to run under it instead.

BTW we have the NW2 trial this Sunday.  Start praying and crossing body parts now.  I am...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nosework (2/1)

We had two different exercises for class.  The first was set up in the front of the training area as an interior search (cordoned off with expens and sheets from the rest of the room).  There were 3 hides, one of which was supposed to be hard.  Dorothy said based on the prior class, two of the hides had been hard.  Gimme didn't find any of them hard.

The first she found was under the pedal of the trash can.  It was funny when she hit the pedal with her paw and the trash can lid flipped up. She startled and stepped back.  Then boldly bapped the pedal again.  Glad I don't have any of those trash cans at home or Gimme would always be playing with it.  On the other hand, Candy and I came up with a cute trick for RallyFrEe - where you have a small flip top trash can set up for your free choice exercise - the handler pretends to wipe her brow with a kleenex, gives it to the dog and who then takes it over, steps on the pedal and drops the kleenex in the trash.  Just us being silly.

The second hide was in a small box on the shelf.  Gimme found it readily.  The third was in a cap on the end of the rod for a contraption they had expens stored on (vaguely like a bicycle rack).  Many dogs apparently found it challenging because it was about 3 feet high and they only had the expens to put their feet on.  Gimme didn't mind it at all, but it did take her a little time to get into the corner.  I was pleased with her efforts.

Then we did the other exercise, which was 26 boxes and egg cartons and 6 black plastic flower pots (like the kind you get with large plants from the nursery) in four rows.  We did three searches.  The first search 1 hide, the second 2 hides, and the third 3 hides.  The first search Gimme did a pretty reasonable indication on the box.  The second search her first hide she did well (egg carton), the second one the box was flimsy and the top crushed in when she put her paw on it, which set her off.  For the third round, she just went into box-killing mode.

I don't consider this a valid test of where she is at with her indicator.  For one thing, its unlikely she'd run into a test with mostly boxes at NW2 level - its possible, just not likely.  Usually there has been quite a mix of different types of items.  Second, any boxes they used would never be flimsy - it has to withstand the action of up to 40 dogs, so it'll be more sturdy.  And third, we won't keep going back and doing it again and again, getting her more and more excited.

Today I set up a two exterior hides outside my store and then worked for 3.5 hours.  When I came out I set up containers (9 bags and 3 boxes), putting one hide in a box and the other in a bag.  I had her PB tube in another bag right next to the odor bag.  After her potty break we did the exterior search and she found both of them much faster than I expected.  They were in between two walls forming an L shape - one on the AC unit and the other on the ground behind the edge of a step.  I didn't think there would be much airflow, so expected her to take her time.  Not so - I didn't time her, but it was under a minute for both.

For the container drill she bypassed both hides as she scanned the twelve containers.  Then she came back and snooped around the food distraction bag, but left it when I kept moving and immediately alerted on the odor bag next to it.  Then went down the row and quickly found the odor box, she stepped on it and it "gave" under her foot, but she didn't paw.  I rewarded her a LOT and should have walked her directly away from the search area.  Unfortunately I didn't and when I passed by a box, she decided to trash it.  I don't know if it was the idea of having another box... or because I gave her so many treats for her calm indication of the box.  So clearly a lesson learned for the trial - once I've got our containers, leave the search area without passing by any boxes.

In any case.  I think the container exercise in class worked against us, because we ended with worse behavior than we started with.  I'm guessing this will be the case for awhile.  Class exercises are not set up for our individual training, its the whole one-size-fits-all mentality.  So I've concluded, in some ways, classes will sometimes work against my goals for her indicator.  Which simply tells me, I have to work harder at it outside of class to compensate.  When I do 150 good repetitions over two days in our training, it will overcome 4 bad repetitions in class.  Not an ideal way to train, but it is what it is and I'm sure we'll get to what I want in time.

BTW the last search in class was to simply to do the expen holder again, but paired.  Gimme found it instantly.  She didn't need it paired, but it was nice to work a corner again, since I don't usually get to do corners when training on my own and it could come up in a trial.

Another BTW - even if we do get faulted for trashing a box in containers, its not really a problem.  The NACSW rules say they can only give us one specific fault per element.  So we would have to get a pawing fault in every element (or with a combination of other faults) to not qualify in the trial.  What this means is, even if there are several boxes and she trashes all of them, she can only get one fault for pawing and possibly another for disturbing the search area.  If we get all of our hides and no more than one other fault, we'd still title.  So, while this is an training exercise I'll continue to work on, its not the end of the world.  I'm just sayin...

Well, luscious Gimme is certain she needs my attention, so this is all for now...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Little Smarter

It occurred to me today, I have not been incrementing the task for Gimme's nosework indication well enough.  As Bob Bailey always says:

"Be a Splitter, Not a Lumper"

I realized I was lumping again.  Darn it!  It was Candy who pointed out my last lumpish training...   She noticed it when I went straight from good indications on other things without odor, to working odor and boxes together.  Both boxes and odor get Gimme excited, so adding them together was sure to be a hard increment for her.  Well duh.  If I'd thought it through, I would have realized I was lumping. 

So I worked for awhile with just an odor tin in my hand.  It went very smoothly and Gimme did so well with it, so quickly.  Then in class she was able to apply what she had learned to indications on other things.  Overall she's done very nicely.

Of course, we have a trial in 7 days and I'm trying to get us up to indicating boxes without pawing, just in case there are some in containers.  So what do I do, but lump it all together... training both odor and boxes together.  Shame on me.

Today after I realized I was guilty of lumping, I changed to just placing her paw on a box.  I got a pre-trashed box, a big bowl of treats and a clicker.  During the commercials I counted out ten treats, got the beat up box and the clicker and cued her "paw" behavior, rewarding liberally.  During the course of one movie we got in ten short sessions and at least 100 repetitions. 

I didn't move off the couch myself, so had to set the box on the back of the couch behind me - or she's force me to train her against my will.  Still since it never really went away, she was less excited by it when I presented it.  Essentially splitting even further and, as a result, she did much better than she has over the last couple of days.

Toward the end I was able to start working on duration.  Any time Gimme thought I was taking too long, she'd pick her paw up about 1/2 inch and then gently set it down again.  Hinting, doncha know...  Ordinarily I wouldn't reward her when she breaks duration, but in this case I did.  Duration isn't really the issue for this behavior - I was just using it to solidify the not-pawing.  So in my opinion, the fact she set her paw down carefully when she was likely experiencing some frustration - well, to me it deserved rewarding.

I DO love the way she thinks. 

Rats!!! w/Video

I still can't get blogspot to upload videos... so I've uploaded them to youtube...

Here is the link for the fourth try of Gimme getting to meet the rat.  She's pretty determined.  What you don't get is the sound affects.  She was making a very deep, full-throated growl.  I've heard rats will often be at the front by the wire sniffing back at the dogs.  Not this time, he was staying at the back of the cage.  Can't blame him, I wouldn't have wanted to be on the receiving end of what Gimme had to say.

Gimme gets two tries just picking out the rat in a tube.  You will note that I was too ready to call it her first time, jumping the gun.  Gimme was still sorting out the difference between tube with litter and tube with litter and a rat.  She knows what she's doing.  There was another dog&handler with three tubes on the other side of the yellow tunnel, so the first time when she moves toward the tunnel, I think she was checking to see if there was a more exposed rat over there.  

She does a great job in her novice run.  You'll note at the very beginning she runs over and shoves her nose in between some straw bales on this pile.  She found the rat there the first time.  Then when she goes over toward the metal doors - there is a tube with just litter there, which she discards almost instantly.  

Hope you have enjoyed these clips.  Interestingly Gimme has almost completely ignored baby since her day with rats.  She sniffed and moved it once last night, and sniffed it this morning.  Seems she's decided she has more important things to do than be a pretend mommy.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Gimme had a blast and as I suspected, is a natural.  She thinks this is about the most fun she's ever had.  Sadly blogspot is not cooperating and won't let me upload videos.  I will try to upload them in a separate entry.

We arrived just before 10:00 and I watched practice runs for two hours.  I was surprised to see how much people are directing and micro-managing their dog's efforts.  For the most part they talk to their dogs constantly.  I'd seen a blog where someone who said it was boring to watch (I didn't think so) and many dogs are very subtle in their indications.  I saw some subtle indications during the practice, but mostly the dogs were either very into it or not very committed.

I hoped Gimme would not be one of the subtle ones.  I need not have worried.  I mean seriously - has she ever been subtle about anything?  After lunch we started the workshop with a short explanation of the rules, how to play the game and what to watch for.   Then the rest of the time was different exercises and learning to read our dogs.

First the dogs each got to meet a rat in a wire front cage, repeated 4 times.  The rat had solid wood on 5 sides.  Gimme was very intense.  Twice she put considerable effort trying to get into the back door, so the rat wrangler had to keep turning the cage.  Gimme sucked in a ton of air, trying to get all that rat smell, so when she exhaled the force literally blew the litter back from the front two inches of the cage.  You can't really tell from the video, because she was wagging her tail and butt so fast, but her body was hard with tension.

After the meet-n-greet, we did two short mock instinct tests.  Gimme had no trouble figuring out which tube held the rat and also no trouble letting me know which tube it was.

After that we got to take them in a small ring and teach the dogs to go through the straw bale tunnel and climb on the bales, both of which are required to title.  Gimme had already discovered the joys of climbing on the bales while we were waiting.  I knew that wouldn't be a problem, given her lifelong propensity for climbing on things.  It only took her two tries to realize she could do these tunnels just like the ones in agility.

Then I let her spend some time in the car relaxing while waiting our turn for an off leash, in ring Instinct Test.  It was quite interesting; she was fast and accurate.

Lastly we got two runs set up like an actual novice level trial.  Gimme did great.  The person who was videotaping for me only caught the very end of our first run, so there's only video for the second run.

One thing I learned is that I will have to get her to do the tunnel right out of the start box, because once she starts searching, I cease to exist.  She was willing to climb on the straw bales for me, but would not have done the tunnel because it would have taken her away from where she could smell rats.  Both times I had to bring her harness and leash to her - she sure wasn't going to leave the man with the rat tube to come with me.

Interestingly she ignored the other dogs most of the time.  In the early part of the workshop, she'd notice them and we'd "whazzat" when they got within about 12 feet.  Otherwise she was intently focused watching over where the rat action was happening.  I had some concern that she might try to leave the ring, which was far from secure.  I need not have worried.  She was intent on rats and nothing else mattered.

I also noticed when the rats were combined with searching that she no longer had interest in treats.  Part of me worries that she isn't getting rewarded for "vermin" finding.  On the other hand, I think this is an intensely primal experience for her and just the possibility of getting to a rat is reward enough.

The only downside from Gimme's point of view was not getting to bring home a live trophy.  She seriously wants a rat... I'm just saying.  During one of our trips into the building she took a side trip to sniff around the trunk of a nearby car (dragging me straight to it from our car 30 feet away).  Turns out it was the car owned by the rat-man and he had a cage with half a dozen rats inside the trunk.  Gimme was trying to convince me to cooperate and distract people, cuz she's just sure she could sneak one out of there, inside her tummy...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nosework Indicator Training

Since I am not going to be able to follow my plan in class (and there's only one more class between now and the trial), I realize I will have to work my plan on my own.  Since what I'll do in class doesn't even support my plan, I think I have to work my plan a LOT so what I want becomes the stronger behavior.  My goal is to practice three times a day.

Right now I'm introducing the boxes and its a challenge to say the least.  I have a very small box I put odor in and then hold it in my hand.  Gimme gets really excited to simply see a box, so she's prone to reverting back to scratching.  I've discovered a couple of things about this stage of training.  

I have the box with odor in one hand and treats in the other.  This harkens back to something we learned a long time ago.  The treat hand hovers nearby and the dog figures out to repeatedly nose-bump odor.  Initially its really close, mere inches.  Over time it moves farther away - a foot.  Quickly the dog learns when they see a treat hand near and odor is present, it means you can get more treats if you continue to nose-bump the odor.   My shaping has an added twist because I want Gimme's paw-hold close to odor while she repeatedly nose-bumps odor.  

She figured it out very quickly when I first tried it with just an odor tin in my hand; initially I got great results.  What I've discovered with the little odor box and odor is... the inclination to go to pawing is much stronger than the paw-hold behavior we've been training.  So, I've learned I need to make sure my odor-box hand, treat hand and Gimme's nose form a triangle, instead of a line.  When they are in a line, she tends to use her paw/claws to try to pull the box toward her as she is trying to stretch toward the treats.  When its in a triangle, there's no pulling as she turns her head to the treats.  Its a subtle, but important, difference, so she's not practicing even a small part of the unwanted behavior.

The other thing I've learned is to keep the session very short.  She gets pretty excited just seeing a box and if the session continues very long, then her arousal level climbs and she is less precise in her indicator behavior.  Again, I don't want to set her up to practice even a small part of the unwanted version.  

So I am experimenting with how many treats to work with.  I just did a session with 20 treats and stopped when she had earned them.  It was just a little bit too long and I could see her getting too insistent and less precise.  So next session I'm going to count out 15 treats and see how it goes.  

BTW tomorrow we get up and leave when dawn cracks for Damascus, Oregon.  We'll be watching a practice for about two hours, then eating lunch.  After lunch we have a three hour workshop.  Hopefully Gimme is as much of a natural as I think she will be, since I signed her up for four trials over two days at the end of the month...  Her big goal in life is to catch a nutria when we walk the lake or a mouse out on the fort... so I'm not really worried.  Still I recognize, both of those are significantly different from rats in a tube.  I'm taking my camera and hope to have some video to put on the blog tomorrow.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Agility (2/1)

My plan worked well for Gimme today.  We walked much earlier in the day so she had hours to come home and reconnect with baby before we had to leave for agility class.  I also gave her the supplements before leaving for class, which is a bit earlier than usual.  

And I'd already moved the bag of peanut butter cookies to the car, so had them available to use in class.  Blynn apparently didn't realize I meant to use people peanut butter cookies, since she started to tell me about a sale on dog peanut butter cookies.  Had to explain to her that Gimme really prefers the ones from Target.  BTW note to self: break cookies up before class, so you don't leave crumbs on course.

Anyway, Gimme did much better with focus tonight.  In fact she did very well with almost everything.  We only had two issues.

One was that she just didn't think she could jump through the tire jump going toward the wall, while having no problem going the other way.  The horse arena we had trained in was so roomy, I'm sure she's never experience the visual of having the wall seem so close.  She had plenty of room - I just don't think she was convinced there was enough.  That's fine - I'd rather she work through it in class than in a trial some day.

The other thing tonight was a real resistance to weaving.  The only time she got it right was when I finally slowed her waaaaay down.  It occurred to me that she hasn't had a bodywork session in quite awhile, so will try to schedule that before next Thursday's class.  She has a warm spot on her back; not hot, just warm.  Still for our second session, I opted to start her after the weaves.  I'd rather not risk a poor association if its uncomfortable for her.

Also, I've decided to ignore baby.  I'd been moving it and while I wasn't hiding it or putting it away, and was leaving it in plain sight... I think Gimme remembered where she left it and was bothered when it wasn't exactly where she left it in the middle of the floor or wherever.  My theory is by moving it, I was increasing her focus on it.  Perhaps if I ignore it, then it will fade in importance.  

Tonight she came home, checked on where she'd left baby on the couch, then moved it to the office.  She's curled up in the cocoon under the desk, while baby is on the floor.  Hopefully she is getting closer to weaning the kid...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Nosework (1/1)

I am starting over numbering my Nosework classes for classes for this new instructor.  There were a lot of things to like about classes. The atmosphere is different and Dorothy is much more organized and explains things a LOT better.  There isn't any constant nagging about talking between students.  Everyone talks, all the time.  In fact I was one of the quiet ones (shocking, I know).  In fact Dorothy talks during the runs, telling us what she is seeing.  All this talking doesn’t bother the dogs at all.

We started with two hides on vehicles, in a wheel and on the license plate.  Gimme found both of them very quickly.  Her indicator wasn’t as solid as I’ve been getting, but in hindsight I hadn’t warmed up her indicator at the car as I have been doing.  Bad me.

Then we moved inside where they’d set up two threshold hides just a few feet on either side of the door, and a floor hide well down along the wall. I brought Gimme in and turned her loose, knowing she would blast past the threshold and then come back to it.  She made a liar out of me and went shopping instead.  She was checking all the possibilities in the room and it soon became apparent she was shopping instead of working.  So I put her back on line and suddenly she went to work – the difference was dramatic and the instructor commented about it.  Gimme has never gone shopping before, even when we had a match in the store area of a dog training facility.  I commented about it and Dorothy said it was probably because the “other clues” were different so she wasn’t in working mode.  Still once on leash she did very nicely and would have qualified well within time, even including the shopping time.

For our third run they left one of the threshold hides and removed the other (leaving residual odor), and added a bathroom hide.  I told them Gimme would most likely just tilt her nose toward the bathroom and then go on by, which she most often does with closed spaces, preferring the hunting more than the finding.  When we came in, Gimme went straight to the threshold hide, finding it in mere seconds.  She paid no attention to the residual odor, following right down the wall, turning the corner and going straight in the bathroom - making a liar out of me again.  It took her a moment to narrow down exactly where the hide was, but she did and indicated nicely.

For our fourth run they only had a hide in the bathroom.  Again Gimme went straight in and indicated the right side bottom edge of the cabinet.  I rewarded her at the center crack where the odor should have been the strongest.  Then I opened the door and let her stick her nose on odor and rewarded her again.  This has been a problem ever since we went to the Inaccessible Hides seminar.  Gimme used to be really determined and persistent to get exactly to source and now she seems to think any old close indication is good enough.  It will be good enough for an inaccessible hide, but for an accessible hide she needs to push to source.

So all in all a good class, however…  They are giving me the same tired advice for pawing.  I hoped by sending a detailed description of what I was doing and how well it was working, I could avoid this – but it didn’t work.  I think I just have to accept they are CNWIs and tow the NACSW party line, so I’m not going to get any different advice than I'd been getting and likely not any better cooperation.

Dorothy told me in email she has the same on-going pawing issue with one of her dogs (many people do).  Still the NACSW approved method for dealing with each and every problem is the same one-size-fits-all approach, (a) pair everything and (b) reward sooner.  Given how many people continue to have the same problem, I don't think the one-size-fits-all approach is working for many of them.

As an experienced trainer I have problem with a one-size-fits-all approach.  Its not true of any other dog training issue where we often have to adjust the method for the dog or come up with something entirely different.  Any dog trainer who is any good will tell you there are at least 10 different ways to teach anything and no one of those ways works on every dog.  Nosework is no different, no matter how much NACSW says it is and no matter how many of their CNWIs repeat the mantra.

I'm really not opposed to pairing a lot, though I will quickly get tired of hearing "the power of pairing".  However, I have major differences with founder Amy Herot's saying, "you have to accept less to get more", at least the way NACSW applies it.  A good trainer will often "accept less" to get a dog started.  It's called successive approximation (incrementation) and its common to start well away from your final goal behavior.  However if you never raise the bar, then you will get "less" forever.  Dogs are not stupid and they are going to give you whatever they get paid for.  If they continually get paid for giving minimum effort, then they will give you minimum effort, always.  In NACSW classes, it seems you always accept less - forever.  There is no plan for raising the bar... its always just "accept less to get more".

It's a catchy saying, but in practice there are a number of problems with it.  First and foremost is: you can only reward sooner (part b of the NACSW-approved method) if you know where the hide is.  Granted, in training you will almost always know where the hide is and you can indeed do it.  However, here's the rub, when you don't know where the hide is and so are slow to reward, the dog is going to get frustrated and revert to their default... which in the case of dogs with pawing tendencies is going to be vigorous pawing.  Pairing and rewarding sooner hasn't solved the pawing, it just masks the issue until you can't reward sooner because you don't know where odor is. Plain and simple.

I will admit this NACSW approach works for some dogs, probably those who don't have an innate tendency to use their paws.   So for dogs who were inadvertently taught to use their paws to indicate, it can be successful to teach them to indicate odor in a different way. Because it works for some dogs, NACSW and their instructors are essentially on a variable schedule of reinforcement for their one-size-fits-all approach.  And we know a variable schedule of reinforcement creates the strongest behaviors, so its unlikely NACSW and their CNWIs are ever going to change this approach.

However, I maintain, for dogs like Gimme, where pawing is their first line approach to doing things, this one-size-fits-all tactic is not going to work.  When Gimme was 3 months old I did the tracking indicator test and lined up 30 different objects down a long sidewalk.  Then we walked the row and I noted how she showed interest in the objects, rewarding anything she did.  Gimme pawed at 28 out of 30 objects!  It didn't surprise me because I'd already noticed her tendency to use her paws.  She is VERY paw oriented and always has been, its part of her make-up.  So her default is always going to be to paw at things.

To me its very much like the whole issue with biting and dogs.  Dogs use their mouth and sooner or later, most of them are going to bite.  Granted it takes extreme provocation to get some to bite, but if all your best efforts fail and they are put in an extreme situation, its natural for a dog to bite.  Back in the old days of dog training the answer was to teach a dog to never put its mouth on a person (many people still follow this approach).  This is fine until something happens to push the dog beyond their thinking brain and they default to their natural response, then a bite happens.

Along comes Ian Dunbar who popularizes the idea of teaching a dog to have a gentle mouth.  A dog putting their mouth on their person was fine, just teach them to be so very gentle about it.  A dog trained in this way develops bite inhibition - they learn early to inhibit the force of their bite.  After this is well learned, you teach them to not bite at all.  Then if the unthinkable happens and the dog bites, it won't be as damaging - which may save the dog from being euthanized.

So I see the same thing at play for dogs who use pawing to indicate where odor is.  If you only teach them "don't paw" by rewarding early, you haven't addressed the root issue.  Sooner or later you aren't going to be able to reward early (like at a trial where you don't know where odor is) and they will revert to their natural default.  Since they are going to be frustrated by your apparent failure to respond properly to what they've tried to show you, its going to be vigorous pawing.

So I will continue to teach Gimme to moderate the force of her pawing and we will continue to practice it a LOT.  We may not be able to practice it in class as much as I'd like, but I'm not giving up on it.  I've been seeing good results so far and I expect it to continue if I keep practicing.

I'm thinking as long as all we have to rely on for classes are these NACSW trained CNWI's, all we are going to get is the one-size-fits-all answer to any issue.  Thus, my plan is also to take the Advanced Nosework class at the Denise Fenzi online academy, taught by someone who is not a CNWI.  I'll take it at the bronze level and just learn what I can from it.  I may take it more than once, since different gold level students will bring different issues to learn from.

Now, back at the ranch.  I did learn that one of the students in my class has a spot at Nooksack.  She told me she is almost certainly going to withdraw.  If that happens, Gimme and I will get in.  Hopefully doing Barn Hunt the weekend before won’t mess us up.  Time will tell.  Meanwhile we have a lot of practicing to do.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Who's Brilliant?

Gimme is!  Clearly and without a doubt...

We just did a short session doing rear crosses with jumps.  Out of 10 attempts she made just 1 mistake.  At this point (her second session) - I think 90% success is just dandy.

Her jumping style was rather like a pronghorn antelope, but she was really trying to apply what she learned last night.  Given that my ground is so rough and I can't move normally... I was very pleased that she did so well.  I figure she will show off her genius at class on Thursday.

And this was after a rather busy day.  She had to be in the car for about three hours while I ran errands.  Then we went to walk around Capitol Lake.  Since the weather is really nice (for winter), everyone and their cousin was out -- we saw 30+ dogs.  That's the busiest I ever remember.  The same weather during summer and I would have had the place to myself.  She did well with all the distractions. 

She also rooted out three Nutria and sent them swimming.  These are very large web footed rodents.  They're about 20 inches long, not including the tail that may be another 15 inches.  They are more agile in water than on land and can swim underwater quite a distance.  Despite what the websites say, I say they move damn fast on land.  I hear they are supposed to be good eating, at least in Louisianna bayou country. Gimme sez she is practicing for Barn Hunt.  After these guys, rats in tubes will be a piece of cake.

We had an "exciting" moment during our walk.  There was a man jogging toward us, I saw something swinging behind him a knee level and Gimme noticed it too.  So, I got her on the far side of me and shortened her leash.   She's usually wonderful about joggers and such, but something here had her attention.  Sure enough the guy goes running by with the longest nastiest dread locks I've ever seen.  I'm sure this is my prejudice showing, but I could almost feel the bugs jumping in our direction, while Gimme was just sure it was the most huge tug toy on the planet.  I was so glad she didn't get them or I would've had to rush her home to wash her mouth out with peroxide.   Yeeeeelcccchhhhh...

When we got home I thought she might be too baby-needy to work outside.  I gave her some time to get reacquainted then went outside to set up.  The door was ajar so she could have come inside at any time.  Instead she choose to work with her Mum.

Now we have an empty peanut butter jar to lick clean and movies on the TV to watch.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Rear Crosses

I have to admit, we've been taking agility classes for two years and until now, I haven't trained a rear cross.  Seriously!

In class the other night, I promised Blynn, and told the whole class, that I was making it my mission to teach this girl a rear cross.  I haven't intentionally put it off... just had a mindset that I needed a jump set up to teach it.  Then the other night it occurred to me that I could start using my upright-hoop in place of a jump.

Also, I was probably subconsciously avoiding it because I've had trouble teaching Gimme to spin away from me.  I think I've put so much effort into teaching attention, that it works against me on these skills, because Gimme doesn't have a history of getting rewarded for turning away from me.

Tonight she was pestering me for something to do, so I cleared the floor and got down to business.  First I taught her that following the near hand and turning away (90 degrees) will get her a click and a treat from the other hand.  That took maybe ten treats to do both sides.

Then I set up the hoop and taught her the cue to go through it, cleverly named "hoop".  She remains convinced that I should click/treat every time she goes through: whether I cue or not, whether she goes through forwards or backwards, and that stepping into the hoop and turning in place to come back out should net two treats.  I'm sure she thinks I'm not paying sufficient attention to her efforts.  That little refinement (stimulus control) is a matter for another time.  I probably won't do anything about it for awhile because I do have another trick in mind that involves her backing through the hoop.

So then I used "hoop" to send her through and tried to randomly change whether I went straight or rear-crossed to the left.  At first I clicked her for ending up at my side whether she initially turned the right or the wrong way.  Then I stopped clicking the turns in the wrong direction and she figured that out very quickly.  After that we did the other side, straight or rear-cross right, which went even faster.

At this point she is tending to move with her nose up and waggling back and forth, trying to see which way I am going.  That's not the final picture I want.  She needs to pick up whether I am rear-crossing or going straight based on whether I am moving laterally into her lane or moving straight ahead.  I think she'll pick up that connection when we work outside using jumps and go at normal speed.  Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and warm enough - so perhaps we'll do just that. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Additional Note

I remembered something I meant to put in yesterday's post - about the nosework practice. 

The first indication was lovely, just a paw placement.  The second one she started nicely then went completely out of control - I was shocked to see her digging vigorously, with dirt just flying out behind her!   

Remember all the hides were set low, three at ground level.  Turns out I placed that second hide within 6 inches of a mouse hole!  Gimme started out okay with her indication, but putting her nose that close - her instincts took over and she went straight to her hobby of enlarging the entrance. 

I was determined to have her give a "proper" indication so tried several things to get her back into nosework mode.  Nothing was working until I basically put my foot on top of the mouse hole.  Then she got hold of herself and gave me a nice controlled indication.  From there we moved off to find the other two hides, also with nice controlled indications.

I just thought it was funny - the look on her face was priceless.  Odor AND a mouse hole!  YEEHAWWWWW....  Fortunately that is not likely to be the case at a trial or we'll fault for sure. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Busy Gimme, Agility (1/1)

While today was a day off for me, it turned out to be very busy for the two of us.  

I got a message from the trial secretary for the Nooksack trial (Jan 19th) and learned that we are now 1st alternate for getting in the trial.  So if anyone else drops out, we're in.  Naturally we haven't done anything nosework for almost three weeks, so I sure appreciated the heads up.  I'd planned to take Gimme for a walk on the fort, so stopped nearby and set 4 hides.

Then Gimme and I went to the fort and walked 3 miles.  She had a great time and is getting really playful again.  I think she's getting close to giving up psuedo-motherhood.  She was playing a little with me last night... though later she went weird and couldn't even play because she had to have her baby.  But then after that she brought me her new toy to play.  She's leaving the baby more of the time.  She checks where it is, but then may just leave it there.  And, she didn't take it to bed last night - poor little baby slept on the hall floor all night.

After the walk we drove to where I'd set the hides and the instant I got there she started carrying on.  She recognized where I'd set hides 90 minutes earlier - even though we've never done nosework there or a place remotely like that.  I'd set four hides, in two pairs 8-10 feet apart and all low.  She did a fabulous job finding them all in 2:39.23...  Given the time it took me to reward her AND hold her back while picking up odor, I'm pretty pleased with that time.

When we got home from walking on the fort and nosework practice -- she just had to find baby... but then just left him there. Ninety minutes later we left for our first agility class at Rochester.  Class didn't start until 7pm and its a full class, so by the time we got out of there... we didn't get home until almost 9:30.

Gimme did very well for her first turn.  She was distracted at first, but then got her focus going and was doing a lot of very nice stuff.  My new classmates had very complimentary things to say about her.  For our second turn, she started out more focused, but then halfway through lost her focus and I actually had to put her on leash to work with her a little bit to get her brain back.  Then took her off leash and Blynn had us run a nice sequence to end on a good note.  
It didn't help that I didn't have any peanut butter with me.  The jar in the car is EMPTY!  That's probably the first time that's ever happened - me being without PB.  Though I did decide at the fun run that I want to bring her generic Nutter Butter cookies to agility, I just forgot them.  She is almost as crazy about them as she is about real PB, but we won't have to wait for her to lick her leg after them.

I thought maybe her loss of focus reflected a need to potty, since she hadn't done anything before coming in the second time.  However, when we went outside, it took awhile before she peed.  Now that we are home, she has baby and is being clingy.  So, now I'm thinking that even though she's getting close to giving him up, it was just too much time away from baby all on one day.  I also think I may need to make it a point to give her evening supplements to her before leaving for class, even though its early.  We'll just have to wait and see how she does next week.

So now its time for some couch time. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Baby Nest

My last official task for 2013 was to clean out the big mess of shredded foam Gimme created while trying to make a nest for her and baby.  Naturally I didn't want to leave her without a place to snuggle securely when home alone or while I work on the computer.  
So I gathered a bunch of stray stuff, which should have been thrown out long ago, then packed and stacked it in just the right way to create a nice cocoon. 
Gimme spent a few minutes thoroughly inspecting my nest-making efforts before deciding it might be adequate.  She got in, turned about 20 circles and curled up.  Just two minutes later, having apparently decided it was baby-worthy, she went to retrieve him from the couch.  Fortunately I had my camera nearby and was able to get this picture.  I think she looks content -- even baby is smiling.
BTW this ability to eventually find uses for junk is why I never can throw anything away.  Every year I make New Year Resolutions to de-junk-afy my life, but somehow it never makes a noticeable difference.  I think the lengthy history of variable schedule reinforcement for junk hoarding is getting in the way of my best intentions.  <sigh>