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Friday, May 30, 2014

Agility (5/3) & the One-Handed Gardener

I am puttering away at working on the yard, taking my time AND taking many breaks (the boy I had working on it has not returned).  I am determined to do what I can, a little bit at a time, while not getting my hand/finger to flare up.   I "talked" on line with a list-buddy who had the same surgery - she said it took her four months to get back to normal.  <yuck>  At least I can use it without undue pain and aggravation, provided I take my time.  It takes two to three times as long to do stuff.  Of course, bumps to my hand are still unbelievably painful.  Three months and one week to go.  <sigh> 

Fortunately my boss doesn't care how many hours I log to get my job done - he's just thrilled to have me back.  I stopped at my account for groceries and ran into him there; he's there to facilitate an impromptu account revision.  So we talked and he brought me up to speed on stuff.  Originally I was told I was the sixth merchandiser out over the Mother's Day weekend and subsequent reset week... not actually the case - there were ten people out!  Representing roughly 20% of the territory workforce and on one of the busiest weekends/weeks of the year.  The amazing part is how the remaining employees pulled together to get the job done and done well.  I have to say my four stores looked really good when I returned - and I made sure he knew it.

About agility.  Last night was the first class together in about a month.  Gimme was ecstatic to have her mommy back to play with.  Unfortunately she was excited and more than a little bit wild.  I worked with her to get her focus while we waited our turn and I thought we were ready.  However when we headed into the arena for our turn, she lost her head and bolted through the door hitting the end of the leash full force.  Fortunately I was holding it with my good hand, but it wasn't enough to keep me from slamming my other wrist (the bony part) against the door frame.  I have a lovely yellow and purple bruise there now.

It was very painful and I admit it, I yelled at Gimme about it - telling her to get control of herself and knock off the BS.  Despite being a devoted positive-reward trainer, there are some provocations which will push me over the edge and pain is one of them.  I looked up to see William taping my outburst, which of course made me mindful of what I was doing.

I heard my instructor comment, saying it didn't seem to bother Gimme, but she was wrong.   Gimme was definitely affected by yelling mommy; certainly she wasn't cowed, but she avoided reconnecting to play on the course with me.  When she did, she did a really nice job and I was very happy with her efforts.  The next time I came in, I was much more cafeful to take my time and work our Control Unleashed skills in the doorway too.  And while Gimme still ran amuck a bit, I switched to Give Me A Break game and she came back to work with me.  It seemed the second time around she reconnected faster - the proof will be on the tapes when I get them next week.

I could beat myself up about my outburst and, in fact, I do feel badly about it.  But I also know I am only human and going to make mistakes.  Our relationship is outstanding and I know Gimme forgives me my occasional failings, just as I forgive hers.  One of the benefits of having a close and loving relationship is, there is grace to get you past the rough spots.

I've just finished reading Bones Would Rain From The Sky, by Suzanne Clothier.  Its been a fascinating read and I'm going to start it over.  I kept thinking as I'd read, I want to write about this - it inspired so many things I want to share.  Toward the end, Suzanne admits her own failings, the times when she diverted from the positive-reward path or lost patience with her sizable animal tribe.  So, I guess you could say I'm in good company when I lose patience...

In chapter two she wrote:
"Each relationship with an animal and a human is a bridge uniquely shaped to carry only those two, and so must be crafted by them.  Though the work of a lifetime, the building and repairs are done slowly, in the heart's time, one beat after another.
"Everything... has... to be guided by this one elemental point: Does this help or harm the relationship?"
Its not the failures which determine our path, rather what we do about them.  Do we justify it?  I was hurting and it was Gimme's fault.  Or do we examine the instance, find what set us awry, and determine to do better in the future?  I can help Gimme do better.  I hope I always do the latter.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Special Bowl (3)

A quick note... I solved Gimme's uncertainty about releasing to her special bowl by increasing the value of the treats in there.  I had been using up some peanut butter chips which were inadvertently melted into one large clump, and then broken into chunks.  Gimme loves her PB chips, but she really LOOOOVES peanut butter from the jar.

Once I was using a bit of PB from the jar in the bottom of the bowl (with some cheese pieces and commercial treats on top for volume), she only hesitated once.  Suddenly the word "yours" had dramatic relevance to her.  We alternated off and on between charging and self-control.

Eye contact turned out not to be a factor.  She quickly learned to offer me behavior to get her "yours" release, though the palm "touch" was hard because it meant she had to move a little away from the bowl.  She offered me "sit", "down" and "pretty" to earn the "yours".

The hardest trial was the time I cued her to "heel" and moved away.  She was primed to dive on the bowl and for the briefest instant, as she lunged toward the bowl, I thought I'd set too big of a challenge, but she caught herself and turned to heel with me for a couple of feet,  It wasn't her best heeling, but I was very pleased with her effort and released her to "yours" the moment she was well into position.

Interestingly she finds this much more exciting than knowing I will reward her with PB from my treat pouch.  I believe the dash to special bowl increases the value to her.  I look forward to working some more with this... and then to see what comes next on the DVD set.

Cool beans, I say...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Learning From TV

Gimme loves watching TV and has definite reactions to what she sees.  She is fascinated by all things cow and will sit straight up, watching with rapt attention when she sees or hears one.  She's not as interested in horses, but is more attentive when she sees one - possibly she's learned horses often predict the appearance of cows (sometimes I watch a lot of westerns).

She doesn't like scary or disaster movies, hiding her head under the covers.  She won't watch cartoons.  She will watch sci-fi briefly, but then heaves a dramatic sigh before laying down with her back turned toward the TV.  Whenever she sees chick-flicks, she will snuggle up to me, suggesting I should pet her more.  Some particularly dramatic scenes elicit an alarm bark or two.  And some other scenes will cause her to trot up to the TV, stand on two legs and check it out.  Weird animals on nature shows are also investigated close up.

Since I've been recovering, I been hanging out at home a lot and thus watching more TV than usual.  To prevent my mind from turning to complete mush, I made it a point to watch several of my many dog training DVDs.  Gimme has a number of opinions about the dogs she sees.  Some she thinks are okay, some she thinks are evil; they are all intruders.  She's learned to tolerate them, because like the cows, they never actually come in the house.

I was gone for five hours earlier in the day and since I've been home its been raining - so our plans for a walk were scrapped.  Then there was the bath I took and time spent on the computer - all time spent engaged in activities other than catering to her every whim.  Gimme wasn't too happy to see me put discs in the DVD player and plop on the couch, despite our earlier training sessions.  I was determined to watch my two Ken Ramirez DVD sets, Solving Problems and Reinforcement Strategies, before returning to work tomorrow.  Every 20 minutes or so, I was treated to repeat demonstrations of her dissatisfaction, shown by dramatic sighs and theatrical slumping onto the couch or floor – through 3+ hours of DVDs.  She occasionally watched the clips of dogs with mild interest – she found the many sea mammals completely boring.

Finally toward the end of the second set, there was a lively clip of a couple black Labs learning to heel, with only tug-play for reinforcement.  Gimme sat up and watched with interest.  She occasionally turned to see if I was watching.  Then she very deliberately went over to toy box number two, knocked the box off it and rooted around until she found her flaming pink, tiger-striped octopus toy.

She climbed in my lap, shoved it against me and then jerked it away.  She poked the toy and then poked my hand. She wiggled and flipped and shimmied it enticingly.

Thirty minutes later I reversed the DVD to see what I missed…

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Special Bowl (2)

As I mentioned, we are training special bowl "yours" as shown in the Hannah Branigan DVD series Obedience Fundamentals.  Gimme loves her special bowl already.  She gets really high value treats there.

I've prepared this little movie of our training today.  This includes all the trials, I only edited out the dead time getting treats (durn finger really slows me up.)

Clearly she gets the charging the bowl aspect - run to bowl, eat treats...

She has a little difficulty with the self-control aspect and not about the self-control.  Rather she has trouble being sure she really can release on cue.  I wasn't giving her any stay/wait cue, I think she's just trying to do what I want; self-control is something we've worked a lot.  For some reason it wasn't immediately clear to her.  The directions didn't include using a clicker, still, I decided to try it to reinforce her going to the bowl on cue.  Despite my crappy timing, after a couple of tries I am able to leave out the extraneous body cues.

I can't tell from watching this, but I wonder if I'm unintentionally sending her a mixed message with eye contact.  I'll be aware of the possibility next time and see if it makes a difference.  If you see anything, let me know.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Special Bowl (1)

First, I did a session of indicator training.  Gimme got to do 45 repetitions of the easiest step, 15 with each odor.  It was a little challenging for me, to figure out how to do it and make it similar enough, as well as efficient and timely, given my current limitation.  I guess I did okay, because she remembered right away and did great. 

Later we did a session on special bowl training, an idea I got from my Hannah Branigan DVD set, Obedience FUNdamentals.  This is our second session and Gimme totally loves it.  I'm going to try to video what we are doing.  I think its a very exciting and powerful concept, full of potential.

I have to tell a funny story about it.  I was just talking to my non-dog friend, Linda, using the speaker phone.  I was telling her about special bowl, how it worked and how much fun Gimme was having with it.  Gimme was snoozing next to me on the couch, for all appearances sound asleep.  I told Linda that Hannah uses the cue "get it", but it already means something else to Gimme, so I've been using "Y-O-U-R-S".  Linda repeated out loud the word I just spelled - now remember, we're on speaker phone.

Gimme's head popped up, immediately alert to the possibilities and starts looking around for her special bowl, clearly flummoxed that I hadn't even moved from the couch.

Special bowl nowhere to be seen ---
what's the world coming to?

Agility (3/3) & Nosework (3/3)

Gimme did agility with Chris again last Thursday (15th).  She was not as cooperative as the time before.  I've since realized she's going into a false pregnancy and really just wants to be with her Mom.  I'll have video of her runs with Chris soon (both classes) and will talk more about them then.  We didn't have agility this week...

For nosework this week, we had 6 container searches and 2 vehicle searches.  Gimme did great on all of them, except one where she "lied" to me about a box, repeatedly.  I only have video of 5 of the container searches.

On the first one, she is just fast - damn fast.  She was even quite moderate in her paw indicator, but you will see it doesn't last. 

On the second search, she is still very quick, but you'll note she goes right back to vigorous pawing.  At the time I was thinking it was because of the type of box.  Those standard white boxes are what she saw the most of in her early training, and the required type of box for ORTs - so she has a lengthy history of trashing them. 

I was encouraged in this idea, because the third container search she didn't get vigorous with the brick-like boxes (I don't have video for this because the person taking the videos for me had difficulty with the camera).  She got only a few seconds of just the indication and I deleted it before realizing it still made a good record of how she indicated - it was nicely moderate.

On the fourth container search she again does a nice job.  Her paw indicator for the box was back to trashing <sigh>.  You'll see in the middle of this search she veers away from the boxes toward a cardboard dumpster.  Between the prior class and ours an employee, not knowing the instructor had permission from the owner and seeing a bunch of small pizza boxes as trash, quickly tossed them in the dumpster, including the box with odor.  Personally I would have moved the search area for the last class, so we weren't put in the position of pulling our dogs away from odor.  However, on a positive note, Gimme did not get frustrated by being pulled away, as she would have just 9 months ago - she has come a long way since then.  Then she went around and found the bag and her indicator was quite acceptable.

On this fifth container search, Gimme had a false alert - or did she.  If you watch closely, you'll see I called it before she looked at me.  Oh the power of videotape...  In my defense, in class I'm always being encouraged to respond faster and not allowed to work my 4 part plan for indications on containers, like I do at trials and in training.  BTW when I say "No. Liar liar." the "no" was really an exclamation/surprise at learning it wasn't right, i.e. it wasn't directed toward Gimme.  From there she goes to trash the correct box.  Interestingly when Gimme swings by the bad box the next time, she indicates it more forcefully, but still not the full 4 parts.  We haven't done boxes on chairs in a very long time, so she doesn't start checking them until I bring her attention to one.  Then she goes directly to check the next chair - which was correct and does a nice indication.

On our last container search, she finds the first box quickly and you can hear the instructor telling me "reward her quick"... and on the second box saying "reward".  Both times before Gimme has done more than part A of her four part container indication.  <sigh>   I have talked about this before... it is a problem I will have to just deal with because CNWIs only know one way to train.  I have to train this more on my own, enough repetitions to overcome the inconsistent ones in class.  I haven't been training the indicator since my hand went kaflooey two months ago and here you see the results, eh.

Gimme does a great job on this search.  At the very beginning she veers slightly left, but then turns back toward the vehicle on her own.  The breeze was blowing from the right, so she was simply following the plume momentarily.  You can't see it on the video, but she catches the odor from the bucket and then when she realizes where it is, goes around to source on her own.

Another great job on this vehicle.  She was right on it the whole time, briefly passes it, realizes she's gone too far and turns back.  Brilliant, as well as beautiful.

BTW in hindsight, I realized the trashing with the non-standard-white boxes only started on the fourth container search.  This has been a consistent pattern - the more container searches she does in a row, the more likely she is to start raking boxes, regardless of the type of box.  I know the ideal solution would be to sit-out any class with box searches, but it would be a large percentage of them.  I was hoping as the weather improved we'd be doing more exterior searches and less containers.  

Anyway, I clearly have my work cut out for me between now and our trial in three weeks.  My finger is still an impediment (though its improving), so I have to think of creative ways to do what I'd been doing before, which was working so well.  Gotta get back on it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Have I Mentioned the Yard

Have I mentioned how out-of-control my yard is?  The grass was well overdue for a good weed whacking when my finger first went kaflooey at the beginning of April.  Since then I've gotten control of the area in the back; it is most likely to revert to a mass of blackberry and ivy and ginormos weeds.  I spent a lot last year to get it all pulled out and don't want to risk it getting bad again, thus the priority.  I was able to run the weedeater in most of that area before surgery. 

Meanwhile the grass in the front yard is getting taller and taller and taller...  The fence behind it is 4 foot tall and this was taken on 5/11.  I've tried to find someone to whack down the grass in the front, but the most recent estimate was $350 -- just not going to happen.  Baby needs new toys...

Here's a very short clip you might enjoy.  Its a rare sighting (never before captured on film) of the American Spotted Yard Bunny.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Very Bored...

Gimme has been telling me how very, very bored she is.  To prove the point, she got all her newest toys out just to show me...

"See Mom - I just don't have a thing here that's fit to play with..."

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nail Day

I had "big" plans for today - that is big for someone with a bum hand.  I thought we could get in some training, but I find we are limited to things where I can spit treats.  Right hand does nothing, left hand operates clicker and mouth spits treats.  So we worked on a few things.  Gimme reeeeeeally wants her Mom back to normal. 

Also thought we'd get to go walking with Mary and Grafton, but by the time Mary got off work, I was having problems with feeling light-headed - so I clearly couldn't drive.  They warned me at the hospital after my surgery that I would need to drink a LOT more healthy fluids than usual.  It seems your body uses up all the water it can to flush out toxins from the drugs, so you are more likely to get dehydrated.  I feel like I am constantly drinking flavored water or koolaid, but it is still not enough.  <sigh>  At least everything else is going well and I feel fine.

One thing I am determined to do is get Gimme's front nails back to normal.  The parrot-toes look has got to go.  I won't be able to do anything about her back feet until I am two-handed again, but I can work on her front feet using the nail board.  My plan is to do her nails every other day.

I talked about this in a blog entry in January 2013:   Doing Nails

and then in February another entry with a video:   Doing Nails Video

I should mention, in the first blog I talk about putting the 3M tread on my front stairs in hopes her nails would be filed in the course of her coming and going through the front door.  I did put it down last summer and sadly, it doesn't appear to file her nails at all.  Plus I notice it is pealing up at the edges. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Agility (3/3) & Surgery

In case you notice, I didn't report on agility class last week - thus the reason this title appears to skip in the numbers...

Class this Thursday night was very interesting.  I haven’t slept well all week and had been working so many extra hours trying to get my accounts all caught up before I took time off for surgery, so I was very tired and unfocused.  Thus we decided to let Chris run Gimme.  I considered staying home, but she hadn’t done anything all week other than nosework class on Monday and I thought she deserved an outing.  Blynn tried to run Gimme once a long time ago and it wasn’t very successful.  Still Chris has been play-training Gimme since she was a little puppy, so I thought it might work.

Initially I needed to be on course to encourage her.  However once she learned what great goodies Chris had, then she was more willing, needing less support from me. 

The course had a lot of back-to-back sliced jumps and once Chris worked out the timing (her dogs are Papillions, so quite a difference), it was really beautiful to see.  What we did not fully appreciate was how much more effort was required for all those sliced jumps.  Gimme got tired, but it was close to the end of her first turn, so we just ended.  We didn’t begin to appreciate how much more effort was required until Gimme started avoiding jumps early in her second turn.  We found other things she could do and ended on a good note,

I’ve had people (instructors even) try to tell me it takes no more effort to clear a sliced bar jump than a straight-on bar jump.  Its very clear to me it does take more effort. Slicing the jump changes the depth of the jump, making it equivalent in effort to jumping an oxer. If someone needs to see it, I can try to diagram it.

One thing cool to see was what happened when Chris peeled off wide halfway through the weave poles to get in position for the next jump.  Gimme was a good girl and finished her weaves like she should.  In the past I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get ahead of her in the weaves and she hurries and ends up skipping poles.  So, I never would have gone wide, figuring both were something we needed to train through.  It never occurred to me Gimme understood her weave job to that level.  So now the questions are:
  • will Gimme let me go wide and still finish the poles on her own?
  • did she skip poles when I got ahead because she thinks the job in the weaves is to stay with me?
  • just where are we with weaves and what do we need to train this summer?
We’ll have video soon of this class with Gimme training Chris.

I am two days post surgery and things are going well. I planned ahead and am pretty much set to take care of myself this time. also have several friends who call to check on me and are standing by to help if I need anything.  I do think this is healing much faster. I am taking pretty much the same amount of drugs and getting total coverage of pain. before I would take the drugs and still have a little pain left over. The worst I was getting is a buzzing sensation like when your foot falls asleep and you move it so the circulation comes back.  I am not getting any pain now, so am already gradually spacing out the drugs.  I am sure it makes a huge difference to not be fighting infection.

Of course Gimme is very bored.  She is really good about snuggling with me on my many lengthy naps.  In between I’ve been giving her lots of Kongs to entertain her.  We have a cue for her to find her Kong (“kong”) and then retrieve it to my hand is “bring kong”.  All the sudden today she just couldn’t figure out what to do when I cued it.  Rather than repeat the cue a dozen times and weaken the cued behavior after a few failures, I decided to help her get it right.  When I walked over to point at the Kong, I suddenly understood her dilemma.  There were three Kongs close together and she couldn’t decide which one she was supposed to bring me and didn’t want to be wrong.  Such a good girl.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Nosework (2/3)

Class was fun - as always.  I was really struck tonight about what a good instructor Dorothy is.  I really enjoy it because she always has a plan for class, targeted toward a specific learning objective, which is clearly explained.  All hides were blind tonight.  We did our usual style of handling for the first search.  For the second search we didn't get instructor feedback unless we asked a question and were not allowed to say anything negative.  For the third search everyone had to remain quiet, except we could talk to our dog.  The task was to compare how it affected us as handlers to not have divided attention.  Generally at a trial its very quiet. 

Plus its just a fun and funny group.  Tonight we had a good laugh because as it turns out we do not have class next Monday - which I probably would have missed, since my surgery is this Friday.  I thanked everyone for kindly taking the night off just because Gimme and I would not be there - they laughed so hard, clearly Foxworthy ain't got nothin' on me...

Our first search started with a hide in the foyer, which you can't see on the tape.  It was stuck in the fold of the umbrella, leaned into the corner of the room.  Gimme found it pretty quickly, but not before she checked out the big stuffed teddy in the other corner and some toys on the shelves.  The big room had two hides.  Gimme found the first one in just 32 seconds.  At two minutes into the search she false indicated on the corner... at lingering odor.  From the strength of her belief there was odor there, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some odor contamination there.  She had the second hide at 2:40... not bad given how much time was spent licking her leg. 

We've been paying for nosework with peanut butter.  I use the go toob in class, but as you can see, it takes a long time for her to clear her mouth before she can continue searching.  Gimme likes the go toob and real PB better than the peanut butter chips, so I'm using it in class to build a strong reward history.  I'm already seeing less "cataloging" (where she notes a hide but continues searching without indicating it).  At a trial I might use the go toob for the very last hide of a set, but otherwise I use the peanut butter chips, which goes faster.  After the first search I topped off the go toob and used both hands with it to get better control of how much peanut butter she's getting.  Worked well to speed up our search.

Second search there was a hide right at the threshold and Gimme got it nicely.  It's been working well for me to kind of hang out near where we enter a room and then even though Gimme blasts into the area, she comes back and checks there.  You'll notice Gimme goes right by the hide on the bathroom door hinge twice, at 60 and 63 seconds, but she is moving so fast it doesn't register what she smelled until almost 3 seconds later.  She gets all three hides in just under 2 minutes.  Way to go Gimme...

Third search was again blind and I asked to not be told how many hides there was.  We have two people in class who are competing at NW3 level and they often don't get told how many hides there are.  Its the biggest challenge at NW3 level, to know when your dog is done searching.  I thought, if nothing else, I would know Gimme had them all when she started getting frustrated and/or returning to previous hides.  Gimme had the first hide in 13 seconds, the second at 42 seconds and the third at 1:17.  Given how much time she spent licking her leg - its damn nice time.  And, since she had found three hides, I called finished.  There are never more than three hides.

Dorothy made a very valid point for me to consider carrying my leash with me into the search area.  She expressed concern about whether some judges might fault me for dropping the leash (for contaminating the search area), though its never happened.  Her other point was,  if I decided I wanted to put her back on leash, I might waste a lot of time going to get the leash and then returning to Gimme to leash her up.  So I'll have to play with it to figure out how to handle it without it flopping around or being in the way when I'm rewarding Gimme.

Fun class...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Silly Videos

I've been considering lately what I'll do to entertain Gimme in the first week after my surgery.  I won't be able to do much with her.  I like Kongs, but really that only takes up so much time.  I haven't wanted to put the money into food puzzle toys, so experimented the other day with a canister I have. 

I gave Gimme the canister with 3 mini-vanilla wafers in it.  First I opened it and gave her one - then let her play with it.  She couldn't get her nose in far enough, so would try to chew on it, and I'd remind her "no bite" (our cue for don't-destroy-it).  She kept batting it around and the cookies wouldn't come out.  She'd carry it around by gripping the edge, but that kept the cookies down at the bottom.  Finally she happened to carry it onto the couch settling down to chew and was reminded "no bite".  In disgust she pushed it with her nose and it bounced off the couch and a cookie fell out.
So I just had to watch her to see how long it would take her to repeat the couch trick.  It wasn't immediate, but before long she did it again and got another cookie for her efforts.  Once it was empty I put up for safe keeping.  Then I made sure to buy some more nutter butters, since we were almost out.  
You'll hear me repeatedly remind her "no bite"... because I don't want her to destroy the canister.  I do let her clean out peanut butter jars when they are more or less empty and she's allowed to destroy those since they're going to recycle once she finishes them off.  Since this seems kinda similar, I'm giving her extra reminders.

First round, she got a cookie part (4 pieces total) in just 35 seconds.  She got the last of the cookies in just 2:35 seconds.  I don't know why, but the couch and all the comforter seems to make it easier for her to tip the canister in a way that lets her get to the cookies. 

Second round, she got a cookie part in just 8 seconds.  She got the last of them at 1:18 - quite an improvement...
Just so you know...  I do realize that not everyone is as endlessly fascinated by everything Gimme does.  Still, I just can't resist watching her brain work...