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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Agility (3/4) & Workshop

Class this week was amazing.  Gimme is about ready to come out of her false pregnancy - two clues:  ignoring the "baby" for long stretches and being more playful.  At this point she is more playful than her usual.  She's always willing to play at home, but not so much in strange places.  So I've been using her extra playfulness to get her used to the idea of playing away from home.

Last Thursday during the day we went to the fort for a walk.  During our three mile walk, I got Gimme to indulge me with some personal play (no food or toys) six times.  She's always been more reticent to do personal play, so I was experimenting.  She has this scootchy little chase game she likes.  I was even able to use play to reward short bursts of heeling (6 steps).

I'm discovering Gimme doesn't much like a frontal approach.  I wish I'd never followed Ursula's advice about teaching her to give me my space by using body pressure - which I was told would only affect her in public.  Afterward Urs admitted it would affect all her interactions with me.  We've gotten some of her physical pushiness back, but not all of it. 

The other thing I found was, she is very happy to be pushed away with my left hand, but not my right.  I don't know if she's worried about my right hand (the one I've had trouble with this summer) or if I was guarding it and my posture was different.  So I'll have to keep an eye on my own posture and whether I'm more frontal next time. 

On Thursday for agility there wasn't anything really special about the agility itself.  What was special was our tug play.  I brought her Skinneez Squirrel and we tugged four times in the first session and once in the second.  Last class I started some tugging and concluded the reason Gimme wasn't willing to play more was because she always lost the toy at the end.  So I planned to let her win by dropping my end and playing chase and keep-away.  I tried it several times and Gimme would bounce away once and then wait for me to take up my end and tug some more. 

So now I have some more variables to try.  I want to try letting her pull me around the floor while we tug - which I hope will feel more like winning to her.  And I think I'll try some personal play for a few moments after her "release", so it won't be such an abrupt end when she gives up the toy.  I also want to read all my notes from the Denise Fenzi seminar on personal and toy play to see if there are other options I'm forgetting.

In any case, she was tugging so much and so ferociously, and everyone was suitably impressed.  They'd never seen this side of her and so it was a lot of fun to see their stunned looks.  I do have to say I see a definite down-side to toy play - it is a lot more work.  I got a much harder workout. 

This weekend we also had a four-hour workshop on advanced sends.  It was mostly about sends to the backside of the jump and the options you can use with it, as well as sight lines for movement and how to teach the dog to understand the cuing.  As usual Blynn did a great job teaching it and has a nicely incremented approach using back-chaining to teach the dogs.  And, also as usual, she is fabulous about explaining stuff until everyone understands.

It was really advanced stuff and we didn't do as well as we usually do.  There were a couple of incidents, due to other handlers, so she spent the day always concerned about the other dogs.  It was enough of a distraction, so to keep her focus I used the PB go toob for most exercises.

Also I don't think Gimme fully understood the introduction to the back side send (I have always handled it in class), so she wasn't really ready for the advanced exercises.  To be honest most of the dogs were in the same boat, but most of them didn't have a history of doing it with handling to overcome.

Gimme was tired all the way home, but then brought me all  her toys, one-by-one throughout the evening.  Now I've promised her some training and play time, so I better get to it...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Barn Hunt Weekend

Gimme and me spent the weekend in Salem playing barn hunt.  We had four chances to get a senior leg and came away with one.  Sadly I didn't get videos of any runs.  This trial was held in the same location as an agility trial and most people were trying to do both sports, which left less people hanging around watching (and made getting enough volunteers challenging as well).

Our first run on Saturday was nice, we found 3 out of 4 rats before we ran out of time.  75% is consistent with our first two tries on Easter weekend.  On our second run... Gimme didn't indicate any rats - she usually scratches at the tubes.  She busily ran around and sniffed a lot, seeming to have a great time, just didn't settle anywhere or indicate.  Needless to say I was bummed.

The judge asked me if I had any idea where any of the rats were and I pointed to three locations, which he said all had rats.  He showed me another spot Gimme had been to once, but only stuck briefly.  So it was clear she knew where the rats were, she just wasn't sharing.  I talked to Amy about it and she said dogs often change their indicator.  I can't imagine Gimme changing from scratching/pawing, since it IS her preferred style of interaction with stuff.

The next day they started with small dogs, so I had plenty of time to observe while I waited.  I often eavesdrop and sometimes join other conversations.  A gal who had already run in the novice ring was talking with her friend while watching and complained about her dog no longer indicating the rats, though still eagerly entering the ring and hunting.  Hmmmm, sounds familiar.  The friend, who was just there to watch, commented saying she didn't understand why the dogs would continue telling us where the rats are, since right after they do, someone comes to take the rat away.

Out of the mouth of babes... it makes perfect sense...

So I decided I would make a big deal if Gimme did anything which even remotely looked like her indication.  I could praise her all I wanted and can pet and stroke her while I'm holding her back from the rat wrangler.   The first indication was weak, but recognizable and I made a huge deal about it.  Then the other two were her normal pawing at the tube and I also made a big deal of those.  We got three out of four rats and then ran to our treat bag. 

For our afternoon she was even more excited and indicating very clearly.  I continued making a big deal of her indications.  We had three rats and she was just going through the motions after them.  So I told her, "Gimme, find vermin, show me, show me."  'find vermin' is our rat searching cue and 'show me' is a cue I use to get her to re-indicate in nosework when I'm not clear where odor is.

In response Gimme went over to a 5 bale stack and got in a position with her nose down in an area where she'd been before.  This time I circled behind her and clearly saw her paw reaching down into the area, so I called "rat", resulting in our fourth rat find and first senior leg.  I realized Gimme had tried to indicate this rat before, but my position when she did, kept me from seeing what she was trying to show me.

She is such a good girl for understanding what I wanted when I used her nosework cue and being so willing to try again for her inept mom.  I love what a smarty she is.  I'm always amazed how she is able to generalize a concept for a cue from one sport to another.  In nosework I also have the cue, "Thank you, find another one." when she has located odor and we need to move on to find more.  I used this cue once in barn hunt and she immediately understood what I meant, so I've been using it ever since.

We also attended a nosework seminar on Monday.  I was really disappointed and I don't feel like I learned anything much, certainly not $145 worth.  I found the presenter's comments, when she was CO for a trial we entered earlier this year, to be so insightful, so maybe my expectations were too high.  Possibly she just had something especially perceptive to say at a moment I most needed to hear it.  I've been to other nosework and scenting seminars and so far the best ones were from people who were not deeply involved in this sport. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hectic Day

We have a big weekend planned.  Two days of barn hunt (four trials) and then a one day working slot at a nosework seminar with Penny Scott-Fox.  I first learned about what a wonder she is at explaining handling and trialing strategy when she was the Certifying Official at a trial we went to in Oregon.  I learned more from ten minutes of her talking than I had in two years with my old instructor.  So getting a working slot in this seminar is just the best.

Naturally on Tuesday a warning light came on in my car and the car was running very rough.  There have been some other minor issues before, but nothing that warranted immediate attention.  I drove straight to see my car guy and we made arrangements for me to bring the car in late in the day yesterday - so they could start it cold and hopefully replicate one of the things I'd noticed and wanted checked.

Fortunately I got all my accounts done, so I could take today off.  I got the word after lunch of what all was wrong, including one serious thing that wasn't on my radar.  The bill for the stuff that needs to be fixed real soon is $1100 and then there is another $1000 that can be put off.  Not good, but it is what it is.

The worse part was knowing I wouldn't be able to get the car back before the weekend.  So I was in a serious hunt for some vehicle I could use. 
  • I checked with all the car rentals in the area and none of them had a vehicle that would accommodate my needs.  One of them would get in several late afternoon tomorrow, but didn't know what the cars would be.  The only vehicle I found that would have worked was going to cost twice as much as all the other expenses for the weekend.  
  • I only have one friend with a second car that isn't used on a daily basis (two cars, one driver), but I couldn't get ahold of her.
  • My mother has a enormous gas guzzling Ford, with what we thought was a dead battery.  Plus its an hour away, so there are the logistics of getting there to get it (and later return it), if my nephew could get it running.
Clearly none of those were promising and I was so disappointed to think we'd miss out on all the fun on our weekend calendar.  I called the shop and asked if there was any way they could do enough work on the car tomorrow to make it safe for me to use over the weekend.  The owner wasn't in and had written "FULL" in big red letters across the rest of the schedule for this week, so the other front desk person couldn't give me an answer.

Later when I was about to abandon all hope, they called to say they would be able to fit in enough time to replace the worn and ready to freeze up synchronizer (which could easily leave me stranded and maybe cause other damage), and would replace my spark plugs so it would run better for the trip.  Bryan is pulling the front desk guy off the desk and he'll be working on my car.  I have to bring it in for a full day next week to finish up.  These guys are the best.  I love BRYAN'S AUTOMOTIVE in Olympia.  They never let me down.

In any case, between all that stress and the other housekeeping and projects I did today (a full page list that only has 4 things left on it) - I'm exhausted, just wrung out.  Meanwhile Gimme is plopping down here, there and everywhere, with these huge theatrical sighs.  She can't understand why I'm so tired when she hasn't done a thing all day and is bored to tears...

So, I don't wish this on anyone.  But do wish that you'll cross your fingers for success at the barn hunt and that I learn a lot at the nosework seminar.  Who knows, maybe I can even learn to say "finish" in a timely manner...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gimme Did It!

Gimme got her NW2 title today, being the second Dalmatian to do so.  I wasn't much help.  My best efforts involved driving the car, getting us from search area to search area, and giving Gimme her treats.  The site was a lovely elementary school just 30 minutes from home.  We did warm-up searches before leaving home and Gimme was very enthusiastic about it.  She did a nice job on the alert, not trashing the box.  However both times at the practice boxes at the trial, she went straight to box-demolition mode.  There is something about a field of nosework boxes that just brings out the worst in her.

This was a small space for NW2 and an easy area to search.  They'd brought in a few things to make the space more interesting and Gimme did check them out.  The hide was stuck in a pipe in the wall.  I think the breeze was kind of swirling out from the wall, because Gimme spent a lot of time detailing on a filing cabinet laid on its side and the edges of a shed in the corner of the area.  When she was satisfied the odor wasn't there, she turned and went almost directly to source.  Her time was 41.17 seconds.  Judge wrote, "Great detail search!"

There were four vehicles, nosed in at an angle, side-by-side.  The two hides were on the first and third vehicles.  The first one was in a light plug (for a trailer hook-up) and Gimme passed it briefly, then turned back to it and nailed it quickly.  She went down the back ends of the vehicles and briefly passed then turned back to the third vehicle.  She was all over the back tire, went around to the back tire on the other side, then back to where she'd started.  Then she got her head and shoulders under the bumper behind the tire... and the judge gave me a verbal warning not to let her go under too far.  I kept restraint on the line and she quickly came out on her own and then went to access the trailer hitch from the back and alerted.  In rewarding her, she knocked a couple of peanut butter chips to the ground, so I expected a fault for that.  I also worried the judge may have faulted us when I didn't immediately make her come out after his verbal warning.  So there was a potential for two faults.  Then like a dunce I walked off without calling "finish", so we were allocated maximum time.   As it turned out he didn't see the treats drop (Gimme snatched them up right away) and he didn't fault us for the other business either.  His comments were, "Remember shoulders - going under vehicles... safety perspective.  It was very close.  Keep eye on that."

After forgetting to call finish, I put a piece of sports tape on my arm and wrote FINISH in 2" bold letters, hoping I'd see it when giving Gimme her treats and be reminded to call it.

The first room had one hide and Gimme found it really quickly.  Sadly I was a dunce and forgot to call "finish", i.e. my sports tape "tattoo" didn't help, thus we were allocated max time.  I was much more careful with the treats and yet when the judge came out she brought me a peanut butter chip and asked if it was mine.  So we got a fault for that.  I think it probably stuck to Gimme's flews and then fell to the floor from there.
The second room had two hides and Gimme did a very nice job finding both of them AND I remembered to call "finish".  I'd also decided to just use the peanut butter go toob and not risk any more faults.  I'd found in class that if I gave her a quick lick, she doesn't spend all the time cleansing her palate on her leg.  So for the first hide I did a quick lick from the go toob and the second hide she got a nice glob.
The judge commented, "Fantastic searching!  Gimme obviously loves playing the game & you do an excellent job of letting her search, but directing her when needed.  Over all well done, just remember 'finish'.  :-)"  I love getting the recognition of the balance between letting her search and directing her, a challenge for us all along.

There were four small boxes and a whole bunch of luggage and small bags.  Gimme snooped around one of the distractions (garlic toast), but left it on her own.  Then she toured around the bags, getting the perimeter beautifully on her own, settling on the first bag.  I gave her a go toob quick lick and sent her off to search some more.  There were two identical bags close to each other, one had the garlic toast and the other had odor.  So she gave the yummy distraction another quick sniff and then settled on the correct bag.  So I rewarded her and headed for the exit. The exit steward is just sitting there and not opening the door.  When I caught her eye, she grinned and wiggled her brows - which reminded me to say, "Finish, finish, FINISH!" while pointing at my sports tape "tattoo".  Everyone laughed.  Our time was 1:24.41 and we got a pronounced.  The judge wrote, "Hey Gimme a 'finish'!  small detail.  Great all around!"

Those darn "finish" calls will be the death of me.  Because of them (or more correctly, lack of them), we didn't get any placements.  We might not have anyway... there were some really fast dogs in the placements, though it might have been close in interiors.

The interesting thing about the PB chips - they've worked so well in class.  But in the trial, Gimme was so much more excited and thus the food dropping using them.  I can still use them up in training and class, but once they are gone will stick with the go toob - since I've figured out how to dole it out in a way that doesn't require me to wait for the leg licking... I can use it all the time.  Actually I think it could work to our advantage.  Sometimes she gets a quick lick and other times a glob - maybe she'll work harder - especially if I'm strategic with the globs...

One other thing.  We'd had a problem with her giving me a general area indication (sometimes 2 feet away) ever since the inaccessible hides seminar so long ago.  I've noticed recently she has been much more precise about getting to source.  She was very precise for the trial today.  Yeah Gimme!

And now for that much deserved steak I promised my brilliant girl...

Friday, June 13, 2014

I Forgot

I forgot to mention - the other evening I decided to make a simple braided fleece tug.  Gimme likes to chew them up until they get so small I throw them away.  There's a four way braid I like better because its sturdier and the tugs last longer, but I don't have the dexterity and strength to do that right now.

Gimme was pretty funny when I was making it.  She lay on the couch watching as I was cutting the strips.  When I put one end together with a knot, her head came up.  When I started braiding it, she sat up to watch.  When the braid was about a foot long, she attacked it.  I had to resort to putting her on a down-wait so I could finish braiding it.  Then we did some rousing tugs and she was happy.  I finally unknotted the ends and then put them together in one big knot to form a ring.

In the past I haven't brought tugs to classes much.  Gimme has very minimal interest and even that is only one time.  Thus, its never seemed to be of any value in that setting.

Last night I brought it and at one point where she did a really nice sequence, we had a nice rousing tug for her reward.  Of course, after that she wasn't interested.  Still I'm pleased that she tugged with such enthusiasm.  Someday she'll tug more than once.  I need to go watch the clips I have for tugging to improve my technique...

I'm thinking in that setting it might be good to let her win and then chase her down to get it back.  Maybe that would build more value...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Agility (1/4)

Gimme was fabulous tonight.  Can't wait to get the video's and share them. 

For our first session, I was determined to work my CU plan and be prepared to do Give Me A Break game if she disconnected.  It took a few tries to get in the door before she could go through and reorient to me.  I was thinking on the way home, because there are people sitting on both sides of the door within leash range and she's so very people-social, its a very difficult challenge for her.  Next week I want to try having her do some "whazzat" through the open door before we try to do the reorient between them. 

Anyway after the doorway gauntlet, we made it walking nice and controlled to the start.  I set  her up and released her to the first jump and then she ran amuck.  I went immediately into GMAB mode and finally ended up sitting with the people at the side.  At one point she came up and gave me hit-and-run attention.  Then when she was ready she was back and really insisted on playing together.  From then on she was great.  We worked through some tough spots and she just kept working and working and working.  It was beyond great. 

It makes a huge difference to Gimme for there to not be any conflict and then when I have her attention voluntarily, I have all of it and for an extended time. I think it is about meeting her needs.  There was a time when this wasn't necessary, but when you consider all the upheaval and uncertainty emanating from me in the last 2.5 months - it makes sense.  So, I believe this is a phase which will pass.  Time, of course, will tell.

Of course, I was expecting her to be even better for our second session - after all she's always better the second time.  I'd like to say the reason she wasn't is because it is so hard to improve on perfection....  Gimme was trying, but really couldn't stay focused.  I worked some GMAB and we were able to end on a nice successful sequence.  Blynn complimented my patience and my timing at ending on such a good sequence.

When I got her outside she didn't want to go to the car.  While it didn't happen instantly, she did have a nice long pee.  She had gone before we went in, but I guess she needed to go again and didn't want to go inside.  She tried to work, but it was still enough of a need to distract her.  She really does try to be a good girl...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Are you sleeping? Can you hear me?
Do you know if I am by your side?
Does it matter if you hear me?
When the morning comes I'll be there by your side...
I'm on the couch watching Volcano, a movie.  Gimme is apparently sound asleep beside me.  Mike Rourk (Tommy Lee Jones) and Gator Harris are in a storm drain under MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, when the Gator notices crunching underfoot and asks "what is that?" 

Rourk shines his flashlight on their feet and replies, "Rats, cooked rats!"  At which point Gimme leaps up, all agog, to see the ratties on TV.  Sadly, being cooked, they are not at all interesting and she soon goes back to "sleep". 

So we now know, no matter how still and snoozy she appears, Gimme never really sleeps.  We also know Gimme definitely knows what "rats" are. 

By the way, if you can hum the song those lyrics come from - you are totally dating yourself.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Nosework (5/3)

I’ve been worrying with the false pregnancy Gimme might not be up to the task for this Sunday’s trial, especially given how unfocused she was for agility last Thursday.  So far I don’t see any waning of her desire during class or practices.  However, once we start the drive home, she fusses and whines the whole time – not stopping until she is reunited with the babies.  Right now the babies consists of a blue elephant, a snow elf and two super cows.  She certainly likes variety, eh…

Class tonight was about two different things… I love knowing what I’m learning.

The first task was to observe how our dog handles channel hides.  We started with a series of three one hide searches, with odor placed under a long edge, which forms a channel for the odor to travel.  One was under the center of a brick ledge on the front of the building, the second was under the metal support strip running across the inside of the building’s garage door, and the third was under the edge of a shelving unit.  Gimme did great with these, she’s always been good at channel hides. 

Our last task of the evening was an added low hide on the garage door: two hides, 6 feet apart, at different heights.  Gimme got the low one right away.  It took her awhile to find the higher one because the odor seemed to drift over and catch on a bunch of junk on shelves about 5 feet way. And, I can’t help but brag -- Gimme was the only one out of five who wasn’t kept in the area by handler restraint.  She knew there was more odor there and persisted until she found it.

The other set of hides were vehicles where we first did it with one hide, then came back later and there were two.  The lesson was to observe the difference in how our dog performed the search when there was only one hide versus two.  There were four vehicles (the dreaded white vans from last week), but only the three closest were part of the search.  The three were set up in a diagonal where each vehicle was 4 feet farther back than the one to its left (as we viewed them from the start line).  The start line pointed us to the closest vehicle.

Right off the bat Gimme went down the left side of the nearest vehicle, paying no attention to it, and no attention to the rear of the next closest vehicle.  She quickly swung around the back end of the rightmost van and paid a lot of attention to the rear wheel.  Just as I was thinking she might need to go to the other side, she went on her own before I could act on the thought.  We left the search area passing between the first and second vehicles.  I watched two other dogs get caught up on the front tire of the first vehicle, between the two and suspected there was lingering odor from earlier classes.

The second time we had two hides, the one where I thought there was lingering odor and the the original one.  Gimme started down the left side of the nearest vehicle, then snapped back to check out the tire.  She very quickly went around to find the other hide.  For a bit I thought maybe the hide was on the other front tire because she spent so much time sniffing behind the tire, but then she came around to the front and found source.  From there she traveled back and found the hide from the prior search.

There were a couple of cool things I realized as a result of the vehicle searches…
  • Gimme no longer goes “shopping”.  She loves hunting and would often go past hides without alerting, so she could keep hunting.  Since Dorothy suggested we use peanut butter to reward nosework, Gimme has stopped shopping and goes directly to odor when she detects it.
  • Another affect of this is, she is more clear about when a search area or vehicle doesn’t have any odor.  It used to be, as a part of her shopping strategy to prolong the hunt, Gimme would pointedly ignore small rooms or sheds containing odor and then go in to check out the ones with none.  For awhile, I thought I’d know whether a room was blank or not by deciphering based on Gimme’s contrary approach.  Now if there’s odor she goes directly to it and if there isn’t any, she can’t be bothered.
  • And, interesting – we found out at the end of the vehicle search, food had been pushed through the rim to the back of the front wheel where the second hide was placed.  So while Gimme did make an effort to get to the food, she only did it when there was odor there, unlike the two dogs who got stuck there on the first search.
Yeah Gimme, the Mighty Odor Hunter…  cross your fingers she does well this Sunday.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

2ndary Reinforcement & Agility Videos

We've been working on something new during our walks on the fort. After watching the Ken Ramirez DVD set on other reinforcers, I've been working on a new one with Gimme.  The idea is that you teach a simple behavior the dog likes, then always reward strongly after it.  Over time the behavior itself will become reinforcing.  After awhile you can use it as a secondary reinforcer without following with the primary.  Of course, you want to maintain the value by continuing to pair with a primary 80% of the time.

I've been wanting one I could use between exercises in obedience and specifically one which includes tactile contact, something Gimme craves.  When we are walking she often comes in close and bumps my hand to suggest I might want to give her a treat.  Now I'm getting her to get into heel position and I curve my hand along her cheek and give her a little scratch along her jawline before the treat.  At first she was really confused by what I wanted.  Its certainly not that she doesn't like touch - she's the most tactile dog I've ever known.  I think it was just so unfamiliar to her in this context and I was changing the rules.  So I made it easy and helped her get it right, then gave her a treat and let her go play. 

We've worked on this for the last three walks.  Today I was able to simply hold my hand where it would be if she were in position and it only took a moment for her to figure out how to get the scratch and the treat.  I'll keep this up for a long time to build in a big reward history before I ever try it without the primary pairing.

I have a video from February 6th (I have a bunch I want to get caught up with sharing).  I give you fair warning this is warts-and-all. 

In this run Gimme flew off the dog walk - something she rarely does.  Its never my intention to yell "no", but some things are still a reflex.  You'll notice her pretending I'm not there right after I yell - don't see how anyone could say yelling doesn't bother dogs.  Also, it was very bad of me to blame her when I dropped the connection to talk to Blynn.  You can see how she again pretends I'm not there after the sharp tone and scolding to "settle down".  You'll see when she does come back she has to be reassured with a loving that I didn't really mean to be so unfair.  Video is brutal.   I clearly need to have her come do a sit-wait while we talk - which I can then reward.  Anyway, I got her back, we did the dog walk over and it was perfect. 

She did a very long segment of the course and nicely, but then we got a bail from the teeter.  Did it again and then she was flawless, with the exception of a couple distracted moments because of the dog behind the glass doors.  You'll note this time when I stopped to talk to Blynn I let Gimme nibble treats from my hand the whole time.  From there we went to rerun the whole course and she did a very nice job, until being distracted by the dog behind the glass again.  Still it was a big improvement.  Sadly the video cuts off the end. 

I don't have video for the second session.  But my blog from that date says she did a bunch of jump avoiding of the tire and then other jumps.  I concluded that the fly off of the dog walk might have irritated her back, so we abandoned the course and ended with some tricks.  Later that night I noted a warm spot on her back, so did some energy work and planned a visit with Tonya.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nosework (4/3) and Agility (6/3)

I apologize for not keeping up.  Monday was my first occupational therapy appointment and they’ve put a contraption on my finger which makes typing an exercise in total frustration.  Since this all started in early April, I’ve been finding it takes twice as long to do anything.  Now with the finger contraption, its almost 3 times as long.  Very annoying.  I just hope it works and the three weeks I have to wear this thing accomplishes what its supposed to. 

I forgot to take the camera for Monday night’s nosework class, so nothing for you to see.  Too bad, since Gimme did a fabulous job.  The first search was an exterior, with 1 to 4 hides.  Gimme was focused and clearly still hunting, so I had no problem knowing there were still hides to be found.  She was the fastest of the two dogs that got all four hides the first time, but just barely.  Gusto isn’t as fast moving as Gimme, but he’s very precise.

The second search was on a Caterpillar backhoe, with 1 to 3 hides.  Gimme found the first 2 very fast.  On the second one, there was a point where she was half under the backhoe and in a close spot behind a tire… and I’m thinking to myself, “I don’t see Rachel crawling under there to set a hide, I bet its on the other side”, when Rachel says, “what is she telling you?”  I took Gimme around the other side and she got right to work searching in a tight spot behind the tire for the source.  It took her a little bit, but she was determined to find the exact source and didn’t indicate until she had it.  I walked her around the backhoe one more time and she didn’t show any interest, so I called “finish”.  I was right.

Our third search was on 4 white vans and Gimme did a nice job, but I really blew it.  I lost track of where we’d been and where she had indicated already.  Gimme found two quickly. I did walk her around one van and she was clearly not interested, but I got turned around and didn’t take her to the far side of the vehicle where the third hide was. It is nice that she is so clear about when there is no odor.  Some dogs will go ahead and search where you take them, just to be obedient and cooperative.  Not Gimme, she lets me know by her whole demeanor that she can’t think of any good reason why we’re walking around this thing…  She was a good girl on this search – me not so much.

Tonight was agility class.  Our first turn was just awful.  Gimme hardly seemed to know I was there.  I was as patient as I could be and tried some Give Me A Break (GMAB, from Control Unleashed), but it wasn’t that effective.  She would come and check in and as I’d move to get into position to begin she’d just spin off.  In her defense, she is in a false pregnancy and I’ve often noticed that several weeks in she has a tough time focusing.  Toward the end of our turn, she started to work with me, but nowhere near what she is capable of. 

One thing which cropped up - she totally forgot how to do the tire jump.  This has happened before and its always the tire.  At first I couldn’t understand what it is about the tire jump, but on the way home it dawned on me.  The tire is the last obstacle she learned, plus we don’t see it every week.  (remember the saying, “last in – first out.”)  I’m thinking I need to get my tire jump fixed so she can do some tire practices at home.

She did so poorly, I briefly considered going home.  Then I decided we should train through it – the benefit of positive-reward training is that at the least, I know I’m not adding stress.  I decided to put a chair in the center of the ring, so my GMAB would look more like what she is used to.  So I took the chair out there as we walked to the start line and then never needed it.  The first run through was nice… a couple of bobbles, but good solid sequences.  I stopped to reward every few obstacles. 

The second run through, she was brilliant and so focused that I just kept going with her.  She looked like she was ready to enter Excellent right now.  She was fabulous and when we finished the 20th obstacle, I just held the treat bag down so she could stick her head in and gobble a bunch of treats.  I wanted to make it memorable for her and the “gobble” is one of her favorite jackpots.  Blynn said I still had time left, but I decided to end on that purely and fabulously positive note. 

I don’t know what happened between the first and second turns, but I love having my girlfriend back…

Monday, June 2, 2014

Agility Send Workshop

The seminar was really good.  Blynn has a very methodical approach and breaks the task down so the dogs always know how to be right.  It made such good sense, I was actually glad I never got around to teaching sends.  She starts with simply sending them to a target with food on it. 

In some circles a target with food on it is referred to derisively as a "bait plate".  Some instructors adamantly refuse to put food on a target, claiming it is nothing more than luring.  First, I don't see the big objection to luring - it was the first mainstay of reward based training and has been used successfully for dog training for a few decades.  There can be a lot of value in luring for some behaviors.  Second, if the dog is taught a cue to go to the target and get the food, its no different than any other cued behavior.  Its similar conceptually to our special bowl training.  And third, given how readily the dogs learned the behavior and continued the behavior in the absence of food on the target (and then absence of the target itself), I fail to see how this is a bad thing. 

The sequence was:
  1. send dog to food target from 4 feet
  2. leave dog and move in halfway and send dog to food target
  3. from halfway, release dog to food target and as they pass you, step sideways or back -- this teaches the dog on the flat to continue to the cued behavior despite your movement. 
  4. set up jump wings and send dog to target placed just beyond wings (about 8 feet), while moving sideways or back -- in following runs, move the target to the side until its somewhat hidden behind the wing -- work forward send with post turn, forward send with front cross and lateral send, treat the dog for returning to you
  5. place a bar in the jump and send dog over the jump to the target set somewhat hidden behind the wing -- work forward send with post turn, forward send with front cross and lateral send, treat the dog for returning to you -- after a couple of repeats "forget" to put food on the target, but continue treating when the dog gets to you
Gimme got sticky at step three and stopped moving to the target when I moved away.   I encouraged her and she'd do it, but she was following my motion.  I thought I might have to teach this at home with greater distance to the target, so I could make my motion away more subtle. 

I commented to Blynn that I hadn't thought of Gimme as a sticky dog (totally forgetting in the moment what we experienced briefly with the special bowl training).  Blynn said, she thinks Gimme is sticky, because of how I run her.  To which I said, "then I'm the sticky one."  Blynn said, "Yes, and you've taught it to her."  Hmmmmm  I have noticed Gimme is not as fast as she used to be, but I had been chalking it up to my uncertainty and such because of the bum hand.

I didn't think we'd get anywhere with step 4 & 5, since we hadn't been solidly successful with step 3.  However, two things worked to make it successful.  First we had the additional distance, so I was able to start with a supporting step toward the jump before moving away.  Second, the jump was a known cue, so Gimme understood moving toward it.  She got this right away and was quite comfortable with it.

The first time I "forgot" to put food on the target, Gimme stopped and looked at me as if to say, "You forgot something."  I encouraged her to come to me and gave her lots of treats.  The second time she paused again and looked at me as if I was slightly daft.  After this she never paid any attention to the target and continued doing the behaviors correctly.  Smarty pants.

Our final run was a short sequence including both a forward and a lateral send.  We repeated it several times with Blynn coaching until I got my timing right.  I hadn't noticed at the time, but both of these were sends with the dog on the right and all the other ones I'd done in steps 1-5 were dog on the left.  Gimme had no problem with it.  She genuinely seemed happy to be unstuck and able to run at speed without me holding her up.

Gimme did go and snark at a dog in a crate.  The next time I preempted it with a stern "leave it and rewarded her copiously for returning to me.  On a positive note, Blynn's dog Ray was on a down stay off to the side and Gimme worked through that.  On the final runs he was directly in her line of sight about 40 feet away as we'd set up for the first tunnel and she was giving him 'the look'.  I did ask someone to stand near him in case she went toward him, which she didn't.  Each time I just held her collar until she looked back toward me - at which moment I said "yes" and released her to the tunnel and our short course.  So running on the course and nutter butter cookies at the end was her reward for working through Ray's distracting presence.