Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Thursday, July 31, 2014


We are getting ready to head out to agility class and I said, "Gimme, where's your collar?"  So she walks close to it and kinda tilts her nose toward it and then continues past it.  Each time I asked, she did the same thing again - the fourth time adding a theatrical sigh.

Apparently she thinks I really should do some things myself - it was in plain sight, doncha know.  I guess she doesn't want me getting too dependent.

She cracks me up...

500 and Counting

This is our 500th blog entry.  Thank you to everyone who hangs around for the trip...

I just want to talk about a couple of things...  First, we've struggled with "spin" (counter-clockwise) and "turn" (clockwise) for a very long time.  Every time I'd start making the luring motion smaller, it would fall apart.  Recently I happened to train it at my parents' house and it suddenly occurred to me - the motion as it gets smaller becomes verrrrry much like my hand signal to get into "heel" or "side".  Thus Gimme would get confused; she likely thought I was the dense one.  So then I moved the training out in front of me.  Gimme got "spin" all the way to a verbal cue in one lesson, but "turn" just wasn't happening so fast.  It has taken about ten sessions, probably because its not her preferred direction to turn.  So here's the video from last night where it finally came together.

Interesting it should take so long to get those on cue, when I realized last night how quickly Gimme picks up other stuff.  We were getting ready to go for a walk and I said to her "now where is your collar?", since I didn't see it in the usual place.  Gimme went right to it and poked it with her nose.  I didn't expect a response, since I was just chattering away like I always do.  I'd probably do the same thing if I lived alone, but then people would think I was crazy - now I can say I'm talking to Gimme.  

Anyway, not only did I not expect her to do anything in response to my chatter, I also have never purposely taught her this behavior.  I can only think she decided what to do because of two other cues we use.  "Wherezit" is our nosework search cue (its a contraction of where-is-it).  I also say "let's put your collar on" or "you wanna put your collar on" or "time to put your collar on" or God only knows how many other variations.  She always jumps up on the couch or comes to my front and presents her neck to have it snapped in place.  So this brilliant girl took "where" and "collar" and put them together to decide she should locate her collar and show me where it is.  Boyoh this will definitely come in handy, since I'm always misplacing it.

Now here's a cute picture of Gimme after a long exhausting day supervising a remodeling crew.  Its hard work and really tires a girl out.

Happy 500th...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Barn Hunt trial

We did not Q this weekend, but I sure learned some things and we had other successes.

Saturday a.m. - Gimme found one rat, then climbed to the top of the bales and peed, despite having been walked for 20 minutes beforehand.
Saturday p.m. - Gimme found only two rats.
Sunday a.m. - Gimme found three rats and then blasted into the tunnel.  I heard a loud whack and then she backed out.  She tried hunting some more but didn't seem to be focused. 
Sunday p.m. - Gimme found all four rats with plenty of time to spare, but would not complete a tunnel.  She entered as I cued it, but when she came to the first turn, she backed out.

So, what did I learn?

Working on extinguishing Gimme's in-car whining really fried her little brain on Friday and she was still affected a bit on Saturday.  Yes the whining is back, and with a vengeance.  I thought the Kongs would be the answer, but she only got better at emptying them and I needed more and more of them (and she was getting plump).  I have a plan and though the progress is slower and time consuming, I am seeing progress.

It was really hot and clearly the heat affected Gimme's hunting ability.  None of the senior dogs qualified in either hunt on Saturday (Sunday was better; it was just a little cooler).  Also, because of the heat, dogs drink more water.  Gimme had water available in her crate 24/7 and I also brought some out to where we waited for our turn.  She did drink a bit more just before our turn.  In the future I'll make sure I have some way to make water more enticing earlier in the day (and again right after our first run) - she's not into plain water.  Then perhaps she won't feel the need to tank up right before we go in the ring.  Between this strategy and getting to walk before her run, we should be okay.

On Sunday morning, the judge got mixed up and so we were asked to leave the ring while they confirmed what was set up.  I was worried Gimme might do poorly with the restart; she did fine with it.  Yayyyy... its a relief to know she isn't negatively impacted by disruption, even if I am.

This was the run where she blasted into the tunnel and smacked into the first turn.  The loud "whack" likely resulted when she threw her head up as she ran into the turn and smacked it on the plywood support.  They have pieces of plywood over the tunnel area to keep the straw bales from sagging into the tunnel as the day goes on.  [note for anyone with really large dogs - be sure to check the leading edges of tunnels to be sure there is a straw bale along the front, to protect the dog from running into a plywood edge]

In Senior and Master rings, the tunnels will have 2 or 3 ninety degree turns.  I don't think Gimme has actually seen a three turn tunnel before.  And now since she's hurt herself, she clearly needs some training on the advanced level tunnels, along with confidence rebuilding . I've arranged to have access to the trial site the night before our next trial in a private lesson.  We'll backchain from simple tunnels to more turns.

Gimme will also have to learn to slow down, since the turns are sharp and there is very little light in there - if any.  I've decided to train it with a distinct cue, different than the "tunnel" we use in agility to reduce the possibility of bleed over slowing down her agility tunnels.  I'm certain we'll get her back to doing the tunnels with confidence.  Knowing Gimme, I'm sure she thought those tunnels were broken

Even though Gimme normally doesn't pay much attention to other dogs at barn hunt, this site is particularly challenging and she was paying more attention to them than usual.  Partly I think the whining extinction program causes some stress and makes her more sensitive.  The distance between the two rings is only ten feet.

During our last run, she happened to be at the edge of the ring when she saw another medium sized dog searching in the other ring, about 11 feet away.  She stopped and gave him a steady look, not over the top, just focused.  I reminded her, "c'mon Gimme, we're here to find vermin, let's get back to work."  And she did go back to work.  There was another time during the same search when she saw the other dog as he was leaving, so between the rings (at about the same distance since she was further into her own ring) and she stopped to look.  She only saw his butt going away though, so she went back to work without me prompting her.  This was the last run of the weekend where she found all four rat tubes.  Anyway... I count it as a big success.  Q'ing be damned, eh.... 

Lastly, its going to be important to consider trial sites as a factor.  I'd noticed before how tight the spacing is for this site, but they seemed to work it out as the weekend progressed.  This time it didn't get worked out and we seemed to have a particularly clueless bunch of competitors.  Three near-misses in one weekend is too many.  Once I had to stay in the ring and wait while the steward asked someone with a dog to move so they weren't blocking the exit.  They moved, but just barely and we still had a near miss as we blasted through the door to Gimme's reward.  Most barn hunt competitors are not dog savvy.

We have another barn hunt trial the second weekend in August...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Agility (6/4)

So sorry to be so far behind.  I've been having some computer woes.  I downloaded some recommended software and it came bundled with a bunch of PUP (potentially unwanted programs).  "Potential" my arse.  They should be called CRAP (completely repulsive absurd programs).  They completely messed up my system.  I got one removed, but the other was giving me problems.  Meanwhile I had to download an upgraded version of another program to make iTunes and company work well and it offered another toolbar and search program - which I declined and then it downloaded it anyway.  So altogether I've spent a dozen hours getting rid of this junk and am behind on everything computer because it was too annoying to do things.  BTW my younger brother was thrilled to learn I'd purchased an iPod Touch.  He says I've now caught up to 2002 and he can't wait to see what I'll do next!

So about agility class.  It was interesting.  I brought Gimme's special bowl and decided to incorporate it in our course.  Things did not go well initially...  she self served once when she wasn't supposed to and almost did a second time.  The second time around it went much better when I realized I was expecting her to generalize what she knows about special bowl, despite never having used it anywhere except my living room and the front yard.  So when I took some time to give her a refresher about what special bowl means and "yes Gimme, the rules still apply in the agility building", things went much better.

When I get the videos... you'll noticed I yell "no" at her a couple of times.  I don't have any intention of using it in my training, but still it pops out.  Its stupid really - it has no affect on her behavior, she keeps going.  I'm not convinced she believes the n-word applies to her.  And what is even more stupid is, if I were able to stay in training mode (as opposed to reacting mode) and called her name, she would turn on a thin dime to come to me. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nosework (3/4)

We've been very busy.  My bathroom is being remodeled, so its taking up a lot of time.  Plus I bought an iPod and so have the uphill learning curve to get it working for me.  Haven't been walking much, fortunately we were a bit ahead.  Car is in the shop today, getting some maintenance out of the way before my trip this weekend.

Dorothy set up some very interesting searches for us on Monday; all vehicle searches.  They drove a van into the training building and left it right by the door, so there was only 3 feet around it. 

The first search was playing "Running Bunny", a game where the handler and dog start searching and as they find hides, the instructor is moving behind them, taking up odor and putting it down in a new spot.  This way the dog keeps getting new searches, one after another.  It tends to encourage the dogs to closely work the vehicle, instead of chasing odor bouncing off walls, curbs, etc.  Gimme enjoyed it.

The second search was the same vehicle with just one hide, under the running board.  A fan was set to blow directly across odor to the other side.  Our task was to start the search on the other side and let the dog puzzle through how to get to source.  When we started Gimme was going so fast she didn't catch the scent drifting from under the near side of the van... and she went right by it.  When its hot Gimme likes to lay right in front of the fan, so having it so close didn't bother her at all, though two other dogs were intimidated by it. On her second trip around the van, she caught scent from the far side, chased it under the van (just her head), then dragged me around to the other side, going straight to source. 

Our third search was four vans side by side outdoors.  It was actually four back-to-back searches of 1, 2, 3 and then 4 hides.  The picture below shows the layout and hide locations, including three big wood spools and a stack of pallets.  The green line is the start line.  The first hide never moved and another was added for each subsequent search.  As the dog completed its search, we swung around toward the start line, while the instructor added another hide and then we immediately started again.  We were not to let the dog go any further back than the front seats.

Gimme started out well and checked out the spools and pallet the first time, but not again.  All the dogs checked them out, because the breeze was almost always blowing from the left side and scent was pooling against them.  Gimme found the first hide pretty easily.  On subsequent searches she didn't do as well.  She did find them all, but seemed to be struggling a bit.  She reverse-sneezed once and I thought maybe pollen was interfering with her abilities.  I've seen her reverse-sneeze about once a day for the last several weeks - which I assume has to do with the same pollen causing my itchy/puffy eyes.

I mentioned the pollen idea to Dorothy after the search and she said while it was a possibility, it was probably more the fact of the person to search after us having come up within 50 feet with her dog.  Dorothy said Gimme noticed him after finding the first hide.  She noticed Gimme didn't look at him much, but she seemed very aware of his presence.  So while he was a distraction, she did still prefer to search rather than spend time looking. Gimme searched twice before with a dog barking nearby, but never with a dog actually visible.  So even though it slowed her down, I'm proud of her for choosing to search and being successful despite the distraction.  Yeah Gimme!!!

We have four barn hunt trials in Bellingham this weekend.  I'm going to drive up Friday and stay in a hotel nearby.  Cross your fingers for us.  We need two more legs to get Gimme's RATS (Rat Senior) title.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Agility (4/4 & 5/4)

I never did blog about agility class last week, but I'm going to do it belatedly... and then brag about tonight.  I did mention in another blog about making a special effort to get to class sooner for an extra walk AND I'm getting her from the car sooner for our turns so we have extra time to get focused.

Its interesting how much better she did on the first run than she had been doing.  She still had her initial distraction, but it was much shorter.  I'd been editing out about a minute and this time was less than 20 seconds.  There were less distractions following error points.  Overall the first session was pretty good and Blynn was able to focus on some of my handling.

Note the rousing play session.  I did edit out the discussion with Blynn about my experimenting with play.  I thought Gimme would like to win the tug by getting it away from me and had tried it the week before.  What I found is she really prefers to have me holding up my end - when she gets it away from me she just hangs out close by and waits for me to grab it and re-engage.  So I was experimenting by letting her pull me around using the toy.  After this tug session, she doesn't really engage with it again, though she seems to want to.  I think its just hard to tug when she's hot and panting...

The "3rd time is a charm" refers to Blynn getting my handling right, at which point Gimme did a great job and was moving out.  Then Blynn fixed my handling for the turn to the aframe and naturally Gimme was brilliant then.
                           071014A Agility Class

The second session was a jumpers course set up outside on grass in a fenced agility yard.  Because of the setup, I was able to have Gimme out nearby for a long time before we went in for our turn.  I had our matt and she was able to "chill" for me and get copious quantities of treats.  By the time it was our turn, she was less concerned about the other dogs.  However...

She was still distracted by the new setting and the presence of other dogs outside the ring.  I used ping-pong treats to get her more focused.  Of course, the first jump aimed her right at where a couple people were standing with their dogs... she would see them, loose focus and drift in that direction, missing the turn to the second jump.  She wasn't fence fighting or reacting, just loosing focus.  It took three tries to get the second jump and I played with her for a reward and to hold her attention.  At one point Blynn said something about it not being my handling and so I told her about the dogs there.  She started over, directing them to move and I said not to... I wanted Gimme to have the opportunity to work through this challenge.  It took five tries to get all three of the first jumps, but given the setting, I was very happy with her for figuring it out.

After that the course just flowed and you'll hear the cheering in the background from my classmates about how fast Gimme was.  Too often they don't get to see what I know this girl is capable of, so its nice to hear their appreciation when they do see it.  They are a nice supportive group.

The second time we ran the course, Gimme paid no attention to the other dogs.  It was so cool to see her totally dismiss the distraction/concern once she had worked through it.  I love that about her - the way once she gets something, she pretty much has it from then on.  (Tire jump notwithstanding)

One thing I've noticed and think is strange... Gimme will not permit physical/vertical play from Grafton - she gets quite incensed at his attempts.  He has a great time teasing her with it, just to make her squeal at him with her high pitched girlie voice.  Yet she seems to really like it from me.  I've been using it quite a bit and she really responds well to it.  Perhaps its because I'm not a dog and she's not a dog, but Grafton clearly is a dog.  Who knows...

Anyway, my brag is - drum roll please - Tonight when we went outside for the jumpers course, despite the second jump pointing her directly toward dogs standing in the same place (even a little closer) and Gimme paid no attention to them.  I'm sure we have a long way to go, but these two classes give me the most hope to believe she'll one day be able to compete in agility.  I can't wait to show you the video.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Agility Video (Mar)

Here is a video from March 20th...  You'll notice that Gimme is in season and wearing the dreaded panties, which bother her not one bit.  She is a bit distracted at the beginning, mostly edited out.  She isn't as focused when she is in season, but still loves to work and train, unlike other intact bitches I've had.  Based on what I wrote about this class, this is the first run of the evening - I don't have video for the second run.  This is the last class I got to before the great hand kaflooey...

This course had four puppy accelerators (tunnels) and one place the course had three of them set back-to-back.  She seemed slow to me, but then *I* seemed slow too.  My handling was unexciting and unprecise and many cues were terribly late, so I'm sure it affected her, causing the lack of speed.  You will note after the place where I said "better handling", based on Blynn's advice, Gimme runs a bit faster there.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shortie Training

I went to a movie tonight, Dawn of Planet of the Apes.  It was pretty good.  I never liked the original Planet of the Apes movies very much, but I do like the new ones and I was just in the mood. 

I promised Gimme I'd only be gone a couple of hours and we'd train as soon as I got back.  Of course, I just had to check emails and do some other things first.  Its an Adult ADD thing, some stuff is just a distraction if I resist it.  I quickly got on the computer to take care of it and Gimme spent the whole time huffing and sighing.  She really expects me to live up to my promises, doncha know...

So I cleared the living room floor and got out my cards to pick a couple of Rally moves to train.  I got right-about-turn and 90-degree-left-turn. 

Well gosh those were so easy, I got off on a tangent and worked on some backing up in heel.  Except if she sits, she then scoots backwards and as I recall, that's not correct for rally.  So I used my freestyle arm position (hands on hips) and even though we haven't really trained freestyle "hip" (standing "heel") in a very long time, she actually remembered it fairly well.  We were able to get three-steps-forward-three-steps-back very quickly.

Then I worked on her doing the same thing from "center" (standing "front").  I hadn't worked it with the hands on hips, so it took a moment for her to understand it and then voila' three-steps-forward-three-steps-back without having to really teach it.

From there we worked "thigh" (standing off"side").  I haven't trained hands on hips for "side", she still picked it up very quickly.  For some reason three-steps-forward-three-steps-back didn't come as easily there.  Though, once I worked it with her between me and the couch, she got it quickly.  Honestly I don't train "side" or "thigh" anywhere close to how often I train "heel" and "hip", so I'm sure its a factor.

We ended with a quick session of her filing her nails on the nail board.  She has learned to do three scratches with her right paw, followed by three scratches with her left paw.  She's really very good and rarely forgets to alternate, though sometimes she will do two or five scratches.  So she understands alternating better than counting.

Still it amazes me the things she can understand and how quickly she learns stuff.  She is also better at generalizing than most dogs I've worked with.  If Gimme were blessed with a more consistent, better trainer, she'd probably be famous and have her own TV show by now.  Just sayin...

Update – trial stats

Gimme came in 14th overall, out of 30 entrants with 20 title qualifiers.

Search #1 - Gimme was 13th with 18.76 seconds, out of 28 qualifiers
          fastest time was 7.84 seconds; slowest time was 1:30 - max time 1:30

Search #2 - Gimme was 17th with 1:49.88, out of 22 qualifiers
          fastest time was 9.78 seconds; slowest time was 1:56.68 - max time 2:00

Search #3 - Gimme was 19th with 40.44 seconds, out of 27 qualifiers
          fastest time was 8.37 seconds; slowest time was 56.91 - max time 1:00

Search #4 - Gimme was 10th with 20.88 seconds, out of 29 qualifiers
          fastest time was 8.39 seconds; slowest time was 1:27.01 - max time 1:30

Her standings weren't brilliant, but they were all very solid.  There were some very fast dogs...   Our worst search (#2) was where she wasted time shopping and was also distracted by needing to poop.  Her best search was the last one.

Interestingly, the dogs who ended up in the highest rankings overall, weren't always in the first three placements for each search.  The second place overall dog was in the top three for three of the searches and was fourth place once.  Two dogs who made it into the top three for one search each, went home with a leg (no title).

I guess that is my way of saying, consistency is sometimes better than flash. And though we often get flash... even without it she did very nicely.  Even when her times aren't flashy, she always looks flashy...  and beautiful... and brilliant...  Not that I'm biased or anything...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

♥ ♥ ♥ She Did It Again ♥ ♥ ♥

Gimme got her L1I title...   
She is very likely the first Dalmatian in the world to get a nosework element title, and specifically a Level 1 Interior element title.  We'll know for sure when they upgrade the 'breed titles' module on the NACSW website.

Today we got up before dawn cracked to drive to La Center, WA... for our first ever Element Specialty Trial (EST).  This titling option only became available April 1, 2014.  We were the 6th team on the list, had finished our first two searches by 10:15... and had finished all searches by 11:45.  I "undressed" the car from its heat reflecting accessories and waited briefly to see how a friend did before heading home.  It was only a 90 minute drive so we were home by 1:35 p.m.
  • Search one... a taped off open area in the student lounge with one and a half minutes.  Gimme got this really quickly, under the edge of a chair.
  • Search two... a largish room with lots of stuff and two minutes.  Gimme spent a fair amount of time sniffing something on the counter and I very nearly said "show me".  But, I remembered a recent discussion with instructor Dorothy about how Gimme dutifully indicates whatever she's sniffing if she's not in odor when I say "show me".  So instead, I said "are you searching or shopping?"  Gimme made a "hmph" sound, gave me a disgusted look and left the distraction to search.  We got into the last thirty seconds and I re-cued "wherezit", then Gimme went right to source under the edge of a table and indicated.  A special Thank You shout-out to our most excellent instructor, Dorothy Turley.
After this search, when we went outside, Gimme stopped to poop within a few feet of the door.  So I was impressed she chose to search even though she had an urgent need distracting her. She often doesn’t poop in early morning and needs longer walking to get to it. I had walked her, but we ran out of time, so she never pooped.
BTW the “hmph” noise is the same one she made during a container search many months ago when I accused her of lying to me (she was false alerting on a food distraction, but not giving me all four parts of her indication, so I knew it wasn't the real thing).  Then I got the same disgusted look and a round of applause, as she moved on.  She never fails to entertain any spectators.
  • Search three… a medium size room with one and a half minutes.  Gimme did well, getting it quickly.  The odor was under a foot pad for a dictation machine.
  • Search four… a tiny room with one minute.  Gimme found the odor under the edge of a cabinet.

When I called Kathy to tell her about the new title, she commented about how many titles Gimme has gotten this year.  She's right.  This is her fifth title this year (RATI, RATN, RATO, NW2 and now L1I) and her sixth title overall (including NW1 last year).  She's on a roll - I hope Barn Hunt Senior (RATS) is next.

Here's Gimme resting with her new title ribbon..

We'd originally gotten into containers for yesterday morning and interiors this morning.  When I read the rules about element trials, I learned level 1 containers is all boxes, with 3 to 5 searches.  Knowing Gimme does okay with a lot of boxes the first time, but gets more and more charged up with each opportunity, until she goes straight to box trashing, I decided to pass on it and give someone else a chance.  We'll do it another time, but I wanted to try one I was sure I could get without added hotel expense.

The rules for titling in an element trial are different than a regular trial. If you get all the searches on the trial day, you win your title.  The other option is to get a leg with a score of 75% or better.  Then it takes two legs to get the title.  I figure at level 1 we'll likely get interiors, vehicles and exteriors in one trial each.  Containers are equally likely to take multiple tries.  It'll be different when we get to upper levels since it won't be a huge field of cardboard boxes.

Besides the titling requirements, there are other differences for element trials.  First, you don't get a walk through - all you get is a chance to look while getting ready to release your dog to search.  Second, the amount of time allocated to the search is less than you would have gotten for the same search at this level in a regular trial.  These are designed to present added difficulty.   You could get additional challenge because of unusual search conditions, like containers on a grassy field.

One advantage to EST is each element is designed to be a separate half-day trial.  So you could trial in the morning and volunteer in the afternoon, or come home after your trial, like we did.  I thought of volunteering, but since I got less than 3 hours sleep last night, I was glad I hadn't.  Came home to a quick lunch and then crashed on the couch for several hours.  BTW this is an excellent titling option for those dogs (or their people) who don't have stamina for a whole day on site, as long as they have stamina for up to five searches.

The trials can be a mixture of different elements and different levels for an element.  Such as Level 2 Containers in the morning, and Level 1 Containers in the afternoon.   You do learn right away whether you are successful at a particular search, so you know immediately if you titled.  You do not get a score sheet returned to you - so no judges comments.  And there is no awards ceremony.  You just pick up your ribbon and go.  There are no placement ribbons, though placements will show up on the NACSW website after the event.  I don't know yet if the website will show individual search placements or overall placements or both.  I'll be checking the trial results to see if I have additional bragging rights for placements...

Agility Videos (Feb)

I am going to try to get some of these agility videos converted, edited and posted.  This one is from late February.  This is the first run - pretty much a warts-n-all video.  I don't have a video for our second turn.

Gimme was repeatedly distracted, which has often been an issue on our first turns...  She was distracted before we started by the people on the sideline (10 seconds edited out)...  by equipment on the edge of the ring (which she's seen a million times)...  by taking a tunnel instead of watching my cue (could have been clearer cue, but wasn't totally bad - I was still on the take-off side of the jump)...  by treats someone before us dropped (no she really wasn't looking for rats, silly Chris made the rat comment)...  Third try for the turn was not a charm, but she did get it and I chose to go on to get her moving and in the game.  We had a nice sequence afterward, until the turn before/into the weaves.

I find showing her the cookies often helps.  I know its "bad" training and Blynn disagrees with it, but overall she lets me do what I need to for training.  When Gimme knows what she's working for it helps her focus - its like it cuts through the fog of distractions.  We do it a lot less now than we did in the beginning.  She really nailed the turn and weave entry then.  And the next 3 obstacles was good, my movement pushed too much and she went around the 3rd jump.  When I did it right, so did she.

She did well after a reset and made it through to the send to the backside...  I was too late to handle it and this is well before the recent workshop where we really started actually learning those advanced sends.  Of course, after a mistake, she often follows with "being distracted".  I read it as her not liking to be wrong and needing a mental break.  She came back strong and did a really nice sequence until the fly-off on the up-side of the aframe.  In her defense, my angle was bad and pulled her off.  We have not trained a diverging angle, so because of my line of motion, she may have thought she was wrong to go on the aframe.

Of course, then she was distracted by the doggie behind the glass doors.  Those doors lead to the foyer I've mentioned so often.  The team to follow us is in there warming up brain cells and awaiting their turn.  After the second time distracting toward the doors, you'll see me doing the multiple-alternating-palm touches.  Gimme likes that and sometimes it works well to focus her - though it didn't this time.  When she did come, I went on with the course to get her moving again.

On our second run through it went better.  You'll see I started with the multiple-alternating-palm touches.  It started well and then I sent her off course.  Third try was much better.  I love Blynn as an instructor.  She's very patient, always positive and works with what we have in the moment.  And she ALWAYS lets me know when its my fault - which often isn't immediately clear to me in the moment (though its always brutally clear on the video, eh). 

First try 4:30, start to finish... second successful try 1:55... quite an improvement.  I wish I could post our run from this week right after this one.  The difference is dramatic.  You'll get to see it soon enough.

One thing which always impresses me was how long Gimme will work.  The original video was nearly 9 minutes...  Yes she was distracted and taking side trips here and there, but she never actually quit on me.  She is very resilient and really wants to work.
I changed two things this week.  First, I made it a point to arrive sooner so she gets a walk when we first get there.  Second, when our turn is approaching, I now got her out of the car one dog sooner than I was.  This gives me plenty of time to potty walk her and still get a full six minutes in the foyer to get her in her working brain.  I don't know why I didn't think to do those things before, to make better use of our time... but it really made a big difference this week.

We are off to a nosework element trial.  Hoping to come home with a Level 1 Interior element title.  Cross your fingers for us...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Nosework (2/4)

I am behind on posting.  Gimme and I are staying busy.  We are doing a lot of walking to stay ahead.  Sometimes going out early in the day because its been so warm here. In the evening we are doing some easy free shaping in the house.

I've been putting a lot of time into internet research and shopping on line to make all the decisions regarding my bathroom remodel.  Who knew you could spend two and a half hours just deciding how to do the medicine cabinet.  I am lucky because the guy doing my work is really a jack of all trades.  So, I have a built-in corner cabinet (shoulder height to the ceiling) and he's going to build a matching freestanding corner cabinet to sit under it.  The existing corner cabinet is very likely original to the house, based on the 1920's pictures I'm finding.  So, after all that time spent on the medicine cabinet, I've decided I'll have him build it too, to match the others in style and period.

Class on Monday was pretty neat.  Now that Gimme and I have our NW2, we are starting to really focus on learning the skills I'll need for NW3.  Gimme really already knows her part, since her job doesn't really change.  My biggest hurdle, other than learning to say "finish", will be learn to read when Gimme knows there are no more odors to be found.  I can already tell when she walks into an area that has none; I just have to learn to see the subtle shift of energy when she goes from "more to find", to "there's no more".

Our first search was a single van with an unknown number of hides on it.  Gimme found one right away and before long found a second one.  I took her around the vehicle again to make sure we didn't miss a third one and she kind of dawdled around and then showed interest in one spot.  Since she wasn't indicating, I said "show me" and she dutifully indicated, but it wasn't odor.  Dorothy said I'll have to be really careful with using the "show me" cue.  If there is odor there, Gimme precisely indicates where it is; if there is no odor, she'll obediently indicate just to please me.  So I have to find another way to know when I can and cannot use the cue.  The real purpose for the cue is to have her re-indicate when I missed it.   Basically I have to read that subtle energy shift.

Our second search was an exterior area.  Gimme found both odor sources pretty quickly.  Then I took her on a tour through the area, mostly hitting the perimeter, and then called "finish".  I was right, but can't articulate why I knew she was done.  Though, I have noticed she will sometimes try to go back to one she's already been paid for when there are no more.

Our third and fourth searches were indoors on containers.  For the first time in (third search of the class) they were all boxes, up on chairs and small step stools and Gimme did a good job.  For the second time in (fourth search of the class), they'd moved odor boxes and some of the boxes from the chairs were now under the chairs.  Gimme again did a good job.  These searches were made more challenging because the overhead fans were on.  We've searched with the overhead fans on many times it doesn't really present a challenge for Gimme.

I am going to have to get back in the habit of bringing my camera and getting someone to videotape our searches.  Then I can study them and hopefully pinpoint what changes for Gimme.  Once I can see it frame-by-frame on video, then I'll be able to pick it out in real time.  Dorothy says she can see it and its pretty subtle.

I used videotaping for the issue of peeing during outdoor searches and it worked beautifully.  I basically videotaped her for a 15 minute walk, then studied it until I noticed she sniffs in front of her feet when she's smelling something, but her nose goes between her feet when she's about to pee.  Once I could identify it, I started interrupting her and she quickly learned to not pee during searches.  She's only peed one time in the last 18 months...  There are a number of dogs competing at NW3 who still have issues with peeing during searches.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

More Special Bowl

For the last week we've been doing a bunch of extra walking to get caught up on our mileage goal.  Between walking and yard work, my knees have really been hurting.  So decided today we'd just do a training session outside.

I decided to get back to working on special bowl, which we haven't trained in almost six weeks.  I picked it up off the shelf and Gimme got really excited.  Clearly she remembered it.

Our training session wasn't anything special in what we worked on, but more about doing some little smidgen of obedience stuff and then releasing Gimme to special bowl.  I clearly need to do more obedience outside.  I wish I had set up the video camera.

I also wish I had planned more clearly what I was going to work on, instead of just noodling around.  Twice I put treats in the bowl and Gimme, initiated "yours" on her own right after I filled it, snagging the treats before I could interrupt her.  I think these were caused by lack of clarity on my part, but I was sure I'd damaged our training.  To make it clearer after that, I put her on a standing "wait" about six feet from the bowl as I walked over to drop treats in.  It didn't cause any lasting problem.

Then we'd do a simple exercise part and I'd click, then cue "yours".  On two occasions, Gimme decided she'd done enough and started to dash to special bowl without the cue.  I was able to interrupt her by calling her name.  Then we'd do something else, click and "yours".  After that she didn't try it again.  We've done training before where a container of treats was at nose level and she had to work for me to give her some, without self rewarding.  She has a really good work ethic and learned that lesson well, though we haven't done it in a long time.  I like special bowl better - I think its clearer.   So today was just part of her evolving understanding.  Clearly we have to work some more before she's ready to heel right by it. 

We also did a smidgen of personal play, followed by a release to special bowl.  I did figure out that I do use my body different when I'm pushing at her with my right hand.  I feel comfortable when I am doing the first push with my right hand.  But once we have started playing and she's moving too and could move unpredictably (potentially causing a finger jam), then I tense up and she changes too.  She reads me too well.  This will take time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Nosework (1/4)

Dorothy set up a search I'd been hearing recommended and never really got around to doing myself.  The search was in the training room and the whole floor was littered with about thirty different nosework containers and accessories.  Lots of tins, flower tubes, empty chapstick holders, two kinds of tape, plumber's putty, unused magnets, and electrical tubing.  She had also added about a dozen different well-used dog toys.

Dogs often make associations we don't intend because they are so good at discrimination; they are not as good at generalization.  (people are just the opposite - we generalize readily and are poor discriminators)  I've written a series of three posts on this topic on our Gimme A Break From Mean Training blog (for pet trainers).  They are:

So the idea for the search is to check to make sure the dog isn't searching for odor+tin or odor+putty, etc.  The dog toys were there to present an additional challenge.  To add to the challenge, the overhead fans were on.

Gimme did really well on all her searches (all off leash).  

She checked out all the toys, not because she wanted them, but rather because of all the dog smell on them.  She also checked out all the nosework stuff one-by-one.  She lingered over clear office tape and the electrical tubing.  However, once she got into odor, she was all business about finding it.  The three hides were in tins and tubing in amongst the scattered items.

The second search was in the handle of a large piece of luggage (standing upright) and then two more on the perimeter of the room.  Dorothy said most dogs in earlier classes had a real challenge with the luggage.  Ann said, "Of course, Gimme won't have a problem."  Love how she thinks and she was right.  Once Gimme got close she was right on it and clearly indicated the handle.  She found the other two quickly right after.

The third search had one hide on a shelf at the threshold, another a few feet from where the prior perimeter hide had been and the luggage was laid on its side and placed in the corner with the handle to the wall and about six inches of space between it and the wall.  I watched Gimme at the start line for any sign that she wanted to go in any particular direction and when her nose swung left I let her go.  She went directly to the threshold hide (she was the only one to get the threshold at the beginning of her search).  After that she got over on the right side wall and went straight to the luggage and then swung around sniffing some of the scattered stuff until she found the other perimeter odor.

Another interesting thing was to see which dogs were visual and which were not.  Gimme was the most visual and I commented saying, "In my experience Dalmatians are highly visual and often distracted by stuff they see".  Dorothy agreed and said in her many years of teaching, she had noted exactly the same thing.  What a blessing to have an instructor who respects my years of experience and perspective on my breed (unlike our past nosework instructor who just thought I was making excuses).  The other dogs were visual to lesser degrees and the blind dog not at all.

Gimme had a great time and fussed all the way home.  She wanted to go back and search some more.

Its going to get into the 90's today, so we are going out to the fort in an hour to walk before it gets too hot.  Then I'll come home and mow some lawn and afterward will go to work in air conditioning during the hottest part of the day.