Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Monday, September 29, 2014

Barn Hunt Successes

We went to a Barn Hunt trial in Brownsville and it was great little outdoor trial.  We only came away with one leg toward our Master's title (we need five legs), but there were lessons I learned which will help in the future.  Katherine was there with her Dalmatian, Bronco and I got to watch the wild man in Open.  She videotaped for me.  The second day I got other competitors to video us.

Trial 1:  Gimme was on fire and eager to search.  I'm probably the only person to call "alert" in a barn hunt trial - fortunately the judge knew what I meant.  Gimme found one rat quickly and then went on looking.  She checked another area thoroughly, but left it.  Then she was all interested in another spot and I called it, but I wasn't able to show the judge the right spot.  There was a blank tube just above a rat tube (I hadn't even noticed the lower tube) and Gimme was coming down from on top of the pile, so I thought she was onto the upper tube.  I was just too quick to call it, since she came down and found the real rat quickly enough.  I did realize from watching this video, if I use the same technique with barn hunt as I do for nosework containers, it seems to work.  You'll see the second pile (after she found the first rat), I step in, then start to move away and she quickly leaves it (around 50 seconds). 

Trial 2:  I was determined to work it like nosework containers and only call those tubes she sticks even when I start to move away.  Gimme found two rats in 1:33... then we checked, checked and rechecked until I was satisfied there were no more.  I called "finished" at 4:05.  I've called finished too soon so many times, it was really hard for me to call this.  So we got our first master leg and a second place.  We need 4 more for the title.  There's a lot of this video where Katherine was trying to run around and keep up, so its very shaky and lots of video of straw and such.  Plus we were in the ring for over 4 minutes, so it is long.  Still there is some good stuff.  Have no clue who it was to call "Yeah Gimme" after I heard "Congratulations" from the judge.  

Here's a couple pictures I captured from the video...  Is she pretty or what...

Trial 3:  I got caught up in watching Gimme do her stuff and didn't work my plan.  Thus I called a "rat" she had not yet committed to.  She's so fun to watch, its easy to just get wrapped up watching her do her thing.  I don't have video of this run.  

Trial 4:  I was again determined to work my plan and did well at it - there were no false calls.  Gimme was fabulous.  She found four rats in 1:53.  Then I noticed her looking outside the ring here and there, which I took as her not thinking there were any more rats, so I got her to do the tunnel and called "finish".  Wrong.  There was one more under the green ramp - a spot we never really checked.  She went by there a couple times, but was either up on the bales, too close to the small piles or I was between her and the rat.  We had about two minutes left, so we easily had the time to go around and check one more time.  BTW when I got her to "find" the fifth rat, I think she caught a nail in one of the tube holes, so I pulled it out and teased her with it.  Even though we didn't get a leg, I was really pleased with this search. 

We get to do this again in two weeks.  I'm looking forward to it.  The skills jump for the Master level is really a big one.  Since we've done it once, I feel more confident we can do it again.

Element Trial results

The information for the element trial is posted.

As you know, Gimme did not title in the container element, though she did get a leg toward a title.  Her overall time for the 5 searches, including one search where we timed out, was 2:11.  She was ranked 13th overall, in a system of score then time.  She was the fastest dog of the 8 dogs who got 80%.   This made her faster than 6 of the dogs which titled.

Container search #1:  We had a bunch of boxes in a railroad boxcar.  It was a rather narrow and poorly lighted area with weird little alcoves.  Her time was 17.1 seconds and she was first in her class.  They don't award placements, so no ribbon or any recognition other than the listing in the results.

Container search #2:  This search was outdoors on grass in the courtyard between the 6 boxcars.  Right in front of us was a table with boxes on top, surrounded by chairs with boxes in the seats, surrounded by more boxes in the grass.  To the left and were two sets of stairs leading into 2 of the boxcars and on the landing for each was 1 or 2 boxes.  Gimme's time was 21.45 seconds, it sure didn't seem so long.  The fastest dog was 7.32 seconds, which is amazing.

Container search #3:  Our third search was boxes in chairs and on "stuff" in an exterior courtyard.  Gimme was pretty quick on this search, finding odor in a box on a chair.  Her time was 16.64 seconds.  The fastest dog was about 11 seconds. 

Container search #4:  This was the search which tripped us up.  The search area was split between two "rooms" through a wide archway.  There were a lot of chairs, but not a whole lot of boxes overall and we only had 1 minute.  Here we got the full 1:00 time.

Container search #5:  This was outside on a long patio with picnic tables.  Boxes were on the ground, the seats and the tables.  Gimme went almost straight to odor - really fast, in just 16.5 seconds.  The fastest dog was just under 10 seconds.

For the exteriors where we titled, Gimme's combined time was1:45.44, putting her in sixth place overall.  The fastest overall time was 57.4 seconds - handler must be a track star, eh. 

Exterior search #1:  Our first search was in a campfire area deep in the trees behind the boxcars - no apparent air movement.  Even with the delay catching odor, Gimme still did this quickly in just 24.59 seconds.

Exterior search #2:  This was another campfire area, surround on all sides with trees and brush.  Again, very little breeze.  Gimme did this in 37.56 seconds, our slowest successful search of the day, but still fast given the size of the area. 

Exterior search #3:  This was a sidewalk between the building and a brick wall.  I knew this was speedy, Gimme did it in 5.59 seconds, the third fastest time.  The two dogs faster were 4.4 and 4.81 seconds.  That little time could easily be human factor on the timer or just as likely my  momentary hesitation in calling the alert.  Gimme was awesome - don't blink or you miss the search. 

Exterior search #4:  The area was partly out in the open on cement, but most was in a covered area, with brick walls on three sides.  This seemed a much longer search to me.  Gimme did it in 6.69 seconds to be the fourth fastest.  The fastest dog had less than a second less time than Gimme.

Exterior search #5:  Our last search was on the same long patio with picnic tables we'd had for the 5th container search.  Gimme did this in 31.01 seconds.  It didn't seem to take this long to me.

The numbering of their searches is different than the order we ran them in, so its possible I don't have the times matched to the right searches.  No matter - I'm still very proud of the fastest brown nose I know attached to the sweetest and smartest spotty-dottie ever

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Agility (1/6)

Class tonight went great.  I worked my plan and Gimme's first session was fabulous.  I started with brain-warm-up in the foyer and then just continued parts of the drill on the way to the startline.  I lost her briefly at the start, but a touch on her heiney and the cue "set-up" was all she needed.  From then on I couldn't have gotten away from her.  I did a few lead-out and then return to reward her stay.  Then I rewarded one jump, then two jumps, then two jumps and tunnel.  After this warm-up on course I was able to do much of the course until my handling threw her off.  

I was very pleased with her totally focused efforts and clearly it showed.  Everyone was asking me why she was so much better focused (usually her first turn is the worst).  They all thought it was some special treats or something - can't believe they didn't notice the difference in what I was "doing".  My plan was to heavily reinforce focus - you get what you pay for - and to be careful not to get sucked into trying to do the course before I had her focus. 

Our second run was not as pretty because I didn't walk it well and there were challenges I didn't have a good plan for.  However, there was nothing wrong with Gimme - she was as focused as I could ever hope for.  I just didn't have a plan to get her through the course smoothly. 

BTW I have decided to discontinue editing and uploading to youtube our agility class runs.  The vast majority of them have no views.  So I'm only going to put the time into those with something really special to show.

It does not appear NACSW is going to add a module which includes element titles anytime soon to the breed statistics feature on their website, so I spent a few minutes checking on the trial results for all the trials since inception of element titles/trials April this year.

Gimme is indeed the first Dalmatian to achieve an element title and also the first to achieve an L1I (interiors), on July 13, 2014, in LaCenter, WA. Jennifer Jackson and Steeler, along with Renelle Grajales and Sprinkles, both achieved an L1C (containers), on August 17, 2014, in Uxbridge, MA.  Its hard to know who was first without knowing the run order.  Wonderful to see two Dalmatians show their stuff in such a nice way.  I believe I mentioned I've entered Gimme for another chance at the L1C for a trial upcoming in Stevenson, WA.  I've just learned we are 15th alternate, so its just possible we'll get in.

Gimme achieved an L1E (exteriors), on September 21, 2014, in Happy Valley, OR, making her the first Dalmatian to achieve the L1E and the first to have two element titles.  The name for the location is certainly appropriate, since I was very "happy" to have success in the "valley". 

Tomorrow we'll be driving down to Albany for a weekend of four barn hunt trials in Brownsville, OR.  Its a 3 hour drive just to the hotel, so I'm going down the night before.  We have to get 5 qualifying legs to get the masters title (RATM) and we don't have any yet, so there is no chance for a title this weekend.  Personally I'd be thrilled to come home with a leg since its such a huge skill jump for the human half of the team.  Cross any body parts you can spare for us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nosework (3/5)

We only did three searches for class and Gimme did great at all of them.

The first search was an interior.  They had set up a bunch of ex pens and other barriers to form a maze of the search area.  The area included a few chairs, a mop bucket, a hanging clothes rack, a table on its side and along the walls was the usual shelves and stuff.  The bathroom was part of the search area.  The search was on leash, which made it particularly challenging.

Gimme went right in the bathroom and snooped around, but didn't stick anywhere.  I was being careful to not crowd her, but perhaps I overdid it, since there was odor in there and she left it, maybe thinking I wasn't interested.  From there she wandered through the maze and found odor on a chair.  Then she went to the other end and weaved through the maze and found odor on the mop bucket handle.  I took her around some more, but I never really took her back to the bathroom and she stopped acting like she was searching, so I called it.  Wrong, Carla.  When I got her close to the bathroom, she went right to odor this time.  One of the nice things was her lack of concern about the close confines of the maze channels - it probably helped I was so careful to not crowd her or block her access.

Our second search started with a handling exercise.  There was a long construction dumpster.  They set three odors on it in an "L" and then we did an old George Alston leash handling drill (from conformation) without the dogs.  Our "dog" was a light leash with keys on the end.  We practiced holding the leash in one hand, switching hands and not jiggling the keys (or jerking the "dog").  I did pretty good at this - probably because of my old conformation days and just a whole lot of leash handling in years of different sports.  We also did a drill about letting out and taking up leash length and I was expert at this - having spent a week learning to do the same thing at the BAT Instructor's course.  The people after me in line copied my style and did better than those before. 

Then we did the search with the dogs and Gimme thought it was a blast since all the hides were so easy.  It was slightly harder to do the good leash handling with speedy Gimme, but not too bad.  The way I handle my leash has always been a conscious combination of tracking and BAT leash work, I just didn't realize I was using conformation too.

Our last search was to do the first search off leash.  The instant I let Gimme go from the start, she raced down to the bathroom.  Needless to say she was much faster negotiating the maze than I was, so by the time I got there she was coming out to look for me.  Seeing slow poke me show up, she turned around and went right to odor for her peanut butter paycheck.  From there she went straight to the chair.  Then she sniffed around a little before heading down to the bucket.  She was the fastest of the group in this off leash search - I think because she's naturally very nose-talented and totally uninhibited about the unusual search area and the close confines of the maze channels. Ya gotta love her boldness.

I emailed a trial chair about another element trial in early October.  I haven't heard from her, so I just went online and entered.  I know they've already done the draw and probably have a waiting list.  But they are doing containers and a lot of people who titled at the trial I just came from might be entered here as well and will withdraw.  You don't have to pay until you are accepted, so I thought this was a sure way to see if there was any chance we could go to it.  The other part of the day is interior, which we already have.  Cross your fingers we get in - otherwise there is another trial a month or so later.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

7th Title in 2014

Today was a lot of fun with 10 interesting searches.  Remember the searches for element trials are different than what you'd see at a nosework trial for the same level.  There is no walk through and you only find out how much time you have for the search just moments before seeing the search area.  Because of this I sort of saunter to the start line and take about 10 seconds getting her ready to search - really I'm just looking and seeing what I can see.  This weekend I added into my exterior search a few questions of where the boundaries are, so this gives me more time to look at the area.  Also, the time is much reduced and the search areas are often unusual.

We started the morning with Containers and Gimme did a really nice job overall.  I'll get to see the actual times probably tomorrow night, certainly by the next day.  

Container search #1:  We had a bunch of boxes in a railroad boxcar.  It was a rather narrow and poorly lighted area with weird little alcoves.  Gimme pretty much pushed through to the far end, I let her.  As she turned to come back she caught the drift of odor to left and went straight to the box and bopped it.  I could have slowed her down and we might have gotten a faster time, but would have risked frustrating her.  I actually got several compliments about how I handled this search.  In the afternoon I talked to a lady who was volunteering in the morning and saw our first two searches and she said there were a lot of favorable comments from the judge and certifying official about how I supported Gimme and didn't interfere with her - which was opposite to what so many others did, mostly with unfavorable results.  This search tripped up many teams.

Container search #2:  This search was outdoors on grass in the courtyard between the 6 boxcars.  Right in front of us was a table with boxes on top, surrounded by chairs with boxes in the seats, surrounded by more boxes in the grass.  I looked off to the left and saw there were two sets of stairs leading into 2 of the boxcars and on the landing for each was 1 or 2 boxes.  I clarified whether those boxes were part of the search and upon learning they were, concluded there would either be odor in one of them, or it was a head game for me.  I let Gimme do what she does best.  She started toward the main grouping of boxes, briefly paused and her nose went up and to the left.  Then she started toward the main grouping again, before turning to make a beeline toward the second set of stairs.  She smelled each box and then stuck her foot in the second one.  She was right - they were about 20 feet from the main grouping.  This was such a neat search and she did such a great job, I really wish I had it on video. 

Container search #3:  Our third search was boxes in chairs and on "stuff" in an exterior courtyard.  Gimme was pretty quick on this search, finding odor in a box on a chair. 

Container search #4:  This was the search which tripped us up.  The search area was split between two "rooms" through a wide archway.  There were a lot of chairs, but not a whole lot of boxes overall and we only had 1 minute.  Gimme went to one box and sniffed it strongly and then sniffed another near it, but didn't commit to either.  Then I heard the 30 second warning, so I encouraged her to go around the area and check the other boxes, ending up back near the first boxes she showed interest in.  I knew time was about up and I cued her "show me", so she bopped one and I called "alert" about half a second after time was called.  It wasn't the right one.  When the judge showed us the correct one, as Gimme got closer to it, she went right in and indicated.  In guiding her around the room, I never got her close enough to catch scent from source - especially given the dead air in the room.  BTW I described the search to Dorothy, my instructor, and she threatened to slap me for saying "show me", which she has pointed out only works if Gimme is near odor - otherwise she just indicates to make me happy. 

Container search #5:  This was outside on a long patio with picnic tables.  Boxes were on the ground, the seats and the tables.  Gimme went almost straight to odor - really fast.  

The end results were 11 dogs qualified out of 34.  Gimme's total time was faster than four of the qualifiers, even given the full time from the 4th search.  She had no faults; she did a great job and her indications were mostly moderate.  I think seeing all boxes broken up by other furniture/features just isn't as exciting for her as they are when they are all in plain view.  We got a score of 80, so this gives us a leg toward our L1C.  This went a lot better than I expected and I was very happy with Gimme's efforts.

Exterior search #1:  Our first search was in a campfire area deep in the trees behind the boxcars - no apparent air movement.  Gimme dashed off the startline off to our right just along the boxcar and then about ten feet in slowed down and was clearly casting around getting no scent at all.  She looked at me as if to ask if I was sure there was something here.  Keep in mind, she doesn't know the search area.  I encouraged her to continue, kind of following the perimeter, when we got almost to the point directly across from the startline, I saw her demeanor change, becoming a bit more lively and then she turned left.  She got to a pipe thingamajig and checked it out, indicating quickly.  She was right.  The place where she indicated was about 6 feet from the startline, so clearly, any breeze there was was blowing from our backs at the startline.  I was happy to realize I'm starting to be able to read her carriage and thus able to tell if she is getting odor or not.  This will be very important before I can hope to compete at NW3. 

Exterior search #2:  This was another campfire area, surround on all sides with trees and brush.  Again, very little breeze and again, Gimme didn't get any scent until we got on the far side from the startline.  Once she caught it, she detailed and then indicated in just a couple seconds.  It was a fast search given the size of the area.

Exterior search #3:  This was a sidewalk between the building and a brick wall.  It was a long narrow area, about 6 feet wide at the start end, narrowing to 4 feet at the other end.  She smelled odor from the startline, went straight along the wall 8 feet, detailed and indicated immediately.  Our search time was mere seconds. 

Exterior search #4:  The area was partly out in the open on cement, but most was in this covered area, with brick walls on three sides.  Gimme took me into the covered area pretty quickly and was surely in odor and bouncing from thing to thing, trying to figure out where it was.  We had very little time for this search, especially given the complexity of all the stuff in the area - so I had to really restrain myself and let her sort it out.  She did, indicated and was right again. 

Exterior search #5:  Our last search was on the same long patio with picnic tables we'd had for the 5th container search.  Gimme drove straight ahead, sniffing a few spots along the way and then went directly to odor under the edge of the bench seat.  Another search time which will likely be mere seconds.  

Here's a picture of Gimme with her new title ribbon.  It was a long day and the little girl is very tired.  

Next weekend is barn hunt - so keep your fingers crossed for us.  It takes 5 legs to get the master title, we'll have four tries - I'd like to come home with some legs...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Agility (7/5)

I know the numbering on this class is strange, but Blynn seems to think we haven't finished this round and according to my records we have.  I've taken my time before blogging about class on Thursday.  It was frustrating and inconsistent and I wanted to think about it.

Our first round was an unmitigated disaster.  I never had Gimme's attention for more than a few seconds.  I knew she wasn't hurting because we had a session with Tonya the day before and she said she was back to usual physically, though she did put a lot more clean energy in her.  Tonya left at the crack of dawn this morning for vacation, so I wanted to be sure we had a "last minute" fine tuning, given the recent discombobulation.

There are a lot of reasons why our first run was so bad.  First we didn't have much warning knowing we were next.  Then there was a new person loitering between both doors with her St. Bernard, so we couldn't get in the foyer for our usual brain-warm-up.  Instead we stood in the dark under the trees.  They only moved when the other team came out and told them to move so we could come in (they were ignoring me, being focused on what was happening inside the arena).  As it turned out, a returning student had forgotten where to crate her dog, so we couldn't have used the area to warm-up anyway.  Then we get in for our turn and someone had dropped a bunch of hotdog pieces on the floor in three different places.  I finally had Gimme's attention and we were supposed to come off the dogwalk for a 90 degree right turn to the weaves, except the lady with the St. Bernard is back, standing right next to the barrier at our 11 o'clock.  <SIGH>  The whole round was a waste of time - i.e. nothing positive gained from it.

At one point Blynn said something to me and I grumbled about the "quart of food" on the ground.  I was very frustrated and likely spoke sharply because of it.  Later Blynn talked to me and asked me not to "bark" at her.  I didn't remember doing it and certainly didn't intend it, but I figure this is what she meant.  Along with an apology, I said I hadn't intended to bark at her, but I was frustrated with Gimme and I'm sure it showed up in my tone.  To which she commented, she thought I was going to have a lot of frustration "as long as the sun and moon have to be in perfect alignment to get Gimme to work with you".  

To say the least, I was stunned by this assessment.  Gimme loves to train and tries hard.  She has issues and so she does have needs which must be met, but I don't think they are unreasonable.  In thinking about this, I think Blynn is making a general assessment covering the last few months.  Think about it, I was "broken" for about 4 months starting back in April and how I was doing surely affected Gimme.  And now with this recurrence of her barn hunt injury, Gimme has been broken for more than a month.  There have been times in there when she was brilliant, but I think Blynn is only seeing one long pattern of inconsistent performance.

I don't think we need perfect cosmic alignment for her to do well.  For instance, for our next session, I was told at the last moment we would be up first.  I cut my walk through short (never getting to the end), got Gimme from the car, potty walked her briefly, stepped in the foyer and had about a minute to do our warm-up game, then on the course for a near flawless performance.  I had her attention the whole time and there was only one place where she erred.  I didn't know all of the course, but Gimme went everywhere I sent her and her one mistake could have been my fault - I'll know when I get the video.

In thinking this over, in hindsight, it probably would have been better to take a few months off when my hand problem started.  I don't think the time was a waste, but it may have contributed less than great agility training to our history.  I've decided for the next couple of months to go back to basics.  I'll practice heeling to the startline, practice more of Mecklenburg's six recall-to-heel behaviors, and go back to treating every few obstacles.  I may work with the course laid out, but getting through it won't be my aim.  I also have some ideas about working through the food shopping and starting work on the reactivity, I'll be using our "whazzat" a lot.  

I know my plans will work, I just have to work through them and not let myself be lured into doing the course without the basics in place.  Blynn would want me to be stricter with Gimme, but its not my style and for heaven's sake, she's not a Border Collie. So, I'm not going to take Blynn's comment personally, though it sure felt personal when she said it.  Instead I'm going to take it as a challenge to get back on plan with my brilliant girl.  She doesn't have to be brilliant all the time.  Still, I do want to see the less than brilliant moments in the "damn good" category.  ☺

I don't think I've mentioned I have signed up for a Rally FrEe course on Tuesday nights, starting in October.  The class is in Lynnwood, so it will be a long drive, 1:15 going up and probably longer coming back due to rush hour traffic.  

Now I'm going to start packing the car and then we'll leave for the drive to our hotel in Clackamas, Oregon.  We have two element trials on Sunday, for containers (AM) and exteriors (PM).  I'm not as confident with containers because it'll be a field of boxes and we'll be doing them four times.  Gimme tends to get more and more stimulated each time she sees boxes, so she could revert to demolition mode.  I think it'll go smoother when we get to level 2 container element and then the search will have a mix of containers, not just boxes.  I'm certain we'll do well with the exterior element.  In any case, cross any body parts you can spare.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nosework (2/5) & tricks

Gimme was great in nosework class tonight - of course, she always is.  We had one of each type of search and she aced them all.  I did three of the four searches blind - since my ability to read her is the skill we need the most.  Sorry, no video.

The first search was an exterior on blacktop, with a 6 foot wide strip of gravel/dirt along one side.  Gimme seemed to have found odor from the startline (probably from the last hide she found), but then didn't go toward it.  Instead she veered off toward a grate at our 1 o'clock, but never really committed to it, so I didn't call it.  From there I casually guided her along the gravel/dirt side, starting on the perimeter and was complimented on how I guided her while letting her be in the lead.  I find it works better when she believes she's guiding me.  She found odor on a pipe cap sticking up out of the ground.  Then she went with me completing the perimenter and as we got back to the start, she went right to another grate and indicated odor.  All the drains are connected, so this explains why she showed attention to the other grate.  From there I started her around on another perimeter, but inside the first one by about 8 feet.  This led us to the third hide.  

The second search was a vehicle, a large John Deere caterpillar tractor.  She started as if to go right across the front, but then whipped back and went down the left side to the back of the blade and indicated there.  Then she went on her original path, counter clockwise around the caterpillar, sniffing here and there and found another source of odor on the back end.  Its a big rig, so it was possible there could be a third hide.  I took her all the way around and showed her areas to search she hadn't really paid attention to the first time.  She dutifully sniffed them all, but I got the sense her heart wasn't in it.  She went back to each of the hides she found and I thanked her and moved on.  When we completed our round I called "finish" and was correct. 

Our third search was an interior.  I remembered to stay at the entrance and wait to see if she'd catch anything at the threshold.  It worked beautifully.  She blasted through and past the threshold area, turned to see what I was doing standing still and came back toward me.  In doing so she caught odor to the left of the threshold about three feet, stuck to a rack of folding chairs.  Then she searched the rest of the area and found a channel hide behind a table leaning against the wall.  Afterwards she just noodled around.  She sort of sniffed a large section of one corner, but never seemed to be narrowing her search area, then went to both of the hides she'd already found. I called "finish" and was correct again.

Our last search was containers and I elected to know where the hides were for this.  We are going for a Level1 Container element this weekend, so I wanted to be able to pay her quickly - not wanting to resurrect the scratching.  This search was mostly boxes with a bunch of white llama stuffed toys.  Odor was in the tail of one of the toys and in a box.  Gimme was really intrigued by the toys and kept wanting to pick them up and carry them away.  They are very similar to her first baby toys (sheep), so I'm sure this contributed to the attraction.  Of course, once she found odor on one, she was really attracted to them.  I repeatedly urged her to leave them and finally she went back to work and found the box.  I don't know if the toys would actually be in a real trial, since they aren't exactly containers, though they could be in an interior search area.

I am starting to see what she looks like when there is no more odor to be found.  First, she makes a dutiful effort to check whatever I ask her to - if she isn't done searching on her own, she's less likely to follow my directions.  Second, she is more likely to return to odor she has already indicated.  I want to do a lot more blind hides in class so I can really develop my ability to read her.

On facebook this morning, I found a video of how someone taught an out and around using platforms.  It was really interesting and worked so well for his dog.  You can see it at:          out around and back

I did a session of this with Gimme.  We didn't get through it in one session like Jan did, but its because I discovered a training hole we need to work through.  Gimme is really adept at using her back feet, but I have allowed her in our other backing up stuff to a) turn sideways as she is backing up or b) walk toward the item and then turn at the last moment to back on it.  So I'll need to work on those things to clean up the behavior.  

Another thing I need to do is fix my short platform.  It is just plain paint and so its a little slippery.  I noticed Gimme's foot sliding a couple of times when she was casting around behind her with her foot.  I want her to be confident of the platform, so I'll try to get another coat of paint on it and sprinkle some texture sand into it.  I can work on solidifying the backing up skill using other props while it dries.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Recycling (3)

We've just done another session and she's progressing very well.

We started out with the tin can.  I clicked a few times for picking it up and then withheld clicks until she got it in the bin.  We worked on this for quite a bit and I did something different.  She got it in twice and then seemed to get stuck on picking up the can and then dropping it right away.  So three times, I'd pick it up myself, make a big show of tossing it in the bin, celebrate with an excited high pitched "Yaaaaay", pretend to eat a piece of cheese and then give her a piece.  Then I let her try.  When she still didn't get it, I repeated the demonstration.  Right after the second demonstration she started getting it in the bin consistently on her own.  She mostly dropped it once on the way, but got really excited about picking it up right away and dropping it in on the second try.

She was more excited by my excited high pitched "Yaaaaay" followed by a jackpot than she was by the click.  I've often said she works a lot for me and training is more about our interaction than it is about treats.  For instance, she is content to work for treats I will give her despite the main container being readily available to her.  She could easily snatch a mouthful and on rare occasions she has, so she knows she can and she knows I won't punish her for cheating, yet she still refrains.  Likewise she will not steal treats left in a dish on the end table when I'm in another room, though she could and I probably wouldn't even realize it.  This despite being the typical Dalmatian spotted bottomless pit.  She is the same way about her toys.  She'll try to entice me to play with her and the toys.  If she is unsuccessful and still wants to play, she brings the toy and lays across my lap to play with it.  So, if I won't join her in play, she'll bring the play to me.  Anyway, her response to the "Yaaaaay" fits this theme.

After the big success with the can, we worked with a plastic bottle.  Boyoh was it ever a challenge.  She's played with them before, so I knew she had no problem picking them up.  Then I realized she was looking for the can; she had associated the excited high pitched "Yaaaaay" to the can.  I had to use the clicker to get her interested in the bottle, but she wasn't as enthusiastic as she'd been with the can.  Finally she accidentally dropped the bottle in the bin, got a "Yaaaaay" and a jackpot, then she was all about the bottle, deliberately dropping it in the bin several times.

We ended with a test of her understanding about getting multiple items in the bin.  I put out a piece of rolled up stiff paper, a tin can and a bottle.  She very quickly got all three into the bin for me.  

At this rate, I think we'll do one more session of multiple items, solidifying the getting-them-in-the-bin part, no matter what item I indicate.  Then the next step is understanding to take them to the bin even when its not close to me.  She's brilliant, so I'm sure she'll get it.

Lordy she is fun to train.

Recycling (2)

Today I decided to try working on this behavior with items other than paper.  So I used a tin can.  I started with simply shaping her to pick it up.  It was a bit of a challenge, but she's a foodie and will do pretty much anything for more of it.  No matter whether we continue this trick - it still works to the good if we ever get around to scent articles. It took probably 25 treats to get her to pick it up, carry it to the recycle bin and drop it in.  Then we did it a few more times.

We'll practice this with a few other recycle items.  Then I need to start moving the bin further away from me - inches at a time.  Right now its almost in front of me, so its easy to get her to drop an item in it.  Eventually I'd want her to pick up/take something and carry it to the bin.  

We'll need that skill to get to my final goal of laying on the couch eating bon-bons while she collects up all the recycle stuff.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


When Gimme gets bored, she gets paper out of the recycle trash and shreds it in front of me to communicate her dissatisfaction with life.  Interestingly she understands the rule about making messes and NEVER shreds paper unless I'm there to see it.  We have an agreement, there is a big difference between making a mess and communication.  However, I've decided its high time for her to start picking up her messier communication.  So yesterday I started teaching her to pick up paper and put it in the recycle.
I planned it poorly, starting with the tissue paper she had just shredded.  It wasn't as easy for her because it stuck to her lips, but she finally realized I wanted her to pick it up.  The second session I balled up paper and tossed it for her to pick up.  I clicked for picking it up and moving toward me.  She would accidentally drop it in the trash, which I'd click and treat.  But I don't think she realized it was falling in the trash. 

When I switched to a bigger stiffer piece of paper and rolled it up, then it was more obvious to her where it was landing.  She would pick it up multiple times and drop it closer to the trash.  At the end I started withholding c/t if it didn't fall in the trash.  So she was making bigger moves toward the trash.  After she'd drop it, she'd look to see why I wasn't clicking, then would try again.  By the end she was learning to drop it in the trash - with flare.  It was still with extra steps between first picking it up and getting it in the trash, but she was getting better.
This video is of the third session.  I thought she might pick up where we left off, but wasn't the case.  So I started clicking for picking up pieces and then would randomly not-click to get more behavior.  She's pretty funny when she's tossing it in the trash.  She tried cheating and even got away with it once.  I loved the last little segment the best - it shows she was really understanding it was supposed to go in the container.

Agility Videos

These are some videos from classes.  I'm trying to get caught up on them.  The first two I never wrote anything about the class, so I don't exactly know what was going on.  I've pared them down to a nice sequence or two.

We had a hard time getting the second session going.  When Gimme thinks she's done something wrong, then she really has a hard time focusing for a bit.  I've learned to do some tricks or something so she can be right and then get back to what we were doing, but I sometimes forget (especially in agility class).

Here are some training clips from the last class I did before surgery.  It wasn't the last class, just the last one I handled.  Gimme was really unfocused here - probably because I was hurting and in the back of my mind, worried about the surgery.  I wanted to show how quickly she picks things up.  She understood how to do the turn after two tries and only one successful and rewarded. 

She's a very quick study.  If she had a better trainer, she'd be a genius by now.  Actually she is a genius - it should read, she be more accomplished by now.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Agility (6/5) & Video

I apologize for being so quiet this week.  No nosework class on Monday, plus I've had a mild migraine for 10 days.  I got back on caffeine to combat the lethargy from the drugs for my hand. Recently I've been so tired, sleeping all the time, but never getting rested.  I conclude its because of how caffeine interferes with the quality of my sleep.  Whenever I "quit" caffeine, I struggle with migraines for about 2 weeks.  Nasty business, but better than walking around in a fog 24/7. 

Since our last agility class, we've had two more sessions with Tonya.  Its taking a lot of effort to get this neck/back issue under control.  I had the session right after the head smacking (the barn hunt tunnel injury) and I thought it would be enough.  Clearly it wasn't and the time between then and when this flared up again a couple weeks ago seems to be enough for it to get deeply seated.  Our session this Wednesday required the least effort.  Tonya is about to go on vacation and will be gone for three weeks, so I'll have her check Gimme before she leaves.

Yesterday for agility class, Gimme did much better.  We jumped low and she was quite a bit more focused.  Blynn reminded me to move with determination.  When Gimme is unfocused and not reliably responding to my cues, my tendency is to compensate - essentially doing more than my "share".  This is similar to how I trained her when she was younger and it took a lot of Blynn's coaching to break the habit and teach Gimme to do her part.  Apparently its easy for me to fall back into those habits.  

Thus our first run was choppy.  Gimme was working well, having fun and trying hard, but I wasn't always giving her the cues she needed.  Plus when I'm compensating, then I'm also not moving out.  In a motion-based handling system, not moving out does not equal good cuing.  

Our second run was much better.  I was determined to really move and did a bit better.  One turn to a jump at the very beginning of the course was quite challenging.  Gimme kept bypassing it.  I finally got her on the correct side and said "jump" and she did just what I said - crashing into the uprights.  I was really surprised because she normally has a very good sense of self preservation.  I think she must've been so focused on me, she just followed my verbal cue without really looking where she was jumping.  Otherwise the course was really nice and she was focused and doing a good job.  

Here are video's from mid April, just two weeks after my hand first went kaflooey.  Gimme was focused and fast and back to her usual style; probably because I felt better.  We had a few challenging spots and were able to work through them nicely.  My verbal cues continue to be late - it would be just as effective to leave them out entirely.

Gimme started out well, but was distracted by treats left dropped someone right near the aframe.  Clearly a training hole we'll have to address at some point.  She shouldn't be finding food on a course once we are in competition, but sometimes they are held at sites where classes are taught, so she could be drawn off by enticing smells left behind.  Once I picked up all the treats, she did well until the 2nd to last jump - its easy to pressure her off a jump unintentionally.   

She really is the smartest dog I've ever worked with.  Early this year I taught her to send to a tunnel opening turned away from her and it took her a few tries then, but she figured it out quickly.  We haven't seen that exercise since then, but it was in tonight's course and she aced it as if we'd just trained it recently.  She rarely forgets anything.

We had difficulty with the poles because Blynn wanted me to handle it differently and I hadn't trained Gimme to the level required.  I still need to work on her commitment to the poles.  You'll see once she gets it right - afterward, she just does it like she'd been doing it all her life.
Between her runs, everyone was complimenting her and talking about how smart she is.  They really like watching her learn things because she puzzles through it and then when she gets it, she's so obvious; like, "ohhhh, why didn't you just say so..."  Then she's cocky about it.  Everyone loves her attitude, and of course, how cute and pretty she is.

The second run was nice.  Not a lot to comment on.  Gimme was really doing her job, so all Blynn's advice was about me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Agility (5/5)

Today we met with Tonya for another treatment.  Poor Gimme was still really out of whack, though it was mostly neck and shoulders, the hips and low back held the prior treatment.  Gimme had a lot of muscle knots.  Tonya really had to work on her for a long time to get everything back to normal.  I was going to skip class and keep her home, but Tonya thought it would be better to get her moving.  So we decided to jump her with the little dogs in class and do no weaves.

For our first course, Gimme was eager to work and attentive, but the first few starts she would not do the first jump.  Each time she just neatly stepped around it.  I immediately realized she was concerned about it hurting, so I lured her over the jump with a tossed treat a few times.  From then on she was fine with jumping.  

In fact in both courses I noticed a bit her wanting to just run and jump and not really pay attention to my cues.  She was paying attention, but was also focused far ahead and not making some turns which I was cuing correctly.  I know she knows the cuing.  It was like she was running along, playing and singing to herself, "la la-la la lah..."

I've been wondering what brought all this on and had a thought coming home. When this latest discombobulation started, it was exactly a month from the incident when Gimme ran headlong into a barn hunt tunnel and smacked her head so hard on the wooden tunnel roof.  We saw Tonya for a treatment right away.  The neck/head area was what needed work then and the same area has needed a lot of focus for these two treatments.  So I'm thinking the struggle over being positioned for the x-ray was enough to cause the same thing to resurface.  Adding in the affect of the x-ray disruption to her energy/chakra just made it really pronounced.  It wasn't such a huge struggle, but I suspect the issue was primed to crop up again and this was all it took.

Anyway, Gimme had fun in class, is clearly feeling better.  As we speak she is sound sleep.

Nosework (1/5)

Here are the videos from class this week.  I noticed Gimme wasn't as perky as she normally is.  I found out later her back/hips are still hurting, so she is getting another treatment tomorrow.

The first search was an interior with one hide.  The hide is under the seat on a stool right next to the big black chair (left foreground against the wall).  On the other side of the stool is a baby gate flat on the floor, to add to the puzzle for access.  When I found out where the hide was, I was surprised Gimme didn't just push right in there.  Of course hindsight knowing she's still experiencing discomfort, it makes perfect sense.  She wasn't at all bothered by the man walking through the search area.  She does spend a lot of time checking other stuff, which could be pooling odor due to the overhead fans.  Because of the access issue, this is considered an NW2 level hide.  She sucked me in on the folding chair - or maybe I sucked me in, because she didn't do a real indication there.  I just called it because she went so far under it with her head and the search seemed to be taking F-O-R-E-V-E-R.  You'll note she finally decides where it is, but still doesn't commit to telling me its there - I waited for a strong alert. It was a long search, but I see value in letting her figure it out and decide to really insist this is it.

Clearly she got all warmed up on the interior, because she nailed the container hide in 12 seconds!

The warm up stuck with her and Gimme nailed this vehicle hide in 10 seconds!

Gimme actually left the designated search area here, but I let her.  I've learned to let her chase odor in the way she wants to.  Good idea, since she nails this - again in 10 seconds!

Gimme found the threshold hide very quickly - 9 seconds.  This was totally on her, since I didn't actually stand in the door so she'd come back to check the threshold like I usually do.  Clearly she detected it from the startline.  Having the garage door open makes the search a different challenge.  Letting her sort it out on her own the first time around worked well, since she found it in less than half the time the second time.  It took just 1:30 between the first and second hides, compared to 3:30 to find just the one during the first search.

She found the first hide on the vehicle even faster this time - just 6 seconds!  Gimme normally isn't hesitant to go in tight spaces, so I chalk this up to her discomfort again.  Once I lead her in, she goes right in and finds the second hide in just 30 seconds.  

Clearly I don't want her to be in pain or uncomfortable.  Still its nice to know she will work through it if the work doesn't make the discomfort worse (comparing her response to nosework vs response to agility).  She loves work and so will always try.  On the other hand, she's smart enough to not beat up her body for it.  

Tomorrow she gets a treatment and I surely hope it will resolve this for her.