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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nosework (3/6)

We had the most interesting setups for class tonight.  The whole goal was to see how well we could handle the dog on leash if the search area was challenging.  So Dorothy purposely set up a situation where the dogs were going into narrow channels AND could pass under at the back, where the handler couldn't.  Here is the layout:

The green half-moons are all chairs and yellow squares are tables.  The orange lines are a room barrier, which restricts movement, but not air flow.  The lower right triangle is the door to the area.  Blue square is a filing cabinet and black square an open cabinet full of stuff.  We were to come in and treat the entry as a threshold regardless of whether there was odor there.  We had four searches and the last one was blind.

The first search was off leash so we could observe how our dogs worked in this complicated area.  Gimme found both hides very quickly.  Many dogs tried to push through/behind the barrier, but Gimme just quickly went around it - something she learned long ago on vehicles.

The second search was on leash and quickly proved challenging.  You can drop the leash in nosework, but need to pick it up really quickly again.  There are instances where a judge may fault you for dropping a leash if they think its unsafe, such as an open exterior search near a road.  Many of the dogs, Gimme included, thought we were about to dish out treats when we bent over to pick up the leash.  By the end of this search and the next, they were already getting used to our clumsy leash handling and picking up and dropping it.

The third search was a definite case of converging odor and it was interesting to watch the dogs sort it out.  Gimme didn't seem to find it particularly challenging.

The last search was blind.   Our instructions were to open the door, hold onto our dogs and announce (after observing their behavior) whether we thought the hide was "threshold" or "deep".  We could do it either on or off leash.  I decided to do it off leash and to work the threshold the way I normally do, which is to let Gimme blast into the area as she likes to do, and I just hang out near the threshold - she always comes back and checks the area then.  I watched her nose and saw her sniffing and there was a slight pause as she sniffed toward the right, so I called it "threshold".  When I turned her loose she went down by the chairs in front of the tables, then seeing I hadn't moved, came back and found the hide.  It was probably a six second hide.  

Dorothy thinks Gimme would find the threshold faster if she was on leash, but I have my doubts.  I find frustrating Gimme slows down her searching.  Of course, the best time to test these ideas is in class.  So we'll play with it some.  Its a good time to introduce new ideas.

I did see Gimme was a bit baby-needy this class and she wasn't last time.  She even tried to convince me she should bring the baby in once and could search with it in her mouth.  I made her leave it behind.  It occurred to me she had been much calmer before the weekend, which was just a couple days into when I reduced the amount of the remedy she is getting for her false pregnancy.  She'd been on a loading dose and after ten days I reduced it to its regular dose.  I've since added more in, and she's getting a dose halfway between loading and normal.  

Sunday night I'd tried practicing at the arena for our upcoming RallyFrEe video debut.  It was one of the worst practices we've ever had.  After last night and adjusting her dose up a bit, we practiced again tonight.  Gimme was very good - the difference was dramatic.  And this practice was with William and Chris there observing and occasionally moving a bit.  They were so kind to hang out for our training benefit.  William will be videotaping us, so it was great to have this opportunity for Gimme to get used to his presence in the middle of the "ring". 

Its good to have Gimme back to normal.  I notice she is back to playing with her toys as well and the baby doesn't demand her presence every minute.  Sometimes it lays in the other room unattended for 30 minutes!  I'm really encouraged with this new herb and can't wait to see how it works next time around when we can start it much earlier in the process.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nosework (2/6)

We went to class, even though I've had a severe migraine since Gimme's episode on Thursday.  I got into my chiropractor yesterday and it helped a lot - I was even better after a 2 hour nap.  Still, the drive to class was interesting and challenging, especially with all the bright lights and reflections.

Our first search was a vehicle search outdoors.  Gimme found one of the two hides.  She was not terribly interested in searching and I wondered if the cold was diminishing her enthusiasm, even though I've never noticed it before and she was wearing her t-shirt for extra warmth.

The second search was a series of 4 threshold hides.  Gimme found them all, but again was her not her usual focused and enthusiastic self.  At this point I concluded she was worried about me... and indeed it was hard to for me to focus and the lights were very painful.

Before our third search I talked to Gimme and told her I would be alright and I needed her to do it all for me, because I couldn't.  I urged her to have fun with the search and not worry about her Mom.  This was a repeat of the threshold series, though the hides had been moved about.  Gimme went in and knocked it out of the park... boom-boom-boom-boom.  She did them so fast it was hardly any fun at all.  

I learned on 11/9 we had been moved up and got into the Level 2 Interior trial on December 7th.  I'd no more than sent in our check when I learned we moved up to a working slot for the Level 1 Container trial on December 6th.  We need a leg to complete our L1C and of course I'd like to earn the L2I.  So cross any body parts you can spare.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Seizure! (RFE 1/2)

RallyFrEe class promised to be a good one.  Gimme is responding well to a new supplement for her false pregnancy, so I expected she'd be a LOT better focused in class.  She was better, but not a lot better.  Since I had her on the floor checking out the area, we were volunteered to go first in the course Kathy had set up for us.  The plan was we would walk the course (which I'd already done), do the course with our dog, individually walk the course again with feedback from Kathy - particularly about timing and smoothness, and then do the course again with our dogs.

Gimme did okay, though she was distracted here and there and some of her turns were wide.  Still there were other spots where she did a beautiful job.  I was sure she'd do better on our second turn together.  Gimme was in her soft crate and I was watching the second team, thinking how much better Gimme did, when she suddenly started flailing around in her crate.

It was like she was chasing her tail (which she's never done), while flopping over onto her side and swimming part of the turn.  I immediately got my hand in the crate to calm and steady her while trying to figure out what she was doing... she kept falling into my hand and trembling and I realized she was having a grand mal.  I yelled to the instructor about needing help and directions to a nearby vet.  The whole class sprung into action... I brought Gimme out of the crate and she was still very unsteady on her feet and clinging to me.  Within a minute I was given a hand-drawn map to a nearby vet and we headed out.  By the time we got to the car, she ignored my attempt to help her and jumped in on her own.

The vet got us in right away, but there was nothing to see.  Gimme seemed perfectly normal and was her usual kissy face self.  There was no evidence whatsoever of illness.  They took blood for lab work and it was normal, other than a very elevated WBC count at 20K (normal range is 5-16K).  We were unable to collect urine since Gimme had peed both when we arrived and on the way out of the training building.  The doctor felt a WBC count so high indicated some infection, which might be the cause of the seizure, especially in combination with the stress of class.  Gimme had been pestering me to go out MANY times the night before - so I thought it could be a UTI.  When it was happening I hadn't thought too much about it because Gimme often rings the bell to go outside in an attempt to get me off the computer.

Gimme had also been picky and uninterested in her breakfast, but this isn't unusual when breakfast comes early and especially if I'm rushing about, so I paid it little attention.  In hindsight I think differently.  Of course, since she had her evening soup very early Wednesday night and ignored it Thursday morning, she might have been slightly dehydrated.  Severe dehydration can cause seizures because it throws off electrolyte balance, which the first vet checked and found within a normal range.  Still subclinical dehydration can cause vestibular syndrome, so I'm not ignoring the possibility.

We did get a urine sample analyzed, but it was normal - with just a little bacteria, which our regular vet thought was from contamination routinely seen with free catch samples.  He poo pooed the idea of high WBC count indicating an infection which could cause a seizure.  However, since then I've talked to my chiropractor, who has a dog with a seizure disorder - he said seizures can be caused by a high WBC count, as well as seizures causing high WBC count.  I've confirmed this by information on several different websites. 

I've also considered her atlas vertebrae might be off, so have scheduled her for a chiropractic adjustment.  I know when my atlas is locked up I get migraines.  My chiropractor agreed a misaligned atlas could be a contributing factor for a seizure, but also said it wouldn't be the only cause.

So right now we don't really know anything and I am in wait-n-see mode.  In most cases, if you can get through six months without another episode, there is a good chance it was a one time occurrence.  Of course, this is not a guarantee and there are many exceptions to the rule.  My chiropractor said many times dogs (and children) will have single event episodes which are never repeated - he referred to it as a "perfect storm" of different factors which together cause "disorganized and sudden electrical activity in the brain".   

Needless to say I am on pins and needles...  while Gimme thinks a large dish of vanilla ice cream every day would prevent a recurrence.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

All Whacked Out

This blog post is going to consist of a (very long) rebuttal to a recent blog post by Gary Wilkes, What is Real Clicker Training?  There is so much therein, which is counter to my entire paradigm about dogs and dog training. 

Wilkes believes it is a necessity to have "unpleasant consequences” for unwanted behavior or for failure to obey.  On the surface this sounds reasonable.  Missing in his analysis is a discussion of what is necessary or even appropriate "unpleasant consequences".

I maintain it is unacceptable to allow a guest to bait a dog into unwanted behavior and then to punish the same unwanted behavior (as shown in the video) with bonking.  The dog did not jump on the guest until invited up by the hands spreading wide.  To me this is patently unfair when you could just as easily set up a training session and teach the dog how to behave correctly and reward those successes.  If you are certain you are going to have a large number of stupid behaving guests who will make inviting gestures (spreading the arms toward the dog), then simply spend some time teaching this gesture as a new signal to sit.  Why not teach the dog an opening-door is another cue for sit?

So what is the problem with the approach shown?  For one thing, this is presented as only taking three tries to get from untrained to perfect behavior, still its clearly an edited video - so we don't really know how many times the dog got bonked.  In the first clip, the dog has a full body tail wag, a sign of a dog who is relaxed and comfortable.  By the end of the treatment, the tail wag, while still wide, is now lower and circular, showing a nervous quality.  The dog is now looking at the owner in a way which suggests anxiety.  Remember, just because the tail is wagging does not mean the dog is happy - in many dogs it is a simply a sign the dog is having an emotion, also dogs wag their tails to pacify others.

I will not say the bonking method mixed with marker training doesn't work, but remember, just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should.  This method has potential side affects.  One of the main side affects is a dog who now associates the bonk-giver with the bonk.  I don't know about you, but I want my dog to trust me and know I will keep her safe.  I don't think my dog should ever have mixed emotions about what to expect from me.  I don’t want her to watch my hands and ever wonder if the thing I’m carrying will be used to hit her.  I can provide relevant consequences without hitting her.  I don't have to use some tool and give it a cutesy name to cover up the aversive nature of the strike.

The other big side affect is when the dog associates an aversive with what they are looking at when it happens.  This dog could just as easily believe the approaching man is the reason he got bonked (i.e. not the jumping up behavior).  We don’t know how this dog will react over the long term.  It could be the behavior is only temporarily suppressed and may resurface.  Any question of potential negative side affects could have been avoided entirely with strictly reward-based training to teach better door manners.  I am particularly fond of how Victoria Stillwell (It’s Me or The Dog) approaches this problem.

Wilkes’ fault-finding of Karen Pryor’s book, Don’t Shoot the Dog, isn’t particularly accurate.  It said you can teach an animal to do anything they are physically and emotionally capable of achieving. I found her book made a point of a saying a dog could change/control their own behavior every bit as reliably (and perhaps more so) to earn rewards as to avoid punishment.  Punishment often gives a false impression of improved behavior due to the overall suppression of behavior, which is not always permanent.  Aversives do have potential for more side affects than reward based training.  Karen Pryor is not the only person to say these things.  Many authors with more actual dog training experience are saying the same things.

And speaking of Pryor’s experience in marine mammal and other not-dog training – why would we assume her training expertise is invalid because its not dogs.  Dogs learn by the same processes as every other species.  If zoo trainers can teach an orangutan to take a small urine sample cup, pee into the cup and then hand it back without spilling it – well I just think it shouldn’t be too hard to teach the family dog not to jump on people.  If you really want to understand the complexities of training other animals, check out Kathy Sdao’s blog about E.T. the Walrus.

Weighing in at two tons, hormone-laden E.T. could easily have killed any of his handlers and had killed other exhibit marine mammals.  Using reward based training and some environmental enrichment, E.T. was transformed from a dangerous bully to a talented boy.  One of his behaviors was to voluntarily permit a blood draw.  Kathy is fond of saying you learn what is possible in reward based training when you can’t punish the animal because it might kill you.

Wilkes says the four assumptions are “neither scientific nor true”, yet provides no science to prove them wrong.  He says the assumptions of “all positive” training are not applicable to predatory beasts like dogs.   So I guess the other predatory zoo animals trained with reward based training are some kind of anomaly.  You know the ones – lions, tigers and bears, oh my.

Wilkes unfairly describes the thinking of reward-based trainers in very all or nothing terms.  He also alludes to his reality where the “advanced clicker trainers” have only trained a few dogs.   I have used aversives, but only when I ran out of reward-based options and only to the minimum extent necessary to create an opening for reward based solutions.

Bob Bailey talks about people who say they had to use punishment because “nothing else worked”.  When pressed for what they had tried, they only tried 2 or 3 options before resorting to punishment.  I can think of ten different ways to teach a dog not to rush the door or jump on guests.  Doesn’t it behoove us to try most of them before bonking the dog?

Wilkes’ blanket statement, “only aversive control is capable of stopping a dog from being a dog when it feels like it” is not true.  If teaching a terrier not to chase squirrels is the gold standard, sorry Wilkes - its been done.  In fact the opportunity to bark at squirrels became the reward one owner used in agility training her terrier on her way to a MACH.  The chief difficulty with this kind of training is controlling the squirrel resource. 

I don’t know about the behavior of Karen Pryor’s dog, but found Wilkes’ mind-reading abilities astounding, the way he read her mind and knew so exactly her motivation and thinking for the things she said about training a squirrel chasing terrier.  I also do know the old saying, “the cobbler’s kids got no shoes”.  Many people admit their own dogs’ training suffers when they got famous and were so often gone on the lecture circuit, so its easy for me to assume Karen’s dog is not an exception.  Some famous trainers make it work, Denise Fenzi springs to mind, but I think its because they have an internal motivation and commitment to train their dogs and they have competitive goals to meet.  For someone like Karen, who doesn’t compete and only enjoys her family dog, I think spending the time tweaking every little behavior just doesn’t have the same driving force.

I do find it interesting he never defines “aversive control”.  He never discusses what the limits are for its use.  Certainly the example he showed in the video didn’t justify the breaking of trust, in my opinion.

Wilkes repeats his claim about there being no “real world examples of dependable performance with dogs”, which is simply false.  Service dogs of all stripes are trained using all reward training.   Many highly successful agility dogs are trained without aversives.  All the nosework and barn hunt dogs I know are trained without aversives.  I don’t know of any freestyle dogs who are bonked down the road to success.  Denise Fenzi’s dogs are trained without aversives…  so much so - her dogs find losing an opportunity to train/perform their biggest aversive.  Even if there were no examples of really reliable high quality training done with all positive training – the real fly in the ointment is how many thousands and thousands of dogs trained with aversives and competing at high levels are unable to demonstrate truly reliable behaviors.  So clearly “aversive control” is not all its cracked up to be – its not the panacea for all dog training problems everywhere.

Wilkes tries to claim scientific training is flawed and can’t be used reliably in the “real world”.  He completely side-steps the fact of how his own brand of bonk and mark training fits so neatly into the operant conditioning model.  While he states how “traditional dog training methodology has worked for more than 15,000 years in hundreds of different applications with hundreds of millions of dogs”, he fails to address the abuse and near torture which has been heaped upon many of those hundreds of millions in the name of traditional training.  In fact, at one point in human history, it was scientifically fashionable to say animals could not reason and had no feelings, essentially they were no more than meat-machines.  This view helped to justify the cruelty used to train and work animals for centuries.

Personally I’ve been to at least 300 agility competitions and have yet to see even ONE dog leave the ring to attack another dog.  Of the dogs with start line stay issues, as many were aversive trained as were positive reward trained.  One of the worst obedience stay problems belongs to a Weimaraner who is trained traditionally and jerked around or "accidentally" has its foot stepped on when it fails to stay.  The dogs I’ve seen with table issues were dealing with anxiety issues and I do not believe adding more anxiety in the form of punishment would suddenly cure the problem.

The reality is – any form of training, any training philosophy is only as good as the person doing it.  As Wilkes says, traditional aversive training has been around for 15,000 years, so it stands to reason there are many more people who are really good at punishing dogs.  Compared to the thirty years of reward based dog training.  Reward based training has come a long way and its getting better all the time.  To be sure, there are still many people who are ineffective all positive trainers.  My guess is they’d be just as ineffective with punishment.

Wilkes wants you to abandon an all-positive approach and return to a more traditional style of training.  Be very, very glad the Wright brothers, Cugnot and Rivaz didn’t abandon their early powered transportation attempts even though they were slower than the local mule.  If they had, you’d be driving a buggy instead of a Chevy.

The use of rats and pigeons by scientists is prevalent because of space constraints, its about economics.  Quite simply you can work with a lot more rats and pigeons than you can dogs for the same dollars.  Also, for a long time, studying dogs was considered unscientific and was largely frowned upon.  To leap from there to a conclusion saying learning processes are different is just unscientific.  I don’t know what dogs Wilkes has been around, but I have never met one who sneered at a treat when hungry because it was the wrong time of day. Seriously?  My dog can tell me down to the minute when her next meal is due.  In over four years, she has only refused treats a couple of times and it wasn’t because of the time of day. To say a dog doesn’t learn the same because its progenitors ate about once a week is just silly.

The failed examples he gives of early attempts to train dogs using Skinner-Breland style methods simply did not take into account the one thing which is truly unique about dogs – their relationship bias.  Dogs are far more sensitive and intune to human behaviors, picking up the subtle nuances of our moods and attitudes, than any other species.  I believe the early failures were because of trying to be too clinical, depriving the dogs of the relationship connection.  We’ve bred dogs to be connected and they notice the subtlest of things.  Successful trainers, like Denise Fenzi, get great results using all positive training because they use the relationship connection to enhance training.

His explanation about some carnivorous predators being more like grazers (dolphins) than others (wolves) doesn’t fly.  He states wolves eat things which are 10 – 15 times larger than they are.  The strongest studies on the diet of wolves shows they eat a huge variety of other animals, from ungulates to earthworms.  When they do eat large game, they prey on the old and infirm.  Its not because they don’t want to risk injury, its because they are conserving their own energy.

I found his argument about “instinctive drift” unconvincing at best.  While “instinctive drift” can be an issue, I saw nothing to suggest using Wilkes’ “aversive control” would resolve it.

Oddly, one of Wilkes’ arguments to refute the effectiveness of all positive training, actually proves the problem we, the ideologically myopic, have with punishment.  He said “a host of others have failed to integrate a dog’s ability to “take the hit” and continue to perform happily”.  For many dogs this is true… to the point where dogs will continue to perform despite showing calming signals and other negative symptoms of their internal stress.  This is more prevalent in some breeds than others.  Some dogs will tolerate more and more and more punishment, to where you must use excessive force to control/inhibit unwanted behaviors.  I fail to see where this is a good thing.  Again, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

In any case, using reward based methods have greatly expanded the number of breeds which can be highly successful in performance sports.  Its no longer necessary to own one of the few breeds which are highly resilient or obsessive compulsive if you want to compete in dog sports.  From Bulldogs to Borzois, Dachshunds to Dalmatians, Huskies to Hounds – there are now breeds of every size and temperament able to compete in many different sports, because they don’t have to endure aversives to be trained.

Wilkes insists the only way to break through any dog’s special distraction is to use aversives/punishment.  Those of us who align with reward based training know we can split the elements of the distraction down to its smallest effect and teach the dog how to work through it one step at a time.  Those who work with reactive dogs (regardless of their trigger) know the most important thing we can do is to work through the individual bits of the trigger.  To quote Bob Bailey, “Be a Splitter, Not a Lumper.”

Wilkes assumes all clicker trainers have a rabid aversion to aversives.  He assumes there can be no reliable training without aversives, then demonstrates a training scenario where use of aversives was entirely unnecessary.  Any ten of my students could have solved the jumping up without hitting the dog.  Wilkes assumes aversives are a necessity – thus he jumps to their use almost immediately (just watch some of his youtube videos – I sure don’t want to be a bar setter in the ring with the agility dog he threw the bonker at).  Whereas I assume aversives are a last resort – thus I almost never need them.

To be clear, while Wilkes uses a clicker (the little plastic noisemaker) in his training, he only uses it as a marker signal.  Clearly (based on his article and the few youtube videos I watched) he has no interest in finding a less aversive way to modify dog behavior and even the simplest untrained dog behavior must and will be met with force.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

RallyFrEe (6/1) & Agility (6/6)

We started the morning with RallyFrEe class.  Gimme did okay, despite being separated from the baby for a full hour.  Each time I set up her station a little different, tweaking it to make it better for her.  Gimme was mostly able to do relaxation-is-its-own-reward.  She came out of her crate to watch other dogs a few times, but was nicely calm about it (which Kathy noticed and commented on).

Kathy set up the room with two "circles" of five platforms and ring gates between them.  Gimme didn't do as well with the first circle because some of the platforms were a bit small for her.  She did best at "heel", which we've worked the most.  "Side" was more challenging, simply because we haven't done as much of it - so I practiced it the most.  I had to remind myself to go back to basic-basics and click/treat attention to engage her brain.  I used her special bowl and when she did something particularly nice - I released her to "bowl" for treats.  I think running to the bowl adds to the reward for her.

I thought we were going to get a semi-private lesson because only one other person showed up.  But about the time we moved to the second circle side of the ring gates, another person showed up with her entire entourage (long story).  "Sudden environmental change" is the hardest for Gimme, so I had to go back to c/t basics.  By the time we were partway through our work with the second circle, she was getting into it.  I think the releases to the special bowl helped too.

For the last part of class, each of us was given some novice signs and one at a time we came out on the floor to demonstrate them and work through any challenges we are having, with Kathy coaching. Since we were the only dog on the floor and the others were crated, I was able to have the leash off when I needed to and discovered Gimme really likes working without it.  In many respects she is much better than students who have been training with Kathy for awhile.  Once she got into it and realized she could move at speed, she was very flashy.  A couple people commented how nice she would look in freestyle.

Our first sign was the left-side-switch-back.  Gimme knows this well and can do it fluently.  Our first try wasn't very good, but when I cleaned up my hand signal she got it.  Then a few repeats and she was fast and beautiful.

My second sign was figure-8-twice and Gimme was a bit distracted when she saw someone in the hall (an area where she's seen dogs going through).  She was tending to make big distracted circles, instead of tight turns around my leg.  When I got her making tight ones, she then demonstrated her special version, which is to go through and immediately turn around and come up under me.  Kathy thought my hand position wasn't clear, so we cleaned it up, but Gimme did it again anyway.  What seemed to help the most was dumping the leash.  For one thing, it means I can move more smoothly and then Gimme can move faster.

Our biggest challenge was the bow sign.  I only taught her to bow in front of me, facing me - who knew it would ever be an issue.  So we worked through it with Gimme next to a barrier and in front of me facing to the side.  I've been working on this since then and it is coming along.  Sometimes I even turn so I'm just 45ยบ off parallel.  I can't do it much right now, since I strained my knee at work and kneeling is painful.  So, I am trying to do just a couple short sessions each day.  

My current plan is to enter the World Wide RallyFrEe video event - open now for entry.  Then shortly thereafter Kathy is hosting a video event, which we will also enter.  I don't know how ready we are, but I figure its a good opportunity to work out the taping bugs.

Thursday night was our last agility class for now.  Tonya was there when we arrived and I had her check with Gimme to see if she needed adjusting, which she did.  We decided to hold off adjusting her until Friday, rather than risk throwing away the adjustment.  We only jumped 12" so it wouldn't hurt her.  The first session she was really good, responding well and pretty darn focused.  She was even playing with a toy we brought in.  For the second session she wasn't nearly as focused and kept running off to sniff and a few times going to the door.  I think two classes in one day during baby-mode is just too much.  So I got her to do the weaves nicely, rewarded her with all the treats in my bag and then took her back to MrFroggy baby.

Today we started using a the new stuff Tonya gave us for her false pregnancy.  According to the company owner it works wonders for dog's with false pregnancies.  Tonya said Gimme has the most severe false pregnancies she has ever seen.  Its too soon to see if its really helping, though she does seem relatively calm.  She got them today around noon and was interested in the leaves, sniffing a lot, but not eating them.  I poured a tiny amount of chicken juice on it and she snarfed it all up.  I just gave her a second helping.  Tonya said to start with the maximum amount.  So she gets it twice a day for ten days and then I go to once a day.  After, if its working, we'll start reducing the amount to find her maintenance.  Cross your fingers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

BH Trial & Nosework (1/6)

(I have added the list of stations for the four mini-courses we had at the last RallyFrEe class - they are in the post about the class, at the end.)

The Barn Hunt trial was a challenge to say the least.  I wasn't sure how Gimme would do, since she is in baby mode.  Basically she was too distracted to focus.  On Saturday she found two rats in the first ring (of 4) and one rat in the second ring (of 4).  On Sunday she found one rat in the first ring (of 5), but couldn't focus at all.  There were four tubes in the vicinity, so I called one and it was the wrong one.  For her second run on Sunday she couldn't find any and I never found out how many there were.  I thought she'd do better on Sunday, but I think we were both worried about sister Grace who was very ill and in the emergency veterinary.

When she found a rat, we partied.  When I called a wrong call and they showed us to a rat, we partied.  As unfocused as Gimme was, she was always ready to party with me.  So we did get in some training about rewarding in the ring by playing with the tube before letting it be taken away.  Hard to say how much of this she will remember, especially since our next trial isn't for five months.  Hopefully it will come back to her quickly.

It worked against us the way they ran two rings in the same sequence, with the second trial just following the first by 15-20 minutes.  This was done to help with the limited parking.  Its nice because you don't have to be there all day, since your two runs will be within about half an hour of each other.  Some people opted to go from one ring to the other to fill waiting spaces in the second ring.  I didn't, I took Gimme to the car for time with her baby, but it wasn't enough.  Ordinarily I think she would have been fine with it.

The blind area was the smallest area we've had, but we were able to make it work.  The delineated area was 10x14, but there was another 4 feet you could use, making it 10x18.  Most of the dogs in our class were very calm and the other handlers were really nice about giving us a wide berth.  For our last class of the weekend, I actually moved her in a small space inside one of the stalls, to give her a visual break.  There was no way I could work the relaxation-is-its-own-reward plan in her current mental state.  So, for the most part we spent our entire blind time with her licking the PB tube.  I hoped the comfort food would help in the ring, but it didn't (or maybe it did and things could have been much worse).

Monday night was the last of four container focus classes for nosework.  I'm doing holiday transitions at work this week and got home just 15 minutes before class starts and the drive is 15 minutes, so we were a little late.  We had four searches, the first three were blind.

The first search was just an ORT and Gimme rocked it.  She had it in less than 6 seconds.

The second search was a bunch of brick-shaped/printed boxes in the foyer.  There were probably 20 of them and it was a challenge for me to not step on them.  We only knew there were between 1 and 3 odors.  Gimme found the first one very quickly and then dithered a bit before finding the second one.  I had her check the boxes she'd missed and then called "finish" and was right.  I still don't know how to tell when she's done searching, but I did notice her paw interactions with the boxes were a different quality - less "definite" looking.

The third search was in the main room with lots of luggage, some boxes and a few other containers.  Two items were up on chairs.  We were supposed to make sure they checked every container, otherwise we only knew there were between 1 and 3 odors. Gimme did a very nice job with this.  She found two odors and then dutifully checked the other containers I asked her to.  Then I called "finish" and was right again.

Our fourth search (not blind) was the same search, with distractions (tripe treats and peanuts), plus they moved the two odor containers.  Several dogs got caught up in the tripe treats and one lingered over my peanuts.  Gimme did a great job, ignored both distractions and found her two odors quickly.  She then checked the other containers I asked her to.

She did great with this format and was focused and enthusiastic about searching, despite still being deep in baby mode.  I got her out a little early for one search and she was starting to get a little fussy by the time we went in to search, but then pulled it together and searched with enthusiasm.  So she might have done better at the barn hunt trial if there weren't all the waiting.

BTW we are finally able to use the extract I was told about (got it Monday).  I think it is helping a little bit.  She gets it in her water three times a day and I notice after ten minutes or so, she calms down a little more.  Time will tell if it works for the long term... and especially if we can start it earlier in the cycle.  There is also something else I'm going to order and try.  We really have to find something to help her with the false pregnancies.

This morning she is calmer. Its nice to see her restful.