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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tracking Genius (2)

Thursday we met with Nadine and her three Dalmatians for more tracking fun.  We may have two other Dal people join us next Thursday.

Nadine laid the track for us and despite another jump in difficulty (some unintended), Gimme did very well.  She's got a lot of natural talent, along with tons of enthusiasm.  Here is a rough drawing of the track we did.

The fourth leg of the track went right through a bunch of mole hills (the little orange spots).  Also after we laid the track a couple of guys (double dashed line) cut across the field walking right across the fourth leg and through the mole farm.  The blue ovals are all the article drops - one after the start, after each corner and at the end.  The wind was very slight, blowing across the field.  The first leg was down the center of a shallow ditch.

Gimme really tries hard and keeps her nose down most of the time.  When she is confused is when her head comes up and she tries air scenting.  She does pretty good on corners, though she sometimes has to cast about a bit and sometimes I have to "remind" her to get her nose down.  She was really distracted in the area of the mole farm and I thought to myself, this could be our Achilles.  But Nadine reminded me she'd paid no attention to other mole hills near the track and it was more likely the cross track she was distracted to - she did tend toward our right, which was the direction the men walked.

We were first, third and fifth to run this track.  Gimme ran the whole thing and this is where she distracted.  Then Nadine ran one of her dogs - the one with the TD.  Then we ran Gimme again doing just legs 1-3, with some extra articles thrown in.  The third time we ran it, Nadine walked ahead of us dropping extra articles - I focused on rewarding the articles really strongly while Nadine walked ahead some more.  We had a couple food drops on the first and second legs and added some closer together in the area of the cross track.  With the food drops, while she did show interest in the cross track she stayed with ours - YEAH!

I am hoping to get a bow at the articles, since I don't expect Gimme to lay down if the grass is cold and wet.  Nadine pointed out I should work to get Gimme to go to the article and hold position pointed in the direction she is moving (she wants to turn toward me), keeping her oriented down the track, so I worked on this.  I've looked in the Sil Sanders book and there is a game he suggests for articles and I may do it tomorrow.  I don't cue the bow, but rather shake out the treats in the glove, then lay it down and drop a treat on it.  Gimme lowers her head to gobble it up and as long as she stays there I metronome feed on the glove/article and she is tending to bow on her own.  She's also placing her paws on both sides of the article, which is nice. 

One definite "problem" we will have is how fast and enthusiastic Gimme is.  She pulls unbelievably hard, so hard I discovered I was arching back as a counter to it because my arms/hands weren't strong enough to hold her.  Its great she is so enthusiastic, but she's not ready to go full tilt, no matter how often she says she's ready to enter a TDX test.  I'm not ready for her to go full tilt.  For one I can't move so fast for the length of a full track and second, my back still hurts.  Meanwhile I'm working on some isometrics for my core.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

RallyFrEe (1/3)

We started with practice last night at DaPaws.  Gimme was the best she's ever been there.  She was very focused, enthusiastic and generalizing well to this environment, things we'd only worked at home.  Chris came in right before I ended the session and of course Gimme had to run say "hello".  Then I asked Chris to stay while I spent a couple of minutes getting Gimme back to work and showing off her new move.  It was great.

I thought we'd do really well in RallyFrEe class this morning.  I was even more positive it would go well because she so quickly started offering me attention as we did our perimeter walk.  But when it came time to work, she just was all over the place.  In her defense, she is very close to coming in season - getting a good case of pudding-butt.  But these were things she should have been able to do in her sleep.  Kathy's focus for this 6 weeks is fluency, defined as: flowing effortlessly; polished, moving smoothly, graceful. It wasn't us this morning.

Our first task was two lines of short sequences to practice moving smoothly-gracefully.  The stations were:
~ left heel forward, counter-clockwise spin, counter-clockwise 

   spin to center trx, free choice into left heel, and bow 
~ right heel forward, clockwise spin, clockwise spin to center 
   trx, free choice into right heel and bow

We should have been able to ace these, but it wasn't happening.  There was another person working on a trick nearby, so I moved further away and used the time to work on our bow.  Despite how well she was getting it last night, Gimme couldn't do right heel at all today.  In hindsight, I should have started out with basics like I did at DaPaws.  So anyway, I spent the time working on her "salute" (bow).  It was challenging, so we did go back to basics and saw some improvement. 

Then for the next session, we worked in the other half of the room and there were seven stations.  The idea was to do each station starting from all three positions: left, center, and right (if it could be done).  Kathy gave me time to warm up and then came to video where we were at, as a baseline, but all from "side" our weakest.  Gimme was still struggling with "side", because I hadn't tumbled to going back to basics.  The first two stations were not good at all, the third she did well since she was able to keep moving, the fourth she had difficulty doing a wait while I did the behavior, on the fifth I told Kathy I wanted to take a few moments to do basics on side and then it was better, then the last two stations were easy for us.  The stations were:

~ sit stand 
~ down stand 
~ front cross dog
~ front cross handler
~ into center & step back center x3 
~ circle around clockwise
~ circle around counter-clockwise

The next thing to work on was teaching our dog to roll out the carpet.  Basically you lay out a strip of carpet or an exercise mat, then space treats along the center and roll it up.  When you present it to the dog the first couple of times, you make sure there is a treat sticking out right under the edge of the roll, so as they go for it their nose bumps the roll and this exposes another treat.  Its easy and Gimme had fun with it.  I have an exercise mat, so we'll be able to work on this.  When everyone is ready, Kathy is going to show us how to teach the dog to roll up the carpet, which is a little harder, but basically the same principle.

From there we all practiced into behind.  Gimme did well considering we haven't worked on this much.  We'll get into this by next week.  I thought she did better at home on her own platform.  But Kathy identified an area I need to watch, so will be sure to set up mirrors next time.

Our last thing was to do some problem solving on J'Anna's attempt to teach her dog to cross paws.  She showed what she was doing and Kathy helped with problem solving.  Basically J'Anna moved on too quickly and the behavior was breaking down before she could get any duration.  She thought the issue was duration, when it was really the dog not fully understanding what she wanted.

I talked to Kathy about where Gimme and I are in our "pivot" behavior (counter-clockwise pivot on the forehand).  Gimme is amazing and fast at it using her brick, a 7" diameter wooden octagon.  I have it on verbal, but without the brick, the pivot point moves well back of her shoulders, so it ends up looking very spin-like.  I asked Kathy what I could do and mentioned how well Gimme had done when I tried it last night using one of those Frisbee rings.  Kathy said we stayed with the target too long (I started this behavior a couple years ago, long before I had any plans for it), so now Gimme is target dependent.  So the way to help her transition is to use as many different targets as possible, varying texture, size, shape, surface, height... anything I can vary, with a focus to get small as soon as I can.  So I have my work cut out for me.

We also went tracking today and I'm eager to tell you about my little genius, but my back and shoulders are insisting I get away from this computer.  Gimme is sound asleep on the couch without me, or she'd be insisting I get away from this computer.  Gimme thinks electronic devices should be abolished, specifically computer, television and telephone - since they all interfere with my attentiveness.  She also would like to get rid of the bathtub, but realizes it might be a necessary evil...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nosework (5/7)

I discovered last night and this morning I've broken Gimme - poor munchkin.  We've been training a clockwise back-around me and though we haven't really done much, its been enough to strain a muscle behind her right shoulder.  She turns right more readily than left, so I think in addition to using this muscle to push back and to the left in an unusual way, she's pushing against a bit of body stiffness.  Fortunately I was able to get her to see Tonya right away today and she worked on her quite a bit with massage, body work and energy work.

Now I'm massaging her whenever I can.  Then we'll be doing some cookie stretches to increase her flexibility to the left.  I'm not going to train the back-around for a few weeks.  In the meantime I'll be training "Tivo" (clockwise forehand pivot) and 360º Center Front (clockwise direction).  I'm hoping this will strengthen the muscle more gradually before we return to training back-around.

Tonight nosework class started with an exterior search of a very long narrow area.  We were supposed to try to verbalize what we were seeing.  As much as I talk you'd think this would come easy to me, but not so.  For the life of me when I was supposed to be talking I couldn't.  And yet Dorothy says when I'm searching and not thinking about talking, everything I say to Gimme is right.  So perhaps the answer is to talk "to Gimme" about what she's doing - perhaps it wouldn't feel so much like trying to divide my attention. Anyway, there were three hides and Gimme did a good job of finding them all.  She ran the show and clearly knew what she was doing.

Then we went inside for container searches.  There was 20 boxes and six pieces of luggage with a handful of other containers.  We only knew there were no more than 4 hides.  Gimme found the two box hides very quickly and never really paid much attention to the luggage, so I called finished.  There were two more hides in luggage.  They had me search again right away and pay her for even a passing sniff at the luggage.  I did and Gimme was happy to get paid.

There was a bit of discussion and the co-instructor said there is obviously something broken in Gimme's foundation on containers.  I do mostly luggage for containers, but haven't done many practices on my own in the last 9 months.  I said I wondered if its because we so seldom have the odor in luggage.  Both instructors think I am wrong so it could have nothing to do with it.  

Then the co-instructor concluded Gimme is bored with peanut butter.  Seriously???  Her reasoning was because she likes ice cream, but would get bored with it if she got it all the time.  I think there is a big difference between "liking" something and being addicted to it.  Do you know any crack cocaine addict who would say, "no I've really had too much crack lately, I'd really just prefer a beer."  Not.  I have referred to peanut butter as Gimme-crack before - she'll never get enough of it.

So for our next search of the same containers, which was off leash, they gave me some roast chicken and I was supposed to simultaneously present chicken and peanut butter for each find and let Gimme choose which she wanted.  What happened?  She went for the peanut butter every time.  She was happy to eat the chicken, but only after the peanut butter was taken away.  I rest my case.

For the third container search (off leash) they swapped the locations of the box and luggage hides.  This time Gimme ignored the boxes and kept returning to the luggage until I kept lingering near the boxes.  Basically I think we made such a big fuss over the luggage finds, she thought I now have a preference for them.

I was still certain I was right about the box-luggage-containers hides, so I reviewed my blog since I started taking classes with Dorothy.  Fortunately I use the label feature and keep really detailed records, so it was easy to single in on the entries where we'd done container searches.  In 13 months: she has found odor in 38 boxes, 32 other containers, and twice in luggage.  These numbers for other containers are skewed quite a bit because one night the only containers they had were plastic water bottles, where she found odor in them 24 times.  So if we throw out the water bottle numbers, its 38 boxes, 8 containers and 2 pieces of luggage.  The relative percentages are 79% boxes, 17% other containers and only 4% in luggage.  

Now granted, she should find odor no matter where it is.  But given how much harder luggage is to source odor because of how its trapped in deep recesses and absorbed by cloth, it makes sense she would go for the easy ones.  Also, we had two level one element trials for containers and they were all boxes.  The element trials had 4 searches each with one box hide, so we can add 8 more box hides into the numbers during this time frame.  Factor in the element trials and she's now found 82% of her hides in boxes and under 4% in luggage.  And don't forget, she has a much longer history of finding odor in boxes, because its all you train early on.  I think it stands to reason she doesn't think luggage pays very often.  Why didn't the other dogs get this message?  I assume its because they aren't as smart as Gimme is... 

I take it as a clear lesson of what can happen when you get in a training rut.  I'm sure they don't put odor in luggage as often because it takes so much time to air out luggage to make sure the odor is gone before you can use it as a blank bag.  Whereas boxes and most other containers are going to be simpler to air out, as well as easier to store in large numbers.  I guess I need to get out and do some practices and for sure I'll be bringing my luggage collection along.

And Gimme just says, "whatever, so long as there is peanut butter..."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tracking Genius

Gimme is such a genius at tracking, she thinks she should start right out with a TDX Test.  Seriously, she is very, very good.

We haven't done anything with tracking for over 3½ years.  When we left off, she was doing 50-60 yard tracks and my records show she had at most 6 curved arcs, i.e. no sharp or even angled turns.  At the time there was a food drop every 10-15 feet and she was blowing past many of them.  She had only followed tracks I laid.

Today she did a track of 120 yards with two 90º left turns, two articles, laid by a stranger, with food drops every 10-15 yards.  She aced it.  Seriously she was so good, kept her nose down the vast majority of the time and really moved along smartly.  I was holding her back.  A couple of times she was distracted by something she saw off to the side, but once she checked it, she returned to the track and got back to work.

After Gimme ran our little track, Nadine ran all three of her girls on it.  She has an old girl with a TD already and she was focused and methodical.  One of her two younger girls was a little better than Gimme.  The other was coming in season and kinda flighty, so its hard to say how good she is.  After we ran her girls, we let Gimme run the track again.  She wasn't as good the second time around.  I think it was because of following the girl in season - so we won't do it after Sugar again again.

Her weakest area is the glove indication, so we'll do some work with this.  Some games to make articles more important.  Time for me to get out my tracking box and load it with stuff I need.  One of the first things I will put in it is my rubber wading boots.  It was a light shower the whole 2½ hours, so I was pretty wet by the time I was done.  Gimme didn't seem to notice.

I really think all the nosework training has taught her how to track a scent - so the time off certainly hasn't hurt any.  She has a lot of innate scenting talent.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nosework (4/7)

We started with a vehicle search, with the option of searching blind.  My back was hurting from work (too much bending and lifting lately), so I elected to search knowing where the two hides were.  Gimme did a fine job.  The vehicles were set in a "T".  One hide was in the nearest tire from the startline (vehicle at the top of the T) and the other was near the license plate at the end t-boning onto the top vehicle.   It was very interesting to watch how Gimme went back and forth three times, over an 8 foot area right across from the hide and then suddenly turned 90º and went very directly to it - taking less than two seconds from turn to indication.

Our second search was a container search, three lines of little brick shaped boxes.  Gimme was pretty direct about finding it and her indication wasn't too forceful, though there was certainly nothing bashful about it.  She was also very good about checking some containers when I asked her to "check it" because she hadn't been there.

Then our third and fourth searches were together.  They took up the containers and set an inaccessible hide on the back of one of the lowest shelves with some big paint buckets in front of it.  It hadn't been there more than a few minutes and was deep and low with no air flow, so there wasn't a lot of scent for the dogs to work with.  This search was off-leash and once the dog told us where it was, then we moved the buckets so they could get right to source to be rewarded.  Gimme had the same challenge as the others, but once she caught the drift of scent, then I thought she was more persistent than the others.

From there we went into the fourth search which was a big mess of a search area.  Four tables were pushed together to create a space between them.  There were chairs around all the tables and at the corners.  There were also brooms and mops and a mop bucket on wheels.  The hide was under the seat of a stool in the center of this big mess.  The idea was to let the dog do everything they were willing to do to get to source and then help them if needed.  The only dog who needed help was a large German Shepherd.

I wasn't positive Gimme would push in there.  There was a time I would have been sure, but she's not quite as pushy ever since we did the inaccessible hides seminar, where she learned she doesn't always have to push in.  So I was pleased to see her examine all her options, then crawl under a corner chair and step over a table leg, then contort herself to weave amongst all the junk to get to source.  She was paid well.  If you decide to do a search like this, make sure you stack/position stuff in such a way it won't fall on the dog or near them - you sure don't want them to have a scary experience.

There is one thing we did, which I've since thought we shouldn't have done.  On the third search Gimme found a toy on one of the shelves.  The co-instructor had me just try to wait her out to see if she'd leave it on her own.  She hasn't played with a toy like this before and she has seen other toys in the search area.  I think she might not have if the scent had been stronger.  After a bit, I called her to me and cued her to give me the toy.  Then after she found odor, I rewarded her first with peanut butter and then with the toy.  Then I had her give it to me again and when she found odor for the fourth search, she got peanut butter at source and then I tossed the toy for her when she came out.  Since she got peanut butter on the toy, I let her keep it (still have to pay for it) and carry it to the car.

I'm afraid I may have set a precedent which may not bode well for trials when there could be any number of toy-like items in a search area.  She becomes much more interested in toys right after her false pregnancy ends and likes to steal them if she can (she's carried several kids' toys to the car when we visit my Mom's).  I wouldn't want her to think she could shop for toys at a trial (or any search).  So, I'm going to carry one of her Skinneez toys (I can hang it over the belt for our treat bag) and if she does pick up another toy, I'll ask for it, then when she finds odor she can be rewarded with her own toys.  The Skinneez are her long term favorites.  I think this is a better plan with cleaner training options.

We do not have RallyFrEe class tomorrow, so am meeting Nadine at a state park near my Mom's for tracking.  I dabbled in tracking when Gimme was young and she was quite good.  But then we hit the limit of my understanding and there didn't seem to be any more detailed information for the method, so I didn't go any further with it.  Nadine has been tracking with her Dalmatian for awhile, so we'll try to meet a couple of times a month.  There are two other people in the regional Dalmatian club who track... so we'll be inviting them and may at times have as many as four of us with tracking Dalmatians.  

I'm looking forward to it.  Gimme of course is looking forward to any sport where she gets to tell me what to do.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

RallyFrEe (6/2)

Gimme did particularly well today, even though I was again rushed getting to class.  I left home extra early and still arrived as class was just about to start.  So again her perimeter walk was abbreviated - though not as much as last time.  She didn't seem to need as much time to acclimate, so either she is getting used to the place or our practice last night had her in ready-to-train mode.

We practiced at DaPaws last night and had the whole 80' x 80' space available.  Its very nice to have so much room for heeling.  With so much space it became clear to me I have not set as clear criteria for "side".  "Heel" is nice and tight and Gimme really knows where it is.  The position for "side" is much wider and she tends to lag a bit.  So this is something we'll work on.  I try to get out to DaPaws twice a month.

We started class with a small course to warm up on.  I've recreated it here.  Unfortunately I can't turn the course signs, so I added numbers to help you make sense of it.

The idea was for us to try to maintain a good flow.  Gimme did real well.  She had one break of focus toward the beginning (at #3 CCW spin).  I worked with her and got her back to work.  Then we had another break of focus when I made a handling mistake, cued a "thru", then realized it was one too many and brought my leg forward, just in time to bonk her in the head.  Since I stepped on her foot just last night, I think she had zero patience for being bonked today.  

After the course work, we all worked on teaching our dogs to back around us.  I've been working on this with little success, trying to free-shape it, and I thought the issue was because its so similar to the way Gimme backs up at "heel" (also at "side" but not as good), if I pivot in place.  So I thought she didn't understand, expecting me to be pivoting.

Kathy teaches this in a set of wire guides or 24" expens.  You start with your dog standing in "side" (or "heel") and then you shuffle carefully into their shoulder.  The social pressure will cause the dog to back up a step or so.  The handler should do this all facing in one direction... pick a point and keep your nose pointed to it.  Also be prepared to rapidly treat from either hand, whichever is closest to the dog's nose.  If you don't, the dog will try to turn around, or will take two steps backward and then bounce forward again.  Try to feed the treats on the "outside" of the dog's face, to encourage them to step back and toward you.  You want to keep them moving in the right direction, so be prepared to gently body block any attempts to turn around.

I wish I could diagram this for you, but it would be too convoluted.  The key thing is to always shuffle toward the dog's shoulder while keeping your front oriented in one direction.  So, you'll be shuffling in a little circle.  As soon as the dog gets more comfortable with this backward circling, make your shuffle steps smaller until they just become a weight shift.  The goal is to get it on a verbal cue as soon as you can so the dog doesn't become dependent on your body movement.  

I'm looking forward to training this now.  It helps to have a clear idea of what to do.  Of course, it also helps to have a really brilliant dog.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Nosework (3/7)

We started tonight's class with an exterior search.  It was a large search area with four hides - two low, one medium and one slightly higher.  The idea was to see if we could pick up the decision points, just as we'd done for the two prior weeks.  Gimme was one of the fastest dogs, no big surprise.  She only had a challenge with the higher hide and it wasn't about the height.  Rather it was because she had to stand on something (some rockery) she wasn't sure of to reach it.  In daylight I'm sure it wouldn't have been a challenge, but by streetlight it was a slight added challenge.  Dorothy noticed Gimme didn't lift a paw like she normally does.

The second search was a case of "Running Bunny" done inside.  There were four chairs set around the search area to go with a sequence of four hides.  The handler was to come in and sit down and then turn the dog loose to search on their own.  When the dog finds the hide, the handler gets up and heads toward them.  If the dog then leaves the hide, the handler moves back to the chair.  The idea is to reward the dog for sticking the hide (moving away is a -P for leaving the hide).  When you reward the dog, then handler and dog move to the second chair, while the instructor resets the hide.  The fourth time the hide was paired.

Gimme did well, though she found my odd behavior very distracting the first time.  In fact, even though she was wearing her nosework harness, at first she didn't want to leave me.  I wondered later if she thought we were simply at a waiting station, like we see at trials, and believed it wasn't our turn yet.  When I gave her our verbal cue "wherezit", she took off searching, but you could see she was distracted.  She wasn't worried though.  I likened it to how it would be if you normally do something in a specific way with a co-worker and suddenly they weren't "doing their part" and how distracting it would be.  Once we got past the first round, then she was fine.  

Dorothy made the point about how many people use a verbal cue to start their search and how often their dogs don't actually pay any attention to it.  Yet it was clear Gimme knew what it meant.  I wasn't surprised though, because I've noticed before how she darts off the startline when she hears "wherezit".

For the second and third rounds, Gimme was into the game and okay with the new rules... she was no longer distracted by my odd behavior.  For the fourth round (the paired hide), she was on it very quickly.  It was nice to see she stuck all her hides, so I never had to move back toward the chair.

For our last search, they put the hide on top of an airline crate, with the odor tin in a little sauce cup.  This was paired and the idea was to virtually fill the sauce cup with treats.  It was interesting how quickly all the dogs found this one.

I noticed when Gimme got the drift of it, her decision point behavior was much more pronounced.  This led to a discussion of why the dog's behaviors are so much stronger.  Of course the simple answer is:  pairing food is a primary reward, while odor is a secondary reward.  Put another way food IS food, while odor only means there will be food soon.  This would be the best reason for pairing often, to keep the value of odor as a food inidicator very high.

Since I've been writing this, Gimme has been bringing me her toys - one by one.  She brings one, plays with it beside me for a minute and when it doesn't distract me from the computer, she abandons it to go get another toy she hopes will work better.

BTW the other day I was standing next to the open van door talking to Tonya and made mention how I needed to take the two go toobs in the house when I got home, so I could wash them out.  Both were nearly empty and due for a good cleaning.  They've been sitting there on the van floor and Gimme has passed by them several times, paying no attention.  Yet when we got home and I had my arms full (having completely forgotten the go toobs), when I let Gimme out of her crate, she wouldn't get out of the van and she never hesitates.  Instead she waited until I turned my full attention to her and then very deliberately pawed at the go toobs.  Clearly she's not above reminding me of things I need to do, especially when they accrue to her benefit.  

She is who she is.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

RallyFrEe (5/2)

We returned to class after a two week break and Gimme was the star of the class.  She did well, once I had her focus.  I woke up with a migraine so was late getting moving and late for class.  This meant Gimme didn't get to do her leisurely walk of the classroom perimeter, so when our first turn came, she was still distracted and wanting to investigate.  Kathy let me take my time to get her brain engaged and once it was, she did fine.

Kathy started us on working to do two new signs.  

The first one we worked on was the clockwise and counter-clockwise simultaneous spins.  Kathy had us start by cuing some spins, first stationary, then as we were moving.  Then we practiced some switchbacks (signs 21a and 21b).  From there we went on to just do the simultaneous spins.  Initially Gimme wasn't focused, so we had to start by revisiting the whole verbal cue for a spin concept.  She got a big round of applause when she did it on a verbal (which she actually knows) and I gave her a jackpot of treats.  Of course, then she was so excited she couldn't do it on the verbal until she calmed down again.  Still she did it very nicely.

Kathy did say she did not recommend doing this three step progression in one training session, she only did it for us so she could coach each of us through it.  For our regular training, she recommends working the three parts in separate sessions or at the very least, with a large break between them.

The next sign was the 360º center pivot.  Here the dog is in a center-front position and the handler pivots in place, with the dog side-stepping around them, maintaining center-front position.  We were the last and I started with Gimme's weakest side - even there she was far ahead of her classmates.  Gimme has very sophisticated rear foot awareness.  I was able to pivot 90º and just treat each of the four quadrants when Gimme got aligned.  When Kathy asked me to try it in the other direction, we were able to do it as one smooth 360º pivot.  I was ready to stop and treat if she needed the support, but she was awesome.  Kathy said we totally have it for a counter-clockwise pivot.  My classmates were awed by how good Gimme was, and commented how flashy she looked doing it. 

The other students had to do this in a square which combined backing up and 90º pivots.  The key thing when training is to pivot first, then step backwards if the dog needs the help to get aligned again in the center-front position.

I think the reason this came so easy to Gimme has two parts.  First, there is her sophisticated rear foot awareness.  We free shaped this very early in her life, along with some of the fruit behaviors (The Project) which required rear foot skills.  The other thing is how I taught Gimme "heel", "side" and "center".  I taught them all as a position, not a behavior.  

So when I move around and want her to heel, "heel" simply means to her to maintain a relative position to me, regardless of what I do.  She does the same with "side" (right side), though is not as strong because I haven't practiced it as much.  I am realizing just now (literally as I blog here) this is also why Gimme has such difficulty learning to back around me.  Because we've only done it when I am pivoting toward her when she is in "heel" or "side", so she is maintaining the relative position.  Thus when I want to remain stationary and have her back around me, its an entirely different concept for her.  Which also explains why the usual method hasn't worked for her... so, back to the drawing board.

Anyway, since "center" was taught as a position, when I pivoted and repeated the cue, it made perfect sense to Gimme even though we've never actually trained this behavior or anything like it.  Of course, there is also her innate brilliance.  Just sayin'...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Nosework (2/7)

Gimme and I are keeping busy.  We've been doing a lot of training each day to make up for the long hours I've worked over the last two weeks.  This week things are finally getting back to normal.  We are getting in more walking time, which makes Gimme very happy, though she'd like more of it to be off leash.  Unfortunately Fort Lewis hasn't made our favorite ranges available in a very long time.  I'm going to stop by Range Control on Thursday and find out what the deal is.

Tonight was nosework class.  It was a lot like last week.  We did a search of the interior where there were four hides and one of the instructors went around putting blue painter tape on the floor wherever there was a Change of Behavior (COB), though this week they were calling it something else and I can't remember what the new term was.  Our first search was off leash and Gimme was really fast and accurate.  Two hides were under chairs, one under a stool and one on the lower leg of a table.  The table hide seemed to be the hardest for all the dogs.  Gimme had a little difficulty getting down to where it was, but she was still faster than the other dogs.  Partly the difficulty may have been because the hide was fairly close to the door, so was getting a lot of air disturbance as each team entered and left the building, plus there was a lot of stuff nearby to catch the swirls of scent.

For our second search, they removed the table hide and we worked it on lead.  Our task was to watch for the COB and then use the lead to hold the dog in the area.  The term they were using had to do with boundary between two areas.  One question I had - which couldn't be answered in black and white was - if you don't know where the hide is (like for trials), how would you know which side of the dividing line to hold the dog in.  In particular, Gimme sometimes goes right into an area and sometimes veers around it.  Usually, but not always, her veering around an area happens when the hide is in an enclosed area.  She doesn't do it as much as she used to, especially now since she gets peanut butter for a reward, but I do still see it happen.  

Clearly in this class, since we knew where the hide was, we knew which side of the divide to go on.  I did find when doing this, Gimme was even faster and more direct in her searching.  As we were searching and I'd already asked the question, I asked again on one part, which side would you have gone to.   Dorothy said she might not be sure, you kind of go with what your gut tells you about the dog's behavior at the divide and even then she might go visit the other side with the dog.  So I did this, taking Gimme to the other side of the divide and giving her a chance to check it out.  She dismissed it very quickly and most decidedly.

Our last search one just one hide set on a table leg support.  They set up a fan to blow across it and the intent was to cause odor to pool on some sheets draped across an expen.  Interestingly all the dogs came in the room and pretty quickly dismissed the front half, then they all went to the fan to check it out and from there they went downwind.  I expected them to have more difficulty narrowing down source, but all the dogs did well.  Gimme was one of the fastest, certainly the prettiest.

It was an interesting class.  I'm not sure how I'd use the information in a blind search.  I think we'll get more chances to try it.  I suggested a variation from the hide with the fan, where there would be two hides, one upwind and one downwind from the fan.  All the dogs went immediately downwind, even though they hadn't gotten into odor yet, so as a curiosity, I'd like to see how they handle it when the fan is situated between two hides, blowing away from one and toward the other.

Gimme wants to make a proclamation from her exalted position as Empress of the Cosmos.  She thinks we should have Christmas once a month from now on.  She liked getting a present every day for seven days.  She realizes this may be too much for most families, but thinks she and me should do it.  There are no bad toys - just sayin...