Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
UWPCH, ADPL3(2), ADPL3(GC), NC, NI, NE, SCN, SIN, SEN, CZ8B, NV and NN... 47 and counting...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tracking Genius (5) & Nosework (4/8)

I cannot find the detailed map from last week's tracking, so I've provided a simple line drawing of the course from memory.  I'm sure the map will rise to the surface at some point.  I don't think this is exactly to scale.  I believe the second leg may have been longer.  It was a verrrry long track, nearly 800 yards.  One leg was 125 yards and a couple others were in the 80's.  

When talking about our prior week of tracking, I said this field wasn't part of the mole farm.  Yet this time I saw a zillion mole hills.  I guess now with her paying them no mind, if Gimme don't see them, Mama don't see them.  

It was warmer weather than we' been tracking in until now and I don't think I had Gimme as well hydrated as she should be.  She can be challenging to get to drink enough water.  We saw signs of fatigue between the third and fourth turns, so we stopped at the fourth turn.  I enticed Gimme to drink a lot of water and then put her up to rest while I followed Nadine with Skookum.  As I followed behind her, I dropped treats for Gimme on the first four legs.  Then we ran Gimme on those legs.  Then I followed Nadine with Sugar and on the last three legs, I dropped treats for Gimme.  We ran Gimme on those three legs.  Then Nadine followed with Cricket to clean up the few treats Gimme missed.

Gimme did better on her second and third runs.  I think the water helped and I made sure to entice her to drink more between them.  The food drops were at about 10 yard intervals, with two drops spaced at 5 yards after each turn.  We didn't track this week because I had a conflict with work and Gimme really missed it.  I told her she has barn hunt this weekend, so I think she forgives me.

Next week we'll increase the distance of food drops to 12 yard intervals and two drops spaced at 6 yards after the turns.  We are trying to build a habit of keeping her nose down to the track, while not staying at any one interval - gradually increasing the distance between drops.  Once her nose comes up, she seems to have difficulty leaving air scenting and getting her nose to the track again.  It'll be essential to have her nose to the ground once we start aging tracks.

Nosework class was different this week.  We had three container searches outdoors.  Dorothy wanted us to reward before the dogs pawed or otherwise interacted with the boxes.  She said she wanted us to reward even if they didn't sniff at it, just passed by - no explanation why or how this was of value.  The only thing I could think of is the possibility of classically conditioning them to pause near odor in the expectation of treats.  I think our dogs should already be highly classically conditioned, so if they didn't pause its because they didn't smell the odor.

Anyway, with Gimme this is a near impossibility - I think I accomplished it one time (the third search) and nearly fell on my face doing it.  To do so every time, I'd have to be ahead of her and have her on a very short leash, which I think would be unnatural and very frustrating.  I suppose I could have heeled her down the line... 

The first search was 18 boxes (in 3 lines), with three odor boxes.  Gimme found them pretty quickly and I was able to reward her before she trashed the boxes, but not before a paw hit them.  Then we were to take the dog up and down at least two of the three lines in directed search mode.  Gimme tolerates directed search mode, but doesn't see any point to me with the puny nose trying to direct her efforts.  When we got close to any odor box, she left me to go to it.  Good girl.

For the second search they added three distraction boxes.  For the third search they added three more (6 distractions in 24 boxes total).  Gimme did very well with these and paid no real attention to the distraction boxes.  She sniffed two of them a tiny bit extra, but left them quickly on her own.  There was more directed searching with these and Gimme continues to think its just daft.

Then they had placed four hides with self-serve treats in a large exterior area and we were able to search off leash.  The two instructors watched the dogs and had chalk (we each picked our own color) to mark any decision point.  There was a lot of consistency.

Gimme enjoyed not being encumbered with the leash.  I probably could have kept up if I'd used my 25 foot leash, but it might have become tangled in a couple of places.  She has such a wonderful recall, so I have no qualms about letting her go.  Of all the dogs in class, her recall was the fastest.

One thing which was very interesting was watching her leave the search area and sniff along an adjacent area, then to some logs and from there a beeline to the hide.  After self-rewarding, she made another beeline to the next nearest hide.  I remember getting a lot of heat from our old instructor about letting Gimme leave vehicles to follow what she called a rabbit trail - saying I should keep her on a short leash and make her stay with the vehicles, to "be more efficient".  I know my dog, so I didn't heed those instructions.  I figure Gimme is the one with the nose and she knows what she smells.  Gimme always turned around to come back well before hitting the end of the leash and it was always direct to odor from there.  I thought then and still think, letting her do what feels right will always be the most efficient way to search.

Anyway, the interesting thing was watching two other dogs do the same exact thing in this search.  We talked about it and I relayed our prior instructions, comparing them to my observation of Gimme's search technique over time.  She doesn't always do it, but does so often enough for me to know she is getting value from running the odor out and then coming back.  Dorothy agreed and said there are dogs who use this technique sometimes.  She added, it clearly had value in this search since two other dogs did much the same thing.  She said each dog has its own ways of dealing with scent puzzles and it makes sense to let them do what works for them.  It felt great to have my instincts confirmed.  

This weekend we are going to Oregon for a barn hunt trial.  I was originally going to go down Friday evening, but have changed my mind and altered my hotel reservations.  Now with the schedule finalized, we won't go in until close to noon, so there's no reason for the extra expense.  We have plenty of time to drive down Saturday morning and volunteer for other classes before our own classes.  

Cross your finger for us.  I'd sure like to come home with a Masters leg or two.  We have one Masters leg and need a total of 5 legs to title.  I'd like to get there sooner rather than later.  Then we'll start working on a Rat Championship (RATCH).  I'll play as long as Gimme is having fun.

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