Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tracking Genius (8)

It has taken me nearly two weeks to blog about this track.  It was our most audacious track yet and 490 yards long.  It really isn't a track we expected Gimme to be ready for, but Nadine wanted a more advanced track for her dog.  I was prepared to pull Gimme off if she had big problems, but she did surprisingly well.  Plus she can be rather tenacious about solving challenges.

The darker grey is a paved road, which we crossed twice - a first.  The light green backwards L shape is some very short grass.  The two clumps of green squiggles is a bit of woods - the track went up a dirt path through the woods - another first.  The thinner line of grey is a mixed dirt/gravel road we went on briefly as we came out of the woods - another first.  And a challenge we didn't plan - the dashed purple line is another tracker who came into the area right behind us, crossing our track in two places and completely overlaying our track on the dirt path - a huge first. 

Gimme went first, because Nadine had dropped treats for her every 10 yards.  She did well up to the road, but then wasn't sure about crossing the pavement.  I encouraged her and when she got to the other side, there was a treat waiting for her.  She did really well in the short grass, just charged down it, barely a blip when she hit the cross track and then nailed the right turn.  Gimme had a lot of difficulty deciding to turn up the path into the woods.  Since the other tracker had gone up the same path and right over the top of where Nadine had gone, this wasn't a surprise.  The next difficulty was making the left turn onto the mixed dirt/gravel road, because the other tracker had gone straight and Gimme seemed to get confused about who she was following, crossing into the grass path.  I encouraged her to come back to where we had sliced off to the left and then she did good following our track.  The second road crossing wasn't nearly as challenging and the rest of the track was pretty simple.  There was a bit of notice given where the tracker had cross tracked on the last leg, but no inclination to follow it.

I followed Nadine a couple of times and on her last track, I dropped treats for Gimme, with extra ones to help her with the areas which had been most challenging.  By this time the other tracker had gone by again with another person and a dog.  Gimme did very well the second time around.  The road crossings didn't seem to bother her, though she was off to the left of the track.  She went up the path through the woods more readily and there was only a momentary casting about when the two tracks diverged again at the dirt/gravel road.  

So I was pleased with her efforts on a track which is far advanced for her.  Since she was in an early part of her false pregnancy when it was most intense, I was especially pleased with how well she did and her level of focus.

Speaking of the false pregnancy, Gimme continues to do well.  I've been working in the yard a lot for the last few days to keep it from turning into a jungle.  I leave the door open so Gimme can come and go from the house.  She stays with me pretty much the whole time.  She will bring a "baby" out and have it out for awhile.  Sometimes she carries it around, sometimes it lays by itself.  About every half hour she carries it back in the house and within minutes she comes out with another "baby".  I guess she thinks they need the fresh air. 

We've been walking a lot and there is a section where I can have Gimme off leash.  The other day she was walking along and then all the sudden dashed ahead.  Out of reflex I called her back and she turned on a thin dime to come back.  It was just then when I saw what she was dashing toward - a bunny on the side of the rails-to-trails paved path.  I was awed to have her come back to me from such a huge distraction.  Needless to say she got a LOT of peanut butter for being such a good girl.

We have nosework class tomorrow night.  Thursday morning I'll meet Nadine for tracking.  On Saturday afternoon we have a level 1 vehicle element trial.  On Sunday we have two level 2 element trials - containers and interiors.  We are lucky to have these so close to home with just an hour drive each way.  So we can come home to sleep in our own bed each night.  Do cross your fingers for us.

Friday, April 24, 2015

RallyFrEe (6/4)

Gimme wasn't her best self yesterday.  I noticed right away it took her much longer in our periphery walk to give me her attention.  We walked the same area several times.  Fortunately I'd gotten there early, so had plenty of time.

Kathy had set up this course:
1. Right Heel Forward
2. CW Spin - Thru Trx to Left
3. Handler Front Cross - Dog Front Cross
4. 270º Left Turn
5. Free Choice Into to Right
6. CCW Circle
7. Right Turn Circle Trx
8. Thru Trx to Left
9. CCW Spin
10. Free Choice
11. Switch Back
12. Bow

We started by discussing our Free Choice moves and Kathy talked about what constitutes a Free Choice vs. a sequence (not acceptable).  She also differentiated Free Choice signs from Free Choice Into signs.  There are no extra points for creativity/difficulty with Free Choice Into signs, so you should always do something simple, choosing a move you can execute well.  We each had to identify the Free Choice move we'd be using on this course.

I was going to use what I call "the Move".  It is a short sequence, but Kathy said it would not be an unacceptable sequence.  Starting from heel it would be: CW Circle, Circle Left Leg, Thru, CCW Circle, Circle Right Leg and Thru to finish.  It normally goes very smoothly.  However, when it came for our turn to demonstrate our free choice - Gimme just couldn't focus enough to do it.  She kept offering other stuff and generally flailing around without paying attention to the cues I was giving her.  She couldn't even follow a lure well.  

She was getting frustrated, so not wanting to go there, I told Kathy we'd do our Twizzle instead.  I don't have a cue for Twizzle, its just me pivoting toward Gimme in place (either side, but better at heel), while Gimme skip/heels backward around me, staying in "heel" or "side" position.  This Gimme was able to do very well, with enthusiasm, to a lot of applause and flattering comments.  Its very cute.

When it came time for us to do the course shown above, Gimme was still having trouble focusing and was again concerned about having people behind her at the start.  So, instead of trying to set up with our back to our classmates, I heeled in from the side, turned and went to get her past it quickly.  I started with C/T every other step and every sign, so about halfway through I had her tuned in to the Carla Channel.  

She did well through to the end, with the exception of the Switch Back, when she wanted to do the Twizzle again.  Partly this is due to her being oversensitive to any shoulder rotation since she so likes this move, so I need to practice Twizzle without any shoulder and probably should put it on a verbal cue.  We worked through it and she did fine.  As a reward I started throwing treats back and forth for her.  This really got her excited and focused on me with glowing intense expression.  In hindsight I should have gotten her to do something good before starting the course and then thrown treats, or picked something in mid-course to throw treats for.  This led to the discussion about engaging the dog's seeking circuit.

As I said in yesterday's blog about nosework, this was all caused by me running out of Sepia, so she had to go without for three days.  Gimme got her first dose last night and got much better right away.  She is calmly waiting for breakfast as we speak...

I do have to say, even with her lack of focus, she was still the best in class.  All the other dogs had to work on leash or they'd wander away.  Gimme is just generally wonderful and also better trained, so she starts from a place of greater capability.  Just sayin...  And sadly, this was our last RallyFrEe class for several months.  We may get together with Kathy on occasion like a mini-workshop, but no weekly classes.  <sigh>

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nosework (3/9)

Nosework class on Tuesday was uneventful.  Gimme is well into a false pregnancy, but she did very well.  The wind direction is as shown and really strong, though the direction and speed changed a lot. The two red dots were the first search and the lime green dot was the second search. Gimme did fabulous on both searches regardless of what the wind is doing.  She was pretty direct, even though her route wasn't the same as the other dogs.   

After vehicles we went inside for container searches.  The colored rectangles are small brick shaped colored boxes and black "bugs" are odor locations.  The green circles are four low stools, which were there to show us how it looks when odor is bouncing off them from the low boxes.  The most obvious bouncing odor was from the stool closest to the hide in the purple box.  Gimme was pretty darn fast.  She went by the red box at first, but when she got to the end of the line of red boxes without finding odor, she turned herself around to go back and indicate it.  From there she went to the blue hide and then the purple.

For the second container search, they placed odor boxes on top of the stools.  This is a common difficulty in trials.  We did miss a container on a chair in our first L1C Element trial (my fault), but when we saw it again at the next trial, I'd learned my lesson so Gimme aced it.  She really aced it in class as well.  She went directly to the purple one, then the blue, then hit the red one on the way out.  Had it not been for the time it takes to reward with peanut butter, she would have had all three of them in under a minute.  Interestingly, all her paw indications were pretty mild, even though we haven't really trained them lately.

Since Gimme gets so emotional during false pregnancies and has difficulty concentrating, I'm always a little surprised she's never had any trouble doing nosework.  Partly I think it may be because she gets to go in and search and then back to the car.  Even though she's using her nose in barn hunt, there is the prolonged waits which is challenging.  Even if Gimme is first in her blind, between a long walk and the time in the blind, it can easily be thirty minutes (or more) before she gets to search.  If she is later in the blind, it can be a lot longer. Likewise being in the building for RallyFrEe for an hour can be hard.

We were talking this morning about engaging the "seeking circuit" and how its such a primary thing in dogs, so I think this is another reason why she does so well at nosework regardless of whatever might be going on in respect to false pregnancies.  I'd like to see how she'd do in barn hunt if there were no waiting.

BTW I'd been saying how much better Gimme was doing with this false pregnancy and I still think this is true overall.  However, we ran out of Sepia (a homeopathic remedy) and I couldn’t find another local source.  While waiting for the store to get it in, Gimme didn’t get it for three days. I noticed last night she was acting a bit more emotional and today it was much more obvious.  Sepia can be used for the following regarding the mind and emotions: tearfulness, impaired thinking, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, uncertainty, nervousness, confusion, and over-sensitivity.  Sure sounds like someone I know.

Anyway, the store got it in, so I was able to give it to her right away when I got home.  Within an hour she was back to what I was seeing before we ran out.  She’s sound asleep beside me as I speak. I usually keep an extra tube - I'm now keeping 2 spares to prevent this – basically a back-up to my back-up.  Just sayin’…

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nosework (2/9) & RallyFrEe (5/4)

I didn't know how Gimme would do with nosework, given her mental state over the weekend.  I need not have worried - she did great. We started with three vehicle searches in very windy conditions.  The first search had 1 hide on the wheel of the van closest to the wind.  Then they added a hide on the back bumper of the other van for the second search.  For the last search a hide was added to the step on the big truck.

The green symbol is the startline.  All the other dogs started down the right side of the truck (as viewed from the startline).  For the first hide Gimme went down the left side of the big truck and then passed in between it and the vans.  She caught the scent from the other side of the van and quickly moved herself to the other side.  This is a challenge she understands and always goes on her own to the other side.  It took awhile before she pinpointed source, which makes sense given the scent was being blown away by a strong wind.  The second time she again went down the left side, passed in between and barely moved past the bumper before turning back to go get the tire hide.  From there she went around the back end of the vehicle (with deviation - see below) and picked up odor on the tire near the hide, before identifying source.  For the third search when there was an actual hide on the big truck, she went down the right side and pinpointed the hide on the step.  As strong as the wind  was, I don't see how she could have smelled the hide there, but she did.  From there she went down the outside of the one truck to the hide on the bumper and then (after deviation) went right around to the hide on the tire.

One odd thing she did twice was to leave the vehicles heading out toward the orange blob ("deviation").  I let her go each time because she has often chased odor out and back, doing it the most on vehicle and exterior searches.  But in this case she was going well away from the vehicles (20 feet) and didn't come back on her own.  I couldn't understand this behavior, until our fourth search, which was an exterior search right where she was headed.  Clearly she was picking up residual odor from earlier classes.  None of the other dogs even noticed it.  When we did this search, she went from hide to hide to hide, with no real searching.  If it weren't for the time it takes her to get the peanut butter out of her mouth by licking her leg, she would have completed the 3-hide search in under 30 seconds.  Clearly being in a false pregnancy wasn't affecting her.

For RallyFrEe class yesterday, we were focusing on circle behaviors.  I noticed Gimme was not very focused when we did our perimeter walk.  The first exercise had a chair in the middle of the room and we each drew a behavior.  One-by-one we took our dog, did a short warm-up, and practiced the behavior.  Then we went to the chair, sat down, and cued the behavior to see how our dog would do.  I drew the CCW Spin.  Gimme was trying to work until we got to the chair and then she was totally confused.

If I wasn't in the chair, she spent all her time trying to get in the chair - being magnetized to it just like she is to platforms.  She was getting a little frustrated, so we didn't work through it.  I'll need to practice the concept of not getting on chairs just like I did with the platform.  I expect it will go faster with the chair, since getting on things is a cued behavior, unlike platforms.

Then Kathy set out a straight line of signs which have a circle behavior as their base.  They were: Circle Around CW, Circle Around CCW, Left Turn Circle Trx, Right Turn Circle Trx, Circle Around 3x, and Circle Around Handler 2x - Handler Opposite.  Gimme was the only dog in class who was able to do each one.  We had to do the first two more than once to get a nice tight circle.  And we worked our way through the last one with multiple tries.  She's done circles with me turning the opposite direction, but was a bit confused by me doing it more than once.  Still she figured it out.

Our last exercise was to have all the dogs out on the floor at once and practice the 270º Left and 270º Right turns, with the dog on either side.  Kathy reminded us this is a heeling exercise and should not look at all like a pivot.  The size of the handler's circle depends on the size of their dog and which side the dog is on.  For Gimme, this meant we were making a circle the size of a garbage can lid.

Since Kathy was going around to watch all four teams, we had a bit of time between our exercises.  I spent the time just doodling at heeling with a farely high rate of reinforcement and Gimme got really into it.  I find I really have to concentrate to keep from slowing down when she errs.  Its a bad habit I've gotten into and only makes things worse.  When I focused on nice brisk heeling, Gimme gave me beautiful, precise and animated heeling. It makes me all warm and gooey to see it.

I know I brag about Gimme a lot, but its all true doncha know.  Yesterday, even though she was not her usual laser beam brilliance, she was still more focused than any other dog in class.

Kathy did tell us we have one more class in this session and then there will be a couple months break.  She and her husband are going to Greece on vacation for two weeks and when they return they are moving.  So this will be a perfect time for us to get back into Ursula's Public Dog classes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Barn Hunt Regional

The trial this last weekend didn't go well.  We had five runs, no Q's and our runs weren't very good.  She found 1 of 5, 2 of 4, 2 of 3, 1 of 3, and 1 of 3.  After the first run the judge said Gimme found all 5 tubes in the first minute, but just didn't tell me about them.  Each time we entered the ring, she did her clingy, "I need reassurance" thing. I had Tonya talk to her Saturday evening to see if we could figure it out.  Gimme said she wasn't herself, and didn't know how to tell me where the rats were, and wasn't even sure she was supposed to tell me.  

Clearly she's showed me the rats before without communication difficulty and knows she is supposed to tell me, so there was obviously something going on to confuse her.  What I figured out and have since seen clear evidence of, is, she's started a  false pregnancy.  I thought we weren't having one because the date I estimated had come and gone.  But it was only an estimate and likely I was off because of how short and mild her season was.  Knowing now what I was seeing, the first signs of false pregnancy were on Wednesday evening, with more Thursday in class.  Also its milder, which may have been more confusing, since she didn't have obvious baby-feelings and just felt weird.

I had it in my head she'd done better at barn hunt for prior false pregnancies, so I have checked the prior entries for notes about how she did during those times.  One where she did well was close to the end of her false pregnancy.  Another where she did well was in the middle of her false pregnancy.  And yet, one week later on the same false pregnancy, she couldn't focus at all.  However, for this particular trial, we had the distraction and worry about her sister Grace being at emergency.  Also the blind size was very small/restricted and her second runs were a very short while after the first, with no time to decompress between them.  So, its hard to know how much these things affected both of us.

She is clearly having a false pregnancy now, though its much milder.  I've since checked and adjusted her support package.  I'm thinking in the future when there are barn hunt trials I'd like to attend which might fall in the FP zone, I may wait until much closer to the trial and opt for day-of entries if she seems up to it.  The fees are higher, but certainly not as costly as entering with a dog who is so unfocused. Today Gimme did well with tracking this morning and then nosework class tonight.  I think it makes a difference to go out and do something and then return home.  Also I see she is less guardy about outside noises.  Time will tell. 

I got to watch Katherine and Bronco (Dalmatian) for their first tries in Masters on Sunday.  They came away with their first leg on the second try, which is almost unheard of.  He's very fast and they had five tubes, so when he got the fifth one, she knew to get him in the tunnel (he cooperated, which is rare for the boy) and then she called "finished", with over a minute to spare.  Way to go!

Because it was a regional, they had arranged for some speakers/classes.  Only four people showed up for the free Trial Etiquette talk, so it was more of a roundtable between us and the instructor.  She was knowledgeable and it was informative.  I attended a Rules Review (not free) with the founder and another judge.  This was not what I was expecting, being just a Q&A.  Though it was nice to learn there are plans for "X" classes, which may start next year.  This means a dog can be entered in lower level B-classes and every ten legs would earn an X.  So novice RATN would become RATNX and subsequently RATNX2, etc.  This could be a good option for us when she's not as focused as needed for Masters, but might still do well enough in Novice or Open.

The second day there was another seminar I paid for with Sil Sanders, who is well-known for his books on tracking.  He talked about the movement of scent (which I've read a lot about) and then applied it to barn hunt.  He was very informative and had some very interesting video of work he's done with a smoke pen and a miniature course.  Finally an explanation for what Gimme did a few times in this one trial we went to.  On both afternoon runs she stood on her back legs atop the tallest pile of straw bales and sniffed toward the rafters.  I thought maybe she was looking for inaccessible rat tubes, just like inaccessible hides in nosework. Instead, Sil was able to show us instances of scent going straight up from the straw, so she was probably chasing odor.  I know which trial it was, so I'll go back and watch the videos to see what happened next.  After the talk and videos, we went to another ring on site and he had a smoke generator and was able to demonstrate how scent moves when the tube is placed in certain ways.

So, now its time to go snuggle on the couch with my darling...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Nosework (1/9) & RallyFrEe (4/4)

We didn't have tracking this week, but did have our first Tuesday night nosework class.  I had Tonya work on Gimme during the day and she had to cleanse and align all her chakras.  She thought Gimme would probably be pretty tired afterward, then very active today and normal tomorrow.  Gimme didn't seem tired in class, nor particularly active today.

We started with a converging odor challenge, three hides in a smallish space.  The hides were around the edges, with a lot of stuff in the middle of the floor.  Our task as handlers was to observe how the dogs worked to solve the challenge, so we might recognize it if we see the same behavior another time.  Actually Gimme was pretty darn fast at it.  She got hung up a little bit on all the stuff in the middle of the floor, which was trapping odor, but then she went on to solve the challenges.  She is the more experienced dog in this group. For the second search they removed the excess stuff in the middle of the area and moved the hides a little bit.  All the dogs did better on this and Gimme was even faster.

For our last two back-to-back searches, they had two areas set up with two hides each.  One hide was accessible and one inaccessible and our job as handlers was to see the difference in how the dog's handled the two hides..  The person who went before us left the divider open between the two areas, so when we entered, Gimme ran straight into the second search area.  We did it first, but it did present an additional challenge, since she could then smell odor from the "first" area, but couldn't get to it.  Interestingly when we did go back to the first area to search it, she went straight to the hide she had smelled before and sourced it very quickly.  She did well with both these searches.

I have entered her in an NW3 trial.  I won't know until the end of next week if we'll get in.  I don't feel we are truly ready, but this trial is only 30 minutes from home, so I thought it might be a good chance for us to get our feet wet at level 3.  Dorothy says we are a lot more ready than the vast majority of people who are entering these days.  I'll let you know if we get in.

This morning was RallyFrEe class and it was all about spins.  We started by working a course with a lot of spin-based behaviors.  Gimme was really focused, but just had real difficulty with the idea of people watching her.  Its never bothered her before, generally she loves an appreciative audience.  Once we got away from the beginning, then she was able to do better.  

Our course was:
1) Right heel forward
2) CW spin
3) Thru right turn trx
4) CCW spin
5) Switchback
6) CW spin to center  7) Back 3 steps   8) Free choice into right   9) Switch back
10) CCW simultaneous spins
11) CCW spin to center   12) Free choice into left
13) Free choice
14) Thru left turn trx
15) CW simultaneous spins
16) Bow
#6-9 and #11-12 are combinations.  The diagram to the side here doesn't have numbers, but if you start at the beginning you can plug them in as you go.   After we did the course, Kathy had us do some heeling adjusting our speed.  She got exactly what she expected to see.  I have a tendency when Gimme shows a loss of focus to slow down, which actually gives her more time to look around and be distracted.  When Kathy got me to move faster, then Gimme was much more attentive and did much better.  This will be a hard habit to break, but it will be worth it since Gimme looks so darn cute when she is heeling well.

After we did the course, then we each got a chance to do a spin and identify some element of it we wanted to work on. Gimme has been really good at spins, but when I tried to get her to do them while I kept moving (about a month ago), it seemed to confuse her about what "spin" and "turn" mean and I haven't gotten it back.  (I really must stop breaking her behaviors)  So our verbal cue isn't as strong as it used to be.  Kathy says a spin while moving is a very different thing for dogs and really is unnecessary, since you can always work a pause into your choreography or use a different behavior.

Overall Gimme did very well about the other dogs today, which was very good.  She's learning to check in with me when she sees other dogs and is staying quite calm, even when were are sorta close.  I've taken to leaving her a little opening on the side of her crate so she can watch them work if she wants to.  She did watch for awhile and then on her own moved to the back of her crate where she didn't have to watch.

Tonight when I got home from work, I found her toy obsessed, whiney and needy.  I checked her false pregnancy support package and it showed we needed to add a very small amount of Pulsatilla and Ignatia Amara, while everything else stays the same.  Since we did our evening supplements, she has settled right down and is quite relaxed.  This is such a far cry from what we were seeing before, so I'm still thrilled.

We are leaving tomorrow morning for a 3-day barn hunt trial in Oregon.  It'll be fun and I'm sure Gimme will enjoy herself.  When Gimme is happy, Mommy is happy... ☺

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter One & All

Things change and sometimes, even your blessings can be a challenge.  Still, Easter is a time for counting your blessings:
  1. For living in a land where religious freedom is still protected,
  2. For family, and
  3. For the cutest and smartest puppy on the planet...
This picture is from two years ago, 
when my Dad still lived at home.

Friday, April 3, 2015

RallyFrEe (3/4)

We didn't have nosework or tracking this week.  We'll move to a nosework class on Tuesday nights and this was their last class of the session, so we just skipped and will start with them next week.  As for tracking, Nadine had a conflict this week.  Its just as well on both counts, since I've been putting a special effort into getting caught up at work and have been pretty bushed by evening.  Next Monday through Wednesday, I have all my account transitions from Easter to Mother's Day - so will be beat again, but I know Gimme wouldn't tolerate slacker-me for a second week, so I'll just push through it.  

Yesterday's RallyFrEe class was particularly good.  Gimme got to demonstrate a number of things.  Even though she's a relative newcomer to the intermediate class and we started as beginners, she's already passed the other two students.  She is such a quick study and with our false pregnancy issue now resolved, she is progressing very quickly.  Its great to be making linear progress (no steps backward).  Have I mentioned how much I'm loving this?

The floor for class was again broken up into two sections.  We started on the near side which had two platforms and set of guides in a straight line.  Then each team, one at a time, did a "thru".  Then Kathy and the handler identified the first thing they wanted to improve.  Then she coached them on how to get improvement.  

She left Gimme for last, which she has taken to doing most of the time, because she's the best (seriously, this isn't just me bragging ☺), so we are showing the more advanced problem solving.  Our first challenge was getting past the platforms.  Gimme is super-magnetized to platforms and can't resist hopping on them.  She nailed each of the two a couple of times, as we were moving to a corner.  From there we demonstrated our "thru".  Gimme's right-to-left "thru" is very tight, with no improvement needed.  However, her left-to-right is loose.  

In the course of demonstrating the left-to-right, I got too close to the 16" agility table set in the corner and Gimme spun around to lift both back feet simultaneously and plop them on the table.  The whole class broke up laughing, while Kathy and I did our best to not chime in.  Gimme was so proud of herself, she certainly needed no encouragement from us.  

After this little side-trip, Kathy stood in front of the table so we could get on with demonstrating left-to-right thru.  Our solution to getting her to tighten her thru was to use her beloved platform.  The first challenge was getting Gimme to stay with me in "side" position and not dash ahead to get on the platform.  Lots of treats for staying in "side" solved the problem.  Then it was a matter of me learning to adjust my stride so I positioned my forward step where it would leave her room to get on the platform and stop in heel position when I brought my rear foot forward.  This issue is a matter of turning radius.  Gimme turns sharper to the right than the left which seems like it ought to work for us in this move.  However, if you look at it, she starts with a left turn and I think it causes her to carry out too far before she starts the right turn.  The platform worked nicely and I will probably try it some more to see if it helps.  

After this we worked in pairs, one team on the course and one on the near side of the floor practicing whatever we wanted.  I practiced having Gimme NOT leap onto every platform just because it was there.  The prevailing wisdom is to not put on cue the platform behavior.  So I had to think my way around it and be clear in my head what I wanted her to do.  Basically if I have her doing a cued behavior, she should not leave it to leap onto a platform - in which case the platform is a distraction to work through.  If she isn't working, she is free to indulge herself.  And to be clear, I do have one type of platform work on a cue - its "bacon" (a contraction of back-on, without "back" in the cue) - to back on the platform without going over or beside it with her front feet first.

So for our practice time, this is what we worked on.  "Heel" and "side" in the vicinity of platforms and she did very well as long as I paid well, making it clear what I wanted.  I do have to say, Gimme is easily the cleverest dog I've ever known.  She really tries to follow the rules.  However, its just not in her nature to bypass a loophole.  So while we were heeling really close, Gimme just couldn't resist lifting both back feet at the same time, taking a full step with both back feet in the air, before plopping them on the platform while keeping her front feet in "heel" position.  J'Anna saw this and almost fell out of her chair laughing.  I really should put this on cue for my agile little monkey.

For our time on course, Gimme did very well.  However, I had problems.  I was working her on leash and just couldn't manage the leash on the different "thru" behaviors, which would throw her off.  Kathy was coaching me, so I asked her to stand in the gap of the fencing, so I would feel comfortable with Gimme off leash.  I didn't think she'd try to bother the other dog, but I wanted a back-up just in case she suddenly thought it an option.  She did start toward the gap once, but turned on a thin dime when I called her - she might have been going toward Kathy.  Anyway, once we were without the leash, she did really well on all the stations.  Kathy thinks we are definitely ready to enter the regional video competition in May, which I've had in my head as a goal.  

While Kathy coached the last beginner on the course, she encouraged the 3 intermediates to work together on the near side of the room on focus.  Kathy is very good about keeping the intermediate students engaged while she takes time with the beginners.  She's really a very good instructor.  

Gimme started class with less focus than I've come to expect, but had come around.  I really wanted to push the envelope, so I played eye-contact with her and included dropping treats all around her, one at a time and in handfulls.  I'd pick them up one at a time and if she was seeking eye contact when I looked toward her (not eye-balling the treat), then I gave it to her.  By this time Kathy had finished with beginners and came over to stand behind each of our dogs, one at a time, loudly clapping her hands (she started from far enough away to not scare a dog and moved in as appropriate).  When she did this to Gimme, she ended straddling her tail, because Gimme was using her twin laser beams to make sure each of the treats came her way, so ignoring Kathy was a non-issue.  Kathy was really impressed and had everyone else watch what we were doing.  

To end class, Kathy had us demonstrate the behavior we've been working on, "can" so everyone would know why Gimme was so intent on getting her back feet on the agility table.  "Can" is: backing onto a prop, then pivoting around while keeping her rear feet on the prop.  At this point, Gimme backs on ("bacon") and then pivots a step or two.  I explained how I'd learned treat placement was critically important.  Initially I tried treating to the right of her nose to encourage another step, but I was getting a CW spin right off the prop.  So I had to treat straight from her nose.  I'd also learned I had to be careful to treat low enough so I didn't inadvertently encourage her to sit on the prop.  In order to encourage her to take more steps, I jackpot the last two steps where she ends up back in start position.  I think she will put this together and start making more steps until she does the entire pivot.  I did demonstrate her cued "bacon" behavior as well.  Naturally, everyone was suitably impressed.

After class I helped Kathy put stuff away and picked up the signs, and we talked.  She was really impressed to learn Gimme should be in a false pregnancy and yet is doing so well.  She says Gimme is her most improved student and she really thinks she could go far.  I told her how much I hated all the barking in the back-ground to begin with, but as much as it still annoys me, I do think its been good for Gimme.  Barking dogs has always been a challenge for her and now she only rarely acts like she notices.  At times its so loud I have to cross the floor to hear what Kathy is saying (we crate away from the other dogs), so I'm really happy to see this unintended positive outcome from this personal annoyance.

I love, Love, LOVE having my girlie being so resilient and able to make steady progress.  It is so neat to be able to really push for more and more with her - especially as I see her determination to overcome whatever challenge I give her.  She is sooooo much fun to train.  Be jealous one and all... ☺☺☺

Thursday, April 2, 2015

False Preggers be Gone!

Anyone who has followed our journey knows Gimme's false pregnancies have been a real issue for us.  The easy answer is spaying, except this is contraindicated because of Gimme's reactivity issues. All her life we have struggled between the two.  We'd make good progress on the reactivity, only to come into another false pregnancy and lose all the ground we'd made.  To complicate things, the false pregnancies kept getting worse with each repeat.  

I've tried many things and it seems we have finally hit on a cocktail of different supports and for once, even though she should have started by now - all seems normal.  She started to get woofy last week and I double-checked (using kinesiology) to see how I needed to adjust her supplements/etc.  One interesting thing was how her body said "no" to all the homeopathic remedies, even though we've relied on them before.  One day after the changes Gimme was back to normal - she'd hear a noise, consider it with an alert expression, then go on to ignore it.  Two days ago she started playing with two small white toys and I thought sure one was about to become her psuedo baby.  However, despite a bit more toy interest than usual, it hasn't happened.

The current group of support care (all twice a day) is:
~  Evening Primrose Oil -- 1000mg
SPI: Simplex F -- 2 capsules
MareMagic -- 1 scoop
Egg -- 1 raw
Flower Essence remedy for false pregnancy -- 2mm
Serenity Now -- 1 tablet

Some of these are given year round and some start as needed.  Details to follow...

Evening Primrose Oil - she's been getting 1000mg per day for a long time.  I check frequently to see if her body still wants it, and so far the answer has been yes.

Last year we saw a reproduction veterinary and she recommended the Standard Process Inc. whole food supplement Simplex F.   She said Gimme should start getting it daily when her season starts.  Last time around it didn't seem to make a big difference, though I thought I saw some improvement.  This time her body definitely wants it.

Our holistic person recommended MareMagic, dried raspberry leaves from Italy.  We started this last year just as she went into the false pregnancy.  We clearly got some improvement, but it wasn't the whole deal.  Her body continued to want it after the false pregnancy ended, so I kept her on a maintenance dose.  I did notice her season while on the maintenance dose was light and short (another dog who is taking it for false pregnancy also had a light/short season).  I suspect if someone wanted to breed their girl, they should stop the MareMagic well before the season.

The eggs are something I added after the Anders Hallgren seminar.  He says it contains a lot of tryptophan, which is a stress fighter, and all dogs with issues are under stress.  I started this just after the seminar and I did think I noticed Gimme was more resilient.

Flower Essence remedy for false pregnancy is something Tonya makes up for Gimme.  Last time we needed to do this 3 or 4 times a day to get effective results. Right now we're at twice a day and doing well.

Serenity Now is a chicken flavored tablet containing: thiamine, colostrum and l-theanine.  Gimme loves these and thinks they are treats.  Candy discovered them at a dog show and we've noticed improvement with them. 

None of them do the trick on their own, but right now this combination really seems to be working.  Right now Gimme is doing so well, I keep pinching myself.  Of course its still a trifle early.  Do cross any body parts you can spare.