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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Sunday, May 31, 2015

You Make-a Me Laugh

I spent the day at an AKC tracking judges education seminar.  I have less than zero interest in becoming a judge for any sport.  I figured out long ago the nit-picky nature of judging would not be a good fit for me; plus I just hate bureaucracy.  Besides, it would take too much of my time from the fun of working with Gimme.  Anyway, this was still a great opportunity to learn a lot from the judge's perspective.  I learned a number of things which will hopefully keep me from making handler mistakes (the #1 reason for tracking failures).

One of the most important discussions was the difference between "restraining" and "guiding".  Restraining is allowed as an important handling tool to aid the dog.  Guiding differs from restraining because it has the component of moving the dog in a specific direction.  I'll get my notes out another time and see if there are some gems I can share.  I loved the saying:
"Hanging on for dear life is not restraint..."
So I get home and Gimme has been cooped up alone all day and naturally, wanted my attention.  I still needed to fill the yard waste bin for emptying early tomorrow.  So I grabbed her ball and went outside.  I threw it once and didn't get to touch it again for awhile.  Gimme likes to bring it near me, drop it on the ground, stand over it, and dare me to try to get it.  I faked her out ONCE by offering her a leaf, which didn't work again.  From then on, she kept the ball in her mouth while inspecting my offerings.  I usually wait until she got bored and walked away from the ball and then I snatch it, call her name and throw it across the yard. So then she starts dropping it and leaving it if I'm not showing signs of joining her in keep-away.  I think I threw it 20 times overall.

At one point I was deep in a bush (dead-heading a rhody) and when I was done, turned around looking for the ball.  It wasn't in sight, so I asked Gimme, "Girlfriend, where is your ball?"  She trotted over close to me and stood looking at me with her "why are you asking me" look.  I figured it was elsewhere in the yard, so grabbed the rake and started raking up the bush trimmings.  Gimme watched with intense interest and then started attacking the edge of one of my piles.  At which point she snaked a paw in, dragged out her ball and then started tossing it around while doing the ah-hah-haaaa dance.

So now we know why she thought I should know where the ball was, since I was the one who covered it up with rhody trimmings.  Since then she's been parading back and forth in front of me with toy after toy after toy after toy - hinting doncha know...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Nosework (2/10)

Dorothy often sets up new and different scenarios and scenting challenges. 

For this class, we started with two vehicle searches.  One was a large white construction truck with a boom/hoist on top.  Along the sides were several compartments with rubber gasketed doors.  Odor was in one of those compartments and the door was closed, but not latched.  Most of the dogs only got into the vicinity and their handlers paid them for any sniffing of the compartment.  Gimme actually got her feet up on the steps next to the compartment and was sniffing along the vertical edge.  I waited for her to give me the look saying “I know its in here somewhere, but I can’t tell you any more”.  The second vehicle search was a simple wheel well hide.

We did three exterior searches, with channeling applications.  One was a pile of concrete blocks, with some openings in places which went through to the approach side.  Gimme got this very quickly.  The second was inside a stack of two empty wiring spools and the hide had been dropped through the center of the spool to the ground.  We could see there was an opening which was only inches from where the tin lay, but none of the dogs showed any interest in the opening.  Gimme stood up with her feet on the spools and sniffed as close as she could to the hole on top where the tin had been dropped through and then indicated by raising a paw.  I rewarded this and then tried to get her to "check-it” for the opening, but she was completely uninterested.  The third hide was on a shrink-wrapped pallet of plastic conduit.  The tin was laying on the pallet at the center of the pile.  Gimme found this and indicated at the far edge of the pallet where the scent was coming out underneath.

As these searches were done, I went to see how the wiring spools were constructed, trying to understand why the dogs paid no attention to the opening so close to the tin.  It was completely open to where the tin was and possibly if odor had been there long enough, some of it might have come out and been available to the dogs.  We decided the slight breeze was actually going in the opening and pushing scent up through a “chimney” to where the dogs sourced it. 

Class ended with two simple searches, easily accessible, among some huge boulders nearby.  At least Gimme found them easily accessible.  A couple of the other dogs, are not as bold and confident.  Gimme was completely unfazed by the close confines between two giant boulders.  And being part mountain goat, the need to step on a some big rocks to access the other was a complete non-issue.

At this stage in the nosework game, you really can't teach your dog anything.  To be clear, we passed the teaching stage a long time ago.  The only one who is still being “taught things” is the two-legged part of our team... and even this is up for debate. ☺ For the dogs as they get more advanced, all we can do is keep adding to their experience base.  As they become more experienced, they gain confidence and they start to draw on past lessons to make inferences about new situations/conditions.

When I taught flight and ground school in the military – a million years ago – one of the things we learned was the four levels of learning: rote, understanding, application and correlation (RUAC).  It’s a model for how an individual integrates comprehension for the things they learn.

  • Rote – this is memorization, usually through repetition.  An individual can have rote learning, but not appreciate any larger meaning or can use what has been learned.  Think of this as the early level where you teach your dog a behavior in a specific place, under specific conditions.  They have memorized (experienced) the behavior, but only under those conditions.
  • Understanding – now the individual attaches meaning to what they’ve learned.  At this level, we are seeing if the dog has sufficient understanding to do the behavior under different conditions.  When she can, then you know you’ve achieved understanding, which in dog training lingo is also known as  “generalization”.  This is where you work to expand the dog’s understanding of the rules for the behavior and it becomes useful.
  • Application – here the dog starts to apply the things she’s learned in new ways and under even more unusual conditions.  At this point, what the dog learned becomes truly functional.  Generalization as a concept is essentially complete (though it will continue to expand throughout the dog’s life), so the dog can walk into different scenarios and apply what they know without having to really think it through.  They become much more efficient.
  • Correlation – now the dog starts making connections and demonstrates deeper insights into how the skill works, using it in creative ways.  The dog will compare prior experiences to what it is seeing in a given moment and then infer how similarities and contrasts can be used to solve a given challenge.

In my career as a flight instructor and later teaching other things, I have seen many instances of human students who never got beyond the application level.  For pet dogs, most of the time they don’t get further than understanding.  Most performance dogs don’t get beyond application – though I think this is also related to what the performance skill is.  Some of the best dogs, with really skilled and thoughtful trainers, will get into correlation.  Though, just having an excellent trainer will not ensure the dog will get to correlation.  We’ve all seen trainer/handlers who have this one special dog and as a team they become famous, but then the person is never able to replicate the accomplishment with other dogs.  Often they wash out a lot of dogs along the way, while searching for the next special dog. For dogs to get to correlation, they must learn all there is to be taught and then be able to take it to the next level.

I see this in Gimme, she just naturally gets to application and often from there to correlation.  If I was more skilled and consistent, she’d probably be famous already (fortunately she doesn’t care).  An example of her skill has to do with bicycles.  We walk in a lot of places where people are riding bikes or skateboards.  In order for us to take advantage of the opportunity for a bit of off-leash time, Gimme has to be controlled enough so she doesn’t present a hazard to other users.  My initial plan was to make them all a “cue” for peanut butter.

Initially, while still on leash, I gave her peanut butter any time I saw a bicycle coming.  Then when she was off leash, whenever I saw them I called her to me and she got peanut butter.  She quickly picked up the connection and when she saw a bike, she turned to me.  This is rote – see bicycle, get peanut butter.  The next stage was to apply the rule to other wheeled-things, like skateboards.  Gimme only needed to get peanut butter one time for a skateboard to make the connection.  At this point we were also starting to use the rule in different places.  We used it on the fort’s training areas in a couple of places where we were walking along roads and cars might come along.  Thus, she had reached understanding.  As we’ve continued to expand our experiences, Gimme deduced correctly the rule holds true for some other wheeled-things, but not to all wheeled-things.  She knows the rule is true for recumbent bicycles, strollers and buggies.  It is not true for motorcycles and cars which are not on the same path we are using, such as places where a road crosses the Chehalis-Western Trail.  Also just because she can see it, doesn’t mean it is payable, as it must be within 100 yards.  So she has shown application level comprehension regarding wheeled-things.  Recently we were approaching a group of people who had stopped on the trail to wait for others.  Their bicycles were laying on the ground or leaning on sign posts and benches.  I saw Gimme watching the people and she could clearly see the bikes, but did not do her showing behavior, which she does to tell me she spotted a rule moment and expects payment.  People were milling around among the unused bicycles and I saw Gimme’s interest increase when a couple of people picked up their bikes from the ground.  However, she didn’t give me the showing behavior until a person actually straddled their bike.  Gimme had inferred on her own a set of similarities and contrasts to know when the wheeled-thing-peanut-butter rule was in affect, thus achieving correlation!

This same process can be applied to nosework, but will have to wait for another day.  For now, me and my genius need some couch time together.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tracking Genius (11)

Here are a couple of pictures from April 30th. This first one is Gimme tracking... 

Note she has her nose down pretty good here.

This second picture is us working her article indication.  You get a nice view of her cute little tushie.  I've encouraged her to bow at the article.  I thought this was a nice indication where she doesn't have to put her whole body down if we are tracking in wet conditions.

Our tracks on May 14th were very simple.  I set the usual "C" shape warm up track.  I put food down every 10 yards for Paula's dog, who is still very much a beginner.  I did it with Gimme at the end of the day, just to pick up the articles and tape markers.

Nadine set one simple track in a square with all right turns and Paula set the same track with all left turns.  There was an article on each leg.  Since they didn't coordinate well, the final legs for both tracks ended up very close to each other.  Interestingly, none of the dogs was confused by this, even the two beginners handled it well, sticking to the track they were on.  We had the two exit paths converge to be one (the dotted line). 

We made sure there were no food drops when I ran Gimme and she did it very well and fast.  She loved finding all the articles...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tracking Genius (10)

On May 7th, I started with another practice track.  In an effort to get her nose down, I put out a food drop every 5 yards.  It was a simple "c" shaped track and should have been very easy.  About two-thirds of it was through long grass.

Right away I noticed Gimme seemed less interested in tracking and keeping her nose down and more interested in air scenting.  The only time her nose was consistently down was in the long grass and then she went faster and ignored most of the food drops.  

In thinking about this, it seemed the food drops were actually a hindrance and they caused Gimme to be less focused on the task of following the track.  As I thought about it, it came to me - they were like a distraction.  And it also occurred to me, when she smelled a treat her head went up to air scent which direction it was.  Since all her work in nosework and barn hunt is done with air scenting, it made sense she would use the same skills to find food drops.

So when Nadine went out to lay our track, I told her I wanted to experiment and have no food drops.  Instead I wanted to have an article right before every turn.  Gimme loves finding articles, so I thought putting them right before the turns would help her to drive all the way into the turns (i.e. no cutting corners like last week).

This turned out to be a breakthrough moment for us.  Gimme kept her nose down most of the time, probably 80-90 percent of the time and she was very focused on her job.  And she was much faster too.

I emailed Sil Sanders about my thoughts about food drops acting as a distraction, essentially dividing her focus.  He concurred and said for some dogs it becomes a hindrance instead of the help we intend.

I told him how much Gimme loves finding her articles - which I think has to do with her nosework and barn hunt experiences where finding things is highly rewarded.  So it makes sense she thinks finding articles is great fun - in her mind it already has a strong reward history.  Sil suggested, since she loves them so much, we could use articles as a reward for solving a tough puzzle, by placing one 30 yards after the challenging spot. 

This is so exciting, to see Gimme really knuckle down into tracking like this.  She really is a natural, especially when you consider how little tracking training we've done.  This is only her tenth formal tracking session since we've gotten back into it and she takes big leaps in understanding every time we go out.  Before we only tinkered with it from time to time, but not knowing what I was doing, it was hard to be really invested in the training.

I'm really stoked and looking forward to the three big tracking workshops we've signed up for late July into August.  I signed up for 3-day weekends with each one.  They are with Sil Sanders who is the author of Enthusiastic Tracking, and is known internationally as a tracking guru.  I feel blessed to live so close and have this opportunity to train with him.  I'm also blessed to have Nadine to train with.  Having a training buddy is always a good thing and Nadine is so nice and supportive and she has quite a bit of experience.  Boyoh I really lucked out with this.

And, of course, I feel doubly blessed to have the amazingly talented and eager Gimme to show me how much fun this sport can be. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Practice & Tracking Genius (9)

We are getting ready to enter the Western Regional RallyFrEe video event, so I'm trying to get in some practices.  On Sunday when Gimme had her seizure, we were at DaPaws intending to practice, which obviously didn't happen.  So Wednesday (yesterday) after work, I hustled us over to practice.

I set up a course of 10 behaviors and just worked them with a variable reward of 1-4 behaviors.  I also set up her special bowl, then whatever the number was, if the behavior was reward-worthy I gave her the cue "yours" to run to the bowl and self-serve.  Then I'd walk over and put treats in her special bowl.  From there we'd walk back to where we left off and continue through to whatever number of behaviors was next on the random number list.  Gimme did so well at this and was having fun.  When I was sure she'd be okay with it, I did all ten behaviors,  two-thirds of a novice course, and had already set up the special bowl with a lot of extra treats.  Then went back to random with 1-4.

We took a break from course work to work on some other behaviors and played around with some other things.  We ended with some more course work, going back to the 1-4 list.  Our last behavior was one step of perfect off-side heeling.

Gimme was really trying hard and was eager to get back to work.  I did notice she wasn't as quick to respond.  It seemed to take her just a tad longer to respond to a cue.  I've learned it can take 2-5 days to fully recover mental sharpness from a seizure episode, so I was aware I might see some evidence.  I just encouraged her and rewarded a lot.  I was most pleased to see her trying so hard even though she was having to put forth extra effort to stay focused.

Then last night we worked on her “one” behavior.  I started awhile back with naming her paws 1-2-3-4.  My goal is to at some point be able to cue a paw and add a verb to it.  So “one paw” would mean to put her right front paw on whatever was presented, such as my foot or hand.  Or “two high” would mean to lift her left front paw high and “two lift” would be to lift the paw off the ground, but not necessarily high like a high-five.  So while this is the end goal, I realize we may never get there – verbs may simply be too advanced of a concept, even for my little genius.  So for now “one” means the same as “one high”.  I need paw raises for level one courses.  Gimme thinks its just too easy.  Tonight we’ll work on “two”.

I’m behind on reporting our tracking training, even though Nadine and I get together almost every week.  Part of the reason I fall behind is because I want to show the map where applicable and it takes time to create it.  Y’all would likely live without the map, but my blog also serves as our training record, so I'm making a special effort to get caught up.

I set up a practice track and Gimme did well on it.  We are still having difficulty at this point trying to get her head down.  Her tendency has always been to air scent and this will just not work well for tracking, whereas its fine in nosework and barn hunt.

This course was 505 yards, 4 articles on a sunny, cool day.  Nadine laid three sharp turns as shown.  Gimme had no trouble taking the sharp turns, but I did notice on the first and third articles, she tried to cut the corner and go directly to the nearby article (from the green dots).  It was more noticeable for the third article because the direction of the breeze made it obvious, which was when I realized what was happening at the first turn. 

Gimme sure loves tracking and I love watching her do her nosey thing...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nosework (1/10)

We had some interesting searches.  

The first search was an underwater search - with 1 q-tip at the bottom of a bowl of water.  The breeze should have been blowing the scent away from us, but there was a large log between the source of the breeze and the hide.  So I think it was creating a bit of a swirl.  Anyway, all the dogs found it pretty quickly.  

Something I've been concerned about happened tonight.  I've been training tracking in her nosework harness because the harness I intend to use long-term for tracking still needs alterations.  At first she never peed on a track, but now she does - probably because the others all do and she often follows them.  Anyway tonight, after we'd started the search, she went into the grass and peed - even though she'd had a chance to pee shortly before.  I took her by the harness and marched her off the search area, gave her a squinty-eyed look and then restarted her.  There is no problem with fouling the track, but its an NQ in nosework.  So I'm thinking I'm going to have to nip this in the bud or it could be a problem for our nosework career.  

The second search was three hides stuck to the side of the metal building near the industrial size garage doors - following last week's theme of high-medium and low.  She went by the high and medium, brieftly passed the low, then turned around to nail it.  As she went back up the line she got the medium hide easily.  For some reason the high hide (at about 6 feet) seemed to be a big challenge for her.  Normally she aces high hides.  She finally got it, but it seemed to be a challenge.  I suspect it had something to do with the breeze, since she kept getting caught up on stuff nearby and in particular the door to go in the building.

The third and fourth searches were inside.  The area had a lot of stuff everywhere.  There were three hides.  One was set deep in a drawer near where we entered.  Another was on an expen set in a zigzag.  The other was on the underside of the rolling cart.  The green arrow is a fan - which was off for the third search.  The giant garage doors were open at the end of the room (triple dotted line).

For the third search Gimme found the one on the expen first, then walked around to the other side and "found" it again.  She was quite pleased with her cleverness. She had a little challenge getting to the hide on the rolling cart (pink rectangle), I think because it was a converging odor challenge.  Once she got it, then she went on a direct line to the one deep in the drawer. 

For the fourth search the only hide left out was the one on the expen and then the fan was turned on.  We thought this would be a challenging search, but it seemed easy for all the dogs.  Gimme got it very quickly. 

I had an "interesting" conversation with the co-instructor about Gimme's seizures and medication.  She said there was no reason for Gimme to be on medication because she had a dog who had seizures every couple of months for her whole life.  She said they were grand mal seizures, mostly clusters and she never medicated the dog, which lived to 14 years old and died from something else.  I found it an astounding attitude.  Then on the way home I realized part of the issue is her breed, Belgians.  There are breeds recognized for a high incidence of seizures: GSD, Beagles, Belgians, Dachshunds, Keeshonds, Collies, Goldens, Poodles, Huskies, Cocker Spaniels, Irish Setters, Miniature Schnauzers, Wire-haired Fox Terriers, Labrador Retrievers and Saint Bernards. 

Recently I took part in an owner reported health survey of Dalmatians and it showed 5% of Dalmatians have had seizures.  I looked on line and found two articles, one said 3%, and the other 4%, of dogs overall have had seizures.  So Dals are at a slightly increased susceptibility, whereas the breeds listed above have a MUCH higher incidence.  So for people in those breeds, perhaps seizues are part of their view of normal and so they don't take them as seriously.  I do suspect the incidence in Dalmatians is probably closer to the overall percentage, because those owners who report in a health survey are more likely to keep closer track of all the minor issues and possibly over-report, as opposed to the overall population of pet owners. 

BTW the same survey results showed the incidence of false pregnancy in Dalmatians is only 1%.  I've had about 20 Dalmatians (4 males) and two of the females had false pregnancies, so I've seen over 12%.  Thus I was surprised to find the incidence in Dalmatians so low.  

Gimme is still asking about her daily bowl of vanilla ice cream...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

EST Detailed Results

Here are the details for the Element Specialty Trial.  Keep in mind, many of the placings are separated only by parts of a second.  Gimme would likely place higher in the rankings if I weren't so cautious.

On May 2nd, Gimme became the first Dalmatian to get the L1V (vehicle) title and the first to get all four level one element titles.  She completed four searches successfully.
Search 1:   20.58 seconds, 11th place
Search 2:   20.21 seconds, 7th place
Search 3:   52.64 seconds, 17th place
Search 4:   36.89 seconds, 26th place
Overall position:  2:10.32 for 12th place - 20 titles awarded of 30 entrants

On May 3rd, Gimme became the first Dalmatian to get the L2C (container) title and thus the first to get a level two element title.  She completed four searches successfully.
Search 1:   24.40 seconds, 19th place
Search 2:   34.09 seconds, 9th place
Search 3:   12.68 seconds, 18th place
Search 4:   1.19.00 seconds, 14th place
Overall position:  2:30.09 for 12th place - 18 titles awarded of 25 entrants

Later on the same day (May 3rd), Gimme became the first Dalmatian to get the L2I (interior) title and thus the first to get a second level two element title.  She completed four searches successfully.
Search 1:   44.90 seconds, 4th place
Search 2:   1:07.09 seconds, 20th place
Search 3:   22.72 seconds, 14th place
Search 4:   38.01 seconds, 4th place
Overall position:  2:57.72 for 6th place - 18 titles awarded of 25 entrants

Her nose knows...

We Celebrated Too Soon!

Today started out just wonderful.  Gimme and I snuggled on the couch for a movie then headed over to our walking place.  We put in 2 miles.  

From there we headed to DaPaws for a practice to get ready for the upcoming regional RallyFrEe video event.  I had planned all the things I wanted to work on and had used an online random integer generator to prepare a gradual and variable sequence of numbers of behaviors before rewards.  

When I got there Chris and I moved some of the equipment out of the way so I could set up a course of sorts.  We were also talking about something which happened recently and I was gesticulating wildly, imitating the person in question.  Gimme came over a couple of times to get reassurance and make me calm down - or so I thought.  I took Gimme outside to put her in the van, planning to leave her there while I set up the course.  

She saw William and started pulling in his direction.  Then she seemed to move unusually and at first I thought she was going to squat to pee as soon as she got on the gravel.  But then her front end got lower too and she started to get stiff and unsteady.  This is when I realized she was having a seizure.  I ran to her and held her until it passed.  

When she was able to walk again, I moved her toward the van.  She started to get in, but couldn't get her rear in, so I lifted her in and then she had another seizure.  Again I held her until it passed and when she was ready I helped her get in her crate.  I sat there petting and comforting her and could see her posture, even though she was laying down, was odd.  It seemed like she was trying to hug the ground.  Then she had another seizure.  It seemed to abate and then started again, so I wasn't sure if it was one or two.  The vet said it was likely one because the intensity of activity can vary within a seizure.

I took her to the emergency vet and they checked her out and after they got done gushing over how gorgeous she is, pronounced her fully recovered.  You gotta love a vet who sits on the floor so he can cuddle with your dog while he's talking.  In any case, Gimme certainly loved him.  I learned several things:
  • A single seizure, also known as "breakthrough" seizure, is what we had last November and is less serious than a cluster.  A cluster is 3 or more seizures in a 24 hour period.  Any dog who has a cluster should go on anti-convulsion medication right away.
  • I'd originally been told getting past 6 months without a repeat was a good sign and the longer they go without improves the odds of there not being another.  On the surface this seems obvious.  But there is actually a medical reason beyond the laws of probability.  The vet told me, while a seizure is actually occurring, the brain is creating new seizure pathways.  The more seizure pathways the greater the likelihood of another seizure occurring.
  • He said some individuals will get to a point where they enter "status epilepticus" (an epileptic seizure of greater than five minutes [or more than one seizure within a five minute period without the individual returning to normal between them]).  In the case of a prolonged seizure, immediate treatment is essential, because the longer they are in seizure, the less likelihood of medical intervention being successful.  This goes back to what I said above, about the brain creating new seizure pathways - since new pathways are being created the whole time of the seizure.  A scary thing I hope to never see.
  • A stabilized dog can do anything they would normally be able to do. So there is no reason to change or restrict their activity.  This I'm sure Gimme was relieved to hear. 
  • While epilepsy and other seizure disorders are mostly progressive, meaning they get worse over time, the vet did go on to say, once stabilized most dogs go on to live a normal life and almost always die from something other than their seizures.
So Gimme has now been started on anti-convulsion medication.  I had two choices, phenobarbitol and levetiracetam.  Phenobarbitol is effective and inexpensive, but has the potential side affect of liver damage over time and requires regularly scheduled blood workups to monitor liver function.  Phenobarbitol also has a 5-10 day acclimatization period where the dog seems drunk until the dog's body gets accustomed to it.  Levetiracetam is more expensive, is every bit as effective, and has no side-affects or acclimatization period.  I'm thinking the cost of repeat blood workups offsets much of the higher cost. 

So naturally I opted for the more expensive choice.  I got a 30-day supply at Walmart and it was twice as expensive as the vet predicted. I'll be shopping online to find a less expensive source.  Still its worth it to have my girl healthy and be sure her liver is going to be okay.  

Cross your paws and say prayers for her... and for me.  I'm exhausted and am going to go collapse on the couch.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Six Month Anniversary

Just a quick note to say...  We've made it to the 6 month anniversary from Gimme's seizure back in November.  I'm happy to have this milestone behind us.  Common wisdom is, if you can make it six months without another one, chances are it was a perfect storm of factors to cause a one time event.  Of course, my Lucy had a couple of seizures when young and then didn't have another for several years.  Still, she never had any more after the second cluster.

So have a glass of wine to celebrate on our behalf...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nosework (6/9)

Just came home from nosework class.  I gave Gimme a Kong with peanut butter inside.  Apparently not enough PB, because she keeps bringing it to me and dropping it noisily beside me - hinting....

Dorothy set up a layout to create some really good searches. 

The pink dots are odor with the letter above it indicating its relative height.  L was floor level behind a table leaning against the wall; M was about 3' off the ground on a porous divider; and H was 4.5' high on another porous divider.  The red rectangle is a rolling cart and the blue rectangle is a step aerobics platform and the green c's are chairs.  The tan and black circles are stools and for the first search Dorothy was sitting on the tan stool.  It was interesting to note all the dogs clearly showing us the perimeter of the High hide with changes of behavior (the grey half-circle).  They all got the hides in order of low, medium and high. 

A couple other dogs got to the High hide faster, but their owners were actually helping them with their own movement and proximity and a few of them paid for any indication the dog was looking up at all.  Gimme was the most advanced of the dogs there tonight and I purposely acted like I didn't know where it was, and just mirrored Gimme with my movement and waited for her to solve it.  She paid a lot of attention to the clock above the closest green chair.  From the way the dogs acted, the odor was drifting over to pool on the nearest chair.  The only thing I did to help Gimme was to pull the chair out away from the wall and this was enough for her to decide it wasn't the clock.  Then she figured out where it was and we had a big party.  I was very proud of her for sorting it out on her own.

For the second search the hides were moved out into the room, but still low, medium and high.  The tan stool was high, with the hide on the underside of the seat.  The medium height hide was on the inside of one of the red rolling cart supports.  And the low hide was on the lower part of the leg for the black stool.

Gimme quickly found the high and medium height hides, but she went round and round and round for the low one.  She had her head up in the clouds and even though she went by the black stool a couple of times, she just wouldn't get her nose down near the ground to find it.  She's always had a tendency to want to search high-headed.  I thought the big party (and a large glob of PB) we had for solving the high hide in the prior search made her think I wanted her looking up.  So when she finally did get her nose down and find the low hide, she got a very large glob of PB.  Her mouth was so glued shut with it, she had a hard time walking!

Dorothy likes to end class with a simpler hide, especially if there were tough challenges on earlier searches.  She feels it keeps the dogs' enthusiasm high.  So this last search was one hide under the seat of the tan stool.  It was easy-peasy and Gimme nailed it quickly. 

Good thing we had class tonight, since Gimme has been bored.  I have to transition my accounts to Father's Day, so it makes for long days and no energy left in me when I get home.  Miss Gimme finally realized no matter how many times she drops her Kong on my foot (its the extra large size - ouch!), its not going to get refilled tonight.  Thus, she has settled down under the desk for a snooze.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Nosework (4/9 & 5/9)

I didn't blog about the April 28th class (Tuesday before our three EST weekend), and then it seemed overcome by the more important details of the weekend.  Gimme and I are still basking in the glow, though she thinks basking is overrated.  So perhaps it is I who is doing all the basking and she is poised and ready, waiting for me to start something interesting. Our instructor knew many of us were entered in the element trials, so she set up searches which might be similar.  Remember, in element trials the searches are often a bit unconventional.  I find the container searches get the most variety.  In class we had two outdoor container searches.

The first search was 8 boxes laid along the front of the building and tucked in at the commercial size garage doors - it had two hides.  Gimme stepped on the first one as she went by it.  She often does this when she is looking to see if there are any more, so I was pretty certain the box she stepped on had odor.  She went down to the end and got the second to last box and then came back to get the one she'd stepped on.

The second search was 18 orange plastic containers, set in three lines, one hide.  Gimme found this one pretty quickly, though she went by it the first time with just a little nose tip in its direction.  Once she was sure there were no more, then she got back to it.

The third search was three vehicles with two odors set for a converging odor challenge.  Gimme didn't have any difficulty with the converging odor, though she did take her time determining source for the second hide. Our fourth search was a simple box search indoors, with two hides - there was nothing unusual about this search.

Our class on May 5th incorporated some of the search styles from the element trials.  There were four searches and after our success of the weekend, they weren't particularly challenging.  

Search one - several boxes all around the small entry room where the store is set up.  We've done several searches in here before, so it wasn't hard, it was just the boxes which made it different.  Gimme was inclined to treat this as an interior search - which some of the element container searches get to be very interior-like.  

Search two - the front half of the training room was separated from the back half with expens.  There were two hides in here and Gimme found them pretty quickly.  

Search three - the bathroom with one hide on the hinge of the door.  Since the door was open, the hide was actually between the door and the wall.  For some reason, scent was drifting from there across the open doorway to the heater grill (turned off).  Gimme went back and forth between them before deciding to push her head behind the door, which I then moved to give her better access.

Search four - the back half of the training room, with boxes scattered around the floor and 3 of them were on chairs lined up to the wall.  There was a hide in one of the boxes on a chair and the other was in a box next to the wall between a couple chairs.  Gimme didn't find this difficult.

Search five - the same part of the room.  The box on the chair was moved down several chairs (about 10 feet) and the other box removed, though a hide was placed on a grooming table leg.  The table is against the wall between where the instructor was sitting and where we who were spectating were sitting.  So the dogs were inhibited about searching there.  Gimme found the hide in a box on the chair very quickly, but then took her time to find the other one.  The table is in a part of the room which is almost never a productive part of the search area, so I'm sure she didn't bother with it right away.  Had this been an interior search of a trial, I would have directed her along the wall when she didn't find it elsewhere in the room.  Since it was training, I left it to her to sort it out on her own.

As dogs get farther along in this sport, they really get most of their learning from new experiences.  Scent is scent and using their noses comes natural to all dogs.  Its just a matter of them having enough different experiences so they learn to do it more quickly.

What did you do for Mother's Day?  I worked a couple of peak service calls in the morning and then went to my Mom's.  Most of the family showed up for a cook-out.  The boys worked the grill and did most of the work.  I played a weird game with my brother and his kids after we ate.  Once we got home, I pooped out on the couch. In the space of an hour - Gimme brought me toy after toy after toy. She'd lay across my lap and play with it, I think to show me how it worked. Then she'd go and get another one. By the time she was done, I had twenty of her toys on my lap or on the couch beside me. I think she was sharing, in honor of Mother's day doncha know...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

One Weekend - 3 Titles (3)

Gimme did very well, achieving the Level 2 Interior title.  We were almost certain to end the day with this title, since she already had a leg toward it from her first attempt, so we only needed to be successful for 75% of the hides.

This makes Gimme the first Dalmatian to achieve two level 2 element titles and the first to achieve the L2I.  [there was nothing special about these layouts, so I didn't spend the time to diagram them]

Sunday – Interior Level 2

Gimme was a little frustrated going into the first pair of searches, because this club has decided you can't toss treats on the ground in the waiting areas, so we couldn't play the ping-pong game.  This was announced during the briefing for the second trial  Their reasoning is because it might distract a dog who comes after and smells treats on the ground while waiting.  

Personally I think if owners haven't trained their dog well enough to get their focus back between then and entering the search area, just possibly they need more training.  Not to mention the dog likely isn't odor obedient and isn't ready to trial at this or any level.  To cap it off, this is level 2.  For NW1 they don't sanitize the search area to remove distractions.  At our second NW1 trial, there was an open bag of Fritos in a child's desk, so even then food smells as distractions are present.  At NW2 level, they also don't remove existing distractions and purposely add distractions to container searches.  So, prohibiting an exhibitor from working their dog's activity needs in a holding area because it might distract a later dog - well its just plain foolishness.
**Train - don't complain.**

Anyway I usually use the ping-pong game to bleed off any  frustration while waiting.  I was trying to come up with things I could get her to do on cue and then reward from hand – had to be simple stuff.  I did toss her a few treats – most of which she caught.  Fortunately the wait for this pair of searches was minimal.  I did better for our second set of searches.

Interior Search 1 – There were two hides and 2 minutes to find them.  It was a school room with lots of tables.  I waited at the door to see if she wanted to come back and check the threshold, but she didn't.  She found the hides quickly and I even remembered to say "finish" without looking at the timer first.

Interior Search 2 –  Again two hides in a small narrow room with 1.5 minutes to find them.  They were on chairs right across from each other – so the hides were only about 3 feet apart.  Gimme was a little stuck on the first one and kept going back to it.  So I got her attention and then directed the search from there.  When I got her to check close enough, she was able to source the second hide.  This was a really tough converging odor challenge.  Again I said "finish" without looking at the timer.

Interior Search 3 – This was a small room with just one hide.  Gimme found it very quickly on the edge of a trash can.  I remembered "finish" all on my own.

Interior Search 4 – This was a medium size room, with a long conference table down the middle and lots of office type stuff around the sides.  There were three hides.  Two were at the far end of the room kinda close to each other and presented a converging odor challenge.  The other was actually pretty close to the door.  Gimme found the first two quickly.  Then I walked with her to the end where we'd entered and paused briefly.  Gimme came near me and found the third hide.  I said "alert... finish", almost like one word.

I was really pleased to have remembered ALL 8 "finish" calls today.  This has been an issue for me before.

As soon as we got home, I wanted nothing more than to lay in a dark room, since I'd had a migraine all day, thanks to sun reflecting off stuff and giving me eye-zaps.  Gimme made it perfectly clear she hasn't done anything interesting in ages... "WEEKS!" she says.  Sometimes she exaggerates doncha know...


One Weekend - 3 Titles (2)

I didn't feel as confident about this title as I did about other (interiors), mostly because we haven't worked on her indication lately and while they usually don't, they can use boxes at level 2 and beyond.  Fortunately in class Tuesday, they did three container searches set up like element trials.  Gimme did really well on all her searches today.  I admit I was a little concerned to start with because she wasn't interested in the practice boxes – I think she sometimes finds them boring.  She was interested in them yesterday, but this was the second day and she'd already seen them there.

In any case, this success made Gimme the first Dalmatian to achieve a Level 2 element title and the first to achieve a Level 2 Container element title.  

Sunday – Container Level 2 

Container Search 1 – This search was a dozen large pieces of luggage in a grassy area, with four picnic tables, the bags where snugged up to the picnic tables.  There were 2 hides and Gimme did a good job of finding them quickly.  I was ready to leave and noticed the timer was still holding the stopwatch up in still-timing pose, which reminded me to say "finish". (yeah me)

Container Search 2 – This search was a dozen medium size bags in a smallish office area, with various chairs, filing cabinets and bookcases.   The bags were around the edge of the room with just one hide.  We had the option of doing this search off leash, but I didn't, because I didn't know what the search area would be like until they opened the door (remember we don't get any walk-through at element trials).  This would have been okay to do off leash, but she found odor so quickly there was no reason to take her off once we started.  Gimme located it pretty quickly.  Again I noticed the still-timing pose and remembered to say "finish".

Container Search 3 – There were 15 identical black bags with blue trim, laid out in a conference room – with 3 odors.  I knew we were in big trouble from the startline.  Gimme was practically hovering at seeing this search, she could have glowed in the dark.  Her search style was barely contained mayhem.  She interacted roughly with almost every bag.  She was pawing and scratching excessively at both odor and distraction bags.  I remembered to keep moving around her when she stopped at a bag, which is how I knew when it was odor vs. distraction (she won't leave odor).  She found two hides on her own.  Then I looped her around the room once more and she kept going back to hides she'd already found, so I took charge of the search.  I started walking the bags, cuing "check-it" at each bag and just past halfway around she settled on one.  Seeing the still-timing pose, I said "finish".  I was certain we'd be faulted and was glad to know you can only receive one fault of the same type in a search.  I said to the judge, "I assume you faulted her for the aggressive indication".  She said no, and said she'd explain after the fourth search.

Container Search 4 – This was a very small room, about the size of a walk-in closet, with 8 plastic shoeboxes on the floor, full of pens, pencils, crayons and the like.  Gimme stopped at one box, but didn't indicate, so I started moving her toward the end of the room.  She decided on her own not to bother checking the room and went back to indicate the one she'd shown interest in.  In a room so small its pretty clear when there is only one odor source and she was very definite in her indication.  Again I remembered to say "finish".

The judge explained she would have faulted us if she saw that kind of rough indication in an interior search, but not on bags.  She was entirely too generous.  I certainly would have assessed a fault no matter what element it was.  Gimme was pretty close to out of control.  Fortunately I don't usually see rough indications in other elements, so I wasn't worried about the afternoon trial.  Then again, as Gimme's reaction to the field of identical bags showed, one never knows with my wild little Demolition Gimme.

One Weekend - 3 Titles (1)

[My laptop now has a new battery, so I was able to write the blog while on site.  Of course, being fresh in my mind, it has a lot of details, so I've broken it into 3 entries.]

Over the weekend of three Element Specialty Trials - we were 100% successful at all three.  Gimme was amazing all weekend, despite still being in a false pregnancy.  She was concerned about leaving the baby the first time, but then was fine with it afterward.  This lends weight to my belief it is the prolonged time out of the car which throws her in barn hunt.  At this trial, I got the potty walk out of the way and then back to the car.  I was able to get her out at the last moment and go almost directly to the first waiting station.  So for her searches, the longest she was out of the car was 20 minutes and barn hunt is usually 30 minutes or more.  Then again it could simply be because she is so much farther along in her motherhood experience.

Saturday Level 1 Vehicles 

After this day's success, Gimme became the first Dalmatian to get all four Level 1 element titles.  The searches were easy and to be honest, I think Gimme was a little bored with how simple they were.  She likes a good challenge and she clearly didn't think these searches measured up.  I don't know the exact times, but I'm sure they were pretty good.

Vehicle Search 1 – This consisted of two ambulances.  Gimme found this right away and spent some time locating source, but didn't indicate.  I was determined not to blurt alert.  She went around the vehicles and then came back down the same side and I re-cued "wherezit".  She went directly to it and alerted. 

Vehicle Search 2 – This was two firetrucks.  Gimme started down the right side, sniffing around the front tire on the first truck.  Then as we got to the second vehicle she lost interest.  When we got to the other side, she wanted to leave the area.  I encouraged her back to the search area and when she got back to the front end of the first truck, she quickly indicated on the front right tire.

Since she is 3½ weeks into a false pregnancy, I thought she was unfocused because of baby concerns.  However, when we left the second search, just 50 yards into the grassy area, she stopped to poop.

Vehicle Search 3 – There was a horse trailer and a small silver car.  Gimme started down the right side, sniffed around the hitch of the trailer and started to leave it, but quickly came back to indicate.  Clearly I need not have worried about her being distracted by horse poo smells.

Vehicle Search 4 – We had just one small car.  It was in an indoor bay, with other vehicles all round it – some as close as ten feet.  Gimme wanted to check them out, but I encouraged her to stick with the one we had.  When she got around to the front end, she quickly indicated at the license plate.

All in all, a lovely day with a nice success, all spent with the prettiest girl on the planet.