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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Toy Remodel

Gimme has some very set ideas about the ideal toy.  Since most toys don't meet her strict standards, she does what she can to make-do.

She likes her toys long and she wants them floppy.  She prefers to hold them in middle and have both ends hang down in a convincingly dead manner.  The ends should sway back and forth when she moves.

If a toy doesn't meet these specifications, she remodels them until they do.  She'll carefully open a seam and remove most of the stuffing.  This picture represents a before and after from one of her remodel efforts.  She never swallows any of the stuffing or bits of toy which are worn off - thank goodness.

Normally she doesn't chew up the toy in the process, but this remodel was done a month ago, so its looking a bit worn.  She does like to gently gnaw on the extremities, so they often show more wear and tear than the rest of the toy.

Gimme removes the stuffing from almost all of her toys.  She does it with the small ones, but then usually ignores them afterward.  Being small, they don't stick out of either side of her mouth, therefore no matter how carefully she removes the stuffing, they can't convincingly simulate a dead critter.  There comes a day when she feels the need to tear up something and she roots around in the toy basket until she finds one of the de-stuffed small toys to be the victim of the day. 

RallyFrEe Videoing

The videoing did not go as well as I'd hoped.  We did better than last time, but not stellar.  I'm fairly certain it'll be a passing run - last time I didn't think we had any hope and only submitted it because I'd already paid for it and thought I'd at least get to see what the score sheet was like..

I thought Gimme would be comfortable and ready to work at Pawsabilities, since we'd been taking classes there for seven months; however, she wasn't ready to jump back in.  We haven't had classes there since mid-April, so our perimeter walk took a long time.  It didn't help she came in season on Thursday. 

Gimme just seemed unfocused to me and at times asked for reassurance.  The other dog is also reactive, but more stressy than Gimme.  So it occurs to me she may have been affected by him, even though they didn't interact.  Diane moved him outside to wait in the car when she was videoing me and Gimme.  I'd done the same (had Gimme wait in the car) while videoing Diane and Valor. 

We each started with individual warm-up and training and Gimme did pretty good at this, once she was done with the perimeter walk.  She did need more reminders than she had when we last practiced at home.  Then we each worked through the course a couple of times.  I got Gimme's special bowl out and released her to it every 3-4-5 stations.  She does love her special bowl and I think the activity of the mad dash to the special bowl makes the reward more fun.

After taping Diane and Valor, we switched and I brought Gimme in.  I still didn't have the focus I know she is can have.  I think the anticonvulsant screws with her focus (I'll know for sure in 6 weeks when I start reducing the dose).  I'd hoped to be able to use "can" (pivot with rear feet on can) for one of our free choice behaviors, but Gimme just couldn't do it.  I shouldn't have expected it - we need to take it on the road.  So we did "love me" instead (paws up on my arm to give me kisses).

For the videoing, I set the bowl up well off the course and did a few stations and released her to it, to make sure she knew where it was.  Then we did an entire course.  She was really distracted, looking over to the bowl a few times.  I know she thought she could/should be released to it any moment now.  Once we got through a third of the stations, then she stopped looking over there, but seemed a bit frustrated.  When I released her to the special bowl at the end, she found I'd put about thirty treats in there, plus I kept adding more as fast as she could gobble them up.

So with the knowledge of how good the payoff would be, she seemed to put a special effort into focusing for our second video.  I chose the second video because she had better focus overall, despite a few bobbles here and there.  I couldn't help but laugh when I cued "salute" at the end and she gave me "grape", not once, but twice.  It is possible to get a qualifying score, despite messing up a station, and I weighed my options figuring the better heeling and focus would be more valuable than failing the last station.

Gimme loves to "grape" (roll over) and I think she just thought it needed to be in there somewhere.  I'd love to use it as free choice behavior, but she likes doing it so much, if I ask for it, then she has a tendency to keep doing it no matter what else I cue.  Obviously something I need to work on, eh.

I do see in reviewing the course and comparing it to the prior video and scoring, I'm still making the same handling mistakes.  A big one is not pausing at the end of each station to show her getting back into "heel" or "side".  This will cost us a lot of points.  However, I had less lure-like hand motions.  

Diane and I have plans for how to do it differently this November when the world wide video event happens.  We hope to get to Pawsabilities for an extra practice session, separate from the videoing.  Gimme and I will be back in class well before then, so she should be back into her working mindset.  Diane is going to take a few of Kathy's classes with us, which will help her boy.  Plus by then, I will have reduced Gimme's medication to the lowest amount and hopefully her laser beam focus will be back.  

Well, time for bed...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

RallyFrEe and Nosework (5/10)

Last Friday I got the RallyFrEe novice course for the regional video competition. I was happy to see it doesn't include our weakest behavior.  It really is a very doable course and I'm hopeful I can make a substantial improvement over our score from last time. I have found a video partner and we are renting the big room at Pawsabilities for 3 hours this Thursday.  This will give us plenty of time to warm-up our dogs and take our time videoing our entries. 

This morning Gimme and I had a great practice and its been one of the best since things deteriorated post-seizure. We did each behavior from the course (at least twice), as well as the four I've decided on for our Free Choice stations.  Many of them Gimme did remember and was able to do on verbal, without needing a reminder first.  Sure is good to see this coming back.
After the paw lifts (not included in the course) I was most worried about the sit-stand station, since we don't have it completely on a verbal.  However, this morning Gimme nailed it on a verbal, though we did have to repeat it several times to get her to stick the stand.  She would pop up into the stand and then just move forward, which would be points off, though not as many as using a hand cue to get the stand. 
We also did her "can" for the first time on the actual can (step rear feet on a platform and then pivot around, keeping back feet on platform).  Its somewhat smaller diameter and twice as high as the practice can, so we had to work on it a bit.  She was tending to step one foot off, then back on during the pivot, so we had to back up a little to get rid of the step off.  Oddly I still can't find the foam bottom for the can.  I'm sure its around here somewhere, but can't spend the time looking for it, so I made another.  Ron glued it on for me while Linda and I were quilting.  
Nosework class tonight was a good one.  We started out with a large interior search with six hides.  Gimme was the fastest of the four dogs in class and she really liked having so many hides.  There was another dog who was almost as fast as she was, but her owner does a lot of "guiding" the dog with her own movement.  I always just follow Gimme, since I'd never know in a trial where to guide her, so I don't want her looking for hints from me.  
From there we went to a four vehicle search, with two hides.  One of them was really challenging, because the scent was kind of swirling around in a space between the four vehicles.  Gimme caught the drift of this one really quickly and then just focused on it until she knew where source was.  From there she went directly to the other one, even though she'd not gone anywhere near it before.

Then Dorothy moved the second hide to a place on another vehicle in an identical space as the first one.  The idea was to see how these two rather similar vehicles, with a hide in the same location, made two completely different challenges.  Both were white vans, but one was a minivan and the other was a extended full size which also sat higher off the ground.  So the spacing around the tire and the wheel well was different, the tire size was different, and one sat higher off the ground and there was more air movement.  The minivan had these "scoops" on the front bumper, while the full size had a solid bumper.  
Gimme quickly found the hide on the full size.  From there she went to check where the second hide was before, though I noticed her nose tilt toward the front end of the minivan as we went by it.  After verifying it wasn't where it had been, she went straight to the front of the minivan and quickly got to source.  Because she approached it from the front, she caught odor coming from the scoops and got to source much faster than the other dogs, who all approached it from the back of the vehicle.  

So now our couch is calling us...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Changes in Barn Hunt

Our trial this weekend did not bring any Q's, but I did learn some things.

They had nice large blinds, but with Gimme's increased reactivity, it only meant she could barely deal with it.  The second trial I took her soft-side crate in.  The second day I was informed I wouldn't be allowed to bring it in again.  Robin, the sport's owner/founder after suggesting crates could be brought into blinds for reactive dogs, has since reversed herself.  I knew she'd done this, I saw the original post saying crates could be used, saw the reversal, saw the original post was still there, and then it disappeared.  I was waiting to see the change added to the rules.  I guess its to be expected for a young sport to go through a lot of changes, but its still really annoying.  

After talking to Candy Saturday night, I decided to try using a mat for Gimme.  It worked surprisingly well for both runs on Sunday. I just hope no one mentions the idea of mats in the blinds to Robin or she might ban those too.  

Gimme is getting ready to come in season. She hasn't started "showing color" yet, but the puffiness is well on its way.  While this is about a month early, its actually good news.  It means she won't be in season for the "big three", our three 3-day weekend tracking workshops in late July and early August.  Unfortunately, the timing will be all wrong for the River Rat barn hunt trial for Labor day because she'll be in the beginning of a false pregnancy.  

For this weekend, Gimme decided barking is her indication.  She barked for all the rats and all the false alerts and sometimes just to bark.  Fortunately she doesn't bark outside the ring.  It still surprises me she's left off with pawing tubes and gone to barking exclusively to tell me where they are.  I still think its a response to my verbal excitement and playing with the tube on the way to hand it off - maybe she thinks she's joining in.  One odd thing I noticed about it.  Gimme shakes her head, flapping her ears between some of the barks.  I think her bark is so sharp it hurts her own ears!  Her barking in our yard has a lower tone to it.

In the first trial she found 2 rats, then barked at another tube, which was a false alert.  She did the same thing in the second trial.  This time the false alert tube wasn't even covered up, and she just saw it and started barking at it.  She didn't sniff it, but had sniffed at it earlier, so I thought she was just coming back to it.  For the third trial (Sunday a.m.) she found 1 rat and then false alerted.  I'm not liking this trend at all.

I muddled this around in my head much of the day and spent a LOT of time talking to other Master's handlers.  The tendency to false alerting is increasing in many of the Masters dogs the longer they are in the masters class.  In some ways I think this is similar to what I saw at the NW3 trial, where Gimme was trying to find more stuff, when there wasn't more there.  The dogs in barn hunt are used to leaving the ring after they find the rats, because the owners know how many rats there are.  Then you get to masters where you don't know and so often are still in the ring when the rats are all found.  I don't think this is the case for Gimme, since all three of these runs this weekend she false alerted while there was still at least one more rat to be found.  

I have an idea the dogs can think they are rewarded when there is a false alert.  One of the things we learn with clicker training is how a reward marker takes on the value of the reward itself.  I.E. a click is nearly as valuable as the food reward it predicts.  If you stop rewarding with food after clicking, the click will lose value over time.  In barn hunt, calling "rat" becomes a marker for the party to follow.  So I think "rat" has a lot of value and serves as a reward by itself.   And, its getting recharged every time you call an actual rat tube.  Plus, we have the option of being shown a rat tube, so the dogs end on a good note.  Thus, the dog is getting a delayed reward for the false call.  

I know Gimme responds excitedly to hearing the r-word.  She once sprung off the couch ready for action (from a light slumber) after hearing Tommy Lee Jones say, "Rats, cooked rats" in the movie "Volcano". So, I think this muddies the waters for a dog about what is expected in the ring.  Are they supposed to find tubes with rats or will any tube do?  I could punish Gimme for indicating a litter tube, but I'm not going to go there.  Obviously the answer then is to find some distinction about her indication to distinguish between rat tubes and litter tubes.

I was watching other exhibitors and saw one who was moving away when her dog alerted on a tube and calling him by name.  She only called it if the dog wouldn't leave the tube.  I talked to her later about what she was doing and she said this was the first time she'd tried it and it worked for her, until she called him away using a tone which was a little too sharp.  As I thought about this, it seems very similar to what we do in nosework.  We are encouraged to keep moving, even when the dog looks to be detailing, so we don't sell them on something which isn't there.  And I purposely use moving away to distinguish between distractions and odor hides in containers.  

So I decided to try it for our last run.  Afterall, even if it didn't work, what did I have to lose. At this point I'd had 22 consecutive NQs since our only Masters leg - one more wouldn't make a bit of difference.

We went in the ring and Gimme went around sniffing and settled on a spot and started barking at it.  I moved toward her and then turned and moved away.  She started to come with me, then went back and resumed barking.  So I went to her, asked her to show me where it was and she did, poked her nose toward it and then backed off a couple feet to bark some more.  I called it and it was a rat.  So far, so good.

From there she searched around and found another tube in the corner and started barking at it.  I started moving away and she came with me.  I later learned from the judge this was a litter tube.  Hmmmmm.   

Then she found another tube and started barking.  Again I moved away and she started to come with me, then went back toward it.  Unfortunately she squatted to pee on the way and was eliminated.  I asked the judge and this was a rat tube.  So, since she was moving back toward it, it seems the moving away plan may be working.  Can't wait to try it again.

I'm not worried about her peeing.  It was hot and I was working to get a lot of water into her and we were 4th in the blind, so it had been at least half an hour since she was given an opportunity to pee. Not to mention, she's coming in season and they always pee more then.

The only drawback with the barking is Gimme likes to bark from about 5 feet away from the tube.  So if I'm not right there to see her sniffing at it before backing off to bark, then I may not know what she is barking at.  This is why I encouraged her to show me where it was for her first tube.  I was very happy to see her respond with a poke toward the tube.  

It looks like some pieces are falling into place, just don't know when we'll be able to try it again.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Does It Mean?

Yesterday we went to DaPaws to practice, getting ready for the upcoming RallyFrEe video event.  I have a video partner who will meet me at Pawsabilities next Thursday so we can video each other's submissions.
During the last two practice sessions there, Gimme didn't do as well as I expected.  I'd give her a cue and she'd move forward as if to do the behavior, but then she got "distracted" or "got stuck".  It looked a lot like she was distracted and unfocused, but doing focus training didn't seem to help. 
While yesterday wasn't our best practice, at least I figured out what has been the issue recently.  Now I know it wasn't a focus issue, it was her not knowing what I wanted.  She knew I wanted her to do something, moved forward to start, but then didn't know what to do next.  What I discovered is, basically Gimme needs me to "remind her" a couple of times what each cue-behavior is, then she is good for the rest of the session.  "Reminding" consists of cuing the behavior and then helping her do it (usually luring).  When I started by reminding her about each behavior a couple of times, then she went right to responding on her own and correctly to the verbal cue for the rest of the session.  This morning, of the behaviors I cued from the session yesterday, she had "forgotten" again.  So it seems this will be a need for each training session, at least for the foreseeable future.

I don't know what is causing this; I just know its not the way she's been before.  Interestingly, its behaviors she's learned over the last year which are most affected.  Stuff from before then seems to still be very solid.  For example, she aced weave poles on the first cue, even though we haven't done them in nine months.  
I don't know if this is from the seizure, her medication (Keppra) or a combination of both.  If its a side affect of the seizures, hopefully when Tonya has done enough energy healing sessions this will start to get back to normal.  If it has to do with Keppra, then I hope it will get back closer to normal when we start tapering off her dose.

In my online research focusing on seizures, I found interesting stuff - though I would have expected changes related to damage to be more immediate.  Her best session of the 4 we've done at DaPaws was the one 3 days after the seizures.  Here are the applicable (edited) notes:

  • memory may be adversely affected by a generalized grand mal seizure
  • may increase ADHD, which Tonya thinks Gimme has
  • may increase inattention and impulsivity
  • inattention includes: being easily distracted; forgetfulness; and difficulty following directions
  • tasks that were previously routine may become more difficult
  • it may take longer to process new information or to complete tasks - I am teaching her a new behavior and we have had to almost start over at each session
  • seizures disrupt connections between nerve cells, which may make retrieval of memories and information difficult and may also inhibit the formation of new connections
  • re-learning process takes time
  • diminishes "working memory", which is the ability to access information previously acquired and to make generalizations about this information, most likely because seizure activity disrupts the storage and/or retrieval of information
In my research about Keppra I found interesting stuff as well.  There is commonly a short term period of drowsiness when one first starts taking the drug.  While the whole list of potential side affects is extensive, Keppra is well tolerated by most individuals.  For those with side affects, some are simply tolerated, some get better results with a higher dose while others have to go off the medication.  Here are the applicable (edited) notes:
  • Applicable side affects include: aggressive or angry outbursts, anxiety, irritability, quick to react or overreact emotionally, rapidly changing moods, mood or mental changes, problems with memory, and/or trouble concentrating
  • Wording from reported experiences: 
  • "feel very tired and spacey. I am having trouble remembering what i've read and giving feedback to my professors." 
  • "mind was in a total fog, I was easily confused, I couldn't read because I couldn't comprehend what I was reading!" 
  • "spacey, foggy feelings went away after a while" 
  • "hard for me to remember what I read and studied"
So, there is a whole lot of "don't know" and "time will tell" in this, which is starting to feel very familiar.  <sigh>

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tracking Genius (14)

We had no nosework class this week, so am hoping to get caught up with my tracking reports.  We'll be in Canby, Oregon, this weekend for a barn hunt trial (do cross your fingers for us).

This track is from June 9th.  I told Nadine I wanted to do something easier, since Gimme struggled with the two prior tracks due to hot and dry conditions.  I didn't want to risk having 3 practices in a row where everything was hard.  So we decided to lay a track down by the picnic area, while we still can (once school lets out there will be a lot more people in the park).  This area is shady and cool, its down by the river, so while the grass is kept very short, it is also moist and green, so Nadine thought it should be easier.  The track is 266 yards long, with 4 articles, not counting the sock at the beginning.

While our plan was to have easier conditions, there were some obstacles.  At least they are obstacles according to the tracking regulations, such as being close to bushes, crossing over a small bridge, passing close to picnic tables or beside a road.  None of this seems to bother Gimme.  The brown rectangles are picnic tables, two of them were on cement pads.  The light green area is super short and sparse grass.  The textured grey shape is a drainage ditch we crossed.

There was another significant unplanned challenge.  Right after we laid the track, two people with dogs, walked over basically our whole track (except the very beginning), starting in the green area, they went up the long leg, across the top and then down almost to parking where they cut diagonally across to where they entered our track.  They were still there when Gimme and I started and Nadine kept an eye out for them so I could concentrate on Gimme.  Before we got to the end of the long leg, another person with a dog came up from the river and crossed the track.  I was concerned about how Gimme would deal with this situation, because of her increased reactivity since the seizure.  I didn't need to worry; she only briefly checked out their scent and then got back to work.  This is wonderful news, since its entirely likely we could run into unintended dog distractions at a real trial.  I am blessed by how much she really loves to work - since other animal smells, dogs, varmints and big game, can be a huge issue for many dogs.

Another challenge was these same people picked up the article on the very top of the diagram, near the picnic table on the cement pad.  We saw them and Nadine yelled to them, asking them to drop it, so it ended up about eight feet off the track over by the other picnic table.  Interestingly, Gimme spent extra time sniffing where it had been, so she knew something was supposed to be.  She had no trouble finding it so far off the track, despite the fact there was a stranger's smell laid over Nadine's. 

And lastly, Gimme got really distracted at the top corner and her behavior was really different.  All the sudden she just could not focus.  I let her go off the track and tried to figure out what was going on, when she stopped to poop (blue asterisk) .  As I've noticed in other situations, multi-tasking is a real challenge for her now, as it proved to be in this instance.  The good news was, as soon as she took care of "business", she went right back to work and it was right after this where she noticed the missing article and solved the puzzle of it's relocation.

She really loves this tracking stuff.  If the time ever comes for me to train another dog for tracking, I know I'm going to immediately realize how incredibly spoiled I am.  Gimme is so smart and has a huge amount of natural talent for this game.  The things we set up to challenge her are normally not an issue.  She loves a puzzle and gets right to it when she finds one.  What's not to like about innate brilliance, eh?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Our First NW3 Trial

I was half awake with a migraine all night.  Not really awake, but not sleeping restfully either.  So, I started the day really tired and muzzy headed.  I definitely think it affected my handling.  Gimme wasn't doing her best either.  Partly she may have been affected by the heat and partly responding to my head.  She spends so much time rummaging around in my brain, so perhaps she "caught" my migraine.  She's very sensitive to what is going on with me, so I wouldn't be surprised.  Not our best day by any means.

I wrote most of this on my laptop, while at the trial.  I have more information after the judge's briefing and looking at my score sheets.  To make it clear, I'll put the newer information in blue type.

Vehicle - (3 minutes allowed)

There were 3 vehicles, blue compact, silver minivan and silver truck, sitting on grass. Gimme started out going between the blue compact and the minivan, then turned behind the car to come back toward the startline, finding odor on the front bumper.  From there she went across the front to find odor in the left front wheel well of the truck.  I walked her around  the back and around the minivan, but she seemed to be humoring me, so I called "finish". 

The judge's comment was: "Dog was fun to watch.  She didn't waste her time if there was no odor."  Dorothy also told me this was the only one of our searches she got to watch and she said we did a beautiful job and my handling was flawless.  Our time was just a few seconds more than the third place dog.  I was really pleased with this search and happy to learn I'd called it correctly.  

BTW this gives us our first leg (need 3) for an NW3 element title.  There are two different types of element titles at this level.  One is done at an Element Specialty Trial (like the ones we've already gotten) and one is to accumulate legs during regular NW3 trials. 

Room 1 (2.5 minutes allowed) – Gimme found a hide on the chair very quickly, then she kept getting stuck near the door, but never really settled on where it was, she just kept coming back to it.  The sun shape is where she was hunting around.  I let her work a bit beyond the 30 second warning and then even though she hadn't indicated, I called "alert" and was wrong.  She was at the table when I called it (the "x"), but I suspect it was on the door or the little window next to it.  In any case, this ended the chance for us to title today.

There was only the one hide.  I think its possible the opening and closing of the door had drawn some scent over there (fringe) and it was sticking to the fabric on the window beside the door.

Room 2 (2 minutes allowed)  Gimme found one hide very quickly and then kept showing a lot of interest in the area between the table and the wall (sun shape).  I asked to pull a chair out, but then she showed no more interest, so I called "finished".  I think scent from the hide was collecting on the upholstered chairs pushed in around the table.

Again, only the one hide.  Despite how small and tight this room was, my not moving didn't present a problem.  Once I opened up the space by pulling the chair out, Gimme was able to clearly dismiss it, leading to my correct call. 

Room 3 (3.0 minutes allowed)  Gimme found two hides very quickly and then kept showing a lot of interest in an area around a stack of children's play cooking appliances (sun shape).  She kept coming back to it, so when we were well into to the 30 second warning I called when she was on one side of it, but it was a false alert.  Possibly converging odor was collecting there.

There were just the two hides which Gimme found.  

The judge's comment was: "Social Pressure :-("  In the debrief, she talked about how handlers unintentionally use their body to draw and keep a dog in an area where there was no odor.  But, I don't think this is really what was happening for us.  

For the first room, Gimme went to the area by the door and sniffed around as if there was a threshold hide.  Its been my experience if I return to the area by the entrance, Gimme will work the threshold - which was what I thought was happening.  She spent quite a bit of time there and I was supporting her.  When she left it, I started to go with her, but she came back very quickly.  For the second room, she found the hide and then spent a bit of time in the area indicated.  When I moved the chair out, then she dismissed the area.  In the third room, Gimme found both sources of odor and then spent a lot of time in the area indicated.  I wasn't selling her, rather supporting what she was doing.  I suspect the opening and closing of the entry door (behind the sun shape) and the exit door (on left side of diagram) was encouraging the odor to converge in this area and Gimme was trying to find the source.  

There is a definite pattern to these three searches - find odor and then dither around somewhere else.  In hindsight, I'm thinking of something Dorothy said recently about the big difference for the dogs between NW2 and NW3 isn't about finding odor, its about how often the searches don't end on odor.  I suspect what I saw here was Gimme trying to find odor because Mom is still in the area.  In class I almost always know how many hides there are and after we reward the last one, then we leave the search area.  From this pattern, I think Gimme deduced, if we are staying in the search area, then there must be another hide and she was just doing her best to find one in the most likely spot in the room, some place where scent was collecting.  

So the problem I need to address is twofold: (1) learning to read the subtle difference in her energy so I know when she thinks there are no more, and (2) replicating staying-in-the-area during classes.  Gimme needs to understand, her job is to find what is there - no more.

Exterior - (3 minutes allowed)

The gray circles with the tan circles are raised planters, green circle is a tree, the +++ line is a fence and the odd shaped tan thing with the green splotches is a landscaped area (not part of the search area).  Gimme turned left off the startline and worked the perimeter of the planting area, then worked along the bottom edge and up along the inside edge of the cement planters, showing interest here and there.  She hopped up on the fourth planter and sniffed around a bit before scratching in the dirt, which I interpreted as an indication, calling it.  It was a false alert.  There may just have been some interesting smell she scratched at.  I should have kept moving around her more and not been so quick to call alert. 

There was only one hide, under the grate at the base of the tree and dogs who turned right from the startline mostly got it, while those who turned left mostly didn't.  Since Gimme was checking the side/edge of the planters closest to the only hide, I wonder if there wasn't a slight breeze blowing scent over to catch on those planters.  Also, this area is an open courtyard at the front of the school, so its possible/likely dogs running free had urinated there.  Beyond this, my original comments stand - I should have kept moving and not been so quick to accept her scratch as an indication.  The judge commented: "Good try."

Containers - (2.5 minutes allowed)

Twelve containers, black squares were bags, white squares were plastic totes/tubs, and white circles were paint cans.  Gimme started out well and then settled on the black bag (white "x"), giving me all four parts of her indication.  I called it and it was a false alert.  I probably should have kept moving around it – kinda the same thing I think I should have done for the exterior. 

There were two hides on opposing corners and no distractions. The judge commented: "Good try.  I would have called that one too."  I don't really know why Gimme false alerted on the bag indicated, but she did.  Possibly she was frustrated by not getting a reward in the prior search and/or was tired.  In any case, I should have kept moving and she might have left it.  

Lesson learned - trialing with a migraine - nothing good will come of it.  ☺ 

Oh well, I still get to go home with the prettiest and smartest girl in this cosmos, doncha know…  (who is sleeping soundly, as we speak)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Seizure Info & Nosework (4/10)

We had our follow-up appointment at my vet's office, however not with my vet.  Dr. Kiefer is out on medical leave (since April) and brought in someone from Bellevue to cover the office.  I was unimpressed with her.  $50 and 40 minutes later I walked out with a prescription to continue Gimme's anti-convulsant and knowing nothing more about seizures in dogs than when I went in.  I didn't expect an answer/cause, but I did expect someone who knew more about the topic than I did.  I was not reassured when she told me she'd recently done a bunch of reading on it because 5 days earlier they had another client come in with seizures.  Maybe I'm taking this wrong, but I expected her to already know the basics - she didn't describe her reading as if she was looking to see if there was any new info, rather it sounded like she gave herself a refresher course.  The staff at the desk didn't know when Doc will be back.  So, if he hasn't returned when the time comes for our next follow-up, I'll be shopping for another vet.

I am on the k9epileptics yahoo list and, as much as I worry about the future, we have it easy thus far.  There are many people with dogs with seizure episodes every couple of days.  I'd be a crazy-woman...

I posed a question to the list and learned a couple of things about Keppra (levetiracetam).  
  • It is the better drug to try initially, less side affects, but more expensive.  My first 30 days worth cost me $108, but today, after shopping around I got it for $28.  
  • It takes about 3 days to stabilize serum levels when you start out, but it can take a few weeks for the dog to acclimate to how it makes her feel.
  • In humans there is a side affect known as Kepprage - increased agitation and/or emotional outbursts.
I've also learned the clingyness and slow responses to cues is pretty normal following a seizure episode and it takes awhile for things to return to normal.  I would say in respect to clingyness and slow responses, getting to normal took about 10 days.  I did notice both came back when I first reduced her false pregnancy support package and then when I rechecked and put it back up, it took a couple days for her to get back to normal.  Several of the things she gets for the false pregnancy have mood stabilizing or improving affects, so it stands to reason they would benefit her now as well.

Gimme is still a bit more reactive regarding other dogs - not hugely, but definitely notable.  As I said, I was seeing some of this before the recent seizure episode, it just seems a little more so since then.  I had planned to do some work on this over the summer to get ready for Fall obedience shows.  I think for the time being, I'll take it slower, until I know if Keppra will be a good fit for Gimme in the long run.  In a couple months we'll begin tapering down the dosage, so then might be a better time to focus on such things in training.

Last night's nosework class was interesting to say the least.  We are entered for an NW3 trial this Sunday.  Gimme I'm sure can do her job - me I'm not so sure about.  Still do cross your fingers we get lucky and I don't screw up too badly.  Gimme's job is pretty much the same as it was at NW2 level, while mine has increased significantly.

We started class with an interior search of an area full of chairs.  The task was twofold - leash handling skills and knowing when the dog was done searching.  The dashed line and two orange "cones" shows the leading edge of the search area - thus two chairs were not in the search area.  Gimme found the chair against the wall and the one in the middle, but I rushed her and she didn't commit to the one in the back row.  Gimme did well, but I called "finish" too soon.  

From there we did two searches outside.  One was a largish area with a sidewalk running down the middle of it.  Gimme started out okay and found one hide pretty quickly, but then she became completely unfocused and stopped searching.  We ended the first search and went to the second area and Gimme never did make any real effort to search.  This is so unlike her and we were all blown away by the difference.  We ended this second search after she peed (which, bless her heart, she did leave the search area to do so).

I walked her to let her pee, then we returned to the van to wait our second turn.   The co-instructor came to get us because Dorothy wanted Gimme to get a simple motivational search before trying again.  Gimme rocked it and was very much herself.  From there I went to where I could be handy to go to the startline when the dog in the area got done, but not so close I would see where the hides were.  While we waited, Gimme pooped twice - yucky, squishy, stinky poops. 

When Janet and Moxie finished, they crossed the road to walk, which put them within 50 feet of where we'd be searching.  Gimme was very interested and watching Moxie closely and I wasn't sure she'd be able to ignore her, but wanted to give it a try.  Once I gave Gimme her search cue, she instantly ignored Moxie and went to work.  She found two hides and then I didn't do a good enough job getting her around the area and called finished before she found the third one.  On the second search, Gimme worked and found one hide.  Dorothy asked me, "If you see this in a trial, what are you gonna do?"  I said "Based on her behavior, I think she's done, but I would probably walk her quickly down along this wall again because she didn't really check it at all."  Dorothy made the point, if I have to make her search an area, there most likely isn't anything there.  There was only one hide.

So lessons learned... 
  •  Even though Gimme's reactivity is a bit heightened, she is still able to go to work when she has a clear job to focus on.  This is very good to see (and I saw it in tracking this week as well).  I'm trying to think of how best to use this in our walks.
  • I think needing to poop while trying to search is another case of divided focus or multi-tasking, which Gimme can't seem to do right now. 
  • She completed two vehicle searches at the recent element trial, despite needing to poop.  She wasn't as focused as usual, but was able to do so successfully.  This was before the recent seizure episode, so she used to be able to do it.
  • Clearly I need to get her out for a lot of potty walking before asking her to go to work.  This is my job…
So we go into the weekend with a trial on Sunday.  Cross any body parts you can spare for us.  The following weekend we have a barn hunt trial in Oregon.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Tracking Genius (12 & 13)

After our practice last night, I did recheck Gimme's false pregnancy support package.  There were a couple of things we'd reduced based on Monday's check, which we added back in.  It'll take a few days to see how its working. 

This track is from May 21st.  Nadine set it up to be as much like a TD test as she could.  It was a sunny/warm day and the track was 485 yards.  There was a sock at the beginning and a glove at the end.  The pale green is where the track was on a mowed short path.  The pale grey is where the path turned to gravel.

This track was a challenge for Gimme for a couple of reasons.  This was the warmest day we've tracked, which makes a big difference in the amount of scent available.  It was also challenging because this was a long track to only have one article at the end and she loves her articles.  She did well on the first leg, ran like a wild woman on the second leg through the long grass, and started to slow down halfway through the 170 yard third leg.  I'm pretty certain this is the longest leg we've done.  The little double line crossing the fourth leg of the track was a game trail, which Gimme ignored.  She sure was happy to find an article at the end and she got a ton of reward for it.  

The second time we ran it, she had a much harder time.  It was about an hour later, so just a little warmer and she acted a lot of the time like she just didn't know what I expected her to follow.  I encouraged her to keep trying and we did finally make it to the end - where she got even more reward for persevering.  I think her nasal passages were just dried out.  It's really a challenge to get her to drink enough water and she only did a few sips between runs.  So I decided to make her some tuna water and freeze it as ice cubes which I can take along on tracking days.

This is today's track, June 4th.  Five articles and 418 yards.  It turned out they've recently mowed the field and it was very dry.  The only moist area with long grass is shown with the green shape overlaying part of the fifth leg.  It proved to be very challenging for all the dogs.  Skookum, Nadine's older dog, who already has a TD did the best, but even she had to work at it.   

Between the shortness of the grass and how dry it was, there just wasn't a lot of scent available.  Gimme ran it twice and she had to really work at it both times.  The second time was harder and I had to encourage her more.   

Again I think the difference between the first and second run is a hydration issue.  As it turned out, Gimme was unimpressed with the tuna water.  I was surprised because every other dog I've known has loved it.  I had some beef bouillon powder in the car and when I added it to the tuna water, then she was more interested and drank well.  She hasn't cared for the bouillon before.  I'm going to buy some peanut butter cookies and pulverize a bunch in the blender to keep in the car.  I'm sure if I make her some peanut-butter-cookie soup, she'll drink it up.

It was a valuable exercise because they won't always have long grass or moist ground to track in.  Gimme is exhausted now and sound asleep.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nosework (3/10) & Practice

We had an interesting nosework class last night - as always. 

The first search was a group of a 9 file boxes, four were up on chairs, with one odor.  I thought Gimme found the odor right away (a box on a chair), sniffed it, but didn't indicate and continued searching, paying no attention to it.  There were two times when she actually arced away/around it, while tipping her nose toward it.  She does this sometimes, because even with a peanut butter reward, she still sometimes prefers hunting over finding - especially when there is only one hide and more likely for the first search.  I don't know why about the first search, since she knows we are at class and she knows there will be more searches.  

I commented about her pointedly ignoring the hide and both instructors pooh-poohed what I said.  This is really the only thing I don't like about training with Dorothy and her co-instructor.  After all this time (17 months), they still don't think I know my dog.  I guess they don't ascribe any significance to when she arcs away from odor, even when she does it twice.  After checking all the boxes three times, Gimme finally went directly to the odor box and indicated.  She clearly knew where it was, because she went directly to it from several boxes away. 

For the second search, they moved the odor box to another chair and then put food and toy distractions in all the other boxes.  Gimme enjoyed this challenge and sniffed each box briefly (did not get sucked in by any of the goodies) and then indicated on first sniff of the odor box.  Gimme has always liked a good challenge

For the third search, there was one table, a bunch of chairs, three wheelchairs, the red wheeled cart, a toy wagon with a lot of other stuff in a smallish area.  Three odors were set on a diagonal crossing the area.  The hardest one was under the large table at the very center, with a wheelchair pulled up to the table on one side.  Gimme worked very steadily and found two right away.  When she was trying to access the one under the table, the wheelchair was there and she did quite a bit of detailing on it.  Then she whined briefly.  I don't know what the whine was about - she could have gotten under the table next to the wheelchair, so I didn't think it was really in the way.  But then she came around the other side on her own and quickly sourced odor.  Possibly the whine was just frustration, because she may have thought odor was somewhere on the wheelchair and she couldn't find it.

Our last search was just one hide under the toy wagon.  Gimme found this really fast.

Seizure update:  Gimme is doing fine.  We did an energy healing aimed at repairing any damage to her brain and resetting any seizure pathways.  We'll be doing a few more.  Initially I noticed she was pretty clingy, following me every moment and this has returned to normal over time.  During the first week, her responsiveness to cues was slow, but then it seemed to gradually get back to normal.  The lasting issue has been a loss of impulse control when we are walking.  This puzzled me because even when her responses were slow, Gimme was still able to ignore distractions and work with me.  Then yesterday it occurred to me - loose leash walking is really a very different task.  She's allowed to sniff and snoop and pee and poop, but at the same time, she's expected to pay attention to me and not pull on the leash.  Essentially, its a multi-tasking behavior, which of course would be harder than a single task behavior.  So we're working on it and taking our time and I'm sure it'll come back.

Tonight we did go to DaPaws to practice RallyFrEe.  Honestly, I felt like our practice just 4 days after the seizure episode went better than tonight's practice.  Gimme just seemed unfocused and we had to drop back to basics in a couple of places.  I'm not sure what to make of this.  It could be because we just recently changed her false pregnancy support package, reducing a number of things.  I'll recheck them tomorrow.  She could simply be having a bad day.  Or it could be something else entirely.

Meanwhile I've noticed her ability to ignore other dogs has gone downhill, but this actually started before the seizure episode and I suspect is related to the false pregnancy.  Its a little loss from where we were, but nothing like prior false pregnancies, so I'm still really happy with our current support package for the f.p.   Gimme is fine when they are approaching, playing "whazzat" for cheese, but as they pass, then she wants to whip across in front of me and lunge at them as they are moving away.  Some dogs she wants to lunge for sooner.  I've been trying to catch a moment when I could pay her with peanut butter as they go past, without luring, but it hasn't worked.  

So now I'm going to try a different approach.  We are working on our emergency u-turn "let's go" (sometimes without a u-turn) and with a new twist, always paid with peanut butter.  Its a game cue of sorts and Gimme thinks its lots of fun.  We've only used it once for real, when a lady let three dogs out of her car without leashes and they were running in our direction, paying no attention to her attempts to call them back.  (some people shouldn't be let out in public)  We ran right back to our car and Gimme never knew there was an issue.

My plan is to use the "let's go" in conjunction with what I call, the paperclip turn.  Its where you see someone heading toward you with a dog and you turn 180 degrees and walk slow so they catch up to you and just as they do, you again turn 180 degrees and then walk fast.  We'll do the second 180 as a "let's go".  At some point I want to morph this to walking straight and then suddenly dashing forward in "let's go" mode for a few steps.  Of course, this does require careful assessment in real time, since I don't want our "let's go" dash to be a trigger for the other dog to behave badly.

I'll let you know how it goes.  Meanwhile the couch beckons me and my girl for a 007 movie...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tracking Seminar notes

Here are my notes from the seminar.  Nothing earth-shattering, but good info if you ever plan to do tracking...
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No exhibitor may show a dog under a judge if the exhibitor has participated in a training session taught by the judge within 30 days of the test.  If you have simply trained with the judge as a training partner, this rule does not apply.  Also the rule doesn't apply to tracking certification.

Articles must be in the tracklayer's possession long enough to ensure scent is well imparted, tracklayer must have an extra start article, all articles must be inconspicuous in color and not visible from 20 feet (except start article) and will not be covered or concealed.  She suggested a tracklayer stuff the articles in their shoes overnight, which is certainly more comfortable than sleeping with them, as I have done.

When finding an article or rescenting: praise and petting at article finds is allowed, no play with articles when testing, no tossing them to the dog and no throwing them on the ground.

Re-scent – Allowing dog to take scent from an article in a way which does not indicate direction or a point on the ground where the dog should begin to search.
Re-start – A behavior by the handler which would indicate to the dog to begin searching a specific area or track in a given direction.

Obstacles for TDX and beyond, test one or more of the following:

– ability to work changing scent conditions
– ability to continue scenting while overcoming physical obstacles
– ability to continue scenting under difficult and varied handling conditions 
The dog may be physically assisted by the handler when (physical) obstacles, barriers or terrain require it.

Exhibitors with disabilities are welcomed.  They should contact the club in advance and see the judge prior to the draw.  Judges should make reasonable accommodations at the test.  The accommodation cannot give any type of advantage.  The track must allow wheel chair access in, but beyond access to get in, it would be an ordinary track.  The exhibitor may have someone to follow in case their chair gets stuck.  A blind handler may be accompanied by someone to advise of holes or to assist if the handler falls.  Assistants may not provide any information instructing the handler regarding handling the dog.

Handlers may bring plain water or ice along on the track, but no food or toys within 30 yards of the track.  Praise or petting is allowed.  No excessive play with articles or throwing articles to the dog or on the ground, until after the test is complete.

Leash/line must be 20-40 feet in length and attached to the top of the harness and the handler will follow the dog no less than 20' for TD/TDX except while in dense vegetation, no less than 10' for TDU/VST.  Handler may unsnap the leash to untangle the dog, but the dog must remain under immediate control.  Any collar worn must conform to the obedience regulations.  Harness must be constructed of straps of plain, pliable material and only minimum restriction of the dog's movement is permitted.

To pass: The dog must closely follow the path walked by the tracklayer and find the article(s) dropped along the track.  The handler follows the dog, allowing the dog to work without guidance from the handler.  Judges must not pass a dog which has not met the minimum requirements of following the track unaided.  If the dog is not considered to be tracking, it will not be passed even if it finds the article(s).  Both judges must agree for a "pass".  If they do not agree, both judges will mark the dog failed and the exhibitor must not know there was disagreement.

Restraint vs. Guiding
Restraint is permitted to slow a fast moving dog or in event of an unusual distraction.  Repeated restraint which influences the dog's direction is NOT permitted.  Hanging on for dear life is not considered restraint.  Guiding which influences or determines the dog's direction is prohibited.  Verbal encouragement is allowed, BUT commands, signals or body motions used to indicate location or direction are prohibited.

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I got to talk to Sil Sanders and told him about how fast Gimme likes to go and specifically how she still gets her corners and articles, even at speed.  I wanted his opinion because a couple of people have recommended slowing her down.  He said he doesn't recommend slowing a dog down if you can move along with them safely, because so many dogs develop other habits, such as excessive circling for no reason, in reaction to it.  Since I obviously can't run a whole track with her, I told Sil of my plan to reward Gimme with speed when she is going well, dead on the track and nose down.  He thought this was a good idea.