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Monday, August 31, 2015

Tracking Genius (16)

Our next tracking day was July 16th after a one month break.  Nadine and I had conflict after conflict in our schedules, so the dogs got some time off.  This day was hot and dry and it had been dry since before the last tracking session, a month prior.  When we started at 8:00 it was 64° and by the time we finished it was 79°.  The track was 500 yards with four articles (eyeglass case, grey wallet, red purse and glove), with a red plaid scarf at the start.

We crossed several mowed paths and followed a mowed path for about 75 yards.  We also crossed a paved road.  There were some ups and downs in the terrain, but nothing significant.  There may have been contamination, since there almost always is in this park, but we didn't see it.

Gimme ran it first and was very good.  She did have to slow down because of the dry conditions, but she was really solid overall.  Crossing the mowed paths and the road presented no problems.  She located and indicated all the articles.  I love following her because no matter how challenging it is, her tail never stops wagging.

Nadine then ran the track with her three dogs before we went to try it again.  While it was warmer than when we started, I knew Gimme was well hydrated and she'd rested comfortably, with a cool breeze from the river going right through the van.

Again the second time around I found her unfocused and easily distracted.  There were places on the track where she would stop and just look around until I encouraged her to go on.  At first I thought she was tired, but whenever we got within about 20 yards of an article, all the sudden she'd perk right up and drag me along at a fast pace until we got there and she could demand a payoff.  Obviously if she could smell the articles from 20 yards, she wasn't having difficulty following the track.  This again suggests to me she might be bored by following the easy-peasy "freeway".  She totally loves her articles, so knowing she was close to one was motivating.

We didn't go tracking again until the last weekend of July (Saturday through Monday) when we went to the Sil Sanders seminar in Bow, WA.  I plan to start doing blogs for the three seminars real soon.  There is soooooo much information to cover, so much to share.  I'll be taking my newer laptop when we go next weekend to the barn hunt trial next weekend, so hopefully I can get started on preparing the blog information in the evenings.  I had to replace my laptop of 16 years right after the last weekend in Bow - the harddrive crashed, but I got lucky and they were able to save my data.

And good news, while at the seminar I learned about the GoPro camera system, where you can strap a camera on your chest or hat and film what you are doing hands-free.  I know, I know -- everyone else on the planet probably already knew about them.  I did some shopping on line and almost bought one with an all-the-bells-and-whistles kit.  Then I got to wondering if there was some way to find a chest mounting contraption I could use with my existing camera.  I didn't have a lot of luck finding one, but set my younger brother on the task and he located just what I needed within minutes.  Its arrived and now all I have to do is figure out how to use it.  So very soon I'll have a lot more video of nosework class searches and our tracking adventures.  Yeah!

Gimme doesn't quite "get" all the excitement about some strap thingy... but I'm sure its because she doesn't realize it means her fan club will now get to see more videos and pictures of her lovely self.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tracking Genius (15)

Here is our track from June 16th.  The conditions were fair, warm and breezy.  There hadn't been rain in a long time and this followed a long hot spell, so it was really dry.  The track was 470 yards long and contained 4 articles (eyeglass case, small back purse, hot pad and glove), plus a brown start sock. 

The first leg crossed, paralleled and then recrossed a foot path where we'd seen someone walk with a dog after we laid the track.  The third leg was the along the edge of the hill and the fourth leg passed a small tree with a lot of brush near it. Gimme was briefly attracted to these "obstacles" but then moved on. The fifth leg started straight across a field of dry grass, then crossed a paved road, meandered alongside a bunch of blackberry vines, went down a hill to cross a small ditch, then crossed into and followed a mowed path.  The last leg on this diagram disappeared in turning it into a .jpg file, but it goes straight along the mowed path between the two flags and ends at the glove.

Gimme isn't much concerned by any of these distractions, possibly because she's seen them from the start of our training.  She crossed the paved road as if she'd invented the concept.  She was only briefly distracted a couple of times by the blackberry vines and this in spots where there were probably game trails.  She crossed the ditch as if it didn't exist (not so easy for me).  She slowed down when we got on the mowed path, but persisted and accomplished her goal of finding yet another glove.  She does love her articles.

For our second track (255 yards), we entered the fourth leg on a perpendicular shortly after it turned off the third leg.  The last time Nadine ran it with her dogs, she left the start sock at the new start point. 

None of the dogs were the least bit confused by what direction to go on this unusual start.  Gimme sniffed less than a foot in the "wrong" direction, before turning to proceed on track.  I'd heard this is normally not an issue, so it was cool to see my brilliant girl agrees its easy-peasy.

The rest of the track was one annoyance after another.  Gimme had difficulty with the first corner, then found, but didn't indicate, the hot pad.  She had trouble finding the track as it crossed the road and was distracted by dozens of things on the rest of the track.  She was singularly unfocused.  I didn't get the impression she was having trouble, rather she just didn't see the point of it.  She did find the last glove easily and demanded payment.

I've since talked to Sil Sanders via email - internationally known tracking trainer, instructor and author (and have now gone to three 3-day tracking seminars with him) and he said he would never run the same track twice with the same dog and, in fact, doesn't run multiple dogs down the same track.  Sil says if you rerun a track or run it after others, you can never be sure what your dog is following.  Whereas Nadine likes to run the more novice dogs after the advanced dogs - saying its like a scent freeway and she thinks it helps them.  She has gotten tracking titles using this method, so it certainly can lead to success.

I suspect Gimme may no longer like the "freeway", though it hadn't seemed to bother her until now.  She loves a challenge, so now with more experience, she may find this too easy and thus is not as focused on her task and more easily distracted.  At this point, I was taking a time-will-tell approach.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nosework (2/12)

I'm determined to get this blogged about sooner... so here it is, for Tuesday August 25th. 

It was very much like the set-up from last week.  All four hides were out the whole time.  The hide on the corner of the tent and the corner of the table (tan) were both at floor level.  The hide on the chair was at seat level.  They also placed a chair under the canopy to give the scent some surface to bounce on. A couple of dogs became obsessed with the chair under the canopy, even though
they'd found the suspended hide
from the week before.

Gimme had no trouble.  She went right by the chair near the start, but didn't pause, before going down the left side of the room and across the far wall to get the table hide.  From there she found the hide on the canopy leg.  She briefly sniffed the chair under the canopy and then went straight to the suspended hide.  I started a circuit around the perimeter and barely got moving before she found the chair hide on her own.  She was mega fast.

Our next search was an exterior area, delineated by a bunch of small cones.  There was a lot of construction stuff off the left side and a log with other attractive stuff on the far end.  The search area contained a small pallet, three chairs, various pieces of small pipe on the ground, one medium cone, and a stack of 4 large cones. The two things with overlapping tan circles are those large wire spools.  The hide was under the edge of the larger one.  For those of us at level 3, it was blind and we didn't know how many hides there were.

Gimme was attracted to all the stuff outside the search area, but didn't get stuck on it and came back in when I gently encouraged her.  She found the hide on the spool really quickly.  Then she became interested in the spool with the green dot.  She'd leave it and then head back to it.  She was looking at me now and then, as if to see if I was interested in it, but my sense was she was just goofing off.  I was careful not to "sell" her on it and the third time she left it I decided there was no more to be found and called "finished".  I was right - yeahhhhh - it almost looks like I'm getting better at reading her.  Several of the dogs were really attracted to the green-dot-spool and we have no idea why.  Dorothy thought maybe the landlord's dog pees on it, since much of this was his construction stuff.

For the third search, it wasn't blind and there were two hides.  They removed the big spool entirely and placed hides on the chair and the between the edges on the stack of larger cones.  Gimme found the first one very quickly (cones) and then moved off to look around briefly then went back to it.  I told her to find me another one and then she looked again and found the one on the chair.  At no time did she stop at the green-dot-spool, though she did wave her nose toward it once in passing.

Both alerts were definite and there was no hesitation or looking to me for confirmation when she was sourcing.  I'm getting the idea of how she looks when she's just trying to find another hide and picking the next best thing because we are still in the search area.  I've been making a point sometimes to keep her in the search area after we've found the hides, as if we are still looking, so it doesn't feel weird to her in trials.  AND if she doesn't try to fake me out, I'm also giving her a bit of peanut butter when I call finish and we leave.  I am hoping this will help her understand we don't have to end on a hide and she might get peanut butter then too. 

Of course, my job will be to make sure I don't get caught up in her looking.  When I get too interested, in watching I pay too much attention and then convince her to false alert.  Or I panic because they've called "30 seconds" and then I call alert when she didn't.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Nosework (1/12)

I'm having a hard time getting back in the swing of blogging regularly.  I have another nosework class tomorrow and am just now reporting on last week's class (8/18), though I did at least prepare the diagrams last week.  And I'm way behind on tracking blogs - I have two tracks to report on and then three consecutive 3-day weekend tracking seminars with Sil Sanders.  I hope you will all find them worth the wait.

This first interior search was very interesting.  The large red square with an "x" through it is a canopy and the hide was suspended in mid-air.  It was on a string so they could raise/lower it as needed for individual dogs.  The chairs with blue dots along the right side are where the students were all sitting and there were two hides on chairs.  As the dogs were searching, sometime after they found the one on the left wall,  it was moved to the location of the green-outline chair nearer the startline.  For the dogs needing help it was moved to get them working the converging odor line between it and the other chair, thus getting them in the vicinity of the suspended hide.

The idea for suspending a hide in mid-air was to give the dogs a hide which didn't have anything nearby for the odor to "stick" to as it created its scent plume.  We did this back around Christmas, though the hide was closer to nose level.  Most dogs took around 6 minutes or longer to complete this puzzle.  Gimme found all four hides in 2:45 seconds, so if it were a trial search, she would have definitely qualified.  She was so fast, she was finding the third hide as the chair was being moved. 

Gimme was positively gleeful to find a hide so high.  When we first started taking classes with Dorothy, Gimme had a very strong tendency to search high-headed.  Fortunately Dorothy knows a LOT of ways to make a hide inaccessible without having it be high up and out of reach, so Gimme's default to have her nose up in the air has changed.  She still likes it though, as was evident by how H-A-P-P-Y she was to find one so far above her head.  She was really strutting after finding it.

After we were done searching, Dorothy got out her smoke generator and we checked to see how the scent was coming off the suspended hide because the dogs didn't act as we expected during their searches.  We all assumed it would come down in some sort of cone shape (the dashed lines) and so getting the dog into the plume would take them directly to it.  Not so.  The plume stayed at the same level (for the taller dogs) and moved out 3-4 feet and then dropped almost straight down, creating a very small footprint.  The smoke generator created the cone shape we expected for hides lower than 2 feet (for short dogs). 

Our next search was to play round-robin with vehicles.  There were two large boom-trucks and one van.  As the dog was busy sourcing a hide, Dorothy would set another one (never on the front of the trucks so we didn't have to go in the weeds). 

The only other time Gimme and I have played this was only one vehicle (before we started training with Dorothy), so it created some interesting differences for Gimme.  First, she is more experienced and we saw from her demeanor she has a good sense of where she has already searched.  As I moved her around and back into areas she'd already searched, there was a definite attitude of just going along with me, then when she found a newly placed hide, she seemed really shocked.  As if to say, "I know I checked this spot and it wasn't here before!"  She was happy to keep finding hides, just not sure what to make of the magical hide appearances.

Then the last thing Dorothy had us do was to walk along the bottom nearest the van back toward the startline.  There was a hide on the front wheel well near where we walked.  Dorothy said to walk as if we were leaving the search area, but without any specific cue. I just walked purposely (normally during a search I am following or shadowing her) and telling Gimme she was a good and brilliant girl.  We walked right by the hide, so close she should have noticed it.  I was surprised she didn't show any sign whatsoever she'd noticed it.  Her nose was clearly switched to "off".  So good to know so I don't unintentionally take her out of hunting mode when I don't intend to. 

Normally we have 3 or 4 hides, and this night only two.  But they were much longer searches and despite the fact they weren't as long for Gimme, she seemed content enough.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

5th Birthday

This is Gimme on her 5th Birthday with her burger cake. I made her hold a sit-stay so I could take the picture... she wouldn't even look at her "cake".

She was working so hard to not get sucked into such an evil distraction, so I didn't make her wait any longer than necessary.  She's such a good girl.

She thinks we should do it a few more times, since she can't quite make up her mind whether the cake was worth the effort she put forth.  She's my girl - always working the angles...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Nosework (6/11)

This is the last class of this session, on August 11th.  We did all exterior searches.

The first search was of a set of glass racks in the parking lot across the street.  You've seen flatbed trucks driving down the road with a pair of big racks on the back and huge sheets of glass in the racks.  Well, these are the racks we were searching.  The rack nearest the start had a high hide, about 4 foot up.  The rack on the far end had a hide in the front right - in a hollow pipe, so the odor could come out either end.

Gimme found the high hide quickly; was a little hesitant to put her feet up on it, but she did.  Given the racks are made of channel and angle iron, I don't blame her.  Then she went down the line to the last rack and indicated at the far end (orange) from where the hide was actually located.  The breeze was blowing scent through the pipe to the end where she caught it.  Only one dog indicated the other end and when he was searching, the breeze had died down to nothing, plus he went five feet past the rack before turning back to find the hide.

Our next search was in a group of five stacks of wood pallets. The breeze was blowing down the line of pallet stacks toward the startline.  This was a blind hide, so I didn't get to see any other searches, but Dorothy said no dog went past the hide.  Gimme was moving fast and went maybe one foot past it before whipping back to it.  Also according to Dorothy, as each team left the search area, continuing down the line of the pallets, the dog paid no attention whatsoever to the other pallets.

The third search was on a double-wide chain-link gate with privacy slats.  The hide was on the back side right next to the center upright and the breeze was blowing directly toward the gate, pushing scent behind it.  Although the dogs worked the gate over and over and over, none of them could find the hide.  The two more experienced dogs finally tried to indicate on either end (Gimme the left end, Spirit the right end).  I think blown scent was hitting the stuff behind the gate and curling forward and it was all they could get.  After they opened the gate to allow access, then Gimme went right to the hide as if there was a big red arrow pointing to it.

I took her to the front of the gate and cued "check it" pointing generally to the center of the gate and Gimme indicated it.  Dorothy challenged me saying she was just indicating to please me.  So I moved down three feet and cued "check it" pointing near me and she indicated there.  This is interesting, since I've used "check it" many times in container searches with a lot of bags and she's never given me a false indication, only indicating if we found a bag with odor.  So I don't know if this means she is now confused by the meaning of the cue or if she was just trying something to get peanut butter in the absence of any scent to work with.  

Our last search was a large open sandy area with a bunch of weeds, a few smallish rocks, no wind and 87 degrees.  The odor tins were placed roughly in a triangle.  The area was about 100x100 feet.  We were told to bring our longest leash.  The other students brought 10' lines and their dogs couldn't find odor until the student went to stand by the tin for awhile.
I brought my 40' line and thought our instructor and the other students were going to pee themselves.  I started letting Gimme just search until she found a hide.  Then I encouraged her to circle around me until she moved out to about 25' and then we did a spiral search to cover the area, just like we learned in the recent tracking seminars.  We had the other 2 hides in no time, without me guiding her to them.  And to think my nosework instructor was so worried about tracking training messing her up for nosework.  Hah!
I love how smart Gimme is and how she can apply cues and concepts from one sport to another one. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Nosework (5/11)

We missed the 4th class of this session and will get a makeup at some point.  The class I'm going to describe was on August 4th.

This was done as a container search with thirteen boxes.  Because many of them were against the wall, it was a little bit like a basic container element search.  There was just the one hide in a box and Gimme found it so fast, it was almost like not searching.  She was disappointed to only find the one hide.

From there we went to searches in the front half of the training room, which was set up to be an interior search area.  There were some random chairs and a small table, the red wheeled cart, a clothing rack, a mop bucket, a pile of boxes, a fan near the bucket, two trash cans and some expens leaning against the wall.  The lower door triangle was our entry and the other door leads to the bathroom (it was shut).  The lighter grey rectangles along the wall are shelving with a lot of stuff on them and the dark grey square is a filing cabinet.

For the first search each team had a different hide, so we all could watch, but our hides were blind.  Gimme's first search was on the wall between the two trash cans.  She caught odor right away and was in the area in seconds, but scent was coming out through the edge of the shelving, so she had to search to find source.

Our second search was two hides on nearby chairs, so the dogs had a converging odor challenge.  Gimme is the most experienced dog in class, so she solved this problem very quickly.  I find she enjoys the puzzle of converging odor hides.  Other dogs are still getting so much "help" from their owners, so the owners were close by and moving through the layers of the converging odor puzzle, actually making it harder for their dogs.

The last search also had two hides set up for converging odor, with one of them a threshold hide (on the lower edge of the filing cabinet).  Gimme blasted past the threshold as she normally does and I kind of hung out near the threshold as I usually do in trials.  I've found this gets her to come back and check the threshold without frustrating her by holding her near the threshold.  As I've noticed before, it worked well and she found the threshold hide pretty quickly. 

From there she had a little difficulty finding the other hide.  I think this was because there was a fan in the back half of the room blowing toward the open garage doors (the lower edge shown on the diagram), so the scent was getting pushed out the door.  When Gimme didn't find it on her own, I did my perimeter walk - a largish walk around the room, kinda close to the edges.  I do this in trial searches after I shadow her movements for most of the search.  When I move like this, she shadows my movements, so I can then be make sure she has searched the whole room.  So when I got toward the garage door area, this got her into the plume of the scent on the mop bucket and she went right to it.

I know Gimme enjoyed going to class and having something to do.  She's been bored lately.  I've been working on my annual filing update, so between it and the downtime between the 3-day tracking seminars - she thinks her need for attention and mental stimulation have been severely neglected. Just sayin'...

Friday, August 7, 2015

Nosework (3/11)

I should be packing for the weekend, but am waiting for a package by UPS and can't really do anything productive until it arrives, so thought I'd get this blog entry done for July 21st.

Our first search was really simple, but with a twist.  It consisted of two chairs, about 4 feet from the start line, with a hide on each chair.  The twist was in the instructions - the dog had to be on leash and the handler couldn't pass the start line during the search.  You could pass it only to reward at source, but then had to move back behind the start line.  The idea was to see how the dog would respond if the handler didn't move with them and was behaving oddly.

Gimme thought this a piece of cake.  She's absolutely certain she runs the universe and believes I'm not very competent, though acknowledges I do try hard.  She has difficulty if I'm in a lot of pain, such as a severe migraine, but otherwise is confident to do what needs to be done without my "help".  She did this so quickly and readily, I wasn't entirely sure she even noticed what I was doing (or not).


Our next three searches were in the 
same exterior area at the side of the 
building.  We started with 6 chairs on 
the sidewalk, two of which had odor.  
Gimme spent a little time investigating, 
but then quickly located the two hides. 

They removed the two chairs with hides on them and then placed a hide in a low spot in the grass (between two trees) and on the fire hydrant.  Gimme very quickly checked the remaining chairs and got a little stuck on the chair which was directly between the two hides.  I suspect it had scent pooling on it.  Once she decided it wasn't source, she then searched around it and got quickly to the hide in the grass.  From there she went DIRECTLY to the hide on the hydrant.  Often with converging odor, it can take them awhile to find the first hide, but going from there to the second one can be very direct - almost as if there is a written note telling them where to go next.  I guess in a way, there is a note - one only the dogs can read.

For the last search, they brought back one of the hide chairs and placed a hide on the bottom of the mailbox.  Gimme found the hide on the chair almost immediately.  Then she searched around the tree between it and the mailbox and on the ground between them.  The breeze was blowing toward the mailbox.  When she happened to move past the mailbox, then she spun around and sourced within 5 seconds. 

I love the way Dorothy is so very creative in setting up searches so the dogs get a lot of experience and learn all these things, without ever really leaving the area surrounding the training building.  Other instructors place a lot of importance on taking field trips to gain novel experiences, but Dorothy does just fine without them.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Nosework (2/11)

I really must get some of this caught up.  Its been so long now, I don't remember a lot of details - at least I made the diagrams soon after class.  

This was held July 14th.  The first two searches included the portico for the building's entrance (grey, black squares are columns), with a bench (red) and six chairs (green) in the parking space.  

In keeping with the theme of seeing how the dogs are affected by their expectations regarding familiar items (chairs being high on the list) during the first search we saw the dogs examine the chairs extensively and then examine the bench, before discovering odor on one of the columns.  Gimme was a little faster than the other dogs, but still spent a lot of time on the chairs, but almost none on the bench. 

For the second search, the odor was moved to the bench and one of the chairs.  Gimme headed directly toward where she found odor before, then immediately found the odor on the bench.  From there she caught the drift of where odor was on the chair and found it very quickly. 

The third, fourth and fifth searches were held on the exterior strip at the side of the building.  The bicycles on the sidewalk were laid on their sides.  The green splotches are trees and the larger red circle is a fire hydrant.  You can also see the mailbox and the mulched area of the landscaping. 

The first search in this area had odor under some weeds at the edge of the sidewalk.  All the dogs were really attracted to the bicycles and other "stuff".  Gimme took a long time to find odor where it was.  I noticed she was very distracted, but not by stuff as the other dogs had been.  Before the next search, discovered she needed to poop, so I'm sure this was the reason.  A good Mommy would get there early enough to have a lengthy walk before class starts.

For the second search Gimme got down to business better and was more focused.  It still took her awhile to find odor in a hose nozzle in the middle of the grass.  Once she did, she went directly to odor on the bicycle hub. 



For the last search, odor was in a pipe on the ground in the grass, on a tree and on the fire hydrant.  Gimme found both the one on the hose and the one on the tree pretty quickly.  Then she seemed to get a tiny bit stuck on the mailbox.  The tree and hydrant hides were converging odor and I think there was odor pooling against the post of the mailbox.  Once she eliminated the mailbox pool, she went directly to the hydrant.  

Overall I thought she did very well.  These were unusual searches, more like element trial searches.  And given my own distracted state, I didn't give her much help.  She is always happy to take over and run things according to her own standards...