Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tracking Genius - Urban (1)

Ever since I went to the seminars by Sil Sanders, I've been wanting to find a practice buddy for urban tracking.  I was telling Nadine about some of Sil's methods and she's very interested.  So we'll be alternating field and urban practices.  I found a location to do the parking lot training, using a large cinema's parking lot.  We'll be able to use it for most of the parking lot work, since there is a lot of curbs we can use and a lot of islands (greenery surrounded by a curb) to work with.  Its going to be much harder to find sports fields to work in.

Sil uses curbs and islands in early pavement work.  The scent is likely to be trapped on the vertical surface of the curb and helps the dogs follow beginning tracks.

We met yesterday and set up the first set of curb tracks for Nadine's girls.  We brought her dogs out one at a time and then did the series of three tracks.  They were 15 yard, 30 yard and 40 yard tracks along a curb, with a start scarf, food drops every five yards and an end glove. Sil said in MEB (Modern Enthusiastic Tracking, the proposed book) there is no real reason to use a start article, because it doesn't add anything at this stage.  This makes sense if you are working with rank beginners, the target audience.  The dogs we are working with all have quite a bit of field tracking experience (Skookum has her TD), so I thought a start article would be a helpful clue to them about the activity.  Start-article = use your nose and track.

It was really fun to watch the girls "get it".  In MEB it says if they go up on the curb into greenery or dirt or whatever, simply stand still and wait for them to get back next to the curb before letting them proceed.  They will naturally want to get up there, because dirt and greens hold scent better than pavement.  Since they learn the non-curb area doesn't pay, they will give it up. Indeed they all quickly decided to follow the curb and by their third and longest track didn't bother with the non-curb area.

I also set up an article zig-zag on a long strip of lawn along the front of the cinema.  I wanted to use the principle of the article circle, but it requires more space than we had, so I changed it to a zig-zag with soft angle turns. There was a driveway crossing our green-belt, but these dogs all have experience crossing pavement.  The track started next to a dirt strip with some bushes in it.  The brown circles with green dots are all small trees, with a landscaped circle of dirt at the base.  The light grey area is a patio along the front of the building and the dotted line at its edge is a railing.  Also, this diagram is missing the first and last flag, the start article, article on the first leg and glove at the end of the last leg.  I had it all created and when I saved it those things were lost and I don't want to spend the time recreating the whole thing, so you'll just have to imagine them there.

All of the girls did well with this.  Gimme wasn't convinced she needed to put her nose down to the pavement of the driveway, but I just stopped her and encouraged her to "track-on" and when her nose went down then I let her proceed.  The biggest challenge for all the dogs were the small trees.  It became clear there has been a lot of dog walking in this area, which surprised me, given the location.  All the girls have been around pee spots, but I don't think they've ever been asked to track right through it - since the track line went within inches of the trees.  They all did figure it out and move on, but we could see it was a challenge.  This likely counts toward their "sports field" tracking.

Then last I had Nadine set Gimme's three curb tracks.  Gimme experienced this during the Sil Sanders seminars, but he advised us to go back to the beginning and work through it.  Even though she did very well at it, he thinks there are important foundation skills which need to be created and built upon and he said he finds skipping ahead costs time later on.

When we did this (and other beginner exercises) at the seminars, instead of food drops, I had them lay out articles for her to find.  Sil said this was valid in Gimme's case because she loves her articles so much.  I did this because of our discovery that food drops in field tracking became a distraction rather than a help.  So I had Nadine set articles in place of the food drops for our tracks.

Gimme did well with the 15 yard track.  For the 30 yard track, she started wanting to go past the articles (which she clearly noted) and for the 40 yard track even more of the same.  If I stopped when she passed an article, she came back to it and did her indication at it to get the rewards, but she clearly really just wanted to go on.  As I watched this, it became clear to me - Gimme really wanted to just T-R-A-C-K and thought stopping every 5 yards was a huge annoyance.  Nadine was watching and came up with the exact same conclusion.

Thinking about it now, when we set out articles at the seminar for Gimme's curb work, they were much farther apart.  Another difference was the size of the articles.  Nadine doesn't have small urban articles yet (3x3 to 5x5 inches, and even smaller for training), so she was using her field articles, which Gimme could easily see.  Nadine commented she thought Gimme was looking ahead and could see the next article while she was getting paid for the current article.  Given how much she likes a challenge, she may have been uninspired by articles she could see so easily.

So I've decided next time we do curbs/pavement, we'll set up articles no closer than 15 yards and longer as the length of the track increases.  We may add some food drops and if she gets them - great.  If she passes them, then we'll stop leaving them.  Food drops may be more of a benefit on pavement since she can gobble on the run, as opposed to on field tracks where she had to find them in the long grass.  Finding lumps of cheese in long grass is a different skill than following a track and it may be when we found it a distraction it was because it was taking her out of following mode.

It was a little frustrating to end on such an off note.  In hindsight, we had plenty of curb left, so probably should have set a 30 yard track with just an article at the end, to end on a less frustrating note.  Still, I'm sure no harm was done and she'll be eager to go for it again.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Element Trial Details

The results are in and Gimme placed 4th overall in the competition!  Her time was less than two seconds behind third place and I'm sure we all know who's fault those two seconds were.  Also she got no faults, despite my expectations.

Search 3
Fort - 2 hides, 2:30

Gimme completed this search in 1:23.78 for 9th in time, with over a minute to spare.  She practically dug up the odor and I dropped the leash when she went around one of the support columns, so I was expecting at least 1 fault, if not two.

Search 4
Picnic Area - 1 hide, 1:00

I knew Gimme did well here... she came out with 3rd place with a time of 0:11.27, just two seconds behind second place and four seconds behind 1st.  We might have scored second if I hadn't taken so long to get past the certifying official's attempt to psyche me out.

Search 1
Lean-to - 2 hides, 2:30

Gimme finished this search in 1:14.75 for 4th place, with 1¼ minutes to spare.  This was her first search of the day, so I was happy with this time.

Search 2
Outside the Kitchen - 2 hides, 2:00

Gimme finished this search in 33.59 seconds, getting FIRST PLACE!  Second place was ten seconds behind her.  So this was her best search in terms of placement and it was also the hardest search because of the converging odor aspect, with only 4-5 feet between hides.  I know Gimme really loves a challenge, so its consistent to see her pull out her best work for the hardest search. 

What's not to love, eh....

Saturday, September 26, 2015

New Element Title L2E

The drive was uneventful, with only one small back-up.  Signs into the site were great.  This is a boy scout camp and we've been here before for element trials.  Its a pretty nice site, though there does tend to be a lot of walking involved and somehow its all uphill.  Last time parking was ample, but this time they'd set search areas in places which created line-of-sight issues.  Thus, parking was restricted and it meant people had to move - I moved three times.

It also means there is no separate reactive dog parking and people are pretty careless about walking their dogs right next to the van.  Gimme is in her false pregnancy, so I experimented with different ways to get people to not walk so close.  Had to add a couple of visual screens and then she did much better.

There were four searches:

Before our first search, we started with the practice boxes and I was dismayed to see Gimme pass the odor box twice before stopping at it.  The second time through, she stopped for it the first time.  While we were waiting in the hold, Gimme required a LOT more interaction to keep her from wanting to get back to the baby.  I kept her busy and then when we'd taken the edge off, I switched to rewarding her "Chillax".  I can't say she was relaxed, but she was able to fake it enough to earn treats, which told me she was in her thinking brain.

Search 1
Lean-to - 2 hides, 2:30

The search area was about 30x40 oval shape, partially under a lean-to (tan), including one of the picnic tables there.  It had the edges shown with pink surveyors tape running to benches, trees, a pole with some electrical boxes on it and buckets.  There were also cones and flags.  Inside the search area was a upside down wheelbarrow, a brushy area and a fire-pit. The little arrow is the exit path.

Gimme did a lot of sniffing on the wheel of the wheelbarrow, but I bit my tongue and waited for an actual alert.  From there she went to the picnic table and around the perimeter under the lean-to before coming back to the wheelbarrow, indicating at the handle.  If I hadn't waited, the judge would have asked "where" and I would have been wrong.  Gimme hadn't checked the rest of the area and the search area was in a low spot, without air current, so I walked her along the other arc of the perimeter, which got us near the pole, where she quickly indicated an inaccessible hide.  I even remembered to say "finish".

Search 2
Outside the Kitchen - 2 hides, 2:00

This search was a covered patio outside the kitchen area, and included a couple feet of gravel out from under the patio.  The search area contained two picnic tables, two cabinets (white) and a set of lockers (dark grey).

Gimme went in and sniffed at a spot on the picnic table and then started to go with me as I kept moving.  Then she stopped and said, "No Mom, we have to get this one" and went right back to it.  Good for her!  From there we went around the room and she checked the area.  I was sure there would be a hide in the lockers, but Gimme really only sniffed toward them, without going closer.  From there she went to the support pole and alerted at a large vertical crack near the floor.  She was right and I remembered my part.   Right there I was happy as can be, since my learning curve to say "finish" has been huge.  The two hides were only 4-5 feet apart.

I decided not to use the practice boxes before the third search.  I thought Gimme would benefit from 5 minutes less time away from baby.  It was a risk, but in the past I've noticed she isn't all that interested in practice boxes the second time around, so I thought it was a good gamble.

Search 3
Fort - 2 hides, 2:30

This search was about 40x40, perimeter shown with flags and cones.  One side was the back wall of the fort and another was right along a railroad tie embedded in the ground.  There were two brooms (blue triangles) leaning against the wall, support columns and a hand-washing trough (white).  The picnic table is included for reference because the judge sat there.

Gimme was immediately attracted to the trough and the end with the small square at the spigot is where she showed interest, but she never indicated, though she checked the spot a couple of times.  She checked out the brooms and back wall and headed toward an open door outside the search area on the left side.  She thought it was very attractive and I had to talk her out of it.  As I took her around the perimeter, she found a hide stuck in the ground right next to the railroad tie and alerted.  She practically dug up the odor, so I'm sure we got a fault there for "disturbing the search area".  The support columns presented a real handling challenge and I dropped my leash once, so was afraid I may have been faulted there as well.  From there she went to the trough again, I resisted the urge to blurt-alert and she went on to alert on a garden-hose-holder on the nearest pole (about 2 feet away), which I hadn't even noticed before.  The nose knows.  I said "finish" and we were done.  In hindsight, the moisture of the spigot and proximity probably sucked scent from odor source.

Search 4
Picnic Area - 1 hide, 1:00

This search was a small area under cover (as shown by the four corner columns) only a bit bigger than the picnic table (about 12x15).  The whole leading edge was the startline.

Gimme had hardly stepped into the area when she alerted in the same exact spot on the picnic table as the picnic table hide in the outside-kitchen search.  It was hard for me to believe they'd place a hide in the same exact spot in two different searches... but Gimme insisted, I called "alert" and then "finish" and we were done.  Good thing I didn't let them psyche me out, but it was close. ☺

Gimme had some really fast times and did a great job.  She's been so baby obsessed the last few days, so I was concerned, but when it came down to it, she got right to work.  It'll be a day or so before the results are posted online.  I'll share the info when its available.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Nosework (6/12)

Because the weather is likely to turn rainy at any moment, Dorothy decided we should put the container work on hold (typically done indoors) and take advantage of good weather to do stuff outside.

Our first search was an interesting vehicle search. It was a white van pulled up close to the portico of the training building with brown squares to show columns and the tan rectangle is bench.  Dorothy had four clean and empty tuna cans with large magnets inside, which also had odor inside.  The tuna can made it so you could pair a bunch of treats with odor on a vertical surface.  We were to work on a shorter than usual leash, go up the left side, do a front cross in the portico and come back down.  On the way up the dog could self reward and on the way back we had to be prepared to reward again.

I let Gimme forge ahead as we entered the search area and then caught up to her and stayed on a 5 foot leash for the rest of it.  I always let her rush into the search area - she likes it and it keeps her from being frustrated and personally I don't see a downside.  Gimme did miss the first hide on the bumper on the way into the search, but caught all the others and caught in on the way back.

Because the pairing treats in the tuna cans aren't peanut butter, Gimme doesn't have the best motivation to grab every hide immediately and she's always enjoyed the hunt more than the find.  This is the whole reason I originally went to rewarding with peanut butter - to encourage Gimme to stop for every one as soon as she can to get the good stuff.  I've noticed she's not as motivated to get to the first odor she passes since we've gone back to this basic stuff with all the not-peanut-butter pairing treats.  Of course, Dorothy and her co-instructor don't see this.  I make it my life's work to study Gimme and know what is going on with her - so I do see this stuff.  I'm going to see if I can find those mini-peanut butter creme cookies and use those for pairing.  I think she'll be more motivated for them.

Our next search was an exterior, under the larger portico of the other office in the building.  The brown squares again are the columns for the portico.  The double square at the threshold is a downspout which jutted out from the building at the bottom 3 feet and odor was behind it (two dogs chose to squeeze through the space - one a GSD of all things).  The light yellow rectangle is a desk with odor beyond it.  The odd textured brown shape past the portico is a bit of landscaping where we were to do another front cross as we turned back.  With the hide by the second column, this makes 3.

Gimme again passed the first hide, but she was on such a bee-line to the second hide by the column, I'm inclined to believe she smelled it from the startline.  She then went to the hide by the desk, we did our front cross in the landscaping and she nailed the desk hide again.  From there she went to the hide by the downspout and I was instructed to take her from the search area, but before I could she zipped behind me to get the hide by the column again.  The desk was about 6" from the wall, so I think she may have caught the drift of the downspout hide from there, accounting for her direct line to it.

The co-instructor chastised me for letting Gimme rush into the search area.  I explained AGAIN her issue with frustration and how a couple of judges noted Gimme is one of the few dogs they've ever seen blow by a threshold hide and then come back to get it.  Both instructors agreed she does do this, but they think missing hides will hurt us in Elite.  Since you have to compete successfully at NW3 level to get an Elite title and given how hard it is to get into a trial at NW3 level, I have no plans to go there.  I'd like to get an NW3 title and L3 Element titles, but I don't foresee us competing for an Elite title.

In any case, I do think having the Peanut Butter Minis might help her to find those paired "threshold" hides better.  If not, I'm not inclined to do things which frustrate her and make her think this game isn't fun.  There are too many other things we are doing together and frankly, I think we are both getting a little bored with nosework. Gimme does enjoy class and working, but she doesn't have the same level of excitement she did 9 months ago.  I don't think it helps to keep going back to basics so much of the time.  Gimme enjoys a challenge and while she is happy to take "free" treats, it doesn't excite her like conquering a challenge does.

Our third search was to go back to the vehicles again.  This time the hides were all on a second white vehicle, just in front of rear wheels and just behind front wheels.  The front wheels on the van with the hides were angled - not intended as a challenge, but proved to be one.  The blue truck was not part of the search and its included only for a reference point.  We were to start our search by aiming our dogs toward the left rear tire/bumper of the non-hide van and then follow their lead.  Again on a short leash.

I kept Gimme on 4½ foot of line, but ran with her to the vehicles where she slowed down on her own.  She went no more than 1 foot down the left side of the non-hide van before turning back to go to the other van.  She quickly got both hides on the near side.  Then she went around the front and started down the right side.  All the dogs hit the angled-out tire and then bumped out toward the blue truck, before veering back to the hide in front of the rear wheel.  Only Gimme and the GSD got the front wheel hide directly afterward - the other two dogs had to go back and forth a few times.  Gimme went closer to the blue truck before turning back (and before I could respond to encourage her back), which I think is because she is the fastest moving of the dogs in this class, so she just naturally carries out further.

Apparently when they ran this search for other classes the front wheels were straight and there was no issue.  Both instructors were surprised about the extra challenge it presented, with no clue why.

Our last search was in an exterior area where dogs are frequently walked to potty along a sidewalk.  There were three hides and our goal as handlers was to observe and see if we could tell when the dog was crittering vs when they were detailing for source.  I knew when Gimme was doing which and was pleased to see she left the potty spots on her own each time, before I needed to interrupt her.

I was also happy to see Gimme didn't seem inclined to mark despite this extreme provocation and  particularly because we had a little difficulty with marking in exteriors after we started tracking at the beginning of this year.  I'm using the same harness for tracking and nosework.  Since Gimme was/is allowed to potty in tracking, she was briefly confused about what she could do.  After getting walked off the search area for marking a couple of times in nosework, she seems to now understand its not the outfit she wears, but the activity.  So, this was a great exercise for us, especially since Gimme and I have gotten in an L2 Element exterior trial this Saturday afternoon.  Its only a two hour drive, so we'll be going down and back the same day.

Regarding the trial this weekend:  Feel free to start crossing your body parts any time now...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tracking Genius (18)

Yesterday we met at Flaming Geyser park.  Temperature was a cool high 40's, with a lot of dew on the ground.  By the time we left it had gotten into the low 60's.

As planned, I set an article circle to practice Gimme's restarts.  She loves articles, so its highly motivating for her.  Its a large "circle" (or in this case an oval), created with many short straight lines, flags on each corner, and an article at the midpoint of every leg (eyeglass case, sock, plastic lid, sock, viewtainer, swatch of suede, glove).  Its primarily used to train/strengthen article indications, but also works on corners.  In our case, since Gimme totally loves articles and gets the game, its a great way to train her restarts. 

Gimme did an amazing job at this, only getting a little sticky one time.  I forgot to turn the camera on until I was at the second article.  Someone at the tracking seminars mentioned they always push record as soon as they turn on the camera, since they forget if they don't - clearly I need to do this.  I'd done a bad job of line handling on the first article and she got a big jerk when she got to the 20' mark as she led out from the prior article, so this is probably why she was hesitant.  I spend a lot of time rewarding at articles, so when you have 7 in such a short track, it takes a long time.   Thus, those excessively long pauses of just grass in the viewfinder are while I am dropping 15 treats on her head, one at a time, as she bows at articles.  I did trim off the rewarding at the last article.

From there we went on to do the 385 yard track Nadine had laid.  While she normally lets us go first, in this case, Nadine wanted to test Cricket on a TD-like track.  As she ran it with Cricket, we dropped two extra articles for Gimme.  Since she'd already run it with Cricket, I wasn't surprised to see Gimme get distracted wherever she went off course. Overall she did a good job and I think she was a bit faster than Cricket.

I forgot to turn the camera on, so this video only shows from the restart after the first article.  The video quality is pretty poor because I'm trying to keep up with her, so its bouncing all over the place (those rubber boots sure are noisy).  BTW the business at about 2:30 where I'm saying "tangle-tangle" is because Gimme has learned to pick up her front feet and step to the side when I say it, so I can move the line/leash as needed when we are walking.  Here I'm trying to apply it in tracking.  I loved at about 4:00 where I said, "where's the track" and she immediately started her circle-search.  She had the track and then at 4:40 you see her go off to the left, which is where Cricket got distracted - she left it faster than Cricket had.  At 6:00 she is trying to cut the corner, but I held her off it - she needs to follow the track without taking shortcuts.  Overall, as I've noticed before, I don't think she does as well if it isn't a clean track.

We ran the article circle a second time and it didn't start out very well.  Gimme was distracted by the large bag I had hanging off my belt to put the articles in and I got frustrated and spoke to her a little sharply.  This upset her and then it took a long time before I was able to encourage her to work well again.

Thank God for video, because without it, I had a very different ideas of what the problem was.  I see I really must learn to give her the reassurance she asks for when she asks for it.  I also see on the video when she starts out, if I say "yes" too early, it draws her off the track, but once she is committed to the track it gives her the confirmation she needs/wants.  While this video was painful to watch as I make mistake after mistake, I learned a lot from it.  Happily we ended with some really good work where I was able to give Gimme a LOT of rewards and celebrate her success.  She is more forgiving than I deserve.  I needed to pick up the articles and flags and just thought it would be fun for her to do it again.  In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have asked her to, since it was her third run in two hours.

The good news is, Nadine got really good results from my coaching her with Skookum on the article circle.  So much so, she is eager to do it again.

Nadine is checking out locations to see if we can find some places to work on urban tracking work.  I'm going to do some internet searches and see if I can find any locations in Tacoma or Fife which might work.  I can check them out one-by-one on my way home from Mom's on Thursdays.

BTW I just got notified yesterday - we moved off the wait list and are in the Level 2 Element trial for exteriors.  Its this Saturday afternoon.  Its less than 2½ hours drive, so it'll be nice to be able to go up and back on the same day.  I'm looking forward to it.  Cross any body parts you can spare for us...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Nosework (5/12)

Dorothy is back - yaaaay.  Turns out she was in Pennsylvania instructing at one of the nosework camps.  I was glad to see her, since she always has such insightful comments.

Our first four searches were indoors, set up with 8 blank boxes around a central chair.  The blank boxes were at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 11 o'clock.  The chair is the green shape in the middle of the diagram and the point indicates which direction we were facing (toward 12 o'clock) when seated.  The diameter of the circle is at least 25 feet.


The instructions were to bring the dog in on a short leash, sit down, get treats in hand and turn the dog loose to search.  Once the dog found and stuck to odor, we'd get up and reward them at source.  Then we were to take the dog back with us to the chair and hold them while Dorothy moved the box.  Search 1 at 12 o'clock, search 2 at 9, search 3 at 3, and search 4 behind us at 6 o'clock.  We could watch the dog work for the first 3 searches, but weren't to watch the dog for the fourth search.  For the 4th search we were to see if we could tell when our dog was at odor by sound and/or Dorothy would say when to reward.  Because the dogs pay attention to what someone is doing with boxes and will gravitate toward it, after moving the odor box, Dorothy would pick up and drop at least two more boxes.

Each dog started moving forward (toward 12 o'clock) to start their first search and for subsequent searches, all the other dogs went to the last box Dorothy handled.  Gimme was never sucked in by Dorothy handling boxes.  For the first search she went to the box at 11 and then directly to odor.  For the subsequent searches she went from the chair directly to the odor box.  She was the only one to go so directly.  For the fourth search, I knew she was at odor when I heard her skiing across the floor on the box.  She is who she is...

These searches were followed by 4 container searches outdoors.  For the first three of these searches, we worked the dog on the left, on a shortish leash (6' max) and walked from the start down the line of boxes, not working the dog, just walking along in stupid-handler mode and the dog had to stick to odor for us to stop and reward.  If the dog didn't stick to odor, we continued walking, going around the four cones and back to the start and walk the line again - repeating until the dog stuck to odor.  The other part was handler speed.  The first search we walked somewhat slower than usual, the second normal speed and the third decidedly faster than usual.  For the 1st search, odor was in box 3; 2nd search in box 5, and 3rd search in box 1.

Gimme stuck the box each time and for the fast round,
I was the only handler brave enough to do it at a good fast trot (fast for me anyway).  Honestly Gimme thought it was the bee's knees.  She dragged me to odor and then pounced on the box, causing Dorothy to comment "Gimme says 'This is fun, can we do it like this all the time?'"

For the last search, we changed it up and started on the other end, kept the dog on our right side and moved at our regular pace.  This required us to change up our hands for leash handling and treats.  Odor was in box 3.

All the dogs, even Gimme, were challenged by handler awkwardness, though I didn't feel very awkward because I'm used to holding her leash in either hand when we are walking.  The only thing to feel odd was having her peanut butter go toob on the other side.  And since we were last and I got to watch the other dogs before us - I think Gimme was held to a higher standard for what counted as sticking than for the others.  Its okay though, the second time around she dragged ahead of me and pounced on the box, smashing it to smithereens (its gone on to little-box-heaven).

I have to say I find it interesting how much Gimme enjoyed these exercises.  When we went to Level 1 element searches where there was only one hide, I noticed she often seemed bored or impatient about only having one hide. I almost never see either attitude in classes and I think its because Dorothy is soooo clever about coming up with unique challenges.

Gimme is snoozing contentedly...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Barn Hunt Practice

Tonight we drove to join the Eatonville Rat Rangers for a practice.  It took 1:22 minutes to get there using the route my navsys selected.  I tried a different route home and shaved it down to 1:03.  This route will probably be a little longer going, since it's in the middle of rush hour.

The set up is a bit chaotic, but I was able to make it work.  Gimme got to do three runs for $5... its a per dog fee.  She did a novice run (1 rat tube) and I waited for paw action before calling it.  She barked quite a bit.  Then she did an open run (2 rat tubes) and she was quicker with the paw and things went pretty fast.

Our last run was senior-lite (3 rat tubes).  Gimme found a tube right away and pawed at it first, but I was distracted and didn't call it and by the time I would have she was only barking (no paws).  So I ignored her because I'm trying to make it clear to her, its paw action I want.  So then she ran around and found another tube and despite her awkward position, she got her paws into action pretty quickly and I called it.  She went back to the first tube, again only barking, so I still didn't call it.  From there she searched and found another tube and again put her paws into it, so I called it.  Then she found a completely empty tube and barked and pawed it.  I picked it up and after confirming it was indeed rat-free, I threw it on the ground in exaggerated disgust.  After this she went around several times, went back to bark at the empty tube again and checked the places where we'd already removed tubes and barked at them.  Finally she went back to the first tube and barked at it.  I encouraged her to "use your paws" and when she did, I called it.

I think the whole false alert on the empty tube was all about frustration - which we know is her Achilles' heel.  It was unfortunate timing for me to be momentarily distracted when she pawed the first tube, but stuff happens and we'll have to work through it.  I think its just going to take her a bit to get clear in her head about what I'll respond to and what I won't. In time I want to increase the duration of her pawing. 

And, I was happy to see she was willing to hunt.  She has just started a false pregnancy and this is the time when she usually can't function at a barn hunt trial.  Of course a trial has the prolonged wait in the blind, which I think really increases her stress.

These practices will be very helpful. We'll be going back in about two weeks... and will aim to practice twice a month until we get things going well.  Gimme is contentedly snoozing as we speak...

Friday, September 11, 2015

Nosework (4/12)

We are doing a series on containers again.  Dorothy must be on vacation because its just been the co-instructor.  For this class, I'd forgotten we were supposed to bring a million treats, so I only had some cheese and my peanut butter.  We ran out of cheese early and the PB wasn't very effective so I used some popcorn I had in the car.  Unfortunately Gimme gets itchy if she eats much corn, so she's been paying for my forgetfulness ever since.  Poor baby.

The videos aren't all that good and some of them show more floor and wall and etc., than they show Gimme, so I'm not including those for you. I still get value from them, but I don't think you'd want to see them.

Our first search was five open boxes with odor and paired.  There was nothing else.  While I understand the value in returning to basics from time to time is great for maintaining enthusiasm, I didn't like these instructions.  If the dog grabbed the pairing treats and moved on without waiting for treats, we were supposed to go with them.  In my mind this only teaches them to not stick to odor and wait for treats from the handler - which is exactly what I got.  We were supposed to do the boxes again on the way out, when they would not be paired - here again I saw a tendency to check for treats and move on.  About halfway through the exercise I was calling her back to the box to get my treats.  She was happy to get more treats, but by then the damage was done and she continued doing hit-n-run on the boxes into the third search.  <sigh>

For the second search, the same five open-box paired hides were there with five more boxes added.  In this search I continued to call her back to boxes to get more treats from me.  Finally at 1:20 she got to a box and finding no paired treats, turned back to me to see if I'd make it right.  I want this every time, even when she finds pairing treats and you'll see I had to call her back to the box at 1:55.  This is fun and exciting for the dogs, but I disliked the sloppy training aspect of it. 

For the third search, they added five more boxes - these being the white ORT boxes.  Fortunately Gimme didn't feel compelled to trash them, probably because she'd already searched twice.  Gimme was a bit better about waiting for my treats here, though I did remind her a couple of times.  The other dogs in class were doing the hit-n-run thing.  At one point Gimme was sniffing something near the boxes for a couple of seconds and the instructor wanted me to take her out because she wasn't sniffing boxes.  I moved her away, but made sure she had access to a couple boxes with hides on the way out.  I'm not the one with the nose, so I don't know what she might be doing and I'm not going to "correct" her for it. I might have thought different if I'd gotten the sense she was shopping or crittering, but I didn't.

For the fourth search, she added even more boxes and placed them in four lines of six.  Our instructions were to keep the dog on a 3' leash and direct the search, taking them down one line and then another and another.  If the dog caught odor from another line and drove to it, we were to go with them, then return to where we were and continue.  Gimme is used to me letting her blast into a search area and then reeling myself into her before starting to direct her search.  We've done this many times with good success.  Directing the search from the startline was just annoying to her - she cooperated, but was frustrated, turning to give me the "what is wrong with you" look a couple of times. I think it would have been much worse if I hadn't switched to the peanut butter go toob and made sure she knew this is what she'd be getting.

Of course the instructor went on and on about how much better Gimme searched on the short line.  I'm inclined to think it was because of the peanut butter.  I also think it looked more controlled than the other students because I actually thought about what pattern I'd use for the search.  The other students all started with their dog on their left, but went over to do the right side line.  I kept Gimme on my left and started with the left-most line of boxes, then turned to come up the second line of boxes.  At the end of it, I did a front cross of sorts, while moving over to take her down the third line of boxes and back up the fourth line of boxes, still all on my left.  If I'd been tripping and fumbling over her like the others, Gimme would have been VERY annoyed.

Our fifth and last search was off leash.  I thought Gimme was much more efficient with this search.  She was calmly finding all the hides (a couple more than once), gobbling the paired-treats and then waiting for her peanut butter.  I'm glad we got to end with this after the frustration of the short leash directed search.

Next week for class I'll have a million pieces of cheese for pairing and I'm going to use peanut butter chips for treats.  I think it'll be easier than the go toob in this case.  I don't use the peanut butter chips in trials because the one time I did, they stuck to her flews and then fell off later, earning us a fault for contaminating the search area.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Weight Pull Seminar

We attended a seminar on weight pull for both Sunday and Monday.  On Sunday there were so many clueless people, so we weren't able to do as much.  It was just too chaotic and I felt like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs trying to keep my eyes on everyone. 

First we got her fitted in a harness and while it fit her body great, the spreader bar was too close, so it was bumping her back legs.  Gimme didn’t like this style of harness, since it had padding which made it fit her face really close and she had to push her head through.  Of course peanut butter was sufficient encouragement for her to push through.  Gimme pulled drag weights, which was easy, but the point of them isn’t about weight, its about getting the dog used to something following them and making noise behind them.  We also pulled the cart, but there wasn’t much weight on it and I thought Gimme was a little bored by it.  The good news was that it lifted the spreader bar up so it wasn’t bumping her legs as much.

On Monday there were only a few participants, so Valerie said we should work Gimme again.  We pulled the sledge with all the weights they have.  Probably only 150 pounds, but it drags on the dirt, so it is effectively heavier.  Then we hooked her on the cart and loaded it up and pulled it back and forth.  The video I have is our last pull where she was pulling a 75 pound cart with a 140 pound girl on it, who is dragging her feet (adding about 50 pounds more in load).  Gimme found this more worthwhile.  Its not as easy as it looks because the dirt was not flat… it had shallow vehicles tracks pressed in the dirt.  Valerie positioned the cart for the start so the wheels were on top of the rise between the tracks and had the girl give a little push to help Gimme get it started. 

You’ll notice her tail really never stops wagging.  She clearly thinks this is too too much fun.

As soon as we can get a properly fitted harness made for her, we’ll start training her in the neighborhood.  Valerie is very picky about harness fit and quality, so I’m going to wait until she lets me know a good place to get it made. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

BarnHunt Trial w/ non-Q Successes

I planned to get this entry complete, with videos, sooner, but instead have been helping my neighbor using the shop-vac to suck up wasps.  They've built a big nest in my carport and are fiercely protective of what they now believe is their space.  We unloaded a whole can of wasp killer into them on Saturday before leaving for the trial, but came back to see there were still survivors and a huge population at that.  It'll probably take a few more treatments with the shop-vac.  Ted is my handyman, who painted my house and did the bathroom remodel.  He finds it entertaining to suck up the wasps, so he does it without charge.  I think its a guy thing. ☺
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have two videos from our four runs (first and last).  I hope they'll show the progress we made. Our first run was quite frustrating.  Gimme never found a rat.  I tried what I'd been working on at the last trial - walking away from her when she was barking at a spot, to see if she'd stick it for a real rat.  It seemed to be working at the last trial, but not at all this time.  Gimme finally sucked me in by barking emphatically at one spot and when I called it, we got our false alert.

I talked to Sandra about it since she got to watch this run.  I love getting her perspective, since she has a good eye and makes astute observations.  Sandra thought Gimme wasn't barking about rats so much as barking at and for me.  She thought she seemed frustrated (her Achilles heel).  Based on what she saw, she said it wasn't clear if Gimme understood what she was supposed to be doing in there, or if she was even enjoying it.  So I recounted our history.

Awhile back it seemed Gimme was eager to get in the ring, but once she did she was more interested in getting out of the ring and back to the car, than to hunt.  What hunting she was doing, was just hunting without indicating.  I had a few judges say she found every rat, but just wasn't sharing the info with me.  This makes sense, since the moment she finds a rat it gets taken away.  Also all the edible rewards are happening back at the car, not to mention all the treats she gets for doing well in the blind.  So in talking to Dennis, I concluded our reward system was broken.  We can't take food in the ring, but we can praise and physically reward (in a limited way).  So then I started taking the time with each find to really get excited and praise Gimme a LOT.  And for a bit she did start indicating again and was clearly enthused about my wild-woman routine.

Then she started barking, but initially was barking for an indication (she used to paw).  To be clear, she had barked a few times before this, but not like she has taken to doing.  Her barking escalated and I started having problems trying to tell when she was indicating a real rat versus when she was barking in general or at other tubes.  Which is kind of where we were with this run... Gimme started out quietly searching, but then she started barking a lot, but without any clear indication.  She barked briefly on the big pile, but then left it.  Then she picked another spot to bark about, again leaving it.  She found another spot to bark, but left it even sooner.  Where she sucked me in for the false alert, she checked a spot where there was a tube (2:18), then barked at it and barked at me without leaving until I called it (2:33).  She barked some more after I chastised her for lying and continued to bark when we were shown a real rat tube.  In studying this video, I don't see any difference between when she was false alert barking and when she was barking at a real tube.  Do tell me if you see something different...

Sandra thinks we may need to get back to basics and has put me in contact with a group which holds regular practices on Monday nights.  It'll be an hour each way.  Fortunately Monday is one night I still have available in my schedule, so it looks like it'll be a good opportunity for us.

I think its possible Gimme is a bit confused about what the game is now.  She likes it when I get so excited and act the fool, and may have wrongly concluded its her barking I'm excited about.  So, I decided for the rest of the runs this weekend to pay no attention to the barking and would only call "rat" when I saw paw action.  I don't care if she barks, but I want to encourage her to go back to her paw indications which were so clear.  She likes to use her paws, so its not like I'm trying to get her to do something she isn't already inclined to do.

For trial 2, she found 2 rats and did the tunnel with a bit of encouragement.  When she found the rats I encouraged her to "use your paws" and didn't call it until she did something with a paw which was oriented to the rat tube.  I am sure everyone thought I was plum crazy for not calling it sooner.  Once we got "yes" from the judge, I rewarded her with lots of praise, but not so over the top.  I called it after the tunnel, even though I was pretty sure there was another rat (I was right)... but I was intent on celebrating after the tunnel and encouraging her to focus on me when I asked for it.

For the next day on trial 3 we were within one second of a Q.  Gimme found two rats, using her paw a bit sooner with encouragement.  Then she did the tunnel when I asked and we celebrated for that.  I was almost ready to call it, when she got intent on another spot.  I waited for paw action, called it and celebrated with her - then remembered I should call it.  The judge called "time" just as I simultaneously said, "I'm gonna call...."  So we didn't get the Q, but I was still ecstatic to see such good improvement.

For trial 4, Gimme was really slow to find the first rat; she was hunting, just having difficulty.  After she got the first one, she got two more pretty quickly.  Again there was barking, but for these rats, she was able to remember to use her paws without me reminding her.  I was trying to get her to do the tunnel when the judge called time.  She was quiet until she found the rat, but it took her more than 2 minutes to find the first one.  It was less than a minute to rat 2.  She actually found rat 3 pretty quickly but was in an awkward spot to use her paws, so I encouraged her to come off the stack and approach it differently and quickly got paws. I think the judge lost track of time based on the time on the video. 

Honestly for the last run, I think she was just tired.  Not only was this the second day of trialing and her fourth run, but we'd also been involved with weight pull both days during the lunch hour. So I'm still very happy with this run.  BTW there were 4 rat tubes.

I notice in watching the video there are a couple things I need to change in my handling.  I think I'm taking waaaaay too long to get her in the ring and undressed.  Everyone has been very patient and nice about it, but this is something I need to do a different way so we can move things along.  And I need to get comfortable with getting the rat tube, praising Gimme and holding her back as I hand off the tube.  I see the rat wranglers are not entirely comfortable with her antics.  I know she won't accost them, but they don't.  I may try carrying the tube to the outside rat wrangler myself... since I could be verbally praising Gimme while I do it.  All this is things I can practice with the Eatonville practice group

Monday, September 7, 2015

Nosework (3/12)

Here is the report from last week's nosework class.  I have video's and also have a couple of video's from this weekend - so I'm not going to diagram the searches, since you can see what the layout was like.

I have to warn you... the video is awkward in places.  Whenever I bend over to reward Gimme, you see my hands, legs and feet, leash, floor - whatever, just no Gimme.  Also when the instructor was talking to me, I see in the video I am turned halfway between her and Gimme, so you see stuff.  At least the video of Gimme searching is reasonably good.  Although its hard to keep the camera on her when she moves so fast - I'm always behind her and when its on leash, I'll be challenged to keep up, since I can't cut across the room.

For the searches, they had put down a line of blue painter's tape about 6 feet from the wall.  For the first search we had to stay inside the "box", except when rewarding, and the four hides were all placed in stuff lining the wall.  On the video, you don't see her head tilt at the filing cabinet as she notes it to return to it (the only inaccessible hide).  She didn't go into the corner and missed the chair entirely on the way down the room.  The big long stretch after the instructor tells me to shorten my leash is me waiting for Gimme to finish cleansing her palate (peanut butter sticks her mouth together and she just can't search then).  Gimme did a good job overall and I was pleased to see her work the challenges without needing me to help her.  Some of the other students are still in the mode of telling their dog where to search by using their body location.  So their dogs may have gotten every hide each way, but it was only because the handler knew where the hides were and stopped their dog at each one until they found it.  I want Gimme to find them on her own, without clues from me.

For the second search, they moved all the stuff inside the tape and we were to work it with the handler staying on the edge of the room, only crossing the tape line to reward.  You may wonder what went on right as the tape starts - I rewarded her without saying anything.  Gimme quickly learned saying "alert" means payoff for her and it became a conditioned reinforcer, so a lot of the time I don't say it.  You can see on this search it is much harder to keep Gimme in the frame as I am forced to walk down the channel at the room's edge.  (this won't usually be the case in our video's)  She overran the filing cabinet again - the hides were close together AND there is not usually any reason why she would need to get the hides in any order.  Obviously she only gets a tiny smidgen of PB for the first hides in each search, saving the glob for the last one when its not counting against our time.  I also tend to use the PB to lure her out of the room and away after the last hide, so they can get on with the next dog while she finishes cleansing her palate. 

For our third search, the room remained the same, but the hides were moved along the wall.  Sometimes its a good idea to set up searches where the dog doesn't find the hide attached-to or associated-with things.  In this search we were not restricted by the tape and able to follow our dog in the normal manner.  It was interesting to see how often Gimme went to the stuff and had a bit of difficulty following her nose away from it, even becoming red-cart-obsessed.

Clearly its going to take some effort to get used to keeping the camera pointed toward Gimme. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tracking Genius (17)

Today we had ideal tracking conditions: moist, drizzling misty rain, only a light breeze, 320 yards and only 45 minutes old.  Articles were, start sock, baby shoe, grey glove and ending with a brown glove.  It should have been easy peasy.

Gimme was distracted at the start, she was happy to get cookies for the sock, but didn't want to leave it.  Then she finally went out to the side to poop.  I thought we'd solved the issue, so restarted her.  She still didn't want to leave the start, then insisted I had to pay her, pestering me for the peanut butter.  I don't normally carry PB during tracking, just forgot to take it out of my fanny pack - so I tossed it 30 feet to the side and told her to forget it.  She still couldn't get to work, so I went over picked it up and carried it back - letting her see me leave it in the van. Then we walked over to start again.

Gimme still had difficulty getting to work and would only move out when I took a few steps with her, which I can't do in a trial.  So I'm not sure what was going on, the possibilities are:
  1. she was thrown off her game by needing to poop - hasn't been a problem before, but its possible,
  2. she was frustrated by not getting peanut butter,
  3. she felt she was being punished when we walked back to the car,
  4. or an issue with starting and/or restarting
This issue with restarting after an article was first seen at the tracking seminars last month and it continued to happen throughout this simple track.  I think at the seminar it was brought about because she was frustrated and made uncertain by changes in my handling.  So, I'm inclined to think #4 is the main thing, but the other things could have caused it to crop up again.  She did better as the track went on, but was still having difficulty with the restarts.

I set a track of 430 yards, with an article on every leg.  The two green squiggles are where the brush lined the path down the hill.  The two pairs of dashed lines are where we crossed the first track.  The red "x" is where our track went right over a pair of long leg men's briefs... this should have been where the corner was, but I took a couple more strides before turning.  All other things of interest are as marked.  The articles were: start sock, blue plastic lid, swatch of brown cloth, grey glove, swatch of tan cloth, and final glove. 

In hindsight crossing the old track was way too hard for Gimme.  She found it very confusing and kept wanting to go down those other tracks, I wouldn't go with her, which frustrated her and was demotivating.  I was able to encourage her through the challenge and fortunately I had placed an article right past each of those crossings, so she was rewarded for persisting.  She had trouble moving away from me on this track as well, needing some supporting steps on my part.  She noticed, but did not stop for the blue plastic lid, so I brought her back to it and really jack-potted it.  Clearly we need more plastic articles.  She paid no attention to the men's briefs - I didn't even see a hesitation.

When we had the issue with her not moving out on restarts, I took one of Sil's exercises and adapted it to train her on restarts during my down time.  It worked very well and I've talked to Nadine about it.  So, next time we get together (in two weeks), I'll set it up and run Gimme on it before I do the track Nadine sets up.  I may set up this exercise several times over the next few tracking training sessions.  I suspect as I muddle through improving my handling, Gimme may need this fun and motivating exercise to help her know what to do and how to be right.  In fact, it occurs to me it might be a great exercise to do on an enlarged scale to work corners - which is also largely a handling issue for me.

After we do the article track for training restarts and moving out, then Nadine will use the same exercise to work Skookum.  Skookum's article indications have become weak, I think because of the way Nadine always says, "Oooooooohhhh Skookeee" whenever she misses one.  I'm sure Skookum finds the "Oooooooohhhh" (which rhymes with "no") punishing and so to a certain degree, she is avoiding the articles.  She's a soft girl.  I'm going to see if I can encourage Nadine to train it the way I do with Gimme.  Who, by-the-way, has fantastic articles - just sayin'...

I tried using my chest strap contraption to film our runs and it wasn't successful.  I will need to make some modifications so it is actually showing Gimme.  I adjusted it to sit higher and it was better, but I still mostly saw was my hands working the line.  I also used it in nosework class today and an even higher adjustment seemed to work okay.  Still have to look over those videos.  Since the strap adjustment seemed to work well enough for nosework, I'll have to be sure whatever I do for tracking can be easily put on and taken off.

It took us 1 hour to get to tracking and 2.5 hours to get back to town, it would have been almost three hours if I'd gone home.  There was an accident on I-5, which slowed things down a LOT.  By the time it was cleared up, I was caught in rush hour traffic for Tacoma, Ft Lewis and Lacey/Olympia.  I was passing the general area where our nosework class is held and decided to take the exit, run an errand and then go straight to class.  Otherwise we'd have gotten home with just 15 minutes before time to leave for class. 

As it is, Miss Gimme is sound asleep...  I do think she'll perk up when she realizes its dinner time. ☺