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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Seizure Again!

Minutes after my last post about Gimme deciding on her own cues, she had another seizure!

It was the first seizure in 6 months and 8 days.  It came on the fourth day after the recent reduction in medication, so we are back up to the prior dosage.  We started at 500mg Keppra three times a day, then three months ago reduced it to 500mg twice a day.  The emergency vet said we might be able to reduce it over time until we used none.  So this time I went to 250mg twice a day.  I thought it made better sense to have some Keppra in her system at all times.  I've put her back on the 500mg twice a day dose and we have an appointment with our veterinarian Tuesday morning.

When it first started, Gimme came out from under the desk (remember I'd been writing the blog post) and sort of stopped with one foot up on a cushion.  I thought I was in her way, so I moved and encouraged her to come out.  She moved about three feet further and then stopped, looking a bit hunched over.  She'd woken me up in the middle of the night with an urgent need to go outside, so I thought for a moment this was related and she might puke.

Then I saw her trembling and how her body was sinking to the floor.  Realizing it was a seizure, I got down with her and just held her until it passed.  I think it lasted less than 2 minutes.  Overall I think it was less intense than the prior seizures.  It seemed to have a cycle, like waves.  So I think perhaps the reduced levels of Keppra in her system was enough to reduce the intensity, just not enough to prevent it entirely.

I couldn't get through to talk to my vet, this being the day before Thanksgiving.  He had an office full, standing room only, two techs out sick, and had plans to catch a flight.  So I called the emergency clinic where they'd originally prescribed Keppra and asked my question about moving the dose back up, whether I should do 2 or 3 doses of 500mg.  They pulled her file and said twice a day would be good, reiterating how important it was to keep our Tuesday appointment.  About an hour later the receptionist from the clinic called to say she'd talked to Doc and he said to get her back on the twice a day regimen.  So it was good to have both veterinarians in agreement.

My first account on Wednesday is the same place I get her prescriptions filled, so I talked to the pharmacist.  He looked it up online and said it takes about 1½ days for Keppra to completely leave the body.  It took 72 hours for it to get low enough to no longer control her seizures.  Thus, I don't have to panic if it so happens we miss a dose (not that I'd ever skip one on purpose, but, things happen).  I'm on the K9Epilepsy list and there are cases where the owners are pretty much slaves to their beloved dog's disease.  So I'm thankful on this account, since my life is pretty chaotic much of the time.

Although I was in panic mode most of the first few days, I've settled into this new reality.  Gimme will need to be on medication for life.  The bad news is, this shows her seizure disorder has progressed.  Between her first and second seizure with no medication was 6 months and 4 days.  Between the second and third seizures was 6 months and 8 days, which looks okay until you consider this was with a reduced level of medication.  It only took 72 hours of reduced meds for the seizure to occur.

The good news is, her seizures are controlled easily with a medication which is low risk, has minimal side-affects and is inexpensive (about $20 per month).  Twice a day is a regimen which fits well into my day, even on the more hectic days, so I can keep things regular for her.

Another interesting outcome - The first episode was during a RFE class and the second was minutes after a RFE practice.  In this case, it occurred during our typical morning routine.  I knew all along it was crazy, but there's been a subtle tension when we go anywhere to practice/train RallyFree.  So now I can now let go of the superstition that it had anything to do with RallyFrEe or Obedience type training.  Woooosh - that's me heaving a big sigh of relief.

I should point out, within 20 minutes after the seizure Gimme was her usual self.  She was bouncing around, cavorting, bringing me toys - all as if to say, "I'm fine, I'm fine, don't worry, quit obsessing, let's play".

Last time she had a seizure, Gimme told me ice cream prevents seizures.  Now she claims peanut butter is also a seizure preventative.  Obviously she should get plenty of both.  She's also been telling me that some day she is going to die and if I didn't play with her, I'm going to feel very guilty.  Then she adds, we should play more often, probably several times a day.  She's my girl - always working the angles...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Morning Funny Ha-Ha

For as long as I can remember, Gimme has been bringing me her toys while I'm getting dressed and the like, every morning.  She brings them, pushes them into my hand repeatedly and any attempt on my part to actually take the toy, results in her
          a) dancing away with it, or
          b) tugging with it.

I can't tug while I'm getting dressed, but I can throw toys.  I encourage her to "bring" me things so we can play.  I've been trying all this time to get her to "release" the toy to me and the only time she would do it was if I took her by the collar and then she gets a slightly disappointed look on her face - suggesting she finds this approach less than fun.  I've tried teaching her to "release" more formally with very little success.

Last night I was sitting on the couch and she snagged one of my socks, hoping to get me to play tug or at least, be less boring.  I said "mine" and she plopped it in my hand!  Suddenly a little light bulb flashed brightly - it occurred to me to try "mine" in the morning.  I just did and like magic, it worked.

All this time I thought "mine" meant 'don't touch'.  Apparently Gimme is quite capable of understanding this cue in a different way in a different context.  Plus there is the whole Gimme thing - wanting to be in control of the process.  Not the first time - won't be the last.

Now Gimme wants me to get off this 'puter, so we can practice this game she has FINALLY taught me to do in the RIGHT way.  I better get to it right away, before I forget and she has to train me all over again tomorrow...   By the way...

Dear Friends
Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 23, 2015

RFE Practice (3)

Today J'Anna and I met to set up and practice the novice course for the World Wide RFE video event.  When we get this third leg, it'll be a new title for Gimme.

I started the morning being awakened early (we were already getting up at the crack of dawn) by the Empress of the Cosmos who wanted a tummy rub.  Naturally I obliged until the alarm went off.  Then got up and speedily got ready, got Gimme's breakfast ready and carried all the stuff I'd stacked with my keys out to the car.

Then there was the ordeal of getting Gimme to go outside with me to get in the car.  She'd already been outside for the fastest tinkle in earth's history, so she was certain going out again into those frigid conditions was not on her agenda.  I did finally get her out to the car, put her vest on and cranked the heat up as far as it would go.  Light was just starting to peep over the horizon when we left home.

Gimme acclimated faster than she had last time, but wasn't all that attentive when it came to work.  I did get a quick practice on each of the exercises, and a refresher on the Free Choice behaviors I'd selected.  She did okay, but I just couldn't get her really enthused and focused.

J'Anna and I decided to treat this like we were videoing for real, so the dogs would be used to having someone standing in the middle of the course.  So I have a video from this morning.  Its a very long clip, so I've removed some delays to make it a little more manageable (6 minutes after editing).  Its a good thing we practiced videoing, since its really not clear enough for submitting.  We'll have to work out something different.

11/23/15 Practice
This video is from almost the last of our training.  I was using the special bowl and Gimme kept offering behaviors I hadn't asked for - basically offering bow all the time with a couple others thrown in.  She's never done this before, so it took me a bit to figure out what was going on.  After we did one reward with the special bowl, she was much more enthusiastic and focused.  There was barking and whining from the day-camp room, which distracted her quite a bit too.  It was hard for her, but she managed to work through it.  I was very proud of how well she did the behind-right-thru-around-left-through sequence - we haven't practiced this in forever, not even a warm up lately, since I just remembered it in the middle of the night.  When we did it so long ago, I was in the middle of teaching right and left (circling around one leg), so I was surprised to see she remembered it without a refresher.  The second time we did it where she had the mistake, it was my fault, since I hadn't gotten my weight shift correct - which tells her which side to end on.

So what I learned right before this clip was to make sure the rewards I'm using in the special bowl pay adequately for what I'm asking her to do.  Working without getting a treat every time is hard, so it has to be worth her while to work for it.  I'd just started putting 15 pieces of cheese and 5 peanut butter chips in her special bowl.  You'll see after the first reward, how much better focus she was giving me - she really wanted to win the "bowl" release. 

Also, I think the earlier offering of bows (with other behaviors) shows she has realized how often "bowl" follows a bow.  So she was trying to talk me into a bow.  I've been trying to make sure we always do something else after the bow before I release her, but it seems clear it hasn't escaped her notice how "bowl" comes shortly after the bow, regardless of whether I insert another behavior in there.  I think next week I need so do some simple "heel" and "side" work with bowl releases to get her to understand it could come any time.  I also think I would get better work from the beginning if I just did some heelwork with a couple releases, then move directly into the course without making a formal break.

Kinks and all, I was still very happy with her work. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Value in Vacation

I didn't plan it this way, but am finding our break from RFE/tricks/obedience training has hidden value.  When my father passed away, it threw me for a loop and really the only training I did was the classes we were in (nosework).  We also went to a couple of barn hunt practices.  And then there was tracking with Nadine and her spots.  Also, we kept up with our annual walking goals, though we've gotten behind a few times and had to put in extra effort to get back on track.  Plus we did go to three trials, resulting in two new titles.

So its not like we weren't doing anything.  Still when we were home, I was pretty much a bump and Gimme made it clear she was bored.  She's tried everything in her extensive repertoire to get me up and doing things with her.

With the RallyFrEe practices and now our third video entry for novice, in the last couple of weeks I've trained a few times.  Plus there have been three group practices.  But I was mainly working on getting Gimme a refresher on doing the station behaviors on a verbal cue.  She is improving - yeahhhhh.  This has been a big challenge ever since she went on medication for seizures.  It got better when we went from 1500mg per day to 1000mg.  Now we've bumped down again to 500mg, so hope to see even more improvement.

Anyway, last Thursday I was trying to remember what we'd been using for Free Choice behaviors and thought I'd try Gimme's forehand pivot.  I didn't have our brick (octagon shaped wooden block), so borrowed a dog dish from the facility.  Oddly, for the life of me I couldn't get Gimme to "pivot", instead she kept offering "can".  This is a trick where she puts her back feet up on a platform and then walks her front feet around it.  When we were working on this late Spring, she could only move her front feet a couple of steps and on the rare times when she tried to go further, she'd step off the platform with one rear foot.  Yet here with this platform, she was offering a full rear-pivot and mostly keeping both feet on.  Once I restricted rewards to only those where she kept both feet on, I got both feet on more consistently.

So I thought it was because the dish was much lower than the pretty patriotic themed can I'd been training her on.  I got it out tonight, for the first time in about 8 months, and she got right on it and gave me the full rear-pivot.  Again, once I kept rewards to only those where she kept both feet on - both feet on is what I got.  Then I got out the brick and within minutes she was giving me those consistently as if we'd never quit practicing.

It was cool to see behaviors we haven't done in a very long time come back soooo strong, with just a little bit of practice.  I'd heard this about taking a break on a behavior, but hadn't seen it so clearly.

Tomorrow J'Anna and I are getting together to practice the World Wide video competition novice course.  Then we'll meet again the following Monday to warm-up and then video.  Cross your fingers for Gimme and me - she only needs one more leg to get the RFE novice title...

Friday, November 20, 2015

RFE Practice (2) & Urban Tracking (4)

Nosework class was cancelled Tuesday night because of weather.  It wouldn't have been an issue for most students, but a few do live far away.  Dorothy lives out past Rochester and holding classes would have left her going home in driving rain down dark country roads.  Clearly we need to keep her safe so she can come back and teach class.  I was glad they got the cancellation notice out by both email and text, since I would never have thought they'd cancel.

Yesterday we had RallyFrEe practice.  Gimme did well, though not quite as brilliant as I know she is capable of.  We were back in the big room so it took her three trips around the perimeter to be fully acclimatized and ready to work.  We clearly haven't worked with her Special Bowl enough in recent months.  Just the presence of it was a distration, though she got better working through it as practice went on.  Next Monday we practice the course for the World Wide video event and the following week we'll set it up again to video.

Today we did urban tracking and kept it kind of short since I needed to be back in town by noon.  Each dog got to go island-hopping, which means they track along the curb of a planting island and then across open pavement to pick up the curb of the next island.  Three of the dogs (Skookum, Cricket and Gimme) did four islands with three open pavement segments.

For Sugar, who seemed to struggle last time we did urban, we modified the exercise.  We set her track along a long section of curb with lots of ins, outs and corners.  I had extra food drops to ensure she stayed motivated (she really hates cold weather and was dancing her paws on the frosty pavement), then she had just one section of open pavement to an island.  She did very well with this and really showed what she knew how to do.  We are left with no clue why she had difficulty last time, but everyone has an off day now and then, dogs too.

This diagram shows the track for Gimme's island hopping adventure, starting on the right, with a start article and four articles on the track (red stars).  We placed a couple of food drops (yellow circles) on the open pavement segment.  She struggled with the first gap, did okay with the second gap and aced the third gap.  Her gaps were larger than the other dogs had, because she has more experience at this, having done it a few times at the Sil Sander's seminars.  From watching her, it wasn't a matter of not knowing how to do it, rather she wasn't clear what she was supposed to do. 

We had plenty of time, so I set up an article circle on open pavement, with 8 articles.  All the dogs have missed some of the urban articles, so we wanted to build their desire to find anything with the tracklayer's smell on it (not just field tracking articles).

Nadine's three dogs weren't really tracking (nose down to the pavement) and so I had her move them along in the general direction of the next article and party at it whether they found it or not.  They got into this game and continued, still not tracking, but at least trying to find articles.  I suggested she use some other cue to encourage them, rather than water down her tracking cues.  This worked well because they all need motivation on their articles, especially Skookum.  As they went around the oval of articles, you could see them getting into the game and indicating faster and faster, and with more emphasis.

Interestingly Gimme was the only one to keep her nose-down and track from article to article.  She'd use her nose to scent the direction and then as she got closer would look up and dash to the article.  She really does love her articles - of course it helps she gets paid so well for them (a minimum of 15 treats each).  I won't ask Gimme to go without treats for an article until we are being tested.  I was really pleased with her efforts as it was very clear she knew what to do.  Next time I plan to set the article circle first, to warm up her brain.

We were still well within schedule, so I was able to detour to the house, thus Gimme didn't have to wait in the car for my appointment and errands.  Instead she was able to enjoy a well deserved slumber on the toasty warm couch.  Just sayin...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tracking Genius (21)

We were supposed to meet Nadine for urban tracking this morning, but the rain made it impossible.  Its coming down in sheets - which started Thursday afternoon.  It was nice for much of Sunday and Monday morning, but now the rain has returned with a vengeance.  Fortunately we'll be able to meet on Friday and the forecast is much better.

Nadine wanted to practice finding the direction at the start, which we'll need when we get to TDX level.  So, she set up a 3-part track to give the dogs a chance to try it.  The pink line shows the path we'd take to get from the end of the first track to the beginning of the second, so we didn't come in on Nadine's path (blue line).  The total distance for these 3 tracks was 690 yards, not counting the movement from one to another.

Gimme did pretty good on this, though she seemed a bit confused at times.  In hindsight I think this may be because at the end of each track, we would seem (from her perspective) to leave the track.  She doesn't seem to have any difficulty figuring out which direction the track went.  Also, we usually run my article track before her main track, so it may be partly because she didn't get a warm-up.

I did notice something, which I've seen before.  When she starts a track, she seems to take off at a slight angle from the track on a straight line, to where she is getting further and further from the actual track.  Then she will self-correct and stay dead on from there on.  I've seen it before, but didn't think much of it.  It was more apparent with three starts.

I laid a track which I intended to be an article circle of sorts, with an odd entry - where the dogs again had to find the direction, TDX style.  However, I ended up laying a very different track once I got into it, because I couldn't figure out how to do a "circle" and then get back to the car without interfering with the first leg (because of the terrain).  In keeping with Nadine's desire to get better at reading Cricket on corners, I only put flags in at every other corner.  I mentally marked the corners based on deer poop, a mole hill I stepped in and a "pretty" weed.  Since I intended to do an article circle I didn't count steps, but if I had to guess, I'd say around 400 yards.

Nadine decided to run Skookum on this track.  She has a TD and is nearly ready to try for her TDX.  This day on this track she was quite distracted.  There were a lot of very large "deer" tracks and we guessed the elk were coming down from the hills, because of the cold.  Usually this would have no affect on Skookum, so we were perplexed and wondered if a mountain lion had passed through the area.

I ran Gimme on it, expecting her to have the same difficulty.  Often she'll take little side trips where a dog before her took a side trip, but not this time.  Gimme aced this track and showed no concern.  Other than her obvious annoyance at having to wait on me while I picked up and stowed all the flags and articles, she really couldn't have been more perfect.

So we are left with no clue why Skookum had difficulty.  Thank God this wasn't their test day.  Meanwhile Gimme was finally happy as a clam.  She's always quite fussy wanting her turn and then another turn.  Usually two full tracks satisfies her.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nosework (1/14)

Gimme was back to her usual enthusiastic and brilliant self.  All but the last were one-hide searches and Gimme didn't seem put off by them.  Of course, they were all puzzles, and effectively there were three hides in the room, just sectioned one from the other by expens.  Searches 1, 2 and 3, were done back to back; as were 4, 5 and 6.  Search 7 was done by itself.

I've continued to use a red dot to show odor.  The owner/handler's location is shown with a blue-violet dot.  The instructor location is shown with a lime green dot.

Search one contained two small plastic cabinets (larger grey), one red rolling cart, and other miscellaneous stuff.  The inaccessible hide was in a filing cabinet.  We were told to come in, get seated in one of the chairs and release the dog to search.  When the dog found the hide, the nearby instructor rewarded the dog.

None of the dogs had any problems searching without their human following them around.  Gimme didn't seem to notice I wasn't there until she got her nose close to odor and Dorothy gave her peanut butter chips.  Dorothy fed so early, it was as if Gimme didn't connect it to finding the hide and continued trying to source it.

In this second area was a wheelchair and three walkers.  The chairs along the wall was where the gallery of other students sat.  The handler sat in the chair off by itself.  This was a paired hide, so Gimme rewarded herself. Again Gimme was unconcerned about leaving me lounging in a chair and got right to work. 

The third search area was three tables (rectangles) and dozens of chairs. I think the spacing between the tables was tighter than I've indicated - Gimme could have gotten through underneath and between them, but it was easier to go around.  You'll notice this is the first time we didn't join the dog in the search area.  I liked how they made a gradual transition from the handler stationary and out of the way to the handler actually outside the search area.

The instructor moved in too soon to reward and was ignored, since Gimme was intent upon sourcing exactly where the hide was.  I find this consistent with Gimme - she wants to do the whole job.  Yes, she'll usually take a treat, but as with the first search, she's not satisfied until she knows where the hide is.  When she sourced the hide and then took the PB chips, it was like she seemed to "get" it as a reward for finding odor.  Suddenly she got all silly acting - almost submissive in appearance.  Given her confidence and how much she loves people, we interpreted it as her "having a moment" about realizing other people could give her rewards.  I know she has gotten a LOT of treats from other people, but this is the first time she's gotten any PB rewards from someone else and connected to nosework.  Chris has given her rewards in connection to some obedience and then agility when my hand was all messed up, but neither were peanut butter.

For the fourth search, the filing cabinet was moved and the handler was outside the search area.  Most of the students walked through the little "gate" and tried to turn their dogs right there and I noticed the dogs seemed very confused by this and it affected the start of their searches.  So when I brought Gimme in, I walked her through the gate and took a couple more steps before turning and going to the gate to release her.

Gimme went right to work and had no trouble finding the hide.  In the course of her search, I moved over to the right, so I could see her work.  So when she found it and looked up to see if I noticed, not only wasn't I where she'd left me, but she saw Dorothy swooping toward her.  Then Gimme moved away from the hide and wouldn't go back to it.  After a bit of her avoiding it, Dorothy went over, squatted down and offered her treats near the hide - then they were pals again.  I don't think Gimme was actually afraid of Dorothy, rather she just thought she was being weird and didn't know what to do about it.  If she'd really been afraid, I believe she would have come to where I was standing, which she didn't.

Again for search 5, I noticed the handlers being awkward at the gate and saw it was confusing to their dogs.  They'd call the dog to them at the gate, leash them (or put a hand in their harness), then try to turn them right there, while backing up to get on the right side of the gate.  I just stepped well into the search area and took Gimme's harness and then when I turned we were facing the gate, so no awkwardness.

The hide had been moved to the walker.  Gimme went right to work and did a stellar job.  She quickly checked the wheelchair and just as quickly left it.  A couple other dogs spent a long time on the wheelchair, unable to leave it and search elsewhere - one dog spent almost three minutes insisting the hide had to be on the wheelchair.  Gimme found the hide on the walker very quickly and happily self-rewarded from the pairing treats.

For search six the chair with the hide had been moved to the corner.  Gimme took such a direct line to the chair, her search was over almost as soon as it started.  Or it would have been had she not insisted on detailing the chair to find source again. 

For the last search (7th) all three hide items were in the search area: filing cabinet, chair, and walker.  The handler was instructed to stand right inside the door and when the dog found the hide on the chair, they would reward it.  One instructor was positioned near the walker and the other near the filing cabinet.  They brought some free-standing gates made of PVC and construction fence to set on either side of the walker.

Only one dog went straight to the chair at the threshold, a small terrier, so maybe the hide being at nose level for him was a factor.  All the others found the hide on the walker first.  I saw Gimme sniff toward the chair as she passed it, noting a hide there.  She was pretty quick to get the hide on the walker, then toured the area before coming to the chair.  Again she was very thorough in detailing the chair to find source before indicating.

All the dogs saved the filing cabinet for last.  Each of them would get very close to it, sniffed at it briefly and then leave.  Sometimes several times. We think this is because the filing cabinet was now backed up against the giant metal garage door and compared to how warm the room was, the garage door was cold.  We think the cold from the door was falling to the floor and the odor for the filing cabinet hide (which was inaccessible to begin with) was possibly rising to join warmer air nearby.  Gimme had to indicate twice to get paid for this hide because Dorothy was being so careful not to repeat the swooping incident.

All in all it was a fun class.  Gimme was happy to have so many searches.  I was happy to have a happy-working dog again.

Friday, November 6, 2015

RFE Practice & Nosework (6/13)

RallyFrEe practice on Tuesday morning went very well.  It didn't take her as long to acclimate this time.  We worked the dogs out of our cars, so she had down time between her acclimation and working, and then between the working sessions (a total of 3).  I was very pleased to see Gimme remembered some of the things we'd been working on and didn't need the lure-reminder.  I worked on some new stuff and in hindsight, should have worked on the new things earlier in the practice when she was fresher.

I again noticed she was not as sharp at nosework class as she normally is.  Four of the five were one-hide searches, but they weren't laid out in an obvious repeat of prior one-hide searches (except the high hide which she'd seen twice the week before).  Each search presented an interesting puzzle.  So I didn't get the impression Gimme was bored, just not her usual brilliant self. 

I mentioned to my instructors at the end of class in the future I would not be doing a RallyFrEe class/practice on the morning of nosework class.  They were both dumbfounded at my impression of Gimme as less than her usual brilliant self.  They thought she did fine.  Indeed if you compared her performance to the average dogs or less experienced dogs in class, then yes, she did fine.  If you compared it to how SHE normally performs, then there was a drop off in acumen.  Honestly they have so many nosework students, they probably don't remember a lot about individual students - I know I certainly find myself repeating myself a lot. 

I have never seen this when we do tracking on the morning of nosework.  But then I think of tracking, barn hunt and nosework as using natural dog skills.  All dogs know how to use their noses, the only thing we do in training is to give them experiences to hone those skills.  Whereas RallyFrEe doesn't use natural skills and is based on learned behaviors.  As such, it uses a different part of the brain or at least uses the brain in the different way.  I think it just makes her more brain-tired.  I'm the one who schedules the RallyFrEe practices and our plan is for Thursdays, it just so happened we needed some fill in dates to get started.  If we have to do a RallyFrEe practice on Tuesdays, I'll make sure Gimme's involvement sticks to things she knows well and keep it short and sweet. 

Our first (and third) search is one we've done before, where the handler has to remain in a box and let the dog move away to search on their own.    The idea is to eliminate handler behavior as an unintended cue to the dog.  The last time we did this, Gimme aced it and the instructors' comments were along the line of how little she pays attention to me when she is searching.  (there was other stuff in the area, it just wasn't really part of our searches)

This time, Gimme was still happy to search without me, it just seemed to take her a long time to find the two hides. The search is on leash, so I was sure happy for my longer line, since we didn't get tangled up in stuff.  She had to check the stuff on both walls, ignoring the chairs at first.  When she did decide to check out the chairs, then she found the first hide quickly.  After I rewarded her and moved back into the handler box, it took her awhile to find the other hide. 

The other search in this setup (our third search) was to test the dogs' expectations.  They'd found hides on the chairs and would expect to find it there again.  Usually Gimme very quickly eliminates this idea, but this time it took her longer.  She did go past the chairs to find the hide under the red cart, she just wasn't her usual speedy self.

The other three searches (second, fourth and fifth) were using the bigger part of the room, again with chairs everywhere.  The two brown circles are bar stools and the two light blue rectangles are foot stools.  The two little blue circles along the left side represent the pipes on the wall.  These searches were off leash.

For the second search (the first in this setup), the hide was high up between the two pipes on the wall.  Gimme is the most experienced at high hides and yet she appeared to take a very long time to find this hide.  She started down the left side (between the stools) then veered to the right corner, came along the back wall, then up the left side.  As she passed the pipes I saw her nose go up, so I think she got the drift of it then.  Instead of working the problem, she went up past the table and to the right side to snoop around.  Gimme was actually the slowest to solve this problem of the class! 

I got the impression she was saving it for later.  It could be she remembered the hide location from the last class, where we did it twice.  I often see evidence of her remembering things which other dogs don't.  So I wouldn't be surprised to learn she knew immediately where the hide was.

For our fourth and fifth searches, they moved the high hide over onto chairs in the right corner.  It was very close spacing between all those chairs, so some of the dogs were inhibited getting in there.  The small terrier did the best, since he just passed right under the chairs. These were actually Gimme's best searches of the night.  She seemed to get to work more quickly and has never been inhibited by close spacing.

I don't want it to sound like she was "bad"... I'm just so used to her being the star of the class.  So when she isn't star material, it really stands out to me.  She was still the cutest, no matter how you parse it.  Just sayin...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Barn Hunt Pictures

Here are two surprise pictures I got from Jeff Dairiki.  I don't know Jeff, but he was taking pictures of dogs at the trial on Saturday morning and then shared them with the Puget Sound Barn Hunt facebook group.  I asked him if I could have .jpg files so I could share them on this blog and he kindly sent them to me.  So these first two pictures are of Gimme's morning run on the day she got her RATM.

This is us, getting ready for the release, "Find Vermin!"

She'll be all the way across the ring doing something before I get off my knees.  But I learned early in our barn hunting career, if I didn't have her butt against my chest and her front in my hands, she'll self-release.  If the self-release comes before the judge gives us the "release your dog when ready", it can cost us a 20 second penalty.

And here's Gimme having a barkfest at a rat tube.  As you can see this is very vague and I can't tell where the tube is.  Thus the reason I've been encouraging her to, "use your paws".  Which is going very well.

And this is our picture with our new RAT Master ribbon.  We had a real challenge getting this picture because the photo prop was liberally sprinkled with little toy rats.  If you look closely, you can see the last one at the base of the flower pot.  Gimme was ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED she was there to play with the toys, so all the others had to be removed.   Getting her picture taken in the face of such a huge distraction was very low on her list of priorities...

She looks very poised in this shot, but only because someone was standing next to the camera holding all the rat toys we removed.  She's photogenic even when she's being bad, doncha know...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Barn Hunt day 2

Sunday was not successful for us, but certainly a learning experience.

Sunday - Trial 1
Gimme had a restless nights sleep and was a bit whiny and demanding on Sunday.  Our first search wasn't until close to noon, so I took her for a 2 mile walk.  Despite the nice outing, she continued to whine a lot and was yodeling whenever I stuck my head out of the building to listen to her.  Fortunately she was first in her blind, so I hoped she'd do well and hoped the chance to search would make her happy.

She found one rat and then did the tunnel.  Then she found another rat and did the tunnel.  She moved out and searched briefly and then was moving toward me and I turned to go with her, and she did the tunnel again.  I took this as her way of saying she was done searching.  I called it and there was another rat.  As the judge started to show me where the third rat was, we turned to see Gimme was right at it. 

In hindsight, when she was coming toward me and I turned to go with her, I was kinda moving toward the tunnel opening and if my hand swung out at all, she may have thought I was motioning toward it.  I don't know, but its possible.  I think what I should have done was to move her away from the tunnel and to encourage her to search elsewhere.  Had I done so, in this case I would have taken her right to the pile where the third rat was located. 

Sunday - Trial 2
By the time of the afternoon run, to me Gimme seemed stressed.  Naturally we were fifth in the blind - which means a 30-40 minute wait.  The blind was actually pretty roomy for a covered blind (a long covered walkway) and I chose to stay out in the covered entry, to give her more space from the other dogs until there were less of them in the blind.  I was working her on her matt and she was doing good.  I was hoping she'd be able to focus and search.  

While I was rewarding her on her matt, a competitor who is a barn hunt judge and knows she is reactive, walked by us with her dog.  She was so close her coat brushed against mine and her Manchester was only a foot from Gimme!  I just about had a coronary, but didn't have time to go with it because I was too busy rewarding Gimme's good behavior with a lot of peanut butterI know she had to see the dog coming, so I have no clue why she didn't react.  Still the moment, despite her success, added enough stress so she wasn't able to even work her matt again.  In hindsight, I should have done the Ping-Pong game to burn off some energy.

So we went in the ring and she found a rat, then did a tunnel.  Then found another rat, then did another tunnel.  Then indicated another tube, which I called, but it was not a rat tube.  I think she was trying really hard to give me what, in the moment, she thought I wanted.  When she's stressed, I know she doesn't always think clearly (who does?).  As we walked out of the ring, several people complimented me on her enthusiasm and how much they love watching her.  She is fun to watch, but I'm still always amazed that people don't see her stress.  She stresses up, so becomes more active.  And, of course, her tail is wagging.  I discovered long ago that a wagging tail only means she is having an emotion; it doesn't give any information about the nature of the emotion.

I'm thinking it was too much to have two trials (and particularly barn hunt) on consecutive weekends.  Barn hunt is more stressful because of the blind situation.  This blind was well set up, but it was still just too much accumulated stress. Because it was an enclosed space, it probably felt closer than the same spacing outdoors.  I think she can handle the blind one or two times, but each time the stress continues to accumulate.  I saw a distinct difference between Saturday and Sunday.  With all we've been doing and coming from a barn hunt trial the prior weekend, I think she's just had too much piling up and didn't have enough time for it to dissipate, so by Sunday this weekend, she started the day tense.  It sure didn't help to have the other exhibitor be so thoughtless and inconsiderate (if she didn't care about Gimme, you would think she'd care more about her own dog).  In the future I will look closer at how many events and what kind and probably will not do more than one barn hunt trial per month (certainly not two weekends in a row) and possibly only one day of trialing during the winter when blinds will be enclosed.  

Of course, I still have the best dog ever...

Gimme RAT Master

Wow, what a weekend.  I was determined to stay upbeat no matter what happened.  I try to stay positive, still I was considering the possibility our successes from last weekend might be a fluke.  Clearly it wasn't a fluke, since Gimme continued to do well consistently.  She is now a barn hunt Master (RATM). 

Saturday - Trial 1
Gimme was enthusiastic and busy.  She ran around, found two rats, tunneled, snooped some, tunneled again and then found another rat (for 3 total).  I took her on a tour around the ring, suggesting places she could "check it" and got a definite impression she was humoring me.  So I called it and after a bit of hemming and hawing, Wally Quinn said "Congratulations".  This gave us our fourth leg.  Five dogs qualified in large master class and there are more really experienced competitors down here, so Gimme's run time of 3:54 wasn't fast enough for a placement.  I was just thrilled to know last weekend wasn't a fluke.

Saturday - Trial 2
I had a couple of concerns about our afternoon run.  After our morning run I took her for a very long walk and she had some really bad diarrhea.  I don't know what caused it and her attitude seemed good, but I still worried it might affect her hunting.  Then when we got to the blind, right before it was our turn, I took her outside to pee, but she didn't.  This is our usual pattern and it usually works to make sure she doesn't go in the ring.  I need not have worried, Gimme again did well. 

Lately I've noticed she has taken to doing the tunnels on her own.  I used to use her willingness to do the tunnel on cue as a sign she might be done finding rats.  There was a brief period where she wasn't doing tunnels easily and so I starting making a much bigger deal of them.  I always praise her with an excited "woo hooooo".  Now I'm seeing a pattern where she'll find a rat or two and then when she doesn't find one, she's doing the tunnel on her own.  I think its because she wants the reinforcement when finding rats slows down.  So this is something I'll be watching - just in case she starts doing too many tunnels.  Of course, it still provides a gauge of how many rats might be left.

So she found a rat, volunteered a tunnel, then came out and found another rat.  I took her around to look at some other places and then she volunteered another tunnel. 

I wanted her to check the top of the big pile.  She'd gotten close to the spot, but not all the way up.  So I got her over there and every time I motioned to her to go all the way up, instead of going up, she'd jump across in front of me to another bale.  I'd motion again and she'd jump back.  Here's what it looked like.  Green arrow is where I wanted her to go, red X is where I stood and blue arrow is where she was jumping back and forth.

This happened at least five times and she seemed to be making quite the game of it, so I decided she must not think there were any more rats.  With angst, I called it. I was right and this Q finished Gimme's barn hunt master title.  Her time of 3:42 earned her a second place ribbon (beaten only by Dalmatian friend Bronco).

I bought her several pounds of ground beef and made her a "cake" for supper.  She thoroughly enjoyed it and thinks we should make it a nightly thing.

I'll have pictures for you as soon as I find my camera.  For now, I have a burning need to go snuggle with my brilliant girl...