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Monday, January 25, 2016

Gimme Speaks

Since we have no nosework this week - thought I'd share a little story about Gimme.  As you may well have guessed, she's not shy about expressing herelf.  But, I think this story will give you a whole new view into her world and how she thinks, especially about rules.

A few years ago, Gimme started objecting to getting into her crate while I went to work.  It started small, but over time she objected more strongly, even though she showed no issue with getting in a crate at other times or for other purposes.  So I decided to let her try being loose in the house.  I explained to her that she must be a good girl, not make any messes, not soil the house, not get into things, not bother the trash, etc.  I told her if she did any of those things, she'd have to go back to being in a crate while I went to work.

We started with short trials, like when I went to a store.  Then gradually we tried longer and longer until she was out the whole day on a full work day.  All went well for two weeks.  Then one day I came home and discovered she'd knocked over the living room trash and had spread the contents across the floor.  I said to her, "Oh Gimme, look at this mess.  You were doing so well and now you have to stay in the crate during the day.  Too bad..."

For two weeks I led her to the crate and made her stay there.  At first she did it with out objecting, but then she started balking.  So I decided to give her another chance.  Its literally been years and there has not been another issue.  In fact she is so clear on the rules, I can leave a dish of dog treats on a table, easily within reach, and she won't get into them.  And yet, she's perfectly happy to work for those same treats when I get home.  I've always thought she had an amazing work ethic - which is why I know, without a doubt, who's fault it is when there is a glitch in our training efforts.

Now lately, she has started getting into the living room trash every couple of days, but not every day.  She gets one thing, tears it into little pieces and leaves it by the trash basket, in full view.  This only happens when I am home.  When she's home alone, the trash is still as safe as its ever been.  When I see this little mess, I tell her she's being naughty and mustn't get into the trash.  Gimme gives me an unrepentant look in return for the reprimand.

It took me a few weeks to figure out what this was about.  Usually when I come home I spend a few minutes greeting her and then let her outside to take care of "business".  But some days I just let her out and get busy online to report my work stuff.  Being on the computer for work always leads to being on the computer for other purposes.  It is these times when I later go into the living room and find a "message" by the trash.  Now I make it a point to greet her and give her some loving before letting her outside and getting on the computer.

I am fascinated to see this evidence of how she thinks.  While she clearly understands getting into "stuff", especially the trash, is against the rules - she also thinks getting into trash to send a message is an allowable exception.  Gimme obviously believes this can be a perfectly valid way to express herself. 

Since she got the results she wanted - indeed it must be... ☺

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Nosework (3/15)

This class was all about tormenting Gimme.  I'm sure it wasn't directly aimed at her, but it did turn out to be THE hardest distraction she's ever faced in nosework. 

Basically the whole area was filled with stuff, lots and lots of stuff.  While spectating, we sat in the line of chairs against the left wall. There was another line of chairs stretched down the middle of the room.  There were more chairs, lots of boxes (white rectangles), some luggage (brown rectangles), the red cart with wheels, a clothing rack (grey box) and some plastic tubs (round). The most tormenting thing and a major distraction for Miss Gimme was the five stuffed toys close to the start line (multicolor).

For our first and second searches there were three (then five) paired hides in boxes.  Gimme got sucked in by the toys and wasn't really working.  She'd place her mouth over a toy, not pick it up, but unable to leave it initially.  I encouraged her to move along and finally got her near boxes with odor.  Between boxes she ran down to check the toys again.  Once she found the second and third hides, then she was able to ignore the toys more.

When it became clear to her we'd found all the hides and I was about to put her on leash, then she ran to one of the toys, picked  it up and brought it to me.  Clearly she thought it should be her prize for doing well.  She was disappointed when I insisted we leave it behind.  I thought it was very interesting she seemed to know she wasn't supposed to play with the toys while her search was going on (even if she couldn't leave it easily) and waited to pick one up until she knew we were done.

For our third search we were given 6 minutes and they were basically doing "running bunny" hides in the interior.  As the dog found a hide, they set another hide and then removed the one the dog found.  We started with three hides and at most had five out at one time.  The line of chairs down the middle of the room proved an interesting barrier for the dogs getting to the hide on the stool toward the left of the wall. It wasn't a barrier, but the dogs didn't seem to think they could go through it, until the handler did so. 

Gimme did well, finding 7 out of 8 hides.  The challenge for her was the toys - naturally.  In the prior searches, once she got through the toys it was easier to work.  In this case, she was a little less distracted by the toys and didn't go to them as often.  But I could tell when she was working a hide near the toys, her attention was divided. I'm sure she would have gotten the 8th hide, but we ran out of time.  I'm sure she had a headache by the time she was done -- this was very hard work for a little girl, eh.

Gimme has tons of toys.  We have four large baskets of toys (I rotate them when she gets a little bored).  There are easily 25 toys per basket.  Then there is my secret stash of toys she hasn't seen yet.  I buy toys I know she will like when I see them on sale - just so we don't run out when the Great Toy Shortage, doncha know.  Anyway, not sure why she thinks she needs more toys.  In any case, Silly Girl Gimme slept soundly for the rest of the evening...

Friday, January 22, 2016

RFE Practice (7)

Last Thursday was our bi-weekly Rally FrEe practice.  As I said in the prior post, I've decided to concentrate my efforts on attention/focus and heeling (both "heel" and "side").  The heeling used to be gorgeous, but I broke it during videoing for our first entry.

Gimme used to try to talk me into starting a training session by pestering me with heeling.  Also whenever we were learning something new and she was frustrated or confused, she'd dive into heel.  So initially I know she had a really good attitude about heel, I just have to work to get it back.

Kathy and Candy have been kind enough to review some videos from the assessment day, and this Thursday and Sunday.  Plus both have been good enough to give me loads of feedback and endure my lengthy discussions.  So here's what I've learned...

About Gimme...
The harshest "correction" I use with her is to take her by the collar and walk her away from something, but in reviewing the video I can see these hands-on interruptions are more intrusive than I thought.  She's clearly not afraid of me or my hands, but she also understands this means she's "wrong" and she gets hurt feelings and it shakes her confidence. We need to go back to training on leash until we get through some of these holes - so I don't have reason to put my hands on her to interrupt something.  Gimme is also very sensitive to tone of voice - aren't all dogs?

Handling to improve...
I've developed some bad training habits, which need to change.  Some aren't necessarily bad, but are wrong for what I need to do, which is to really go back to basics.
  • I discovered the picture in my head of what heeling looks like has gotten skewed.  I stood Gimme beside me in both heel and side, feeding her lots of treats which increases her reward history for position, and studied the picture of how it looks.
  • For the time being we're going back on-leash, so I can keep her from practicing things I don't want.
  • I'm using the bait bag again.  While I retrain the basics, sometimes I need to rapid-reward.  Also treats in pocket and mouth are too clumsy and late, and Gimme jumps up to get them - another bad habit I've let develop.
  • I discovered my internal clock is seriously broken.  So I searched and found my waist timers.  I'll set them for 2.5 minutes to remind me to change to something different, maybe with play or something fun between.
  • Vary the rewards - throw treats, treats at my side, play, run away, or "Feed Fred".
  • Clearly separate training and testing
  • I need to clean up my training...
♥ I must pick one criteria to work on at a time - if someone watching doesn't know which criteria you are rewarding, Gimme will be confused too.
♥ Our “heel” weak areas (she’s better at “side”) are forging, wideness, and lack of duration.  I must plan ahead how to get behavior so I can reward it.
♥ Increment everything and don't raise the criteria too much at one time.
♥ Maintain criteria and don't proceed if something isn’t up to par.  Its too easy to get focused on stations instead of the space between them.  As my assessment video clearly showed, too many problems at stations stem from poor attention/heeling between the behaviors.
♥ If something isn’t working, break off training and reassess sooner rather than later.
"Once is a mistake, twice is a trend, and three is
a lifestyle.  Never get to three."  ~ Morgan Spector

Things to work on...
We'll really be going back to basics.  Gimme used to love heeling, so much so that I always said I'd accidentally done something right.  Somehow I've lost that and I need to get it back.  So these are the goals I’m focusing on, plus some ideas of how to get there from here:
  • We need to transition from every-time perimeter walk to performance mode when she enters the building - its a training hole of my own making.  
♥ To start we'll walk perimeter at a distance from stuff, in look-but-don't-touch mode with click/treats for offered attention.
♥ Over time we’ll increase the distance from the distractions, until we can walk into the center of the training area and just spend a few moments looking around.
♥ Finally, I want to get to where she can look and be satisfied from the alcove.  She can do this in nosework, so I know we can get there.
  • work on “Control Unleashed” style reorienting at doors/gates/etc
  • keep heeling, attention/focus number one priority – making sure the space between stations is the fun part...
  • practice ring entry, set up and the start of heeling using an alcove inside the door so we have a space to get ready and a ring gate
  • practice start routine - walk loose lead to start, "setup", remove leash and drop it, then cue "heel" and go
  • finding heel/side game with a thrown treat makes heel/side very exciting
♥ work from every angle (around the clock)
♥ every position relative to me
♥ over time increase difficulty by to making it hard to get into position so she has to push in to get rewarded
  • practice a lot of change of sides when heeling
    when working courses, focus on the better stations, so they serve as a confidence boosting reward for good attention/heeling
♥ isolate training of needs-work behaviors from heeling
  • get "wait" on a verbal (w/o palm flash hand signal)
Since I've gotten clear in my head about where I'm going and the things I need to change, we've had two really good training sessions.  Gimme was doing much better and showed she understood what I was asking her to do.  We still have a lot to work on, but I can see it coming along already.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Nosework (1/15 & 2/15)

January 5th -  Class was pretty much a repeat of the week before.  I was happy to get a chance at this again.  The chairs weren't in the same number as shown here, but the layout was basically the same.  The dogs each got four searches in a row with hides in a sequence as the numbers show. 

Gimme aced hide 1, she did real well at 2 and 3.  Hide 4 still took awhile, but she was much faster than before, so I was happy. 

All along we've been taught to mirror the dog's body with our shoulders, then all the sudden we completely change our behavior.  Its not that the dog's "need" us to follow them.  I think they just find our sudden change of behavior distracting, so they only have some of their attention on the job at hand while the rest of their brain is trying to comprehend our weirditude.  I'm willing to bet we could do the same exercise with the handler in a swivel chair, hands in lap, and all the dogs would ace it.  Also, while I'm sure we could teach the dogs to pay no attention to us in a search, I don't see the point.  There are other ways to take handler body language out of the picture without creating such an unnatural picture. 

For our last search, they pushed all the chairs against the walls, with only the handler's chair left in the middle of the room and the two canopies which were still there from the week before.  There were two hides.  One was against the left wall (from handler's viewpoint) at about 10 o'clock and the other was against the back wall at 1 o'clock where the dogs had to move further away and pass under the canopies to get it.  All the dogs found the hide at 10 pretty easily.  Finding the one at 1 was a bit harder, but they all found it.  I thought Gimme was a bit faster to find this one than the others.

January 12th -  We had a series of container searches.  These were pretty simple and Gimme had a good time.  Search 1 was just one hide and Gimme took awhile to get into the game.  Honestly I think she was distracted by my mental state - which is pretty stressed right now. 

She was much faster for searches 2 and 3, where they added a hide for each. 

For the fourth search, they moved the hides around, still close to where they'd been.  Gimme did pretty good at this and was still having a good time.

For the 5th/final search, they had us bring them in and do a directed search.  Gimme used to hate these - you know how much she loves to drive the train.  But over time she's gotten much better about letting me drive occasionally. 

Our instructions were to search on a short leash, stop beside each container and then move on.  In the past I've done this by pointing at the thing/area (we use it in barn hunt too) and cue "check it".  But, they didn't want me to point at the boxes or use our cue, saying she would alert on anything I told her to "check".  I don't know where they get this idea, since there's only been one time since I taught her the cue where she's alerted and there wasn't odor there.  That one time was a particularly weird search where odor was behind a gate and the breeze was blowing scent away from us.  None of the dogs were getting it, so I think she was frustrated and just thought she could alert and make me happy.  The rest of the time, before and since, she's done it like its supposed to work. 

So speaking of frustration, this is exactly what I got in this exercise.   She wasn't really searching, I think because she didn't know what I wanted and why I was keeping her on just 3' of leash.  She finally got the hide at the very end and then found the other two soon after.  Only one dog did well and he's very slow and searches this way all the time.  I can certainly understand Gimme's frustration.  For the last two classes, we've been doing exercises to teach the dogs to ignore our body language - then all the sudden we want them to work solely off our body language.

Needless to say, I didn't think this was the best exercise and hated to end on something so frustrating.  Fortunately Gimme loves this game and will bounce back next time. 

All Hail the Mighty Huntress...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tracking Genius (23)

This was our first track of the year, on January 1st.  The weather was cold and frosty, but dry.  The track was 707 yards long and aged about 45 minutes for the first dog, Cricket.  Gimme ran it right after Cricket, so aging for her was not really a factor.

Gimme did really well with this track and took a couple of the same detours Cricket did.  I think Gimme did better with the tire tracks.  Probably the hardest part for her was only getting one article at the end. 

Articles are real motivators for Gimme.  I made it up to her by setting up an article circle with 6 legs and 6 articles.  Each leg was about 33 yards long.  She was the first dog to run the article circle and thoroughly enjoyed herself.

Sil Sanders doesn't recommend having multiple dogs run the same track (which I'm sure I've mentioned before) - mainly because you can never be sure what scent the second and subsequent dogs are following.  I do see subsequent dogs take the same detours/diversions we saw with the first dog, so he certainly has a point.  This is only the second time since the seminars (Jul & Aug 2015) where we've been the dog to follow.  Nadine always lays the track and wanted to try Cricket out on a track with some age to it. 

Sil is having seminars again this year and we are going to go to three of them.  We are signed up already for the Tracking Fundamentals seminar (2nd weekend in April) and the TD & TDX Tracking seminar (mid May).  Gimme is well beyond Fundamentals, but I want to do it as a refresher to make sure my handling skills are worthy of my great dog.  I also want to sign up for Urban Basics for the TDU (late August) as soon as Sil gets the webpage finished.  Plus I'm giving serious thought to auditing Advanced Urban for the VST (early September).  Its going to be a fun year.

BTW you won't see as much tracking for us through early March - probably only a couple of outings.  With taking two 12 hour shifts each week to care for my Mom, something had to give.  So the plan is to get together every other Wednesday (on weeks I don't have RFE practice).  Unfortunately, the first one of on the schedule is the same week Nadine is off to an obedience trial, so it'll be a couple more weeks before we get out again.  I may go to the park and lay out an article circle...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

RFE Assessment #1 (practice 6)

First let me apologize for being so lax in getting back to blogging.  I've managed to cram 5 years worth of being sick into a few weeks time.  I caught the first cold in many years.  Then I, and my family, got hit with the flu, after which I got the cold again.  Meanwhile with this cold I also got a sore throat.  When the sore throat didn't improve with the cold and yesterday seemed to be getting worse, I went to Madigan Army Hospital.  The Physician Assistant confirmed it was time to hit it with big guns.  I know its working well because I feel so much better: Gimme and I walked 3½ miles this morning, then I came home and cleaned out the van.

One reason I decided to get my throat looked at is because last weekend, my mother fell and shattered her wrist.  While she still lives in her home, she does have a fair amount of dementia.  This broken wrist adds a whole new dimension to her care and means she needs assistance 24 hours a day for 6-8 weeks.  Luckily there are five of us, and we've worked out a schedule so she's getting the care she needs and is still able to stay home.  I wanted to make sure my sore throat wasn't exposing Mom to some nasty bug.

Meanwhile, Gimme broke a nail - it didn't hurt for her to walk, but it stuck out oddly and caught on everything.  On Monday she went to the vet, got knocked out, the nail was trimmed back behind the break and now she's much more valuable.  As much as she can be a twit about other things, Gimme's very good about following directions and only needed to be told one time to leave the bandage alone, so recovery has been uneventful and without the dreaded cone-of-shame.

So now you know more than you really wanted to know, eh...  back to dog training...

On December 31st, for RFE practice I set up a course to use almost every station in the novice RallyFrEe.  I wanted to video the performance and then assess each behavior based on several factors, to establish a baseline of the foundation behaviors.  After all, if foundation behaviors aren't solid, scores at higher levels will be affected.   The 27 behaviors in course order are:  Left Heel Forward, Sit-Stand, Circle Around CW, CCW Spin, 270º Right, Front Cross Dog, Thru to Left Heel, Left Turn Circle Trx, Figure-8 2x, FC: Into Center, Step Back Center 3x, FC: Into Left Heel, Left Turn Thru Trx, Right Paw Lift, Switchback, Left Paw Lift, Right Turn Thru Trx, Right Side Heeling, Walking Weave 4x, Right Turn Circle Trx, Front Cross Handler, FC: Into Right Heel, 270º Left, CW Spin, Circle Around CCW, Down-Stand, and Bow.

The idea is to assess the first attempt at each behavior by seven criteria on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 if dog failed entirely, 5 if dog perfectly met expectations.  If a category doesn't apply to a behavior, we left it blank.  At the end of assessing individual behaviors, we calculated an average score by adding up points assessed and divide by number of applicable categories.  For example:  heeling, we added up points and divide by 6, because the category Start/End Positions doesn't apply. The seven criteria are: Attention/Focus, Precision, Start & End Positions, Speed, Cue Verbal vs Physical, Duration, and Certainty/Style.  The description I have for the criteria are:
  • Attention/Focus    Dog's attention/focus is on the task at hand, without lapses in attention.
  • Precision    Precise execution of behavior as described.  Tightness of turns, exact position in heel.
  • Start/End Positions    Starting from and returning to exact position in heel.  Does not apply to heeling behavior.
  • Speed    Speed of response to cue and speed of performance
  • Cue Verbal vs Physical    Dog responds to simple verbal cue and no physical clues/cues are needed.
  • Duration    Dog holds position accurately.
  • Certainty/Style    Dog performs with confidence.  Cuteness factor may apply.
We also treated it as training/practice, so if the dog failed on the behavior or did really poorly, we each reset and tried again.  I also wanted to try out the suggestions I got from Kathy for how to address the distraction issue I noticed at the prior session.  So I used ring gates to create a small alcove inside the door, with an opening to enter the "ring".  I let Gimme look around, acclimating, from inside the alcove.  This way we were able to try out coming into the building and working, without our usual perimeter walk.

Unfortunately my training partner didn't video us from the moment we walked in, so none of the training for the new rules got captured.  Happily Gimme picked it up very quickly (only returned to alcove 4 times), so I thought she did a nice job.  She gave me a good setup at the start.  There were a couple of times when she lost attention and rather than call her to come back, I went to her and gently took her by the collar to lead her back to try again.  Mostly she did well afterward and was not bothered by this baby-dog approach, but the time I had to lead her back a second time, she asked for (and got) reassurance.  After the reassurance she was then distracted by her own butt!  I used trotting backward to get her moving with me (need to do this more often - may try in lieu of leading her back to work). 

At one point, just as we approached the corner near the dog crating room (for the doggie daycare) someone walked by with 2 offleash Samoyeds.  Gimme was forging toward them, so I quickly took her by the collar and led her away to start again.  They were only 12 feet away, so I was happy that she didn't go straight over the edge about it.  Our next attempt coming to the same corner, she was still distracted, looking to see if they'd appear again. This corner proved to be a challenge for attention whenever we were near it.

So here is the video... its very long and not impressive. RFE Assessment #1

Still I was happy with her work in many respects.  This is her first time working here without a perimeter walk, making conditions very different for her.  So despite how bad her attention looked, it was MUCH better than I really expected.  Dog distractions are always going to be her Achilles heel, so I was pleased with how well she did when faced with that distraction and her efforts to work through it.  I was happy with her attitude and desire to work with me throughout.

Its really clear that attention is THE issue for us - which was no real surprise.  I think once we improve her attention, many of the other pieces will improve on their own.  And the other take-away is how much we need to work on heeling, as heeling between stations is not as good as it should be.  Honestly attention and heeling are so intertwined - they are mostly the same thing.  As I've been discussing how to train through the attention issues I talked about in my last post, I've come to the conclusion I haven't "fixed" her being "broken" from our first RFE video entry.  I messed up her attitude and haven't put enough work into repairing the damage.  So I think much of the attention issues are related to this.

When we came back in, I worked entirely on heel and setup, making them fun and enticing.  I wish I'd thought to have this video taped.  Gimme was so excited and working so hard.  She was clearly charged up by Mom making heeling and setup fun again.  Its all still there - clearly its my #1 job to bring it back.  Bad mommy, wonderful dog...

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Nosework (6/14)

As always, Dorothy had a great exercise lined up for us.  This time the results surprised me, though they probably shouldn't have.

Our first search had the setup as shown here.  There is a circle of 16 chairs with one in the middle.  The one in the middle is for the handler and the arrow indicates the direction the handler is supposed to face.  The handler can turn their head side to side, but if the dog goes into the area behind them, they are not to turn around to look.  The hides were placed in each of the four chairs, one at a time, so there were four searches back-to-back.  The handler would get up to reward the dog at source and then take them back to the center chair while the instructors switched chairs around, moving the hide chair to the next location.  The purpose of this exercise was to completely remove the handler as providing even unconscious direction to the dog.

For Gimme's first search, she just wouldn't work.  The moment I let her go she was over shopping at the shelves with the toys and other stuff, but not working.  Of course the co-instructor (who I mostly ignore for obvious reasons) announces this is because Gimme is trying to tell me she's bored with peanut butter.  Seriously?!  Is there anyone else on the planet who thinks Gimme will EVER be bored with peanut butter?  Her goal is:  PB-PB-Pb... all day, every day, always all PB...  Ever since Dorothy convinced me to reward Gimme's nosework with peanut butter, the co-instructor's been trying to talk me out of using peanut butter.  I don't understand what this is about, but suffice it to say its a big part of why I ignore her.

Since Gimme wasn't working, despite multiple tries, I decided to end her search and return her to the car.  On the way to the car she dragged me to the grass and pooped a big one.  So apparently she was too "full of it" to focus on working, but not too full of it to shop for toys.  Or else, shopping was just her way of saying "I can't work."

Later when we came back in Gimme quickly went right to work, finding the first hide.  She found the one at position 2 really quickly.  Position 3 took a bit longer.  We noticed all the dogs had difficulty with this one, possibly because the wall was close on that side and it was affecting the direction of the air flow and the scent cone.  It seemed most dogs needed to get a bit behind the chair and nearer to the wall to catch the drift of it.

It took Gimme a long time to find the hide at position 4.  I would have loved to have a mirror to watch her, but from what Dorothy said, she would pass through the area and even along the line of chairs, but she wasn't working the five chairs in the zone behind me (as indicated in purple on this picture).  Dorothy said it was as if Gimme believed the area behind me didn't count.  Actually this seems very consistent to me, given how long it has taken her to search an area behind me in barn hunt.  Some of our failures early in her barn hunt career were because the rat would be in a small pile behind me and I too was ignoring area behind me.  Gimme has learned in barn hunt to search independent of whatever nit-nod thing I'm doing, so she'll learn this in nosework too.  She finally did find the odor back there and got a big reward for it.

For our next search they pushed all the chairs aside and pulled one of the canopies to this part of the room.  It had one box with odor hanging from the center at about 3' off the ground.  We simply let the dogs search and find this.  Gimme was very interested in the area, but kept taking her nose up the corner supports of the canopy, even putting her feet up a couple times to check higher.  I'm sure the scent was collecting along the corner supports.  Its also possible Gimme had an expectation of finding source on a vertical surface.  She did finally find the hide.  I think hides suspended in midair create a different scent picture for the dogs.  I'm still pondering how to create more of these for practice, in case they don't present them often enough in class for her to get good at them.

BTW when we came in for another try at the circle searches, Gimme got peanut butter for the first through third locations.  I also brought a toy which I hid in my vest and used it to reward the fourth hide location. Gimme was really charged up to get a toy and was a total maniac about it, which would seem to support what the co-instructor said.  However, when I came back in for the last search, I again whipped out a toy and she was only little interested in it.  She was sniffing and poking it, but didn't want to latch on to tug.  Which is precisely why I don't use a toy for rewards - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  When it does work - fine.  But when it doesn't, then I either have to work to get her to play with it - in which case its not much of a reward - or I have to immediately switch to a different reward - in which case the reward is not timely.  Gimme loves toys and is always trying to entice me into playing with her.  Still, there is no time in this universe when I could simultaneously offer Gimme both peanut butter and a toy, where she wouldn't go for the peanut butter.  Just sayin...

Friday, January 1, 2016

Urban Tracking (8) and RFE/N

On Christmas morning Nadine and I met at the theater for another urban tracking session.  Still following the program outlined in Sil Sander's proposed new book, we were scheduled for two island hopping tracks of 100 and 120 yards.  It was very cold - probably in the mid-30's and relatively dry.  We let our tracks age for 15 minutes.

Gimme ran first and did a really nice job.  Since we started using food drops which blend in with the surroundings, I see Gimme really getting down to business with her nose.  Much of the time she goes right over the food drops without stopping - treats we leave for the birds.  Its good to see the visual tendency going away - true of all the girls.  There were a couple of places where she'd lose the track.  I find her loss of track signs harder to see in urban than field work; its more subtle.  Nadine thinks its really easy to see, but then she laid the track, so its always easier to see something when you know what is going on.  I'm sure I'll catch it at some point.  In any case, with Nadine there to tell me when to hold up, Gimme did a nice job working through the loss of track.  I'm starting to think she may need me to hold her back more in urban than field tracking, perhaps so she doesn't overrun her nose.  Or else I'm not doing as good of a job at line tension.  Its something I'll be watching in coming urban practices.

The certificate for Gimme's RallyFrEe Novice title came in the mail.  Here is beautiful Gimme posing with it.

Here's to a satisfying and successful 2016 for all our peeps.  May your year be joyous...

Happy New Year