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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Friday, February 26, 2016

RFE Practice (10)

Yesterday was our RallyFrEe practice and it was fun.  I set up a "playground" to encourage less formal heeling.  It looked like this diagram, with 4 poles for serpentine, 4 chairs grouped to heel around and practice corners, 3 ring gates for channels with send poles off one end, which could be used in multiple ways.  There were 6 stations, which were: 1) Right 270º, 2) Left 270º, 3) 180º U-turns, 4) Switchbacks, 5) Spins and 6) Circle Around.

I did some more playing with free movement.  At one point in the second session I thought Gimme was getting a little frustrated, so I turned up the dial on my movement to get her playing with me and we developed a cute "move".  I don't know if it would be usable as a Free Choice move for RFE and plan to send this clip to Julie for her opinion.  In any case it was fun to play with and I think we could use it in Freestyle if I ever make up a routine.  I made one little clip of our little "move".  Serpentine-Play

Session 1 - I thought Gimme did a nice job.  Our first segment of heeling was good and she worked well for 40 seconds without a treat.  I realize that isn't huge, but its good duration for us.  I think the playground is good for her and she likes music.  Maybe she likes music because I tend to move faster when its playing.  I was very pleased to see her completely ignore the barking dogs in the background.  Our first attempt heeling around the chairs wasn't effective - it worked better later when I had her on the inside of the turn.  Last week I found I was crowding her line for heeling through the serpentine.  I didn't think I was this time, but perhaps these poles look too much like what we use to train "cane" and "orbit".  It took a couple tries to get her to understand what I wanted.  The first time I cued her to go around me, the cue should have been "behind", but I said "around".  I thought her solution to go to the start/end position for "around" was clever. 

Overall I thought she was a little more distracted this time (but not by the barking or vacuum).  It could be because of where she is at in her false pregnancy.  Also I am reducing our perimeter walks.  I am going to play with something different next time.  I will try standing in the middle of the ring area, pointing at things and cue "whazzat" (Control Unleashed look-at-that).  She has a really good understanding of what it means, so perhaps it would work better to get her over the hump as we try to reduce our dependence on the full perimeter walk.  I think it really would have helped on our third session where we had such a large audience show up.

Session 2 - This session started out good, despite short acclimating.  Gimme couldn't remember what "cane" and "orbit" meant, despite doing them so well 2 weeks ago.  I spent a short time trying to work through it and after a couple of successes decided to let it go.  Mostly I focused on doodling about with heeling and things she should know well.  Sometimes she seemed to know what to do and other times not.

Session 3 -  Gimme is a big favorite at Pawsabilities, so we often have someone watching, but this time there was a big audience of several people. Gimme did well until we got to where she saw them all standing together and then her attention was really divided.  I really should have stopped to do "whazzat" about the people.  And then I should have dropped back to really basic stuff.  I tried out moving with my hands on my hips and it didn't work cleanly for us, though I may try it another time.  Mostly I just tried to keep her engaged with me. 

Tonight as I was waiting for videos to get saved/uploaded and was doing other things, I discovered Gimme is in the process of selecting a Baby.  She had one overnight on Monday, but then it went back to being a toy in the morning.  At the moment its a toss up between Mr. Big Cow and Brown Bunny (bunny seems to be in the lead).  For the most part she did real well at the practice, but occasionally it seemed she couldn't think.  So this may explain the times she was distracted, the times when she had to be reminded what cues meant ("spin", "turn", "cane" & "orbit"), and the few times when she couldn't finish the behavior correctly despite starting well.

Next time and thereafter we'll be going back to course work for a bit.  There's a video competition in March and J'Anna wants to enter.  I will probably enter at the novice level and get started working on an Encore title.   I'm also going to keep having J'Anna video our practices and when we have enough, I'll edit them together and enter for a Skills title.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nosework (1/16)

Hard to believe we are starting our 16th session with Dorothy of 6 week nosework classes.  So 90 classes, of which I've missed one to attend my Dad's funeral.  For the most part, all the classes have been really good and the one this week was no exception.

We started with an exterior search of a large L-shaped area. There were two landscaped areas which weren't part of the search area, but adjacent to it.  You'll see the end of the POD and the pallet of cement boxes with it, outside the search area.  Inside the search area at the top are several different construction things, a rack of pipes and two pallets of cinder blocks.  On the side is a textured grey area which is a covered portico and the other grey square with black shapes in it
is a little gravel space

The first time we searched it there were no hides and the idea was to observe our dog's behavior when there was no odor for them to smell.  For the most part the other dogs acted very different.  In Gimme's case, she continued trying to find something.  All the dogs spent time checking out the gravel space and were interested in the landscaping at the top corner. We all tended to go against the building on the left, then up across the top near all the stuff.  All the dogs left the search area checking the pallet and going over by the POD.  As we all came back toward the beginning, we each walked along the inside edge of the "L", which was delineated by cones.  Some of the dogs tried to play with the cones.  Gimme acted like she might play with the cones, but then thought better of it and carefully checked each one for odor.

She showed the least sign of the dogs that she was treating this search any different than one where she could detect odor immediately.  I remember when we did searches at Home Depot using all the sample garden sheds - Gimme used to go immediately into any blank shed and check it and would arc around the ones with hides.  She'd check the ones with hides on the way back down the row.  So it seems consistent to me for her to treat this the same as when she detected odor right away.

One discussion point was about how you reward them after searching a blank area.  Some people reward as they are leaving, some reward with a secondary reward (praise vs. food/toy) and some don't reward at all.  In my case, I told Gimme she was a good girl and then when we got back to the car she got half a peanut-butter-mini cookie.  She almost always gets one for going in her crate, so I saw no reason to change our routine.

For our second search of this area there were two hides out, both along the top of the "L".  What we all noticed right away was the dogs spent almost no time checking out the gravel area.  Gimme spent more time there than the others.  It was the same amount of time she'd spent before, which had been less time than the other dogs had done originally.  After the gravel space, she went directly to the hide at the edge of the landscaping.  From there she headed in a straight line toward the POD, and snapped back to the hide on the pipes about 2 feet after she passed it.  She sniffed around, took a little swing out toward the parking lot (not toward the POD) and then came directly to the hide from there.  After I rewarded her for this hide, we continued around the inside edge of the "L", searching the rest of the area.  I was the only one to do this.  I wanted it to be as much like a search at a trial as I could (where I wouldn't know if there was a third hide).  My car was parked right next to the little landscaping area, so it seemed a good use of time.  Gimme again carefully checked each cone for odor.

The other dogs all went past the second hide (on the pipes) without showing any sign they noticed it, to the POD, then swung toward the parking lot.  From there they came to the pipes and sniffed around on the ground a lot before they could source the hide.  We were discussing it and thought they were catching the scent trapping against the pallet and POD.  But then Gimme did it different (she was last), and her search was more efficient.  She did swing toward the parking lot before she sourced it, which all the dogs did.  We think the reason they all sniffed around on the ground was because the pipes were hard plastic so the scent didn't stick to them and tended to pool on the blacktop.  Gimme was the fastest to get from the ground to the hide, about 2' up.

The next search was a series of five open boxes in a row.  We actually did it four times.  The first time (starting from the left on the diagram below), we went up the row of boxes - each containing a hide and a little dish of food for self-rewarding.  We were supposed to keep them on a pretty short leash and not add any reward.  For the second time coming back, all the boxes had a hide and we were to wait for the dog to show they expected us to pay before rewarding.  If the dog "walked" the hide (i.e. didn't stop and "ask" for pay), we were to go on.  As we did the second round and were turning, the instructors took up all the hides, so we had a row of blank boxes.  Then as we were turning at the other end, one hide was placed in the second to last box for our last run down the line.

Gimme thoroughly enjoyed self-rewarding on the way down the row the first time.  On the way back she walked the first box (i.e. didn't stop and ask for pay), asked for pay on box two, walked box three and then asked for pay on four and five.  On the way up the row of now blank boxes, she tried to get me to pay her at what was now box four.  She may have been gaming the system or it may have been lingering odor.  On the final run down the boxes she made a half-hearted effort to ask for pay at the second box, but then I think she caught odor and quickly went to the real box, for which she got a whole lot of peanut butter chips.

Our last search was a circular ORT style search.  Gimme went quickly to the odor box and batted it with her paw a couple times, but never looked at me (as is part of our 4-part alert for containers) and went on as I moved on. She checked all the other boxes and the second time she got to the odor box she didn't leave it and was insistent about alerting.

In this case "insistent" equals Demolition Gimme, doncha know.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Nosework (6/15)

The weather was again pleasant and dry, so we did some outdoor searches.  Gimme rocked all of them.

Search 1 - Three hides close to the temporary storage POD featured in last week's class.  There was a pallet at the near end with two concrete boxes (like water meters are in) and one hide was in there.  Near the other end of the POD was a grate in the ground and there was a hide at one corner.  Then aligned with and somewhat behind the POD was five stacks of pallets with a hide in one. 

Gimme found the hide in the concrete boxes immediately, 3-5 seconds.  From there she went directly toward the grate, bypassed it a short distance and then came right back to it.  For the pallets, she ignored the three stacks closest to the POD, showed interest in the two pallet stacks together and then briefly checked some stuff just beyond the two pallet stacks.  There was a tiny breeze blowing in that direction.  She quickly came back and indicated.  The whole search was under a minute.

Search 2 - This was again three hides, all at ground level in open areas.  The significance of this search was to have the hides out in an open area, instead of on stuff like we usually do.  I've included a lot of the area because of the location for the startline and because of the significance of other stuff in the area during the search.  The hides were on another grate, under a weed next to the edge of the pavement and behind a rock next the other edge of the pavement.  We were encouraged to use a longer line if we wanted - I used our 25' line.

Several people didn't follow the instructions and started from a place halfway between the startline and the grate hide.  Their dogs tended to go behind them to the telephone poles (and other stuff) from the start.  I started where we were supposed to and Gimme went first to the nearest grate, but sniffed it on the run and continued to the telephone poles.  Its natural for the dogs to check another grate since they are connected and can suck scent from one to another.  Gimme made a big loop around the search area, basically scanning the whole thing.  I noted a head check as she went by the grate and weed hides as she buzzed by.  She actually indicated the rock hide first.  From there she went directly to the grate and then looped a couple of times before narrowing down the weed hide.  She had all three in under 2 minutes.

Search 3 - The hide nearest the startline was placed just up behind the edge of the curb surrounding the landscaping.  The hide at the edge of the other island was on the ground right next to the curb.  The other was on top of a large flat rock inside the landscaping.

Gimme did the best on this search.  She was the only dog to detect the nearest hide from the startline and when released went directly to it, indicating in under 5 seconds from release.  From there she went directly toward the hide on the ground, but overshot it.  As she swung around she caught the scent of the hide on the flat rock.  She worked back and forth between the two for a few seconds before indicating on the rock hide.  From there she went almost directly to the last hide.  I wish we'd timed this - less than 1:15 I think.  It was over so fast - waaaay faster than the other dogs.

Gimme was really fast and accurate on all her searches - it was like not getting our money's worth.  Of course, Gimme was happy -- she doesn't worry about money. None of these seemed challenging for her, but its always good to have a day when she gets to find them all quickly.  They weren't necessarily easy-peasy hides; its just getting harder and harder to fool this girl.

This weekend we have the two seminars I mentioned before.  I'll take LOTS of notes...

RFE Practice (9)

Last Thursday, J'Anna and I met to practice RallyFrEe.  We are both focusing on fundamentals, mostly heeling (both sides).  I'm also enjoying a MDSA workshop called "Finding the Sweet Spot", about a technique of playing with free movement to evoke focus, teamwork and a way of moving with your dog, without using cues.

It looked fun. So I planned a non-course layout, more of a playground of different items to encourage more freedom of movement, to break out of the mold of straight-line formal heeling.  The idea was to practice heeling and then when there was some good work, part of the reward would be to break out into more free movement, using the items in the playground.

I had a couple of "stations" which were set up with two signs so you could do whichever behavior was appropriate for what side the dog was on when you approached.  These signs were:
  1.  CW and CCW circles
  2.  CW and CCW spins 
  3.  Left and Right 270 turns
  4.  Switchbacks, both sides
  5. About U-180
There was also three ring gates set up parallel to create two channels and I set up three chairs to serpentine through.  I also set out 2 free-standing poles (red) so we could send our dogs out and around them.  We could also use the station cones/signs to send the dogs out and around.  Plus I brought my iPod and played music.  I'd tried to download some new music the night before - I got it on my iTunes, but apparently it didn't synchronize, so it wasn't on the iPod.  Here's the overall layout.   

Video Session 1 -  Started out with a very brief period to let her get used to the area, along with getting the music to play (edited out).  I thought we had some of our best duration heeling during this session.  She got distracted in a couple of places, but since we are weaning off the long perimeter walks, I think its understandable.  The free-moving playground sessions went really well.  She clearly likes it when I move faster, which I'm encouraged to do by the beat of the music.  I do see I in places I motion her in one direction and then take off in a different direction - poor baby.  She seemed to like the beat to John Denver's "Annie's Song".

Video Session 2 - She did so well ignoring distractions by the end of the first session, I thought she'd start right out with good focus - but we still needed to warm up her brain.  The bit by the chairs was completely my fault - I couldn't see it at the time, but I really was crowding her, so she was making an assumption to go around the chair.  In this session I noticed I started bending over partway through and I don't think it gives her a clear picture of what I want/intend with my movement.  We haven't practiced "cane" and "orbit" in a very long time, so I was pleasantly surprised she got "orbit" the first time and only needed one reminder for "cane".  She also liked John Denver's "Back Home Again".

Video Session 3 - I thought this music (Willie Nelson, "If You've Got The Money") would really suit Gimme, but this short session wasn't as good as the two sessions to John Denver music.  After watching it, I think the problem was me.  This music begs a Texas Two-Step kind of movement and for the life of me I couldn't remember how to do it, so my movement was probably perplexing to Gimme.  It wasn't horrible, just didn't feel right.

Video Session 4 - John Denver's "Baby You Look Good To Me Tonight" is another good beat for us.  I do think Gimme doesn't quite read me.  She seemed a little unsure this time; she must think I'm being terribly unpredictable.  We'll have to play with this a couple more times, so we are both comfortable with it.  Its really important to Gimme for her to "Win" and I'm thinking she's not sure what constitutes winning here.  This session continued with John Denver's "I'm Sorry", which is too slow for Gimme - in order for her to be comfy, I had to push faster than felt right.

Session 5 - John Denver's "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" should have been good music for us.  While parts of this session were pretty good, none of it was as good as the same things done in prior sessions.  She'd lose focus and become distracted.  I was able to get her back, only to have her lose focus again.  Barking in the background didn't help.  It was pretty clear to me she was just used up for the day.  

What was interesting to me, was that I didn't feel like this went very well.  And yet after watching the videos, even the last one was quite a bit better than I remembered.  If you'd asked me right after the session I would have said Gimme didn't think this was very much fun.  But, as I watched the videos, it seemed clear she was having more fun that I perceived in the moment.  So I'm thinking the impression of not-fun was in my head.  Improvisation has never been a strong skill for me and I must have been more uncomfortable with it than I realized.  I don't think most of this looked bad, but it felt uck-ish...

I think I'll play with this some more. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Nosework (5/15)

We had surprisingly good weather on Tuesday, cool but dry, so class was outside.

Our first search was a three vehicle search.  It was pretty standard stuff with no real breeze to speak of, one white van and two really large white industrial trucks (with tool cabinets and overhead booms). One of the challenging aspects was the landscape strip between the two industrial trucks.  Everyone was really worried about getting their dogs to go over the landscaping without peeing, but I didn't see it as a big deal.

Gimme started at the start line, bypassing the van and going to the nearer truck.  She went up the far side, passed the hide on the front tire, but then snapped back to it.  From there she sniffed along the side of the truck and across the back.  Without pausing she then went down the other side of the other industrial truck and very quickly found the second hide on a rear tire.  As Gimme moved across the landscaping a second time, she started to sniff, but without a word I just proceeded across and she came with me.  Dogs pee there all the time (including her), so I didn't want to spend time there and I knew it was a vehicle search so there was unlikely to be something there for her.  From there she went to the purple dot at the rear tire and sniffed and scratched at something.  Since she didn't ever look at me, I knew it was not odor and encouraged her to move along (turns out there was a treat stuck under the back edge of the tire from a prior class).  She moved along the side and switched over to the van, then came along the back and quickly up the far side to nail the third hide.  She did a very nice job.

Dorothy complimented the way I handled the landscaping distraction and the treat distraction.  She specifically commented on how I quickly moved across the landscaping paying no attention, so Gimme was encouraged, but not pressured, to move along.  She asked how I knew it wasn't a hide under the rear tire and I said it was because Gimme never looked at me, which is what she does when she knows its not something I'm going to help her with (like food distractions in containers).

Our other search was to play "running bunny" on a storage pod.  We used the near side and both ends (but not the back side, where there was a lot of tripping hazards and little light).  "Running bunny" is when the instructor keeps moving hides as the dogs find them.  This ended up being about ten hides.  Mostly they were low hides, then one medium height hide at the far end and finally a high hide in the middle of the long side (about 4' up).  The purple dots represent where the spectators were standing near the landscaping, which has a concrete curb.

Gimme did a great job with the hides and found all the low hides without any difficulty.  She even found the medium height hide on the end (about 3' up).  However, the high hide on the long side presented a significant challenge for her.  It was really cool to see her switch gears and get really serious about this one - even Dorothy noticed her change of attitude.  This hide was doing some odd things and it seemed like the scent wasn't falling straight down, so if the dogs were moving along close to the side of the Pod, then they didn't catch it.  Gimme finally started looping out from the side further and further.  Her last loop was to go out and make all the spectators move out of her way as she moved along next to, but not sniffing the landscaping curb.  From there she went almost straight to this hide.

To me (and Dorothy agreed) it was like she moved out of the scent so she could find the edge and then follow it in to the hide.  Gimme was very proud of herself for solving this challenge and got a LOT of peanut butter from me.  Dorothy said some dogs use the technique of moving out of scent so they could go back in, though most don't.  I remember how often I was criticized by my prior instructor for letting Gimme work an odor challenge by "leaving the search area".  My answer then was to say she was the one with the nose, so I was inclined to let her work it however she saw fit, especially since she always moved back in on her own without any encouragement from me, so I knew she was working it.  Then I went to a seminar where the presenter talked about just this thing - saying to watch for it and respect it if we saw it in our own dog.  It was good to be validated then, its great to have an instructor now who understands and respects a dog's individual techniques.  I do find Dorothy is more knowledgeable than most.

This next weekend I am registered for a two-day non-working seminar with Amy Herot (one of the NACSW founders).  I didn't realize it was a non-working seminar when I registered and probably wouldn't have signed up if I had.  Still, I've heard good things about her, so hopefully I will learn a lot without working Gimme.  The topics are: Saturday, Interiors With Confidence and Sunday, The Elite Experience.

Five weeks later we have a one-day two-trial barn hunt and two weeks latera two-day tracking seminar on Foundation Tracking Skills with Sil Sanders.  I have signed up to work two more tracking seminars during the summer and will be auditing another in September at a level we aren't ready for.  I'm sure I'll find a lot of other fun stuff for us to do this summer...

Happy Valentines

After Gimme had been outside for her morning mission and eaten breakfast, I discovered this... her idea of a perfect Valentine's activity for a cold and rainy day.

Of course the look also says, 
"Would you puhleeze stop flashing that light in my face..."

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Urban Tracking (9 & 10)

Last week we met on Wednesday to do some urban tracking.  We are following the program in Sil Sander's upcoming book.  So we were scheduled to do both 100 and 120 yard tracks of island hopping.  We aged them 20 minutes.  The weather was cool and conditions were wet, since it had been raining for several days.  This is the first tracking we've done since Christmas morning, a break of almost 6 weeks.  Gimme picked right up as if we'd been doing it every week.  I could sure tell she was happy to get out and use her nose again.

Today we did the next session and it was a bit different.  We were supposed to be introducing 90 degree turns next to the curb, but we'd been doing them all along as they came up when we were following curbs or doing island hopping.  Since we are laying 2 tracks each for four dogs, we are sometimes limited in what we can do to fit them all in.  Besides we hadn't read ahead and didn't realize we weren't supposed to add them in yet.  So since we'd already done this, we decided to introduce turns away from the curb instead.  Because its a really busy week for me and I needed to get back to town and work my accounts, we only did one track per dog.

Gimme's track was pretty challenging just as we layed it.  She and Skookum are the more talented/experienced of the four, so we set their tracks a bit longer and with more turns than we had for Sugar and Cricket.  We intended to have Gimme's track age 20-30 minutes, but it was more like 45 minutes. 

On top of the extra age, there was a parking lot sweeper doing his rounds and he went over Gimme's track in three different places as shown with dashed lines.  Where you see both grey and blue dashed lines, he passed over the track twice.  I believe in a trial if this happened they would abandon the track, but we decided to run it and see how she did.

The first challenge was to see how Gimme would do at the start, if she would follow the track or the curb.  It took her a moment, but she figured it out.  From there to where she came upon the first sweeper crosstrack, Gimme did a great job.  I let her try to figure it out on her own, but she wasn't getting it, so I pointed to where the track was and cued her "track-on".  Her look was telling, as if she didn't think it smelled the same.  We think the sweeper did more than scatter the scent, possibly altering it in some odd way.  Just the same, Gimme followed what I pointed to and got across the gap, making the next turn nicely.  The next time didn't seem to be as challenging.  She was going steady and I think her momentum carried her across the crosstrack to where things smelled familiar again.  From there she did fine until the third crosstrack and then she just couldn't find it again.  I let her work it for a bit and then gave her the hint and she picked it up, following the track across the opening and getting to the next article and then through to the end.

We did notice she tended to "go visual" when she was struggling with the sweeper crosstrack.  This means she starts to look for little bits of things to go check out, hoping they are food on the track.  When I see her doing this, I know she is having difficulty.  Also, a crosstrack happened in both places where we had set up a turn away from the curb, creating an especially difficult challenge, so we really don't know yet if she understood the turn away from the curb.  Next time we do urban, we'll be revisiting this exercise. 

Our next tracking get together will be field work.  We still haven't found a good sports field location to practice those exercises.  I don't expect it will be very hard for the dogs, especially given all their tracking experience.  But there are different contamination challenges they need to experience.

We are signing up for a one-day, two-trial barn hunt in March.  I know Gimme will be eager to hunt for some ratties.  She'll probably still be in her false pregnancy, but close to the end, so I'm hoping she'll do well.  It only took her a day and a half of being on the supplement regimen for the false pregnancy before I noticed her brain was back.  However, we are still challenged in respect to self-control.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Nosework (4/15)

Well, the doctors have cleared my Mom to return to a more normal life and we've been instructed to stop fetchin' and totin' for her.  Both doctors insist she has to get back to taking care of herself while she still can.  So life is thankfully returning to normal.  I know Gimme will be very happy...

Last week we had a very interesting search for Nosework.  I can't decide whether to call it interiors or containers - I guess a mix, which may make it technically interiors.  There were four search areas.  For each mini-search we were to keep the dog on leash and stay inside the hoola hoop - which we could only leave to reward the dog at odor. Area1 was right inside the door with two small tables and four chairs.  The first time we did this search from the yellow hoop and then as the last search from the purple hoop.  For Area2 we had the bathroom, staying in the yellow hoop actually outside door.  For Area3 we had the purple hoop with the five buckets and mop bucket.  Then Area4 was the four chairs and four low stools.  While we did the search at Area4, the instructors moved the hides in Area2 and Area3, to the locations indicated by the green dots and we repeated those searches before doing the purple hoop search of the tables by the door.  This was effectively 7 one-hide searches. 

Gimme really did a very nice job.  I managed to totally throw her off at the start with Area1.  She expected to do as we always do and blast off the start line, so she very quickly hit the end of the line.  I called her back to me and cued her "wherezit" again and she started off, again  hitting the end of the line, but not as hard.  This she found very annoying, but as I called her back toward me, she caught the odor on the chair, a threshold hide.  In hindsight, I should have kept a LOT of tension on the line as I released her from the start, then she wouldn't have hit the end of the line, which must've seemed like a correction. 

From there we moved to the bathroom Area2.  She wasn't sure what to make of my odd behavior, but once in the bathroom she caught odor and went to work finding the hide in the little shelf between the toilet and sink.  After this we went to Area3 and it was clear she was getting it.  It took her almost no time to find the hide.  On to Area4 and she had the hide before I had both feet in the hoop.  She was almost as fast hitting all the hides (including the two which had been moved) on the way out.

Our second time in was to just using Area4 with three hides; the chair from Area1 and bucket from Area2 had been added.  Gimme thought this was easy peasy.  In fact she did it so quickly the person following us hadn't gotten her dog out before we were headed out of the building.

I was complimented on my line handling, when we did the bucket.  The others had trouble with their line snagging on the chair as the dog tried to work the bucket.  I think it was easy because I have such a good line to begin with.  Its Biothane and I think its just the right weight.  I can flip it up over things and it doesn't catch on stuff, just floats over edges of things (like the chair).  It almost never knots, doesn't kink ever.  It can be wiped clean, with detergent if needed.  The only drawback is how slippery it gets when wet.   But its only between Biothane and hands.  If you wear leather gloves it isn't slippery at all and its not slippery against itself.  Whenever its the least bit wet out, I'm used to working it with a loop of it against itself, so I've never had a problem.  My four Biothane lines will likely outlive me.

Our last search was off leash.  It was the entire search area and all five tins of odor had been put in one bucket and placed in the far corner.  Dorothy referred to it as an "odor bomb".  Gimme found it very quickly  She headed toward the corner, making a brief check of the search area we'd just done as she passed by it on her way to the bucket.  The trouble was she just wasn't sure what to make of so much odor.  She found it within 10 seconds, but spent at least that long deciding to indicate it.  It was like she couldn't believe it was real.

She was certainly glad to be back at class after the break the week before.  I know she's going to be very happy to have life back to normal now.

BTW I asked her why she didn't pay any attention to the other dogs at the kennel when she was there the week before.  She said it was because "they were in cages where they belong."  She insists her run was "a special place" and "up front where everyone could admire her when they came."  Besides Janice spoke to her first every time she came and went.  I wonder where she gets these notions... ☺

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

RFE Practice (8) & More

Last week my sister needed someone to cover parent-sitting because her husband was having eye surgery early the next morning.  Ordinarily I don't do the overnights because there's a cat there and I don't think its fair to make Gimme sleep in the car all night.  As it turned out, this was a night we weren't having nosework class, so I decided it would be a good opportunity to let her stay overnight in the kennel I will be using in the future. 

When I got there and saw the kennels, I had my reservations.  They were built a long time ago, and while well maintained and clean, the aisle-ways are very narrow, just 2 feet.  Thus, in order for Gimme to go anywhere - like to the big play yard, she would have to go between multiple dogs close on both sides.  The space between the front of her indoor space and the front of her neighbor was only 2 feet and the space between her covered outdoor run and the dog across from her was also only 2 feet. 

I was just sure she'd have difficulty with these close confines.  Instead she acted like it was no big deal.  We let her in her run and laid down her blanket, then took her to the play yard.  There was no sign she even noticed the dogs on either side of her.  I'm sure she must have, she just paid no attention to them.  Janice, who I've known a long time, said Gimme was the model boarder.  While she initially yodeled her objections, as soon as I drove out the gate, she was quiet and remained quiet until I drove back in the gate 15 hours later.  Gimme got cookies at the end of each time running "the gauntlet" and was pleasant toward her neighbors.  This is just not the report I expected.

On Wednesday during our walk, I tried some different things. When we see a cyclist coming, she still gives me her communication from a place well-forward of heel.  Then I cue her to heel or side, and when she gets there, she gets rewarded with p.b. in position as we move along.  I thought it would be better to reward in heel/side position and build value for being there.  The first couple of times I did it she looked at me like I was nuts, but then she did it very smoothly.

I also noticed another thing we do on our walks which is probably contributing to lack of duration.  We have to cross as many as 5 roads; the first one is busy, but the others are generally quiet.  I've been teaching her to stop at the roads and wait for me and she gets a treat when I get to her (she's on a 25' line).  Then we cross the road "with-me" (loose leash fairly close to me, but not heel) and she gets a treat when we are across.  This pattern works well and I usually don't have to cue "halt" or "with-me" anymore.  But, I noticed as soon as she gets the treat after we cross the road, she disengages on her own to go back to sniffing.  So, I've unintentionally taught her get-a-treat-and-you're-done and I think its morphing into our other training. 

So Wednesday, after the first treat I re-cued "with-me" and we kept walking until she got as many as three more treats (variable).  After the first two times, I didn't have to re-cue "with-me" and she just stayed close to me.  Then I released her with "all done" and she was sent to go sniffing.  I think the release is going to be very important for clarity.  Gimme figured this out very quickly... she's all about getting her treats, so she's very adaptable. 

On Thursday we met for RallyFrEe practice.  I think things went much, much better.  Gimme's performance was much improved.  I was really happy with how things went. 

Session 1a I started with our modified perimeter walk.  Overall I thought she did well with getting some time to acclimate, even if its less than usual (look, but don't touch), with click/treats for offered attention.  We'd set up a simple course of side transitions.  Gimme is confused by the Front Cross Handler, so I stopped trying and will have to work on it separately.  After studying the video, I think she's confusing by what I'm doing with my hands while handling the leash and what I do with my hands during a center-front-pivot.  Clearly there's a reason I don't normally train RFE on leash - the leash handling is a pain.  I also had five little dishes of treats out, so sometimes we could run to the treats.  She's getting the idea about working in heel/side better, but we need more duration.  The person taping us stopped the camera, when I planned to do some finding heel/side, so you know what is in this video Session 1b  I thought she'd lost some focus at this point, but she wasn't stressed and was working through it, so I continued for a couple of minutes.  You'll note the last trial of this session, I started making her stay in heel/side to get the treats, since she was getting obnoxious about treats.

And yes, I'm aware she's breaking her "wait", but I'll focus on this in a different session.  Partly I think its sloppy hand signals and so I need to work through a training plan to make it verbal only, eh  Also, she's never been taught to hold a wait when I move behind her at a distance.

Session 2  Gimme is distracted in these sessions by me bending over and passing the leash through my legs.  We've never trained this way before, so she is trying to figure out what I'm wanting her to do.  Another part of what is throwing her off is my hands holding the leash.  Normally for RallyFrEe heeling I have the hand nearest her dropped down at my side (up at my waist if I want her to sit when I stop).  With two hands on the leash the hand nearest her is in a weird halfway position and she seems a bit confused by it.  Since she was working well, I took the leash off her with as little fanfare as possible for some finding heel/side.  During this session is when I realized she is cuing off my head for which side to go to.  So this explains why she does better when she's coming from behind me, since I'd had a tendency to look over the shoulder to the side I wanted her to come to.  Smart dog, dumb handler.

Session 3  In this session I only worked on heeling duration.  There were some parts I really liked.  She tries so hard.  

Next time we practice, I'm going to do my first session with heeling only and just ignore the stations.  I'd like to warm her up for one or two sessions, so I can have her off leash for when I do the stations and don't have to fool with the leash.  She tries so hard and you have to admit, she's dang cute.

BTW I have since realized she's coming into her false pregnancy a bit early - probably because she skipped a season in August.  By Saturday she had completely lost her self-control and suddenly couldn't do things she'd been doing very well just days before.  Its gradually coming back.  Today I checked all her supplement needs using kinesiology and she's on her full false pregnancy regimen.  So she'll probably get her brain back in a few days.  Fortunately nosework and tracking aren't usually affected by her false prenancies.