While we didn't do well in barn hunt (not for lack of enthusiasm), Gimme did great at the weight pull. It was really chaotic for me, dividing my attention between the two venues and running back and forth to make sure we were where we needed to be. I won't enter two events on the same day again.
Each trial she starts with a pull of 420 pounds, which is already more than enough for a qualifying leg (340# cart, plus two cinder blocks). For her second pull they added two more cinder blocks, bringing the pull weight up to 500 pounds. This is actually enough weight for her to earn points toward a weight pull championship, if she had the first title already.
Saturday - trial 1
We were loaned a harness which fit her reasonably well. On her first pull, when the cart didn't move as easily as her prior pulls had, she spun around and ended up with the harness twisted around her body. I couldn't touch her without ending the run, so since her legs weren't fouled, I encouraged her to pull anyway. Being a game little tomboy, she did. On her second pull, she understood not to get twisted, plus I stayed a little closer to her. Gimme was confused when the cart didn't move with the same amount of effort and just stopped and gave me a look, saying, "Mom, its broke." I encouraged her and she tried again and was successful in getting it moving. We came away with our first leg toward a title.
Saturday - trial 2
For her second trial, she did better than the first on both pulls and her improved time reflects her understanding of how to win this game. I was careful to stay closer and really cheer her on when she starts pulling. Gimme did a nice job with improved times. We came away with our second leg toward a title.
Sunday - trial 1
Gimme was really eager to get started and tried to lead me toward the building, when we still needed a potty walk. After I dressed her in her harness, she was very determined and dragged me in the building. I was able to set up the camera ahead of time, so I have a video of her runs. She did a fabulous job, with great times. You will see in the video - her tail wags constantly and she's quite proud of herself. This weekend's title is United Weight Puller (UWP), making 21 titles. Gimme's titling pulls video
Other than the first 500# pull, where Gimme was surprised by how much more effort was needed, you can see her times improve with each pull, even as the pulls get heavier. The judge was really impressed with how she did.
So now I'll be ordering a custom fit harness for her and then we'll begin conditioning and training for heavier pulls. She needs to learn to lean forward and down into her harness to get the cart started. She could get 5 points toward a UWPCH for her 500# pulls. Since she needs 100 points, with $20 per trial, the title would cost $400. Obviously I want to get up to higher point pulls. Time will tell how far we will go with this - certainly as long as she can do it and is having fun.
Our barn hunt efforts were not rewarding. Gimme had a lot of fun and was very enthusiastic. Still she reverted to finding a rat, back 5 feet away and then barking at me. It makes it very hard to know where she is indicating. Both times we found one rat and then had a false call. I need to go back and review what I've written before about how we had this communication sorted out and then need to arrange some training runs to get us back to doing it well. When I was bemoaning our lack of success, Janet said to me, "You know, its really unfair to bring her out after a year away and expect perfection right away."
I replied, "Seriously!?" In all honesty, I know Gimme knows how to find the rats... its just the communication aspect we need to revisit. Still, she had a lot of fun. Someone described her barking as piercing - its not her usual low throaty bark.
Session 1 video - I decided this time to try more use of backing up to indicate when she is well out of position. She reads this as information that she's doing it wrong and always does better right afterward - there's no sign that she finds it aversive. It used to deflate her, but I think she now has a much better understanding of what I want, so its just information. I started out with a little warm-up heeling and then got to doing 180º turns. We spent much of the session doing these. I don't think I did a good enough job breaking down the task for the turn at the distracting end of the training area. I was also far too late to respond when she started to distract. We do a short bit of "side" and then switch gears. When she jumps up on me, I just gently help her down and then go right to work - since this has become something she does unnecessarily (i.e. not because she's uncertain). We practice finding "center" and then doing "spin" and "turn" in center position - something we've been working on at home. She still has trouble with "turn" in center position, so I have to lure a couple times to remind her. She showed she thinks its icky when I grab her to interrupt her, so I tried to do the same thing, but slower and less grabby and then she was okay with it. The idea was to get her more comfortable with my hands "grabbing" her. She did well with doing "spin" and "turn" strictly on a verbal in center position, but then offered another when I asked for "around", so I had to interrupt her again. Her distraction at 8:30 is because of hearing the phone alarm, which I hadn't used in that setting before. She hears it at home and isn't distracted by it, but in my little living room its louder with an obvious source. I was aiming for a shorter, but 9:15 wasn't too bad.
Session 2 video - Started with some "side" warm up. I don't know what J'Anna was doing with the camera - something to do with the new monopod I guess. We did a little bit of rewarding for being still and waiting for cues - a hard concept for Gimme. Then we did a little work on side passes, something really new to us. I should have been using the clicker to isolate rear end movement. When I tried to work on it in side position, she was doing a weird pivoting thing I didn't want, so I got out a barrier to help her stay at my side. It went much better with the barrier to limit her options. A clicker would have helped here too. Even without it, she still picked up what I wanted really fast. She's so darn smart. We did a little more heeling and then switched to "back". This was her first time without a foot target here. I don't know why she turned and wanted to back over to one side, unless she was thinking to target the barrier. When she got a really nice one, she got multiple treats and we ended.
Session 3 video - Gimme really likes backing onto things, "bacon". So this session was a lot about it. We ended up with an impressive audience of observers. She makes it look really easy. We did some "out" alternating chairs to form a figure 8, working on distance. She did a nice job with these. We ended with some "bacon" to the chair. Its really hard because the chair is so high and a small footprint with the chair back in the way, so she really has to work to get her front feet up there. I was really impressed to see her work out how to do it, which requires quite a bit of core strength. You have to appreciate her thinking and trying getting on frontward, just to see if I might be willing to pay for this too. We switched to a bit of heeling and it was interesting to see what a big distraction the chairs became then. Gimme just couldn't believe I really wanted to only walk around them when she knows she can do much more impressive stuff. At 6:15 she is again distracted by the phone alarm. We ended with a sidepass with her in center position.
Overall I thought these were really nice sessions. She sure has come a long way. We have 4-5 weeks before she goes into Mommy-brain, but she's making such nice headway, so I'm not as worried as before.
BTW she is entered in a barn hunt this Saturday and Sunday. This is the first barn hunt we've done this year, since I've been so focused on tracking. Gimme needs 10 masters level legs to get a RATCH (barn hunt championship).
Also, as it turns out they are sharing the site with a UKC group, so we are going to try weight pull at the same time. She's entered in three pulls and since she needs three legs to get a title, its possible she could come home with a new title. Otherwise there is another weight pull the following weekend. It'll be a fun weekend. I know Gimme will be thrilled to hunt for rats and I expect she'll like weight pulling, since she's shown such an affinity for it in the past.
These searches were set up with hides very close to each other (2 or 4 per table), so the dogs had a big puzzle to figure out. My job as handler was to direct her searches, keeping Gimme on one table until she found all the hides, while making sure she didn't go back to a hide she'd already found (hard to do with them so close together).
Interior 1 video - This search had ten hides - 2 on the first table and 4 each for second and third tables. It was especially challenging to keep Gimme from going back to prior hides in this search because she had no concern about stepping on the tables. Gimme was checking stuff near the second table and then working the scent back to the hide. I don't think she needed to do it this way, its just what she is used to doing. On the third table, I came up with backing around the table, so that as I moved I was opening up the space for the next hide. This worked well here. Not sure how I'd use it in a blind search, but she figured out what I was doing and so was the most efficient of the dogs;
Interior 2 video - Gimme does a great job finding the two hides on the first table and my backing up technique works well. On the second table it seemed to start well, but then she just dashes around me to the other hides. Clearly she knows more than me about what the scent picture is saying, so I go with her and then restart my pattern and it works fine for her from then on. For some reason the first hide she found on the second table was interfering with her ability to find the hide I originally presented. For the third table the hides were set high and low. Gimme was the only dog to get the four hides on the third table in order as she moved around the table, making her more efficient. All the other dogs got the two low hides, then the two high hides.
Interior 3 video - This time there were 8 hides, two per table and then two on the red cart. Its interesting on the first table how she gets the first hide from the back side of the table and then gets the second hide bouncing off the nearby wall. She goes straight to the first cart hide from there. For the second cart hide she kept wanting to go to the next table instead, but then she gets it. She was very fast at getting the two hides on the next table, despite me getting in the way. She was the fastest to get the second hide on the final table, doing it in just 11 seconds. The next fastest class dog took 1:20 seconds to find the second hide on the final table and the others took longer still.
GIMME DID IT! She passed her TD on her first try, in challenging conditions, while in season. Gimme Rocks!!!
The track was 465 yards and 45 minutes old. The ground was very moist (a good thing), but the cover was rather sparse, though consistently so. The day was cool and overcast, drizzling off and on. The breeze was nominal. The field was very muddy and I walked the last leg with 3" high mud "stilts" stuck to the bottom of my shoes.
Gimme has never tracked in this kind of cover. The cover at Fort Lewis was sparse, but still longer than this. She once did a track in Bow that was sparse like this, but the grass was longer than today's grass. Nadine's Cricket had sparse cover on her track, but not like this. The grass was similar, slightly longer, but in rows, with mud between the rows - so she basically got a change of cover every six inches and couldn't figure it out.
We were the last TD dog because of Gimme's "condition". When we went out on the field the prior dog was still finishing his track and Gimme was a little distracted, but he was far enough away that she was able to get to work.
She did her usual saw-tooth routine on the first leg. She circled the second flag repeatedly, then stoped to circle halfway between it and the corner, then again at the corner. She was back and forth and would take up lines of direction and then abandon them to come back to the track. The drawing above is based entirely on combining the two maps the judges provided. If you had asked me how our track was shaped, I would have drawn a pretzel. All I could do was focus on the last learned lesson, to only go with her if she had her nose down in the track - clearly it worked. I really was clueless otherwise and was just assuming she was doing well since I hadn't heard the dreaded whistle.
On the last leg she'd been gradually moving wider and I assumed we were on the track since it was generally in one direction. We were actually well to the side of the track - 15 yards at least - and getting wider. And then Gimme just stopped (at the red "x") and turned to look at me like, "Whaaaaaat?" I just encouraged her. Her nose went up, she stood still considering for what seemed an eternity, and then drove in a straight line to the glove. I wasn't sure if I should go with her, since she didn't have her nose down, but given my stilts, I didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. By the time we got back to the car she was ready to go again.
Gimme did this track in 12 minutes, which is kind of long for her. She was clearly frustrated on the first and second legs, but then got into it and soldiered on. Since it was so slippery, I was glad she wasn't hauling-A like usual. As a measure of how challenging this was for her, I re-scented her three times. Most of the time I don't have to re-scent her and I've never done it more than once in a track. The judges thought she was a really good tracker and surprisingly to me, had a lot compliments about my handling. I didn't feel like I did anything more than just be an anchor, but I guess I anchored at the right times.
I am so totally proud of her for this accomplishment. She went into really unusual conditions and worked it out on her own.
Here's a picture of Gimme with her haul. She really doesn't care much
about ribbons, gloves or crystal, but does love it when I show my
appreciation with steak.
We had two sets of three back-to-back searches. The first time through they were blind searches.
Interior 1 video - Gimme makes quick work of this room and when she was sure there was nothing there, switches to toy shopping. Be sure you note the look of disgust she gives when I take the toy and set it back where it was. It was pretty easy for me to call this a clear room (correct). She paid a little attention to the crack under the door of the adjoining storage room, but left it on her own. She paid more attention to the crack under the door going to the class room (where there was odor).
Interior 2 video - This room was more challenging because there is food stored in it. She started off searching and then went toy shopping again. I didn't actually call this room, as we ran out of time (just 1:00), but was asked what I thought. I said if there was any hide, it would be on the shelving to the right, but Gimme didn't persist there, so I was inclined to go with clear. This would have been correct. Interesting, if a room has a toy-shopping option, it seems to be a good barometer for whether there's any odor there.
Interior 3 video - Gimme finds the first (and only) hide very quickly. After it she is quite willing to keep searching. I can see the difference in her intensity between this room and the two prior rooms. But, I still can't see the drop in intensity after she's found the hides in a room she's in. Dorothy says she can see it, but I still haven't picked up the difference, so if you see something in this video that can help me, please do share. Gimme will thank you...
The second time around there is one hide in each of the small rooms and still one hide in the bigger area. The idea was for us to get to see the difference in how the dogs acted entering a room with odor in it.
Interior 4 video - As you can see, the difference for Gimme was total. She nails the hide and indicates in 3 seconds! She had no doubt and went directly to it.
Interior 5 video - She was not quite as fast for this room, but then there was a bin of toys right at nose level. Still, including the check on the toy bin, she had this hide indicated in just 6 seconds. Silly Gimme girl.
Interior 6 video - Gimme was very fast on this hide as well - faster than the first time and I don't think the hide was really any easier. I think finding two hides so quickly in the prior rooms just had her intensely focused for this search.
This next search was an interesting combination. The dogs first had the front part of the room with a hide, then the larger back part with no hide. When we thought they were done in the second area, we could take them back to the first area to search again.
Interiors 7 video- What was interesting about the search of the first area was how Gimme got the hide and her reward and then went straight to the gate into the other area. Clearly she knew there was no more to be found there. The dogs all seemed excited to go in and search the bigger area. You will notice Gimme skids a few times, changing direction. Had I not known there was no hide there, this might have been a challenge for me to interpret, since change-of-behavior is a big clue to the handler that the dog was near odor. In this case, I think Gimme was just scanning the area and then thinking, "hmmmm chairs - better check them." The only thing which would have saved me was how quickly she left them. Dorothy thought Gimme was responding to me "talking to yourself". I think she knew I was asking her something and her going repeatedly to the divider was her answer. I always find it interesting when dogs re-search an area they've returned to, instead of going directly to a hide they've already found.
Overall this was a really fun class. Gimme certainly enjoyed it.
Today (Saturday) we are going for a walk and then I'll be packing up the van for the weekend. This is the weekend of the tracking test. Say prayers. While Gimme is great, I could use divine intervention.
Exterior 1 video - This exterior search had two hides. Gimme started by running to the landscaping and squatting as if to pee, which I interrupted. I didn't see her actually pee, but the instructor thought she had. She did a nice job finding both hides. I thought it interesting she went so far out to the right before she caught the second hide, which she turned back to on her own.
Exterior 2 video - This video is harder to see as the area is darker. Actually both hides were pretty close to each other. Gimme finds one right away. Then she has to go well down the way into the dark before coming back to where the hides were. She went up with her feet on the panel quickly and then "walked" herself around to show me where the hide was. It was quite nice.
Interior searches 3 & 4 - There is no video for these because they are done all in the dark. They have a bunch of glow stick necklaces which are sprinkled through the area enough so we can move without running into stuff. We also make a glow stick "collar" for the dogs, so we can see where they are moving around. Really that is all you can see. What was really interesting was how much more aware I was of the huffing noises Gimme makes when she is searching. I've noticed them before, but when there is minimal visual, the things you hear are much more noticeable. Gimme did both searches very quickly.
We met at Flaming Geyser, which was supposed to be all reopened, only to discover they've extended the time of the partial closing, so we were restricted in the area we could use. I was really late, so Nadine had already set tracks for Cricket and Gimme.
The conditions were cool and moist, lots of dew/wet grass. Our track was 470 yards and about an hour old. Gimme started off well, doing her usual saw-tooth pattern on the first leg. She did really well on the second and third legs. The extra article on the fourth leg was too close, so she cut the corner to get to it. Since this was a short leg to begin with, after she left the article, she got a head of steam going and really overran the turn to the fifth leg.
She didn't act like she was finding a track and then suddenly started pulling hard straight ahead. I caught that she didn't really have her nose down,
instead it was about level with her back - which was what I had told myself I
wanted to watch today. She sometimes just starts pulling, which Sil calls
"taking you for a walk". She
has huge article drive and call smell the darn things from 30 yards and at this point she was only 15-18 yards from the final article which just so happened to be directly in line with the fourth
leg. If I hadn't had it in my head to watch for whether or not she had her nose down in the track, she would have left off three legs.
Anyway, I didn't go with her and based on her behavior
thought we were well past the turn, so I organized her searching (going with her when she's headed in the direction I want to go, thus elongating a loop) and after moving back about 10 yards, she caught the next leg. She had to work on the 5th turn, which was on a short-mowed path instead of the longer cover we'd been working on. From there she was pretty much flawless to the end.
I'm very happy to have worked out this issue, but not sure I want to be learning something so
important right before a test. Still, I guess its better than learning it AFTER the
Gimme and me (and Nadine and Cricket) got into the trial in Oregon for next weekend. I
would prefer to have gotten into the one up north, because I know more people in
the tracking community there and I know Gimme is familiar with the conditions. Since Nadine will be there I'll have someone to
celebrate or commiserate with. Who better than my tracking buddy for almost two years, eh? Nadine said the conditions on the site should be
very similar to what we see at Flaming Geyser, so I'll try not to work myself into a lather about it.
Of course, Miss Gimme is coming in season as we speak, which hasn't been an issue in tracking before, though she can be a little distracted until she gets in the rhythm of things. I'll set her up an article circle at a nearby park on Friday morning. I plan to drive down Saturday afternoon and stay overnight at a hotel.
Say prayers for us and cross any body parts you can spare - we'll take any help we can get.
This practice session was last Thursday and overall I thought it went well. We'd planned to go again today, but my work interfered so we had to cancel. Usually transition weeks don't run into Thursday, but since the holiday was on Monday, I couldn't start until Tuesday. It always takes three days to get all my accounts done (we have to get them all transitioned within 3 days of the holiday), so I had to work today. At least they are mostly done now, so I can relax a bit.
Session 1 video - My main goal was to tighten up the "heel" and "side" positions so I used a clicker to give me more precision in what I was telling Gimme with the rewards. I also wanted to put rewards in the being still bank account and for the most part didn't use the clicker for this, since click ends the behavior. I used "wait" to help her understand I wanted her to be still, though I do not want to have to cue "wait" in the final still behavior. Being still is so hard for her - she'd definitely be an action figure if they ever made a Gimme doll. I see I need to face the camera, since you can't hear what I'm cueing if I'm turned away. Gimme was doing a good job of following the cues, even though we haven't worked on "spin" and "turn" in "center" position. She was drawn to J'Anna's prop as we walked toward it, so I used it as a distraction. I cued "take-a" and got a "turn" instead - clearly the not-listening issue again. Then I kept getting "take-a" when I was cueing "center". I think I need to go back to working sequences of random cues, to strengthen her listening skills. I do see in the video I am giving her a lot of physical clues, but not clearly following verbal cues, so they aren't strengthening the verbals. Verbal cues are not her best skill and I see I'm not being clear enough to help her learn them. I have to get out of trying to stop her when she offers the wrong behavior - instead I think I should take several steps away, breaking off the behavior and interrupting the possibility of rewarding it unintentionally. I was intentionally feeding low to get her to stand. We did a little bit of treat tossing to relieve any stress and then ended with a bit of heeling. This session went on too long (10:00), but I thought she had a good attitude throughout.
Session 2 video - I don't know why Gimme had to have reassurance at the second sign. The reason I spoke harshly to her was she broke one of my two favorite chains. J'Anna was shocked since she's never seen me lose patience with Gimme (we have a very different idea of what constitutes loosing patience). I normally give her reassurance if there is any real reason to need it, but this time it was uncalled for. This is the first course we've done in a long time - it was set up so we could film for J'Anna's intermediate RFE entry. It took a bit to get Gimme to wait for a cue at the second Free Choice sign, but she finally did wait. I think it might be a good idea to do some course work again and just require Gimme to be still at each station (rewarding still) before I give her a cue to do a behavior so she gets out of the habit of throwing out behaviors to see which one sticks. I'm guessing she's been right often enough and gotten rewarded for it, so throwing behaviors is getting rewarded. I need to shift her mindset so she thinks waiting for cues is just as valuable, if not more so. This was a much better length session (7:30).
Session 3 video - I see I need to give more than one treat for being still, since she is tending to get the treat and then move out of position - so she's reading the reward as the end of behavior, an issue I've seen before. So something like behavior-treat-pause-treat might help give her reason to wait in position longer. After breaking out into play for reward, it takes a bit before she can do still again. Props are such a huge draw for her - at some point I have to work through the idea that the presence of a prop is not the cue for the behavior. Maybe some time we need to set up a course that has a dozen props, just everywhere and treat them all as distractions. Then mix in using them and having them be distractions. We run into a bit of difficulty with her getting into tap-dancing while being still. I don't want her to think this is part of the being still thing, so have to think of some way to help her understand all of her needs to be still. Not counting her wonderful wagging tail, of course. I almost wonder if I just did too much being-still work at one time. Maybe less-is-more would be better. Also need to increase the time more gradually and when there is more still time to work with, can then reward it randomly. I also see I'm not rewarding "center" with her in an accurate position. Bad me. Good session length (8:00).
Overall I was really pleased with how this went. She worked hard and there was quite a bit of improvement just in these sessions. Just today I noticed Gimme's heiney is getting a bit pudding looking, so just checked our chart and she is about due to come in season. One week from today will be exactly six months. So I have about 6 weeks before the whole false pregnancy business starts up again.
BTW got notice today that my entries have been received for both tracking tests. The one at Bow has already been drawn and we are second alternate. This is my preferred test because Gimme has tracked in the area many times and there will be lots of people I know to celebrate (or commiserate) with.
Last Friday we met at Training Area 23 again. There was a light breeze and it was cool and overcast. This is the dogs' second time here, with rocky glacial till.
Gimme's track was a simple chair shape, with an article on every leg. Without intending to, her track was aged 1:55. This is the oldest track she's ever done, so she ended up with two challenges to work through - the longer age and the unusual ground and sparse cover. Gimme did a better job than the week before and clearly got better as she went along.