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Thursday, December 28, 2017

RFE Practice (59)

Tomorrow is our next RFE practice - this report is for the one two weeks ago. So you can see how far behind I am. I'm done making Christmas presents, so should be able to keep up to date now.

My main goal for the day was to video our segment for our part in the current MDSA collaboration. We only needed 13 seconds, so it went fast and I was happy with the results. I still think I use my hands too much in a luring manner, but other people say my motions fit in with my "dancing", so I'm being too critical of myself. Here's Our MDSA video.

The collaboration, to Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree is done. You can see the whole thing - our part is the fourth segment.  I saw a couple of things I want to teach Gimme. They actually did two songs this time, so others danced to Two Step 'Round the Christmas Tree  You'll need to use the password "paws" to access either of these videos. These videos are a collaboration of people and dogs of all skill levels.
Backward weaves video - I talked before about my idea to make a crooked channel of wire guides and then use a platform to give Gimme something to back to. I think this might be a possibility, especially after Gimme realized there was no reward for trying to "bacon" onto the guides. It helped when I stabilized them with 2x2 weaves. Since I'm done making Christmas presents I can reclaim my living room and set this up to practice - it'll take up almost all the available floor space.

"Can" work video - Remember she's been getting on and then going across it and then backing on, so my goal was to focus on mounting front feet first and then sticking it. I was using tossed treats to set her up for a front approach. I'm also trying to work on the position of her rear feet. She brings them too far forward (as if she expects to sit) making it hard to spin. I'm sure she hasn't outgrown it, since she was doing it last year and hasn't grown since then. I may need to use a larger prop to practice on. I should probably use a lower treat delivery, so she doesn't have her head so high, which leads to lowering her rump. I may very well end up using this prop for her "pivot" (CCW) and then use a larger prop for the spin. I find it interesting Gimme is so willing to "tivo" (clockwise pivot) on this prop, when we've barely done work on the behavior.

Dog-inside pivot video - I started out reinforcing being still on the brick - still trying to get Gimme to wait for cues instead of assuming what I should want. After a minute reinforcing stillness, then we are able to practice the dog-inside pivot. I'm going to have to make a brick from thin plywood and one of just sandpaper (which I can easily cut down to fade the brick if needed).

"Izzy" & "otto" video - "Otto" used to be the favorite of the back around behaviors, but it has deteriorated seriously with our efforts to learn backward weaves. We are still working on getting it back. Once she does it, then she can do it again. But the next time I ask for it in another session, we start over reminding her what I want. My plan is to use the guides and retrain it from the beginning.

"Away" video - Gimme doesn't act like she understands what I want here, though she's done it on cue before. I want to use our special bowl to give her something to focus on, so then we can get some duration I can reward. I was trying to use the tossed treats for the same purpose, but it seemed to make her more erratic. I also did some work with having her "wait" on the platform so I could move around her and name the different positions. Sometimes she needs a bit of reminder on what "wait" means. Clearly I need to put some money in the "wait" bank, since it used to be one of her strongest behaviors. I was having her back into "under" to see if it'd work, and it will. So will leave the idea for the time being, until we get the "away" solid.

Center-front pivot video - We just did this because we hadn't practiced it in awhile. Gimme does it nicely in both directions.

"Scoot" video - When I have her "down" in front of me, she immediately starts "scoot", so this is another area where I need to work with Gimme on waiting for the cue. I also want to have her go a bit further - so may try using one of the carpet squares as a target for her to go to.

It'll be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow, since Gimme is in her false pregnancy.  Cross your fingers...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Nosework (1/29 & 2/29)

This first class is from December 5th...  I forgot to take my camera so there are no videos.  We had three container searches.

Container 1 search - there were three areas, with blind hides, plus I had to call clear or finish.  Gimme found one hide in the first area and then wanted to move on, so I called "finish" and was right.  She found two hides in the second area, but wasn't eager to move on and yet wasn't really searching, so I called "finish" and was right.  Gimme wasn't really interested in the third area, so I called "clear" and was right.  This has been one of my biggest challenges, so it was nice to get it all right.

Container 2 search - all in one area, with the same hides and a couple added hides.  Gimme found all the hides really fast and was having a great time.  She didn't really need me for this search.  I did notice she was getting more excited, which she often does with repeat container searches.

Container 3 search - the containers were moved again and some were moved outside the regular pattern, so it was like a mix of containers and interior .  Although this was another container search, she didn't go over the top.  I think when containers are set up in some way other than a big field of boxes, then Gimme does better.  This might explain why she doesn't get over the top when we do an element trial on containers.

Second class is December 19th...  with the co-instructor. 

Container 1 video - we had containers in two straight lines, with 6 hides.  We were supposed to go along the boxes, then reverse course and do the lines again.  Gimme missed one the first time around and found them all the second time.  She thought eleven hides in 1:24 was a lot of fun.

Container 2 videothe containers were set in one line and we were instructed to stop/pause at every container going down the line, then reverse course and repeat coming back to the beginning  Since the containers were only 3 feet apart, this meant keeping Gimme on a very short leash.  The instructor wanted us to purposely handle in a way that would frustrate the dogs.  For the two slower beginner dogs, this worked okay and they did a better job, actually checking each box.  For the two fast dogs, Gimme and Moxie, it had the opposite affect - they got frustrated, not understanding these new idiot-rules.  Gimme got so frustrated she snarked my finger once, something she never does.  By the time Gimme and I were done, she was both frustrated and confused - so she resorted to indicating every box in hopes she'd make me happy.  I see on video her indications on odor were more vigorous, which wasn't obvious in real time.  There was nothing here I want to add to our repertoire.

Well, gotta git.  While I've been typing this, Gimme has been trying to get my attention.  She's dumped at least half of her new toys on my keyboard, one at a time.  She's pretty certain she's being neglected.

BTW I came home from work today to discover she'd slept on top of her cozy cave bed.  Apparently she thinks it's pretty comfy, but still doesn't understand about getting inside, even though I lured her into it before I left this morning.  She was out of it moments later.  So tonight I did a free-shaping session, teaching her to get into the bed.  I'm hoping this will somehow lead to her getting into it on her own at some point.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

Christmas is
Love come down to earth,
a Gift of infinite worth.

Merry Christmas
For Christmas Gimme got 25 toys in a cozy cave bed.  I started collecting them two months ago.  She has so many it gets harder and harder to find unique toys.  It turns out my idea of 25 unique toys included three skunk toys, so I might be failing on the uniqueness front.  A store clerk told me I  am spoiling her - which is a very rude thing to say.  Gimme and I are both certain she deserves all these toys.
The next really hard thing is sneaking the toys in the house.  Gimme ignores everything I bring in, but she always knows when it's something for her, and then she's all over the bag.  I forgot a package of beef jerky in my work bag and she paid no attention to it even though it was easily accessible all weekend.  So, to get them in the house, I bring them in the back porch and leave them there.  Then I put Gimme outside through the front door and while she's out I bring them in, quickly clip the tags and then put them in my hide away drawer.  It's really not a hiding place as you might think of it, since she knows there is stuff in there for her and she checks the edges of the drawer quite thoroughly with her nose.  I'm sure she knows exactly how many toys I've added.  Fortunately she can't get the drawer open.
So last night when I got up around 2:00 a.m. for my usual potty break, I removed the toys from the drawer and transferred them to the office where I'd put the cozy cave bed and then closed the door.  Of course, when I went back to bed after my trip to the bathroom, I found Gimme sitting upright in the bed looking at me suspiciously.  She also pointedly looked over at the drawer a couple of times.  I so have to find another place to hide things. 
In the morning when she was outside, I stuffed the toys in the bed and met her in the living room as she came in.  We went back to bed - where she made a production of sniffing my hands.  I was beginning to suspect she knew I was up to something.  When I got up to start the day an hour later, I set up the video camera.  Then moved the cozy cave package to the couch and called to Gimme, letting her know Santa had come.
She rushed in and immediately checked out her package - pulling out a toy.  My plan had been to video her discoveries and fun, but it's a very long video.  She played with the first toy for twenty minutes, excitedly squeaking it and batting it around.  Then she suddenly stopped, got an expectant look on her face, leaped up and checked her package for more toys.  She pulled them out one-by-one and played with each for awhile before going to get another one.
I thought about editing it down to just show her getting each toy out.  Then I saw there was almost 2 hours of video I'd have to review and quickly decided you'd have to take my word for it.  Gimme was very cute and had a blast.  She didn't even mind discovering there were three skunks, though I noticed later, they ended up side-by-side on the floor.  Of course, like any kid, when the party was over she plopped her poor pitiful self across the top of the cozy cave, looking depressed. 
What's a poor girl to do?  All those toys and not a thing fit to play with...
Then we went to Mom's to fix her lunch and the like.  When we got home 4½  hours later Gimme ran in and excitedly stuck her head in the cozy cave, checking-checking-checking.  After finding nothing, she went to the bedroom and slumped herself on the bed, looking dejected.  I think she was hoping it had given birth to some new toys. 
BTW she is completely unimpressed with the bed as a possible place to sleep.  I'm hoping she will discover it's value when I go to work and am not here to hold the edge of the covers up for her.  I'll let you know...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

RFE practice (58)

This practice session was on November 30th and it's now the 10th of December, so you can see I am really far behind on blogging again.  I'm busy making Christmas gifts and they need to be mailed to the recipients, so I'm under a time crunch to get them done.  Naturally they are taking five times as long to do as I expected.  The facility was particularly noisy with a lot more screeching dogs than usual, which is distracting for Gimme.  Hopefully this next time will be quieter, since we'll be taping for an MDSA video. 

"Can" & "spin" video - J'Anna thought maybe the reason Gimme is reluctant to "spin" now has to do with her foot position on the can. She noticed Gimme often has her back feet right in the middle of the can, leaving her less room to move her feet when I ask for a spin. So I was then wondering if this could be caused by how she mounts the can. Most of the time when she does "bacon", it's followed by "sit", so it stands to reason she might bring her back feet more up under her out of habit. Video does seem to support this idea. You can see at 2:30 how far forward her back feet are. I plan to encourage her to approach the can front feet first and see if we can get the spin again. I'll need to go back to the basics of get-on-stand-stay. I'm thinking if I always make her mount it coming from either "heel" or "side", then she'll turn toward me, practicing half a spin, but I'll have to be quick to interrupt any variations. Case in point being her new tendency to walk on with her front feet and continue until only the back feet are on, then back the front feet on again. Clearly I should never have encouraged "bacon" onto this prop. 

Pivoting-turn dog-inside video - The idea is to use our "brick" as a foot target, so we can make a pivoting turn with Gimme's front feet as the pivot point. Since I originally taught her to pivot around me, this is a challenge. Using Kathy Weaver's approach, I'm hoping to create the behavior with stylized footwork on my part. I think we might need to go back to basics so Gimme can "brick" without immediately starting an independent "pivot". I need to put some money in the get-on-be-still bank account. Once I convince her we aren't doing an independent "pivot", she does beautifully. I can also see I need to feed lower so she stops standing half crouched in her rear.

Backward weaves (no video) - We continue to struggle with this. I have tried so many things. Sometimes they work a couple of times and then stop working. I believe Gimme is brilliant, so I'm sure she just doesn't understand what the heck I want from her. I think the very specific way RFE wants it done adds to the challenge. It seems counter-intuitive to me. I'm not at all happy with any of the options I've tried and certainly don't like the negative affect on other behaviors. I know she's trying very hard and we are both frustrated. Obviously this is not where I want to be with my bold and bodacious girl.

I have an idea to create a channel of guides with a double bend in it, mimicking the s-curve movement, so I can get her completely comfortable with the move, with me out of the equation. I'll put a platform in it and have her start on the platform, take one step forward, then back onto the platform. I'll do this incrementally until she's taking many steps forward through the two bends - then backing down the channel to the platform. When she is doing this boldly, then I'll change my orientation until I'm in "heel" (or "side") when she's forward in the channel. Over time I'll move until she's backing through my legs using the channel and platform. I just think I need to take this soooo much slower than I've been doing. It's an advanced behavior, so we have plenty of time. If we never get it, so be it. I'd rather take a zero on the behavior than to have my sweet girl be so frustrated. It's not fun for either of us. 

"Pivot" video - Gimme does a great job on her counter-clockwise "pivot". I did see her step on the brick with front feet, walk forward until her back feet are on, then back again until front feet are on - just as I was seeing in her "can". It seems her favorite backing behaviors are contaminating other behaviors across the board, so we need to go back to basics here as well. She can do "tivo" (clockwise pivot), but only if my hand is over her head. I want to play with free-shaping this to get my hand out of the picture. I think the basics work has to come first. 

Sidepass into dog video - I discovered Gimme watches both of my feet, not just the one closest to her. So if I can remember to stop with my feet apart and then close the foot farthest toward the near foot, she starts stepping away right away. I think this is a feasible cue - all I have to do is remember my part. It's not as smooth when she's in "side", because I've pinched her toe when she's on my right so she tends to swing out, just to be safe. I'm still clicking if she swings from my right, but feeding in proper position. She needs to know her feet are safe there too and it's gonna take time. For now my feet are obviously far apart, but I'm sure I'll be able to stop with them closer as we refine this signal. I love-love-love figuring out what cue works for her. 

Backing in heel video - This is still a work in progress. Gimme does best with a foot target (carpet square or platform) or a channel (wall or guide for barrier). Otherwise she tends to swing her butt from side to side. I've been watching these videos and trying to figure out why one is better than another, even though all other factors are the same. Between the first and second time, the first is noticeably better, but I can't tell why. There has to be a reason, I just can't see it yet.

"Izzy" & "otto" video - These two behaviors have deteriorated and I blame it on trying to teach backward weaves. It takes me just a couple of tries to refresh them when we first work on them. Then when I want to practice them during the next session, "otto" seemed to fall apart badly. I didn't realize it, but it's clear on the video - I was cuing "izzy" when she was in "otto" position. Poor Gimme. It must be so frustrating for her to be unable to communicate why she can't do something I keep asking for over and over. She really deserves better. 

"Scoot" & "grape" video - I love Gimme's "scoot" (crawl backwards). So when I try to change her to another behavior cuing "grape" (rollover) and she gives me a "scoot", chances are pretty good I'll click and treat for it. She's really good at sucking me into her game especially when she's doing something this cute. I'd like to have more distance and am thinking of trying a foot target to back to, like we do with other backing behaviors. You have to admit, this trick is way beyond cute.

"Around" & "under" video - Right as we started it one of the daycare dogs squealed like it was being killed. Gimme was startled and stopped. Then as I got her positioned to try it again, there was some major barking. It's a lot of distraction, so I helped her succeed and paid very well. Fortunately we got a few quiet moments, so she was able to do it without help. I wish there were a better option for training, but this is what we have and we have to make do with whatever is happening when we're there.

"Away" & "under" video - Gimme doesn't really know "away" yet, so mixing it with "under", followed by "heel" was totally unfair. I was just trying to see what it was going to take to get one of the advanced behaviors. Actually I think it'll be pretty easy. I just need to teach the individual parts and then put them together.

Gimme is amazingly tolerant of my shenanigans, especially as I try to figure out how to teach something neither of us has done before. I try to look stuff up on the internet, but often can't find what I'm looking for. Case in point, the backward weaves. I found several examples, but they are all done with different footwork, so it requires a completely different training sequence.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Nosework (6/28)

We did pretty much the same exercise as the week before, hides in puzzles, though the "entrances" were changed.

Interior 1 video - Some of the apparent weirdness in the video is when Dorothy is trying to move hides, so we visit the same puzzles again in the same search. By changing it, this search becomes an endurance exercise, though 5+ minutes is hardly endurance by Gimme's standards. She quickly scans the whole area and then goes right to work. Dorothy recognizes this as a valid strategy, the other instructor doesn't. Gimme gets thrown off in the second puzzle when she notices my hand moving toward the treat bag while she was checking out lingering odor - though she quickly goes back to work and finds source. In the bathroom puzzle, the hide is on the lower door hinge and Gimme is the only one to have sourced it from in front of the door, every other dog went behind the door. She does a nice job with the other searches. Interestingly after getting caught up in lingering odor on the red cart and then going to the ladder, she was the fastest dog to find source on the red cart. It was a very nice search. 

Interior 2 (no video) - Dorothy moved all the hides from the puzzles to the perimeter of the room.  After the first search the dogs expected to find the hides in the puzzles, so when they came in for the second search it was very different from what they expected.  All the other handlers kept their dogs on leash so they could manage their work and I noticed the dogs wanted to go to the puzzles, which was both a distraction and frustrating. I chose to avoid possible frustration, so I turned Gimme loose to search off leash.  I think I got better results. Yes, she did check out the puzzles, but only briefly. Then on her own she scanned around the perimeter finding all five hides in sequence. She was a minute or more faster than the other dogs. I'm sure Dorothy doubted my wisdom at the beginning, but then complimented how well it worked for Gimme. Unfortunately, while Dorothy did a great job watching us through the viewfinder, she forgot to push the record button. It was really a lovely search - too bad we don't have a video.

Gimme did a nice job, as always.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Barn Hunt & Weight Pull Weekend

I entered the annual 3-day Thanksgiving barn hunt and weight pull trial. In the past they've held two barn hunt trials each day and this time there was only one. Gimme came into the trial needing 5 Masters legs, 280 Crazy-8 points and 50 weight pull points. I'll talk about barn hunt and weight pull separately.


Friday - We started with Crazy-8, where Gimme got 50 points, using good paw indications. In Masters she found one rat out of 2. She gave me a false alert after a long time in the ring without finding the second rat. I think she just said it was there to please me. We worked on this at our last practice, but clearly need to work on it more.  The rat she missed was deep between two bales, so something we'll set up at a practice.

Saturday - In Crazy-8 Gimme again got 50 points. Her paw indications disappeared in favor of barking at the rat tubes. I did respond to them because her nose was mere inches from the tube. All I want is a clear indication so I know exactly which tube she means. In Masters she found 3 rats of 5. She kept going to gate so I called "clear" and was wrong. I think she wants to get out to where the peanut butter is. It occurs to me we've never worked through PB as a distraction. When we go to practice, we don't wait in a blind so I don't take it with me. I'll have to set this up as an intentional distraction.

Sunday - Gimme was a little tired this day, so she only got 40 points in Crazy-8. In Masters she found 2 rats of 4 and then we ran out of time. She missed a rat in the distance challenge and another in the corner. The way the distance challenge was set up, there was a row of bales for her to trot along, with some bales beside the fence on one side and the big pile on the other side. She checked along the big pile, but never really got her nose into the ground level spaces between the bales. It's an honest mistake since we never hit any distance challenge before this trial. The other rat she missed was in a corner past the distance challenge, but the bales she walked on sort of channeled her away from the corner. Both mistakes are just something which needs to be set up to add to her experience base.

Even though we didn't get any Master Q's, at least she was indicating honestly and clearly. There are some things we can work on so we get back in those Q's. She earned 140 points in Crazy-8, so we only need 140 points to complete her title - probably 3 runs would do it.


Gimme did a great job in weight pull, making a nice improvement in the amount of weight she wanted to pull. Since we started working toward a UWPCH, she's been consistently pulling enough weight to get us 10 points every run. As I've said before, unless we got to higher points, I really didn't see us going beyond the weight pull championship.

Friday - Gimme did a solid job and earned her usual 10 points. I did think she acted a little weird about stuff behind her for no discernible reason.

Saturday - Because of her sensitive behavior the day before, I used some known cues while I was hooking her up. I walked her through the cart's trace lines and then cued her to "wait". I also kept the leash on so I could hold the leash while I hooked her up, instead of having my hand awkwardly in her collar. UKC rules require handlers to have physical contact while hooking up and once you let go, you can't touch them again until after you complete the pull. After she was hooked up I encouraged Gimme to step forward with our "step" cue from parkour, it's one step at a time. My plan was to encourage her to pull just a little higher percentage than she's done before. She usually struggles a bit with a 10-point pull. This time she did it easily, probably because she's using better form. Anyway, since her times were clearly under 10 seconds, I asked for more and she got all the way to a 15-point pull. She would have pulled more because she is just ready, but I wanted to end on fun success. Angie complimented me for stopping earlier than needed.

This picture is Gimme playing with her new personal-best toy reward. Everyone knows I have a penchant for spoiling her with toys; Gimme says it's not "spoiling" cuz she deserves it. She is usually very careful to remove the stitches on a seam and then takes out any excess stuffing (she prefers a realistically dead floppiness in her toys). This time she made a little hole in the middle, folded it over so the stuffing protruded and started modifying it.

While I was taking drugs for a migraine, Gimme helped herself to the toy from a bag with a bunch of other stuff. She always knows when she's getting a new toy and never pays attention to a bag that doesn't have something in it for her - she also doesn't see any point in waiting for a toy when it's clearly hers. Who else would it be for?

Sunday - Gimme again pulled enough weight for 15 points, even going 80 pounds past what she needed. I wanted to be sure we beat the big Swiss Mtn. Dog for Most Weight Pulled per Body Pound. He'd beat us by two-tenths of a percent (or less) on Friday and Saturday. Turns out he pooped out on Sunday and we beat him by over 5 percent. We've competed against him 5 times and have beaten him 3 of those times. He's a big dummy, so Gimme likes beating him. None of the other dogs in our division have really been any competition.

You can see her pull times go over ten seconds for the last two pulls on Sunday; I think she was just a little tired. The rule of thumb is as long as their pull time is below ten seconds, then the dog can readily pull more weight. Physically Gimme can likely pull the UKC maximum-allowed, but she doesn't believe she can. It'll come. I want to be careful in our progression. I see too many dogs who are "broken" and don't believe they can pull even really low weights, so they just quit. Angie says it most often comes from handlers who pushed their dog too far and/or too soon. 

Interestingly, Gimme pulled off to her right for every pull this weekend.  It's actually inefficient, but she consistently did it in every pull.  The first time she did this was when she pulled on rails (in September).  I think the first time probably coincided with a hard pull where it broke free for her, so now she is superstitious and thinks this is easier.

Gimme ended the weight pull part of her weekend with 40 points (ten to go to get her weight pull CH), earning first place in her class and Most Weight Pulled per Body Pound Veteran in her division, all three days. On Sunday she earned Most Weight Pulled per Body Pound for her division.

Here's a picture of Gimme with all her new ribbons. Two of the big rosettes are for the two other times she earned Most Weight Pulled per Body Pound (September).  Sadly they don't have a special ribbon for Most Weight Pulled per Body Pound Veteran.  Of course she cares more about toys and peanut butter than ribbons.  Just sayin...