Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
NW1, NW2, L1I, L1E, L1C, RATI, RATN, RATO, RATS, L1V, L2C, L2I, L2E, RATM,
R-FE/N, PKD-TL, PKD-N, ADPL1, ADPL2, TD, UWP, ADPL3, NTD, TKN, L2V, ADPL4,
SDS-N, ADPL5, ADPCH, ADP1(2), ADPL1(GC), ADPL2(2), ADPL2(GC), VPN, AP,
UWPCH, ADPL3(2), ADPL3(GC), NC, NI, NE, SCN, SIN, SEN, CZ8B, NV, NN,
ADPL4(2), ADPL4(GC), ADPGCH, ADPL5(2) and RATCH... 52 and counting...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

RFE practice (62)

J'Anna couldn't meet last week, so I went by myself. I set up my camera on the tripod and put out number signs to mark the area I could work in. I could have missed, but wanted to do another video for the Ray Underwood MDSA workshop.

MDSA workshop - The first part of this video is a clip of me walking the way Ray suggests. I don't find it pleasing the way my hips sway side-to-side. Ray said to imagine I'm walking with a book on my head. I've tried it since, but don't have a video of it to check the optics yet. I included a short clip of Gimme doing "otto" so Ray would see she really does love backing-up moves. From there we did a few individual "thru" as a warm up and then did them in sequence. Since Ray's recommended way of moving as a handler makes a smaller space, Gimme sometimes misses it. This will just take a little time. Right in the middle of doing the sequences, she was distracted by a dog standing right by the ring gate. To her credit, she stayed with me and then was able to get back to work pretty quickly. Then we did some warm-up "beep" from in front, followed by "beep" from "heel" and "side". This is the first time I'd asked Gimme to do this without a barrier in front of her. One time she was ready and did "beep" before I was ready. Needless to say, I'm very proud of Gimme's efforts and her progress.

"Izzy" & "otto" video - The girl has her "izzy" and "otto" back. Right now the "izzy" is sometimes a wide circle, so I plan to work on it extra. In practices when I do both, I'll work "izzy" before "otto".

Center-front pivot video - Gimme does a nice job with this. I spent a bit of time putting some treats into the wait-for-the-cue bank account. As usual, she's always up to turn something moving counter-clockwise into "otto". So I did it a second time going slower; without the momentum she is able to stick with the behavior we were practicing.

Sidepass in front video -
She does really nice with this. Her work moving her heiney to her-right-my-left is stronger. So I want to put some extra focus into the other direction.


Sit-Stand & Down-Stand video - "Sit"-"stand" in "heel" went well. I haven't asked Gimme to "down" in "heel" for a long time, so we needed a couple tries to get her heiney down as she tried to turn it into "take-a" bow. Going from "down" to "stand" needs some focus. So there are 3 things to focus on and they need work separately: full down (not a bow), down alignment in heel (no butt angled out) and coming up into a stand. Interesting I haven't specifically worked on Sit-Stand in a long time, but she does it well on both sides. I think I have just cued stand often enough when she sits and I don't want it, so it's kept the understanding at a higher level. The last Down-Stand in "side" position was perfect. Obviously this isn't going to take much effort to get the behavior strong again.

"Fanny" video - Needless to say, to Gimme, any opportunity to work in "otto" or "izzy" is fair game. Clearly we don't have those two on stimulus control yet. While she is mostly out of her false pregnancy, I did notice she got a bit food crazy and stopped listening. I see this a lot with the f.p. and I find it helps her if I slow her down, giving her some strokes and such. I don't think she's really clear on this behavior. I want to try working this with multiple platforms... in position for "side", "heel", "center" and "fanny". I think having them there will make her less likely to do "otto" and "izzy", plus they'll help to stabilize her positions. Clearly needs a lot of work.

Circle Handler 3x video - Gimme has gotten a little sticky on this, so we just need to practice it more.

Backing in heel video - This is still a work in progress, which surprises me given how much Gimme loves backing up. While watching this I just had a realization. Gimme has a strong tendency to swing her butt out when she is in "side" position - I call it a fishtail. She does the same thing in "heel" position and in the same direction. It's her preferred direction when stepping to the side with her back feet. In "heel" it keeps her in a tighter position, while in "side" her butt goes out of position. I think I need some barriers to help build muscle memory.

Paw lift video - We were working on her left paw, cue is "low". I noticed in the video the first paw lift was perfect, nice and high while keeping her right paw on the ground. Then as she gets more excited she starts bringing the right paw up. I may need to just do one or two reps and then intersperse other behaviors. I definitely need to be using a clicker so I can pinpoint when the left paw is coming up and the right paw is still on the ground. This is more of an issue for the left paw lift than for the right paw lift. Sometimes she sits there with her paw held off the ground, waiting for another chance to do it - I need to be mindful and only give the cue when both paws are on the ground.

Overall a nice session and having the video on the tripod didn't turn out too bad either.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Nosework (6/29)

This week we continued with some more nosework on the expen-walls. Gimme is almost totally back to normal. She was dragging me from the car into the building. It was great to see her searching with her usual focus and to see she had her full wag on.

Interior 1 video - Just one hide and not on the first part of the expen-walls. You'll notice she pays almost no attention to it. She has the hide in 12 seconds. And then we take a quick trip around again - not finding anything else, Gimme wants to check out the rest of the room, but then gets back on the wall and gets rewarded again.

Interior 2 video - This time we were doing this running-bunny style (where the hides get moved around while the search is happening). Gimme finds the first hide in 22 seconds. Because we are doing running-bunny it seems like Gimme missed one when she initially sniffed the area of the second hide, but it was added as we were going around - nailed in 9 seconds. If you watch you'll see she realized Dorothy was at the second hide and she comes back to see what she did. She missed the third hide at first, but then gets it in the second pass. Then Dorothy sneaked in another hide just a few feet away.

Interior 3 video - This time they added hides on the first wall, continued with running-bunny style and Gimme got to search off leash (which she always enjoys). She nails the first hide in 5 seconds! When she comes out of the canopy-pen, she suddenly realizes there is a hide on the first wall (which she raced by initially). You'll see her follow scent away from the hide and then go back toward it, though in this case she has to go around to the far side to source it. While Gimme is looking for the third hide, Dorothy moves the hide on the first wall. It takes Gimme a little longer than usual to find the third hide. This makes sense since the hides are in place a very short time before the dogs start hunting for them, so they don't have time to cook. But as the name suggests, there isn't time for bunny scent to cook when they are on the run and the dog is hunting for them. It's just a bit different as challenges go. From there Gimme goes around and then realizes the hide on the first wall had moved and goes almost right to it. Then she gets another hide on the back of the canopy wall. The last hide is placed on the chair under the canopy. Gimme has already been in there twice, finding only lingering odor, so it takes her awhile to decide to check it again. You can see when she goes under the canopy again, at first she doesn't trust her nose on the chair and starts checking the wall before going back to check the chair, again.

This third search is really interesting to me. I see she rechecks things, but since the hides have moved, this makes perfect sense. Clearly she knows it's moving and so doesn't rule anything out. I've watched it several times, noting the changes of behavior and decision points.

She really was on... I love seeing Gimme have so much fun.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Urban Tracking (70)

Nadine didn't get back to town in time, so we didn't meet for tracking on Thursday. I had a meeting to attend near the Shelton airport Saturday morning. It's a fairly rural area and I was sure I could find a place to track, so I took Gimme along.

I laid a track after the meeting, which was aged 25 minutes. It was damp, off and on drizzling, with off and on breezy. The breezes were skirting around the buildings (yellow). The black dotted lines between the buildings are chainlink fences.

Given the site, I focused on transitions when I laid the track. Gimme was a little slow to get started, but she got through the 2 transitions on the first leg and through the first turn. As is her usual pattern she used the first leg and turn to get into what she was doing and then did well. She did have difficulty with the second turn, which was right next to the chainlink fence, just as we passed beyond the second building. I didn't really think about the extra challenge of the chainlink, it was just how it turned out. 

Overall she did nicely and I was proud of her.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Nosework (5/29)

Gimme is showing she is coming out of her false pregnancy, so I decided to try the first search without pairing. She was a little slow to get started, but once she got going she did well. Dorothy found a lot more stuff to attach to the wall. Again, it's harder than it looks because of the way the expen-wall affects the movement of scent.

Interior 1 video - It takes Gimme to 40 seconds to find the first hide, but then she starts going faster. The second hide took under 15 seconds, then about 35 seconds to the third hide. She gets a bit too food focused (starting right after she mugs me) and instead of working the odor, starts poking everything with her nose trying to get the food. The fourth one seems to be a bit of challenge, but then she nails it. After it, she goes a bit far from the "wall" and while Dorothy wanted me to bring her in closer, I didn't. I know Gimme and she has a history of working out to the edge of odor and then coming back in, which is what she does here. Her line from the "neverland" to the fifth hide was really direct. Then she re-finds one, before getting to number six. If you watch carefully at the beginning of the video, Gimme did note it early on, but walked it. Dorothy suggests we work our way down the near side of the wall on the way out - which I was happy to do and Gimme found 3 more.

Interior 2 video - Gimme races from the start line right to the first hide - just 2 seconds. I don't know why she took me back to the first one, but I gave her a piece of cheese (not chicken nugget) for it. Then she goes directly to her second hide. Her work to the third hide was nice and clean. It was interesting that she took me back up the line to find the one she'd just passed (the fourth). She pushes further up the wall, almost to the first one. When I restrict her line a little, she turns right around and shows me number five. The tuna sized can blocked by the chair presents a lot of challenge. And then the small tin behind the other chair was hard too. She re-finds a couple hides and then we finally find the last hide. I move my body next to the expen wall to create another wall, which will sometimes block the movement of scent, concentrating it more in the area. It's not really a useful tactic at a trial where you don't know where the hide is, but it can be helpful in training.

Interior 3 video - For the last search the dogs got to run it off leash. I found it interesting how she completely runs down the expen-wall, scanning the setup. She finds this in 15 seconds. She was much faster finding 8 hides in 2:05. In general I think she's a lot faster without me holding her back; she certainly was here.

Gimme isn't obsessing about her baby any more, though she is carrying a toy around a lot and playing with them. I don't think of it as the baby, since its not the same one. At first she was mothering about six toys at a time, though she'd bring as many as ten of them to bed. The number of bed-babies gradually went down until we got to 1. After another week, she lost interest in the platypus baby, and now is focused on a different toy each day.

Since she's almost entirely back to "normal", so I'm eager to see how she does in class this week.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Urban Tracking (68 & 69)

On January 12th, Nadine and I met at Game Farm Park. The weather, while chilly, was dry and the breeze was light. Because of her condition, we kept track age down to 30 minutes. Nadine laid pretty much the same track as two weeks ago, but in reverse.

Gimme did a good job overall. She was a little slow to get focused on her work until about the first article, then she got into it and by the end of the first leg was a tracking machine. Nadine made sure to pass behind one set of bleachers and in front of the other set. I didn't notice any difference in how Gimme handled them.

Our biggest challenge was the little boy who wanted to pet her... and then when he finally left us, went on to handle two of her articles. We asked him to put them down and he did, moving them about 5 feet off the track. Gimme had only a little difficulty getting back to work after this distraction and there was no sign she had any problem finding the moved articles.

On January 13th, we went to Medline for some late morning tracking. It was cool, no breeze and damp ground. I kept track age at 25 minutes and kept the track short, just 211 yards long.

It was a really simple track with lots of articles for reward points. We had a start sock, a whistle/lanyard, two shoe parts, a 2" piece of plastic comb and a final glove, in that order. Gimme missed the comb, which was close to the end of the track. Obviously we'll do a bunch of small pieces of plastic as articles in the future.


I set up an intentional challenge by taking the track between two 18-wheeler trailers, which were parked by a landscaping strip. Right before we got to this place in the track, a breeze picked up and based on her behavior it may have swirled a bit behind the trailers. Gimme came up the back of the trailers, turned left making a short loop on the landscaping strip, then turned back and looped farther down the strip behind the trailer on the right. This quick back-and-forth formed a perfect figure-8 (blue line). She then came back
to the track and drove hard and fast down
the track between the two trailers. 

Other than missing the comb piece, she did a wonderful job and seemed to thoroughly enjoy herself. She's an awesome tracking girl. Just sayin...

Monday, January 15, 2018

RFE practice (61)

On January 11th Gimme was still deep in her false pregnancy, so we didn't do very many things, tried to keep everything upbeat and sessions shorter. We started with some heeling warm up and it did help a bit with getting her focused and in a working mindset. However, there were people training Papillons in the next ring and it was very distracting for her.

My main goal was to do a video for the MDSA workshop this month. Ray Underwood is our presenter and he is trying to teach us a fancy weave. Naturally it's the backward weave which we've had so much trouble with. I think I was just expecting far too much because Gimme is normally so good at anything backing up. Not sure why this is challenging for her, but it is.

MDSA Workshop video - This video has three different segments. First part - is doing single "thru" while using Ray's footwork. This was easy for Gimme, though more challenging for me. Second part - is practicing the back through. I want to try this again and lure Gimme into position, so she doesn't experience the unease from me stepping over her. I have a cue for her to get between my legs, "under", but I don't want to risk creating an unintended behavior chain of come "under" then immediately back out. Third part - is putting 2 or 3 individual "thru's together. Gimme knows this, but by using Ray's footwork, the space to go through is a bit smaller, so she missed it a couple times.

Paw lifts video - My goal was to get more paw lifts without the second paw coming off the ground. This is harder for her with "low" (left paw) than it is for "high", I think because one shoulder isn't as flexible. You can see how distracted she was by the Papillons, we were a bit too close to them. She did better when she turned her back to them. I was also giving her some treats for waiting for the cue.

"Izzy" & "otto" video - She did really well with her "otto", which we've been working on restoring. But then she had difficulty with "izzy". She goobered up the first one, switching to "otto" midway. Then she did a brilliant one. I wish I'd known it was going to be hard for her and I would have stopped with the one. I wish I had thought to turn toward her so I could reward smaller parts of this, until she was ready to do another whole one. I moved to a different part of the room so she wasn't looking right at the other dogs. Not sure why it morphed into a "turn" for a bit there, but we did get it.


 
"Scoot" & "grape" video - I followed "otto" & "izzy" with some known simple behaviors and then we did a really short session on "scoot" with a couple of "grape" thrown in. I just wanted to end on a fun note.

Circle 3x video - Gimme had a really hard time getting into a working mindset (starting the second session), so we had to work that out first. Even then she was really wide in her "behind", though it got better. I think my training could have been more effective, i.e. by rewarding several full "behind" circles before asking for multiples. She did much better with "around"; likely because we'd already gotten her brain into the game.

Circles as handler turns opposite video - Gimme is supposed to make two circles for my one turn. We didn't get two in any of these. I was happy to reward her enthusiastically working with me.

Spin to center video - This went so much better, even though we hadn't practiced it in ages. There were little bobbles the first time, but she quickly got into what we were doing.

Simultaneous spins video - You may have noticed the circle around me in the last video to get into "side" and then she did it again here. I didn't realize it before, but I think she's using the "side" cue as a reason to offer a "behind", hoping to get rewarded for it. I don't get why J'Anna was laughing - I thought Gimme did fine considering we haven't done this in many months.

Center pivot and sidepass video - Gimme did these nicely. She always does a better job stepping her rear to her right, in both the pivot and the sidepass. Clearly I need to practice more going the other direction.

I have since practiced all of these again at home and Gimme did much better. She is easing out of the false pregnancy, which helps with focus, as does being at home.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Nosework (3/29 & 4/29)

For our January 2nd class, I forgot to take the camera. It's just as well; Gimme was deep in her false pregnancy and struggled, overall.

Exterior searches - We started with a series of 4 simple searches with either one or zero hides. Our task was to state whether we thought there was a hide, or not, before our dog alerted.

  1. The first search was under an adjacent portico. Gimme was only loosely interested in searching, so I called it "clear". There was a hide and the instructor told me where it was so I could help Gimme find it, high up and under the mailbox. She was excited then, as if to say, "Oh yeaaaah, I remember this."
  2. The second search was in a small area of the parking lot, about three stalls wide, filled with construction materials. Gimme again seemed lackadaisical and I called it "clear". Right after I did so, she caught the drift of odor and with support was able to find the hide. It was down in a small concrete box (like the kind used for utility meters). So it was a little difficult, but wouldn't normally present a challenge for her.
  3. The third search was another portico and the hide was at the base of a column. Again I said it was "clear" and it wasn't. With support and extra time, Gimme was able to find this one.
  4. Again in a portico and Gimme searched briefly and then was more interested in going out to the grass. Of course, by now I was reticent to call "clear" and this time it really was.
The lesson learned here: even though I'm not consistently able to call it correctly, though improving; I totally suck at it when I'm not working my usually extremely talented girl. Duh...

Interior search 1 - This search had the hide underneath the base of the red cart with a fan about 5 feet away and blowing directly on it. Five feet in the other direction was a mass of stuff covered by a tarp, to create a large surface for odor to catch on. As the dogs tried to work it out, if they struggled the instructor turned the fan down to its lowest setting. If they continued to have difficulty, she turned it off. Only one dog of 4 didn't have to have it turned off, August - he's the only dog in class who is consistently as good as Gimme. While we did need the fan turned off for Gimme to source the hide, the best part was how long she was willing to work at this. The search lasted over 5 minutes and there was no sign Gimme was ready to give up.

Interior search 2 - This was a recovery search, so the dogs could end on an easy search to maintain their motivation. The fan was left off and the red cart was moved a bit and turned over, making the hide more accessible. Gimme found this in a reasonable time. Normally she would have found it much faster, but I was happy that she was focused and really working. Good girl.


For our January 9th class, I remembered the camera and Dorothy was there so I have video for two of the three searches.

Interior search 1 video - This search is set up on a set of highs and lows along two long sets of exercise pens. The actual hides were in regular tins and there was also a set of tuna cans painted black, which were a big visual draw. The idea was to replicate the search walls used in training by professional detection handlers. While some aspects were similar, I think this was much harder than intended. One thing we know from tracking is how challenging chainlink fences are for even the most experienced of dogs. I can't help thinking these hides on a long stretch of open expen have to act similar to the way a chainlink fence acts on a track as far as 10 feet away.

As for Gimme, she again had difficulty because of her false pregnancy. I got the obligatory reminder to keep the "leash nice and short", which I ignored. It works best for us if we have a short rush into the search area and then I close up to her. While she was searching, she wasn't finding anything, so a minute into the search, I pointed out the nearest hide to her, "cheating". As she deals with this challenge, I think it's my job to help her get into what we are doing. To her credit, she had an "ahah" moment and found the next hide in just 16 seconds. It took her 45 seconds to find the other hide again from the other side, with me supporting her by keeping her in the area. In some ways it seemed like she may have known it was there and didn't think re-finding it was valid, since I don't usually pay her a second time for the same hide. Or maybe not.

Interior search 2 video - To make this a more successful search for Gimme, we paired all the hides, which helped a lot. Dorothy commented how she loves the way Gimme gets her self-reward and then turns back to me for more - which is something I've encouraged by keeping her there and rewarding her again, whether she looks to me or not. The good news. One challenge with the paired hides is how often the treat fell to the other side of the expen fencing, which I mostly solved by lifting and moving the expen so she could still get it and then gave her another treat.

Interior search 3 (no video) - There was a third search which somehow did not get taped. It was again paired and mostly the same results. The one thing I noticed which was different, if Gimme came to a hide she'd already found, so it was no longer paired, she just moved on. The bad news. She's too adept at changing her behavior and abandoning behaviors which have worked in the past in favor of a new behavior. In this case abandoning her indication of odor, regardless of whether it is paired.

Overall she did better and I expect her to be much closer to her normal skill level this coming class. She's getting more and more comfortable leaving the baby and working.

Which is not to say she doesn't take good care of her babies. She's always been prone to going back to bed after her first trip outside in the morning. Now she snuggles up with the baby. Don't anyone tell her it's a platypus...



Wednesday, January 10, 2018

RFE practice (60)

This practice was almost 2 weeks ago. Gimme did well, especially considering her approaching false pregnancy. I wasn't feeling up to par myself, so we didn't work as much as usual.

Free-shaping with a ball video - J'Anna has been teaching her dogs to roll a small barrel and I was curious to see what I could get Gimme to do with something that moved. In parkour she is used to putting her feet on things that move. She clearly had no issue with the ball moving. If I were to work on this for real, I'd want her to use her feet to move the ball toward me. So I think I'd need to stabilize it and/or limit its movement, then it would be easier to isolate when she stepped back on the ball. Might be fun.

"Away" with special bowl video - At first I was rewarding for her standing square on the platform and looking at the bowl - trying to use it as a visual target. Watching the video I see I was mostly lumping, waiting for her to look directly at the bowl, when I should have shaped a head turn in bowl direction. I did better as the session progressed. It's really hard for her to stay on the platform when her tail is wagging vigorously. I can't explain why I clicked so many times as she was running-to or eating-from the bowl. I think I was clicking secondary to "bowl" which is a reward marker itself - I don't know what my rationale was.

"Can" with "pivot" & "tivo" video - I have decided to go ahead and use the can for "pivot" and "tivo" (forehand pivots) and will use another prop to get back to the "spin" and "turn".

Pivot dog-inside video - J'Anna got caught up watching us and didn't turn the camera, so you miss about a minute of me rewarding wait-for-a-cue. J'Anna's  idea to use the guides makes no sense to me.  I think it might be helpful to have Gimme on a short tab leash when we are trying this off the brick. She understands the process on the brick... now I just need to make some more props out of thin board and sandpaper, to start fading the brick (2" thick wooden prop). I don't blame Gimme for the problems we are having nailing this down because I'd taught her a reverse pivot before I ever knew we needed this, so she has a long history of doing it different than this.  It's possible we'll end up losing points on this behavior as RFE defines it.

"Otto" and "izzy" video - Gimme's "otto" behavior degraded a bit from the various attempts to learn backward weaves. J'Anna had her guides set up for something she's doing, so I couldn't miss taking advantage of them to tune up "otto" and practice a couple "izzy". You can see how much faster she is with "izzy" and initially it wasn't the stronger behavior. We'll get it back, it's just going to take time.

Back around prop with platform - I saw a video a long time ago demonstrating how to teach a dog to back around a prop by having them back onto a platform and then gradually move the platform relative to the prop until the dog is backing around the prop to get on the platform. I always thought it would be a great way to teach the behavior. For us it wasn't effective. I think it could work, but I'd have to put a lot of focus on tuning up Gimme's platform behavior, so she aligns herself with it. I'd do it if I had to, but then I decided to try the guides and it went well.

Back around prop with guides video - This went much faster. My goal will be to have Gimme start in "center" position, back around a prop and then continue backing into "heel". I think I want to set up using two sets of guides, in a big "U" shape, where she can't cross over the middle. I also want to use a prop that isn't wobbly and also isn't wider at the top than the bottom. This has a lot of potential and it's also a behavior I want to use in parkour.

Distance spin - I was trying to use a combination of the special bowl and a carpet square to encourage Gimme to hold some distance from me. She acted like she thought the carpet square was our "mark" target, so I set it aside. There also seemed to be some avoidance of the special bowl, but its hard to tell because J'Anna was too focused on us and not on the camera, so we ended up out of view so often it's not clear what was going on. Next time I want to use guides as a barrier, to give her a place to stay and I'll have the special bowl further away, so it's a place to run for a reward, but not so close as to create pressure. As I said above, Gimme was close to the end of her "pregnancy" and almost ready to be a pseudo-Mom, so this may also have been a factor.

Sidepass in "center" video - I had to start with some wait-for-the-cue treats just to get her to be still for a few moments. Once I got her settled down, then she did nicely. I want to get to the point where she can smoothly do several steps at a time. Still what we are getting right now is a good place to start.

Sidepass dog at side video - This is coming along, slowly. I need to think about my footwork and have a clear distinction between when I'm moving closer to her and when I'm moving away.

I learned a lot about what I need to do to make our training more effective.  We have another practice in 2 days.  Because of her condition, I'll have to keep things fairly simple.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Barn Hunt practice

We joined the Eatonville Rat Rangers last Saturday, December 30th, for the "Goodbye 2017" barn hunt practice.

I had planned to do tracking that morning before practice, but I knew Gimme was starting into her false pregnancy, so wanted to stick with something easier, more natural. I thought fun and easy would be a better choice in her condition.

Still I wanted to challenge Gimme, so for both of her searches I placed an open jar of peanut butter outside the ring, just inches from the fencing. This is my idea to train on an issue I've noticed at trials. Gimme often goes to the gate repeatedly during our masters searches, making me think there are no more rats.  There was a time when it was a reliable time to call "finish", but not any more.  This doesn't happen at practices.

It occurred to me, I always have peanut butter in my treat bag at trials because we spend time in the blind and it's part of our routine to help her deal with close proximity to other dogs. So my treat bag with the peanut butter is left sitting on a bale of straw just a couple feet from the ring gate. At practices we go right in to the ring without spending time in a blind.  We do have to pass other dogs, but it's fast and we don't need peanut butter.

So I thought the PB in my bag might be drawing her to the gate. My plan is to have peanut butter outside the ring at practices until she is able to ignore it entirely. During practice Gimme repeatedly went to the gate where the PB jar was and I had to encourage her to get back to work finding rats. She did better during her second turn.

Next time I want to have the PB pre-positioned when we arrive at ringside and when we leave we'll walk by it to go outside for a walk. After our walk she can have some peanut butter in a Kong. I think we have to do two things, one - teach her she can't have it just because it's there, and two - have a significant break in time between being in the ring and getting peanut butter. I'm not sure how long that break needs to be.

It also occurs to me I should have a little dish of peanut butter as distraction when we are training other things, just to instill the idea.  She's able to walk 4 miles with me while I have her peanut butter go toob in my treat bag and she knows it's only available at certain times (when bicycles or dogs pass us).  She doesn't pester me for it at other times, so I think it's a matter of transferring this knowledge to the barn hunt set up.

 This is a process and it's just gonna take time.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Urban Tracking (64-67)

I have four tracking reports to make up, obviously, still trying to get caught up. 

Our searches on December 7th and 21st were pretty much set up the same, though we made it a point to switch areas. At Auburn Cinema we laid three straight-line tracks of 75, 100 and 150 yards. Breeze was negligible both days, but the second time it was really cold.

Both of the girls did well on the first day, but really struggled the second time. I think it was so cold the track was really just a thin line, with none of the usual scent dispersal. Gimme kept doing her "nothing here Ma" routine and I kept telling her to try again. By the third track she'd figured it out and did a very nice job.

On Friday, December 29th we met at Game Farm Park. I really wanted to focus on the remedial tracking plan for Cricket, so told Nadine to just lay us a simple track with lots of reward points.

The track she laid (in the pouring rain) had three legs with 2 articles per leg. The first leg she laid right along the edge of pavement and had to skirt around bleachers. The second leg started along the crest of a grassy knoll, but then continued on one of the paths along the edge of the pavement. The third leg continued down another paved strip, right next to the grass. This wasn't a challenging track for Gimme, but she did loose focus at two points, switching to walkabout on me. As it turns out, she went straight into her false pregnancy the next day, so that explains why she struggled with focus.

Cricket has developed a problem at Game Farm Park which is bleeding over to her enthusiasm for tracking in general (i.e. at Auburn Cinema too). I think Nadine was a bit too forceful in trying to discourage Cricket's vermin obsession (Squirrel!!!) and it just put her off of believing tracking is a fun game. On the weekend when I laid track for the TDX trial, I talked to Sil about her problem. The solution was straight out of his recent book, but required Cricket to be actually tracking and we hadn't been seeing that at Game Farm. So I offered the idea that we should use the area of the park away from the trees and just do article circles with a very high rate and high value rewards, which we could then move closer to the trees until we get to where we can use his solution. Sil agreed this should work.

So I laid a track with 8 articles in a big oval (in the pouring rain). We had to walk through the tree area, where the squirrels are seen, both coming and going. The good news is - with the bitter cold and rain, the squirrels had the good sense to be curled up somewhere warm and dry, so Cricket didn't get to see any. She was slow to get started on tracking, but Nadine just helped her and after a couple of times "finding" an article, Cricket got into the game. She did well on the rest of the article circle. That's the first time I've seen her tracking with enthusiasm at Game Farm in awhile, so it was very nice. She was looking for squirrels both coming and going as we passed through the tree area, but she was able to work out in the field in between, so I think that's a good place to start. I look forward to watching the progression as we solve this challenge. 

We missed tracking with Nadine this week because I woke up with a vicious migraine. So, yesterday, January 6th, I was determined to get back to our Saturday tracks at Medline. Because Gimme is in a full on false pregnancy, I wanted to keep it simple for her.

The track had 4 turns, 335 yards, and a strong breeze, but nothing new. We had a start sock, articles after every turn and/or landscaping strip, and the end article for a total of 6 articles. The track was less than 15 minutes old. Gimme started out doing really well, then at the last turn she just lost steam and told me, "Mommmmm, I can't do this anymore". I encouraged her to try some more and when she did, I gave her twice as many treats for the last two articles.

Now that things are settling down, I plan to get back on schedule. Nadine and I have missed about half of our tracking dates for one reason or another and Gimme and I haven't been to Medline on Saturdays since mid-November. We'll take it easy the next couple of times because of the false pregnancy, but otherwise I want to get back on schedule.