Lots to update...
First off we are actually working on the levels again. She has passed Focus, Sit, most of Zen, and Down. We haven't tested the specific Come steps, but we use it all the time in daily life. She will come in mid play with another dog and walk away with me off leash. She will come off of squirrels, and deer, and away from people petting her. Her nightmare distraction is feral cats, and while I have called her off cats in the past I'm not 100% confident she will come if I set up a situation.
The other times a cat has shot out in front of us and I have called her back fast enough that it was muscle memory that brought her back more than anything else. I would like to have confidence that I could call her AFTER she had committed herself to chasing the cat. Luckily we have a feeding station not too far from out house so I should be able to get to work on that.
The weird thing about Down is that it never seems to stick with her. If we stop paying attention for even a couple weeks she reverts back to thinking that "Down.....Reyna Lie Down" means down. Sit seems to be ingrained in her brain and never really leaves, even sit from down is very easy. Just for fun I stood on the couch on one leg with my hands in the air and said "Sit" while she was lying down, she immediately popped up into a sit.
Another behavior she is great at is putting her front feet up on things...light posts, trashcans, trees, fire hydrants, concrete pillars, you name it and she is willing to "paws up" on it :) I might teach her to push the crosswalk buttons for me :)
Which reminds me, I'm going to start working on service dog skills as we get through the levels. I would like for her to tug/pull on cue to help me up, and to retrieve something if I hit it with a laser pointer. I'm not sure if that's possible, but as we progress through the levels I would like to try. And of course all that falls in line with hopefully passing the Therapy Dog test eventually.
Then there's nosework...
She is doing AWESOME in my book. I love love LOVE this sport. It requires so little gear and so little monetary investment to start and the possibilities are endless. Today I took her out walking on the square to work on some Levels ComeAfters but as we were walking I would subtly place hides while she was distracted smelling a bush or something and then we would just continue on. About 15-20 minutes later when we returned to that area I would tug her harness and cue her to search. Even with people walking through the search area, and the smell of burgers from the local restaurants she didn't miss a hide. She finds them high, low, on the ground, in sidewalk cracks, under benches, in tree bark....it's so much fun to watch.
Her focused alert is really getting better. It's nowhere near a final product, but she will stick her nose on the source and if I pull her harness she leans into it instead of coming away from the odor which is awesome. I'm still not asking for much duration, maybe 1-3 seconds at the most. Working on the drawers is really helping strengthen her indication. Also another benefit is that I was able to proof her alerts on odor.
I paired a hide in a drawer, she found it.
I put her ball in the first drawer and paired the odor with another ball (identical) in the fourth drawer. She found the first drawer with the ball and alerted on the drawer, then pawed it, I just waited as if I hadn't noticed, after a minute she moved on and as soon as she nose touched the fourth drawer I opened it so she could grab the ball and threw a party.
One more time like that (moving the hides of course) and then I put her ball in one drawer and unpaired odor in another, she didn't even glance at the ball drawer and flew right to the odor.
Next I started putting the ball out in the search area (I always carry an identical one to reward with). First I put it in a shoe so she couldn't grab it and then later just set it out in the room, one time she picked up the ball, then dropped it and went back to searching and the next several times she blasted right past the ball.
I hadn't asked our trainer about doing that at all, but I figured the earlier I could teach her that no matter what was in the area only the odor got the reward, the better. It was really pretty easy, but we do a lot of work and play with toys and food that are physically accessible to her but she understands they are off limits until I release her to get it. So generalizing it to Nosework was a simple zen exercise, to get the ball you have to leave it and go find the odor....thanks Sue Eh?