Friday, August 15, 2014

Baby Dog & Baby Babies - one month in

We have had Jaune for a little over a month now. There is so much for him to learn about life in our house it would take several blogs to talk about and there is already tons of info on puppy raising so I will focus on the things he has learned that make it easier to have him and two kids.

Neutralize Movement
Puppies love to chase, and kids love to run it's a perfect combination...for disaster.
When puppies get aroused they jump, bite, tug, chase. When kids get upset they run, yell, flail and cry. It can very quickly spiral into at best a scary situation for either or both parties, or at worst a dangerous situation. Kids can step on puppies, puppies can bite faces.

So how do you prevent what seems like an avoidable issue?

Manage First:
Kids brains often go out their ears when a new puppy comes homes, and puppies have little to no self control at first. Manage the interactions with baby gates, leashes, and making sure that the kids remain calm when near the puppy through lots of supervision and coaching.

Train for What You Want:
Rewarded behavior happens more often, I cannot emphasize enough how important that is. Don't worry about teaching commands or a solid "stay" to prevent issues, reward the picture you want to see. Puppy is laying down, a kid walks by, the puppy doesn't get up, give him a treat. Puppy is watching you, a kid sneezes, give him a treat. For the first several days Jaune earned 100% of his daily food for being calm especially when the kids were nearby.

We also staged short training sessions where Jaune was fed kibble on his mat while the kids were coached through increasing levels of activity. At first we would have them just walk through the room, as Jaune got better, we gradually increased the movement speed and the closeness until the kids were jumping and spinning right next to the mat while Jaune ate treats. Jaune comes from service and therapy parents and had a solid foundation from the breeder before he arrived, so it only took him a couple of days, higher drive, more sensitive, or nervier dogs may take weeks.

We generalized this training to other rooms in the house and then outside, and then with no mat present. He was always on leash though just in case.

Prepare for Mistakes:
Mistakes will happen, you will push the limits too far, or maybe his threshold was lower than normal, or the kids crazier, it happens, prepare for it.

We did this by working fairly obsessively on a recall away from things, toys, Reyna, other people, bowls of food, Feather, Reyna, shoes Reyna...basically anything he wanted to get to. Then we taught the kids to stand still and cross their arms when Jaune ran up, lots of on leash practice for that one. Then we taught Jaune that crossed arms means sit or down. We also spent A LOT of time with the kids talking about how puppies bite and jump and how to stay calm and ask for help.

We have already used this emergency bail out several times...stuff happens you might as well have a contingency plan.

So how is all that working out? Here is Jaune from a week or two ago...

We will continue to reward, reward, reward for calm behavior around the kids, but you can already see he is learning that kids running and playing are white noise.

Teach a Drop it Cue
This one is easy, but it think critical to a happy child and puppy. Puppies take stuff, they chew stuff, they slobber on stuff, and shred it. Having lots of chew toys around is key, but also setting an example to the kids for how we're going to react when the puppy finds items, or toys around the house.

You could yell at him, chase him, reprimand him. Or you could teach the "treasure" cue. We try to keep the floors as picked up as possible, but you cannot always prevent the puppy from finding a playing with something that is not his. If you chase, or yell he will learn yo run away with items. Instead keep high value treats with you and if he manages to pick something up he shouldn't, say something cheerful like "what did you find? Oh it's beautiful can I see?" While you show him the treat, he drops the item, gets the treat, you pick up the item and give him another treat. He will quickly learn that whatever phrase you picked out is a cue to drop whatever is in his mouth and come to you for treats.

The best part is the kids pick up that it is no big deal, and to not panic and cry when puppy comes wandering through with their favorite stuffie, even Penelope who is only 3 responds to Jaune picking up her fluffy pony with "did you find a treasure? What a good boy!"

Maintain Good Dog Etiquette 
Kids should never, ever, ever put their faces right near a dog or puppies face. They shouldn't squeeze, hug, kiss, or grab the dog.

They, scratch, praise the puppy with adult supervision. Preferably while the puppy is receiving treats for accepting petting.

The puppy should be heavily rewarded for tolerating children in his space, and the adults need to recognize that if the puppy is aware of the children then they are in his space. For some puppies this may be two inches away, for some it may be 20 feet. Do not wait for the dog to look nervous, or excited, or for him to move towards or away from the kids, the second he notices them give him a treat and then continue to reward him as long the child is in, or moving through the area.

For puppies that may be a little nervous, this helps counter condition how they feel about kids, and for puppies that love children this teaches them that children in the area means good things from you, and children are white noise, nothing to get aroused over.

Train for the Inevitable:
We used the above method to help Jaune learn to be calm and accepting of children in his personal space. We gradually increased how close the kids could get, and have even done conditioning first with myself and Norman and later with the kids cuddling him while he receives a non stop flow of treats. Ideally he is never in that situation, but it's quite possible that a few months, a few years from now or tomorrow a children runs up and hugs him or tries to pick him up. We want to make sure that he has a solid history of reinforcement. We just have to be very careful that the kids know that it is a training session and continually reinforce safe behavior around dogs, which includes no hugging, etc.

Keep the Kids Safe
Just like the puppy needs to feel safe around the kids, they need to feel safe around him also.

- Keep all interactions on leash until he proves he can remain calm with children around
- Reiterate that puppies are baby dogs and they don't know not to bite, not to jump, not to steal toys and pull clothes. Children are sponges so repeating this over and over will help it sink in until they are telling you "it's okay he's just a baby". It helps keep kids from panicking, or getting upset if (when) there is a training or management failure and they get knocked over, bitten, or tugged on by an overly enthusiastic puppy. It's going to happen.

Teach the puppy a default sit when the child crosses his arms:
Step one - hold a treat over the puppy's nose until he sits (don't say anything) then give him the treat
- Repeat until he automatically sits every time you hold out a treat
Step two - Move quickly a very short distance (maybe just one step for a high drive puppy)
- Stop and hold out a treat, puppy sits, give him the treat
- Repeat until he is sitting as soon as you stop before the treat appears
Step three - Add additional movement to make it more exciting, the goal is for the puppy to get excited enough that having to stop and sit poses a small challenge, but not so exciting that he can't function, gets too aroused and fails.
Step four - Begin to add the cue just as you come to a stop cross your arms, puppy sits, puppy gets treat
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
Step five - Start all over but with kids doing the moving
- You still have to manage the treats to prevent the child getting mugged
- Practice with the child several times before introducing the dog to the situation. Have them walk around and then stop and cross their arms, when they get comfortable you can bring puppy into the picture
- Start off walking next to the child during the sessions
- Work up until you can walk briskly or even run together and as soon as the child stops, the puppy sits
Step six - From here you have two choices. Some people choose to let the child handle the treats. I prefer to gradually move further away but still manage the treat dispensing so the behavior chain becomes - Child moves around - puppy gets interested and follows - child stops and crosses arms - Puppy sits and then disengages from the child to come get a treat from me. Doing the second option takes all the focus off the child and really reinforces moving away from their space

At that point it's a matter of practicing, practicing, practicing so when the inevitable occurs and puppy loses self control and begins to chase, just as you are trying to get dirt out of the babies mouth, the kid will either automatically stop and cross his arms, or at least be very conditioned to responding when you yell from the porch at the two of them dashing across the yard "STOP AND CROSS YOUR ARMS". Just remember if you do not practice regularly that safety net will not be as strong when you really need it.

Moving Forward
Now that we are through the first month, and Jaune is really integrated into our household we are actually able to start using some of his kibble to teach him cues and behaviors that will make management easier, teach him to accept nail trimming, brushing, loose leash walking, going to a mat or a crate on cue, coming when called, responding to the kids cues etc...

It has been a lot of work and Jaune has not received a single piece of kibble that didn't have a lesson of some sort behind it, but we are experiencing the rewards now as Jaune chills in the backyard while the kids run and play on the swing set, or he meanders through the house as David blasts past him dressed like a space alien fighting dragon with a light saber and he doesn't pay any attention. He still steals Penelope's stuffed animals, but instead of crying or yelling, Penelope now chimes in with "Look, Jaune found a treasure, what a good puppy" and we go get a treat to trade for the pink dolphin.

Here's a couple videos just for fun...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reyna & Jaune

I can't believe we've had Jaune for two weeks now!

He is pretty well integrated into our life now, it is definitely more work to manage everybody, but here is an adult dog/puppy update...

Reyna and Jaune still require a lot of management. They are very comfortable with each other at this point and Jaune is VERY confident! Jaune is also still learning that inside is for being calm and outside is for play, so while they can be outside together now we still limit their indoor together time to periods when one adult can focus 100% on the dogs. Their outdoor time is also still monitored heavily and we are quick to call them out of a play session for a quick break if they get too rough. Jaune's confidence has grown faster than his body, and we can't risk too much rough housing right now, they will be plenty of time for wrestling as he gets bigger.

Here is a video from some of their first outdoor times off leash the first is about 4 days in and the second is about a week after he arrived. I like the shared space without obsessing over each other, also Reyna's quiet soft play in the second video, you can barely hear them.

A few days later Jaune got more intense and Reyna responded with more energy so now we break it up every minute or so with a recall, a sit from both dogs and a few deep breaths. This keeps the arousal levels in check and promotes chasing games instead of body slams. It also helps Jaune learn an off switch, a recall, and to pay attention even in an aroused state, all good foundations!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Baby Dogs and Baby Babies: Step 3 Introductions

Meet Jaune...

His full name will be Loveline's Maillot Jaune (Yellow Jersey in case you don't speak French) since we picked him up on the first day of the the Tour de France.

He is a fantastic puppy! We are officially on Day how did Day 1 go?

We did kid introductions first in the backyard and they did a great job of leaving him alone to explore, and using their tug toys if he started after their feet.

 Jaune checking out the tufts of Reyna hair we left in the yard. They were very comfy!

Daddy explaining what we have been telling them  about puppy attacks with a live demo...

The kids standing by armed with tugs in case puppy might want to say hi...

And he did....way to go David and Penelope! They did a great job following directions...

David was crouched down in the photo, but based on the gregarious nature of Jaune we had to amend the rules to say "no sitting near the puppy" Jaune is just too rambuctious and determined to get to the kids faces when they are sitting.

Then we moved inside. We had gated off the bedroom half of the house and closed the doors to the play room so Jaune was limited to the Kitchen and Living Room. Also Reyna was crated in our room and the gate prevents Juane from running up and down the hall in front of the closed door which could have led to frustration on Reyna's part.

Jaune's crate what sized to fit him with the adjustable panel, and filled with fun chew toys...

We traded spaces with the animals and rotated them around throughout the day. I don't have any photos or videos of that since it requires 100% attention from both adults to ensure smooth transitions between all parties at first but I will get some posted soon! It has gone exactly as planned except that Reyna was much easier to manage around the pup than we thought she would be so we were able to quickly skip through the on leash stage. It is now day three and they are able to have short supervised off leash interactions with me very present to intervene if either starts to get over threshold. They both eat breakfast and dinner on their mats one kibble at a time for calm behavior right next to each other. This also gives us a pattern to go back to if they start getting too aroused.

Part of the benefit of starting with such heavy management is that we can move through some steps quickly if it goes smoother than we thought which has been the case. If you lump the steps you run the risk of having to back track and do damage control if it doesn't go as well. Hmmm...sounds sort of like smart shaping to me!

As a closing photo here is Norm teaching Penelope how to brush Jaune, and teaching Jaune that being brushed is relaxing...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Baby Dogs and Baby Babies: Step 2 The Introduction Plan

Here is our plan for introducing all the family members to the new arrival...

Puppy meets kids
- Kids will be armed with their fleece tugs to redirect any puppy teeth
- Kids will be in the back yard
- Norm will bring puppy in and set him down away from the kids
- I am in charge of children so Norm can focus on puppy and kids are instructed not to approach puppy but they may pet or play with him if he comes over
- Kids will be encouraged to ignore puppy and play in the backyard like normal
- I will be there to coach the kids if puppy comes over, Norm is in charge of removing the puppy if there is an issue

Puppy meets Adult Dog
- We will brush Reyna and have her potty while Norm is going to pick up puppy so there will be very new Reyna scent in the yard when puppy gets here
- Reyna will be in her crate in our closed bedroom when puppy arrives
- Puppy gets opportunity to sniff and play in the yard
- Puppy gets a chance to sniff and play in the living room and kitchen
- Puppy goes into crate in a closed bedroom for nap time
- Reyna come out of her crate and is allowed to sniff all the places the puppy has been
- Reyna goes for a walk
- We will continue this "ships in the night" approach throughout the day
- Depending on how we are feeling we may allow them to see each other in passing on the first day, but no interactions
- Over the next couple days we will have both dogs on leashes with an adult person with treats and they will be allowed to see each other while receiving non stop treats...other dog goes away, so do the treats
- We will gradually move them closer together and will start allowing some drive by sniffs
- Then we will move up to mat work near each other using Relaxation Protocol and open bar/closed bar policies
- Then we will allow Reyna off leash outside with puppy on leash and an adult assigned to each dog to keep interactions short...the puppy on leash is to prevent him harassing the adult dog and to keep him close if he needs to be picked up
- Then we move to supervised off leash interaction with adults ready to intervene if needed

In case you haven't noticed this is very different from the "let's see how they do" philosophy. There are two reasons for this
1) there is a lot of risk involved in just seeing how they do and if something goes wrong it could have irreparable damage physically or mentally
2) there is no down side to taking the slow acclimatization and allows for a ton of flexibility if they are adjusting faster or slower than we thought

Puppy meets Cat
- Very similar to above, but the cat is not put on leash
- we prevent them sharing space and we play musical living spaces for the first day or two
- Any spatial transitions or space sharing will include the puppy on leash, cat off leash and both receiving treats
- Since dogs don't speak cat we will translate for him by allowing him to approach the cat, cat stiffens, arches or growls or gives any other early sign saying stay away and we call the puppy and give him treats
- After many reps we will hold the leash and wait for the puppy to make the choice on his own to turn away then we reward that choice with praise and treats
- As puppy gets better and consistent at reading cat body language we will slowly start to allow him to drag his leash and then be off leash, all with adults present to intervene

That's the plan!
Photos and day 1 results will follow shortly!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Baby Dogs and Baby Babies - Step 1 Preparations

Okay after a long delay I wont go into everything we have been through the last couple months. Because we have very exciting news...we pick up our golden retriever puppy on Saturday!!!

Very very exciting!

I am 6.5 months pregnant we have a 5 year old, a 3 year old, a 4 year old dog and a 1 year old cat...why not introduce a new puppy to the mix!!!

I have started several times to document how we brought a new puppy home with a 1 year old and how we brought a new baby home with a dog a toddler already living there...but that has been 3-4 years ago now since our "baby" is starting preschool in the fall. So since we are doing it all over again I figured I would start from scratch and document the journey!

Here is the preparation we have done so far to help everybody get ready...

- We set up the puppy's crate about a month ago so the kids could get used to it and learn that it was off limits just like Reyna and Feather's crates (as a side note I HIGHLY recommend crate training cats now, I might blog on that topic alone at some point).
- We rolled up our living room rug so it's hardwoods everywhere that puppy will have access to
- We have briefed the kids over and over...puppies bite, puppies jump, puppies eat your favorite toys, we pretend to be puppies and tug on their clothes as they walk by so they know how it feels
- We bought a bunch of fleece and made a whole slew of little tassly tug ropes for the kids to carry around
- We have role played "puppy attacks" so they can practice not panicking and getting the puppy redirected to a tug
- Granted these kids are 5 and 3 years old so they will never be unsupervised with the puppy, but we like to prepare for that moment when the family is playing with the puppy and the smoke detector goes off because we left toast in the oven and both parents rush to address it momentarily forgetting the baby is crazy, stuff happens
- We are at the point now where even little Penelope recites statements out of the blue like "baby puppies are like real babies, sometimes they mess up your stuff because they don't know any better"...except it comes out as "baby puppies are yike real babies umtimes dey mess up you tuff cause dey doesn't know knee better" precious little dog trainers :)
- We have really talked incessantly about the potential for their favorite stuffies to get shredded to pieces, it could happen. How many people meant for their ball and claw table to get chewed to splinters?
- We got Reyna some Kongs...during the introductory phase everybody will be spending more time in their crates, so we wanted Kongs to be a regular part of our routine prior to arrival
- We talked about the traffic flow, where will the puppy potty spot be? Who will stay up with the puppy if needed during the first few nights? Etc
- We have an introduction plan for all the animals and people...I'll write that up for the next one
- We talked about what would be off limits to puppy for a while, the kids bedrooms being a big gates will take care off that
- We bought plenty of chew toys for the puppy and for Reyna
- In the areas where puppy will be allowed we have moved everything off of floor level and again emphasized to the kids that leaving anything out in these areas is basically asking the puppy to destroy it.
- We have given the kids refresher training on the "no zones" which include the food bowls, the animals beds, crates and toys. If the dog is near any of those areas they have to call the puppy to them for petting/play do not approach the puppy. This is basic house rules for us, but a new fluffy baby can tend to make even the most well meaning 5 year old forget his coaching, so we might as well re-emphasize.

Next step...the arrival/introduction plan

Friday, May 16, 2014

How to: Fail a CGC and not care

So we went out on a limb and entered a CGC test. We had been working a lot on her arousal levels with being petted and going to the dog park to practice not going up to the fence to greet the dogs.

Our first ever CGC we bombed...I mean epically totally failed.

So we went back to basics, and really focused on arousal levels. Anybody who knows Reyna or has followed this blog knows that Reyna does not have issues learning or performing behaviors, she has MAJOR gaps in her self control training.

So three months later we retook the test and missed two exercises, greeting a neutral dog and being pet by a friendly stranger, and honestly she should have failed the grooming for all the frantic wiggling but they gave it to her anyway.

We spent the next year primarily focused on Nosework and competition obedience behaviors. We got her NW2 which was really exciting! Then I found out I was pregnant and we already had a deposit on a Golden Retriever litter due in May (they are two weeks old now). With a baby and a puppy on the way and no NW3 trials in the foreseeable future in our area I switched my focus back to the CGC test. Inadvertently we had made drastic improvements in many of the areas through the obedience training and just by being a whole year older.

So I signed her up for a local CGC test and crossed my fingers.

She did amazing!!! She didn't just barely pass most everything she aced all of it....except for the dog one.

She didn't react though, and she wasn't over the top, but she definitely didn't pass. here are some things I learned though. I will probably not try again for the CGC, she doesn't like it. She did everything I asked because I asked it, but she did not like being thoroughly petted and groomed by a stranger. By half way through the test she was asking me to please just let her go back to her crate.

We stopped trying to teach her to be calm with guests in the house awhile ago, she is soooo much happier in our bedroom in the crate. I could probably spend a ton of time and energy helping her cope with that environment better but why? She loves her crate and if she was loose in the house what would I want her doing? Laying around calmly, which she gets to do in the crate.

There are things she loves, like being outside with guests, going on hikes and walks with guests. She loves being my pseudo service dog and running errands (at dog friendly locations) with a vest on so people won't bother her. handing me my wallet and keys at the checkout, picking things up when I drop them, helping me up when I'm sitting down. She helps me up and down stairs as I get more pregnant. She just beams the whole time. She is joy to walk even in crowded areas, I never worry about her reacting but also give other dogs their space when we pass because why not!

She is everything to me and what she told me at that CGC test was that she would do anything I asked, but that she did not like the test at on the way home I was a little bummed that we missed just one exercise, but the fact that she passed all her treats and toys just to crawl into her crate when we finished the test told me this wasn't the right thing for her, and really what's the point?

I'm so proud of how our relationship has evolved, especially over the last year or so. Leslie McDevitt taught me how to respect Reyna's emotional state how to rewire her brain without forgetting who she is. Over the last year we have been able to take it farther and through Denise Fenzi, Sylvia Trkman and Hannah Branigan  I have learned to play with my dog, to have joy in our training and just in being. I don't need a CGC title to show me that so until Reyna tells me she wants to do it again we have put that back on the back burner

Coming up...
How to: Q in your first rally trial
How to: Poison a cue in three easy steps
How to: Recover a lost retrieve

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Metronome Heeling

This our first attempt and for a first try I thought it went well. I have a metronome tapping out 132 on my iPhone while heeling. This is supposed to help me keep a steady rhythm for Reyna to follow and mimic the way my face/body language would look if I was listening for a judges cues.

The good,
Reyna still has up ears and tail, she isn't forging like she normally does. She put in extra effort to keep up on the outside post, you can see her head drop a bit as she puts more effort into moving forward and less into staying up, ideally I'd want her to be able to do both, but we have a ways to go.

The bad,
Since concentrating on the time I stop moving my left arm, I need to remember that. I lean forward a good bit and have a more "marching" step. I lose track of where we are on the figureight and I wish I had rewarded while moving instead of dealing with that sloppy sit. We still have a lot of precision work to do for her wide swinging butt and the sit at halt, but I like her attitude!

In other news her Retrieve on Flat with the dumbbell made MAJOR leaps forward this weekend! I'll try and get a video tomorrow if the weather is nice!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ack I'm a Slacker!!

It's been almost two months since I last posted! So what have we been up to since?

No Nosework that's for sure! I haven't pulled out my tins since the trial in February. I did the same thing last year, work for nine months, compete, take three months off...oh well it's worked for us thus far.

I was toying around with tracking for a bit and I still plan to get into that, I think Reyna would love it and take to it well, she enjoyed the couple of sessions we did a lot, but I just don't have the mental bandwidth for a whole new sport right now.....since I'm PREGNANT!!!! Yep that's right Baby smith #3 is due for debut late September! So things have been a bit crazy around here!

Given that news we are back into Obedience and really enjoying it. Reyna is 4 already and not yet ready for Novice A so I don't know how far we'll get, but we are having a blast training! Her heeling needs more duration and distraction proofing, but she has turns, speed changes etc. She tends to forge but I've that's much easier to fix than lagging. I just really need to take it on the road. Her stand for exam is great...when I examine her that is...again we need to get other people involved. Recall no problems, except she comes in too close on her fronts, and her finishes need some cleaning up for consistency, we just haven't really worked on it.

Her business retrieve is coming along, we were having trouble with playing with the dumbbell, so we took the dumbbell out of the picture and bought a field dummy like they use to train retrievers, I started using toys to reward for quiet pick up and carry of the dummy and it worked great. Now I have brought the dumbbell back into the picture and I'm not having the pawing and chewing issues I was before.

Retrieve over High foundation is going well she jumps 1/2 height to a piece of food and comes back over for a piece of chicken. Just yesterday I started tossing a toy and sending her over, if she came back over the jump we played tug, if she went around I just told her good try and reset...she got it VERY quickly...still lots of "around the clock" proofing to do.

Broad jump was a piece of cake to get her to jump it, and we seperately have Hannah Branigan's pole wrap foundation down, so now we just have to put the two together!

Go outs we just started yesterday, but she has a lot of experience working at a distance, so we are up to a ten foot go out to a paw target where she turns and faces....need distance and distraction.

Group stays will need TONS of work.

That's what we're up to right now, I'm hoping to be ready for a mock trial this summer, it just all comes down to can we get the behaviors on the road for distraction training! I'm not in a hurry, I just like to have goals :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

NW2 - Lessons Learned and Ribbons Earned

This trial was definitely not our strongest performance. 10 out of 31 titled and we were 8th overall. And when I say we got through by the skin our teeth I really mean it! It was a tough day for team Smith, with a lot of stress and a couple longer searches. In the end we got everything but it really felt like we were fighting for every hide.

We were down in Florida again, so we made the long drive down and spent the night with my friend Lisa again. Then we rode over together to trial. We have come along way from the nerves and anxiety of settling in for our NW1. Going to the workshop really helped. Also Reyna is an even less anxious this year than she was last year so she ate all her dinner the night before and all her breakfast the morning of the trial. I still packed a lunch for her, but I was much less concerned about her energy levels this time since she ate well ahead of time.

Also I took very rare steak as a food reward for her along with her standard toy rewards. Sine I was going to use an unusually high value food reward at the trial I made sure to practice with it for the week leading up to the trial. It didn't decrease the value of the reward in any way, and it ensured that Reyna wouldn't get distracted by the reward and behave unexpectedly in a trial.

The reasons I chose food reward for most of the trial searches drained less energy from Reyna on a long day, it was easy to deliver, and it was faster on multiple hides since I didn't have to try and get the toy back. I may change that strategy in the future if I can get better at delivering a toy in a trial environment, but the food worked fine for this one.

On the walk through I sketched out the areas as best as possible so I could work on a strategy later. At first I was trying to draw out the whole area, but it really wasn't practical and I felt like I was missing a lot. So for the couple areas I just wrote out a VERY rough sketch with areas of note.

Four vehicles close together, running boards on that truck might be productive, next to a building so air current may be weird.

Reyna may have trouble if it's on the porch, but don't get psyched out. Only half that bench is in. That cluster of trees may be difficult for line handling.

Interior 1:
Welcome mat and fire extinguisher make a threshold likely. It's a cabin so expect less confidence in Reyna's alert. LOTS of bunks and almost no air movement.

Interior 2:
No welcome mat this time but two speakers and a chair with some clutter may be productive search areas. There is a broom and trashcan at the threshold so don't dismiss those.

So many containers! That suitcase is against the wall, make we hit it. Don't lose track of all those little coffee thermos things, that colorful suitcase makes a good anchor point to make sure I've covered that. That 5 gallon bucket is an unusual container, remember what Jacy Kelley said about those, COs can put hides ANYWHERE!

My strategy for all the areas was to give Reyna her head for the first minute. After that we would begin a pattern to make sure we covered everything. After one minute my plan for each area varied. For vehicles we would circle each vehicle, for exteriors we would walk the perimeter then zigzag through, for containers we would cover quadrants and for interiors we would crisscross the area from back to front to hopefully get a different scent scenario than when we first entered.

I was first up in Group B and we started vehicles while group A did exteriors. Here is the hide by hide report:

Vehicles - 2 hides - 3:30min
I sent Reyna in to search and immediately my heart sank. She was not focused, she kept wandering from the vehicles. For better or worse I deviated from our plan and asked her to pattern search the vehicles. We search the first two, nothing...time was ticking away and I realized we were going to time out on the first search of the day. Suddenly she showed interest in the left front corner of the third vehicle. She stuck her head high and to the right in the wheel well but seemed to still be working the plume. She started to walk off, to find an easier one, but I remember what I learned in the seminar and held my ground, I knew it was here and she needed to finish this one. She came in from the left this time and tucked her head behind the wheel, based on her earlier interest in the top right I figured it was on the bottom left so we called it...yes! Okay find more...she quickly ruled out the rest of the vehicle and we moved to the fourth and final one, the truck with the running boards. Sure enough there was a hide on the outside running board that she nailed confidently to end the search!
Time: 2:25 Place: 15th
Lessons: I was glad I made her stick with the first hide. I wish I had stuck with my plan of letting her go for the first minute, we might not have wasted so much time on the first two vehicles.

Exterior - 1 Hide - 3min
Reyna was in odor from the start on this one. She went over to the front of the cabin and showed interest on the porch but didn't go up. I couldn't tell if she didn't go up because she doesn't like wooden decks, or because there was no odor. I made a decision and asked her to search it. She did and came back down, nothing there. Then she went back to work and tracked the odor over to the benches where she quickly made a decision on the leg of one. Alert...yes! Two elements down.
Time: 41.89sec Place: 20th
Lessons: I need to work more on decks and porches (and any other areas where she lacks confidence) so I don't waste time asking her to search nonproductive areas. This was a very easy, very competitive element and we probably spent at least 20 seconds with the porch thing.

Container - 1 Hide - 2:30min
There is not much to say about this one. Reyna was ready to rock from back at the on deck spot and I had to turn a circle To keep her from crossing the start line before I was ready. I sent her over the start line. She passed three or four containers in her intense drive straight for the 5 gallon bucket. She alerted on the handle and we got the yes!
Time: 8.71sec Place: 1st Pronounced
Lessons: Trust your dog, and train containers other than suitcases. This was also affirmation that giving her the lead at first is the way to go.

Interior 1 - 1 Hide - 2:30min
We came in slow instead of letting her blast in. She caught odor as she entered the room and turned around back to the threshold. It took her a couple seconds of detailing to make a decision, but she decided it was behind the fire extinguisher. Yes.
Time: 16sec
Lessons: Work more thresholds so she doesn't have to hit the end of the cone to turn around and hold at the threshold and watch her for a couple seconds before sending instead of just walking slow across it.

Interior 2 - 2 Hides - 3:00min
This one was tough. We came through and she went right for the speakers but was sort of all over that area. We moved away and came back, but she still couldn't make a decision. I knew we were burning a lot of time so I asked her to find the other one. I knew that one was there so we would come back and finish it later. She quickly nailed the floor hide and I sent her back to the speaker area. She was all over the top up onto the windowsill, down on the left along the baseboard and all along the right where the chair was, and on the front where the actual speakers were. She would not commit to any one spot though and I was starting to panic. They called 30 second warning. I was running out of time and the title was fading quickly from my grasp. I remembered the seminar and the advice on Nosework math. She had paid attention to all the areas around the speaker, even the front, but if had been inside the speaker directly behind one of the panels she would have alerted on that so it is probably behind the speaker with only small amounts of odor coming through the front. She also hit all three sides which also meant it was probably behind the speaker. But where behind? Her strongest behaviors were on the left side so probably there. I knew we were running out of time and I had to get her back there to call it so I used a little body pressure to push her back into that alcove and as soon as she sniffed at the left side again I called alert....... YES! I almost cried that was so close, I had no idea how close until later.
Time: 2:57 (that's right, we had three seconds left!
Lessons: The reason this was so difficult for us was because the odor was actually smack in the middle behind the speaker so it was coming out pretty equally everywhere. Reyna has done a lot of inaccessible, but there is always a point of strongest odor. In this case there wasn't so she was all over the speaker but couldn't decide where to commit. I need to get better at reading those hides and also teach her how to communicate when we are in a situation like that. I am glad I had her go find that second one so we could focus on the hard one. I wish I had done some deduction a little earlier so we weren't so close to the wire. I should maybe take a stopwatch into searches...not really sure how to work that, but I need to be able to keep better track of my time.
Total Interior Time: 3:13
Place: 25th aka last place out of everybody who got that element

All I knew as I left the cabin though was that we had titled...holy freakin birch oil, we had titled!!! It wasn't pretty and it wasn't flashy, but we did it! The vehicle search was exhausting and stressful, the interiors just about gave me a heart attack. We have a lot to learn before trying for NW3, that was very VERY close.

Total trial time: 6:29
Place: 8th overall

I am looking forward to being able to take what I have learned from this experience and apply it to our NW3 prep. I have a lot to learn about reading my dog and managing search areas. Especially with an unknown number of hides. Good thing there will probably not be an NW3 in the southeast for at least a's going to take at least that long to even begin to be ready for the next level!

Queen vom Nobelos NW2

Hurray!!!!!! Details and photos later, but suffice to say I am proud and exhausted!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NW2 prep - Drive building phase

We have our trial in Florida in about a week and a half.

We are now in the "taper" as they call it in endurance sports. It's where you have done all the training you can do and you need to give your body a chance to rest and rejuvenate before the big day. The bigger the race the longer the taper. For Nosework I think two weeks works well. We have built up all the skills we could, we have practiced all the distractors and challenging hides we could think of. The foundation we have at two weeks out is what we will take into the trial with us. At this point it's time to stop thinking about skills and handling techniques, because what we have is what we have.

Now what I am concerned with is drive building. Short easy hides, just a couple each day, I may even skip a day or two. Very few back to back searches mostly just one and done. I have pulled clove out of the mix for this phase, I want to REALLY focus on Anise and Birch. It's time to let up and just have a blast, do a quick search and get rewarded with her entire dinner, or the kids left overs, or a ten minute romp in the yard.

I have to trust that I have done everything I can, and that we are prepared. I don't trim my dog's nails within four days of a trial or event because the quick would need time to heal if I hit it, and I don't throw out "brain drainer" hides (as my friend Lisa calls them) in the two weeks before a trial because I can't guarantee I would have time to fix anything that I accidentally broke!

I will be doing lots of easy thresholds, easy corners, maybe a couple VERY easy inaccessible ones. And rewarding, rewarding, rewarding! Over the top, super jackpot, awesome rewards!!!

Just for fun here is a snow search from today, I forgot about it so it sat out for almost 20 hrs. Also I am following Jacy Kelleys advice and not taking her ball away in between hides, it makes for a much smoother search.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

ORTs - Know your dog, change your plan

Reyna passed her Anise and Clove ORTs over the Jacy Kelley workshop weekend. It was a very long weekend for both of us. We had long waits in the car some easy searches, some hard searches. I couldn't use the van so Reyna was curled up behind the passenger seat in our little ranger which means I also had to get her out repeatedly to stretch and warm up so she wouldn't be stiff.

She did awesome all weekend, no reactivity issues at all even when reactive dogs barked at her. She was calm, relaxed, and felt awesome!!!!!

So we had a LONG working day Saturday followed by me volunteering for the Birch ORT. Then we had a LOOONG working day Sunday and as I loaded Reyna up for the last time at the workshop to head to the Anise/Clove ORT I asked her for just two more, give me two more sweet girl and we're done!

The ORT was very well run so our waits were not long. I was thinking about switching to a food reward since Reyna was tired from two long searching days, but Reyna still really wanted to play with her ball outside, so I figured okay let's go with it. When we ran the Anise boxes her alert was half hearted and again I thought I should probably use food, but she's a "toy dog" so I didn't. So we went in with her ball, approached the start line and I told her to find.

She was not as focused as I would have liked, on the first pass around she showed strong interest in one box and I was 90% sure that was it but she didn't alert, we had time so I turned her around and we went back up the row, she nosed at the same box again and now I knew that was the box, but for whatever stubborn crazy reason I didn't call it and she didn't alert. She saw the boxes that were set up for clove and she REALLY wanted to go search all of those before she made a formal decision.

So now I had to think of a way to have her approach the box from a different angle. This time we walked down the middle of the row and she veered over and gave a formal alert. Yes! She got the ball and we trotted out 59 seconds...a lifetime in an ORT as far as I'm concerned.

So for Clove I listened to my gut and my dog, and borrowed some chicken from a friend. We did the practice boxes and gave a sort of alert and got chicken, she immediately perked up so when we shuffled the boxes and I re-cued she hit right on it and stuck!!! Hurray we were back in business!

Our name was called, we crossed the line and she nailed the right box the first time around in 16 seconds!

Just goes to show if you listen to your dog and stay flexible with your plan it will always work better than forcing a plan that may no longer apply to the current situation.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jacy Kelley Workshop

We had the supreme privilege of attending a Jacy Kelley workshop this weekend. I am exhausted but we learned a ton!! We only managed to get a couple searches taped but here they are....

She does well with the first hide, covers the area well, and doesn't care that there is a suitcase off to one side. A lot of dogs got caught up searching the suitcase before finally sourcing the hide. The second hide it felt like it took her forever to make a decision, but looking at the video it actually wasn't too bad.

The first box is full of toys the second box is full of all our left over lunches, the third is empty and the fourth is odor. She checks the distraction boxes, but moves on quickly.

Containers take 2:
I really try to stay out of the middle because I'll invariably block odor. It pays off as she sources both fairly quickly. And is so tickled she runs her head into the pole!

I learned several things in this search. First I need to work on my footwork, while I did stay out of the middle of the containers I was tripping all over myself on the corner with the distractor bag and in a trial I may have called her back to recheck that one encouraging interest in it. Also I should have rewarded the first bag the second she whipped back to it instead of waiting for commitment, I'm really bad about that with containers. Also Jacy mentioned that moving in with a toy instead of throwing it will deteriorate her alert quickly. I have already seen that so I just need to work more on throwing it. Again containers are the ones I have the most issues with on reward delivery. Between poor timing and poor reward delivery it's no wonder containers are our worst element right now.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Preparing for NW2 - One Month Out

With less than a month before our NW2 trial in Florida where are we with prep?

So far we have worked the following
- aged from 5 minutes to 29 hrs
- on lead and off lead
- food rewards and toy rewards so we have flexibility
- multiple hides
- lots of different containers, suitcases are still our weakest link she just won't stick to it
- high hide and low hides
- toy distractions
- food distractions - steak, kibble, dentastix, bacon, nylabone snap ins, garlic bread (that was the hardest actually)
- other distractions - deodorant, detergent, vanilla extract
- interior and exteriors
- some vehicles

What we are still missing:
- leather bags
- rubber lined bags
- more random food/toy distractions
- strange places like Home Depot, or the dog park
- hides in containers that are on top of tables (we've done a few of these but need more practice)
- blind vehicle searches
- sticking with containers
- my observing the whole dog instead of just her nose and eyes

I think I've figured out why containers are hard for us, other inaccessible hides like filing cabinets and drawers we have worked a lot with pairing and reward the slightest interest and then building up from there, but with the suitcases I kind of just jumped straight from boxes to bags/luggage without starting over from scratch. For the next couple weeks I will be focusing on the "missing" list and really work on back to basics for the areas where we are weakest.