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.