Saturday, June 26, 2010

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 5

We were back in the small room this week, and the main difference was that a few new objects were added. Unfortunately, Chandler had to be back on leash because he was still showing interest in the pile of treats on the table. I was told this would be less of a problem when we move to actual scents.

Run 1

This was a fairly rapid search. Chandler wasn't bothered by having a few more odd objects to sniff. (Once again, the blog is a bit narrow, and I haven't figured out yet how to fix the Youtube width, so I suggest clicking on the Youtube links to see the videos.)

Run 2

I find two things interesting in this run. First of all is Chandler's sheer enthusiasm for the task. Since I didn't want Chandler pulling me with his harness, I was told to hold onto his collar as we entered the room. I suppose the idea was that he would be less likely to yank. Well, this wasn't too effective with Mr. IWANTTOWORK! Chan entered the room on his hind legs because his sheer forward momentum combined with my hold on his collar propelled his forequarters straight off the ground. This is probably fixable, as he does retain enough presence of mind once within the room to sit upon command. The beginning of the segment shows me getting him to settle.

The second item of interest is that Chandler seems to detect the hide from a spot about 10 feet away after having previously walked through that same area. I wonder if the scent hadn't drifted far enough the first time he passed through that spot, or whether he needed to walk around a bit to get more information before being sure of the location.

Run 3

Here we have a better view of Mr. IWANTTOWORK!'s entrance. He actually seems to need to shake off some of his excitement before settling into the job. I'm not totally pleased with this entrance style, but I also feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place here. I certainly don't want to dampen his enthusiasm. Perhaps I should be quietly insisting that he behave, but if I spend my time correcting him by "being a tree" or backing him up when he pulls, I'll take extra time that will cut into the run time for the other dogs. Maybe I can stick a treat in front of his nose when we enter and just manage it for now.

Also of note here is that Chandler is once again alerting to the pile of treats resting on the table behind the camera.

This video also points out a contrast between Chandler's style and that of the whippets in class. They both walked up to the cone and politely indicated it, requesting that their people move it so they could get to the food. Chandler simply pushes it straight over and helps himself.

Run 4

Another thing about Chandler's search style is that it is systematic. He rules things out and moves on. I'm told that several German Shepherds in another class search in a similar manner.

Run 5

This was another quick systematic search. I wish I could see Chandler better when he is at the far end of the room and homing in on his hotdog pieces. Unfortunately, he blends in to the dark pile of chairs, and I cannot easily see when he truly catches the scent in the video. He also carefully checks the previous hiding spot, which I think is amusing.

Run 6

The entire room except for the crates behind the ring gates was part of the search area for this run, and there were two hides. The treat supply was moved to a low box in the crate area. I'm not posting the video because we were off camera most of the time while Chandler repeatedly tried to break through the sheet covered ring gates and get to the main supply. He's stubborn, and I truly cannot say he was incorrect to alert to the pile of plastic containers. I will find it a great relief when they are no longer an issue. The first hide was in a box next to the entrance to the gated area, so I imagine the scents were very confusing. The second hide was a single piece of hotdog in a box.

Chandler still seems to be having a great time, and I'm glad to be able to let him exercise some of his working drives during class. The only thing that I've ever seen him more enthusiastic over is sheep. Hopefully the weather will be good for our next class, because we may start trying outdoor searches. I don't think this will be a problem for Chandler, as I've already used the backyard for practice.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 4

We moved into the larger room of the training center for our third week of Introduction to Nosework. Sean returned as half of our training team after being away for a week, but due to a massive traffic problem on the highway, only three of us made it to class. We got in a lot of runs since it was only Chandler, the lab, and one of the whippets. We also started doing all of our searches blind; we were instructed to wait in the other room as the courses were set up. I asked if I could try letting Chandler search off-leash, as I didn't want him to get into the bad habit of pulling while wearing his harness, which had been a problem in previous classes.

Run 1

This search wasn't very difficult. The treats were under a flap in an open box. Chandler ran right to it.

Edit: Oops. It seems the right side of the video is being cut off by my blog format. Until I can figure out how to fix that, I suggest following the link to watch directly on Youtube.

Run 2

Our second search was similarly rapid. Chandler ran onto the field, skimmed a few items with his nose, and quickly found the treats hidden inside the traffic cone. Being off-leash seems to be working well, and Chandler even quickly recalls off checking an extra box at the end of the segment, despite the noise from the doggie daycare that is located beyond the far wall.

Run 3

During this run Chandler almost immediately checked all the places that food had previously been hidden. I find that very amusing, but we ran into a new problem during this search. The food is under the little green cone on the right of the screen. The table that holds everyone's treat supplies is off camera to the right. I suspect the scent from the table was wafting toward the cone and confusing things. Chandler repeatedly tried to head for the table and had to be directed back on course. This seems to be a problem with the physical layout of the training center, and I'm hoping a way can be found to solve it. Chandler had been working so well off-leash, that I think it would be a shame to have to keep leashing him for the exercises.

Run 4

No pile of boxes will deter Chandler! He was quite ready to slam all those boxes around to get to his hotdog pieces. Of course, then he had to check the rest of the boxes in the pile to be sure he hadn't missed anything...

Run 5

Chandler keeps up his practice of checking the places things were hidden before by physically plowing through the box pile while verifying that nothing is there. After his impression of Godzilla stomping through Tokyo is done, Chan quickly checks the traffic cone (after all, it was there once before), and then homes in on the treats, hidden under some planks and a box.

Run 6

Oh dear; my hooligan is back. After spending a brief time on the course, Chandler runs back to his crate, grabs the stuffed Kong inside, and runs back to the middle of the course to bounce it on the floor. Of course, canned dog food is scattered ALL OVER. *sigh* At least he listens when I tell him to go clean up his mess, and starts rapidly eating gobs of food off the floor. Lesson learned. If I have something in the crate to occupy Chan between runs, I will be sure that it is inaccessible when he is doing his search. I swear he is such a goofball. When he was once again back on task, Chandler quickly found his treats in the cone on the pause table.

Run 7

Once again, we seem to be having difficulties with scent from the treats on the table. Chandler heads for the right side of the screen several times with his head held high and has to be redirected. I suspect he's airscenting. When he is finally back on course, Chandler quickly homes in on a box resting on a chair, and bats it to the ground.

Run 8

Once again, Chandler is carefully checking the places where treats had previously been hidden. Unfortunately we were asked to do this run on leash, probably because of Chandler's attempts to get to the main treat supply on the table in the previous run. Also, the search area was defined as only part of the room. When he finally does find the hotdog, it is interesting to see that he first sniffs vertically along the rear wall nearby.

Overall, barring the Kong disaster, this was another good week. I hope some solution to the treats on the table problem presents itself. Technically, Chandler is correct when he alerts to their presence. Unfortunately, they aren't the treats he is supposed to be searching for.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 3

Chandler continues to do very well in nosework class. He seems to be very good at quickly finding which box has the hotdog pieces. In fact, all the dogs did so well on Thursday that the instructor commented on how fast they were progressing.

However, Chandler seems to have gotten his enthusiastic zoom back this week...which means he is once again quite willing to run straight to the nosework course dragging me behind him. I'm conflicted about this. I don't want to interfere with his search or mess up his drive so early during lessons by tugging at him...however, I also don't like allowing him to pull me. I may have to address this later...or perhaps I can work on it while practicing at home.

Run 1
Most notable to me is the sheer briskness with which Chan is moving. He's checking the boxes very quickly, and it is a challenge to both keep up with him and keep out of his way.

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 3, Run 1 from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Run 2

I think Chan overshot the box, checked out the box beyond it, and then realized the scent was wafting from the previous box.

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 3, Run 2 from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Run #3

This is the first instance of Chandler beelining straight toward the correct box.

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 3, Run 3 from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Run #4

I would call this beeline #2, but Chandler made a sudden right turn to get to the correct box. I can only assume he caught the scent and homed in on it.

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 3, Run 4 from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Run #5

We were all sent out of the room for this one, for reasons which are obvious in the video. I didn't even have a chance to say "Search!". The lab almost caught this one, but her owner missed the box and tugged her straight past.

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 3, Run 5 from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Run #6

We were also sent out of the room for this run. Chan had some difficulty here, perhaps because the scent was wafting toward the other box. However, he was diligent about checking all the boxes, including the ones resting on chairs.

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 3, Run 6 from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Overall, it was another good week. Chandler is having a great time, and works very quickly. I need to work on moving quick enough to keep up with him. I need to get better at seeing his subtle signals that communicate that he has found something, so he doesn't need to beat up the boxes with his paws.

Snapshot Sunday: Starnose

A starnose mole was stuck in one of our window wells this afternoon.

Luckily for the mole, I found him rather than Chandler, Ashke, or Rowan, so he got a ride in a bucket to the woods.

Hopefully he won't come back and start digging up the yard. In the lawn, he's legitimate game for the cats or Chandler.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 2

Chandler was a bit calmer during K9 Nosework class this week. He was still enthusiastic, but there was a bit less of the "OMG! We're at Tails! Yay!!!!!!!" reaction. Maybe he's settling in a bit now that he knows this class wasn't a one-shot deal.

The first run was with 8 or 10 boxes on the floor. We actually started doing two runs on the same course before mixing things up. Chandler still seems to be taking to it like a duck to water. I managed to get footage of all of Chandler's runs after the first one by asking one of the instructors to man my camera.

Run 2A
The instructors started adding some elevation here by using chairs. As can be seen in the footage, it didn't slow down Chan.

Introduction to K9 Nosework, Week 2, Run 2A from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Run 2B
I started this run by playing a quick "find the tossed kibble" game with Chandler, so he wouldn't pay attention while the boxes were placed. It seemed to work well, and Chan was able to quickly refocus on the course when it was ready. When we were leaving, he wanted to check all the boxes that he hadn't searched, in case there were more hidden treats.

Introduction to K9 Nosework, Week 2, Run 2B from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Run 3A

For the third run, other objects were scattered about the course. What is most interesting here is that Chandler seemed to catch the scent from about three feet away, because he made a sudden turn and beelined for the box. On walks, he does similar things from greater distances, so I wonder how close to the box he has to be to catch the scent.

Introduction to K9 Nosework, Week 2, Run 3A from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Run 3B

This run took the longest. Chandler proved he was still the class hooligan by finding one of the few cookies from the previous night's class that had been missed by the instructors. I also found it interesting that he spent some time poking at the toy piano. We did a single shaping session over a year ago trying to get him to hit the keys. I wonder if he remembered...or if some of the scent from the box was wafting over it?

Introduction to K9 Nosework, Week 2, Run 3B from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Run 4

We were all sent out of the room for the forth exercise, so that the human half of the team would not know where the box with treats in it was being placed. Chandler reinforced his position as class hooligan by summarily dismissing the first box with a shove of his paw. Hopefully he didn't pay attention to the general laugh that followed. I wouldn't put it past him to do it again to make people laugh.

Introduction to K9 Nosework, Week 2, Run 4 from Jean R. on Vimeo.

Overall, I think Chandler is doing really well. Everything seems to come naturally with him. I need to start teaching him a behavior that he can use to indicate he has found the target, because he is a bit tough on the boxes, to say the least. I'd rather he didn't get too much into the habit of bashing them around.

The very late herding clinic post.

I wasn't sure if I would let Chandler participate at the clinic.

Yes, he goes gaga over sheep...actually too much so, which is a problem. Generally the other English Shepherds at these events sit by their owners, watching the proceedings. Chandler is the one bouncing like a hooked marlin on the end of his leash while bark-screaming with excitement at the top of his lungs.

However, at the last clinic the instructor wrapped a long line around his waist, which I'm not to thrilled about. There's no bone down there to protect his organs, and an excited Chandler can charge with some impressive momentum. As a puppy he broke the snap-buckle of his first collar. Also, during the previous clinic he'd gotten tangled in the long line and slammed down on his hips, which is not good, given that he has mild dysplasia problems.

So I planned to settle Chandler in his crate, take photos of the clinic, and see how things went. I ended up tossing blankets over the crate to cut off his view as he fussed and barked. Then I had to tell him to quit biting the crate bars. It was pretty much par for the course when you put Chan anyplace near sheep.

However, after consulting with the instructor, it was agreed that I could bring Chandler in on his prong collar and six foot lead. I deadringed the prong because I didn't want a high level aversive when it was likely he'd lunge, and clipped it to his flat collar for extra security. Since Chandler has left his "teenagerhood" I rarely use the prong as a management tool these days. He's learned not to attempt to pull me over. The last time I had to use it was when he was enforced rest due to his cut paw, and there were squirrels everyplace. However, since Chandler is familiar with the prong and respects it, I decided it would be the best management tool for keeping both him and the sheep safe during our run.

After that, it went like this:

Chandler - Herding Fun Day at Fox Hill Farm from Laurie Christensen on Vimeo.

(Many thanks to Laurie for getting this footage on her camcorder.)

I will admit to being very cautious. Chandler has a lot of drive, and I didn't want to risk a situation where he or the sheep would get hurt. I wasn't about to allow the long line to be attached to the prong given how excited Chandler was. He was so keyed up that he didn't even flinch when she whomped her empty-bag noisemaker in front of him. I'm not sure if that says anything about his concentration or my work on his sound sensitivity. It strikes me that the sound sensitivity of many herders is probably an adaptation that makes training and controlling them easier. I didn't like that she tried bopping him on the nose with the bag thing, even if it was pretty harmless. It was very out of character for Chandler to snap at it.

I think I'll let Chan have an alternate career, instead of herding. The instructor said she might be able to do something with him if she had him for two months, and frankly she wouldn't enjoy it. However, the clinic host noted that he has improved every time he has been around sheep...which is a total of about four times now. She seems rather impressed with his sheer power that gets stubborn sheep moving, and wondered how he'd do with cattle or hogs. I know that if I ever end up with livestock I'll have to spend a LOT of time teaching him to be calm around them. That isn't happening any time soon, so I think I'll concentrate on his other talents for now.

My photos of the clinic can be found here.

The photos taken by the clinic host can be found here.