Saturday, July 24, 2010

Intermediate K9 Nosework, Week 2

Chandler really likes his Nosework class. Really. Likes.

All I did was innocently pick up my camera in preparation for class Thursday morning. Chandler perked up, and headed out the door of my bedroom, pausing to see if I was coming.

This interest switched to joy and a gallop down the hall followed by another pause to check on me as soon as he verified that both the camera and I were headed down the hall.

Chandler's enthusiasm grew as I loaded the camera, a mat, his harness, and his chopped up bits of meatball into a bag and then headed for the car. He didn't even wait for me to step away from the car door that I had opened for him. Before I could move, he launched himself from a standing start through the small triangular space between my left side and the rear edge of the car seat.

This enthusiasm stayed with Chandler for the entire class. During his runs, I noticed he had a tendency to excitedly shoot out into the middle of the search area when released to search, even if this meant he bypassed several boxes as he ran past them. However, once he settled into search mode, he always made sure to circle back and check the boxes he had passed.

Run 1

See how he zooms out and then has to circle back? Of course, Mr. Hooligan also has to stuff his nose into my treat container uninvited. Maybe he thought I was offering the entire thing?

I discovered that practicing pairing the birch scent with food over the weekend had been a good idea. Rather daringly, our trainers had decided to push the envelope a bit this week. All searches after the first one were scent only. No food was hidden in the boxes with the birch scent.

Run 2

But that didn't slow down my talented boy, and he quickly found the birch scent...

Run #3

...and then did it again...

Run #4

...and again...

Run #5

...and again.

Run #6

We didn't hit any challenges until the last run, where it took a little sniffing for Chandler to find the first tiny scent box, stuck to a fan with a magnet. The second hide was much tougher, as it was attached to the wall much higher than anything he had found before. I finally pointed it out to him, as we were running out of class time and Volley still had to do her run.

After class, we stayed for a few minutes to play with the Whippets. I think Chan has a more mature, forceful personality than the two year old siblings, because he was consistently first at getting to a thrown toy. I find it doubtful that he can out-accelerate a Whippet, so they must not want to argue with him about it...although Volley did spend some time trying to steal toys out of his mouth, so she must be getting more comfortable with him. Skylar seemed to decide that solid, fuzzy, and tolerant English Shepherds were safe to bump into, as they are nicely padded for angular Whippets. Unfortunately for Chandler, I removed him when he "wowrrrrrrred" and mouthed at the back of Volley's neck while they were running. Perhaps I'm overreacting, but I tend to watch out for out of control bossy tendencies. I'll have to ask Skylar and Volley's owners what they are comfortable with.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Intermediate K9 Nosework, Week 1

Chandler started his second series of Nosework classes this week. Unfortunately the male Whippet, Skylar, was absent this week, but Chandler had a fun time playing with Skylar's sister, Volley, before class. He ended up monopolizing the Floppy Disc, but Volley didn't seem to mind much. Her owner has said that Volley seems to like Border Collies, and from the amount of flirting the year old Whippet was doing, I guess that liking extends to Border Collie breed lookalikes. In the meantime, Chandler continued in his opinion that Volley's mom is A Good Person, and was diligent in pointing out that he is very aware of "which pocket she keeps her treats in, and isn't he behaving quite well and deserving of a treat, thank you"?

Perhaps English Shepherds should come with a warning that they can be manipulative.

The big difference between the Introduction to Nosework Class and the Intermediate Nosework Class was that we started working with birch, the first scent that is used in Nosework Trials. Cotten swabs dipped in the scent were placed in a small perforated tin, which was then placed in the same box where the food was hidden. The idea is to have the dogs start associating the birch scent with the food they knew they were supposed to find.

I decided to stop worrying about Chandler's tendency to rocket out onto the search area based on some advice from another Nosework trainer. According to her, his enthusiasm for work is good and the last thing I want to do is anything that might dampen his drive to search. He remained in high spirits throughout the class, and was very focused on the job; even to the point of ignoring Volley's flirtations while we were waiting our turn behind the ring gates. He did some balancing on his hind legs to see over the gates and a bit of crying, so I ended up distracting him with some of the training equipment that was stored in our gated off corner.

Sadly, we had some camera problems, so I was not able to get footage of our first two or three runs. This is really disappointing because I think the last of these early runs was interesting. Chandler shot onto the search area, suddenly hit the brakes, and immediately homed in on a box sitting on a chair in the middle of the room. I suspect the replay of that particular run might have been interesting, and I wonder if I would be able to better see how he picked up the scent.

However, I was able to get footage of Chandler's last four searches, which I have labeled Runs 1-4, despite the fact that they were probably 4-8.

Run 1

This video shows why I am sometimes a bit confused whether Chandler is truly indicating a find. Sometimes he is a bit rough when investigating boxes and will push them around while sniffing.

Run 2

For some reason, all of the dogs seemed to have some difficulty with this search. They all ended up sniffing around the perimeter of the room instead of homing in on the central hide. Perhaps the scent was being dispersed in a circle by the air conditioning?

Run 3

This was a rather quick find under the cone. Unfortunately the view is somewhat blocked by the chair. The only other thing to note is that Chandler immediately checked the spot where the hide had been located in the previous run.

Run 4

This run had two hides; one was food and the scent, and the other was just a tin with the scented Q tips. I'm very proud of my boy. He quickly found the food and the scent, and then went on to find the scent tin without the food. He was a little bit tentative when there was no food associated with the scent, but I think he has made the connection that the birch scent is something he should be looking for.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Introduction to K-9 Nosework, Week 6

Well, I think I've solved the problem of my video footage being cut off with a slight redesign of the blog. I hope everyone likes the new layout. I'll probably continue tinkering with it as time goes by, but for now I'm satisfied by the aesthetics and functionality.

This was our last week of Introduction to K-9 Nosework, and the weather was wonderful- mild for July, and not humid. It was perfect for practicing outdoor searches, so our new course was in a small paved area directly outside the training area. They still have us working on leash, which was actually necessary in this case as the search area was not fenced.

Since the search area was outside, we skipped crating the dogs in between runs, and just "hung out" in the smaller training room. Chandler really liked this arrangement, because the two whippet siblings and lab that have remained in class are all dog social. When not searching, the dogs were all busy playing, or training using the equipment in the room. It was rather funny to see Chandler bound up to a skateboard and slap a paw down on it after seeing the female whippet get a treat for standing her front legs upon it. I could almost see a "Hey! I can do that too! See? I'm a good should give me a treat" thought bubble over his head. Hmm...come to think of it, he later spent some time snuggling up to the owner of that whippet...when he wasn't busy jaw wrestling and zooming around in short leashed circles with her brother.

Run #1

I hadn't really expected many difficulties despite the higher level of distraction outside. We had already done some practice runs in the backyard, so I thought a small paved area should not be a problem. As can be seen, my faith in Chandler was well placed.

Run #2

Chandler had no difficulties finding the correct box on this run either. However, his mischievous streak is self evident in this footage. Yes, the camera tumbled into the grass because a certain hooligan decided to nudge it on the way to the nosework course...causing a minor delay.

Run #3

Yet another quick search...and Chandler is still showing interest in the camera.

Run #4

Yes, another quick search. Chandler is being a very good boy here, because two dogs coming for a class had just emerged from a car about 50 feet behind and to the left of the camera. He was very interested in them, but refocused on his job after he got a good look.

Run #5

Chandler got distracted during this run, and tried to yank me straight out of the search area. I suspect one of the dogs that had arrived during the last video might have urinated on the grass. Fortunately or unfortunately, Chandler is very good getting distracted; I think it just comes with being a very alert, curious, and sometimes impish dog. (Yes, he did try to check out the camera again.) Fortunately, he is also usually good at getting back to the task.

Run #6

The final run was also successful, although the box was placed in a more difficult location. I'm fairly sure Chan caught the scent being carried on the breeze during his return loop through the search area.

This set of classes was thoroughly enjoyable. I can't wait for the intermediate class to start, although it may be delayed a week or so. In the meantime, I'm going to try to squeeze in some practicing at home. The trainer suggested that I work a bit more on elevated hides.