Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

From Chandler...

...and Rowan...

...and Ashke, who is good at the grumpy look, but not the possessed look.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Foxhill Fun

Continued Nosework, Week 6

Construction Edition!

Tails U Win is expanding into the front of the building that the training center occupies. During our last class, we snuck through the secret passage (a blocked off area that used to be a closet cubbyhole) and explored the parts of the building that were being renovated. I think the expansion will almost double the size of the training center. During the initial tour, Chandler wanted to climb the stairs and check out the second floor. He was the only dog that seemed driven to go upstairs and check out the entire space. I'll just put that down to having a smart and curious dog. Unfortunately, after our explorations, we didn't have as much time to do our scent searches, but it was worthwhile to do the searches in the new space available. When we were finished, we blocked the opening in the wall again, and an impressive set of dusty footprints led across the training room and disappeared straight into the back wall.

Run #1

Unfortunately, construction meant bad light conditions, so it is practically impossible to see Chandler making the second find in this room. It is hidden in a pile of vertical construction stuff by the door. I had trouble locating it even when Chan was standing with his nose practically on top of the hide. The box hide was easier, although Chan is apparently excited enough to want to continue searching before he even collects his reward for finding the first hide.

Run #2

Chan is a trooper. His enthusiasm didn't diminish even when a stray screw got stuck to his paw. He shook it off, and got down to work. The first two hides in these rooms were easy to find, but we had more difficulty on the last two. I think we need to do more practice with multiple hides using only food. I think if he eats the food, and then the hide is gone, he'll pick up better on the idea that he has to find the next hide, and not go back to a previous one.

Run #3

D is for downpour. It is also for Distracted Dog. Once again we have trouble with multiple hides; and the total downpour outside was also a distraction, as Chandler was quite interested in looking out the window at the miniature waterfall coming off the roof. I think part of the problem is that I have some trouble reading his alert signs since he will sometimes move away from a hide before he gets his treats.

This footage was from our last formal Nosework class; at the moment I'm taking a break from classes because my work schedule has gotten very busy in October. I'm planning to do some informal practice around home, if time permits.

Continued Nosework, Week 5

We resumed outdoor searches during week 5, and Chandler seemed to have gotten over his tendency to be HORRIBLY distracted during the initial searches.

Run 1

There's some really good enthusiasm visible here, although I am beginning to wonder if Chandler also thinks that stepping on the boxes is fun. Given how goofy he can be at times, I would not put it past him. Interestingly, in this run Chandler identifies the correct box only after examining it twice, which seems a bit odd.

Run 2

In this run, Chan only needed to sniff the box once to identify it. He did get a bit distracted when examining the second box; there must have been an interesting smell on the grass nearby. However, he did return to the task at hand and examine the other boxes. I must say his indication style in this run was making me feel like I should be part of a comedy routine- try to circle around the dog and open the box while he is shoving the box in the opposite direction!

Run #3 which we continue our comedy routine and I orbit Chandler. (Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?)

Run #4 which the dog's owner has learned in which direction to move to intercept a box being pawed. :)

Run #5

This search along the side of the building had a lot of possible distractions. Most immediate were the poop clean up bucket and any interesting scents that might be coming from inside the dumpster. There were also some leaves and other "flotsam" behind the dumpster. Despite these challenges, Chandler quickly homed in on a scent coming from the right side of the dumpster. The birch scented Q-tips were near the rear of the dumpster in a tube that ran along the side of the dumpster. I assume a dump truck somehow uses these tubes to grasp the dumpster when it is emptied. The scent ended up blowing through the tube, and I could not initially see where the Q-tips were hidden. I find it interesting that Chandler, with no more direction than me standing up, independently moved to examine the rear of the dumpster in more detail, including standing up on his hind legs to look over the top.

After the dumpster find, the other hides were relatively easy. There was one on the front wheel of the car, and one on the corner of the building. Interestingly, Chandler independently made a choice to search the car. This is the first time he has searched a car without being directed toward it.

Run #6

This building exterior search was more challenging, because this area tends to be used as a canine latrine. Chandler, of course, took this as an invitation to leave his mark and demonstrate his "manliness", as I call the ground scraping procedure. He wasn't as focused for this last run, and missed the hide on the brown pipe during the first pass, and then initially missed the hide near the concrete ledge. I think these problems occurred because of the greater level of distractions, and perhaps fatigue. Otherwise, Chandler was typically Chandler; he was the only dog that troubled himself to jump on the ledge and walk along it.

Overall I was pleased with this week. Chandler seemed to be progressing in his search skills.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Birthday Boy

Chandler is five years old today. I think we've done well together, despite the fact that I was crazy enough to want a serious working breed as my first dog. We've made it through accidents and his fear issues. I think he is a very happy dog, although we're still a bit rough around the edges in places. I know he'll be happy today, considering that he gets cake.

**Above: What would be the "embarrassing baby photo" if Chan was human. Fortunately, he's a dog and won't complain.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Today is the funeral of a friend that I never got to meet.

She was a member of the English Shepherd Community, and for a long time I only knew her through her contributions to the English Shepherd Club, and her presence on discussion lists. This changed when I offered to paint an ornament to match a person's dog for an online auction to benefit National English Shepherd Rescue. Marcia won the ornament, and quickly talked me into painting three more for her. She wanted to have remembrances for her dogs that had already passed. I got to know her much better during the flurry of emails that passed between us while I was getting those ornaments "just right". Her love for her dogs was obvious, and she missed the three that were gone.

As I shall now miss her. Yet I know my sadness cannot compare to the pain her family has felt since the day she died in a tragic attempt to save her puppy. My thoughts and sympathies are with them, and will be for some time to come.

Goodbye my friend. I wish we had been able to meet in person. I wish I could have introduced Chandler to Keeva, and that we could have spent hours talking about dogs.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Continued Nosework, Week 4

After last week's challenges of a novel search area, blowing wind, and possible critters, it was pleasant to back up a bit and continue practicing indoor searches in the training room. This week's challenge turned out to be dying camera batteries. Oops. We did make it through all the searches, but in the last three the camera kept turning itself off, so I ended up with some choppy video. I spliced everything together using Windows Movie Maker, but some image quality may have been lost in the transition.

Run #1

I'm glad to see that Chandler seems to have gotten over his inability to focus during the first run. That is a bit improvement over last week. I think I should try to minimize his distractions in new search areas until he gets a bit more reliable. Accordingly, I also need to work on his drive and the difficulty of the searches in areas he is familiar with.

Run #2

Chandler is a bit hard on boxes. One thing I need to work on is learning to read the more subtle cues he makes when indicating a find.

Run #3

Poor, poor suffering boxes. Also of note is Chan's rather systematic search technique.

Run #4

Most interesting in this short run was how definite Chandler was about indicating that the lower box had the hidden scent. I think this is the first time that this sort of indication has been obviously clear.

Run #5

I really should have given Chandler credit for finding the scent tin that was left out on the table. It wasn't his fault that somebody had forgotten it there, and technically it was in the search area. It seems counter intuitive to say "everything in here is the search area, except (whatever)" if there is no kind of visual definition of the limits of the search area.

Also of note is that we need more practice on the brown boxes that don't have the foldable lids. If Chan can't pound on a box, I have more trouble seeing his alert.

Run #6

At about 1:22 into this run, Chandler does something very interesting. He leans up against a wall to check a spot where scent had previously been hidden. There is no floating scent to lead him to this spot; he simply remembered that it had been there before, and decided to check it. In fact, I don't believe scent had been hidden there for several weeks. The trainers seemed to think that this sort of memory was unusual.

Chan seems to be getting a bit tired in this run; he looks like he has less "oomph", although he does shove the box pile around and make the last find in the corner near the door. I think he tends to initially miss stuff near the entrance because he wants to zoom into the room.

Run #7

I'm not sure why Chandler pounded on the empty box. Residual scent? Scent floating from the chair? Maybe he was running out of steam and wanted to see if he could get rewarded for a false indication? He just likes to pound on boxes? I suppose it could be any of those. The important point is that he is willing to redirect and continue his search when I show him it is empty.