Saturday, July 13, 2013

The heat is on, it's July!

       Most everyone has to be faced with what sports or fun activities to jump into and which ones to let go. We can't do them all. I finally decided to let go doing any more competition obedience. Mickey has slowed down and I noticed when he tries to get up from the floor, it is an effort. I do worry about him doing repetitive sitting in practice and in an obedience trial.  Mickey is now eight. Not considerably old, but I do think the consistent sitting in position does cause him a bit of pain. He stopped sitting about a year ago during practice, and that was when I decided to take him to the Chiropractor. He did improve for awhile after treatment, but then it looks like he is getting sore. I had dropped off giving him a good supplement and when I flew with him this past June to Iowa, Right when I got off the plain, his lower back was hot. It wasn't like I could turn around and take him home. My poor baby. But I realized I had to get him on a good supplement again. I had found a combination of Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, Turmeric, Omega 3 fatty acids and a few other things for dogs from GNC. Liked the combination they had, which I haven't seen in other products. I have noticed in myself that Turmeric helps inflammation in my joints, high probability it works with dogs as well. Mickey has been on this GNC supplement for a few weeks and I'm seeing improvement. Is this the best supplement for him? I don't know, but seeing improvement is always a good sign. With this history, for now, I will focus only on Nose Work with Mickey. If I get the obedience bug, I always have Divine and Duffy.

        I also had another worry with Mickey, that he lost a little interest in nose work. I don't know if he's in pain or not, but after a little bit of nose work, he seems to drift. Is this just pain (not severe, but enough to get him distracted) or is it something else? There are other factors as well, the past five years I have been under a considerable amount of stress. Could have my stress play a role? Then my issue with performance anxiety. I have a hard time people watching me do my runs. Even if it is only for a clinic and a casual environment. Yes, having people watch me still bothers me and yes, I still have issues with people making comments about me.I still have the stigma over my head that I'm a "handicapped" person trying to make it in a regular world. Any mistake is quickly regarded as incapable due to such a stigma. Like my example of Jackie Robinson the first black baseball player. He had to be exceptionally good to break the barrier of being black in a white society. People always judge when you are different and it is a struggle for people to take you seriously. So I put high pressure  on myself to perform and of course that goes right down the leash.

           However, in the past few months, I have gotten much better. I will write about this issue in my "In-Between being Deaf-Blind" blog. But it boils down to changing my thinking, purging repetitive old messages that were playing in my head and letting go of inappropriate control. But, with these little negative thoughts of mine and while I struggle, I wonder, do these negative thoughts of mine go down the leash?  I know it does, but enough that Mickey is drifting? Or is that his body experiencing some discomfort and combined with my tension it is a bit much for him? I don't know. Our journey of me coaching myself to be a better positive handler, getting good treatment for Mickey and trying to work as a good team will be the focus. 

           But as for the 3 hour Nose Work clinic I attended July 13th, 2013, I learned. Some of the exercises we did were more complex searches for Mickey and myself. Pushing the envelope of the challenge makes you think and problem solve. What are all the factors influence his behavior and his search pattern. Nose Work is like an art. It isn't remote controlled, the handler doesn't have full control of everything. It is combination dance, communication, partnership, and enjoying each other.

         Two elements were practiced, Vehicles and Containers. We had three vehicles. The first run was a blind hide. I had Mickey's toy on me. I keep going back and forth with his toy, trying to bring back some interests in his searching. But in this setting, away from home, he was more focused on me than the search. When practicing at home, we were getting a balance of searching, then you get your toy. But in a "new" environment where there are others, this did not work. So the first run was not smooth. He would get distracted, look at me and miss an area to search. This also got me off balance. Our dance was very choppy.  We worked through it and eventually got the hide.

       Our next hide I had taken the toy off my body and only had food. The hide was converging odors, one where the odors were in a line with the wind movement to mix them together. Our third run was where the odors were close to another, in a way that the dog could skip it if someone doesn't pattern the dog correctly on the vehicle.Mickey showed better focus with food. He started scenting better. But at times he did drift a bit, like wanting to go to the shrubbery. I brought him back.

        The configuration of the vehicles:

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The lines represent the three cars and the three dashes in the middle represent one vehicle. The odor was in the hind driver's wheel on the third vehicle in this configuration. The third car was facing north.

 The second hide was put on the second vehicle, it was a truck, odor was in the spare tire underneath and the tail gate and  behind the bumper. The second vehicle was facing East. This puts the two odors in line with the wind current.

    Then the third car was moved, odor in the moved vehicle still in the same place on the vehicle. Just the vehicle was moved:

     |  ---

     Third Vehicle is now at the top, facing West, odor in the same place, rear tire of driver's side. This converging odor is near each other. So when a dog leaves one vehicle, they can get distracted with both odors . So if the dog enters from the West side between the two vehicles, and goes through that channel, there is odor on both side. The dog could go to one, skipping part of the vehicle. Always remember where you have been to cover that area. Mickey found the odor easy with the vehicle at the lower left, and kept wanting to go back there, when the vehicle at the most top had odor right there. Trying to pull him off odor to find another one was challenging. We found it already, let's get the other. A very good set up to practice through the problem.

      I have a habit of keeping my hand in back back. I got in a habit of this so Mickey wouldn't look for food in my hand. The problem I have is I can't grab in my bait bag very well to treat fast enough and by source. So if I have a piece of food in my hand behind my back, this seemed to solve the problem. I have been handling this way for probably over a year. However, my instructor saw this as giving a different signal to Mickey. If I hold my h and out, Mickey is distracted because he smells food in my hand and goes to my hand. SO what I need to do is just set up sessions that he show me odor, he gets the food. He needs to learn that he only gets the food when he shows me odor. It kind of makes me wonder what I have been reinforcing before with him.

         This reminds me of an exercise I did at a Denise Fenzi workshop where people would hold a piece of food and line up. The dog and handler would walk along the line of people and when the dog looked at her and ignored the food, the dog got the reinforcement from the handler and was refusing the food from the people. I will take this concept of training and do it for nose work, that no treats are given until you communicate with me where the odor is located. This will free myself up in keeping my hand behind my back and let my hand go where ever. Again, impulse control in both food and toys is what is needed. I didn't do a good job teaching this when Mickey was younger, so it is a never ending practice to keep doing impulse control exercises.


      Even though it was getting hot (out in the desert of California) we were able to go inside. The air conditioner was very good, however, with air conditioner we also get currents of air shifting odor around. A guesstamate of about 40 pieces of stuff from suitcases, bags, soft cases, water coolers, baskets etc spread around the room. The most Mickey has ever searched through. There were two hides.

         Mickey came in, doing a good check of each container, then after awhile I think because he didn't get reinforced or find a hide (it had a lot of containers) he started alerting on anything. He alerted on on a container with food and other things. Took awhile to work him through this. The second time around, he was much faster and got the hides.

        The second time I did try to work on my nerves. I was a little nervous people were watching me and tried not to get disappointed when he alerted on a container with food. I was starting to think of negative thoughts when this happened. The next time around I pet Mickey, calmed him, soothe talk to him and his confidence seemed better. Was it me giving him a massage and soft talking with him? Or was it the second time around he was familiar with the room and stuff (never saw the stuff or room before.) Or both? I don't know. I haven't been practicing with Mickey that much and t his is what I need to do, is continue to practice. It is so hard to get practice partners. The only group that practices consistently do so when I have to go to work. The weekend, most people have things to do, other dog shows and other things to attend. It is a bit frustrating. I do need more practice with blind hides. I do get more nervous with blind hides. if I could just do them more. I don't have a significant other, or child to just do a hide for me. I still can't believe with little practice I did, Mickey got his NW1. I think now that things are getting harder, it is catching up. I need to keep a steady pace of practice, and only trial when I feel ready.

            Pattern with so many containers is important. Try to remember where you have been. Section off the hides if you can. But if your dog catches a scent, you also need to follow him/her as well.

           Build up the number of hides,keep practicing.

Keep on sniffing.....



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Getting on with Nose Work level 2 Part 2

   What a great practice today!

   The first hide was four Anise. Wow, that many? I've never done that many, after two "I" got a bit frazzled, wondering what area have I traveled? Do I need to hit an area I missed? Where did I miss? Mickey is also use to doing two hides and quitting, so doing two more was a good practice. He needed help with the last two, but for these, since he was starting to "loose interests" I did pull out the toy. Then he found the last one and his toy again!

       Some factors to note in this search had....many plant clumps where you know dogs have peed, so I watched Mickey carefully. We were also by tennis courts and yes, one time Mickey did pick up a tennis ball I acted uninterested and got him into search mode again. He did go back to search mode. Found another ball, he was distracted, but we got on track again. I was pleased. The other two handlers have a trial in 4 weeks and have been practicing a lot more than myself. So this push to improve was good for me and Mickey.

       The second hide was the one I did and all three dogs had a bit of a challenge on the one on the pole with a lot of vegetation around it. I probably shouldn't have placed it around a lot of vegetation, but then again, these dogs are training for NW2, life is getting harder.

        The last hide was with containers. Cute little plastic baskets with grids. Mickey found his hides FAST! Nearly ripped apart a basket. When I asked him to show me the odor (source it) he kept attacking the basket. I think the odor must accumulate in the basket and Mickey felt it was still there, I food reward him by the tin. Whew, this was one exciting find and here I was trying to get Mickey revved up again with his toy since his interest in Nose Work did drop a little prior. But bringing out the toy today, using it lightly and not as a sole source of reward I think helped his focus. Even when there were bushes with pee, he didn't go, so I"m pleased that I think if I keep lightly using his toy, this keeps the focus and we don't have to worry about peeing. But a caveat to myself, I should "always" watch out for the pee behavior.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Getting on with Nose Work level 2

      It is all a learning process. As you move along little snags start appearing in your training. I can complain about it, or take it as a challenge to be a good teacher and handler.

      So what snags? Isn't Mickey finding his hides like gang busters? Not like he use to. His last workshop I could tell he just wasn't in it or driven to be in it. He was looking, then drifting, almost like he doesn't think this is a totally awesome game anymore. What? Mickey excitable Mickey not into the game anymore? I was confused in last workshop, why was he not that focused and kind of drifted over the scent and then dump loaded a bunch of pee? Huh?

      Today's practice was the first since the workshop and again not so into it and he peed right on the odor. Say what? Ok, what is going on?

      I think I did figure it out.......

      I took the fun out of nose work without realizing it. I took his toys away. We started using toys at first, but then he got a little too over excited that he wasn't focusing on the search, just that he wanted that toy. So I have been heavily using food. Which he will work for, but after time his intense interest began to fade.

       After a practice today when he was glossing over an odor (another problem I realized and will talk about later) I decided to see if I had a toy with me and bring it out at the end of our last hide. Oops, I didn't bring any toys, but had an old leash we could tug with. I tugged a little bit with him and a little bit of that sparkle came back! Oh yes! HE did the searches well and at the end we had some good tugging sessions. Yeah, Mickey felt satisfied. I think Nose Work is fun again! I have to use his toy carefully so he doesn't loose site of the odor. A balance of using food, but every so often throw in a toy. Work more with Premack, you must not only find the odor but indicate it well and you WILL get this toy.

        My other issue is, my Anise is too strong. When I practice or work with other Anise, it seems to be "fainter" for Mickey. So I will have to remake a new batch of Anise since my last one accidentally got too many drops from an accidental spill.

         So now, what to do about the pee? One thing for sure, if I bring the toy back into the picture, the urge to pee will go away. At today's search, I did pull him off from peeing. His crate was too far and just walking there would have been reinforcing for him. So I pulled him to the side, went to a flat grass area and had him sit and I stand. Did nothing. Doing nothing is torture for a Malinois. Some would say I punished my dog, so be it, he need to realize that search is over if you pee. That had to come across clear. You want to pee, fine, but the consequences is search stops and nothing interesting afterwards happens. When I felt enough time had passed, we went back to the search and he was more focused. I didn't use the leash tugging this day until the end. When I go back to the toy on some of my searches, we will see if this solves the pee issue.

        I love working with my training buddy. She has a great little dog and I think we had a great practice today. I'm learning more each time and actually improving as a handler. Problem solving, I love it. Having two very different dogs just makes me happy and also their issues, I learn and nothing more than learning to improve.

         I have another practice tomorrow with two other handlers. Let's see what I learn tomorrow!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mickey's K9 Nose Work(R) Title (NW1)

      Temperatures have been in the 30's at night. For most people, during the winter this is either normal or warm. Not for Southern California. Relative speaking, we will usually have 50's at night during this time of year. But instead we had mid 50's during the day. For us, that's cold. Anyone who has lived in Southern California long enough would acclimate to it, and find this weather to be rather cold.

      However, excitement, Mickey's very first K9 Nose Work(R) trial. An all day event. As the Certifying Official, Jill-Marie O'Brien, said today is great dog weather, but no so much handler friendly. She was right. No over heated dogs today! Which is a relief. I did bring my fancy sun shades and extra bottles of water, but didn't need it. But always glad to have it there.

      I was the very first one to go. Some people just do not want to be the first one, but I found for my anxiety level, get it over with and I don't have to be in tension for several minutes before my run. I was happy being first.

      My first run, exterior. It was good, he found it fairly fast and I was really good getting out of his way when he past the odor and needed to come back. Probably why the judge said "good handling!" on the score sheet. 

      Second run, interior. Good and fairly fast. I thought for sure Mickey did a fault. He nudged it, looked at me, I rewarded him, he went back and scooted the odor for about 5 inches. I thought for sure that was it, I got him to take his reward and then had to lure him away from the odor. A very HANDY technique when your dog is interacting too much with the odor at a trial. Whew.....! This was the second time Mickey has ever done interiors. It didn't dawn on me until afterwards we only did one interior search away from home. I have done about 8 different in house interior searches. 

      Then vehicles. This one Mickey had a little bit more trouble. He kept fixating on the front bumper on the driver's side. So much so that I almost really thought it was in that general area. didn't feel right to call it, so I gave him a "show me" cue. I do not like to give cues in nose work, but I saw he had a bit of trouble and needed some guidance, but I simply didn't know where it was. However, when I said "show me" the second time, he left that area and he targeted towards the passenger rear side. AH! I'm wondering why he fixated on that other spot. Odor collecting under the bumper? Was the wind going at a diagonal to the front? I don't know, but was so glad that I read my dog well to know he didn't quite find source. Whew!  He did go out of scent and wasn't in scent for a few seconds, which I gave him that usual look, "you need to work it out yourself bud." He did. Obviously.

       The container search was fast. I said, "alert!" The judge yelled YES! said "Good Job!" and when I looked up at her for saying that, a second after she wrote something down. Found out later I got faulted for dropping food. I probably got distracted when she said good job and accidentally dropped food.

        My general feel was, this was a big step for Mickey. I don't get to practice a lot and for how little we do, Mickey did an awesome job. We had only done interior outside of home once. We have done vehicles other than my own, about 6 times. I've only done about 6 blind hides, where I didn't know where they were located. So when I really thought about this, MY GOSH CHRISTY! You rally didn't practice enough and you passed! WOW! Good Job Mickey!

       Wn't be this easy for NW2 (Nose Work 2) trial.