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:

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     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.....



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