Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Getting back running again....

      Since my last trail, it was such an emotional blow to me that it took awhile to get my head back right to move forward. Last Sunday I did a Sniff 'n Go. I was glad some of the hides were known. This stepping back to some known and unknowing helped build Mickey's and my confidence. Mickey was doing a little bit of a "drive-by" but that enabled me to work him through it. I saw an inkling of returning to the way we use to dance well together. Doing this session helped our confidence.

      Tonight it was raining when i came home from work. I took this opportunity to do a rain, early evening, almost dark practice. Mickey did exceptionally well. I realize this is in our own backyard that he knows very well, but these practices really are helping restore the confidence so Mickey and I can do well at our next trial in 10 days.

      I also will be thinking appropriate material. Although some advice says to think all positive, that did add a little pressure on me. Trying to get a few titles in this time zone, and thus far getting none. That can work on your psyche and be damaging if you don't guide yourself in the correct manner.

      I am breaking it down more to task, not envision myself winning the title. The latter seems to mess with my head. The more I can think of Mickey, the task at hand, the less information in my head is all the better. In my sessions with my Sport Psychologist, reading books and articles, focus is one of the most important skills to have in competition.

       I wrote a continuous plan that is helping me keep on track. I think this time we are going to nail it! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Being humbled takes guts

      My second NW3 trial was a full day of learning. My desire to title over rode my decision making process right in the middle of pressure. Here I am headed towards dialysis and being put on a kidney transplant list, I wanted to show the world I was a woman than could conquer all. I could be that person that everyone admires for having such difficult challenges, over coming them and succeeding. I also wanted to prove to myself that this End Stage Kidney Disease was not going to take me down. The past several months I've been fighting fatigue seeing my life slip away and be buried by being overwhelmed. I wanted to feel like I still had it in life.

        Many of those Olympian stores are so heartwarming. The surmountable challenges they h ave over come, not letting anything get in their way. I wanted to be that. But that desire for that title is what destroyed me at the first get go, not that I have kidney disease, having only 35% left of my vision or having a 90% hearing loss in the speech range. It was my ego and head that got me into trouble.

       The trial was in Boulder Creek, CA tucked in the southern range of the red wood forest. The tallest trees in the world that make it slightly darker than any other forest. The moisture allowing the red wood trees and the beautiful green ferns to thrive. It was a perfect setting, a YMCA camp with the only access is a winding road. It housed many creative ideas for the various elements in our trial. It was raining through most of the morning creating a damp enviornment. 

         For all NW3 trials, you do not know how many odors that will be hidden. You will have up to three odors in each search. In interior there is an exception, there could be zero to three odors. At this level we search three different rooms. Interiors is the only place you will have a blank search area. Not knowing how many odors are hidden is a huge challenge from NW2 to NW3. NW2 you know how many hides; NW3 you do not.

        I was # 3 in the running order. My first element was containers.The containers were in the center of a cabin, with the perimeter with bunk beds. The theme Christmas. Mickey and I stepped into the cabin and off we went. Mickey went around the various containers and he alerted on a container. I said, "alert" and I heard the voice of the judge, but I couldn't tell the difference between "Yes" and "no". So I asked the judge to repeat. This took a little flow out of the search, but Mickey is experienced and we went again. But after that, I started to have panic set in just a little bit. One trial I did well in containers that if I didn't drop food, I would have gotten first place, ok, we have this. Then the thought of my last trial where Mickey brushed over a bag and didn't even show much interest and we missed it. Then the thought of my last practice with Mickey having a difficult time with a small leather backpack. Over thinking in the middle of an element, I started pushing Mickey on the containers. If there was a second odor, I didn't want him to miss it, but under the stress I pushed him too much. My brain was in a repetitive record mode. Spinning around in circles checking each container. He went back to the first odor and alerted a few times, but at this point, I couldn't remember which container Mickey has checked and if he did, did he check it well? At this time during this element, I was not in the zone, but complete zoned out.

          Mickey was getting really frustrated and started biting a few containers. Me being in "trail brain", I called alert. Judge said "No". At that split second, I came back in zone and realized the biting wasn't an alert, it was frustration. I know better than that. I worked on this in practice so we wouldn't get here. I know how quickly he can get frustrated. I pushed to long, but being worried there was another odor because he has missed odors, I pushed. Mickey did his best in this element and as I walked away from this element, an overwhelming feeling of guilt came over me. I let my dog down. I was more worried about a title than connecting with my dog. We lost our dance.

        The next element was interiors. Three rooms we needed to search. The first room we went in, Mickey started sourcing, but doing his brush by alert. This is really hard for me to read as sometimes his brush by is how he fringes. Fringing when he's dawdling, checking things out and not right at the source of the odor. Mickey was also burned out from our last element. which was apparent by his brush by alerts. His heart wasn't in it. Mickey knew I was feeling a bit disheartened from letting him down. He's so sensitive, he knows my moods before I'm aware. As Mickey jumped up on the lower bunk bed, he sourced. It was like he was chasing odor to one end to the other. Undetermined and didn't clearly pinpoint it. I called alert on an area of the bed, and it was a "no" from the judge. This was hard to hear the second "No" so soon. It was beginning to break my spirit and hope.

       Second room. Went in and rather soon, I called finished as Mickey showed no indication of sourcing. One of the rare moments of that day I felt confident and I didn't over push Mickey.  I found out at the debriefing we were right! So I can pat myself on the back that every blank room at a trial, I called right! The last room, Mickey found the odor under the bed, but he had to go under twice. At this time with two "No"s and my spirit down, I was too gun shy to call it the first time he went under. I didn't know at the time, but there was a second odor and I called finished before we found it.
Four searches and only one success. That was a blow. But good coaching and good sport psychology always tells you focus on what you did right. You learned. Although it was major, in reality because Mickey and I have been practicing a lot, it is just small tweaking. However, my logic knows this, my emotions were feeling a lot of defeat.

          At lunch time I tried to get my head back in order. I tried to tell myself that we had two more elements that we can get points for our NW3 element title in Vehicles and Exteriors. We have a chance to bounce back. I told myself that this is a very good experience to train myself to dust the dirt off and get going like nothing happened. I have another chance. Good experience people have to fall many times and remember, we are here to have fun with our dogs! I started to think about the next two elements and think of a strategic way to approach the searches. It is tricky because I always let the dog lead first, then when they get stuck, or I see we haven't covered an area, I need to start thinking strategically how do I cover the area. This brought some calmness and hope to my mind. That we can do it. 

          The next element was vehicles. There were four vehicles all parked in a row, bumper to bumper in a straight line. At lunch time I took a little time to get into deep thought how I was going to process this search area. At first I thought serpentine, then I thought no, run down one side, up the other side to let Mickey catch the odor to lead. If we didn't catch anything, then we would go in-between. This served me well. We started our search and went down one side, but Mickey was still a little burned from the morning. He wanted to play sticks and he knew there were many around. I had to nag him to stay on the vehicle. Once in a while he would go about 3-4 feet from the vehicles to search for sticks.  I brought him back to the vehicle and he started sourcing, I sighed with relief! Then he found one odor on a bumper. We went to search the other side and there are more sticks and fun stuff. Again had to really push Mickey back on the vehicles. I hated to do this because we were having a bad day already, and didn't want to be in a constant nag, but he wanted to play sticks. We found the other odor, I searched the area well and called finished. Later at the debriefing I found we got this element. Yes, another success!

           Our last element, exteriors. Another big area. You had a lot of ground to cover. We had four minutes. Mickey and I set out, Mickey shows interest in the benches but doesn't do a strong alert, he does a brush by. We went to the other side of the long string of benches, and he still did a brush by. I didn't call it, as he really didn't do a strong alert, but I knew something was there.

          We went to the grill area and Mickey showed interest around the counter, again he did a  brushed by. Then he went to the coiled up hose on a pole, and did a better alert. I called Alert, the judge said "@x$" I had to ask him to repeat because I couldn't hear what he said. He said "@x$" again. I had to ask him again. Thirty seconds goes by and we are completely out of flow. I finally hear the judge yell "YES!" Ok, on we go, and then I heard a "thank you" which means I didn't hear the 30 seconds warning. When everyone came up to me and standing around, I said, Oh and I guess I missed the 30 second warning? They said, "yes" then I said, "oh, even though I timed out, I guess I should say finished and I said, 'Finished!'" and everyone laughed. As I walked away, again felt disheartened feeling so bummed I messed up three elements. The overwhelming feeling of, this is the worst I've ever done. I worked so hard to get here, I worked on my dog, conditioning my dog, worked on my frame of mind, worked on being positive, and it felt like this test didn't show the efforts I have put in. The feeling was overwhelming.

           Going back to the parking lot, no statement or positive thought made me feel better. I had to be alone. I let others talked about how they didn't make it, and I didn't say much, just letting them tell their stories. I heard from many people when they didn't title, "I'm here to have fun with my dog." I heard it so many times it is becoming a cliche'. It seems mechanical in a way that when someone didn't succeed, they tell themselves that to make them feel better.That you really shouldn't be down because you didn't title. The social atmosphere is you must be happy and positive when you do not title. We all know that disappointment goes down the leash. That we need to be happy for our dogs. But even thinking of that didn't help. Burying how I felt and pretend I was happy wasn't going to do it. Believe me, I tried. My whole life is about trying to direct my brain to a positive outlook. But this time, I needed a break.  I needed to mentally work through this so I could come out clean in the end. Otherwise suppressing my disappointment only leads to more disappointment in the future. This is grieving. When you lose a beloved pet, stuffing the feelings aside doesn't help you. I learned this when my father died. When I allowed the pain to come in, felt it, process it, no matter how painful, I felt more healed and stronger at the end. I was ready to move on. This is what I had to do with this trial. Really feel my pain, give my emotions some care. My logic, as usual, had it down pat, my emotions need for tending.

              I had thought about if I didn't make this trial, should I go to Vancouver, WA for my trial? Talking with a friend, she just came out and said, "Maybe you shouldn't go to Vancouver, WA." She knew my kidney situation and that confirmed that I should cancel. My health has been deteriorating and the travel to Eugene, OR and Boulder Creek, CA had taken a toll on me. It takes me a lot longer to bounce back. I can barely keep up the energy for my regular life. The 2 1/2 days drive up and back to Vancouver, WA, I knew was not going to work. Feeling defeated at this one, I didn't have the drive to overcome this huge obstacle. I also knew I needed my dialysis surgery and should set up that appointment as soon as possible. I need to take care of myself instead of chasing titles. No title will ever hide the fact that I am in End State Kidney Disease (ESKD).

              When I backed out of Vancouver, WA and a lot of stress lifted and disspated in the air. I'm human, not super woman. And not winning at this trial which resulted in not going to Vancouver, WA probably saved my life. I also gained back leave from work, which is now being used for surgery. I will be trialing at the end of the month, so all is not lost.

       I pondered Mickey's health, how me being sick affects Mickey, and several other ideas. Is him being more concerned about me as a service dog interfering? Reflecting back on my best handling, I say no. When I'm doing well, Mickey does great.

               As heart wrenching this event was, and it being my worst trial to date, a week later, I can reflect on it and see the beauty of it. I learned and being humbled is always a good thing. I have to realize that the sight limitations, the hearing limitations and having complications with End State Kidney disease, for me to get out there is an amazing thing. That people without those issues still do not title. That I should be proud I am competing at one of the higest levels. For me to keep trying is what makes me beat this disease, not that I win a title.

               I learned that, I don't hear the judge sometimes.
               I learned that, I don't hear the 30 second warning sometimes.
               I learned that, my head needs to be right, no matter how much I worked on this, it is still something that is managed, not cured. You write a new mindset plan for every trial.
               I learned that, Mickey and I need to trust each other. He lost trust in me, I lost trust in him.
               I learned that I know a lot more than I give myself credit. I can read Mickey well. I did some good reading in my first two elements at my first NW3 trial, I learned all my weaknesses in my second NW3.

               All of the above I have solutions and have recouped and tweaked. I should do significantly better the next trial.

Monday, November 10, 2014

First NW3 trial

     Competing at the Nose Work 3 (NW3) level is such an honor. I competed with several who have been to many trials, one has competed in 70 NW3 trials. The people were really friendly at the Eugene, OR trial November 9th, 2014. As I pulled up in my parking spot and crawled out of my truck, people were walking around asking if anyone needed help with their canapy. I shouted, "I DO!" So nice not having to go around and recruit people. This trial had several competitors from Southern California that they were joking and calling it the southern California Pacific north West trial.

     That day was overcast with rain that was going to come soon. A light chilly cold, grey sky, you knew rain was coming. I had four layers of cloths on and a jacket. That was two long sleeve t-shirts, a sweater type cover, a sweat shirt and a fleece jacket. I never felt hot.

     I put two pads and a blanket in Mickey's crate and covered it with my shade cover to keep him warm. I don't think he was ever cold.

      I was number 7 in the running order, group A. this means i was running exterior and vehicles first. Exterior was a huge patio lined with a low brick wall. Five fold up tables in the center, a trash can, a cart with about 3 mop buckets put in strange formation, a small shelf and a 2 or 3 things around the wall. Two punkins marked the start line. Mickey went for the pumpkin when I told him to search, had to pull him off it and restart his search command, he then got into scenting. Mickey first worked the parameter. It was a huge area so I was running behind him. I probably took 1 1/2 minutes to do the parameter (we had 3:00 minutes total). Once I secured the parameter, we went for the center and bang, he got the odor on one of the tables. I heard the 30 seconds, went a little more and called finish with 0.63 seconds left. Yikes that is too close for comfort! I better start working on my 30 second finish call and make it sooner!

      When I got my score sheet for the exterior, I got all the hides! YAY! Jude made some great comments and gave me a Pronounced.

The next element was the vehicles. 5 vehicles in a not so pattern configuration. A small pick-up, three cars, SUV and a tractor on a trailer.  I was proud of myself for working the area well. I got both hides, then my inner voice said, you better call "finish" and my brain said, "you didn't hear the 30 second warning." My inner voice said again, you better call "finish" and then thought again, I didn't hear the 30 minute warning. Then all of a sudden the judge said "thank you!". WHAT? I didn't hear the 30 second warning! I was shocked and knew I lost my title right then. I told the judge but I put my hearing aids up so I could hear it. He said, I have hearing aids too and I heard it." His face was really sincere and because i was in such trial fright mode, I probably came off frantic when i found out I didn't call "Finished" in time. Bless his heart for the wonderful comments he gave.My score sheet showed I got the two hides. So Mickey got them! And I knew we were finished, but too scared to call finish. Ok, something to work on!

      I heard the 30 second warning in exteriors, but changed my hearing aids to the program that is a more open configuration. What I found, my regular setting heard the 30 second warning better than my "open" setting. What I mean by open is it doesn't block sound behind me. Blocking is designed so you can hear people in front of you without background interference. My hearing aids will need to be tweaked more to address these issues.This was the very first trial my hearing had interfered. I've been lucky in the past 3 trials I had no issues, but these are very new hearing aids. Going to the hearing aid person in 1 1/2 weeks and we can tweak them again so i can hear the person call the 30 second warning and I can hear Mickey's breathing.

       My score sheet showed a lot of good comments and I did work the area very well. I had one lady come up to me after and said your exterior and vehicles were so good. You read your dog well! She was incredibly impressed.

       Lunch time has passed..........

       Next up was the interior. Three rooms. These rooms were cabins that were either identical or a superimposition of another. The steps were rather high and although they reminded us that the step was high and be careful, I tripped going in after I let Mickey go off leash. Got my footing and started watching Mickey. Mickey trotted around checking out everything. He had to go between bunk beds, went into the bathroom area and searched around. He found two odors and I called finish. The next room, I let Mickey go, went in the room and was proud I didn't trip in the threshold of the door. Mickey snorted at many points, but I called finished, I never called alert. I was hoping i called it right because of his snorting it was hard if he was doing a "drive by" alert, or there was nothing there. Ok, time for the next one....The third room, Mickey ran in, I was stepping in, with my attention slightly paying attention in stepping in the room, Mickey nosed the corner of the bunk bed made of metal pipe, snorted and looked at me in an excited look and I called it too soon. It was not an alert. He might of looked at me not because he found the hide, but that I finally made it in the room. Mickey tends to look at me often for connection. What i learned here is if my attention is not completely on the dog, have him come back later or search the area. he will go there again if there is odor. Allow him to source it. The judge mentioned on the score sheet it was a memory thing. the first room had hides in the similar area on the bunk bed. It turns out that I got the first two rooms correct. I called the blank room correct and the two hides in the first room. That made me feel so good because i was SO unsure! Again, I did better than I thought. That mantra of all my teachers "Trust your dog" was something that was appropriate there.

           A long wait. I changed my headlight on my truck during this time. Nothing like having a project to do while waiting. Then it was my turn for containers. This was in a gym, on strange square pieces of about 8 inch by 8 inch. Gave it more of a cushion feel for the floor. Walking on it was a bit different. I sent Mickey and he got the first odor, but was goofing on the other containers. It was in a blue duffel bag, size of a day bag. He missed it three times. looking back, I should have pulled him away and walk him slower. I heard the 30 second warning. What I learned, work more containers with bags. Slow him down. I had some decent comments. 

     I did better than I thought. I thought I have worked well with not psyching myself out, but losing the vehicles (the second miss) kind of dampened me. I know logically this doesn't help since i have more practices and possible element NW3 titles to get.  The more on your game you can be, the better practice.

Looking back, this was another great learning experience. When I let two days of the sting pass, I then can think better and analyze for the next plan of action.

Looking back at the trial, if they would have taken the blank room out of the equation, and replaced clove with Birch or Anise, this trial essentially was a NW2 trial. No element had more than 2 hides in each search area. Purely a mind game on the handler. Amazing going through two NW2 and then now NW3. I'm more stressed and pressured in NW3 for the pure fact that I don't know how many hides are in the search. Amazing.

What I did really well:
1. Covered my area well.
2. Leash handling had significantly improved.
3. Read Mickey much better.

What I learned:
1. Get a vibrating timer, and work better with time.
2. If distracted, don't call it, come back and if there is odor, he will go back again.
3. Work more on containers, specifically flat bags and bags.

     Less than three weeks for the next trial.

9/28/2014 practice

Back off
Don't shuffle
When I get frazzled, Mickey gets frazzled
Threat the benches like they are vechiles to cover your area.
When I tightened the leash is when I didn't allow him to do his search. I even stepped on the search and he couldn't come back, I was in the way.

Today felt like I could handle the leash better. Less tangles.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Performance Anxiety: How I worked with a sport psychologist to decrease my anxiety

Remember, when we are upset, with anxiety or stressed, it does affect our dogs. Some show it outwardly more than others. We get wrapped up in our succeeding, wrapped up in our desires and trying to impress for our egos, but instead we defeat ourselves and stress our dogs. Several people are unaware how much they stress their dogs when it comes to performance. Even if you are a positive trainer, your anguish, disappointment and stress is very punishing to a dog that is very in-tuned to you. I lived this and know this. Throughout the years I put a lot of stress on my dogs. In the later years I have gotten better, and finally fine tuning myself so any time I get to play with my dog is a joyous and fun bond building event. We are human and our dogs are canine. 

        The setting, a canine nose work trial. 

         It is my turn to go up to the starting line. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. I scan the around the element to collect my thoughts how I will work the area. The moment is still. Eyes all on me and my dog waiting for our first move. I cue my dog to "Search" and off he darts. I follow my dog as he leads the way. I let him work since he can smell the odor and I do not know where it is located. As he works, if I feel he is stuck, this is where my performance anxiety kicks in. If my dog didn't find the odor within the first 30-50 seconds, then I know this will be a bit of a challenge.Tthat challenge is what sends my brain into freeze mode. As my anxiety increases, my sensitive dog worries and starts fringing. Fringing is when the dog is indicating on odor, but is not at the odor source. Nose Work dogs are taught to go to source. There are many reasons why a dog will fringe, one of the times my dog Mickey fringes is when I'm frozen, my brain is not working and I'm lost what to do. When my dog alerts at the wrong place for odor, it increases my stress and performance anxiety. This in turns stresses my dog and we get into these fringing cycles. The tension and stress in me is also amplified when people are watching me, and just on the tip of trying to tell me what I did wrong. You see them slightly leaning forward with their eyes a little bit wider. When you have anxiety, criticism is difficult to process. You are in a heightened state and learning is very little. I shut down.

      To make matters worse, I have a vision impairment. Completely blind with no light perception in the right eye, while the left eye I see only 20/70 with an excess amount of floaters that can get in the way of my field of vision at the wrong time. I also have a constant white film in my view. My retina has been overly stretched to cover a large eye ball that distorts what I see, thus clarity is lost. I also periodically get flashes of light. When I change light, like coming from outside and going in or vise versa, it takes about 5 or more minutes for my eye to adjust and I get grey or white outs. My ability to see contrast is low and many times I do not see objects because of this. I have only about 35% of my vision to work.

     With my vision limitation, I could miss that ever so subtle indication my dog found source if he's in a fringing mode. However, when my Mickey is not fringing, his alerts are clear. That is when I can look like a great handler. But spectators when they know where the odor is, they are able to know if the dog is alerting much more than the handler when they know their dog fringes. People judge. This is a huge stress while others see it and I can't. Their advise usually doesn't help because they do not understand my limitations. My situation needs to be approached in a little bit different way. One way of teaching something is not a one size fits all.

     Every person has their particular "fear" thing that causes their performance to be altered. They were able to perform well in their backyard, in their own studio or some other familiar place. Some people have an intense fear talking in front of an audience, dancing at parties, singing in front of friends, or even competitions. 

     While I am zoning out with anxiety, my brain is flooded with chemicals of my body which changes my thinking process. My vision and hearing perception changes; It won't be the same as in practice.  But on the flip side sometimes the brain in flight or fight mode can work for you. If I am not completely zonedout and I can focus, the nerves help me perform better. That's the balance I seek. Use my nervousness to succeed and not let the nervousness turn into anxiety.   

      The challenge I have seen with Nose Work is, you have to think on your feet in helping your dog, when they haven't found the odors. What area have I covered? Where did my dog alert to odor? Let the dog lead the way, but when a dog is missing the hide, you do need to step in. Stepping in takes a quick thinking process of assessing many factors and trying it out with your dog to see if that helps them locate the hide. This will be places like pockets where odor hangs or where odor pushes to a corner, and the dog can't source where the source is located. The dog's behavior usually gives the indication. However, when you have performance anxiety, trying to think through a process can be hard. It is unlike a rehearsed routine where you build motion memory. I have been in situations I had stage fright, but having practice the routine over 100 times, my body subconsciously knew what to do next. After a few thousand various searches in different environments, I hope to get close to my body subconsciously knowing what to do next.

       As I have moved up in Nose Work, I noticed that my anxiety of people watching me was getting worse. I thought as I moved up in the ranks, I wouldn't have this  anxiety. This is different from being nervous. Nervous is something where you are excited, but able to perform. Being nervous says you still care. But, my performance anxiety was different. It was crippling and getting worse as I moved up the ranks. Nose Work was starting not to be fun and I was stressing my dog.

      I remember from the late 80's how I would shut down when I did sheep herding. When my dog would get too excitable around the sheep, my instructor would take over so my dog wouldn't get in the habit of dive bombing the sheep. But what she was doing is taking over and not teaching me how to teach my dog not to dive bomb. When I was in my very first sheep herding trial, I froze, and the sheep ran right past me with my dog driving behind. I was so use to my instructor taking over, that under stress, I just did the same behaviors as when I was in practice, freeze and let the instructor take over. But, this doesn't work in a trial. 

      Having grown up a disabled child, I was so use to people taking over what I did. They didn't have patience to walk me through the situation, they just took over. This happens often with disabled children who are not fast enough, don't see something or hear something to take the quick action that an average person does. It kind of takes out the confidence of the person.

      What this has done is when someone watches me, I freeze because I think they are going to take over, or make a judgement. People are so quick to tell someone what they are doing wrong, that they don't see where the person is coming from first. They want to tell, not coach or mentor. With so many situations of tell, it created a life long pattern of freezing when ever I did something when people watched me. Even with computers, because it takes me a few seconds longer to find something on the computer screen, I'm constantly having people point it out to me where it is, rather than them allowing me just a few more seconds to do it on my own. 

     On top of that, just like everyone, we have an ego. We want to do and succeed well. We all want to be regarded as a great handler and people look up to us. This is imbedded in who we are as a person. If we have enough successes in our lives, we have built the confidence, but when you have people demeaning or making judgements on you, like those who have a disability because you don't function as fast, or take a little longer, it takes a toll. You need to really dig down and focus on what you want a lot more.

     I have dabbled in dog sports for 25 years. I never had been able to stick to a dog competition until  Nose Work. I'm working through my anxiety issues which are allowing me to move forward. Sometimes getting older doesn't solve a problem, but working through it does.

     In the book "The Science and psychology of Music Performance: Creative Strategies for Teaching and Learning" edited by Richard Parncutt and Gary McPherson, I find comfort that I am not alone. Even though the book is for musicians, I see the same patterns for an athlete. I guess performing in dog sports would put me as an athlete? What ever, I see the same issues. Paraphrasing the book, it talks about the flight or fight response, but in a performance, we can't run away or punch out the judge! We need skills of cognitive therapy to help our mind set.

     Public humiliation is a big fear of people and even the most skilled persons can choke up. The book talks about the fear of negative evaluations by others. Perfectionism, having too high expectations can be a big interference in performance and an over concern about small mistakes and flaws. Too much focus on what is wrong, than what is going well. Performance anxiety is also closely related to other social phobias and characteristic traits of certain personalities. Perfectionists tend to be very self-critical and as a consequence, suffer from low self-esteem. We can't forget self personal control, which can also really cause issues in performance. High personal and social standard together with low personal control showed in a study by Mor, Day Flett (1995) to be debilitating.

      High unrealistic expectations tied to a social aspect was more debilitating than high expectation from self. So this means we really are affected by how others perceive us and what they expect from us. This explains why I tend to focus too much on what others think. 

       An interesting research article, "Effects of a Motivational Climate Intervention for Coaches on Young Athletes’ Sport Performance Anxiety" by Ronald E. Smith, Frank L. Smoll, and Sean P. Cumming from University of Washington, that explains very similar concepts on performance anxiety as the last article. It states:

          "Children who are high in sport performance anxiety appear to be especially
sensitive to fears of failure and resulting negative social- and self-evaluation. Passer
(1983) found that high anxiety children worried more frequently about making
mistakes, not playing well, and losing than did their low-anxiety counterparts.
They also were more concerned than low anxiety children about how they would
be evaluated by their coaches, peers, and parents, and they had stronger expectancies
that failure would elicit criticism from these significant others. Other studies
have yielded similar findings (Gould, Horn, & Spreeman, 1983; Rainey, Conklin,
& Rainey, 1987; Smith et al., 2002)."

              Focus on mistakes and worrying about failure was also talked about in the other resources on this topic. Further, these children are worried about criticism and how peers, coaches and parents would perceive them. Interesting pattern.

                The research article further states that coaches of today focus on not doing well in a particular situation or not winning is feedback. Goals, attitudes and values are extremely important in how a child perceives a game and their performance. Extensive evaluated feedback about their ability reminds me so much of my positive reinforcement training with animals. You see where your child is, you see the final behavior, and set a plan unique to the individual player. Shape them to become better. This article does talk about focus is on improvement and supporting team mates. Support is important in the young ages. I often wonder, were the criticism of kids is what still plays in my head today? I remember so clearly in middle school when playing soft ball, the boys who were smirking at me ran right up to me when I was going to hit a ball. They figured I couldn't hit it well because I was a "retard" who couldn't do it. I did hit the ball over their heads and did see the shocked look on their faces. But this was the attitude I got from many kids when I was younger. They all thought I was a "retard." 

     Perhaps since kids ridiculed me, teased me and acted towards me I couldn't really do anything, it stuck with me all these years. Even some adults see me as different and patronize me as if I could never succeed as them. I could never rise to "their" level. I got a lot of this in my life. And now I'm working on a plan to change this thinking.

     I had a few sessions with a sport psychologist. What a world of difference it made in my performance. I learned to focus what I need and not to clutter my brain with other thoughts that are not productive at that moment. We worked out a plan what to focus on in a trial, step-by-step. When this happens, what are you going to do? I also have a methodical approach now when I come up to the start line. It is all about focus. 

     Another reason why focus training is so crucial to me is having stage 4 kidney disease, the toxins my kidneys cannot filter out, affect my concentration. It is very difficult to keep focus on thought. The sport psychologist had also helped me to keep focus in other areas of my life which my kidney disease was causing problems. 

      We have to remember that dogs are sensitive and when we get upset we messed up, they feel this and become stressed. Mickey now fringes less because I am more focused. I reduced my expectations to task, rather than ego dream. For example, focus on how my dog is searching and help them and not think about getting a great score. That comes later and is useless information during your run. Your brain over loads when you think of too many things, so only think of tasks to do well and nothing else.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

NW3 observation

      Mickey and I are now training to enter NW3 trial. My training sessions have been a bit overwhelming. I wanted to observe an NW3 trial so i could learn and study. Watching an NW3 trial in Santa Paula, CA on Sept. 1st, 2014 made things much clearer about certain techniques. I'm ready to train!!

       This is only one trial. Another trial I will see different things. Some of the things i listed that worked for a team and many dogs, doesn't mean it will work for your dog. It is something to try, but it may not work for your dog. Nose Work is an ever evolving skill building sport. 

      Some things I've learned by observation:

       1. Practicing patterns is very important. Know where you have been, know where you haven't, and know if your dog has already alerted on an odor.

       2. In containers, the containers were laptop carrying cases/book bags, Suitcases and small bags. All containers were black. There were only 12 containers. I saw many people get caught in a circle. They kept circling on the outside a few times. The handler was walking in the center, body blocking the container that had odor. One dog darted across the handler to get to the odor, which was in the center. Good little dog, but many of the other dogs did not. The handler actually had to get out of the way and present the middle for the dog to find the odor. One container had a distraction of balls, one dog did a beautiful strong alert, handler called it, but it was wrong.

     3. It is interesting seeing people not know if they have all the odors and found 2. With containers, it was only 2, so they go and check all the containers. With only  having 12, that allowed the handler to carefully have their dog check each one in time. You can tell the uncertainty of the handler when they are looking for that third odor that isn't out there. The vehicles had 3 odors and the relief their dog got all the odors and you now can say finish is the best. I now see how having 3 odors is a lot less stressful than 1 or 2.

      4.  Every dog spent more time on odor than anything else, with the exception of one dog that alerted on a distraction. I did know where the odors were located, but I saw a significant change in behavior when the dog was at odor. Very distinctive. They hardly spent time on areas that didn't have odor. Obviously these dogs are NW3 dogs and they are obedient to their odor. Some handlers were waiting for a more distinct alert. The ones that called it early didn't wait for the alert, but knew the behavior of their dog that they knew they were at odor. If you want to be a fast dog, you need to learn that behavior the dogs show they found it and not wait for an alert. Time is precious in an NW3 because you have to spend a lot of time making sure you covered your area. In the exteriors, I felt the dog covered the area pretty well and got the odor, but the handler wasn't sure and took about minute to search the area. This is a catch 22 because sometimes a dog can miss an odor and going over again does pay off. Key learn your dog's behavior more than their super super clear alerts. 

      5. Many handlers waited while their dog was at odor before they called it. They were not convinced yet and wanted a little more time to make sure. Many handlers would walk around the dog at the end of their leash and then called it. A very small number worked very fast and called it it immediately.This is most likely what i will do when I do my first NW3 trail, being cautious.

      6. Some handlers methodically had their dogs search, others just let their dog go. Letting the dog go makes it harder to know where you have been.  Some let their dog lead the way and go all over the place, then if they were not sure they used the rest of their time methodically going through their patterns. I thnk the dogs that were a little pattern got their odors quicker. But it all depends on the level of the dog.

       7. A technique that has been good for me, that I saw worked for some competitors really well in this trial, if you are not sure, take your dog away and bring them back. The second time a few dogs gave a more distinct alert. This can be tricky because a few other dogs once their handler didn't reward them and were not sure, walked away, the dog did not alert when coming back. This is a matter of practice some sourcing drills and that if I don't treat you the first time around, I will the second time.

       8. The exterior had part grass and part asphalt. Many of the dogs loved that grass, but no hide was there. I was impressed how the dogs would be interested, but all handlers knew it wasn't odor. Good JOB!! They read their dogs well. The hides were relatively easy, but what was hard was there were only 2. Most dogs searched their area well. With some dogs, they kept going back to the odors they alerted, that was when the handlers said finished. They were correct. It seems when a dog keeps going back to the other odors, not because it is easy, but that there is nothing else out there and they are trying!!!

       9. When the dogs had found the 2 odors and they were looking for a possible third odor, I could see that the dogs really couldn't find anything. they were searching and sniffing, but not "in odor". It was interesting how you can tell the difference between "in odor" and when they are sniffing and searching. 

     I saw some vehicles, most of containers and all exteriors. I did not see any interiors. Due to the trial ending late and not enough sunlight for me to drive to where I was staying, I didn't get to hear the debriefing.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Another workshop in July, a year later....

      Bloomington sets at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains. It is desert, you see rocks and no green except for the occasional planted tree. It's barren; It's California desert. I enjoy taking my dog to classes at the Orange Empire Dog club. A nice size lot with maintained grass and a club house. It is like a doggy oasis in the desert. It is with clean floors, nice painted mural, a small kitchen, bathrooms, conference room and the main room on a concrete floor. A well kept facility.

      Today started out cool, with the overcast keeping the intensity of the sun hidden. We did Nose Work searches on vehicles. We did a variety of patterns starting with two cars, with a hide in the middle on one vehicle. After the first run, one car was moved to the other side of the vehicle with the odor. Thus, odor didn't move, only the picture changed. We wanted to see how the dogs would respond to the changed picture, but the odor in the same place on the same car. They all figured out the problem.

      For the next vehicle search, the odor vehicle was turned around, but parked in the same place. Instead of the odor being exposed, it was now next to the other vehicle. Picture changed. Odor changed space, but not position on car. A new problem, but some dogs found it fast, some dogs took a little time to work it out, but all dogs found it within 2:30 minutes.

      The next search we added two vehicles and an odor. Now we were working 4 vehicles. This is the most vehicles Mickey and I have ever worked. In an NW3 level, we can have up to 5 vehicles.When I found the two hides, Kim had me search the other vehicles I haven't covered. This is because in an NW3 trial, we can have an unknown number of hides, up to three hides. If we don't know how many there are and we find two hides, there is a possibility there is another out there. Good skill building to get use to doing this.

     Our next hides were wall hides. Kim used something that made it really difficult to see on the wall. This exercise was to get the dog to use its nose rather than spot find something with their eyes. This hide had an interesting odor trail. It was going around the corner to the air conditioning which is behind a metal perpendicular fence. Many dogs caught the odor there, sniffed between the fence slots. Then as you worked them along the wall, it was a challenge for them to find the odor. Kim video taped this exercise to use it as a training tool for herself. This hide did take Mickey awhile to find.

        The next hide also a wall hide on the outside corner of the building. Mickey found this much quicker and when the hide was moved in the inner corner, Mickey found this even faster. I've done a lot of corner hides with Mickey.

           Good skill building exercises and problem solving for the dogs. Duffy did the same exercise but more appropriate for his level. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Nose Work level 2 (NW2) title recieved!!

      It took 1 1/2 years for Mickey to get his Nose Work level 2 (NW2) title after his Nose Work level 1 (NW1) title. It has been quite a journey trying new things and working through issues.

      I had a great day today as I got to talk to many handlers and hear many great stories. The atmosphere was very friendly. Nice little community.

      I have changed the way I approach trials and today proved that my new techniques work. This morning was the first time I have ever driven to a trial not nervous. I kept focus to task and being grateful for everything I could think of while driving to the trial site. I thought of happy songs and even started creating my own rap beat. Go get 'em, yeah, yeah, Go get 'em Uhh huh. Bopping head and keeping  beat. Normally I'm so stressed, I know it affects Mickey. One ORT I was so tense that when i opened the door when I arrived, Mickey jumped out wanting to get the heck out of Dodge. Thinking gratitude and how awesome Mickey is really changed my way of thinking. Your mind is more powerful than you think. I even woke up in the middle of the night and took over an hour to get back to sleep. Fortunately I was "ok" in the morning. Got up early enough to get everything done I set out in the plan. Many mornings I don't feel well and trying to remember everything and gather everything is a challenge. But this day, things were going well and I knew it was going to be a great day. Set out in your mind the kind of day it will be and the probability it will happen will be high.

 I arrived to the trial happy where I was already talking to people and helping them with their canopy. I didn't have anything to do, I wasn't over occupied with being stressed and had time to help others! Met some great people too! My demeanor was very much like I use to be when i was a park ranger. The appropriate focus has changed my life.

       My first element was interiors. One bathroom was dark. I knew it going in. I had a dark situation with divine's trial and I left her leash on so I could "feel" her. I let Mickey off leash and I'm wondering if it would be better for dark rooms to keep him on leash. He alerted, but I didn't see it. The reason I didn't see it is he ran so fast and because I couldn't see, i didn't run behind him. If I was hooked up to him, I would have ran  behind him. Mickey has acted as a guide dog in harness for me since I do not see well in dark areas or at night. Mickey has experience in guiding me in this type of capacity. How he would handle this in a Nose Work sitaution? I don't know. I did with Divine and she handled it well. Divine is a career changed guide dog. Mickey is a lot more sensitive to my footing. Would this interfere with him? Maybe. These things are a judgement call.

       When I caught up to Mickey, he had already alerted. I didn't know where he nosed the area, i only saw his alert, so I had him show me again, what a patient boy! I called it. He got it. Yes, that incident probably lost me about 6 seconds, but I did want to be sure. With my low vision in these dark areas, I am going to need to come up with some creative ideas. I have thought about if they would allow me to wear a "miners" cap with a flash light on my head. This isn't really an advantage, it really is an accommodation. I certainly can get the medical documentation to support this request. But i want to be able to compete as true to the environment as I can. This is what it is, this is how I want to trial.

         Unlike our last trial in Belligham, WA trial, I was forgetting to call finished. I did so well in our last trial I thought I would be fine this time. NOPE. The interiors we search two rooms. Fortunately, the judge gave me a look and I remembered "Oh yeah FINISHED!" For both interiors, I probably lost about a total of 8 seconds. Even with this, we were on to a great start for a great day!

         the next element was Vehicles. About 1:30pm. We had this long dirt road to walk down. The cruel part was being warm and walking past this nice looking swimming pool just below the road. As we walked up to the staging area, it was like a horizon we finally reached. The judge greeted me saying how she really likes Malinois.

          The vehicles were an interesting element. On a hot surface next to a building with an over ledge with a door open that went into a building. there was air being sucked into that door. As Mickey was working the vehicles, he did not find his odors right away, then found the first odor on the hitch of the small trailer. Then we set out to find the second one. This posed to be challenge. The odor was being sucked into the ledge of the building and into the door. When you have trial brain you don't think. Yes, I have had a year of physics and got a minor degree in Chemistry, equivalent of an Associate in Chemistry. I did a lot of study on heat transfer. I know heat moves to cool. There was a current of hot air going to the building. All I saw was Mickey running for cover in the cool. And I think that is what he was doing at first, but after awhile he really was sourcing odor and I kept trying to pull him back to the truck. I pulled him many times. But in a trial situation you just panic with that clock going and 30 seconds was called. I was really proud of myself for not freaking. In Bellingham when I got the 30 seconds. I gave up. I froze and went numb. This time I didn't and fortunately Mickey found the odor. What i really wish I could see that video. See the things you do in stress.

        The next element was containers. What a creative idea to put this on a stage. The wind currents, what a challenge. The seating is designed that each row behind is slightly higher. So one side seating, and the other side a wall for the back of the stage, on either side of the wall is the entrance to the auditorium. I bet the breeze did some really funky stuff. Mickey found the first odor in the center, but the second one was on the edge, closer to where wind was doing funky stuff. When Mickey found the second odor, he liked hugged the suit case, sniffing the edges. I knew that was where the odor was located, I just wanted to make sure he alerted, he did and we got it!!

         Exterior was unique. It was on a walk way in front of a building and a section to the side where you started. I just had a gut feeling there would be an odor in this small section. Mickey went right there but from my perspective he was fringing. When ever I'm directly behind him it is really hard for me to read him. He alerted but i just didn't feel comfortable that he pin pointed correctly. He does fringe and he does false alert. So I had him go find his second one, we went down the walk way and he found it on the bench. We immediately went back to the other odor. the second time much clearer and I called it. I knew if we just went away and came back fresh, we would get the odor. Great that we got it in the time allotted.

          I was a little bummed that I wasn't feeling great. I had eaten something accidentally I shouldn't and that usually takes about 2-3 days for it to get through my body. So I wasn't really on my game. I really do feel this affects Mickey and he does get concerned when I'm not right on. But this is life and i have to trial in any circumstances. This isn't a fair weather sport and I wasn't feeling awful. Towards the end of the day I was getting achy, but still ok to trial. I was bummed that we were not as fast as we were in Bellingham. With the exception of the exterior, the other three we had good times. But we succeeded in getting our title. We now can move on to NW3. 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Last Blind before trial time!

     Practicing blind hides is different from known hides. Mickey knows how to read me well. Slight turn of my body, shuffling of my feet, breathing etc. are all cues form him we are getting close to odor. When it is blind, I'm not giving him cues. this makes for forestation with mickey because he wants to find that odor, and looks to me WHERE is the ODOR? I have to work through his frustration. that includes being patient for him to find the odor.

      In my last practice, I learned a great tip. Let Mickey work out the odor. Many times the instructor or my training partner will say, "Do you want me to show you where the odor is?" I get frustrated and say yes, but this last time I didn't. This time Mickey had to learn to actually find the odor. No subtle cues from me to help guide him. He was on his own. He often looked back or false alerted to signal "help me!" I didn't want Mickey to fall into "learned helplessness" trap. This is disaster in a trial. He has been depending way to much on, If he can't find the odor instantly, he will search a little bit, and then depend on me. this is what happened in Bellingham, WA. He has learned "wait out, mom eventually will show me." We are moving up the ranks Mickey, time for you to actually search for it. You will not get handouts anymore.

         I was patient and waited him out. I didn't break down and have my partner show me the odor. I was getting frustrated inside and kept telling myself NO! DO NOT ASK WHERE IT IS!!!! Mickey needed to work it out. Mickey tried hard to source. False alerted. I called, partner said NO. We did this again, Mickey false alerted, I called it, partner said NO. Hmmmm....Mickey started doing "frustration" behavior. We had to remove the other odor. Wait him out, let him work. Mickey needed to learn how to WORK through his frustration. This was a high hide, it was in a wood slit on a trash bin gate. A black straw with a swab was used. When Mickey finally found the odor, I gave him about half my treat bag. He worked hard. Some argue about jackpot training, but I don't over use it, so the point was CLEAR. The reward did match the effort and reward was only given when he found it. Once we can thoroughly work through this issue, I think we will do well in the third level in trialing, NW3. But this Saturday, I need to pass NW2. Mickey is awesome when he can find it right away, but when he can't, he gets frazzled and then starts to beg for help. No more showing him where the odor is located. he's a big enough boy now and experienced enough that he can now learn how to source it. What I will do for him is give him different angles and opportunities to find it. Watch carefully for a false alert and try to call it when it is right. So close to trial time! We keep getting better every time! It is exhilerating. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Handling Epiphany

     Mickey has a wonderful way of alerting. It is clear, precise with confidence. I read him well during these times. Then there are other times he isn't clear. During these times, I have struggled because it isn't quite clear when to call the alert. While Mickey is dabbling his nose here, and there I have a really  hard time sorting out how to read him, I would freeze up and fear would set in. I needed to get over this "deer in headlights" syndrome. At Mickey's last trial, an NW2 in Bellingham, WA, he didn't do a strong alert for his external hides and it confused me. I didn't know how to help him to find the odor. I was unsure, and that resonance vibrated to Mickey.

     I set out to get rid of my fear and learned about focus. Focus on task and not worrying about other people, making comments, looking like a failure and most of all take control of the situation so I won't have the fear of someone taking over. In the past, when I took herding lessons, I had an instructor, who had one top trials, take over. She didn't want the sheep and the dog to get messed up. She didn't want the dog to learn bad habits. This stepping in caused me to shut down where I was not actively thinking. I didn't learn, I just learned to zone out. It was like someone always telling me that I couldn't handle it,

    I needed to get into the zone so I could take charge. I learned about focus. I needed to get out of my head and into the game with Mickey. I was over thinking and over analyzing out of fear of making a mistake rather than collecting data. 

     Before practice today, I took my knowledge of focus and wrote out a plan. I wrote out what I would do at the start line. I wrote out what I would do when Mickey's searching for odor, dabbling around where you know he's got the odor, but doesn't pin point. Fringing. I wrote out a plan what would I do when he does this. I also reminded myself of points such as, belly breath, look at the whole search area, not where Mickey is located. Be aware of your surroundings, not hide in your pod, but notice the end of the boundaries. When Mickey fringes, walk side to side, reset if you have to and belly breath. 

     Today in practice, Mickey was false alerting often. I called a few hides wrong, but kept going. Towards the end of our practice, I started get it, the difference between a false alert and an actual alert. EUREKA!!!! And we got the hits! Doing my new focus plan got me into reading Mickey better. I was in the zone, I was collecting data where I was able to respond appropriately to the situation.

       This is why I do not believe in a trained alert, but a dog's natural ability to tell where the odor is located. A natural response is more innate in his response, it is different from an operant or learned response. It is with more reflex. Finally seeing this distinction I now can read my dog! YAY!!!! I can now tell when he's fringing or false alerting and when he gets an odor. I struggled with this before because I didn't have a plan what I would do when he did this. I was stuck. I had the knowledge, I just had to work it out on paper and a plan before putting it to practice. When I put that plan to practice, I was able to experiment what worked and didn't worked through trial and error. By the end of practice, I got it!

     Other points I worked on were placement of my hand with the leash. I was holding my hand too high. I wasn't aware of this until a judge made this comment on my score sheet. I also have learned to stand to the side instead of behind Mickey. When I am behind Mickey, I can't read him as well as if I'm on the side. This makes a huge difference.

      It was interesting today  seeing Mickey getting frustrated and alerting on pooling odor. I'm not sure why this was an issue, but we had to work through it. I can work through it when I can read the difference between fringing and a clear AH HA! This is IT! Right here! Even though we have practiced a lot of sourcing, Mickey needs to learn that we don't alert to pooling odor, you must go to source.

     I see myself dancing with Mickey better now. I'm following his lead, but not taking his bluff.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Moving right along----workshop

      Today in Bloomington, CA irwas a beautiful day. Sun bright with warmth. I wouldn't say it was hot, but the temps were rather warm.

       Since we only had 4 people, instead of our usual 6, our workshop was only 2 hours. We did three different hides.

        First: Container search, outside. All but one item was in the sun. It was next to the building where there was an inlet of the building, creating a corner where odor could pool in the corner. This corner was in the shade. The wind was blowing at a 45 degree where the wind was to our backs of the start line, but slightly crossing over to our right. This would push some odor to the building and possibly up, under the over hang and push back down on the containers. The left side went to a grassy field.

        The first odor was in a young girls back pack and the other odor was on top of a suitcase that was standing up right. Mickey got these two in about 35 seconds.

         Second: two searches. A and B but one area. We did not know the number of hides. There are lines in the floor that was convenient to separate each section into four quadrants. For Trial A, once we left a quandrant, we could not go back. This was on leash. They did this set up in Nationals. For the second part B, we did the same search, but off leash and no quadrant restriction. Both times we had 4 minutes. 
        There were tables, chairs, some chairs folded on the ground, a box with twine, a turned over bucket, hand truck, cart, step stool etc. Some of these items were stand alone or folded on the ground, while others were bunched together to create an inaccessible hide.

       First trial A: I went into the first quadrant, not knowing if she had a total of 8 hides or more. Mickey was knocking them off. When he kept hitting more it was like WOW there are many here!! I lost count. We worked systematically and did well. I like how to get into the practice of breaking up a search area and working it. It made the search less overwhelming. One issue was, Mickey kept going back to the hide he just did. This looses time. he did this with about 5 hides. We were not told yet how many we got.

       Second Trial B: This was harder for me. I lost track of a lot. I did remember a hide and pushed Mickey over to find it. It's like I was trying to remote control him. I didn't like this but he did nearly just as well. He did go back to a few hides he found, but I tried to be more active to pull him away without it being too aversive. Towards the end I thought I missed a hide, but what happened when I kept pushing him to find something, he got frustrated. Kept hitting what he knew and right after that he started to false alert. MANY TIMES.It was interesting to see what happens with this kind of set up and to know when and why he false alerts.

       At the end I found out that Mickey found 10 of the 12 hides in the first go around. He would have gotten 11, but he left a quadrant, then caught the odor, head snap, and went to that quadrant and hit on it. I did reward him. So he did find 11. I was extremely pleased how he did the first go around. The last time in class (workshop) we had 8 hides and he only found 2. I say we improved our game!!

       The second go around for trial B, he found 11 of the 12. I felt more frazzled and frustrated. I didn't feel I worked the area as systematically. I thought we found less of the hides, but we found 11!! But what tripped me up was on leash and remembering where the hides were located. Interesting how I tend to "trip" myself up than needed. When I focus, I do well.

Good lesson today. 4 weeks until our next trial!

Bellingham, WA NW2: Mickey is an Awesome Dog

     Mickey and my first try at a Nose Work 2 trial in Bellingham, WA. What an awesome experience. Trialing in a place different from home. From the southern border to the northern border. The terrain, ecosystem, vegetation and climate are drastically different. It felt like leaving summer and going into winter. My idea of winter is what we have here in Southern California. Rain, grass and green. In Southern California, we are having one of our worst droughts in history. I have no lawn in my yard, it is just dirt with no vegetation. A week and a half before I left for Bellingham, we had 106 degree temperatures and 6% humidity. My nose bled a whole day due to the low humidity. I kept dreaming about my up coming trial as I knew I would meet moisture and green.

      This trial was quite the adventure. Mickey having been in retire status as a service dog, I had to work at getting him out and exposed to lesson the shock factor traveling up north. Not only did I get him out in public, but I had him engaged in a different kind of activity, swimming at a K9 swim therapy facility. I knew he needed exercise and to do something different. I also tried to work Mickey in nose work as much as possible. I think the combination of everything proved to help him handle the trip well.

     The past year Mickey has been my dog. Our relationship as a service dog team needed to be rebuilt again. Our bond needed to grow. When you are with a service dog 24/7, there is something about that bond I can't explain. A connection like no other.

      The first day, Mickey and I rode on a trolley (light metro), an airplane and a shuttle. He did marvelously well. Unlike his trip the previous June when his lower back was hot, which I'm sure he was in pain. I had given Mickey a full dose of Previcox to alleviate any possible issues. I wanted him to be comfortable and didn't want this trip to be a drag. I wanted Mickey to enjoy getting out and being with me again.

        The next day we hooked up with friends in Tacoma, then off to the train station for the ride up to Stanwood, WA. Mickey slept like a good service dog on the train. The next day I was able to do some practice with Mickey. This was a rather interesting experience for me, watching Mickey do his search different. I can't quite put describe the words, but the way he worked an area was certainly different. Almost like the water  molecules were acting as a transport system for the odor molecules, causing them to move different. It was fascinating to watch. Mickey's sweeping pattern was different and you could see while he was sourcing, the trail of odor moved differently than in dryer weather. We had misting that day.

       The day of the trial we drove a little under an hour to get to the trial site in Bellingham. An elementary school was gracious enough to let us have a trial at their facility. The rain was heavier this day, causing the search area to be a new challenge for Mickey. For me, I spent a lot of time outside in the wet.

       Our first run was containers. Mickey nailed both odors in 34 seconds. I dropped food so we lost our first place.

      The second run was the exterior. This was an area between two buildings. In the center was a dirt/fine gravel walkway. On one side were large rocks that a dog could walk on, but it was off limits for humans due to safety reasons. It was a slight weave type walk way with trees, bushes and the end a picnic bench, which the front was in the search area, from middle to the back was not the search area.  This search proved to be a challenge for Mickey. Mickey did work the area, found the first hide, but wasn't clear to me and he left that area. Mickey did show uncertainty and it was hard for me to read him. The first odor I called wrong. It was located on a low brick wall on the end. Extending out by one brick had a brick hole where odor was sinking. When Mickey put his nose in there, I called it. Which I did that more of nerves, not that I was sure. The second hide we didn't find. The second one was at the base of a tree. The odor rose up the trunk, into the canopy umbrella of the tree, then sunk down to some bushes. Mickey was working the bushes, but was trying to source each leaf. it was like the odor was sticking to the bush. Mickey knew that wasn't the source, but you could tell he was trying to problem solve and figure this out. I blocked out with most of the other part of the search. Someone said he did go near the odor at the base of the tree. I do not remember doing that. I tend to focus too hard on my dog. But as time goes along and more experience I get, I will be able to assess the environment at the same time while my dog is working.

       The next element was interiors. It was in two adjacent classrooms with a door between the two rooms. Where the door was located was a hard floor that covered one wall to the other, while the rest of the classroom was carpet. The first room, 2 hides. Mickey got them quickly. One in a box on a lower shelf and the other on a counter in a napkin holder. Both hides were where my dog stayed on the hard floor the whole time. In the next room, the hide was also located where Mickey only stayed on the hard floor. It too was a napkin holder. I didn't notice, I was just watching my dog. he told me where ti was located. We ended up with 3rd place on this one.

       The last and final element, vehicles. We had two trucks, a low trailer and a horse trailer. Mickey went straight out, caught the odor right away, and went to the other side of the horse trailer. It was set behind the wheel, but because he was trying to source all over the place, I accidentally called at the last place he bopped his nose.I did see him stick his head in the side of the tire, but I was nervous to call it since it seemed like he wanted to source more. When I didn't call it, he got a bit nervous and he is known to start doing false alerts when he's frustrated. So he did source correctly, I was struggling reading it since he moved around like it could be some place else. At a later practice, I learned how to read him better, so i learned from this experience.

          Just like we all want our title, we didn't get it, but I wasn't bummed. I was elated at the experience. I learned. The travel to get to the trial from down south and working an environment my dog and i are not use to doing I think was fantastic in how he did. To me, this is all apart of trialing, having great learning experiences. When we get too caught up in a title, we loose the whole fun of working with our dogs. I love Mickey dearly and this is to honor him on such a wonderful job he does.

         The next day was time to go home. That evening I cranked up the heater. I normally like a room cold, but from being wet all day with soggy socks (even after changing them once already during the day) I was ready to get back home where it was dry. I love Washington State. I love the people, the culture and the beauty it holds. I hope I can trial there again. Alecia who hosted the trial is an awesome lady. I'm glad I decided not to transfer to Seattle to live. This trip really confirmed that it wouldn't be good for my body.

           As for Mickey, we bonded closer on this trip. It was like having my awesome service dog back. He just falls into his roll so well. he alerts me to things that are so natural. i miss this dog so much and love him so much. I'm so blessed to have him.  In 4 weeks we trial again in Vista, CA. Only a 45 minute drive from home. We get another fun chances to have some fun solving puzzles again.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Practicing under certain conditions

    I had a tough week. Just wasn't right on and tired. I was determined to go to Nose Work Practice with Mickey and Divine. Two dogs in a three hour workshop. I woke up Saturday morning, had my coffee and was ok to go. A little slow, but was ok to go.

     As I was driving north on I-15, I noticed a white film in my vision. Fortunately I knew where I was driving, so paying close attention wasn't needed. But what concerned me was I had to concentrate so hard watching the road as it got blurry at times. It was a little hazy and bright.

     I arrived 25 minutes early to set up and get Mickey and Divine pottied.

     First exercise was one vehicle. Not Mickey's best and Divine does decent.

Things I need to remember:
      1. Don't sell the spot or odor to my dog.
      2. Keep moving.
      3. Don't concentrate so hard on your dog, don't over analyze that you freeze and stare at your dog, which essentially sells that spot as the location of the odor.
      4. Mickey is really sensitive. Watch how you handle the leash and your movements that could direct him.
      5. With Divine, let her commit to the odor instead of bobbing (targeting). We want her to sniff odor and tell me, not get rewarded for bobbing or poking odor.
      6. Let Divine source better. 

The odor was behind all four tires and one time below the hitch.

High hide on pole. Pee at bottom, pee in grass about 2-3 feet away. Bushes behind but right of the pole. Wind was going slightly away from the bush.

Mickey did really well.

Divine peed in grass.
Her second time she worked and source. I really think she got it that she was pulled away and got no food.

Then tine with odor was flung into the grass.
Mickey - Crittered a little bit, and then my leash kind of distracted him. He found it, then we did it again off leash, much better.

Divine - did really well and got the odor.

6 odors on the floor in the training hall.
---I tend to subconsciously tell the dog where the odor is with my body language. I need to walk a little more natural.

I was really tired, my hips were hurting as I walked. My feet were swelling and Tennis Shoes were tight. It was warm, my vision was giving me issues and my concentration skills were really off. But I LOVE working under these conditions, because you never know when you are going to have a bad day at a trial and working under difficult conditions makes you better when you are feeling well :-)

I do noticed that I still have issues when people watch me. I freeze a lot. I'm more calm at a trial or when I'm training on my own...BUT with known hides I have to watch selling the odor to my dogs. That's why Mickey looks at me for clues, he's been reading my body language to tell him where the odor is located and gets frustrated when I don't know where it is located. He does find odor faster when I know where it is, because I'm cuing him.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Double Fun

       I had a 3 1/2 hour workshop with both Mickey and Divine. I will write about both of them here on Mickey's blog.

       These are mostly notes to remember what we covered today.

We did an exercise with 6 boxes against a wall, all paired. This was to get the dogs to move on and realize there are other odors to find.
   - Mickey worked this fairly fast, but I did have to encourage him to move forward. Same for Divine.

Next exercise, not paired, but we would treat when the head came up.
    -  I had a challenge feeding Mickey as he wanted to move on fast. Many times I would put my hand down and Mickey would raise his head. Ouch. Smack my hand. It's a dance and will need more practice. I will practice with feeding earlier.
     - Divine did really well, but after a few runs, she would just put her head above, like waiting for the treat. There are several ways to look at this, she is being conditioned for the treat, or she knows the odor is there, why put the head down in the box?

Next exercise:
      about 25 or so boxes, sit in a chair, and send your dog off leash. Wait for dog to find odor, stand up when they do, but if they leave box, do not proceed. Only proceed if they stay committed to box. This is kind of a game of, if they stand and indicate on the odor, proceed (reinforcement) to pay. If not, stop or depending on the dog turn your back. Sometimes you will walk from the dog to see if they stay, if they do pay.

       - Mickey is extremely sensitive with me turning my back. As noticed, Mickey would prefer to leave odor to be with me, so as a handler, I have to be careful how I use this. don't use it to pull him off odor, but use it to search another area that I know doesn't have odor in it.
       - Divine did VERY VERY well with this exercise. She committed to the odor and wouldn't move. I turned my back, she would stay. I even went back to the chair and she re found and committed to the box. This was an easy exercise for her.

Container Search:

        Probably about 30 containers of small little bags, to backpacks, to suit cases and a variety other things. Both Divine and Mickey had to explore all the little containers. Both brushed over odor. They wanted to explore the environment. They eventually got the odor. This was a new exercise for Divine and it was increasing her bar of difficulty. Mickey has had something this difficult int he past, but needs more practice.

Two hides in a configuration of tables, chairs on tables, carts etc.
    On odor on a chair on top of a table, the other about 15 feet away, low on a cart. converging odor was definitely happening. You could see dogs going back and forth trying to sort the two out, not sure which one to go to first. 

      - Mickey and Divine found the high hide first. Mickey understood looking up, but it did take Divine some time. She really needed to work and problem solve. She was tired form the day, but still working and searching. This exercise was also raising the bar for her. For Mickey he has had similar in the past, but it has been awhile and he needs practice.

       I thought the odor was on a different part of the cart, so when Mickey found it with his nose, I didn't see it as an "alert" but the instructor said Ah there it is pay. I did, but I had no idea that he "found" the odor. I usually like to see a distinctive alert. What the instructor said was to work a lot of sourcing. Which is my goal. I won't be doing any Sniff 'n Gos for awhile. I will be skill building and exercises. This is what I did for NW1. Did VERY little blind hides before NW1.