Thursday, July 27, 2006

Found this photo

I found this while browsing through pictures of the UDC Nationals this past April. This was taken during the SAR aptitude evaluations.

I absolutely love this shot, because at firs glance it looks as if Laev is lying down beside me while helper Mike approaches with the toy. But look closer....

Laev got very nice comments on her evaluation form. :-)

"I won! I won the toy! I'm taking it back to Mom now!"

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Blind Search

Laev did her first blind searches today. :-) I've worked briefly on going around an object and returning to me, but she's not really fluent at it. She had enough of the concept, though, to figure it out this morning, as I set her up beside the #5 blind and sent her around it, where I immediately sent her all the way across the field to blind #6. (Schutzhund fields have 6 blinds; the helper is always in #6.) Watching Laev book it across the field at Mach 7 is quite fun! if I don't have to be right behind her to take her after the bite. /laugh/ We have a large Schutzhund field; it's my exercise program!

There were only three of us present at training today, so no gates to help at the blind. She hasn't needed them for a while, but it's still a big picture change. So our helper has a plexiglass shield he could use to keep her from getting a successful bite, and it was kind of fun to watch her work that out. "I want the bite! Give it to me, darn you! Grr! Give it!" (She bit at the shield; she whacked it with her paws.) "Fine! Barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark!!" And she was rewarded with a bite. :-)

The second time we started a little further back, though she wanted to look over her shoulder to #6. But she did it correctly. The third time we did it even further.

The fourth time, now directly behind blind #5 as opposed to beside it, she tried to cheat. She knew, of course, that he was in #6, and why on earth would any sensible dog run around the empty blind in front of her instead of going directly to where she knew the bad guy was? Really? I mean, humans have such stupid ideas of fun games! So she ducked out as I sent her and ran toward blind #6.

We knew this was likely, of course, so we had her on a long line running loosely to a person standing just past blind #5. A correct blind search means Laev never feels the long line and then drags it at high speed all the way across the field, but an attempt to cheat means that the line tightens and she can't get more than a couple of feet behind me.

I sent Laev again, and she tried to cheat again. Man! Stupid humans!

The next time, she played by the rules she knew worked, even if they were dumb, and she got around that blind in record speed and across the field. Way too fast for anybody to be moving in this kind of heat and humidity! But I caught up in time to see her earn the bite.

All told, the day's reps were 3 successful, 2 cheats, 2 successful.

I need to review our training plan a bit, though; it's obvious that she does not find the calm sleeve-holds and outs to be reinforced, because they're degrading terribly on the field. And indeed, almost every time she wins the sleeve and holds it as asked, she is then asked to out it and we drag her away from it. Not good! and that's obviously why she has a 99% reliable out anywhere off the field and a mediocre out on the field.

The problem is, traditional Schutzhund training relies strongly on that frustration in the dog ("darn it! that was my sleeve! I want it back!") to build strength into the next behavior (another blind search followed by a hold and bark), so we need to be creative in finding a way to reinforce the calm hold and the out without losing that intensity.

Tracking this morning STUNK. As in, Laev was more interested in my right foot than the start of the track, she skipped most of the food on the first leg, and she didn't want to play at the end, just wander and sniff after a desultory tug. In good news, she didn't go more than a foot or so off the track and she did very nice article indications, but it was a long way from what I want it to look like.

DPCI club picnic this afternoon. We decided to make a bid to host the 2008 Nationals. I think we'll be busy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Laev's a Nut

Saturday was odd. On her second session, Laev ran past the blind *twice* instead of going to the helper for a hold and bark. What? I could not even conceive of such a thing! That would mean she wasn't heading directly for the helper and the sleeve. What the heck?

So we did a rep where Randy peeked out of the blind and stimulated her a little (that means he made some noise and movement, so that she knew he was there and ready to play the game) and then she was sent directly to a bite, no holding first. Then she did a perfect repetition on the fourth time, which you can see below.

Of course, I didn't get any video of the first session, in which she gave perfect rep after perfect rep. Of course.

hold and bark video

Monday night, she did not repeat the mistakes of running by the blind, so I don't know why that showed up just randomly. Weird.

And here's a little photo essay of what a hold and bark looks like, for those who don't want to download the video:

Laev comes skidding into the blind....

...the barking begins....

...and usually involves bouncing while vocalizing....

...and finally the helper moves and she may bite.

The gates are still present in case they're needed, if she forgets to "hold," but she's doing much better. They'll be faded out soon.

After bitework we did water retrieves; Laev was TERRIBLY distracted by the German Shepherd pups working on either side of her and really didn't do as well as I'd expected. Okay, she's never done water retrieves before, but still! she was just really, really into barking at the other dogs as they jumped and splashed and ran. Something I'm going to have to work on, I see.

After all that, Laev was tired. How tired? Well, here's something you'll probably never see again....

That's a french fry lying next to her muzzle. She was so out, she didn't notice when we dropped a treat into each crate. Wow!

And just how tightly do Dobes coil? My friend Bev says any Doberman can fit in a bushel basket, but I think they can go smaller yet. My car crates are 36" x 21" and here's Laev asleep on the way home:

Note that she's lying across the short side of the crate, just 21" wide. This is why people give me odd looks when I'm buying mid-sized crates and houses for my large dogs!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Anytime, Anywhere

Well, okay, this is actually just on my front porch when Jon and I came home late from a wedding. But this picture makes me laugh.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Back to Work

I was out of town for a week (family reunion), but Laev was happy to welcome me home. Today my afternoon session was canceled, so I took Laev to the great room for some shaping.

First, I pulled a tower of rolling file crates into the center of the room, and we worked on going around them. This is something that I should have taught months ago but have been lazy about; eventually it will turn into a blind search behavior and a useful agility send, but for right now, it's a cute trick involving the stacked file crates in the great room. Laev caught on quickly for a right-hand turn about the tower (what I want for a blind search) and I was able to get distance up to 10-12' with no problems. Then I started to add a temporary cue ("go") and a hand signal, which will eventually be refined to "revier" and a smaller hand signal. Then, pushing my luck, I started discrimination in asking for right-hand OR left-hand turns, differentiated by my using an alternate hand and angling my own body to make the correct choice easier. She was getting a high rate of success, but I was giving a lot of body help and it was a lot to ask, so I dropped that after a short time.

Then I moved the tower away and scooted my chair elsewhere in the room, so that we had a different environmental picture, and I started to shape a bow. When, oh when am I going to learn that I should be videotaping this stuff? It was just incredible to watch her think about what I clicked -- at first she kept offering spins and searched for a target, but I clicked for pausing in her wandering or for a lowering of her head. Quickly that became clicking for bending of elbows, and *then* the brain started working, and she experimented with lowering the head, bending elbows, lying down, facing different directions while doing all of the above, etc.

It wasn't totally smooth -- she gave me a number of nice bows but only in certain directions, due to superstition. She faced me and lay down too quickly for me to click the front end movement only, so no click. She puffed air, stood and faced the couch, where she bowed -- click. After that, every time she didn't get a click, she'd give me a perfect repetition while facing the couch. :-) Eventually, though, she was starting to figure out that she could do it in any direction.

We don't have a cue yet, but within 5 minutes she was giving me repeated full bows. I really love this clicker stuff. She's learned a little more about how to think through what I'd like to see and evaluate feedback, so further training and real life will be simpler. I really, really love this clicker stuff. And now she's taking a lovely nap in her crate, all tired from thinking so hard. I really, really, really love this clicker stuff. /grin/