Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nosework Seminar

Yesterday, Rundle had the opportunity to get a working spot in a local Nosework seminar. Nosework has been in the U.S. for a few years now but it is a brand new sport to Canada, with the Sporting Detection Dogs Association ( just starting up this past year.  In a Nosework test, dogs must find the target odours (wintergreen, pine and thyme) that are hidden in various spots (in boxes and/or interior rooms and/or vehicles, depending on the level you are testing at).  It is much like how drug detection dogs learn to find various substances only our dogs learn to find substances (odours) that are not illegal. Dogs of all breeds (mixed or not), sizes and ages can learn this game.

We had a lot of fun at the seminar and Rundle had a blast searching the boxes and getting cookies for finding the box with the target scent (we used wintergreen). This is a sport that I am interested in continuing with. Once Rundle knows what he is supposed to be searching for, it will not take much room or time to practice, and it is perfect for those bad weather days when it is tough to get outside.  It is so great to see dogs using their noses - it is such a natural thing for them so I am sure it is very rewarding for them to get to be allowed to use their natural abilities.  

Here are a couple videos that my awesome friends took for me (I didn't know anyone was video taping). 

The first video is when we started using the boxes. There is the wintergreen scent in the box along with some food. When the dog finds the box with the scent, we put more food in the box to make it very rewarding. (Thanks Amanda for the video).


The next video is after we have done a few sessions with the boxes. There is no longer food in the boxes but we still reward heavily as soon as our dog's head goes into the box with the scent. We really want to make that connection with the smell and good things (food) happening. You can see Rundle is very excited to get to the boxes! (Thanks Jolene for the video).

Now I just need to find some good boxes to hide scent in and we can get started training at home. It is great timing too as suddenly our nice autumn weather has turned to cold and snow.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Downs Continued

We have had some progress in our downs at a distance. We have moved away from working on the stairs back to working on the flat.  I am now leaving Rundle in a stand stay, walking away and then asking for a down.  He is now downing on cue with little forward motion. Right now I am giving him a "learning phase" grace of a maximum of 2 steps forward. If he moves more than that, I reset and ask for the down again. Eventually I will want no forward movement at all after I give the cue, so I will shape our way towards that goal.
Since our goal in this exercise is for Rundle to be able to drop anywhere on cue, even if he is moving, I want him to learn how to drop out of motion. I am teaching this separate from the drop from a stand at a distance because he needs to understand the two concepts individually before I combine them. So, I am having Rundle drop while walking beside me to teach him that he can drop quickly on my cue while he is moving. I am posting a video that includes the first two sessions working on this. So far so good.  I will gradually keep moving when he drops and expect him to stay in the down position but I expect that will take several sessions of reinforcement to learn.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Teaching Downs

I started teaching Rundle to lay down on cue when he was about 10 weeks old.  Now, he will lay down quickly when I give the cue and he is even getting some good durations on his downs.

When teaching a puppy to lay down it is easiest to have them right next to you or in front of you so you can lure or capture the down and then reward right away. This starts the foundation for a solid down on cue.  Eventually, you will want your puppy to respond immediately to the down cue, no matter where they are.  This is where my problem has come in. Rundle has generalized the down position to mean lay down right in front of me, so no matter where he is when I give him the down cue, he will always come right up to my feet before laying down. I want him to be able to lay down no matter how far away from me he is when I give the cue.  I have been working on this with him for a couple weeks and have made a wee bit of progress but not much. So, I have started working this exercise with Rundle at the top of the stairs and with me a few steps down. When I give the down cue, Rundle must lay down without moving toward me (coming down the steps). This gives him the opportunity to think through the challenge as he has the choice to come down the stairs toward me or lay down at the top. I will gradually move further and further down the stairs until he is laying down quickly no matter how far away I am.  Once we have some distance that way I will go back to asking for down at a distance without being on the stairs.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

6 Months

It's hard to believe that Rundle is already six months old.  He is fun, cuddly, sweet and smart all rolled up into 55 pounds of playful and cute puppy-ness.
Rundle 6 months - Growing Up Nicely

For Rundle's 6 month birthday he got to take a trip to the mountains for the very first time.  We did a quick day trip to the BC Rockies to enjoy the mountain air and sights.  Rundle was very excited to go for a hike on the trails and to smell lots of new smells.  I think he enjoyed his day as he slept for the entire 2 hour drive home.

Freckly-Faced Cuteness

We are still working on our on-line performance puppy class, which is going well.  We are also still going to puppy agility classes.  Rundle loves puppy agility!  He gets to do fun things like run as fast as he can through the tunnels, play tug, chase me, and he is learning what a jump is.  He is not actually jumping, of course, but he is learning value for going through the standards and over a jump bump.  He is also doing some plank work, which he thinks is a blast.  He is the youngest puppy in the class, so we modify lots of the exercises for him, as he will not be jumping or doing any contact work for quite a while still.  Right now, the most important things he is learning from puppy agility, is that playing with me is fun and how to focus and work with lots of distractions going on around him.

I have also started doing some tracking with Rundle.  I don't know how far we will go with tracking as I only have a tiny bit of experience with it and it is something that takes a lot of time and dedication if you really want to be successful.  It is something that is good for young dogs to do, as it is low impact, uses the dog's natural abilities and is a good way to tire out a young, active pup without putting a lot of stress on their joints.  For now it is fun and Rundle thinks that following the "cookie trail" to find even more cookies is the best thing ever!

Although it seems like we are doing a lot of training, unless we are in class, we really only do a few minutes of formal training here and there throughout the day.  Most of our training is done as a part of our everyday activities - we play lots, go for walks or out to just socialize.  Here is a little video of Rundle and I playing tug in the back yard.  I am very happy that he still likes to play tug and that he will use playing and tug as a reward when we are training.

It is fun to see Rundle learn and change as he grows up, but it is also a bit sad that his baby puppy days are now behind us.