Poor neglected blog...
Anyway, today we had a group training on a weekend I could actually attend, so we had lots of fun. Ziva ran 2 times, which is one the the beauties of these long practices (9am to 2pm today).
At the last group training we attended (which I will post about eventually) Ziva treed a cat while out on a track - a BIG no no. I had a cold develop shortly thereafter which severely cramped my abilities to do anything with her in the past 2 weeks, so today's practice was the first once since that cat episode. Z was NOT performing at a level I would've liked, but we did get some good work in, so at least I have that.
Her first time out we were going to do a short runaway, a lengthy runaway, and then a short track, but it became apparent during the first runaway that she was incredibly distracted by all the scents in the woods and was not up to the increasing distances we had planned. On the advice of our trainer, who was flanking for us, we took her all the way back to puppy training and did several short (like 50-70 ft) runaways with lots of happy noise from the victim and over the top rewarding. I also was told to work on patterning her: released w/ "Go Search", find victim and get one treat, refind (call if she starts to get distracted), reward a solid jump alert and be sure I'm standing up , not bending down, say "Show Me" and nothing else, and then run like heck with her to the victim where she gets a long reward and lots of happy noise again. Rinse and repeat over and over. :P She improved on each run, though D did mention the dreaded "wash out" possibility if we can't get her off the "crittering" (searching for animals vs. people) she was doing. That was a bummer, but it was a kick in the butt we needed to really buckle down and work at this.
Between Z's runs, I flanked for M and his K9, S. S's search was on a longer trail and we were looking for a pair of boyscouts who had been sent out 2 hours prior. We actually went through some of the same territory that had given Z so much trouble and even S had her moments of distraction, so it was nice to know that we're not alone in critter interest. S found the boys aok and both M and I learned a bit more about body language changes and what they mean. S threw her head up at one point and we wondered why until we realized that the boys had made a campfire and she was likely smelling the smoke - about 5 or 10 minutes before our human noses could catch a whiff!
The second time out, Z and I did the same thing as before, but just the victim and I, not including D or the victim's nephew like the first time out. We went back into the woods at another point and she did GREAT! Fast take offs to the victim, strong alerts, minimal recalling/redirecting, especially when compared to the first go 'round. She even cleared a lot of brush on the final runaway which has been a problem in the past for her. It was a great end to what could've been a very frustrating day.
I've resolved to try to address the crittering issue using +R techniques before I go to punishment based methods, so we'll be playing around with a few things in the next week or so. I'm leaning toward buying bottled animal scent and working Z on "Zen" with the scents (rewarding turning away) to see if that helps some. Ideally I could get her to the point that she runs right over any scent when she's in work mode. We'll see how it goes...