Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Singin' in the rain!

Tonight's practice was focused on motivationals for *all* the teams, not just us. This was due to two major factors: it was pouring rain and many of the teams have been deployed recently to a search where the victim has yet to be located.

Our pattern tonight was 2 short runs followed by one triple the length of the other two. K was our victim, no flanker. Weather was 50 degrees and rainy; the ground was soaked and muddy from 3 straight days of rain as well.

Run 1: About 40-50 ft down a dirt road; K ducked in about 5ft into some brush. Z did a pretty much picture perfect find-alert-refind sequence and so did I. K rewarded with food play as last week. Good motivation/speed, clean and powerful alert and refind.

Run 2: About 50-60 ft down a dirt road. K ducked in about 10 ft. Another pretty run - again a nice level of motivation and good enthusiasm on the alert and refind. Same rewarding.

Run 3:
About 150ft with a big right turn. Gave K 50 seconds to get into place, released Z. Great speed to find K; K reported that Z shot past her about 20ft, but skidded to a stop, paused and then located her. K wasn't sure if she had used her nose or visually located K, but I was just THRILLED to learn that there was no "faking" on the refind as there has been the last 3 or 4 practices. Z found K and came straight to me for *another* great alert-refind. I had K really feed her up at the end of that 3rd run because it was so wonderful to see. :)

Now to keep going in this direction...fingers crossed!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The rollercoaster

So tonight's practice made up for the last one. :) We haven't had team training since my last entry due to snow (!) and thus Z had a 2 week break from training. I was a bit nervous about how she'd perform, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Z got to do two sets of runaways and D's actually having us increase distances again, so we got a lot accomplished.

I had a new volunteer with the team serve as victim for our first round, B, and she ROCKED! I'm going to really try to have her help Z and I out frequently because she can really rev a dog up well and her rewarding technique is great. I think I'm actually going to instruct others how to do it for Z as well - B basically made Z play with her food by moving it around and having Z try and catch it vs. just doling it out like most people do. Z loved the extra movement and her tail was going a mile a minute the whole time, plus the added activity makes the rewarding last longer and maintains her victim loyalty really nicely.

Set 1: Weather was really nice, about 65-70, clear, low humidity. We worked on a curvy dirt trail bordered by heavy brush. B as victim, no flanker.

Run 1:
B reved Z up and ran about 70 ft down the path and ducked into the brush about 12 ft. She called out to Z most of the way and then went silent when she got into position. Z blasted off after her, went straight to her, did a gorgeous alert and refind and B kept her with her for a good 30-45 sec using her great rewarding technique.

Run 2: B again called out to Z as she ran away another 70 ft down the path and ducked into some brush again about 10-15ft off the path. Z again took off after her when released, foudn her straight away, came back to alert (slightly sloppy, but still obvious), and did a nice refind, again staying with B for her reward for a nice length of time.

Run 3: B ran about 80 ft away before taking a sharp right turn and heading down the path another 30 ft before ducking in. She called out to Z just a few times before disappearing around the bend. Z kicked up dirt as she went after B, ran past her location about 15 ft, turned around and found B, then started her return, but according to B stopped and returned to her. B ignored this behavior and Z then came to me to alert (nicely) and completed her refind well.

Set 2: about 65 degrees, clear but dark, large grassy field. K served as victim for us on this set with B as flanker.

Run 4:
K showed Z her reward and then ran about 50ft away and hid in brush on the left side of the field. Z did a picture perfect run with a direct path to her victim and a nice, fast alert and refind. K rewarded as instructed, but for a bit shorter period of time than B had on Runs 1-3.

Run 5: K said bye to Z and ran about 70ft down the field and ducked in about 15 ft on the right. Z again located her easily, alerted well, and performed a spot on refind all at a good speed/motivation level.

Run 6: K ran about 60ft before ducking down a path on the right for 20ft and then cutting into the woods about 10 ft. Z left me at a good pace and found K, returned and hesitated on the alert (she was about to turn back without alerting, but I redirected her), but alerted solidly after the redirection and returned to K well after that.

I'm seeing a pattern: Z "fakes" her alerts on the 3rd run of each set! I'm going to be focusing on that behavior in the next few weeks, but the last run of tonight was good as I was able to catch her mid-"fake out" and successfully get and rewarded the proper alert behavior. This should set us on the right path hopefully.

I was very happy with what I saw tonight - a very motivated, speedy, and pretty accurate dog. :) We still have a long way to go, but it's always nice to see progress and figure out some of the issues from prior runs.