I volunteer for New Rattitude Rat Terrier Rescue
Helping to find rescued Ratties in need their second chance at life in good fit forever homes.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nosework is for Everyone! Part 2 Tim Getting Comfortable

Once Tim began to get excited to play the game of eating treats off of flat pieces of cardboard it was time to see how he would do with trying to locate a box with a treat inside and eating the treat out of the box. So I picked a low sided box and taped the flaps down tight so there was no chance of any accidental flap movement. And I made sure to have some super yummy treats, cheese!

Tim really took to the game and although in these videos he is still not 100% comfortable he was continuing to want to play the game and he was getting more and more comfortable each time he practiced.

You will notice I am not saying much or acting excited (even though on the inside I am always beaming when I watch my dogs work). Nosework is not a game that is meant to be energetic. I don't even have to ask Tim or Skip to "find it" or "search" as they know when they see the boxes that it means to search and find the box that, in this case, holds the reward. This is another part of the beauty of Nosework, the handler isn't teaching the dog anything, the dog is actually teaching the handler how he searches (many dogs search in unique ways). Our instructor Erica Wells reminds us frequently "trust your dog" and the more we get into doing Nosework with Skip and Tim the deeper I am coming to understand what a powerful statement that is.

Tim waits patiently behind the gate for me to shuffle the boxes again, changing where the "dirty box" (the box with the food reward) is for him to search and find.

In this video you see Tim sit in front of me and look at me for quite a while. At this point he was still not sure what he was supposed to do so he was checking in with me for direction. I didn't say anything or point him in the right direction and you can see the lightbulb go on in his head, he caught a whiff of the treats and turned on his own and started to search again. Sometimes we need to just let our dogs have a moment to think and process for them selves and Nosework really helps to remind us of this.

You will see that I put the treats in the corners of the box. This is only because I was wanting to push Tim's comfort zone a bit as I knew he needed to start to be comfortable with where the rewards were in the box in case in the class the treats were not always right in the middle. You can see he is not comfortable yet and he really tries to make sure he doesn't touch any of the boxes with his paws, but he is making progress.

A definite Timken Lean showing me he is still not comfortable with putting his head in the box.
Stay tuned as you will see Tim really start to rock Nosework. And there will be video of Skip who is the Nosework King!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nosework is for Everyone! Part 1 A New En Deavour

I am very excited to share our newest venture with you, Nosework! If you don't know what the heck Nosework is I encourage you to read all about it here http://k9nosework.com/ . The absolute coolest thing about Nosework is that any dog can do it. Does your dog have a nose? Then your dog can do Nosework. The other really great thing about it is that any human can easily learn how to be your dog's handler. Also it is good to know that your dog does not need to know any cues/commands whatsoever. Your dog can be the most shy, reactive, deaf, blind, old, young, active, sedentary, pick a label, that dog can do Nosework and will be accepted in a Nosework class. Perfect! So not that we like to use labels but just to bring the point home, we signed up Timken (our soft, fearful boy) and Skip (needs his space from new people, can be reactive) for a 6 week Nosework session with Erica Wells Certified Nosework Instructor.

We have almost finished our first 6 week course and I would love to encourage anyone reading this blog to consider a Nosework series with your dog/s, you won't be sorry.

We had played around with Nosework in our home quite a few times in the past. Birdie and Liza have taken a series of Nosework classes about a year ago. I have fellow New Rattitude foster parents and adopters who have been doing Nosework with their personal and foster dogs and I have been in awe of the progress the dogs have been making in confidence and in their work ethic (they all love to search). So we wanted to see how Nosework would help our two boys, Skip and Tim, each with his own personality that could use a little fine tuning. :)

To get Timken ready to begin Nosework I took the advice of a peer foster mom who suggested starting Tim out with treats on a flat piece of cardboard to begin. Tim can be afraid of novel things. And so boxes and especially boxes with flaps were a real hang up for him. In beginning Nosework the dogs are finding treats in boxes so we needed to make sure Tim could feel successful in class so we practiced at home for a few weeks before our first official class.

I worked with a few different sizes of flat cardboard and then combinations of boxes and cardboard. Tim was hesitant as you can see in the videos but he was able to work through it.

In this video I was just doing some simple cues with Tim that he knows, "sit" and touch" while we were near the cardboard. He is so sweet.

And in these two videos I had a couple of boxes in the mix and again he is hesitant but he did great!

Here is a glimpse of what happened next...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Continuing Working Off Leash With Tim... A Ripple Effect Part 2

Here are the rest of the videos of the dogs walking off leash and Liza is now in the videos too! In case you didn't catch the first post you can find it here Continuing Working Off Leash With Tim... A Ripple Effect Part 1

Here Dave is working on rewarding Tim for being at his side rather than the usual running up front then checking back in. He is starting to get really good at it and will walk at Dave's side or a bit behind him on a regular basis now!

Here is Skip and Jenny walking next to me, I am trying to record and reward at the same time :) Nice to know I have their attention.

 And wow Liza is in the video! This is the ripple effect of this work we are doing with Tim, Liza is staying close to us and not scouting out in front like she has done for the last 3 years that we have had her. She is really into this fun training we are doing. Liza says "if there is food involved I will gladly change my behavior!"

 Normally we don't really stop our walk to deliver the rewards but everyone decided mom is preoccupied with recording so maybe it is a good time to see if they can get a treat for being super cute.... it worked! What the heck, if the dogs want to be focused on us when we are on these walks rather than heading out into the woods away from us, I am really good with that and it should be rewarded I think.

And look what we are achieving! 44 seconds of the dogs all walking behind Dave and in front of me. This feels like the safest way for us to do off leash walking and we will continue with our rewarding until this behavior will just be second nature for everyone. 

I wanted to mention a few things in closing about this subject of off leash walking. In the past when we would work with training our dogs, before we had ratties, we would spend a lot of time saying "keep back, stay back, get back etc..." Not sure if you can notice from the videos but we aren't saying anything to the dogs. What we know now and wish we knew years ago, is dogs don't understand our conversation, confusing cues that were never even taught. They don't learn to stay where you want them because you say words to them and then get more stern each time you say it.

Dave and I daydream about going back to our past dogs and starting over with what we know now about force free training. We didn't know any better. I still believe we were loving doggies parents, but I now know we must have been awfully confusing to our dogs and they did get stern "talking-to's" which looking back did little to get the behaviors we were wanting and did nothing to deepen our relationship with our dogs.

I want to thank two New Rattitude team members for sharing with us their journey, passion, and love of force free training. Please visit their wonderful blogs here http://rescuedratties.blogspot.com/ and here http://cattierattie.blogspot.com/. I am a convert of this fun, gentle, and common sense way of having a working/training relationship with our dogs. And it works!

And a quick tip. If you decide to work off leash with your dog, please be safe with them. Where we practice this work is on state land where there are 99.99999% no other people or dogs to distract our dogs. Also with small dogs please be aware of wildlife that lives in the wild places and if your dog is wandering off, or his/her prey drive is too strong to be safe, then please use a long line or leash and keep them close to you. Talking, whistling, wearing bells, can help to warn wild life of your presence. Don't walk off leash with your dogs where it is not allowed. And always carry a leash for every dog that you can grab right away and use if needed. Some dogs might never be trustworthy to be off leash, that is perfectly fine.

This post is in honor of our dear friend Maya who was a great companion and hiking partner. She has been waiting for us at Rainbow Bridge for about 6 years now and we know someday we will meet again. Love you and miss you Maya.....

Maya at Chiwaukum Creek Trail, Eastern WA

Maya at Goat Lake, WA