Curt & Mo

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    OK, here’s my week 3 homework video–blind hides on a misty, foggy day. I did not know where the targets were, but as Mo got “shroomy” on the first and third trials, I did see the partially-obscured teals just before he alerted.

    After the first find, there’s a break in the video. On the second trial my videographer, who’d hidden the teaballs, told me Mo was on one when his behavior resembled an alert. I clicked and treated, but Mo didn’t stay at the site, making me wonder further about this alert. Then it turned out there was no teaball, and my helper apologized. I explained that I didn’t want to be told where they were, and then I went to reset Mo for the next trial. At this point, as I’m taking Mo back to the downwind side of the search area, I pick up the video again.

    As I’m preparing to begin again and am trying to untangle myself from the lead, Mo alerted on a target. I didn’t see him do so, as I was still untangling myself, and I was about to unknowingly pull him off the target. My helper smartly let me know that he had alerted to avoid that mistake. Thus, the second trial is a bit discombobulated but we avoided a potential screwup.

    Upon starting the third trial Mo is clearly distracted by the quail in their pen, and later by scents outside the perimeter of our search area, but I was able to reset him and he alerted correctly on the target.

    Thanks in advance for your critique!

    Alana McGee

    Hi Curt
    Mo Looks like he’s grown overnight!

    Good to know about the 2nd trial. Mistakes happen that’s ok. Part of the learning process. Days that don’t go well are often more valuable in what we take away form the situation. What was the alert there that you clicked for?

    Nice space Curt. You’re being very conscious here in directing Mo in the wind columns. well done.

    He’s doing really well- as are you for not pressuring him when he pauses to investigate odor (houby or not). well done. The awesome news is when it’s not houby he moves off fairly quickly. Bonus Mo, cookies. That’s hard for a puppy. REALLY hard. rockstar qualities.

    Well done Team.

    Great click there around 0:59. You clicked right in the middle of the alert which was “head swivel” look. So that is what you were reinforcing as a behavior.

    You edited it out (we understand why you explained) but we’re curious how the transition went from the first hide to the second. At 1:10 your joint energy seems a little off kilter and so seeing the transition gives a lot of information on what happens next.
    Your connection is positive and genuine, earnest and lovely, but for some reason after the alert Mo seems either flat-stiff or intensely focused. It’s a little hard to tell without more context. His body posture isn’t loose but he is a pointer so we also think this may be part of his natural alert sequence. This is very nit picky, but it is information you can use. In ‘most’ dogs this kind of posture would indicate elevated levels of stress. Being a pointer and being Mo here it seems more natural but still we wanted to point it out as we haven’t see it much from him previously. See if he starts to do that more during/after an alert. Is his body tense in “pointer” mode. It’s not wrong and it is not bad in anyway, it is information, but good to know he does that as that will also help you tell more about the situation. It’s kind of like it’s a truncated pointing behavior- except his head swivels to you. What does he do for Quail currently?

    1:07 and again at 1:18 you can see his muscles loosen a bit during the reward. Just interesting.

    1:29 Bouncy! He’s got some leg to grow into! Nice searching. You did miss the initial here, but it was really nice alert from him, and Yay Mo for offering it again 🙂 He double checks it’s still there and does it again. That deserves Massive parties. Even though you called to pull off/ draw attention, he was dedicated to source. He even took a step towards you and was like, NOPE HOUBY. YAY mo. That shows a strong development in generalization of the game despite what my handler says ;). really pretty, and really well one Mo. This is why video can be such a great learning tool!

    Here’s something to take away from this lesson. Mo is dedicated to odor. In environments that are not overly distracting he is incredibly solid and given enough time will choose Houby over novel odor. The first hide of this video you did great and allowed Mo on his own to move off of distraction/ other odor. On the 2nd hide you didn’t allow him as much time to come off of it himself (in fact it was houby) but as a handler allow him a bit of time to move off on his own. If he is not alerting on Houby after say 7-10 seconds of oddly placed interest then move away, but allow him to make decisions to move away if he can before you break his focus. He’s very receptive to you, which is what makes this incident an even better indication of how solid the foundation is with him and how he has generalized the game thus far. The learning experience is stronger in this fashion.And way to go team.

    2:07 he seems very content.
    2:34 Good Curt, this is nice moving in space and encrouaging considering the added distraction. Whether that was intentional or natural, it was well timed and well placed.

    2:51 is a great example of what we are talking about above. You do generally give a nice amount of time for him to move away from other odors. 3:25 is another great example of well timed pulling off distraction. You generally have a very good sense Curt of when to do this. Your body positioning is good. You energy is on par with Mo.
    4:04 nice working the space guys! This was the best reward sequence energetically from the two of you. If you watch it again see if you can tell the difference in between the rewards. Why was this one better/ more enthusiastic? Because you saw Mo working for it really hard and finding it through challenge?

    It is one of the more complex skills in hunting, but being aware of your own genuine enthusiasm & engagement in finds can be valuable as your energy and enthusiasm is mirrored in your dog. Again, this is subtle to most but you two are doing exceptionally well and have a great relationship and we just want to point out these small moments

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 8 months ago by Alana McGee.

    Thanks once again, Alana, for the insightful critique. To be honest I’m not sure if some of your questions were rhetorical, letting me know what I should be pondering on my own, or if they were questions you wanted an answer for. So here I go–whether answering you, or thinking “outloud” for my own sake!

    You asked about Mo’s body language and my joint energy in the sequence of interactions right around 1:10. If my joint energy looks awkward, I’m pretty sure it’s due to one of two things. It could be because I’m still experiencing some pain in my left knee, post-Lyme disease, and that has me squatting awkwardly in a way that I never would have before this year. Another possibility is that ever since you pointed out in the last class that Mo seems to back away from heavy touch/body direction coming down on him from atop, I’ve tried to not lean in quite so much and I’ve tried to give touch praise from underneath, on his chin, neck, or chest. After you pointed that out I could see that tendency in Mo when almost anyone is interacting with him. It seems especially obvious to me when my younger (13-year-old) daughter is interacting with him, but it could be simply because she handles/trains/interacts with him more than anyone other than me. More frequent examples.

    You do mention that Mo’s “stiffness” could be rather natural for Mo. I’ll watch for that and consider that question.

    You also asked about the transition from the first hide to the second (in the context of my awkward joint energy/posture). I went back and looked at the unedited tape, and most of it looks unexceptional to my untrained eye. After the reward sequence, Mo and I sat for a moment looking at each other in still silence. I then stood up, and Mo stepped back a bit while maintaining the same directional focus and (to my eye) the same posture/body language. I untangled the lead from his front leg, gave the cue “houby,” and he resumed hunting. I can post that sequence if you’d like to take a look. I’m always amazed at what you see, and are helping me see.

    Finally, you noted better energy in the final reward. I don’t remember it being intentional, but it could be because the last find did take a bit longer and I saw him distracted by several scents outside the search area. It also could be that I just remembered on that reward that generally I should be a bit more enthusiastic. I’m a pretty typical northern Minnesota guy, fairly stoic. My younger daughter told me that she read in Hare and Woods’ _The Genius of Dogs_ that dogs generally respond better to female voices/interactions than to males, though males could be taught or socialized to improve their communication style with dogs. I’m trying to be more demonstrative and willing to sound or act in a way that a month ago I would have found mildly amusing or embarrassing.

    Thanks again, Alana!

    Alana McGee

    Hi Curt

    We want to know. It helps us analyze the situation.

    A couple of the later questions are for you to think about to start analyzing training sessions yourself so you can start to see patterns emerge in his behavior. We only see a snap shot of training. Always happy to have you answer questions, but yes, some are for self-reflection, apologies!

    We have noticed your touch patterns- touching Mo from the chest/ chin, and it looks improved. How is he now if you were to pet/ reward from the top? He may be more comfortable now, but as you say you notice it with your daughter still. It’s not concerning, but information. Dogs, especially puppies change, so think about that and see if reacts the same way all the time with all people. Just something to think about. In just a normal every day setting.

    Thank you for explaining the knee etc- it does provide context. Sorry it’s still stiff!

    No need to post the sequence here, what you described about your stiffness is a pretty good indication that is likely part of it. Nothing to be concerned about really, again, it is all information. We’ll watch going forward and there may be times we ask for the whole unedited thing.

    The enthusiasm thing can be subtle, but yes, I often find that neighbors think I am the crazy dog lady next door when we are in the yard or at the park practicing because for a couple the dogs I aim to be really over the top. Even for simple retrieves from my Aussie (as it is not a natural skill for him. Lots of very loud “good for you!” ) It takes getting used to, but can make a big difference 😉 Love it that your daughter is reading “the genius of dogs”.

    You are doing well guys! Hope the weeks going well so far.


    OK, here’s my week four homework. Blind hides in an area that Mo and I had never been in. Sorry about my videographer’s Blair Witch Project style, if you’re old enough to remember that! She promises to be more steady and leave it panned out next time.

    Breeze was flowing right to left. I started on the left side of the training site perimeter, but Mo began by bounding into the tall grass to the right of the search area and taking a very, very long pee. I cut to that point to start the video.

    When I went back and watched this, I realized that Mo alerted at 0:12, but I didn’t see it. Unfortunately I was off camera at that time, but I can tell you that I was ducking under the canopy of a bush and making sure that Mo’s check cord wasn’t wrapped around two or three bushes. I totally missed it. Unfortunately Mo didn’t stay at source and re-alert, but he did go back to that one around 0:53.

    I think there may have been scent seeping through the rock pile and coming up a bit downhill from the final target that Mo found. A couple times he seemed focused on the rocks in places that proved to be downhill of a target.

    After your previous round of feedback, in which you pointed out that puppies change and maybe Mo is not longer intimidated by touch coming down from above, my daughter and I seemed to confirm that, so I didn’t worry so much about giving touch praise from below. I do, however, like to get down at Mo’s level to love him up a bit.

    Thanks in advance for the feedback!

    Alana McGee

    Curt this looks good, we have very few comments on this one. Your self analysis is spot on, and we would likely concur on the rock pile based on the fact his behavior looked like he was mapping the area a bit mixed with distraction at 1:41 when he was close! That intense smelling is often more indicative (when combined with his body language) of creepy crawlies making noise under those rocks. It’s interesting how he jumps out and goes back to where odor was previously to try and track it.

    0:45 GOOD Curt bringing him back into the game there. Well done. You rewards are nice. NICE nose touch at 1:04.

    Are you using some of those fresh black trumpets you found the other day?

    He’s working really nicely. This area certainly had some distractions today, and he looks to just be having fun, but he handled all of them well. 2:46 he gave you a paw on that one too!

    3:31 really nice.

    Overall well done. Good on you for noticing the missed alert in the beginning.


    Here’s week 5 homework video. When we have helpers available, Mo and I have been working on blind hides in unfamiliar areas, which is what you see here. No sound in this video because my helper had to field a phone call from her 100-year-old grandfather just before shooting, and she talked with him throughout the video.

    Mo shows his puppy side here through distractions outside the search perimeter (we’re in a public park with people and dogs walking by) and by playing a little rodeo with his lead. (He’s still sometimes chewing on leashes, especially when my older daughter walks him. She just let him destroy one yesterday.)

    What I find fascinating is that twice in this video after I refocus Mo on the task at hand he goes straight to the area of a target; one time he even went straight to it and alerted immediately, as if he already knew it was there. I went back and looked for body language indicating earlier recognition when he was in that area (1:01-1:05 or so), but I couldn’t see any.

    Alana McGee

    Nice Line handling Curt!

    Were like that first alert as well. You’re doing a wonderful job reading him. When you come over he even offers you the paw which is a really nice indication (even if not fervant) on target that yes, that’s it dad.

    Nice cue transition at 1:01. Even without sound we can tell 😉

    1:21 nice distance you’re allowing him.

    This is a nice space to work in. 1:45 good. This in a freeze frame shot is a perfect example of you providing a lot of information to Mo. Your body is cheated towards the area you’d like him to go, you’re giving a verbal indication here (we can’t tell- but it looks like it) and your arm is pointing a directional towards the space you want to move into. Perfect.

    This was a really nice set up with distractions. You guys handle it well.

    We see exactly what you are talking about at 2:21. We didn’t really see any indication either earlier on that find in body language. What we will say is he is approaching it from a different angle, so depending on the breeze he may not have hit the scent column unless he was approaching from this side which looks to be down wind. Nice re-alert to show exact location.

    He is still a puppy, so the leash play rodeo can be a play break. You do a GREAT GREAT job of giving him some time and the refocusing. Being down on his level really helps.

    This is a lot of distraction and he is doing well in it.It is very interesting to notice just what you describe on the proficiency in locating targets when he’s focused.

    He’s young, so that mental endurance is building, and will continue to do so the more you practice these games. For such a young lad he is doing fantastic on that score. Focus and impulse control are tough for most dogs under a year. Mo is doing great.

    This was a good session Curt.


    Alana, Kristin–

    Just wanted to thank you for the course and let you know that in the last week Mo and I have shifted focus to birds, with grouse season open here in Minnesota and a pheasant trip to North Dakota coming up in a few weeks. Between all the bird hunting coming up and the fact that if we have a typical fall I should expect hard freezes (and eventually snow) in the coming weeks, Mo and I won’t be full students in the third course. We may audit, or we may wait until next year and work through the curriculum in the lead-up to our trumpet season.

    Thanks again–Mo and I have had a lot of fun, and we’ve certainly learned a lot!



    I see pecan truffles are in . . . Mo and I remain interested in the 2-3 oz. indicated last spring. Alana, I know you said we are “on the list” and I hope we are in line to get some!

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