I’m sorry I’m so behind on posts – I think I finally have my computer up and running smoothly now, so this will be a compilation of our first 3 classes of the January session.
I wanted to get the dogs used to working a new room in an efficient manner, as well as get the handlers eye trained in watching / noticing what areas your dog has / has not covered. I used boxes to give the dogs something concrete to focus on, and to make it easy to see where they had been / had not been. Not all boxes had odor, but several boxes did have odor. There were start line hides, hides deep in a corner (near a full bag of garbage) and hides on the stairs. The boxes and hides led the dogs around the edges of the room.
Next I wanted to see the dogs (and handlers) work a transition space. This is can be a small hallway, entry way or connector room between 2 larger rooms. Many trials have you searching 2 adjoining rooms, which are considered one contiguous space. However, when there is a small connector room or hall, many dogs (and handlers!) buzz right through it to get to the next room / larger space. So, there was a box w/ a hide in it in the laundry area, on the landing between the kitchen and daycare room in the back. This was a tricky one, as the box was big, set at an angle, and the tin was waaaaay at the bottom of the box. So not only did the dogs want to cruise right on by to get to the next larger space (with additional boxes), but they really had a tough time deciding that odor really was in that big box. We also noticed that the back room was cold, vs the warm kitchen. So the odor in the box was hitting the warm kitchen air and rising, leading the dogs away from the box.
I believe the handlers knew the hide was in a box, but not necessarily how many hides there were or where the hot boxes were. This really had the handlers getting the dogs to check each and every box – and the dogs were very clear about which boxes were blank and which had odor. The only trip up was the bakery box – Isaac showed a little interest, which made Beth show some interest, and it could have been a situation where they convinced each other that it was a hot box.
An additional point of interest I wanted to cover, was the start line. The blue tape in a start line, or blue tape used to tape off windows or glass doors from view at a trial will NOT have odor in them. I decided we should practice w/ blue tape to get the dogs used to the odor of the tape before trial day. And, I wanted the handlers to allow their dogs to got in and out of the search area if they needed to. I called Jinxx back after she went “out of bounds” at a trial, and I pulled her out of odor. I should have let her work out of bounds until and unless I really felt she was not hunting. Remember, neither the odor nor the dog know the boundaries, especially when it’s just tape on the floor! So note what your dog looks like when they “leave” the search area before being in a rush to call them back to you.
Building on the box searches of the previous week, this time the kitchen (which still had boxes in it) was blank – no odor. The dogs just had the kitchen to work and handlers knew the room had no odor. Every single dog took 1 minute to search each corner, the stairs, the garbage, the refrigerator, basically cover all the ground in the area, before the handlers felt (or would have felt, if it were a blind search) comfortable calling Finish. We then let the dogs search the back room (as a new, separate search area), including the laundry landing area. There were 3 boxes in the back room, one had odor. The dogs went right to it in a matter of seconds. Very different than their detailed searching of the blank room!
Next run, the dogs had access to both rooms. The first room was blank again, and the only odor was deep in the back room. Again, the boxes were present and odor was in a box. The dogs quickly scanned the kitchen, and moved into the back room, and worked to the back step to get to the hot box fairly quickly.
The last run – and this is where it got fun for me – there was odor on the refrigerator door, right near the start, about nose height to a greyhound. I was thinking the dogs would buzz through the kitchen, since on their last 2 runs it was blank. But no, your good dogs searched right from the start line, and were in odor right off the bat. Proving that they don’t have any preconceived notions of where odor is or isn’t, they just search. I really wish I remembered more details on this night (times, how they tracked odor etc) – I had it half written up when my computer died 😦 so this is all going on almost 2 week old memory!
I also think the contrast between week one – where there were 5-6 hides present – and this week, where there was only one hide (maybe 2) – was interesting. I think it keeps the dogs motivated to search when they don’t always get 4-6 hides & rewards. Alternating many successes in one search with a search where there is only one or two, keeps them working a bit harder.
Ok, so now we’ve seen the dogs work in the kitchen, transition room, and back room. Your dogs understand the room, they’ve had success in corners, on the stairs, in the transition space, in the back room, at the threshold. This week the search was blind to the handler. You had both rooms, considered one contiguous space, and 3:30 to search it. The only other information you had was that there were 0-3 hides.
There was only ONE hide, and it was in the recycling bin. Ok, so that wasn’t really setting the handlers up for success, since most people thought their dogs were just sniffing garbage, so I’m sorry about that. But, I hope it made you watch and trust your dog, and will make you remember that anything in a search area is IN PLAY unless otherwise specified. You can always ask during the judges briefing (after the walk through) if you have any doubts or questions about the search area or objects in it. If I remember correctly, all the dogs got to the recycling bin within 25 seconds. It was also slightly diffuse, since it was down in w/ the bottles, esp for little Max – the opening was over his head! The big difference I saw was in the HANDLERS – everyone was very STIFF and uncertain. Which is probably exactly the way I look in a trial! Everyone kept their dogs searching right up to the 3:30 mark. Now, we saw the previous week how the dogs took 1 minute to thoroughly search the kitchen – so adding that one additional room added 2 and a half minutes to your search? No, it was the fact that it was blind that caused all the angst and self doubt, causing you to keep your dogs searching and searching.
The next run the only hide was in the transition room. The dogs did great, very clear when in odor and at source, and the handlers looked a little more confident. Although everyone ran down the clock again, pushing it to just about 3:30. One thing I saw was the dogs, when asked to continue searching after finding the one and only hide, kept returning to that one and only hide. Bella began investigating dog odor (as did Izzie and Isaac) You can see how when they are done finding what they were asked to find (target odor birch / anise / clove), they begin looking for something else. Do that too often, for too long, and you could convince your dog that you know something they don’t – there must be another odor – so they could false alert on non-target odor to satisfy you.
This week, I’ll split up the class so that half of you can watch the other half do a blind search, and then switch. For example, Logan and Izzie may search the long narrow “Breezeway” area (with the generator and crates) blind, while Sarah, Beth and Margeurite watch, and then Max, Isaac and Bella will search the kitchen blind while the men watch. We’ll swap areas, so Logan and Izzie will then search the kitchen hides they saw the women search, and the women will then search the Breezeway hides they saw the men work.
Be safe tomorrow, stay warm and take your time shoveling the expected 2 ft of snow – no pulled backs, please!