So, we’ve done several searches this session using cardboard boxes. We used them to have the dogs work through a room, get into corners, work in a progressive manner through the room, and so the handlers had a nice visual as to where the dogs had and had not searched. We’ve searched with distractions – garbage and recycling in the search area, gloves, human scent.
But for a true Container search at the NW2 and NW3 level, the dogs are searching mixed containers – meaning they can be any material, shape or size. Suitcases, computer bags, vinyl bags, cotton, nylon, paint cans, eye glass cases, plastic buckets and of course boxes are all examples. They are spread or arranged on a blank floor surface, and may or may not have food or toy distractions in them. And they are done on leash.
After a trip to drop things off at Goodwill this week, I ended up leaving with more than I dropped off… a 4 pack of a new suitcase set, an older style brown suitcase (both have rough fabric outsides) and a nice camera bag. So straight from Goodwill to NW class – your dogs were the first to work these bags.
The first pass had no additional / intentional distractions. There was one bag several dogs found interesting, but they all left it. There were 2 hides. One in the strap of the camera bag, one in a small box. Remember in a container search there is no pin-pointing – the whole container is hot. The dogs do have to learn to search the entire bag, and not just skim over it. So on the camera bag, the first pass the strap was right on top of the bag, then I reoriented the bag, placing it on its side with the strap on the floor, and setting it up so the butt-end of the bag was the first side the dogs hit… really making them work the whole bag to pick up the odor.
The box was not your traditional ORT white box, with 3 nice open seams along the top. This box’s lid came all the way to the floor, so I imagine the odor was coming out the very bottom, and hitting the cold drafty floor.
I ended up adding an empty bag of treats to a box, and then a half of a baked potato for distractions… interestingly, the dogs seemed to like the potato better than the salmon lamb treat bag!
As you watch the videos, note your body position – is your dog out in front, able to scan not only the bag directly in front of them, but also the bags left and right of them? In a smallish space, it can be difficult to get your dog in front, and you may end up on one side of your dog. Just know that you are potentially cutting your dogs access off to the containers behind you. Also note what you do when your dog pauses to investigate a bag – do you come to a dead stop? Are you coming up behind your dog, such that he thinks you’re coming in to reward him? Are you keeping a steady pace, regardless of what your dog does, so he knows he has to be clear and stick with source to get your attention? We had a lot of “test alerts” – some times the dogs were alerting on pooling odor from the adjacent hot container, other times, they were truly testing out their theory – if I sniff, paw and look, does that get me the treat? if I do a micro-freeze and dad stops, does that get me a treat? When in reality we don’t want the dogs thinking – we want them searching independently, and doing that involuntary head turn, that involuntary hitting of the brakes, that confident “hey, this is what I should get paid on!” behavior that comes naturally to them at this point. No thinking or guess work required! I think the more times they test their theories, and DON’T get the expected reaction, they will throw their theories out and get back to the involuntary response to odor. To speed that process up, we’ll do a Container search were the odor is paired. This way they are self rewarding at source – no thinking required!
Here is the link to the videos: