This evening I set up one of the Container searches I used in Saturday’s Level 1 Container Element Sniff Thru. The challenge: Look how simple! Only 6 pretty boxes, what challenge? Well, the boxes themselves proved a challenge, as they were made of heavy cardboard with a waxy paper coating, which creates more of an odor shield than the standard white cardboard boxes. Also the lids – when odor does escape, it is aiming straight down to the floor. Another challenge: the heater. It cycles on and off, blowing warm air to the wall on the right (with windows, so a cold wall) then the air bounces off the wall and heads back into the room. Hmmm… maybe not so simple.
What we saw Saturday at the Sniff Thru was dog after dog picking up odor on the bench, many taller dogs would pick up odor on the left side of the bench (when the hot box was the blue box on the floor on the right side of the bench) When they went around to try to source it, they would lose the trail again. There was one very experienced dog who got this search cleanly, i.e., with no help or hints from me. Most dogs needed more than the 2 minutes I had given them for the search, many got it in about 2:15 or just over the time limit.
So, I had you guys work this blue hot box in several configurations, as well as an “easier” problem, a small white box (also used on Saturday) that was “hidden” under or behind a table or chair. I wanted a confidence booster for the dogs, to keep them SURE they could find odor, in the hopes of keeping them persistent and not giving up when faced with a tough hide.
We also worked on addressing individual challenges. Odie is back after a break, and needed some reassurance and reminders of what game he was playing. Pairing and rewarding quickly will keep him on the right track, and get him to focus on the game we’re playing (not his own games)
Aggie was finding source, then drifting off… or taking one treat and drifting off… we really want her to stay at source, and not move on unless told to 🙂 So the last run I ran Aggie (thank you Ali for videoing!) and tried to show how to reward quickly at source with one treat, then while she’s chewing, present the next treat, while she’s chewing present the next treat, etc. At that point, if I pause in the treat delivery, she should go back to source and I quickly treat again. I’m holding a nice stash of treats in my hand – not returning to my treat pouch each treat – and brining my hand to her when she’s at source as quickly as I can.
With Bailey, we’ve been working on tossing treats to get her jazzed up, and then rewarding at source once she brings her nose back to source. Also, letting her sniff what she’s working for at the start line, and sort of jazzing her up there before sending her forward has helped with her motivation and focus in searching. This might work for Odie, as well? Just a thought… since he has less experience than Bailey does at playing the game, we may want to keep Danna out of the picture at this point, and just have him focus forward and keep his mind on hunting (for Birch, Odie!)
And Koda was the star – he’s really picked up his pace – he’s sneaky fast – he doesn’t look like a Tasmanian Devil/whirling dervish like Odie, but he gets right to work and moves quickly and efficiently to source, and then is very clear when at source… double or triple nose touching, looking at Ali out of the corner of his eyes or looking towards her briefly before returning to source. Very nice!
As you watch the videos, note your position during the searches… are you standing still near the hide? Are you keeping a good pace going? Is the leash loose, but not so loose that it drags and tangles your dog? Is your leash too short (I know, we’ve done a LOT of off leash searches, so you may not have thought to bring the long line) Can you work the leash with 2 hands, and still have treats in one hand?
Now watch your dog – are they looking at you for help? Are they showing any interest, but passing source? Can you see any change in pace as they work near the hot box? How about their tails – wagging, slowing down, only wagging when you come in w/ the food? How about their front feet – are they planted or dancing when near the hot box? Do they lick their lips? If you can see some of these things in the video, your eye will be more trained to spot them during a search, giving you more confidence that your dog is either close or at source.