So tonights class was about balance – balancing a difficult hide with an “easy” hide.
-High, under a metal staircase next to a tub
-High, under a metal staircase propped against a wire crate
-Low to the floor, under a step, with the metal stairs collapsed
-Low, with the steps collapsed and wedged against a metal crate in a tight space
-Front and center on the bottom step
-On the side of the rail of the steps
-On the side of the middle step
-On the bottom support rail on the floor
Even though the hides were only on the stairs, by moving the hide in different places, and then by moving the stairs (collapsed on the floor, up on the tub and up on the crate) the searches were all very different. The odor was at times pooling under the tub and dropping in the little garbage can, other times, odor was pooling in an empty crate, next to the tall cupboard. This is an easy way to mix things up on your dogs, yet not have to come up with different rooms in your house, or new locations in the rooms you work all the time. You can challenge them with just one prop! and experiment with hide placement. What is the most challenging for your particular dog, high hides? Hides up under something that’s over their head? A hide in a tight corner? Or the hide that was wedged way under a step, the ladder was collapsed on the floor, and the dogs were picking up odor, but didn’t quite feel comfortable climbing in between the steps to wedge their noses down to where the hide was (other than Gidget – she contorted herself to get under the railings to get to source).
Using one prop makes it fairly easy to practice reward delivery, and work on getting your dog to stay at source, and use the timing of your reward to encourage them on the tougher hides.
General treat delivery:
We’ve talked about waiting until your dogs nose is AT SOURCE before feeding them. So, say they are at source and you rush in to reward. Your incoming motion pulls them off source to look at you, and you’re standing there ready to treat. Withhold the treat and pause – wait for them to return to source, and NOW go in with the treat and reward at source. I like to have a little fistful of treats, and squeeze one out at a time, always being sure their nose is at source before a treat is presented to my dog. This prevents me from having to dip back into my bait bag. Reaching in over and over pulls your dog off source, and makes it easy to mis-time your reward (you can end up rewarding while they are looking at you) I want the dog to always get the reward while at source.
Getting your dog to stay at source longer:
Once your dog knows how to source a hide (your dogs all know this at this point, unless it is a particularly challenging hide placement – see below), you may want them to linger / hover / freeze at source so it’s crystal clear to you where the hide is. If they skim over source, then turn to look at you, or worse, turn to walk towards you, it’s really difficult to call Alert with confidence… just in case you get asked “where?” So, you could wait a beat or two before rushing in with your fistful of treats. It’s a tough balance, because some dogs will get impatient and paw. We want to fade the paw out as much as possible. At this stage, the paw could be a “hey, you, with the treats – it’s right HERE (scratch scratch)” If that happens, move in to reward, but withhold the treat until the dog nose touches the tin again. As long as you time the treat with the nose at source, that is what you should get going forward. You get what you reward – so be sure you are rewarding the nose at source! It can help to have the hide slightly elevated – that makes it natural for your dog to keep their nose at source, when it is nose height to them. You could see with Mia when I waited a beat or two, she would either stay longer at source, or double triple nose bump it. Early on in training, we were rushing in to reward AS SOON as the nose arrived… at this point, we can delay just a beat or two or three… See Gidget’s response.
Using treat delivery to encourage your dog:
Sometimes, we have to accept less to get more (Amy Herot’s saying). For example, when Phil was working the hide that was over his head, he did not consider putting a paw on the wire crate for balance. Maybe if it had been a solid surface, or a chair, he would have, but the wire crate? Not so much. He could meerkat on his hind legs just fine, but he was choosing the sides of the step, rather than the middle of the step where source was. He was giving it his all – up on his hind legs for quite some time, on one side of the step and then the other. He just didn’t get right to the middle of the step. After several attempts by him, he came down, looked at Cathy, then tried to leave the room. He came back in, and worked the hide the exact same way – up on his hind legs, close, but not quite at source. When you decide that your dogs KNOWS where source is, but just can’t quite bring himself to to overcome an obstacle to get there, you can reward from source. so the 3rd time Phil came back and was on his hind legs, you’d want to reward him while he’s up there, and for the second treat, start with the treat at source. Hold it there for a beat or 2, and see if he comes over for it. Yes, this is contrary to the first two points about only rewarding when your dog’s nose is at source, but we use this method only for difficult (for your particular dog) hides. Accept less (not being quite at source) to get more (next time, he’ll be more confident to hover directly under the middle of the steps) You certainly don’t want to do this for every hide, just those that you can see he or she has a slight fear obstacle that they can’t overcome. Then, end on an easy to access hide, so you can resume your “dogs nose it at source, treat comes in” reward delivery, and have them end on a “phew, an easy one!” type hide.
Overall, I think we gave them some good challenges along with some easy access hides. A good balance to help them grow stronger in their Nose Work careers!
See you all next week!