This was a really fun class (I think I start a lot of posts this way!) But it ran really smoothly and the dogs and handlers did great 🙂
When I arrived, there was a nice surprise waiting for me: the tractor was out. I parked next to it, and we did a 2 vehicle Vehicle search. Quattro was in the crate in the back of my car, so I wasn’t sure how that would go, but he didn’t make a peep, and the dogs didn’t seem distracted by all the dog odor that must radiate from my car! I liked using two very different vehicles. Vehicles alike a tractor (or boat trailer, or golf cart, or any earth moving machine) have lots of nooks and crannies, ins and outs, that the dogs have to learn to navigate, and follow odor through. Then there are passenger cars, many of which are built to be aerodynamic. Think of what that does to odor – makes it travel the length of the car at a pretty good clip, vs getting snagged up on all the piece parts of a tractor that jut out. So dogs have to learn to follow odor as it moves all the way to source.
This set up had the dogs working into the breeze. The tractor hide was on the back of the bucket, sort of nose-height to a shepherd. It was tucked behind some metal parts, with lots of openings above and below, so the odor could move around and collect on all sorts of metal arms and pieces. It was fun watching Billie Sue work to pinpoint this.
The car hide was on the wheel spring on the left rear tire. The tin was on the giant spring up behind the wheel, so dogs really couldn’t put their noses on it… well, maybe a greyhound with their long narrow faces could get in there, but not the herding dogs or big hound in this class! Calvin did a beautiful job picking up odor beneath the rear bumper of my car, then working to the front side of the tire, and making his decision. For a small dogs like Billie Sue and Panda, they could cut under my high car to get to the back side of the tire, the key is just not to let them completely disappear under there. Billie Sue probably pushed it as far as a judge would want to see – she was pretty far under, but you still had a good view of her. My phone froze at the start of Oasis’s run so I only got half. Although I liked how Barbara was the only one to go around the entire tractor – good practice for a trial, covering the whole vehicle. Sandy had a nice front cross, after Nell found the tractor hide and Sandy was going to head her to the car. Really nice work from you all and all your dogs on this one.
Then, we did a fun exterior search. Jeanne and I had talked about making things more exciting and fun for the dogs (and handlers) in NW3 class the night before. And I got to thinking how Calvin sort of finds one or 2 hides, then seems to lose interest or think he’s done. So, this was in effort to get lots of rewards for odor for your dogs, and let them break loose a bit. It wasn’t so much a pin pointing, trapping odor, pooling odor exercise – we do plenty of those inside, and we did some of that on Vehicles. This was all about watching the dogs work with very few visual cues, off leash, out in the open, let them run around and get rewarded for finding target odor.
The start line was a start “box”, something I’ve seen in NW3. This gave you and your dog the option to start off in any direction. There was a snow shovel and rubbermaid bucket out in the open field, and between the start line and those 2 objects were 7 hides. I used the objects (shovel and bucket) for a couple reasons. Point of reference for us humans – there were no hides beyond them. And secondly, I was hoping the hides that were in front of each would pool up against them, and aide the dogs in catching odor. And lastly, I figured if the dogs came blasting into the large open area and were not thinking about odor, they at least had 2 anchors to aim for, where they would hopefully pick up pooling odor and get their heads in the game.
I think doing the vehicle search first was a nice warm up for this big open search. Some dogs got the hide that was just off the left of the start box, showing that they were ready to work from the get-go. I loved watching them range out, then hook back around when they caught odor. Some of the dogs did a great distance alert – meaning, they were working far out form you, found odor, and stayed with it until you got there to reward them. I decided to not coax them into finding every hide… at about 2:30 or 2:50 mins I called finish. I didn’t want to push it and risk someone peeing, or teach them to follow your lead. I also didn’t mind if they got rewarded more than once for a hide they’d already found. A, it was hard to keep track of which had been rewarded for already, and b, I’d rather reward them and keep them on task than let them lose enthusiasm and get drawn to other interesting smells.
I think the dogs all looked like they had a blast! It is an area used for Daycare, so it’s loaded with competing smells. A few dogs ranged to the fence to the right of the start line… the wind was blowing slightly in that direction (from the field to the building) so it is possible that odor from the search area was collecting over there. I liked how they had to work out the converging odors. The hides were in a V shape, but of course the odor isn’t limited to that shape. Oasis especially would get in the middle of the V, start working odor on her right, then get drawn into the wind and find a hide on the left. She really zigzagged up and down the field, and did not work it in a progressive line or V shape. Think about how challenging that would have been as a handler if she had been on leash! You would have felt like you were in her way no matter where you turned. It was fun watching her sort it out in her own dramatic way! None of the dogs false alerted on pooling odor on the bucket, Nell didn’t pick any up, and Calvin didn’t really paw/dig at them, and no one peed. I’d say it was a successful evening! Very fun to watch – because even from a distance, with no visual markers for us, it is clear when the dogs are right on source. Hope you enjoy watching!