What a perfect weather week! One to remember, especially mid-February when we are salting and sanding and shoveling and bundled up. Other than the mosquitos, it was simply gorgeous weather. Great for practicing outdoors in distracting conditions!
For all 3 classes this week, I was looking for independent hunting from the dogs, odor obedience over outdoor distractions, being able to focus on hunting with distractions present, and smooth leash handling. I think everyone accomplished these goals!
Wednesdays night class worked the side of the School. Lots of dog odors, and agility class going on in the background. I thought I would keep it fairly simple and put 3 hides on the wall, one nose height, one on the ground, and one just over nose height. The first run was a good warm up run – not the most focused I’ve seen our dogs, they walked by the first hide for the most part, then got to work. I had set a line of cones for handlers to stay behind, keeping in line with the exercises we’ve been working on the past few weeks (distance, independent hunting) My hope is that by “forcing” you to stay back from your dogs, I’m hoping it becomes comfortable and second nature to give your dogs the leash and room to work. You all did great! One or 2 dogs needed the handlers to take a step over the “line” to “push” them forward, then picked up odor and off they went. The 2nd run was better – they were all more on task and hunted well. I moved the cones out even farther, then added odor to a chair that was close to the line. So handlers had to manage the leash – feed it out, gather it in, as the dogs moved to the building then towards the handler and the chair. The hide at the end of the building, closest to the agility field, was interesting to watch them work. They almost all went down the little hill before turning and coming back up, checking the chair back, then heading straight to the hide. Something to keep in mind, if your search area isn’t completely flat… odor could run down hill – especially in the shady conditions and cooling temperatures that we were in. If it had been in full sun, with the temperatures rising, I don’t think the odor would have run downhill…warm conditions may have had odor rising even more, and been more difficult for them to pick up. The last run there was just one hide, about 4ft up, and handlers could ignore the cones. It was fun to watch the dogs hop up on their back legs to get to source. Teddy did a great job of being on task, no grass eating, even when he was stuck on that last high hide. He didn’t give up or get frustrated – a nice improvement for him. So even though I lowered the hide for him to be successful, I was happy with his work ethic and endurance. Much different than this spring, when we did the hide in the branch, and he got frustrated and ate grass. And Isaac was very independent of Beth – no false alerts! Let’s see the same on Sunday in Ashby!
Thursdays classes had the luxury of using the agility field, and being under the lights. We got lots of runs in, working it like a true NW1 search, with only one hide for some of the runs. This made a lot of work for the handlers (popping up from their chairs to get their dogs, since the runs were so quick!) so I ended up adding a hide to make some 2 hide searches. Nice focus from the dogs – they had a large open space, but focused right in on the wagon (first run) and all did a nice job detailing the wagon to get to source. We did a threshold hide, which BoomBoom and Sakara worked beautifully. The Aframe hides were fun to watch – the odor was rising, apparently a tiny bit of air movement was pushing into the Aframe, causing the odor to rise. The dogs would work up, then down to source. Nice job with your leashes – loose, not dragging, coiling it in if your dogs came at you, feeding it out smoothly as they worked out from you, and lifting it over the jump bars. And nice work allowing you dogs to range “out of bounds” – they all were working odor and came back on their own to track it down. All dogs stayed on task – there was no peeing, and maybe 2 bites of grass eating – they all did a great job working in longish grass with lots of dog smells present. I have some video from this class that I will add shortly.
The NW2/NW3 class was pretty much in the dark, and with Linda on vacation, Andy’s Corgis and Barbara’s Shepherds got a lot of work in! We alternated between one and 3 hides, and since the area was pretty contaminated from the previous class, I would let them know if it was lingering odor their dogs were working. I had expanded the search area a bit from the previous class, and then for the last runs, gave them even more space. Again, all the dogs were very focused and clear, and even if they showed interest in lingering odor from previous hides, left it without false alerting. Nice job with the leashes and staying back from your dog. The little triangle of the AFrame, jump and tunnel was a good area to practice staying out of your dogs way. The odor was bouncing between the obstacles, especially the ground hide in front of the tunnel, so if you were between the jump and tunnel, you were practically standing on the hide, and crowding your dog. Getting out of there let them work the odor off the obstacles. Panda actually needed Andy to step in to convince her that was part of the search area – she was behind the tunnel, on the front of the jump, working the AFrame, but it took one step from Andy to get her to go between. As soon as he got her in there, he backed out and she found the hide. So, one of those moments of, “right, I have to make sure we cover the whole search area” before calling Finish. NW2 you have the luxury of knowing the # of hides, but it still shows you have to be aware of where you have and have not covered. I loved the last hide in the grass in the fresh area – I couldn’t see it at all, and had to rely on the dogs behavior to say Yes – they were all easy to read! and spot on.
The dew was pretty heavy by this point, as the air had cooled dramatically from the first class. Good searching weather for the dogs – although it does make the odor cling to the wet surfaces (grass and obstacles were all pretty wet by this time) Another experience for your dogs to put in the bank. And, with good leash work, your leashes weren’t too wet – no dragging leashes kept them out of the wet grass, another bonus of good leash handling.
Sad to see our daylight go, but I can’t say I’ll miss the mosquitos! We’ll be sure to be out as much as possible, since last winter we went MONTHS without doing an Exterior search. Start bringing layers to dress in!