Welcome Back, Saco Students!

Wow, it seemed like a long time since June, but it’s good to be back!

I’ve swizzled up some of the upper level classes, so we have a new blend of students working together.  NW2 & NW3 have some overlapping skills, and by mixing the levels, the NW2 students get a preview of what’s to come, while the NW3 students are working on sharpening some skills we may have skimmed over in the past.

Monday 6:15p

Week 1 Sept 28

NW1 Class – we have two additions to this class.  Welcome Marcia & Ziva and Shona and Rankin!  Both just passed their ORTs (Birch, and Birch Anise and Clove) in September and are ready to continue their NW journey.  Gidget and Reo are the most experienced, and I’m looking forward to having David and Jeanne do some live demos each week 🙂

“Simple” hide under the grooming table, in the orange room.  Relatively blank room, odor pooling under the table.  However, the fan hanging in the corner was on HIGH.

Dogs for the most part did a quick scan around the room before coming back to the table.  It took them a few minutes to pinpoint it up underneath, and we ended up pairing the hide for some.  Adding food to the hide not only adds more odor, but also adds motivation and determination.  The dogs will be MUCH more motivated and determined to find FOOD than just birch.  They get an instant reward when self-rewarding at source, so they get instant feedback that they are right.  Additional reward from the handler solidifies things in their mind – Wow, this birch is really worth searching for!

The next pass had the table up against the wall (vs in the middle of the room)  with the hide in the exact same place on the table.  The scent picture in the room changed, but the dogs were quicker locating the hide under the table this time.

The last hide was a simple box – I was curious to see if the dogs would go to the table after finding a hide on it the previous times in the room.  Nope, they went right to the hide and ignored the table.


This class was about Odor/No Odor.  What does your dog look like in the presence and absence of odor?  This was based on the NW3 trial where dogs and handlers missed a hide when they missed covering a file cabinet and fan.  It was a very small room, so it would be easy to think you don’t have to direct your dog – if there was odor, certainly the dog would pick it up?  Yet at NW3, you really have to pay attention to what and when your dog is searching.  Are they coughing on a treat as they walk by one wall?  Do they skim and cut a corner?  Are there large objects in the room that they completely miss sniffing?  How do you get them back to check an area / object, without talking them into a false alert?

Dogs worked one room with no odor, and when handlers felt good that they had searched edges, corners and objects in the room, they called Finish.  The next room had odor – and the dogs quickly showed that they were in odor, and worked to source.  In the blank room, the dogs were all good about covering the area independently… circling around the edge of the room, then moving to the middle to check the tables.  Handlers did a nice job ensuring the dogs got into the corners when they were missed, and it was noticeable how the dogs did not spend a lot of time in any one area.  They checked everything, but didn’t linger.  When they were in the room with odor, after a quick scan, they would stop or pause to detail an area for several seconds, as they worked to get to source.  They were pretty clear when they were in odor!

Tues NW2/NW3

Remember in NW1, where we just followed the dog, and that one hide stood out to the dog, and it was pretty clear to call Alert?  Well, in NW2, we start out that way… follow the dog, call Alert.  Now there is a 2nd hide, so the dog continues searching… and time ticks by.  Wait a minute, where have we not covered?  Is my dog working the odor from the first hide, or is he working converging odor from the second hide? I feel like we are wandering around the search area, where have we been, where have we not been?  Hmm… I didn’t really pay attention until I NEEDED to pay attention, and now we are 2 minutes into our search.

In NW3, where you don’t know the number of hides, it’s imperative that you know where your dog has been, where they’ve missed, where maybe they’ve skimmed and need to check again.  So these classes were about the handler taking note of when the dog started hunting, noting where they had been and where they had missed.  This is something I didn’t do until I reached NW3, but if you can hone your observation skills in NW2, not only will it help you down the road, it will help you on those 2 hide rooms.  Now when you’ve called your first Alert, you already have an idea of where to head with your dog next.  You’ll know what part of the room has not been searched yet, or has been skimmed or passed over.  Rather than wandering aimlessly through the search area waiting for your dog to run into odor, you’ll know where to position your dog to cover the untouched areas.

To practice this at home, you can have your dog search 2 contiguous spaces (a room and a hall, two rooms, one large open area)  You can work on having your dog search a blank space by having one hide deep in the room / 2nd room, so they have a lot of area to cover that has no odor.  Or, you can set 2 hides deep in the search area, again, giving your dog lots of blank space before they hit odor.  Then watch them work converging odor.  Or, you could do one hide at the threshold, and one deep in.  If they get the threshold, cue them to continue searching.  Watch their path, and where they search… see if they work their way deep into the search area, or if they cut it short.  Where do you think you should step in?  You don’t want to walk directly to the hide, but you can begin walking in that direction… as soon as they get ahead of you, step back.  Never box them into a corner or tight space, instead, encourage / angle them into it, then step back out of their way, in case they go in, and don’t find odor.  Practice this in corners you know are blank, as well as corners you know have odor.  You don’t want your dog thinking that EVERY time you send him into a corner, that there is a hide there.

If your dog blows by the threshold, and gets the deep hide, think of how you can work your way back to the start without leading your dog to source.  It might just be having your dog circle the room back towards the start.  Get fluid in this dance of being attuned to what, where, when your dog is hunting, and moving with them to cover the entire area.

Ok, I’m going to close this out for now, as I started it weeks ago and don’t remember much else!


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