Goals: To build confidence, odor obedience, keep the searches short and give the dogs multiple opportunities to be rewarded for finding source.
Activity: One hide, dog finds it and gets rewarded, leaves the room briefly. I add another hide without removing the first, dog comes back in and finds the new hide and the original hide. Dog leaves the room, I add a third hide, dog finds and gets rewarded for all 3.
My thoughts: Dogs would get rewarded for finding multiple hides, and gain confidence and speed in pinpointing and working the hides they found on the previous pass.
How it worked out:
I think for the NW1 class, it worked well. The first hide was the deepest in the room (on a dolly) the second hide directly across from it under the table, and the third was a threshold hide on the workbench. I wanted to see if the dogs would work right from the start line on their 3rd pass, or if they would automatically move deep in the room. Yeah! All dogs found the threshold hide right away, and Yeah! all handlers held their dogs behind the threshold and released them only when they saw them working odor. It was interesting that all dogs but Eliot found the new hide first. Eliot, being the greenest, went to the previously found hide first, before moving on. Remember back to when you first started, and we did boxes, and you dog would always go to the place he previously found his hide, before moving on? With lots of practice with the hide being in a new place for their 2nd run, the more experienced dogs automatically recognized the new hide. For whatever reason, the dogs seemed to have a difficult time with the hide on the dolly. They’d be right on it, then leave it. Not sure if it was something we haven’t practiced enough of (a tin underneath, where the dogs couldn’t walk right into the tin, but had to really tip their heads to get their nose on it, in a sort of small space) or if there was an aversive odor on the dolly that made them not want to stay with it. But, seeing as they got 3 chances to get rewarded on it, my hope was that we built value in odor vs environmental smells. Another thing I observed, was the odor would drop to the floor then run down towards the drain. Many times the dogs would follow it away from source to the drain, then back up to the hide. Or, they would go all the way to the wall, then the drain, then to the dolly. Reo, the most experienced with multiple hides, didn’t seem to want to “re-find” hides. It was as if he figured yeah, I got that, there must be something else out here. For Phil and Cecil, the repeat hides were good confidence and independence builders for them. I really liked how far ahead Phil went from Cathy, and how he really stayed w/ the table hide (Cecil did the same at that hide) You could really see them getting faster and more confident when they were able to re-find a hide – mission accomplished! Gidget had the best run on the last pass… she found all 3 hides, right in order, bing, bang, boom! Super quick, confident and direct (this was the on leash search). The heater going on and off provided a varied search environment for the dogs. You could really see them work converging odor in the area between the table and dolly hides. Good practice for a windy day, or the varied air currents on interior searches. Our last run was done on leash, and I think the “don’t let your leash drag in manure” comment stuck in your minds, because everyone was very cognizant of keeping the leash up off the floor 🙂 We will do more with specifics to leash handling going forward.
The NW3 class is very used to being asked to move on once they’ve found a hide. So for them, even leaving the room to “reset”, they acknowledged hide #1 was there, but didn’t stay with it. They went on to find hide #2 instead. Hmm… are we training them to go back to a previously found hide and stay with it, and is that bad? I think the addition of hide #2 and then hide #3 changes the scent picture of the room, so I don’t think it’s bad to reward them on something they found in the first pass. My goal was building value in source, giving them something easy to keep motivation and confidence high. Since the dogs really didn’t want to stay with previously found hides, it wasn’t really meeting my goals. I changed the exercise for our next pass. There were 6 hides, and handlers had 2 minutes. I think most dogs found 4, BB I think found 5. The next time in, the hides were in the same place, again, thinking I’d give the dogs the confidence to find something they’d found already, as well as find some they’d missed. It sort of worked! Same issue – the dogs acknowledged hides they’d already found, but moved on before handlers could reward. So, that exercise didn’t quite do what I was hoping it would do for this group of dogs. But, in the overall learning of the dogs, they were all definitive on their alerts and searching. We still have an issue w/ Billie Sue blowing by the threshold, so I suggested pairing just the threshold hides, and doing more of them. Also, taking more time outside the search area. Really wait for her to dip her head, or raise her head, or tip slightly left or right, before letting her go. The more she works OUTSIDE the search area, I think the quicker she’ll go to and stay with the threshold hide. With Catcher, be sure you are rewarding AT SOURCE with him. I know he’s quick and can be grabby with the treat, but there have been a few hides where he was telling you about them when he was still 6 inches or so from them. You could do some pairing with him, to be sure he’s driving to source before he looks to you for the reward, then go forward and reward him. Another thing with Billie Sue, is maybe try moving less. I almost felt like you were moving fast because she was, and she was moving fast because you were! So maybe follow her to an area / quadrant, and stand fairly still while she works it. If she gets stuck, back up and turn slightly to a new area/quadrant to “pull her” with you. Then be fairly still while she works it. She is fast, and likes to move back and forth quickly… I don’t want to slow her down, just have her work an area more thoroughly before moving on.
The 6:15 class of mostly NW3 dogs did the same exercise: one hide, 2 hides, 3 hides. They pretty much all found the new hide first, then went to the previously found hide. They had no issues with the dolly, all pinpointed it nicely. For the next exercise, I put out 8 hides and gave everyone 3 minutes. The average was 6 hides, although Ella found a 7th on her way out the door. There were some good high hides, one in a corner AND high, two threshold hides, one low that only Ella found, and obviously lots of converging and linger odor! And while Ella works very quickly, and Tyrah looks much slower, Tyrah found just about as many as Ella. They just work differently, one is not better than the other. Jeanne did a beautiful job of getting Tyrah to move to a new area when Tyrah got stuck on a hide. She just moved to the new area, Tyrah came with her, went slightly ahead of Jeanne, and Jeanne took a step back. Tyrah worked the wall, and got the high hide nicely. No need to tap or gesture. I was really impressed with how the dogs found the high hide in the corner – they had no problems whatsoever getting that one! I like these exercises because it shows that your dog can find more hides than you’ll see at a trial in a short amount of time. And, it gives your dog lots of converging odor to figure out, as well as some dog slobber and pooling odor from previous hides. It’s always fascinating to me to see which dogs find which hides, and which hides routinely get missed. Sometimes it’s hard to find a pattern!
For the 7:30 class of mixed level dogs (NW2, NW3 and NW1) I decided to leave all the 8 hides out from the previous class. The sole NW3 dog, Oasis, found all 8, right at the 3 minute mark! Rita did a nice job NOT being distracted by dog smells, Midnight did a nice job, I think she got 6, and Quattro was much more focused on work, not dogs, although he did have to check in w/ Sarah and give her a smile! When I set out new hides for round 2, I was really impressed with how the dogs would briefly check an old hide location but quickly move on. That is, until Quattros run. He really got hung up on two previous hide locations. I thought I’d let him “figure it out” and not reward it, but he ended up staying longer and longer at the old hide sites. In hindsight, I should have moved him on, or at least moved farther away from him to get him back toward the start area where some new hides were at. We timed out, and I ended up putting him up after two strong false alerts. Not a good way to end the evening! After timing out, I should have brought him near a previously found hide, let him get to source, reward, and THEN put him up. I don’t think I broke my dog, but realized pretty quickly that that was not the best learning for him.
By evaluating your training after the fact, really try to think about what your dog learned, where they excelled, and where they need some work. I think we can go back to pairing for some dogs, I think we can reward a “re-find” and then move away from it, and I think doing some multi-hide searches mixed with single hide searches will keep the dogs motivation up. A motivated, confident dog is a quick dog, and that makes for a confident handler!