Step Away From the Tin

Classes the weeks of 4/11 and 4/18 have been in response to Quattro’s struggles with smooth/flat surface hides, as well as something I noticed in the weeks I had students place hides.  When I was watching the dogs work someone else’s hides, it was blind to me.  As I watched the dogs move in closer to source, I was pretty sure they were almost on source, and then I heard that magic clunk / rattle / ring of the dog’s nose hitting the metal tin.  A dead ringer that the dog was AT SOURCE.

I thought, If I am making that connection, surely the DOGS are making that connection.  Not only do they get the sound effect of hitting source, they must also FEEL the tin move when they hit it.

With Quattro’s struggles with a hide being in a flat surface, where he can’t put his nose on a tin or a box or a sponge or any other THING, I started thinking that might  be part of his struggle.  Not so much the way odor moves along a smooth wall, although that’s some of it, but not having the tactile feel of touching source, and not having the auditory sound of being at source.

So, I broke out the plastic tubes I’ve been saving from the middle of poop bag roles, plugged one end with poster putty, and placed 2 Qtips in them.  In Saco, I taped the tubes behind doors, right along the seam, purposely NOT near a hinge.  One was behind a screen door, so they had SOME pooling odor along a cross bar, but one was in the handle of a Rubbermaid tub, and one was taped behind the middle of a door along the seam.  Dogs could get oh-so-close to source, but there was no tin/tube/box/sponge/straw to push, touch or make noise.  The dogs did great!  You could see some confusion with the hide behind the door, the dogs thoroughly checked the grooming table nearby (yes, there was probably some pooling odor on it, and yes, we’ve done a million hides on that table) before making their way along the wall to the door, then working up and down the seam until they settled directly over the middle of the seam, at source.

In York, I used 2 tables turned on their sides, butt ends together, with a hide taped between the butt ends.  Our super sniffer dogs wanted to go BEHIND the tables or OVER the tables to access source.  They struggled with following the seam up and down – they just really wanted to get to source, and they knew they wanted to go around the tables to get there.  We did this on leash as a skill building exercise, so the dogs were not allowed to go where they wanted.  This proved frustrating for both dogs and handlers!   Then there was a hide in the plastic cupboard, an area we’ve never used before.  This was tricky, I think there were some competing smells from the dog crates nearby, so I ended up fanning the door open when the dog was not looking.  This really helped them! Lastly, there was a hide between two tables that were leaning side by side against the wall.  Round 2 saw a hide in a desk drawer, between the 2 plastic tables that were now lying flat on the floor, and one in a gap in the mats on the floor.  Each dog was challenged by one or two of these, different dogs seemed to have different challenges.

With no tin to push, no “thing” to focus on, being limited by the leash, I think I really frustrated the York dogs!  We will do a modified repeat of this this week, and hope what they learned last week carries forward.  With repetition comes confidence, quickness and ease.  I’m glad I set up this style hide in multiples for that reason… repetition in that they were all flat surfaces, but in slightly different set ups (floor, furniture, wall).

I think this type of hide will help them in vehicle searches, where if the hide is on a bumper or trim work, it is basically a flat surface hide.  Also for hides on the ground – I’ll never forget Jinxx’s NW2 trial, where the hide was in between brick pavers in a giant patio.  She picked up pooling odor on a picnic table (so of course that’s where I thought the hide was) but left the table.  I almost tripped over her when she stopped to work odor on the ground, in the middle of what I thought was no where (I thought she left the table to work the wall of the building, never imagining that the hide could be out in the middle)  We also had an NW3 trial where the hide was up under a windowsill on a cabin in an exterior search.  Flat surface, indeed!

So, we will continue with this type of hide, and start mixing them with hides in, on or near a “thing”.

Accessible vs Inaccessible:  A question / comment came up about these hides being “inaccessible”.  These would actually be considered accessible (except for maybe a super high one)  SOURCE is oh-so-close to the dog, they can slide their nose up and down a seam and settle at the exact placement of the hide.  Inaccessible would be if the hide were deep in a drawer, taped to the middle of the back of a door, deep in the closet.  In those cases, no matter how much sliding along the seams the dogs do, they cannot settle at source – it’s so far in or centered, there is no resting their nose at source.  In inaccessible hides, it is acceptable for the dogs to choose on their own, where they believe the strongest source of odor is.  So if the hide was taped to the middle of the back of a door, ANYWHERE along the door’s seams would be acceptable for the final alert.  If you are watching a trial, you will see how dogs pick different areas to alert on, and still get the Yes from the judge.  At the bottom of the door, along the right door jamb, along the left door jam, at the corner where the door meets the wall – any of those would give you a YES.  If the hide was taped behind the door 10″ up from the threshold right at the door seam, THAT is where the dog would have to choose to alert to get the Yes.  I hope that makes sense!

Happy sniffing!

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