The first week of May was cold and wet – rain rain and more rain. So, rather than spend hours outside in nasty weather, I brought the wet weather inside.
In Saco, we had about 12-15 buckets with a few inches of water in each. Moisture holds scent… think about when your dog gets skunked, and weeks later comes in from the rain and smells like skunk again. I wanted to see how the dogs would handle all the moisture in the air and room, along with our manufactured puddles (buckets of water) The first pass had hides above or near water buckets. I feel like there were a couple times that dogs checked the surface of the water to follow scent (with 2 dogs dipping their nose in the water and pulling back with a surprised look on their faces!) The next pass had hides on the edge of buckets, and one was floating in a bucket – the sponge hide. The dogs did really well with these! As treats dropped in the buckets, the dogs had to work through the distraction stew. And, as when the hides fell into the buckets, there was surely molecules of odor in the water. The dogs did a nice job of moving on and going to source.
I equate this to rainy day trials where odor has traveled due to rain washing it and watering it down. So there could be small amounts of odor in puddles or on the ground below a hide. Think about a vehicle search in the rain – odor is being washed down the vehicle to the ground, possibly spreading or traveling. The dogs are still expected to find the strongest point of odor, source. So I opted to leave the water the hide had fallen into in the search area, along with the water with treats floating in it.
The dogs did great – no false alerts, and it was fun to watch them work it out after their initial surprise at the water in the buckets. Just another experience under their collars!
In York, I had about 20 containers, most filled with a few inches of water. There were stainless steel water bowls, plastic beach buckets, and 5 gallon buckets that did not have water in them, but that had been used to spread compost all week. These were set up in rows, and the odor was either on the outside (metal handles on the buckets) just inside (clipped onto the side of a bowl) or floating (the sponges w/ Qtips between them again!) The NW1 class we did off leash, and not one bucket spilled! The NW2/NW3 class I decided to have them do it on leash, for practice. It was tricky with all the high buckets not to get the leash looped over a container! Everyone did really well – keeping the leashes loose for the dogs to choose their own path, but keeping it up off the ground and over the buckets. The only spills occurred when a couple of the dogs alerted too vigorously. Which meant there were puddles in the search area, and when the sponge hide got carried away, dripping water along the floor, there was odor in the water that was spread over the floor. I’m sure the dogs felt there was odor everywhere!
Hopefully, this gave the dogs a good understanding of how odor works in wet weather. Sure, it collects in puddles and on the surface of water, but source is source. I loved the surprise on the dogs faces when they first came across the water in the buckets and bowls, but they were all on task – no one played with or drank the water (well, at least until after their searches!) Again, hopefully the day you are in a trial in wet, rainy weather, you won’t be nervous that your dog is sniffing a puddle (maybe he is picking up odor on the surface of the water?) and your dog will understand that just because there is a lot of scent on the wet ground, source is source and he will continue hunting until he hits something stronger. It doesn’t beat working in the rain, but when it’s 40 degrees out, raining and blowing, this was the next best thing! Happy snorkeling – er, sniffing!