Pin Point Precision

So the idea for these classes came from training partner Gail, and from some students who missed Vehicle searches in recent trials.  Gail was lamenting the fact that she was losing the “focused nose touch” she had been working on with her dogs (due to her hand injury and not being able to treat precisely at source).  She said at home she has been working on exercises like the scent sticks, where dogs have to follow odor down a channel to source, and she can toss a treat once they are at source.  This got me thinking about pinpointing, and how the vehicle searches that have been missed recently, have had fringe alerts.  The dogs weren’t WRONG, they just could have been more RIGHT.

I also happened to use some rainy days to begin cleaning out the basement.  My nose work “stuff” (boxes, containers, bags, suitcases, lunch boxes, open plastic buckets, berry containers, baskets, pencil cases, eye glass cases, tubes, cans, etc etc etc!) was out of control.  As I sorted through it all, I came across a piece of cardboard with a thin piece of styrofoam on it.  The styrofoam had pre-cut holes in it, and I had thought it would make a good nose work training tool.  That was years ago, so I decided before I carted it off to the dump, I’d bring it to class and actually use it.

My NW1 classes worked the scent sticks (thank you, Beth, for your craftsmanship!)  In Saco, after working paired hides (again, in keeping w/ pinpointing source) I did the final run on the scent sticks.  Well, it was a leap for some of the dogs to go from a paired hide in a tin, to a single Qtip sandwiched in between 2 pieces of wood.  In York, I started w/ the scent sticks, but saw the same thing – dogs were working odor, clearly they knew what they were there to do, and clearly they were in odor, but… they just didn’t connect the wood stick w/ source.  Were they that sure that odor had to be paired w/ metal?  Were they just not sure how to follow odor to source?  Were they lost without the tin?  Not sure, but they are definitely worth revisiting.  For the NW1 dogs who have been exposed to these in the past, and who have more experience, they got better and better at working to source.  It was fun to change the orientation of the sticks and watch the dogs work the channel – up and down, side to side, pick up odor shooting off the ends and work it back to source.  To me, these are a good way to practice odor challenging along a bumper, door seam, or trim on a vehicle.  Definitely something we want to be proficient at.

For the NW2/3/Elite students, we used the styrofoam board to work 2 VERY close converging hides.  Not only did I want to use the board I had been saving for years, but my take away from a recent training session w/ Quattro, was that he will find a hide, then run off to find the next – while skipping any area nearby.  We missed 2 hides this way (in a blind, unknown number of hides practice).  I knew I needed to work on getting him hunting as soon as he finished his treat, rather than dash off across the search area before hunting again.  So, the styrofoam board with 2 hides was a great way to get dogs working 2 very close hides.  One hide was birch, the other anise or clove.  One hide was in a round tin that fit perfectly in a pre-cut hole, the other a red rectangular tin, that fit perfectly in a pre-cut hole in the opposite corner.  It was really fun to see the moment the dogs realized there was a second hide, and fun to see which dogs found the lower hide or upper hide first.  The round tin blended in really well, and of course, dogs don’t see red, so you were really watching them use their noses for both hides.  Once they got the concept, they were quicker and quicker at alerting to first one, then the other hide.  As far as the scent sticks, the more experienced dogs again really worked them well.  It was funny to see how the odor shot out the ends, one stick was angled up on  a chair, and someone commented that it was like a cannon, shooting odor up to the wall.  Some dogs tried to alert to the ends on their first pass, but figured out when they didn’t get rewarded, that they were going to have to follow odor to source in order to get paid.  One orientation had the scent stick balanced over 2 buckets, and the odor dropped into the buckets off the end of the stick.  Fun to watch the dogs work each bucket, before following the channeling hide to source. Think about how pooling odor can be tricky to read in a trial – your dog is in odor, you move in closer, your dog looks up, and before you know it, you call Alert, before your dog has gotten all the way to source.  It’s a good skill for the handler to be able to read their dog in pooling odor, and for the dog to keep working to source.

I’m sorry Max, Sam and Isaac missed this one, but with only Teddy and Logan in class Thursday night, I got to run Quattro 🙂  I was really happy with how he worked the set ups, and we did some really close together – butting the scent sticks together on a table, having them leaning up against a chair, etc.

Here are some pics and a video of Teddy:


These were good skill building classes – a little hunting, but more about the pinpointing and being ON source.  It is definitely good to revisit every so often, as we can get sloppy / lazy / vague in our criteria of being at source as time goes on.  “Good enough” or “close enough” won’t cut it in a trial situation, so let’s not practice “close enough”.  Pinpoint precision will have the dogs driving to source, no matter what the element or what the set up, and will make it clear that the dog is on it, so you can call Alert with confidence.  Happy sourcing!

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