Sorry, Saco, the weather did not cooperate with us this week! Snow is doable, but ice, freezing rain and 60mph winds are another story. This coming week looks like we should have better luck.
York classes – this week was about learning. Not teaching our dogs, but learning from our dogs. In the 6:30p class, I learned what we need to work on, and in the 7:30 class, I think each dog left us with some things to ponder.
In the first class, I kept the odor on the same green chair, but moved some jump panels, ring gates and additional chairs each pass, so that the odor was collecting on something different. I also changed the position of the chair, and finally placed the tin under the edge of the chair (vs on the face of the seat edge) This caused the dogs to try to figure out how to get their nose up under that awkward angle, and communicate that the hide was under the rim of the chair, not just on the flat side of the chair. Lastly, I placed the tin smack in the middle of the underside of the seat. Again, the dogs had to dip their heads under the seat to get to source. The learning on our part, was that the dogs weren’t quite sure how to get to source when it was on the underside of the chair. They did a great job on the side of the chair, and when the chair was upside down with the tin completely available to them, but need some more experience sourcing up under something. We will try pairing, by smearing some cheese or other treat on the tin. The dogs circled the chair seat, and were clearly communicating the hide was UNDER the chair seat, but since it was in the middle, the dogs never settled on one place – they kept circling, just barely dipping their noses under the chair rim. I’ve seen Sakara do this type of hide in the past, so maybe she was a bit achy and didn’t want to lie down and stretch and bend her neck under the chair seat. Sometimes, you need to adjust to what your dog can give you on that particular day, and reward what they are giving you. We can go back and try this type hide again; maybe a different day will have her feeling flexible enough to get down under the chair. For Molly and Samuel, I think we’ve seen them hesitate to put their heads under things or in things in the past, so we will continue to think about ways to motivate them to do it. They were clear the hide was under there, but just not happy about putting their heads underneath. This is where just holding the reward at source will help motivate the dogs to get under there on their own… I would only do this once the dog has communicated the hide was there, not if the dog was ambiguous about where the hide was. Just holding your hand w/ the treat in it next to source, will give the dog the courage to get to it. But, we don’t want to do this all the time – we need to find other ways to get them to build their own confidence. I have some ideas for future classes, so stay tuned!
In the second class, our Elite dogs got some good practice working a large area with multiple hides, as did our NW3 and NW2 dogs! Why not, right? Most of the hides (4) were on the edges of the room, there was one under the mats about 15ft out from the back garage door. I didn’t want EVERY hide to be on the edge, and I also didn’t want and obvious “thing” out in the middle, so a floor hide was a nice change.
A couple things I learned from the dogs. Working a large, open area on leash is probably a more efficient way of covering the area for Logan. He LOVES open space, and will prance and buck and spin and race, pause to sniff a hide, then start over again. While it’s fun to watch his joy, there is a time limit in trials! By leashing him, he moves at a quick pace in a much more economical fashion. He knocked off 4 hides in 2:30 – very nice! The floor hide had him a bit stymied – we saw that a few weeks back, when there was a hide under the mats down by the crates – so it is definitely something we will have to set up for him. So I learned we need more floor hides, and that working on leash is not always a terrible thing.
For Isaac, I learned that he is more in tune to Beth than he sometimes appears. There were 2 hides where Beth got ahead of Issac. She was drawing him along the wall w/ the mirrors (he had already found a hide or 2) and just cut the corner to follow Beth on the down side of the AFrame. Another time, he just didn’t quite get to the corner by the desk when he noticed Beth heading the other direction towards the back of the room. So, I learned that we should play around w/ pace and speed with Issac. In Elite, there can be some large, complex spaces, and his detailing could help him (he may find more close together hides than other fast dogs that race by) or hurt him – he may not be able to cover the area in the time given. So, we’ll have to play around w/ Beth’s speed and Isaac’s odor obedience.
Max we already know, loves big spaces, and he did a great job covering the area and knocking off hides in an efficient manner. The only hiccup he had was spending some time in the circle used by my earlier class – lots of lingering birch and dog odor had him circling before finally moving on. It wasn’t a lot of extra time taken, but just keep that sort of hunting in mind in the future. If you’ve seen the dog spending more than 30 seconds of interest circling an area, but not narrowing the search down to any one specific area, it is probably time to step in and move on. They could be working pooling odor, or the dog is not aware of a larger portion of the search area that is available to them. Just by taking a few steps forward or away from that area can “unstick” the dogs and have them moving to a more productive area. As always, he played his liking for height to his advantage on the AFrame, and he did a great job working out the 2 converging hides on the back garage door.
Our NW2 dogs were similar – they were pretty quick with 3 or 4 hides, but then got stuck on the last one or two. Sam also got really hung up in the lingering odor circle, and then got stuck on the odor rotary – he identified the areas of 3 of the hides, but it was like the Bermuda triangle for him. I think even if it was blind, Cynthia would have an idea of where each hide was, but he had trouble sourcing them. Would the leash have helped here? Possibly – it might have slowed him down just enough to work out one problem at a time. Would pairing have helped? Again, it probably would have helped him pick off the hides and pull him out of the odor vortex sooner. I learned from Sam that he needs more practice with multiple hides, and set them up so there is not so much converging odor. I was also reminded that we need to so some exercises to work on Sam’s resilience to things such as: treat pouch opening and closing, plastic baggie crinkling, jackets being put on or off, dropping the leash, etc. The dogs should be so on-task that none of that should pull them out of hunting. Teddy taught me that we should do some more practice around water. It proves to be a major distraction / detour to him in his searches, if he has access to it. Now, while there most likely won’t be water bowls in a search area, you could be searching a bathroom w/ no toilet seats – yuck! So, I think we’ll set up some hides near or in water, and set up some water distractions for him to work through.
So these classes helped me develop a training plan for future classes! I hope that is how you think of your at-home practice… if your dog struggles with something, table it for a few days and think of a way to break down the challenge. Set up something that gradually addresses that challenge over your next few training sessions, always sprinkling in something familiar to your dog to keep their confidence up. Have fun!