So the last couple weeks we’ve had some fun with suspended hides in the NW2/3/Elite classes. While you will not see a hide placement like this (hanging from the ceiling, or hanging from a tree branch etc) in NW2 or NW3, you COULD see something like that in Elite, or at Nationals. Why practice something you have little chance of experiencing in a trial? I like the way it makes the dogs follow floating odor back to source. Sure, they do that with a hide on a chair or wall, but they have a clearer path to trace the odor back to source when it is on a solid object. When the hide is hanging in the middle of a room, the odor travels to the nearest solid surface and pools and clings. Our dogs are used to finding hides on a solid surface, so initially, they spend a lot of time working that pooling odor. I like how it trains our eyes to see the dogs working pooling odor – they are clearly “in odor”, but not near source. This observational skill will come in handy when you see your dog working and working a vehicle, only to discover the hide is on an adjoining vehicle, or working a row of desks only to discover the hide is up under a stool nearby.
What I really liked about our hides, was how the dogs learned how to work it when we did back to back runs. Last week, some of you (in Saco) did a hide I had tried to suspend and then lower when the dogs head started to lift. I wanted to bring the hide down to them, but the hide container was too light weight, and didn’t drop quickly. And, the eye-bolt the string was fed through was close to a vacuum cleaner hanging on the wall. The dogs were convinced the hide was on the vacuum cleaner, and the odor seemed to really cling to every rib in the hose. So while I liked the concept, the execution wasn’t what I’d wanted.
This week, I looped the string over a fan. This was in the middle of the room, away from any obvious thing the dogs might select to indicate on, and more easily adjustable. I started with the hide just over head, so the dogs could tilt their heads up and just barely reach the hide. Once they did that, I could lower it so it was nose-level as they got fed. The dogs clearly showed us where the odor was, and what their expectation of the hide was. They worked and worked and worked the wire crates against the wall, the electric cord and block plug on the wall, they did a quick check of the door to the old grooming room, then finally would move away from circling the walls, and cross the middle of the room. You could see them lift their head, and follow invisible tendrils of odor, circling, changing direction, trying to follow it back to source. I think it surprised them! Very fun to watch.
Then, they left the room and I made the hide higher, accessible to them if they reared up to it. You’d think because they struggled with it just over head high, that this would be a near impossible challenge. However, they really seemed to learn how to work the odor in that one run. They had to re-work the problem, and it was neat to see them take the same path (crates, outlet & chord, wall) only this time they were searching on a higher plane. They went from taking an average of 3:30 to find it the first run, to about 1 minute the second run. It was a lot of fun to watch!
In York, since the ceilings are about 30ft high, the best I could do was lean a PVC ladder against a wall, and hang the hide from there. The dogs worked it similarly to the first week in Saco, when it was near the vacuum. The York dogs worked the wall, the studs, the grooming table nearby, but I think because the ladder (and hide) was close to the wall, they were less likely to pick an object to indicate on. It was still fun to watch their puzzled look once they’d checked the wall, the studs, the table, then OH! it’s behind me! hanging! I found the same thing when I worked Quattro on a hide hanging from a tree branch. His first run, it took him quite some time, as he was chasing odor along the top of the snow and along the snow banks, and getting sucked into other hides I had out there (which is another reason why we worked a room with only the suspended hide in it) The second run, when I had it hanging from a different tree, he was WAY faster at jumping up – and biting it! to pull it down, which I didn’t expect. They seem to learn how to work this type of hide, and apply it right away.
So while I don’t think this is something that is needed to prepare for a trial hide, I think it gives us a good visual when watching our dog work pooling odor, and it gives the dogs a good puzzle to figure out. They seemed to enjoy the challenge! Note also that we had done some simple box searches, and basic hide placements in familiar rooms prior to doing the suspended challenge. Staying consistent with my 1/4 challenge to 3/4 familiar practice set ups from last weeks post!
I have some video from Monday’s class I will try to post soon… it’s taking forever to upload to YouTube.