For this week, I wanted to keep the hides simple, but the environment new. There was only one hide per search no matter what level you are at, so in that way it was simple. The environment was cluttered with buckets, vacuums, mop buckets, a couple of toys and 3 fans. The first class did 3 passes per dog, twice over, then 2 more passes for a total of 8 finds. The next class did 3 passes twice over, and then moved to the break room. The break room, the last search of the night, was the same theme: one fairly simple hide, but the environment was scattered w/ squeaky toys, chew toys and balls. My hope was that after 6 searches, the dogs would ignore the toys and go to source. And, they pretty much all did just that! Love it when the plan works out.
The challenge for the busy environment tended to be the odor pooling on nearby objects – the fans, sometimes the buckets, a vacuum. Sometimes the challenge was the lingering odor and crumb smells that were the distraction. Someone asked why was I setting up the hides like this, not letting the odor sit and “cook”, and basically continuously making the dogs work through lingering odor from the previous hide. That’s not what happens at a trial. True, but it is a good way to get dogs to realize that only the SOURCE pays, and that source is STRONGER than any pooling or lingering odor. Crumbs near a pocket of odor do not mean you will get paid – you have to get to source to get paid. Yes, in a trial, most times your hides have sat for some time before you and your dog walk in to search. However, many times, the Certifying Official can’t place the hide until after lunch, or later in the afternoon. For example, there was a NW3 trial where when competitors left the Vehicle search, they had to walk right by the edge of the Exterior search. There is no way they could have planted the hide in the morning, as the dogs were going to be walking by it. So, they waited until all the dogs had finished Vehicles, placed the hide, got the dog in white to run it, then began running competitors on it. All in all, it did not “cook” for very long before dogs started running it. Conversely, NW3 Interiors can take most of the day to complete. So if you are the last dog, the odor as been sitting in a small-ish room for HOURS. So, it’s a good practice to work both types of hides – freshly placed, as well as some that you plant in the morning, and come back and run your dog at lunch or the end of the day. Just be sure your dog does not have access to the search area until you are ready to work him!
For the NW1 class, I paired each hide. I want to keep Bella and Phil out of critter mode, and pairing has helped get and keep their focus on the game. For Cecil, he simply does better with paired hides, and that’s fine. Actually, I forgot to pair one of his hides, and he got it no problem. I think the pairing also helps keep him focused and on task, his food motivation over-rides his anxiety over people staring at him, the camera pointed at him, any noise in the background. I’ve been better at consistently pairing for him, and I think it’s paying off. His confidence and focus seem better, and he seems less easily distracted. In the past, I’ll pair one week, and forget the next, or pair for a few searches, but not all in that class. I think after a few paired finds, I assume he is fine and can work through any angst. But I think I’ve been doing him a disservice… his inconsistency in focus and motivation matches my inconsistency in pairing. So, who cares, let’s pair. Bella and Phil worked on leash to start, but by their 3rd pass, they were more than ready to go off leash. Very focused and fast! Sorry the videos get grainy – I had trouble uploading them to YouTube for some reason.
For the NW2/NW3/Elite class, I added in an empty plastic bin that had held pretzels, and a little container of bacon grease. They also did the second room with the toys. Holly opted to work on leash, for practice, and after my NW3 trial this past weekend, where every search was on leash, I would agree it is a good thing to practice. Especially this time of year, when we are probably mostly practicing inside, off leash. The dogs did great ignoring the food and toy distractions, and it was fun to see them triangulate some of the hides. You could really see the odor banking off the buckets as the dogs would go to a bucket, ricochet off to another bucket, ricochet off that and finally get the hide on the mop bucket. I think doing fast searches like this can help build speed and confidence. They don’t have as much to sort out, odor-wise, and can focus on the one hide. There is no pressure on the dog to keep searching when they’ve already found the only hide, and they don’t have the handler staring at them intently if it had been blind searches. The idea is to get them so motivated and focused, that no matter what is going on around them, they know the job is to find birch, anise or clove. I would say we accomplished that! Keep it simple, fast and motivating for your dog, and you both will have fun.