Oh, what beautiful weather! Warm, balmy almost, with a slight breeze. Although we were fast running out of daylight, I wanted to squeeze as much outside work in as possible.
For the NW1 class, I paired everything. It had been a while since we worked outside, so I wanted to give them reason to hunt. If you were in a trial, and the Exterior area was a lot of grass and several stumps, you might think, oh, my dog is going to pee! My dog is going to critter! So I wanted to build focus in your dogs, as well as confidence in the handlers, so that instead you think, Oh, we’ve done something like this before, piece of cake! Don’t let the nervous handlers in the walk through change your opinion or plan for a search area. They are looking at it from THEIR perspective, THEIR training history, THEIR dog. Try to tune other competitors out when you are on the walk throughs, because YOUR training experience, perspective and dog are very different.
If there is one thing I’d change, watching these back, is rewarding faster on the first run with Bella and Phil. Their first pass the hide is up over their heads, and although paired, they are most likely not going to jump up onto the stump to get to source. When each raised their head to the surface of the stump, I think we should have rewarded there. Accept less to get more is one of Amy’s sayings, and I think if we’d “accepted an alert not at source” (i.e., less than ideal) we would have gotten a quicker commitment and more confidence in similar hides going forward. You can see how each of them peel off and start eating grass, crittering, losing interest, after they gave us what they could. But, the video is helpful in watching them really work BIRCH odor vs dubbing around working the environment. You get a clear picture of which behavior they are exhibiting! I don’t think it hurt them to reward late – when you watch their next run, they are all fast off the line – I like how Phil kicks up a cloud of dust on take off! These were fairly straight forward hides, in that they were out in the open and paired, but the stumps are most likely filled w/ dog odors and nooks and crannies to hold odor. The breeze was in their face on the stump runs, so for their last run, I wanted to have them work w/ the wind at their backs. I know its dark and you can barely see them, but several dogs wanted to work into the wind, back and to their left, when the search area and hide was forward to the right. In a case like this, where the wind is NOT in your favor, you may need to get them into the search area to sort of jump start the hunt. Once they got in odor, you see the animation pick up, you see the back and forth “metal detector” work being done, and then they put their face in between the tractor tire and bumper to get to source. Even though we did this in the dark, I hope the videos help show the lit-up side of your dogs, and give you an idea of what they normally look like when sourcing a hide.
For the NW2/NW3 class, we moved indoors and did Containers. We had not done a large area container search in a long time. The first pass had no food distractions, the 2nd run on all had a half turkey, cheeese and mustard sandwich in one of the boxes. That caused a pause, but no solid alerts. I think the biggest issue the dogs faced, were the large areas of no-odor in between the containers. When they worked several containers that were blanks, they seemed to lose oomph and slow down.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CEv7iD-Ryc&list=PLvi82iRfU5e7JqJLD36qzt2pFYOmMQxr_&index=6
A couple things that stood out to me watching the video back:
-Try to have a start line ritual. Sometimes, if I am approaching the search area from a distance, and feel like my dog is working odor, I will just keep walking and let my dog work. I think in this situation, where the door is opening and closing, I would stop at the start line, until I felt like my dog had picked up odor, or, was at least excited to go check the containers. The rolling starts seemed to lack focus and drive.
-Watch what you do at the food distraction box vs the odor box. Do you walk on as they are investigation the food box, but stop at the odor box? Be sure to do the same motion on all the boxes – if you have a reliable pattern of moving your dog off a food distraction, but stopping short at the hot box, things can go south in a trial. Not knowing what is odor and what is food, you may keep walking at a hot box (does your dog think they should come with you?) You may stop to watch them investigate a food distraction, which they believe means they are about to get paid, so they look at you. Well doesn’t that look like an alert! So, just be sure you are consistent at each box, whether that be stopping at each box, or moving at each box. Try both ways, and see what happens. You want your dog to stick w/ the hot box no matter what you are doing, and you want your dog to walk off a food distraction, no matter what you are doing.
-Let’s try to pep them up a bit. In watching this with the sound off, they don’t look super excited (for the most part) when they get to the hot container. That means, maybe make the treat delivery more exciting, by withholding the treat a beat or two before you toss it in your hand, or maybe tossing a treat when their nose is on the hot container, or tossing a treat as they approach the hot container, letting it roll so they have to chase it down. Just something that makes for some expectation and excitement at source.
We did several runs, which at the time I thought was good practice, but I think it could have been even more effective if we’d jazzed up their reward, took a little more control of the search, and maybe squished the containers closer together. I think the big space of no odor between containers wasn’t super motivating for them, so playing around w/ the # of containers, the distance between them, and the layout may have kept things interesting for them (and you!)