Here we are in our bittersweet classes, the last round of classes we will see at Paw-zn-Around. This has been such a great place for Nose Work, I think I can credit the facility for a lot of your dogs success. The multi-rooms, half walls for viewing, always changing decor and floor arrangements, the large room outback – so many good things that I’ll miss.
So, for our first night back from break, we welcomed Lucy back with newest Brittany Bea, and a guest appearance by Don and Cecil! Michelle and Papi have moved up from Holly’s classes, where they have been on paired odor. And Phil and Bella are back as well. I think Kendall was busy attending to Calvin – he had knee surgery Monday, sadly! I was hoping they’d be able to do the NW2 trial that’s coming up in March.
Back to our first night. I wanted to do some leash practice, because while it probably won’t make or break your trial run, smooth leash handling will take a lot of distraction out of the picture, for you AND your dog. There’s nothing like watching your dog, and realizing the leash is under his leg, and worrying that it’s going to trip him, and how are you going to fix it while he’s working? All those thoughts are taking away from your focus on your dog. And for your dog, she’s thinking, ‘Darn it! This leash is wrapped around my front leg… maybe if I skip I can shake it loose… Oooh – odor – now the leash is under my belly and mom’s flipping it around under me… maybe if I kick my back leg it’ll come free…’ Definitely a distraction for the team!
Your goal at the start was to let the dog start out in front of you, while you stayed behind the start line and let the leash slide out. If your dog doubled back, you were to take in some slack, not letting the leash hit the floor. I set up the first run so the hide was not very far off the start line, pretty much in front of the dogs, behind a small step stool. There was a fan at the far side of the search area, blowing straight into your face at the start. If the dog passed the stool, the odor would be blowing behind him, and there would be a good sized area w/ no birch odor. If your dog decided they wanted to range into the middle of the room, you would let them move out a bit, then hold the line. Not tug, or jerk, just hold. You also want to anticipate when your dog is going to move out of bounds, and decide quickly how far and how long to let him be out of bounds. He could be chasing odor, or he could be on his own mission. If you know your dog is on a mission of his own, ease the leash to a stop, try not to let the dog hit the end of the leash w/ a clunk.
I had the camera set up on the fan, so the first run you can hear the fan going. I turned it off after that, although maybe I should have kept it on to work some moving odor. I think the dogs all did well! We partied for Papi, up until the final runs, and I kept forgetting to pair w/ Bea. She’s had some practice w/ odor only, although not a lot, so Lucy was quick to reward and not wait for anything fancy. Don did a really nice job working the leash – Cecil had to scan the area for monsters before he got down to business, but when he changes gear into hunting mode, it’s very obvious and clear. You just have to be patient for him to settle into work, and stay focused on him. It’s easy to get frustrated and tune out. I had times with Jinxx and Izzie where I didn’t think they were really searching, and that mental distraction caused me to miss when they did show a change of behavior in odor. Bella is similar, patience and being attentive to her will be key. There are times when she is checking out crumbs, treats, dog odor, and she feels the need to pause and give it her attention, but then she’ll pick her head up, do a little detailing, and stop at source. Papi is a young un-neutered boy, so he found a few dog spots particularly interesting, although he did not add his scent to any of it. I was pretty quick to move him along when I saw him stop and investigate dog odor, so that he wouldn’t get any ideas about returning a pee-mail. When Quattro was his age, and we worked in that room, Quattro to my horror peed on a post, in 2 of his runs! It was not long after that that I neutered him!
The 2nd run, I moved the hide farther into the room, just off the floor, tucked into where the fabric wrapped around the metal frame on a little cot for the dogs. Unfortunately, you can’t see that corner of the cot in the video! And if the dogs go out of bounds, you can’t see much there, either. I thought it would be easier if I could just have the video running and I could focus on the dogs… half the time when I video classes, the camera is going all over because I’m watching my dogs w/ my eyes, not thru the view finder.
The last 2 runs, we had 2 hides out. Using the same cot, I put it on a couch for an elevated hide, and one of the runs had a hide under the rubber mat flap. I had forgotten until dog 2 or 3 that there was a drain under that mat, which possibly sucked the odor deep under the mat into the drain. My solution was to fan the rubber mat to be sure some odor was coming onto the floor, and that seemed to help.
Overall, all the dogs did great! Bea didn’t seem to have much trouble w/ unpaired hides, Papi did great on the couple odor-only hides we gave him, and Cecil got better with every run. Bella and Phil had some really nice hunting behaviors, chasing odor from the surface of the large brown cot to the hide on the couch, or from the stool to the couch, and Cathy stayed out of their way while they worked a tight area back and forth, keeping them in front of her.
We’ll do more on leash exercises next week, really practicing feeding it out and gathering it in, and pressuring the leash to give your dog a boundary to stay within, without jerking him off task. I did a workshop this fall with a professional K9 trainer, and I had to go first. He told me, if I let the leash hit the floor, he would say BOOM! If I let the leash hit a container, everybody watching would say BOOM! So that was incentive to be attentive to the leash!
Here are the videos:
For the NW2/NW3 class, we welcomed back NW3 pros Panda and Tyrah, NW1 pros Molly & Gidget, and NW3 wanna be JJ. I used the other half of the room, so that I wasn’t constantly saying, “lingering! Oh, that’s just lingering odor… oh, I had a hide there in my first class” It’s nice to work a clean slate.
My video attempts were not the greatest… I think I set it up so only one hide out of 2 was visible on one run, then on another run, the purple cot is in view, but the corner w/ the hide is just out of range, and poor Panda went first, so I always realized during or after her run that I needed to adjust the camera. I think I’d be better off hand-videoing, but you definitely lose something when you are watching a live search thru a view finder. Oh well, hopefully you can get some info from your runs.
One thing we talked about was easing out the leash if your dog is on a mission to leave the area, rather than putting a hard break on the leash and your dog. In this area, the hanging heater seemed to be sucking air into the corner behind the start line, when it was running. So most of the dogs had to go work that corner before being able to follow the odor to source. Seeing your dogs work a wall / corner like that, you want to give them the leash and freedom to do that, while also being sure not to box them in. Allow them to work it, and angle your body so you are opening the search area to them, giving them a clear path in. When the dogs wanted to range to the other side of the room, where my first class had worked, there really was not much chance the odor would be pooling in the middle of the room – there was nothing solid other than the posts. IF they were chasing odor, you wouldn’t want them to chase it too far, again, because there really wasn’t much in the middle of the room that would be collecting odor from your hide. As your dog heads out of bounds, you’ll let the leash feed out, then gently ease them into a stop / change of direction, without following them out of bounds. No sense in following them out, that just gets them thinking Oh, I guess we’re going to search this other search area w/ lingering odor and crumb smells, great!
The challenges I wanted to work on, were leash handling, indoor air currents, and multiple hides / converging odor. For the leash handling, I was looking for the leash feeding out as the dog moved forward, and the leash being gathered in, as the dog turned back to the handler. Keeping the leash up off the floor, out from under legs, not getting caught under a tail, and navigating around some posts and objects. The air currents were a good challenge, the heater sometimes helps and sometimes adds time to a search, but it’s something to practice. You never know if there are going to be search areas with heat blaring or A/C cranking, and it’s helpful for your dog to have an idea of how to follow odor that is not moving in a consistent way. The multiple hides had some good converging odor challenges, hides in close proximity. I have to remember that NW2 can now have 3 hides! While you have the luxury of knowing the # of hides, and can keep searching until you find it or time out, at NW3 and Elite you will not know the # of hides. It would be easy to find 2, cover the search area, and think you were done. My hope is that by continuing to keep the dogs searching (long after you would have called Finish in a trial, I’m sure) that the dog works out that 3rd hide, and gains an understanding of the converging odors that they carry thru to a trial.
The handlers responsibility in this class was the leash. The more we practice our leash management, the more second nature it will be, giving both you and your dog one less distraction in a trial. That smooth feel of the leash gliding out, and being gathered in, stepping out of the way as you gather, easing to a stop when you need to, turning to get your dog to search a corner or nook – all will become instinctual. And, if the leash does get tangled, bungled or dropped, we need to practice that as well. Because it will happen! Our last Elite trial I had to unwrap the leash around a post, and Quattro took off chasing odor. I had to let the leash drop and run after him to pick it up (no fault awarded). And then in the search before that, there was a birds nest at the end of my 12′ leash, and I released Quattro to Search before I realized the knot was there. Clunk! as he hit the end of the leash, when the knot prevented the leash from feeding out. It didn’t bother him, probably because in practices, the leash has gotten wrapped, hooked, tangled, stuck and done the same thing. Not that I recommend it!
The air current challenge is a combination of handler awareness and understanding from the dog. For the handler, if your dog is doing something odd – heading out of the search area, not crossing the start line, etc, take stock of the air currents, and decide if your dog could be chasing odor, or if he is going free range and you need to redirect him. Pulling him back to the search area too soon could prevent him from working out the odor trail; allowing him too much time to go out on his own could waste precious seconds. Being present with your dog to make that split second decision is part of the team work that makes nose work so special.
Lastly, the converging odor problems… handler responsibility or dog responsibility? I think it starts with us setting the dog up for success, by pairing, by understanding the air currents and putting the dog in the best position to access odor, and using some passive leash restraint to prevent the dog from hammering the one hide they’ve found, over and over. As we set up and practice multiple hides in close proximity, the dogs start to realize they should be searching as soon as they leave a hide. Especially helpful in Elite, where there can be many hides in close proximity, you don’t want the dog eating their treat and running off across the room.
Lots of teamwork goes into these searches to be successful. A far cry from food in a box and standing at the start line watching your dog run around and stop to eat, and run around and stop to eat. Who knew how complex it would become, and who knew how much you’d feel that bond and connection when you and your dog figure out the puzzle together? Enjoy the journey!