Saco 2/19/18 Nose Work as a Team Sport

I really liked these classes! Expect to see more of this type of class in the future.

Here were my goals for the night:

  • Practice some blind hides
  • Practice with novel odor containers – not just tins!
  • Challenges specific to the dog
  • Have the observers give some tips before the search, and commentary during the search, to help the handler before and during the search.

I set hides in 5 rooms, so each person got a chance to do a blind hide.  While the team about to run was getting their dog, the rest of the class got to see where the hide was, and what I thought the challenges would be for the dog.  So for Papi, our greenest dog, his challenge I figured would be dog odor and just novel scents in general.  I didn’t think he’d ever found odor in something other than a tin, so his odor container was a white paper straw w/ 4 Qtips in it.  I tried to box the odor in by placing it on a shelf between 2 big jugs of laundry detergent/cleaning agents, and gave him the supply room rather than a dog daycare room, hoping to lessen the dog distraction.  Lastly, I placed his hot dog under the laundry jug alongside the straw, hoping he would stay and lick / nudge / push to get his hot dog out.  The class was instructed to give Michelle feedback as to what they were observing, and when to pay/reward.  I think everyone gave good information – when he was investigating, vs hunting, noting his big head snap at the corner of the shelves, when he was distracted off the hunt, and when he got back on task.  And the buried hotdog did work to give Michelle time to get there and pay him, before he walked away or turned to her away from source.

Cecil’s challenge was that the whole class was in the room with him.  A secondary challenge was  hide placement.  The hide (a tin) was up under a grooming table… Lucy commented that these type of hides confuse him, since he doesn’t seem to know how to or want to tilt / twist his head to put his nose on source, when it is under a chair/table etc.  **I should have paired** for these reasons!  These were two big challenges for him, so it would have been helpful for him to sort out the problem and give him some motivation if it were paired.  But, I didn’t, and he circled and circled and circled.  There was as step stool I set up near the table, and you could see him pick up odor on the step stool, but just not work to follow it back to source under the table.  He also picked up odor on the walls, and the corner behind the table.  When the class was presented with “so, what would you suggest to Don?”  I liked Michelle saying she would break up the circling, by moving.  Moving anywhere, no place specific, just try to break the circling.  I suggested the leash, to limit his asking mom for help, and from searching unproductive areas.  But, once the leash was clipped on, Cecil thought it was time for the car! And that didn’t seem to help so much at first.  Don did a great job keeping the leash loose, not leading Cecil to the hide, but just lightly limiting him from circling the edges of the room or charging the doors.  Cecil finally dipped his head under the table, just enough for us to say Reward!  Next time we have people in the room, we will definitely pair, and we will work on under table or chair hides, and wedge a treat up on the tin to encourage him to get his head under something.  He didn’t seem to have problems doing that with boxes, so we want to just expand that for him.

Jazmine – as one of the more experienced dogs in class, and most comfortable in the environment, I wanted to give her a new odor container (chapstick tube w/ a hole in the lid) and some food distractions.  One was an empty box of bakery-made dog treats, the other was an empty box that had held maple-bacon donuts.  The boxes flanked the hide, which was flat on the middle of the table in the break room.  I thought the chapstick tube could look natural in that enviornment,  but since it wasn’t boxed in by other objects, the odor really just carrried… across the table, down the table cloth, over to the coffee station, onto the plant leaves.  It was just really floating everywhere, and the donut box was a big attraction.  She did give up on the food distractions, but you saw her slow down and look a little confused.  I moved a chair a little out of the way, and Kendall dropped a couple treats alongside the tube, and between the two, I think we stirred up the odor enough and added some odor to help her narrow it down.  It still wasn’t an automatic w/ the food, showing that the odor in the room was really moving and it was not an easy hide.  A few suggestions were to get Jazmine to change direction, have Kendall move to the other side of the room, and to move the tube to the edge of the table.

Bella – I wanted to do a threshold hide, to be sure Cathy is practicing staying well back from the line and allowing her dogs to enter first… crowding them as they walk across the line can push them past a hide, and it can be easy to forget to go back.  This hide was in a white tube stuck to the trim around the door.  This was the “lounge” room, with a couch and 3 dog crates, not much else. EVeryone agreed the crate sniffing was dog sniffing, and that Bella was working when she was at the couch, but she kept leaving it.  I think she even jumped up on it at one point, then checked out the mouse hole in the corner.  Some suggestions were for Cathy to move from the center of the room and be sure to get Bella to work the walls, to stand up straight, and not to box Bella into where she was showing interest… If there were a hide on the couch, she would have identified it and stayed w/ it.  Turns out, the odor was collecting on the couch, and when she did get near source, it was very clear that she was on it!  A good tip to remember – when a dog is working an area, but not coming up w/ an alert, work the surface behind you.  Many times the odor pools and collects, and you just need to turn and get the dog to work the opposite wall/area.

Phil – his was a height challenge, and I thought something similar would happen to Phil, that happened to Bella.  The hide was in a novel container, an iPhone case, on top of a set of drawers in the “tub room”.  The drawers were near a grooming table, and while some odor was trapping there, like I thought, most was trapping along a pole that was attached to a dog dryer.  Suggestions were to bring him back to the area he showed interest when he started crittering around the edges and under the tubs, and maybe to move a bit closer to “block” the heating registers he was starting to critter at.  It didn’t take much, and he got back on task, climbed up, and alerted.

These were all challenging hides, none were gimmee’s, which made it perfect for those in the know to give suggestions and commentary on what they were seeing.  It would have not been as useful if the dog’s ran in and found the hide in 15 seconds!  My favorite things about this class were hearing everyone’s suggestions, tips, and commentary on what they were seeing.  I think it really forced everyone to think like the handler – ok, knowing where the hide is, what would I be seeing in my dog as they are searching?  ARE they searching, or are they distracted by dog/food/critters?  How can I get them back on task?  I hope for the handlers, the feedback was helpful, for that search and in the future.  Hearing voices in your head during a trial can sometimes come in handy!  Things will occur to you, or come back to you, in the search, and you’ll remember what action was needed or what that behavior meant.  It was a great way to fine-tune your observation skills and articulate what you were seeing.

For the 7:30 class, Mary and Sam filled in for Christina and Molly, and JJ was out sick, so it was Mary & Sam, Andy & Panda and Kendall and Reo.  We did many of the same hides – the under the table hide that Cecil started with was STILL a challenge!  Odor moving to the step stool, to the corner, and along the walls.  These dogs are more experienced and confident in the space, so they did work it out, but it was not easy-peasy for them, by any means.  I have to say, Reo was a super star!  He was quick at the table hide, so we moved to the break room (the chapstick tube was now under the coffee station, with the donut box above it). He still crushed it – he was quick, motivated and focused on task.  Sam and Panda did well at the table hide, and worked much like the earlier dogs, just able to get to source quicker.

Mary and Sam did the lounge with the threshold hide.  We saw Sam do the same things Bella had done – focus on the couch, and get a little hung up on dog odor at the crate.  At one point, when I asked Mary what she thought ,she thought the hide was in a cup holder on the couch, but Sam was just not staying with it.  Kendall commented that Sam really searched where Mary was facing, I commented that I felt he would stay with it if something was there, so Mary backed off and turned slightly… and bang – Sam did a nice head snap and freeze at source.  They then moved to the tub room, adn again, it benefitted Mary to move into the room once Sam had circled the front half about 3 times.  I felt like if there were a hide in that part of the room, he would have come up with it.  By just taking 2 steps into the room, Sam moved on, picked up odor, and worked nicely to source.  To prove my point, that if there were a hide on the couch Sam would have stayed w/ it, I put a hide in a cup holder.  Sam was cued to search from the doorway of the tub room, he circled once, then worked the arm rest to the cup holder and froze.  He did a great job of proving my point – trust your dog – if there is a hide there, they have the odor obedience to stay with it!  If there is odor but no hide (source), they will not false alert!  It then becomes your job to let them work the odor and then decide when to move them on.

I hope you all had fun acting as backup / support team to the team who was working, and when you were the working team, I hope the comments were some good food for thought for you.

Happy Sniffing!

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