Nov 8 2018 Advanced NW Class – Suspended hides

Here is a link to the videos from last weeks Suspended Hides class, the Advanced level dogs.  By this point in the evening, the dogs had done 2 previous searches with hides suspended just at nose level, or just over nose level.
These were 5-6+ minute searches – not for the faint of heart!  Don’t worry, I trimmed the videos way down to the moments before the find.  You’ll see I also sped them up, then slowed them down when they were close to alerting.
So, a couple things I learned from this.
  • Your dogs have lots of endurance!  This is not only an Elite style hide, based on hide placement, but the length of the search was what you can have at Elite.  That is a long time to stay on task, not wander off, sniff dog smells, hunt for crumbs, visit, quit, etc.  This was not built into them in a 5 week class, or even 15 weeks of classes, but years of successful problem solving.  When people in classes ask me, When can I move to the next level?  It’s such a tough thing to answer in a concrete, time-based answer.  The dogs in this class have been working at this for a long time, building up stamina, persistence and perserverence.  And even Christina opted to pass on running Molly on this, thinking the lower suspended hides were successful, let’s end there.  Anything high is stretching Molly’s natural ground-level hunting style, so Christina felt Molly was stretched enough in the previous run.  Which is perfectly fine!
  • Amy Herot talked about things professional detection handlers look for in a dog, and Amy feels these attributes should be considered before putting a dog on odor.  As you can see from her list, all of these qualities are needed to work a challenge like this one (never mind the challenges professional drug / bomb / cadaver detection dogs need, as well as Search and Rescue, whether in the East Coast variable weather conditions, hot and dry South West, wet and swampy South, or the avalanche dogs searching in the Mountains of the Rockies). We would not want to introduce a problem like this if a dog didn’t have at least most of these attributes. Here is her list:
    • Confident
    • Tempermentally Sound (good w/ dogs, good w/ people)
    • Curious
    • Independent
    • Focused
    • Environmental Security
    • Motivated
  • After attending Bob Bailey’s workshop this past weekend, one of the many takeaways for me was: If your dog has attempted something 3x unsuccessfully, you need to change 1) what you, the handler, are doing and/or 2) change the environment.  Watching these videos back, here is what I would change in the handler and the enviornment:
    • Use of leash after trying it off leash
    • Set up a target that is easily moved and adjusted (one that I could lower and adjust for the dogs more easily and quickly)
    • Box in a smaller area or, make the area smaller after they’ve searched wide (use ring gates to give them a smaller searchable area). This could also be accomplished w/ the leash
    • Perhaps pairing, so long as I could lower the hide
    • I should have directed the handlers to move in with their dogs when the dogs were near the hide.  While doing this every time the dog is near a hide can cue the dog that they are close (and if you did this all the time, could produce a false alert if you bring them into a blank area), I think the handler moving in would have indicated to the dog that they are on track when they are tightening their circles under the suspended hide… and did not include the dog walk, door, etc.
  • Your dogs ALL TRULY KNOW THE GAME.  They understand they are working for target odor, and understand they need to get as close as they possibly can – this was built in their foundation, when we paired, then rewarded at source.  There were times the dogs picked an area where I’m sure there was collecting/pooling/lingering odor, or, they picked up odor and saw a “thing” and figured they’d tell you about that (metal hook on the empty PVC frame). But they were quick to move on and not try to talk you into feeding them there.
  • They truly show the attributes Amy lists in a good detection dog

The videos import last to first, so you see Isaacs run first (the Elite Champion!).  His is the only video I show in real time, then slow-mo.  What can I say?  He’s a pro!  Of course, he starts off wanting the hide to be on the tire frame.  I comment that they have had some challenges at high hides in Elite, but that was only in response to someone asking (that doesn’t make it on the video)  I think the interest / soft alert on the tire frame is common in all Elite dogs – luckily, in Elite, you can hear No and keep searching, although you do lose points.

Aggie had the disadvantage of going first (making her last in the videos), in that I didn’t know how much room the dogs would need to work it out, I didn’t ask Pam to leash her, I didn’t lower the hide until later on in the search, and even then it was not low enough… basically, I left them hanging!  The nice thing I see watching this back, is how independent Aggie is (as opposed to Aspen, who we saw was VERY in tune w/ Pam’s every movement) and how long she worked.  I slow the video briefly in two places – look where she gives a soft alert and where that is in relation to the hide and the heater.  It was a good distance away, so farther than our human expectations, but really, she almost looks at it from way over under the heater… and was probably puzzled as to why she wasn’t getting anything for that 😦

Note how Max basically alerts the same way, he’s just a little closer so we all get excited and he gets rewarded.  It is really not much different than what Aggie does, which is why I’m thinking if she had been on leash, and we limited her range, she might have alerted closer to the hide.  I love how Sarah does not react when Max spooks at the box he tips, and he continues working it out.

Watch Sam’s cheeks puff in and out, and his mouth open and close as he works odor under the hide.  I think Sue Sternberg called that “the guppy”, since it looks like he’s biting / tasting the air.

Midnight almost does a little micro freeze when she locks onto odor, like a little pause, before looking at Barbara.

I think my favorite part of the videos is everyone’s faces as they rush in to reward their dogs!


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