For these classes, I wanted to sort of make up for those challenging suspended hides we had done, and keep the drive and motivation of your dogs high. To quote Bob Bailey, Keep it simple but not easy. The simple was there was only one hide in each of 2 set ups. The not easy part, was how the dogs had to get to the hides.
Set up one was a maze. A little more open and easy access for the NW1 dogs, and a little longer and more complex for the NW3 dogs. I LOVE the difference in them from their first pass to their third pass! They really figured out the line and the path, as well as the game… there’s a squirrel in the hole, and I’m going to get him! Really fun to watch them independently figuring out the way in.
Set up 2 was a “jungle gym”. Dogs could climb up to access the hides, or work around the outside edges and stretch for the hides. These guys had no problems climbing for the hides! Really fun to watch them problem solve.
The NW3 class had a longer, tighter maze with a dead end thrown in, as well as a suspended hide (on the coat hanger) and a low hide. These were a bit more challenging, but I still think the dogs enjoyed working out the puzzles!
A few things I noticed, in the moment and then watching them back:
- Note how long Sarah treats Max at the maze hide. He is at source, and the treats are coming one, another, another… in a steady, measured stream. This is a great way to keep your dog at source! Why would they leave, if they know they will continue to be fed there? Then, when you’re done, you’re done (so if we had multiple hides, we would be get them to move on and continue searching – but that wasn’t the goal of this class). One quick treat (a “cheap treat”) and your dog will be quick to move on. They may give you a nice lead in to source – head snap recognition, the quickened pace, loud sniffing, a pause then look or brief freeze – but if you give a cheap treat and move on, they may give you the briefest of final responses. A micro freeze, a passing look at you, and they may move on, expecting that that is what the routine is. So be sure you are a generous treater!
- Remember to reward the effort, when your dog is faced with something you know they find challenging. Sarah said Max doesn’t like to push his way thru things, so when we see him nudge a box, then use his paw (something I normally highly discourage) to me, that was big for him to do, so we rewarded that. This was the hide under the ramp, that all the dogs found by way of the green box. Once we rewarded his efforts of getting close to source, he became pushier and more excited about it. I wish I’d kept the video rolling on that, since Sarah couldn’t get him out! I thought we’d have to do an earth dog move, and yank him up by the trail (kidding!). Molly is another example of that… we know she probably would not climb up on the tables/platforms to get the hide on the table, so we COULD have rewarded her at the box when she came up underneath the table (the closest she was comfortable getting). There was another moment when Christina was on the blue table, and Molly got brave enough w/ Christina there to put her front feet up on the table, and look into the box… That would have been a perfect place for Christina to just reach in and reward in the box, while Molly’s nose was at the box edge. When those efforts got her nothing, you see her back up and sit and stare at Christina. I’m sorry I didn’t just say “Reward!” But I think we were talking and both slightly in our heads rather than in the moment. She does come around again, but I think it would have helped build her confidence more if we had accepted 2 feet on, nose at box edge.
- I liked how they all drove forward, mostly without a look back. Aspen checks back at Pam at one point, when Pam is running around the outside trying to keep up, but she turns away from Pam and dives into source. I like that independent move away from the handler to get to source. I had you all start facing the orange box, so they were started out facing the fencing, but seeing a box behind it. That was clue enough for them to find a way around to check out that box… which led them to the odor cone, which led them to source.
- The dogs showed us where the odor was NOT moving. That last hide for the NW3 dogs, I was sure they’d crawl under the triangle of the ramp, but none did. Apparently, the odor was not shooting out towards me at all… I think the only reason Max ended up there, was because he didn’t want to leave the squirrel hole without a fight!
- The last hide for the NW1 dogs, they showed us where it WAS going – it was dropping out of the box sitting on the table, and collecting in the boxes under the table, in the little round cup holder type areas on the blue table, and up in the bottom side of the table. It was fun to watch them work it UP and AWAY from pooling odor – a valuable skill to have in a trial!
While you won’t find set ups like this in a trial, I think this is a good practice for working in tight spaces, with stuff around them, following the best path to source – both by following the odor line and by problem solving around items to get to source – and for dogs who like to climb or chase, I think it satisfies those drives, too. I remember enjoying mazes in the news paper and figuring out crossword puzzles as a kid, and I think your dogs enjoyed their version, too.
Ok, enough talking… here are the videos: