Run Run Rudolph **VIDEO**

Our Holiday Sniffin’ Social was so fun! Thank you everyone for all the great food – I wish I had written this when it was fresher in my mind, but some highlights for me were Barbara’s Chicken salad, Christina’s kielbasa, Christine’s German Shepherd Pie, Pam Hansen’s shortbread, Linda’s stuffed bread, Christine’s brownies, and Beth’s squash casserole (which I enjoyed in NJ Saturday night in my hotel room!). Drinks by Sarah and a fresh odor kit from Andy rounded out the evening goodies.

What a list of 2018 accomplishments! I count an accomplishment as a placement in the top 10 of a trial, although there were many many more personal accomplishments that may not show up on paper or relate to a trial. I feel that top 10 (out of 26, 35 or 40 working teams at the various trial levels) shows that you had the confidence (guts!) to enter a trial, you put yourself and your dog out there for the judge and volunteers to watch (they know where the hide is – no pressure!) your dog is focused, you are focused, your dog is clear, you have done a good job reading your dog, you have managed your trial stress / nerves, and you have put in the practice and other socializing to keep your dog relaxed and ready to work come trial day. There is a lot that goes into a trial and being trial ready, so I feel it is especially rewarding to come in the top 10, whether that is in one element or the trial overall.
Trials aside, I enjoy our class time, learning from your dogs. Whether that is watching them work the impossible hides I sometimes set up (that hide on the flag stick in anyone’s memory?) watching your leash handling improve, watching the dogs confidence and endurance to search increase, and being challenged to set up interesting search areas that will build confidence, endurance and clarity to you and your dogs, I enjoy our Thursdays together.
For our Holiday Sniffin’ Social, I wanted to do something a little different. In the past, I’ve set out 10 or so hides, given the dogs 2 or 3 minutes and see how many they find. That is always fun to see what dogs get which hides, and it’s rare that a dog can find all 10 in the time limit given. This year, I wanted to do an exercise I had done years ago, where we had the dogs search in the dark, and the handlers had to call Alert by sound vs sight. A few days before the social, I got the idea to put a red light on the dogs, like Rudolphs nose, and add jingle bells. Hence, the Reindeer Games theme – Run Run Rudolph! I kept it simple in that there was only one hide out, and it was paired for most dogs. We were quick to turn the lights on when the dog was at source, and the handler could safely move foreword and reward their dog. I really liked this exercise, because despite the blackness of the video, once your eyes got adjusted, you could see some shadows of chairs, ring gates, etc. Keep in mind, dogs have a much better sense of night vision than we do, so while the handlers were not sure how their dogs would react to doing NW in the dark, the dogs did not seem to have any problems with it! They did a great job ignoring the larger than normal crowd of people, they for the most part ignored the tables of food, and they were not bothered by the lights, sometimes blinking, and the jingle bells that were hanging around their necks.
I’d like to do this again, but I would make a few adjustments. I’d have the class sitting close to the hide, so they got to see something, and I’d have less “stuff” for the dogs to navigate around. Alsø, besting able to close them in, rather having the large opening, will keep the dogs a little closer to the odor. Of course, not having a table of food nearby will probably help!
Interesting that Quattro was the only dog to make it to the food… my plate with a few bites left that I was saving for after everyone had run. Was it that the plate of food was nose level, and he figured it was prime for the taking? Was it that he realized it was “mine”, and thought he’d help himself? Or is there more going on there? I saw this study and it reminded me of Quattro’s in-the-dark move to get to my plate of food. Theory of mind in action…

I hope everyone had a nice break from classes and were able to enjoy some holiday time. I did not do any nose work between my trial in NJ on Dec 9th and 10th until finally a practice in my house on Jan 9th. My dogs did a lot of hiking and socializing over the holidays, along with plenty of natural nose work (eating plenty of deer and fox poop!) so they enjoyed the break. But it’s time to refocus and improve on a few things, a new year and renewed focus for us. Happy New Year!

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