New challenges March 14, 2019

A few things came to mind after Thursday’s class, and I realized that I hadn’t posted in a while. I also realized, again, that I wish I’d video’d! I’ll try to do it this week.


We had a guest appearance from Kara and Phil, Christina’s Intro to NW students. Kara has left to hike the AT w/ Phil for several months, and wanted to make up a class she would miss, as well as a snow date. Phil is a strong worker, and I sort of just threw him in. It wasn’t until I got home and was thinking about the classes, that I realized he had probably only found food in a box in class before that night! He did awesome, and I should have commended them for their good work. So horrible timing for positive reinforcement, but Nice Job, Kara & Phil!

Congrats to Mary & Gemma (Birch, Ansie & Clove ORT), and Barbara & Macy, Christina & Cruz for passing their Clove ORT. It sounds like a good time was had by all, and thank you for Sarah Mackel and Beth Dutton for volunteering. The great part of volunteering, is you get to see a lot of dogs and handlers work the same odor problem. It’s easy to be a backseat driver when you know where the odor is, and once you’ve seen several dogs work it, it seems so obvious what the dog is saying. You get an idea of where the odor is moving or trapping, and it’s easy to see dogs and handlers either get hung up on trapping odor, or work it out. Different styles and relationships between dog and handler are easy to spot, and you can see the handler’s stress and how it effects the dog – or in some cases, you are impressed with how the dog ignores the handlers stress!

We got to work after our ORT discussion. I had 4 chairs around the grooming table, and a couple chairs in each corner of a rectangular enclosure. I wanted to give the dogs a smallish area to work, vs the open areas we’ve been doing the past few weeks. I started out w/ a tin visible, front and center from the start line to warm them up – no problem for your dogs. I then used the same chair, and moved it to the right, then left side of the search area. For their next run, the hot chair was in a corner of the rectangle, near the wall and ex-pens. This offered a little more of a challenge to the dogs, since they had to battle the close quarters of the edge of the chair and wall, as well as figure out exactly where the odor was coming from. I loved watching the dogs work to get to source! It really showed their determination to put their nose on source, none tried to convince you they’d found it on an outside edge of the chair, they were all focused on getting to source. Really nice to see, it is a skill that will carry you thru many levels of trials.
One thing we saw, was that the odor was being sucked away from the mirrors where we were working, towards the entrance door. A couple dogs, Reo and Macy stand out, left the search area (but were clearly still working) to chase odor to the outside corner of the search area, near the easel and whiteboard, then worked it back inside to the chair that was in that corner. It’s so helpful to know when your dog is working vs going to visit, or chasing butterflies… I’d hate to call a dog back into the search area, if I was calling them away from following odor. You and your dog are not faulted for leaving a search area boundary, so if your dog is working odor, by all means, let them leave and come back in.
For their last run, I put the hot chair in between 2 other blank chairs, and it was really fun watching them, again, work to source. I had also by this point flipped the tin to the underside lip of the chair seat. One thing I would / will do differently next time, is pair it for June. She was expecting to find the tin front and center, and be able to walk into it w/ her nose, where when the tin is under the seat edge, the dogs sort of have to do a swan neck move to bend and twist to get their nose on the tin. The more experienced handlers have seen many, many chair hides with their more experienced dogs, so I presume they’ve done hides like this in practice with their younger dogs. So, I will pair to help June figure out that there could be something up under on a flat surface (defying the laws of dog gravity!)

7:30 (or should I call it, the 7:40 class!)

So we started w/ the hot chair in between 2 cold chairs, the way we ended the 6:30 class, but I also added a clove tin to a chair, in the middle of the other 2 cold chairs. So the dogs had mirrored hides. They all did great determining that there were 2 odors, 2 separate hides, and made short work of pin pointing each hide.

I then lifted one hot chair so that it was ON the grooming table, and took out one hot chair. Given the height challenge, I wanted to keep it simple, by not adding converging odor to the mix. I figured our entire enclosure smelled like birch, so that and the height were going to be tricky enough.
I love working high hides like this, and it was so fun to watch the dogs come straight in, and pretty much identify the hot chair up on the table. Midnight gets the award for being the most eager “senior” dog to get up on the table to source it, although Max will take a close second (it’s not his fault he’s short!). It was really interesting watching them work the scent cone. I moved the table so that it was against the mirrors, wondering if it would be more or less challenging for the dogs vs the middle of the space. I think it still provided a challenge, but because they’d already sourced a hide up on the chair on the table, they were quicker to figure it out. Isaac had an advantage with his satellite cone that beamed the odor directly to his nose… we weren’t sure at first how he would be able to work wearing the cone of shame, but it ended up being a great satellite beacon for him – he was SO accurate and right on with the high hides, it was almost an unfair advantage!

If I’d had time, I would have added a second hide along with the high hide, to watch them work out the converging odor problem… fast forward to March 21st!

Overall, when I placed the hides, I was wanting to expose the dogs to:
-a smaller search area
-multiple chairs, where odor would settle on the seats, and cling to the legs
-a hide “up under” – no visible tin, but a tin where the dogs would have to twist under the chair seat to get to source
-a hide that was in tight quarters – against the mirrors, the screen, and between 2 chairs

At NW1, the hides are, for the most part, not going to be difficult for the dogs to access… ie, they won’t be on the wall-side of a chair, or on the seat of a chair tucked under a table. But, they won’t be front and center, the hide will be tucked up under a chair, bucket rim, garbage barrel handle, to name a couple examples. Don’t play CO (Certifying Official) and try to guess where the hide is, but I do want you to know that the hide placements are fair and very doable. They are not out to trick you or your dog. But by practicing hides that are a bit deeper in the search area, or a little mor difficult for the dogs to reach, making them work for it, not only are we preparing them for NW2, but when they DO get an easily accessible hide, they will be excited and more obvious to read, and it will be easier to call alert on.

For the NW2/3/ELTCH class, I was looking to:
-give the dogs a small challenge with the mirrored hides (a hide on a chair, in the middle of 2 blank chairs, mirrored on the other side of the grooming table with a hide of a different odor in the middle). I wanted to see them work out the converging odor, and watch to see when they realized there were 2 separate hide
-give the dogs some spatial challenge, with the blank chairs pretty close to the hot chair (hide was on the side of the hot chair). The dogs really had to work to pinpoint and work out which chair it was on
-give the dogs a high hide problem.
-give the handlers the chance to watch their dog work a high hide, and see how far out from source the dog picks up the odor

Using the same chair(s) for the hides, really allows the odor (and dog slobber) to collect, making the blank chairs that much more obviously blank to the dogs. I wanted to work on how they detailed the hot chair and worked to source, I wasn’t focused on the dogs working thru lingering odor or dog slobber, as they would if I’d kept moving the tin to different chairs. By using the same chair in different locations, the dogs got repetition of how odor moves on a chair and in the enviornment, hopefully giving them confidence on working chairs, both blank and hot. The same idea with the high hide… get some repetition, experience and exposure with working an overhead hide, so the next high hide you have at a trial, you’ll be able to figure out pretty quickly what your dog is doing. Although I will say that even though you CAN have a high hide at NW3, there have not been many that are over 3ft high. Again, don’t play CO, just be aware the when we practice really high hides, that we are working to the future – Elite and Summit!

Happy sniffing!

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