This past Sunday, I attended a practice session organized by one of my Thursday students. We worked at a public park / beach area, that allows leashed dogs in the off season. Because it was a beautiful day, there were a LOT of people and their leashed (many on flexi-leads) dogs out and about. So, we hunkered down in a far corner of the park.
About 5 or 6 people chose areas to place hides, and we rotated around, working each other’s hides. There was coaching if you needed, you could do them blind or known, and in one case, I paired a particular tricky hide for a dog. There were some good distractions… the people and their dogs were not walking thru the search area, but not far from it. There were cars driving by the search area, cruising slowly looking for parking. And since we were in a back, woodsy corner, there was rabbit and deer poop, dog pee, chipmunks and squirrels, and a large den-looking hole in a brush pile that had all the dogs attention. Lots going on! Oh, plus the gentle on-shore sea breeze.
One of my students snapped a couple pics of Quattro hunting, and I wanted to illustrate what I **think** was happening with the odor, based on the environment and the way he worked.
This was one of the search areas, just under the pavilion, did not include as far back as the grill, which was outside the pavilion. The start line was between the 2 posts, you can see I have not crossed the line and he is already alerting. Perfect, nice simple hide. This was our 7th and last search of the afternoon. The hides had been sitting out for roughly 3 hours at this point.
Here is what I think the odor was doing. The slight breeze didn’t cause him too much trouble on the first hide, it actually probably helped him. He was quick to get to source. But, based on how he worked the rest of the search area, makes me think it looked a little like this. Blue arrows are the slight breeze, green haze is where I think the odor is, red X (by Quattro’s nose) is the hide.
I did not know the # of hides, so after paying him for this hide, I gave a good and he was off. He stopped halfway down the right side of the tables at the double legs, sniffed above the bench, then under, then belly crawled under the bench, clearly working into the breeze. Someone said, is he stuck? No, just alerting. Since it was practice, and I knew he’d stay at source, I dropped the leash, and walked around the end of the tables, so I could be in a better position to reward him. I’m not sure how I would handle this in a trial – I wouldn’t want to drop the leash for that long, maybe I would toss the slack on top of the table, then run around the table end, and pick up the slack, reward him and untangle it as I was rewarding? I’m not sure. But, this is what it looked like:
So, we had the hide on the corner of the table, where he is alerting. The yellow dashes are his path, and the yellow lines (faint) are where he went above the bench and then crawled under the bench. The blue arrows represent the breeze coming off the ocean. There was a hide on the outside base of the 2nd post, and the hide he sourced under the table is represented by the red line on the left (since it is just out of sight). The green haze is represents the odor.
Looking at the pictures, and thinking about the environment, made me realize that not only was the odor sitting out for several hours before we searched, but it was in the sun. The sun must have heated up the table tops, causing the odor to rise. As it caught on the breeze, it drifted then pooled up on the posts or traveled out of the search area.
There is no question where the hide is! I’m not sure how he got into that position, or how he got out of it! I think I got his leash from his collar after I rewarded him, then fed the leash around and under the bench, asking him to crawl out from under there. This put us on the up wind side of the search area, and he didn’t show much interest on this side (the left side of the start line). He did show interest on the benches and table tops, he walked on the table tops several times. We went back to the right side of the start line, and he got the hide at the base of the post. I called finish, although he was still wanting to go on the table tops. Andy, who had planted the hides, said No, actually there were 4 hides. Hmmm… this one was a challenge! This is what he did…
Oh! Looks like a high Elite hide! Alert?
Andy says, Nope.
Here is what I think the odor was doing. Red X is where the hide was, blue arrows represent the breeze, green haze is the odor. I don’t think the odor on this hide went low at all, I think it rose in the sunlight to the table top, then blew over to the post and rose up like a chimney. I’m sure little patches of odor were also traveling to the rocks, but since it seemed far out of the search area, I didn’t think to have him check them. Plus, prime area for dog pee! We stayed closer to the pavilion.
Finally, Christina who was watching, reminded me of a training session we had been at the week before, when I was running Coach. She said, Remember to check BEHIND you. So when I turned him back to the tables, he went back on the table top, and voila! Success. Another yoga pose.
Here is what I think was happening. There are four hides (four red X’s – this view is looking to the start line from the back of the search area), odor blowing right to left of this picture on the on-shore breeze (blue arrows) and then it was rising as the table tops heated up, up thru the slits in the tables. General consensus from Andy and Christina who were watching and knew where the hides were, was that he was blasting around the end of the table too fast and kept missing that hide, then getting sucked into the hide on the base of the post. He was picking it up on the surface of the table, but I wasn’t paying all that much attention, thinking more about how maybe I shouldn’t be letting him up there, since people are going to be eating off there in a few months. But, he showed that he needed to be up there to catch it. Would a small dog be able to get this one? Not sure… maybe enough was pooled under the table that they would pick it up and work it to source, or maybe they would false alert like Quattro did high on the post. A more methodical dog may have picked it up from under the table as they came around the end of the table.
In any event, it was fun looking at these pictures and evaluating with 20/20 hindsight what could have been happening. It would have been more guess work if I went by memory to put this together, the photos were really helpful! (Thank you Christina!) Not to mention amusing 🙂
Try to look at your videos from trials or photos and piece it together. I’m hoping that I will have a better idea of how to use the wind and sun a little better in my next exterior search. Quattro was pretty clear, I just have to be a little sharper reading his communication in combination with the environment!