When practicing at home (assuming you practice occasionally!), do you grab some tins, and stick or slap them down and then have your dog go find them? Do you have criteria as to what you will reward – nose at source, nose close to source, a head-turn, a “look”, a sit or down? Do you analyze what the odor could be doing, and what your dog is doing in response?
I admit, I can be guilty of grabbing some tins, slapping them on something metal or sticking them up on or down under something, getting one of my dogs, and letting them Search. Quattro is very consistent when he finds odor, he puts his nose on it (or as close as possible to nose touching it) and freezes. Coach is a little less consistent, but he usually tries to get his nose on it, then turns and looks at me wagging his tail. He sometimes lays down, he sometimes goes back to source as I approach, he sometimes gives a little freeze on the low hides, and sometimes, he takes off before I can reward him to hunt another hide. And, I don’t always analyze post-search my hide placement, the environment, what the odor may have been doing, and what my dogs response to the hides was.
So, I am vowing to do a better job at that during this down time!
I don’t want this to be complicated, so here is what I want to do:
- Set goals
- Be consistent – what do I want to reward? Where do I want to reward? I don’t want to compromise the act of finding by waiting for the perfect indication, though.
- Watch, really watch, what my dogs are doing in the given environment with the given hides
- Post search review – what could have gone better, what do I still need to work on, was there anything that came out of this practice, that leads to more ideas for the next practice? What went well, did I accomplish my goals for that training? And, did my dogs have FUN and ENJOY their training time?
So, here is what I did on Wednesday when we had that beautiful weather.
1) Work outside, in an area I have not worked in recently
2) Set a line of hides, to get my dogs hunting, being rewarded, then quickly hunting again. Hopefully this will help with their zig-zag approach, and provide several quick rewards at source
3) Set hides that are open and easy to access, but whose odor may be floating on the breeze
4) Set up a “triangle”, where there are 3 hides relatively close together, providing a possible converging odor challenge
5) Set one high hide, since both dogs are Elite level dogs and will come across hides over their head
6) Pair! I had left over roast beef from a mock trial that was canceled, so I used roast beef, cheese and kibble for pairing and rewarding
I chose the front of my house, next to the garage / driveway. Yes, my dogs have limited access to this area, when we load them in the car, but because the fence is not enclosed here, they do not spend much time here. And we have not done NW here since probably the fall. Goal 1 accomplished
Here is my set up for Goal #2, #3, #4 and #5:
and yes, I paired with really good stuff! Goal #6 accomplished.
So I set goals, but was I consistent? Think I was pretty good about rewarding at source, but watching these videos back, and even in the moment, Coach could use some work, er, I could use some work, on being more consistent when rewarding him at source. I do a lot of treat-tossing in this training session, due to holding the phone in one hand to video, and I think it would be helpful to work on my treat delivery and look for a consistent behavior I’m rewarding with Coach.
Did I watch, truly watch and think, about what my dogs were doing in response to the environment? I think I did, although sometimes I was a little slow on the uptake! There was one point where I started to call Quattro off w/ a Good!, because I thought he was heading back to a previously found hide. BUT, at the last minute, he scanned up a driveway marker, which made me realize he was working the high hide, albeit far from the high hide. And there were moments when I thought Coach was just running around the front yard like a maniac, but then I realized he was changing direction with a purpose… the more I watched him, the more I realized he was chasing odor faaaaar out, finding the edge of odor, then turning back, following odor waaaaay out, then turning back. Realizing this, helped me let him work it his way, rather than continue to call him closer, to where I thought would be helpful, and where I though he should be working.
My post search review:
I think I need a Go-Pro! Haha… but I realized with Quattro on leash in one hand, trying to get the treats with that same hand, and holding my phone to record in the other hand, was very awkward and distracting! Maybe I’ll set hides closer together and plant my phone next time. It bothered me to be dropping the leash and letting it drag, or holding him back w/ one hand on the leash… but on the upside, it makes me realize I am very aware of the leash and do a pretty good job of managing the leash most times, when I have two hands free. When I did Coach off leash, I realized we could have been smoother and more efficient if he was on leash… BUT, I learned a lot watching him make those huge loops chasing odor in the front lawn. Was that efficient, would it be realistic to do that in a trial? Ah, probably not. If he were on leash, I would probably have had him work the front of the house and prevented him from ranging out in the middle of the front lawn.
My goals of open-air hides in a line worked pretty well… Coach was a little all over and didn’t stay w/ the first hide he found, so that wasn’t great. The triangle of 3 hides did not pose a problem, and the high hide was sorted out pretty quickly by both dogs. And I think the pairing helped. The things I thought would be challenges (the triangle and the high hide) really didn’t cause any issues. What stood out to me, was I need to work on Coach staying w/ a hide if I am not right there. For him, I think I need to reward more at source, rather than toss treats, since the tossing pulls him off source to chase down the treat. And I think for both dogs, having a smaller scale area with hides closer together might be good for them. They sure have fun ranging and running, but, if I want to practice for a trial, I should probably work on a little more control.
Although, I have to admit, that many times one of my training goals is to tire them out, and these searches certainly did the trick!