Wanting to take advantage of that beautiful weather we had on Friday, I decided to practice something I don’t normally spend a lot of time practicing… Containers! I feel like I do them for classes, lug all the containers and set them all up, have a plan, put some food distractions in them, do several runs, and we make some good progress. But its a lot easier for me to slap some tins out around the house or yard, and work my dogs, pick up the tins, and call it a practice. Which it is practice, but not very well thought out. How many times have you heard me say, I need to do this exercise with MY dogs??
So, no excuses. I pulled some containers out of the basement, attempted to punch holes in the plastic lids (most cracked – I think they would have let enough odor escape without the holes) and set up a simple search on the patio. I figured the air movement, breeze and sun would provide one challenge, the neighbor was having some trees removed, which you can hear in the distance, making a second challenge / distraction, and I wanted to start simple and build from there. One hide, a couple food distractions, then I would mix it up, elevating the containers, putting them under chairs, near the grill, etc. However, you know what they say about the best laid plans…
I had already run Coach, starting w/ no food distractions, then adding a slice of bread in one container and some veggie straws (sort of like a healthy version of chips, at least that’s what I tell myself) in another container. I figured I’d start Quattro where Coach left off, since he is pretty experienced. Here’s what it looked like:
(Ignore the fact that the videos look like they are upside down, once you hit play, they will be right side up)
Well, he was NOT ready to go back inside! After 10 minutes – the time stamp on the videos proves it took that long, and I still hadn’t caught him – I decide to change the search area slightly, and see if I can get him to do another search. Since he was still playing keep away in the yard, I was hoping the change of Container set ups would encourage him to do another search (plan B), and I would then bring him in, do a new set up, and by then, he should realize going inside was not ending the play, just suspending it! But don’t try to explain semantics to your dog. Here’s how the 2nd search went:
Ok, so he’s wise to my tricks. Not wanting to be taken by the collar and get led inside, he was avoiding the hot container… NOT what I wanted for our training session! This is the dog who freezes at source, not moving no matter where I am, and won’t move on until I give him a cue to move on. So I certainly didn’t want to extinguish that behavior, all because he was avoiding me and not wanting to go inside! Time for Plan C and another tactic. I picked up the hot container, then went inside. I took out 9 tins w/ odor, and hid them in the woodpile (he was watching from inside the fence). We had searched the woodpile over the weekend, when I tried to do it in a methodical, one section at a time way, and that was rough! I got dragged back and forth, as he just wanted to run to the end, passing several hides along the way. I figured maybe I could rectify two shortfalls – get him interested in searching again, and, see if our last practice there taught him how to search it more methodically. I brought his long line out to the patio, where he was still milling around. THAT was a thing he associated with searching, and I was able to leash him up pretty easily at that point. We bailed on the Container search, and got away from the patio and back door, which had the negative connotation of the search ending.
Here is what it looked like – sorry for the jerky videoing!
I think we were able to recover AND keep NW fun. He searches the woodpile with excitement, does not try to avoid me, stays with the hides, and, he works it better than he did last weekend… more methodical in his searching, and a better understanding of working several hides in close proximity to one another. He found the tins I couldn’t (the ones I didn’t pair), as well as the paired hides. Overall, I was very happy with the woodpile search. Not all practice is perfect, but it can tell you a lot about your strengths and weaknesses. And if you do a post-search analysis / review, you can go back and work on your weaknesses and see if there is improvement. To me, that is a big piece of why we practice, to thoughtfully work on something we have trouble with. Now, I just have to figure out a better location for the Container search, do it on leash, and keep it FUN. “One and done” is not fun, says Quattro, let’s do multiple hot containers! Time to listen to the dog.