Last week I had done some container searches outside. I posted Quattro’s attempts, and we struggled with the fact that the back door is normally where he BLASTS outside to run around the yard. Backdoor open = CHARGE! When Pam comes to grab my collar = Game Over, Wah, wah. So of course he played keep away whenever I went near him – he didn’t even stay at source! At that moment, I decided the best thing to do to recover, would be move away from the patio and his preconceived notion of me ending the game and poisoning his alert. I ended up bailing on containers, putting him on leash (when he saw that, he equated it with nose work, and was happy to be hooked up), and working the woodpile. Another option would have been to leash him, and continue working Containers, but, I decided we both needed to clear our heads and clear out of there! There will be plenty of time to work on that in the coming weeks.
Coach actually ran that Container search before Quattro. My goal for this session, was to work on getting Coach to stay at source. There were a few outdoor searches we had done recently, where he would do a quick alert, then before I could even get there to reward him, he would dash off to find more. Or, he would grab one or two treats, then dash off. I would like him to stay w/ the hide until I release him, as there have been times at trials, Elite specifically, where the search areas are large, my dogs are fast and they can easily drop out of sight. I can’t have Coach alerting before I see, and then dashing off to find another hide as I round the corner.
Here is the real-life progression of my set ups. The very first pass is the worst, where he is just running around like a maniac, not even checking containers. The next passes are better, he at least goes to the containers, but I still haven’t met my goal of him staying at source longer, or staying until I release him. I end up picking up the hot container every time he leaves it, so that we don’t get in the further habit of “take some treats then leave a hide, come back to a hide for more treats then leave it”. I start to lightly take him by the collar – not applying pressure, but just getting him used to my hand on his collar as I reward him. My hope is that he is realizing that hand on collar = treats, not hand on collar = game over. A few times I keep my hand on his collar, and then lead him inside, and other times, I take my hand off his collar as I start to trust that he will stay w/ the hide. I move around him, over him, away from him, behind him – the constant being that he gets his treat when his nose is at the hot container.
NOTE HOW MANY TREATS HE GETS! When you want to emphasize something, you HAVE to give more than one or two treats. No, I don’t want fat dogs. I had not fed my dogs breakfast yet that day, and was paying them with a combination of freeze dried duck and kibble. They are raw fed, so kibble is pretty special to them, ironically. But I am GENEROUS with the quantity, and stingy with the size of the treats. I’m not just dropping a handful of treats for them to scarf up in one gulp, it’s paid out one by one by one by one by… etc etc. This has a greater impact as opposed to a fistful that they gobble up. I do a mix of tossing treats and hand delivering treats… the toss helps me reward before I can physically get there, although they do many times bounce or roll away. This just gives him another opportunity to put his nose back on the hot container to make the treats fall, and gives me time to get there. I rapid-fire the treats to start, then pause here and there for varying amounts of time, trying to time my delivery for when his nose is down on the container.
Once I add a couple food distractions, I do allow him to leave and come back, and I reward him for coming back (rather than picking up the hide). I wanted to reward the fact that he’s left food to come back to the hot container, so I loosened up my “leave the hide, I pick it up” rule.
In a later session the following week, (see Water Hides) I decided I should make coming inside part of the fun. I had a spare tin in my pocket when we came inside (me leading Coach in my the collar), I fake-hid it a few places just inside the door as he watched, then slapped it on the door latch when he wasn’t looking. He got a quick and easy search inside, and I’m hoping that if I can continue doing this for both he and Quattro, that coming inside won’t be such a bummer.
As I look back and think about this session, I was really happy with the progression. From running around like a maniac, to settling down, from leaving the hide after two or three treats, to staying with it as I moved around and away from him, I would count this as Mission Accomplished. Although we still need to generalize and do more proofing!
Here are the videos!