Chair Serpentine Challenge

I figured we’d done several weeks of general container-type searches, from our pre-holiday boxes, tins and containers, to last weeks open post-Christmas / post-shopping boxes, and it was time to work on a different skill: working around an obstacle to get to source.

While the boxes/containers prove good at getting the dogs to follow odor to its strongest source (‘never mind the odor pooling on the box lid, never mind the odor pooling on that other box, never mind the food and / or toy distractions, only odor pays’), there are times when actually getting to source is a challenge. By setting up what looks like a simple serpentine of chairs, we can really watch the dogs problem solve.

For some of the vertiacally challenged dogs, they could take the direct path, by going under the chairs. For the larger dogs, they may have been able to get a read on where source was, but to actually get around to it proved a bit more of a challenge. And for those vertically challenged dogs, sometimes just understanding to check the tops of the seats of the chairs was needed.

I did not do any under the seat hides, these were all hides fairly easily seen by the handlers from the start line, either on the edge of chair seats, or on the chair backs (seen in the mirror). Some dogs needed the handlers to take a step or two left or right, to sort of give them permission to “go around back” , while others got stuck in the corner of the column, trapped in pooling / trapping odor (that was on the chair back, not on the column). Knowing when your dog is “stuck” in an eddy of odor and understanding what works to “un-stick” them are good skills to have. Sometimes all it takes is a step or two, other times, a more dramatic move is needed to “pull” them out of the area, and regroup. Many times, dogs will work to a blank area and unstick themselves… let them go out of the search area briefly, so they can determine that, it is DEFINITELY not out here, I’d better get back to the area with all the scent. Many times that clearing their heads / noses will help them walk back in refreshed, and with a different approach.

Lastly, I placed some tins off the chairs, just to be sure the dogs were following their noses and not using their heads to search an area where they had been successful over and over. I placed the plastic screen out to collect some odor from the hide I set on the fence – this didn’t trip them up! They were drawn to the screen to pick up odor, but then worked into the corner to source.

Here are videos from the 12:15p class. We had done at least one search before I started recording, and then I mis-labeled a few towards the end, but here is what I recorded, in the order I recorded them.

Happy sniffing!

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