Back to School

Wow, do I always have trouble with videos! But finally was able to get some put together…

I hope you all had fun back at class – I know I did! I think your dogs were happy, too, although I could see some fatigue setting in by the last run. Which of course, I made the most challenging re. hide placement. If you think about it, they were back in class w/ other people and dogs for the first time in months, we worked outside for the first time in months (for some dogs, for the first time ever!) and depending on which class you were in, it was windy/warm/sunny/breezy. So lots going on for them!

I grabbed some neat still photos from each of the classes, let me know if you’d like your own copy of yours. I tried to video pretty much the whole class, in case anyone couldn’t hear thru the mask, wind and distance. So feel free to scroll thru to your run. However, I hope you take a peek at the other classes runs.  You all did pretty much the same set up, but based on the environment (ie, weather conditions) and experience of the dog and handler, you’ll see some different searches.

5p Tues evening Class

6:15p Tues evening class

Videos from the Wed classes coming soon!

Throw-back Thursday

I know it’s not Thursday, but this video is a compilation of Thursday night classes, from June of 2019 going back to October 2016.  It’s 41 minutes long (a video of Gemma got in there twice, so it should be a tad shorter). There is a brief instruction to start it off from my nephew, Marco.  Of course he said it beautifully when I didn’t have the camera rolling, and was shy when I asked him  to repeat it, but it is basically what we do in a nutshell.  Leave it to a 6 yr old to boil it down for us!

I chose clips from various classes, some because they were funny, some because I really liked the searching, some because there were quick finds, and some because Gemma and Macy were SO LITTLE!  I don’t always video, and not everyone is in every class that I do video, so you may not recognise a set up, or wonder why I didn’t choose your dogs’ search. I only chose searches that were no longer than roughly a minute and a half, many were only a few seconds long.

As you look back, think about handling things you may have changed since then, or things you want to change now that you look back with more experienced eyes.  I know there are things I look back on and wish I had done differently as a trainer, whether it was waiting for the dog to pinpoint precisely (when looking at the video, it looks like the dog did), or talking while a dog is searching and confusing the handler running.  I say Yes! at one point during Cruz’s search, meaning, Yes, Cruz was at source, and HE looks up at me, and Christina thinks I’m just talking and doesn’t acknowledge / pay him. She realises quickly what had happened, but I felt bad that we missed rewarding him right away.

And when Gemma comes to visit me during a search as a puppy, was that a precursor of what was to come? What could I have done differently early on, to maybe prevent or change that? DOES it need to be changed?  How do we take the joy she has visiting, and apply it to searching? I don’t have a definite answer, but video always lays things bare.

One thing I noticed on a lot of searches, not all, is a lot of releasing the dog to search, before the dog has paused to take in the  search area. I know everyone is conscious of keeping things moving, but, I think there were several times where taking a few seconds at the start, would have been made up for in their search time.   Just waiting a beat or two for your dog to focus into the search area, watch their nose work and see where they are oriented to, before releasing, will help the search become more efficient.

There is a video of Sarah and Max, the last video, where Sarah holds him at the start, waiting for him to focus. He is barking and barking and barking – and she releases him during a pause.  Because I know he’s excited, and I like that, and I don’t mind the barking, but how much sniffing can he be doing when barking? And how much thinking and assessing the search area can he do when he is barking at the moon?  I like that Sarah took the time to wait for him to quiet, even if it was only for a beat, before releasing him.  It is one of my favorite clips, so if you are missing class, you’ll get a nice reminder of Max, and you’ll get to see him puzzling out converging hides.  It’s a fun one!

I also love the one of Beth and Lela – it was a maze set up, and Lela wants to go left, but Beth wants to go right. You’ll see who wins that  battle!

And there’s one of Isaac going from weave poles to odor, and Libby and Midnight being quick, and Miso air-scenting a hide when we were working w/ fans, and Reo doing a beautiful container search, and several quick Vehicle searches, Teddy having fun before putting on his down to business attitude, Molly being quick and efficient in a small search area, Aspen being clear on a chair search, Sam on his way to visit me before peeling off to work odor.  All good stuff! And I think a lot of these videos were pre-trial, before anyone had trialed their young dogs, many of whom are ready for NW3.  It was fun for me to look back, and even in the videos, see the progression.

I hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane!  For those of you who have been watching NW webinars during our break, you’ll have lots of things floating around in your mind as you watch them back. My timing was off! Why did I wait so long to reward? I should have paired! I was getting ahead of the plane of my dogs shoulder and taking control! My leash handling was a mess!  At least,  that’s what I think when I look back at my videos! It was so easy when they were just finding food in boxes.  But now we are in a deeper partnership with our dogs, trying to “hear” them and respond to them. Sometimes I need Miracle Ear, and sometimes we have a great conversation. Its those moments that keep us hooked.

Happy viewing!

Not Exactly Agility, But…

When Coach was just about a year old, I was looking for something besides Nose Work to do with him, something that was a little more handler focused, where he would have to take direction from me and we’d work together as a team.  Since I was teaching Beginner, Upper Beginner and Pre Intermediate Agility classes, I couldn’t run him in those levels, which is what he needed.  I was dabbling around with him and agility at home and before / between / after classes, waiting for him to get accomplished enough to join Paul’s Pre Competition class – the only time slot I had in my evening schedule to work him.

In the meantime, when looking for a daytime class we could do, I came across a class taught by my friend / nose work student Louise Daigle at the NHSPCA – Treibball!  It was 4p on Fridays, so Coach and I would do nose work class in the morning, then Treibball in the afternoon.

Now, I didn’t (and still don’t) know a whole lot about Treibball, other than the dogs move out and push a yoga ball back towards the handler, into a goal, like a soccer goal.  I wanted something where we could practice some impulse control, and have a task that we both worked together, since that is more like agility than nose work (where he is working pretty independently, and I have to keep up!)

So we did Intro to Treibball, which was just what I was looking for. It worked on self control, and it started basic with me sending him out to a mat to lie down (both left side and right side, like agility), and then working on targeting – nose touching – first my hand, then a sticky note. It wasn’t until about week 3 or 4 that the balls were introduced, and we’d put the sticky note on the ball, sit with the ball between our legs, and the sticky facing outwards. The dog is supposed to push the ball to the handler, not away, so the set up was to encourage that.

By week 6, I could move in different directions around the ball, and Coach would nose punch it or chest it to me. I could move a few feet away from it, and he would move behind the ball and nose punch / flip his nose at the ball to move it to me. I practiced sending him around the right side of the ball and the left side of the ball, sort of like sending your dog around an agility jump. Fun! I was bad at remembering what to call right and left directional (is it away to me, or come by?) but he was good at following my body cues.  But then class ended, and it was Christmas, and there was no “next level” after that.

I had an old yoga ball in the basement, and would go down and play around with it on and off. I taught Quattro the same things, although I’m sure I rushed him, and didn’t spend as much time on foundation work with him, as I had w/ Coach in class.  I bought a second ball at Target, and we would have fun burning energy in the basement, although there were some close moments where the ball would hit one of Craig’s bikes, and once hit the thermostat on the water heater.  I was thinking our water heater was dying, as we hadn’t had very hot showers in a few days, when the lightbulb went off – oops.

Well, I brought the balls outside the other day, and it was like they hadn’t seen them before!  New location = new learning had to happen, to bring them up to speed. I had the phone/camera set up on a step stool, and Quattro kept trying to climb on the ladder.  We had been working on picking up toys and a basket as a trick, and he thought I wanted him to pick up the cone I had set up as part of the goal. Oh boy.  After a shaky start, we ended up having a lot of fun!  Some of you saw the best clip that I posted to Facebook, well, here is the progression.  There is a nose work judge who was a K9 bomb dog handler in the Air Force, and one of his quotes that I like is, Practice makes progress.  So true.  You’ll see the progress – I sped up sections where we go off the rails – and it’s really nice to see the progress. Something to keep in mind when you see someone do an amazing agility run, or someone who has a well behaved dog, or even someone doing a mountain biking trick – they didn’t start out that way, there was a lot of practice and ugly moments that led to that beautiful, flawless run. And if you ask any great dog handler or professional sport person, I think they will all tell you, “yeah, we still have some things to work on”.

Here is some information about Treibball (which I clearly need to review!)

And here is our play session!  Note how twice Coach goes out independently and brings me a ball, while I’m focusing on Quattro. I don’t even really notice, until I watched the videos back. What a good dog! It makes me wonder how many other good moments he has that I’ve missed 😦  Its a good lesson to pay close attention, so you can capture and acknowledge those great moments.

Wet and Wild April 3 2020 **VIDEO**

As you can tell by my voice on the first part of this video, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be doing an outside search in the rain and wind!  I sort of forced myself to do it, out of obligation… I knew it would be good for us, and the last search we had done was inside around the house, so we were due to go outside.

And you know, it was actually fun! Yes, I was freezing and my hands were numb when I came inside, but it made for two very tired dogs, and made the wood stove feel that much better – who doesn’t like sitting in front of the wood stove with two sleepy dogs on a rainy Friday afternoon?

My plan had been to do water hides. Meaning, a hide (or two) submerged in water. We started with a simpler hide on the patio, to see if they were working and not just bombing out the back door, and to warm them up.

The first water hide, was partially submerged, and I thought it would be a good way to start.  It worked really well for Quattro, who ran these first, but by the time I ran Coach, 15 mins later, the hide had become submerged in the flood! So Coach worked it completely differently than Quattro did.

The next water hide was far enough away that I didn’t see that there was a converging hide problem. I purposely only put two hides out there, figuring they would be challenging enough, why add to the complexity by adding in additional hides? The second water hide was probably about 2-3” under water, right above a “choke”, where the water picks up speed and flows thru a narrow spot, before it spreads out and heads toward the field.

A couple things about water and odor.

  • We use essential oils for our hides, so when they are submerged, the oil particles will rise to the surface.
  • Any odor molecules in the air will cling to a wet surface. Think about how your dog smells when he gets wet, weeks after he’s been sprayed by a skunk. When tracking, people like to run their dogs on a track in the morning dew, vs across a sidewalk on a hot dry day. Lots more odor in dew for the dogs to pick up, vs on a hot dry sidewalk.

Knowing these basics, I quickly realized there were some challenges specific to the day.

The challenges:

  • rain – ranging from drizzle to full on rain
  • wind – blowing up the slight hill, from left to right in the videos, towards the fence
  • current – the water was running down hill, from right to left in the videos, toward the field

So basically, the wind was blowing in one direction, the current was flowing in the opposite direction.  As the oil molecules rose to the top of the water, they were being carried down towards the field, yet at the same time, as they rose to the surface, the wind was carrying the molecules uphill into / onto the trees and fence.  How confusing!

In hindsight, I should have tried to find a puddle, where there was NOT moving water, just the surface would have been pushed in the wind.  If I had dropped the tins in a shallower section of water, that would have helped. And, if I had smooshed some cheese or dabbed a swipe of peanut butter on the tins to pair them, that might have been helpful.  As it was, I’ve learned I would NOT set this up for my students!  For one thing, no one would want to stand around in the rain that long, and I think it would be frustrating.  I would take what I learned and apply it and do a slower, more basic introduction to working a water hide (note, this is NOT what an AKC water hide is!)

My dogs have a long history of searching and a lot of mileage in the bank, so they really didn’t ever quit or give up.  It was still a LONG search for each of them and WAY more challenging than I’d thought it was going to be.  They searched for 12 and 11 minutes for those two stinking hides!  That is persistence. You’ll see in the video that I sped sections up, so you still get the idea of where they tracked the odor, but don’t have to sit thru it all.  It was amazing how much they thought the odor was UP. Which I suppose odor was up, just not source.  When you think of the cadaver dogs working the Saco river (or wherever) from a boat, it’s pretty amazing stuff.

You don’t have to be this committed to do an outside search!  Just placing one hide out in a fairly simple location in the rain, will help you and your dog. You’ll quickly realize if your dog hates water, you hate water, or, if you see your dog enjoying playing in the rain, you might get into it, too.

Happy viewing!  (It’s about 28mins long)

Container Progression with Coach March 27 2020 **VIDEO**

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!


What to do when your session goes south… **VIDEO**

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.

Agility Home Practice **VIDEO**


Ok, here are a bunch of videos, most are from last Wednesday when we would have had class.  It was a beautiful day, I had some left over roast beef from a NW mock trial that had been canceled and left over bbq chicken from dinner, so I was armed and ready to go! We had a lot of fun outside.

I wanted to continue to work on the “back side jump”, where the dogs turn away from me to either go around a cone, or go behind the jump bar then land towards me.  I like to practice distance, where I’m not going to the back side of the jump myself, just the dog is. But, this makes my timing and hand signals really important for clear communication. A couple times, my hand signals are wish-washy, and not very clear. The dogs give me a different behavior, and sometimes I roll with it and decide to practice it. You’ll see I reward them a lot, because after all, I was the one who was not clear!

I hope this shows us working thru mistakes, goofing around, having fun and experimenting.  I could have broken the repetitions up a bit more with play… Quattro was happy to chase and bring back his “blue stick”, Coach was more about the roast beef than his “soccer ball”!  But whether it’s chasing a toy or chasing and hunting tossed treats, take a break from the focus and direction, and let them do something a little more mindless and freeing.


With Coach, I wanted him to walk alongside me to where we were going to work. Since he knew Quattro had been out there before him, it was really difficult to keep his attention!  But I know I need to work on this a bit more with both dogs. If your dog is not in control heading to the start line, are they focused and in control when you start the course? I want them excited, but not out of their minds!  As you can see, Coach and I have more work to do on the way IN to the work area… he is a perfect gentleman on the way OUT of the working area.

The last videos are from today. I did several repetitions before I thought to pull the camera out, but basically I wanted to work on control (stay as I ran around hiding their favorite toys) and a quick release off the start line (being released to “Go!” and hunt for their toys).  Since it was snowy out, I didn’t want to risk them slipping doing jumps or turns, but thought this would be a good skill for agility.  This can come in handy in agility at start lines.  We’ve had to work up to this point, starting w/ less distance, and there were more than a few times that they broke their stay and I had to “catch” them verbally and with body language.  I REALLY try not to grab them or drag them, it has to be on THEM to hold the stay.  In an agility trial, you cannot touch your dog once the leash is off and they are on the start line! The reward is the hunt and the catch – ie, finding their toy.  Coach like to prance around w/ his soccer ball, sometimes play tug, and Quattro likes to either run around w/ his blue stick, or drop it and back away so I can throw it.  I’m still being careful of his back leg, worried he may have a partial tear in his knee, that has kept us out of agility class all season.  Just in the last 2 weeks have I let him come on trail walks off leash, and just started to do this more active type training in the back yard.  So I really tried to limit throwing the toy, which was a challenge for me, because I see how much he likes it!  Anyway, I wanted to show some other activities you can do in the snow.

Hopefully you get some inspiration to get out and play with your dogs!  Especially once the snow melts again… no torn CCLs, please!

Goal Setting When Practicing **VIDEO** 3/18/20

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!


More At-Home Training – Blind with “Assistance” **VIDEO** 3/22/20

22/1So Sunday we had another beautiful day.  Since ski areas are closed do to COVID-19, there was no surf, and my husband did not want to go on a group mountain bike ride, he was stuck home w/ me and the dogs.  He generously offered to plant some hides, AND video us!  Some of these are sort of humorous… me getting tangled in the leash, me getting jerked around by Coach, me getting tangled in a wild rose and then apple trees… but, again, the dogs had a blast.  And, I guess my husband does listen when I go on about dogs… he placed very fair hides, timed us, gave us a : 30 warning, and overall was very helpful.

The first search area I chose was the woodpile.  Based on my last search outdoors, with Coach running ginormous circles on the front lawn, I wanted to do some close-together hides.  A common challenge in Elite trials, is the “can’t go back”. Meaning, you may have 9 Vehicles or 4 rooms to search, and once you search one, you can’t go back.  So I decided to work the woodpile in 3 sections (defined by the trees holding up the stacks), w/ a “can’t go back” rule.  Craig told me he had placed 3 hides in each section, and I had asked for a high low or low high combination of hides.

Well, when Quattro ran it, the breeze was at our back, blowing into the woodpile. So the odor was all coming out the backside on the first segment.   Overall, this was an ok search for us… he was a little hard to keep working one section at a time without running to the end.  This was expected, and why I chose to work it this way. I know I tend to work on things I / we are strong at, rather than the things we struggle with.   So I’m glad I forced us to work it this way.  He definitely got stronger each section we did, although he still wanted to take off down the face of the woodpiles.

Coach, on the other hand, wow… he was crazy!  He took what he’d done in the search earlier in the week (running in giant circles chasing odor) and tried to apply it here… but he was on a 10ft leash, with me trying to contain him to the segments of the woodpile one section at a time.  If we weren’t practicing social distancing, I would go get a chiropractic adjustment!  Painful as this was, I think I need to do more like this, and really make him work in a more methodical manner.

Here are the woodpile searches:

Next, Craig chose the area – my flower beds! I normally wouldn’t have placed hides here, with my peonies just starting to poke up, but oh well.  Unknown #.  Quattro does well, but for some reason I don’t call an Alert, and he doesn’t stick with it, so that was not good. Coach, is again, crazy!  At least the area was enclosed enough that he wasn’t racing around, other than to knock off hides.  It helped knowing where they were, esp for the hide Quattro and I missed. But for as fast as Coach was on the first hides, the one Quattro missed could easily have been missed by Coach, if I didn’t know where it was.

And amazingly, Craig offered to set ANOTHER round of hides! This is where things start to fall apart… we circle the telephone pole, get the leash tangled up (hog tying Quattro, getting it looped around my foot a la our PSD trial), I get tangled in the wild rose growing up the telephone pole, then get whacked by the apple tree branches, some of the tins get knocked down… but overall, he was pretty direct and clear.  And the hides were fun.  Doing elevated hides in a slight breeze is a good challenge, for both handler and dog.  Not knowing where they were when I ran Quattro, I let him work out away from the hides to the edge of the scent cone. If I had known where they all were, I may have shortened his range and kept him closer to where the hides were.  Its a fine line between limiting the search area, and allowing them to work the odor to its edges.  Its also easy to think, You’re not working odor way out there! But then if you watch with an open mind, you see them turn and go right to source, from “way out there”.  Note how Quattro checks a drive way marker, then goes straight to the hide in a tree.

Here are the last searches we did on Sunday:

Overall, I am happy with how we did. I was a little rough on the leash, and could have let it out more gently when the dogs wanted to take off (ie, the woodpile, and then past the telephone pole to the neighbors lawn).  It was nice to be outside, and it was nice to have someone else set hides!

Outdoor Practice – Post Search Analysis **Photos **

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!