Thursday, December 11, 2014

Find the Odor Recap

What does this nose know?
We finished our last Find the Odor class on Monday. I can't believe it's already been six weeks. We've learned a lot, and made some great progress, but we are still months (and months!) away from even considering competing. But we're having a blast along the way. Jedi really enjoys it, and starts whining in the car 10 minutes before we get to the training site. Unfortunately he gets so excited that he works himself into a frenzy. Right now I'm trying to teach him to slow down and check everything (he ALWAYS misses the first box). I'm also learning that there's a lot to be done on my end of the leash. Things like:

Attitude:
  • Dog and handler are a team. Jedi is the nose, I'm the brains.
  • My job is maximize Jedi's ability, so I should do everything possible to set him up for success.
  • I need to teach Jedi that odor can be anywhere, therefore he needs to check all possibilities.
  • Let Jedi “lead the dance.”
  • Keep Jedi on task -- no peeing on the field! (It's an automatic DQ.)
  • Never ever show Jedi where the odor is. Instead, let him work it out for himself.
  • Reward enthusiastically, and always at the "find."
  • Stay engaged with Jedi after he has found the odor.
  • Continue to pet/praise/play with the dog while exiting the search area.

Air Currents:
  • Wind is important. Check the direction and make it work in Jedi's favor.
  • When searching outside, start as far downwind as possible, then zigzag back and forth at right-angles into the wind, looking for signs that Jedi has hit the scent cone.
  • Be aware of objects that can block, channel or redirect odor.
  • Things like air conditioners, windows, doors, sun beating down on one wall can all cause air currents. The hide may not be where the dog first catches the odor.

Search Strategies:
  • Speed is our enemy. Teach Jedi to slow down and check each container rather than blasting past the first one.
  • Give Jedi 10 seconds at the start line to focus and possibly pick up the odor before crossing the threshold.
  • If Jedi does not pick up the scent right away then start off in a methodical pattern.
  • Keep track of where Jedi has searched and where he has missed (this is easier with a methodical search pattern).
  • Make sure Jedi searches high and low, gets into corners and checks the very edges of an exterior search area.
  • In a trial, the odor won’t always be in or near an object. It could be stuck in the ground, so we must remember to search bare areas.
  • The odor can also be up to about 4 feet off the ground, so search high.
  • Exterior searches are usually best done on a long line so I don’t interfere with Jedi's search. Plus, he can cover more ground without me slowing him down.
  • In a large room Jedi may have a better chance of catching the odor and following it to source if allowed to search off-leash.
  • In a small room, a very fast dog may swirl the odor so much he can’t pinpoint the source, so Jedi may do better on a shorter leash because I can help him slow down and ensure he checks everything.

The number one rule from our instructor:

ALWAYS LET YOUR DOG INTERRUPT YOUR PATTERN ANY TIME HE SAYS
“I KNOW WHERE IT IS!”

I know, duh. But it's harder than it sounds. You really have to be in tune with you dog and be able to read his clues despite the adrenaline (yours and his).

By the way, we've already signed up for the next class. Class doesn't start until January, so we're practicing at home in the interim. Seriously, we're having tremendous fun with this!



Jedi and I are joining Ruckus the Eskie and friends on this Thoughtless Thursday hoping you'll think about doing some Nose Work with your dog. -- K