Vegas and I attended our first Intro to Odor class tonight with Shelley Smith. As I was driving home from work tonight and looking forward to the class I realized it would be the first class Vegas has ever taken other than agility. The class is held at an armory which turned out to be a fantastic location. Tons of space, lots of options for hiding the object/odor, and very convenient for me. Our friend, Andrea, and her Bullmastiff, Brody, are in our class, too!
The first scent we teach the dogs to begin to identify is Birch. The whole concept is allowing the dogs to do what comes naturally - to scent things out. Birch is kind of minty smelling and basically we'll spend quite some time on this odor and pairing it with a treat for the dog to find first. For instance, our first find of the night included three metal tins, each magnetized to a different surface, with the birch odor inside and the treat on the outside. The tins had several holes poked in the face so the odor could be detected. It was really interesting to watch the dogs and for Shelley to narrate some of the dogs' actions. Some seemed to constantly put their nose above the source because the surface it was on allowed the scent to drift upward. It was really cool to see how they would eliminate places the odor was not and hone in on where it might be, and especially to see their head whip around when they started to pass it and then caught a whiff.
Vegas was super excited to come inside on her first search. Of course the others in class had attended the previous six weeks so were accustomed to the people and the location. For V it was the first time and she loves people. After she trotted around greeting people and making them laugh, she got to work. Of course she alternated work with social time. It was interesting though, when I could get her to focus and work, she seemed to find the item fairly quickly. And then she went back to trying to visit.
Since the odor is new, the treat was paired with it. For the most part the dogs were probably seeking out the smell of their treat. But, the second they discovered the item they received a ton of praise and plenty of treats with their nose right near the source. This is the beginning of correlating the two together.
Our next search was a doorway search. Instead of heading into the room, the tins were stuck to the lockers in the entryway to the workout room we were in. Even with handlers hanging back in the doorway it was a bit difficult for the dogs to grasp that they weren't to go on into the room and search. Vegas' turn came with quite a bit of commotion with the next class arriving and the next dog barking. She kept trying to go out of the area we were in to see what was going on. And then there was the tail find....
She went from the entryway into the workout room and her tail swooped up along the lockers and sent one of the odor tins flying six or so feet. Everyone got quite a laugh out of that, of course, and it took Shelley several tries to remount the tin to the locker for her to find it. In the end, she was successful in finding all three again despite the level of difficulty in being in an entry way where the odor was allowed to drift and move away from the source so much more easily.
Our instructor was nice enough to give each of us a small, glass vial with a couple of birch scented q-tips so we could practice at home. Hopefully next week we'll begin to see more success and Vegas can settle into the environment and know what is expected.