Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nose Work Week 4

Yay for nose work Wednesdays! Seriously, I was excited about going to class tonight since yesterday morning. I think I need the structure of a class and the challenge and involvement of learning something new aside from agility. Not that I'm not still a crazy agility addict, but I think I just need to keep learning more training stuff. So tonight was crazy to start. I got off work and went home after an uber quick stop at the grocery. Unloaded everything and grabbed Vegas' and my stuff and hit the road at 18 minutes until class time. Ugg! And then we had every slow poke in the world in front of all but about a mile or so in the middle. I hate being late so was all stressed about getting there. And then our teacher wasn't there. And wasn't there. And wasn't there. Until Andrea called. Ooops! She's super busy with classes and organizing a nose work trial for later in the month that she mixed up our class times and thought we started at 6:30. Fortunately she lives just a quick moment away so showed up and we got started.

Our first exercise was four finds along a bank of lockers. The purpose of the exercise was to teach the dogs to work vertically. One of the hides was even in a locker and the dogs had to pick up the odor through the vents on the locker door! At the far left end one was under the lockers on the floor. Then about a half dozen or 10 lockers in there was a hide on the face of the locker about 30" up or so. Midway down the bank of lockers was the hide inside the locker. And finally, down toward the far right was the final hide, also on the face and up a bit higher.

We were to start at one end and work the dogs up and down. Shelley said they may make three, four, or five passes the length and completely miss some. The one that was the easiest for all the dogs was the one on the far left end on the floor. It was at a corner and as they rounded the corner they picked up odor and it drew them right to it. Vegas got that one right away, and her next was the one inside. It took a few passes and a bit of me holding her back to that region but she nailed it. From there I felt like I was losing her a bit. She seemed very distracted and like the lockers were a really boring place to work. I had to keep telling her "find it" and she would turn around to work and then almost as quickly turn away from the lockers and or look at me. Shelley kept making motions to "move" the air currents and draw Vegas into the search and they would work and then she would mentally drift off again. By the final hide of this exercise, I started praising her as she was actually sniffing and it seemed to help her stay focused. I chatted briefly with Shelley about it and she suggested that before I make a concerted effort to use verbal praise to instead simply set her up for success by doing some simple, repetitive and slightly varied exercises where she can be successful and she'll start to click with it more. I think right now she's not finding success as easily so wants to shut down and searching on a flat metal surface, especially like the bank of lockers, is difficult.

Our second exercise was upstairs in the conference room. There were two hides. One was of relative difficult and something we hadn't tried yet, at least not something with such precision necessary. The odor was hidden underneath your typical wheeled office chair, but the spot it was situated was in this slightly recessed place underneath in the center of the chair. Plus, for Vegas, it's such a low spot. The other hide was in a desk tucked on the keyboard tray area. She actually got that hide first as she beelined through the room and made a quick half loop around the tables and came back right at it. The chair one wasn't as difficult for her as I would have thought. In fact, she seemed to hone right in on the chairs around the one with the hide and was sniffing them thoroughly all over the arms, etc. Interestingly, I think she was more engaged because she was off leash. There's something about being on leash that shuts them down a bit sometimes and we'll have to work that one out.

Our final search of the night was just a box drill similar to what would be used for the ORT (odor recognition test). There's a test coming up soon and several students in the class are taking it so we've been prepping a bit each week. I didn't know what box the odor was in when we started out. The boxes were set up in a circular, horseshoe pattern. When I sent Vegas on her search, she headed left immediately just like the rest of the dogs had. She almost immediately just followed the curve, barely giving notice to any of the boxes. She made it to the seventh or eighth box before she gave any notice then she ignored it, moved on, then turned around and headed back where we'd come from. Just as I was starting to think she had no hope yet with this exercise (like last week), she homed in on a box and flattened it. Bingo! She got it!

And that was class. On a side note, we often stop on the way home from nose work class Wednesdays at the post office. Tonight was no exception and for some reason the dogs always like to go in. Of course by almost 9 pm, the post office was deserted. So in we go and Vegas is just delighted to be there. She's so funny. Perhaps its just the novelty of going into a place other than our home.

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