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The COB Explained

Ahhh…. the elusive CHANGE OF BEHAVIOR…. it’s one of those phrases that gets thrown aroud loosey-goosey in Nosework.  Recognizing it is akin to breaking the glass ceiling for novice handlers.

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I’ve also found that one of the keys to instruction is communicating HOW to read a Change of Behavior.

Without the Change of Behavior, we are stuck relying on that unreliable Final Response…. which can easily go this way….  The Dog looks back at the handler ~ handler calls Alert ~ Judge says NO!!  Why?  Because there are a million and one reasons why a dog might look at his handler!  Knowing what to call comes down to reading COB’s.

95% of the dog’s communication occurs PRIOR to the final response.  Without knowing this language, we are prisoners of the final 5% (which may get even more subtle in a trial situation).

One of the first recognizable Changes of Behavior is the “head snap”.  It’s an obvious one because the dog is quite literally stopped in his tracks and goes “WHOA!!!  ODOR!!”  The Head Snap is the canine approximation of a neon bar sign.  It’s not subtle in the least.  Unfortunately for many handlers, I’ve found that reading beyond the Head Snap and the Final Reponse is problematic.

Because I teach online I’ve had the opportunity to review literally thousands of videos of hundreds of different dogs.  This not only makes me quite savvy when it comes to YouTube but it also has given me an eye for really reading a dog.  My favorite pasttime is observation…  it’s in looking for trends and commonalities.  This observation has yielded new clarity into the vagueness of the term Change of Behavior.

There are in fact THREE types of Change of Behavior!  In many searches, you will observe all three as they tend to happen sequentially (however not all three have to happen in every search).

(1) Change of Speed

When dogs get into odor, you will frequently see them speed up (or sometimes slow down!).  The dog will be searching along and then seemingly beeline to an area.  This means your dog is in odor!  It doesn't mean that the dog is at source...  however, it does mean that your dog is ready to narrow down the location.

(2) Change of Direction

This is perhaps the most obvious type of Change of Behavior.  A Change of Direction can be as simple as a head snap or as drastic as a physical 180 degree turn.  This occurs when the dog passes by odor and notices the the odor once downwind of the hide.

(3) Change of Focus

A change of focus can be the most subtle type of Change of Behavior.  In a change of focus, the dog goes from scanning the area to actively sourcing a hide.

Let's take a look at some searches.  What changes of behavior do you see before the alert is called?

Here's a NW3 search being performed by Joey.  Joey is what I call a "wind dog" meaning he LOVES catching bits of odor on the wind and chasing them.

Now let's look at the first hide based on changes of behavior.

How about this search?  This search is dominated by Change of Focus.  Do you see it?

Let's watch it in Slow Motion.  See how slow motion makes COB's less subtle?

(TIP: when you are watching your video in YouTube, you can click the icon that looks like a gear and it will change the speed at which you are watching your video)

Reading your dog is an art…. it’s developed over time…. However, the more we can break it down to a science and become true OBSERVERS, the more successful we will become.

Happy Sniffing!!!

Stages of a Search - First Steps to Reading your Dog

Part of reading our dogs is understanding what we are looking at. Once we can recognize the stages of a search, we can start to recognize the changes of behavior that the dog is exhibiting. Seeing the Changes of Behavior is a key start to learning to read our dogs. Initially we may only be able to see the Alert. Eventually we learn to see a Change of Behavior…. and ultimately we learn to understand the entire behavior chain.

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Searching itself is just a behavior chain. There is a start and an end. In this case the cue to search begins the chain and the Alert ends the chain. However, there are many steps in between. A savvy handler has the ability to read these steps and to understand what he or she is seeing. This is a skill like any other and is a critical skill in learning how to handle in the sport of Nosework.

In order to be able to read our dogs, we need to first know how to analyze a search. At first we may not be able to read our dogs in real time. This is normal! It’s completely normal and is one of the first Stages of Competence. However, we have a super tool at our disposal…. Video. The power of video is that we are able to review the search over and over and in slow motion if necessary. Once we learn how to read our dogs on video, we start the process of learning how to read our dogs in real time.

Let’s start this by breaking apart and analyzing a search.

In this example, we will use a very cool search done by Gacek. Gacek is a relatively advanced dog. In this video, Gacek does a beautiful search of two vehicles. There are two hides on the hot vehicle and none on the second vehicle. What is very interesting about this search is that the odor is pooling over by the wall and over the cold vehicle. Gacek works this search off leash. Off leash searches are tremendous for teaching us how to read our dogs because the handler is minimized in the equation.

First let’s watch the video in its entirety.


What did you see? Could you tell when Gacek was in odor? Could you tell when he was at source?

Now let’s watch the video narrated in its entirety.


Did you see the stages?

1. He is cued to search

2. He explores the edges of the scent cloud

3. He determines the directionality of the scent

4. He follows the scent to the vicinity of source

5. He narrows down the scent to source

6. He alerts

All of these stages can be seen as Gacek sources the first hide (the inaccessible hide on the passenger side fender) and a subset of them can be identified as he sources the second hide on the front license plate.

If we can learn to see these stages as they happen when our dogs are searching, we can make better and more successful calls in competition.

This is one of the lectures from my Trial IQ - Reading Your Dog classes starting June 1!

Making Vehicle Handling Easy

Let’s start at the very basics of handling.

I like to use a ten foot leash (both in exteriors and vehicles). Some folks prefer longer with a fast dog but I’ve found that as long as I’m quick on my feet, I can keep up (my Elite dog is fast dog). Also, with a longer leash than ten feet, you can easily get left behind and lose sight of your dog. Since I’m right handed, I put the loop over my right wrist and hold the excess with my right hand. I then use my left hand to hold the leash at the correct height (a comfortable height… you don’t want to be a human coat hanger). I feed the leash with my left hand.  Try not to raise your leash supporting hand higher than halfway between your waist height and shoulder height. 

The MOST important thing about handling is to ALWAYS KEEP THE DOG IN SIGHT. That means around corners as well. If the dog disappears around the corner of either a search area or a vehicle, and you lose sight even briefly, you might miss a change of behavior.

This can be challenging if you have an especially fast dog but it’s just as important if you have a more methodical dog. To accomplish this, step diagonally away from the corner as you round the curve. This way, you give your dog room and you can keep him in sight.

Here’s a visual of what I’m explaining.


That brings us to the second most important thing about handling. SPACE. Yup… you have to give your dog plenty of space to work. It’s really, really easy to crowd a dog after he has narrowed down the source to a general location. We see this a lot with green teams. The dog is trying to figure out where the hide is and the handler is so close that (1) the dog is more likely to just give an alert and (2) the scenting conditions are changed by your movement and presence making it harder for the dog to finish sourcing the location. The reason why handlers find it so difficult to give the dog space in vehicles is that we tend to try to hug the vehicle as well! It’s just an inclination that a lot of handlers share. The dog walks close to the vehicle and then the handler does the same. In reality, you need to be away from the vehicle and you need to give your dog a good 6 to 7 feet of room.

Another important aspect is to LET THE DOG DRIVE. What I mean by that is initially let the dog dictate where to start. Your job is to stay out of the way and remember what has been covered. In NW3, you’ll need to remember this specifically so that you can ensure that everything has been searched. If your dog started the search and you haven’t found the hide(s), then you want to take a quick check of wind direction and head downwind and check the vehicles or search area coming from that direction.  The handler's job is Clean Up Batter….  

Keep in mind that vehicles exist in 3D…. that’s 360 degrees…. If your dog shows a change of behavior, keep in mind that the hide might be on the other side of the vehicle…. is your dog showing accessible or inaccessible behavior?  This is critical!

Interested in learning more?  My Vehicles class has started enrollment for June 1 start!  It’s one of my favorite classes and I reveal how to be VERY successful in this element!

There is no “I” in TEAM

We’ve all heard that adage right?  There is no “I” in TEAM.

You and your dog form a team…. and in this case, I hate to say it but you are second to your dog.  You might have signed that entry form, but your dog is the star of the show.

In fact I tell my students that handling is 80% dog / 20% handler.

How you use your 20% is what counts…

…. do you take over the search, thereby taking more than your 20%?

…. do you crowd your dog?

…. do you pull your dog off of odor?

…. do you lose sight of your dog?

All of these things are easy to do…. and they often result in No’s or missed hides.  This is especially prevalent in the land of NW3.  At least in NW1 and NW2 we know how many hides we are looking for!  At NW3, handling starts to become a dance.  However, unlike traditional dance rules, the leader of the dance is allowed to ebb and flow, shifting from the dog to the handler…. as long as the dog is the True Leader.

Handling is an art.

It’s true but it’s also something that develops with time and skill.  It develops as the handler’s eye develops.  

The key to handling is OBSERVATION.  Can you SEE a Change of Behavior and can you REACT appropriately.

The second key to handling is can you RESPECT the dog and the dog’s skills…. that means keeping out of the way…. and trusting your dog.  

There are nuances of course to proper line handling but if you can OBSERVE and RESPECT as basic fundamental aspects of handling, you will be closer to “P’s" and “Q’s”….  or get them more often.

Let’s talk about each in turn…

OBSERVE:

This means, can you read a Change of Behavior?  If you can, you an anticipate the dog’s motion.  If you can anticipate their direction of travel you can:

(1) Stay out of the dog’s way

(2) Keep the dog in sight

(3) Reward the dog for being right

(4) Keep from pulling the dog off of odor

(5) Show effective line handling

RESPECT:

This means that you trust your dog…. you trust that your dog is true to odor and is doing his best to find source.  If you can respect your dog you can:

(1) Keep your distance from the dog

(2) Believe in your dog’s Changes of Behavior

(3) DANCE with your dog

(4) Observe the 80%/20% rule without taking over

(5) Handle quietly…. no chatter

Remember that handling is an art…. but it stems from humility…. can you give up your “I” in “TEAM”?

Gearing up for AKC Scent Work

If you are a Nosework addict, then you might be excited to hear about the new option being offered by the American Kennel Club.  So far the new venue looks exciting!  It seems to be a fun blend of different venues plus an exciting new option, Buried Hides!

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So far, the AKC has been very open to suggestions from competitors.  Originally, the 4th odor (beyond Birch, Anise and Clove) was selected to be Peppermint.  That has since been changed to Cypress.  There have also been some clarifying rule changes regarding judging criteria and what constitutes a “Yes”…. the new changes allow for some leeway based on environmental conditions…. which makes sense!

If you are used to trialing in NACSW, you are used to four elements, Containers, Interiors, Exteriors and Vehicles.  In AKC, Vehicles have been eliminated in favor of Buried Hides.  There are also 5 levels instead of 3….  Novice, Advanced, Excellent, Master and Scent Detective, and each class offers a titling option as opposed to titling by level (e.g., you can earn a Novice Interiors title by qualifying three times in that class…. it’s not required that you pass every search in a day in order to title).

Here’s Tippet finding a Buried Hide!

There is hope that this will mean more chances for Nosework competitors to play this great game with our dogs.  AKC promises to be a lot of fun!

As with all venues, this venue may not be for every dog as the classes may have more intentional distractions (such as people, auditory, visual or “mimic”) and it’s unlikely that the venue will be as welcoming to reactive dogs.  That said, there are great many dogs who should do well!

Here’s a video of Lucy, performing a container search with a Mimic Distraction. She completely ignores the stuffed dog!

The biggest boon is that because of AKC’s size and influence, this move has the potential to really rocket forth Nosework as a sport.  The sport, already one of the fastest growing dog sports, will soon get a shot forward with more options to compete across the United States.

If you are interested in learning and practicing for AKC Scent Work, I’m teaching a class this April session:  

https://fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/11692

AKC is also offering a division based on handler scent discrimination.  At the Novice Levels, the dog is searching for a scented glove or sock…. as the levels increase in difficulty, the hide might be located in an interior or an exterior!

If you are interested in learning more about Handler Scent Discrimination, Julie Symons is teaching a class on this subject, also in the April session:

https://fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/11684

Happy Sniffing!!!

Different Goals for Different Dogs

Those of you who are on your second or third nosework dog can relate…. how do we keep from comparing dogs?  The struggle is very real.  What we have to remember with this sport (as with any sport), is that each dog is on his own journey.

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As I write this, I am on my way back from a 1,000+ mile trip from a not very successful attempt at NW3 with my Standard Poodle, Joey.  I have a choice to make.  My choice is how will I feel and act as a result of not titling.  My feelings in this matter are completely choice.

What we have to remember is that every dog is an individual with individual talents.  Our success in this sport does not define us as handlers.  What defines us a handlers is our ability to work with our dogs and to help them be the best they can be without disappointment.

When everything goes as planned and our second or third dog does well, it’s easy.  We know how to act.  But when our second or third dog is not as successful we have to remind ourselves that the same goals aren’t appropriate for every dog.

This weekend was not very successful for Joey and me as a team.  We had a couple of false alerts on fringe odor.  I think the cause of this was due to a combination of factors.  He is after all still a very green dog skill-wise and the unseasonably hot temperatures attributed to lower drive levels.  What we DID pass was due to a combination of some easier hides and my experience in handling and understanding scent.  On my long drive home while talking on the phone, a friend of mine said to me, “you are in a pretty good mood considering.”  What I told her was that it was a good weekend and I met my goals.

Yes, my goal was not to title.  Sure, titling would have been great.  We all love getting the ribbons.  My goal though was different.  My goal was happy searches.  I wanted a dog with his tail up and interested in working.  I got that!  Sure we fringed a couple of times…. but it’s not the first time a dog has done that.

So my goals for Joey are different than the goals I have set for my other dogs.  If I had the same goals for Joey as I do for Judd (aka Nosework Rockstar), I would be setting myself up for disappointment and it would be completely unfair to Joey.  Why?  Because you simply cannot compare dogs.  Where Joey needs skills and often needs motivation, Judd seems to have come out of the womb looking for Birch.  Judd is my Elite dog who was the second dog in the country to achive ELT3, has a score breaking 90 putting him high in the Nationals Ranking chart and is well on his way to becoming one of the first Elite dogs to achive ELT-CH.  Those are some BIG shoes to fill!  Judd is a true Elite dog.  Will Joey ever get there?  Well, Joey is currently 9.5 years old and has just started his NW3 journey.  I have to be realistic.  He’s a GREAT dog.  He’s also not Judd.  To compare them, even subconsciously wouldn’t be fair to Joey.  Joey is Joey….  and I love him to pieces…. and I’m PROUD of what he has accomplished to date!

My third dog, Why, has his own set of goals.  Why is a timid, highly environmental dog.  He has a good amount of skills.  There’s no doubt to that.  I’m sometimes in awe as to how well he can solve converging odor!  But my goals are different.  With him, my goal is confident searches.  If the search is confident, it’s a success regardless of whether he found the hide(s).  My ultimate goal for him (and Joey) is NW3 Elite…. but Elite Division?  I’m not sure he can handle the rigors.  (As an aside, It’s my opinion that nearly every dog can get through NW3 Elite…. Elite Division is a whole different world, requiring different skills and drive.  Successful Elite Division dogs are in some ways born, not trained.  To have a successful Elite dog is an honor and in many ways just due to sheer luck of genetics.  Not every dog will get there and that is OKAY!)

I have about 4 more hours to drive to get home.  Am I disappointed?  No, not really.  The amount of times we get to trial with our dogs is Finite.  With every title, we shrink the number of times that we get to be out there playing with our dogs and having fun.  Why goes next weekend for NW2.  Will I be thrilled if he titles?  Sure.  But I’ll be equally happy with him if he doesn’t.  Joey and Why aren’t Judd.  Instead of being big ribbon dogs, they are my teachers.  And they are GOOD teachers at that!  The two of them were huge contributors to my philosophies in teaching and training the sport of Nosework.  Judd is a truly Great Dog.  He IS one of the Greats.  A friend of mine once joked that I could drop Judd off at a trial and pick him up at the end of the day with his ribbons. She wasn’t too far from the truth!  Handling Great Dogs is FUN, but only handling Great Dogs makes us flimsy, one dimensional trainers.  So BIG THANK YOU to my other dogs!

Bottom line is be PROUD of your dog no matter what the result.  Be realistic about your goals and be proud of each and every search regardless of the outcome.  Remember that you are a TEAM.  A part of being a team is supporting your teammate when he’s had a not so very great day.  In Joey’s case, my responsibilities were to still party on the way back to the car with lots of hot dogs.  We did that!  Does Joey know that we crashed and burned in Interiors and Containers?  LOL…. Possibly…. he’s an incredibly intelligent dog…. but does he sense disappointment from me?  No.  I was out there playing with my 9.5 year old dog doing the greatest dog sport ever invented….and he got hot dogs and love from me!

At the end of the day, your feelings toward your dog and your successes or un-successes are what really matter.  Love your dog be proud of your dog…. Always.

Why Dogs Don’t Remember Changes of Behavior

Have you ever truly watched your dog do a multi-hide search?  How many of us have been in a trial and think (later), that we wish our dog returned to such-and-such area to find a hide we missed?  Have you ever wondered WHY your dog doesn’t return?

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I have a theory.  It’s based on watching many, many hundreds of videos of dogs searching as well as research I’ve done regarding the dog’s brain and olfaction. 

My theory is that they literally CAN’T remember a Change of Behavior.  Why?

One of my favorite articles is in Psychology Today called “Smells Ring Bells”.  It articulates that the sense of smell is processed through the limbic system where the other senses are processed through the the more “cerebral” parts of the brain.  The limbic system is responsible for emotions and influences long term memory.  It’s not an area where actual thoughts are processed.  Short-term memory however is processed through the pre-frontal lobe.  

For a dog to literally remember where he had a Change of Behavior he would have to process this information through short-term memory.  However, that connection is less than indirect when scent is routed through the limbic system. 

When a dog is actually sourcing odor, he gets actively engaged in the process and this is no longer an issue.  He can “focus” on the task at hand and source the hide.

The challenge comes when the dog is working multiple hides

This is why it’s of paramount importance that the handler pay attention to the dog’s Changes of Behavior.  After all, in the moment, we have processed that change of behavior through our short term memory and we can act on it.

I’m currently teaching an online class (NW230 through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy) where I asked my students to film a baseline video showing a multi-hide search.  I was fascinated by this phenomenon when I watched a young, green, talented Australian Shepherd source converging odor.  His owner has graciously allowed me to use her video in this blog.  Here’s the search.  I have narrated the search (the voice you hear is mine).

Watch how Rankin catches odor but is enticed to source the second hide.  He doesn’t remember the first hide.  This is NORMAL!  Once he catches odor for the second hide he works it to source beautifully.

The other wonderful thing about this search is that Rankin is green.  Why is that wonderful?  It’s wonderful because green dogs share with us what scent is really doing.  Experienced dogs will sometimes seem to “skip steps” in order to get to odor.  The very best thing you can do for your Nosework education is to watch green dogs work!  Watching an enthusiastic green dog such as this is both a joy and a privilege.

So what are the ramifications of all of this?

It means that YOU have the responsibility to read your dog.  When we are handling, the optimum ratio is 80% dog / 20% handler.  Reading your dog means that you are taking the 20% by the horns and really fulfilling your end of the bargain.

Are you noticing your dog’s Changes of Behavior?  THAT is one of the biggest success factors of a successful search.

Happy Sniffing!!

Knowing Your Nosework Dog

Learning your dog can be one of the most challenging aspects of training.  The training part is actually rather easy.  It’s understanding the creature that you are training that can be difficult.  The more complex the soul, the more creative and empathetic the trainer needs to be.  You have to learn what makes your dog tick.  You have to take a leap of faith and ask yourself if you have perhaps falsely labeled your partner in a negative way.  Have you lost your belief in your partner?  Do you attend trials not believing you will title?  Do you expect to fail and tell yourself that you’re only being realistic?

If the answer to any of these questions is Yes then you need to take a good hard look at your four footed friend and try to figure out if there is something that he hasn’t told you yet.  Has he told you what really makes him tick?  Do you know the inner JOY in your dog?  These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.

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When I debuted Joey at NW1, I went for JOYFUL searches.  That’s just what he gave me…  When I think of “JOY”, I think of that day.

There’s no recipe to training, at least there’s no successful recipe for every dog.  To train a dog, we need to know where we are starting from, and that can sometimes be the most difficult part of the process.  We have to strip away our preconceptions and take a good hard look at what we have in front of us.  When we do so, sometimes we are pleasantly surprised and sometimes we realize that we have a lot of work ahead of us!  The important thing to realize is that either of those scenarios is OKAY.  Starting at the real beginning is the important part, not the beginning that we either believe we are at or wish we were at.  Reality just IS.  We have to embrace it and love it.  It’s how we effectively respect the dog.  To respect dog is to know the dog.

So the first step in training a Nosework dog is REFLECTION. 

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To do this we have to look at our dogs fundamentally.  We have to look at their temperaments, their likes and dislikes, their general constitution.  To do this we have to become Observers.  Our dogs aren’t simply squirrel chasing creatures whose lives are run by the when the kibble hits the bowl.  They are complex souls with no verbal way to communicate their likes and desires to us.  We have to query the dog on his own terms.

So the second step in training a Nosework dog is EMPATHY.

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Once we reflect and empathize with our dogs, we start to know them.  We start to really know them and we start to appreciate not only what they can do but what they can teach us.  When we get to this point, we are able to appreciate this sport for it’s spirit.  Nosework touches the dog’s soul because it’s consummate DOG.  A dog’s brain is 1/8th dedicated to olfaction.  Nosework allows the dog to use himself in ways so natural that the consequences of doing the sport within it’s intended spirit results in growth in the dog’s capacity and happiness overall.  Few other sports can make that claim!

The Behavioral Benefits of Nosework

Recently I gave a webinar on this topic and it’s so front of mind that I thought a blog was appropriate!

We all hear that Nosework is good for the reactive dog or the dog needing confidence..  But WHY???

Recently I read an article in Psychology Today called “Smells Ring Bells”…  you should look it up.  It’s utterly fascinating…  Anyway, the part that interested me was how scenting passes through the limbic system and that other senses don’t.  Hearing and Seeing is more “cerebral”.  Scent goes right through our fight or flight processes and our emotional memory.  Have I gotten your attention???

In the canine brain, 1/8th of the brain is dedicated to olfaction.  WOW.  Just WOW.

This is a cross section of a canine skull and brain.  You can actually SEE the olfactory lobe!  And check out the equipment dedicated to olfaction.  Bottom line is that our sweet pets and companions live through their noses and perceive the world in a very different fashion than we do.

So if 1/8th of the canine brain is dedicated to olfaction AND we have the opportunity to develop strong emotional connection to scent related activities because of the routing of olfaction through the limbic system…  what does this mean???  It means that we have a huge opportunity to leverage Nosework in a therapeutic sense.

How?  We work the dog under threshold…  meaning in a calm state… in nosework and then transition the dog, very slowly and very carefully, to an environment that may contain triggers.

I’ve seen this first hand with my Miniature American Shepherd, Why.  Why is a low confidence, reactive dog.  In fact, a year ago he had a visual threshold of about a 100 yards with other dogs.  He was highly reactive.  I couldn’t even interact with him in my front yard.

He would lunge and bark…  true story.

Now, he’s working towards NW2 and can be within 8 feet of another dog without reacting.  He’s confidently searching novel locations.  Working in novel locations at all before Nosework wasn’t even a possibility.

That’s the most amazing part…  he is so much less reactive.

I established a very positive Conditioned Emotional Response (CER) to Nosework with him by teaching him Nosework AT HOME where he was comfortable and under threshold.  He patterned success and confidence and developed emotional memory associated with searching.  Only then when he was confident at home, did I take him on the road.  Even then, I started minimally…  he searched three boxes….  in many, many locations before I started setting searches.

Nosework is therapeutic.  That much is definite…  however keep in mind that you need to always train your dog under threshold.  In a lot of cases, dogs can go to an in person class and be just fine…  but there are those that literally can’t cope in that environment. These are the dogs that truly benefit from the sport.  However, they often don’t benefit from in person, stressful classes.  Luckily there are options for training!  The online format is perfect for these dogs.

If you have a reactive or low confidence dog, consider Nosework…  it can literally be life altering for these dogs.

Author’s Note: Online education is available in many places.  Please check out www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com 


What Constitutes a YES in Elevation?

What constitutes a YES in elevation and why do we care?

By knowing what we will take as a YES, we provide clarity to our training and we reduce the frustration level in our dogs.  Our training becomes powerful and not haphazard.  We take accountability for our dog’s training.

Hide Placement is half of the equation.  The other half of the equation is how we respond to the dog!

Knowing what constitutes a YES is critical in training elevation.  It's the information that keeps us from overworking the hide.

I'm going to show you a painful video...  Painful in that I'm watching it, yelling at the screen, "CALL IT! CALL IT!"  This is a video of me working Judd when he was training at the NW3 level.  It's a wonder why he didn't go on strike for a new handler!  Here I should have called it at 0:35!  Instead I have to encourage him to come back.  Watch how he deflates after 0:35....  we don't want that.  Had I PICKED criteria for a YES, I would have called it on time.  This also shows that dog's are rather resilient to our training mistakes!  We just don't want to make them often.


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In this video, I've wised up a bit.  I took this video over the Summer after Judd had earned his ELT2...  still a "green" dog by many standards but his skills have REALLY come a long way!  And luckily he's brought me along without too many major issues!  In this video, I placed a hide in my second story window as part of an exercise to work his extreme elevation.  I've been criticized for actually calling this hide TOO SOON.  I'll take that, no problem.  He worked this hide with zero frustration.  That's my goal!  The reason why I took what I took was an understanding of (1) air flow and (2) what I was going to take as a YES.  There's a big difference.  (Judd is working extreme elevation for NACSW Elite Division trial preparation.  Please only attempt elevation that your dog is ready for.)

On the Extreme Elevation video, I DID feed several feet to the right of where he indicated.  That's OK!  Why?  Because I fed him directly below the window, AND within the "realm of YES".  The other thing I want you to notice is the difference in Judd's CONFIDENCE in working these hides!  He's really maturing into a good working dog.  His Confidence is due to more reward scenarios like the second video than the first!

In order to determine what constitutes a YES, we need to consider three things...

     1.) Air Flow / Scent Theory

     2.) Structure of the hide

     3.) Resilience and training history of the dog

Notice I didn't just say, "underneath the hide" or "when the nose is pointed at the hide".  Granted, it's very possible / probable that these constitute a YES, they don't describe the whole picture.

In the Extreme Elevation video, my YES looked like this:

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WOW!  That's broad huh?  Well, that's what would have been accepted FOR A 15 FOOT HIDE at a trial.  The width of YES is going to vary depending on the hide.

Let's talk a little bit about Air Flow / Scent Theory...

We like to think that odor is nice and neat and falls straight down like this:

More-High-Hides

Sometimes it DOES!!  But as the hide get higher, the scent starts falling like this:

High-Hide


See how much wider the swath of YES would be?

So the higher the hide, the wider you give your dog for marking a YES.  Also, the windier it is, the more leeway you will want to give your dog!

Structure of the hide is important too!

Hides along walls like in the videos above require that the dog orient UP and within a band of a certain width.  If we were doing a suspended hide (hide suspended with nothing below it), we would take a conical shape. If the hide was on a pole or a column, we'd take the pole (basically because the pole provides a focal point).

Do you see how we can use this information to reduce frustration in our dogs?

I also mentioned the resilience and training history of the dog...  yes!  We have to take the dog into account!  AND...  we have to consider the dog as an individual.

Judd has taught me a lot of things...  all dogs do!  What he taught me was how to train in resilience into Nosework.  Although he's still fragile, he's a lot more resilient now than he was a year or two ago.  It's a progression! I built in resilience by not frustrating my dog.  Frustration bleeds confidence....  meaning, the more you allow your dog to be frustrated, the more you are damaging his confidence.

Remember this pyramid and what our foundation is:

4 Cornerstones Graphic

So that said, what is YOUR dog's Resilience and Confidence level?  Are you going to call it earlier (say with a glance) or make him work for it a little?

When you train, what is a YES?

Happy Sniffing!!

© Stacy Barnett 2015