Ahhhh Blank Rooms

I get Soooo many people asking me about how to train Blank Rooms (e.g., search areas without odor).  My answer is…  I don’t.  That’s right.  I don’t train blank rooms.  Why?  Because I feel like blank rooms actually cheat the dog.  I ask my dog to search.  He searches but he’s been set up to fail because there is no odor.  What is the fun in that?  In reality, blank rooms are a real potential in NW3.  Therefore we need to know how to handle them.  The key is knowing when your dog is done searching.

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In a Blank room the dog may give you one of several indications….

Your dog may do HEAVY sniffing but never find a scent cone:

Yes that’s right!  Your dog may work REALLY hard and work and work and work but never get in odor.  You may be fooled into thinking that there is odor in the vicinity but your dog may just never be able to source anything!  Sometimes dogs like these will be REALLY noisy sniffers.

Your dog might act like he has no interest in searching:

Your dog is no dummy!  If there’s no odor, why search?  Sometimes these dogs act like they want to leave the search area.  Sometimes they just look like aren’t actively searching.  This can be especially disconcerting if you have a higher drie dog or a dog with excellent odor obedience.

Your dog may stop and look at you:

That’s right!  Your dog might just literally stop and look at you!  It might be a quizzical “what’s next?” look.  If you have a dog that does this when all hides are found, odds are he will do the same when there are no hides in the area.

So how do we “train” for this?  Honestly, I would do this once in a blue moon….  let your dog search an unproductive area and watch him…  I mean REALLY watch him.  What signals is he giving you?  Is he doing any of these three signs?  Then when he doesn’t find odor I would give him a cookie and be done with it.

Whoa!  I said give him a cookie!!!  Yep.  I call these “effort cookies”.  I know there’s no odor.  I set my dog to search in a location where he can’t POSSIBLY find odor.  However, he still worked and still communicated to me that there was no odor.  I think that deserves a cookie.  Granted….  if we ALWAYS ended the search with extra cookies, the astute dog might start to stop the search early…  but in the case of blank rooms, which we don’t want to do very often, giving a cookie is just fair and shouldn’t have any downside repercussions.

Another thing that you might want to REALLY consider is videotaping your dog in a blank room.  What you might not see during the search, you might very well see after a search.  This is pretty easy.  Have a smart phone?  Just point and shoot.  I have an iPhone and use an Apple computer so I just have to Airdrop to the computer and upload to YouTube!  Or…  you can literally publish to YouTube directly from your phone so you can watch it on a larger screen at least several times.  Learn your dog’s tells by video rather than practice!  Why?  Because blank rooms are a total cheat to the dog :)

Here’s a video of my Elite dog doing a Blank Room search.  This is normally a high drive dog with tremendous odor obedience…  here he’s somewhat interested.  He gives an effort but not much.  Then he stops and looks at me.  Bingo!  Blank Room.

So what does YOUR dog look like in a Blank Room?

Happy Sniffing!!!!

© Stacy Barnett 2015