Hide Placement is Important, Yo.

In other sports we wouldn’t dream of not being logical with our training decisions.  In agility, would you send your dog over an A-frame for the first time (at full height no less) and hope for the best?  When teaching a dumbbell retrieve in Obedience, you wouldn’t just throw a dumbbell and see if your dog decides to retrieve it?  No!  Of course not.  But in Nosework, I see people setting hides quite randomly and then wonder why their dog lacks Confidence, Motivation or Skills…

At the very best, people sometimes set hides to work on skills but without proper understanding of how the hide will work and whether that hide will actually help the needed skill.  The hard part about this sport is that science plays a real part in whether our training setups will work or fail.  How many of us have set a high hide only to find out that odor went up instead of down?  Do you know how to avoid these pitfalls?

The key to setting a good hide is 3-fold….

(1) utilize Scent Theory to understand what the odor is likely to do,

(2) set the hide with PURPOSE so that you know what you are challenging, and

(3) know what you will accept as a YES.

Good hide placement requires STUDY and EXPERIENCE.  The Experience part can be shortened simply by understanding air flow.  Ultimately though, the more you set thoughtful hides, the easier it will become.

I tend to set hides in terms of Puzzles.  Each puzzle expands the experience of my dog.  Experience is really the only way to train a Nosework dog after all.  They come to us with a Harvard education in olfaction.  Through hide placement, we can “train” our dogs by giving them a variety of scenarios so that they can more rapidly and effectively solve a problem in a trial atmosphere.  Through these “puzzles” our dogs became Olfactory Rocket Scientists.  We simply enable them to fulfill their potential.  Add in a dose of carefully crafted handling and you end up with an amazing and unbeatable team.

Puzzles that I tend to set include a combination of one or many of these elements:

(1) Converging Odor (inaccessible and accessible)

(2) Elevation

(3) Inaccessible Hides

(4) Pooling Odor

I utilize temperature and pressure differentials to make these puzzles powerful.  Temperature and Pressure Differentials are in the end, what makes air move!

We also can’t forget PURPOSE…. When you set a hide, are you trying to build Confidence, Motivation or Skills?  Or more importantly, are you thinking of these aspects when you set hides?

This term I’m teaching a class called NW370 Hide Placement for Powerful Training. If you are interested in learning more, I’d love to have you join!

The Learning Journey… Competence and Perspective

Have you ever looked back after you’ve mastered a skill to realize just how much you’ve learned?  And you realize that you have learned so much more than you thought you would?  Well this is NORMAL.

As a perpetual student and a teacher, I’m intrigued by the process of learning. What I’m writing about today is perspective and competence.

There’s a model that was developed in the 1970’s by Noel Burch and then was later attributed to Abraham Maslow that described the process that an individual traverses when learning a new skill.  This model has been dubbed, “The Four Stages of Competence”.  And, as most things are, can be applied directly to learning nosework!

I find that speaking about this model helps my students to put things in perspective.  Knowing where you are in the journey can be both helpful and cathartic.

Let’s investigate…

Unconscious Incompetence:

This is when you don’t know what you don’t know.  Simply put, you are a neophyte and you are unaware of the size of the body of knowledge ahead of you.  In Nosework, you are at the stage where you think the sport is easy.  The dog does all the work, right?  I mean, doesn’t he just find the odor?  At this phase you are unaware of the complexities or of the sheer artistry of handling.  Perhaps you discount the sport as “easy”.  At this point you may choose to pursue the sport, or not!  If you choose to continue, you are blissfully ignorant of the challenging (and exciting) path ahead of you.

Conscious Incompetence:

As you start along the path of learning, you start realizing that the body of knowledge required to master this sport is pretty awe-inspiring.  You realize that this sport is nuanced with science and art.  You see searches done by advanced teams and it seems magical to you.  You work hard at your handling, but it feels stilted and difficult.  This is the phase of frustration, and if we aren’t careful, despair.  We know what we don’t know.  And it seems insurmountable at times!  We struggle with placing appropriate hides and we don’t know why some searches seem so easy while others seem to baffle our dog!

Conscious Competence:

As we study and practice, things get a little easier!  We can finally execute and when focused, can draw upon our building knowledge.  We get Scent Theory.  We know WHAT we need to do to improve on our handling.  In this stage, the hardest searches are at trials.  We have all of this knowledge but we still struggle to call upon it “when it counts”.  This is when our videos teach us SO MUCH.  We can watch our own videos with a critical eye and we can self diagnose problems after the fact.  We know we know stuff but we still feel frustration at not being able to call on it at will.

Unconscious Competence:

At some point on our journey, we edge into mastery.  The transition into this phase comes quietly in the night.  All of a sudden it FEELS easy.  We realize that we can call upon our knowledge at will.  Our handling feels fluid and we experience a connection with our dogs during a search, yes even at a trial, that just makes us want to do more.   This is the point where we become a true team with our dog and the partnership is effortless.  We understand what Teamwork really is.  And it’s beautiful.  And then we realize that there is still more yet to learn…. And the process restarts!

The power of all of this is that it puts our journey in perspective…. We learn that it IS a journey and it helps us to be at peace with our frustration.. knowing that it’s NORMAL and TEMPORARY.

What stage are YOU in?

Happy Sniffing!!

© Stacy Barnett 2015