Elliptical Search Patterns and Fast Dogs

I’ve been fascinated lately with fast versus efficient dogs and natural search patterns.  From watching MANY videos and dogs I’ve seen a distinct difference in the searching approach between fast and efficient dogs.  I’ve seen a natural tendancy for elliptical search patterns with ALL dogs, but it’s especially obvious in naturally fast dogs.

I’m in the middle of authoring some content for my Nosework Challenges Series 1 class that debuts in February and this topic seems to crop up more and more in the material. 

Let’s talk about natural search patterns.  Natural search patterns are the paths that a dog will naturally take executing a search.  Let’s face it.  Dogs don’t think in terms of corners and thresholds.  Dogs think in terms of circles.  If you watch a dog herding or scenting / hunting in an open area, the dog will naturally take a very round path.  This is normal. Dogs don’t “do squares”.  So now we’ve taken these naturally elliptically thinking creatures and ask them to search mostly square search areas…  and then wonder why corners are so easily missed!

I’ve noticed that this elliptical tendency is greatest with fast dogs.  It’s almost as if there is a centrifugal force with these dogs keeping them on a circular path.  This pattern is most obvious with green dogs and very fast dogs.

Here’s an example of a wonderful working dog, Java, executing a search.  Java is a fast girl who is very enthusiastic for the game.  She’s still very green but shows tons of promise.  Watch her elliptical path before she settles into the search and finds source.  Her owner, one of my students, was kind enough to share the video with me.  You will see this tendancy with both searches on this video.

So the search pattern that we typically get is this:

In reality the search pattern that we really want is this:

Interestingly, I’ve seen more efficient dogs execute more closely to the path above.  The reason behind this is that efficient dogs are slower dogs.  Of course that’s not a bad thing at all!  Efficient dogs actually get into corners on the first pass because they aren’t as impacted by the centrifugal force of the search as fast dogs.

This is further evidence that neither fast nor efficient dogs are better!  They just search differently!

Fast dogs may in the end take a longer time to mature into truly excellent searching dogs simply because these dogs are fighting biology and natural tendancies…  the centrifugal force of searching behavior.  The result of course in NW3 is missed hides.  Handlers of these dogs…  Fear Not!  With experience and time, your dog will learn to get into those corners.  In the meantime when you are practising or trailing, make sure your dog covers these areas well. The key is in watching whether your dog has actively searched the area or just skimmed it.

Keep working those corners guys!

© Stacy Barnett 2015