When we call Alert, we have usually gone through a series of decisions in our minds. The more straightforward the hide, the easier that thought process is. When the hide is more complex, we might have to do a more thorough risk assessment. In order to call Alert confidently, it can be really helpful to understand the thought process we are going through! I alluded to this blog in my last blog “Handling Impact: Training Hides versus Trial Hides“.

The thing is, if we can understand the thought process that we go through, we can be more effective in our calls!

I put this flowchart together a while back for one of my online classes… this is the thought process that I go through when calling Alert.

Decision Process to Call Alert
Decision Process to Call Alert

When the hide is very straightforward, we can call Alert fairly rapidly. This is because the thought process we go through is short. Perhaps the hide is accessible or if the hide is inaccessible, the bracket is narrow. Sometimes the hide might be accessible, however the dog needs to work a little harder because of odor pools.

Let’s take a look at some examples!

In this example, Powder sources a very straightforward hide. The hide is very localized and it’s super clear that there are no alternative options for the source of odor. This is a hide with a short decision making path.

Accessible, Straightforward Hide with a Short Decision Making Thought Process

When we have a short decision making path, our risk is low and we can call Alert quickly and confidently. Our likelihood for a false alert is rather low. This sort of hide is common at all levels although less so at the upper levels.

When we have a more complicated hide, our decision making path is a little longer. This is the case for Inaccessible hides or hides were there is trapped or pooled odor away from source.

In this example, I call a Deep Inaccessible at the same trial as the hide above. In this case, I had already successfully called an elevated hide just outside the open door. I know based on scientific principles that that odor will wrap around the corner and catch along the wall, including the area where Powder focused. You can see the difference in the time it takes me to call Alert. In this case, I wait for Powder to narrow her bracket and ultimately to give me more focus pushing into the area. Calling alert in this case is a little riskier!

Deep Inaccessible Hide near an Alternative Source for Odor

In this example, there is an accessible hide, however there is a tremendous amount of trapped odor away from source. I had to assess the air flow in the moment and evaluate the odor behavior of my dog. In this case, Why was giving me more random behavior with no “epicenter pull” so I interpreted his behavior as trapped odor behavior. Since I could not tell reasonably well where the hide was located, I enlarged the area by drawing Why to the right. This worked and he sourced the hide!

The odor from the hide on the chair is getting trapped in the clutter against the warmer window.

Calling Alert is always a risk. Having a standard approach to calling Alert can make the risk more thoughtful!