A Confident Dog is a dog that will take initiative knowing that they will likely be successful.
In our previous installment of the Elevation Blog Series, we explored the role of confidence and trust in these hides. (You can read that blog here: https://scentsabilitiesnw.com/blog/elevation-blog-series-1-the-role-of-confidence-in-sourcing-high-hides/) In this installment, we will find out what makes a dog confident with these hides.
First of all, your hides need to be DOABLE.
You need to match the hide to the dog. Experienced dogs can work challenging hides. Inexperienced dogs can work basic hides. I absolutely cringe when I hear of novice dogs being set to work suspended hides! Unless we set the dog up for success, we can only hurt the dog.
When I teach a dog elevation and I teach them that they can solve these problems, I LOVE off leash searches. In this video, I am working with a new scent wall that I just built and I set an elevated accessible hide (meaning she can reach the hide physically). The room is somewhat challenging because of the two sets of windows and the lamps emitting heat. Note how confidently Brava sources this hide!
Don’t time box the search, but DO watch your dog’s motivation. If you start to see motivation wan then confidence is being eroded at the same time. It’s OK to abort cheerfully before your dog struggles. Don’t help the dog… just reset the search!
Start with Elevated Accessible Hides
A confident dog has to work for success, but success is for the confident dog is a nearly guaranteed because the handler only sets searches that the dog can do. Elevated Accessible hides are generally workable and the dog develops a belief in being able to get to source.
Secondly, the dog needs to know WHY they are getting a reward!
Picture this… You set a suspended hide for your dog and you start to panic because your dog is struggling. It’s been 4:00 and your dog is starting to show signs of giving up. You dog glances up, but the glance is without commitment or even without a change of behavior indicating that your dog has encountered helpful information about the hide. You mark your dog and start to reward because you are afraid of your dog failing.
This type of “training” is extraordinarily common. But what does it teach the dog?
- High hides are extremely difficult, so why bother?
- If I put my head up, I will get cookies.
Neither of these outcomes will increase the likelihood that the dog will be successful next time. In fact, a case could be made that the dog may search with less enthusiasm next time… but how often do we see handlers do this?
If the dog knows WHY they are getting a cookie, the likelihood of the dog trying next time increases dramatically.
I’m finally on Instagram (@scentsabilitiesnosework) and I made this clip because it’s SO obvious that Brava knows exactly where that hide is located.
For a dog to be confident, YOU have to be consistent!
Let’s pretend that in the video clip above that the hide is on the other side of the pole. Brava goes up and gives me this alert… but I don’t take it because it’s on the “wrong” side of the pole.
What would I have communicated to Brava with this criteria?
- You can’t trust your own nose.
- Her handler will reward arbitrarily.
You might be thinking long and hard about my use of “arbitrary”…
Because the odor is about 8 feet up, the only information that Brava can get is from odor is that is away from the hide. This is means that she was not wrong, regardless of the side of the pole the hide is actually on.
A consistent handler rewards a dog every time the dog understands and communicates the hide location. A consistent handler is a trustworthy handler. A trustworthy handler helps the dog to develop confidence. What kind of handler are you?
Starting with Elevated Accessible hides makes it easy for this level of trustworthiness to develop.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: When does learning occur when a dog sources high hides?
See also: Bulletproof Elevation, a 3 Part Workshop