Are you building GOOD HABITS or BAD HABITS?
Too many folks believe that 1 plus 1 equals 2. Not so! We want to build a search dog that follows the behavior chain: Encounter Odor, Source Odor, Encounter Odor, Source Odor, and so on… but depending on HOW you introduce multiple hides you could be creating Encounter Odor, Encounter Odor, Encounter Odor, etc.
In reality, how we set hides is a huge piece of how we develop the dog’s habits in searching. If you rush to multiple hides believing that since your dog can find one, they can find two, this can lead you down a long dark path, developing a dog that misses hides and won’t disengage from one hide to find another expeditiously.
HOW a dog searches is all habit. HOW you set hides creates habit.
If you are in AKC Novice and looking to move up or in NW1 and looking ahead to higher levels, you really need to pay attention to your hide placement.
Introducing multiple hides is actually rather quite simple, however it’s essential that the dog has some basics in place prior to adding a hide.
- Have you taught your dog to disengage with a hide?
- Do you have FOCUS?
If you have these two things… if your dog searches for target odor without getting distracted from his or her intent and if your dog will engage with you after the hide rather than being “too sticky” at the hide, you are ready for multiple hides!
Of course this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still continue Single Hide Searches, though that is a great topic for another post!
Establishing good habits means that we can parse apart skills and develop them.
As per AKC regulations, AKC Advanced Interiors are between 200 and 400 square feet. That is a bit between 10 x 20 and 20 x 20 feet. When introducing multiple hides, you will want your odors AT LEAST 20 feet apart, ideally farther.
Dogs generally have what I call a “latency in re-engagement”
Dogs generally have what I call a “latency in re-engagement” with odor meaning that once they solve one hide, there is an amount of time necessary for the dog to re-focus and re-engage with the search in order to find another hide. At the higher levels, this latency is very short… to the point that a dog can re-engage almost immediately and find converging odor. In the beginning, this latency is longer which means that we want to set out hides in accordance with the dog’s current capabilities. If we set the hides too close, the dog won’t be able to establish the habit of efficient sourcing of multiple hides.
So HOW do you introduce Multiple Hides?
Here’s my process for introducing multiple hides:
- In order to introduce multiple hides, I like to set hides well apart so that scent cones don’t overlap.
- I search the area in sections.
- I also like to have CLEAR start and stops to each hide.
This sounds simple but if you follow this recipe, your dog will (1) understand how to move on to a new hide, (2) shorten the latency in searching, and (3) learn how to not return to an old hide. All of these are requirements for Converging Odor searches later on!
Here’s a video example of my young puppy, Prize, learning multiple hides:
In this video watch how I help Prize to disengage from the first found hide and move her to the second section of the search area. This approach will establish good habits that Prize will maintain as she develops. I’ve included sub titles in the video to demonstrate this process.
I totally agree with having a clear “end of reward” signal for the dog. Many people put a lot of emphasis on what the dog should do when they find it, but they don’t work as hard on what they should do. Have a party at the hide, but don’t confuse your dog about when the party is over and they need to get back to work. Tell them it’s over, and then don’t let them negotiate for one more treat. I think nearly all of stickiness is that the trainer has confused the dog about this.
Also, some trainers (like us) teach multiple hides from day 1, literally. Then you don’t have to unteach the 1 hide habit. Be careful about teaching things you need to undo later. Patterns in training are inevitable, but don’t let them outlast their usefulness.
Totally agree about having the end of the reward be the cue to find another hide. Often the issue is created when the handler emphasizes re-indication over the find.
With respect to multiple hides, I actually teach them later… I have a heavy emphasis on single hide searches in my program that carries through the dog’s entire career… I start multiple hides when the dog is finding a single hide confidently. Then it is a balance. I retain about a 50% emphasis on single hide searches regardless of how advanced the dog is. That way I can emphasize problem solving, focus, and resilience in solving a hide to the finish.
I just want to say thank you for all of your great advise. It has been most helpful in developing great searching habits and I have watched my dog build confidence and independence. Sadie, Fawn and I look forward to more of your webinars and on line classes.
Do you just ignore the final response if the dog gives it on anything but the source odor? Or do you ever layer in higher negative consequences for indicating on a distraction?