The key to threshold hides is simple. In fact it’s SO simple that I almost could write this blog in one sentence!
Are you struggling with your dog blasting through the start line or searching from back to front?
Even if you have a “High Drive” dog, you can establish good good habits. Habits however are developed purposely.
Let’s talk about habits… leading experts agree that habits start with small change. Well in this case it’s no different! This is where the Single Hide Search comes into play.
Setting a lot of Threshold Hides won’t improve your training
Let me caveat that… setting threshold hides when there are no other hides in the vicinity WILL create a good habits… provided that there are no other hides in the area. However, setting multiple hide searches when one hide is a threshold hide WILL NOT help you to stop missing thresholds.
In order for the dog to learn quickly, the lesson needs to be fairly straightforward. The best way of doing this is to set a single hide rather than many hides. Otherwise, we run the risk of muddying the lesson that we are trying to teach the dog.
What are the downsides of multiple hide searches when training thresholds?
Picture this, the dog enters a search area and there are two hides. The first hide is a threshold hide and not nearly as desirable as a hide deeper into the very enticing search area. Which hide will the dog prefer? The answer is rather simple. The dog will prefer the more enticing hide. So if we think about it, the harder hide, or the threshold hide, is actually being impacted by the easier hide. The easier hide is actually a disincentive to the harder hide. Therefore, setting a second hide will actually make your threshold hide less valuable.
Here in this video we see Brava execute a very nice search while hitting her threshold hide. But how do we get there?
Encounter Odor, Source Odor
Ultimately, we want the dog to develop the habit of Encounter Odor, Source Odor, Encounter Odor, Source Odor and so on.
Developing good habits is the key to success. If the dog develops the habit of Encounter Odor , Encounter Odor, Encounter Odor, Source Odor, we run the risk of the dog ultimately cataloguing and missing hides. When we have longer search times and a known number of hides, this is not so much of an issue. The issue evolves as we start to work unknown number of hides in larger search areas.
How can we address this issue?
We need to set up single hide searches where the hide is in the vicinity of the start line. In this case we do not restrict the dog. We allow the dog to search the area and come back and find the only source of reinforcement near the start line. Very soon the dog realizes that it does not pay to charge into the area and then come back and find the threshold hide. At this point, the threshold hide becomes more valuable. Make sure that you reward effusively with a lot of emotion.
It may make sense at this point to shrink the size of the search area in order to set the dog up for success. If you have a dog that likes to blast into the search area, having a huge search area is not going to be conducive to the dog’s learning. At that point blasting becomes self reinforcing. So for those dogs who have an over abundance of excitement, you may want to shrink the search area or make sure that you search on leash and keep the dog in the vicinity of the start line until the hide is found. Ideally though, the dog finds the threshold hide on their own.
At this point the dog has developed a strong reinforcement history for the threshold hide. When you set a second hide, it should be well away from the first hide. Make sure that you reward excessively at the threshold hide and then allow the dog to find the next one. Once a dog finds a second hide (which should not be set so as to cause convergence with the first hide) you may give the dog a good reward and then party on the way back. However, make sure that the first hide is rewarded much more in excess than the second hide.
In this way, we can start to develop sound habits of hitting the threshold hide from the start line. This can be done regardless of the dogs drive level or excitement level. It’s all about habits and making small improvements from the beginning. It’s also important to make sure that your greener dogs start to experience hides near the start line early on in their career.
It’s not whether you set threshold hides that educates your dog, it’s HOW you set threshold hides. Single hide searches can be hugely powerful!
The notes I made about our most recent NW3 were to work on not blasting through the threshold. Your advice makes perfect sense. We will be trying this tomorrow!
Thanks, this is really helpful.
Very helpful. Thank you
This was extremely easy to understand and so helpful. Thank you
Thank you. I have a dog that blasts the start line because of her excitement. I was wondering how to work on thresholds and you explained it wonderfully.
You write, “If the dog develops the habit of Encounter Odor , Encounter Odor, Encounter Odor, Source Odor, we run the risk of the dog ultimately cataloguing and missing hides.”
Please explain your definition of ‘cataloging’ as it seems you use it as a negative behavior. However, other scent work people use it as a neutral description of a searching style, as in a dog that carefully and methodically searches an area, missing nothing.
Sure… when I refer to “cataloging” I am referring to a dog who takes stock of the all of the hides but responds to none… until they decide to start getting to work. Another term for this is “shopping odor”… this will get you through lower levels but will be disastrous under time pressure, unknown number of hides, and very large search areas.
My dog loves to blast. Thanks, I will work on this.
Really appreciate the point of making that single threshold hide very valuable. And then eventually carrying over the threshold hide’s importance when it’s time to add a non-converging hide placed a good distance away.
I also think the point of initially working smaller search areas is another one of your great insightful suggestions. Thanks again, Stacy.