What constitutes a YES in elevation and why do we care?

By knowing what we will take as a YES, we provide clarity to our training and we reduce the frustration level in our dogs.  Our training becomes powerful and not haphazard.  We take accountability for our dog’s training.

Hide Placement is half of the equation.  The other half of the equation is how we respond to the dog!

Knowing what constitutes a YES is critical in training elevation.  It’s the information that keeps us from overworking the hide.

I’m going to show you a painful video…  Painful in that I’m watching it, yelling at the screen, “CALL IT! CALL IT!”  This is a video of me working Judd when he was training at the NW3 level.  It’s a wonder why he didn’t go on strike for a new handler!  Here I should have called it at 0:35!  Instead I have to encourage him to come back.  Watch how he deflates after 0:35….  we don’t want that.  Had I PICKED criteria for a YES, I would have called it on time.  This also shows that dog’s are rather resilient to our training mistakes!  We just don’t want to make them often.

Screenshot of Judd 6 ft Elevated Inaccessible Video

In this video, I’ve wised up a bit.  I took this video over the Summer after Judd had earned his ELT2…  still a “green” dog by many standards but his skills have REALLY come a long way!  And luckily he’s brought me along without too many major issues!  In this video, I placed a hide in my second story window as part of an exercise to work his extreme elevation.  I’ve been criticized for actually calling this hide TOO SOON.  I’ll take that, no problem.  He worked this hide with zero frustration.  That’s my goal!  The reason why I took what I took was an understanding of (1) air flow and (2) what I was going to take as a YES.  There’s a big difference.  (Judd is working extreme elevation for NACSW Elite Division trial preparation.  Please only attempt elevation that your dog is ready for.)

On the Extreme Elevation video, I DID feed several feet to the right of where he indicated.  That’s OK!  Why?  Because I fed him directly below the window, AND within the “realm of YES”.  The other thing I want you to notice is the difference in Judd’s CONFIDENCE in working these hides!  He’s really maturing into a good working dog.  His Confidence is due to more reward scenarios like the second video than the first!

In order to determine what constitutes a YES, we need to consider three things…

1.) Air Flow / Scent Theory

2.) Structure of the hide

3.) Resilience and training history of the dog

Notice I didn’t just say, “underneath the hide” or “when the nose is pointed at the hide”.  Granted, it’s very possible / probable that these constitute a YES, they don’t describe the whole picture.

In the Extreme Elevation video, my YES looked like this:

Extreme Elevation Screenshot

WOW!  That’s broad huh?  Well, that’s what would have been accepted FOR A 15 FOOT HIDE at a trial.  The width of YES is going to vary depending on the hide.

Let’s talk a little bit about Air Flow / Scent Theory…

We like to think that odor is nice and neat and falls straight down like this:

Sometimes it DOES!!  But as the hide get higher, the scent starts falling like this:

High Hide - Tree - Odor

See how much wider the swath of YES would be?

So the higher the hide, the wider you give your dog for marking a YES.  Also, the windier it is, the more leeway you will want to give your dog!

Structure of the hide is important too!

Hides along walls like in the videos above require that the dog orient UP and within a band of a certain width.  If we were doing a suspended hide (hide suspended with nothing below it), we would take a conical shape. If the hide was on a pole or a column, we’d take the pole (basically because the pole provides a focal point).

Do you see how we can use this information to reduce frustration in our dogs?

I also mentioned the resilience and training history of the dog…  yes!  We have to take the dog into account!  AND…  we have to consider the dog as an individual.

Judd has taught me a lot of things…  all dogs do!  What he taught me was how to train in resilience into Nosework.  Although he’s still fragile, he’s a lot more resilient now than he was a year or two ago.  It’s a progression! I built in resilience by not frustrating my dog.  Frustration bleeds confidence….  meaning, the more you allow your dog to be frustrated, the more you are damaging his confidence.

Remember this pyramid and what our foundation is:

4 Cornerstones Graphic

So that said, what is YOUR dog’s Resilience and Confidence level?  Are you going to call it earlier (say with a glance) or make him work for it a little?

When you train, what is a YES?

Happy Sniffing!!