I volunteered the second day for the NW1 trial. My job was videotaping Interiors. Interior was again held in a classroom, but in a more traditional classroom with tight rows of desks. The hide was under the seat of the desk on the outside front corner of the room, opposite the entrance. I was SO very lucky that the judge (very experienced K9 Handlers/trainer) shared his observations with the volunteers in the room between most searches. Luckily Ren doesn’t have a problem leaving odor, but I thought some of these takeaways could be helpful in certain circumstances.
-Teach your dog a search pattern from the beginning so the dog learns to search the entire room.
- The dog’s indication should be clear enough so that during training a friend could recognize behavior and call the alert with handlers back turned
- Don’t ever LURE the dog to then source then reward. Dog should put their nose on source first, then they get the reward
- Have other people in the room reward the dog so they aren’t just always looks at handler
- Don’t pre-cue your dog that they are correct (by hand in pocket) if you think they are getting close. Wait for the final response and the “YES” before reaching for the treats.
Here was the big one though. Dog’s should never be rewarded for an indication on odor after they have left and come back. Many dogs in the NW1 went to the odor, never indicated, quickly left, and may or may have not gone back. The judge said this was a “trained” behavior. That during training, probably during non-blind hides, that the handler was doing something to cue the dog when they dog close to the odor that wasn’t happening in the trial (because the handler didn’t know the dog was close) and because that dog wasn’t getting the subtle queue or assistance, the dog was moving on.
Think of this scenario – you are doing a non-blind hide in class, your dog is getting close, maybe your breathing changes or you start slightly bending over, or your fingers re-grip the treat. Your dog has learned this pattern as a “hint” that he is close and he should alert. But in a trial he isn’t getting these pre-cues and simply walks away from the hide. Another habit many of us are in is rewarding the very moment the dog gets their nose odor. I have even heard about instruction to try and BEAT the dog to the hide with food (which doesn’t make sense to me at all). Again, in the trial, the dogs aren’t getting the reward at that very moment. They have to first alert, you have to call it, wait for the judges YES, and then reward, which is again a very different picture then training. When the dog doesn’t get the reward the moment his/her nose hits odor (what the are expecting), they move on.
The judge suggested varying the delivery time for the reinforcement – moments, seconds, then minutes. Regardless the dog should stay at the odor. After the dog is confident it its job, the reward comes more for staying at the odor vs finding the odor.
Ren and I competed in our first NW2 trial this weekend in Fultondale, AL. My main goal in entering was to even see what an NW2 was about since there is literally no information available about what I should expect. My goal was accomplished, and I came away realizing that until more training, information, video’s and seminars are available to truly prepare both me and her, that I won’t be entering another trial anytime soon. The trial was held at a great site – a school. The day and searches went like this:
Interior – two average size classrooms right next to each other. Rooms had desks/tables in groups, rugs, chairs, normal stuff you would find in a classroom
- First Room – 3 minutes – 2 hides. First hide was a threshold hide in a basket within a few feet of the door. Ren walked in the classroom and nailed that hide within a few seconds. I thought we were out to a great start… Ren quickly got back to searching, never stopped working, but got stuck under the tables and never could nail down source – we timed out. The hide was on the underside of an approx 36” inch high table.
- Second Room – 3 minutes – 1 hide. She searched the entire time, walked right by the table the hide was one, but never hit odor. The hide was on the underside of a taller small side table – something you might put a plant on (about 33” high) Ren was almost frantic in this room, trying so hard to find the odor, checking everything, standing on her hind legs, covering as much ground as she could but to no avail.
Container – 3 minutes – 1 hide. 20 Suitcases and bags in a high ceilinged atrium. Distracters were toys, white bread, and cheese and crackers
- Ren walked directly to the correct bag and alerted, 13 seconds. We placed 2nd in this element. She got a “pronounced”.
Vehicle – 3 minutes, 2 hides, 3 vehicles (2 cars and one van)
- First hide was in the front top inside the wheel well of the van. It took her awhile to narrow this down, but she found it. We timed out before getting to the second hide. She got a “pronounced” in this element, which I thought was unusual because she only found one hide. I am guessing the judge realized how hard she was trying.
Exterior – 3 minutes, 2 hides – brick courtyard/walkway/building/short brick wall.
• First hide was a threshold hide in a crack where the brick wall met the walkway. She went directly to it, hung there a bit, but didn’t alert and I am not sure why. She moved on and correctly found and alerted on the second hide that was under a wooden bench.Both judges gave me feedback after her searches. They said that Ren had a disadvantage because of her height vs the amount of area that needed to be covered, and that this game was all about time. I needed to guide her more to make sure she covered all the areas she could. In my mind I thought that could be something I could to, but that still didn’t help her in being able to locate the higher hides. One judge said that “He loved this dog because she had so much heart when searching, it’s just that her legs are about 12 inches too short”.
Two things bothered me about the day. First, I felt that I let Ren down by asking her to do things that she clearly wasn’t correctly trained to do. I put too much faith into “trusting my dog”. I needed to train my dog. I did reward her though even on the hides she didn’t find, she never stopped searching, never got frustrated – but still it bothered me. She trusts me too – to make sure she is prepared.
Secondly, I felt frustrated by the lack of information that was and is available to me in order to prepare her. There were CNWI’s attending the trial for the same reason I was – to find out what NW2 was all about.
If they din’t have access to the information and knowledge about what to expect, how could I? Frustrated that we can’t ask training questions on the NACSW list and that we are directed to work with a CNWI. ( I had been working with two awesome CNWI’s, but this was also their first NW dogs, and didn’t know all the answers.) Frustrated that there aren’t more resources available to learn and prepare via seminars, workshop, etc. and simply access to experienced detection trainers. Frustrated that past trial video’s aren’t available for viewing – I would love to watch all the little dogs work to see how owners handled, how the dogs sourced, what the alerts looked like, etc.Most of all frustrated that I didn’t even know what I needed to fix, change, or do differently in order to even think about competing again.
The training hiatus went well. The pack stopped with their pushy demands and we had a calm weekend overall. In between the pouring rain in Atlanta even managed to get a couple of decent walks/hikes in. I did break down yesterday though and didn’t make it until today with no training. :)
Ren’s NW2 trial is on Friday so I figured I had better get some practice in. Her Nosework enthusiam is at an all time high. If there is Birch or Anise in the room she is going to do her BEST to find it. Ivy and I also worked for just a few minutes on her pivot in heel position (pictured above) and she seemed more into just playing with me without treats or toys after the short break. We will see how things go this week and if I note anymore changes. Regardless, I am glad that my self-imposed break is over as it made me appreciate that I have 3 such awesome dogs to train! (plus one retired couch potato)
The break from training also made me think about my plan for the next few months. Finding an instructor and class that is perfect for me is SO difficult. I was just starting to take online private lessons with Denise Fenzi and had thought I had finally found someone that spoke the exact same dog training language as me. No sooner had I gotten started though, then learned she quit doing online privates in order to spend more time with her new online training academy
I am have taken a CGC class and a beginning obedience class at a well-known popular training school in Atlanta. So far it has gone pretty well, as we have been working on basic stuff, most of what I have already taught Ivy and we just end up proofing in class. But then the unavoidable happens – I disagree with they way instructor wants to teach something, have to explain why, and do things differently. So far it hasn’t been a HUGE issue, but as things get more complicated and advanced I think it could be. Recent example; the instructor had wanted us to put the dogs in a stay, walk behind them, and sit in a chair for 3 minutes. I had explained to the instructor that Ivy wasn’t ready for that yet and instead I worked on short durations of standing away from her and sitting in the chair facing her, offering rewards every 45 seconds or so if she was succesful. (Ivy isn’t ready for me to go behind her yet in that situation) The teacher was great about it and let me do my own thing. I didn’t cause too much of a distraction.
But the next level of the class is going to start working on heeling…
I am currently taking the online class “Precision Heeling” online in Denise’s school. Denise’s next heeling class is “Heeling Games” starting in June. EVERYTHING is broken down baby step-by-baby step, with the dog learning a great foundation in specific skills. (It really is amazing how many “steps/skills” are required to heel when they are broken down on paper!). Pictured above is Ivy learning how to Pivot. It could be weeks or more before I am going to be able to wean her off the disc and quide hand, never mind starting to add steps and forward movement. At obedience class last week we started a figure 8 loose leash walking pattern in between cones. I just did the best I could to get her around the cones with some attention – and for her not to think she was just doing a sloppy version of “fuss”. Ivy isn’t ready to “move” while she is officially heeling because of the upright head position and focus I want, and don’t have yet even in a static position for more than a few seconds. As much as I am enjoying the class, the feedback, working Ivy around other dogs, and the social interaction – it’s an quickly starting to realize it’s not fair to take her back to the next level. I really need to get my heeling where I want it at home, using the method I want to use and feel comfortable with, then take her back later for proofing, tweaking and refinements.
I love spending time with my dogs. I have fun when they have fun. I feel like I can’t get on with my day until after they have all gotten some one-on-one attention, training and exercise. I cook for them. I am always looking for more new and
more “exciting” rewards and treats for training. The latest toys from Clean Run and Sit Stay. Dog friendly cabins and beaches. Local dog friendly activities and outings.
I was out for dinner with my husband a few weeks ago at a restaurant that was full of kids. They were either on their iPhones playing video games, running around, yelling, jumping, and generally annoying me. I said to hubby “Man, those kids just need to be constantly entertained, I wouldn’t want to be those parents” and he replied “but we are.” And he was totally right. I am a great example of trying to provide fulfillment and stimulation for dogs gone overboard. What used to be enough to tire out the pack for days is now just a “ok” somewhat boring day for them.
First, my husband is home during the week, so the dogs are rarely left alone for more than a few hours at a time. When he is home the dogs is kept busy playing doorman so they pack can choose inside or outside lounging at their leisure. A “typical” week usually includes: Agility, Obedience, Nosework Classes, Nosework practice, daily training sessions, Nina Ottosan games, Bully Sticks, Stuffed Kongs, Raw bones, walks, runs, hikes, runs on the unlocked ballfield, playing in our 1/3 acre yard, Doggy Daycare, spending the day at the office with me. Weekends may also include Schutzhund practice, Swimming lessons, Agility, Terrier and Nosework trials, trips to St Simons Island or Dog friendly cabins, and visits to dog friendly bakeries, shops and farmers markets in the neighborhood. Already planned for this summer is a weeklong “Dog” vacation in Vermont at Camp Gone to the Dogs (will be my 3rd time there driving from ATL). Their first Barkbox arrived yesterday.
Meals consist of part kibble and part anything else fresh and healthy including meats, veggies, salmon and supplements.
Although providing this for my dogs on an ongoing basis is fun and something I enjoy, I have also created a huge problem for myself. Of course dogs need the proper nutrition, exercise, stimulation and play, but I am now having a hard time satisfying my dogs with any amount of anything.
No longer is anything High Value – its all become “the norm” because it happens almost every day.
When I get home from work I make everyone have a calm greeting with me – no attention if you are going nuts. But then things go rapidily downhill from there. They all watch to see what I am going to do from the moment I get home. Ren stares and follows until I show a sign of what might be in store for the evening (like pulling out her Nosework kit). My 14-year old “retired” Whippet Simon whines and paces hoping we are going to go for a car ride. If I leave my tailgate open, he will go jump in his crate in the back of me Element and just wait. Wyatt paces between me and the bully sticks drawer. Ivy grabs her Nylabone and rests it on my foot to chew it -moving with me as I move around the house and replacing it on my foot. They usually then get fed and calm down a bit.
If I head into the bathroom and pick up my brush – they know I (and probably one or more of them) is going somewhere. They all join me in the bathroom and start to jockey for position close to me – demanding to be the one(s) who get to go out for the evening. Ren then usually starts her double-paw rapid digging on my leg just to make sure she has my attention. Then we all pile in the Element and go do whatever class or outing is planned. If I am taking Wyatt and Ivy on a long walk, after that outing I return and take Simon and Ren on a short walk just so they don’t feel left out.
Last night at Ivy’s obedience class she got some roast beef as a reward, and was about excited for it as she would be a piece of kibble. So where do I go from here??
Doggie Detox is starting today.
No outings, activities, training, treats, presents, dog bakeries, or massages until Monday (The exercise and walks will continue though) Will be good to give the puppy a training break anyway. I need to hit the reset button. I need a trip to the Farmers Market & Dog Bakery to be a fun special event – not just part of the expected and demanded routine. I need Ivy to care that she is getting Roast Beef instead of kibble.
Should be an interesting experiment. Looking forward to see what if anything changes. The first few days are going to be very interesting.
The BarkBox is going to have to remain unopened for a few days…
Ivy’s BFF Maddie was at the agility trial Wyatt was entered in this weekend. After practicing a few minutes of Obedience, they got to play!
Melanie of Pawsitively Purrfect Pet Concierge held a fantastic Nosework Tournament this weekend in Douglasville, Georgia. About 17 teams entered ($20 fee) and could select to work on either just Birch or Birch/Anise. Registration started at 3pm, and the Tournament started shortly after. Melanie was gracious enough to hold this event on her farm, which included 2 homes, and agility field, and a cow pasture. She enlisted friends, family and neighbors to help (many who had never seen Nosework before) but everyone did a super job.
Everyone received a scorecard and map of the hide “stations” on the property. There were 9 hide locations, and a seperate birch and anise area and attendant at all locations (We did Birch/Anise). Each hide area included between 4-6 hides and you either had 1 or 2 minutes to search the area and find as many hides as possible. The attendants would start the timer when your dog’s nose crossed the threshold, and told you YES or NO when you called alerts. The timers would automatically beep when the time was up. You then wrote the number of hides you found on your scorecard. Each team was assigned a different station to start at so there wouldn’t be much waiting around as people rotated through each search area.
The search areas included:
- an agility field with easter eggs
- 2 vehicle search areas (tractor included)
- Several outdoor areas – Ren did NOT like these areas (but still worked through it) as she had to walk through heavy Pinestraw
- 2 Interior searches
- Container search – all different kinds of containers, bags, etc
- Bonus Search – A Water search. Melanie had hid odor in a creek (marked by 2 blue flags) I took a look at the creek, but didn’t go near it – Ren HATES water and baths.
Some of the more water loving dogs had a blast with that hide and many of them found it.
Well after this I sure don’t have to be worried about Ren having enough endurance to work Multiple hides at the upcoming NW2 trial! She found 22 hides in 17 minutes of searching time. The easter eggs were the first search, which I got a few false alerts on (Apparently all the dogs had a tough time on this hide) She nailed all the interiors and container and also worked all the vehicles very well. The exteriors weren’t as enthusiastic, but she was having a hard time in the deep pinestraw. The last hide in her rotation was an interior, which she found all 4 hides in within 2 minutes like a sniper so I was THRILLED with that ending.
Ren came in 2nd, with the first place dog finding 24 hides. Melanie had “gift boxes” prepared for the top 3 placing teams in both Birch and Birch/Anise. What a GREAT practice just a few weeks away from our NW2 trial. My biggest takeaway is a reminder that I really need to be prepared for some false alerting on the first search – and to make sure I am patient enough to read it correctly.