Wow, we're moving right along with our nosework classes! If you remember, we had some trouble using the leash last week, so this week we tried something new that worked very well. Instead of giving Treasure the entire room to search in, we used ring gates to section off a smaller area to give her a more defined area. She has a hard time knowing where she is in space when she's some place new because she doesn't have any mind-map markers to tell her where she is, like she does at home. She can't see the walls or gates like the other dogs can, and she can't hear sounds around her to give her a clue as to where she is. By using the smaller area, she was once again happy to be able to work off leash! She was able to focus more on scenting and less on avoiding her leash.
At one point, after our turn, I looked up and everyone was crowded around the smaller gated area watching us. They seemed so surprised and delighted when Treasure found the hide. I had to remind myself that everything Treasure does is a surprise to them. I was very confident to allow her to do her job and knew she would find it easily on her own. But I live with her, so I see her amazingness everyday. The others do not. It's nice to be able to bring a little bit of that to everyone's attention now and then.
We used roast beef at class. I always give her a variety of food when we train. It's never the same thing as the day before. This keeps her interest up and offers her more enrichment and variety in her life. When Treasure seemed to get a bit off track, I used some stomps to bring her back in my direction towards the area I wanted her to search. I'm not sure how well the vibration carries in a direct way at class. She seems to be a bit confused by stomps at class even though she always comes at home. I wonder if the vibrations travel differently. But it did get her attention and she sniffed until she found my direction and came back that way.
We worked with open boxes again, practicing for our demo next weekend. We started using a magnetic clip (like a refrigerator clip magnet) to hold food in a plastic lid. It could then be stuck to the metal grooming table legs to offer more variety for hiding. This part isn't as tricky for Treasure, since the other dogs tend to learn to look for the boxes and only hunt there. Treasure can't see the boxes, so she relies on only scent from the start. But it's handy to get the food up off the floor and will be nice to use to train my other dogs as well. The lid we used for class was a plastic lid from a coffee cup and it had a small hole in it for drinking. When Treasure found it, she came to that tiny hole first and was trying to lick the food out of it. We also did food hidden in the unzipped pocket of a bag on the floor, which she found easily.
Our next round of classes, we will start adding Birch odor, so we got information about ordering the scent kits. I will continue with Treasure in the process. She really enjoys having a job to do and of course, the food reward is fun too! But I'm not sure she will ever be able to qualify for competitions without some type of accommodation. If she is expected to search a very large area in a short period of time, most likely that will not be feasible. She moves slower around a new area than a sighted dog because she can't see where she's going. She has learned that it hurts less to run into something when you are going slowly than it does if you are going fast!