Class tonight was really great. Even though Dorothy is a CNWI and still only uses the NACSW approved method (their one-size-fits-all approach), in other ways she is really a very good instructor.
Tonight's exercises were designed to teach us how to handle our dog when we needed to be more directive than usual. Usually in nosework, the dog takes the lead and we follow them around. Yet, as we advance in levels, there will be times when we should help or direct the dog more - especially when the dog gets stuck or is having difficulty. Dorothy designed these exercises to address that possibility, so we could practice the mechanics before we are caught - as she was - trying to do it on the fly, at a trial. It also gives the dogs an opportunity to experience this style of handling from us, when they are not facing the excitement of a trial setting. Another plus, Dorothy explained the exercises so well that we all knew right away what to do and what to look for.
The first exercise was to bring the dog into the big room, give a search cue and turn them loose, but there would be no odor out. Our task was to simply observe what the dog looked like when they were not getting any odor. Then as we were finishing that, Dorothy set odor in the entry alcove. We were to gather up our dogs and start a new search with the entry, so the dogs got to end with a hide. She said you can create a problem if you do too many searches of clear areas, so its best to always immediately follow them with a search where there is easy odor to be found.
Gimme did pretty much the same as the other dogs. She made a stab at searching in this big clear area, but without the intensity she shows when she can smell odor. I only heard her chuffing noise once. Like the other dogs, Gimme was also more readily attracted to distractions. She didn't obsess over them and went back to looking, but it was still more than usual. When we went into the alcove, she was intense again - clearly knew there was odor there and went right to it.
The next exercise was also in the big room, but staying on leash and keeping a somewhat shorter than normal leash. We were to move them around the room perimeter in a clockwise direction. As we got to the far end of the room, Dorothy set odor on a chair at the front. Our task, in addition to working the dog with less line, in a more directive fashion, was to note how their manner changes when they got that drift of odor. Then as we were at the odor on the chair, another hide was set on an easel we'd already passed.
What I saw in Gimme was that she went around the room kinda looking, because I'd cued her to... her attitude said, "La la la la lah... La la lah..." And as she caught the drift of odor, her intensity changed, as if she said, "La la la la lah... La l... Hey, what's that..." She picked up the pace too. Then as we continued back around the room, I could see she didn't expect to find anything, because she'd been through that area twice without finding anything. She almost went right by the easel, but then snapped back to it.
Our final exercises were done outside. Dorothy delineated a big fat "L" shape with cones. Our task was to move the dog around the perimeter inside the cones, in a counter-clockwise direction and as we got to the far corner from the start, a hide was set in a crack on a curb. Then as we were moving up on that, another was set on a metal door at about nose level for Gimme, again at the far end of where we were.
So we got a chance to move around, with the dog on our right side this time, as well as observing how they dealt with this artificial boundery. Three of the five dogs moved downwind of the odor on the curb, but then when they did, they couldn't find the hide from there. Hard to say what the breeze was doing. If they passed odor we did an about turn (kinda like an agility front cross) to take them back by it.
These were very valuable handling exercises. Gimme has always been so frustrated in nosework by any shorter leash work and frustration is her Achilles heel, so I never would have tried it myself. I think it worked to our advantage that she's still tired from her big Barn Hunt weekend. She was still eager to work each time, but I could tell she was kinda tired.
Our last search was to do the same area, in much the same way (more directive handling), but the two hides were out the whole time and in more "usual" places. This turned out to be another example of how the dog's expectations affected their searching... they all went directly to these two hides. Much like they tend to go to a chair set against a wall all by itself.
So class was really neat and fun. I like having exercises that are targeted toward a specific thing to learn and I left knowing I learned a lot. I also like a running commentary that tells me what I'm doing right as well as what to do better (who doesn't, eh). And I sure like the nice things said about Gimme's working style, drive and persistence, talent and recognition of her odor obedience. What's not to like...