Peanut butter as the exclusive reward for finding odor is already having some positive results. Not to mention, Gimme just loves it.
Tonight there were three search areas, the entry, the front one-third of the main room and the back two-thirds. Expens with sheets draped over them separated the two parts of the main room. Odor had been out for over 24 hours, so it was sure to present an interesting challenge. The first round was off leash and paired. The second round unpaired and on leash.
The entry had one hide and the odor was inside a rubber toy on a shelf (its the store). Apparently a lot of dogs had difficulty with that rubber toy and many dogs were attracted to the crack under the door leading to the office, which is where they store and prepare odor. Gimme checked the crack under the door, but quickly left it. She found the odor pretty quickly both times.
The front one-third of the main room had three hides with two tables, a dozen chairs, a wheelchair and miscellaneous stuff. The hides were 1) on the center of the garage door, about two feet off the ground, 2) centered under the seat of a chair and 3) at floor level right next to the door to the bathroom. All the boxes with distractions still in them from last week were stacked against the wall in the bathroom, for added challenge. The first time paired she did a nice job, being quick to get the odors - first the one by the bathroom, then the garage door, and last the chair.
The back two-thirds of the main room had 38 green plastic chairs in it. The one hide was actually in a little hole in the wall behind an electrical conduit, about 2.5 feet off the ground. The chairs were a total physch out for both people and dogs. Many of the dogs spent a lot of time checking the chairs, which may have had pooling odor since the hide had been out so long. Gimme was pretty direct, catching odor from across the room and quickly working her way to source.
The second round on leash was challenging in the two parts of the main room, simply because of all the stuff to catch it on. Even though odor wasn't paired for the second round, Gimme was still fast and direct.
Two things I noticed were...
She is already working stronger and more focused using peanut butter as a reward. There was no hint of "cataloging" (where she notes odor, but then moves on to find the other odor before coming back to indicate the it). I do think she actually prefers real peanut butter to the PB chips. She likes the chips plenty, but she was more excited and more driven for
the second round when she realized I was using the go toob. For the second round with the real peanut butter, she went directly to the chair (4 ft from the door), then to the garage door and last to the hide by the bathroom -- pretty much from closest to middle distance to farthest. I can use real peanut butter in classes and practice, but its far too time consuming to use in a trial, except for the last search of a set (usually two elements are done pretty much back-to-back). When we got to class Gimme was pretty frustrated already, so I was prepared for her to not work her best. I let her know what I was using and the frustration just disappeared. Too bad we hadn't started doing this before our last trial - we could have avoided her frustration before containers and probably would have titled. So clearly, peanut butter is work well for us in the long run.
And second, she is really a better hunter than the other dogs in class. I'd never seen a couple of them work before, but since we were first tonight we got to watch everyone. Two of them are competing at the NW3 level. A couple dogs did better/faster work than Gimme here and there, but she excelled overall. Her biggest challenge is going to be her handler...