Last nights class had a Christmas theme and we are being told next week will be all Christmas.
When I walked into the entry room for class (its a small room which doubles as the "store"), I was greeted with this layout. There were sixteen Christmas ornaments laid out on the floor in a grid. My first thought was, "Omigod, I hope they're plastic." They were. I didn't know what Gimme would do.
I haven't shown where odor was because honestly when we got done I still didn't know. Dorothy said Gimme found two of the three hides in the first ten seconds. She was doing fine until she bumped one and it moved. Then she had to bump them some more. I never could tell when she was playing and when she was alerting, so had to rely on Dorothy to tell me which was which. Apparently this was exactly the same thing all the dogs did. Many found odor quickly, but just couldn't believe it was in the ornaments, so they didn't stick it. Some dogs went into play mode right away, others did it after accidentally moving one. All dogs seemed to be really enthralled by the ornaments when they moved.
From there we went into a container search in the big room. There were 21 containers in one long straight line. There were chairs stacked against the wall right at the end of the search and there was a line of chairs against the side wall. All the dogs seemed to have difficulty finding the hide in the flat box because it was between two taller plastic tubs. It was like they came down the line of boxes, lifted their nose to go over the plastic tub and then didn't lower it until they got to the second tub on the other side of the box with the hide. Gimme went by it three times and finally stopped for it the fourth time. I was sure it was there the second time, but waited for her to solve the puzzle herself.
After these two searches they took up the odor ornaments, but left the rest in the entry (for the next class). When we came through there the second time to go to the next container search, I could tell from Gimme's demeanor she knew there was no hides in the room. Of course that didn't stop her from reaching out to bap an ornament with her paw,
just before we went into the other room. She seemed really
pleased with herself.
For the second container search they moved some of the boxes into the chairs along the side wall, one of which had odor. The odor box between the two tubs stayed in the same place. It was interesting to see Gimme catch the odor for the hide box up in the chair from the startline. She went directly to it, from about 30 feet away. She still had difficulty catching the odor box between the two tubs.
For the fourth and final search, they moved half the chairs into a parallel row on the other side of the line of boxes. They kept the tub-box-tub hide sequence, moved the one from the chair to the end of the new row and added odor to the second box from the startline.
None of the dogs stopped for the threshold hide and they all immediately turned to the new row of chairs. Gimme didn't really pay any attention to the middle row or the side chairs until she had checked out the new row and there only actually checked the last two chairs. She again gave the appearance of having caught the odor on the low stool from the startline. Something about the air flow seemed to come down the room on a horizontal plane and Gimme would go right to it. After she found the hide at the end of the row of "new" chairs, then she started down the other row of chairs and caught herself, coming back to the tub-box-tub hide. From there she went to find the threshold hide.
The point of the evening's lesson was to see how the dogs responded to novelty. The ornaments were intriguing because they moved so easily, even without the dogs purposely moving them. Once they did, then the dogs would be attracted to the novelty of the movement, which looked a lot like their usual indication in some cases. We noticed a couple of dogs accidentally moved boxes in the second search and then would be suddenly stuck on them. This didn't happen to Gimme, probably because she's always knocking them around a bit, so for her it wasn't novel. Then on the last search there was suddenly a row of chairs to the left and all the dogs had to go there first.
So dogs are really attracted to novelty and feel compelled to check it out. This tendency is likely true across all dog sports. Its our job as owner/trainer to expose them to so many unusual and different things, until it becomes harder and harder to create novelty in their work environment. Then when you go to a trial, they are more likely able to get right to work without being distracted.
12/17 Note: It occurred to me - this tendency to check out novelty makes perfect sense in a survival sense. Sure, our dogs don't live in the wild and don't have to be ready to fight to protect themselves, still - those instincts are strong.