Hard to believe we are starting our 16th session with Dorothy of 6 week nosework classes. So 90 classes, of which I've missed one to attend my Dad's funeral. For the most part, all the classes have been really good and the one this week was no exception.
We started with an exterior search of a large L-shaped area. There were two landscaped areas which weren't part of the search area, but adjacent to it. You'll see the end of the POD and the pallet of cement boxes with it, outside the search area. Inside the search area at the top are several different construction things, a rack of pipes and two pallets of cinder blocks. On the side is a textured grey area which is a covered portico and the other grey square with black shapes in it
is a little gravel space
The first time we searched it there were no hides and the idea was to observe our dog's behavior when there was no odor for them to smell. For the most part the other dogs acted very different. In Gimme's case, she continued trying to find something. All the dogs spent time checking out the gravel space and were interested in the landscaping at the top corner. We all tended to go against the building on the left, then up across the top near all the stuff. All the dogs left the search area checking the pallet and going over by the POD. As we all came back toward the beginning, we each walked along the inside edge of the "L", which was delineated by cones. Some of the dogs tried to play with the cones. Gimme acted like she might play with the cones, but then thought better of it and carefully checked each one for odor.
She showed the least sign of the dogs that she was treating this search any different than one where she could detect odor immediately. I remember when we did searches at Home Depot using all the sample garden sheds - Gimme used to go immediately into any blank shed and check it and would arc around the ones with hides. She'd check the ones with hides on the way back down the row. So it seems consistent to me for her to treat this the same as when she detected odor right away.
One discussion point was about how you reward them after searching a blank area. Some people reward as they are leaving, some reward with a secondary reward (praise vs. food/toy) and some don't reward at all. In my case, I told Gimme she was a good girl and then when we got back to the car she got half a peanut-butter-mini cookie. She almost always gets one for going in her crate, so I saw no reason to change our routine.
For our second search of this area there were two hides out, both along the top of the "L". What we all noticed right away was the dogs spent almost no time checking out the gravel area. Gimme spent more time there than the others. It was the same amount of time she'd spent before, which had been less time than the other dogs had done originally. After the gravel space, she went directly to the hide at the edge of the landscaping. From there she headed in a straight line toward the POD, and snapped back to the hide on the pipes about 2 feet after she passed it. She sniffed around, took a little swing out toward the parking lot (not toward the POD) and then came directly to the hide from there. After I rewarded her for this hide, we continued around the inside edge of the "L", searching the rest of the area. I was the only one to do this. I wanted it to be as much like a search at a trial as I could (where I wouldn't know if there was a third hide). My car was parked right next to the little landscaping area, so it seemed a good use of time. Gimme again carefully checked each cone for odor.
The other dogs all went past the second hide (on the pipes) without showing any sign they noticed it, to the POD, then swung toward the parking lot. From there they came to the pipes and sniffed around on the ground a lot before they could source the hide. We were discussing it and thought they were catching the scent trapping against the pallet and POD. But then Gimme did it different (she was last), and her search was more efficient. She did swing toward the parking lot before she sourced it, which all the dogs did. We think the reason they all sniffed around on the ground was because the pipes were hard plastic so the scent didn't stick to them and tended to pool on the blacktop. Gimme was the fastest to get from the ground to the hide, about 2' up.
The next search was a series of five open boxes in a row. We actually did it four times. The first time (starting from the left on the diagram below), we went up the row of boxes - each containing a hide and a little dish of food for self-rewarding. We were supposed to keep them on a pretty short leash and not add any reward. For the second time coming back, all the boxes had a hide and we were to wait for the dog to show they expected us to pay before rewarding. If the dog "walked" the hide (i.e. didn't stop and "ask" for pay), we were to go on. As we did the second round and were turning, the instructors took up all the hides, so we had a row of blank boxes. Then as we were turning at the other end, one hide was placed in the second to last box for our last run down the line.
Gimme thoroughly enjoyed self-rewarding on the way down the row the first time. On the way back she walked the first box (i.e. didn't stop and ask for pay), asked for pay on box two, walked box three and then asked for pay on four and five. On the way up the row of now blank boxes, she tried to get me to pay her at what was now box four. She may have been gaming the system or it may have been lingering odor. On the final run down the boxes she made a half-hearted effort to ask for pay at the second box, but then I think she caught odor and quickly went to the real box, for which she got a whole lot of peanut butter chips.
Our last search was a circular ORT style search. Gimme went quickly to the odor box and batted it with her paw a couple times, but never looked at me (as is part of our 4-part alert for containers) and went on as I moved on. She checked all the other boxes and the second time she got to the odor box she didn't leave it and was insistent about alerting.
In this case "insistent" equals Demolition Gimme, doncha know.