We started class with an exterior search, out in the rain. I was happy to have purchased the FrogTog suit a couple months back. Haven't used them for tracking yet, but this is the second time I've worn the jacket in nosework class. It keeps me dry and warm. While we were doing the exterior search, Dorothy was inside setting up two container searches in element specialty trial style. The key things for an element trial are: the search may be unusual compared to what we are used to AND we get no walk through.
Our exterior search started with a row of four stacked pallets with these concrete and pipe electrical things on them. There was only a light breeze, so it shouldn't have been a difficult search. I found it challenging to get Gimme to focus on searching. Once she did, then it went quickly, but she really had her head somewhere else.
I'd noticed this lack of focus the week before and had given her a dose of the Bach Flower focus/self-control remedy I made for her. While it seems to work well at home in our practices, there was no evidence it helped us here.
Our first element style container search (blind) was
in the entry/store of the building. The two big grey rectangles are the toy shelves, which Gimme is very able to focus on. The start line was in the door to the room. The containers were plastic shoe boxes and the hide was in one right next to a water bowl. The search was further complicated by a heater vent on the wall right above the hide shoe box, which we are sure helped to move the scent in a different way. Small rooms can be really challenging. Gimme was very distracted by all the toy possibilities. With a little encouragement she got to work and found the hide. I called finished because after she got paid for her hide, she went right back to the toy shelves and really wasn't interested in searching any more.
From there we went into the main room for another blind search, to find dozens of boxes up on chairs. Gimme went to the left side of the room (to a shelving unit with toys on it (naturally). I got her searching, well, at least walking nonchalantly along the line of chairs. When we got near the actual hide, I saw her stutter-step, before opting to go check out the shelf nearby (more toys). I let her check it briefly and then encouraged her to come back to work. Just as we got past the hide, she went back to it and indicated. From there I walked her back along the line of chairs and she paid almost no attention to them. As I got to the chairs against the left wall, I turned her and cued her to "check". Then she did check those boxes and seemed to be paying a lot of attention to them, but not really settling on one. I walked on and she came with me.
So I called "finish" and was right. I can't explain why I call finish when I do - its just a feeling in my gut of either a) an impression she is just humoring me or b) she is thinking about indicating for some "other" reason (like last week wanting to get out of the rain). Dorothy thinks "a" is the most common reason and when I get to "b", its because I am ignoring "a". Dorothy also said her personal strategy in a trial is to call finished the first time she gets a inkling to do it and the vast majority of the time she's right.
Our 4th and 5th searches were combined, sort of. We had six
plastic shoe boxes in a line in front of twelve chairs. We were to keep
our dogs in the first search until they completed it and then go on to
the chairs. The nearness of the hide in the chairs was a complicating
factor for the hide in the shoe box, since the dogs would be able to
smell it too. Gimme did go past the hide in the shoe box, but then turned back to it quickly. She had to sort it out between the right one and the one just past it. These were her best searches of the evening.
For the chairs, she was working well, but it proved challenging for her to find the hide. She was trying, but all the dogs found it difficult. It was also quite a handling challenge to move around in the close spacing in the chairs and also to keep from getting the line caught on the chairs. All container searches are done on leash.
For our last search we just had the twelve chairs. Three of the boxes were replaced with shoe boxes, which vent different. The shoe boxes have holes in the lid, so scent goes up instead of coming out the joins. Gimme did pretty good on this one too. She found the shoe box hide first, and then went back to get the other hide.
After class I had a thought about this lack of focus. It seemed to come on about the same time as it showed up for other work, but I usually don't see it so obviously with scent work (nosework, tracking & barn hunt). It occurred to me this is also the time when I changed our rewards. In order to speed things up, I've been rewarding her with peanut butter chips (like chocolate chips, only peanut butter flavored). The other instructor is often impatient about how long it takes Gimme to cleanse her palate (she licks her leg) after she gets peanut butter from the go toob. I can't use the chips in trials because she sometimes gets one stuck in her flews and then it falls to the ground. In class its not a problem, but in a trial I can get faults for it.
She seems to like the peanut butter chips, so I thought it would be a workable solution. But I've since done a side-by-side preference test. Peanut butter from the go toob was the clear winner. Gimme only left the go toob when my hand was so close the chips were practically in her mouth, and then she gobbled them and immediately went back to the go toob. I think I could use the chips from time to time, or maybe for the first of multiple hides and then end with peanut butter from the go toob. Then I can use it to lure her from the search area. Still it may just be she needs her best reward right now when she's not quite as focused.
I am also going to try a trick from another competitor with a peanut butter obsessed dog. She freezes peanut butter in shot glasses, so her dog doesn't get a big glob of it. When I first heard about this, I didn't want to risk dropping and breaking a shot glass, with broken glass everywhere - so I didn't try it. But I think I'll try it and I can use some small plastic container. It'll be challenging for trials to keep them frozen hard, but I'm sure I can come up with something.
Meanwhile, Gimme is sound asleep, dreaming of another side-by-side preference test...