Saturday, May 5th, we went to our first AKC scentwork (nosework) trial. I expected Gimme to do well.
Interior search - no video - Our first search was a small interior. Gimme did a lovely job, finding the hide on the back side of a small space heater, in 21.69 seconds. She got 3rd place. I was sure it was on the space heater, but she hadn't really settled on source, nor indicated. If I called it when I knew it was on the space heater, we probably would have taken first in her class. But if the judge asked me where it was and all I could say was "on the space heater", I didn't know if that would be right enough. IE we could have failed the search.
Container search - no video - Gimme was amazingly fast on this search, completing it in 4.38 seconds! The first place dog was 6.69 seconds and Gimme ended up in last place. Why? Because Gimme was faulted for crushing the snot out of the box and AKC determines placements in fault-then-time. So any dog with no faults is higher in the placements than all the dogs with one fault who are higher than the dogs with two faults, so on and so forth. So the dog with the slowest time of the no-fault dogs, was in 15th place, with a search of nearly 40 seconds. It is what it is, eh... I'll take drive, enthusiasm and persistence any day.
One of the very cool things about AKC is that you can put a camera on your dog or on yourself and video your searches. At this trial there was the suggestion to bring your camera all ready to go and maybe someone would be able to record your run. The interior was too small to have another person in there and there didn't happen to be anyone there for containers. I did get the last two searches recorded.
Exterior search video - This was a very small search area and Gimme localized the hide in 12 seconds. What you can't see from the camera's angle is the issue with the curb so close to the hide. Every time she'd get down to sourcing it, her feet would be bumping into the curb. She wasn't concerned, just distracted - it was simply an awkward area for a dog of her size. She finally positioned herself stretched over the curb and then quickly sourced the hide. Nice job. Her total search was 33.25 seconds. BTW I don't recall this being so noisy - I think the person who was recording us was standing next to the AC unit.
The only concern I had for this trial was the buried search (some people call it "dirt"). Gimme did a buried hide many years ago - one I set up just to be different - and she did really well at it. So on Thursday I set two hides in molehills in our yard. I thought Gimme would ace them and was so surprised to see how difficult it was for her. The q-tips I used were very old, so I got some fresh ones for a search the next day. That time I set the hides in a large playground area with a mulch surface. She found one really quickly, but it took her a long time to find the other. I still thought she would do okay in the trial because the hides are in boxes, with "walls" around the hide, to hold the scent in place.
Buried search video - The second box she comes to is the hide, you'll see her stutter step as she goes by, but with no sign of stopping. She gets really stuck on the fourth box she comes to and sticks with it. I called "alert" when she'd been there 12 seconds. In hindsight, she never indicated on it. Not sure why she found it so fascinating, but I should have waited for her to tell me it was the right one. My bad. Next time I will wait for her to actually make a decision and indicate it. I think it would be better to run the time out than to false alert.
I don't blame Gimme; she's just not really ready for this. The judge said in a discussion while they were getting final results ready, most dogs need a lot of experience solving buried hides because they're very different. Since my instructors are strictly doing NACSW, they are never going to do anything to prepare us for it, so I'll have to set it up myself.
I have several of those plastic shoeboxes and a garden bed I can raid for dirt. I'll start out just barely covering the hide and gradually go to more cover. I can pair the hides to help her solve this new challenge. It occurred to me, even though she is familiar with birch, it may smell verrrrry different when covered by dirt. Kinda like the way a track changes so much when the tracklayer moves through different types of cover or surface.
Sunday, May 6th, was our second day of AKC scentwork.
Interior search - no video - Again this was a very small space, so no room for anyone to volunteer to video. Gimme did a nice job scanning the area and quickly settling on a brick near the wall. We had the hide in 18 seconds, 6th place. I think I could have called this a little sooner, but she was still checking the area close around the brick and I didn't want to rob Gimme of a Q if the judge asked and I was wrong about where the hide was.
Buried search - no video -
There are only six containers at this level and they were set up in two rows, slightly staggered. Gimme went up the nearest row and stuttered at the third box, then went on to check the others. When she came to the box where she'd stuttered before, she checked it more thoroughly and then indicated. She had it in 21.19 seconds. Gimme was assessed a fault for pawing the box and so was in last place of the qualifying dogs, 6th place.
Container search video -
Most of the time Gimme gets better as a trial goes on about not trashing boxes, but not this time. This was very much like how she gets more amped in class with repeated container searches using boxes. She killed 3 boxes in addition to the odor box and correctly identified the odor box, all in just 16.57 seconds. Demolition Gimme returns! She is always entertaining. I asked, "how many faults" and the judge said she was still thinking. Then I asked, "more importantly, qualifying or not?" She said, "qualifying." That was a close call. What was funny is the judge wasn't sure I'd called alert on the correct box, since they'd been moved about and I had to tell her where it was initially. Remember the rule about not making the judge think? I'm thinking we need more work there.
I had a plan for teaching Gimme to resist the urge to trash boxes, but I can't do it in class because it takes a little time and the other instructor is so impatient (complete with sighing and eye-rolling), so there's no consistency. The best solution would have been to deal with the issue when it first started, but the instructor I had then didn't have a reward based solution. The current instructors don't have a solution beyond "reward sooner", which only works in class and I'm certain she'd revert to box trashing in trials when I don't know where the hide is and can't be ready to jump in.
As it is, Gimme does a LOT better. She used to forcefully paw almost all hides and now it is just boxes. She did paw the buried hide this time, but I'm sure I can shape a better response when I start actually training those. Boxes are trickier simply because crushing them is so darn much fun. If she'd never learned the joy of box crushing, there might be more hope for changing the behavior. I figure we'll have to wade through it, getting faulted, in the lower level classes where there are boxes. Once we get in higher classes, there won't be an exciting field of boxes to see from the start line and I'm hopeful she'll settle down again.
Exterior search video - We had a 2½-minute time limit and Gimme had this hide in 8½ seconds (first indication). I didn't call it until she indicated again, at 15.12 seconds for 4th place. Our placement could have been better if I called her first indication.
I decided to reward Gimme with a new toy for getting all four hides. I keep a box of toys in the car so I have one for the veterinary to give her when we visit. I think she really liked the hedgehog right away, but was having difficulty getting it to squeak, an important criteria.
Toy selection video
Some people say I'm overindulgent... can you believe it? The nerve!