We are signed up for a K9 Nose Work foundation class that meets every other Saturday. We had our first class last week and I'm glad they are two weeks apart because it gives me time to work out kinks. Here is what I have learned so far...
Searching off leash
Searching for her ball
Searching for food
She is less comfortable...
She is not fond of...
So that means that if I want to increase her drive I should have her search off leash outside with no harness looking for her ball.
If I want to decrease drive I should have her search in harness, on leash, inside, with food hides inside boxes.
The difficult part about that is the class is inside, with boxes, on leash preferably with a harness, and food is easier to reward with. Sounds like a recipe to destroy her enthusiasm doesn't it? Now I could just ask her to do those searches and hope she "gets over it" and learns to love it, or I could break all the components down into easier chunks and help build her confidence.
Needless to say I'm going with number two!
Now how do you go about breaking everything down so it makes sense...well I know the three things she is least comfortable with are boxes, her harness, and being on leash so we will not be doing any sessions that combine those. The harness is the easiest so we'll start with that...
Comfortable moving in it
Comfortable leaning into it
Happy searching in it
For the first two we have spent time playing fetch, wandering in the woods, and jogging in the harness with praise and treats if she put weight into it and pulled at all.
Once she was comfortable moving in it we started searching...but I paired it with everything she loves...searching offleash for her ball outside. Her search enthusiasm in harness with her ball has increased and we're ready to start searching for food outside, offleash, in harness, I am starting over as if she has never searched for anything before...once she is in love with that we will move inside and go back to the ball and start over.
Next is the boxes...
Gets excited when she seems them
Is comfortable moving around them even when they are unstable
Is comfortable searching inside them and pushing them around to reach the source
For this one just taking the things she loves was not going to be enough. Her dislike of the scary boxes was enough to overcome her drive to search for her ball outside off leash...so I took it one step further...we didn't search (I stole this idea from Lisa Mallory) I have spent the last two days playing fetch (her favorite game) around the boxes. I started by just having them in the yard while we played, and quickly was able to work up to throwing the ball into the boxes or knocking the boxes over with the ball. The key here was that the focus is on the ball not the boxes at all. Reframing this experience for her Reyna has already reached all three goals off leash outside after just two days. We will continue emphasizing the awesomeness of boxes, but I'm going to start back at square one and throw food in and around the boxes and then I'll bring them inside and go back to the ball again.
When she is very enthusiastically search in boxes inside for food, AND doing area searches inside for food in harness I will put the two together and go back to the beginning where we are playing with the ball in and around the boxes outside with a harness on and work our way back up.
For searching on leash that is going to take a little bit more time. Right now I have just started jogging with her on leash with the harness and she is happy with that, but I want to get the boxes and harness taken care of before we start adding the leash into the Nose Work.
This may seem like a little overkill, but she is very prone to shutting down, and her joy when she is in the game and loving it is worth all this component training.