Holy smokes was this a learning experience! Amber Burckhalter with K-9 Coach invited us up to Smyrna for the first ever Nosework scavenger hunt. There were 40 hides over 5 locations within a fourish mile radius. What a blast.
Reyna had an opportunity to work in lots of new and distracting areas with dogs and people wandering around and all kinds of smells. This was the first time Reyna has searched that many places in one day let alone in the two hour time frame we were given. I'm sure Reyna benefitted from the experience, but I think I took away even more than she did...
The first thing I learned is that I still put WAY too much pressure on her. We are light years better than we were before, but I still need to work on backing off and listening to her. At the end of the day we found 24 hides in the two hours allotted. Other teams found over 30, the main difference I think was that they accepted when a dog couldn't find a hide and they moved on to a new area. I stayed in one location until Reyna found all the hides there. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but when Reyna is clearly showing signs of stress or frustration and I put pressure on her by remaining in the search area it does nothing to improve our efficiency and communication as a team.
Second is...if I won't ask for heel work until I have her full attention, why do I think it's okay to chant "go find" repeatedly when she is obviously distracted? I don't normally do that during our training, in fact it is extremely rare that she needs a re-cue, and usually it means something unexpected happened to disrupt her pattern. But today, because of the pressure we already talked about I started saying "go find....go find....where is it?" Which only furthered her stress and frustration because repeating the cue when she is too distracted to work does not suddenly diminish the distraction. It is just another way to pressure the dog.
Third...I need to work more table top hides. She really had difficulty alerting on a tin that was just sitting on top of a table!
Don't get me wrong, we had a really great time. When I realized she couldn't handle 5-6 hides in a row I slowed down, I stopped focusing on the number of hides, and made sure that she got breaks to play, drink water, rest for a few minutes etc. one great thing about Reyna, is even when she is absolutely fried, and can't do another thing, give her a 10-20minute break and she will be back on and ready to rock! I think that will serve her well at the trial in a few weeks!
Some things that went really well were...
One search area was bordered by somebody's back yard. As we started to search the area a massive dog charged the fence in full blown reaction!!! What is good about that? Reyna jumped out of her skin when he first charged, but didn't react even though she was right beside the fence!! Her hair puffed up for a second but then without any treats from me, she immediately settled back down and got to work locating all three hides in that area! What a brave girl!!!
Then in one search area she missed a hide around the outside of a house because she was too worried to get on the deck (big surprise, hope they don't have a hide like that in the trial or we are hosed!). But as we were searching for the second hide Reyna gave a clear and confident alert on a spot on the ground. I know Reyna well enough to go ahead and reward without looking for it, because when she is that sure, it's there. Sure enough there was about a 1/2" stick of a q-tip laying on the ground. no cotton on it, just the stick piece. The cool part is that this was not one of the hides for the day! There is no telling when that was dropped there. It was probably just yesterday, but still, that is a pretty old and small hide for her to pick up on and alert! Way to go!!!!
Reyna also did great on the container search so, I feel pretty good about that one too. I feel like if we miss the NW1 title it will probably be because a hide was placed somewhere Reyna was not confident enough to go.
I did take Reyna for a nice long walk today (I told you 10-20 minutes and she is ready to go again) and I found a low deck that we could work on. It only took her a few minutes to decide it was safe enough to run and tug on, but I still don't think she would have sourced odor there. Need to do some more work...