We’re now a little over halfway through the beginners K9 Nose Work class and Alfie is loving every minute of it. The training class is about half an hour’s walk away from where we live and already after the first lesson I could put away my iPhone and google maps – Alfie already knew the way to get there. I take that as a sign he enjoys using his sniffer!
K9 Nose Work Lessons 2-4
Lessons 2-4 have followed a similar pattern as the first lesson I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. We come to class bringing a whole lot of smelly treats and Alfie’s favourite ball. Our instructor hides the treat or toy and Alfie gets to work. When we’re in class it doesn’t always feel like we’re progressing – perhaps because Alfie takes to each new challenge with such incredible enthusiasm and boundless energy that I don’t actually notice that the level of difficulty has increased. but thinking back at the last couple of lessons, we’ve introduced a whole lot of new elements:
Introducing a start line: Alfie is allowed to search off leash so far, but I need to release him by a start line indicated by masking tape on the floor. The idea is that the dog should be focused ahead, sniffer in the air, ready to take in scents from the search area before being released.
In reality, Alfie wants to look at me and await further instructions (he’s such a cute little velcro dog!) but he is starting to get really excited about the search and focuses ahead especially when the ball has been hidden.
Introducing a command: As soon as Alfie was focusing ahead at the start line I was allowed to add a command. Initially it seemed as though my voice interrupted his nose to brain action and he would circle back to look at me, but he is getting better.
Hiding the treats higher up: We started hiding the treats and the ball at different heights so the search area increased. Alfie didn’t seem too bothered by this and continued his usual search behaviour which consists of ‘oh my dog I’ve found it – I must smash the box so I can grab the treats inside before someone else gets it’.
Introducing Objects: In addition to hiding the treats and ball in boxes we’ve now also added a range of random objects such as baby strollers, old shoes and buckets to the search area. Alfie didn’t seem to notice the difference but just went ahead sniffing out the goods.
Hiding several treats: Last week we increased the intensity and duration of the search by adding several ‘finds’. Alfie took this in his stride as he is already quite used to searching for several treats in one go – its been one of his favourite games since he was a little puppy.
Starting to pay attention to Alfie’s behaviour as he discovers and locks onto the scent: Eventually, if we move on to competing, Alfie and I will need to work as a team in order to identify what box contains a certain odour. The idea is that I should learn how he behaves when he has ‘found it’. That’s easier said than done with a dog who moves at lightening speed at the best of times, you have about two micro seconds to see his behaviour change! Our blog friend Emma just did her first ORT (odour recognition test) and her mom had some trouble reading her body language too.
Changing the environment: Ideally we should be practicing in lots of different environments, but so far we’ve only practiced in our flat using different rooms, plus the garden. I’ve noticed that he finds the search a whole lot easier at home and he finds the right box often within seconds – so I’ve been real mean to him and changed the treats to less smelly ones to make the search more difficult!
What have you and your dog been training today?