I love working with and training dogs. But the past year and a half I haven’t worked with ours much. It’s showing. Sometimes things in life require attention, and that’s been the case for me. But now that life is normal and okay and good, it’s time to get back to working with the dogs.
What I think I love most about working with dogs is the relationship, the teamwork. Just think about it-another species of intelligent animal wants to engage with humans in work and play. Blows me away!
I also love watching dogs figure things out. I particularly love scent detection work. Watching a dog find scent, then follow it to source, then tell his handler, “Hey, it’s here. It’s right here” fills me with wonder every time.
Below is a video of one of my favorites of Jack’s searches from Nose Work class from May 2013. This was a tough hide, but he worked hard, never gave up, and found source.
Y’all know by now I’m enamored of all things canine scent detection. Nose Work, Barn Hunt, Tracking, Earth Dog-yep all of it.
So I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve let Jack’s Nose Work training slide over the winter. All kinds of excuses slithered across my brain. Too cold. Too tired. Too much trouble with all three dogs. Not fair to work with Jack, but not do something with the other two. Too hurried.
Yeah, you get what I’m saying.
I even used the excuse that I’m not going to trial him in Nose Work so why bother training. Yep, yessiree, I even used that gem.
And while that’s true-I will likely never trial in Nose Work-that’s no reason not to train. Especially not when Jack and I both love it. Well, maybe he enjoys it, and I love it.
So yesterday I broke out the birch, and we did a little work outside. Vehicles and exterior.
And, bonus! I used my GoPro with my new chest strap mount. Learned a lot from that exercise. But that’s a post for another day.
Anyhoo-here are two very, very short clips from yesterday’s work. These are the “source/alert” moments from two of the searches.
Two things I learned from yesterday’s video are: 1) you can learn A LOT from videoing your training sessions, and 2) Jack’s tail is part of his tell.
Nose work completely and totally rocks. I mean it. There’s just nothing like watching a dog use his nose to solve a puzzle. A puzzle that we puny humans can’t solve. We can just stand and be awed.
I read yesterday on Arson Dogs that dogs can detect scents in parts per quintillion. Yeah, that’s parts. per. quintillion. That’s hardcore.
Worked Jack tonight on some single birch container hides, but made each hide a little more difficult. Or what I thought was more difficult. He didn’t seem to think so. Guess I’m going to have to try harder.
Worked Jade and Damon on single food hides, also containers. Jade is starting to get excited about searching. Damon’s enthusiasm is off the charts. He LOVES it!
Hoping to start training with a couple of other people so I can start trialing Jack, and maybe Damon, next year.
Will record some of our training soon.
Set up a Nose Work run for Jack tonight. Decided it was time to stop being such a slacker.
Jack completely surprised me. Figured he would be pretty rusty, but nope. He rocked it like a boss!
I set 4 hides: 2 birch, 1 anise, and 1 clove. The one I though would give him the most trouble, he found first. Of course.
I thought this would be difficult because the source was completely hidden under the upside down flower pot.
Next he found the second birch hide. Granted it was pretty close to the hide he’d just found.
This one was only partially hidden. I thought he was going to walk past it, but he caught scent and followed it to source very quickly.
He worked his way back into the garage to find anise next.
For anise I used one of my new hanging hide containers from K9 NW Source. (Highly recommended for NW supplies!)
Jack walked past this one a few feet, caught scent, then came back and worked from the floor up to settle right on it.
His last find was clove. It was closest to the entrance, but not a true threshold hide.
This hide actually seemed to give him a little more trouble than the other three. But he did find it after working scent from the other side of the garage.
Here was the set up.
Nose Work rocks. So much fun watching the dog work scent to source. Nothing like it!
I’ve been trying for a week to figure out how to articulate something I’m sure many other dog people have experienced. I’m equally sure many of those people have explained the phenomenon much better than I ever will.
But here goes.
Something shifted in my relationship with Jack last Sunday. I can tell you the exact moment it happened, though I didn’t realize it until a couple of hours later. The shift was subtle, but also paradigm shifting for me.
He became my partner, my true friend, a piece of me.
I know that sounds over the edge for lots of people, even people who love animals. But something shifted as I crossed the start threshold with him at the ORT. We became more than just handler and canine. We became a team. He understood what I asked him to do, and he did it. Willingly. With joy. I watched him work that hide in awe of his abilities, knowing I had to trust him completely to show me where it was, and that he would show me.
More than just me reading his alert.
I asked him to do something.
He agreed to do it.
He gave me information.
I understood what he told me.
A team. A partnership. A friendship truly from the heart.
So the comedy of the absurd continued the week before the ORT.
Friday the 6th I got off work and realized the middle toe of my right foot hurt really, really bad. As in I could barely walk. As in someone released a horde of fire ants on my toe.
Got home from work, took off my shoes and socks. Yep, infected at the site of my self-surgery. Three days prior I removed the corner of my toenail because frankly, it annoyed me growing into the edge of my toe.
The morning of Saturday, September 6 revealed a toe in dire need of antibiotics. So off to the Minute Clinic we went.
Fast forward five days, one Z-Pack, one more self-surgery to lance the infected area and toe is all better.
Now on to the ORT yesterday.
WE PASSED WE PASSED WE PASSED WE PASSED WE PASSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It totally rocked-even before we passed. What a community dog people create. Just amazing atmosphere.
We ran third in the first group for birch. I think that was the perfect running place. Not first, but not late in the order.
Now on to training for Nose Work 1 trial.
So we’ve hit the ridiculous point here.
Monday night Jack and I get mildly skunked. But really is there any such thing as getting mildly skunked? If you count that the business end of little stinky pants pointed away from us so we just got the blow back, then, yeah, I guess that’s mildly skunked.
Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, gets that taste out of your mouth.
Praying Jack’s nose still works. I’m going to give him a couple of easy hides tonight to see how it goes.
This morning I crunch the index and middle fingers of my right hand in the window as I’m closing it. Thankfully I’m left-handed. But really, eleven days before my FIRST EVER DOG SPORTING EVENT!
What can I do but laugh?
It’s all good. We will have fun regardless of the outcome.
The members of the NACSW discussion group are a great bunch of folks. I sent out a plea for advice yesterday to help me deal with my nerves over the upcoming ORT. I’ve been overwhelmed by the thoughtful, supportive responses.
I kept tonight’s practice pretty short-only three searches with one hide each. Also kept them simple. We stopped with Jack almost begging to keep working.
To watch some advanced K9 Nose Work teams and see what it’s all about check out posts on the K9 Nose Work Blog here, here, here, and here.
HOLY FREAKING COW…IT’S ONLY 20 DAYS TO OUR FIRST ORT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay…big deep breath…that helped…one more….
Minor freak out today when I realized it’s only 20 days until mine and Jack’s first ORT (Odor Recognition Test). No biggie, right? Just my very first dog sport event as a handler EVER!
One more big deep breath…
Thankfully I’m getting some great advice from other Nose Work handlers as well as handlers in other dog sports. Most folks are only too happy to share their experiences and let me learn from their mistakes and near misses.
The bottom line: relax and have fun, Jack doesn’t care if we pass, fail, win, lose, place first or come in last. All he knows is he’s playing a game with his human. And, at the end of the day I get to go home and play more games with this awesome dog who brings me joy.