You know how some days nothing goes right? And on others, everything is pretty much perfect? Today we had one of the latter.
We started off having to confess to the trainer that we had been somewhat remiss in our homework (ie we had done very little in the way of practice since our last session - Bad UncleBob!). Not a good start so we didn't have high hopes.
Putting this aside, the trainer and @Mrs UB went to hide some scent containers; one in a barn and one on the outer wall of some other farm buildings. I stayed with Harv so that we couldn't see where the containers were placed. I put his 'working' harness on (the idea being that he knows that he is working when this goes on) and attached the long line.
On their return, I was asked to give Harv his starting cue. I briefly (foolishly!!!!) contemplated whether our failure to practice may have dampened Harv's enthusiasm. I needn't have worried - he was off like a shot with me trying to keep up
We headed into the barn, and Harv took us straight to some bales of hay in the centre of the barn. He completed a half-circle around the bales, had a pee on a corner bale, then double-backed and indicated the container (which some sneaky so and so had hidden behind some hay so that it was out of sight for the hapless handler!). Click and reward. The reward now consists of playing with a Chuck-it with a handle as this seems to be more popular with Harv than his previous favourite, the good old tennis ball. A big plus is that we can play 'tug' with this as well as throwing it a short distance for Harv to play with (no 'big' throws as we are trying to avoid anything too manic because of his arthritis).
After letting Harv parade around for a while with the Chuck-it I took it from him and we moved to the next part. I re-cued him and off we went - at full speed again. He briefly overshot and then came back to it (another sneaky one - raised off the ground at about waist height. Click and reward again.
We take a brief recess:
* Harv has some water.
* We put him back in the car to have a rest while the trainer's dog comes out to run the same course.
* We discuss how Harv really seems to be 'on it' and not suffering from our lack of practice (big sigh of relief)
* We write up some notes (everything is recorded for later reference - weather, especially wind, location, how many containers, speed of locating, reward type and duration)
The next containers are placed in another two barn areas and a small field between them. I cue Harv, we set off, he finds it almost instantly (located in a hole in the wall). Click and reward and on to the next. There is a large trailer in the next barn and, you guessed it, the sneaky couple had hidden a container on the trailer! Harv circled the trailer and I failed to spot the change in body language that indicated he thought he had found it (have you noticed how the problems in this dog + human partnership always seem to rest with the human?!). Harv graciously pretended to look elsewhere briefly but then brought me back to the trailer to try again and this time I spotted it. Click and reward and on to the next. With only the briefest of sweeps left and right Harv led me straight across the field and to a wall on one edge of it - sure enough there was a scent container in a crevice. Fantastic
Another recess and then on to the final two searches; a mucky area with some farm trailers and more bales of hay and then another small field. There was more handler error in the mucky area search (a little too much effort going into avoiding a dramatic slide and face-plant and the copious amounts of mud perhaps!) and so it took Harv a couple of circuits to persuade me to look properly where he was showing me the container was
Then on to the final search. As soon as I gave Harv the cue he shot off across the field, me struggling to keep up, and straight to the scent container hanging on a fence. How ... the ... hell?! Sometimes our dog's are truly amazing aren't they? It's one thing reading about how good a dog's sense of smell is but when you see it in action it is truly incredible.
We had a fantastic morning this morning. Harv had a whale of a time and I swear he had a massive Cheshire Cat grin on his face for most of the time! And I am truly amazed at the immense ability of dogs to track scent. I think we have finally found Harv's 'thing'
Yeah, me too. It never fails to excite me, I find it totally awe inspiring.
Fantastic write up, thank you, I felt I was right there experiencing it, it's great that you have found Harv's "thing". Quite wonderful.
With the lack of practice, I sometimes think having a break isn't a bad thing, often going back to a particular behaviour I find with Cassie that she still knows it, and can often perform better. I believe it's quite a well known learning thing, can't think of the name for it though