Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sarah: Indoor Airscenting Fun

Playing with Pip this AM up in one of the guest rooms, I put the anise-scented cotton ball against the corner of a closed door. Returning to my eager teammate, I told her to "Find!"  Zipping in, she went first to the location of her last find. Nothing. Then she went to the location of the find before that. Nothing. Then, having used all her memory had to suggest, I heard her turn her nose on. She started snuffling her typical pattern, circle out a bit from one "last seen location" and then the other. Checking a few spots out as she went back and forth, one to the other.

When this came up dry, she worked the perimeter going right past the cotton ball several times. I realized then that the scent was probably being pulled under the door into the other area, much like water might seep from one room, under a door, to another. And, with the scent being pulled away, it was largely "invisible" in the room we were in.

After about five minutes, Pip returned to me, sat and stared. I did not move, I did not make eye contact. Usually she breaks off in a few seconds and gets back to work, this time she did not.

We're new to this particular scenting game and my job is to protect her desire to try above all things. So, still without making eye contact, I took a few steps into the center of the room and told her enthusiastically to "Find!" From there she spun and went directly to the cotton ball. Click/toss a major treat.

Did I somehow orient her to the find? Not that I am aware of but much of the most interesting stuff in scent work handling happens well outside our conscious awareness. I'll certainly watch for it in the future.

Ms. Pip is picking up this game quickly, stay tuned for more reports on this fun canine activity.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Melissa: Back on Track

The snow is gone, the sun is shining, and it’s starting to feel like spring, so, even though it’s cool and windy today, it is time to TRACK again! It’s been a few months, so I decided to start the season off with a fairly easy, warm-up track. Four legs of moderate length and two articles, which for Milo is just enough to whet his appetite.

My 12 year old nephew was helping me by gathering clips and carrying items for me, and his younger brother and father were following along, so this was a family occasion, rather than my usual solitary time in the field. I laid the track, drawing my map, as usual, then let the track age while we had some lunch. After lunch I showed the map to my nephews and brother, explaining the two-points-make-a-line principle, and explaining cross tracks to my helper-nephew (next time he will lay some cross tracks for me),then we let Milo out of the car. He had already figured out what we were up to, and he was bouncing in the car as if on a pogo stick. I imagine the ticker tape in his Beagle brain was reading “SCENT-nose, tracking, scent-NOSE, tracking, scent- nose- TRACKING! LET’S GET GOING!!!

We headed up the hill to the start flag, harnessed a dancing Milo, and off we went! Milo sniffed around briefly and headed straight up the track, with me explaining what he and I were doing over my shoulder to my nephews and brother (I know Milo can handle me doing this, especially on such an easy track). I stopped a couple of times, as I often do, so that Milo will be comfortable and confident if I stop for any reason during a test. The first time I stopped, he sniffed around to make sure he was on track, then kept going with confidence. The next time he seemed to realize I was just asking if he was sure, and he surged ahead confidently. I love the communication we have as we track together!

Turns were not only not a problem for Milo; he clearly enjoyed the variety and wagged his long tail happily as he moved on with the confidence of an experienced tracking dog. In the past, Milo has sometimes seemed to view articles as insignificant detritus on the track and he has sometimes been inclined to skip over them. Not so today. Today he stopped abruptly for both articles, waiting eagerly for me to reward him and pick them up, then he quickly moved on down the track, tail wagging joyfully. A great start to a season that I hope will be filled with tracking adventures.