Saturday, November 16, 2013

Follow Your Nose

As an update to my last post, I'd like to say that Hermione and Roscoe's nose work sessions have been going very well. I've been impressed with both of them and have found it challenging working with each dog. It's been easier for me to know when Roscoe is ready to move ahead and how far to push him. Hermione is a little harder to gauge, but if I've moved beyond what she's ready for, I just go back to something that is easy for her and try again. They both love it. They are starting to know when we're getting ready to do nose work training and both get very excited. Roscoe always goes second, since Hermione needs to release her energy first, and I can hear him upstairs, padding about and whining while he waits for his turn. 
After our second session, I began to worry that I was ignoring Nala and since my last working relationship didn't go all that well, I am a bit hyper vigilant about making sure Nala and I get our own time. I started thinking that I had to find a way to work some kind of training or working session in with her as well, but I don't want her learning nose work. The last thing I need is a "nosy" guide dog. So, on my third session, I took her down to the big empty room in our basement first and worked with her on basic obedience. I also took her whistle down and did some recall from sit and down stays. Then, I threw her squeaky pig for her for a while. This kept her from whining too much when I was working with the other two. So, I think I'll keep doing this with her.
Hermione has advanced a bit since our first day. She can locate our treasure box under objects and at levels above her head that are about knee level or mid-thigh on me. Anything higher and she can't quite find it yet. She's using her nose more-I hear more sniffing-but I let her see me moving the box around. From where I tie her to the door knob, she can't always see where I am in the room, but she can hear me and I think that helps. She's also started to sit when she finds the box. Sometimes I have to lure her or remind her, but sitting to alert to a scent is the next step. So, when she started offering it on her own for some of the scents, I began having her sit at every spot that she finds. If she's going to offer me the behaviour, I might as well encourage it and make sure she does it consistently. I really need to get a harness for her since she gets so excited now, she runs on her back paws, unless she remembers to sniff the ground. I think she's doing a lot of air scenting. However, I laid kibbles at random intervals which forced her to sniff the ground. From what I've read, dogs need to do both. So, I won't discourage the air scenting, but want to help her use her ground scenting as well.
As for Ranger Roscoe: he's advanced a lot. He was air scenting a lot too so I laid the random kibble trail for him a few times too. It seemed to show him that he could do both because after that I heard a lot more ground sniffing. He needs a harness too because the leash/collar combination seems to be getting in his way. The leash being attached too close up to his face accidentally re-directs him a bit and restricts his movement somewhat. That probably could be helped by using a longer leash, however, I need to be close to him for now in order to be able to "see" what he's doing.
So far, he is able to locate the treasure box under things, behind things, tucked into corners, up on shelves that are about chest level, all while not watching me place the box. As our last trick yesterday, I took the box completely out of the room we've been working in and hid it in a different room; tucked between the washing machine and dryer. I left it sticking out a bit so that he could see it. At first, he ran about the room that we've been working in, despite the door being open. As he got closer to the open door, I said, "find" in a more excited voice. I sort of leaned my body towards the door, but didn't walk myself that way. I don't know if it was the body movement or if his nose picked up the box, but he dashed for the door and began sniffing around frantically. Within a matter of seconds, he had found the box. I wasn't sure if I had pushed him too far at first, but obviously not because he found the box in less than three minutes. It was pretty amazing and exciting to watch him go from searching mode, to a little confused, to sniffing and searching again. The sheer joy that showed through his entire body wagging when he found the box was so nice to see.
I don't really know why I didn't think of doing this with them before. I really didn't have the room, but now I do and I'm so glad we're doing it. I think soon I'll be able to move away from "cookie smell" to actually training Roscoe on specific scents. Hermione may stay on cookies for a while longer and she may not be ready to leave our "sniffing" room as quickly as Roscoe has, but working with her is just as enjoyable.


Brooke, Cessna, Canyon & Rogue said...

That sounds like a really cool thing you're doing with Hermione and Roscoe, you'll have to send me the link you're working from and maybe I'll start doing this with the dogs, they'd love it!

torie said...

Would it not be a bit dodgy teaching rosco though since he is still working for mr k is he not? It's hard to know what to do with our working dogs. Xxx