Thursday, September 20, 2012

Can You Read My Dog?

I set up a search for Muriel in my backyard on a recent hot and dewy morning; and with the help of my two year old son and a Canon T3i that's nearly idiot-proof, I captured an astonishing number of out-of-focus pics of my determined little cattle dog mix hard at work.

Take the K9 Nose Work® search quiz and see how well you can read my dog!


I've set up a two hide search in an area roughly eighty feet long by twenty feet wide, with the start line/threshold bisecting the search area lengthwise. The search will be off-leash and I won't really be an active handler (other than to provide rewards for finding the hides) since I'll be behind the camera the whole time.

The start line is the threshold in the doorway opening out to
the rectangular shaped search area 
View from inside the search area and just to the right of the doorway/
start line
Looking across the search area (the wall is opposite the doorway/
start line)

1. As a K9 Nose Work handler looking at this search area, it would be important for me to know:

a) Which direction the wind is blowing
b) How tall the grass is
c) how many cracks are in the concrete patio


2. Based upon the photo montage above, Muriel is:

a) Showing no interest in the search area
b) Catching scent and choosing to go to the right as she enters the search area
c) Waiting for me to tell her what to do


3. Assuming these photos are ordered (top left, bottom left, top right, bottom right), it appears that Muriel is:

a) Trying to source a hide in the large crack in the concrete
b) Closing in on a hide on the tricycle
c) ruling out the patio area


4. This sequence of photos (top left to right, bottom left to right) shows Muriel is:

a) sourcing a hide suspended in mid-air
b) working drifting odor
c) dancing to the grass to relieve herself


5. Based upon the photos, Muriel appears to be:

a) trying to escape
b) telling us the hide is low
c) chasing scent back and forth along the wall; bracketing


6. In these photos, Muriel is:

a) checking the wall for cracks and the tires for air
b) Being obedient to me
c) sourcing the hides and sitting to alert me to them

All quizzing aside, some interesting things happened during this search. Here are photos of the hide placements up close, and answers to the quiz along with some additional details about the search:

Tin hidden under the front fender

Clear tube with cotton swabs wedged in between bricks on the wall about
four feet up from the ground

The quiz answers are as follows: 1.a, 2.b, 3.b, 4.b, 5.c, 6.c 

At the start line, there was a slight, but noticeable breeze blowing into our faces, so we were downwind of the odors - a good place to be. Muriel sniffed both sides of the threshold, but chose to follow her nose to the right and out the door.

Once she entered the search area she locked down the tricycle hide, circling once between the center support post for the overhang and the tricycle itself, before detailing the tricycle, finding the hide, and alerting.

Muriel left the tricycle in search of the second odor, which she picked up very near the house and air scented all the way to the grass. Interestingly, because I was taking pictures from the patio, Muriel remained trapped under the overhang working drifting scent for thirty to forty-five seconds. She climbed both sides of the table on the patio and she fixated on the center support post for the overhang - nearly going to an alert at one point (although there were none of the signs leading up to the alert that would have made me believe it in a blind scenario). It was only once I changed position in the search area, moving to the grass, that Muriel broke free of the "scent trap" and started working the wall. Nice lesson learned regarding handler positioning and the "invisible leash" our dogs can sometimes be tethered to even when we think they're free to follow their noses.

Once Muriel hit the wall opposite the start line, she began bracketing the odor, working to the left and right and climbing the wall - clear signs she's locking down a high odor. It took her a while to source the hide, maybe because scent was staying high, travelling along the grooves in the bricks and she thought it was out of reach for her and telling me it's up was good enough. Once she checked high within a few feet to the right of the odor she was able to work the scent back to source and alert.

Overall, a challenging search for Muriel - especially with me present, but not doing my part as handler. A number of the things talked about in past posts played out in this search, and hopefully the pics helped make concepts like drifting odor, waiting at the threshold, and a dog's behavior changes in odor seem a little more concrete.

Happy Sniffing!

p.s. - Here's a pic of my junior handler in training. Doing his best to hold onto Muriel until she picks up the scent coming from the tricycle hide!

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