How well do you understand the impact of wind on vehicle searches? Here’s a link to a 2 minute video of an advanced vehicle search so you can test your knowledge of wind: https://youtu.be/nLg5FQ473oA
It’s a cool, moderately windy day for a Sniff Alberta fun match judged by Joe Richardson (thanks Joe). There are 3 hides on one transport truck (1 birch + 1 clove + 1 anise). The wind is generally travelling from the right side of the screen to the left.
Challenge: Stop the video when you’d call alert for each of the 3 hides. Make a note of the time on the video for each alert you called. This dog’s indication is a freeze with focussed attention. After you’ve watched the video and recorded your answers, compare you times with my commentary below.
Training Goals Calling alerts too early generally results in a false alert, because you haven’t allowed the dog enough time to find the exact location of source. Calling alerts late will waste time. And the later you are in delivering your rewards, the more challenging it is for your dog to understand what you want him to do. It will take far more repetitions and frustration as a result. Some dogs may leave source, and some may offer undesirable or aggressive responses, including digging and biting. Never forget that blind searches work on the human, and known searches work on the dog. So you should learn the theory first. Next train your dog with searches where you know the exact location of source and can deliver a timely marker, followed by rewarding at source. Only after you understand the wind and have completed many successful practices of known hides should you attempt blind searches.
Spoiler Alert: The following are my comments on the search and times for each alert.
Carla’s Commentary and Time Markers
At the start of the video (0:13), you’ll see my dog’s head snap as he catches odor at the rear left bumper. He is in odor, but may not be at source. Odor might be blowing across and underneath the bumper from the opposite side. Before I call alert, I need Boo to check both sides of the rear bumper. When I ask him to check the right rear bumper, he freezes (0:22). This indication tells me he has made a decision and I can call alert #1 with confidence.
Next, Boo circles the vehicle counter-clockwise. When we’re behind the third set of wheels on the left side, Boo is pulling strongly like he wants to go under the vehicle (0:48-1:09). It’s unsafe for a dog to go under a vehicle, so I don’t let him go directly to source. But that odor plume provides me with crucial information: I strongly suspect that there’s a hide behind the third set of wheels, likely on the opposite side. Before I call alert, I need to make sure Boo checks both sides to find the exact location of source. At 1:14, I lead him to the right side of the vehicle. Boo freezes when he finds source there, a little bit above his head (1:28). Having checked both sides, I’m sure of the location and call alert #2. (Please note due to the position of the camera, this is the hardest indication to spot, since you can only see the dog’s posterior when his nose is frozen and eyes focus at source.)
There is only one hide left to find. We trot past the areas we’ve already searched, and circle the vehicle counter-clockwise. At 1:39, Boo lies down and freezes behind the first set of wheels on the right, with focussed attention upwards. When he lies down, I know the hide is low. While it’s possible that wind is blowing scent from the opposite side, we have already thoroughly searched both sides. So I believe the source is a the exact location of Boo’s nose and call the third and final alert.
How was your timing for calling alerts? Aim to call your alert within 2 seconds of the behavior (or less). If you were consistently late, or you don’t understand how wind affected the search in the video, focus on known searches where you can reward your dog in a timely manner, while you work on expanding your knowledge and skills.
Summary of Wind in Advanced Vehicle Searches
So, to recap, whenever you do a vehicle search outdoors, you need to know the direction of the wind, and to notice if and when it changes. When your dog shows a change of behavior that tells you he’s in the scent plume, ask yourself if the source might be on the other side. If it makes sense that wind could be blowing odor under the vehicle from the opposite side, you must ensure your dog has checked both sides. If he hasn’t searched both sides, lead him to the other side before he alerts so he can check there too, and tell you where source is. Only your dog can indicate the location of source, but it’s your job to ensure you’ve checked both sides, before you can call each alert with confidence.