Can your scent dog search independently at a distance? Watch demonstrations with coaching as our students test their skills with the fun SDS Distance Handling Game Version 1, the game we’re playing at Sniff Alberta’s SDS (Sniffing Dog Sports) nosework competition on Oct 7-8, 2017 (Calgary): https://youtu.be/oc6mg59V1Wc
We begin with a blind search at the Excellent level. Then I’ll show you novice teams doing Novice Searches, with comments on how to improve their handling. For complete rules, check out http://sniffingdogsports.com/SDSDistanceHandlingGame.pdf
The novice teams in the video are registered in our Level 2 Nosework Class at Kayenna Kennels. It was the first blind search for the newest teams. Because Hunter’s Heart introduces level 1 classes to odor in the scent detection lab with the dog searching independently at a distance, most students found handling from a chair at 10 feet a fun, and doable search. Having said that, most handlers weren’t sure of their dog’s abilities. The first time you do a blind search, you’ll probably feel a bit stressed. The most important thing is to reward your dog!
Whenever you’re working on distance, it’s critically important that rewards are placed at source! If the rewards always come from the handler, there’s little reason to leave. Don’t say your dog’s name when you’re sending him to work at a distance, because the name is usually associated with coming when called, and causes most dogs to do a head check. In nosework, we want independent obedience to odor, not handler focus. Don’t start until your dog is focussed on the boxes. To send your dog away from you, take a step forward and send out with an arm movement like you’re bowling. Once your dog has left to search, then you can sit down and wait to call the alert. You can bolster the confidence of some dogs (who enjoy people), by having the judge and/or assistants stand near the boxes to encourage the dog to search there. Once your dog finds source, click or mark the moment with a verbal yes, then go to source to deliver rewards there. If the dog stays at source and offers his indication behavior, deliver extra rewards at source.
I hope these searches will inspire you to try an SDS distance search at home and let us know how you make out. If this distance search is too hard, modify so you can succeed:
- Put your dog on leash
- Decrease distractions in the environment
- Stand instead of sitting
- Ask an assistant to stand close to the boxes, luring the dog with his position to help increase the dog’s confidence
- Move the chair closer e.g. 3-5 feet from the boxes
- Decrease the number of boxes
- Go back to the fundamentals to clarify your dog’s understanding of where to go (source) and what to do when he gets there (indication), then revisit this game when he’s ready.
Practice will help you to build strong habits, so when it comes to the test it’s easy to rely on your k9 partner.
Thank you to Katherine Glowacz & Juno (NSDTR), Annelise Freeman & Rio (Flatcoated Retriever), Sarah Daloise & Boomer (Puggle), Stephanie Sokalski & Axel (Pitbull X), Kim O’Neill & Jake (Kelpie) for being good sports, and sharing their nosework journey. Thank you to Joe Richardson, as always, for your assistance. And thanks to Kayenna Kennels for giving Sniff Alberta a fantastic, safe, fun home to play nosework.
In the weeks to come, check back to see how our students are progressing. Have you tested your dog’s independent search skills by handling from a chair? How did you do? Share your comments below.