Susanne Howarth

NW301.1 – Part A

This was an interesting exercise! Containers have been a bug-a-boo for Blackie and me, as they are often the final search of the day, when we are both tired. At that point in the day, Blackie seems anxious to just get it over, and has a history of racing in and pouncing — with great determination — on a random box/container and insisting that it’s HERE! After a couple bad calls, I learned NOT to trust my dog’s immediate response, and at our NW2, friends who were there were impressed with how I was able to distinguish between her suggestion of a couple of boxes (distractors and/or guesses) and how I then called the appropriate ones. I won’t say I feel confident on this element, but I’ve learned a lot!!!

Anyhow, in regards to this first exercise, you’ll see on the video that I have a total of 20 boxes in our driveway, three of which have hides. The odor boxes have large yellow post-its on them — which unfortunately aren’t all that visible in the video! One is on a brown Amazon box, towards the back (garage) center/left of the pile (Box 1 – Anise). Another is on one of the higher profile white boxes, towards the front left (Box 2 – Anise). And the third is on a USPS lower profile box on the right side in front (Box 3 – Birch). There was a fair amount of breeze — as can be heard on the video — blowing from the street towards the house.

As she approached the start line (the edge of the driveway), Blackie was clearly working and sniffing. So I paused her for a moment there, and then let her decide when to cross the start, without cuing her to search. She fairly immediately raced to what I labeled above as Box 2 (hitting it at :07), ignoring (but perhaps cataloging?) Box 1. She then proceeds to Box 3, hitting it at :14, and finally acknowledges Box 1 at :28.

Once she had hit all three hides, it is interesting to watch, because only then does she begin to check all of the other boxes. I rewatched and plotted her course through the box field. She explicitly hits 19 of the 20 boxes in the next minute and a half (i.e., before I endedthe search), not necessarily in any particular pattern — although, I just drew the pattern of her search, and it actually goes more or less in a counter-clockwise circle around the search area. The only box I did not see her explicitly touch is one directly in the middle of everything, so she probably “checked” it adequately on each of her passes near its perimeter.

Also, once she has found the three hides, she “guesses” on at least a couple of blank boxes — looking up at me briefly on a white box to the left at ~1:09, then standing on a brown box to the left at 1:12. She returns to each of the odor boxes multiple times: hitting box 2 three times (:26, 1:21 and 1:31); box 3 three times (at :12, :54, and 1:14); and box 1 twice (:33 amd 1:40).

I also noticed that after she had found all three, she started deviating out of the official search area, onto the grass, as though she were looking for an edge that she couldn’t find — because it didn’t exist. Ultimately, I’m curious about this exercise and what it might look like if I try this with only one hide in 20 boxes. I may have to check that out tomorrow, just for grins!