Susanne Howarth

    Yesterday, we videotaped two iterations of Part A of lesson 2. We did it twice, because I managed to mess Blackie up on the first round, by questioning her about an alert. I’m going to go ahead and post both versions of this search in one post – I think the learnings are relatively similar in both. Here’s the first video:

    You’ll see that I have 15 large boxes, suitcases, recycling bins, coolers, etc., arrayed in 3 columns of 4 each and one (on the left) with only 3. In this first search, the hides can be found (1) tucked under the flap of the plastic bag in the white recycling container in the left hand column, at the front of that column; (2) in the upper handle of the tall black suitcase that is the only luggage in column 3; and (3) tucked in the upper flap of the large cardboard box at the back of column 2. All three hides were clove, and there was an intermittent breeze blowing up the driveway, towards the garage.

    Not surprisingly, Blackie does a nice job of running almost directly to the black suitcase, hitting it and alerting on it at :18. However, I thought about a trial situation in which I would have questioned such an immediate alert from her – so I stepped back from it a bit, and she immediately came off and – just as immediately went to the brown box, which was kitty-corner from it. I reward her there at :25, but instead of going back to the suitcase, she decides that I have “told” her it’s not there and from that point on almost studiously ignores it.

    She continues in more or less a counter-clockwise circle around the search area, hitting the white recycling bin at :44. From there, she continues on around, leaving the search area with a look like “we’re done, right?” at about :58 and then hitting the box for a second time at 1:04. At 1:24, she ventures onto the grass, and at 1:47 she knocks the second white recycling bin over while checking it. (I like the fact that she wasn’t fazed by the noise it made when it fell.)

    At the 2:04 mark, she tries to exit stage left, and when brought back into the search area, starts guessing: sitting at the upside down feed container (blue handle on top) at 2:19 and asking about the blue laundry hamper at 2:24. All of this would have signaled me that she had found everything there was to find.

    Finally, at 2:42, she hits that black suitcase again and alerts. I reward her, and we end this search.

    I’m not sure what to think caused such great difficulty in this search! Perhaps the fact that I had close converging odors AND they were the same scent? Perhaps the odor on the suitcase wasn’t all that strong or was being absorbed by the fabric, such that when she found the odor on the box next door, she decided that there was only one hide? In a trial situation, I suspect that we would have failed on this one: I probably would have accepted one of her assertions that she’d found everything. In reality, I suppose that the best course of action (in a trial) would have been to bring her back to the suitcase to inquire explicitly whether she was sure that there was nothing there after all.

    In any case, for the second iteration, I left the hides in the same containers and simply moved the containers around to position the hides slightly differently. In round two, you’ll see that everything has shifted to the right, and the third column is now the short one. The hides are (1) in the black suitcase that is closest to the camera; (2) the white recycling bin at the back of column 2; and (3) the brown box at the front of column 4.

    What is interesting in this search is that Blackie notices the brown box at :17, but doesn’t immediately commit, working around it a bit until she is willing to commit at :24. Then, working in her typical counter-clockwise circle, she goes to the back, works the breeze off the garage, but in the process, bypasses the hide on the white recycling bin back there. At :52, she alerts and is rewarded for the black suitcase, and then continues on around – checking a few things in the middle of the circle and returning to the brown box at ~1:10. Interestingly enough, she almost immediately comes off that hide with only a minimal cue from me that we already found that one. From there she goes fairly directly to the missed recycling container (at 1:19) – perhaps having used the brown box to triangulate?

    This time, I elected to keep her in the area after all 3 had been found, and she circles around, checking most of the containers a bit more carefully, including causing one of the black bags to roll – again, without any consternation on her part. Finally, around 2:14, she notices a couple of neighbors walking up the street, but alerts on the box at 2:16. She then barks at neighbors and returns to the black bag at 2:29. At that point, I decided the distraction of the neighbors was a good reason to reward one last time and call it quits.