Susanne Howarth

    We finally had time to video and edit a repeat of the exercise with fewer and fewer hides, and the dining room worked a bit better in terms of getting more of the action on the video. It also seemed that Biscuit had less difficulty with the hides, which I tried to put a bit lower than when I first tried this exercise. Also note that I added one extra search to the exercise, removing all hides from the room and asking her to search in a room with no active hides (not necessarily a clear room, since there was definitely residual odor). Note that all hides are paired and accessible.

    Here are the stats as I see them:

    Search 1 – 3 hides: first find at :04; then :25; last at 1:20. The challenge with this search is that at :36 she leaves the search area and only returns at 1:00, when she follows my body pressure/calling back into the area and returns to the second hide (closet to where I’m standing). Thereafter, she does a better job of searching the wall she had cruised on her way out of the area and finds the final hide. I don’t see her particularly notice that third hide on her first time past it.

    Search 2 – 2 hides: at 2:14 and 2:51 – even though the second hide hasn’t moved since the first search. (On this search, I pushed into the room right away, to turn the DR lights on – that sort of changed her search dynamic and resulted in me “leading” a bit more than for the others.) She leaves the area at 3:08, and returns fairly quickly. She then checks the first hide again and then dutifully checks the side of the room to which I was trying to suggest she hadn’t paid enough attention. But from 3:00 on, she’s definitely checking in with me more and starts to look up, eventually even jumping onto one of the chairs to see if maybe that will help her find the elusive hide I keep telling her has to be there.

    Search 3 – 1 hide: found at 4:18 (self-reward at 4:21). I intentionally put this final solo hide in the middle of the room, under the table, because Biscuit hadn’t particularly paid any attention to that area except when I asked her to in the second part of the search. Of course, the reason she ignored it previously was that there was nothing there, as proven by how quickly and directly she found the hide this time! Once found, she wanders rather aimlessly, and I cut the video at 5:19, because she went back into the camera-hidden area and didn’t do much of note from there until I called it.

    Search 4 – no hides: This one was pretty interesting, because obviously, there was residual odor from the first three searches, and indeed, Bisky does a nice job of checking the prior hide locations and not finding anything. She enters the room with tail wagging and enthusiastic to work, but by ~6:00, with no hides found, she tries going up a bit, looks back at me, and leaves the area.

    Overall observations:

    1. I think Biscuit’s tail is a good barometer of her search enthusiasm. When in odor or indicating there’s still something to find, it wags a lot – more than one wag per footstep. Once all has been found, that slows down and even stops at times.

    2. When actively searching off leash, she hardly even looks at me. When she no longer senses any hides to find, she starts looking back at me. I wonder to what extent being on leash would change this dynamic?

    3. She’s pretty good about NOT returning to hides she’s already found until all hides have been found, and she doesn’t particularly expect to be repaid when she does return. However, I know this isn’t a super strong indicator, since I also have seen her (in other exercises) use prior hides to triangulate to a new hide. That said, I’m guessing that returning more than once to the same hide without some other sign(s) of active searching can perhaps tell me to call finish.

    4. All of these hides were low, so this won’t necessarily be a good indicator, but once all were found, she started to try for higher hides – raising her nose in hopes of finding more than what she had found at the level she had been searching. Perhaps the better way to describe this is a significant change in the level at which she is searching? So if high hides have been found, changing to sniffing the ground would be the cue?

    So, what else do you see and what do you suggest for next steps? I can see a couple of possible variations on this theme…

    1. Repeat the exercise but start with a clear room (and use a place other than the dining room; one that we’ve not used for a while so NO residual to interfere) and then build up to 3 hides.

    2. Repeat the exercise but include some inaccessible and/or high hides, so as to see whether that varies the results.

    3. Repeat the exercise on leash, to see how being tethered to one another changes the dynamic.

    Obviously, several of these options could be combined and/or intertwined to make yet a different scenario; and obviously this exercise results in some LENGTHY videos. (Sorry! I tried to edit it down – but what you’re looking for is what changes once all is found, which necessitates seeing before and after.)

    Let me know your thoughts – and observations!