Susanne Howarth

Interesting to see the mention of corners, since that was one of the challenges I chose for our first video — and I hadn’t yet read this thread! Anyhow, thinking about your questions:

With Biscuit, we usually do stop at the warm-up boxes, as she seems to like to find that super simple box and get rewarded. However, I’ve learned that the boxes can be a distraction for Blackie: by the third search of the day, she’s looking at me as if I’m crazy for asking her to find the same stupid hide in the same stupid smashed in box. It’s almost as if she starts second-guessing what I want: I’ve asked her to do them so many times, I must want something other than a simple alert, so what could it be???

As we are waiting for our turn, and moving from crating area to staging area to search area, I just try to focus on my girl and watch what she is doing. If we have to wait at a staging area, I may have her do tricks, since that is a part of our usual pre-agility run routine, and I think it calms her and shows whatever gate volunteers are there just how stinkin’ cute she can be! (Showing off like that also calms ME, which is good!)

When actually approaching the start line, I definitely try to watch my dog, and then to allow her to cross the line on her terms, whenever she is ready. We do NOT do a formal sit or wait at the start line, but perhaps could do a better job of checking for threshold hide, in particular since Biscuit isn’t all that fast a searcher. And similarly, we don’t do anything to try to rev her up — although she’s not a speed demon, I’d be afraid that revving her up might simply result in dashing past odor.

As for where we put on our search vest, I try to do that just before we walk the final distance to the start line — e.g., at the final staging area. I’ve tried to instill in my girls the idea that we do NOT pee or poop when the nose work vest is on, and therefore, I try to keep that vest off except for during actual searches — i.e., it goes on at the last minute and comes off as soon as we leave the search area.

As for what to do with the leash when working off leash, I hold it coiled in my left hand so that it’s ready in case I need to leash her up.

Regarding planning the search, I usually have some kind of very vague game plan in mind at the start line, but I try to let my partner dictate where we go. After all, she’s the only one of the two of us who has a clue as to where the odor is! I figure my role is to follow her lead and try to be sure we cover the area fully. That’s clearly a skill we need to develop better!