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I’m curious how others (yes, Kim too!) view the subject of speed in a search – actually, I guess I don’t mean SPEED so much as the general PACE of the search.
Some dogs are simply high energy, fast and independent – and the best the handler can do (especially early on in training) is use leash and body language to keep the dog from running roughshod over the entire search area in 10 seconds flat – often rushing right past hides (at least initially) in the headlong rush to be about the hunt. This type of dog may work FAST, but search TIMES are sometimes slower overall than slower-moving dogs that work more efficiently.
The opposite is the dog that meanders into the search zone at a walk, pausing to take in the scenery (hopefully taking in the “odor picture” at the same time) and proceeds to search at a walk – this can work fine if the search area is fairly small and the dog focuses on the hunt and heads straight for the hide(s). But given a larger area and/or multiple hides and the team risks timing out or missing hides.
The handler, IMO, has at least some control over the pace of a search, right? True, the dog’s basic nature can’t (and shouldn’t) be changed, but I think a handler can take what the dog presents naturally and find ways to use it to their advantage and/or help the dog learn to speed up or slow down enough to improve their performance. We just need to be aware of what we can (should?) do to help our dogs.
For example; a fast dog can learn self control (within reason) and can learn through on-leash practice to slow their headlong pace and work a pattern better rather than always ping-ponging around the search zone at top speed. My Baxter is a good example of a fast dog who could benefit from being more efficient in his searches. He is quick, but we seldom earn placement ribbons for search times. Then again, a lot of that extra time could be placed directly on MY shoulders once we got to NW3 – getting comfortable calling “FINISH!” is for sure a learned skill. 😉
Speeding up a slower dog … if you could, would you? Should you? Pros and cons? I love watching an efficient, methodical dog work odor. No rush, no fuss – but they can go straight from hide to hide and done – often beating the times of more “speedy” dogs! The focus is sometimes amazing. But there can be a downside, too.
Using adorable Biscuit as an example; she was very diligent in her hunting, but between being a small dog and (in this search, at least) moving so slowly, it would’ve been hard to even cover the entire search zone.
I found myself wondering if there was a reason you, Susanne, kept the pace so slow in the container search video you posted? Knowing Biscuit, I’m aware that she CAN search at a quicker pace (she’s quite the lively little girl!), so were you walking slowly intentionally or was it simply a case of ‘she slowed down so you slowed down so she slowed down …’? 🐕
I’ve seen this phenomenon bring a team to a dead stop 😮 and even result in a false alert when the handler accidentally sells the dog on a spot by standing still. You didn’t do that, of course, but you did run out of time. 😮 Would you have been comfortable at a slightly quicker pace? IF you’d walked faster, would Biscuit have walked faster, or do you think it might have worked against you?
I guess what I’m trying to ask is; did you slow Biscuit down in that search, or did Biscuit slow you down? 😀
What methods do you guys think are good ways (starting in practice, not at a trial) to teach our dogs to work faster or slower, without interfering too much with their natural hunting style? What do you (anyone – jump right in 😃) do to build hunt drive and speed, or improve focus and perhaps slow down a dog that would benefit from that?
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