Search PACE – dogs and handlers (both)

  • Creator
  • #8734
    Deb (De) Frost

    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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    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 …’? ๐Ÿ•

    I’ve seen this phenomenon bring a team to a dead stop ๐Ÿ˜ฎ 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. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ 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? ๐Ÿ˜€

    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 ๐Ÿ˜ƒ) do to build hunt drive and speed, or improve focus and perhaps slow down a dog that would benefit from that?

Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
  • #8736
    Terry Wright

    Well you’ve all seen slow poke Taku work. I know in my heart that he/we will not get any ribbons for time ๐Ÿ™‚ And I’m ok with that.

    I know there has been talk about speed and drive, I’m not sure off hand how to get Taku to speed up. Unless it is somehow worked like the *running bunny* on vehicles is worked. Have hides fairly close together, probably paired so they can self reward until you can get into to reward. With my slow dog, sometimes he leads and sometimes I find that I’m leading to a point he hasn’t checked out. Should he always be in the lead?? I don’t know.

    Not sure how you’d slow down a fast dog!! Would you want to?? With a fast dog, I think as a handler you’d have to make sure that they have covered the whole area/all the containers from all sides.

    Interesting topic! More lessons for B2B Part 2 ??? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Carolyn Murray

    I guess I fall more into the school of thought that we aren’t teaching the dogs to do anything – that the dog will do things the way he sees fit.

    The best thing that I can do is attempt to control the environment (as best we can within our limited understanding of what might be going on). So from that perspective, for a dog that tends to move in a more frenetic manner, I would create some serious odor obedience, use very simple hides, and also use the leash to restrict the dog’s range in hopes that they don’t build crazy behavior into the search. The goal would be that being focused pays quickly.

    For a dog that tends to move at a slower pace, I wouldn’t be so concerned about the dog speeding up as I would about strong odor obedience and successful exposures in increasingly larger areas. Sometimes there is a reason why dogs move slow during the hunt and I wouldn’t necessarily push a dog to do things faster at all.

    My personal experience is that I have one dog that tends to be frenetic and one that is slow and deliberate. I’ve spent the last year trying to work with Scout encouraging her to be more thoughtful during the hunt but not to change the way she hunts (if that makes sense?). We paired for about 6 months to build odor obedience and my emphasis is now on simple, easy hides so that she has fast success and gets paid early. Of course, I’ve also used the leash to limit her range. The last thing I want to do is to dampen her enthusiasm for the game, so I try to work in such a way that I minimize my impact on her decisions…try being the key word here. ๐Ÿ˜‰ She’ll hunt all day and I’m lucky to have a dog like her.

    Cooper moves much more slowly and cautiously than Scout. I also spent 6 months pairing and building odor obedience with him. The only thing I can do with Cooper is to make sure I pay really, really well. If he doesn’t feel safe, or if he senses too much pressure from me (hurry up and find the hide), he will shut down. When he is having a good hunt, he totally smokes Scout. If he loses his enthusiasm, we are done.

    Of course, there is also the wild card: Me! I do some really dumb stuff and these dogs do a fantastic job working around me. Sometimes they even make me look good!!

    Deb (De) Frost

    Oh, isn’t that ever the truth, Carolyn! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Those dogs can make us look so dang good when they are ON! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

    Susanne Howarth

    I’ll chime in on the topic of slow searchers, because Biscuit definitely fits that description. I try at the start line to let her set the pace, and if she sets a reasonable pace, then I simply follow. However, I find that she sometimes needs a little encouragement to keep moving along — otherwise she exits search mode and is just exploring the environment… in great detail. Therefore, I find it helps to use a bit of body pressure (really just motion on my part) to keep her moving along and searching. I’ve also noticed that when I do this — when I set our next direction — she’ll often pick up her pace as she finds herself in odor. It’s a noticeable difference.

    And yes: lots of easy paired hides has helped to get her to set a more energetic pace from the start. Our B2B exercises have her moving a bit faster, I do believe!

    Gina Baker

    I tend to agree with Carolyn โ€“ each dog is different and I am not sure if you can change the way they search/hunt all that much or should. Kalli is slow and methodical, through exercises and practice that Kimโ€™s classes have provided, we have made progress but when it comes to trialโ€ฆ.
    Our last video – containers โ€“ As I said is a typical search for Kalli when there are multi hides โ€“ 9 times out of 10 she will go back to the hide she has found. We set up training sessions to get her to move on and she did well but when it is a trail situation -whether it is my nerves or the environment sensitively – she will revert back to what makes her feel comfortable โ€“ going back to the hide she found, so I feel my job is to support her and gently move her on. We will keep training for her to move on and maybe someday she will be confident enough to move on with out my help.
    And agree that it may just come down to our job is working the environment to make the search more effective with gentle leash and body pressure. I do think there is a fine line for both fast and slow dogs for not discourage the search and fun.
    Sometimes I think it is also our attitudes โ€“ if I am very up and happy, Kalli tends to move faster, if I am in a bad mood โ€“ you can see the difference in her searching.

    Yesโ€ฆwild card is always the human – dogs are forgiving and amazing!

    Deb โ€“ Kalli and I will never place either.


    Speed kills!

    LOL! It’s a phrase some of you have probably heard from Agility but it can certainly be true in NW. As Deb/Sue can attest after watching Zen run last week, there is definitely a time/place for SLOWING down a fast dog. Some need time to gather their thoughts instead of realizing halfway into the room that they missed that threshold hide. Had I started Zen on leash instead of off-leash we might have gotten that one faster. But after much debate w/myself (as Sue pointed out to me w/o hearing what I was saying out loud!) I decided to cut him loose and he bolted to the back of the room. Yep, we found a hide at the far end of the room but boy did we miss a lot in the middle!

    I think Sue has a good way of looking at speeding up a slower dog by using your body pressure to pick up the pace a bit.

    For anyone who has done competitive obedience, one of the things we see is the handler who slows their pace to meet the pace of a lagging dog. It just makes the dog lag more. Pick up the speed and all of a sudden the dog perks up and strives to keep up. Body pressure has a lot of uses! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Kimberly Buchanan
    Joyride K9 Dog Training

    Susanne Howarth

    It’s absolutely a fine balance. It seems like half the time in our weekly classes I’m told that we’re going too slow, and half the time I’m told to let Biscuit take the lead.

    Those of you with speed demons have the opportunity to cover a search area twice. Biscuit and I need to plan to cover it once — we’re not likely to get back to those places where I may have noticed a tiny head tilt of interest. So it’s always a challenge, no matter which dog you have — the speed demon, or the slow and thoughtful pup!

    Terry Wright

    Susanne, Taku is in the same boat as Biscuit… slow but sure and we basically only have the time to cover the search once.

    Edited…. I wanted to also say that I’m ok with no placements. As long as Taku is enjoying the game!


    And let me chime in; Even those of us with faster dogs do not often get placements so when we do it’s pretty special. It’s usually the middle-of-the-road dogs who are fast enough, methodical for the search and dedicated to finding odor w/o stirring it up who end up on top. And that’s not usually us but I don’t care, either! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Kimberly Buchanan
    Joyride K9 Dog Training

    Linda Bath

    What an interesting topic. Molly is slow and methodical, filing everything as she goes. I do believe in the last year she has started moving more efficiently. Going back to pairing helped. I have never believed Molly would earn fast times, but she will check out the whole area! If, her handler lets her.

    Susanne Howarth

    I do have to say that I was very pleasantly overwhelmed at one of Blackie’s unsuccessful NW1 trials when she placed on one of her searches. I knew we hadn’t titled and was sitting at the awards ceremony, grumbling to myself about what a waste of time it was to be stuck there, waiting to retrieve my scorebook, when they called our name and I was SHOCKED! Needless to say, that was before I adapted to the pleasure of ALL trials, regardless of how we did. It was also before we started having a lot more success, based on me having a better attitude!!!

Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)

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