It was a busy weekend at Wild Dingo. Our Saturday obedience class with Loki & Juno was was pretty much a disastor and made me want to crawl into a hole. But that's another story. By Sunday, I was seriously wondering if Loki was going to be in a working mindset for SAR practice. We haven't practiced SAR in 2 months because we've been working on numerous other behaviors and activities, but he pulled out two really decent searches and one mediocre search.
Rather being instructed for this class, we had only two search opportunities and we were being evaluated with constructive criticism on how we train our dogs in SAR.
Since we haven't searched in months, and we were in a brand new unfamiliar location, I decided for my first search with Loki I'd put him "in drive" to search rather than have him do a cold search (an unknown person already hiding on the field) right off the bat. I set up an easy, fast search with a person he knows and has searched for before to let him understand what we were there for. The target teased Loki then ran away to hide. When the target was hidden, I walked Loki in a circle to disorient him, sat him and gave him the cue. Loki ran 40 mph out of the gate and flew past his target. He then came to a screeching halt as if he ran into a brick wall. It was obvious he lost the target's scent. Loki then made a 180 degree turn and a diagonal beeline straight to his target. The whole thing took about 45 seconds. Success! It was an immediate find. This is the kind of practice that sets the dog in drive to want to search.
For my second search, I decided to test him on a cold search: a new area (other side of the park), new hiding place, a new person who is already hiding (he doesn't know who he's looking for). I took him out of the car, forgot to check the wind (bad me), sat him, put him in drive and released him. A few times he fell out of drive--he would potty or sniff a gopher hole. One time he "found" a person sitting at a picnic table (it's still a find but not a rewarded find) and I had to move him along and give him his cue. He found his target, kinda-sorta. She was in the woods near a tree. He was 3 feet away and saw her but ignored her. When I saw that, I made the mistake of leading him to her by giving him the cue again and pointing. He eventually went to her. The find should happen without any help from me!
His cold searches are still not where they should be but then again, I haven't really worked them as much as I'd like to. When the class ended, a few of us stayed behind and did one more round. This time, I had him smell a scented object from the target before I released him. It took about a minute or two, and he ignored another person hanging out at the picnic table, but he found is target lying on the ground in a playground sandbox and he went right to her on his own this time.
I forgot to get photos from this weekend but below are photos from one of his searches in February. This was at a high school with a child hiding in some sort of concrete structure. It was a cold search, meaning, the dogs did not know who to look for or where to look. Children are harder for dogs to scent because they are so small. The scent should be coming up out of the structure's hole. All the dogs in class found the child.
"Mom, what are we doing here and why are all those people up on the hill watching us? Are they here to watch me do zoomies?"
"No Loki, no zoomies. We're here to find a person who's holding hot dogs hostage!"
"No way Mom! What kind of sicko holds a hot dog hostage? Lemme at 'em!"
"I don't smell anybody down here."
"Oh wait, there's a bunch of smells over here."
And just when I am relieved to think he's found the person who's hiding in this structure below...
"Hmm... I smell pee-mail from Rolf and Mika!"
(Yes, about 5 other dogs pee'd right there.)
"I'd better leave them a pee-mail or they may think it's rude that I didn't return their call."
Sigh. He misses the find the first time.
Loki runs off but it becomes obvious to him that he lost the scent and makes his way back on his own.
"Wait a minute. There's nothing over there. I could have sworn I smelled something other than pee-mail back there before..."
"Yes, I think I found the hot dog terrorist. But I'm so confused. Where can she be?"
"There she is! Release the hot dogs little lady!"
Yes, sometimes dogs leave pee-mail when they work. Sometimes they go potty. We all have to go potty when we work. It's perfectly fine. The important thing was that he lost her scent and came back to her and when he couldn't figure out how to get to the scent, he went up. He made me proud that day!
A few weeks after this search, he had to be tested on a cold search in the woods for a person laying down in some bushes. We had 5 minutes. He found her in just under 3 minutes. In the end, Loki doesn't have a super high natural drive to search, but the more I work him in it, the more comfortable he gets. I love watching him work. He's actually an easy dog to train in many ways. But compared to other dogs working search, I can see his drive to do it is much lower. I still enjoy it because it gives him confidence and as our trainer once said: "I'd rather have a mediocre dog searching for me than no dog searching for me if I were stranded!" Woof!
And Now A Word from Juno
Mr. Wild Dingo has been gone for a while and is on his way now to Shanghi. He has a soft spot for girls who disregard him and has requested photos of Juno. He sent me the photo below of the woman he's been seing behind Juno's back:
Mr. Wild Dingo tells me this girl above has a better recall than Juno because she comes running to the fence any time Mr. Wild Dingo approaches.
Juno is not amused with how and with whom he's been spending his time.
"Pop, I think it's time I meet you in Shanghai to reorient you in proper Siberian behavior."
"For the record: just because I'm getting in this suitcase to meet you in Shanghai does not make it an excellent recall. I'm only coming so I can ignore you face-to-face."
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