Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sniffer dog training

There's been quite a push (mainly in the States) to identify "new" dog sports or activities that the average pet owner can do with their dog. As with some of the more established sports, they seem to be largely based upon "professional" dog handling, which is then adapted, codified and turned into an activity that anyone can take part in.

Daisy, Cybi and I are currently taking part in a class which uses the principles of drug detection dog handling to create something that any dog can do. The class is taught by our wonderful tracking teacher and, every two weeks or so, one of my dogs and me trot off to a little village hall in the middle of nowhere to work on their ability to identify the smell of various essential oils when hidden in boxes, luggage and indoor and outdoor search areas.

It's got a lot of traction in the USA, where the discipline is known as "K9 Nosework", under the banner of the National Association of Canine Scent Work and is in the very early stages of being established over here. One of the beauties of it is that it is intensely mentally demanding, while not asking too much physically, which is great for youngsters and older dogs, or those that don't have the physique for something like working trials. Another nice thing is that the dog isn't competing against others, but against a standard, so it's a better measure of how the dog is learning and progressing.

Cybi learning how to find a scented tea bag!

We're currently working on locating basil-oil scented items from all over the house. Apparently basil oil is repellant to most dogs, but my two both keep trying to eat the items, which makes me thing they didn't get the memo on that.

Find out more about the basics here

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Weebles wobble....and apparently get carried about

Daisy and Cybi got a treat dispensing toy for Christmas which they are having a really fun time with. It's made by a company called "Ethical" under the brand Contempo, and seems to be more easily available in the USA, though we got ours from The Range here in the UK.

For those that are old enough, the thing it reminds me of the most is a "weeble". It's heavily weighted in the base, so it will rock when bumped by a nose or paw and then return to upright.

The base can be filled with treats, and there's a dial which determines how easy it is for the treats to get out of the base, and into the main part of the toy. Then there are a couple of holes in the top of the toy that let the treats out when the whole thing is rolled or tipped in the right way.

The idea is really sound, although I wouldn't let them play with it unsupervised, as the plastic is quite flimsy higher up the egg, and as quickly became obvious, the shape is very tempting to pick up and carry about. Neither of my two are really heavy chewers, but I think I'd be concerned about letting a dog with chewing tendencies play with this - too easy to get through the top.

This video (apologies for the quality - it was dark!) show Cybi getting to grips with his new toy. And also getting frustrated by his new toy and having a little temper tantrum, bless him.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year, same old training

Well, it's the first day of 2015, and I'm already trying to decide which of the multiple training disciplines that the dogs are involved in we should work on this afternoon. My dogs and I are definitely overcommitted, I do know that, but it's hard to decide against any particular sport when they and I both enjoy it, and the variety keeps them interested and engaged. Plus, I guess it's me that has one eye on competing with them, and getting them to the standard they need to be at in order to do so - they don't care, as long as they are having fun. Given that, if it takes a little longer to reach the required level in each thing because they do more things then really, who cares?

The pair of them have had really quite an extended Christmas vacation with no training at all, so I'm expecting today to be an absolute disaster whatever we do. The various clubs we're part of all finished relatively early (complete with Christmas parties for most) and then unfortunately a spot of personal life drama got in the way of a smooth run up to the actual Christmas period, and completely blew out the prospect of getting anything done between Christmas and New Year. Doubly disappointing, as we were scheduled to go on a series of workshops over a day that dealt with the foundations of 2x2 weaves, crate games and beginning to put agility sequences together, that would have been perfect for my pair's experience level.

Updated: I opted for tracking training. A nice easy start back, and something that they both do enthusiastically, especially Daisy. We'll probably do a short session later on finding treats hidden in boxes and dotted around the kitchen as well, in advance of their next scent work training session on Thursday.  Still need to work on those corners though - this slightly blurry video is from their last session learning to track. Daisy has got the cornering thing somewhat better sorted than Cybi, who still seems to be working partly by sight, but they both need to get the idea embedded that they need to be paying attention for the possibility of a 90 degree bend in the scent they are following.

And it wasn't a *complete* disaster, although they have both done better in the past. I guess it's kind of like the first day back in work after a holiday, and your brain feels like cotton wool :)