Monday, October 20, 2014

Nose Work Camp - Part 1

In late September, I was lucky enough to spend an amazing four days with both Catty and D'light at Nose Work camp!

For those of you not familiar with Nose Work here are two great links that show and talk about Nose Work:

  Nose Work and why it's so amazing!

National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW)

Originally I signed up just D'light since I didn't think Catty could deal with all the car rides. However, we've been doing a lot of work with Catty in the car that started back with this post Ongoing car work with Catty  I finally figured out what worked for Catty and since then we've had no car issues!  What's the trick?  Give her a frozen raw meaty bone!  Why does this work for Catty?  She's very food motivated and a raw meaty bone is the top food item in her book - highest reinforcer she has. So, She gets to chew on the bone (frozen lasts longer for her) and her sole focus in on that bone so, she doesn't look around and she doesn't have any emotional space to get anxious since she's so fixated on the bone!  By the time she's done chewing on the bone she's pretty worn out and then she lays down - it's amazing and I'm so happy that we've found something that works for her!

So, about 3 weeks before camp I found out that she could come along and I jumped at the opportunity for her to have a work spot.

Here's Catty on our way down to Portland - this was a 3 hour drive and she did great even when were were at a dead stop in traffic!

Tired girl after all that bone chewing

The main reason I decided to attend camp was thanks to my in-laws. They live 30 minutes from camp. I knew that if Catty or D'light became overwhelmed at camp they could go back to my in-laws and stay there while I attended camp without a dog.  With both our dogs I always have a back up plan and this was a perfect one.  So many thanks  to my in-laws for always opening up their home to Catty and D'light!

Once we arrived at my in-laws, Catty and D'light kicked back and relaxed while I went to camp orientation.  We broke into our teams, had dinner and went over the program for the coming days - it's was an exciting time! 

Camp location!

This camp was so well run - I was more than impressed. It's not easy to manage so many working teams (there were 80 working teams spots available).  Most teams stayed on site in cabins or the lodge.  I was one of a few commuters and check out this top drawer service - my own labeled parking spot!   

Beautiful sunrise at my in-laws and off to camp we go!

There was a great little park about 5 minutes from camp.  So each day we stopped on the way to camp so that the dogs could get a quick walk in and we could all work off our jitters before our training sessions!

Nose Work has four elements:  Container search, interior building search, exterior area search and vehicle search.  We practiced all four elements at camp and it was a ton of fun.  All of the dogs at camp were on odor so that's what we were searching for!

Each working session was roughly 1.5 hours - we had  six dogs (including Catty & D'light) in our working group.  There were a total of 10 working sessions throughout the four day camp.

Below is a container search and you can see the arrow pointing at the odor box. We did a number of different container search and the focus of the session was around watching how we cue our dogs with our body language.  What we are looking for in our dog's body movements when they are in odor and near/on source. As a handler there was lots of great information throughout this working session!

Catty and I waiting our turn.  Since Catty is reactive towards other dogs, we wear a red bandanna so others know this.  Camp allowed for 11 reactive dogs and I was thrilled that Catty was given the opportunity to attend!

Catty was amazing through out the whole camp!  I was pretty worried about how she would do - how would seeing so many dogs in a new environment impact her?  Would she be able to work or would she need to stay back at my in-laws.  I'm thrilled to say that we had lots of fun and while some the environmental challenges (dogs in the distance) were at times challenging for her, we worked through the challenges and she was a rock star!

"Do I really need to wear this?"

Onto vehicle searches!  Both Catty and D'light do well with this element and the focus of this session was:  have FUN with your dog - play, experiment to build success, teamwork and confidence for both of you.  Our exercises were set up to give immediate success and this by far was D'light's best working session because of the immediate success that was set up for him. With Catty we quickly saw an increase in her drive to get around the vechiles to get to source odor.

We did a lot of  different searches - one being in this wheel well.  See the arrow pointing at the source of odor

Waiting for the the next session to start - Catty says "Bring it on!"

This session was an interior building search.  The search area was a good size and the focus of the session was around how to set up objects in training and how to work with the dog in front of you.

This was one of my favorite sessions and here's why:  The instructor told us to frequently ask ourself "What is best for your dog?".  We need to work on one goal at a time and remember that dogs don't go from zero to hero - it's a process. We want to build on success, that's how confidence builds in the handler and the dog.  Always ask yourself "What does your dog need?".  Always have a plan to fit the dog in front of you.  You want to teach them NOT overwhelm them so know your partner.  "Communication" - your dog is always communicating with you so pay attention to it!  Instinctually every dog can do scent work but, we have to help build focus and confidence.  

See the arrow to the left - that's where the odor is located

The camp photographer was in our session so it was great to get these shots of Catty.

Catty is on a mission to track that odor to source! 

And up she goes - you can see the tin holding the odor above her head/near my arm.   Good girl Catty!

Our next sessions was a number of exterior area search of which one was a water hide.  I thought this was the coolest thing ever and Catty  quickly located the source of odor!
Just a mud puddle - and the arrow tells you the hide

The birch oil is on a cotton tip in the black tube and the rock is keeping it submersed.
D'light had an abbreviated camp.  Meaning I had him sit out some sessions or we only worked a couple of hides in each session rather than all the hides.  My goal with D'light coming to camp was for him to experience a new environment where he was under caring eyes of top level Nose Work instructors.  I knew that the instructors would set him up for success and that they would support me advocating what sessions and hides would help D'light to emotionally stretch in this new environment.  
More waiting for our turn and Catty had a ton of fun at camp! She's an awesome partner!

Love my sweet Catty girl!

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