Today I volunteered at a mock Nosework trial - an entire day spent simply volunteering. I had originally entered Perri in NW1 (Nosework Level 1), but we had some issues with Perri's bleeding ulcer and GI upset a few months ago and Perri did not feel like training after that. I waited two weeks after her recovery but it was not long enough - Perri was speaking loud and clear, "I do not feel like doing this anymore." When I e-mailed the host of the mock trial to cancel our entry, she asked if I would like to volunteer to learn more about the sport and I agreed to it.
Fast forward to this week, I did not feel like volunteering. Do Not Want. As I have mentioned in the past, I have never felt very interested in K9 Nosework. Never felt that spark. I was doing it for Perri, thank you very much. And when we took our "break", I was feeling more and more content to just give up on the sport entirely. There is plenty to do with a dog and I'm not going to keep begging Perri to do nosework. Our "break" might last indefinitely. There was just this pesky volunteer detail I had agreed to.
And it reeled me back in. Oh nosework you are hard to give up on!
We started with NW1 (beginner level, the level I would have been doing with Perri.) I went through the walk through with the handlers. I saw all of the elements, and it looked like fun to me - fun for Perri and I. I felt so absolutely sad that I was not there with my girl. That we had been derailed once again. I ran the timer for the exterior element - the hide was hidden in a hole in the base of a tree. You might find a geocache in such an area! It was absolutely fascinating to watch the teams. Many people literally pulled their dog right off the hide - they assumed the dog was searching for a rodent. Some even verbally said that. This is fascinating to me because it shows just how much you need to trust your dog. The birch odor hidden in a tree was a bit sneaky, but it was a really good lesson for both the handlers and myself, observing.
We had a lunch break. I found the multicache hidden in the picnic grove where the even was held. I took Perri for a walk (she actually joined me on "stage 1" of the multicache, since it was not hidden anywhere near the search areas. Yes, Perri was along even though she was not participating!) It was soon time for the NW2 and NW3 teams. The dogs indications were stronger, their confidence was higher. There were challenges - I got to see first hand in NW3...you don't know how many hides there are. That is so hard for me to wrap my head around, I really cannot imagine!
The entire day left me feeling so inspired. There were so many different breeds of dog, as well as mixed breeds. There definitely does not seem to be one dominant breed or "type" doing this. The dogs all had their own way of working odor. It was just all so fascinating, and in my crude uneducated way of describing what I see....it is like "watching how dog's think." When they work odor, you can see the path they take...and it's like a door into their world. I love it.
When I started Barn Hunt with Molly, I loved seeing her in this different way. Seeing the world according to Molly. I feel very motivated and inspired to start Nosework with Molly. I had planned to wait until later - when she was retired from agility. When she was "old". But, why not now. Why not explore this new Molly-dimension further. Agility created a relationship with Molly for me - we grew to love and respect each other through that sport. I cannot describe it, but I feel that this is the next step for Molly and I. We are well on our way to being a strong agility team, and there is no reason to wait on deepening our relationship in this sport. Because Nosework is a true test of communication between species. The human is blind, and you must first train your dog to communicate with you, and then you must learn to "read dog" and "trust dog" in order to know where the odor is. Fascinating. Molly's first Barn Hunt practice, she struggled with working independently. She was looking to me for direction. That has improved. I am interested in taking a few more steps down that path, I am interested in deepening our bond and communication skills even more.
As soon as I got home, I started foundation work on birch odor with Molly. She is handling it like her typical, food motivated and pushy self. We are going to have a lot of fun.
And then I took a deep breath and I set an interior hide for Perri. She was in a deep sleep, exhausted after a day of attending to my car's passenger seat. I woke her up and asked her to search. Tail up, fast, confident. We did another. And after Molly's second session, we did two more - threshold hides this time.* She nailed all four hides tonight. Perri is feeling better again and she is ready to continue our training!
Nosework, I just can't quit you.
*Threshold hides are hidden in the doorway or entrance to a search area - so when a dog goes blasting into the search zone, they might miss that the odor was right at the start line with them. (Tonight, Perri ran past the first threshold hide, but the second time she was onto that trick and indicated nearly immediately.)