Tango and I have been practicing Nose Work. It's a relatively new sport, and for the first time on the East Coast, the Odor Recognition Trial (ORT) was offered.
This was a little bit of a big deal. First time it's been offered waaaay over here on the East coast. It's been a West coast sport for a couple years and is finally drifting over to us.
The trial is relatively easy: there are 12 boxes and Tango just needs to indicate the box that contains the scent (birch). He'd been rippin' it up at home — finding the correct box every single time. He was good! We were ready!
Yeah, except I wasn't ready. We approached the start line and I gave Tango the "Find it" cue. Except he wasn't looking at me. Being the happy Labrador that he is, he was quite enamored with the judges. Oh, and the spectators, he liked them quite a bit as well. The boxes that might or might not contain the odor – yeah, not so interested in those. Which was NOT a good thing.
The leash got tight. Not a good thing. Tango sniffed the boxes, he sniffed the floor. He went completely off course. He wagged at the spectators. He sniffed the boxes again.
He paused at a box. I alerted. Once you alert, you're done. If your alert is correct, you "win." You get your ORT. If your alert is wrong, you're done. Finished. No second chance.
Well, Tango was wrong. Or, should I say, I was wrong. I thought I was right, but one day later (tonight), Tango proved how good his nose was. And with that proof, it was really easy for me to shift the blame from him TO me.
Here's how it went down: it was dark and I was throwing Tango's tennis ball in the back yard. He typically chases it, somehow locating it in the dark, and always brings it back to me. I throw like a girl (go figure) and I must have tossed it into the lilac bush. The lilac bush, for the record, was pretty far away. I should get points just for getting it TO the bush. Never mind the fact that I threw it into the bushes; we'll just ignore that for now, ok?
Except that I thought it went into the grass. I prompted Tango to "find it." That's the same cue we use in Nose Work. It was pitch black outside. I thought the ball rolled through the Hostas and came to rest in the Lilac Bed. Tango kept looking up into the lilac bushes.
I knew quite well that the ball was not in the lilac bush. I distinctly heard it roll through the hostas! I cued "find it" again. Still, this crazy dog is looking upward! What is his problem?!
Finally, in frustration, I turned the back flood lights on. Guess what I saw? About eye level (to me) in the stupid lilac bush?
That stupid tennis ball.
So clearly, the fact that Tango blew the ORT on Friday was on me. Not on him. He knew where his tennis ball was in the dark in the tree! Ok, so I was more than humbled.
I was a bit embarrassed. Not to mention I was crushed that *I* was the reason Tango didn't pass his ORT. It wasn't Tango. It was ME! Talk about humbled…
So. I'm not sure when our next chance at the ORT will be, but you better believe I'll train hard. I'll work my you-know-what off so I can be the handler Tango needs so he can pass the ORT. I have my marching orders: TRUST YOUR DOG!
Aww, cute. Is it wrong to say, “your dog is always right?” Don’t beat yourself up Laurie, everyone makes mistakes, even us humans every now and than. Love you. Kisses to the kids.
After a number of tracking disagreements, Laev and I have an new working contract — when she and I disagree, I believe her. When we really, really disagree, and I’m sure she just can’t be right, we quit the track on a neutral note and start completely over. Doesn’t happen often at all, maybe once a year, but I’ve learned that her nose is better than my memory when it comes to tracklaying.
I would really, really like to do Nosework. I offered last year to host events in the Midwest but got a very lukewarm response and no follow-up, so nothing for us. 🙁
Honey and I are starting Nose Work at the SPCA on Wednesday. I can hardly wait.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect based on the reading I’ve done so far. It sounds like I need to really concentrate on the communication between Honey and me and rely on her to do the smelling.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I look forward to hearing about your continuing work with Tango.
Brad Wagoner says
I know what you mean. Sometimes we need to just get out of our dog’s way and follow them for a change. I’m sure you’ll do fine in your next trial.
Sounds like a great activity.. Luna already half does this as she is a bird dog working toward her master hunt title… and we have played “Find it” with her bumper since she was a puppy and I can now put her up and have her find it when she didn’t see where it went.
How early do we need to register?? I need to figure out how this class would play into other training that’s going on. Also are there any basics they should know first?
Laurie Luck says
Do you mean how early do you need to register for an ORT? As early as possible. They fill up fast. The one in MD had a waiting list…
Thanks, my only concern with the class is how it may affect her in the field. I may need to hold off until I finish what I want to do in the field with her. The last thing I need is her sitting when she finds a game bird, otherwise I think she would totally excel at this class, just not sure I want to risk any confusion.
Laurie Luck says
Anna, we don’t even introduce odor for the first 12 weeks (two entire courses). We won’t introduce an alert for an even longer time.
Angie Falcsik says
Laurie, I know how you feel! I teach nosework classes and one of my dogs (my Belgian-Trace) is doing excellent on Birch so we went to the Chicago ORT Easter weekend (I’m in the trainer cert program). Trace gave a different indicator & has environmental issues so we too “missed”. It was a great learning experience however & am so glad we went!