In addition to the confusion I mentioned in my previous post, Clark also gives up searching the boxes if he doesn’t find the treats in the first 15 or 20 seconds of searching. Unlike the confusion caused by the similarity between the box exercise and eating forbidden food, I think this behavior is much more about his expectation of being told what to do, and his discomfort at self-directed action. One of the reasons I wanted to start nosework is that he is generally very dependent on his humans to give him direction and help at the slightest obstacle. Treat puzzle toys are completely lost on him–he looks for help almost immediately, and gives up once 30 seconds of effort doesn’t produce a result.
With the boxes, I ignore his requests for assistance and start a slow stroll around the pile. He’ll often follow me, because that’s his default behavior. Sometimes, that will get him close enough to the treat for him to break off and go investigate; sometimes I have to start looking at the boxes for him to restart the search.
In any case, once he’s found the treat, he gets to eat it, and then I give him lots of excited pets, with lots of “Good pup! Well done! Yay pup!” Hopefully, this makes it clear that searching and finding is the right thing for him to do.
We’ve been doing a little nosework box practice at home, and some of the hesitation I was expecting to see in class is definitely in evidence. Clark is pretty unsure, at least at first, about what it is he’s supposed to be doing and whether he’s allowed to interact with the food in the box.
I think part of it is that he’s pretty well trained not to eat food off the floor, and this may be a little too much like that–he gives lots of appeasement behaviors as we approach the box pile. A gesture from me towards the boxes and a “Go ahead!” in an encouraging voice is usually enough to get him to go investigate.
As we continue, I think I’ll have to help him differentiate between a searching environment where he should look for food, and the rest of life where he should continue to ignore it until it’s offered to him.
Today was Clark’s debut at K9 Nosework. When we did nosework-like activities in previous training classes, he spent a lot of time staring at me instead of sniffing boxes, so Z and I were both prepared for more of the same. But there must have been some little neuron in that brain that remembered the fun that came when he eventually got around to sniffing the boxes, because this time, he was READY. SO READY.
He zoomed over to the box pile and started sniffing, stomping, and scooting the boxes around looking for that sweet, sweet hot dog.
Note that the box is no longer touching the ground…
He even tried to climb in a couple boxes–just to be extra thorough? I don’t know.
I had to remind him that he’s a beefy pit bull, and not a little box-sized corgi.
In any case, my low expectations were blown out of the water. Pit bulls may not be known for their noses, or their brains, but they bring a zest for life like no other dog. Clark showed today that he will search, and search with ENTHUSIASM.