I was talking with someone today about blasting dogs and missing thresholds. We both had tried or advised starting further back from the start to help with checking the start area more thoroughly. It works. They get to blast and then settle into the search many feet in. By adding in that 10-15 feet distance from the start we, however, continue to support their longer “recovery” time to get to work. But there’s a better way!

What is recovery time?

Recovery time is the distance or amount of time it takes your dog to start working, either from the start or again after finding a hide. At the start, they can be amped up – excited for the hunt and respond with blasting in and wanting to move. They may also be a dog that needs to acclimate and feel safe in their environment first before settling into their work. This also applies to working multiple hides. After finding a hide and getting reinforcement, they can still be thinking about that yummy reward and experiencing a euphoric high. That is when they’ll miss that next close hide. What is your dog’s recovery time? How far do they move on before they are actually searching again for the next hide?

How to decrease your dog’s recovery time!

We can pattern our dogs to check the first boxes or threshold area more methodically. For blaster dogs, set your hides in the first few container positions more often than placing them deeper down the line. Same with search areas – place more hides near the front. You’ll pattern your dog to search from the start. Dogs understand patterns! They’ll learn that searching from the start will lead to reinforcement sooner than blasting off.

For softer dogs – dogs who need to check out their environment first – practice in familiar areas and set up SMALL search areas. Place only 4 containers in a row – so the visual context is simpler with no other “noise” or distractions. You can also use an “odor bomb”, using more odor strength in the hide so that it POPS to your dog!

I will also employ a one pass rule – if your dog misses a hide after one pass, they go back to the end of the line and wait for another turn. I used to feel this was too much of a consequence but have not found that to the case. Usually they know there was a hide there so next time out they nail it! They decrease their recovery time and find those hides! I’ve been working with both online and local students on this with great results! And remember, this is a drill, not how I would handle every search! It’s specific to working on finding threshold hides and decreasing your dogs recovery time.

You can either restrain them a bit at the start or just let them work through it with coming back or getting one pass and another turn. Dogs will learn this quick – what doesn’t lead to reinforcement and what does!

To work your dogs recovery time between hides – start with containers. Add a few cold then 2 hots in a row and a few more colds. Place them further apart to start – say 10 feet then move them in closer with each success. Expect that your dog may blast by the 2nd one, it’s almost guaranteed! With practice and patterning, they learn quickly, but don’t expect it to happen overnight!

For your new dogs starting out – spend the time to teach this very important skill of searching from the start!

Here’s a short video working both threshold hide placements and 2 hot containers in a row – this was made more difficult with buried hides!

How much can you reduce your dogs recovery time to find hides?

Want to learn more about setting up these types of training sessions? Check out either of my upcoming classes at FDSA starting February 1st and now OPEN for registration, NW460: Woulda Shoulda Coulda – Learning from Trial Experiences and NW120: Introduction to NW Search Elements. I will also be presenting a webinar on Nosework Search Patterns – Friend or Foe, on February 21, 2019.