This has been a real stressy, up and down week at our house. Monday and Tuesday night, Bailie and I had our ORT (odor recognition test) with Mom. In order to really understand how it all went down, I have to tell you a bit about Mom’s feelings on success and failure.
Mom is real competitive. She can’t help the way she feels and doesn’t expect everyone to understand, but she doesn’t handle failure, or missing a goal very well. Mom is a lousy team player as she doesn’t trust others to help her achieve her goals which is why she loves sports like running, golf, tennis (NOT doubles). If she loses, she is real hard on herself. Going through Obedience School with Bailie was the first time she has ever really partnered with a dog and had to worry about someone other than herself for success and failure. Mom put her all into training and Bailie passed, Mom was happy, Bailie could care less. Nose work is really a sport that requires Mom to fully put her trust in us and that realization really hit home the past week or so. At the ORT briefing she was told the objective was to have fun and just enjoy the time with your dog, but Mom had to “win”. She only wanted to get that alert and pass the test.
The ORT is very secretive, so we weren’t allowed to be taking photos of much stuff. Mom did take more photos of me as she had a better idea of what was going on than she did the first night with Bailie. On Bailie’s night it was cold and pouring rain too, which did not make for good photo ops. A handler is only allowed one dog per odor per night, which is why we each had a different night. The above photo was me waiting for my turn in the car. Holding paws with Mom is relaxing. I was the eighth dog on Birch Tuesday night.
Monday night Bailie had her test. It was the first time for any of us to try an ORT. Mom was confident Bailie would pass with flying colors. She didn’t think much about success and failure because failure wasn’t an option. Well, Bailie failed (actually, you don’t fail, you get a “miss”). Mom was in shock when Bailie went to the same box twice and it was wrong. There is no second chance, they say no, and you are done. Bailie was happy as could be, not a care in the world – it was fun for her and they were done. Mom’s first reaction was to be mad at Bailie for not doing her job, but then she was mad at herself because maybe she caused Bailie to fail. Bailie said Mom cried a little bit in the car on the way home. Mom had to learn to deal with the fact that she was helpless and she needed to find a way to work better with Bailie to pass the test the next time she has a chance.
Tuesday night Mom was pretty scared as I was not doing well on my training at home. I was choosing every box and Mom really did not expect me to pass. The thought of two failed performances had her considering dropping out of nose work altogether. Mom talked to me a lot…I wish I could have said clam up, but I just let her ramble. We finally got into the test room and started. I sniffed all twelve boxes and did not signal a single one. Mom panicked, now what? We decided to go around again but Mom and I switched sides. I sniffed each box again, but on the second row, I stopped, started to lick and paw at one box. Mom decided this was me saying it is here. She called alert and heard “yes”. What happened next almost killed me! I got my reward but she hugged me so tight, I could feel my stuffing coming out my ears! She was so happy and so proud of me doing a textbook search. Life was good again!
What did we learn from success and failure?
- Mom learned that she has to spend a lot of time learning to understand and read us.
- When you fail, it isn’t the dog, it isn’t the pet parent, it is the working together than broke down, the communication.
- Nose work is all about knowing when to help your dog, how to help your dog, and what is your dog thinking/smelling.
- Step back from it, sleep on it and go after your goal again the next day.
- Make a new plan of action – hopefully in July Bailie will try Birch again and I will try Anise.
- Remember, dogs don’t feel failure in tests like this, we are just happy to be with our pet parent doing a fun activity. Try to think like a dog and enjoy those moments.
- Doing nose work with us will be good for Mom as she really has to learn to trust us 100%. There is no way in heaven she can find an odor without us! This will be wonderful for bonding.
- Talk to your instructor for guidance. On the second night our instructor gave Mom some ideas as to why Bailie may have failed and she gave good pointers on how to help me succeed.
- Most people think it is easy, like they see on TV. A dog searches and then sits or barks when it finds what it is searching for, but in reality, it is so much more complicated than that. Finding the odor isn’t always the hardest part, but reading your dog is hard and we don’t just sit or bark like on TV. Nose work classes for fun are also much different than an actual ORT. Just a little movement of air can throw a dog off.
- That saying on the sign above: “Don’t just have a dog, have fun with your dog.” is really the key to life with a dog!
If you succeed, it sure is fun getting tons of loving from your mom! She is so very proud of me and in some ways I am glad Bailie failed because I was able to remind her that I am the boss around here!
I’m ready to get back to nose work class and the fun of it all. Luckily there are only three odors, and you only have to pass an ORT one time for each odor in order to qualify to compete. We need lots more practice, but still hope to do some competition next winter.