This week, Alfie got to find his very first canine "target": Hickory, a spunky and adorable mini dachshund. We started off by using gloved hands to rub a sterile gauze pad all over Hickory to get a good scent sample. Then off he went to hide with his handler (this time, Charissa), while I covered Alfie's eyes.
After several minutes, I snapped the tracking line to Alfie's harness, his signal that work (or is it play?) is about to start. Then I give him the scent item and the "smell" command. At this point in training, that's a little superfluous...Alfie had already seen AND smelled Hickory and is smart enough put two and two together! Still, keeping to the procedure is important for later, when I'll ask him to trail a target he's never met before. Finally I give the "find" command...again it's hardly necessary, but hey, I like to feel like I'm doing something!
A brisk breeze made conditions challenging and caused Alfie to work slowly, circling and weaving as he went along. He did not follow their exact path, often preferring to trail along a hedgerow where their scent had no doubt collected against the windbreak offered by the vegetation. After about a quarter mile across a field, a path, and through a semi-wooded area, he plunged sharply left through some brush to find Hickory in a cement drainage culvert. Yeah!