Handling Check-In: Are You Rushing the Search?
Regardless of why you are involved in Scent Work (to have fun, to give your dog a "job" or to compete at trials), there are some common truths that apply across the board.
One of those is that human handlers have no concept of time when they are running their dogs in a search.
We see this ALL of the time in training. A dog is actively working an odor problem, not stressed, not frustrated, simply working. Suddenly, in moves the handler to "help". ... Except it has been a whopping 15-. maybe 30-seconds.
This desire to step-in is understandable at the end of the day. We want our dogs to be successful...WE want to be successful!
But pinning down where exactly source may be takes time. Odor is COMPLICATED. We as human beings are only barely scratching the surface of understanding how complex this all is...oh, and the fact that your dog is also detecting millions of other smells at the same time, all of which are competing for their attention, further complicates things. Translation: this is HARD and your dog needs TIME to work it out.
So the next time you feel the need to step in, take a breath instead. Just wait. If you took the time to ensure that you were not over-facing your dog when you set-up your search, that they did indeed have the skills to locate this hide, as well as the proper understanding of the game to sort all of this out...they will be fine.
It may take them 1-minute, 2-minutes, 5-minutes even 10-minutes to do. It doesn't matter. Allow them them the opportunity to learn.
When they DO find the hide, make a big deal of it! Reward them heavily. Celebrate with them. Let them know how proud of them you are. Think of how big of a boost it will be to your dog's confidence if after 6 minutes of hard work, where they stuck to their guns, didn't give up but rather kept pushing, they found the hide and YOU, their favorite person in the whole wide world, showed them in no uncertain terms how awesome they are...what a great gift to give to you dog.
Better still, they will probably be able to work out that very same odor problem in less time the next time they see it. Win-win.
So ask yourself, are you rushing the search? If so, maybe it is time to take a breath and let your dog work their magic.