It is both heartwarming & a little ear shattering when my husband comes home. Our two tiny Chihuahuas bark, make loud squealing noises. My Giant Schnauzer barks, a high pitched happy sound. For the puppy this is a bit unsettling. The household is quiet & peaceful then all three of her dog-friends erupt in a loud, rambunctious chorus. Last night I waited until the car was parked. I released the Chihuahuas so they could greet him, then waited for the initial 'attack' to die down, then I turned the puppy outside. My husband was doing something by our garage in the shadows. I waited until I saw that she had reverted to using her nose to try to locate him.
I told him not to speak but just wait. The Collie searched for a good bit, then got distracted when she saw me. I urged her, "Find Dad? Where is he?" Her nose was hard at work. When she got distracted again I had him make a noise & she was refocused & zeroed right in on him.
While it might appear to many as if we're just playing a game with the puppy. Nothing could be further than the truth. This is not a game for fun, this is an important need. I want all my dogs to be able to find my husband or myself should we be down & unable to summons help. There is no 'game' to this training. This is quite serious. Imagine if your small child wandered out of sight in cold rainy weather. Is it better to have to call authorities & hope they'll have a tracking dog with a high success rate? Or is it better to look to your family companion & say, "find Bobby" or give the dog a whiff of Bobby's car seat & send the dog to seek out & locate Bobby? Personally I know what my dogs can do because I start them as soon as they arrive.
Another thing I will do is go out into the yard with my pup & when she's not paying attention I will tuck in & hide where I can watch. If I've done my job properly, at some point she will realize I'm 'missing'. It is then that she will first be a little panicked then she will enter the invisible world of scent. Humans can not tell a dog how to track. Our noses are weak compared to the power of the dogs'. What we can do is read our dog, praise them for staying in the work, in the scent & stay out of their way & let them work. So I remain silent & let her find her way to me through the invisible world of scent. When she finds me there will be excitement. I will praise her, "GOOD FIND." I pet her & make a deal about it.
By doing this handler lost exercise it does two things for the dog & her training. First it gets the dog to use her nose to seek out the most important thing to her: HER HANDLER. Secondly, it makes the handler more interesting to the dog. Who is more interesting, the handler who just plods along in the yard saying get out of this or that or the handler who suddenly gets lost? To the dog, that lost handler becomes very important, very interesting. Furthermore you soon have a dog who keeps an eye on you, after all the dog realizes if she doesn't, you get lost! When you become interesting to the dog, they become more invested in what you're doing.
Tracking is a fascinating part of the work. For those who try this, remember to be patient, be stingy with the number of times you do this as you need to be unpredictable. Plus if you do this every time you go out, you spoil the work. Take the time to do this while they're small and when they're an adult, your dog can be your best ally to ensure you can find those you love quickly.
I look at my new pup & smile. She may not look like the typical working dog but she has good herding instincts & is showing me something new every day that she's capable of doing.
We wish you a good day of training!