I got my husband, S, to agree to help me get some training in today after he got home from work. I need to do it more often but my schedule is screwy enough that it's hard during the week; today we didn't have team practice since we had one just yesterday, so I decided to take advantage of the extra time.
Earlier today I had worked Z on scent zen to try and reduce her crittering in the field, so I figured I'd use my time with S's help to try our proofing out.
Before we all headed out, I took my spray bottle of deer scent out to the open field across the street and sprayed it in about 6 places, all near areas I wanted S to pass. It was drizzling, s each spot got 2 sprays to make the scent as strong as possible. Usually I don't try to make things uber difficult for my dog, but I really wanted to test the little bit of work we'd done earlier.
Z and I stopped at the edge of the field and I sent S out about 70 ft angled to the right, where he dropped behind a small drop-off. I sent Z and she blasted off, kicking up mud. She got to him, then beelined back to me where she forgot to jump alert in favor of running back to her victim. I instructed S to not reward that return and called her to me and encouraged the jump alert, at which point she was sent back to the victim with our "Show Me" cue and heavily rewarded. The track had taken her less than 2 feet away from one scent mark and about 4 feet from another with nary a backward sniff!!
Next, I had S go about 60 ft away and up a slight incline where he hid right past a small pine I had marked with deer urine. Z again took off like a shot, blew past the mark, and found her victim. I had to recall her for the refind, but she did a nice alert before being sent back with "Show Me" and rewarded nicely.
For our 3rd runaway, I had S walk about 100-120 ft away and walk behind the edge of a hill out of sight before dropping down. There were no scents at this point, but I did stand about 4 feet away from a marked plant while I waited to release Z. Z again flew off after S, found him, did a GREAT refind and alert, and headed back nicely - very purposefully.
With this nice result, I decided to go ahead and do a fourth run to get some distance past scent marks we had already passed. I had S walk back to where Z and I had started our very first runaway, so about 300 feet up a series of small inclines. His path took him by all 5 marks and I had him stop about 4 feet from one. By the time he was in place, Z was as hyped to go as I've seen her in a looong time - spinning, whining, straining at the leash, everything I like to see. Upon release she was just gone - no hesitation at any marks and straight in to S's location. She did loiter at his feet a bit longer than I'd like so I got her attention and she was back to me with an awesome jump alert like a shot, rebounding to him at speed as well.
This session was wonderful in sooo many ways - nice focus even with distracting scent, super high desire to search even with a victim that's rather boring (S doesn't run or holler and his rewards consist of just tossing about 4 treats at Z's head and maybe a few pats, no verbals), and enthusiastic alerts that were so hyped that she didn't even have a chance to grab the treat from my hand before she was off to return to her victim. Very cool and oh so heartening to see after her initial performance at training yesterday. :)