Sunday was the ORT [Odor Recognition Test] event that has been in the works here at Joyce's Dogs LLC for the last few months. Passing the test is required in order to be able to enter a trial.This test requires the dog to find the one box out of 12 that has the scent of Birch, Anise or Clove in it. The test requires the handler to determine that the dog has found the correct box and communicate this to the Judge by saying "ALERT".
Most of the teams testing today passed. A few did not. I'm sure that all of the teams are able to ID the correct box in practice. However there are many things that make it more difficult in the test. The most obvious factors to me are the nerves of the handlers and the level of environmental sensitivity that some dogs struggle with.
I've long believed that a huge factor in the success or failure of teams in most competitive dog sports is the nerves of the handler. It's a tough one to train for.
Since I've been involved with K9 Nose Work I've developed a huge appreciation for all that a dog's nose can tell them. It really is difficult to fully imagine. I'm certain that our dogs smell our nervousness. I'm convinced we can't fake it for training purposes. This smell of nervousness put off by the handler changes the contextual picture to the dog. And we all know that dogs are context specific. Besides changing the context in general, the handler is not so available to the dog because of the handlers anxiety. For dogs that are highly sensitive to the handlers emotional state, it can spell difficulty with a capitol D.
In this sport I think the best thing to do is to get in lots of practices in lots of different environments including some trial like situations. To that end I'll be putting on another practice of some sort in the next couple of months. Stay tuned.