I attended a Fred Helfers' workshop today. It was a two day event, but I only attended the second day. With last time at his workshop I was so wiped out it took me a few weeks to recover, I didn't want to over exert myself again.
I was able to bring Mickey, my most advanced dog in Nose Work. We started out with the box drills. I have done these with Divine, but we didn't get a chance to do the U shape. Today we got that drill which is moving quickly on your feet like dance steps keeping up with your dog. I was really happy with how I "danced" around the boxes today. I knew that in the past several months my steps and feet movement had improved and it showed in this drill. Many people think foundation drills are so boring but I always go back to my piano days doing scales and several variations with different rhythmic patterns. I earned the better I know my scales the better I could think quickly what keys would play well together and with practicing a variety of rhythms, I learned different tempos and sounds of music. I do beleive foundation drills are extremely important no matter what it is, music, sports, dog sports, dancing etc. If you want to get good, you do those foundations.
Then the next search was an exterior hide. I really learned a lot from this search and what a thought process I went through on this one. As I walked Mickey behind the spectators to the search area, I started sabotaging myself by what I was thinking. I thought, all these people are going to watch me? Can I have them cover their eyes? Reflecting later, what we say really does have a huge profound affect on us. I also was a bit nervous that it was unknown hides and now I need to show this skill. MIckey must have felt my anxiety as he didn't charge out and get busy finding odor. He kind of dilly dallied and wandered around. Looking like he was trying to search but not really. He does this when he knows I am experiencing anxiety. As he went to the jungle gym, he weaved between the legs and structure getting his leash tangled up. After a few times I started getting exasperated. I started going into freeze brain mode. Mickey gave a light indication while underneath the Jungle Gym, where I couldn't really see him well. I was hunched over looking between bars, I called it and Fred said, "No!" That "No!" stung my brain to more frozen for a few seconds. It took me about 5 seconds before my brain engaged with my conscious. I had to mentally recover and move on. I was stiff and mind frozen, like I wasn't really there. My brain zoning out. I was not thinking well on my feet. After a bit of wandering, Mickey found a hide, "alert?" I said and Fred said, "Yes!" ok, some confidence has regained. Prior to finding this hide, it showed on the video a beautiful zigzag and change of body movement. I don't remember seeing that. I just remember seeing him dig his nose in the ground and curb, then look at me. I called it right.
I had been all around the search area and I was drawing a blank as to what to try. Was there another odor? Wandering with a zoned out brain. Fred did say to go down wind as the wind was going about 15 mph, which can push odor out of a search area. There was a small pole at the very edge of the search area. It was down wind, What was happening is odor was blowing out of the search area. Moving horizontal, then dropping down. I took Mickey to that area under Fred's direction and let Mickey get out of the search area to catch anything he could. He didn't. He only went out about 4 feet but he really needed to go more 8 feet out. When odor blows hard at a certain speed, it can blow right over the head if the hide is above the dog's head. This is what was happening. So Fred had me go further out, Mickey caught the odor and found it.
Becaue of my anxiety, I walked off feeling rather unsuccessful. I don't like the feeling of a frozen brain or zoning out. I'm not productive and I don't think on my feet. I can't problem solve in that mode. However, When I saw the video. It wasn't that bad. You could not tell that I was nervous. or even showing any kind of anxiety. Fred explained about the wind patterns which made it difficult for Mickey to catch the odor. This made me feel much better and I realized, I didn't do as bad as I thought. That psyching myself out before doing the search is what went wrong. I've struggled with this for awhile and well aware of it. It is just taking a long time to retrain myself from this self defeating thinking.
If I would have followed my formula that has been successful for me the last two trials, I probably would have done much better and Mickey would have walked in a bit more serious. It is crucial that I do my routine before I do any search area. Any search is about making Mickey happy. Don't worry about people. Keep focus on task, not all the peripherals. People watching me is not a threat, even if they are not impressed, it is still not a threat. Everyone really wants you to succeed and this is the truth.
As I watched other people do their searches, I also saw some anxiety kick in or waver in and out from time to time. I'm not alone. We all do it. It is tough to get out there in front of people and we all did it. Fred is rather positive so it makes it easier. We all learned and had a good learning experience.
Things I learned:
1. watch your thinking and remember it is about Mickey having fun.
2. Wind is your friend. Go way out of the search area if you need. Pay attention to wind. IT tells you a lot.
3. When you go into a search area, let your dog go, if they don't find something on their own, then get down wind and work your search area.
4. If Mickey goes too fast, pace yourself and not go to fast with him. He needs to pace himself so he doesn't miss any hides.
Great learning day!