Dog’s Eye View: Put me in, coach
June 29, 2017
I was listening to the radio the other day when John Fogerty's tune, "Centerfield," came on the air, and as I hummed along, it came to the line, "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today."
I immediately thought of my two dogs and how much they love nose work, the sport of scent detection. When it's Skippy's turn to search, she pulls me to the search area, sniffing for the scents she is trained to find. By the time we reach the start line, she's ready to hunt for the source of the scent. This dog has never had more fun. At 11 years old, she just earned her NW3 title.
Max, on the other hand, races into the search area and usually starts his search somewhere in "centerfield." It's fun to see his enthusiasm, so I need to work carefully to guide him to stay on task. He's the one who is scratching on his crate door when I run Skippy. I know he's thinking, "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today."
It's a joy for me to provide an activity in which they are so well-suited. The more I learn about scent detection and our dogs' amazing capabilities, the more I am in awe of their skill.
In only a few weeks, we will hold our first scent detection trial in Steamboat Springs at Strawberry Park Elementary School. With the leadership and support of two great ladies from Mountain Dogs, LLC, we are expanding the sport more and more on the west side of the mountains. Following Steamboat, we will hold our first trial in Craig at the new campus of Colorado Northwestern Community College. We brought the first Elite level trial in Colorado to the high school in Meeker two years ago, then, early this spring, to the Rio Blanco fairgrounds.
These trials attract participants from across the United States and beyond. The dogs are trained through classes and the dedication of their human team member. They must then pass an OFT, or odor recognition test, prior to competition.
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Each handler and dog team enter the different search areas with no other dogs present. Each dog owns the search, and the searches mirror real-life scenarios in which professional teams might work. For example, there are professional dog/handlers who search baggage at airports. In our companion dog sport, we call that a container search. We also train dogs to do exterior and vehicle searches. Interior room searches are part of our sport, too. Each dog/handler team must pass all four search scenarios at that trial to earn that level title.
We have between 28 and 35 teams participate each day. It takes about 15 to 20 volunteers to help a trial run efficiently, and spectators are allowed in some, but not all, searches. If you want to check it out, contact me on the website. There is no charge for spectators, but please leave your dog at home. These trials are set up so that dog reactive dogs can compete. We honor their space and do not interfere in their searches. The National Association of Canine Scent Work developed this sport for companion dogs. They have a great website at which you can view videos of the different search elements.
If you want to learn more about just how amazing your dog's nose really is, check out this TED talk by Alexandra Horowitz: ed.ted.com/lessons/how-do-dogs-see-with-their-noses-alexandra-horowitz
Disclaimer: When I googled the title of this song, there was one site that gave a great argument for the "mistake" most people make in stating the quote, "Put me in coach." This person that the lyric is actually "put me in cold" and gives this reasoning: "Put me in cold', on the other hand, is thematically rich. It's what you say when you're ready to go at a moment's notice — without warm-up. That's why he says, 'I'm ready to play today' and 'Look at me, I can be centerfield'. It's about proving yourself without practice or proper preparation. 'Put me in cold' is the much better lyric in that situation."
I learn something new every day!
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 25 years of experience. She has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, as well as Certified Nose Work Instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.