The clocks are changing this weekend. In the early hours of Sunday morning clocks will go forward and we will move into British Summer Time (BST). Sadly it’s not summer yet, but despite the odd nip in the air, Spring is definitely on it’s way. Maximising that extra hour of daylight is a great way to maximise quality time together. Here are five ways that you and your dog can make the most of the clocks changing.
Start Outdoor Searches
This might not be something that’s you’ve tried yet. The jump from indoor to outdoor searches is bigger than you might think. If you read the simple scent guide in my last blog post, you’ll know that weather is often the biggest factor that affects scent. From working in rooms with minimal air movement, working outdoors for the first time can be surprisingly daunting for your dog. Suddenly, the scent she’s just found ‘disappears’ as a gust of wind carries it off. Or the scent picture is larger than before as the air swirls around in the breeze. And really perplexing can be the increased distance from the hide that the target scent is hit. This requires the dog to follow the scent trail for longer in order to reach the source. Lots more concentration and confidence is needed to successfully find the scented article.
However, as a supportive handler you know that you can set your dog up for success in this new search area. As ever, when you make a change to the search, you return to all that is familiar in all other aspects. So here the change is working outdoors. Therefore you return to basic search practices as she learns how to navigate this new search environment.
First outdoor searches
By placing the find in easily accessible spots, maximising the scent picture and minimising the search area you give your dog the best chance to succeed. Choose an area where the scent is more likely to pool e.g. a corner or dead end. Don’t hide the article in too many layers, e.g place it behind a plant pot rather than in it. Pick a moment when it’s not too windy or raining. Once your dog understands that ‘Find it’ means the same outdoors as indoors, i.e. that you will support her as she searches for her target scent, you can begin to increase the challenge of the search.
You can find out more about working outdoors in my Increasing the Challenge course.
If you are lucky enough to have a garden, setting up searches here can be great fun. In my Stay at Home Scentwork course, I dedicate a whole section to garden searches. With around 40 minutes of footage and supporting notes, I take you through how to use a search plan when working in irregular rather than box shaped areas. I highlight potential hides. And show you some hints and tricks for making garden searches endlessly exciting for whatever skill level you and your dog are at.
Being able to come home after work and be able to run a few searches in the garden before it gets dark is a real bonus. It will make your dog happy and increase her search skills. It will make you happy and stretch your planning, hiding and handling skills. Imagine if you did this a few times a week. Your search team skill set would massively increase by the end of the summer.
More daylight gives you the perfect opportunity to dive in to some specialist searches. My favourite one is Vehicles Searches . Searching whatever vehicles you can find really tests your observation skills and supportive handling techniques. And can be surprisingly tricky for your dog as the scent moves around, up and under the vehicle.
Don’t limit yourself to the family car. You might have friends or family who can give you access to a trailer. Or a tractor. Or even a bus or a truck. At Talking Dogs Scentwork, we’ve been able to provide teams with the chance to search everything from cars to steam trains to planes, and lots more in between. So start simple with your car, and then tap into your network to see what else you can find to search.
Having more daylight means that you can have more walks. Or, and I think this is even better, more time to go on longer walks or just to linger rather than rushing home. One of my dogs’ favourite things to do on a walk is search for their ball. All too often people assume that taking a ball with you on a walk means repetitive throwing an d fetching games. But they’d be wrong. Asking your dog to find her ball in a large area that might include trees, grass, hills, moss, a myriad of interesting scents is not only physically fun, but mentally stimulating too.
Hiding the toy
There are multiple ways to do this. You can dummy throw the ball so that your dog thinks it’s going in one direction when in reality you’ve tossed it in another. Or use two balls, throwing one as a distraction while you hide the second. A crafty tip is to casually drop the ball as you’re walking along and then at some point further down the track you can send your dog back to find it. Or, and this happens frequently on our walks, you might just toss the ball and your dog fails to track it properly resulting in a search rather than a simple retrieve. As a bonus, this is one of the few searches where you can allow multiple dogs to search together. Much fun. If you’d like to see Cherry and Ettie hunting for their ball, click here.
Let’s do it, let’s look forward to warmer weather and sunny evenings. Trips to the beach are our favourite road trips. Unlike when I lived down South and it took 90 minutes to get to our nearest beach, our new home is only 30 minutes away from multiple beaches. So beach searches are something we are looking forward to again.
Like the search games played with a ball rather than a scented item, beach searches can be the same. Of course you can take your scent tin to the beach to practise looking for the target scent, but you don’t have to. You have the choice of being prepared or spontaneous.
Where to hide the scented article or toy is, as ever, only limited by safety and imagination. My girls like to look for their toys amongst the rocks, in rock pools and buried in the sand. Depending on your beach you can hide them in the dunes or under the seaweed. Buried in wet sand or dry. Jammed under the water or floating on the surface. Honestly, it’s great fun and as I write about it I wish we were on the beach right now.
Surprise Spring Sale
So there you have it, five ways to make the most of the clocks changing. What could be better? Well . . . how about a Spring Sale?! To encourage you to stretch your scentwork skills, I’m breaking my own rule and am giving you a huge 25% off everything in Detector Dog School. That means you can save 1/4 off all the courses I’ve mentioned here. And all the others.
So if you’re at the start of your scentwork journey or an experienced scentworker, this is a sneaky opportunity to enrol on that course you’ve been wanting to do for ages. You can even use this discount on course bundles where you’re already saving £££££. And of course, you can use it on all my digital downloads. So the new Scent 101 and the Handler Position Infographics Sets as well as all the others.
This surprise spring sale only lasts for a week, so make sure to use the discount code before midnight on 2nd April. Head over to Detector Dog School and add the discount code MAXOUTBST25 at checkout. You can use it on as many courses and digital downloads as you like. So if you want to stack up some Scentwork materials to keep you going right through the summer, now is the time to do it.
Happy spring sniffing!