Are You Aware of Your Dog's Environment?

18 May 2012Steve Schwarz

As I’m sure you know, part of being a good trainer is adjusting your criteria when you change the dog’s environment. Just because “Fluffy can do it at home” doesn’t mean Fluffy can “do it” when you take her somewhere else. Two weeks ago I came across a situation where the environment changed in an unusual way.

I was giving a mini-seminar on handling in tight sections and one of my regular student’s dog hit a bar pretty hard. The handler made sure his dog wasn’t hurt and brought his dog back around through the sequence. As soon as the dog got near that jump he shied away and wouldn’t go near it. He actually left the course and was very reluctant to go back in the ring. This dog has worked in this facility, ring location, and on this equipment weekly for over a year and, while younger, is pretty confident and not usually shaken. Long story short - even with very high value rewards we could only get him to work away from that jump and away from jumps near it for the remainder of the night.

Fast forward to this week’s regular class. The dog rockets through the course and gets to approximately the same location as the jump was in the seminar and heads off course to leave the ring… Hmmn…??? Did the dog remember the “evil jump” location? It was a little confusing, I didn’t see what was different. So we took him off the course, changed jump heights and went on while we thought about it.

Then Janice asked: “What about the air conditioning?“. At For Your K-9 the air conditioning has a single large duct that dumps cold air at a pretty high volume in about the center of each ring. In the summer I like to stand there to talk about the course after running - it is a nice cooling “breeze”. The weather has been pretty cool this spring and when it got hot last week the air conditioning was turned on! Janice had figured it out.

So we turned off the A/C and our team ran the course just like they always did… The breeze of the air wasn’t a problem when the heat was on, or when it was just moving room temperature air; it was only bothersome when it was blowing cold air (on this Italian Greyhound…). Apparently this wasn’t a problem for our dog last year or… maybe he was in a different class last year and not in this ring when the a/c was on…

Moral of the story - the environment is very important to our dogs and we have to remember to experience the environment as they see, hear, smell, and touch it. Get down to their level and position and that might just show us what has changed from their perspective.

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