So as for priming pre or post area ‘scoping out? or ?casing the joint? as I call it… Try both ways. There isn?t a hard and fast rule on this on what is better. It is what is better for you. I would normally suggest following the pattern you have already established and allowing it to happen organically as that is what you have built to and it is an already established and understood pattern of behavior, but try it where you let her out and then after a period of time- maybe a minute (she doesn?t seem to spend too long checking out an environment- partly because you have purposefully kept the environment small- this will likely change as you increase the area), use a recall to bring her back and then prime.
Cricket doesn?t seem so literal that she must have the cue/prime in order to find (some dogs are VERY much like that), but we hypothesize it does give structure, confidence, and boundaries to your game with her- and so we highly recommend you keep doing it for the time being. The ?when’ is honestly going to be trial and error. Try it once or twice and see how it goes and feels.
I suspect doing it as you have been is going to produce more confident successful results, and confidence on your part as well in anticipation of outcome of events, but dogs surprise us all the time.
What is easy and natural is likely going to be the best fit for you- but try it both ways.
As example (just for insight on another set of teams even though you haven?t seen us yet on video:
I actually do both of these things with two of my dogs Duff & Lolo in the field. One one way, and one the other. They both almost always need to check out an area before they will in earnest begin searching, especially in the woods. Duff I prime ritualistically before we set feet away from the car (he is hyper specific- but that is another topic all together) and he?ll then spend a minute or two checking out his surroundings, and Lolo is much more comfortable working after she?s had a minute to cruise around and then comes back to me and we prime and then she?s off scenting truffles.
As Lolo?s handler I don?t feel like I actually ?need? to prime Lolo. She has generalized the game to basically any forest/orchard we are in, but it starts her off with a success and a positive fun experience and acts as a way for her and I to take a moment and focus on one another and engage with each other- something that isn?t particularly a natural tendency for her, so I emphasize the finding WITH me and the rewarding WITH me after she has had a few moments to investigate her new surroundings. It sets parameters for game time and sets intention, for both of us.
(Even for dogs who are harvesting in the field- there are always things you can work on!)
So in short try it both ways to see reaction in Cricket, and in you. I suspect how you are doing it now will likely be the more preferred method for you both, but we will see!