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Thanks for the great feedback Alana!
We had a great session today! I took Dottie to a park where we practiced in an area that had a lot of downed leaves. This park is quite popular among walkers and dog owners, so there were plenty of smells for distraction.
I started by playing the box hide game under some sequoias where the surface was packed dirt. We had a little bit of a rough start here–she was distracted and not super motivated at first, but after 3 reps, she was into the game. So then I moved the box hide game to the area with the leaves. She was great–focused and a happily playing the game. Then I put several targets in a small portion of the leafy area. (I wanted to keep the search area small so there was a high density of targets in our practice site.) I did not bury them, but did nestle them under the leaves so they were visually obscured.
She was great! She found 6 targets within 5.5 minutes, and much of that time was actually spent rewarding her after each find. Still no interest in the toy, but she was very pleased to get her treats!
The results from this session has me thinking that I need to take more time, doing more box hides and easing into the actual search area. So I’ll be experimenting with this notion to see if that will help keep her confidence and motivation strong as we continue to practice in other new and unfamiliar sites.