K9 Nose Work – Focus and Do One Thing at a Time

Golden Retriever

Of course it's hidden here. I could smell it as soon as I came into the room.

Honey failed last night. She tried to do more than one thing at a time.  Then found she couldn’t do anything well.

Last night Honey had her fourth K9 nose work class. We’ve advanced from hiding treats in boxes for her to find and now Honey is expected to find treats randomly hidden in a large room filled with objects and distracting people.

Usually she’s very fast. Honey darts into the room with her tail wagging and proceeds quickly around the room in search of the scent. She often finds it within seconds.

But last night Honey picked up a tennis ball from the floor and carried it out into the hall where she waited for the next round of sniffing to begin. When the door was opened so she could begin, Honey still had the ball in her mouth. And she proceeded to circle the room, trying to sniff, holding the ball in her mouth.

It was a disaster.

Eventually, Honey did drop the ball to aid in the search. But by that time she had lost much of her focus. Honey spent nearly as much time soliciting attention from the people as she did searching for the smelly, salmon treat.

Readers of The Puppiness Project, may recall that the first lesson I had to learn from Honey was to do one thing at a time. Last night was a dramatic demonstration of how even masters of a skill have to remember to practice it. And watching minutes tick by without Honey being able to find the treat (which was visible and at nose level) reminded me that failing to concentrate on one thing at a time probably limits my performance just as much.

The next round of sniffing, after the ball was long gone? Honey was focused and back to doing one thing at a time. She found the next two hiding spots as if she knew exactly where they were from the beginning.

I guess the next lesson I’ll need to learn from Honey is how to get right back to work even when I’ve failed at something already. Honey certainly did.

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  1. That’s true, such a good lesson, really. I know I focus a lot on previous failures instead of just moving on and trying again. A dog’s take on failure is much healthier and ultimately more successful.

    Those dang balls, eh? Every dog has their ultimate distraction, Honey’s are obviously balls and people. It’s just a new challenge to work through and proof against. I am sure she will be ignoring them in no time!

  2. Well, we all have our less than stellar moments! I guess it’s a good thing that she can get back to work pretty easy. I’m betting next week will be better!

  3. I never really thought about dogs trying to multi-task and not being able to accomplish their goals. It is a good lesson on concentrating on one thing at a time. Though I can’t imagine any of my dogs being so distracted they would keep looking to find a treat! I swear they all have hound noses. If anything I’m probably the one who confuses them by trying do to many things with them at the same time having to constantly juggle so many dogs at once. I think it is great that she came back into focus when the ball was gone. Makes me wonder, how much do I really accomplish always trying to do too many things at the same time?? Great post.


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