Kona finished her level 3 nose work class last weekend. Her class ended the series with an Odor Recognition Test. The ORT is required for dogs to compete and checks to be sure they recognize the target odor. It's overseen by an official judge.
The test itself is really simple. It's a box drill and the dogs have three minutes to find the odor. It's a blind search for the handlers, so we have to know our dogs well enough to recognize when they find the odor since most of the dogs don't have an official alert at this point.
Kona didn't pass. She was the only dog who didn't. She wasn't able to focus. Though I can sometimes help remind her of what she's doing, no luck this time. I was bummed about it, mostly because I hate taking her to class only to see her stressed out. I also really thought she would pass and was looking forward to an official recognition that Kona and I had accomplished something. I know Kona and I are always accomplishing things, but in the moment it was hard to remind myself of that.
What went wrong? The environment changed. Instead of the human classmates being inside with us, they were all outside. She didn't know the judge and timekeeper, but I don't think they scared her, I think she just didn't put them together with searching.
I did get the affirmation that I read Kona well. She was able to engage her nose a number of times and even paid special attention to a couple boxes, but I knew she was just sniffing and not searching. I thought it was cool to recognize the difference. It was also a good reminder for me that I go to classes with the goal for Kona to have fun in a different environment, with the greater goal of increasing her confidence. I need to be more focused from here on out to cater the class exercises to help Kona relax and have fun.
It was another learning weekend. We'll be back in the level 4 class in a couple weeks!
Here's a Nose Work video if you want to see some dogs at work. The clips of the dogs searching the rows of boxes is the box drill.