Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Nose Knows

I have never had a greyhound so distracted by scents. Normally, I have to keep watch for visual distractions, but Riley is also quite drawn to smells.

Last Friday, we headed for Newnan, GA to play on a friend's 60 acre horse farm. It is a great place to test off leash control and to see how well my recalls are working. The farm perimeter is securely fenced and a pasture specifically fenced for the farm's greyhounds is about 12 acres. We started there.

I wanted to see how well Riley would follow along with the rest of us. Riley started off by checking out anything she saw from far away. While she was away, the other hounds and I would head in the opposite direction. She did show a tendency to head back in our direction, but she thought nothing of running ahead and completely out of sight again. She would be easy to lose if we were not in a secure area.

Something I had not seen one of my greyhounds do before is that Riley would suddenly get frenzied about something in the woods behind the fence. It was not something we had seen or heard, so I am assuming it must be an animal scent that has caught her attention. She would drop her nose low to the ground and tune out the world as she cast back and forth along the fence. I knew better than to test a recall at those moments... doing so would have been a waste of breath and bad training. Smells are by far much harder to control than sights simply because I cannot detect them.

It is funny to see Reagan follow Riley around and then finally figure out that it was fruitless and rejoin Katie and I. Katie does not fall for such things anymore.

It is obvious that Riley will need a lot of work. Her wreckless nature reminds me a little of Travis. He too was once driven by inappropriate things. With time and lots of work, maybe Riley will shine too. We continued to hike the rest of the property and the other pasture fencelines, but with Riley on leash. The larger area is just too much space for now.

Part of me says to let her zone out if there is little chance of her finding something. With time, the behavior may extinguish itself simply because she is not rewarded for it. But part of me thinks that the behavior alone might be rewarding. I will have to think more about it. Hopefully she will eventually learn that working with me is her best bet for getting what she wants.