Tonight was Utility class again, and we had some "ah-hah!" moments!
First of all, watching Scorch work articles is amazing. It literally takes my breath away, that MY dog is working scent articles. It's so fascinating to be working at something new.
I'm still putting a thin layer of cheese on the bar the first time, but I'm generally not adding any more for subsequent retrieves. We're up to 2 metal and 2 leather unscented. Scorch generally works the pile at first, but as he gets more excited, he tends to start "air scenting" and rushes it... but he's still right, so we're not too concerned with that right now. Lisa says I may have to slow him down in the future.
He also did a couple of "visits" but he did return to the article pile and went back to work. As he gets better, I'll start adding a retractable if I have to but I just want to build his confidence for now.
For go-outs, Lisa had me loop the (unfastened) leash around Scorch's chest to build some opposition reflex, and also to get me in an upright position where I could still restrain him (and quickly let him go). He did some of his best go-outs to date. Just a couple of weeks ago, he couldn't even FIND the cheese on the stanchion, and still wasn't sure about looking away from me. Now, he's marking when I tell him to ("Spot!") and leaving straight on the send ("Run away!"). We got to about 20 feet away, which is tremendous improvement from the 5 feet or so we were stuck at. If he keeps this up, we're about ready to start using less cheese and sometimes adding a sit.
Go-outs have been our biggest challenge, and it's taken some outside the box thinking, but we're seeing the results. I've had a hard time practicing because I don't have a great stanchion right now... I'm hoping to build something out of PVC and wood that will work, because the materials I have aren't cutting it. Money's been super-tight, so it's just had to wait. At least I know our work in the training building is starting to pay off, and I know our progress will be better when I have the right "stuff" at home.
I discovered that Scorch has a great signal-sit... as long as it follows a drop from a stand. Uh oh. So I'm working to separate those a little more. I've also taken signals on the road a lot more; we worked outside of a Target and he did well. Another night, we did signals outside of JC Penney's and he had more trouble. So in comparison, he was on fire with attention in class. He didn't mind being in a line-up of dogs at all, even with an intact male next to him. He gave me some great drops, and he was attentive but confused during the sit. I'm happy with the attention and progress we've made.
But there's still nothing like watching him work articles. :)