In case you are not aware, Dobermans melt in the rain. As in, they develop what is lovingly referred to as airplane ears, they squint and freeze in place. That is assuming you were actually able to get them outside in the first place. Many a Doberman has suffered from practically bursting bladders from their utter refusal to potty when it is even slightly drizzling outside.
Now, consider the fact that Scent Work is done in all sorts of weather. Rain. Snow. Wind. Cold winters. Hot summers. As long as it is not life-threatening, a Scent Work trial will go on.
Can you see the potential issue here if you have a Doberman and want to trial in Scent Work?
So, do you just resign yourself to the fact that you will only trial in glorious weather?
Instead, you would turn the raining downpour into a fun training opportunity! The key is to avoid over-facing the dog or having them start to dislike the sniffing game (hint: that would be very bad!).
Perhaps you have a melt-in-the-rain pup too. Here are some suggestions for how you can you turn that raining downpour into an excellent training session.
Hides in Puddles
These fun odor puzzles can be a great learning opportunity for your pup! If your dog has never done this before, play with how far away you set them up from where the hide itself is. Be sure to give them time to work this problem out, and then reward them heavily for being correct. For these searches, I tend to use metal tins that do not have holes on top or a centrifuge cylinders I can put in the ground. The q-tip(s) used for this session do need to be tossed afterwards as they will still oftentimes get wet.
Exterior Searches in Active Rain
Start off easy to ease your dog into this. Wait for a light drizzle if you can. Place your hides in locations where they will be protected from active rain itself, so as not to present an even more complicated odor picture for your dog to work out. If you have a "melt-in-the-rain-dog", consider pairing your hides initially. Whenever a hide is found, reward your dog heavily and then retreat out of the rain to party with your pup. Keep these sessions short and highly successful in the beginning (one hide, in-and-out), and incrementally get up to where your dog can search for 3, 5, 10 hides in an extensive search area.
Container Searches in Active Rain
Again, starting off when it is drizzling is best. Using plastic containers will make your life a bit easier. Have a set of these containers that have holes in the side of the container instead of the top; these will work out better for you in an active raining situation.
Vehicle Searches in Active Rain
These searches can be a wonderful way to get your dog to search out in the elements! A vehicle can offer lots of natural "umbrella" locations to place your hide. Just note that adhesives such as Earthquake putty do not play well with damp surfaces, so be ready to wipe down your intended hide location first. Gluedots seem to be a bit more forgiving. Magnets will work well in the rain…that is if you can actually find a metal part of the vehicle to affix the hide to. REMEMBER: If you are going to use magnets, these must be INSIDE your metal tin. Should a dog ingest a hide with the magnet on the inside of the tin, it will still likely pass. But if the magnet is on the outside of the tin, this can cause havoc to your dogs innards and will not likely pass.
Field Trips to Search in the Rain
If your dog is searching well in the rain at home, begin taking them on the road! Keep an eye out for the weather report, and decide a few locations you can try out. Decide if it will be an exterior or container search, or both! If you do find a public park or similar location that is open to dogs (this is a must), look for a covered area in addition to your planned search practice area. You should then set-up a recovery search in this covered area (one hide, fairly simple and straight-forward). This way, your dog will work their little heart out in the rain for the exterior or container search, and will then be able to recover with an easier search in the covered area. The use of recovery searches is something I urge all of my students to do, and can help your dog leave every session thinking they are the best dog ever (which they are).
All of these suggestions would also apply to snowy conditions. The key is to ensure the searches are fun and engaging to the dog. The shorter and more successful these sessions are, the better it will be, particularly in the beginning. End the session before your dog starts to feel icky about it. Before you know it, even your melt-in-the-rain dog will love searching in the elements.
How can you maximize on the training opportunities Mother Nature offers you throughout the year?
Author: Dianna L. Santos, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, CNWI
Dianna has been training dogs professionally since 2011. She has done everything from teaching group training classes and private lessons, to specializing in working with fearful, reactive and aggressive dogs, to being a trial official and competition organization staff member.
Following a serious neck and back injury, Dianna was forced to retire from in-person dog training. But she was not ready to give up her passion! So, she created Pet Dog U, Dog Sport University and Scent Work University to provide outstanding online dog training to as many dog handlers, owners and trainers possible…regardless of where they live! Dianna is incredibly grateful to the amazingly talented group of instructors who have joined PDU, DSU and SWU and she looks forward to the continued growth of PDU, DSU and SWU and increased learning opportunities all of these online dog training platforms can provide.
In June 2021, Dianna and her business partner, Sean McMurray launched Cyber Scent Work, Inc., an organization that operates in the gray space between training and trialing in Scent Work. With Cyber Scent Work, Inc., handlers have the opportunity to earn Qs, titles and ribbons while also receiving helpful training advice regardless of whether they qualify or not! Be sure to check out Cyber Scent Work, Inc., you will be happy you did!