When we get to the work area, Katie normally runs around for a few minutes without the leash until I can gather what I need for the trip. We go through basic commands such as come, sit, and stay before the leash or any other gear is put on. She is praised, normally with treats, when she does what I ask. Then, the gear goes on and we’re on the job.
The first thing I do is ask Katie to find what I am looking for. I keep her attention on the task with verbal encouragement. When she finds what we are looking for that day, for example coyote poop, she lets me know. With poop, or scat to be technically correct, she sniffs it, looks at me, sniffs it again, and walks two steps and pees (It’s a dog thing). We stop so that I can collect the data and she lies down to wait for me to finish. This is the routine when looking for objects. Looking for actual animals is slightly different. Katie tells me when different animals are near us with very subtle signs, such as the placement of her tail and ears. Sometimes she points. The signs she displays for deer are different than the signs she displays for coyotes. Katie has never seen coyotes as a threat, and in fact sees them as just other dogs who might like to play. Her non-aggressiveness towards coyotes has made her a great asset in our work. Because she does not threaten them, coyotes don’t see us as threatening either. I have seen coyotes try to initiate play with Katie, and in a few instances succeed.