Beginning to Develop Pin-Point Precision Using Bricks

I had a couple inquiries as to where folks could buy the three-holed cored bricks that I brought to a recent set of classes at EFPSudbury.  This where I bought mine.

Landscape Depot Supply
350 Irving Street
Framingham, MA 01702
Phone: (508) 620-2988
Hours:  Mon – Fri: 6:30am – 5:00pm
            Sat: 6:30am – 3:00pm

I use about ten bricks.  One brick is hot and the others are neutral and, during training, I shift the bricks around like a Shell Game.  I also have some bricks that have ten, smaller holes that I bought at Lowes and I use those bricks for more advanced dogs.  But, I use the three-holed bricks when first transitioning dogs from big boxes, where the dog just needs gross-motor skills to find the hot box, to smaller containers and other items which require more accuracy from the dog.  Initially, it is sufficient that the dog just find the hot brick but, over time, we ask the dogs to identify the exact hole containing the hide as their fine-motor skills develop.  The bricks, being heavy, are less likely to be picked up or pawed by the dog.

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Key Boxes

KEY BOXES

The photos appearing here are of my “Key Boxes” that I have modified to use as Reward Food or Scent Containers.  You can buy these particular Key Boxes at Lowes.  I use these Key Boxes to introduce Vehicle Searching on Primary.  When using these Key Boxes to introduce Vehicle Searching to your dog, I upwards of 8 Key Boxes along the front, one side and the rear of a vehicle.  This heavy-loading of source material creates dogs that really learn to “hoover” along the side of a vehicle.  I also use these Key Boxes in my Level V classes when I introduce the other various Scenting Venues on Odor.  So, I personally buy 8 of the Key Boxes at a time, but folks only need to buy the number they feel comfortable buying.  As you can see, I have modified the lids of each Key Box by drilling 8-10 holes in each lid.  I drill up to 4 lids at the same time.  I also purchase 8 small screw bolts and 8 matching screw nuts which I insert into one of the drill holes in each lid.  This make a little handle that I can use to open the lids, which can get very difficult to open when dogs drool over each box or when the boxes get slimed with reward food.

Alternately, if you are not handy, you can buy one of the metal tins that is photographed below from All Good Dogs!!

If you have any questions after reviewing the photos, just send me an email at scentinelnosework@gmail.com!

Happy training!!!

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Bowl Sandwich and Boxes

I have had several inquiries about the “bowl-sandwich” I use as well as what kind of boxes I use.

The Bowl-Sandwich:

You will need to buy two bowls that like these ones:  http://www.petco.com/product/105768/Petco-Stainless-Steel-Non-Tip-Bowls.aspx   I typically use the 16 oz. size.  Take a hammer and good-size nail and hammer in holes in the bowl section of one of the bowls.  I typically hammer in 15-20 holes in the belly of the bowl.  Make sure you hammer into the bowl so that the burrs made when the holes are hammered in are on the outside of the bowl and not sticking up into the inside of the bowl.  For this reason, do NOT use a drill to make the holes because you end up with burrs on both sides of the bowl!!  Once you have the holes punched into one of the bowls, layer your scented q-tips into the bowl section of the other bowl.  Place the bowl with the holes on top of the bowl containing the scented q-tips.  You now have created my “bowl-sandwich” out of the two nested bowls.  When using the bowls to “pair,” simply sprinkle 5-6 pieces of the stinky reward-food (or the toy) into the “bowl-sandwich” and place the “bowl-sandwich” into a box (“hot-box”) and shut the lid.  When the dog finds the “hot-box,” immediately open the lid and allow the dog to self-reward on the food.  When the dog has finished self-rewarding, drop anywhere from 5 to 40 pieces of food in the top bowl, one piece at a time (i.e., “supplementally-reward”). Keep the amount unpredictable but the reinforcement over odor should be more, not less, in this early stage.  You are imprinting value on the odor, so make it a super strong association with heavy reinforcement.  Also, make sure that the hand that is dropping the food into the bowl does not move further away from the top bowl than 2 inches because you want the dog’s nose to stay in the top bowl and not swivel back and forth following the hand that is dropping in the food.  The dog must learn that he gets the food in the bowl and not from your hand and start to orient to the bowl more and more.  Each time you repeat this training, the dog will be inhaling the odor of birch (or anise or clove) as the dog is self-rewarding and then being supplementally-rewarded.  The longer you have the dog inhaling the odor while he is being rewarded the stronger the association between the odor of birch and the salient reward will become.

 

In time, by doing this, the dog associates the odor of birch (or anise or clove) with that salient reward-food (or toy) and the dog learns to love the odor just as if it were the reward-food.  This is pure classical – i.e., Pavlovian – conditioning at its best.  And we condition in this concept that “odor is important” (i.e., “odor obedience”) in the context of HUNTING for the odor right from the beginning.  Thus, I believe that K9 Nose Work Training is “hunting-based” as opposed to “obedience-based” from the start of our training.  If done correctly, you should end up with a dog that eagerly hunts for the odor of birch and pushes toward source when the find is made.

 

 

The Boxes:

 

I like identical boxes that have a lid that can cover the entire top of the bottom portion of the box.  I also like boxes with lids that flip open as opposed to lifting completely off.  Finally, I like boxes with lids that only have a flap to tuck in the front and not the sides.  A company called Uline makes boxes that are often used in NACSW ORTs and NW Trials.  However, you have to buy them in bulk, so I just have folks buy Staples’ White Mailing Boxes.  They work perfectly but any set of identical boxes with lids will work!  The size I like is the 12 1/8 x 9 1/4 x 4 inch Mailing Box but, if you have a small dog, the 11 1/8 x 8 7/8 x 2 1/2 inch Mailing Boxes work fine as well.  However, you will need smaller metal bowls to work with this smaller sized box.  Staples only sells these boxes in its stores.  They cannot be found on their website for some reason.

 

 

 

 

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Introducing Challenging Search Areas

A group of us met this morning to do some K9NW training at a local Fairground that had a number of open animal sheds with stalls and wood chip flooring.   I and another person offered to put out the hides so some of us could work blind areas.  The search areas looked like so much fun that we really went to town in setting up the problems – we put 4 hides in the first open shed,  6 in the second open shed, 8 in the next one and 3 in the last building.  And some were hidden in piles of leaves, one on a clothesline about 8 feet up, some 10 feet up steel girders, some odors converging, many were channeling, and others deep in corners with the wind blowing the scent outside the building’s wall.  Fun!

We all were really looking forward to working these problems, especially as we all had been cooped up all winter.  And that’s when the largest problem reared its head.  Earlier problems for me started with my taking my puppy, Saoirse, with me when I first went out to scope out the search areas.  Saoirse LOVED racing around dragging her 50 foot parachute cord….which promptly twisted around all our feet, almost dumping me.  And then she starting spinning as she was racing – she was that excited – and I could not control her with that thin knife-like-in-your hand parachute cord (and, since it was so warm, I did not have gloves on).  And, finally, there was the ICE all over the parking lot, and all over the uneven LONG path leading from the parking lot to where our search areas were.   It was so bad for me that I had to drive all the way home to pick up my YakTrax for my boots because my boots were so old that they had no tread.

After I got back with my YakTrax, I was in a better mood than when I left and I eagerly went up to the first search area to see how it was going.  Well, it quickly came clear that things were not going well.   While we all were aware that all but one of the search areas were COMPLETELY contaminated with chicken poop, rabbit poop, cow and horse poop and god knows what else, we did not foresee the impact all those powerful smells would have on our dogs.  I mean, most of the dogs there were pretty strong dogs and very odor obedient – at least, that’s what we thought!!   But, that’s not what happened.  Rather, when our dogs came into the search areas,  and they got hit in the snout with all those delicious (to them) smells….well, not only were they not hunting for odor, they ranged around cataloguing all the intriguing odors and then each marked at least once in a search area.  What????

Well, we couldn’t let THAT continue!  So, we went to PLAN B – Obviously, none of our dogs had trained under such heavy distractions and they clearly lost focus if the odor was not immediately available.  We therefore modified each hide and made them all easier, lowered all the high ones and sometimes even had the hide right out in the open.  And then, we started each dog 3 feet or less downwind from each hide.  With odor blowing right into their nose, the dogs did respond and followed the odor each time right into source.  Whew, finally, focus and odor obedience!!!! 🙂

The moral of this story is twofold: (1) Handlers need to vary the locations where they train so the dog learns to work through different scent conditions and environments; and (2) If a handler is working for the first time in a challenging environment like our Fairground, start with easy, easy, easy, quick hides.  Once the dog is punching it in the environment at close distances, you can have the dog start further back from the hide.  But, until the hunting behavior is more durable under the difficult search conditions, keep it easy and quick.

In closing, we all know all this…..but sometimes we underestimate the complexity of a particular search environment on our dogs and overestimate the strength of our dogs in such areas.  Not again for me!!!

Onward!

 

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Reward for the Find

I always preference any writing I do about dog training with a comment that Karen Pryor once made: “There are as many ways to train an animal as there are people to think them up.” What you need to do is always be consistent with the Laws of Learning. So, what I will write is just my opinion but, to put the results of my opinion into perspective, the students I teach are among this region’s top title holders. With that, I’d like to remind folks to know what it is that you are rewarding, especially in a novice dog. I have come full circle on this and today, in my young dogs, the only thing I reward in the beginning is the “find.” I don’t want my dog thinking that it is his “decision,” or his “indication,” that brings the reward. It is the “find.” And to start out, I tell my students to reward on a “zero delay,” meaning that, as soon as the dog “finds,” I immediately reward. In short, I am basically rewarding the “act” of “finding” as the find happens. And, I reward a long time at source – I ping pong between 5, 10, 20, 30, and even 40 small pieces of food, if I feel it beneficial, one piece at a time, but QUICKLY delivered. In other words, I try to treat my treats as if they were a toy – quick, fast, teasing delivery. While I may make the process of rewarding into a “reward event” by doing “push backs,” I, essentially, want to make a big enough impression with my reward delivery that the dog starts to put high value on the source. Thus, “zero delay” plus “heavy reinforcement at source” creates a strong foundation in the novice dog such that the dog thinks that it is the source that brings the reward. I see dogs all the time that develop a natural “possession” of the source in their mind (not in an aggressive way but in a way that shows that they covet the source). This works so well that when you start to put some duration between the “find” and the reward, you get a natural decision from the dog…..which is really whatever behavior your dog selects to communicate to you that, “Hey, pal, pay me – I found!”  And you can make it more likely than not to get the type of indication you want (ie, focused stare, sit, down etc) by “pre-training” that behavior so the dog knows that this particular behavior is a rewardable option for your dog to use to push you to pay him.  But, again, I remind my students that the “indication” is used by the dog to get the handler to reward him for the find and not for the indication itself.  There is a huge difference between these two thought-processes in the dog. (BTW, if a handler wanted to replace the ball for the treats, the mechanics as set out above would be the same. Tug, tug, tug a varying length of time RIGHT OVER SOURCE – and, if your dog is a strong tugger like my dog, simply let go of the toy if it moves away from source and present another tug to the dog over source. They will learn to push back into the source. Or, if your dog does not like to tug but loves to chase balls, have 7-10 balls in your pocket and flick a varying number of balls out directly over source, one ball at a time. I once had Doberman that LOVED tennis balls and this was a game that sent her into heaven when we flicked balls out, starting right over source. Sometimes I’d jackpot and drop all 7+ balls right at source).

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Target Oils and Where to Buy Oils and Tins

I found this information on the NACSW Website:

To compete in the sport of K9 Nose Work®, dogs will need to transition from searching for food or toys to searching for a “target odor.” Target odors for competition in NACSW K9 Nose Work events are made using 100% cotton swabs, cut in half and scented with one of the three essential oils: Birch, Anise, and Clove.

Target odors are introduced in training in the following order:

Birch (“Sweet Birch” aka Betula Lenta)

Anise (“Aniseed” aka Pimpinella Anisum variety – NOT Star Anise, Illicium Verum)

Clove (“Clove Bud” aka Eugenia Caryophylatta or Syzgium Aromaticum)

All Good Dogs LLC:  If you’re looking for K9 Nose Work kits containing target odors and supplies, visit All Good Dogs LLC.   All Good Dogs LLC is an NACSW authorized vendor of K9 Nose Work products.  All Good Dogs is also the provider of the official odors and kits used in NACSW K9 Nose Work trials.

All Good Dogs, LLC Nose Work oils, scented cotton swabs and other accessories produced by All Good Dogs, LLC are to be used to train for success and fun in the sport and activity of K9 Nose Work! Cotton swabs may be used multiple times. Keep away from open flames and hot or cold temperature extremes. Please do not allow your dog to ingest the oils or other parts as they are not for human or animal consumption. If you have any other health concerns, please consult your Veterinarian.

Especially for Pets Sudbury-Academy, 424 Boston Post Road, Sudbury, MA also sells the correct essential oils.  Call the store at 978-443-7682 and ask to speak to Erin, the Store Manager, to make sure they have the oils in stock or to ask that they inter-store ship the oils to an Especially for Pets that maybe closer to where you live.

Also, Anne Steciw sells oils, qtips and tins.  You can contact Anne with the following email address:  anne@newenglandscentdogs.com .

Additionally, Jane Nadelson sells these items as well.  Jane’s email address is jndkitty@ptd.net .

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Additional information about the oils:

For Birch (aka “Sweet Birch” or Betula Lenta):

Wyndmere  (Available at Whole Foods) www.wyndmerenaturals.com

IN BULK: New Directions Aromatics http://www.newdirectionsaromatics.com/ Essential7 http://www.essential7.com/ Pure Essential Inc. http://www.pureessentialoils.com/index.php Aroma Therapy Outlet www.aromatherapyoutlet.com

For Anise (aka “Aniseseed” or Pimpinella Anisum):

BE SURE TO CHECK THE BOTANICAL VARIETY: DO NOT USE STAR ANISE – Look for Pimpinella Anisum

Nature’s Alchemy www.naturesalchemy.com/Natalch.cfm Auracacia  (Available at Whole Foods) www.auracacia.com/dspCatTxt.php?ct=anpceoeo&i=p&br=Aura%20Cacia   IN BULK: Pure Essential Inc. http://www.pureessentialoils.com/index.php Aroma Therapy Outlet http://www.aromatherapyoutlet.com/ New Directions Aromatics
 http://www.newdirectionsaromatics.com/

For Clove (aka “Clove Bud” or Syzgium Aromaticum or Eugenia Caryophylatta):

Nature’s Alchemy http://www.naturesalchemy.com/Natalch.cfm Auracacia  (Available at Whole Foods) http://www.auracacia.com/dspCatTxt.php?ct=anpceoeo&i=p&br=Aura%20Cacia   IN BULK: Pure Essential Inc. www.pureessentialoils.com/index.php Aroma Therapy Outlet www.aromatherapyoutlet.com New Directions Aromatics www.newdirectionsaromatics.cm Essential7 www.essential7.com

 

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Recap of the Importance of the Primary Reward/How to Prepare Al Fresca Roasted Garlic Sausages/Sensitive Stomach Issues

Just as an recap of some key concepts, I typed up the following email.  The reason that I say that detection dog training is unique is because you can’t “drill” a detection dog.  Rather, the training needs to empower the dog and must be designed to leave the dog wanting more.  Increment by increment, we condition the dog to search “on our terms,” for an odor we can’t see or smell, for longer and longer.  To get a dog to search at the “quality” and “intensity” we want will take more than just two 6-week sessions, but it is all about the dog….and in getting the dog in the right mindset so he wants “to try for us,” so that he wants “to take risks for us,” and so that he wants “to problem-solve for us as his partner.”  In doing that, we need to train in quick short bursts.  But, as a student, since you can’t work your own dog other than in quick bursts, then it is wonderful if you are able to watch other dogs work so that you begin to educate “your eye” as to when a dog is hunting and when that dog is not.  Each dog is unique but there are common denominators that one can start to see if you have enough dogs to watch.  So, starting out with 6 dogs in a class is wonderful!!

Also, in order to get the dog in the right mindset, the primary reward food you use is of great importance.  In the beginning, we don’t want the dog to enter a search area and wonder if there is a primary hide to be found.  We want the odor to hit him in the face as soon as he walks up to a search area.  And, your dog’s only job then is to find something that he knows is there.  And that sequence is empowering to a dog.  Dog training is all about conditioning in expectations . . . so take the time to really condition in an expectation in your dog that there will be something luscious to be found if the dog makes the effort to search for us.  That’s really what detection dog training is all about. So, please check out my Equipment List on my website  www.scentinelnosework.com to see what kinds of foods work best.  You will see that I list several different types of reward foods but THE BEST reward food to use is Al Fresca Roasted Garlic Sausage.  It comes in packages of four sausages and is sold by Stop and Shop, Roche Brothers, Sudbury Farms and all the other major grocery store chains.  Just ask the Store Manager if you can’t find where they offer it.  Prepare the food by microwaving all four sausages for 3 ½ minutes.  When cool, slice each sausage into four long lengths of equal size and then slice each long length into thin pieces.  Put all of the small pieces into one container and bring that container with you to class.  Also, bring two small metal bowls that nest one into the other.  Make sure that your dog KNOWS how wonderful this reward is before using it in class is by using it as a reward for some other behavior your dog knows well at home.  For example, ask your dog to sit and then use the sausage to reward a great response.  This is a powerful reward food….so you should see your dog light up!!!

If your dog has a sensitive tummy, it is still possible to use the “smell” of the Al Fresca Roasted Garlic Sausage on your reward food.  Fill a large glass jar with 4-5 cups of kibble that your dog is able to eat.  Microwave and slice lengthwise four garlic sausages and place inside a plastic container that will fit inside the glass jar along with the kibble. (A long narrow plastic container shaped like a Pringle Potato Chip container works best).  Punch small holes along the sides of the plastic container to allow the odor to seep out.  Alternately, you can place the sliced sausages on top of the kibble on a piece of plastic (but there may be some seepage of oil into the kibble if you do it this way).  Shut the glass jar up for 24 hours and let the odor of the sausage stink up the kibble.  Use the stinky kibble instead of the sausage as your primary reward food.

Happy Hunting!
Gail McCarthy CNWI

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What Reward Technique Should One Use?

Following up on my post entitled, “Self-Rewarding and Supplementally Rewarding,” I have gotten a few private emails saying that folks were confused how and where the reward should be given.  One person indicated that her confusion was because she had been told to do several different things and now didn’t know which to use.

Because I think others may be confused as well, I will give my response here on my website.  When I asked what she had been told, she listed several different things.  Of note was that none of them were wrong!!  Rather, the issue really was WHEN a handler would use each of them.  So, I have listed them below in the order of WHEN I* would use each reward technique and I added some of my own.  *Others may do things differently, this is just what I would do.

1) Loading the hot box with lots of reward and not rewarding from handler.
I do this during the majority of my first six weeks . . . and even into a portion of my second six weeks of classes.  I do this because I want my dogs to know that it is “the find” for which they get rewarded, and so I condition my dogs to understand that this is what is being rewarded by allowing my dogs to self-reward when they find in the beginning on something that is REALLY MEANINGFUL to them.  The hunt is all about the dog and the primary — I do not want myself in the picture at all.  And because this type of introduction to hunting is usually so powerful and stresses independent working behaviors, my dog pays little, if any, attention to me.  By the third week, I have the dogs off leash, and they are usually out in front of me, searching for their salient primary among 30-40 duffle bags, baseball hats, baskets and all kinds of other stuff, along with boxes and chairs scattered all over the search area.  And, because most dogs are very motivated at this point, it doesn’t matter if I stop, sit down, keep walking or stand by the threshold when the dog hits the source.  My dogs are not paying any attention to me and I am irrelevant to the process (albeit I do believe that the dog, being bonded is aware of my presence in the room, and were I to completely leave the search area, the dog might orient to this difference … however this is a training issue too as our wilderness and rubble dogs work without their handlers in sight – though wilderness handlers usually wear bells that the dog can rely on in the background and rubble handlers usually don’t leave the spot from which they release the dog until he makes his find – but, again, this can vary as training progresses and it is always about what expectations you put into place).

2) Loading the hot box with 5-6 pieces of reward and also rewarding from handler.
This is my self-reward and supplemental-reward system I described in my earlier email.  I do this when I am introducing odor to my dogs.  When starting to work the dogs on unpaired-odor, the reward food can be delivered INTO the other hand cupped to form a bowl of its own as opposed to being dropped into the “bowl-sandwich,” but that “cupped hand” should literally be touching the “bowl-sandwich.”  When my dogs are just beginning to work on odor only, this is what I tell my students to do so they don’t contaminate the “hot-box” for the rest of the class.

3)  Using just a small treat paired with the tin and adding a huge reward from handler with cupped hand–while dog is at source.
When I shift from my “bowl-sandwich” (which only requires what I call “gross motor skills”) and start to ask my dog to be more precise in making his “find” (those more “fine motor skills”), I pair the odor in the tin with a piece of reward food (or toy) to help educate the dog that there is now a “target,” i.e., a specific place that I want him to find, and then I supplementally-reward as well.  To aid the dog in learning this concept, initially the “target” is visible.  This makes it easy for the dog to “find” the tin (even though we all have seen that the dog is using his nose and not his eyes even when targeting a tin that is out in full-sight!!!) and even as I am requiring more and more precision (which can put pressure on the dog, something I like to avoid).  Eventually though, my dogs need to pinpoint the correct location of a “target” that is no longer visible.  I then pair the tins with a piece of reward food (or toy) to help educate the dog that there is now a “target,” i.e., a specific place that I want him to find, even though the dog does not see the tin. Obviously, if the dog cannot see the tin, he may not be able to self-reward but I continue to educate my dog that it is the “find” that gets rewarded by IMMEDIATELY supplementally-rewarding over source.

4) Not pairing at all and just rewarding LOTS with cupped hand at source.
As Ron, Jill and Amy often say, “Pairing is never remedial,” and pairing can be used for a whole of host of things over the course of your dog’s career.  However, the dog must also be willing and be motivated to find a hide that is not paired.  So, yes, you will definitely educate your dogs that hides that are not paired also have value and “finding” unpaired hides will produce the reward your dog so covets.

In closing, I am a fanatic as to how you should position your body and your hand so that the handler does not block odor acquisition.  I spend 15 minutes out of the second to last class just teaching how I want handlers to reward their dogs so that they don’t block odor acquisition.  However, one handler described what she did….and that would work as well:

“When handler is rewarding, I always have the handler
lightly spread fingers with cupped hand right on top
of the odor tin (so that dog is inhaling odor) and then
add food to the cupped hand, BUT food has been in
the hand as it drops down or up to reward.”

Again, these are my random thoughts and each CNWI may do something different….

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Going to Source

As we all know, K9NW dogs are taught to “go to source” and the handler needs to be able identify exactly where the source is if asked by a judge at a NW1 Trial. If you cannot immediately pinpoint based on your dog’s behavior, you will not pass that element. So, “going to source” is an important component to this K9 sport but it is really just a learned skill to the dog — the dog really doesn’t care where he makes his decision and pinpointing source initially makes little difference to the dog.

To help our dog learn, delivery of reward over source educates the dog as to where he is to make his “find-decision.” Another way of understanding the importance of “reward-delivery-location” is by watching the following Streaming Video of Mike Ellis, one of the preeminent trainers of our generation, and his theory of reward placement:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=231ptiZCOfE

I would say that “learning to pinpoint source location” is a “gray” area for the dog initially but, once the dog learns to pinpoint, it is black and white.  So be very conscious of “where” you reward your dog!!!☺☺

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Self-Rewarding and Supplementally-Rewarding

The question was posed as to whether one would both pair and then subsequently reward from handler.

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This was my response:

There are many, many ways to train a detection dog.  And some ways work for some dogs and other ways work for other dogs.  But I have found that allowing the dog to both self-reward and to be supplementally-rewarded works extremely well for the majority of dogs that I work with.  So, in my classes, we  put value – a lot of value — on the source by “pairing” the odor of birch (or anise or clove) with a luscious, salient reward-food that the dog really, REALLY likes.  (Alternately, if the dog is more toy-driven than food-driven, you can use a toy in the same manner as reward-food is being used.  Please read another blog on my website www.scentinelnosework.com as to some ways to properly reward with a toy).  I have my students sprinkle 5-6 pieces of the stinky reward-food (or the toy) into what I call my “bowl-sandwich” and place the “bowl-sandwich” into a box (“hot-box”) and shut the lid.  When the dog finds the “hot-box,” I instruct my students to immediately open the lid and allow the dog to self-reward on the food.  When the dog has finished self-rewarding, I then have my students drop anywhere from 5 to 40 pieces of food in the top bowl, one piece at a time (i.e., “supplementally-reward”). Keep the amount unpredictable but the reinforcement over odor should be more, not less, in this early stage.  You are imprinting value on the odor, so make it a super strong association with heavy reinforcement.  Also, make sure that the hand that is dropping the food into the bowl does not move further away from the top bowl than 2 inches because you want the dog’s nose to stay in the top bowl and not swivel back and forth following the hand that is dropping in the food.  The dog must learn that he gets the food in the bowl and not from your hand and start to orient to the bowl more and more.  Each time you repeat this training, the dog will be inhaling the odor of birch (or anise or clove) as the dog is self-rewarding and then being supplementally-rewarded.  The longer you have the dog inhaling the odor while he is being rewarded the stronger the association between the odor of birch and the salient reward will become.

In time, by doing this, the dog associates the odor of birch (or anise or clove) with that salient reward-food (or toy) and the dog learns to love the odor just as if it were the reward-food.  This is pure classical – i.e., Pavlovian – conditioning at its best.  And we condition in this concept that “odor is important” (i.e., “odor obedience”) in the context of HUNTING for the odor right from the beginning.  Thus, I believe that K9 Nose Work Training is “hunting-based” as opposed to “obedience-based” from the start of our training.  If done correctly, you should end up with a dog that eagerly hunts for the odor of birch and pushes toward source when the find is made.

Take a look at the following two YouTube clips of my dog, Cajun, working some blind hides — blind to both Cajun and me.  Cajun is a product of this training system. Cajun is a mega-testosterone boy and definitely has it in him to be distracted by other “of-male-interesting-extraneous-odors.”  So, I have been very careful to keep the motivation for the search – on my terms, not his 🙂 – as high as I can make it.  And so, can Cajun in these clips be any happier at making his finds?  Can he be more focused?  And can everyone tell “when” he makes his finds?   In one video, Cajun is so into “making the find” that I think I surprise him when I start to reward him!  🙂

Cajun 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7421iNKlT-A

Cajun 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9bgRT9k84k

JMHO but I hope this helps!

Gail McCarthy CNWI
Massachusetts

 

 

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