Training scent discrimination and searching

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by Romy, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. Romy

    Romy Taxiderpy

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    There's some really specific things I want to try and teach Kaia, but am not sure how to go about doing it. She's a sight hound, but she's more nose oriented than Strider and I think I might be able to work with her to strengthen that drive.

    Anyway, here's what I want to do.

    Teach her to look for a specific scent (something like truffles, or drugs). The thing is stationary and doesn't leave a track. So, she'd be working like a truffle hound or a drug/bomb detection dog where they know the scent they are searching for, but you have to take them to a likely area and direct them in a search pattern.

    Thing is, I have no idea how you go about training something like that.

    Does anybody have ideas? Or websites with good articles? Or know of any really good books on the subject? We can't afford a class right now, and I don't think anybody in the area teaches something like this anyway.
     
  2. Are you wanting Kaia to detect one specific smell or a certain set of smells? It will be easier to offer advice if I know what she would be searching for.
     
  3. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    I've trained and certified dogs in narcotics detection. I'd be happy to help with what I know.

    Does she like toys? Do you have the odor available to use for training?
     
  4. Romy

    Romy Taxiderpy

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    I'd like to start with one smell and get the behavior trained if that would work, and then add additional smells later. I've heard of dogs being able to use cue words for specific smells and then only search for that one.

    I'd like to start her on trillium bulbs (rare plant). It sounds weird, but I do native plant salvage with a local group. We get calls from contractors to come out and dig things up before they bulldoze, and do our best to find them all, but the most threatened plants have a very short season above ground. Even when they're above ground they can be really difficult to see in thick brush. Sometimes we'll know for sure there are trilliums, Solomon's seal, etc. in a parcel of land, but we can't find the darn things because it's October and they'll get bulldozed. :( I was hoping she could learn to find and indicate some of them, so we could get them out before they get squished.

    I can get plenty of plant material for scenting purposes. We've got some here at the house, and I can get more from the breeding gardens where they hold the refugee plants until they've got a new home.

    Not really sure if she'll be super great or not, but maybe she'll surprise me. And I figure it's good practice to learn how and make mistakes with her before we get a "real" scent hound.

    ETA: She LOVES toys made with real fur, fox tails, rabbit skins, etc. She's also extremely food motivated.
     
  5. Romy

    Romy Taxiderpy

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    Thanks! I'll check that out right now. :)
     
  6. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    That sounds like fun. I'd love to teach Buzzy scent detection, he's happiest when he's nose to the ground.
     
  7. protodog

    protodog New Member

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    Venus has been taking K9 nosework and tracking and doing very well at both types of sniffing work. She is incredibly driven, and her instuctors have been amazed at what a borzoi can do. If you make the game fun for Kaia, she may turn out to be a sniffing star.

    In V's nosework class, we started by having the dogs search for hidden hot dogs to teach them to focus on searching with their noses instead of their eyes or ears, and once they were searching rooms thoroughly for the hot dogs, then we switched over to a scent (sweet birch).
     
  8. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    I'd suggest not using real fur toys. And if you train scent work for toys, I'd suggest not playing with the fur toys at all for a while. You don't want her thinking she should be looking for fox or rabbit scent.

    Oh, nice!! I'm going to try to read that tomorrow. :D

    Yeah, but then you have the problem of training them to not find hot dogs later.
     
  9. This.
    I've never been fond of the hot dog method. You're adding in two extra unnecessary steps. Rather than starting with the scent itself, you're starting with hot dogs. And then you have to basically undo that later.

    That being said, I can see why it is useful in tracking instead of air scenting. From what I've been told, in competitive tracking, the dog can/will be penalized for lifting their nose from the track. And using the hot dogs can make it easier to teach the dog to keep its nose down to the ground. But I don't do tracking at all, so this is just what I've gathered from those who do.
     
  10. protodog

    protodog New Member

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    Oh, I can see how the hot dog method is inefficient for training the dog, but I think it has been helpful for training the handlers, who are all new to scent sports. The two biggest problems I've seen are 1) the dogs being afraid to move away from the handler / to lead and 2) the handlers wanting to "correct" and to micromanage the dog.

    I'm the only clicker trainer in either class, and most of the other handlers use "correction" to teach, so they have trouble allowing the dog to think and to problem-solve. We started the nosework class by allowing each dog to search off leash, and at first, it drove the handlers crazy to watch their dog search the "wrong" side of the room and not be able to issue a leash correction. Eventually, they learned to trust the dog and to allow the dog to search.

    I'm probably not explaining this very well, but getting the handlers out of the way was very useful in the beginning.
     
  11. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    Very useful in Schutzhund tracking. Yes, you will lose points if the dog's nose is not in each footstep. But it's easy enough to get the hot dogs off the track (via the use of articles).

    It's not something I would ever want to use with a SAR dog or a narcotics dog or a cadaver dog or an arson dog or many other types of scent work where tracking/indicating the wrong thing can be a serious problem.

    And I would imagine those dogs also don't have much drive. ;) Also, again, it's a sport. For real life scent work, it can cause too many problems and if you really can't train detection work without the hot dogs, you have the wrong dog for real life work, IMO.

    The way I start my dogs involves scenting their toys with the odor I'm teaching. When they first are learning odor detection, every toy they play with is going to have that odor on it, and I try to avoid toys that have an odor of their own. I usually use rolled up wash cloths.
     
  12. This is essentially what I was going to talk about tomorrow. But I can't seem to sleep, so I might as well do it now. I start with something pretty similar. Since Tempie was so into fetch, I would use tennis balls covered in the scent or stuff some source into a kong and throw those for her. For Boone, I am using tugs (rolled wash cloths, a cotton rope, a scent pouch made from fire hose, etc) covered in or containing the scent.

    I like to pick one that they go absolutely bonkers for and eventually only use that toy when doing scentwork. You really need to build up their drive, and it helps if it's not the same old reward you use for everything else. If you decide that her drive for food is stronger than her toy drive, the same goes for that. Pick a really high value treat and only use that when you're working on this. Be prepared. A lot of people in this field are against the idea of using food as a reward. In my experience, it can work just fine, depending on the dog/handler/situation.
     
  13. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    Yeah...building drive hasn't been something I've done much of. My dogs are born with way too much drive.

    If you're familiar with using food instead of toys, I'd love to hear about it. I've never done it, I've read a little about how some people train it using food. Food is strongly discouraged with narc dogs, but that's because of the risks of false alerts and needing to defend your training methods in court.
     
  14. Saeleofu

    Saeleofu Active Member

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    I'd love to start some scent work with Logan too. I don't know that I'd enjoy actual tracking like they have in trials, plus having his nose to the ground is kind of the opposite of what I want him doing when he's working as a service dog. I think SAR would be fun some day :) There's a volunteer organization around here that only requires a CGC to start (which both my dogs have), and they help you train and everything.

    My dad used the hotdogs in foot prints method to teach our oldest GSD Schutzhund-style tracking. And he was very good at it. Even today he'll still attempt to track if you let him, but he can't actually walk a full track, let alone lay into a harness. But he never tracked in the "real world" and never even really got much into competition because his back end got bad pretty fast, he was still pretty young. We attempted that method with Gavroche once, and he wanted nothing to do with it (Oooo, a bird! Ooooo, a car! Oooo, a dog! lol).

    I'm going to start smoke training both dogs as soon as terra cotta pots are more available (to make a smoker with). I just got a book on how to train it a few weeks ago (and that it -all- that is in the book. It's tiny). I want Gavroche trained for at home, and Logan for in public, and I want their signal styles to be different, which is why I'm training them both. What's an acceptable signal at home, or even necessary if I'm asleep, is not necessarily acceptable in public.
     
  15. It's the same with Search and Recovery. Most people don't realize it, but we have to work very hard to defend our findings. Regardless of our training methods, we risk getting ripped apart in court. There was a lady (can't remember her name) that brought source to a crime scene and said her dog alerted on it so that she could have a confirmed find. She isn't at all associated with our team. She's in a completely different state. But we still have to deal with the fallout from that. Testifying is the only part of SAR that I really hate.

    But I've never had an issue with false alerts for food. In the beginning, I switched Tempie back and forth from food rewards while I determined what she had more drive for. I actually had more of a problem with using toys at first because it was so ingrained in her to sit to get the toy. Of course, that had a lot to do with me starting her so much later in life than normal.
     
  16. protodog

    protodog New Member

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    Could you use a flirt pole? Venus is still at the beginner level (one scent--searching just one room), but at some point, she'll be ready to move up to additional scents and more difficult settings. So, if I could lay a better foundation for when things get more difficult, I'd like to do so. But, V doesn't play with toys--no balls, no tugs, no stuffies. She does, however, like to chase the lure (and live prey).
     
  17. Romy

    Romy Taxiderpy

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    Awesome! That's really encouraging. Strider is good at air scenting and finding things, but he only does it when he feels like it. :lol-sign: He seems to key in to people doing something wrong though, they must have a different smell. A couple of times when he was off duty we let him follow a couple of tracks he was interested in. One led to a cache of stolen AR-15 ammunition with 3 crescent clips hidden inside a giant concrete block and wrapped in an old coat (the police were ecstatic, they thought it was hopelessly lost). The second was a stolen brand new $1200 road bike, buried in the leaves about 2 miles off trail in the forest. Wish he would do that stuff of command, but that doesn't fit in so well with his service dog work. We didn't really train it though. Mainly we did runaways when he was a puppy and simple search problems with living people. That was it. He just decided to do the rest on his own.

    Kaia is really into playing games, and because she doesn't already have a job outside the house I think she'll end up liking it a lot. She's been getting very good at focusing and listening to directions lately.

    Corgi, thanks for the advice. I'll put her fur toys away for now. She's already really keen on game, so that all can wait. I bet she would like tugging with rags though. With the training toys do you have to worry about your own scent getting all over it too? Or does that not matter?
     
  18. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    I never worried about my scent on it. My scent is all around him, he can easily figure out that there's a new unique odor involved.

    What you do need to be aware of is residual odor from the scented toys. Don't leave them just lying around. Play with them and put them away. If you hide them, be aware that they may leave some residual odor in that spot. I try to put them inside/under/on items that can be removed from the environment when we're not training. When I wash them I don't use any detergent. I generally use a clean and scented toy each session. I'll usually scent a half dozen or so and then keep them in a ziploc baggie and keep the used ones in a different baggie until it's time to wash them.
     
  19. Though once you get to the stage where you are hiding scent articles, make sure to go around and touch absolutely everything you can in the surrounding area so she can't cheat and just track you. lol

    Proto, I think it would be fine for what you're doing. But that wouldn't be something I would encourage for mine because I don't want them to be rewarded by chasing critters. That could be a problem out in the field. ;)
     

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