Dog trains man

Monday, May 1, 2017

Conversations With A Hovawart #1: Treasure Hunt

"I think I am on to something."

"Good girl, Tilde! Keep on searching!"

We have been training to search for money lately. It seems premature to expect too much. On the other hand, it is not the first time I have underestimated my own ridiculously fabulous dog training skills.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Scent Discrimination: Nosework Camp part II

Kenzo sniffing apples
One of the topics of last week's Nosework camp was scent discrimination.

We could chose an item we would like Kenzo to search for by scent. Either an apple, a tea-blend, coffee, or something like money. Searching for money could quickly become expensive. You need bills with different amounts. New bills, old bills, etc. And as we already can search for marihuana, adding money to our curriculum could also give some the wrong impression. So we went for the apple.

To train scent discrimination you need a couple of tall glasses or cans. One of the glasses contains the apple, the others contain something that looks like an apple - sort of - like plums or oranges.

You might wonder why the tall glass? Simply because we don't want them to think it is an exercise "how to get the apple out of there and eat it".

What we want to achieve is to present the glasses in a row to our dog and have them indicate to us which one contains the apple. You can train this with a clicker - not necessarily though - but I will use the clicker in the examples.

Step 1. Put nose in glass

Introduce the apple in a glass. When your dog puts the tip of his nose in the glass, you click. Some dogs already got this in the first session. Others had some difficulty finding out what was expected. As an example, I took a video of the first session I did with Viva when we got home again. You can see she has no clue what I expect of her. When she shows stress by scratching herself I stop the session.

We only click when they put their nose down in the glass. If we would click on licking or tipping the glass over, we might create the wrong behavior.

Step 2. Chose the apple

After step 1, your dog probably thinks this is the "put nose down in glass excercise", so we have to introduce scent into the equation. Now you use two glasses, one with the apple and one with a plum or an orange. They will put their nose down in both of them. You click when they are down in the glass with the apple. This will teach them it is all about the apple. Here a video with Kenzo I took on return from camp. He is still with this step. Can you see where my clicker timing is wrong? I was not a big help in this session for Kenzo.

The last choices Kenzo made were very good!

Step 3. Indicate the apple

To rule out they chose by exclusion we delay the click. We now first click if we can see they stay with the apple, and they are telling us deliberately "it is this one!". First then we are sure they understood it is about the apple, not the glass or anything else they might think of. In the next video you can see Kiwi, she reached far and made it to this step already during the sessions on the nosework camp.

There are three more steps to go through: 4. distractions, 5. mark and 6. cue - and we tell more and show video's with Kenzo and Viva when we get that far!

It was very interesting to see all the dogs evolve through the steps. Kiwi made it to a first session into step 4. And one dog was able to demonstrate step 4 in its fullest. All dogs were able to leave the camp in step 2. That in itself is a very good result when you think the camp only took 3 days. It was awesome to see the differences in style between the dogs. Like Kenzo, who was carefully choosing his moves what to do, was in sharp contrast with Kiwi's high speed learning style.

It is important not to go forward too fast. First when they got it right 8 out of 10 times they are ready for the next step. It is also best to start each session with a short repetition of the steps you already master. Like a short rehearsal. If they show any confusion, it is probably best to move a step back or start from the beginning again.

Nosework tires. A session should preferably only take a couple of minutes, and they need a short break between each session. It depends on the indivudual dog, but with Kenzo and Viva I train this never longer than 15 minutes in all per day.

As you know, Kenzo can already search for marihuana. We trained this in a different way, but as our trainer pointed out the method we used didn't address searching by exclusion. And there was a risk Kenzo used exclusion instead of scent. Terminally worried I used the first available break to hide some pieces of cloth in the stone wall at the entrance of the camp. Some with and some without marihuana scent. I was relieved when Kenzo quickly found the marihuana and ignored the other pieces. Now when I think of it, I left the pieces in the stone wall ... oh my. Searching for apples has its advantages.
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