There are only two problems you can have in detection work— Part 2
This is the second part of this series. Click here to read the first part.
Shaping response to odor
Now when your dog finds target odor pause do not pay right away. If she stays with her nose in the tube mark and pay this. Many dogs will leave the odor when you delay reward, either continuing to search or more typically heading toward the feeder. Do not mark as she is leaving for fear that you will miss an opportunity to reward on odor or for fear that she will might take it as a negative that she did not get paid. If you mark when she is leaving you are rewarding her for walking away from the odor. Be patient, when your dog leaves odor just wait, she will return. When she does, pay as soon as she puts her head in the tube.
Soon, your dog will pause in odor and you can pay this pause. You can begin to reach in and pay in odor through the tube. If you dog knows a “continue on” marker use it as you step up. If your dog moves toward you when you are moving to pay freeze or withdraw. She must be stationary, with her nose in the tube for you to move up and pay.
You can pay an individual find several times, pausing and waiting for her to freeze each time before paying.
Increase the time you ask her to hold using variable intervals. Vary whether you pay her with the Mannersminder or pay through the tube. She will learn that she must find the target odor and stay there to make you pay her.
Finding target odor is the only thing that has ever brought reward in this game. Therefore, very few dogs will stay on a non-target tube. If your dog chooses to wait at a non-target tube just wait her out. She will learn that the non-targets don’t pay.
Learn to ignore hander misdirection
When your dog is finding and staying on odor begin to teach her to ignore your direction that would draw her away from target odor. Wait for her to find target and pause there. When she does, call her away to another tube, even with food in your hand. When she leaves the target simply withdraw and wait for her to return to the target. Pay her when she does. It will not take many of these to teach her not to leave the odor once she finds it. Likewise, you can hold the reward near her away from any tube and call her away. If she leaves the target tube withdraw and wait for her to return to the target before paying her through the tube.
She will learn to stay on odor and not to look to you for help in detection work. This work plus training on blind hides when you do operational hides will make her a stronger detection dog.
While you can’t fully train a detection dog using any system of discrete presentations, with this approach you can give your dog a solid foundation in detection work. You will need to work operational hides and do scenario-based training to finish your dog’s education.
But you can always revisit the scent tube work to introduce new odors, to work on distractions, or to polish up a final stop for response that has started to get sloppy.