Scent work progression and random tidbits

Kazee’s scent work has been a little stalled because of weather issues (thank you Hurricane Matthew), as well as dog shows, but we are still trudging forward. After spending time building value for his toy hidden in the scent-a-whirl, we have progressed to having one toy in EVERY bin. The three, unmarked bins contain tug toys, which were placed in the bins the day before we worked with them, to make sure there was no fresh scent on the lids. To start the game, I play with the chosen toy before placing it into the marked bin. I then release him with a “find it” cue. If he gets stuck on an incorrect bin, I would simply help him work his way around the bins. When he indicates the correct bin, I mark it with “yes”, open the lid, let him take out his toy and we play, play, play!

We will stay at this step for the next week, to fully imprint in his little brain that he is searching for a specific toy. As the next step involves removing lids, I do not want to progress too quickly, as it will cause unnecessary errors.

I have had a couple of requests to put together instructions for building the scent-a-whirl. Basic instructions, with the measurements for my dog’s scent-a-whirl, can be found at this link – https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/49412661/Scent%20a%20whirl%20building%20instructions.pdf

Please remember, this is a patented tool of Victory’s, so you can not build them for resale. If you have any problems accessing the link, please sent me your email address and I will forward it.

All of Kazee’s other obedience work is progressing well, despite the fact we have been busy on many other things. Everything is still very informal and I am more concerned about drive and attitude, than perfect precision. So, as long as he is not running around me in circles, I am still shaping all of the exercises. Go-outs, however, are still a little up in the air. He is currently running to a target, but I would like a little more focus, so this training method may change slightly before we are finished. I need to keep shaping his pouch retrieves and these may be worked into his go-outs.

Now that our Florida weather has started to cool off, I am looking forward to getting more outdoor training time in. With a shortage of air conditioned facilities, it will make training much easier!

Until next time….train hard, play harder!

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Time to start using your nose!

Now that Kazee is reliably retrieving his dumbbell, I have decided to start introducing scent work to him. With my last dog, Gunner, I used the “Around the Clock” method to teach him articles. I did this primarily because I wanted a specific training method to follow and, in all honesty, I really did not know what I was doing. 🙂 Yes, I had an older dog (my German Shepherd Dog, Zita) already showing in Utility, but she was super smart and figured it out pretty quickly…I am still not sure what I did. LOL

But, I was not sure how I wanted to teach Kazee his articles. He has a very different temperament than my last two dogs and I also train much differently than I did eight years ago. During a Victory Hulett seminar last year, she demonstrated her method of teaching scent work to puppies. I was interested, but not sure I would ever try the method. But, I never say “never” and I tucked the method away in the back of my toolbox.

Fast forward to Kazee, who wants everything to be a game. I walked through the method with Victory again, to make sure I understood it, and I built the (patented) contraption which she calls a “Scent-a-Whirl”. Kazee immediately loved the tool and the game, so we are moving forward with this method to teach him scent work. Victory starts this training with much younger puppies, but because Kazee would not even hold a dumbbell for the longest time, I did not think about introducing this sooner. But, because the training starts with the use of toys, dogs do not need to have any type of a dumbbell or article retrieve to start the work.

I will be filming Kazee throughout this process, as well as detailing Victory’s instructions for the game. As this is not “my” method, I will be teaching my understanding of the method, which may or may not line up exactly with Victory’s.

Introduction to the scent-a-whirl (video taken Oct. 3, 2016):

Step 1: All lids off – play tug with the puppy using a soft toy. Then place toy in marked container. Tap on the container to encourage the puppy to get it out, then you and puppy play with the toy. (Stay close so that puppy doesn’t run off with the toy or get distracted.)

Step 2: Place lids on 3 empty containers. Play tug game with the puppy, then insert the toy into the 4th (marked) container and cover with lid. Encourage puppy to find the toy. You may need to tap on each container to get the puppy to smell them. Watch closely for any indication the puppy has located (smelled) the toy. Mark with a verbal “YES”, then remove the lid and let the puppy get the toy; play tug. (You must work closely – getting the lid off quickly to reward the puppy is very important.)

Step 3: Repeat until you can clearly read the puppy indicating the toy every time.

Important Points:

  1. Always start with play.
  2. Always play as a reward for the find.
  3. Each dog will indicate differently – some passively, some aggressively.
  4. You must work closely so that you can promptly mark finds with verbal “YES” and quick lid removal for the find – then play.
  5. As your dog progresses, allow them to stay at each level one to three weeks to ensure imprinting of knowledge. This is based on both handler and dog. If progress breaks down, back up one step, then re-test their understanding in a week or two

I stayed at the above steps for a week, as I wanted to see Kazee really start to use his nose to find the toy. Below video was taken on Oct. 11, 2016 (and, yes, coincidentally, I am wearing the same shirt! LOL)

I am really happy to see him actually slowing himself down and using his nose more and more. He is always very amped up when the game starts, but does slow down (slightly) with more repetitions.

Time to move on to the next steps. To be continued….

Train hard. Play harder!