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K-9 Prodigy

Unleash the genius in your dog

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Calming Down Nosework Alerts Part III

Posted on 17 April, 2019 at 15:28 Comments comments (636)
This is the last post in the "overexcited nosework alert" series; here are two more suggestions that might help in calming your dogs overexciteable behaviors while maintaining correct alerts.

You could try revisiting the the very early "imprinting" exercises that involve you holding a tin or container in your hand. Be prepared for the dog to knock into this hand, maybe even claw it or mouth it. No matter what your dog does though, hang on and keep the container as steady as possible until the dog quiets and does the alert you want. Do this for many sessions, then go back and try another container search (containers on the ground.) Is there any improvement?

You could try walking the dog on a leash into your search area. For some dogs, the presence of a leash will repress behavior somewhat, since (hopefully) they're used to slowing down and walking politely when the leash is on. Make sure your body language suggests a casual walking style other than a more formal one, so the dog understands it's free to focus forward and move around a bit, rather than be in a strict leash position. If all goes well, the dog will be slowed down enough to do a calmer alert, but not so slow that it doesn't see or pay attention to the boxes at all. A few rounds of this should get the dog a little slower; then try again off-leash and see if there has been a change.

In the long run, an enthusiastic dog will be easier to work with than a slower, less motivated one. So keep working at it, and let me know if you need help!

Overexcited Nosework Alerts Part II: How to Calm Them Down

Posted on 8 April, 2019 at 16:12 Comments comments (678)
In the last post, you read about the problem/not-problem of overenthusiastic nosework alerts. You want the dog to be enthusiastic, but not to the point of smashing boxes or crashing around your search area like a bull in a china shop! Here are some ways of calming the dog down:

You can try introducing a heavier container, or weighing down the container you have with rocks or sand. If you do this, just keep a couple of things in mind: 1) Make sure that all your containers have the same filler in it, and change the fillers randomly or you might be accidentally training your dog to alert to rocks or sand. 2) Make sure that you're actually addressing the problem behavior here (the wild alerts) instead of just physically preventing the dog from doing it. If more than a few sessions go by and he's still trying to hit, paw or chew the boxes, your problem isn't really being solved -- just masked. Move on and try something else.

Consider introducing simple vertical interior hides. Interior hides are normally introduced after the dog can do a complete container search, can do blind searches, and often has even passed a basic odor recognition test. But it's possible to modify this order a little, and introduce an interior hide. Try hiding the odor (using tape or magnets to the tin, or a little tube of odor) at about dog head height, and in a very obvious location such as right in the dogs path as he enters the room. Because the odor is higher and secured to furniture, the dog will likely not do any knocking around, and you can quickly move in to shape that nice, quieter alert.

Stay tuned for the next post to find out a couple of other ways of slowing down your overenthusiastic alerts!

Calming Down Nosework Alerts

Posted on 25 March, 2019 at 18:53 Comments comments (1743)
During the early stages of training Nosework to your dog, you're either holding the scent or it's on the ground right in front of you. You slowly build the dog's love for the scent and work it through the food distraction exercises and make sure it's going right for the scent and staying there. You're building up the dog's love for the scent! Soon he really-really-really loves it and can not stay away from it! And just like that you're up for your first simple search!

If all goes well, you'll set up the simple search exercise (usually just a single box) and your dog will trundle on in, find the scent, and stand there with his nose pointing at it, maybe waving his tail expectantly.

But sometimes, the thrill of the search is just too exciting, and the dog will run in and "chase" the box around, knocking it across the room; sometimes the dog will start digging and pawing frantically at it; sometimes they'll just grab the entire box and run around triumphantly!

We looooooove the enthusiasm, but.... need to take it down a notch or two or ten!

If your dog has an overenthusiastic alert, there are a few things you can do to help. Stay tuned for the next post in this series!


Posted on 20 February, 2019 at 13:55 Comments comments (329)
Testing again...the blog has been acting up!

Testing, testing!

K-9 Nosework: Interior Searches

Posted on 1 February, 2016 at 15:23 Comments comments (233)
Analysis of a successful search. It's a good idea to sometimes video your dogs working so that you can critically analyze what's going on, what looks good and what needs improvement.

0:00-0:11 -- She is confident in her warm-up "routine," which consists of some downtime where we casually ask her where she thinks it is and if she's ready to search. Her focus is gradually moved from us to the outside environment. Only one command "Find it" is needed. This is actually harder than it sounds; highly-trained dogs tend to be so oriented to the handler that it can actually be difficult to get them to orient to the environment instead. Lucy looks good here.

0:11-0:14 -- I really like that she started her search on the far right-hand side; this was a good idea. But I would have rather she then move left, rather than spin all the way around and set off in a different direction. An efficient dog will be a little more methodical in its search patterns.

0:15-0:26 -- Now she's getting into it; clearly committed to the search.

0:27 -- Did you see how her head flicked to the side? She hit the edge of the scent cone (scent travels in a cone shape.) She must have then drifted out of the scent cone and second-guessed herself, because she did not try to pick it up again. Time and confidence is all she needs to stop second-guessing.

0:28-0:37 -- Again, her efficiency will improve with time. She's re-investigating spots she's already checked.

0:38 -- She did not follow the scent cone in. She just chose to inspect this piece of furniture, and lo and behold, it was there! This is good. If a dog can not find a scent cone, you want them to think to examine individual objects. This will really help if there are windy conditions or some other reason the scent will be impaired.

0:38 - 0:45 -- A clear alert, wagging tail, a little bit of mouth movement. The "Where is it?" cue tells her to put her nose at the exact source. This looked really good, as you can not have the dog just tell you "It's on this table" -- it has to tell you *exactly* where on the table it is.

K-9 Nosework

Posted on 1 June, 2015 at 12:00 Comments comments (636)
Doesn't the sport of K-9 Nosework look fun? I love it because it's a chance for the dog to be the expert at something, and maybe it's just me but the dogs seem to be so happy that us humans "finally" have a way in to their fascinating world of scent! What a great way we can connect with our dogs!

Nosework is part of our new program "Give a Dog a Job" but I like to also teach it as part of a confidence-building regime for shy or anxious dogs -- it works so well for this that many trainers now are automatically adding it to their program for shy dogs!

K-9 Prodigy's Nosework program is taught slightly differently than most other Nosework classes you might attend with your dog. In many classes, the dog is first trained to search for food, and then the odor is "paired" with the food, and then eventually the dog understands to search for the odor alone. I use the detection/police dog method of never having the dog search for food alone but instead introducing the odor immediately and teaching the dog to choose the odor over the food, then beginning extremely simple searches almost immediately. I greatly prefer this method over teaching to search for food, because a) it's much faster!, b) the dog already knows how to use its nose, so you don't have to "teach" that by using food, and c) it is less confusing to the dog in upper levels of competition when some containers contain food and some contain odor! In fact some of the older videos in this blog show this puppy Halo (she's six months old now) passing by beef jerky and potato chips in order to get to her trained odor!

The sport of K-9 Nosework is designed to simulate professional detection dog work. The first level of the sport is what's called an "Odor Recognition Test." (This is what Halo is prepping for, in this video.) The Odor Recognition Test is just a series of closed containers/boxes with one box holding the scent and the other ones empty. Once the dog demonstrates that it can find the scent, it is eligible to move up to further competition. In this practice video, I'd marked all my containers "No" or "Yes" so that I wouldn't get mixed up, but in the competitions all the containers look the same and the handler must call out "Alert!"

Different venues that the dog must search in include interiors (such as a classroom), exteriors (such as a church), a vehicle search, and a container search (such as an airport baggage claim.) For many handlers, one of the highlights of the sport is that the trials are set up in a way that allows fearful or leash-reactive dogs to participate -- the dogs compete one at a time, and milling around/downtime such as you'd see at an obedience competition is minimized so the dog is not stressed out between runs. It's also a good sport for dogs with disabilities such as deafness; as long as the nose still works, the dog is good to go!

Nosework is one of my favorite things to teach! Halo will be entering her Odor Recognition Test in early August, at age 7 months. Wish us luck, but wouldn't it be fun to come join us? Many dogs can successfully prepare for an ORT in 6-8 weeks so there's still time!