Practicing scent detection (or random poking?)

We had the pleasure of having Sojo from Oracle Aussies to stay with us for a week, I’m taking Sojo as my demo dog to Steve White seminar on Scent Detection hosted by Mindful Behaviors . I decided to experiment with both Sojo and Forbes and try and teach them to indicate a scent, which I chose to be tea (easy enough to get!). In these exercises the teabag is in a plastic container that I had several of. I cut holes into the lids of the containers. When doing scent detection the dog also has to have an indication behavior: that’s how they tell you that they have found the scent. In Steve’s seminar the behavior is a sit so that’s what I decided to work on.

First I made a little behavior chain: nose touch the container with tea followed by a sit. When this was strong enough, I added a second container without the teabag. This is where I started to run into challenges, it seemed to me that the dogs were just randomly poking and sitting until they hit the right container. What I also tried if the dog poked the empty container is I took the right one away, thus taking away their chance for a reinforcement. Then I put the right one back on the floor and clicked and treated for the right behavior. I just wasn’t sure if this was making the point across to the dogs…

Then I watched my friend Salla‘s movies on how she has been teaching her Labradors scent discrimination. Salla trains her dogs for search and rescue, she first gives the dog the scent of certain human in a glass jar and then the dog has to find the the scent of the same human in other glass jars. At this point in training Salla has just been clicking and treating for the dog hitting the right scent without the indication behavior, so that’s what I decided to try next as well.

Here is Salla with her dogs:

My experiments with Sojo:

And with Forbes:

I don’t think either dog has gotten the name of the game yet, I’m sure I will have a much better training plan after the seminar is over. But we’re ready to learn!

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