The article selection skill is necessary to recognize the subject based on the target scent.
Selecting articles helps to develop sensitivity of the dog’s sense of smell. It facilitates the improvement of the dog’s scent discrimination skill and is the foundation for teaching dogs to select a subject by an object’s odor. Conditioned stimuli – basic: the “Sniff” command and hand signal in the direction of the objects; auxiliary command: “Fetch”, “Good Dog”, “Out”, “No” (with calm intonation), etc.
Unconditioned stimuli – retrieval object, treat, petting.
The skill is developed based on the olfactory-search and food behavioral reactions and the retrieving skill.
The dog is ready to select objects only if it will sniff an object offered to it with interest, actively search for it among a large number of similar unscented objects using its sense of smell, and bring the item to the trainer and sit in front of him. For this purpose the following preparatory exercises are used:
* teaching the dog to calmly sniff an object on the “Sniff” command;
* retrieving unfamiliar objects that vary in shape, size, and material;
* retrieving unfamiliar scented objects from among 50 – 70 items and among unscented small objects up to 1 x 10 centimeters in size.
In order to develop the dog’s olfactory-search reaction, the following retrieval exercises should be performed: retrieving sticks and stones from the large number of similar items, etc.; searching for a pine cone, an acorn with the trainer’s and assistant’s scent among a large number of unscented acorns.
During the preparatory exercises the dog must be trained to search in a calm but interested manner for its own as well as unfamiliar retrieval objects and then bring them to the trainer and sit in front of him. Practicing these preparatory exercises is extremely important, especially during a 5 – 6 month – long training course for search dogs.
The main thing here is to teach the dog to be interested in retrieving unfamiliar items since the end goal of the technique is to be able to select unfamiliar objects.
Teaching a dog to be interested in retrieving items belonging to the assistant can be accomplished in the following ways:
1. The assistant agitates the dog with a retrieval object and throws it to where other similar objects are located. The trainer sends the dog after the object. For each object the dog retrieves it is rewarded with a treat. The exercise is repeated 10 – 15 times during one lesson.
2. The trainers put 10 – 15 items in plastic bags and exchange the bags with each other per the supervisor’s instruction. Then, each trainer works with his dog, teaching it to retrieve unfamiliar objects.
Methodology and training techniques. First phase. Task: develop the dog’s initial conditioned reflex to select an object from 5 – 6 similar scented objects.
For this purpose each trainer must perfectly understand the rules for organizing and conducting exercises to select objects.
Layout of Site for Object Selection
Rules for preparing the site for object selection. Lessons on object selection are conducted in surroundings familiar to the dog with the least possible number of distracting stimuli (especially odors) at a specially prepared site. In this way, the dog will become accustomed to the environment, all the odors, i.e. the orienting reflex in response to the new situation will weaken, which will help the conditioned reflex to form rapidly. Likewise, just the opposite will occur if each lesson is conducted in different surroundings. The dog will be distracted by unfamiliar odors and the new environment. This will slow the development of the conditioned reflex of object selection.
The special area for object selection consists of the following elements. A 1.5 X 1 meter site is prepared for object placement. It is leveled, cleared of grass, and if necessary, the upper layer of soil is removed (No. 1).The location for the sitting dog (No. 2) is one meter from the placement site. The distance is determined based on the ease of controlling the dog on a short leash (1.5 meters in length), and so the dog can see the retrieval objects on the ground. One step to the right from the location of the sitting dog is the site for objects belonging to the main assistant (No. 3). The site for reserve objects (No. 4), both scented and unscented, is one step from No. 3 (to prevent the dog from becoming distracted by objects located at the main assistant’s site (No. 3) and at the site for reserve objects (No. 4). It is a good idea to locate the sites slightly below grade. The site for placing used objects (No. 5) is located 1.5 meters behind the dog’s location.
Rules for selecting and storing objects for use during the object selection exercise. Before beginning the object selection exercise, retrieving exercises should be conducted to develop the dog’s olfactory – search reaction. Therefore, all objects should be relatively small, about 5 – 10 centimeters long and 1 – 1.5 centimeters wide and of varying shape, color, and composition. The scent concentration on small objects is weaker, and it will be difficult for the dog to locate them in grass and bushes.
The initial object selection exercises should use triangular, rectangular, and circular retrieval objects fabricated from hard cardboard that have already been bent in half (to make it easier for the dog to pick up from the ground). The cardboard is excellent for absorbing odors, convenient to carry in pockets, and it is only used one time. This ensures the purity of the subject’s individual scent on the objects, which has a decisive significance in object selection.
If one object is used several times during the lesson while searching an area, retrieving, selecting objects, and if several dogs pick up the object (each dog will leave the scent of its saliva on the object), then the retrieval object absorbs a combination of multiple odors. This will lead to the dog’s developing an undesirable conditioned reflex – instead of selecting an object based on the subject’s individual scent, it will use an integrated scent, which will have a negative impact on search dog training.
In order to maintain the purity of the subject’s individual scent on an object, the following rules should be followed:
* all retrieval objects of each trainer must be labeled and numbered to avoid mixing them up;
* the trainer must have a personal pair of tongs, throw-away gloves, or simply a plastic bag, which he must use when picking up objects, arranging them, or giving the dog to sniff;
* every day after each lesson, objects should be aired out on special racks. They should be replaced every 3 – 4 lessons;
* objects must be kept strictly in one place during lessons: in a satchel for retrieval objects, a plastic bag, or pockets in clothing where other scented objects cannot be placed;
* use treats correctly (offer only with the left hand), prepare them ahead of time, cutting them into small pieces;
* if wooden objects are used for object selection exercises, they need to be made from different varieties of wood in order to avoid the dog developing an undesirable association with a specific wood scent;
* items used for article selection must be varied in shape, size, color, and material.
As the dog’s conditioned reflex for article selection strengthens (at the end of training phase 2), it will become necessary to use items that will be encountered on the job such as brushes, knives, pistols (mock-ups), keys, notebooks, handkerchiefs, belts, socks, pens, gloves, etc.
Rules for placing article selection items.
The arrangement of objects at the site can either facilitate the dog’s work or make it more difficult. How fast and how well the conditioned reflex forms depends on the correct arrangement of objects (scent carriers). Thus, in the preparatory training phase the objects are scattered around in order to inhibit the visual-orienting reaction to the object’s location and to force the dog to locate the article among other similar (color, size, shape) unscented items using his sense of smell. The number of objects should be at least 50 – 70.
Arrangement of objects for selection. a) in a row, b) scattered
In subsequent phases of object selection, the items will need to be arranged in a row with the distance between them at least 30 – 50 centimeters. This is because the odorous substances are very volatile and are constantly discharged into the environment and dispersed through the air. They can be absorbed by retrieval objects: fabrics absorb odors most of all (wool, silk), and paper and wood products absorb to a lesser degree. Arranging the retrieval objects in one row helps to preserve the scent and facilitates correct scent discrimination by the dog. In addition, it learns to sniff all objects in an organized and orderly fashion.
When objects are scattered, they absorb a variety of odors, especially if they are located at the site for an extended time. The dog has difficulty choosing the target object in this type of environment and usually makes errors, which negatively impacts conditioned reflex formation for article selection.
Rules for introducing the dog to the target scent. One of the most important aspects of successfully training a dog for article selection is the trainer’s ability to correctly introduce the dog to the scent of the target article. For this reason the trainer must be familiar with the structure of the olfactory analyzer and the physiology of the dog’s sense of smell.
During the preparatory phase the dog needs to develop a conditioned reflex to accept pressure on its muzzle, since when the dog sniffs, its mouth must be closed. It must also learn to be interested in and calmly sniff an article the trainer shows it. Initially, the object should be swabbed with an odorous substance, which will attract the dog’s attention, such as fish oil, beef broth, or juice from a canned product, etc.
Introducing the dog to the target article scent
Give the dog the object 2 – 3 times to sniff for 3 – 5 seconds, each time with 3 – 5 second pauses in between.
If the dog spends too much time sniffing (more than 10 – 15 seconds), adaptation may develop, i.e. the sense of smell becomes accustomed to the strength of the scent (stimulus), which can lead to a loss of sensitivity. In order to sense the odor again, its concentration must be increased, or the dog must be temporarily rested.
To introduce the dog to the scent of the article, first of all the dog’s muzzle needs to be set: squeeze the upper and lower jaws together with the left hand so its mouth is closed or push up just on the lower jaw.
While introducing the dog to the scent, the article must be located in a stationary position in front of its nose, since moving the object will distract the dog, and it won’t be able to imprint the scent.
The position of the dog (sitting or standing), while it is getting to know the article’s scent, depends on the dog’s individual characteristics: it is not necessary to make excitable and intense dogs sit, but less intense dogs should be held longer in the sitting position to build their interest in article selection.
The characteristics of the dog’s scent memory must be taken into consideration during article selection. Studies have shown that after sniffing an article, a dog’s normal scent memory lasts a maximum of one minute. Therefore, during the training process the time between sniffing an article and releasing the dog for article selection must be gradually increased to 3 – 5 minutes.
Basic requirements for organizing and conducting initial lessons:
* article selection exercises are practiced at the beginning of the lesson when the dog is fresh. The conditioned reflex develops more rapidly if the lessons are conducted 3 times per day (morning, afternoon, evening, and, as a rule, prior to feeding);
* prior to the article selection exercises, other complex specialized techniques should not be practiced;
* articles (scent carriers), prepared for selection, must be present at the site for 2 – 2.5 hours prior to the beginning of the lesson, in order to intensify the purity of each individual scent by exposing the articles to the wind, which will blow away household and other types of odors.
* each trainer conducts the exercises independently or under the instructor’s supervision. The lesson supervisor helps them, if necessary, and periodically checks their readiness to deal with unknown conditions;
* articles used for selection must remain in the pockets of the assistant’s protection suit for twenty-four hours;
* the following work regime is followed during the lessons: the dog will make 1 – 2 selections following each approach to the site;
* 6 – 10 exercises with two pairings each with 5 – 10 minute breaks will be conducted during a 2 – 3 hour lesson;
* do not have the dog retrieve articles while walking during breaks in the article selection lesson;
* handling of the dog before and during the article selection phase must be calm and friendly. Avoid the use of loud commands and strong mechanical stimuli;
* the dog must be rewarded with treats and petting for each selected article.
By the beginning of article selection training, the trainer’s level of preparation must comply with the following requirements:
* is familiar with the methodology and techniques for training dogs to select articles and has experience in organizing article selection lessons and handling dogs as both an instructor and trainer;
* knows how to arrange retrieval objects at the site, familiarize the dog with the target article scent by using a special pair of tongs;
* must be skilled at controlling the dog with commands, gestures, and the leash;
* knows when and how to give a treat;
* can confidently execute all actions in their proper sequence that are stipulated by the methodology and training techniques for teaching a dog to select articles.
Methods of training a dog to select articles. They depend on the dog’s individual characteristics (training level, intensity of the olfactory-search behavioral reaction, age), training course duration and trainer readiness.
First phase. First method – selection of unfamiliar article from a group of unscented articles with gradual transition to the selection of scented articles. The trainer arranges 5 – 6 unscented articles in a row, that have been kept on racks to air out or in a special box (for every 6 – 8 trainers one portable box is fabricated). Another 2 – 3 similar articles are placed at the reserve object site (No. 4). Simultaneously, the assistant leaves 10 – 15 scented articles at site No. 3. The exercise is conducted as follows: 1.5 – 2 hours after preparing the site and after exercising the dog, the trainer approaches the article selection site (No. 2), gives the “Sit command, and has the dog sit at its left side. Then he picks up a scented article belonging to the target assistant with a pair of tongs and places it at site No. 1 next to the unscented articles (each time the location of the target article must change). He picks up a second scented article with the tongs, extends his left leg in front of the dog, and with his left hand adjusts the dog’s muzzle (the dog’s mouth must be closed). Using the tongs with his right hand, he brings the article to within 1 – 2 centimeters of the dog’s nose while giving the “Sniff” command. While the dog is actively sniffing (inhaling through its nose), the trainer encourages it with the “Good Dog” and “Sniff” commands given with approving intonation. After familiarizing the dog with the scent, he places the article one step to the right. Then he gives the “Sniff” command and a hand signal and sends the dog to select the article.
While the dog is sniffing objects lying on the ground, the trainer carefully observes the dog’s behavior and stands calmly without giving any commands. If the dog becomes distracted and does not sniff the objects, only the “Sniff” command can be repeated.
When the dog brings the target article and sits down in front of the trainer, he takes the article and rewards the dog with a treat. In case of a mistake, he gives the “No” command (in a soft tone of voice), takes away the article and puts it at the site for used objects. The trainer must clarify the reason for the dog’s error. If the dog was too excited, it needs to be exercised. If it did not memorize the scent of the target object, let the dog sniff the article again and continue the selection exercise (Figure 65).
It is prohibited to prepare (to hold in your hand) a treat ahead of time, give the “Good Dog”, “Sniff”, or “No” command when the dog is sniffing objects at site No. 1, move, or tug the leash since that leads to the dog forming undesirable associations with the trainer’s behavior, i.e. in the future the dog will select objects based on the trainer’s signals and not by scent. After the selection is made, the dog is allowed to rest for 5 – 10 minutes, and then the exercise is repeated. The exercises should be repeated up to 6 – 10 times which will facilitate the formation of the conditioned reflex.
The target article is selected from 5 – 6 unscented objects only during the first three lessons, since the dog quickly develops an undesirable conditioned reflex to the scent strength, i.e. the dog in the future will choose any article with a scent. Subsequently, it is very difficult to teach such dogs scent discrimination. Therefore, it is necessary to switch the dog gradually over to the selection of scented articles. At first, select articles with the scent of the target assistant from among 3 – 4 unscented and 1 – 2 lightly scented articles handled by the supplementary assistant. This exercise is practiced for 2 – 3 lessons in the following sequence. When the selection articles are being arranged, the supplementary assistant or the lesson supervisor walks to the selection site (No. 1), and at the trainer’s direction, picks up 1 – 2 unscented articles with his right hand. He holds them in his hand for 1 – 2 minutes and then returns them to their previous location. As a result, there will be 3 unscented articles and 1 scented article previously handled by the main assistant and 2 lightly scented articles previously handled by the supplementary assistant. Besides that, it is a good idea to keep 2 – 3 articles previously handled by the supplementary assistant in reserve in case the dog picks one of them. In the event the dog picks up an article by mistake, the object must be removed from the site and replaced by one of the reserve articles.
If the dog confidently selects the target article, the selection conditions become more complex.
At each lesson the supplementary assistants are rotated, and gradually the scent concentration on the articles handled by them is increased until it reaches the same intensity as the target article. For example, 2 unscented and 2 lightly scented articles from each assistant (one of them being the target article, the other with the scent of the supplementary assistant) – a total of 6 articles.
On subsequent days all the articles will be arranged simultaneously (including articles handled by the main assistant). Do not move the articles from one place to another since the article’s scent remains behind, and the dog might make an error. Only the location of the target article can be changed.
As the dog’s conditioned reflex for article selection develops, the number of scented articles is gradually increased and the number of unscented articles is decreased.
For example, 1 unscented article, 3 equally scented articles, and 2 lightly scented articles can be placed at the site. By the end of the first training phase, the dog must confidently and eagerly select the target article from among 5 – 6 scented articles having the same scent concentration.
In order to evaluate the dog’s training level and identify possible trainer errors, the exercise needs to periodically include the selection of articles that are not familiar to the trainer. Additionally, the dog should also be sent to the selection site when the target article is not there. These exercises should be performed carefully and not more than once per lesson. After the dog sniffs all the articles and approaches the trainer without having picked up anything, the trainer should reward it. Then an article with the target assistant’s scent is placed at the site. The dog is then introduced to the scent, and sent to make the selection.
Second method: selection of an unfamiliar article from a group of objects with old scents. Subsequently, the strength and age of the scents will be matched by intensity and freshness. This exercise is conducted with the participation of 5 – 6 trainers, who have 15 – 20 articles (scent carriers). The trainers help each other during the exercise: each of them simultaneously plays the role of the main and supplementary assistant during an exercise with a dog.
The lesson begins with planning and preparing the environment for the selection exercises. The group is broken down into pairs, in which one plays the trainer, and one plays the main assistant. Then, under the direction of the group instructor, the trainers proceed in a line from one site to another, arranging articles for each trainer. This is done in the following manner:
At the direction of the lesson supervisor, everyone except the trainer and main assistant place 1 – 2 articles, and the trainer arranges them in a row at site No. 1. He then places one article in the site for reserve objects (No. 4). The remaining articles are arranged for each trainer in the same order at the remaining sites. After 1 – 2 hours the main assistant places 10 – 15 articles at site No. 3, which stand out because of the strong intensity of their scent. This will facilitate the dog’s work.
After that, the trainers and their dogs complete the article selection exercises in the same way as the first method.
After 2 – 3 lessons, the difference in scent freshness of the articles assigned to the main and supplementary assistants is decreased by 15 – 20 minutes and eventually equalized. This needs to be done carefully, taking into account the dog’s working ability. To maintain the dog’s intensity level, occasionally the article selection should be performed under simplified conditions.
In order to test the dog’s training level and to identify possible undesirable associations in its work, the dog should be sent to select an object when the target article is not present. The dog should sniff all the articles and approach the trainer.
Third method. Selecting an article from a group of scented articles with gradual transition to selecting unfamiliar articles. This method is used to train dogs that have little interest in retrieving unfamiliar objects. The conditioned reflex to actively search for the trainer’s article among a large number of unscented articles, for example; a baton among other batons, begins to develop in these dogs during the preparatory exercises.
The basic exercise is performed as follows. Four to five scented articles belonging to the assistants are arranged at site No. 1, and 1 – 2 hours later the trainer places his own articlet there. After 2 – 2.5 hours the trainer, after thoroughly exercising the dog, arrives at site No. 1, and the dog selects the trainer’s article from a group of scented objects. The exercises are repeated 6 – 10 times over the course of 2 – 3 lessons. Subsequently, the scent intensity of all articles is gradually equalized.
It is a good idea to vary the shape, composition, and color of the articles at each lesson. Additionally, the exercises on article selection should frequently be conducted under conditions that are unfamiliar to the trainer. The lesson supervisor or another trainer should be the one to create the situational environment for the lesson.
If the dog is able to confidently and actively select an item belonging to the trainer from among 5 – 6 unfamiliar articles, then it is time to gradually transition to the selection of unfamiliar articles. In order to facilitate the transition from selecting a familiar article to selecting an unfamiliar one, the trainer’s scent should be swabbed on articles belonging to the assistant (the scent intensity on the target articles must not exceed the others). Gradually, the scent intensity on all articles is equalized. The dog is rewarded with a treat for each correct selection.
First phase article selection standards.
By the end of the first phase of article selection the dog must be able to:
* calmly accept pressure on his muzzle and actively sniff the target scent;
* independently and eagerly sniff all the articles lying at the site, locate the target article from among 5 – 6 others, bring it to the trainer, and sit in front of him;
* if the target article is not present among the others, the dog returns to the trainer on his own after thoroughly sniffing the other items;
During the lessons the trainer must:
* study the dog’s behavior during normal and contact-free selection;
* demonstrate expertise in dog control techniques;
* learn to organize and conduct article selection exercises as a lesson supervisor;
* be able to anticipate and note trainer mistakes as well as find ways to eliminate them.
During lessons, these rules must be followed:
* the introduction of situational complexity, change in the selection exercise location must be done gradually and carefully in order not to inhibit the initial conditioned reflex and delay the formation of a learned behavior or skill;
* repeat the exercises at least 3 – 4 times during a single lesson, practice 2 – 3 times per week. Send the dog for article selection 2 – 3 times per lesson with breaks of up to 1 minute;
* reward the dog for each correct selection with treats and petting;
* perform the exercises at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of a lesson, as well as in the morning, evening, and at mid-day;
* gradually increase (decrease) the freshness of the scent at each lesson by 10 – 15 minutes up to 8 – 10 hours, and occasionally conduct an article selection exercise with 20 – 40 minute old scents;
* use articles that differ in composition, color, shape, and size. Strictly follow the rules on storing articles; remember that using articles made from different materials facilitates the dog’s ability to differentiate the individual scents of the assistants from among a group of other scents present on each item, depending on the composition (rubber, wood, metal, fabric, etc.);
* skillfully combine conditions that are both familiar and unfamiliar to the trainer for the article selection exercises.
More complex exercise variations during the second phase of article selection. Increase the number (up to 8 – 10) of articles of varying shape, composition, size, and color. Increase the age of the scents by 10 – 15 minutes each lesson; up to 8 – 10 hours. The exercise regime depends on the dog’s intensity and interest in the work:
* selection of articles lying close to the trainer:
* teaching the dog the no-contact method of article selection.
The trainer needs to comply with the following rules while working on more complicated exercise variations in the second phase.
* to maintain the dog’s intensity level while working, conduct 1 – 2 article selection exercises regularly every 3 – 4 lessons under simplified conditions with a scent age of up to 20 – 40 minutes.
* for convenience purposes and to save time in creating the environmental situation for article selection, each trainer should have a special box containing 0.5 liter – glass jars or plastic bags.
* at a set time prior to the exercise, the trainer places various articles with the assistants’ scent in the jars. This makes it possible to conduct the article selection exercise at any time of the day, any place, and without the assistants present.
* After each lesson the jars need to be washed, dried, and the scent carriers (articles) replaced.
* In order to identify potential trainer errors on time as well as the dog’s undesirable associations, the article selection exercises should be conducted more often under conditions unfamiliar to the trainer.
During the first phase, the article selection exercises were conducted under favorable conditions and at specially prepared sites, but in the future it will be necessary to gradually teach the dog to work at various times of the day (morning, evening, mid-day), at different air temperatures, at the beginning, middle, and end of the lesson, and in varying surroundings. It is important to remember that a sudden change in selection conditions can lead to a weakening of the scent discrimination reflex: the dog becomes fidgety and may grab any object having a strong scent. If the dog becomes confused and loses concentration (switches from one article to another, is sluggish in article selection, or occasionally lies down on the articles, etc.) when more complex exercise variations are introduced, do not force him to work or raise your voice. It is better to take a 3 – 5 day break or conduct the article selection exercise under simplified conditions, providing incentive to the dog with the intensity and freshness of the scent. With the introduction of each complex variation, the trainer must work with patience, restraint, consistency, and always be calm with the dog.
Procedural advice from the lesson supervisor. Success in educating trainers and teaching dogs to select articles depends on the organizational abilities of the supervisor (instructor). Most importantly, he much teach the trainers (beginning with the first phase) to independently and correctly perform the article selection exercises. As new variations are introduced, he must demonstrate how the exercise is to be performed. He works with the trainers individually and allows them to practice independently, occasionally checking their work. The trainers are broken down into pairs so they can monitor and help each other. One trainer in each pair is named as senior trainer.
Article selection exercises, personally supervised by the instructor and monitored by the trainer’s partner, should be conducted more often under conditions unfamiliar to the trainer.
Prevailing winds are preferable. The dog should be sent into the wind to select an article.
Rules for practicing complex variations during the second phase.
Selection of articles located at the assistant’s feet. Teaching the dog to select articles in the presence of people at the selection site is important for the development of the conditioned reflex of selecting a human subject based on the scent of an article. By the end of the training course, the dog must calmly accept the presence of strangers (assistants), who are present during selection. The exercises become more complicated and are performed in the following sequence. Initially, the assistants (3 – 4 persons) are 5 – 7 meters away, standing calming at the same location. If the dog becomes distracted by the people during the selection process, the trainer must put the dog on a short leash. He then approaches the group of assistants, walks around them, and calms the dog. If the dog exhibits aggression, the trainer halts the dog’s undesirable behavior by the “No” command. Then he returns the dog to the selection location and continues the exercise.
At each lesson, the distance between the selection articles and the location of the assistants is reduced. The ultimate goal of this exercise is the selection of articles lying at the feet of the assistants or on the toes of their shoes.
The personal belongings of the assistants also need to be used for selection since the dog’s work in identifying a subject will involve different shapes, composition, color, and sizes of articles (scent carriers) that belong to a specific individual.
In creating the environment for the selection exercise with personal items, make sure that the articles are identical in shape and composition since different – sized articles have varying scent concentrations which might cause the dog to make a mistake. Use articles with different shapes and composition each lesson.
Before the conditioned reflex for selecting articles has been developed, conduct the selection exercises daily in the presence of assistants, preferably in the morning, evening, and afternoon 3 – 5 times per day and then periodically.
Standards during the second training phase
* The dog must eagerly sniff articles offered to it no matter what their shape, size, or composition;
* If the target item is not present among the objects at the site, the dog returns to the trainer without the article after it has sniffed all the articles thoroughly.
Task: improve the dog’s skill to select objects until it becomes completely reliable under actual working conditions.
Requirements for organizing and conducting lessons. Conduct the lessons in different areas with the fewest number of scent stimuli. Select articles under conditions unfamiliar for the trainer and only occasionally under familiar conditions (to more accurately assess the dog’s behavior).
Practice at least 3 – 4 times per week. Perform 2 – 10 exercises during each lesson.
Only use the assistants’ personal items for selection (shoes, belt, headgear, notebooks, combs, etc.), to approximate actual working conditions.
In the third training phase the trainer must:
* have a thorough understand of the dog’s behavior;
* be able to organize article selection exercises with the goal of identifying the target subject, including the recognition of articles by scent;
* perfect his ability to analyze the dog’s actions and work, to notice mistakes, look for their causes, and eliminate them.
Exercises practiced during the third training phase to develop the article selection skill.
The selection of articles from objects having scents of varying intensity, concentration, and age. These are conditions that approximate actual on-the-job conditions. Therefore, exercises practiced under similar conditions are needed. In addition, they have a positive effect on improving the dog’s discrimination skills.
The exercise is performed in the following sequence. Initially, the assistant’s target article is placed at the selection site, and then 20 – 30 minutes later the articles belonging to the supplementary assistants are arranged there. Subsequently, depending on the intensity and the efficiency of the dog’s work, the scent age of the target article is gradually increased by up to 20 – 30 minutes at each lesson. In order to avoid the formation of undesirable conditioned reflexes in response to scent intensity (target scent is less intense), the scent age of the articles belonging to the supplementary assistants also needs to be gradually increased, creating a variety of scent disparities.
By the end of the training course the dog must be able to select a target item from articles with varying scent ages.
The sequential selection of articles belonging to several assistants from one group and different groups of objects is one of the most complex types of selection. Two or three individuals act as the main assistant to arrange the articles. Each leaves in a pre-arranged location 3 – 4 articles (scent carriers). During the first lessons, articles belonging to two assistants are selected from various groups of objects (at two sites). At first the dog is sent 2 – 3 times to select at article from the first site, and then the same number of times to the second site.
Subsequently articles belonging to 2- 3 assistants are selected from the same site. These exercises facilitate the development of discrimination skills and the identification of possible undesirable associations in the dog.
In the concluding exercises of the third training phase, article selection is performed under any weather conditions, at varying times of the day, and at different locations in the presence of distracting stimuli. This all promotes reliability in the dog’s work under actual working conditions.
Combining article selection with the skill of following a scent trail and searching an area. When working dogs are used on the job, there may be cases, when other scent objects are encountered while following the trail of the target subject. Therefore, it is useful to train the dog to search an area or enclosed premises for target articles while using only the target scent.
The exercises are performed as follows. During the lessons involving a search of an area or enclosed area and following a scent trail, various objects belonging to the supplementary assistants are distributed on the ground. The goal of the trainer during the lessons is for the dog to only pick out articles belonging to the target subject without paying attention to the other objects.
Training standards for the dog in the third phase of article selection include:
* the dog must eagerly, but calmly sniff the scented article offered for familiarization.
* sniff all objects at the site, independently find the target article and either signal that the article has been found or pick it up, carry it to the trainer, and sit in front of him;
* if the target article is not at the site, the dog independently returns to the trainer after thoroughly inspecting the other objects;
* select the target article carrying a scent either older or fresher than the other objects.
Potential trainer errors and their consequences:
1. If exercises are conducted over a lengthy period with target articles that differ from the others in scent intensity, the dog will develop the habit of locating the target article not based on the individual scent of the subject, but on the intensity of the integrated scent.
2. Mixing articles due to the lack of labels, poor ventilation, and the frequent use of the same articles leads to the loss of recognizable characteristics and the development of a conditioned reflex to select an article based on the intensity of the integrated scent or to the dog making frequent errors in its work.
3. This constant use of similar target articles promotes the development of an undesirable association with the composition, shape, and color of retrieval objects.
4. Always locating the target article in the same place leads to the development of an undesirable association with its location.
5. Switching the location of articles at the site from place to place along one line can lead to the dog making a mistake.
6. Using the same individual or persons from the same profession in the role of the main assistant can impede progress in developing the dog’s skill to discriminate among scents.
7. Numerous repetitions of the “Sniff” command while the dog is sniffing articles, giving the “Good Dog” command as soon as the dog begins to sniff the target item, backwards movement by the trainer, and jerking the leash can result in the dog developing an undesirable response to the trainer’s behavior.
8. Excessively frequent repetition of the object selection exercises leads to overtraining and the refusal of the dog to work or to mistakes.
9. Harsh treatment of the dog and forcing compliance using methods that are unpleasant for the dog can cause pain, mistakes, or complete refusal to work.
10. Performing the exercises only under conditions familiar to the trainer reinforces trainer errors and makes the dog develop various undesirable reflexes.