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Proofing Scent Discrimination

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This blog isn’t about teaching scent discrimination.  There are plenty of ways to teach scent work that are kind and effective; pick one or blend a few and find a plan that works for you.  Here is how I taught Lyra if you want some ideas:

Brito is being taught differently.  Not because the above method wouldn’t work for him, but because I find it entertaining to try different things with different dogs.

At this point Brito is roughly indicating either wooden clothes pins or metal rings.  I am just beginning to ask for a more clear indication – a bit of mouthing of the object.  He already has a shaped retrieve so it will be straightforward to get a full retrieve when I am ready.

This blog and video are more about introducing proofing to scent work.  I am working two dogs here; Brito and Lyra.

For Brito, I am adding the idea of movement – my movement – and separating it from clicking or rewarding.  I am doing this to prevent him from watching me for signs that he has found the correct article.  For example, if I am always dead still and then I get ready to click/throw a treat, some dogs learn to hover over  the articles and wait for a sign from mom.  To wash out that variable, I am moving my hand continuously, regardless of what he is doing.

For Lyra, I am actively trying to pull her off of her work by putting cookies under her nose.  I also place cookies on the ground within the pile but I can cover them with my hand if she goes for the cookie (not shown in this video).

Both dogs make mistakes; you can see how I handle those.  Mistakes are common for Brito (he’s just figuring it out) but very unusual for Lyra.

Both of these games are gentle ways of adding commitment to scent work without unduly stressing the dog.  Make sure the proofs you select are appropriate for the dog’s level of training.  If your dog begins to fail, either make the proof easier or change some aspect of the training scenario.

I tried to add a third dog to this video for more advanced proofing, but it appears I have never worked Raika sitting next to the pile, so she started offering random behaviors over the correct article.  Since she is retired from competition, I’ll see if I can develop a cute trick out of those behaviors and I’ll post it in a later blog.

Here are Brito and Lyra:

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

2 responses »

  1. I still am having problems with seeing you actually touch ALL of the articles.
    I would have thought that this would make the task impossible for the dog.

    Can you explain please?
    I wonder how the dog is actually discriminating betwen the sce ted article and the ‘unscented’ article.
    is the target article always the same one and you are just moving that? If so wouldn’t the dog then be scenting for its own saliva?

  2. Hi, they use towels over here in Singapore.

    My questions:

    1. Do we go over the same steps (using metal, leather, etc.)?

    2. How would we incorporate the towels in the discrimination drills?

    3. How do your segue into touching with the nose (discriminating) to picking it up in their mouths and returning it to you? My mini schnauzer’ already knows how to retrieve but, as per your guideline, I have stepped back so I could perfect the scent-find.



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