Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Day 188

Started articles this morning. I decided to try something totally different from the way I have trained all my previous dogs or the way I teach. Normally when I start introducing scent work I spend a couple of weeks teaching the dog to retrieve first the metal and then the leather article. Once the straight retrieve is in place and the dog is picking the article up the way I want it picked up, I move on to hiding a single metal article. How long I work with a single hidden article is completely up to the dog. There is no change until I can see that my dog is comfortable and secure in finding what I want found.

My problem is one of timing. I need to be outside using natural cover to hide my article, but I won't work a dog on metal articles outside in the wintertime. Even in a winter as mild as this one is turning out to be is too cold as far as I am concerned. I could wait until spring, BUT that would put me behind a self-imposed eight ball. You see, I really want her working scent well enough to act as my demo dog when we go to Columbia, MO the end of May so I can teach a 5-day school for Balanced Trainers. Enough on that. Here is what I am doing.

I saved several large bites of filet mignon, yes you read that right. Filet mignon left over from a special dinner. I cut those bites up into tiny little pieces and stored them in a plastic container. Then this morning downstairs we went to the training studio and the first of what I suspect will be many, many sessions.

For the introduction I had her place on one of the training tables and we worked on a fetch the very same way I started her out with the dumbbell. This is all familiar work for her, so the only new thing was the metal article and my insistence that it had to be taken in only one manner. I didn't have to worry about introducing metal as a new material because she is already retrieving metal drink cans, metal flatware and keys. I got 10 good fetch responses and that ended the article part. Normally that would end the training session but not this time.

This time I moved to my "Plan B". I let her have a sniff of the meat. Just a sniff and not a very big sniff at that. I have the really nice PVC end caps that are supposed to go on the bottom of the legs of my little training tables. Never one to pass up a good training tool these caps got pressed into service. Remember the old thimble game? Well, the caps became my thimbles and I put a single bit of meat under one of them. The first time there were just two caps, one without and one with meat. I sent her using the command "find it" and a fetch signal. Since she had been sitting there watching me place that bit of meat, I very much doubt that it really mattered what I said; because she was on her way with the first sound from me. Quick like a bunny she found the correct one. I had to help her turn the cap over the first couple of times. By the end of the session, she was finding the correct cap when it was one of eight caps and she was picking the cap up with her teeth to move it out of the way. Seemed like a perfect time to stop the training for the first session.


  1. Anonymous7:58 AM

    did you give her the food or not?

    Melissa Stagnaro
    Alex., VA

  2. Sure I did. Later that evening when I fed everyone.

  3. Dynamo10:04 AM

    Margo, Could you describe the School for Balanced Trainers in Columbia, MO. This is the first time I've heard about it.

    Marilyn Burris

  4. You're just hearing about it because we are just now getting the information out. The fastest way to get information right now is to go to the website and check under events. I think the link is:
    I will post all the information here and on my web site just as soon as it is available, which should be within the next week.

  5. Anonymous4:12 PM

    so why not use, say tea or something else distinctively smelly instead of meat if it is not going to be a locate yummy --> consume yummy immediately.

    how/when will you make the transition to a you-scented item?

    Just curious.
    Melissa Stagnaro

  6. This is so frustrating. I answered your question with a very good post and I don't have a clue as to where it went, but it totally vanished.

    Tea? I like tea, you may like tea, but I have never met a dog that liked tea. That being the case, I can't think of a reason why I would want to use tea or even something sort of like tea. The point of the entire "exercise" was to play a game of scent, to tease her, not feed her.

    When the time comes, making the scent shift won't be a problem at all. And anyway, I don't want a dog that can only work my scent when the wind, the sun and the moon are in just the right phase. I want a dog that when I say, "go find Sage's collar" and use my arm to indicate I want her to hunt the entire yard, will do just that. Use her nose to hunt the yard and locate the lost collar. I sure don't want to have to wander around in the dark looking for it. Right now Wrap still handles those jobs, but the time will come all too soon when Sanity will be expected to take over.

  7. Anonymous8:09 AM

    thanks for the reply. I understand that some people who want to train their dogs to be "drug dogs" w/o the drugs will use tea as the thing to find. Other than good meals of course the use of food in training is always of interest to me. Thanks for blogging. Melissa Stagnaro

  8. Humm...I've been around the block several times and have yet to meet a drug dog trainer who uses legal "tea" to teach a dog to search. Considering just how good a good scent dog really is, I suspect it would be possible to teach one to tell the difference between black tea, green tea, Darjeeling or vanilla chai. As a fun thing to do on a wet, winter's day maybe someone out there will give it a try and let us all know. Me?

    I'm going to just keep on plodding along with less expermintal sorts of training. At least for the time being.