Sunday, March 12, 2006

Day 234

Since I have totally goofed off today, I thought I would take this time to answer a couple of questions that have been directed my way.

The Q: At what point do you feel comfortable excluding the pre-training and post-training confinement, and moving to regular and varied practice throughout the day? Perhaps I missed or mis-read some sections of your blog, but I don't recall seeing you doing either with Sanity, at least not in the past few months that are standing out in my mind. What qualities do you suggest looking for before making this transition? I recognize that the confinement provides a substantial level of contrast that proves to ! be of great benefit to the initial training, and desire to work. What I'm still a bit confused on are the signs that this is no longer necessary.

I guess I wasn't as diligent as I could have been when it came to writing about the confinement time. If you go back to the August 05 entries you will find mention every so often about her being bench chained to something while waiting her turn to work. Since she was selected for her work ethic and desire to work, it was only a matter of holding her back until she had the basics down enough to be of real use. That tends to happen about the same time a solid "place" command paired with a "down/stay" are in place. So I think I most likely dispensed with the confinement along about 5 months of age. In her case, that would have been toward the end of ten weeks of training.

It is important to note that around here there is more than a little competition for my attention and only the dogs willing to work receive that attention. Annoy me when I am working with another dog and risk being banished to a kennel run. We call it being "86'ed". As a result all dogs learn very quickly to consider not being selected for work as a form of confinement.

The Q: I do start with a clock type method I guess. Two articles and moving it around until I can tell the dog is understanding that they have to scent and regularly chooses the right one. I started this dog on the metal, because he doesn't like it and it took a long time to get a reliable metal retrieve. I then start adding metal articles, still making sure to move it all around and also straight lines, chevrons, as well as clock faces. Then I start over again with the leather. Then start over again with mixed. He now is doing mixed. It sounds like you spend much longer on the two articles. This is only the second dog I've taught, and in both cases I just moved on when the dog seemed ready. I tried the tie down method with the first. He was an eager retriever and just brought back the whole dang contraption. I figured if I just started with the two, I could get him to figure it out. That dog took a while, this one seemed to get it and start scenting very quickly.

Do you have a prescribed time frame for moving around the clock and adding more?

I am very methodical about my approach to scent work. I always start with the metal articles. I always have the taboo article as the center of my imaginary clock face and the correct article is first placed at the 9 o'clock position. I will work the 9 and 11 o'clock positions until the dog is going out without hesitation, selecting the correct article without a mistake and is able to do the two placements before I move on. In moving on the new position becomes 10 and 12 o'clock. In that manner I slowly move all the way around the clock. Sometimes I have to hold at a specific position for several days and other times we move through several positions in a matter of days.

Almost all dogs hit a wall after you pass the 12 o'clock position. For a time they just don't seem to be able to even see that side of the picture. That is the point when people want to go to the tie-down or some other form of aid. I always tell my students, forget about it, all those "aids" just slow things down in the end. The only aid needed is that of a slow and methodical pace that has you changing the location of the correct article just a little bit each day, as appropriate.

Once they are able to see it, you will see them beginning to use their nose in a more obvious manner. One of the things I watch for as a sign I can add a third article is that use of the nose. Most of the time there is nothing of value to be gained by adding a third article too soon. It only means you have a weak spot in the training and sooner or later will have to go back and fix it.

I would love to see both questioners in Columbia, MO for my 5-day Balanced Trainers school. It is always so helpful to be able to actually see and then try things that you have only been able to read about and try out on your own.


  1. Anonymous7:11 PM

    Thanks for going over your scent method, I appreciate your responding to your readers.

    Myra Miller

  2. Thank you for reading and then taking the time to write me with your questions. I hope you will continue to read and that you will recommend others read my blog as well.

  3. Bryan Konowitz1:11 AM

    I too would like to thank you for the response Margot. I do remember, now, the August 05 benching mentioned. I also very much enjoy the idea of competition for attention leading to a contrast between being the working dog, and being passed over.

    I'd love to head out to the BT School, but it currently doesn't look to be in the cards. If I can't make this one, I'll be eagerly anticipating the next.

    Thanks again Margot!

    - Bryan Konowitz in LV, Nv