Instructor: Stacy Barnett
Note: Week one class lectures will be released on June 1st but your instructor will not join the classroom until Monday, June 4 due to participation in the FDSA Training Camp. This class will be extended to July 15th to allow for this delay.
Does your dog look like this?
And you wish your dog looked like this?
THAT is what this class is about!
First do you know WHY your dog box smashes? We will cover that!! We are also going to be using a shaped indication and successive approximations to fix box smashing behavior!
There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.
Registration will begin at 11:30 AM Pacific Time.
Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Silver: 15 students, Bronze: unlimited.
Gold Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to post questions and videos to the course forums. Students will receive instructor feedback on written and video assignments.
Silver Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to participate in the discussion forum. Students may ask GENERAL questions about course materials and may submit two, one-minute videos for instructor feedback. Any questions specific to your dog MUST be accompanied by a video.
Bronze Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to read all questions and answers posted in the class forums. Students will not post questions or submit written or video assignments.
For more details, refund policies, and answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Week 1: Diagnosis
- Baseline behavior
- Why a dog smashes boxes
- Ways to modify arousal levels
- Retest with modified arousal
Week 2: Fundamental Skills
- Reward skills
- Shaping the indication
- Adding duration
- Test for understanding
Week 3: Moving to Boxes - Successive Approximation Part 1
- Transition to boxes
- Taking it slow is best
- Testing for understanding
Week 4: Adding the Search
- Next steps with boxes
- Taking it on the road
Week 5: Moving to Boxes - Successive Approximation Part 2
- Taking the next step with boxes
- Distractions raise arousal
Week 6: Generalization
- Taking it on the road
- Adding distractions on the road
There are no pre-requisites to this class!
You will need:
Six 4 inch metal switch boxes
Six 4 inch round mud rings
A bunch of Nosework boxes (literature mailers), preferably the kind that look like ORT boxes. You can buy in bulk at places like ULine.
In order to fix Box Smashing we first need to understand the cause of it in YOUR dog.
There are four main causes of Box Smashing... what you will find is that your dog may do it for a number of reasons!
3.) Box Burping
4.) Sheer Joy
Let's explore each reason in turn.
This is the dog who doesn't understand that his job is to do a passive indication. In this case the dog may have developed a paw for a natural indication. This paw might be used regardless of the search element. The paw may or may not be destructive and depending on the organization may or may not be earning you faults or deductions.
Some dogs are too aroused to alert passively. They come into a Container search in high excitement. This is also one of the leading causes of False Alerts in Containers. Remember Yerkes-Dodson Law. When arousal increases, performance increases until the dog is in drive. Then as arousal continues to increase, performance decreases
3. Box Burping
When dogs step on boxes a puff of air comes from them, along with odor. Dogs learn that stepping on them helps them to find the hot box. Once a dog learns this, he incorporates it into his search style.
4. Sheer Joy
And sometimes box smashing is JUST PLAIN FUN! Some dogs play box hockey with the boxes just because it's self rewarding.
How we address Box Smashing will depend a little on the cause. Some causes are easier than others to fix but we will address all of them! The important thing is that we address it in such a way that it (1) provides clarity to the dog and (2) ensures that the dog is mentally able to accept the retraining.
These two aspects are super important!!
Clarity Creates Confidence!
Dogs who are unsure of the expectations of the handler will become stressed or frustrated. Think about it from your own perspective... let's say you are working on a big project at work and your boss doesn't tell you exactly what he or she is looking for. It's a really important project and your bonus relies on it. Whenever you ask your boss for more information you get corporate double-speak and really general comments. How does this make you feel? Are you confident that you will get your bonus in time to pay for the next semester of your kid's college tuition? This is how we make our dogs feel when they don't understand what is being expected of them. So when we retrain box smashing we want to make sure that our dogs understand what they need to do in order to earn their reward. Make sense?
Dogs Need to be Mentally Able to be Retrained
What does this mean? This means that in understanding the cause of box smashing we need to really be respectful of WHY the dog box smashes and we need to be empathetic to the stressors that the dog is under. Does the dog need clarity and is smashing out of stress or frustration? That's a hard cycle to break. In that case, through this course, you will regain your dog's trust in your communication and expectations. The bottom line is that because stress and frustration MAY be a part of the cause of box smashing, we really need to be cognizant of the dog's mental state. In this case you need a little Stress-o-Meter on your dog (which can be found via true thoughtful observation!)
Does this mean that we are training a Trained Final Response (TFR)?
We will be encouraging a nose to source behavior. AND we will give the tools to the dog that will allow him to better communicate with us. The important thing is to be consistent in your reward and to FADE THE FOOT! There will be clarity to the dog but we will NOT de-emphasize the key skill of Reading Your Dog.
What about timing?
Timing is the ability to mark at the right time in order to communicate to the dog when he is correct. Well yes, this is important. We will be working closely with you to ensure that you have the right timing. I know in some methods, a verbal marker is not encouraged. In this approach we WILL use a verbal marker. We will do so in order to help bolster proper communication and to give the dog the information that he needs and craves in order to stop stomping on boxes.
Let's look at an example... this is Judd. He has an ELT-CH, has competed a the 2017 NACSW National Invitational and was Third Overall at the second annual Turner Trials as well as being the 2nd Overall dog at the 2017 Eukanuba Performance Games Scent Work. Bottom line is that he has a couple of accomplishments! Judd is NOT smashing due to frustration and or stress. In his case, I need to decide if it's worth retraining him! He's gotten this far and the only thing that we are risking with his current behavior is a couple of faults in AKC. However he's already competing at the Master Level, essentially past the level of boxes. BUT... he DOES smash boxes and he has done so since NW1! Let's explore why....
I do a couple of things "wrong".
HE IS GETTING REWARDED FOR HIS WRONG CRITERIA. Ok, well to be fair he's getting rewarding for finding source! If I didn't reward him I should be hung by my little toes! I DID mark him... However, I pulled him off of the box quickly. In the absence of retraining, this is how I would avoid the fault.
So.... he understands his "job" of alerting on boxes is to use his feet. THIS is what need to change. But it DOES give us insight into the cause! CRITERIA.
His arousal is a little high... when we work dogs in Containers we want lower arousal states in general. Watch how he busts out on the line! It's pretty impressive however it can be problematic in some dogs.
I would say Judd's Cause is "CRITERIA"
Let's look at a good example. With Brava I was clear with my criteria. I knew as a puppy based on her breeding that she had the potential to be a bull in a china shop. She is super high drive and LOVE LOVE LOVES this sport. BUT.... her criteria is clear and she knows how to earn her cookies.
A couple of things.... I call is based on a CLEAR CHANGE OF BEHAVIOR and FOCUS. I'm NOT waiting for a Trained Final Response. Secondly, I am rewarding away from source. I do this with her occasionally especially in Container and Buried (AKC). Why? Because she has off the charts drive for food and she's fast and physical. In a trail situation I am trying to minimize impact to the search area. I'm an AKC Scent Work Judge and Field Rep for Scent Work (AKC Contractor). I have a HUGE amount of respect for the search area... Brava understands her job so I'm not concerned. You will probably want to continue to feed at source.