NW160: Alerts - Improving, Developing and Problem Solving

Instructor: Lucy Newton

Course Details

Does your dog need to have a specific alert behavior in order to compete in your nosework venue? Is your dog not committed to staying at odor source? Is your dog too aggressive or destructive towards the hide when working nosework odors? Does your dog need to develop stronger more readable behavior at the source of odor? Then this class might be for you!

This class is designed to serve several training purposes. One goal is to assist handlers that need to train their dogs to perform a specific trained alert behavior at the source of odor. This is desired at certain trial levels for some nosework organizations. Another goal of the class is to help students who are having trouble with their dog being too aggressive at the source of odor. This is a common development of certain training methods. By developing a trained alert behavior, or modifying the dog's current behaviors, we can attempt to diminish that aggressive behavior towards the hide. For both purposes, we first want to make sure that the dog understands that the ultimate goal is to get to odor. We want a strong commitment to odor. Then, once we have that, we raise our criteria and teach additional behaviors that the dog learns to perform in order to get rewarded. Getting to source is still the primary goal, the dog just has to perform one more "trick" in order to get rewarded.

Here is an example of a young dog that I recently trained for conservation detection work. One of the detection projects that she was utilized on was searching wilderness areas looking for sites where large predators had been feeding. The purpose of these searches was to collect various types of data regarding the predators and their habits. So her mission was to basically find dead things. Often stinky, decaying dead things. Quite easy to train a dog to find that right!? Not so simple to teach the dog to alert to them! In her case, I taught her a sustained nose hold at or near the source of odor in order to get rewarded with her ball. Here is a clip of the training sequence:

Here is a young Doberman that had a history of being violently aggressive to the hide. Not only would he smash open boxes, he would often open the tin before performing an alert!

There are pros and cons to what type of alerts we have the dog perform at odor source (we will discuss those in class). However, regardless of what that behavior is, we want the dog to be very clear in knowing exactly what their task is and what behaviors result in reward. Here is Jill being non-aggressive but very clear about which box contains the hide.