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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I very recently started to teach my dog to find a ball stuffed with cheese (which I will later replace with truffles, so I want her to pick that particular smell) which I hide in various places in the garden. In the beginning of the lesson I let her smell and play with the ball a bit, then I secretly drop it as we walk together and ask her to find it. She seems to understand what I want, since she starts sniffing all around. The ball is always very close, very smelly and it takes her a lot of time to find it, so I think it might even by coincidental, since I am standing a few steps away from it. On the third lesson she practically had her muzzle on top of the ball and didn't stop, she went on looking. Of course, when she does find it eventually she gets treats.

I actually have no idea about scent work and I don't know how the dog is supposed to behave. Does it simply take more practice?
 

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Does she have any ball drive? If I use scented balls to start a pup, we play with the ball, rolling it, throwing it, getting the pup excited to chase it. (I always start with the scent they are going to find, since you will have to start over changing scent, easiest to just scent it with what you want her to find).
When her drive is up, I hold the pup, throw the ball into some tall grass or brush, letting her watch it, then release her with the search command you use. This teaches her to range out, as well as to use her nose. I also use my hand in an exaggerated point to teach direction. This is helpful later, when you can direct her to different areas to search.
If she has good hunt drive, she will continue to search for the ball until it is found. I let the ball be the reward rather than food usually, since normally the dogs I work have a much higher toy vs food drive.
If your dog is lacking toy drive, I would skip the ball altogether. Go with scent boxes or buckets and reward with food as soon as she is in scent, rewarding right at source.
Whichever you choose, once she recognizes certain odor means reward, then you begin putting an alert with it. I like sit and bark, but any will work. You have to reward the alert instantly. I like a toy here since you can throw it the second the dog alerts. Fumbling for food, or having to get to the dog to hand a treat takes a minute, so have whatever reward ready for fast pay.
Once the pup has odor recognition and alert down pat, then I add distance and length of time. The dog should now alert from across a field and stay with source, building up to a long period of time.
Now I work on search patterns or quartering. Usually the dog prefers to start either left or right side, and.you want them to do sweeping passes. Use dther a room or small field or yard with natural boundaries. The pup should know directionals, so you can guide him left, right, back, in, out etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hello Julie, thanks a lot for the tipps. Sounds like an effective method but it still doen't help me understand my puppy's behavior. My puppy does go after the ball if I throw it and she sees it. She smells it, she tries to get the cheese out, sometimes she brings it to me, sometimes she takes it to another spot and guards it.

But if I drop the ball in secret and let her search for it, she doesn't seem to identify the odor although she is sniffing and is next to the ball. So the question is why: Is there too much cheese odor around, since I throw the ball various times in various spots, or isn't she sniffing for the odor at all, so she hasn't understood yet what I want? Am I doing it too fast?

My dog is very, very foody. She would let go of any toy in order to get food.
 

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Probably two things going on. One she doesn't understand the command if she doesn't actively start searching on command. Two, she may not be in odor if she doesn't notice the scent.

If she is very food driven, and she catches the scent, she should run right to it, with no command. Are you familiar with scenting and scent theory?

Just because a dog is near something, doesn't mean the odor is where the dogs nose is.

The drill of throwing the ball with her watching crosses over to teaching the search command. You don't need a ball, can just throw the food. The point is you have her attention, she is ready to go, you give the command and she goes to search for the ball/food. So she soon learns that your command word means she will find a reward. You phase out her seeing you throw the reward out. So she then goes just on command.

She should easily be able to go to source even if there is other odor in the area. It is a distraction to work through, but even young puppies learn this fast.
 

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Do you use the cheese for training at other times?

Try a high value treat such as those food rolls from pet stores. They smell, and are easy to cut into small pieces.

Odor recognition and active searching is taught separately. She needs to first learn an odor means reward. So if truffles is what you want her to find, take five containers (plastic sand pails work well). Place the source (truffle) in your "hot" bucket (keep this one only for source as to be certain she has that odor only).
Put the pails in a line. Walk the pup along the row of pails, encourage her to look in each. When she sniffs the hot pail reward with food or toy. Over and over. Switch the line up around, repeat. Soon she will stop at the source anticipating her reward. This is the beginning step of odor recognition.
 

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Looking for truffles? In France, they use piggies... best for that.

I think nose development may be issues for a good scent hunting...
Hence certain breed excel. A puppy also will not come to full potential till full grown.
Just like why hubby with his big nose is more sensitive scent wise than me with a button nose... lol.

Op inspired me though...
I live in the woodlands among prime mushrooms growing grounds.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Are you familiar with scenting and scent theory?

Just because a dog is near something, doesn't mean the odor is where the dogs nose is.
Julie, first let me say you have really helped so far and gave me food for thought, since I would assume that where the ball is is the odor. No, I have no idea about scent training and only started practicing tips from various methods I found on the Internet here and there or youtube videos I watched. Of course all of them sound so promising like a how-to-lose-weight-in-5-easy-steps article. Things are much more complicated. I would be grateful for a quality article.

If she is very food driven, and she catches the scent, she should run right to it, with no command.
Well, she can't reach the cheese inside the ball and that is on purpose. Once she finds it, I give her a dog treat. So she does not go after food per se, but she goes after a smelly toy that will get her a treat-reward. That is the idea. The point is she learns to find the odor source without eating it, because when I start working with truffles (the cheese has a similar odor and is supposed to introduce the dog to truffle hunting) instead, these things cost a fortune and I don't want her to eat them.

So what would be the best way to do this? Throw the cheesy ball in front of her eyes, or hide the cheese in one of five containers, or both? And after we have practiced that a few times and I hide the cheese in the garden, will she be able to track the odor down immediately, or is this also done in steps (she gets a hint in the beginning etc)?
 

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I do nosework with my dogs, not real scent work like Julie so take it with a grain of salt... My thoughts.

1. You say she may be right on top of it and not noticing it. This is normal! If a dog is searching with their nose they are not looking with their eyes. They will follow the path the odor takes even if the object is visually very apparent to us. I've seen so many searches where the most obvious (to the humans) hide is the last hide the dogs all alert on. It is interesting once they get going, the entire group usually searches in a similar fashion and hits all the hides in a similar order.

2. I've never started a dog the way you are. One thing we are taught is you ALWAYS reward at the source and then from the handler in the beginning stages.

In the first part you are building drive for the 'find it' game. I name the behavior on the first or second day. 'Find it' is my word. I think it helps them understand 'oh this is that game!' instead of randomly coming across treats. I would think you would want the dog to find the treats and get it. You need to be quick with your reward, especially at first, so that the finding of the source is paired with instant reward. If the cheese is in a place the dog can't get to, I would think that would be a major hinderance in the beginning stages. Like I said, we reward twice- 1. The food they sniffed out is an immediate rewardand 2. food from the handler but rewarded at the source. My dogs pick up the game fast, but you still have to build duration and drive to hunt.

3. This is how we start scent work.

We start with a container search with food hidden in a box or two. Very very easy at first, no stacking and BIG jackpots at every find. All you need is about a dozen (more or less) shoe box sized boxes scattered around. Keep the food in the same ones so they're not getting residual odor (the 'hot' bucket Julie was talking about). We usually do about 3 hides a round and stop after about 12 hides. As they start 'getting it', we will stack boxes/make things more difficult. I think most dogs see the boxes and naturally want to investigate so it's a great way to get them used to looking. Then the boxes are replaced with objects. Eventually we are moving on to vehicles, exterior searches, full interior rooms, etc.

Once they are proficient in the idea of 'go sniff out the food on random objects and places' we pair with the odor, eventually remove the food at the source, and start asking for alerts. My alert is to scratch at the source. Kind of wish I had chosen sit and bark, I think that would be clearer. Anyways.... then you add in difficulty, distance, and duration of the search/ amount of hides. We travel with our group to various places and have the handlers search blind (without knowing where the sources are). I try to practice at least a couple times a week. If I forget my odor kit I at least throw food around at the park for the dogs.

I've talked to people that teach it a different way so there's no 'one size fits all'.

I've seen this work on dogs from belgians to labs to hounds to papillons. :)
 

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Honesty I would ditch the cheese and find a truffle to train with, and several if possible. Dogs can tell the difference.

Nothing is immediate, she must first know and be willing to hunt on command. Second, she must know the scent she is searching for, and know it will be party when she finds it. Next she must learn to ignore distraction odors.

Scenting is quite simple once you understand it. There are several good books, but I don't know of an article that will cover it.

Picture scent. Think of it as smoke. On a still day where would it be related to the source? Now add in humidity, temperature, currents, landscape, structures, pooling, etc and you have the scent picture. Though its simple, it has many variants.

On to training, throwing the ball and using boxes teach two separate things. So either is ok to start first, and with young pups I do both on the same days.

Also, great post laurelin!
 

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Julie, first let me say you have really helped so far and gave me food for thought, since I would assume that where the ball is is the odor. No, I have no idea about scent training and only started practicing tips from various methods I found on the Internet here and there or youtube videos I watched. Of course all of them sound so promising like a how-to-lose-weight-in-5-easy-steps article. Things are much more complicated. I would be grateful for a quality article.



Well, she can't reach the cheese inside the ball and that is on purpose. Once she finds it, I give her a dog treat. So she does not go after food per se, but she goes after a smelly toy that will get her a treat-reward. That is the idea. The point is she learns to find the odor source without eating it, because when I start working with truffles (the cheese has a similar odor and is supposed to introduce the dog to truffle hunting) instead, these things cost a fortune and I don't want her to eat them.

So what would be the best way to do this? Throw the cheesy ball in front of her eyes, or hide the cheese in one of five containers, or both? And after we have practiced that a few times and I hide the cheese in the garden, will she be able to track the odor down immediately, or is this also done in steps (she gets a hint in the beginning etc)?

I would stop with the ball and start with buckets/boxes. In my experience once they get the idea of 'find the food/odor and get a treat' everything else picks up fast. The first few times mine sees a hide in a new spot (like on a wall or car) it takes a bit longer for them to figure it out. But after one or two car searches hey understand the odor can also be on cars. The big thing is teaching the dog to sniff something out and build drive for that part of the game.
 

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Honesty I would ditch the cheese and find a truffle to train with, and several if possible. Dogs can tell the difference.

Nothing is immediate, she must first know and be willing to hunt on command. Second, she must know the scent she is searching for, and know it will be party when she finds it. Next she must learn to ignore distraction odors.

Scenting is quite simple once you understand it. There are several good books, but I don't know of an article that will cover it.

Picture scent. Think of it as smoke. On a still day where would it be related to the source? Now add in humidity, temperature, currents, landscape, structures, pooling, etc and you have the scent picture. Though its simple, it has many variants.

On to training, throwing the ball and using boxes teach two separate things. So either is ok to start first, and with young pups I do both on the same days.

Also, great post laurelin!
we actually have watched the air current in a room by watching smoke (I have no idea what those things are called). We'd guess where we thought it was going then we would actually see it. Then we'd work the dogs and see how they were catching it. Fascinating stuff!
 

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Scentwork is all the same, whether for work, fun, or competition. Some things vary, like water searches for cadaver, but it still all works the same.

Any dog with a nose can scent. Some are better than others, but really its drives that are most important. Hunt drive is a must. Then prey (toy or food falls in this).
 

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we actually have watched the air current in a room by watching smoke (I have no idea what those things are called). We'd guess where we thought it was going then we would actually see it. Then we'd work the dogs and see how they were catching it. Fascinating stuff!
Yep, you can buy those smoke bombs from fireworks stands and use them. When we do classes I ask everyone where is the scent going, then light a smoke bomb and let them see it. Extremely helpful visual.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Laurelin, Julie, thank you guys so much for the detailed, valuable info - it is much more than the random info I found on Google and really gave me an idea of how to approach this. So I will try with the boxes and gradually add difficulty if she gets it and is having as much fun as I am - only then I will introduce the truffles.

Actually I had attended a seminar about truffle hunting and they told me my boxer would never, ever find truffles for me. I have no idea about truffle hunting but I know my dog is an all-round working breed and needs to be mentally stimulated. My motto is never say never, so I will definitely try. And if she does fail, at least we will have some fun in the process!
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
2. I've never started a dog the way you are. One thing we are taught is you ALWAYS reward at the source and then from the handler in the beginning stages.

Like I said, we reward twice- 1. The food they sniffed out is an immediate rewardand 2. food from the handler but rewarded at the source.
One more question, Laurelin. I am not sure how to do what you describe above. Should I immediately open the box with the cheese once she has sniffed it to let her eat it? What is wrong with being next to her and giving her a treat the moment she sniffs the "hot"-box instead?

Or did you mean I should rather do both at the same time, meaning giving a treat while she is eating the cheese? Isn't that too much? I am confused.

And if I let her eat the cheese in the begininng, when will I know it is time to switch to rewarding only with dog treats instead?

As I mentioned before, at some point I will put truffles together with the cheese, gradually remove the cheese and let her pick the truffle odor.
I don't want her to eat the truffles, so I want her to understand that when she finds the odor source her reward will be a dog treat instead of the odor source per se.
 

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I train two of my dogs in competitive nosework.

First, similar objects to hide food in. Boxes are typically used. Put the food in. Cue the dog. Let the dog find the food (in the beginning stages they should be able to access it themselves. A closed box is too hard for a novice.) and as they're eating it, bend down and reward again AT THE SOURCE. Not 5 inches above it, 20 seconds after her head has come out of the box or anything else. This is teaching a dog to be precise and that she's being rewarded for finding THAT, which will later turn into truffles in your case, birch/anise/clove in mine. In a test you would have to know exactly where the item is at, so your dog needs to keep their nose near it to alert you, not turn around and get a ball or cheese bit from your hand. ;)

When she can search through boxes and the house for a few weeks and work until she finds it among higher distractions and difficulties; start to pair the food with the truffle for a while, then take the food away. Then continue rewarding at the source after she finds the truffle with your cheese.
 

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I never allow the dog to access any food. Imo, they don't need to be eating while they work. Last summer we worked a house fire that had 6 freezers explode. Tons of meat everywhere. The dogs worked on top of, around, even dug under it to find the hr source. Also, they do not need to eat what they find (especially HR!). Then you never have to worry about correcting a dog if it decides to self reward and eat the truffle instead of alerting.
To me its easier to start with the actual scent you want to find. 8 week old pups can be trained to recognize an odor means reward.

Since you will want to change from cheese to truffles later, its easier to just begin with what you want. Saves a lot of time in training as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I never allow the dog to access any food.
So do you think it will work if I simply give her her favorite treat the moment her nose touches the stuffed ball?

Since you will want to change from cheese to truffles later, its easier to just begin with what you want. Saves a lot of time in training as well.
You are absolutely right. But the problem is that the truffles are expensive, they go bad easily and the summer truffles which I will try to hunt with her this summer are not available yet. I don't even know if my dog will be interested in the game, so I decided to use cheese until I know how to train her and she understands what I want.
 

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I train two of my dogs in competitive nosework.

First, similar objects to hide food in. Boxes are typically used. Put the food in. Cue the dog. Let the dog find the food (in the beginning stages they should be able to access it themselves. A closed box is too hard for a novice.) and as they're eating it, bend down and reward again AT THE SOURCE. Not 5 inches above it, 20 seconds after her head has come out of the box or anything else. This is teaching a dog to be precise and that she's being rewarded for finding THAT, which will later turn into truffles in your case, birch/anise/clove in mine. In a test you would have to know exactly where the item is at, so your dog needs to keep their nose near it to alert you, not turn around and get a ball or cheese bit from your hand. ;)

When she can search through boxes and the house for a few weeks and work until she finds it among higher distractions and difficulties; start to pair the food with the truffle for a while, then take the food away. Then continue rewarding at the source after she finds the truffle with your cheese.
Thank you so much, this is exactly what I hadn't figured out yet.
 

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IME training nosework classes, most dogs cannot figure out what the HECK they are supposed to do without food. Dogs that are bred for search work, perhaps. But for families with companion animals? Not the way to go. It's a whole 'nother beast. And it doesn't hinder them at all. Frag started on food and is being trained for detection work currently with narcotics. I'd say the two of us have a lot better statistics than TSA's statistics from last year. :rolleyes:
 
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