The name of the game is odor obedience! In addition to developing a strong desire to hunt, we also want to teach our dog to stay at source. Odor Obedience means that odor means everything and the dog has a high desire to find and stay at source under all conditions (i.e, distractions).
To emphasize the desired behavior for staying at source, we add in some mild proofing. Proofing should NOT mean we set our dogs up to fail. Our goal with proofing is to create confidence on the dog’s part to ignore distractions and to stay at the source of the odor. We add the proofing challenges only in increments that the dog can handle and we keep the reinforcement high for success. We let them figure out how to continue to get the reward, even amidst distractions, but we don’t let them feel like they are being set up to fail. Having a high reinforcement history at odor before introducing distractions helps the dogs and owners to be clear about the lesson and sets everyone up for success.
Dogs are proofed at source by 2 things: duration and ignoring distractions. We already started on some duration proofing. Now we will add some distraction proofing. We work duration or distractions one at a time and then build up to have both.
Here are some mild proofing games for staying at source:
- Adding in short duration at source, you’ve been doing this already when the dog waits for you to come in and reward over source.
- Luring with food away from source.
- Placing treats on the floor away from source.
- Tapping cold box to pull them off of source.
- Psyche! Standing by or walking toward cold box.
- Acting! Take a few steps past your dog at source.
Luring: After your dog finds source, either in your tin hand during It’s Your Choice, or on a container on the ground, reward at source and then try and lure them off with your food hand. They will usually fall for it but they won’t get any treats. When they go back to source, feed immediately and generously!
Food distraction: Set up your containers, and after your dog has found source and has been rewarded, hold out an open hand of treats off to the side or put a pile of treats on the ground away (where you can cover it up if they go for it) and then reward for staying or going back.
Tapping cold box: When working on 2 or more boxes, after your dog finds source, reward at source and then tap a cold box next to the hot box, trying to get them interested in checking it out. They will usually fall for it but they won’t get any treats. When they go back to source, feed immediately and generously!
Psyche! Stand by a cold container or walk toward a cold area. As handlers we tend to stare at, lean over or walk toward known hide/hot box. From the very beginning we want our dog’s to think that we know nothing about odor and how to find it! To counteract our accidental cues to the correct box, we’ll pysche them out by walking toward/standing near/leaning over a cold box to try and convince them we *think* we know where the source is.
Acting. When your dog finds source, keep walking a few steps and then mark their great find. Start with just a step away and build up to a few more. This will be more like how you may handle when it’s “blind” when you don’t know where the odor is. It’s important in our training to not give any clues we know where odor is to prepare for future trialing and running blind hide placements.
NOTE: When practicing these proofing games, do NOT do a bunch in a row or don’t try all in the same session. Mix in sessions where you do not proof and then only proof sparingly. After trying one of the proofing games, set up another search and end with lots of reward without any proofing.