Written By: Mike Bullock
Owner /Trainer Bullocks Professional Canine
I am often asked, where do I start training my new dog that I have picked for dual purpose. My answer is usually very simple, but one that needs explaining. When I have picked a k9 and thoroughly tested him, I always start the dog with his nose work, and I have a certain sequence of training events that I follow. And I will try to explain my reasoning for it here.
When I have laid out my plans to work with a new dog, I have already decided what job he is going to have before he’s even started the training process. This means I have already gotten a plan as to what kind of alert he is suited for, what kind of tracking he is best suited for, and the direction of the bite work. Once I have my plans, I always start the dog with the odor training ( Narcotics or Explosives). It is my opinion that the odor training must start indoors. My reasoning for this is I can control the environment better, wind, humidity and other factors, I want to keep to a minimum. I want the dog to only work a source of odor, I don’t want wind to cause the dog to learn bad pin pointing skills or get confused as to where the odor is coming from. He will only find an odor and be rewarded for the type of indications at the point of origin not some down wind odor 3 feet away. I will eliminate that problem by being inside, if the dog learns from the beginning of training to go to source, he will less likely have a problem pin pointing, when I move outside.
Once I have taught the dog this basic hunt game and he is following the process, I move to the tracking. I have studied the dog and gotten an idea of the type of dog I am working with. Is the dog an extreme hunter, is he super possessive, is he fast on his retrieve, or is he a more methodical type slower on the retrieve. These are all questions I will ask myself, and base my training accordingly. A fast dog I would do an up beat type of man tracking /trailing, tracking through drive comes to mind, this means a dog that has such a high hunt drive that he will work in any situation to get the end result. A dog with a lower hunt capacity and slower mentality on the retrieve I will most likely work the dog on a foot step type tracking at first, then move on from there quickly. Just a piece of advice here If you must use food to motivate the dog move from it quickly, allow just enough time to get him the idea and then move on.
Once I have the dog tracking well I move back to the detection, only this time I move to the outside, usually cars. I start with the outside of cars as a rule. Cars have a very finite number of places where an odor can be hidden. I always separate odors and only use one car for one particular odor when starting. If I find an odor that isn’t being detected in the cars, I will move that single odor to a scratch box or pre-scented toy and play games to reinforce that odor. Then work the odor again until I have a response. The basis of my theory is this. Teaching the dog basic hunt games will help in the rest of his training, it just sets the foundation solid before I move on to the building searches and the area searches. And when I do start these exercises, I start with the building search first. The area searches are outside and the same principles apply. The basic hunt for a person that is hidden, will set the dog solid once I move to the outside area searches.
The bite work is something that has, as a rule been established and the dog has a good grasp of it, training of this moves quickly and most of the time it is a matter of making the dog street worthy civil agitation, muzzle work, hidden sleeves and tons of work in different situations usually prepare the dog for what he will encounter in his real life job. It is my opinion it is all about molding the individual dog, move from one step to the next always building on a basic then move foreword. As a rule if one does his homework first and studies his dog the training principles here should make for a solid working dog.
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