Detection dogs are incredibly beneficial for a variety of purposes. Whether it be searching public areas for bombs, locating narcotics, or helping in conservation efforts, detection teams make an enormous difference in their areas.
The key to a reliable detection team is a dog totally reliant on odor and indicating reliably at their trained source of odor. However, this is easier said than done. Sometimes, dogs are much more intelligent than we think and sometimes learn how to cue off their handlers. Dogs can pick up patterns to access their reward item based on information from their handler.
These dogs usually appear to be falsing or walking hides, when in reality they have discovered an easier way of accessing their reward without hunting for odor.
Here are four common cues dogs pick up on, which handlers should avoid.
Many handlers keep their reward items in their pocket. When the dog shows they are close to indicating, the handler pulls the toy out of their pocket to get ready to pay – opening the Velcro in the process.
After repetition, the dog can learn to cue off the sound of Velcro, resulting in a final response early – committing to the hide before the dog is sure of the location.
This can be avoided by keeping reward items away from velcro.
2) Detailing to odor
Oftentimes, when dogs are having trouble working a problem or searching a new area, handlers have a hard time waiting for the dog to solve the problem on their own. In an attempt to assist the dog, they detail the dog to the source of odor so the dog can indicate and get paid.
However, the danger of this is that the dog learns that when times get tough – and problems arise during a search – everything will be okay, because they have a wonderful detection human on the end of the leash.
In order to keep dogs independent and confident, they need to have the time to work out problems for themselves. This will go a long way in building reliability in a team.
3) Cocking ARM
When dogs start getting close to odor, our natural reaction as handlers is to get excited and want to pay. In order to pay a perfect indication, many times the reward item is held in the air so the handler can pay as soon as the dog offers the desired behavior.
Dogs have a much larger peripheral vision than humans. If done consistently, the dog can cue off the arm being cocked and result in a false indication.
It is easy to move with a dog while they are searching. However, when they start getting close to odor, it’s also easy to stop in anticipation of paying them.
If the handler stops every time the dog gets close to a hide, the dog can cue that there is something close by – even if they have not gone into odor. This can result in a handler-dependent dog.
It is therefore vital to move naturally and not unintentionally cue the dog that a hide is nearby.
While working detection dogs, it is incredibly important to keep them independent and reliable. Watching out for unintentional cues can go along way in keeping teams reliable.
Remember – dogs are far smarter than we think they are, and are very capable of picking up on established patterns in order to access their reward item. Avoiding creating patterns when the dog comes into odor is the best way to keep a dog reliable and independent.