Scent Discrimination Part 3: Introducing It’s Your Choice

Yesterday (Thursday), Grit had her two daily sessions again. In session 5, I introduced the It’s Your Choice Game: in one hand, I have food, and in the other one the coaster. In order to get the food, Grit has to put her nose on the coaster. She’ll then receive the food out of the food hand, and I’ll have her eat it off the coaster. I love how if you pay attention to Grit’s eyes and facial expression in this session, you can see the wheels turning! Duration isn’t a criterion for now – I want to click the moment she makes the right choice. Teaching the dog to choose the target over the food is not a game I invented – there are lots of variations on the It’s Your Choice theme. I’ve learned this particular version in the Nosework classes at FDSA, where Phoebe learned to put her nose on top of a hot container in order to get the food from the other hand.

Session 5

In session 6, I got rid of the food hand and focused on duration again. I want to make sure Grit doesn’t loose her duration when I introduce other criteria! You can see her duration has already deteriorated, so it’s a good idea to build it back up. I’ll work on duration some more in the next session before I go back to It’s Your Choice.

Session 6

Scent Discrimination Part 2

Grit had her 3rd and 4th session on Wednesday. In session 3, I asked her to target the coaster (rather than my hand) right away. Since I didn’t warm up with the chin target on my hand, I lowered the duration criterion. I fed her on top of the coaster to raise value for the target and pair my own scent with the smell of food, and I built a little duration back up.

Session 3:

In session 4, I was going to continue what I had started in session 3. However, Grit felt a little intense this session – if you’ve got a Malinois, you’re probably familiar with this: sometimes, she’s so fast trying to get things right that she forgets what exactly we are working on. This is what happened in session 4. Grit targets things – but not necessarily the coaster. At 00:02, it’s my knees. At 00:03, she offers a down, followed by a spin at 00:07. At 00:34 and 00:46, she targets my wrist. At 00:48, it’s my forearm (I want her nose a little further down, on the coaster). At 00:53, she tries to run around the camera and tips it over. At 01:04, she targets my knees again, followed by my forearm and offering a spin, and my forearm again. (Yes, she’s an operant dog!) I lower the duration criterion, and immediately click her for choosing the coaster. I keep the duration low, and she recovers by the end of the session.

You can recognize she’s in one of her intense states of mind due to the way she looks at me and her response speed. She already showed signs of this in session 3 a few minutes earlier. That’s neither good nor bad – it’s just part of who Grit is. Once she knows this relatively new behavior really well, she’ll be just as fast, but get it right even when she doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the behavior.

Session 4:

Does your dog have moments of increased intensity? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Scent Discrimination Part 1

I decided to journal Grit’s scent discrimination training in order to keep myself accountable and follow through. I started a month or two ago, but somehow stopped working on it soon after. This time, we’ll keep at it – we want to get our TEAM 1 title soon, after all, and this is the last behavior we’re missing.

I’ve never taught scent discrimination before, so this is new to me. I’m going to use a mix of the method Denise Fenzi showed me when she was visiting in September (using flat articles the dog can’t pick up, and starting with handler scent rather than a food lure from the beginning), and the way Phoebe learned nosework in Melissa Chandler’s Introduction to Nosework class at FDSA.

I’m not using anything resembling an actual article for FCI obedience. If I screw up, it’ll be on a random object rather than a competition object – so I have nothing to worry about and can experiment. For now, my goal is just an indication of the article that smells like me. Until Grit can do this perfectly, I don’t worry about the retrieve required in FCI obedience. In fact, I use flat objects precisely because they cannot be picked up. The indication I’m going for is a sustained nose/muzzle target, as if it were a nosework hide. Once Grit can reliably find and indicate the object with my scent, I can then transfer the indication to actual FCI articles and add the retrieve.

Step 1: teach a chin/muzzle target with 5 seconds of duration (we’ve already got that).

Session 1: warming up the chin/muzzle target (only asking for very little duration).

Step 2: transfer the chin/muzzle target to a coaster held in my hand.

Step 3: get 5 seconds duration on the coaster target.

… to be continued tomorrow!