To recap last week, Search Dog Organization of North America (SDONA) hosted a detection seminar at our team’s facility. We brought in Mike Suttle of Logan Haus Kennels. Mike comes with a vast wealth of knowledge when it comes to training detection dogs. One of the things that he is known for is training chickens to assist with K-9 handlers timing in it comes to a reward system.
Each morning the K9 handlers attending the training spent some time training their assigned chicken. The K9 handlers started by first just having the chicken peck a poker chip to eventually getting the chicken to go around a cone and into a tunnel. After the chicken training was finished the handlers worked with the K9’s. Starting with basic detection of the source which they were working. The first round of drills we worked on odor recognition. For this drill, twelve matching boxes were filled with one odor each. They were all lined up and the K9 was sent down and back the line of boxes. We watched to see if the K9 recognized the odor in which they were trained to detect. If the dog did not give their trained final response or if they indicated on a distraction, they were put up and we moved onto the next K9. Several boxes also held what we would call distractions odors. These distraction odors could be anything from a tennis ball to a Big Mac.
Later in the day, we moved over the scent wall. The scent wall is a confined space, basically a room, with many holes in the walls. For new K9’s just learning an odor only one source odor was put in the wall. For trained K9’s distraction odors were added in holes. The scent wall gives the K-9 a controlled area to search, with or without distractions. Using the holes in the wall the K9s reward is given once the clicker is heard. The scent wall is also good for teaching search patterns.
Time for the Field Work
Finally, Mike put all the elements to together and the attendees worked on a small search area problem outside. Although this training was a quick three-day event everyone learned so much and the dogs left tired. SDONA is already planning on bringing Mike Suttle back in the future. I have to say that Kuster and I will probably be enrolled this time and not be assisting.