This weekend 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. In fact, our team took a field trip to his kennel back in May to train with him. Kuster and I were unable to attend due to the Chief Editor having surgery the same week. But, spending a week training with Mike is now on my Christmas list. I digress.
So what do dogs and chickens have in common? Well, actually not that much but, they both can be trained. Mike uses the chickens to assist dog handlers in their timing of the dog’s reward system. Chickens are fast. They also have a small little brain and if you do not reward them correctly they will forget what they are doing and basically go do something else. Or worse case scenario you reward them for doing something else that was not planned.
So how does this work?
First, every handler is assigned a chicken that has been trained to peck a poker chip. When the chicken is placed on the table in front of the handler and the poker chip is put on the table the chicken starts pecking it. The K-9 handler has to be fast enough to keep the chicken pecking. Timing is everything in this very simple task. It was great watching the progress of the handlers’ timing after just a four-day training session. This practice of timing was then transferred to the afternoon training session with the dogs. That’s how chickens are used to assist in dog training.
We had a good mix of dogs, at a variety of working levels. Search and Rescue dogs, police dogs, and dogs being training in explosives detection all from varying states. Everyone came eager to learn. Believe me that does not always happen. Next week we will go through the afternoon sessions training the dogs on scent detection. Until then stay safe and don’t forget to get out and do something with your pup.