The longer I’ve been doing this K-9 search and rescue thing the more I am becoming sure that training with distractions as early as possible is a good thing.
From past blog posts, you may remember me writing about the human remains K-9s searching boxes to work on distractions. Our team loves to put a sausage biscuit in one of the boxes as one of the distractions. As wonderful as sausage biscuits are we need the K-9’s to find their goal, and that is not the sausage biscuit. So part of our training was going over problem-solving. If you have a dog that is having issues with a certain distraction, how do your assist you K-9 partner in getting over that hurdle to be successful? I really liked this concept and thought it could be useful. What is it? Train with that distraction. In most activities we do with our dogs, whether is it doing search and rescue or going to an obedience class this could work.
Remember, for this distraction drill we have about twelve boxes put out on the ground. One box has our source; the others are either empty or filled with something that could be a distraction. We used dog food, people food, dog toys, and dog urine for just a few examples of distractions.
After running a few drills having all but the source box empty we started to set up for the distraction drills. The K-9 is brought in and prepared to search the row of boxes. This is where the concept of assisting the K-9 with certain distractions comes into play. We added a little more of the source to the box and removed some of the food distractors. A blank box was also put in between a food box and the source. The dog was brought in and ran the search again with much better results.
Distractions are also used when training on the wall system. By using a wall system to train, we are actually able to remove most of the environmental distractions from the K-9. That’s nice to have with younger K-9’s who are easily distracted by leaves, birds, or whatever. They are basically in a box with holes to search. But, within some of the holes are placed distraction odors. Using a wall, the K-9 needs to search and like the boxes needs only to alert on the target odor.
Let me say, it’s one more tool in our toolbox to assist us in training. It may not work for everyone or every dog, but it may work, too.