I’ll be doing a series of short blogs – a blip in your day when the extra time we thought we all had is now full with ALL THE THINGS being offered and shared online due to COVID-19. Hope you have a minute in your day for a glimpse into my training thoughts!

Reinforcement Process

What is your reinforcement process? How do you reward your dog when they find odor? How many treats do you give on average?

If your method is to reward at source, maintain the value of odor by paying well and having clean delivery mechanics. It’s easy to get sloppy – to feed only one small treat, to use a low value food, to not have treats ready/easily accessible or to deliver treats inconsistently away from source. I’ve evolved my search process to the following: search, find, mark, feedfeedfeedfeedfeed rapidly in row keeping nose at source, and then releasing dog off odor and/or picking up odor.

Once I am out of treats or if it would take me too long to load up again, I just end right there. Dogs respond better when we are consistent and our cues and processes are predictable.

Here’s a video showing how I developed a look back with my first dog and a head/nose bob at source by rewarding and waiting and rewarding and waiitng. Once I changed to rapidly feeding at source and then ending that reinforcement event, it really cleaned up the mechanics and process.

Before and After of a reinforcement process.

As our dogs gain experience and have a strong reinforcement history at source, you don’t have to always reward this much. When trialing, making demo videos or some training situations I may only give 1-2 treats. However, I balance those times with returning to my reinforcement process to maintain value. I make it an event! Savor the reinforcement process by not rushing and enjoying the process to the fullest!

Rapid feeding at source during a training session.

Consistency also means we do not pull our dog off odor with a treat or leave our dog at odor with no clear direction if they should stay or not. Video your sessions and review with a critical eye. Are you consistently clear to your dog? Does your dog know what to expect when at odor and is your communication clear when they should stay or can move on? Ensure you are not blurring the lines.

If you missed my previous Blog Blip on How Valuable is Odor to Your Dog, check it out!