It’s training buckets! …okay. I thought that was funny 🙂 Scent training basics is pretty much all we have gotten down so far. By “basics” I mean foundational points that are worked over and over to enable both the dog and handler to become proficient in communicating with each other while on a search. Repetition helps the dog become dedicated to the scent and helps the handler understand her dog’s language. It has been quite a journey so far and even though it can seem redundant, to grow with Hanani as partners is beyond words to describe.
Buckets, Blocks or Bust
Training with buckets or cinder blocks is a common method used in scent work. We chose buckets because they are lighter and easier to work with, in my opinion. A key point I learned as crucial is to not be sloppy in the use of buckets. If, say, you place a piece of old bone in a bucket, use that bucket only for that old bone. Do not try to use it as a decoy (empty bucket) later or your dog may give a false alert. And, so I was told, the treat (if using treats) used for scent training is to be exclusive to all other training. We use cheese sticks. I cut them up in bite-sized chunks, but Hanani does not get cheese for any other treat or training exercise.
In starting out, the “imprinting phase”, I put the small piece of singed flesh in a pepper shaker container. The one made of glass with large holes in the metal lid. This was to prevent an eager pup, then 5 and a half months young, from grabbing the flesh for a chew toy! She could sniff it, even nose the container, without damaging the training aid. This worked fabulously. At first, I just placed the container with the flesh in it on the floor and let her check it out. After a while, I would hold a chunk of cheese stick over the container and tell her “Boo” to get her to associate a name with the item and the reward. As soon as she touched her nose to the container she got the cheese.
The next phase was getting her to understand the commands, one at a time. Lots of folks use names, such as “Fred” or “find the body” to associate with the cadaver material. I chose “Boo” because it is ambiguous to everyone but Hanani and me. If we are ever blessed to be involved in the search for a missing person believed to be deceased, I do not want to alarm anyone that may be around. During searches for missing people there may come a point that law enforcement believes that person may have met with disaster. If law enforcement believes a person to be deceased and has not publicly disclosed this information, I do not want to be out there telling my partner, “Go find the body!” So, we chose to use the word “Boo.” Later, this turned into “Find Boo!”
Up To Now
At this point Hanani is imprinted and worked on singed flesh, rags with body fluids and a piece of bone from the 1980s, which is normally referred to as “ancient remains.” In the video below, each of three buckets contains one of these items.
When we work, I ask her excitedly, “Ready to work?” and grab her harness. She goes bonkers by this point usually, because she knows what’s coming by now! One thing I have tried to stress in all my articles on dog training here at Pup Stop is that it should be fun–for you and especially your dog. Since Hanani has become accustomed to having fun looking for Boo, she looks forward to working! And it’s not just because this is the only time she gets cheese treats!
We have worked some various scenarios with each of the training aids, but the video below shows us working buckets. Some other scenarios include hiding the cadaver aids in our fire pit, in the kitchen cupboard, dresser drawers, the back seat of my car sitting in the hot sun for days, up a tree, under bushes…. We have gotten creative, but I believe we should be further along than we are. That is hopefully just my thinking, because, frankly, I have little clue as to what else we should be doing! I just keep reading, chatting with others I found online, and working it with my pup 🙂
Yes, you will find I have some errors (including forgetting to take things out of my pockets!) but keep in mind that we are just commoners here to encourage others that want to go beyond basic training and don’t know where to start. Hanani gets a bit sloppy on her alert here and there, too. Oh, and in the video it looks like the holes are in the sides of the buckets. That is due to the sun’s angle. The holes are in the lids!