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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-24-2010, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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Question Scent Training

I had posted under Guide/Therapy, but wasn't getting any responses so I thought I'd check over here, because the concept should be the same.

Anyway, I'm trying to train Bear (12 week old puppy) to be my daughter's Diabetic Alert Service Dog (responding/signaling to hypoglycemia and eventually hyperglycemia).

We've been saving the scent samples as we were told to (cotton ball, held in the mouth til soaked with saliva when the blood sugar is below 70, then stored in a steril plastic tube, then that inside ziplock bag, then inside another ziplock bag, into freezer).

Thus far, I was initially bringing out the tube, popping the lid up, then when he would sniff the open vial, click (clicker) and "That's a good low, Bear! That's a good low!" then after the sample is put away, he's given a liver treat.

I started with the clicker, hear the click, give treat. Then to something he knew "Sit" click, treat follow, etc. Then to showing him the clicker, his nose got to sniffing, showing the low vial, sniff, click, "That's a good LOW", etc etc (over a few weeks of working).

Also, when my daughter was low herself, I'd have her sit on the floor, and talk to Bear, when he sniffed her, I'd click and say "That's a good low, Bear!".

So today, I decided to see if we could change it up a bit. While Bear was outside playing, we grabbed the liver treats (in a zipped bag) and the clicker, and our low sample. Liver treats are on a stand on the left side of the queen sized bed (still zipped shut), clicker is hidden in my hand. Low sample is open between my daughter's legs. Another daughter brought Bear into the room and helped him up on the foot of the bed.

His nose started going almost immediately. He walked up left side, glanced at the treats, then dove over my lap and computer to sniff iris's face, then hand, then lap. Once he got to the lap, I clicked "That's a good low, Bear" (which of course, immediately refocused him on me looking for the treat). After I gave him the treat, he went back to my daughter, again sniffing her lap where the low sample was hiding. I again clicked and said "That's a good low Bear!" with lots of petting, but didn't retreat. Just did petting and praise each time he sniffed for another minute until he got tired of sniffing and laid down.

Is that OK? Should I continue with that drill (ie - hiding it on her at different times when he doesn't know we're training - ie - hasn't spotted the clicker) or what? I don't want to go too fast and miss something, but I also want to move forward with the training. I know I eventually need to add a signal of some kind (would like to do a bringsel - which I have - and a paw to get attention, like shake/five). Just not sure how/when to go about adding that in.

Any suggestions/help would be appreciated. Thanks.

Mindi Fredrick
Echo Dogs White Shepherd Rescue

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-25-2010, 12:42 AM
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For our search dogs we start them on an alert when we start training, that way it is ingrained and not a seperate trained response- it becomes a result of low blood sugar. If you are going to have him paw you: Bring out your "low" vial (or your daughter when her sugar is low. Do as you have been doing and treat him as soon as he goes to it then back up a few step, but no more than 5 to start with and call him to you, have him do his alert- prompt him. Then give him a treat. When he comes back to you praise him as "good low" like you have been doing to let him know the association. Keep in mind that it takes years for any service dog to become reliable and solid in their training- if you rush you ruin.
Good Luck!!
This might help you too. It's their scent training area.
Diabetic Alert Dog forum :: SCENT TRAINING

Taylor

Dogs have a lot to communicate to a person who is willing to listen- Susan Butcher
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-27-2010, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by mindi View Post
I had posted under Guide/Therapy, but wasn't getting any responses so I thought I'd check over here, because the concept should be

Is that OK? Should I continue with that drill (ie - hiding it on her at different times when he doesn't know we're training - ie - hasn't spotted the clicker) or what? I don't want to go too fast and miss something, but I also want to move forward with the training. I know I eventually need to add a signal of some kind (would like to do a bringsel - which I have - and a paw to get attention, like shake/five). Just not sure how/when to go about adding that in.

Any suggestions/help would be appreciated. Thanks.

Well, the first problem is that the pup is too young to put any pressure whatsoever on him. second major problem is what you are calling a signal,is an alert. We train the alert at the same time as imprinting on a target odornnot the way you are doing it. I am not much on clickers. the reason is that the dog can get totally dependent on that clicker. at this point,I doubt he knows what is going on other than he gets a treat for sniffing and hears a clicker. the clicker needs to be removed from the equation quite quickly or you will be training him again. Scent detector dog training is more involved that folks think. If you want the dog to be reliable,I suggest a professional trainer.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-28-2010, 01:27 AM
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Ok. I think that I'm gonna burn some bridges here, but I have had it.

At 12 weeks, training is fun for a pup. It becomes the foundation to what he works for. They don't "get" pressure. They learn that when they sniff a scent, they get a treat. (Or a click)
When they get a little older, and start marking correctly, we reduce the clicks or treats and reward with a voice.
(Yes, us lousy Guide dog fosters do the same.)
Amazing, that I can load my pup up on treats and happy associations, to have them turn into working guides, who require nothing from me but the fact that they can read traffic and do their job. (No treats or clicker required.
And this post comes from someone who will tell me that my fosters aren't from German lines, and can not work past 8 years of age before breaking down.
Someone should be doing their research a bit better.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-28-2010, 09:34 AM
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Ok. I think that I'm gonna burn some bridges here, but I have had it.


And this post comes from someone who will tell me that my fosters aren't from German lines, and can not work past 8 years of age before breaking down.
Someone should be doing their research a bit better.
I am not following you at all on the last part. As far as "having had it" whatever. I am always going to advocate someone get professional help when training a dog for any kind of speciliazed service work. Training a dog to work an odor and exhibit correct final response at said odor is not rocket science,but it is not something to be taking lightly for a novice if they need the dog to ultimately be reliable. And, all this clicker stuff is fine and good if the person knows how to use it and when to lose it. I have seen folks with dogs totally dependent on the click because they did not understand its use in training. Now, this person asked for advice and as someone who has trained a large number of dogs in all fields for over 20 years I gave it. If you have advice,give it without being defensive.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-28-2010, 10:21 AM
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I am not following you at all on the last part. As far as "having had it" whatever. I am always going to advocate someone get professional help when training a dog for any kind of speciliazed service work. Training a dog to work an odor and exhibit correct final response at said odor is not rocket science,but it is not something to be taking lightly for a novice if they need the dog to ultimately be reliable. And, all this clicker stuff is fine and good if the person knows how to use it and when to lose it. I have seen folks with dogs totally dependent on the click because they did not understand its use in training. Now, this person asked for advice and as someone who has trained a large number of dogs in all fields for over 20 years I gave it. If you have advice,give it without being defensive.
I didn't understand that post, either, but thought maybe I just missed something. Some people get butthurt before they even consider what is really being said.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-28-2010, 12:53 PM
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I didn't understand that post, either, but thought maybe I just missed something. Some people get butthurt before they even consider what is really being said.

I hear ya. I could find nothing referrencing bloodlines nor aged dogs.
My main concern is always for the mission regardless of what it is. I placed a dog with a young lady that not only alerts to seizures,but low blood sugar. I also forgot to mention that first and foremost, pup needs maximum socialization and the dog must have rock solid nerves so the trained dog will be totally focused on the ultimate task wherever the handler goes
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-01-2010, 12:29 AM
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I placed a dog with a young lady that not only alerts to seizures,but low blood sugar.

That reminds me, a Great Dane we had (Jedi) alerts on his new owner's seizures. We moved states and where we moved to, we just didn't have room for a Dane, so we gave him to an older lady my wife worked with who needed a companion and he is a really sweet dog. The lady has seizures and we never trained him to alert on anything, just normal ob stuff. Last we heard, her son was visiting and Jedi almost knocked the son's door down to get him to come help. And she didn't even know the seizure was coming herself. I was pretty proud of him. I sure do miss him, but at least it turned out well for both of them.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-01-2010, 01:24 AM Thread Starter
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Well, let me jump back in here and get back on target.

#1 - I have signed up for a conference training session (two days), but the first available is in May. I will be bringing Bear and my daughter to this (God willing) to get hands on training.

#2 - I have requested and offered to pay for a week of one-on-one training in their state at their facility, and am waiting for me to be fit into their schedule (not even sure how I'd work it out with babysitters for the other kids, money to get there, etc, but I was/am willing to try - anything is better than continuing to deal with these seizures if I can possibly help that)

#3 - There are no trainers anywhere near me that I've been able to find who have experience in diabetic alerting. Closest I found was SAR in Panama City (about three hours from me) and she said she didn't know anything about DADs.

#4 - I am asking for advice and clarification on everything I'm doing both from here, and from a diabetic alert forum (as well as talking to those trainers and an SAR trainer personally). I do like to hear different trainers methods/ideas, as some work better for different dogs, which is why I asked both here and there.

(side note: it was the DAD trainers who suggested using a clicker to let the dog know the exact action that I was looking for - ie - sniffing the low scent)

I am not going to get upset at how the advice is worded, I have worked in rescue and obedience for years, just never scent work or "teaching an alert" (and yes, I might even mis-word/mis-label something). It's chaos dealing with medical issues and seizures and screaming after-effects for hours, if you haven't been there, you don't really understand. I've also tried to find out if I could get an already trained dog (or one whose training was at least started), this would have been SO MUCH EASIER with four kids, two diabetics, dogs, cat, birds, homeschooling (mad house) but #1 - they're VERY expensive and #2 the reliable places I've found have a long waiting list.

We are working on the socialization/obedience aspects as well. Even to the point of bringing him to the shooting range with us for the first time last week. Of course, we stayed way back off the range and far away for his first "introduction". Went when only one person was firing, and we were well away from him. Bear didn't seem to care at all about the noise, looked up at me when the first shot went off, saw that I didn't react, so he went back to sniffing the ground and looking around/playing with the girls. Pretty sure he's going to be a "bomb proof" dog. He has the perfect "not afraid of anything, but loves to please" attitude thus far.

I just want to make sure I do this right (hence, checking with as many people as possible) especially when it sometimes takes quite a while to get a decent response from people (not complaining, I understand they have busy lives too).

I would love a step by step, day 1 do this, day 2 do this (or when they finish this step, go on to....) of exactly what to do; but haven't found that yet, or been able to get anyone to give me that detailed of a list.

So, any helpful advice, I'd love to hear it. Suggestions on specific training or sequence of training I might do, would love to hear that as well.

I'm not well off financially. We lost our house last year and had to move 1000 miles away to move in with family (which is what sent the kids into a tizzy, and started the snowball effect with the diabetes control), but I'm trying to do the best I can. Since I can't afford to do things the "best way", I'd rather try my best using what knowledge I have and/or can learn, than do nothing at all.

Mindi Fredrick
Echo Dogs White Shepherd Rescue

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-01-2010, 09:00 AM
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You are in Florida? Let me do some checking. I can hook you up with a lady who has done this. You must be very very careful because their are many folks out there claiming a lot. I have spent a lot of time helping folks that have been scammed. Email me privately [email protected] and I will put you in touch with a very good,honest trainer who is a service dog trainer
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