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Richter (10 months) and I have been training with a local SAR team for 6 months now and we're working on live-find wilderness airscent. Training has been slow going and Sunday he did not have a good session. He's behind where I think he should be, yes I do know that every dog is different and so are their learning curves. The woods that we were training in had a lot of foot and other dog traffic. We needed to stop so hikers could pass a few times. I'm starting to think that he may not have what it takes. He's toy/tug motivated, not food. He's easily distracted and it's challenging to keep his focus in new areas. I had to leave early on Sunday (not because of the session) so I wasn't able to get a lot of feedback from the experienced handlers. I might be over thinking and just discouraging myself. I've heard about the high's and low's of training but wow. Due to my schedule and how it conflicts with family and friends we aren't able to do a lot of training with the search behaviors but we do get to do a lot of nosework and I am very happy with where he is there. I think I need to work on distraction proofing him especially when it comes to other dogs.

TL;DR
Do you guys have any tips on motivating a (toy/tug reward) dog so that the environmental distractions are not.

Maybe I should just heed the message in my signature :rofl:
 

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How old is your dog? How long of a problem and what type if problem was it? I.e check mark, run away, scent cone, 40 acre field?

What kind of foundation work have you done with him?

There are lots if reasons a dog gets distracted, a young dog, just learning needs to have lots and lots and lots of repetitions if quick easy finds and high excitement play. The problem may have been too hard, you had to pull him out if drive for hikers a few times, he has not yet learned to be in such a distracting environment.

That said, I can't tell you the number if "hikers" my boy found during training. Everyone is fair game.


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Discussion Starter #3
Richter is 10 months old and we were doing a run-away essentially, just non animated and adding distance for range and he has been doing well with them he knows that action and we've been doing them for a handful of weeks now. We're going to start adding some short short re-finds (so I thought).
But Sunday he acted as if he had never done them before. The first problem he had to sniff a tree, so we shortened it up and then he ran right past the subject, third he ran to a couple hikers on a trail who had a dog. That one I blame myself for not having situational awareness. In order to end on a win we did a really animated run-away and kept it really short (15 meters). We have never trained at that location before and it was chosen so another dog could work a pre-test 40 acre that the handler wasn't familiar with.

The other thing that probably has a large impact is that he is intact still. I'm pretty sure he has fully sexually matured and has other interests and motivations that were previously a post thought to him. He has finially started to "lift to mark"

For foundation work I assume that you mean runaways and "bumper dog" for SAR specific work so far. He has some pretty decent obedience not too much. We have worked frequently with basic nosework including scent cone, interior, woods, and some vehicle. I haven't imprinted him on a specific odor we use several, and no specific expected indication or behavior upon identification.
 

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First. Don't ask him for any recall refind in conjunction with a search problem yet. He is no where near ready. If you want to start working on it, do it outside if search problems.

His hormones are kicking in, he is going to "forget" everything on occasion. Since you had a rough session, take 2 steps back and go back to very animated runaways, no distractions(people/other dogs) at you next training. Have the victim tease your boy with his toy, get him really hyped up for it, then runaway, maybe 30 meters. Do a few successive repetitions if this.

Is he engaging with the subject when he does get there? When does the subject reward? At this point in his training you need to make sure your subject is rewarding the search. So that play should start when the dog is ON HIS WAY IN TO THE VICTIM, not after he gets there. So usually, have the victim produce the toy with a happy Woohoo, when the dog us about 5-10 feet away. There should be a huge play session.

It always hills and valleys in training. Right now you are in a valley. But that means it has to get better.


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I agree right now he is a puppy and I would (1) be doing obedience under distraction in the absence of scentwork and (2) nail down your recall refind sequence in short problems without distraction until he is really fluent..if you progress to scent problems try to set up (for now) in a non distracting environment.** (3) I am not sure I would be mixing in nosework. The major fun in his life should come from his recall refind sequence.

Around a year I think they unlearn everything they have learned anyway.

**many schools of thought but I think the pattern should be bombproof before you proceed to scent problems though.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it.

The scent work that we have been doing has been either in the basement or in the backyard. Places that are very non distracting and places where he will accept food as a reward. But those are the only places we've worked on it. The scent exercises we work on are just to get him to engage his nose. I will certainly keep the recall/re-find the most rewarding.

So just to be clear, the exercise that we have working on at training with the team is subject takes his reward (tug) and they will either run away or walk away around 15-20 meters away for the first rep and increase the distance progressively longer for a total of three successful reps. He will watch them take his tug and when they are out at distance they will animate and show him that they have the tug and I will send him to them. He can see the reward and is engaged prior to arriving at the subject and once he gets there and he and subject play with animation and intensity. I'm not far behind him when he arrives to the subject and its a big party when we all arrive.

The other thing that I make a concerted attempt at is, we try to arrive a little early at trainings and we go out in the work area and I let him acclimate and investigate the area. He can smell, mark, and generally check out the area prior to working. So when it's time to work he can (hopefully) focus on the task at hand.
 

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So basically it sounds like they are training the indication with backchaining. Found a link.
Training the Search and Rescue Dog/Finding Articles - Wikibooks, open books for an open world

Good approach.

I would talk with them about doing more obedience. If he has a lot of drive for the tug and is in general a handful, it may be good to take some time and get him used to being in a distracting environment ...I used to think you could put too much obedience on a SAR dog but with an independent solid high drive dog, they seem to need it.

... if they are running from him with his tug other things out there should be pretty much invisible. Does he play with other dogs? I never let Beau have puppy play time and he learned from an early age to ignore other dogs (famous last words, we still had some epic moments where he decided to go meet and greet and be crazy in general anyway)......so I focused on obedience more and used a long line while working through those issues.
 

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I would not be allowing him to sniff, piddle, investigate, roam at training. It is actually teaching him that it's ok to do so. Take him out, let him pee, put him up. Training is for training. If you tell him it's okay to be investigate distractions and mark, he will have a harder time focusing.

I would also suggest to lay off nose works right now.

As for the runaways, the victim should be enticing and making a hoopla the entire time they are running. So much so that your boy us pulling and straining in the leash and acting a fool to get to him.

If he is getting distracted at only 15 meters, then the game is not nearly fun enough. 15 meters is very close. He should be two bounds in and playing in 4 seconds. So either the enticement is not enough, or the reward is not better than everything else. You may need to step back to drive building.

We always taught the indication spectate from scent problems and the dogs were easily doing 15 minute scent problems successfully before we started adding it to the picture. The indications were taught, back chained with no scent work. But the dog was doing scent work. We just rewarded the find until adding in the indication.


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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the advice guys, I'm going heed most all of it and talk with the rest of the team and see what they think. I'll keep you guys posted.
 
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