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Discussion Starter #1
So, been thinking about Donn Yarnall's concept of prey drive vs. play/prey drive. A trainer I was recently talking to was saying that tapping into the prey drive will lead to more consistent performance in detection and fewer false positives than play/prey drive. I get the theory, that prey drive would be instinctual and instinct satisfying and in the realm of independence and that play drive is about rank vis a vis the handler thereby too handler focused... handler pleasing rather than satisfying the instinct.

So my reward for the find/refind in SAR has been a Chuck-it squirrel. When Tygo leads me in, I bring out the squirrel and play a rough and tough game of tug and then I'll throw the squirrel, the subject might chase him (he loves to be chased) and then he likes to sit and shred the squirrel (he really does like this... although is a bit expensive) and unfortunately tries to eat it... which of course I do my best to stop. I often will let him carry the squirrel back to his crate. Some of my subjects play tug or have the toy but most are a bit scared of Tygo's play style (although he is great at targeting and rarely hits a hand). And wouldn't this be play drive rather than prey?


I think my reward is both play and prey. So I'm wondering what you folks think about focusing more on the throwing and less on the tug. Allowing him more time to shred.... but being vigilant about the eating part. And if so... how much would you throw the toy... once and let him shred it ? Chase him a bit, throw a bit and then let him shred? ... seems like the "reward" would have much less energy than what I'm doing now if I just throw once. Is that a problem? Is the mix of play and prey that I'm doing now okay?

What are your thoughts about handler focused reward systems with detection dogs? Sort of interesting in the SAR realm because I have so often heard about having the toy with the subject to build subject relationship... but this theory seems like it would not really subscribe to the value of that.

Why am I thinking about this? I'm getting more scent and frustration alerts. The scent alerts (alerting on weak scent) I can deal with... the frustration alerts (not knowing what to do so jumping on me) I would like to see those go away.

Thanks to all who might chime in.
 

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I have never done SAR work , but I was very successful in detection work.

Letting your dog shred the reward is wrong in my opinion. When my detection dog hit on the contraband she got her tug toy and we played tug for about 30-45 seconds, then the tug was put away.

I've worked and trained with many other handlers, including SAR handlers and it is pretty much the same for them; quick reward time "play then put it away".

Otherwise the dog will eventually become bored with the toy/reward.


The reward for the dog (tug, toy) must be their most sought after goal in life. The reward is what they live for and it drives them to earn it.

If my detection dog went for more than 3 days without a find I would have someone (other than me) place a hide in a location unknown to me.

Once a week, every week without fail a hide would be placed by me along with several false/negative hides.

False/negative hides could be a newly purchased toy that you have never touched (contaminated), to food or coffee grounds, bounce sheets etc.

Consistent performance in detection with fewer or no false alerts is all about constantly training. For the dog and handler, dogs will mess with you to get their reward.

Don't get caught up in peoples definitions of "Drives" real or perceived.

Just my opinion based on personal experience.


Kim
 

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I don't think the frustration alerts are from the toy approach. Often they are from pushing to much negative time too fast....or the dog is somehow confused or has been paid for the behavior in the absence of finding the source of odor in the past.

I just play a quick game of tug then take the toy. When we are done with a search area, I let him carry the toy back. When he searches a negative training area or searches a real area but makes no find, I throw the ball a few times for him. Tug is by far his "thing" and he runs to me with the toy and to anybody else in the search group and we all play with him...that is particularly for a long problem where he has to work really hard. We normally use a ball on string, but any toy seems to work.

Havent really dissected it. It works for him, worked for the last dog.
 

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I think my reward is both play and prey. So I'm wondering what you folks think about focusing more on the throwing and less on the tug. Allowing him more time to shred.... but being vigilant about the eating part. And if so... how much would you throw the toy... once and let him shred it ? Chase him a bit, throw a bit and then let him shred? ... seems like the "reward" would have much less energy than what I'm doing now if I just throw once. Is that a problem? Is the mix of play and prey that I'm doing now okay?

What are your thoughts about handler focused reward systems with detection dogs? Sort of interesting in the SAR realm because I have so often heard about having the toy with the subject to build subject relationship... but this theory seems like it would not really subscribe to the value of that.

Why am I thinking about this? I'm getting more scent and frustration alerts. The scent alerts (alerting on weak scent) I can deal with... the frustration alerts (not knowing what to do so jumping on me) I would like to see those go away.

Thanks to all who might chime in.
We did "prey" reward with Titan when we trained and it was truly the one thing that really got him to zero in on a search. I threw 2-3 times and if it was the final search, he got to carry it back to the truck. If we had more victims, I would put it back in my pack and command to "search." Titan has serious focus on chasing anything so once he knew I held that key he worked and worked. Now he certainly wasn't perfect, but he was progressing very nicely and that was our reward system.

I, personally, am a fan of handler focused reward systems. I get the idea of the other to a point but in the end I want me to be his focus.. I hold the key and he needs to accomplish this task for ME to get it. I think in the beginnings of training, the reward being with the subject is a great way to build interest and build the drive to search but at some point the reward should transition to the handler and the dog become solely dependent on the handler in that regard. Just my opinion. :)
 

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" I hold the key and he needs to accomplish this task for ME to get it."


I agree, the dog knows that his/her reward is not falling from heaven, it is coming from the Handler.

It still needs to be their object of desire over all else and they must earn it.


I think we are on the same page.


Kim
 

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I may be confused to the question. But for my wilderness dogs, we did "victim" rewards. The play comes from the victim not the handler. I never wanted my dog turning to me for a reward when things got tough. They knew they had to find the victim to get to play.

Also I don't want the dogs reward to be the toy. I want the dogs reward to be the play, the toy is just the vehicle for that.
 

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gsdsar- I am speaking mainly about detection rewards which come from the handler upon the dog hitting on a find.

The SAR Handlers I have worked with (Avalanche Rescue) in training will have the victim/decoy reward the dog when it finds them with a tug/rag for a few moments of tug/play and then take the reward away.

I believe that is what your are referring to?

In my mind, the concept is still the same, a few moments of reward/play time then the dogs reward is taken away. They don't get to keep it or shred it.


I would like your thoughts on this, thanks

Kim
 

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Yes. Detection is different. Reward is from the handler, although with the increased use of Dutch Boxes, the toy can appear to come from the source of scent, which can increase obedience to scent.

Yes, the play is ended after a play session and the toy is put away. Although, with some of my dogs, after the final find, and "all done" I would let them carry the toy. Or I would try, but s dead toy is a boring toy. They generally dropped it about 10 seconds later.

The toy is irrelevant. It's the play.
 

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" I hold the key and he needs to accomplish this task for ME to get it."


I agree, the dog knows that his/her reward is not falling from heaven, it is coming from the Handler.

It still needs to be their object of desire over all else and they must earn it.


I think we are on the same page.


Kim
I think we are too :)

I may be confused to the question. But for my wilderness dogs, we did "victim" rewards. The play comes from the victim not the handler. I never wanted my dog turning to me for a reward when things got tough. They knew they had to find the victim to get to play.

Also I don't want the dogs reward to be the toy. I want the dogs reward to be the play, the toy is just the vehicle for that.
I do see your reasoning behind that and agree to a point. Initial training, when we first started, when we were doing a bark and hold for our find with no refind (German SAR team, their rules for a find), we had the victim with a reward. While it was successful, in that he wanted to find the victim because he knew he'd get the reward, we ran into problems where the dog would be more concerned with that first victim and it was hard to transition in a multiple victim find.. like he would be more concerned with staying with the first victim because they got the reward already and because I wasn't the provider, it was more effort getting his attention back in the game and moving on. When I moved to me being the only one that gives the reward, it brought his focus back to me. Transitions between victims were smoother because I controlled the reward not who he finds. If that makes sense.

I'm not saying that's the rule to stick with, just what I noticed with Titan and me. Admittedly, I was a novice (still am :) )and it's possible I was causing the set backs with the victim controlled reward system.
 

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I for one am enjoying this topic and learning quite a lot about SAR work.

I can understand how the dog could become fixated on it's first human find, having said that, would you not have or use a method to re-focus the dog for the next victim?

For example, I would often search a warehouse for multiple hides/targets, once the dog found contraband as was rewarded I would take away her tug...put her on a down stay and pretend to toss her tug away and say "go find your toy".

My K9's most productive day was 6 finds of illegal contraband, located throughout a Greyhound Bus depot/warehouse.


Kim
 

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I am enjoying this as well :) I haven't been on a team it a little while, and I didn't realize how much I missed all the details and learning experiences I got from it.

So the refocusing for a multiple victim search always eventually happened. The problem with the victim having the reward (for us) was that Titan is INCREDIBLY focused.. so it would take time to refocus him on me and the task since he knew that the first victim had the reward, he would initially focus on them and "refind" that same victim, even if the reward was taken away. After not getting the reward back, he would then refocus and we'd continue on. But it was like this constantly. He couldn't refocus quickly. Once the reward started coming from me, he realized that all happiness came from me so once found the first victim, alerted me, and lead me to them, he'd come directly back to me for the reward. We'd tug or fetch (mostly fetch) for a few then he'd "out" and see his toy go back in the pack. Then I would give the command to "search" again for the second find, he wouldn't hesitate or go back to the first victim because he knew they weren't the supplier of happy :) I was and I was asking him to do something.

I guess for me, it's just how Titan is. My husband and I found that who holds the reward holds Titan's (almost) undivided attention. If I come outside during a training session with my husband and I decide to take over for a minute, Titan will hesitantly listen to me so long as my husband still has the reward. He will listen, but he won't be as sharp or mindful so long as he knows I don't actually have what he's looking for. The minute he knows I have it.. game on... but until that realization has set in.. he will continue looking at my husband as if asking for approval.

Now this is different if no reward is presented at all. If we are doing runs in our backyard with no tug or ball and just markers.. a "routine" of sorts. It doesn't matter. He will be on point with either one of us. But the minute that tug or ball is brought into the equation, his keeper is whoever has it.. and they keep his attention.
 

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wyoung- I am a firm believer in the fact that each dog is an individual, what works for one ....may not work for another.

As long as what you are doing is working for you..... then carry on.

If it is not working then take a step back and revaluate the work/training.


Kim
 

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wyoung- I am a firm believer in the fact that each dog is an individual, what works for one ....may not work for another.

As long as what you are doing is working for you..... then carry on.

If it is not working then take a step back and revaluate the work/training.


Kim
I agree whole heartedly with that. That's what makes training and behavior so hard sometimes. While basic behavior is typically consistent, every dog is different and may respond differently with different scenarios.

I have done PLENTY of stepping back and re-evaluating with Titan, LOL and I am sure when we start back up with some things in a few months, I will continue to do so, lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
I guess I'm intrigued by the idea of building in more independence. And whether or not this has to do with the nature of the reward. What about this idea that the dog becomes too handler focused? Is that just a weak detection/SAR prospect? Weak prey drive?

Anecdotal evidence from someone I consider to be a very good professional trainer, is a SAR handler and spends a lot of time training other SAR handlers seems to experience that the dog works harder, more serious, more driven when the reward is a thrown "rat" (the rags)that the dog pursues, catches, kills and shreds. And again he says that there is anecdotal evidence of fewer weak alerts (scent, weak, false, etc) until the real deal is located. I don't think there are any carefully done studies, so there is that too.

Do any of you know Yarnall's work? He was chief K9 officer and trainer for the LAPD for a very long time. He is now deceased. He is the one that I believe first came up with this idea. Here is some of his work if you are interested.
Civillian Home


The way I was first trained was to have the subject have the toy to build that subject interest. My subjects were not very dutch shepherd savvy though and he scared them with this play intensity or they whipped the toy away and I could see an accidental bite about to happen. So I usually have the toy. That hasn't really seemed to affect Tygo in his hunting but maybe it has since I sometimes get these weak alerts. When I say frustration alert, I think this is when the scent picture is very confusing so it is frustrattion with the scent picture so probably more technically appropriate to say scent alerts.

Today at training I threw the squirrel more than tugged with it. Whatever... not sure how much it might matter. Right now I just thought about a small change if that would be helpful. We are at certification's door, about ready to test, everything going along swimmingly and then I started having these scent alerts that I have to sort out. So testing is on hold again. A bit frustrated right now... not with Tygo, with myself. There is so much in my head right now to sort.

On a training note.. did a problem where my subject walked the perimeter of an 11 Acre box and then hid in the middle. I started up wind from her and walked the perimeter. Tygo was clearly working a weak scent and it was good to really observe him (he did not do a scent alert though) in weak scent, then when we were down wind he got the strong scent and away he went. Very good technique btw.

And re-starting Tygo... with first subject after play he is downed, watered and restarted and he has no issue with hanging with the first victim. One thing I'm not worried about.

You can probably see why people in my training group say I over think too much.

Cheers everyone.
 

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What is his trained final indication?

When he is alerting on weak scent, what is he doing? What do you do?
 

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Discussion Starter #17
He does a jump alert, I say "show me" to take me in to subject.

On weak scent... sometimes... more recently... he will jump on me, what I am learning to do is say "work it out" rather than "show me" In the day time, I can see that he is working weaker scent and working with sudden turns but then arcing around. His movements are more bouncy. Strong scent looks different, I am learning to read that better. So I have really focused on that recently... reading how he behaves in the weak scent picture. Worked much better today. Problem is when I can't see him or when it is dark.

Also, at night for sometime I will work with radio'd "touchdowns."

And yes, I'm taking a step back to address the alert stuff. I'm just tired of backing up again and yeah, I'm in a crabby baby mood today. Poor sleep. I'll embrace backing up tomorrow again. ;-)
 

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LOL- step backs always stink.

Sounds like you are already doing what I would normally suggest.

It seems as if his frustration of being unable to work the scent gets to him and he tries to take the easier way out by "alerting" hoping for some help or a reward.

You could also try, if you KNOW he has not actually located the victim, totally ignoring him verbally and the physically "jigging" him into better scent. That's where being a good partner comes in to play.

If he is false indicating or sort of indicating, ignore, check the wind, understand scent patterns in your terrain and move in a direction that will put him at a better advantage.

And if it were my dog, if he was having a tough time and finally worked it out on his own and got yo the victim, I would have the victim interupt the final indication and reward the initial find. I know at your boys level this would seem like a huge step back. But dang does it work to really solidify that obedience to scent we all want and helps build work ethic through the tough times.

Also, does he wear a reflective or glowing collar? That may help you figure out his body language at night.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks GSDSAR.

Thanks for reorienting me to my job. I like the "jigging" him into better scent, I know it is my job... but sometimes my head feels like the brain is swimming in a lot of stuff to remember, do, etc.

Wait! I said I would stop whining!

Thanks again. ;-)
 
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