Nose work is a great sport where you can take your reward straight into the testing environment and this will allow your training and testing to go smoothly ……………. Unless you want to use toys. I have a toyaholic dog, a powerful BC who loves to tug. The battle in NW occurs when you want to use your toy for testing but find that it either interferes with your search (dog looks at you to reach the toy) or prevents your reward from disrupting the training area (dog tugs wild or pulls away from the handler with toys).
I love using toys for rewards in NW, but there are a few things you need to be aware of in order to be successful:
Control the toy! This toy is gold to your dog, and giving it to your dog before he finds the source will decrease your alertness behavior. I always recommend a clicker as a marker to let the dog know that the toy is coming, because ……
Movement towards the toy will keep your dog away from odors. Unless you are using a secondary amplifier (clicker / sound / word), your dog’s first signal that amplification is available is trying your movement.
Teach your dog to wait at the source. I don’t like it when my dog turns around the toy when I click, I like it when the dog quietly waits for the toy to be delivered. You may want to train a nasal target, but even if you don’t, in many search areas it is much easier to have a dog waiting for the reward to be delivered.
The click is not the end. The click allows you to tell the dog that this is rewarding behavior, but it will not stop or end reinforcement. Remember # 1! If you control the delivery of the toy by pushing the reward in while the dog still maintains attentive behavior, you can control the dog’s actions before the presentation.
Think about what your dog perceives as reinforcement. As the trainer, you identify the ultimate reinforcement of the toy for the dog. Some dogs want to own the toy, others want to actually interact with you, and some dogs want a chase game. The easiest way to control is the dog that wants to play with you, but even if it doesn’t, you can still control the reinforcement delivery to improve your nasal work warning.
Don’t get stuck in need. You can have a toy dog and still be using food, and you can have a food dog and still play, just decide your training plan ahead of time. For example, if you know that once you bring out a toy your dog will stop eating food, but you want to develop a skill and use food rewards, plan to do that skill first and then use game rewards afterwards.
I always like to play with my dogs, that makes work seem like a game and the two intertwine in our relationship. Work / play / work / play begins to become play / play / play / play.
Think about how you can successfully incorporate the game into your training and you will find that your NW training will take it to a whole new level.
I am excited that my Odor Confidence course is starting! If you want to help you and your dog work better together as a team, come on the course, which my students found incredibly helpful! Click here to login!