Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Imprinting through Hunt Drive in the SAR K9

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Once the training has progressed to the point where the canine is given the search command, it starts to hunt for the scent, locates the scent source, commits to it and indicates, then the exercises can be done off lead.

It is not necessary to have these boxes at your disposal to train the canine in this fashion. Having a victim set up in a wooded area, concealed behind a tree or under some brush, can produce the same results. The same applies. Casually walk the canine with the wind on lead to the general area and reward the canine when the scent source is recognized. I work the canine with the wind in order to reinforce the instant that the canine has a behavior change upon scent recognition. Later, working into the wind is appropriate.

After the initial phases of the hunt drive imprinting process is completed, the canine can be challenged with other exercises. A canine needs to commit at a scent source..not residual scent. Have your victim stay in one of the boxes for a period of time. Then have them get out of the box, close the door, and move to another box. After a short period, bring the canine out and work the boxes. If performed properly, the box that the victim initially got into but moved from( LE calls this the hot box) should spark an interest but no indication and no commitment from the canine. The canine should move to the box that conceals the victim, commit and indicate.

Another exercise is the multiple victim find. Set up several victims in the boxes. Give the canine the search command. Once it finds the first victim, commits and indicates, reward and give another command to search again. The canine should re-engage into a search behavior.

This exercise should not be done until the canine is committing and indicating solidly off lead at the scent source.

I am in favor of utilizing the run-away exercise as a motivational exercise, after the hunt drive imprinting process has been completed, and this can be done in conjunction with the boxes as well. In fact, this is the way I have seen the process started with many LE canines. The victim entices canine, displays the secondary reward, and runs to hide in one of the boxes. I usually allow the canine to see the victim run away only briefly, then turn it to face the opposite direction of the boxes to minimize the visual stimulus.

These are just a few exercises that can be utilized with various goals in mind. Remember, each training session is geared towards achieving a specific objective. Exercises are repeated several times, and the canine always wins in the end. Don’t ever be afraid to step back and make an exercise simpler if the canine has difficulties.

This method has worked for me. There are others in the field that favor the same principles but utilize other means to achieving the same results. As long as the same goal is achieved as the final product, the method by which you get there is irrelevant and depends entirely on the trainer’s personal preference.

While I am not attempting to change anyone’s current training methods, I am attempting to stimulate one’s thought processes to recognize that there is more than one way to accomplish a particular training objective. Just because a method is traditionally accepted and used doesn’t mean it is the most reliable. Many compulsion trainers have seen the light and are now using positive reinforcement methods in dog training because of the favorable results. Establishing a solid foundation in the training program using the sense that the canine is required to use the most on a search mission, we are also utilizing and further developing the strongest, most highly refined, and most accurate of the canine senses.

It makes perfect sense to me, having been involved in the K9 field since 1987, that the reason canines are utilized in scent detection work is because they have the innate ability to use their olfactory sense with far more reliability, accuracy, and sensitivity than any human or instrument can duplicate. If that is the case, then it is to our advantage to harness it, sharpen it and make the most of it. It at least warrants substantial consideration then that imprinting in hunt drive is the manner by which we start of this process.

No portion of this article may be reproduced without the permission of Jeff Finlay, SARK9TRNR@AOL.COM

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