Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Shaping the Bark Indication for Search Dogs

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Begin hiding the helper in props such as bark barrels, boxes, or under objects such as clothing, pallets, rubble, wood, etc. Drop back each time a new variable is added. Begin with runaways into the new objects and leave the doors open. The dog is instantly rewarded on arriving to the new prop. No bark has to occur until the dog feels comfortable with the new object. Then slowly build up the bark response at the prop. This is also how to develop comfort in new training areas. Initially the dog is introduced to the new object/prop or training area by walking the dog around the area. Let the dog explore new things first without adding the stress of barking to the picture. Make sure there are no signs of anxiety with the new area before beginning the bark training. Always take very small steps when any variable has changed—topography, new person, or multiple hidden helper problems. Remember not all dogs are the same. Some will breeze through all the steps without any issues, some may have a couple issues but will overcome them quickly and develop a reliable bark alert if shaped correctly and steps repeated when necessary.

Distraction Training

Distraction training is added slowly to make sure the response of barking has been conditioned in the dog. Distractions can be in many forms such as other people standing around, dogs playing nearby, noises such as heavy machinery, animals, and food. Try to keep control of the situation when adding distractions. If using food then keep it in a container not accessible to the dog. If at any time the dog loses focus on the job at hand then immediately stop the trial and gain control of the dog. It is not necessary to reprimand the dog. It is better to show no emotion and collect the dog to restart. Reassess the situation and determine if the distance from the distraction is too close. You will determine baseline distance parameters by doing this or in other words the distance needed before the dog will react to the outside influence. Keep the distraction at that point or beyond until the dog is repeating the trials successfully, then decrease the distance and lower the criteria for the bark.

Keep training exciting and variable. Use several different locations as training sites so that there is a natural variety of distractions already available. This prepares the dog for the real world. The final product will be a dog that maintains its bark alert in all environments with or without distractions.

©Susan Martinez All Rights Reserved

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