Arlo's Smeller

I’ve been feeling neglectful of Arlo’s brain these last 20 months since adopting Elsie. Since she is so much more reinforcing for *me* to work with, Arlo fell into a sort of retirement at the ripe old age of 7. I’ve done a little bit of tracking on grass with him, but never really took it past a track on the odd weekend morning. I went to a nosework seminar several weeks ago, and I think I finally found an activity that will work for us both! (Meaning: Arlo gets to sniff and poke stuff, and I don’t have to lay and age tracks. It’s less fun than it sounds.) Nosework is the foundation of other very practical activities (that can turn into paid jobs! I will tamper my aspirations for the time being.), such as detection of bombs, narcotics, termites, and bedbugs as well as search and rescue.

Conveniently, Mirkka Koivusalo at Mindful Behaviors happened to announce a Scent Skills class starting soon after that workshop. I signed Arlo up and we just completed our second class this past week. The Scent Skills class is geared more along the lines of tracking in that it focuses on the indication of a human-scented article rather than an essential oil (as in nosework).  Otherwise, the process can be trained similarly.

I am using my keys as the first article. In a nutshell, teaching an indication is a behaviour chain.  To start, I had Arlo nose target the keys in my hand. Down is my indication behaviour and that is trained as you would any other chain (target-down).  After that, I worked on having him do the same thing with the keys on the ground, then at a distance from me, and finally (where we’re at now) blocking his view of where I put the keys and release him to find them among other objects.

I’m quite pleased with him and he’s enjoying the training quite a bit. His favourite behaviours, not including sleeping and peeing on everything, are nose targets, lying down (preferably targeting something) and smelling things. What better activity could I have gotten him into?!

I’ve also registered for Steve White‘s seminars following the PABA conference (“A Scientific Presentation and Study of Working Dogs”) this May.  I’ll be there with Elsie (since, unlike Arlo, she doesn’t need a nap every 20min) in the “Hydration Intensified Tracking Technique” and “The Keys to Reliable Scent Detection Work” seminars.

Here’s Arlo last Friday at the Scent Skills class: