Recently, I saw some discussions and opinions on the internet about using scent wheels. Someone mentioned that your dog would not ‘meet them in the real operational world,’ so why would you use them in training? That would be the same argument not to use a ‘brick wall’, not use ‘a line up’, and not use a piece of Kong as a target odor for your dog and not track on your own human scent tracks. Because of all of this, you will not encounter in operations. But is this the correct argument to skip necessary training steps?
All of these, including the important work we do on scent wheels, will be the fundamental work you need to do before you can build any behavior you want and need for your goal(s). The fact is that these fundamental steps in training will help us to train detection dogs to do the difficult task we ask them to do. Finding that specific odor that is important for us.
The reason why we ask that question to our dogs can be versatile. Maybe you are competing in nosework or working as a wildlife detection handler. Or you are working in the government or as a contractor and use dogs to find explosives, narcotics, or other dangerous materials to protect humans. Other trainers use dogs to search for cancer cells in human urine or COVID traces in sweat or saliva. Whatever your goal is, it starts with imprinting odor, ignoring distractions, and gathering objective data. This data will give you confidence that you and your dog are ready for the task! This data will convince your client or commander that you and your dog are the best to hire for this job. This data will help you to analyze and fine-tune your training protocols. This data and the results of your work will help the K9 community to weed out paradigms and beliefs. This data will help other trainers to grow. Because despite all the olfactory devices, e-noses, and other impressive analyzing machines, the dog’s nose gives us humans a unique capability and is truly an indispensable tool. Well-trained detection dogs and focused trainers are doing at this moment fantastic work in protecting humans and wildlife. And we have no electronics that can do these jobs.
Let’s give these K9 teams the tools and scientific backup they need. Tools like scent wheels and line-ups will provide objective data. Scientific backup in helping them to analyze their data, take out biases and challenge them to work with even more different distractions. Because all of these steps are confidence builders for dogs and trainers! For all dog trainers out there, don’t judge; question your beliefs and take another look at your paradigms. On top of all this, I ask you to stay curious because the magic is outside our comfort zones. Enjoy training!
Any questions or comments?
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