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Train Your Detection Dog with a Purpose

Coming off three weeks of teaching, training, and certifications, Stacy, Robin, and Crystal discuss training your dog with a purpose, emphasizing the importance of advocating for your dog and knowing when to stop pushing. Crystal talks about how because different breeds work differently, some people have preconceived ideas about how a dog should work that won’t apply universally. They use the example of pointy-eared and floppy-eared dogs, as the floppies tend to be softer and more forgiving.

They introduce the term ‘reactive’ dogs, which means a dog that is hyperaware of its surroundings and tends to act in an escalated fashion. This is interconnected to the concept of ‘stimulus thresholds,’ which measure how much of a trigger is required for a dog to alert to it. This leads to a conversation about the meaning of ‘drive,’ which Crystal notes is often perceived as motivation, or more specifically, internal impulses. They explain that it encompasses those which are biologically significant, circling back to the importance of acknowledging breed. They drive the importance of identifying a goal and asking the trainer what it is.

Stacy brings up a question introduced to her when she was teaching: What happens when your student asks if they are ready to trial at a particular level? Their answers to this question are nuanced, determining that it depends on the learning style of the dog and the trainer. This transitions into a discussion around ‘single event learners,’ which is exactly what it sounds like, and the hosts each share an example of one they’ve experienced.

“No training is better than bad training,” Crystal explains, driving the point that bad repetition can have a significant negative impact. They talk about objective-based training, and how it increases adaptability and problem-solving in trainers. They deep dive into the benefits of it, sharing how it benefits training; for instance, it encourages breaking down behaviors, which produces more measurable targets. They introduce the SMART criteria, which helps set efficient goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based.

Robin shares that most of the training, for her, happens without the dog present in the form of designing trainings. They then chat about the importance of play and engagement and letting the dog, and yourself, have fun. Also, they note, it’s important to remind yourself that it is ok, and actually good, to acknowledge when your dog isn’t ready for something and putting them through it wouldn’t be beneficial to them. Oftentimes when a dog isn’t achieving its goal, it’s not the dog’s fault, and it is important for a trainer to be able to adapt. They explain how the stress and pressure a trainer feels can negatively impact the dog, and so it is imperative that trainers coach themselves, and their peers, in that regard.

Key Topics:

  • Preconceptions based on breed (3:16)

  • Reactive dogs and stimulus thresholds (5:10)

  • Drive (8:45)

  • Identifying the goal (10:48)

  • Knowing when you’re ready to trial (13:14)

  • Single event learners (19:32)

  • No training is better than bad training (23:59)

  • Objective-based training (24:13)

  • SMART goals (36:45)

  • Training without the dog (39:19)

  • Play and engagement (41:17)

  • Advocating for your dog (43:10)

  • Adapting to the dog (47:57)

  • Dealing with pressure (50:34)


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