I talk a lot about handling scent, because that is the one area people seem to have the most “ah ha” moments. I hate people to feel like I am “picking on them” in class, but honestly, they come up with the best teachable moments and striking while the iron is hot just my nature.
So from the last couple of classes I have found a couple of scent material related teachable moments that I want to share.
1. If you store your “hot” scent articles with your “cold” scent articles in baggies in your purse, you now have two mediocre “hot” scent articles. While your scent all over the target scent article is a great cheat for a beginner dog, as you progress, it becomes an obstacle to advancing your training and encourages guessing for many dogs.
2. When you prepare scent articles and blanks or cold articles for your training week, prepare several sets and ideally store them in different locations. I suggest tackle boxes, one for hot and one for cold. If you store treats in one you have to store treats in the other….and as you progress you won’t want to store treats in either.
3. If your target scent is prepared in mineral oil, olive oil, paraffin or other scent carrier, your blanks should also contain the same material in similar quantities. It is fine to change the scent carrier from week to week and any container you use to hold your scent material (plastic, pvc, stainless, aluminum), but your hot and cold should be identical in your training session with the exception of the target scent.
4. If you have been using the same scent material in the same scent containers week after week, you have successfully taught your dog to find things that smell like you plus that particular “blend” of container, scent, carriers, etc. If you have passed the target training phase, you should be changing your scent material weekly, preferably preparing fresh training aides each training session and sanitizing your containers, or preferably acquiring new ones in between.
5. If you place scent with latex gloves, you should use latex gloves to place your blanks as well. If you are trying to minimize your scent on the article, have a well trained friend prepare it for you. Try using food service gloves instead of latex.
As training progresses, you will want to contaminate scent material as little as possible. Try storing it in jars in your freezer and warm for 20 minutes before placing in the field. Avoid bare hands handling when you think your dog is nearly ready to migrate their training to a production environment.
Some dogs make the leap from locating truffle scent in a training setting to a wild or orchard setting with no problems. Most dogs will need more help and it is this transition that is the most challenging. For those dogs, it will be very important how much control you have had over your scent articles and how you place training scent in the field.
As you progress your training, your dog will use clues such as your scent on targets, to disrupted soil to help them locate the target, but as you advance it is important to remove or mitigate as many of these clues as possible.
In my technique for more advanced dogs, I like to use my right hand for placing cold targets or blanks (or making disturbed soil) and my left for placing hot. I always place cold, then hot to avoid contaminating the cold targets with target scent. After the targets are placed, I walk through the area touching various spots so that the dog cannot use the age of my scent to identify the hot targets. A little superstitious perhaps but that is my routine.