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Crittering help

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Some of you may remember that Ziva's in training as a SAR dog. Two weeks ago, Ziva treed a cat at a training and at training today showed a lot of interest in wild animal scent (scat, bones, etc.). It was interfering enough in her work that our training director brought up the dread "wash out" phrase. He's not too

concerned, but he did mention that dogs can be washed out for excessive crittering. Crittering is also absolutely unacceptable if I ever want her to get involved in human remains/cadaver detection.


I *know* Ziva can do the work, we just need some help proofing against scent distraction. She's got a decent leave it cue already, but this needs to be uncued; ideally such that she actively avoids checking the scent out and/or just completely ignores any scent other than applicable ones.


I'm thinking about buying some scent used by hunters (deer, bird, maybe rabbit and/or squirrel if I can find them) and using the products from my cat's litter box to set up initial training sessions so I know where the "off" scents are and doing some work teaching her just to back off at first, but after that I'm not sure how to make this skill an uncued default behavior and that's where I need help. :rolleyes: Does my initial plan sound like a good one? And how do I make it a *rock solid* default?


Thanks for any suggestions you can offer!

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Good luck. I think the correct answer is that you need to make the behavior you want (SAR) more rewarding than the one you don't want (crittering), and this can be hard to do when the critters won't cooperate.


Teaching Z to ignore scat and bones seems straightforward enough, just repeat "leave it" every time and reward her when she does. Eventually the presence of the scat or bones becomes a cue for the dog to turn away from it.


Teaching a crittering dog to ignore a running critter is tougher. All I can offer is that there's NO evidence that deer scent and the like is any use there. This is the only site I know of that seriously addresses crittering as a training issue, and you may well not want to take that approach.

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Thanks for the reply! I did go ahead and started working on the auto-"leave it" today using bottled scent (deer, fox, and raccoon) and it's really going well - went from heavy sniffing to completely ignoring in only about 6 reps on the most distracting scent (total of about 12 reps over all three!), uncued. I got my DH to help us with a few runaways with some scent in the field and she was back to her normal performance level if not better; completely ignored the scents I set out *and* some animal scat. We'll keep working up in difficulty and probably doing a refresher periodically, but if I can keep her at the level of motivation she showed tonight we'll be right as rain soon. :rolleyes:


She's getting pretty good at recalling off moving prey, but I am building another more carefully implemented recall cue for emergencies just in case. I'm honestly not as worried about moving prey as that's easier to spot; critter scent is more problematic because at this stage I'm still learning her signals for being on and off her target scent and thus it can throw us both off more easily.

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