How Long to Practice Scent Pads
It is always so exciting to see your puppy learn something and move on to the next step. No matter how motivated you are to move on in your tracking training, we would like to advise to spend extra time on scent pads. Take your time and do not rush. Here is why.
Seems like scent pads look very easy to do. Stomp some dirt, place some food and let your dog eat. Before you abandon Scent Pads as stand-alone exercise, see if your puppy can search an empty scent pad for 5 minutes. Why? If your puppy can “believe” in an empty scent pad - getting rid of food on the track will be much easier. When we say “believe,” we mean that the puppy does not gets discouraged when he does not smell food right away. He should still hope that food at some point will be there.
Dogs have a phenomenal olfactory ability. They know there is food on Scent Pad while they are waiting for the Search cue. We have to help them “believe in an empty Scent Pad.” They should attempt searching even if they do not smell food by the flag.
You can also use Scent Pads for introduction of distractions. One of the distractions is yourself. You can step into the Scent Pad and step out while your puppy searches. You can walk by or stand still. The puppy should know to continue searching no matter hat you are dong.
You can also introduce different terrains, length of aging, time of the day, etc. You can generalize all these scenarios even before your puppy can start tracking lines.
How to teach to “believe” in an empty scent pad;
* Prepare your Scent Pad but add no food.
* Start your dog up as usual.
* Let him begin searching the Scent Pad and while he is doing it inconspicuously drop some kibbles on the Pad.
* The first session you will start adding food only after 2-3 seconds of the beginning of the search.
* Later, build up empty Scent Pad search to 15-20 seconds.
Very important – if your dog stops tracking, do not add more food to lure him back. You can inadvertently create a Behavior Chain. Stop the training session, do not say anything, gently take him by the collar and lead him out of the Scent Pad. Do not feed him or do any training with food until next meal back on the Scent Pad. We are not limiting the food intake. We are giving the dog a chance to earn it. He needs to know that once he stops tracking – the kitchen is closed.
As you can see, you can even teach tracking diligence right there on a Scent Pad. So, do not rush away from Scent Pads. Make sure your puppy is well educated before you proceed to tracking lines.
Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions at the bottom of the screen.
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