We were fortunate enough to have Randy Hare up in Mass towards the beginning of this month for a 3-day seminar at our facility. What a truly wonderful presenter he is. Randy was informative, gracious, and lighthearted all in one. We all were able to walk away from our long weekend with him with a much greater depth of knowledge of the On Target system.
For those of you who are not familiar with Randy or his system, Hare is an internationally renowned detection trainer based in Jackson, Mississippi. He wanted to have his dogs be as precise as possible with their detection work in law enforcement so that the dog’s response to the presence of drugs would hold up as best as it possibly could in court. Randy’s system uses carefully constructed boxes that allow the dogs to play tug of war at source, work through distractions very early on in training, and teach the dogs to be obedient to odor and only odor within the context of their detection work.
While this seminar appealed to mostly working dogs, any breed with high toy drive could potentially thrive with Randy’s system. One continuous thought I had throughout the weekend was how important timing is in the context of detection work. Yes, timing is crucial in all aspects of good dog training, and if you reward the dog for poor positioning in the heel or consistently reinforce the dog off of a piece of contact equipment, you will get less than optimum results. The only difference I see with detection training, however, is the dog consistently losing value for the odor whenever timing is not as close to perfect as possible on the handler’s end, especially in the early stages of training.
In most other dog sports, the dog will never have to work in an environment with packages of hot dogs lying around or your dog’s favorite toy scattered on the floor. Clearly a thorough trainer will train their dog through these types of distractions regardless if the dog will ever see this in the real world or not, but the likelihood of the distraction being present in the context of evaluating the dog in an actual performance is very low. Whereas if a narcotics dog is searching a car for drugs, there could likely be a couple of Big Macs in a McDonald’s bag on the floor. Or if a search and rescue dog is running through a forest to find a missing child, the dog could potentially see a frisbee that dropped out of someone’s backpack. There is just absolutely no room for a dog to choose a hamburger over finding potential drugs or a favorite toy over the missing child hence the importance of obedience to odor.
Randy was kind enough to allow us all the opportunity to work his 9 year old Malinois Chona. This dog has had extensive training in Randy’s system and is incredibly obedient to odor. You can see in the photo below one of our seminar attendees is practicing her timing with Chona; the dog’s nose could not possibly be any closer to source. And the key component that yields these extraordinary results is accurate and precise timing in the foundational training.
Chona will lift her head up from this point and look at the person rewarding her as if to say, “Bitch, where’s my money?” (phrase coined by Randy Hare) as you can see illustrated in the second picture. Nonetheless, those of you who have some general knowledge of detection training know to always wait to reward the dog once she goes back to source rather than reward her with her head up and her nose off the odor. Notice this week if you are seeing “Bitch, where’s my money?” moments in your training. Does your dog continue to do his or her job if you don’t move in with the reward right away and does your dog work through the frustration of waiting for reinforcement? If not, what may be the cause of that missing link?
All in all, it was a very successful weekend. We could not have chosen a better person to kick off our seminar series at K9ProFit and look forward to hopefully brining Randy back in the future. If you are interested in working through Randy’s system with your dog, feel free to contact Scott Williams of Beyond The Leash at (866)957-DOGS who has been through Randy’s trainers school and has successfully worked numerous dogs through Randy’s system on various odors. Scott also has worked with thousands of dogs on recreational odor between his clients in Los Angeles, CA and New England. We look forward to hosting more seminars soon and truly appreciate all of those who helped to make our first seminar a success. To stay up to date with all of the latest information going on at K9ProFit, located in Lowell, MA, follow Cookie That! on facebook.