Clean Training for High Drive Dogs with Sarah Owings

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Sarah Owings from Cyber Dog Online Training about clean mechanics for training and working with high drive dogs.

Science Highlight: Detecting small and cryptic animals by combining thermography and a wildlife detection dog

Why do mechanics matter?

  • Clarity shapes all learning. The clearer you are with your dog, the more successful they will be.
  • Before you blame the dog, be sure your mechanics are clean and communication is consistent and clear.

What problems can poor mechanics cause?

  • Dogs may steal food or toys from you, bark, whine, zoomie, etc.
  • This is all from a lack of communication

What are some human-end behaviors that can cause miscommunication?

  • Lumping criteria (ie. jumping too many steps at once)
  • Having no criteria/winging it
  • Sessions that are too long
  • Lack of reinforcement strategies

What are some mechanics or exercises to improve handler to dog communication?

  • Make sure the criteria is doable and raise the criteria slowly over time
  • Reinforcement pattern games; can you give a dog a reward and they will know exactly where it’s going to be (in the mouth, tossed, on the ground, etc.)?
  • If your dog is sniffing around a lot for the rewards, treat in a dish on the ground to clean up the loop

Are there situations where switching up the type of food or toy is a good idea?

  • Switching to a lower value reward may just be a crutch. It is important to find what was causing the frustration, because chances are it wasn’t that the reward was too high value.
  • If you are having issues, you may be holding out longer than the dog can handle. The dog needs to know how to earn the reward, no matter what.
  • Choice of reinforcement can make your delivery mechanics better or worse.

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Kayla showing off what poor mechanics can do… a bite to the face from a working dog.

Where to find Sarah Ownings:  Website | Tromplo | Facebook

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Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt 0:09
Hello and welcome to the canine conservationist podcast where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs join us every week to discuss ecology, odor dynamics, dog behavior and everything in between. I’m your host, Kayla Fratt. And I run canine conservationists where I trained dogs to detect data for reshot researchers, agencies and NGOs. Today, I get to talk to Sarah awakeness from cyber dog online training about clean and mechanics and clean training for training and working with HYDrive working dogs. This conversation was a really fun I had a bunch of questions and topics in mind and we went way off the rails way down some rabbit holes. We’re already planning a part two, I think you’re really going to enjoy this conversation. For those of you who don’t know Sarah Owings. She is a Karen Pryor Academy certified training partner who specializes in learning centered applications of behavioral principles, and is passionate about transforming the lives of challenging dogs as well as the lives of the people that care for them. As an international speaker and regular contributor to online trading forums, Sarah is known for her innovative approaches to tough behavioral problems and her compassionate and insightful teaching. Sarah has written for clean run magazine on topics such as stimulus control, release cues and toy related cues. Her current passions include reframing concept, concepts like impulse control, and encouraging traders to embrace a philosophy of brave learning. She is a member of the clicker Expo faculty, and an instructor for cyber sent online as well as a tutor for Trump low. Formerly an advisor for the Glendale Humane Society in Los Angeles. She has also done consults and workshops for the behavior team at the marina humane in Northern California. Sara is an avid nosework competitor currently competing at the elite level with her Labrador Retriever Tucker. Tucker was the recipient of the Hario award in 2015 and has the distinction of titling at each level of Nic SW meaning that he’s done everything from his Oh RT o to recognition trial through nosework three elite without a single Miss holy cow. In sniffing dog sports. He has one high end trial and both advanced and excellent divisions and has learned a high on trial at their top iron dog level. Tucker was trained final response for nosework a hover freeze at source was taught with a Marco signal following clicker training principles. Wow, you can see why I’m excited to write. And I’m really, really excited to share this interview with you. But first, we do have to share our weekly science highlight. This week, we’re looking at a paper written by Denise Karp that was published in Nature, titled detecting small and cryptic mammals by combining thermography and a wildlife detection Och, the question in this paper, which actually was published in Scientific Reports through nature

Kayla Fratt 2:40
is asking what are the best methods for detecting small and cryptic animals and in this case, looking at Brown hair leather, it’s an elaborate is a baby hair funfact baby bunnies are called kittens. This paper is important because the successful management and conservation of an endangered species requires an understanding of the species ecological needs rabbits lifestyle, and traditional detection methods like spotlighting line transect counts box trapping, and nest searching are inadequate for brown hair labrets. These leopards are super well camouflaged inactive during the day and the mothers don’t provide a protective cover like nests for their young so you can’t just hide their nests. thermal imaging cameras can be helpful because they use emitted heat infrared radiation instead of visible light created image. So they’re effective even when the animal is camouflaged or it’s dark outside. This study compared three methods to detect brown hair leverages a handheld thermal imaging camera, an airborne thermal imaging camera and a wildlife detection dog. By the end of the study is 65 individual leverages from 41 Different litters were detected caught and radio tag. Ultimately the choice of detection method should be based on the areas of vegetation characteristics such as height and density, as thermal imaging devices can be obstructed by vegetation. The handheld thermal imaging camera is the most efficient method for searching large areas with low or no vegetation cover. In a flat landscape with a dense road network. The thermal drone was best used in areas for up to medium vegetation cover and the detection dog is best used in dense vegetative cover. The detection dog was the least limited by weather conditions such as rain, wind, humidity, or direct sunlight, or by the vegetation type or rugged terrain. So if you’re dealing with any of those adverse conditions, the detection dog may be your best bet. Plus the time a dog needed to find one of the litter was lower than that of either of the two thermal imaging devices. However, it appeared that very young lover it’s so baby bunnies are baby hairs, under one week old was only detectable by the dog in a very short range such as like 20 to 50 centimeters, and the train dog had difficulty locating the source of the scent, sometimes passing the leverage within a meter. The authors also noted that an off leash pet dog and a fox with blocked within three to five meters of a pair of levers without noticing them. So their camouflage when they’re really young is very, very good. Therefore the detection the detection of leverages requires The dog just thoroughly searched an area so that the areas covered by a detection dog is rather small. The older levers were easier for the dog to detect. And for live targets such as this, they did note that it is crucial to use a dog with low or very controllable prey drive because you aren’t asking this dog to get very close to very young baby animals. The author’s kind of close with the idea that combining all three approaches allows detection and all sorts of vegetative cover or habitat types, which increases the possibilities for data collection and results in an unbiased and balanced data set. And they suggest that these methods may be applied to study other small animals or cryptic animals. A couple of things to note, aerial thermal imaging technology is not yet optimized, and probably will improve the data in this paper were collected between 2013 and 2015. So aerial thermal imaging now in 2022, is probably already quite a bit better. They also only used one dog in the study. And they know that that was to minimize the stress on the live target animals that were being used. But that limits the gender the ability to generalize the results. We talked about this with almost every single paper we look at, and the performance is variable between different dogs and different handlers. So without further ado, let’s get to our interview with Sarah Owings.

Kayla Fratt 6:15
All right, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. Sarah.

Sarah Owings 6:18
My pleasure. I’m glad to be here.

Kayla Fratt 6:21
Yeah. So why don’t we start out with the why? Why do mechanics of your reward and your handling matter? As well, especially when we’re thinking about working with maybe a higher drive or extremely high drive dog?

Sarah Owings 6:37
Well, I really think about everything in terms of clarity of information, or clarity of feedback. Because that’s what shapes all learning that’s going on all the time where they’re not trainers, or doing anything at all or not, right, or, you know, rabbits teach dogs great skills by you know, being in the queue for the freeze and then the run. But trainers are giving cues all the time. And if those cues are noisy, or inconsistent, then you’re basically giving your animal a different information at different times. So it’s kind of like saying, here are the here’s, here are your test questions. And what you studied yesterday doesn’t work today anymore.

Sarah Owings 7:25
And if you do that too often, especially with those dogs with that label of HYDrive you get behaviors, which sometimes when I meet these dogs, I’m like, You are right, this is confusing. You should be yelling, you know, but you’ll get the barking, you’ll get the mouth Enos, you’ll get the dog that just says, heck, I’m just taking the reinforcer. And I don’t care if your skin is attached to it, which I’ve worked with all of these kinds of dogs. So that’s just what I feel like, if you are training something, it’s your responsibility to just constantly be clear with that information. And that takes not only a lot of skill and practice, but awareness, a constant refinement and reevaluation of your skills. And it’s kind of never ending. So that’s kind of my first answer to that question. It’s a great question to start with. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt 8:19
yeah, making sure we’ve got people on board. And you’re already also answered my next question, which is, you know, some of the problems that may come up when we do have on nuclear training, is there anything else you wanted to add? As far as like, oh, we might be dealing with poor mechanics or messy mechanics, if this is what we’re seeing out of our dog?

Sarah Owings 8:39
Definitely, that’s the first thing I look for. So before I blame the dog before I say, Oh, the dog is got impulse control problems, or spoiled or before I go to those kinds of labels. The first thing I look for and not just the train, I’m not like bad trainer. I don’t mean that. But first thing I look for is are is the dog and the trainer. Are they communicating? Consistently? I mean, that’s kind of what I look for. First of all, can you get a series of consistent responses, period? And sometimes some of these behaviors that ones we label difficult, they were learned a while ago, and now they are cued by the whole training environment. So you’ll just like for example, the dog I adopted a while ago, typical Labrador in a situation where someone has holding a ball. He will scream, I mean, very long duration screaming and, and then I what my big aha about that was that’s a very consistent response. Like it’s not a pager I want but I could, I could bet you $100 Every time I hold up a ball, I’m gonna get this barking. So that learning got locked in You know, Sam, so in a weird way, but when you want to change that, you have to be very, very good at not just changing your own patterns, but also changing the context where those problem behaviors happen. That makes sense. So that’s kind of how I dealt with that with him was, let’s learn how to stand quietly and wait for things in a quiet room, rather than the park. Where, right and then, but in that situation, now I’m re teaching a skill, the skill was, wait until I release you waive until I release you, that’s where my, this is brand new training. My job was to be really clear, and very consistent with what this new rule was, which is if you stand still and wait, this is guaranteed, I’m going to release you to this food or I’m gonna, and that had to be split down into tiny baby steps for him. And, but, and that’s where I had to just slowly build it. And that’s, that’s where it really mattered. Does that make sense? So if I were consistent during that time, he’s gonna revert back to the behaviors that were working, that that screen barking is very, very strong, already learned. And so that’s kind of so I look for two things I look for, are you trying to teach something brand new that the animals not getting it? And then you get all this frustration? Or is this a long standing problem, basically, something the animal has already learned. And when I see that happening, I’ll say we got to change the context. break it all down, and reteach reteach your new, your new patterns? So those are sort of two different aspects to that answer. I hope it’s not too complicated sounding.

Kayla Fratt 11:56
No, I don’t think so. And I think you know, when, when you’re telling the story of the this lab, I think a lot of these several dogs that I’ve worked with, and I know this is a pretty common thing where it’s there, okay, when you first pull the toy out, and they’ve been taught to wait, and then you can throw it and you can play with them. But when you’re going to put it away, is when you start getting the dog jumping up and biting at your shirt or trying to pull it out from the toy from, from your armpit, or whatever it is. And one of the things that really strikes me there is, you know, it’s so much about, you know, as you said, yeah, the clarity of the communication of like helping the dog understand how and when games end. Helping them know that that doesn’t have to be the end of the world. And then being really consistent with how you do that, and ensuring that I’m sure most of the dogs who do that behavior really, really consistently have been reinforced for it inconsistently at some point, whether it’s through someone just giving up and giving them the toy or them mugging someone and getting the toy consistent, successfully. And actually, most of the dogs I know who have done that, quote, unquote, the worst, the dogs that were kind of scary to work with, are almost like you’re both dreading the end of the game, because it’s going to be so difficult to get that toy back and get that toy away. A lot of those were dogs that had had multiple handlers. And were switching around from multiple people. And I think that is where you can get that kind of like construct of this dog is going to test you. And I think, I don’t know, but we can we can go down that rabbit hole or not.

Sarah Owings 13:38
Yeah, definitely. That’s definitely true, is the official term for that is it’s an extinction process that’s not finished. That’s the official. So what that means is something that hasn’t been working for that animal suddenly stops working, you know, and then that animal escalates and escalates. And then it works, because of the escalation. And now you’ve actually locked in the escalation part. So it starts it usually starts kind of, you know, like a little nipping or a little bit of fussing.

Kayla Fratt 14:14
A younger dog will like if I’m holding the Frisbee down, you know, and I’m like walking with the Frisbee at nose level, he’ll occasionally kind of go for it. And I can see how easily that would escalate from if he ever got it there. And then I’m trying to stick it in my armpit. And then um, once or twice, he pulls it out from my armpit that I’m just, you know, not intentionally, but I’m teaching this sort of persistence.

Sarah Owings 14:39
And we want persistence. That’s the thing these these dogs are doing these jobs. And that’s the other thing with my lab when I met him I’m like, You are gold. I mean of course that’s why you bought you go to the shelters and look for the Crazy Dogs. Because if you give this dog a mission, he’s going to finish the mission like you know and that it That’s a very cool thing. And that’s what I love to do as well as shift that flip that over and go, Well, this is your superpower. So how can we negotiate over this very important resource so that I don’t get hurt, and so you feel better? Yeah, and I did a lot of work with this dog. I also learned the hard way that tucking under the armpit is not a cue to not take it. I thought that was a clear cue to knock us under my armpit. But I actually I got grabbed and thrown to the ground. With a dog with no out he had no out show. I kind of felt like this is this, this lab I’m talking about? I kind of felt like he didn’t even see me there anymore. It was just a toy floating. And he just passed all of this part of my you know, this is I’m grabbing my pillow, which are packed. And just long we did the ground and then pulled and pulled. And it was pretty bad.

Kayla Fratt 16:01
Were you okay,

Sarah Owings 16:02
I got a good. I drew blood, and it hurt. And that’s when I I really realized and what had happened. This is a good example. I thought we had worked all this stuff out. And then I decided to put a contingency on that toy. And we were working on healing. And I thought, Okay, I’ll put under my arm. And I thought these were baby steps I go, if you give me one step of healing, I’m going to mark you and give you that toy. So one step, okay. Two steps. He just said, I’m taking it. I’m just taking it like, and I’ve got it. And that means I, you know, that’s not his, we would easily blame him. But I think I would consider that a miscommunication between the two of us about what my goals were, what I was actually trying to teach him. He shouldn’t have been learning that behavior with a toy reinforcer at that stage, because he’s just not able to think that way in that situation. And I should have known better. But that’s the example though. Usually the dogs will get blamed or punished or called defiant or dominant in those situations, but yeah, it’s our job to find the context where the behavior we want is easier. And usually with these toy dogs, it’s like just no choice for a little while. That’s something exciting, but no choice for a little while. Let’s just learn how to talk to each other. Like what, what, what is a marker signal? Can you offer me behavior? Do you know how to make this game work for you? Sometimes it’s better to do training that is not your important training. Right? Not your not your conservation work, not your protection, you know, just learn the game.

Kayla Fratt 18:03
To talk to each other. Yeah,

Sarah Owings 18:05
that but you know, but think about it, you can’t do it for toys to start with because toys are a whole cue for a whole suite of behaviors that are really difficult. So yeah. So anyway, I’m I’m wondering, but I’ve learned a lot from this particular dog. And the coolest thing with him the coolest My favorite moment was I teach a an indication for amateur sent work for where he has to freeze, he has to hold his nose directly precisely on source and hold it there until he’s released. And the day he could do that very delicate, precise work to a toy reinforcer. was the day that I was like, Yeah, because Joe holy cow, oh, that thrill and he would hold his entire body still, like, basically kind of balance his nose on a on a little tiny target. You could do it but that took a lot of work. It took so much. But that’s the that’s the level of precision that I wanted to go for. And I wanted to use toys because he really cared about Yeah, I wasn’t gonna not let him do toys. So

Kayla Fratt 19:22
right and even, you know, even when we’re dealing with a dog who you know, maybe in our concentrated training sessions are not getting toys right now. That doesn’t mean they’re never getting toys. So we still need to learn how to Yeah, how to teach an out and teach them to wait and let you know the difference between tugging and throwing or tugging and retrieving in the toy presentation, all of that. It still matters even if you’re not trying to do multiple repetitions in a row in your training with toys, which I think a lot of us, you know, both of my dogs are very, very highly, totally motivated and bow Most of them don’t teach new skills with toys hardly ever. Because yeah, they can’t think and it slows everything down. And it adds all this, this this emotion that I want to ultimately but it’s very hard to, to put into the learning process very early on.

Sarah Owings 20:21
But it’s so glorious when you can get it. Yes. Because all of that just all of that amazing power and focus and what we call what all the things we call drive, I’m putting quotes around drive, because it’s one of those things, you can unpack all of that when you channel that into a precise behavior. It’s such a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Kayla Fratt 20:47
Yeah, yeah, they get this. Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. So, you know, kind of circling back to mechanic’s, what are some of the human end of the leash behaviors that we may want to look at, as far as you know, so we’ve talked about the dog might be barking or biting at you, or spinning or doing all sorts of other things that that could be related to your mechanics, but what are the some of the behaviors that the human is performing that may be part of that picture as well?

Sarah Owings 21:21
Well, one of the big ones is big lumps and criteria. So a criteria is the standard the animal has to perform, to get the thing that they want, right? So if, if you start out reinforcing for this, like a, you know, a half second duration, and then all of a sudden you jump to Okay, he’s got it. Now let’s do three minutes. That’s one example of we call it we call it lumping. And if you cut a jump your criteria around like that, or if you have no criteria, so it’s like you’re, you’re just kind of winging it. And that also can create situations where that basically, you’re not even sure what you’re rewarding, or what you’re looking for, or what you’re reinforcing. And so you’re going to get a whole bunch of behaviors. And it sometimes feels like the animal says, well, which which one of these gets the reinforcement? And if in certain personality types, certain genetic packages, they will, they will just escalate immediately, in that place where, you know, well, once this, this whole thing is about one second, what do you mean, three minutes, like three minutes is not even registering as the rules of this game. And so what I think about is, like I think about criteria is, what are the rules of the game? And can can you be fair with those rules, and there’s two ways to be fair. One is make sure the criteria is doable. So really, really, you know, make sure that you split the job down into such small little steps, that it’s doable. So you always find where the animal can start out very successful. But it’s also fair to start raising that criteria slowly over time. Because if you, if you stay up at a real easy criteria for a really long time, and then you shift, it’s a big change of rules. That makes sense. But if you gradually shift over time, you’re teaching the animal that variations in the behaviors slightly, is what the game is about. If that makes sense, but a lot of people, you know, they’ll get stuck. And they’ll either overdo it at one level. Or they jump way too far ahead too fast. So it’s, that’s the art of it. So I would say being criteria is a big one. And then the other one, of course, is just reinforcement patterns. I have all my students, I teach a number of online classes. And we start out almost a full few weeks of just Can you hand a piece of food to the dog in a way that it’s clear when he can take it from your hand versus when it’s going to go on the floor? Versus when you’re going to throw it can you make every body language cue super clear that you’re going to do those things. Before we even add a marker signal, and that is the the marker sends the information you did it and then I liked the learner to see by your shoulder movement, ah, treats are going to be tossed. Got it. clean, simple. No, like where’s it gonna go? where’s it gonna go? And I like to keep almost every training session. I mean, I will adapt if it’s not working but I try to Say this is the pattern for this session. So for this next minute of training, every treat is going to be over there. So so the process five different reinforcement strategies at once for that one minute. And then I might put the dog away and go, well, that treat strategy was not creating the behavior. I wanted that that wasn’t it was too huge, too far away or something, I might switch it to the the next session and say, okay, hey, dog, in this session, I’m going to feed three inches closer to the target or whatever. But I don’t I try not to switch all of that around in a single session, because that makes now the dog has to watch you, for more acid process more information, like where’s the tree? Are you going to put your hand in your pocket? Are you throwing it? Is it going to be a scatter? Are you going to get a toy out for me. And I find that also starts to destabilize the learning process, and can set you up for dogs missing criteria, right? They start mess, they don’t meet criteria, then you can’t click it.

Sarah Owings 26:07
And now you’re frustrated. See, and so a really simple thing, like I have some students that so interesting. So the dog will just get into a weird thing, like between every reinforcement delivery, they will go sniff the ground, and wander around, and then kind of come back and then give you the behavior again. And then we’re like, well, that’s not clean enough. And they and, and it’s so easy to go well, he’s distracted. He’s shy. He’s right. But all this trainer had to do was put a little target bowl on the floor. And after every click, she put the treat in that target bowl. In the Bay, everything cleaned right up. That dog was like, Oh, got it. I don’t have to search the floor for food. And the whole behavior cleaned up. And that’s a beautiful example of a simple mechanical, I would call that mechanics although we actually, mechanics is the best word we have. But it sounds very mechanical. It sounds it sounds like I’m fixing a car. You know, it sounds the word mechanics. I like to redefine that word somehow as like, well, we don’t have a better word yet. But when it’s really when you’re really humming along, it feels more like you’re dancing with the animal or you’re you’re, you’re giving feedback loops, or Yeah, exactly. Something like that, rather than I’m coldly and mechanically, you know, reinforcing you like I’m on machine dropping a pellet?

Kayla Fratt 27:45
Yeah, no, I think trying to think about it. As far as you know, we want our training to be clean. It’s helpful. But yeah, I agree. Mechanics is kind of a it’s it’s not exactly the word we like. And no, I can totally see as well going back to the dog who was sniffing around. That’s something I see particularly in my younger dog who I selected Surprise, surprise for being a dog who’s kind of always been extremely odor focused, and very concerned about where his reinforcers are, it’s exactly what makes him the sort of dog that I want for this line of work. But also, when I’m training him with treats, I pretty much always have to hand them to him. Because if I do pattern games where I’m tossing on the ground, for him, it every repetition gets so messy, even when I try and I’ve tried before to do like left to right pattern games with him. And unless I’m on like pavement with really big visible treats, I still I get that sniffing behavior as part of the typography and it’s not the end of the world. It just slows our training down. And if I only have so much time and want to get some reps in, it’s not. Not convenient.

Sarah Owings 28:59
Yes, yes. That’s good to know.

Kayla Fratt 29:04
Yeah, yeah. versus my other dog barley. He’s very much so like, whatever I’ve got in my hand is what he assumes is best. So I can call him off of a bowl of food to give him the same thing he had to the bowl because he just for whatever reason he thinks anything I’ve got is there for the best thing, which is handy. Yes. So this is something that that so you use the word clean loops. You know, I know we’ve a lot of people in the in the dog world have been talking a lot about loopy training lately. And this is what we weren’t not what we were supposed to be talking about. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. As far as it seems like our loops, incent work are really big. And I think one of the things that makes it hard for us to clean up our mechanics is that if your your behaviors that you’re going Waiting for the behaviors that you’re struggling with are happening at a late stage and a search. It makes it really difficult to get the repetitions in to fix that. So an example being with my dog barley, he really struggled with kind of getting up past about an hour of searching, which is a huge ask, of course, he was struggling. But it’s part of the job. And the thing that I really struggled with is like, Oh, my God, how do I make the time to deal with this problem? So what are some of our What are your thoughts on that as far as like loopy training in the Search Dog or detection? Dark World? That’s such a good question. So

Sarah Owings 30:47
Steve White is a influence on some of my thinking. He trains, police dogs who do tracking, drug detection, that kind of thing. And he has a thing he calls, he breaks the whole search down into three components. And I’ve heard various others sent professionals use different language, but the same idea is a search, locate and report. So there’s three phases of us any search. And you can think about it forwards or backwards, forwards would be teaching the dog to hunt first. So and that’s the part where you just send them out and they they start to just learn to find things. But the Locate component in my world, a lot of people think that the indicate component is the most important part. And it is very important to have that be show solidly reinforced that it’s kind of like an anchor pulling the whole thing to a sit as a clear, a clear ending point. But for me, it’s the place to really look at is that locate component, and that’s where the dog first encounters odor. So in the search component, they’re looking for odor, they’re casting out for odor. And then it’s when they encounter odor, you’ll see that first change of behavior, and now they’re starting to work it and there’s a locate that locate that to pin it down. And that’s where you’ll see bracketing, you’ll see all the cool odor behavior happening. And then eventually, they hone it down and they’ll give you the report. So what I like to do is teach that whole thing backwards. So we start with that nose on source or, or whatever your indication is, you make sure that it’s really, really fluent. And the reason you want that so fluent is by the time the dog gets to that part, they have very little brain, I’m just guessing, but I’m assuming they’re tired. Right, they’ve done all the really hard work, if you’re searching for an hour negotiating my dog negotiates really complicated odor puzzles, which would be a room filled with the loudest odor imaginable. And he asked to pull it apart like a puzzle. And I and so by the time they get to the endpoint, I don’t want the dog having to wonder how to get reinforced, I just want it to be honest muscle memory, just just muscle memory of like, I don’t even I’m exhausted, but I’ll just do my thing with without even thinking about it. So we start with that indication part, whatever it is, it could be just duration of nose on the source, it could be down, it could be your barking, it could be whatever, train it heavily. So that the it’s like a huge reinforcement anchor. It’s just in there. And that’s where you can get all those beautiful clean loops. Because you can start there and just work those loops, right close to your target odor over and over and over again. Yeah. And then when you back it up, add a little complexity, and ask the dog to start locating first and then give you that right, you’re backing it up with maybe starting the dog a little farther away, or upwind instead of downwind, like downwind is so much easier because if you started dog downwind with an easy target, that’s a nice starting point, because they’re gonna go right to it and get reinforced immediately. upwind would be a little harder. And then what I want to see, I really want to see when a dog is searching is that all three components are clean. So what that looks like for me is that when I send that dog out to the search area, he is searching right away immediately. He’s not sniffing the ground scratching and is looking at me for information wondering what to do. There. That’s even if there is no odor available in the beginning. I want To see a dog actively seeking it. Then when that dog encounters odor, I want to see an immediate response and change. Like, I want to see that that odors is actually working as a cue. And then I want that dog to stay persistently on that puzzle. And then actually the indication at that point, if you’ve trained it, well, it’s just, that just happens. Right? That’s, if that makes sense to you. Like that’s how I do think that is a clean loop, even though it could take an hour,

Sarah Owings 35:35
an hour. So if you’re seeing, let’s say, you start a search, and you see the dog goes off and pees or chases a rabbit, that in my mind is telling you that your search setup is is like lumping your it’s too complicated. It’s too maybe too many miles or too much. Right, you have to bring it back down again, to get that straight shot of search, locate and report. Yeah. And record again, and just build that up and build that up and build that up.

Kayla Fratt 36:10
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s kind of thinking about it, like back chaining, or some amount of, you know, building up an endurance event. But yeah, so and what I’m kind of thinking that I, I’m still, I’m still a little stuck on this one. And again, I’m just kind of throwing this at you. And we’ll get back onto our listed questions eventually. So So barley, when he was building up, he was, he was lovely in like 20 3040 minute searches even. And he was always really solid, and still is, when he locate or you know, once he, he encountered odor, and then needed to source it. He was always solid with his alerts. But what I saw is, after 4550 minutes or so, if he still hadn’t encountered anything, I started to get a lot of this behavior of him looking up at me and being like, what are we doing wrong? You know, what’s going on, and he, instead of searching and cornering, and being out in the environment, he would come back and look at me. Or even there were times where he would just start alerting to random things. And what, again, what I really struggled with, and there might just be no magic bullet to this is like, Gosh, darn it, like I can only do one repetition of pushing him up a little bit, you know, and trying to get a 45 minute search in, and then a 47 minute search. And I can only do like one of those a day. And I didn’t. So that’s what I was thinking about as far as like a clean loop. Like if you’ve got a problem that occurs, possibly due to fatigue in a long, long loop. And again, maybe you’re only maybe what you need to do is just do a 47 minute training session once a day. And keep pushing it up. I don’t know. That’s interesting.

Sarah Owings 38:05
You know what, when you describe that problem, my first thought went to, it’s like a duration plateau. So it’s actually not a good idea to only do 47. Because it’s possible that when we’re dogs learn duration tasks, often the thing they’re learning is not the thing we think we’re teaching. So in my mind, the duration task is maintain this thing until you are marked, right. That’s what I’m teaching. But often if you let’s say you always do a five minute repetition, I just accidentally because you’re not paying attention. What your learner will learn is I will work for five minutes, and then I stop. Right. And that’s how this works. So it’s like a duration plateau. I’m sure fatigue has something to do with it.

Kayla Fratt 38:56
Yeah, yeah. And I was more thinking as far as trying to avoid lumping like not going from 45 to one hour because we were getting so much failure in that last 15 minutes. Yeah, that’d be so many hiccups in those last 15 minutes. I don’t know. I don’t know if I really didn’t kind of failure. Because again, then as soon as like we did encounter the hive that I set out. He was beautiful.

Sarah Owings 39:20
But do you ever do blank area searches where there is nothing to find? I’m sure you do. Right? We

Kayla Fratt 39:26
do. Yeah. But yeah, and this was at a stage this was gosh, like three years ago now. And I would see similar things on really, really long blink searches but like a 30 minute blank search. Not a problem. I wouldn’t get this.

Sarah Owings 39:45
Now I did something rather unorthodox with my dog now. Sport detection dogs do not have to work that long. Yeah, sport protection dogs, you know up at the upper levels of the sport, which I am wearing I am competing now. I mean, we might get a nine minute search, you know, something like that. There’ll be complex searches, like I said, But they, and some, in some venues, you’ll get huge blank areas to clear. And then a whole cluster of very close, converging hides in another area. Oh, interesting. And that’s kind of fun. And the challenge there is, after all of that big area searching, the dog will hit a couple of those close ones think they’re done, and leave it. And you’ll still miss a couple because they’re all close together. That’s fun, too. But it is a challenge. It’s an endurance challenge, for sure. But I did something a little unorthodox, with my dog. And I don’t recommend it for everyone, because you’d have to do it very carefully. But in my sport, we have a finished call, which means that we have decided the area’s clear. And there’s different people to train different things. But most the most common thing is, is to just read the dog’s behavior as clear. Because the boundaries, right? If you’re out, you know, out in the wilderness, you may not have any boundaries. But

Kayla Fratt 41:16
we still generally have like a parameter of like an area that we’re supposed to search or you know, like a one kilometer transect or something, we’ve gotten an area where clearing usually like they don’t just really access it the Yellowstone National Park and say, have fun kids see in three weeks.

Sarah Owings 41:32
But one thing I did early on was i i Back chained my dog’s finished call to Toy delivery. So he gets his toy whether or not he finds target odor. And the what happens is I noticed that finish call became a like very powerful marker signal. And because he’s really, you know, that’s his favorite, right, he gets a regular marker, signal and food for every fine. And then at the end, when we’ve cleared the area, he’ll get his finished call. And sometimes he gets a finished on odor, and sometimes not. And what I found is if I was very, very careful to only say finished when he was actively searching, not when he stops and looks at me, not when he’s pooping out. When he’s actively working. I got more active work, I got a lot of active work. In fact, it’s almost a problem for me, because he works so hard, that I sometimes have trouble reading areas as clear, because it looks like he’s working something really hard. But gotcha, yeah, I have learned that you get what you you get what you reinforce. So if he quits and looks at me, and then I give him the toy, I am gonna get that at a certain place where, right and some people use that as an all clear signal, like the dog says, Sure, this area is clear. And I’m curious with your dog, like maybe that his that your dog’s way of saying this whole five acres that we’re in is clear. And then you would say, let’s move somewhere else, and then you would move him to a active area. So do you know what I mean? So like, I don’t know, I’m not trying to solve your problem, because I don’t

Kayla Fratt 43:18
know, throwing my problems at you. So

Sarah Owings 43:21
we think about you’ll get what you reinforce. So fatigue and a pattern of stopping means. I’m not saying you’re giving the toy or anything, but it is something is reinforcing that pattern.

Kayla Fratt 43:36
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think he’s a border collie. And I think to him some amount of any instruction is reinforcing. So what I have found with him and and he’s even, he’s, he’s a very kind of emotionally codependent guy. If we’re gonna, we’re gonna really anthropomorphize him. But he, yeah, he really finds any instruction or redirection, reinforcing. He’s just like, Oh, thank God, you’ve given me instructions. So I think that was probably part of it. And we did, basically we got past it by just kind of intentionally setting up things where it’s like, Alright, here’s a 48 minute blank area, and then your and then your target. And then maybe even search another 20 minutes after that, and just kind of continuing to build up that endurance that way. It was nothing fancy. It was nothing pretty. But it worked. And, you know, honestly, I haven’t had to work another area. So in that search, we were searching 300 acre blocks. So it would have like a big block and I was, we weren’t done yet at an hour. We still had, you know, 150 acres that we hadn’t even walked through yet. And one of the things that I have come around to a little bit is partially there’s a there’s a couple things I’m going to bring up. One of being just kind of intentionally giving more break and also to recognizing that needing to instruct my dog again is not like a moral failing. Like, if he searches again, if I cue him to search, that’s fine. Like, I don’t have to give him one cue for a behavior he performs for two hours. That’s not a problem for me in my line of work, and then three, and we recorded a podcast episode that’s gonna come out like a month and a half ahead of yours with Paul bunker from Chiron canine. And one of the things he talks about a lot is finding other reinforced double behaviors within your search. So he talks about giving dog’s food rewards for responding to directional cues, or recalls and those sorts of things. So that over the course of a really long search, you’ve got multiple other kinds of reportable events, even if we’re still holding the, the squeaky ball on the rope, as the holy grail for the odor. So that’s, that’s kind of what we ended up

Sarah Owings 45:56
doing. That’s, that sounds really good. And same with my sport. Like if we’re in the middle of a search, and things are just going well, like, we’re both confused. flabbergasted, you’re totally allowed, I this was a big thing for me, I’m like, I’m totally allowed to stop the search, talk to my dog for a second and Riku the whole thing, or maybe move to a different spot for a different angle or something. And that has saved us many times. And I have a dog that shouldn’t need that support. Right? He’s like Mr. Supercharged Labrador, dude. But it actually it helped. Maybe it’s just helping me but, you know, we just take a breath, you know, we don’t have to go 100 miles an hour the whole time. You know, these are, but I was thinking for you, for example, because we know how reinforcement works. Do you know let your sounds like you do some Leslie McDevitt control unleashed type? Yeah,

Kayla Fratt 46:55
yeah, we play around with that sort of stuff. Give me you know, the

Sarah Owings 46:58
Give me a break game. Yes. So I used to do the Give me a break game with my other dog who is that stereotypical soft dog, the quitter. You know, she could work for 30 seconds, then that she lays down and looks at you and a dog. And I brought in the Give me a break structure. And what worked really well for her was I knew that taking a break was reinforcing. Like, like, right, and so I tried to catch her before she asked for a break. So

Kayla Fratt 47:35
with a break as the reward for continuing to work,

Sarah Owings 47:38
her work, and then it totally worked. So like you could do, let’s say, you know, 47 minutes is your, you know, your Goobie start your Goobie spot, I just made that word up, it’s very technical. And then you stop your your dog is fully working, fully searching, you’re getting close, 40 minutes, you stop your dog and reinforce that great work with a break and some connection with you, and then some direction from you. And see if it just promotes another burst of energy. By 300 acres. My I am so impressed. That is incredible.

Kayla Fratt 48:18
It was a lot. You know, it’s yeah, it was a it was a lot we were doing kind of a study comparing, like transect. Spacing, and search area to see, you know, what you can kind of get away with and still have the dogs be really effective. So we were kind of intentionally asking a lot of

Sarah Owings 48:39
Yeah, thanks. Thanks for people to play around with, but just, ya know, I love that idea of enforcing, and maybe use what the animal is actually asking for, but use it to build stronger behavior in the long run.

Kayla Fratt 48:54
Yeah, exactly. And I think it’s such a good point, you know, reminding ourselves, you know, I have a background in behavior. I was in shelter behavior for a couple years before, before getting into this, and I still do it part time because this is not a full time job that pays enough. It’s, you know, thinking what, like, what is he actually asking for? What was he actually asking for a break? No, he, he absolutely wanted to keep going. He just didn’t know he was like, What is going on? Like he was confused and stressed out. And you know, sometimes we don’t know what’s going on. But, you know, making sure that we understand what they’re asking for so that we can give that as a way to reinforce the behavior we want. That’s that’s really, really nice.

Unknown Speaker 49:39
My name is key, and I have a two year old working cocker spaniel named Cooper. Cooper and I are new to this field of conservation detection dog work. So I am loving being a Patreon of the canine conservationist. We get to meet once a month via zoom with people all over the world and watch each other’s videos. and give input. And it’s just been such a wonderful learning opportunity. Um, on top of that I’m really excited about something that’s about to start, which is a book club, that we’re going to be going through a scent book that I tried to go through on my own and realized I really needed some more help. So it was perfect timing for me. And I’m really looking forward to that. Just being able to meet people and talk through issues and better understand the whole field of canine conservation work has just been such a great thing. And Kayleigh and the canine conservationists have played such a huge part in that happening for me. So thanks, Kayla.

Kayla Fratt 50:41
Okay, let’s, let’s kind of try to zoom back into some of our mechanics questions. So, you know, we’ve talked a little bit about the decision to use toys versus food as a way to build the behavior. Have you run into anything? Or have you seen cases where switching up the type of toy or type of food matters? You know, like what I was saying earlier with niffler, needing a larger food reward so that he didn’t get into we call it deaf land, where he just kind of goes off and his noses to the ground. And he’s, you know, he’s just heads in the sky for 45 minutes, just totally gone.

Sarah Owings 51:25
Yes, and no. I’m always a little leery with the, I think crutch is the not quite the right, it’s kind of a too strong a word. But when you let’s say you get into a training problem, or you’re getting frustration, you would label a frustration of fussing barking nipping, and you go, Oh, this, these treats are too exciting. So I’m going to try and lower value food. Uh, huh. Bring that arousal down, which is very, very common everyone. And sometimes it looks like it’s working, right, the the next session, you’ll get a little flatter dog a little less. But what I would like to focus on, I’m not saying that’s a bad idea. But I would like to focus on Well, what was not compute what was not clear in the first place. Like, in that situation, now, I did make the choice to not teach my dog foundation skills using a tennis ball. So it’s kind of the same thing. I went back to food, which is easier. And then I went through, when I taught a lot of the trade cues. And we had a big issue with me even picking toys up off the ground, like just leaning down to pick up a toy was a big cue for him to not go not guard, but snatch it so hard that you were not safe. So I did go through a progression of like, things that were not toys, you know, like remote controls, hair brushes, shoes. Yeah. You know, just so we could practice over and over again, that I’m going to do this thing. And it results in this thing. So I would you know, hold up, hold up some very, very good food, I would say trade. And if he focused on the food in my hand, that’s that was I took as a yes, that I could pick up the thing off the ground, and then I would then I would throw the food. And we still use that we still use that to this day. I don’t I mean, I think I could pick up toys now and not not lose a finger. But I feel like I should honor what I taught him. So that is an example where I, I did sort of a gradation of maybe what you would call value. But the way I look at it is this. The the ball had a reinforcer. It was already cueing a suite of behaviors that were previously learned. My dog came from the shelter, he was four years old, he came with this I, you know, not my fault. But it came with this behavior. And it I felt like it was unfair to ask him to offer me new behaviors under those conditions. So it wasn’t, I wasn’t thinking I’m gonna devalue the reinforcement to get him to be calmer. I was thinking under these conditions where this type of reinforcement is present. He’s not able to give me other behaviors, because he’s learned these other ones. So that makes sense. So there’s Yeah, I

Kayla Fratt 54:23
think so. Yeah, I mean, I think it reminds me a little bit of when you’ve got it the opposite almost a when you’ve got a picky dog. And it’s like, well, you might not want to constantly try to convince the dog to eat by adding better and better food. Because then you might basically be teaching the dog to wait and refuse what they don’t want in order to get something better. And it almost seems like kind of the opposite of there may be cases where again, so Well, I’ll keep picking on barley. We’ll just keep picking on our own dogs because they’re the ones we’re allowed to do that with you He’s a Border Collie, but he’s got a toy or there’s a toy that he really wants, he gets stuck in the like, oh, frozen staring like, you know, and that’s the genetic behavior that you’re gonna get with a lot of our Border Collies. So rather than trying to find something maybe Am I Am I understanding correctly that it’s not so much that we don’t want to be playing with reinforcer value? It’s more just that I’m thinking, Okay, I’m going to bring out toys because he’s capable with, or I’m going to bring out food because he’s capable with food. And then I’ll build up to him being able to do this behavior with toys, rather than kind of thinking, oh, I want something boring. Am I getting that nuance?

Sarah Owings 55:48
Exactly, yeah, and you still need clarity. Because you can bring the most boring food in the world. When for for the, you know, my big thing is I want to use something the dog cares about. Of course. So if I’m using something that does sort of like cardboard, and they’re sort of giving me behaviors, but I’m not getting any of those screamy behaviors, but I’m not getting any good beat. I’m not getting any enthusiasm. Yeah. You know, I actually always pay well, I always have, either, you know, I mean, I, my my call, you know, you should always ask the learner what they love. Sometimes kibble is fantastic. But I just think step one is clarity. Have your hat, man, I’ve got a squeaky boy outside. Clarity of patterns in terms of does Are you clear with that animal? How to get that reinforcement? Or are you holding out for more than that animal can give you? Yeah. And it doesn’t really matter at that point what that reinforcer is. So I’m not saying I would never try a lower value or higher value. I’ve you know, or like, try a high value thing to get more zoom and enthusiasm. I have tried that. Yeah, of course. But I still find that if the behavior is gotta really clear, solid, confident reinforcement history, it almost doesn’t matter. Sometimes, unless there’s a huge expectation for a toy. Yeah. Yeah. My dog did that once. He was getting toy rewards for every nosework find. And then when we got to the upper levels, I realized that’s a lot of time last because it’s a time sport. So to to tag out, get the toy move on. I actually taught him all those skills. I was really proud. He could do it. But it’s not very fast. And so I, I was like, Oh, great. I have to switch to food. It’s just faster, he can swallow it and move on to the next target. But he didn’t eat the food. He held it in his mouth. He just held it. Oh, no. Funny, no. And at the end, when he got his finished call, and I said finished, he would spit out all the food. I don’t know how he managed to do his work like this. And then he would take his toy. And so he was very, you know, he was a very good boy, well, you want me to eat this, I’ll just hold it here. But I’ll just put

Kayla Fratt 58:25
it in my mouth. I’ll pretend to be a chipmunk. For you, mom. It’s weird, but fine.

Sarah Owings 58:30
You know, because he was expecting a toy. You know, I taught him that odor makes toys. So I had to actually teach him to eat and swallow. And I did do that by giving very large meatballs, and I don’t think it was the high value, it was just a texturally big you’re gonna have to swallow very

Kayla Fratt 58:52
hard to hold that in your mouth. It makes the behavior we didn’t want kind of impossible.

Sarah Owings 58:57
So anyway, I don’t know. There’s a lot of I just my point is, I’m not an absolutist. But I do think we should be careful. Every time we say this dogs freaking out. Let’s try a lower value food. That statement always makes me go well, let’s look at the training and make sure it’s not something else first.

Kayla Fratt 59:19
Yeah, one of the examples I was thinking of and remind me after I say this, I’ve got to tell you a funny story about cardboard as a reinforcer. I was kind of thinking of times where I’ve been working with. So I work part time right now at the human side of Boulder Valley. And they’re fabulous about having a wide variety of treats available. I’m on the training and behavior team. But I’ve never before worked with slice to lunch meat. And like the number of times I’m trying to reinforce a dog for something and then I come away with like half of a piece of ham still stuck to my finger. And then the dog is kind of still attached to my finger. And we’re getting really messy mechanics because like these treats Joe are really difficult to work with. And I know I think kena branigan, at some point on her podcast, talked about having really bouncy treats. And she was she switched from like a perfectly round treat to something that was more disc shaped, because she was getting some really frantic behavior from the dog, which is a label. And then the other example I’ve thought of is if you’re trying to play tug with like, a dog who already enjoys tug, sometimes going for the really, really wimpy tugs can be problematic, because they already want it badly enough. And then it’s just hard to catch, you know, and they those dogs might do just as well with like a stiffer tug toy that’s easier to handle safely. So that’s kind of what I was getting at with that question. And I’ll see if you want to response to spawn any of that before I bring up our cardboard story?

Sarah Owings 1:00:52
No, I agree with all that. I mean, that’s, that’s a little separate from what I was talking about. Yeah, it’s more in the in the mechanics side of for this task, because there might be tasks where a whipping tug is the perfect thing. For some, you know, like, I’m doing a lot of dogs that will only engage with a toy that kind of looks like a fleeing rabbit. And they don’t know what to do with those hard, you know, by dialing the old and you’re what are

Kayla Fratt 1:01:23
those other things that everyone uses? I feel like you’ve seen these, like, I can’t remember what they’re called. But there’s something like a dairy farm related toy that a lot of people use.

Sarah Owings 1:01:36
Oh, yeah, they’re like an otter, like a

Kayla Fratt 1:01:39
Yeah. And I think they’re really popular for really Chompy dogs, because it’s like, it’s something really solid for them to grab on to. It’s nice and stiff? I don’t know, I’ve never used that. But I feel like I’ve seen them really popular in some sport worlds.

Sarah Owings 1:01:51
Right? And I’m kind of on the, on the well, I’m on two sides. One is, is the reinforcement you have chosen, meaningful to the learner. I mean, that’s pretty important to me. If it if this is the really meaningful thing, and your dog, your dog can’t handle it right now, then my job as a trainer would be to teach the skills so they can, because this is the thing that’s going to make this behavior the best, right? Right? Or is this the tool that is going to serve the behavior you’re working on? Right, and there might be a range of tools, and they’re all equally good. But this one with the flat, you know, these little treats that don’t bounce are perfect. Yeah, this behavior. And that, to me is good training as well, because that’s part of the antecedent arrangement, that’s part of the, you’re setting the context for the learning you want to happen. And that has nothing to do with the dog is just freaking out too much. So I’m going to do something boring. That’s, you know, I’m going to make my training more clear, because bouncy trees are regular. And yeah, choice of

Kayla Fratt 1:03:05
reinforcement can make your delivery mechanics better or worse.

Sarah Owings 1:03:10
Exactly. Right. And sometimes you have a brand new trainer who’s new, then it’s better for them to have not too sticky, slimy, icky treats. And they Oh my gosh, yeah. So and that’s fine. That’s good. That means their session is going to go better than the person with hot dogs, who it’s sticking every time and that it’s not clear when it’s coming out of their fingers. And it’s reinforcement timing is off. Yeah, whatever. My value in one person with low value, but the low value person that’s clear is usually going to get

Kayla Fratt 1:03:42
better. Right? Right. Well, because frustration is going to be aversive. And if if the dog is confused and frustrated, and you know the treats are going every which way and if they have no idea why or when or how they’re going to show up. You can have the best toys in the world or the best treats in the world, but it’s not a good learning experience. Right? Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, yes. Yeah. So the cardboard straight. Yeah, it’s I just I thought about because you gave cardboard as an example of like, this mega low value reinforcer. And so barley, again, he is the most fetch obsessed dog I’ve ever interacted with my entire life and I have interacted with a lot of working dogs. And a couple of weeks ago, I guess a week and a half ago now we were doing a ski shoring race. And we just crossed the finish line and he is super high. He’s amped on life. He loves ski JARC he loves the crowds. It’s like he, as soon as we get around, cheering people you can really see him getting excited. And he crosses the finish line and he runs straight up past the press person and grabs the cardboard press sign and like runs a victory lap. He’s still attached to me and I’m on my skis. At the time, and then he starts bringing it to every person he can find in the finish area trying to get them to throw this piece of cardboard. And he’s, I mean, it was just like, I let everyone do it. I just like unclipped, the emergency release on the ski Jordan belt, so I didn’t die, and then was like, Yeah, how about it, buddy, if this cardboard is the thing that you want. And this brings up a whole other question that like, I don’t know, I’ll have to get another guest on to talk about this topic. But how of arousal for some dogs, makes reinforcers just that much more exciting. And for some dogs, I mean, I guess it’s probably difference in types of arousal. But I don’t think he would have been nearly as excited about that piece of cardboard if he hadn’t just finished a race and there weren’t people cheering and there wasn’t all this adrenaline going on. But it was just it was funny that your example of cardboard was also the exact thing that my dog had lost his head over a week and a half ago.

Sarah Owings 1:05:59
And that’s so fantastic. Because you’ve just got to stay open to that I’ve had some nosework friend friends in the scent detection in the amateur detection world where at the end of the search way better than food is to let their dog go greet everybody in the room. And that all of a sudden, now that dog was searching with sparkle and enthusiasm. And you know, I love that because initially it was, you know, basically correct her for being distracted and trying to say hi to everyone. And I was saying, Well, that’s what she loves. She’s loving this. So let’s put this on cue. Yeah, well, let’s look for a teacher when she finds out or she’s she gets her to to go say hello to everybody. And so I love that I love those kinds of things, when we’re kind of be out of the realm of the food and toys, I love that story with your dog have maybe a little clarity and direction would be the reinforcement. There are just a little connection after an hour of work. Like, we don’t need that. We don’t need that. You know, and I really, really love that kind of because that’s what when it turns and i think i You said I like a call to action. And you’d like to have a call to action. And one of my calls Yeah, I thought of was I love precision training. I love clean mechanics, I love clean loops. I’m I’m just, I mean, it’s just a beautiful thing when all comes together. But if it’s at the expense of that joy. Yeah, or that connection, if it’s at and it really can’t, it shouldn’t be an either or, at all. But I have seen it though that way where it suddenly becomes this drill. Have do it again. Do it again. Do it again. I I’ve actually coached some some teams that do search and rescue. And the stakes are so high, you know, for search and rescue. Yeah. And I would watch and the dog would do 10 Perfect repetitions. Now, I’m not talking about a full search, she was actually good at breaking it down to just the Locate and report section. But the dog would do 10 Perfect repetitions and then be asked to do 10 more. And, and I was and then their behavior would start to deteriorate. And then I would kind of say, well, is that why? Why do we need 20? Right? Yeah, why do we need that many because he’s already doing and it’s an exhausting alert. It was like an extended barking alert. And one of the things she wanted me to help her fix was to get a better consistency on his barking alert. And little things like that, like there are this moment where you’re, you’re losing that sense of and when she when she when she was more sensitive to her dog’s needs like that. Everything got more fun for them. Everything got more joyous, more success. So I want to just I’ve really liked that idea. It’s just the goal here is to find a balance. Too much chaos is no fun. Too much chaos is no fun. Too much drilled to the point of excluding all others, like where you have like a black and white way of training something without any without listening. Like, never give your dog cardboard at the end of you know. You’re just what a joyful thing What a moron. And that’s, to me the point. That’s the point of all of this. That’s why I do it.

Kayla Fratt 1:09:26
Absolutely. I mean, it’s one of that’s one of my favorite things particularly about working with dogs for toys are part of their reward is how much fun that reward sequence can be for both of us. You know, I mean, I love feeding my dogs treats. I love giving them a bowl of spaghetti with meatballs just for fun. But it’s like the collaborative Joy especially like I find playing Frisbee with my dogs. So reinforcing because watching them run after it track the Frisbee and catch it and both of my dogs like frisbee is probably tied up top With a squeaky ball on a rope niffler my younger dog, it’s probably above. And it’s just, it’s great. You know, it’s and I think, you know, this is where having, you know, our good toy skills and making sure that what should be, should be, which is, you know, it’s a big phrase, the the most joyous part of our training and the part that’s the reinforcement, making sure it can be reinforcing for all parties. Because again, I mean, both of us, we’ve worked with dogs, where it’s painful or scary, or potentially downright dangerous to try to reward this dog at this point in time.

Sarah Owings 1:10:35
Not and I went through a whole period of time with my Labrador, with really goofy toys that had no knees. So he had his work toys, and we had our goofy toys. And they’re like, these fluffy rainbow ball things that are very much like ducks. So they’re very good for the Labrador mouth.

Kayla Fratt 1:10:55
And knife.

Sarah Owings 1:10:57
With those goofy toys, I kind of threw everything out the window, like all the rules. And, you know, just if he wanted to keep it for five days, and never give it to me, he could with with those toys we just played, we just were silly, and figured out all these games, and it 100% strengthen our relationship. And I wasn’t worrying about like fluency and all his out cues, or, you know, will say, Hey, you want to give me that? And he’ll see be like, no, no, no. And that’s the, you know, we have so much fun. Yeah. And it’s, I don’t know how to, it just was so worth it, to have this place where you could let go of some of all that. Yeah, and more like a dance and an interaction. But I do recommend, like, if you have working dogs, like, like, have a place for that in their lives. And maybe you have to put that on to really clear cues like our silly fluffy balls. So this is the silly fly ball rules. And with these,

Kayla Fratt 1:12:05
I mean, that, to me has been a big part of the value that I’ve found in keeping, because we do keep the frisbees and the balls up. They do not have free access to those niffler my younger dog probably could and would be okay. Barley, a big part of it. Honestly, when I got him, he was three and a half his canines were already worn down, because people just sit and worry at these balls for hours and hours and hours and hours every day. And like, that’s just not good for him. But the other advantage, it’s not that I need to keep them sequestered so that I can maintain his drive levels like absolutely not, he could have toys all day and would still work for them. But it’s for that clarity, and especially I am so protective of my squeaky balls on ropes. Nobody gets to play with my dog with those except for me, because of the mechanics. You know, it’s again, it’s not because I am like the Supreme Leader of the household. It’s just because, you know, I’ve seen it happen so many times where someone accidentally turns a squeaky toy, or you know, squeaky ball on rope into a flirt pole. And then you’ve got a dog vaulting off of your side to try to get this toy, which is absolutely not the behavior that I need in the field.

Sarah Owings 1:13:15
Exactly, exactly. Yeah, I’ve just I don’t know if we have time. But and you don’t have to keep this short. But I’m curious, what is your definition of mechanics?

Kayla Fratt 1:13:25
Oh, gosh, I’m not one of those podcasters, who’s very good about Defining my terms at the start of a podcast. When I was thinking about mechanics, and when I was thinking about what we were going to talk about, I was really thinking about the physicality of how toys are presented to the dog in a way to get the dog to engage with the toys appropriately. So I was thinking on a very, like, the physics of reinforcement. I ended up going in this totally other direction, which I thought was better in a lot of ways, because one of the things I’ve been worrying about planning for this podcast was, gosh, how are we going to talk about reward mechanics of you know how to hold the toy? In a podcast, and especially when it’s going to vary so much from dog to dog as far as how you want to present the toys or or the again, like the physicality of the reinforcement. Does that answer your question?

Sarah Owings 1:14:24
Yeah, yeah, it does. Yeah. And

Kayla Fratt 1:14:28
so but I’m really pleased with all the other random tangents we went down I’ll probably change the title of this episode, but I love this conversation.

Sarah Owings 1:14:39
I’m so glad that my Yeah, total pleasure. Yeah, we talked about that too, but I don’t talk about long you have to practice it. You have to it’s almost like Aikido or something. It’s like you know, and then I learned the hard way I lost skin. I lost finger I go oh I better not Present the toy this way, you know, or near my body it has to be, you know, and I learned the hard way. But But yeah, but it’s hard to do on a podcast.

Kayla Fratt 1:15:11
It is. And I actually I’ll include a picture just for for giggles in the show notes as well. One of my most memorable experiences, I was like, gosh, I’d been working for working dogs for conservation, like maybe two months total. I was on assignment with barley, who was a trainee dog. And then Tobias Who is this lovely, lovely lab. And we were doing zebra mussel boat screenings in Yellowstone. And Tobias had just finished up doing a demonstration for group of people because we’ve kind of do demos every couple couple hours. And instead of throwing the ball to him kind of just away from my body, I He spat the ball at me, I picked it up and I flipped it up kind of towards myself in like a loop to the game was supposed to like come up in a way and then go towards him. I’m not sure how to describe this on a podcast. Long story short, he beat me in the face. Because and I was so used to this was a way that I had reinforced barley in the past where he will wait and he’ll catch things and he loves catching things. And Tobias you know, as soon as the ball was in motion, the ball was in play, and he went for it. So I’ve got a nice picture of a good bloody gash on my chin. It wasn’t that bad. Luckily, he got me like in the, you know, in the chin, it wasn’t nearly as bad of a face bite as face bites can be. But

Sarah Owings 1:16:34
that’s important. Yeah. Sometimes you learn the hard way. And and once again, if you can tie it in, if you use any of this, I again, do not blame the dogs for these errors. Now, as you mentioned, one of your dogs understood that cue and your your other dog that was a cue for something else. Yeah. And they’re just reacting to the stimuli around them a lot of the time. And it’s kind of our job to be like, oh, like I noticed with my dog, that me reaching down for the toy on the ground was a very consistent cue for a big lunge bike. So we could call him possessive. We could call him whatever. But I just said, Oh, every time I tried to pick up a toy, this happens. And that’s not safe for me. Yeah, so what can I you know, so that like that, you can, things like that or? But yeah, in terms of actual like, if you’re going to let a serious biting dog bite something you should practice first without your dog.

Kayla Fratt 1:17:36
Yeah, a lot. Yeah, a lot. Yeah. Well, I think that’s a good note to end on. I could talk to you about this all day. But we both have other things we need to go to. So thank you so much. If people wanted to find you online, where can they? Where can they track you down?

Sarah Owings 1:17:51
Oh, good. Good question. Thank you for asking that. I teach online scent detection courses, primarily for clicker trainers. So people might have some clicker training background at cyber dog online. And that’s for amateur sport detection, mostly. But we’ve had a few other people come through and just learn what we’re teaching. Because our secret, our secret motive is to just help people be better trainers. So you know, so they can take the skills and then apply them to whatever field that they worked in. And then I also teach for an online it’s called Trump, tr, O MP l o And I have a course on that course called masters voter. And that is actually coming. That one’s we really focus on the locate, to report phase that locate phase, the body language of the dog and odor. We focus really, really heavily on that. And that sounds like a great course. Yeah, though, they’re both really good courses. One is just very, that very precise, work that back chaining to the alert that heavy duty reinforcement, and the other one is really exploring the Locate mode of the the whole process. So

Kayla Fratt 1:19:14
very cool. Well, and we’ll be sure to link to all of that in the show notes. And I’ll include the picture of me with the dog bite to the face and all that good stuff. So if you want to see any of that, you can find that over at Canine You can also join our Patreon where we’ve got a Learning Video club where we share videos of you know, troubleshooting your alert, troubleshooting, sourcing whatever’s going on with you and your search dog. We’ll work through it once a month and really also have a book club. And again, all of that is over at Canine Until next time,

Kayla Fratt 1:20:06
Are you on Patreon yet? If you love this podcast and want to support it in the long term, Patreon is the way to go. I spend hours per episode researching guests writing out questions, recording interviews, posting on Patreon to engage with our patrons about all of those, cleaning up the audio and putting together all of the promotional materials. Even with the help of volunteers. This is an enormous task that takes up a ton of my time. And right now I’m not paid for it. For just $3 a month, you can support the show while also gaining access to our exclusive detection dog training video help calls, which happened once a month, our learning club calls which are currently quarterly but I’m hoping to move to monthly and a lot more. You can join the fun over at conservationist or using the link in our show notes. You also may want to share this with anyone else you know who is interested in getting involved in the field of conservation detection dogs, because this is hands down the lowest cost way to get as much mentoring and assistance and joining the community of other professional and aspiring conservation detection dog handlers. And you’re gonna really enjoy it. See you there.

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