Patreon Questions with Meg Barnes

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla is back with our patron Meg Barnes to answer some of her questions!

Science Highlight: None

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Where to find Meg: Instagram Facebook

You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/k9conservationists.

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Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt 

Hello and welcome to the K9 Conservationists podcast where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs join us every week to discuss detection, training, canine welfare, conservation, biology and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, one of the cofounders of K9 Conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies and NGOs. Today I am back on the show with Meg from Patreon. So y’all have heard we did one kind of stitched together episode where Meg asked me a bunch of questions you’ve heard me saying, Meg from Patreon asks a couple times and now we’re actually doing a live interview with Meg, and, I’m actually planning a bunch of other episodes similar to this with other patrons, which is very exciting, and another reason to consider joining Patreon. But So Meg, tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to lately, and some of the questions you’ve got on your mind.

Meg Barnes 

Hey, Kayla, thanks for having me on the podcast. It’s super exciting to be here. Yeah, yeah. What have I been up to? I’ve been driving across Australia with my puppy. Um, so yeah. People who might have listened to the last episode would might know that he is a five month old Labrador Retriever puppy. And we have been driving across Australia to connect with some amazing like minded kind people on the other side of the country doing detection dog work, and to go to the Australian detection dog conference. And oh, and here he is featuring in the podcast.

Kayla Fratt 

Welcome, Merlin. Yes, yeah, I am. I’ve been having a lot of fun kind of starting to catch up on the ACM conference recordings. And, yeah, definitely one of those conferences that I, I really wish I could have gone. I suppose technically, I could have flown to Australia for it. But it was in the middle of the work week, and I did have to be at field work the day before and the day after the conference, which would have been very difficult with airfare. Like, I don’t, I literally wouldn’t have been physically possible, I would have had to take off work, which is hard. So anyway, glad that there are recordings. Thank goodness for, you know, modern technology. So yeah, what? Yeah, what’s on your mind with Merlin particularly? I mean, what questions could you possibly have after that conference?

Meg Barnes 

I feel like the conference just like made more questions, honestly. Well, here’s one that came up from the conference. So interestingly, a lot of people talked about sometimes when we do discrimination, work that can actually encourage your dog to pay attention to the thing you’re trying to teach them not to pay attention to. And so then that was like, Whoa, mind blown. So I was just wondering if you had noticed that? And if there any particular situations, and what your feelings about doing discrimination work, if it’s needed, what situations you would do it in? Yeah. and

Kayla Fratt 

stuff? Oh, yeah. This is such a fun question. And such a hard one, because so I was literally earlier today, I was on the phone with an applied animal behaviorist talking about this. And you know, she’s got this PhD in animal behavior. And particularly, she’s kind of in the Applied Behavior Analysis world. And we were talking about trying to design a study to answer this question where we’re going to have two different groups of dogs, we’re going to have one group of dogs, where we train in like an errorless learning way where the dogs are being introduced to the discrimination, the discriminatory stimulus. So the non target odor in kind of a very gradual, titrated way where it’s less salient and more salient, more salient with the hope being that the dogs are always choosing the right option. And just kind of gradually being introduced. So that would be kind of, you know, option one. And then option two is we’re not introducing the dogs to the discriminatory stimulus at all. And then we are going to put both dogs, both groups of dogs through the same battery of tests to see which initial training does better, basically, do we want to introduce the discriminatory stimulus? Or do we just want to introduce the target stimulus? So that’s kind of question one, phase one. That is not actually the question that I think we’re talking about here. But we have to answer that question first. And so hopefully, we’re planning on conducting this research, hopefully, starting in October of 2022. God knows when it’s going to be published. So Oh, cool.

Meg Barnes 

You’re actually doing I thought you were just we’re actually doing that’s amazing. Yes.

Kayla Fratt 

In theory, hopefully, you know, like, we’re We’re literally like we’re in the stage where we’ve written out our methodology. And we’re starting to seek approval to, you know, use animals for testing, even though these are going to be like that dog. Yeah. All that junk. And then so that’s kind of phase one. And I think that is going to answer part of this question. But my, my suspicion is, we’re going to end up getting very similar results, initially, where I think there’s a good chance that there’s not going to be a clear winner. My co collaborator thinks differently. She thinks that the errorless learning where we do introduce the discriminatory stimulus is going to produce the better results. She might be right. We’ll see.

Meg Barnes 

I think the people at the conference disagree with her that was exactly yeah. So it kind of creates an interest. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

So. Right, but So okay, so what I think is going on here my my theory, my hypothesis, we do not know yet, but is that I suspect she is right when you are in the laboratory settings. And the dog is discriminating between options. If you want the dog to select, so say, let’s, let’s take an example of the number 13 versus the letter B, visually can be a discriminatory thing, you know, kind of depending on font size, and font choice, and all those things. In a laboratory setting where you always have a 13, and you always have a B available. I suspect it is better to be trained on what is the difference between 13 and B, before being asked to find the 13. Right. However, the question that is actually coming up from the practitioners is not that question. The question is not what is the better way to get the dogs to discriminate in a laboratory setting? In a small controlled search in a lineup? That’s not the question. The question is when fatigue, exhaustion, desire to get the ball and frustration, you know, it’s been two hours and you’re into a search, and the dog may or may not even really know what’s going on anymore, because they might be exhausted, you know, who knows, whatever, we can tell all sorts of crazy stories. When the rubber really meets the road, then which question which training methodology works better? And that’s

Meg Barnes 

the best way to not get a false indication ever.

Kayla Fratt 

Exactly. And again, long term when we’re in a situation so like, for example, I’ve seen with barley, I am more likely to get false alerts by far. If he has not had a true positive in a while. Yeah, yeah, if he’s not getting bats not getting bats not getting bats not getting bats, then that’s when he’s gonna start being like, Hey, hi. Found this dead mouse does that count? Like? Yeah, but once you know, it’s like, okay, of course, that probably smells extraordinarily similar.

Meg Barnes 

In other dead thing, he’s

Kayla Fratt 

picking something random. It’s not like he’s picking up a pine cone, which would actually make sense for barley. So maybe a bad example, but it’s not he’s picking a rock. He’s not picking like he’s picking something that is old fact, orally, is

Meg Barnes 

similar. Let’s keep it it’s a good one. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

So this study that we’re working on. Phase one is not going to answer that question. Yeah, because first, we have to answer that step. One question. Which which training? Is there a difference in how you train? And if so, which which option works better? I believe this is going to turn into like the whole podcast is one question. So I’m hoping then what I’m hoping we can do is do a phase two, where then we do take these dogs out and do much larger searches, we stress the dogs out in some way, potentially, we even just do something where we run them on a treadmill for a while and then still do a controlled laboratory experiment. Particularly where again, so if this example, they’re looking for the letter 13, and we’ve also got a bunch of bees out there, then we’re going to put them in a situation where they’re tired. They’ve been working for a while, and there is no correct answer out there. Then what do we do? And then which dogs that have which learning experiences perform better? I think this is going to end up being super complicated, because we’ve got like, you know, some dogs are more liberal than others naturally, and some dogs may have been trained better, and it’s going to be super hard to control for all of these sorts of things.

Meg Barnes 

Ya know, it’s my job to generalize that or specified, like, as the Yeah. And then

Kayla Fratt 

within as well, what can you do? What can you do within the training to push them in the correct direction? So I think fundamentally, we don’t quite know yet I am generally inclined to believe professionals who say, hey, when we have done this, we have ended up with problems in the future. So kind of two things on that. I think one of the training protocols we’re planning on for this study is not actually the training protocol that most people are using or talking about. So I don’t even know if we’re going to fundamentally answer that question, because I don’t know For example, how rogue detection introduces the difference between Martin and Wolverine scouts, I don’t know how Skylar’s introduces the difference between Wallaby and kangaroo, I don’t know how they do this. So I don’t know if we’re even testing the protocols that they currently use.

Meg Barnes 

So it seems like there’s lots of this lots of different ways. But the general theme was when when bucket of ways was introduced the scat and just never touched the non target. So bring them to places, once you are confident, bring them to places where it may be the non target exists, and just like have them find the target. So but never touch it, never pay any attention to it, never put it out on purpose, never actively train discrimination in that kind of controlled. And

Kayla Fratt 

that’s been kind of the way that I have done it currently. And part of that is also to be perfectly honest, it’s pragmatic. So for example, when barley and niffler, and I are working on these wind farms, I don’t when I get my shipment of bats that I’m going to use for training, I don’t also get a shipment of a bunch of other dead animals to use. Yeah,

Meg Barnes 

what, but they don’t just send me like other dead stuff.

Kayla Fratt 

No, which is very disappointing. I did actually for our for our current handler course that we’re running right now, I actually did go out and pick up a bunch of weird bits of roadkill, to run an odor recognition test with the dog. And I think that is potentially something that like, I like the idea of running an odor recognition test before you deploy it, that doesn’t have to be a big training thing, I understand what they’re saying about not wanting to potentially create this like condition or emotional response to the negative to the off target sample to the discriminatory stimulus, where there’s where there’s so many different phrases we can throw around for this. But I do like the idea of you know, before you deploy, you should probably throw up a bunch of options and make sure that your dog can tell the difference. And if they can’t, then maybe we do need to go back to the drawing board. And maybe that would be how I would determine, you know, I would go the route of okay, let’s let’s really hammer the Yes, Let’s hammer what they need to know. If then prior to deployment, we run an odor recognition test, or even in the field and training, the dog is starting to alert to other things, then we know we have a problem. And then I might go down the route of doing what we did with Madeon person when we were in Kenya and actually do a pretty serious Differential Reinforcement of alternate behavior protocol to proof the dogs off of the non target. So that was a lot of like, Applied Behavior Analysis jargon. Basically, what I mean is what I would like to see done, and what I generally would prefer to do is okay, yes, train with what we want the dog to find. Before we deploy, ideally not the day before. At some point, yes, I introduced the dog to some targets that we have some off targets, scouts, or whatever that we suspect may be a problem, whether that’s naturalistically in a training scenario, or I’m literally pulling a bunch of things out and doing a lineup, I don’t know if I have a strong preference between the two. And then if at that stage, I noticed a problem. If at that stage, I noticed the dog clearly can’t tell the difference between mouse and bat, the dog can’t tell the difference between Wolverine scat and Martin scan, whatever it is, then I am going to embark on some sort of training plan to rectify the problem. Because I think one of the things that makes me nervous about not training, any discrimination at all, is you don’t know that. If you don’t well.

Meg Barnes 

So yeah, that makes a lot of sense. But I think that’s actually fundamentally the difference between the two strategies. One is do discrimination, but only in the field and like sites where you know, the off target will be there, so you never touch it. And then the other end of the spectrum is doing that discrimination work through lineups or scatters or whatever, if we put stuff out, let someone else put stuff out, but a person has touched it, or a glove has touched it. Some thing that’s recognizable to the dog that isn’t in the wild has touched it. And so it like creates that kind of attention, but and you can train them off, right and do all that discrimination. And then the issue comes in the middle where then you decide to use your field dog for research and you run a bunch of lineups. And now are you creating an issue? Like so?

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. I would love to

Meg Barnes 

research.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, we’ll see. I mean, I would love to ask. This seems like Dr. Simone Gadbois was realm of like, because he is so into the signal detection theory and psychophysics and I suspect that he has some literature and information in his brain that would answer this For a little bit more from the literature side, I think there’s reasons to believe that some of the studies available don’t necessarily apply here. Because it is where are we are asking the dogs to do something pretty interesting and contrived and whatever I. Yeah, I really wonder then for the people who say, okay, never have the gloves, touch it, never get your odor on it. I see why. But then how do they fix it? If it does turn out that their dog is generalizing in a way that they don’t want? At some point, you do have to introduce your dog to the concept of discriminating if you because I like I think they

Meg Barnes 

just tested in the field. And then if there is no problem, then they just continue. Well, then you have to go and do the discrimination. But yes. What Yeah, but the, the theory, between the two ways, is that if you don’t introduce a lot of targets, they just have the condition emotional response to the target. And that’s what they find. And you can kind of test your field where you know, there’s other off target things. And unless you see your problem, don’t do the discrimination, basically. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt 

I guess that’s, that seems fine with me as long as you do do the test. Because it does not seem inherently obvious to me, particularly if you have a question of the salience of the difference between the odors. That you I don’t think you can guarantee that only introducing the target is going to ensure I mean, because like one of the one of the second presentation in the conference was about spontaneous generalization between two species of stone flies. And they, yeah, they saw that as a good thing. That was exactly what they wanted to see. That’s right, that I think that proves our point that just because you don’t introduce something in training doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to avoid off target alerts. And I think that’s the thing that I’m cautious about. I don’t have a strong opinion about this. I do not know.

Meg Barnes 

Interesting to me, because we were and some of the science team, like want me to do one bajillion experiments to demonstrate that they’ll never they’ll dogs will never indicate to anything else ever. And it’s like, Well, I think we’re creating, could I potentially do these one bajillion experiments be actually just creating a problem, because they weren’t, they weren’t going to alert to them. But now if I do 59, or 128, or however many things I need for my factorial design, lineups, then suddenly now I can’t guarantee that they weren’t alert to it in the field, which is what I actually care about.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah. I really don’t like yeah, I genuinely just don’t know. Like, I feel like I can make all of these smart sounding arguments in either direction. My understanding

Meg Barnes 

to answer Yeah, the existential election.

Kayla Fratt 

Next question, because I like, we just don’t know. As far as, as far as I know. And if someone does know, and they’re listening and screaming at their, their car stereo right now, like, please just let us know. Because

Meg Barnes 

super interesting.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. It’s fascinating.

Meg Barnes 

super interesting. So that was like,

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, I mean, it really is. It’s a huge question. And that’s, I mean,

Meg Barnes 

the nitty gritty questions, maybe we’ll do some of those. So okay, so Marlena and I have been searching for his toy and searching for some truffle oil and searching for some food. And I guess my question is, like, how should I, what’s a good strategy for building up time without overdoing it? So you’re like, I have my ADHD brain and I want to overdo it. And I have to like, set clear boundaries. Like Yeah. So like, at this point, he’s like, doing so good. It’s tempting to just be like, let’s make it bigger. Or let’s just see how it goes or so. But I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to get to a point where I’ve made it hard and not fun. So

Kayla Fratt 

yeah, especially with a young a young dog.

Meg Barnes 

So always to be fun. Yeah, and

Kayla Fratt 

his hormones are gonna kick in in a weird way starting pretty soon here. He’s gonna his brain is going to start feeling like scrambled eggs.

Meg Barnes 

Very busy reinforcing recalls over here before that happens.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, so I think one of the things for you to think about,

Kayla Fratt 

in particular, is your goal with your targets. species. So you’re planning on working with these underground orchids, you’re going to be searching small areas intensively, I don’t think expanding search area is a priority for you.

Meg Barnes 

It’s fun. It’s interesting, good point.

Kayla Fratt 

Because you don’t need or want him to be able to search 300 acres, you want him to be able to search, a 10 acre high probability spot with a lot of detail and a lot of focused intensive sniffing. And that is actually a different thing from helping him learn how to cover ground and you know, eat up those kilometers. So for you in particular, and this actually applies to Taylor, who’s one of our other patrons, who’s got a similarly aged puppy, but she wants to be working with Zebra mussels. She’s also been, I was just we’re just on the phone talking about how I think she’s pushing, pushing Canada a little bit too far too fast. As far as expanding search area. It’s not necessary. All she’s at a time. So like time, yes, yeah. But I think we also need to then be thinking about what is the cognitive load that his brain can handle at this point? And how do we stay under that threshold? You know, can we actually expect a five month old puppy brain to focus for 10 minutes at a time? I think probably not, I think it’s probably better to stay on the conservative side, particularly with puppies. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I pushed niffler too far too fast. Yeah, you can’t harm him. As far as I can tell. He’s still working fine. But looking back at where he was at this time last year, and looking at how much better he is now. They’ve got a lot of growing up to do even between that nine months and 18 months period of time. So that doesn’t quite answer your question. I think for you specifically, I wouldn’t worry about it. I would worry, worry about building up your relationship working on, you know, continuing to build build value for searching build value for hard, small, detail oriented, ground oriented searches. But don’t really focus on you know, and like they talk a little bit about the concept of nose time. So potentially setting up puzzles where you expect him to have to be sniffing a lot. And you can think about like, it’s like diaphragm strength to be able to sniff that hard. But we don’t need him to be moving far. While he does it. I’m Generally speaking though, for building up search duration, what I do is I do linear searches as a way to build up search duration, because it’s much easier for me to track. So if I started out where I put the height of one block away from my house, one week, the next week, I put the hide a block and a half away, and we’re doing these linear searches out towards it. And I can use the distance traveled as a proxy for search time. And that is kind of the way that I like building it up. Until I get to the point where I’m starting to do like Big C shaped searches so that I don’t have to go in place heights like two miles away from my house, and then come back and then get the dog. Oh, my God, because actually, I hate expanding search area. I hate building search time. And it’s not because of the search with the dog. It’s because of putting the hide out. So where it is, say go. I have gone as far as putting dropping heights from my car or my bike instead of walking out to go put them put them out. But that’s that’s kind of my proxy. Does that answer your question? Yes. Well, when

Meg Barnes 

I’m and right, yeah, totally. And it kind of leads nicely on to the other question or another related question that I have about. So we want to do a grid search. Currently, he just searches. You guys can’t see me waving my hands and kind of a chaotic manner. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

Labrador.

Meg Barnes 

Um, you know, I don’t need to probably get too intense about it right now. But, um, and maybe there’s some little games that I can play or, you know, the next six months or something like what are what would you do? Or ways different types of strategies or ways to start to build or over time build towards that, like grid search type thing? Or like a smaller search. Step one.

Kayla Fratt 

How do we get there you can open here. This is the worst Pandora’s Box have it? This do we need to do a grid search?

Meg Barnes 

Yeah, well, it’s a good question.

Kayla Fratt 

One of the one of the grid searches transects these things where we really tightly control the dogs movement. It allows you to say where the dog has physically been but it actually reduces the efficacy of the fact that dogs are they are able to search and they are better at searching search. surgically than humans are in general, there’s a really cool study, Dr. Hall mentioned it, I think at one of our episodes where they let a detection dog loose in an area and they let a human loose with like a Olfactometer, whatever thing. And the dog was just way more efficient at finding and sourcing odor than the human who had like a search pattern. So that’s kind of one thing. The next thing I would think about just as far as like, efficiency, yes, we want to make sure that the area is covered well, but is the grid actually the best way to do that? I don’t know. I am not at all an expert on search strategy. This is like something I am really eager to learn more about, because I’m just starting to like, pick people’s brains. But wait, we wait, why do we? Why do we want to do things other than transects? And if we don’t do transects, then what? podcast episode coming eventually.

Meg Barnes 

I’m excited. Such strategy things that’s like a big hole in my knowledge. Dump trying to land and I’ve got a college land options. So there’s like a hole.

Kayla Fratt 

And then so the next thing I would kind of think about is, you know, a grid search kind of assumes that you have equal probability of encountering your target throughout the grid. And that’s true. And isn’t he? Well, like, do we have micro habitat? Things where it is more likely to be in a fissure? Or it’s more likely to be at the base of a given tree? Or does it like East facing slopes or, you know, whatever it is, and potentially going in that direction may make things a little bit more efficient. So you go ahead, you know, your target species, but much better than I do?

Meg Barnes 

Well, it’s just that the small areas that we would be searching and kind of have, as far as we know, relatively uniform probability of encountering hundreds, etc. So yeah, they will be at the base. So it has if for people who didn’t hear the last episode has a tripartite relationship with a tree a fungus and the orchid that tree can be without the fungus and the orchid, the fungus can be only with the tree. And it needs all three, but the fungus that yeah, so. So it will be kind of around the base of a tree, but like they’re kind of close ish together. And so the masks like probably overlaps, or it’s like, they really could be wherever, but like, they wouldn’t be five meters from a tree, they will be within a couple of feet, or within the reach. Yeah, it’s a small tree. It’s a little scrubby Melaleuca for people who knows Australian plants,

Kayla Fratt 

which do not include me. So, the other thing I would so Okay, so let’s assume that yeah, for whatever reason, maybe for statistical purposes, we do want to go ahead and do the grid search. That’s totally fine. I’m not gonna get my panties in a bunch over it, maybe someone else well, but that’s fine for them. So then kind of thinking through the next question. Okay, great. How do we build some strategies for the dog to learn how to search in a grid? Step one is can the dog search on leash? Yes, because realistically to do especially tight grid spacing, you’re going to want the dog on a leash. So right

Meg Barnes 

follow your stuff.

Kayla Fratt 

Uh huh. Yeah, I actually I have put been putting barley on leash intermittently during this field season because he has such a deep reinforcement history of from the ferret work that we did of me encouraging him to go out and search far and wide Get away from me go check those Barrows. I do not want to walk over there. That is your job. I will walk over there a few alerts you know, and he would be like up to 100 meters away from me so far, and now our search areas are 100 meters by 100 meters we’re supposed to be walking transects that are about 10 meters apart. Maybe 20 meters apart I actually can’t remember I know when I turn I know how to do the search but I actually can’t remember the transect spacing off the top of my head anyway it doesn’t matter we you know we do passes so I obviously don’t want to be standing up in the northwest corner by transect and have barley searching the southeast corner right transect even though that is a distance at which he is comfortable working and has worked in the past so I have been working with him on leash intermittently to kind of get him back in the pattern of searching closer to me which is frustrating if I’m then have to undo that in our next project but it’s fine. And then the next thing so this is and this is actually something if you are able to in Patreon watch any of the group coaching calls with Jana. She is working on some really, really cool work with her Kelpie saremi No, so Kira hero Yeah, Sami has her lab. So she is doing some really cool work because he’s a search and rescue dog that is now learning to find I think bat bat day roost. So she wants him to be searching close to her searching in really directed areas and concentrating on the base of trees. So she is Working on handling him and placing her her hides in a way that he is only getting reinforced for heights that are very close to her. So he is learning that reinforcement. And the height is most likely to be very close to her. So he is learning to keep tight to her and stay close to her. So that she’s doing a bunch of different things with this, we’re using like a fence line in this really cool way where we’ve got the highest along the fence line, she is starting at the fat at one end and kind of moving along. So he’s searching at the seam of the fence on leash. So he is guaranteed to be close to her when he catches that odor. And then the next thing that she’s doing is she’s also even going as far as placing the hide behind her. And walking with him kind of backwards. I’m trying to remember exactly how this goes. But so that he is staying on leash and within her orbit, as they encounter odor together through her movement. So there’s some really creative ways that we can kind of use our search setup, and our hide placement, and then our search style in order to reinforce the dog for searching really, really close to us. So I think those are some things for you to concentrate on. Does that make sense? Yeah,

Meg Barnes 

that sounds really fun. But follow up. Would you do that now? Or would you like Wait developmentally said strategy, like all these like, various different search skills, like so he’s got a bit more like flexibility? And then just teach that at some point? Or would you like start to do that a little bit earlier in the process?

Kayla Fratt 

I think for you specifically, I would start it sooner rather than later. For two reasons that may or may not apply to the general audience listening. One, you’ve got to feel the bread lab ranging is going to be a thing he really wants to do, working independently from you is going to be something that comes naturally to him. We are counteracting that a little bit. And I would rather start kind of tilting the balance towards him working closer to you sooner rather than later. Yeah. Especially as he hits teenager hood, this is going to be a hard skill for him. So don’t get on his case about it. You know, and I not that I expect, like not that I’m accusing you of anything. But like, know that this may be challenging for him. So that’s one thing. The other thing is I know you and I know you want to be wrestling and you’re training, and you need to have goals, and you want to have direction. And I think this is a better place to put your time and attention and direction right now than to focus on expanding search area, because I think that’s going to come naturally to him. And that’s an easier thing to push too hard, too fast. So I kind of a twofold twofold coaching thing there as far as why that’s the right answer for you.

Meg Barnes 

I love that I love how it’s the answer for me. And you totally right, I need to have some it doesn’t matter what the goal is. We just need to have some kind of objective. i

Kayla Fratt 

Well, I think it’s because your brain and my brain work very similar. And I wish I wish that I could hear me saying this when niffler was Merlin’s age because again, I I’m in the process of going back through all my videos of niffler. And I think we did a really good job. I really think I’m very happy overall with the training I did with him. But wow, some of those training sessions went hard and fast, a little early. And he rose to the challenge. And that is part of the reason I love him. But I don’t know if I I would not do that intentionally again for my next puppy. Yeah,

Meg Barnes 

since like, yeah, sure he can do it. But like, you could have just taken a few more sessions. And

Kayla Fratt 

yeah, well, it’s like a long time. Yeah, here’s a human example. When my younger sister, my younger sister had a hard time in high school, she was bullied quite a bit. She was very sick for a while. And she had a hard time. She decided to graduate high school a year early and go off to college. As a 17 year old, she excelled in college. Was it hard for her? Yes. Is that something that most 17 year olds should do? No. But it made sense kind of in her context. And like, I don’t you know, like, I don’t know if that’s a helpful analogy or not, but it’s like sure can like, kind of 12 year old in theory read like 1984, Moby Dick or whatever, whatever. And like, grasp all the intricacies of it like maybe, but like you might be better off waiting until someone’s 1820 to 36 before really delving into some of these like big literature things because they’re just going to get more out of it. So

Meg Barnes 

maybe that means that you should read literature at different ages of your life. So for example, you can kill a mockingbird, you could read that when you’re 1020. You basically just read it every decade and you get something completely different out of it. Because it’s 100% Yeah, characters and who you relate to and all that kind of

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, and that’s I mean, I think If that actually applies to our dogs were, to some degree, is it to some degree? Was it nice to see that niffler could rise to this challenge at a young age? Absolutely. Love seeing that? Was it necessary? No. Does it? Does that mean that he never has to revisit those skills or those concepts? Absolutely not. So, I mean, I think that’s part of it, too, like, what’s the point in rushing like, you may get more out of it by doing it later. And if you do it too early, or rush through it, you’re going to have to revisit it later. So you might as well do it slowly and correctly the first time.

Meg Barnes 

So on that topic of not overdoing it, would you like set like a threshold? Like, let’s say, I accidentally made it too hard? Or like, we just didn’t go in the right part of the cemetery? Or the wind is different than I have thought or whatever? Then, like, where would you draw the line and just say, Oh, I made it to hide, I’m gonna cut it off. Like, do I make it three minutes?

Kayla Fratt 

Um, I don’t think that time based is probably the best way to do it. And like me, maybe for you and your dog, you could figure out something but like, I can’t give a blanket recommendation. I do think it is really based on like, what are you seeing out of the dog? Does the dog seem frustrated? Is the dog having a hard time? Can we stop ideally, before that or before that gets bad? That would kind of be the goal. And, yeah, generally what I do is okay, great call, we’ll call it a blank search, we’ll get the dog out of there, we’ll put them up, we’ll set up something doable, or try the problem again, from a different angle Next, give them a win, and then potentially reassess. And then kind of trying to think through okay, what went wrong? Was it my understanding of where that odor was going to go? Was it the dog’s skill and being able to source the odor? Did I handle it incorrectly, and he never encountered odor? You know, we’ve got that whole I put the flowchart up on Instagram a while ago. I love it. I know we’re gonna do a whole episode on that as well. I just I’ve so many episode ideas and so infinite episodes. Yeah, exactly. But yeah, then then kind of trying to problem solve. So like, you know, if it’s not presenting the way that you expect, I would probably say sooner rather than later, cut and run, put the dog up, reassess. You know, and almost treat it through this lens of like, Am I understanding odor correctly? Not is my dog doing this? Right? Because if you misunderstood the odor, that’s something that’s worthy of reassessing, even if the dog performed it are adequate. Does that make sense?

Meg Barnes 

Yes, that makes hates us in

Kayla Fratt 

Patreon book club is in full swing, we just finished up detector dogs and sent movement by Tom auster camp, and we’re about to start canine ergonomics, the science of working dogs. To join our book club for three bucks a month head on over to patreon.com/k9conservationists. We also offer monthly group coaching sessions for aspiring handlers, puppy raisers and pros, as well as a monthly rotation of free webinars, workshops and roundtables with experts. Again, three bucks a month, up to 25 bucks a month, kind of depending on what level of support you want to give and receive. Check that out at patreon.com/k9conservationists. I hope to see you join us there soon.

Meg Barnes 

Marilyn really likes to eat fresh off of oh please because particularly repaid but really any that he finds if it’s fresh. I have another dog that I’ve handled in the past that is obsessed with rapoo. And sometimes when she gets fatigued, it’s really hard to tell if she’s ruku or the target. Potentially it’s both which could explain challenging. So I would like it if Merlyn wasn’t looking for ruku all the time. And I’m just thinking what little tips and tricks and strategies would you use to deal with that challenge? My current training plan is something like work a bit quicker and training the muscles so that if we’re a walk, just walking, he’s not rehearsing, eating repu and and that maybe doesn’t increase the likelihood of that behavior then, or at least somewhat manages that. And also maybe to use a positive interrupter just every time we go to frustrating, but that’s like a lot. So yeah, just wondering what you thought.

Kayla Fratt  

Yeah. So my first thought is generally with dogs this age with poo eating. A lot of the time it goes away if we don’t make a big deal

Meg Barnes 

out of it. Interesting. Okay.

Kayla Fratt 

I would err on the side of a vote. weighed, and manage and do not pay attention to it because kind of obsessing over ruku or training intentionally around it can kind of make it into this like sexy holy grail thing.

Meg Barnes 

That’s exactly like the off target.

Kayla Fratt 

It is. Yeah, exactly. And I have seen that a lot. With poo eating in particular, the more attention you pay to it, the, the more intense and kind of like, it almost becomes then this like contest of like, as soon as you open the door, like we see this a lot in the States with goose poo, where it’s like, oh my God, no, you’re not. And like, you know, it’s like arms race. And honestly, that tracks with a lot of other weird teenage behavior we see. So like Sarah struggling, just read rebroadcast her teenage tyrants podcast episode, and I was kind of listening back to it. And she talks about this with like, teenage phobias and reactivity to some degree as well, where like, particularly kind of like leash reactivity sorts of things are not uncommon to see pop up at this age. And generally, you know, in that kind of, like five to 18 months period of time, a lot of times we’re best off ignoring it. And like managing it, like we’re not going to just keep doing exactly what we were doing that was listening. But like, not then going out and trying to do a ton of b mod because sometimes that kind of elevates the importance of the behavior is at least a theory. So that’s, you know, that’s that’s kind of where I would go especially with the puppy, it’s like, yeah, puppies eat poo, usually they grow out of it, not a huge deal. If it doesn’t seem like he’s growing out of it. Um, yeah, I would work on a positive interrupter and then redirect, and then try to set up situations in which he’s making the choice between the Roku and something else. And he’s getting really heavily rewarded for the everything else, ideally, in a situation in which you’re not calling him back, and not creating the reward because that is exactly how we teach. I mean, if you think about it, like that is exactly how we teach the dogs to find what we want them to find. And like, very similar to like the positive snake avoidance stuff that I have seen, that worries me a little bit in some situations in which you’re basically rewarding the dog for being for encountering a snake and I’m like, Oh, I don’t know if I like that. So yeah, I wouldn’t necessarily go that route. Instead, I would more go the route of like, okay, you’re on a walk, and you’ve got some group who that you have found, and you’ve made it inaccessible in some way. And he’s got the choice between that and something else. And that something else is much easier of a really great choice to make. And it’s kind of the environment teaching him rather than you. The last thing I was gonna say is, poor eating is also one of the situations in which I will give a verbal correction. And I will tell the dog off for it. Rather than focusing too much on a recall positive interrupt or whatever. Personally, for me, that is something that it’s like, again, I do not want that becoming a more salient thing in the environment that is worth seeking out so that you can kind of try to eat it, and then I can call you back to me for chicken. That’s not the behavior change I want. So my best bet is to avoid it, manage it, set up the environment in a way that teaches the dog what I want. And if the dog makes the wrong behavior, makes the wrong choice from my point of view. Then I will give a verbal correction I’m not going to shock the dog I’m not going to give a collar pop I’m not going to do anything intense but I’m not going to I’m not going to create an accidental behavior chain there. Just let me now see now I’m self conscious about saying Does that make sense? But

Meg Barnes 

yeah, cool. I love the environment. Teaching him strategy and I some very similar to my question to like, I’ve decided to do it this way. I started terrible life choice. I just want someone else to agree or disagree with me. Which is why I love this so much.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, no, me too. This is a ton of fun for me. Especially because I like skim through your questions ahead of time and I didn’t actually read them all that in depth. So I’m getting to like everyone’s hearing like this is almost stream of consciousness.

Meg Barnes 

Last call. I was really excited that you made it because I didn’t know what your answers are gonna be. Before it came out. I was really pumped that you spent time saying like don’t use pay minus it’s kind of confuses the dogs. Because I’m a bit of like an evangelist about it because I’ve seen so many dogs get super weird about food and using wars and like magnets and it makes all the transports really hard and actually makes teaching some behaviors like really a total pain in the ass. As well as I don’t want them to have like anxiety about food. Totally. So that made me really happy. So you You know, the kind of default you can’t guys can’t see me doing quotation marks positive way of teaching it is that p minus. And so I guess on the same topic of avoiding things, my current sort of not scavenging strategy. Since I have a lab, I think maybe I should be slightly proactive about that. Totally, I’ll say because I’m using food to teach searching behaviors, kind of want to create some different contexts about non scavenging. The school across my road is full of all kinds of stupid things that dogs want to eat that do not want the dogs to eat. And then 10 ad, which is like really bad poison that kills dogs really fast. For non Australian people. It is actually really cool, because it doesn’t kill a lot of the native foreigner, because it’s found naturally in Australian pants, which is kind of awesome.

Kayla Fratt 

That’s fascinating. why that’s so cool. That’s why

Meg Barnes 

we use it so much here. It’s not really at all in the US because you have so many native predators that would eat it, like all the fissures and Martens and all that bobcats and stuff, it’d be bad for them. It’s like a canid that really bad for canids. So, anyway, that made me really happy. And so I’ve got this like, I guess life strategy of like, okay, I’m going to basically think about a training plan for not scavenging and default behaviors around food that might be on the floor. So I’ve really just been working on offered eye contact, when walking on leash and not being cued to do anything else. If there’s like a bunch of food and, and just kind of working on that with like, really little mini splits in house. And I just, I’m just wondering, and basically just hoping context works in my favor here that all the context cues for searching versus other stuff I just gonna be like, as I obviously don’t want him to be like, Oh, I found a piece of chicken, I’ve come back to staring you in the middle of your search?

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, totally.

Meg Barnes 

I guess it’s kind of a cue hierarchy. I’m just hoping the context and the search queue will keep it separate enough.

Kayla Fratt 

I suspect it well. Generally, what I’ve seen with well trained, sufficiently motivated search dogs is hoovering up, food is less of an issue. And a lot of times when I see it, it seems to be and I’m like hesitating a lot because I’m like, I could be wrong. I’m I am almost certainly wrong. In some cases, when I’m saying this, this is a generality. But generally, when I’m seeing kind of hoovering up of food and scavenging and stuff that is a function of frustration, or confusion or other problems within the search context. Or layering in a way too many too hard of distractions. Too early. So yeah, like at this stage, I would not ask him to search in like a KFC parking lot full of you know, like, no, no, no, we’re not going to do that. We wouldn’t ask him to search in like a pen of ruku yet, we might work up to that. But he has to like I think you’re kind of spot on where like I would focus on like, teaching the search goals, make it building a lot of value for the game making sure he knows the task and is on task. Work on teaching that as a default behavior elsewhere. But I would generally what I am seeing is those like off target off tasks sort of behaviors crop up as a symptom, not as a cause,

Meg Barnes 

to the basically like fiddles of fatigue things.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, like not always, because sometimes there is just something that is like, so tempting out there that like, you’re gonna run into problems, or you’ve got just kind of a novice dog and something weird happens in your search, you know, like stuff happens. But I am trying to think, like niffler last summer occasionally would try to take a lick of a really fresh cow pie. It almost an only excuse. It’s almost exclusively Gosh, it almost exclusively came up on blank searches. On a tour, we ultimately ended up not finding anything, because odor trumped that. And if he was having success, finding odor and was sourcing it, he was much less likely to go for the cow pies. So one of the things that I kind of did is if I saw a plot, or we were going to be working on a plot that had recently had cows on it, and it kind of stepped out it was like okay, yeah, there’s some fresh cheese out here. Then I might that would be a plot where I would prioritize putting out a gimme bat so that he had something else. And I could continue building that reinforcement history for bats, bats, bats, bats, bats, no cow poop, no cow poop. And again, I would, I would give him a verbal correction if he was going for it. Or even even if I kind of caught him as he was doing it, it was too late for that particular one. And that was actually more commonly where the correction would come in. Because if I usually kind of what you’re talking about with the group who it was a little bit too hard to tell the difference between, you know, going for the poo, and sourcing that odor and approaching it to eat it, versus investigating potential target odor. So I usually could not give like that pre emptive don’t even think about it sort of cue because I still wasn’t usually different. Yeah. Especially if he’s a couple of meters away from me, I just necess I wouldn’t necessarily know he was about to make, again, that quote, unquote, wrong choice, until he had kind of already made it. And he’s a sensitive enough guy that that has worked really well for, for me, but in general, my experience has been Yeah, if you really focus on building up the love for the search game, that’ll that’ll put you in the right direction pretty quickly.

Meg Barnes 

Okay, yeah, I’m, I’m happy with that. Like, I was like, I’m just gonna hope that works. But I need someone else to tell me that that’s not a terrible left choice.

Kayla Fratt 

I suspect. So and, you know, I think this is like a pretty common thread. And most of our most of our coaching conversations is just about anything I say, if I say something, and then that’s not proving to be correct on the ground, and like our data, and our trend lines are showing me that I’m wrong, then like, okay, great, then we’ll reassess we and we almost always have A, plan B, plan C, Plan D that we can come up with. But my Inkling is this plan a makes sense. And it’s you know, keep it simple, stupid, like, this seems it’s not the cleanest, most elaborate training plan ever. But it seems like it should work. I’ve seen it work. Let’s go with that. And if we continue having problems, then great, we’ll reassess. Awesome.

Meg Barnes 

Okay, so random deviation, I guess. directionals. In the field, do you use them? What kinds do you use, I started going down this like gun dog, rabbit hole. And that was like 500 different cues. And they’re all on a whistle. And, and everyone has a different one. And we just got like, really intense really fast. And I was like, I don’t know what to do. Anyway, cool to have a chat about what you actually use in the field. Yeah, I don’t when you might teach that I

Kayla Fratt 

have taught my dogs no forward, right, left Stop for the jarring sports that we do. So we compete in sculpturing, we’ve done across. Barley has done a little bit of carding, and scootering. niffler has not yet because I’m not brave enough for his speed. I don’t have a deathwish. road biker, not a mountain biker, all right, for a reason. And so they are aware of those concepts. I have not found them necessary or helpful in the field, because again, kind of going back to that grid question. My dogs know how to search better than I know how to tell them how to search. And the queue that I do use in the field is too far. Which means stop moving further away from me ideally move back in a little bit closer to me, but at least definitely stopped moving away from me. And then they know it this way Q which is hey, I’m changing direction, you better change direction to come with me. And I will I use too far as the one where you know, I’m standing in the northeast corner of our plot and Bartlett, West corner. And I’m just calling at him to get him to come back to start with me at the upwind corner of our search. So I use that there. And then this way is so say I am walking east to west, I hit the West corner or the West, the western side of our search area. Now I’m going to turn and walk 20 meters south before I head east again, right? I use this way at those times at each of those turns, I do not tell the dog forward right, forward, right, forward left. You know, like I’m just I’m letting the dog move freely. I’m letting the dog read the air currents investigate the vegetation, check out the eddies behind trees, you know, like, dip down into those get those galleys and valleys and whatever. There’s ravines and you know, zig and zag and like half the time if not more, my dog is on a different transect from me, but my job and what I am doing is is taking account of where the dog has searched. Generally, if you look at the GPS, it looks like I walked my transects. But there’s a lot of me walking and then pausing, letting the dog search letting the dog check wherever the dog is. And when the dog kind of pops up or checks for me or is like moving way off plot or something, then I call the dog back in, and I don’t move past an area until the dog has searched it adequately. And if there is an area where I kind of know, okay, we really missed that northeast corner, because he was checking out something way out over there, then before I returned to the car, I will go back and kind of intentionally get the dog through that area. But if you kind of look at my map of what I’m searching in a lot of cases and the dogs map, the dog is absolutely not on transect with me a lot of the times and that’s kind of how I personally am searching in this situation. If there were a reason for me to really keep the dog really, really tight, potentially, because we’re doing we need that for statistical analysis or doing invasive plant mitigation where we really need to find every single one, then I would search in a slightly different way. But right now for me, I kind of use my movement of the through the search area as a way to determine that something is cleared. But I do not ask the dog to move with me at the same pace. And I allow the dog to investigate and search in his own way. I just don’t move past an area until he has searched that area does that. I try like I need a diagram for this one.

Meg Barnes 

No, no, it makes perfect sense. I actually use this way for the same thing. But just like when I’m out and about I’m like, okay, cool. I want to actually go more that direction because there’s a road there or whatever. But I don’t Yeah, one and like it’s their sniffy work. So I’m like don’t want to be like all in charge. I just don’t want them to go on. But yeah,

Kayla Fratt 

I generally don’t find intensive directionals to be helpful. I I think they’re very popular in the field trial world right now in the Gandharvas.

Meg Barnes 

Like Gundo trainers all over the world at losing their

Kayla Fratt 

their bunkers form right now. Which is something actually in the really recent canines talking sense episode with Caitlin Graham of catalyst kennels, they talked about that, because she was talking about when she is looking for stud dogs or dogs to use for her breeding program, she actually takes into account those fads and trends in the gundog world. As far as whether or not she’s looking for dogs from champion lions to introduce to her search dog thing, because she specifically is looking for dogs that are much more of that screw you, I’ve got this mentality. So the dogs that are currently championing in field field trials, with that really, really intensive directional setup, she actually does not necessarily want those dogs in her program. And I think that is kind of

Meg Barnes 

like you can’t tell by the fact that they’re a champion, whether you would want them in the program,

Kayla Fratt 

because the current trend of what is being rewarded in the competitions is actually a little bit counter to what we generally want in our search dogs. We want more of that independence, more of that, because one of the other things that comes up with these, and I’m kind of we’re going a little bit down this rabbit hole, but it was really interesting to hear. Because what they are kind of looking for currently, in some of these field trials is the dog who will listen to your directionals even if they’re catching odor. Yeah, we had forgotten.

Meg Barnes 

There’s like, gotta be one thing that trumps order for safety, but you don’t want anything else to trumpet, right? I do. I like I come in with before drive through my transact. I do not want my dog going forward. As so. That is something that I for me, I need one thing for safety, totally, but nothing else.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. And generally, I think for us, directionals don’t matter that much. I can see why, you know, if that’s what’s being rewarded in your competition, go for it. And if you’re doing potentially, like I eat eat dogs or something like that, then yes, it makes sense to have a very good way to kind of move that dog through the landscape in almost a remote controlled car. sort of way. But for us, generally, that’s not what we’re looking for. So no, I focus on I train directionals because they are fun for me. I think it’s fun to get out there and train my dogs and see if I can generalize these concepts of right and left and we’re working on some stuff like that right now. Do I expect to use it intensively in the field? No.

Meg Barnes 

So when do you start just for fun? When do you start introducing that because I’ve introduced it at different points for like agility stuff. Um, kind of easy way to teach them to go ride around their wing

Kayla Fratt 

when it comes up in my life.

Meg Barnes 

It’s a classic Caitlyn response when I feel like it.

Kayla Fratt 

You Yeah, just like I don’t know, niffler learned it when when basically for niffler It was when his, when he started coming on runs with us. Once his growth plates were in a place where he could join us on runs, then he started getting introduced to directionals. Because that’s when I introduced them.

Meg Barnes 

Yeah, awesome. So on the topic of searching far away, I already know the answer to this one, because we’ve joked about it before, but I think it’s probably a really handy question for everyone. But she’s like, sir, Merlin likes to go off and explore. And right now that distance is not cheaper far, but I basically have just been calling him back at some point paying him and sending him back out to do whatever he wants. So like, the question is, how far is too far out? What distance? Is it good to kind of like, keep him working around doing stuff around me? I personally, am not about the like, I’m not like I would be like, very uncomfortable with the barley 500 meters away scenario.

Kayla Fratt 

No, I didn’t like, honestly. Yeah. So it depends, whatever what you’re comfortable with, and what makes sense in your environment, and knowing the tendencies of your dog. So let’s kind of go through that in all three phases. So your preferences, I think that’s the most important thing, if you don’t like your dog being further away than x distance and call him back. You know, as long as you’re not being, because I have, especially when I was in the pet dog world, I definitely worked with some clients where I was like, Alright, you’re being a little bit a little bit much on this one, you’re like, your dog is like 20 feet and three inches away, and you’re recalling them because you your limit is 20 feet exactly like, Okay, I had a couple of very lovely, very type a clients who don’t have the control freak side of things. And that’s okay, I get that, you know, there’s a reason we all did this. So, and they were fabulous trainers, they just, yeah, if you’ve got really strict criteria. So I think that’s most important, you know, what are you comfortable with. And then next up is what’s kind of tolerable in the environment. So and then those two things play into each other. When I am in really dense, mountainous forests of Montana, where there are grizzly bear and elk and moose and whatever, my threshold for how far away the dogs can be is very different from when we’re in Arizona, and a prairie dog town, and I can see for literally miles and the dog can see me and I can use a whistle and I can you know, like they’re, you know, the sky’s kind of limit for when where I’m comfortable with the dog going. And it seems like dogs are kind of able to get that concept. I don’t know how but like I had struggled with my dogs learning that hey, when we’re in it like they they seem to get it as far as like visual distance and visual contact being important. I have not yet had a problem with a dog being allowed to range really far when you’re on the beach and then being expected to stay closer when you’re in dense dense undergrowth. Yeah, cool. And what did I say? The third thing was it was your preference, the environment. And I had one other thing I had three,

Meg Barnes 

what you want the dog to do? Or the tendencies of the dog maybe

Kayla Fratt 

tendencies of the dog? Yes. Yeah. So niffler is a great example. Potentially, it’s teenage boy brain potential. It’s just who he’s going to be for the rest of his life. He loves to range. He likes to be far he likes to be fast. Going top speed is one of his favorite things in the world. He finds it intrinsically reinforcing. So for him, interrupting him when he is in that mode and getting him to hey, let’s sprint back and forth in the vicinity of me instead of sprinting in one direction for an hour because I will never find that. That’s important for me to set as a boundary for him because if I just let him go, particularly like say six or eight months ago, I legitimately think he would just run out top speed. I don’t know how far before he kind of decided to come back to me. He’s always been pretty good about kind of keeping an eye on me and being aware of me. But if you knew you had a dog that didn’t, then this would be even more important and that is different from Barley Barley, potentially again, because he’s eight and a half. He’s also more of my velcro dog. He doesn’t want to be touched but he wants to be very close to you. So for barley, I have not had to enforce that boundary the same way as I do with niffler because barley. Barley is number one goal in life is getting you to throw something

Meg Barnes 

like dairy

Kayla Fratt 

doesn’t happen when you’re a half mile away from your handler. then throwing something. Yeah, exactly. That’s just you know, it varies depending on your dog. I have to be on mufflers case a little bit more because he is more likely to just be like, okay, cool. I’m gonna tap speaker by and barley won’t. The fascinating thing though is niffler has better recall because he had to work on it. He’s also just more responsive. I don’t, barley is unusually hard headed for a border collie. He’s not very soft. He’s not for a border collie. He’s not super responsive. niffler or a border collie. If I call niffler, he will like stop so fast. He almost flips over and come back to me. He is like, he is like, oh, yeah, I have the brain of a dog that can like listen to those directional cues based on the pitch of a whistle from a quarter mile away. And absolutely, I will get three chips, sheep, sheep 399 on on task for you, if that’s what you would ask. Like, he’s got much more of that like traditional Border Collie brain. So you’re showing your dog? Yeah, yeah, much more traditional sheepdog mentality and barleys. Much more of like he’s about as Labby as a border collie gets, I think, in a lot of ways.

Meg Barnes 

Including the steak.

Kayla Fratt 

Steak round. He’s very, uh, he has 6% lab. So you know, we can we can make up some stories about that being part of the problem, but he’s also 9% child. So like, God knows. God knows there. Anyway, this is my fourth hour of podcasting. This, my brain is starting to melt. What else?

Meg Barnes 

Oh, what else? Do I have? Obedience to Arita? Do you teach it on purpose? Or do you just like, like, as in? Do you deliberately reinforced that huge queue hierarchy, like in a structured way, with other cues? Or do you just kind of like, teach odor, and then just like, not worry about it if they blow you off road, and then it kind of naturally get introduced? So like, let’s say, you were like, come on left. Not that you do that that much in the field? Or this way, but there aren’t odor? And then keep going and then go straight to a dead but whether or not it’s in the search area? And yeah, do you, like deliberately teach that as a skill? Or do you just kind of like, let the environment do that work for you, as you go through life?

Kayla Fratt 

Neither both neither something? Yeah. So despite what I said, in my episode with Tony Harvey, where we talked about Q hierarchies, I have not yet done like formal Q hierarchy instruction for my dogs. Partially because if it’s if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And so far, what’s going on with my dogs is working pretty well. However, I do do exercises. So there’s kind of, there’s this exercise called the handlers a dummy. And I do intentionally introduce this. So this kind of starts out as an alert proving proofing exercise where so the dog alerts and like, you, you look at your dog, you check your phone, and then you go up and Mark and reward. You look at the dog, you do a jumping jacks, you go up, you mark and reward, you drop and do three push ups. Like, you know, you get you get as weird as you want. Usually, the

Meg Barnes 

exercise program

Kayla Fratt 

was funny I was I was videoing this the other day. And I was like, I was like watching it back. I was like, Oh, my push up form is not great. But that was not the goal of this video. And that’s okay. So, yeah, that and it’s again, so it starts out as kind of an alert proofing thing. And I think that ties into this in that then, once your dog kind of understands the concept of Hey, me doing this independently and me sourcing odor and alerting independent of what my handlers doing is valuable and important and a skill that I should do, because you are reinforcing that through exercises like handlers, that domain, then you can start playing with it. And I do do a little bit of this. So for example, the other day niffler was alerting to a bat, I could see that he had the bat, which is relatively unusual. Usually I have to walk all the way up to him and kind of like, look through the long grass or like half the time lately, he’s been alerting with his paw on top of the bat, which is not maybe a problem when we moved to scouts on an upcoming project. We’ll deal with that later. And so I could see he had the bat. Okay, cool. I can see like a wing poking up or whatever, I don’t even remember. And just as a little experiment, I said no search and acute them to search again. I told him no. And I saw what he did. And he stuck his alert. And we like the hugest party. Yeah, exactly. And it was. And so I do do a little bit of that that is not quite the question as far as while they’re in odor, that’s like a post alert question. But you can do the same thing kind of intentionally. But I would layer it in really carefully, in a way that you’re kind of even just through your body language at first, rather than including the cue. So when it could say, yeah, you’ve got it? Uh huh. Yeah, what you see your dog cat odor, you see that first change of behavior, and then you like, pull out your phone, you look over it, you test your shoulders, you do something relatively minor at first, and like, much more minor than you think probably to kind of build up that concept of like, Hey, I’m sourcing odor no matter what my handler does. And then again, we can get to this point where like, I will do searches where I sit down, crisscross applesauce on the ground, I am looking at my phone, and I am not paying any attention to my dog until they alert. And that is very weird for the dogs and really getting them to search independently. So I do do a lot of those sorts of exercises, so that they’re learning that odor Trumps my behavior, then the phase that I have not yet done, but I would do if I were I don’t know if I had more energy. If I had more time. I don’t know, I don’t have an excuse. I just haven’t done it. But here’s what I would do if I wanted to. Then the next phase would be okay, also then installing Hey, there is this one thing that trumps odor. And that then would so I have done the exercise of odor trumps ABCD I have not done the exercise of but one a star Trumps odor. Yeah. Okay. So because so far I haven’t had to so far based on the tone of my voice, I am able to recall the dogs out of odor if I need to. And that is basically because when I really need to recall, I panic, I yell loud.

Meg Barnes 

So they actually no panic. Kayla means come back right now even.

Kayla Fratt 

Apparently, I have not intentionally trained that. But it does seem to work versus if I kind of go like, you know, bar Lee this way. And I use kind of these other non recall cues. Yeah, they know that they can and should blow me off for those. But I reserve that like loud, intense clear recall. I just I haven’t done it in like a designated training session yet. Yeah. Okay, cool. Because again, so far, it’s working the way that it needs to. Awesome. Think.

Meg Barnes 

Oh, I have one more question that I also know the answer to but I really want you to talk about the kiddie pool, which is, hey, Kayla, do you have any cool ideas for practicing underground searching?

Kayla Fratt 

Oh, yeah. funny you asked, given that I gave you this answer a month ago.

Kayla Fratt 

Yes. So what we were talking about because again, so you’re trying to get up to the point where you’re always going to learn how to find this underground target. So I know Skyler has actually built a really cool set for a while ago for one of their targets.

Meg Barnes 

I see I’m really about to make this will as well. Oh my gosh, I’m

Kayla Fratt 

so excited for you. So my like low tech lazy person version of this is by one of those kiddie pools that are usually like in the US, you can usually get them for like five bucks at like an Ace Hardware or Walmart or something. I think mine was like 20. So I don’t know if that’s inflation or if I did a bad job kind of a sailor one. Because it’s like a four times increase of what I thought these things were $5 I don’t know. Maybe I’m just remembering like, maybe this is a sign that I’m old. And I’m just remembering prices from my childhood.

Meg Barnes 

Yeah, maybe you can usually get them from those like, roadside pickup days with like a hole in them if because you don’t need to put water like

Kayla Fratt 

beginning at the beginning of summer, there’s like a big sale where they’re like five bucks or 10 bucks or whatever, and that I was buying minded like mid July and you know, anyway, what I was thinking you could do is get that and then fill it up with sand and then put a couple like, I would probably get some sort of like jar or something so that you can then kind of bury those and then drop, drop your targets into it, bury it a little bit, put a little bit of sand over everything is nice and disturbed. Everything is uniform sand. And I think that makes it helpful in comparison to like going out and putting holes in your yard digging holes in your yard. And also like depending on your housing situation, you maybe don’t want to do that for a variety of reasons. And for for your goals. In particular, this also kind of helps because we’re probably going to want to teach him to kind of, hey, let’s search really intensively around this tree and then maybe we’ll go and search really intensively around this And so like that kiddie pool size thing is not like a big limiting factor for you. It’s not like he was a human remains detection dog, who needs to be finding one giant source of underground odor in the wilderness. Yeah. So that’s how I would start.

Meg Barnes 

Awesome. And I love that too, because you can, I can fill it up. This is why I love it too much can fill up with whatever soil I can go and get it from the Wheatbelt. So I have same soil. And, or not at that, first, I’m gonna fill it with sand. So if I screw it up, it doesn’t matter. Because later I can put the real soil in

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, well, you can even experiment with different porosity, this would be a really cool way. Now a really, really cool way to layer in and split in the concept of searching underground. Start with like, softball sized rocks. And it’s under softball sized rocks, a ton of porosity, there’s a ton of odor moving in between, because you’ve got big old gaps in between rocks that are that big, and then basically gradually decrease the size of the rock. So you know, even then gravel is going to have a lot more porosity and a lot more available odor as a concept for like teaching these underground searches. And then the finer the soil. So by the time you get down to like silt, or something that is like really, really fine. And it’s got like a potentially a high water content, then you’re getting to the point where there’s much, much less odor flow. So kind of we could even think through like your types of substrate as a way to introduce this concept to him. And I really liked that idea. And I don’t think I had had that idea previously.

Meg Barnes 

No, it’s a new exciting idea, because that’s gonna take up ground from the Weebo and bring it and the other thing I really like about it is I can leave it in situ, so it doesn’t have that disturbed ground issue that I might have as like digging holes in my yard. So that I can just kind of say, alright, I filled it out with this thing. I’m just gonna leave it for three weeks and then we can play with it later. Yeah, so that I don’t have that especially when maybe if I fill it out with Brock’s that doesn’t matter, but especially when it’s like, more clay or sand or something where there’s different art or profile. Then yeah, that would be really good. Oh, that’s very exciting. It’s gotten even better now. Yeah, I’m glad I asked you again.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. A stream of consciousness.

Meg Barnes 

Yeah, it’s my favorite. My last question you’ve run out all my questions is, so we’ve been doing some fun barrier challenges on Patreon. And I really liked Marilyn did so good. I was so happy. Are there any other like little fun types of challenges like that, that I can be starting to introduce at this point into our training that you kind of have in your toolbox?

Kayla Fratt 

Well, stay tuned next month for whatever we do for our Patreon. Yeah, I, I’ve kind of always coming up with these like new older puzzles. I don’t know if I have anything off the top of my head where it’s like, I’ve been really interested in this concept lately. So I don’t, I don’t know. Okay, I guess lately, I have been kind of interested in watching dogs kind of deal with chiming odor, but I’m not quite sure I haven’t quite figured out yet how to set up that intentionally in a training scenario for people on Patreon. But I’ve been having a lot of fun watching the dogs like go and kind of check tall objects for trapped odor, whether that’s through like a chimney effect, or it’s caught at the bark of a tree. Or maybe it’s in the Edie I guess, I don’t quite know. But like really noticing that behavior in the knives and toys.

Meg Barnes 

I was taking his toy bark of the tree just to see what he does if it’s up a bit higher. And even though I’ve got most of the targets on the ground, just kind of mixing it up a bit for to kind of teach the concept that the odor could be anywhere slash just in case we’ve to search for something that isn’t underground orchid, which is only flowers for like one month a year. So that’s like a lot of other mums months in the year when he might look for somebody down Yeah, and it’s cool. I I’m really lacking those little different puzzles to just try and see how he works. And get to know them and like how we can do stuff together. So that’s why I’m getting into little puzzles, basically.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah, maybe we’ll we’ll try to figure out something with some like. I’ll try to figure out if I can find a good consistent way to create some of these set puzzles that I’ve been having a lot of fun observing the dogs with so that we can see if we Do it in a smart way for Patreon. Because that is honestly kind of starting to push my knowledge of auteur dynamics is like how to intentionally set up some of these things like I can observe them and read them in my dog, but I don’t actually necessarily know. You know, okay, so we’ve went, like, I don’t necessarily know how to give instructions to create it for people in a wide variety of climates and situations yet. So that was part of why we did the barrier challenges because that’s something I can kind of say, Okay, we’re going to use a chain link fence and you’re gonna put the otter on one side, you’re gonna start the dog on the other side, and here’s easy, medium, hard of it, and blah, blah, blah. So I’ve been trying, that’s one of the challenges in Patreon. For me, it’s kind of figuring out ways to make these interesting challenges that are replicable for everyone.

Meg Barnes 

It’s really cool saying, Oh, I love watching. Actually, I love this about St. Luke classes. Well, I love watching 10 different dogs with the same puzzle. Yeah, trying to figure out Yeah, it’s hard to do.

Kayla Fratt 

Because we don’t have a classroom. So I can’t actually have the same thing for everyone. And everyone’s at different stages and with different goals, but I think that’s what’s valuable is okay, let’s watch a bunch of different dogs and different handlers at different skill levels, try to do the same thing. And then we can talk about where that fell.

Meg Barnes 

And then I’ll make the same exact mistake.

Kayla Fratt 

I do love that. All three of you on three different continents with three for dogs, three entirely different stages of training have all made the same mistake here, which is clearly either an oversight and how I described the problem most likely, or a really common misconception that we need to address.

Meg Barnes 

I think it’s just like, there’s certain things that, like, it’s easy to get sucked in, and then put spatial pressure or whatever, there’s lots of things that no matter how good you are, that you might do, in some situations, especially when you’re trying to like feel near dog at the same time, and have limited hands like, Alicia,

Kayla Fratt 

I do know, actually, this is for September, what I was thinking about a string, and this podcast is going to come out in like November. So even so people are listening like way, way, way, far behind. But for September, what I was actually thinking about doing is doing some searches where I really want to have the handlers in frame. And I really want to be talking about your body movement, as the handler and how that helps or hurts your search strategy. Because we’ve just been talking about that a lot generally on Patreon. And I think also like your body position and your behaviors, the easiest thing we can fix within a context of a search. So you know, like, why don’t we focus on that a little bit more, it’s like, fundamental concept of like most things in life is like focus on what you can control.

Meg Barnes 

Yeah. All right. Well, I think I’ve actually run out of questions, Kayla, it’s very often

Kayla Fratt 

that we should probably, we should call for any more come up, because I’m sure they beg it This was so fun. I have been really enjoying doing this q&a, these Q and A’s with Patreon, with patrons on Patreon. So we’ll probably be doing more of these and probably try to spread the love a little bit more around some of our other patrons as well. So listeners at home will get to learn from everyone. Do you have an Instagram page or anything that you want people to go check you out on? If people want to see more? Merlin? Where can they find you guys? Oh yeah,

Meg Barnes 

you can get your Merlin fix and general detection dog and me fix at detection for good on Instagram and Facebook. At some point in the future. Maybe by the time the podcast comes out. There will also be a web page, which is also detection for good.com depending on how quickly I write the web page, which is currently it’s my nemesis. So let’s see. And down the track, we want to be just like Kayla and make a little mini and to butt down under. So that some of the cool plants especially, but also animals that don’t get enough love because there’s not very much funding and conservation can get some love. So it’d be great if people followed our journey.

Kayla Fratt 

Ya know, it’s been a lot of fun to watch you guys over the last Gosh. I mean, we’ve known each other now for probably close to a year huh?

Meg Barnes 

Yeah, it can’t i Oh, yeah. Jeff, I think sorry, actually. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

Which is why Yeah, this is like my favorite thing about Patreon. It’s just I love this. And like not just because it does pay for the podcast, which is nice, but like, I get so much enjoyment out of this and I learned so much from talking to all of you and I get better as a teacher because of the questions you all ask and you know, again, like going back to Okay, three out of three made the same mistake clearly. This is something that as an instructor I should know to head off in the future. Sure so I think with all of that will let people go this is already which really tried to keep it to an hour but it’s not always possible sorry for everyone whatever people keep I also everyone on the Patreon Facebook group was just saying that they wanted more episodes so maybe we don’t get more episodes we just kept longer episodes

Meg Barnes 

I ran on mine out driving across the country and now I’m like, damn it

Kayla Fratt 

I know the feeling Yeah,

Meg Barnes 

I’m drinking from the toilet because it was like a deep history of those.

Kayla Fratt 

I was just gonna say there’s not enough good detection dog podcasts out there particularly kind of within our discipline there’s like very very little but then even it kind of across discipline even you know yeah, there’s just not as much there seems to be more kind of for like narcotics canine or SAR. What Oh, actually, I don’t know if I’ve seen many for a SAR.

Meg Barnes 

If you’ve got a sound, I’d love to listen to it.

Kayla Fratt 

I actually I misspoke. I’ve seen quite a few that are kind of more in the like, military and police working dog realms and there’s stuff we can learn from them. But they’re not necessarily like every episode is a hit for me. So yeah, we take what we can get. Anyway, alongside everyone at home. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you learned a lot from Maggie and her questions. And if you would like to be able to ask questions on this podcast, join Patreon. You can submit questions for any episode if you even join at the $3 a month level and then the higher up in the levels you get, the more likely you are to build enough of a relationship with me that I kind of arbitrarily invite you on the podcast. It is not a formal Patreon benefit but it is something that I would offer if you ask a lot of really good questions. So you can find all that over at k9conservationists.org. Until next time!

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