Progressing Your Detection Training Like a PRO with Lily Strassberg

For this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Lily Strassberg about organizing training based on target behavior. 

Science Highlight: A Review of the Types of Training Aids Used for Canine Detection Training

Questions discussed:

Why does it matter to think about target behavior when training?

Can you give a few examples of training scenarios that you may use based on their target?

How does the odor behavior itself affect this?

Why is it important to plan to train (not test) our dogs as we prepare to be deployment-ready? 

What other factors may come into play when planning your progression/training plan?

Links Mentioned in the Episode: 


Where you can find Lily: Facebook | Instagram 

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By Maddie Lamb with the help of Chat-GPT

1. The Science of Odor:

  • Understanding Target Odor Behavior: Grasping a dog’s target odor can shape training strategies and influence their search patterns.
  • Training Aids: Whether it’s using pure materials, pseudo odors, dilution, encapsulation, or extraction, trainers utilize various methods. Each has its pros and cons; for instance, pseudo odors might not transition well to real targets.
  • Odor Variables: Like height or depth, the amount of odor presented can affect a dog’s success. Different narcotics, like meth, might be chosen due to distinct off-gassing pressures.

2. Lily Strassberg’s Expertise: From her early days working with shelter dogs, studying behavioral science at Duke University, to her experiences with explosive detection and the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, Strassberg brings a wealth of knowledge to the table.

3. Training Realism: Training should reflect real-world scenarios. Whether it’s explosive detectors checking door seams or narcotics detectors familiarizing with various containers, the training must be practical.

4. Challenges & Solutions in Detection:

  • Odor Intensity: A louder odor isn’t always better. Dogs need exposure to varied quantities and mixtures to excel in real-world contexts.
  • Search Method: Lower availability odors require dogs to search methodically, ensuring they don’t just wait for strong odors.
  • Distractors & Mixtures: Dogs must distinguish between target odors and other surrounding smells, training them on different mixes is essential.
  • Endurance: Building search endurance is critical for longer real-world operations.
  • Versatility: Different dogs need different techniques; there isn’t a universal solution.

5. Lessons from the Field:

  • Mistakes as Teachers: Failures can be insightful. A simple oversight, like not considering airflow during training, underscores the importance of understanding odor dynamics.
  • Handler-Dog Bond: This relationship is pivotal. Training blind, where handlers don’t know the hide’s location, fosters trust and collaboration.
  • Adapting to Environments: Odor dynamics differ in varying environments, from wind farms to carnivore surveys. Techniques must adjust accordingly.
  • Case Study: Dogs falsely detecting caracol over cheetah scat in Kenya demonstrates the need for tailored training. While extinction protocols worked here, they might not be suitable for all scenarios.

6. The Art of Training: Fluidity in training protocols, employing split training, and maintaining records are vital. Trainers should constantly evolve their methods, leaning into and learning from mistakes.

Closing Thoughts: 

  • Strassberg emphasized the importance of leaning into mistakes, learning from them, and always evolving training methods.
  • Upcoming workshops and seminars by Strassberg and others were mentioned, offering listeners opportunities to deepen their understanding and skills in dog training and conservation work.

Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt  00:09

Hello and welcome to the K9Conservationists 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 your host, Kayla Fratt, one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies and NGOs.

Kayla Fratt  00:29

Today, I am super excited to be talking to Lily Strassberg; she and I talked about using target odor behavior to guide your training choices, how to use mixture training to boost your dog’s understanding of target odor while maintaining specificity and the importance of data to help turn mistakes into learning.

Kayla Fratt  00:45

But first of all, we’ve got a science highlight lately suggested the paper titled A review of the types of training aids you just heard canine detection training, which was written by Elissa Simon and out at all and published in frontiers in veterinary science in 2020. This article goes over types of material used to train detection dogs, including true material, pseudo odors, and non pseudo alternatives such as dilution encapsulation, adsorption, absorption, and extractions. So, for true material, it’s important to remember that the purest, cleanest samples might actually reduce the dog’s ability to recognize the odor in the presence of contaminants in the real world. Sometimes true material is dangerous, controlled or difficult to handle. variety that mimics what the dogs will need to detect in real searches is imperative if using true material. For pseudo odors, these generally don’t include any of the target material, but instead have odors that are associated with the off gassing of the target. So studies have shown the dogs don’t necessarily transfer from a pseudo odor to a real target or vice versa with one highlighted study on explosives demonstrating a zero to 25% success rate and transfer from pseudo to real or vice versa. Pseudo odors may be valid in some cases, such as in the case of cocaine where dogs consistently find a methyl benzoate, which is a decomposition product of cocaine.

Kayla Fratt  02:02

Dilution involves taking a smaller trace amount of the target odor, and mixing it with an inert solid or liquid. It has been successful anecdotally, but one can have, but can have large effects on odor profiles, and there’s very little research on it.

Kayla Fratt  02:17

Encapsulation is similar to dilution, but the mechanism is different in that the target is actually encapsulated inside of something like a micro sphere. And there’s just not much research on this yet. Then we get into adsorption and absorption, which involves using steel, cotton or polymers to absorb or adsorbed the odor into a target material. To quote from the article, “Human scent decomposition and fungal odor are extremely complicated targets making evaluation of absorption aid similarly complex, the explosive TTP on the other hand, it has a much simpler odor and cotton absorption. Adsorption I’m sorry, training aids have been evaluated for this target. TTP cotton training kits have been evaluated have been successfully deployed for canine training, but for have a very short lifespan, they could only be used for about 20 minutes before the odor was depleted.”

Kayla Fratt  03:08

So then finally, we get to extraction which involves removing kind of chemical components of the odor from its true material using of solvent. This has been tested in very limited ways, but shows some promise including a study with bedbugs, where they were able to extract the odor of the bedbugs, and then use that rather than the bugs themselves. Most of us in the conservation dog world really only use true material or adsorption, such as cotton swabs and get sent tubes. To quote from the final essay, to quote from the article again adsorption matrices, just like the matrices for pseudo dilutions and encapsulations have considerations that cannot be overlooked, each volatile compound will interact differently with a different material matrix. So, one matrix cannot be assumed to function for all target substances. Even if one matrix is applicable for multiple target materials, it will provide different saturation points and diffusion rates for each material. Such transport properties will define the rate at which various volatiles are released into the matrix and may alter the odor profile in undesired ways if left uncontrolled. So that is that for that science highlight, definitely really interesting and important to consider. And again, you can find that over at Frontiers in Veterinary Science from 2020. Without further ado, let’s get to our interview with Lily. All right, well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Lily!

Lily Strassberg  04:25

Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you for having me. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt  04:29

So why don’t we start out with you know, tell us a little bit about your history and background as it pertains to detection dogs, because you’ve had, I mean, just a lot of really, really cool experiences that I think are important to be able to share with our audience before we get into everything else.

Lily Strassberg  04:44

Sure. Thank you. Yeah, my background I would say is a little bit diverse. To go way back I think my story is pretty similar to a lot of people would meet in the industry with just this passion that you have from an early age. So for my tikkun olam, for my bat mitzvah, I was really dead set on working with dogs for that piece of community service. So I found shelter save a dog that I ended up working with for about a decade. And through that experience was able to handle just a wide variety of dogs and also started some pet training and caught the training bug there.

Lily Strassberg  05:19

And then knew I wanted to study behavioral science in college through a bunch of different lenses from biological perspective, psychological perspective, worked in ethology, labs, neuroscience labs, abnormal psychology labs with a variety of animals, from birds, to rats, rhesus macaques and dogs and I had this opportunity to work with Duke University for a summer with the population of explosive detection dogs performing a cognitive battery of tests, to try to determine predictive performance profiles in these dogs and how their scores on those tests related to their ultimate performance outcomes to see, you know, if the military could use some of those tests alongside some of the other assessment, tests that they use, in procuring and training those dogs to save costs, and to make their training time more efficient, and really enjoyed that population of dogs. It was just a completely different speed of Labrador that I’d ever encountered before. And that really, I don’t know at that moment that experience that research experience just lit my heart on fire for the detection, field and detection training in general.

Lily Strassberg  06:31

So after college, I worked for the Karen Pryor Academy as a curriculum developer and was able to meet a variety of really wonderful faculty there and integrate their material into a variety of different courses for Karen prior, but wanted to go back to grad school wanted to get back to a research setting with those detection dogs.

Lily Strassberg  06:55

And so I was recruited into a program at Auburn for cognitive behavioral science and I got my master’s there where I continued to do these cognitive batteries with a really talented researcher over there Dr. Lucia Lazarowski, she was a lab mate of mine, along with Sarah Krichbaum, and Adam Davila and my advisor Jeffrey Katz, Paul Wagner, a bunch of really phenomenal researchers over there. And we were able to look at some of the more ontogenetic effects of those cognitive assessments in terms of I’m sorry, ontogenetic just means developmental. So seeing how early on you could implement these cognitive tests to determine predictive profile. So can you give a cognitive battery to a three month old puppy or six month old puppy or 11 month old adolescent dog and get these robust predictions of their performance outcomes later on. So that was a really interesting project that I was able to work on.

Lily Strassberg  07:54

I also did a lot of MRI work in grad school, so with human humans and dogs, and so my thesis focused on methods of training dogs for a week, unrestrained brain scans. A really interesting methods project there. And yeah, so I got my master’s again in cognitive behavioral science. And through working with that population of single purpose explosive detection dogs through Auburn’s canine performance sciences, realize that I just wanted to hand off the train and handle so the academic career path wasn’t quite right for me.

Lily Strassberg  08:35

So out of graduate school, I found a job at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, and was there for a couple years, Puppy raising for them and then helping them to train live find and human remains urban disaster search dogs working on the rubble pile every day. And I also liaised a research pilot project with the Penn Vet Working Dogs Center for the dog’s physical conditioning and fitness called Fit to Work, where we were making these very objective assessments of their current physical fitness and then implementing kind of a workout routine throughout the week, taking a lot of data and seeing how those exercises were affecting their physical performance as it translated to their work on the rubble. A really cool project there.

Lily Strassberg  09:25

My puppy raised a couple of human remains dogs that are out with just actually certified with California Task Force Two, which is pretty exciting. Those were lovely dogs to have and to train. And then I also at Search Dog, really caught the bug for cooperative care. So it’s important for every dog in my opinion, but especially for your pretty driving working dogs because those search dogs need to go through a lot of decontamination procedures as they’re working the rubble; they need to be very comfortable with handling in that sense, but also they just need regular vetting and grooming and And they’re just crazy, right? They’re just drivey, crazy, lovely dogs. So to teach them to be kind of cooperative agents in their own care in that way through a really specific repertoire of behaviors that you install is a lovely side training to all of their wonderful detection work, too.

Lily Strassberg  10:19

So after a couple years at Search Dog Foundation, I was recruited by Cameron Ford, and was able to work with him, training his sale dogs on a variety of targets. That was a really wonderful experience, as well as working with the handlers receiving those dogs, doing trainer courses for him and traveling around to do kind of a sub test of cognition assessments, doing a lot of cognition seminars for him. But the main targets that we were focusing on with his sale dogs were firearms, explosives, narcotics. And so really interesting considerations there.

Lily Strassberg  10:59

As I transitioned from live find dogs where our source material was a whole live human body, I was frequently that person just sitting in the rubble on a pile of tug toys for the dogs to more static source material. And that was like a playground for me to consider all the different target odors and different training considerations that you would need for the different operational considerations on each target odor, and able to do that day in and day out with a whole truckload of dogs on those different targets. So that was really lovely.

Lily Strassberg  11:36

After working with Cameron for a while, I apprenticed up with Mike Nesmith up in Canada. And there I started working with because prior to that, sorry, I should add that I was working with a lot of Labradors, a lot of Spaniels, a lot of pointers, a lot of floppy eared single purpose dogs. And I love the shepherds but and had worked with shepherds and Malis at Search Dog. But with Mike Nesmith, I really got into working with the shepherds and Malis, and other more kind of protection, dialed in breeds, right.

Lily Strassberg  12:10

So through grassroots after that apprenticeship, I came on as a trainer to their Maryland location. And that’s where I’m at currently. And we just do a lot of raising and development to start out dogs for single and dual purpose work for police departments in the US and Canada. We also do a lot of pet training in a boarding train format here. And yeah, just constant little detection projects.

Kayla Fratt  12:37

Yeah, definitely. Wow. I mean, even though we talked about this during the pre interview, it’s just it’s really amazing listening about through kind of your history and all of the different places you’ve gotten to work and different experiences you’ve had. And I think particularly the work that you talked about doing with Cameron Ford really ties into what we were going to talk about today, which is, you know, kind of thinking through Target odor behavior, or the behavior of your target as far as how that’s going to inform your training. So why don’t we just start diving into that? Why does it matter to think about both target odor behavior and target target behavior as we’re training our dogs?

Lily Strassberg  12:37

So I take virtual clients for detection, where we have some sport detection stuff. And then I am working also with Pete Stevens out in California, a retired officer out of Chula Vista PD, to do little detection, fundamental sports scent work and HR workshops with him as well as cognition seminars with him. And then I work with Simon Prins to do some detection workshops with him. And earlier this year, we just did a match to sample workshop in Switzerland, with a lot of folks from the Switzerland Red Dog group, which was quite interesting. So just all over the place, anything detection – sign me up. It’s super interesting to me. And I really, yeah, appreciate all of the different and varied experiences that I’ve had to be able to have my hands on a lot of different types of dogs and a lot of different types of detection targets and to see those common threads and also where it really varies the considerations you have to have.

Lily Strassberg  14:24

Sure, I would say that in the operations, it’s pretty relevant to have your dog have a reinforcement history behind how to resolve the odor problem for where that source material might be most likely to be. Right different places to check, and then also the different like odor threshold considerations or mixture picture considerations that you would expect to find in those operations.

Lily Strassberg  14:48

So for example, I made a few notes for myself here for explosives, right, you have a pretty specific door check procedure that you have to do. You’re not just going to take your extra dog and Besson to any door in case it’s would be trapped up up. So you want to have your dog under control, and you want them to do a seam check for you on the door. Because you can see change of behavior very often, you know, going into a room, if that room is hot, sometimes I should, but so you want that seem to be relevant. So maybe you would do some scene heights for dogs to feel that reinforcement history on just checking the scene so that when you ask your dog to sniff the scene, they’re not just blowing you off saying, Come on, open the door, let’s go search. because prior to that, in your training, you’ve only done deep interior heights and rooms, right. So they’re used to just blowing through that threshold and going off to find their, their target deep in the room. So you would want to maybe hit a lot of scenes and a lot of thresholds with those kinds of dogs.

You May Also Enjoy:  Odor Discrimination Part 6: Generalization with Paul Bunker from Chiron K9

Lily Strassberg  15:46

Also, for those sorts of detectors, yes, you want your dog under control, especially the types of venues that you would sweep, but you want their obedience to odor to override their obedience to you, especially for explosives odor. So sometimes in the handler courses, we’d set our handlers up where we give them a briefing about where their search problem will be deeper in the building. But then I set up maybe a pretty shallow nose height height of TNT on their way there or something like that, right one of the odors in their repertoire. So I’m going to see if their dog will snap on it. And what that handler will do in response to the dog, maybe or maybe not throwing change on that aid on their way to what they consider to be their search problem.

Lily Strassberg  16:30

Aside from the dog, too, we’ve also set up situations where Cameron had this kind of pressure cooker IED device was inert, but that he would put out in a very obvious visual way for the handler. So even if the dog wasn’t picking up on odor, it’s a dog handler team, right? So you need to be vigilant. So that if you’re seeing this device deep inside the room, you’re going to advocate you’re going to hang back and not continue your search, you’re going to just report your findings in that sense. So those are some scenarios that we would do for explo.

Lily Strassberg  17:07

For bedbugs, this gets into a little bit of the article that I sent over for the science highlight and the material science, I really enjoyed using Getxent tubes for the bedbugs, we would get our bugs from Dakota labs in these thick glass vials. And so for those dogs thresholding is an issue, right, because you want them to be able to pick up a whole infestation where they’re resolving to a single source of odor or just be able to hit on a single bug, right. So really dialing down their threshold in that sense for the gets into was quite nice for that in addition to considering where the bugs are going to be. So not just in beds, not just in furniture, there’ll be in the door seat, there’ll be in electrical outlets. So to be able to take a good scent tube and fold it up into an ethernet jack to give the dog the reinforcement history to check those electrical outlets is pretty important for that target odor.

Lily Strassberg  18:05

And then again, in the same light, those thresholding issues relating to odor threshold odor availability. So from large source material to small source material, several vials of bugs to just the the gets sent to bugs are vile of bugs with very few bugs in it. And then also threshold as it relates to areas. So not just always having your hides way deep in the room where your dogs are blowing thresholds, but to let them come into their search problem and immediately come into odor so that they’re starting to work right away without that expectation of having to go deep to resolve odor.

Lily Strassberg  18:42

For narcotics, I would say a lot of container generalization, right if you’re going to be searching luggage, you want to be hitting luggage, but also just a variety of containers, a variety of mixture pictures, again, you hit at the odor availability issue where you want the dog to be able to resolve really large amounts and really small amounts with a lot of deaths because people that are going to be hiding their narcotics might try to hide them pretty stuffily, with a lot of packing material. So those mixture pictures to you want the dog to be able to use not not just proofing the dog off of paper and plastic and coffee but also letting the dog resolve the odor picture of if my target aid is mixed in or my target odor is mixed in with paper or plastic or any other substance right. It’s good to go but those other substances on their own are no go.

Lily Strassberg  19:35

So specifically training those mixture pictures and giving the dog enough examples of that so that they can spontaneously generalize in their operations is important there for firearms. Again, that frequent generalization so we would have the officers that we work with get guns from their evidence lockers and try to hit different firearms every time, have different people put out those firearms. And that’s just good practice for any that you’re doing right because the dog can surely associate your human scent to their target odor or the odor of where you’re storing your aids with that. So the more you can generalize your aids, the better. And I would say it was really relevant to us for those firearms dogs. The odor availability issue, and the thresholding issue comes back again with the GSR from an entire gun versus the GSR that you’re gonna find on a single casing in the grass, right, those area highs versus those interior heights versus searching bags and luggage. Like you want to know that in your training labs, you’re hitting all of these different things, just what you expect to see and find in your operations, you want to really be hitting that in your training.

Lily Strassberg  20:47

 And then with the firearms dogs. And with the electronics dogs as well. There’s this interesting cognitive element where the dog needs to make this discrimination. Because a lot of these officers have guns on their hips, right. But those aren’t in play for the dogs. They’re trying to find the hidden gun in the school or something. So that was something that I also thought was quite interesting with the lifeline search dogs on the rubble because we’d have, you know, are human victims buried in the rubble, but then you’d have safeties and spotters on top of the rubble pile that are off gassing plenty of human scent for the dogs, potentially making those converging problems, but the dog needs to know if I see you you’re not in play. Right? Or like if it’s the gun on my handlers hip, it’s not in play. It’s the one that’s visually occluded, that I’m trying to find. So yeah, through through my work with that, it’s like I said, it’s kind of a, just this like playground of interesting considerations, from the chemistry of odor, to building on reinforcement history, to the consideration of the tactics that you would need in these different operations, all coming into play and your training, and things that you would want to consider in your training sessions.

Kayla Fratt  21:58

Yeah, yeah. Gosh, there’s so much in there that I’m not even quite sure which direction I want to go next, which is always an exciting place to be. So maybe, why don’t wekind of drill down a little bit then on, like target odor behavior itself? You know, one of the things that we struggle with a little bit in the conservation dog world is we generally just don’t know this the same way that you know, when I was reading, I read Tom Osterkamp’s book, which now I’m blanking on the name. It’s odor, it’s an odor dynamics book. Okay. And, you know, there was tables in it about the volatility of different explosives based on air temperature. And there were tables about, you know, availability of human remains based on the substrate that they were buried in, and all sorts of stuff in minds and an actual actually, it might have been minds that were actually when buried landmines that it was the substrate. But you know, I just remember reading this book and thinking, gosh, we don’t know this for most of the target odors that I’ve worked on ever. So as someone who has had the chance to work in a world where maybe we do know a little bit more about the volatility, or the availability of some of your different target odors, how does that affect how you set up a training scenario for a dog? And maybe what do you see differently from a dog working with something that has a much higher versus a much lower volatility or much higher or lower odor availability?

Lily Strassberg  23:24

Yeah, that’s a wonderful question. I like to just consider it as a variable as we would depth or height or search time odor availability. Again, it’s different within your target audience, but also, at the level of the dog and what you’re asking the dog to do, maybe if I’m asking them to hit depth, or more extreme elevation, for the first time I’m going to use and I like to use this word louder, which corresponds to in my mind, more odor availability, a louder aid or a louder source material variant of that target odor for that dog and that specific problem, but in general, I like to use lower availability, odors, so that the dog doesn’t get into the habit of just like, running around until odor smacks him in the face. And then he gets to resolve that odor problem, right, right from the get go. I’m gonna maybe like in my narcotic odor repertoire, I might imprint on meth first because that has the lowest, like pressure to off gas compared to something like heroin or cocaine.

Lily Strassberg  24:31

So if they’re hunting for meth, they’re going to be hunting and a more methodical they’re going to be putting a little bit more work in and they’re sampling than if they would be for some of those latter aids but again, you can vary that not just with the substance itself, but with the types of aids you’re using. So pseudo, your typical pseudo is like say a scent logic. Pseudo is a pretty loud aid compared to an odor so like a Getxent tube or Precision, odor print, right. But I still like to use the getxent tube and the odor print. Because I don’t want it to just be a gimme for the dog where again, this odor is super loud, I want them to get used to working methodically and sampling. Yeah, in a more in a more detailed way in their search. But then there’s a time in place to introduce a ladder, or maybe the first time they’re seeing luggage and you’re introducing a lot of depth, you will want a ladder older in those first experiences there so that they can encounter reinforcement more readily.

Lily Strassberg  25:36

And then you can increase the difficulty of those problems via thresholding down the available target odor, and in the same light or in a slightly different light for your distractors, right. If I’m having a hard time proofing my dog off of a kibble or a ball distractor, it doesn’t have to be the whole ball or a whole half cup of kibble, I can dial down the available odor of that distractor odor. So it’s pretty loud target odor picture, and just a little, a smaller set picture of the distractor. And that’s going to be easier for them to work off of and again, encounter their reinforcement. And then I’ve can slowly and my splits dial that back up into something more extreme that they’re discriminating against in favor of their target odor.

Kayla Fratt  26:23

Yeah, I love those examples. And I love thinking through kind of these different, you know, how can we change some of these dials? And when might it make sense to want something that is louder? I like that term versus something quieter? is louder odor always easier? Or, you know, I’m kind of thinking and like the sport dog world where you might be searching a relatively small area with a really volatile target.

Lily Strassberg  26:49

Yes, but yeah, no, not always, if, you know, in some of those little sent work like live coaching workshops that I’ve done with Pete, if you are the last dog in the rotation in the afternoon group and the odor has been sitting there for six hours, that’s hard for the dog, they’re trying to resolve a huge odor pool, the whole room stinks. Like you can tell the dog as soon as they come into the area, you see some change, but it’s going to be potentially harder for the dog or just through the airflow of the dynamics of the room. Different thermal conditions, the odor is just doing something funky and collecting in place that you wouldn’t necessarily expect that’s not necessarily closest to your, your source location, right. So sometimes those bigger odor pictures are quite tricky for the dog, it’s just this overwhelming amount of odor. And they have a hard time resolving but still interesting problems to hit if that’s something and there’s this interesting paper too. I guess it’s a little bit of an aside.

Lily Strassberg  27:52

But of a dog that walked I think like kilos of an explosive in a backpack because they had been trained on just, you know, maybe grams of that same target odor. And so it was just a different odor profile, different odor picture that the dog couldn’t generalize, didn’t know what to do with. And so it really layers into the idea of whatever you want your dog to find quantity mixture variant, do your best to be able to train on that and have your dog have experience on that in training. Or at least try generalize that as much as you can to improve your your chances in your operations of hitting on those things.

Lily Strassberg  28:35

But back to the sport odors for a moment to that gets tricky because of the logistics of handling it. It’s literally sticky like you can, if you don’t have good odor hygiene, when you’re placing your aids, you can really mess the dog up in terms of if you’re just touching other things in your environment. And then the dog is hitting on those little pieces of residual odor, which they’re spot on. They’re 100% right, right? They’re trying to detect that odor. And they’re detecting those trace amounts of that odor. And they’re 100% on their game. But you’re saying no, no, no, that’s not where I placed my main aid, even though your, you know, sticky fingers have actually placed that odor all over the place for picking up that aid later on, and then you’re coming back to that same trading place the next day. And that odor hasn’t necessarily dissipated from that space. It’s still loud as ever, in terms of the residual in that place that you’ve you’ve used so I guess it’s just a cautionary statement of the do your due diligence with your odor hygiene and then consider for someone that has stinkier stickier odors, that it’s much more important for that to be the case because yeah, it can it can make your your trading or your operations does sideways, harder to read.


Yeah, definitely. And yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s some of these target odors are just so so good. I’ll tell me I can imagine weed being one of them that I think some target odors that some of us have worked with, you can get into bad habits because they’re not as not as likely to transfer directly onto your hand onto everything you touch.

Kayla Fratt  30:19

So at least not as obvious of a way. So yeah, that’s a really, really good reminder. And, you know, I know we think about this a lot in the conservation dog industry, and probably in a way quite similar to what you were talking about with the bedbugs as far as where things are going to be and at what different levels, you know, when Barley and I were working on black footed ferrets, he got very used to the idea of searching holes, and checking prairie dog holes to see where, see if we were able to find any black footed parents that actually, you know, they cohabitate with, with Prairie dogs, while they eat the prairie dog. Gotcha. And to this day, he still likes to check holes, which is kind of funny when you’re doing like a Jaguar scat project, and he still is kind of magnetized to check any holes he encounters out in the out in the wilderness.

Kayla Fratt  31:12

But you know, then we also run into this just as far as where certain species like to defecate, as far as you know, should we should we be considering training our dogs on more elevated heights, because we are working with a predator that likes to mark potentially up on top of dead tree stumps or things like that. And, you know, I think that’s where, for us, it’s just a lot of talking to all the different biologists and our main project partners, because we don’t always know enough, and in some cases, you know, just researchers don’t actually know enough about where some of these scats are likely to be. And that’s part of why they’re bringing the dogs and –


If it’s at all consideration and your operations, go ahead and hit it in your training, you know, why not? It’s just teaching the dog and another potential place that the reinforcement could lie. So it could be very worthwhile. Go ahead.

Kayla Fratt  32:04

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And I know, like one of the things that we do, because my dogs, well, particularly Barley, but at this point Niffler as well, are trained on several different target odors that have really different levels of volatility, we’re in really different search environments, where their strategies can and should, and do differ.

Kayla Fratt  32:23

And also just where these are odors end up in the environment, you know, if you imagine a bat getting hit out of the sky, by a wind turbine, it’s going to end up kind of wherever it falls, usually, it’s on the ground, but occasionally, they get hung up in vegetation or something like that. Versus and it can be quite a bit more kind of a random distribution in the, within the wind turbines kind of strike zone. Versus when we’re doing you know, carnivores surveys, there’s just a lot more actual animal behavior to take into account as far as where they’re going to be dedicating.

Kayla Fratt  32:57

So what we’ll do prior to going changing gears from one to the other is, you know, setting up our training for the last couple of weeks, before we deploy to kind of remind the dogs and freshen them up on something like that, I can imagine that something that you probably do with like an explosive stock is like, Okay, we’re gonna, you know, we’ve been doing a lot of this. Now we’re going to go back, and we’re going to really work on seams and thresholds to make sure that we’re ready for like, true deployment here again, is that accurate?

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Lily Strassberg  33:25

Absolutely. Yep. And I would also say, to stretch out their endurance for search. That’s a really interesting piece of research that Dr. Nathan Hall and Mallory DeChant just did a project on, I think they’re starting to report their findings in conferences if the paper hasn’t come out yet already. But just in terms of the target frequency, and how that’s another piece of the puzzle that you have to consider in your, in your trading, if you’re setting up your training, where your dog is gonna get six finds within, you know, 30 minutes, that’s not realistic at all. And so then when you come into your operational environment, and they register a difference in context, they’re just going to be taken a walk, you know, they’re going to understand that it’s not a training situation, their reward frequency is going to go down and you can put out some motivational hides in between.

Lily Strassberg  34:16

But you also want to consider to just organically stretch the dog out in terms of hitting controlled negatives in your training. And that’s not just like a negative room in between your hot rooms, but a whole deployed search where you’re getting the dog out, you’re doing your whole routine, you’re doing a search for a while, and then you just put the dog up and the dog has found nothing. And then you know, you want to balance that in with other factors that you have to hit.

Lily Strassberg  34:43

But that’s certainly an important one that I think gets overlooked because it’s so much more fun to have the dog find something indicate go through their whole reinforcement procedure, but they’re not fine dogs right there search dogs. So you want that searching behavior to be quite robust. And then to hit on a thing that in terms of the law Honestly, the odor picture from before also, when you’re placing your aid, yeah, this whole big scent plume coming off of you, and you’re lingering there, and you’re getting the aid exactly where you want it to be. And, you know, jerry-rigged into this little great hidey hole that you’ve found. And you’re putting out so much of your own human odor. If your dog has any experience with tracking, they couldn’t hang back on that piece of experience, to help them as a crutch to resolve that problem.

Lily Strassberg  35:24

So I’ll put my aids out. And then I will just crouch down in a few different places, I’ll take my gloves off that I used to handle the aid and just touch a whole bunch of different things. So that that makes it less likely for the dog to be able to use my own human scent as a crutch to help them resolve the problem. And then to that end, as well, I’ll have different people put out the aids and then whenever I can use different, different aids so that they get a whole variety of examples of their target, which is sometimes more realistic to be able to get than others depending on what target order you’re working with.

Kayla Fratt  35:57

Yeah, that’s one of the things we did a lot of with, when we were out in Guatemala, you know, Barley found a really good new sample, we brought it home so that we could train niffler with it, because Barley’s a much more experienced dog and Niffler had a really hard time on that project in Guatemala. So it’s like, alright, whenever you know they’ve got the researchers have their half that they’re going to use for the DNA meta barcoding, now we’re going to take our little section that we’re going to then get to bring home and you know, see, is Niffler actually showing an appropriate response and change of behavior to these novel odors the first time they’re presented to him or not.

Kayla Fratt  36:28

And then, you know, we’re still not able with that particular setup, to resolve the question of, is he appropriately making the jump into something that Barley has not yet found, and that has not yet been handled by people. And that’s just something you know, within kind of a reasonable controlled training scenarios, there’s just only so much that we can do and that’s something that can’t remember I think I was reading the the book edited by Nigel Richards, which you you would not have read, but it’s using dogs to monitor aquatic ecosystems or something along those lines. And they talk in that book about how you know, in conservation, we’re relatively unique. As far as our targets, most of the time should not have any human odor on them at all. versus you know, drugs, firearms, bombs, any of these things, like at some point, they were touched by someone. And yeah, you know, like, I don’t think that was the entirety of Niffler’s problem at all, in Guatemala. But it was definitely one of the things that as we were trying to get his training back on the rails, you know, I was just driving myself crazy trying to think good or like, gosh, but how do I know just because he’s responding well to something that barley has already found that he’s not just responding to the fact that Barley already found it and now I’ve touched it.

Kayla Fratt  37:48

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Kayla Fratt  38:20

So one of the other things that you mentioned way back and probably like 15 minutes ago now that I wanted to circle back to was this idea of training dogs on on mixtures and how to how to work on getting the dog to alert to, you know, you said drugs in the presence of paper and plastic, but not paper and plastic without drugs. I know, this is something we talked about in the conservation dog world in the realm of like, multi species, latrines, where you might have multiple animals that all, you know, post on the same Facebook page every couple days. And you you know, trying to determine if and when and how to reward your dog in that situation with a concern being that you know, you’re rewarding them for the Puma scat, they also had a face full of, you know, five different other species at the same time. Are we now going to end up with a dog who’s going out and finding all of those other species tomorrow?

Lily Strassberg  39:11

Absolutely, maybe. Yeah. And I think I remember listening to one of your recent podcasts on wood turtles and how they were starting to get a turtle finding dog. Like they had put him on a couple species of turtles. And he was like, Ah, okay, you guys like turtles, and he was generalizing across species. I would say, to go back to your foundations and really lean into your discrimination pictures, because the area hides, accomplish some really wonderful things to install, you know, reinforcement history behind checking certain types of places for the dogs how to resolve those big odor pictures, but to go back to a lineup, sort of picture for the dog eases back those variables so that you can really focus on the Yes, no discriminations of what that target odor is going to be.

Lily Strassberg  39:58

And that’s I think, just good training, right, as you – to increase one variable, you’re relaxing the criteria of others. So to put your ego on the sidelines and not say, Oh, I’m too good for my foundation for the foundations or everything then. So going back into those lineups, and putting your non-target scat against your target scat and giving your dog reps have discriminating against this one favor that one for HR, they’re having a hard time leaving animal remains then put it in a lineup animal routine. So that’s if they’re having a hard time against dog and heat smell, dog urine smell, put it in a lineup dog urine smell against your target odor, and all day long, your target odor is going to pay you heavily right.

Lily Strassberg  40:38

And all of these things no go and then you can handle it as you want to right you can give them a leave it or you can just let them resolve it on their own. Simon Prins has a really slick odor recognition test procedure, where within that test for each target odor in your dog’s repertoire, he has five variants of that target, potentially, as well as a blank run for the dog. So it does just like any sensor, right, they also need to be calibrated at zero for those blank runs. But that ORT procedure addresses the ability to understand your dog’s reliability within those mixture pictures. So I did one with his older dog, Charlie, on Kong, and he had Kong infused on a penny, Kong infused on a wooden dowel, just large pieces of Kong, small pieces of Kong. And so all of these, for each different rep of the ORT trial.

Lily Strassberg  41:32

And he has this wonderful course on on his website to understand how to do it, along with many, many different distractors, where you’re swapping out the distractors each run, so that you can trust in your dog’s reliability to be able to hit on those mixtures. And even without that double blind, single or double blind ORT procedure, you can still hit on those mixture pictures in your lineup trading, right. So not aspirin, but maybe like cocaine and baby aspirin is good. But baby aspirin on itself is not good, right? And just giving your dog’s rep and reps an experience with those sort of discriminations in a pretty sterile, controlled setting. So that will generalize them back out into their area finds.

Kayla Fratt  42:20

Yeah, that makes perfect sense that I love the explanation of both using this for discrimination and bringing back in those mixtures. Yeah, I really, really liked that it seems really clean. And we were I was just at the IAABC conference last weekend. And we were having all sorts of fun discussions between myself and some search and rescue dog handlers about, you know, how we have resolved problems like this with various dogs that we’ve worked with. And, you know, had a lot of fun talking about how some of the approaches that one of us have used that I had had a lot of success with our dog, you know, then the other person was like, Oh, my gosh, I did my foundations in a totally different way. And I don’t think that would have worked for us at all.

Kayla Fratt  42:58

So the example, and I think this is going to come out before this episode, but so people will be familiar with it. But the work that we did with the Action for Cheetahs team in Kenya, the dogs were alerting to caracol and leopard scat about as frequently as they were alluding to cheetah scat in their training. Like almost every single session that they put out both odors, the dogs were alerting to just whichever one they encountered first, they were being told no search on and then they were going on to find the correct odor.

Kayla Fratt  43:27

And they had done this for so long that we were able to kind of see that this was not decreasing the dog’s false alerts over time. And what we actually ended up doing was an extinction protocol where we just waited the dogs out, and they learned that you know, just kind of gambling with their sets wasn’t actually getting them any information it wasn’t getting them to their ball any faster.

Kayla Fratt  43:47

And it was so funny talking to a couple of the other the other search and rescue folks around because you know one of them was just like my dog would have immediately started aggressing towards the hides, like that would have just been like we would have blown up into a whole other problems so quickly. You know, it was just it was it was so fun being like Oh yeah, you know, based on who your dog is and like all this experience like I could have had an entire third one hour talk just about all of the different reasons that this works specifically for this pair of dogs and their learning histories and like don’t for the love of God treat this as a training plan that you can just throw at any dog making false alerts because you absolutely will end up with other problems depending on where you and your dog are at.

Lily Strassberg  44:29

Absolutely, I love that within this industry right there’s many roads to roam, so yeah to to address that. You can tell him to leave it and search on, but for a dog that’s like oh, you’re acknowledging me, waiting them out or negative punishment, reset them back right. For my lineups. I really like to utilize Cato board or a mark in between reps so that I can do this solo. And I can get my dog back in a place where they’re just kind of doing their WUSA take, you know they have this little mental anchor. They’re in control on this thought while I’m doing my shuffling, or whatever I have to do taking my data, doing my shuffling in between my reps, and then sending them back.

Lily Strassberg  45:07

But then if they false alert for some dogs in that false alert, I’ll say, wrong, mark, you’ve lost your opportunity for access to reinforcement within that rep. And that’s costly, right? So in the behavioral economics of it, that behavior might decrease in that method. But again, some dogs you want to wait out, and some dogs you’d want to give good feedback to. And it just depends on the dog depends on the trainer depends on your target and all that. And then with distractors that are getting pretty sticky, like we hit on earlier in the episode, dial down the threshold of odor, right, use a restrictor cap, or put less material in in some way to help them and then split it back in to a more normal way that they would see that picture.

Lily Strassberg  45:48

But you can always find your splits, right, just identify what that kind of target picture that you’re looking for is that goal picture it is and then spend time thinking about it and planning it and writing a little protocol. And protocol is not the end all be all right? As I’ve really, really liked how Simon trains and explain things. And he’s always talking about protocols and talking about data keeping and saying it’s a living fluid document, right. But it’s really important to spend that time to consider what those splits are going to be and what your path is going to be. And then training becomes fun. And those mistakes become really fun to see where those holes are. And then you get to make another plan of how to address that and overcome that. And it’s just this constant kind of pushing, pushing the boundaries of each behavior that you’re working on to fluency in so many different aspects. And that’s why I consider it to be like this big playground, because you get to just constantly think about these things and see progress, and be really creative in your solutions. And as you meet all these wonderful people in your industry, come up with a million tools to have in your toolbox, because each dog that you work with is is different and can teach you so much.

Kayla Fratt  46:59

Yeah, definitely well, and I love that. And we’d like the restrictor caps was one of the things that I wish that I had done with the teams in Kenya. And we didn’t end you know, your example of you know, sending them back to a mark or sending them back to a starting point with something that the dogs didn’t have a learning history of. Like, that wasn’t something that they already knew how to do. So for us, it felt like it made more sense, we were only there for a pretty limited amount of time. So we didn’t want to have to take that step back to teach them to go back to a place.

Kayla Fratt  47:31

But that’s something that like, I think also is another cleaner way to do it. And there’s just all these different considerations. And these dogs one of the like, our saving grace with these dogs and a lot of ways was that it was the same thing that is one of my hypotheses for how they got into this mess is they had done a ton a ton a ton of training on these really perfect very statuesque sit stare alerts, to where I think the dogs actually had a stronger understanding of the alert than the seeking and the sourcing.

Lily Strassberg  48:01

100%, yes, it’s a balance, and it can so easily get off balance, easily this behavior. Okay, I’m tossing it at you.


Yeah, so I’m just like, whenever I encounter anything, I’m just gonna throw this behavior at it. But that was also the thing that was one of our saving graces, because that alert behavior was so strong. When we got like our extinction bursts, the extinction bursts to just was them alerting harder than you know, they was they said more, they sat longer. But we didn’t get vocalizing. We didn’t get biting, we didn’t get digging, we didn’t get some of the things that would have been really, really big and problematic. Sure, for that particular protocol. And when we then did kind of break the alert in a little bit, you know, you could see these dogs like, on day three or so of training being like, I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. That alert came back really, really quickly. As soon as we were starting to be like, No, but we still want that for cheetah, we still want that for cheetah. And I don’t think that again, I don’t think the same approach would have worked for any other target.


And you know, I’m now getting ahead of myself, cuz I haven’t recorded this episode yet. But it’s going to be coming up before you and I do this, do publish this one. So I wanted to  change gears here for the last couple of minutes here and talk about kind of using all of this understanding to plan your training sessions better. One of the things that I hear most often from my students as far as mistakes that sometimes can turn into brags, but as people, my students not having a good understanding of how difficult a problem is going to be for their dog before they start it.

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And that certainly part of that is, you know, my failing as an instructor as far as figuring out how to better instruct that, but a lot of it also, well, no, no, that’s I think it’s mostly my fault somehow, but I’m really curious how you help your, your students think about this and how you encourage people to you know, maybe take data in a way that helps them plan their training more so that you don’t end up in these situations where you think that you’re setting out an easy warm up, hide, and then the dog is searching for 27 minutes.

Lily Strassberg  50:06

I love mistakes. I learned so much from mistakes, I’ve made so many mistakes. And I think that handlers and any handler is a trainer, right? Some trainers train a lot of dogs. But any individual person who’s going to be who’s handling their dog is going to be a trainer for that particular dog. So I think, educating yourself into what the owner is going to do, because we’re such anthropocentric creatures, we’re so locked into our visual modality, it’s hard to understand how the dogs are resolving this chemical problem. And it’s just not in a mode that we can perceive or understand without, like doing our due diligence to understand what’s going on with the different thermal environments and the wind movement and the set time. Right.

Lily Strassberg  51:00

So part of that is just education, and then experience putting hides out and saying, oh, geez, how did that open window affect what’s going on here, having some moms sports at work world, they call them dogs and white, right, more experienced dogs. Some of your students that are just working with one dog might not necessarily be able to do this. But sometimes it’s helpful to have that more experienced dog run, and tell you what that odor is doing before the new guy comes up. Just so you can have a clue.

Lily Strassberg  51:30

But certainly just when you’re putting out setting up those odor problems, when you’re doing your lineup data on a wheel in an array. Just taking data on what’s happening, what is your duration? What are your fallston pictures look like? What is tripping your dog up, right. And then really understanding how to structure your next training session based on that data that you just collected do you need to stay the course do you need to shift some things to allow your dog to to access reinforcement, in a at a higher rate for your next session. And for your area hides to understand, okay, my dog is really pretty proficient at ground to nose level, he’s not really anything up beyond his little years is not super relevant to him. So I need to spend a few sessions or give him a few. A few finds in his repertoire to understand that up is also relevant and using that high placement to teach your dog right where where those relevant places to search are.

Lily Strassberg  52:36

So the same thing with depth and then considering all those different variables in terms of, okay, if I’m using an aid that has less available odor to it, or it’s a particular target odor that does not, that’s not super volatile, or I’m using maybe my gets sent to narcotic aid as opposed to my pseudo aid and I know my gets sent to you was going to off gas a lot less, I’m going to increase my set time there, I’m going to make it shallower or something, you know, there’s just considering the different variables that you can manipulate so that they have those tools in their toolbox to consider all the different dimensions and then just taking data, like just take your data, video yourself all the time. So from a vantage point where you can see what you’re doing and what your dog is doing.

Lily Strassberg  53:20

Really, I think now it’s pretty widely accepted of like, hang back and let your dog do the work. Because if you really are getting in there, you’re not going to be able to read your dog as clearly because you are influencing their behavior more than their environment can influence their behavior, right? But just I want to say like, lean into those mistakes that you make and and pick out the relevant pieces from them and don’t don’t harp on them as oh shoot, I really screwed up here. But think of it as an opportunity to understand what’s going on in that sort of picture going forward.

Lily Strassberg  53:58

I can think of oh, sorry, that’s gonna make me sound pretty dumb. But I was in government housing with a handler class with a couple of firearms dogs and I thought I just found the best little hidey hole you know, event and I thought okay, odor is going to push through here, it’s going to give this nice wonderful odor plume to the dogs are going to come into this room, they’re going to just be you know, the handlers will see like nice change because it’s just going to be this loud, hot room. And they’ll be able to source this cone right up over here to the vent. Well, it was intake. So the dogs came into the room and they were casting up they were throwing all this lovely change of behavior on this couch on this other side of the room. And I was thinking what is going on, and I go and I take a piece of paper and hold it up to the vent and it sucks in and that was just me not doing my due diligence in that moment to understand that there was no available odor there for the dogs. It was all getting stuffed into that intake and getting just like wash over the entire room and the dogs did lovely.

Lily Strassberg  54:57

Turns out that we had to really think on our toes there. He gave us something they couldn’t pinpoint it. But yeah, it’s just, you just learn from your mistakes. Same Same with, you know, the interaction of the airflow around windows and how that can do some funky stuff like, you just have to see it. Steve White, just maybe he didn’t just put it out. But I was watching it recently, a podcast called 10,000 our eyes. And it’s just spending the time getting the reps in and to understand what you’re seeing in the dog change behavior. And then what you’re seeing in terms of Yeah, how they’re reading those different odor problems and what’s happening with the odor. So pretty long winded answer.

Kayla Fratt  55:38

No, I think I mean, it’s certainly been something a Gosh, on like so many different levels that I’ve thought about both as you know, a coach and with Niffler, in particular, who I think and I’ve talked to some other folks who have gone from wind farm work to non foot wind farm work with some of their younger dogs, and how, in a lot of ways, it seems like it sets up expectations and search patterns for conservation dogs in a way that is a little bit unsustainable, or you just have to do a lot, I’m having to do a lot more work to transition Niffler from a wind farm to a carnivore survey that it took to take Barley from black footed ferret surveys to boat surveys. And then from boat surveys to wind farms, like, I think because it’s always really windy, it’s always the same direction. There’s never when there’s never shade cover, like you might have cloud cover, but there’s almost never trees. It’s just this, it’s these very simple, long, clear odor cones in most cases. That then, you know, getting getting these dogs into more giving Niffler and you know, some of these other dogs that have spoken to into these more like 3d complex situations or lower wind, higher humidity, and you’ve just got like big confusing odor plumes. You know, I’ve been really surprised how proficient he was in one scenario, and then how completely different looks elsewhere.

Kayla Fratt  57:08

And it’s been really interesting to me, yeah, I use Barley as my dog and a white. And then still, because we tend to work outside so much I was couple of weeks ago, I was just playing around with having two hides in the same search, one that was in direct sunlight, and one that was in full shade. And often, yeah, just you know, just kind of like trying to beef up my own skills, and understanding like what this does, because no matter how many times I read someone explain what that’s going to do, I need to just see my dogs do it over and over again. And, but it was just funny watching, you know, even just the cloud cover would shift during the course of one of these exercises are between when I took Barley out, and when I took Niffler out, it’s like, Gosh, darn it. Now I don’t even have the same scent picture anymore. Even though I’m searching these dogs, like five minutes apart, we do the best we can. And you know, I think so much of it is just, yeah, what you said like it’s mistakes, mistakes or data, it’s okay. You know, if you’re consistently running into these situations where things are not behaving the way that you expect them to, it’s time to, you know, take a step back and see, you know, maybe where a gap is potentially in the understanding, but it doesn’t have to be something that we beat ourselves up over.

Lily Strassberg  58:20

And also, it’s a handler team, right? So we want our dogs to really have the agency to be able to search the area, but we need to have a search plan in mind and kind of put them in the right places and the right way, right. So we hear this paradigm of like always get downwind, always get down when sometimes that’s not your best option. Sometimes the dog gets lost in that odor cone for like, if it’s really gusty for a long time, and they really exhausted themselves. And so maybe the better choice there is to start upwind of your target so that they’re in this nice negative. And then there’s this huge contrast of change,right?

Kayla Fratt  58:55

 t’s actually how we’re taught to search on the wind farms. Yeah, because your odor cones can be so long, and I had some fun last summer. You know, we’re supposed to start upwind and then kind of grid downwind. And part of that is also because you can have up to, you know, you can have many, many potential targets in the same 100 meter by 100 meter square. So you want to kind of be trying to clear areas as you move down when rather than starting down when and then you’re probably just going to find the largest or freshest fat and you might run past some older, you know, skeletons or partially scavenged bats. Yeah, that’s a lot. So I also had a lot of fun.

Kayla Fratt  59:29

Just you know, last year, I would toggle back and forth between whether I started upwind or downwind on the same on the on a plot and just see how that changed my dog’s detection distance, how it changed their search strategy and their behavior and whether or not we were faster to the first hide on average, or, you know, to stop and like it’s a pretty specific scenario. So it’s not like if anything that is shareable or publishable or anything like that, but it was really, really fun to just, you know, when you’re doing these monotonous or You feel like you’re in like a training round the do like, Okay, well, like, let’s just start taking data then like it feels like you’re doing the same thing every time. But you’re not actually tracking everything.

Lily Strassberg  1:00:12

Oh, absolutely, yeah. And if you have a lot of constants where you can just change little pieces here and there in a really deliberate way, then that’s wonderful information, you know exactly what’s functioning for that change. And you’ll have a lot of clarity about what those variables are doing with your dog. I think that’s really wonderful that you think about and that systematically.

Kayla Fratt  1:00:31

Yeah, and as you know, so well, like different variables are going to be much more important depending on your target odor, you know, as an explosives person, yeah, I can understand that I would probably want to start downwind and work upwind and not you know, be starting up into my target and potentially walk over it before my dog has a chance to smell it. And your you know, your time to alert is probably one of your most important things in I would imagine having not done it. Yeah, versus in conservation, if you’re trying to find every single one. And you might have massively varying, you know, volatility or volume, I guess, in your in your target voters, you might it might make more sense to start up wind. But also it might not in some other situations with the team. And actually, in Kenya, they start downwind as well.

Lily Strassberg  1:01:18

And then the area thresholds to is a big thing that we don’t always consider, we think that once we cue our dogs to search, they’re just going to start searching in a high quality way right away. But again, we can really shoot ourselves in the foot, if we are just continually putting our hides really deep into our search areas, our dog is like, I don’t need to start searching for like 20 seconds, I’m just gonna run around, get my guys out, pretend like I’m certain, you know, it looks like I’m searching.

Lily Strassberg  1:01:42

But really like the nose kind of turns on deeper into the problem, because we’ve conditioned it that way. Right. So even, like on Car, car hides, right vehicle hides, you can line your dog up at the rear bumper going down, like the driver side or passenger side of the vehicle, or there’s an extra from Cameron. And other trainers, I’m sure to start your dog perpendicular 90 degrees to the car, so that they run into a surface and have to pick a direction, and it slows them down. So they’re not just running down that straight line, and little tricks like them. And then also working your dog’s mind whenever you can. So you don’t have that influence of where it’s supposed to be, you can really just read your dog. And that’s, that’s so important.

Lily Strassberg  1:02:29

And I think people just want to be right, they want to get it right, they want to get the wins, right. But really, you can get there you can be a really wonderfully, like robust search team, if you lean into those blind, blind hides when when you’re ready for it. Again, I’ll shut up for Simon here, he has a pretty slick double blind procedure that you can do on your own in a lineup setting where you just cast your dog out into an array. And your dog indicates and you pick one and you’ve labeled the bottoms have your odd so say you have your target material and a bunch of distractors in a lineup in like metallic in stainless shaker cans. And then you’ve marked on the bottom, and you’ve marked them all with the same marker. So they’re all consistently contaminated, which ones to target and then what the distractors are, so your dog is locked into an indication, you say, Okay, thank you dog, you pick up the can, it’s good, or it’s no good. If it’s good, you put it back down, you let the dog settle back into the indication, you mark and reinforce or you reinforce if you’re being direct or indirect.

Lily Strassberg  1:03:33

But so in that way, you just by yourself can be working, double blind and gain so much confidence in your dog. And then you could vary the difficulty there by the 10 of the degrees of saliency of your distractors that you’re putting out in that lineup, or the threshold of odor that you’re using, or X, Y or Z, so many other variables, right that you can hit in those discrimination problems. But still, you’re working blind, and you’re seeing us getting trust in your dog, because you can trust your dog all you want. But I think really you should trust in your training and know your dog.

Kayla Fratt  1:04:06

Yeah, well, that’s probably as good a place as I need to end it there. So Lily, thank you so much for coming on. I feel like we could have talked for another 16 hours. And we might have to just bring you back on for some more discussions. But in the meantime, where can people find you online if they’re interested in staying in touch or learning more about what you are up to? If you have any upcoming courses or anything like that, feel free to plug them as well?

Lily Strassberg  1:04:30

Yeah, wonderful. Thank you. They can find me on my instagram or facebook. That’s my name Lily Strassberg. I’ll be doing a few workshops with Simon Prins down the east coast  in June. I’ll be also up in Canada in July for the women’s working dogs center. Sorry, the woman’s working dog seminar in Dundalk wants to travel internationally for that. That’s a really fun event at Mike Nesbit’s place up in Canada and then we’ll be presenting at the smart dog conference in Phoenix in August.

Kayla Fratt  1:05:06

Wow. Yeah, Those all sound like really great act. Really great ways to spend a lot of time and money learning a ton, so, I hope that some of our listeners might consider checking those things out and for everyone at home. Thank you all so much for listening. I hope this inspired you to get outside and be a canine conservationist in whatever way suits your passions and your skill set. As always, you can find show notes, transcripts, sign up for our course and our learning club on Patreon all over through We’ll be back next week.