One of the pitfalls to avoid with training sniffer dogs is that the dog mustn’t be following the handlers scent to the hidden scent article. We may not like the idea of it, but to our canine friends, we smell very strong and it is very easy for them to follow where we have been. I first held Snoopy in the palm of my hand when he was about 24 hours old, and he is very much my dog. For the first year of his life, it was just the two of us, and we formed a very strong bond. We now live in a far more social setting, with my husband, daughter and four other dogs, but our bond remains. He could find my scent anywhere. He has been doing very well with finding the scat samples, and in his first open field trial, he found all the samples as well as the containers that I had brought them in. In order to test that he is looking for the cheetah scats, and not looking for something with my scent on, I set him up with a trial where I placed two identical pots out, one containing a scat sample and one without. I then sent him into the area to search for the scent. In 11 out of 12 replications, he went straight to the pot containing the sample, and with the remaining one, he quickly ignored the empty pot and continued on to find the real sample without any further prompting from me. This is all the confirmation I need to show that he is indeed looking for the right scent.
As our bush is very thick, I wanted Snoopy to work with a bell on his collar to help me keep tabs on him, but for some reason he absolutely hates it, and so as a compromise, he wears an alarmingly red collar which shows up well in the field.
Barclay is a little slower off the marks, due almost in entirety to his age. At about 7 months old, he is still very much a puppy and has a very limited attention span at the moment. I am giving him space to grow up, learn about the bush, and learn some basic obedience. He is passionate about tortoises and finds them often on our walks, so I have no doubt that his nose works. His other big passion is Nightjars, a small nocturnal bird, that has a dog-enticing habit of flying off only a short distance when startled before resettling on the ground. His nose works, and his will to search is there, so I don’t doubt that he will grow up to be a great dog. For the next month or so though, he will be busy just being a puppy.