We are lucky enough this week to have Louise Wilson, a specialist sniffer dog trainer from Wagtail UK Ltd, out to help with our sniffer dog programme. Having made good progress with Snoopy, I was struggling to get Barclay’s concentration and Louise has stepped in to help.
By assessing both the dogs and my training techniques, she has been able to help enormously already in just a couple of days. Snoopy is working better than before with more enthusiasm for the job and I feel more confident in what I am doing.
Scent-training with Snoopy in an enclosed area:
When Louise takes in dogs for training, she typically assesses them quite quickly, and her expertise allows her to tell quite quickly if a dog will be suitable. A very particular character is required for a sniffer dog. Very often they are dogs that are so hyperactive and obsessive that they do not make good pets, and are often animals that pet owners could no longer cope with. Both Snoopy and Barclay fall into this category, but unfortunately Barclay’s obsession is with the many game birds in the area. He is a hunting dog from hunting lines, and it seems that this may be too strong an instinct in him to allow him to concentrate on the scat sniffing. Dogs mature at different rates, and even at a year old, he is still very immature, so there is a chance he may gain focus with age. We will continue with his assessment for a few more days, and try to build his motivation for the scat sniffing work before making any decisions. If Louise feels that he is not a candidate for the sniffer work, he will simply be found another job to do here on the farm. Our dogs have jobs, but are also much loved members of the family.
The surprise of the week so far has been than Louise has spotted huge potential in one of our other dogs. Minki is an 8 month old Miniature Dachshund who I had never even considered trying due to her tiny size, but she shows all the character traits required for the job. Louise has suggested that I train her up for two reasons. Firstly, it will give me more experience in this specialised form of dog training, and secondly we can use her to double check on Snoopy. Leopard and Cheetah scats can look very similar, so if we train Minki onto leopard scats, we can test every sample Snoopy finds before we send it off for expensive analysis. If he says it is cheetah and she shows no interest, we can be sure that it is. If however, we see a scat that we think is cheetah and he doesnt indicate on it, we can get Minki to check it out. To fully test him, we need to train with samples from cheetahs on mixed diets, and from males and females of ranging dominance, and from females that are in all stages of their reproductive cycle. Obviously this can be hard to get all the samples to cover all bases, so by double checking with Minki, we can make our system more efficient, and pick up a need for more continuation training with Snoopy as early as possible.
Minki, our new superstar team member:
The scat sniffing is a relatively new field, but using a Miniature Dachshund as a sniffer dog I think is a worldwide first!
Minki enjoying a walk: