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Adventures in Obedience Training

by Pam Kernan

One day I decided to train Zerrin for obedience. Zerrin did very well and before I knew it she was ready to show in Open and I needed to start teaching her the Utility exercises. One of those exercises is called scent discrimination.

It requires a dog to find a dumbbell with its owner's scent on it which has been placed with four identical dumbbells. The dumbbells are made of metal. I read several different techniques to train dogs to do this and decided to use the "peg board". It involves tying down the dumbbells you don't want the dog to get (you start with only one other dumbbell).

The dog must figure out on its own how to tell which dumbbell to bring back to me. It is of course my job to make that as easy as possible.

Day 1:
I tie down a dumbbell and let her watch me put down the other dumbbell and point to it and say "mine". She looks at me walks over and picks up the correct dumbbell. Pretty easy we repeat a few times.
Day 2:
This time I don't let her see which one is the correct one. She studies the board and picks up the correct one. I try again (moving the dumbbells around) and this time she tries to pick up the one which is tied down. She studies the board and then picks up the correct one. I send her again (I always change the dumbbells position in-between tries), this time she brings back the correct one with confidence, but without sniffing. Hmmm I have to figure out how she knew.
Day 3:
I tie a string around the correct dumbbell but without tying it down. Ha, she was looking for which one had the string. She now looks at me like "So how do I know which one you want!". By the end of day 3 she has started to first nudge the dumbbell before trying to pick them up.
Day 4:
I attach longer strings. She moves them further.
Day 5:
I attach very long strings. Zerrin is puzzled. She studies the board. She moves the dumbbells. She picks up the wrong one, it won't come. She pulls harder. She lays down and starts trying to untie the knot. Laughing I stop her and show her she can pick up the other one.
Day 6:
Zerrin is frustrated. She so wants to make her mommy happy but there doesn't seem to be a way to figure out which one is correct. She tries each dumbbell and now Mommy has started to say "Oops" when she tries the dumbbells out.
Day 7:
Zerrin goes to the pile and this time notices they smell different. She sniffs both and looks at Mommy. Mommy says "Good Zerrin!" Zerrin carefully picks up the dumbbell and brings it to me. I give lots and lots of praise. I hid it again and send her and she quickly sniffs each dumbbell and grabs the correct one wagging her tail. She looks so proud of herself.

After that Zerrin knew the exercise and could play games like "It is this one Mommy, What is it worth to ya?!". It was both fascinating and hysterically funny to watch Zerrin puzzle through what the exercise really was.

Zerrin is... UCDX Destan's Zerrin CD TD TT CGC TDI

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