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Greetings everyone! I'm Kimberlee Johnson and I'm new to the community. I am a SAR member of a K-9 organization in AL. Been working search dogs for only 3 years so I'm by no means an expert! I'd love to have some of your advice for an issue re scent specific training. My dog, Lucy, is a 8 yr old Golden Lab and we have been working regular air scent searches until about 3 months ago. We have certified NASAR Sartec II and AWDA for regular air scent. About 3 mos ago, a friend of mine who works trailing told me I should try Lucy on a scent specific exercise. I did, and discovered that she became much more excited & motivated by having a scent article and working scent specific problems! So, for the past 3 mos, we have been training scent specific. We began with scent identification exercises and graduated to short searches w 2 subjects hidden, then longer searches w 2 subjects hidden. Up until about a month ago, she was doing great, going to the correct subject and alerting, while ignoring the incorrect subject. Lately, we have had trouble locating the proper subject and she has even alerted on the incorrect subject in the last 2 exercises we've done. (We train 3 times/week.) Our AWADA re-certification is coming up in 6 days, and I had thought to certify scent specific, but decided to just re-cert regular air scent since obviously we need more work on the scent specific. So I tried a regular air scent problem w her yesterday, and it was a disaster. She seemed to wander around, not sure what to do and I ended up almost having to lead her to the subject. I know I'm really making mistakes with her, but, at this point, I'm not sure what to do. We don't have an expert on air scent specific training on our team. I'd appreciate any and all advice!
 

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Hello,
You may have increased the difficulties on your tracks too quickly. I would probably take a step back and do some searches with a scent article. Rather than having two subjects at the end, just have the track layer at the end. Have your dog work past other people and ignore them on your searches. This would be a good way to insure that your dog is searching for the correct person. Try having your dog work though groups of people while high in drive and on the correct trail / track. We train hard surface scent discriminating tracking / trailing. We typically work in shopping malls, walmarts, etc. This causes the dog to ignore everyone except the target person.

I would also make sure that you are not influencing the dog, even subtly with your leash handling. Try not to overthink your searches. Just hold the leash, trust your dog and follow it.
 

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Erilichia (tick born) can cause scenting ability to go to crap. I'm in MS & its extremely wide spread in our area & in TN where I train- Rocky Mountain Spotted fever is also common. The office snap test gives lots of false negatives so if you test have them send out to a lab & just pull a full tick panel. I catch a lot of client dogs positive for tick diseases due to behavioral issues.
Candace
 

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Something to also consider is scent transfer. Like using husband/wife couples or people who have traveled together. I suspect that you were having both people walk out together and then split. Suggest you follow Jim's advice with just one target subject out and a non-target person, who is not hidden, but just wandering out heading back past the working team. Do not use someone who could have scent transfer on them. Unfortunately, you are in problem solving mode now. You need a step back and objectively look at what happened a month ago. Something happened. I've had a dog that loved the work until there was pressure to perform. It could be you have sucked the fun out of it for the dog by the heavy scent specific training. You need to step back and re-organize. Most airscenters, when they know where the person is, work the dog against the wind so they don't get the quick find. In this case I would roll back to simple problems with one subject upwind and work the dog to them. Make it a super simple effort. I would reestablish the foundation. Do you use the same search starting command for general vs scent specific?
 

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I was pondering the last day to think if you should have a different starting command but I don't think it should matter. I know many people who use the same command but the dog only turns scent specific when they are presented with a scent article. No scent article and the dog stays general airscent. Go back through your records and objectively analyze them. You may notice some tell-tales along the way. Personally, I would go back to general airscent. It may be that you have unintentionally created some conflict between general airscent and scent specific work. Go back to general and see if you can re-establish your base again. Begin small (like you did when she was a puppy) Once you are back with that then consider how you should proceed.
 
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