In a recent webinar hosted by the AKC Detection Dog Task Force, expert panelists discussed the desired attributes for puppies at 6-9 months to further their career in the ever-growing detection world. The panelists agreed that a major factor for the 6–9 month puppy and the handler is the transition from “play” to “learning a job”. Emphasis at this stage is placed on the development of possession, search, and reward object engagement.
The panel experts included:
• Bart Rogers, Chief Canine Instructor, Auburn University Canine Performance Sciences
• Tim Baird, Director of Operations Alabama, MK9 Solutions
• Manda Vanhorne, Chief Trainer at K2 Solutions
• Stacey West, Program Manager, AKC’s Patriotic Puppy Program
Possession includes mental and physical aspects. Panelists noted that it’s important for a puppy to have the mental drive (mental possession) to keep searching for their toy. Different dogs and different breeds may prefer different types of toys. “Toy selection is key, let them pick the toy they want”, said Manda Vanhorne. “Start teaching a search pattern, then start grading them on their performance.”
“As a trainer you should know what the puppy’s next step should be”, said Tim Baird. Exercises that started off extremely short and basic when the puppy was young become longer and more complex as the dog matures and consistently demonstrates success. Reward Object Engagement ties in directly to other concepts; this activity develops the dog's desire to obtain, play with, and retain a variety of reward objects.
Become a “training generalist”, added Stacey West. “Different agencies are looking for different qualities in potential candidates.” Unless you know exactly how your puppy will be employed in the future, generalized training without imprinting keeps your options open. If you know exactly what work your pup will be doing in the future – something that some specialized trainers do know—you can imprint on odor sooner in the process.
Above all, consistent effort in training schedules is important. Do something with your pup every day. And don’t forget to add in some fun; swims, runs or hikes!
To learn more, view a recording: https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/4719370408589016335
The next Detection Dog Task Force webinar is “AKC Canine College: The Confident Puppy eLearning Course” - Feb. 24th at 7:30pm ET. This exciting new online course comprises 7 sessions/modules and was developed in conjunction with AKC Education staff, leveraging lessons and expertise developed by the DDTF and Patriotic Puppy Program for all dog owners to learn how to develop confident puppies capable of a future as a working dog.