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Scouts training is really coming on now. He is at stage one, where he begins the sequence of finding a body and then returning to tell me about it before taking me to the site.

It involves lots of repetition of different find sequences with no real limit on time that the whole training has to be completed by.

Unsurprisingly it is not a straight line progression with many steps forward and back. It’s me the handler that causes the steps back, through misreading Scouts actions and not being consistent in approach. One recent example has been a new trick Scout has learned when he is not sure if a body is out there waiting for him with his toy. He will do a little dance around my feet and bark continuously not moving off to search.  This is intermittent behaviour that has been hard to deal with.

After one particularly bad training session I was driving home despondent and upset thinking about why he exhibits this behaviour. It dawned on me that this is the same actions he portrays when I take him for a walk and have a game of ball throwing. Where we go there is a short length of path where we cannot throw the ball so he has to wait, getting more and more excited, dancing at my feet and barking. The same behaviour he expresses occasionally in training.

From that day we have not played ball on a walk and he has no more toys in the house, just a tug to naw on. So his only toy play is in training, which I hoped would increase his focus on body finding. The next session we also tried doing a find sequence run, then putting him back in the car, so that his only interaction with the ball toy was in training and with the body. He displayed no issues at all, no dancing, no barking, just great find behaviour, even quartering the area to catch the scent of the body.

Lesson learned. The handler needs to think about play and interaction outside of training times to prevent unwanted behaviour from becoming ingrained and affecting the find sequence.