Detection Training with Reward from Source Device

I recently was asked this question: "Using the Reward from Source device in boxes, I’m on my 3rd or 4th session, and I’m afraid the dog will become conditioned to respond on boxes, should I vary the context in which I use the device, and get away from boxes?"

This question highlights an important issue in dog training. That issue being discrimination in training. In other words, when we teach a dog to respond on drugs, say, in a box using the reward from Source device (RFSD) there is a chance that the dog will associate the reward with the object – the box. However, if our training is set up properly, there is little chance this will happen.

The blank boxes are critical in this training, because it is through use of blank boxes and placing other distractor odors (fresh, uncontaminated plastic baggies, kongs, PVC pipe, etc) in them that the dog learns to ignore the associated objects and their odors, and respond only on the drug odor. We must be careful to realize that during this process the dog may try to respond on these other odors/objects that are associated with drug training, but the trainer must realize this is a natural part of the training progression.

The trainer must be patient, and withold rewards for incorrect responses (negative punishment), in order for the dog to make the leap of understanding that it is only a final response while in the drug odor that will bring his reward. Trainers get too impatient, and then choose to avoid the issue altogether. However, by failing to do this extinction training, you almost guarantee that your dog will respond on toys, boxes or any other odor that might be associated with his detection training.

Have patience and understand how to properly work the dog through these issues, and you will end up with a dog that is TRAINED to ignore distractors.