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All About the Different Types of K9 Training Methods

Published February 18th, 2021 by 3DK9 LLC

Have you ever seen dogs walking around the airport or some public area being used to detect drugs? These are highly trained dogs with many skills. 

Have you ever wondered how they got to be that well trained? Here is our guide to the different types of K9 training methods. 

Advanced Obedience Training 

The first step in training any dog is starting advanced obedience training. Having a dog that listens well and understands basic commands is extremely important. Especially when training a dog to detect drugs or explosives.

Positive reinforcement happens when the dog completes the desired behavior. Behaviors such as sit, down, or heel. The dog immediately gets a reward like a treat, praise, a toy, or something that encourages its behavior. 

3DK9 understands that using operant conditioning or positive reinforcement is proven to be the most beneficial way to train dogs. 

Starting the dog's training with basic commands using operant conditioning helps to incentivized the dog to perform during a simulated scenario.

Relationship Building 

Another important aspect during the beginning of K9 training for a drug or detection dog is relationship training or building. 

This method of training focuses mainly on a more individualized approach to each dog and its handler. 

Relationship building is meant to foster communication and enhance the bond between the dog and the handler. 

New information is given based on previous success. So the dog learns to sit in a quiet area before he tries to sit outside or in a park where there are a lot of distractions. 

If the desired behavior is not performed, the handler needs to understand why and help to fix the problems rather than punishing the dog. 

Building a solid foundation of good training is essential when the dog is being trained for something specialized like narcotics, drugs, contraband, or explosives detection. 

Nose Work 

We know that dogs have an incredible sense of smell. They are able to distinguish between many types of substances. To a dog, everything has a scent! 

Nose work is often used when training k9 detection dogs because nose work helps to build the dog's confidence by mentally and physically stimulating the dog. 

Associating With a Toy 

Nose work is typically started by using the associate with a toy method. The toy should be one that the dog likes to play with frequently and likes.  

Playing with the toy becomes a reward when they behave well and obey basic commands such as sit, stay, and heel.

The first step in the nose training method is starting to hide the toy. Then, it's teaching the detecting dogs to go "find" the toy. The toy is easily found at first and the difficulty level increases and gradually gets more complex as they get more advanced. 

Training a dog to detect any scent, drug-related or otherwise requires samples of the smell. When training drug detection dogs, there is strict licensing and certification by law enforcement agencies to get access to samples of the drugs. 

Now, in this step in the process, go and hide the toy, but this time the toy has the scent of the drug on it. 

Putting the scent on the dog's toy helps them to associate the smell of the drug with their favorite toy and something that they want to find. 

Overtime the toy gets removed and the dog is still commanded to "find it" and the dog will directly locate the drug. The toy is used as a reward once the drug is found. 

The Shape Signal

Drug detection dogs can also learn the shape signal method. 

This method starts by teaching the drug detecting dogs a signal such as "sit" or "bow". Later on, this signal will be how the dog indicates that it found drugs. 

After the dog understands the signal, you start adding the drug scent to it through an open container or something similar. The dog will perform the signal in response to the hand signal as well as the scent. That is when the dog gets rewarded with a treat or playtime. 

Slowly the hand signal gets removed and the dog is provided with the scent. Positive reinforcement with a treat or toy is its reward for performing the signal.

After this, the scent is hidden and the dog is left to go search for it. The dog is again rewarded. 

The last step is to move the scent into a more hidden or difficult-to-find location so the scent is not easily located. 

Bringing It All Together 

3DK9 trains all of the dogs regularly and ensures that they stay at their peak, ready to perform. 

Continually going back and reinforcing the learned skills by doing standard drills as well as putting the dogs in real-life situations. 

The dogs practice in places such as houses, office buildings, and other real locations where they may be detecting drugs. 

Having authentic experiences allows the dogs to experience first-hand multiple scenarios and other distractions. When they get to an active detection scenario the dogs will be less distracted and be more prepared. 

3DK9 Offers K9 Training 

At 3DK9 we have expertly-trained detection dogs, handlers, and trainers on staff. We ensure that our K9 training is of the highest caliber.

Each of our dogs possesses a keen sense of detection and tracking. We offer services for residential, commercial, and government use. No matter who you are we want to provide you peace of mind with dogs who specialize in keeping you safe. 

You can contact us and talk to one of our experts about our dogs and our services. We are here to be your allies who can defend, detect, and deter. 

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