FAQs

F.A.Q.s

Looking for answers?

Here are mine to some frequently asked questions.

In short, yes. I have not found any breed or breed-mix that cannot enjoy scentwork. I have successfully worked with all shapes and sizes from Chihuahuas to St. Bernards, French Bulldogs to Greyhounds.

Yes! It is very important to ascertain what your dog would like to search for. Asking dogs to search for an article that they do not find rewarding is a sure fire way to turn them off scentwork. For dogs who do not like to play, we can teach them to search for a specific food, generally cheese, which they can then eat when they find it. When watching dogs searching you cannot tell if they are looking for an edible find or a toy find until they locate it, the search skill is identical.

Yes, providing you have taught your dog to give an active indication to one specific scent as described in our manual/ Scent 1 DVD/at the Scent 1 workshop/at the Teach your dog to sniff online course.

Scent 2 and/or the Scentwork Skills online course are where you learn the foundations of great handling skills so these are an essential workshop and/or course to attend before S3.

Of course! But as with many other dog training activities, each provider will have their own method of teaching and may well have different goals and techniques that do not gel with the Talking Dogs Scentwork® system. We want to make learning clear for dogs and handlers. Swapping/mingling systems can cause confusion.

If in doubt, please speak to our trainers or attend as a spectator before coming along to work your dog.

Each workshop is priced up by the host according to the costs of hall hire, etc. in their area.

Here’s the short answer. Since the foundation of TDS in 2011, the teaching systems we use have been honed and improved to give the very best learning experience for dogs and handlers. The system was devised by me, Pam Mackinnon. I was a qualified operational drug detector dog handler with HM Customs & Excise, trained by the Royal Air Force Police. Following my time with HM C&E, I have spent the majority of my career working with pet dogs and their owners, running classes and taking behavioural referrals. I believe that the combination of operational experience and working with all breeds of pet dogs makes our system practical and insightful, combining operational knowledge with teaching non-professional ‘handlers’ and dogs not specifically selected for this work. Plus I do not introduce any competitive element to scentwork. I believe that all dogs should be valued according to their own achievements rather than by measuring them against others. I am proud to specialise in teaching pet dogs and their people and always keep dogs at the centre of all I and TDS does.

Yes. Each trainer has her own style, but all will deliver the same content enabling you to move through the workshops with different trainers depending on which dates and venues suit your schedule.

Yes! Scentwork is an excellent activity for dogs who are cautious/worried/fearful/unfriendly with other dogs and/or people. We work hard to provide a learning environment that is safe and comfortable for each dog. When booking, please let the host know if your dog requires special consideration when attending workshops. My Elite Trainer can then take extra care such as clearing the room of other dogs or using a long line.

We sometimes restrict the number of dogs attending who need special consideration in order to ensure everyone gets the time they need to work. And on rare occasions we cannot accept these dogs due to the venue we are using. Your host can advise you of any restrictions when you book.

The main difference is that dogs who have been taught a passive indication are not allowed to make contact with the scented article and have to perform a pre-trained set behaviour in response to finding the specific scent, e.g. sit. Those who have been allowed to give an active indication gain immediate rewards, playing with the scented article or, in the case of cheese, eating it. These rewards are not dependent on an external source, e.g. the handler tossing a ball at the correct time in the correct place. Learning scentwork through active indications gives the handler time to catch up with the dog (dogs learn scentwork much faster than people) without fear of disturbing or hindering her as she learns.

We teach active indications as these suit all personalities and skill sets. The dog is less reliant on the skills of the handler, which can make or break a dog, especially in the early stages of learning scentwork. We do not teach passive indications at workshops as this is a very different skill, one that cannot be reliably taught in one workshop. Plus they require some pre-taught behaviours. Our training is suitable for all dogs and handlers, including those with zero prior training or knowledge. 

We recommend using scents that do not pose any risk to the dogs searching for them. Dried catnip is our preferred scent as it is non-toxic, is natural and has no known adverse effects on dogs. It does not have the same effect on dogs as on cats. In fact it has no effect. It is a scent that most dogs do not encounter every day so as a novel scent it remains an exciting and rewarding scent for dogs to locate.

We do not advocate the use of toxic substances including petroleum based gun oil, nicotine and many essential oils. Also some herbs, such as rosemary, can have adverse effects on dogs with epilepsy.

Our dogs search for fun therefore there is never a reason to expose them to any harmful substances.

Absolutely not. We teach in a non-compulsive, animal-centred way. The physical, emotional and mental welfare of the dog is paramount at all times. We provide the opportunity for the dog to learn a new skill and take part in a new activity. If she doesn’t want to play we will never force or punish her.

Yes you can. But we don’t. We use clicker training for helping dogs learn many skills, but find that it is surplus to requirements when teaching an active indication. The dog finds the article and immediately accesses and plays with it. There’s no need to interrupt the dog with the clicker in order for her to get her reward.

Clickers are most often used for teaching passive indications. However, this can interrupt the freeze, which is much desired by professionals.

Yes, I’d love to have you on board. But you do need to work your way through all six of our workshops or the equivalent online courses so that you fully understand how we work and ensure that all our workshops slot into each other. This will also help you gain experience in working with pet dogs and their owners, a skill set very different from that of a professional, operational handler.

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