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Odour generalisation – theory and practice – Presented by A. Schoon, PhD

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Odour generalisation – theory and practice

When training detection dogs, trainers usually only have a limited number of training aids available. At best, the training aids meet specific pre-set standards and are refreshed regularly, but many trainers, particularly private ones and those from smaller organizations, have to make do with less. And even if the training aids meet these criteria, are they sufficient to fully train detection dogs? A number of recent papers have concluded that this is not the case. Trainers have taken for granted that dogs generalize easily and spontaneously, using the ‘pizza’ analogy. They assume that once trained, dogs will be able to detect all items that smell ‘similarly’ to what they have been trained on. But tested in a proper manner, very few of these assumptions hold up. Happily there have also been studies to show that with proper training, dogs become better. Although dogs do not often generalize to other odours spontaneously, they can be taught to develop a wider odour concept to respond to. And different studies have shown different methods and ‘tricks’ to achieve this. Integrating these methods and specific checks into a training plan makes it possible to monitor the development of this process during training. And it is easy to do, once you think it through and perform systematic monitoring. This paper will describe key elements in such a plan that can be tailored to fit specific missions.

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