Did you know you can save more time by training canine scent detection using cocktail?
A “hide” is the package of target odor inside a ventilated container that is hidden in the search are for the dog to find e.g. a cotton swab inside a metal tin. Learn how to make single odor hides with proper odor hygiene at: https://scentdetection.huntersheart.com/sales-page-8c41e69a-499c-455b-8451-b9b5bccbdbc3.
A “cocktailed” hide contains multiple odors. At my classes, I routinely use a cocktail of all 6 target odors required for CKC Scent Detection Competition: Birch + Anise + Clove + Wintergreen + Pine + Cypress. The video shows exactly how to make hides with a cocktail of all 6 CKC scents.
Of course, you can make a cocktail of whatever target odors you want your green dog to learn. For example, illegal narcotics on the street are rarely 100% pure, so training on a mixture by using cocktail more closely resembles real life deployments. Similarly, bed bug hides may contain live bugs, pheromones and eggs, which are separate target odors.
The most compelling reason to use cocktailed hides is that it saves more training time. You teach your dog the entire library of target odors at the same time.
In comparison, if you train one odor first, your dog only learns one target odor. Then you need to start over for odor #2, then start again with odor #3, and so on. This leads to a long time to train the dog to recognize all the scents your want.
It comes down to choosing whether you spend more time initially to make cocktailed hides and finish training odor recognition in 7 Days (like me), or don't spend time preparing cocktail so training takes several times longer.
I've trained hundreds of detection dogs so far, and none have had problems with cocktailed hides.
Think of cocktail like stew. You and I easily recognize the individual components: peas, carrots, tomato broth, beef. Dogs easily recognize the individual components in cocktailed hides.
In practice, it's always cocktail for the dog. Even if you're working in a laboratory setting, it's hard to keep any object 100% free of contamination. The tin you handle with gloves smells like the factory where the tin was created, the contaminants during the process of making cotton swabs, chemicals on your gloves, chemicals that are stored nearby and move through the air, bacterial contamination, and so on.
Life is messy. In deployments, I expect my dog to detect a cocktail of odors, and train accordingly.
How to Make Cocktailed Hides
Cocktail is actually a misnomer. You do NOT want to mix the scents together into a surprise soup. This may interact in a chemical reaction and produce unpredictable, unreliable results, which you should not be finding in nosework competitions.
Here are the 2 most common methods for properly making cocktailed hides for canine scent detection competitions.
One way to make a cocktailed hide is to place
If you're making hundreds or thousands of hides (like a club or instructor needs over a few months of daily training), there's a more efficient way to deal with volume. It uses small pieces of unscented lab paper cut into the size of matchsticks, so you can dispense a tiny amount of each scent onto it using a pipette.
When stored appropriately, these should last for months of daily training. The main concern is not odor disappearing, but that your hides can pick up other contaminating odors from the environment.
To make cocktailed paper strips with all 6 CKC odors, here's what you need:
In general, making hides with proper odor hygiene takes more time than you want or expect. Cocktail is no exception. But there's no getting around the fact that if you want to train your sniffer dog to find a target odor, somebody needs to acquire target odor and prepare hides so you know where odor is and where it isn't.
Questions or comments? Please share your experiences below.
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