When Life Gives You Lemons (aka field of goose poop)

My wise granny always says, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In this case, when life gives you a training field covered in goose poop, time to make some great distraction training.

The weather has been nice so our "guests” (approximately 15 or so geese) took off for the day leaving my North field open for some training.


Challenge K9 Oma to stay on task despite the ground being littered with accessible tasty snacks.

Set up

3 identical suet cages, 2 blank and 1 with target odor, spread out in a field where the geese have been hanging out (and pooping!).


While the goose poop didn’t prove to be much of a distraction, when she first catches odor and turns to work the scent cone (0:10), she lets her eyes override her nose and investigates the two more obvious blank suet cages before locating the one with target odor. Not the training issue we planned for, but all information is good information. We now have our objective for the next couple training sessions.

Training Plan

We will be placing multiple blank props such as suet cages, wooden boxes, and cinder blocks within her search area while place target odor in more obscure location. This will reinforce that her nose, not her eyes, are her most trusty tool. We will begin by putting the blank props further from the location of the target odor so the correct decision is very clear. Then, on each subsequent run, we will increase the difficulty by bringing the props closer and closer to the location of target odor, including directly downwind in her path to get to the location of target odor.

This progression is our way of asking her…

     “Are you more successful in finding your target odor and getting your reward by trusting your eyes or your nose?”

Make it a little harder by moving the blank props a closer to target odor.

     "How about now?”

A little closer.

     “And now?”

We repeat this until she is consistently ignoring the visual draw of the props or other novel items in her area and using only her nose to locate target odor.


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Kathleen KelseyKathleen Kelsey, Co-Founder CFTE Online, has been training search and rescue dogs since 2003 and is a Canine Search Specialist for FEMA Missouri Task Force One and McLean County Illinois EMA. She works both live find and human remains detection dogs and provides K9 assets for local law enforcement and deploys around the country in response to natural and manmade disasters. Kathleen also serves an instructor and evaluator for multiple national search dog organizations and provides training instruction and certification for K9 teams to help ensure superior canine resources are available to communities in their time of need. Kathleen is the owner of Working Dog Enterprises which specializes in advancing the detection dog through research and education. She is also the founder of Calvary Canine, a non-profit that provides training support to search and rescue dogs. Kathleen is committed to the education of K9 handlers and joined the Center for Forensic Training and Education as their Online Program Manager to ensure quality training is accessible to handlers of every skill level and affiliation.