"To Proof or Not To Proof."

Ken Licklider.

Licklider Ken 700x980


  Our world is changing. Change can be good if it's done for the right reasons. The biggest change lately in our world is the legalization of marijuana. I think it was inevitable, not surprising at all. The way it's being done has caused problems for dog handlers and trainers separating the states that have legalized it from those who haven't. Here at VLK we early on decided to stop imprinting marijuana, simply adding it to clients dogs that want it after they picked their dog.


Adding an odor is relatively easy so that we don't have any confusion on what the dog is trained on. Recently I've ran into a question that confused me at first but I feel needs to be addressed nationwide. I was speaking at a HITS seminar in Chicago the first time this question was asked. At first I thought Danny Parker was setting me up with this question but I quickly realized that the handler/trainer asking the question was serious. I had over 250 students in the room when a very serious man asked me how often he should proof his dog off of marijuana? I was confused at first, thinking Danny was setting me up as a joke. As I pondered this several others in the room agreed with the question wanting to know what I thought.


I paused and then asked the handler/trainer if his dog was trained on marijuana. In today's detection world many are not! He said no! I thought for a moment and asked him why if his dog was not trained on it that he felt he needed to proof him off of it. His answer was that he had too. Again, I was confused, I asked him if he wasn't trained on a substance why did he feel he needed to proof his dog off of it. I stated if we follow that logic then we would have to proof dogs off of everything the dog encounters. Which is everything, toothpaste, cologne, crayons the list would be endless.


If a dog has not been imprinted on an odor then that odor means nothing to it. The dog has no expectation of a reward so he has no incentive to respond to it. I asked how often were they putting marijuana out to proof him off and they all said every time they trained. I was astounded. In essence they were training the dog on marijuana. Their efforts to proof the dog off were in actuality associating marijuana with training and stood the chance of familiarizing the dog with one odor that they could misconstrue as an odor he should or could respond on the same as the other odors found that session.

If a dog has not had an odor paired with a reward he does not care. Putting an odor out every now and then would be ok just to see his reaction but be careful doing it too often paired with other trained odors, inevitably he will pair it and possibly begin to respond to it!.