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Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples

Posted by scott.smith 
Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
August 05, 2011 11:19AM
Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples is a topic that comes up quite often. We wanted to provide our method as a reference. I think there are several trainers here that use a very similar method. This isn't the only method that works but, it does work.

Items Needed:
2" X 2" Gauze Pads, Zip Lock Baggies, Hemostats, Test Strip Tubes, 2" X 3" Zip Lock Baggies (optional), 3" X 4" cotton bags (optional)

The first thing we need to do is decide where we want the dog to alert - what number on the meter. Once you decide what that number is, you'll need to catch yourself 5 points lower. So, if you would like the dog to alert you at 80, you would need to catch yourself at 75 and then make samples.

To make a sample open a 2X2 Gauze Pad, put it in your mouth and completely saturate the gauze pad with saliva. Once it is completely saturated with saliva you can remove it from your mouth with the hemostats and either put it in a 2X3 ziplock baggie or just into a regular ziplock baggie. I usually make 4 samples at a time. Note: These are going to be frozen which is why I like to use the 2X3 ziplock baggies to separate the samples so they don't freeze together.

Once you have your samples made, make sure they are double bagged and labeled with Date Made, Name, BG# and put them in the freezer. I discard samples that have been frozen for longer than 3 weeks.

When you are ready to use a sample, remove 1 sample from the freezer, double bag it and let it thaw. Once thawed, use the hemostats to transfer the sample to a test strip tube or a 3X4 cotton bag.

Once I have taken a sample from the freezer, it does not go back into the freezer. I don't even put it into the fridge, I just keep it double bagged at room temperature. The sample is discarded at the end of the 3rd day.

If you are using cotton bags to hold the scent sample, I discard the cotton bag after 6 days. I do this because I have seen Mold develop after using the same bag for a couple of weeks. - Scott

[www.aservicedogtrainer.com]
Ava - My High Drive Border Collie Puppy
Out of Working Lines with The Herding Gene
What could I have been thinking? ..... Help!
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
August 18, 2011 05:42PM
Most pill bottles are not air-tight, so you would risk contaminating the scent, if there are other foods in your freezer, I think-

Rachel, mom of Abi and biggest fan of Mr Darcy!!
DAD trainer
Owner, www.diabeticalertdog.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
August 18, 2011 06:43PM
We don't use pill bottles. Most are not air tight as Rachel mentioned and I wonder just how much of the scent from the original contents permeates the plastic.

[www.aservicedogtrainer.com]
Ava - My High Drive Border Collie Puppy
Out of Working Lines with The Herding Gene
What could I have been thinking? ..... Help!
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
August 18, 2011 07:38PM
test strip bottles work better.
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
March 15, 2012 05:39AM
I do have to pose a question to other trainers:

With 250 million scent receptors, isnt this notion of "contamination" of scent samples kinda silly? The soap you use to clean the dishes to boil the hemostats in are a contamination, the toothpaste you used that morning to brush your teeth are a contamination, the breakfast you had the hour before your low is a contamination, the gloves you use to collect the samples have powders on them... CONTAMINATED. There is no such thing as a non contaminated sample. Dogs can find whale scat in the OCEAN for goodness sakes.

I know, Im the pain in everyones arse right now with my training theories but if I dont bring this up, no one else will. Please talk, Im interested in hearing opinions from other trainers about this on this idea of "contamination" of scent samples.

Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, CCS, BGS
Director of Training and Behavior

Service Dog Academy - www.servicedogacademy.com
Diabetic Alert Dog University - www.diabeticalertdoguniversity.com

We train Diabetic Alert Dogs. See our recent interview on New Day Northwest!
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Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
March 15, 2012 09:38AM
Mary - The idea is to try to be aware and limit contamination to the degree that we can. We especially want to limit the same contamination of all scent samples. The reason we do this is because they have 250 million receptors.

Imagine a DAD that only alerts when your low and wearing Chanel No 5.
The narcotics detection dog who only alerts to drugs hidden in rubber.
A shed dog that only retreives sheds with the handlers scent on them.

We may call these problems with the training plan. It became a problem because the trainer was not addressing contamination.

[www.aservicedogtrainer.com]
Ava - My High Drive Border Collie Puppy
Out of Working Lines with The Herding Gene
What could I have been thinking? ..... Help!
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
March 15, 2012 01:34PM
Scott, dont you feel like over time the dog will figure out what is the same in all the samples? I have so many students who literally fear "contamination" of samples due to what they have heard on the internet.

The reason why we dont have dogs that only alert when the scent is pared with rubber or perfume is that we have students collect multiple samples and over time those samples should have a similarity to them that the dog should be able to pick up. In my opinion I feel like we are not giving our dogs and their amazing noses enough credit. I could use your same logic and apply it to dogs only alert because of the smell of the cotton or around containers that the scent source is carried in (something I seriously ponder at times).

For some unknown reason I have that sesame street song in my head "which of these things is not like the other, which of these things is not the same?". LOL.

Maureen, Rachel, any opinions/observations? I so love that we have a place to discuss this stuff and bounce ideas off each other. I think having these hard conversations about techniques/ideas make us all better trainers.
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
March 15, 2012 01:51PM
Sure... I agree over time most dogs do figure it out. I think the examples I gave are the exception not the rule. I'm just real picky about it. Picky about sight cues too. I got a call the other day from a lady whose dog alerts to the sight of test strip tubes! Time to change that one up!

I agree... This place is great!

[www.aservicedogtrainer.com]
Ava - My High Drive Border Collie Puppy
Out of Working Lines with The Herding Gene
What could I have been thinking? ..... Help!
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
March 16, 2012 09:32AM
I think when teaching any new behavior dogs need to be set up for success and generalize gradually, so with my training I try to avoid scent contamination as well as be aware of any accidental cues I may be giving the dogs. I think part of the generalization is that they will be exposed to a variety of scents intermingled with the samples. Scent does work as a distraction, and a cue, and I don't want accidental association with the samples, so I want clean samples in the beginning of the training process just as I would want to be aware of any accidental visual or verbal cues I may be giving.

Maureen Brown
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Mother of Eli and DAD Wildrose Maple

The Positive Pooch LLC "Where Learning Clicks!"
www.thepositivepoochvt.com
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
April 15, 2012 10:35AM
Hi, Scott ...

Thanks for this very helpful info on scent samples! I spoke with you earlier this year, in an earlier stage of our (my husband's and my) planning for a DAD (for me). In the time since our conversation, Paul and I have located a labradoodle breeder/trainer close to our neck of the woods and are hoping to use your scent training videos (I'll email you separately to inquire about ordering those). Our puppy will be born sometime within the next couple of months and will spend its first several months living with the trainer (we'll visit regularly), working on basic obedience, public access, and early scent training.

Which brings me to my questions...! (If any/all of this is covered in your videos, feel free to refer me there!)

•Assuming the breeder is up for doing scent imprinting, can you suggest what item(s) we should provide for the imprinting and how those items might be used by the breeder?

•In one of your YouTube videos, you mention that, in the case of a dog who is already responding to live scent, the use of scent samples should be abandoned/skipped over, as they might confuse the dog. If, during one of our visits with our puppy, my blood sugar happens to go low, should I encourage the pup to notice, given that he/she probably wouldn't encounter live scent again for at least a couple of weeks? And if the dog seems to respond on his/her own, should we have the trainer continue to use scent samples?

•You mention above that you chuck out samples that have been in the freezer for 3 weeks. Is that the absolute limit of their useability ... and is it crucial that the samples be frozen immediately? I'm just thinking of the logistics of getting samples to the breeder/trainer (she's in Seattle, and we're in Vancouver, BC). I guess I could "plan" to go low while we're visiting and make the samples on the spot. smiling smiley

Thanks very much!

Heather
T1D since '87
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
April 15, 2012 11:08AM
Heather,

Please give me a call at 757-615-4820 and I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have. I'm having some computer issues at the moment.

thanks, scott

[www.aservicedogtrainer.com]
Ava - My High Drive Border Collie Puppy
Out of Working Lines with The Herding Gene
What could I have been thinking? ..... Help!
Re: Collecting, Storing and Handling Scent Samples
March 23, 2016 11:32PM
I am really interested in reading how everyone collects samples, fascinating to read! I find that I do it a different way when training my DAD's.

I use a 2" by 2" gauze pad and stick it in my waistband if my number is below 70. I wait 5 minutes then test again, if my number is still below 70, I pull it out of my waistband and store in a container in the fridge up to 6 months. I have been told by others in the industry that the sample can be good for up to 6 months, however, the potency of the scent drops off significantly after two weeks, so if I have a newer sample, I will prefer to use that over the others.

I am concerned to a certain point about making sure the scent isn't bombarded with 5 million others when first presenting and teaching the dog to detect that particular smell. However, I find myself handling the samples with my bare hands, and it doesn't seem to phase the dogs, and they still pick up the alerts relatively quickly. The dogs do have to detect the live scent amongst SO many others when placed, so I find I'd rather teach them to detect it with all the other scents present instead of having to make extra work/steps for myself to slowly introduce more and more scents in addition to the diabetic one later on.

I'm curious, does anyone else collect/handle this way?
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