A fringe alert occurs when the dog indicates close to the target odor, in the odor plume, but not at source. For example, the dog indicates by lying down on the driver side of a vehicle when the hide is actually on the front bumper and wind is blowing scent to the dog’s location. This is a very common error that may occur when the dog has a training deficiency and responds on lower thresholds of odor and does not work odor truly to source. Depending on the test or competition host organization, fringe alerts should be faulted or failed, and measurements/guidelines on what is close enough may be included in the rules.
It’s important to be clear and consistent throughout training so being in the scent cone isn’t rewarded, but rather, rewards only happen exactly AT source (or approx. within 2-6 inches). Don’t reward the dog for being “close”, or that behaviour will happen more often. Be careful to mark and reward the dog for being at source, and to place the rewards at source. Don’t deliver rewards away from source, because you’re losing an opportunity to build value for source.
Don’t forget that blind searches train the handler and known searches train the dog. When you know where source is, you can avoid rewarding fringe alerts, and give timely consistent rewards at source. By providing clear, precise rewards over many searches, the dog’s sourcing should improve. The more unclear you are, the more confusing it will be, and learning will take significantly longer.