Indicating a “Find” means that the search dog tells the handler that the dog has found what they were asked to look for.
Image this, a building has collapsed and your dog is searching for people who might be inside. Your dog smells a person who is unconscious (quite and no movement for you to notice) under the rubble so how does your dog tell you this when you can not see what is under the rubble? Also the dog smells everything so how do you tell when they find one smell in all this rubble?
First this is why the dogs are taught the human scent in training or they would find every hot dog or favorite toy in the rubble.
Now that you have taught your dog how to find the human scent using lessons here we have to teach your dog to show you when they find that scent in a number of different situations. We have to show your dog how to communicate or indicate to us when they make that “find” we asked for.
A detection dog handler must keep in mind that other odors and obstacles can come in the way of the scent they are seeking so they must expose the dog to different scenarios in training in order for the dog to learn how to work these obstacles or puzzles.
You make puzzles by using different locations to train at which creates different situations that the dog encounters but at each location you will notice your dog indicating to you in the same way.
Look for this Indication in training.
Dogs naturally indicate or communicate a number of different ways and by watching your dog in training when they make a find you will see how they behave. Some dogs wag the tail wholehearted and get all excited about finding the person while others sit or lay down with the person for a hug. Many dogs will come back to get their owner or handler because they want the owner to hurry up and catch up, to see what they did.
we are so excited to see you!
Some dogs bark and search dogs are often taught how to bark for an indication that the job is done and so the handler can find them. In wilderness situations a bark can come in handy for locating your dog and the person they find but this bark indicator can also scare the person who is found.
Some people are easily frightened by a dog that comes running up out of nowhere barking at them. In an emergency situation this person could become over traumatized by the dog looking threatening.
For this reason, a bark indication should only be used in some situations like the collapsed building incident mentioned or when a person is unconscious but even then they can wake up in a mental state that affects how they react to the barking dog.
A Bloodhound I once knew, owned and re-certified, "Homer",looked for an Alzheimer patient once who kept running away from him and the search parties. This patient would run from them, and hide in different areas of the woods because she thought she was in WW2 again. She kept them hopping for about 6 hours until they finally found her safe and sound. She honestly thought she was back in the war and the police were soldiers with Bloodhounds hunting her down not trying to rescue her. This taught us all a very important lesson.
This lesson is taught while you work with your dog on trailing, tracking or air scenting by incorporating this lesson into the end of the scenting lesson you are working. If you are training a multi purpose scenting dog who smells for different things like live person or somebody who has been in the water for awhile then you can use different means of indicating for each purpose. (more about water searching coming later)
By watching your dog’s reaction when they make a find in training you can find out which behavior will work for your dog to indicate to you and then encourage that behavior more by praising and attaching a name to the behavior.
For instance, let’s say your dog is one who runs back to you when they find a person in training. You can take advantage of this action by praising your dog’s return to you with “Good dog, you found Johnny” then ask the dog to “Show You” and run with the dog to the person. Not only are you encouraging your dog to come get you but also to find that person named Johnny.
If you ask your dog to “Show You” each time they come back and they will always come back for you then they learn to associate the word with the action of getting you and returning to the person.
With regular use of a name the dog learns to associate that name with that person. Consequently not only are you teaching your dog how to indicate a find but also a person’s name and how to return to you which can be added onto later with other skills.
I like to use “Sit” as my indicator because a sit means the job is finished and this is a quite way or well mannered way for the dog to show a frightened person that everything is ok. If the person is under rubble the dog will sit at the spot of the scent, if the person is behind a bush or log the dog will sit at the place. I am usually very close behind my dogs whether on leash or off so I will see them sit or come onto them sitting soon enough. Otherwise, my dogs return to get me.
Sue indicating the Find
Some search dogs are taught to leave an item or bandanna with the found person and return to the handler which shows the handler the person is found.
Other search dogs carry supplies the person can access with a radio which I think is a good idea. A prepaid cell phone in your dog’s pack would come in handy for giving you a call when they were found...modern techno doggie to the rescue.
Other search dogs wear radio collars or GPS tracking devices so the handler can locate them.
Scratching is another common indicator that police and search dogs use to show their handler the find is inside someplace or there it is. This can be taught by having the person hide under cardboard or bedsheets with food treats which encourage the dog to dig them and the treats up.
As soon as the dog starts to dig at the sheet or cardboard then praise the dog for digging or scratching. Have the person give them a treat. Do again. After a few lessons, do not give the dog a treat except every now and then so the dog learns to indicate the person and not the treat. Eventually do not use a treat at all except after the session or when not in training.
As you can see this lesson is not as uniformed as other lessons in dog training because this lesson is about communicating with your dog in that they have to show you something.
Every dog is different and some dogs will not bark no matter what while others tend to bark too much. Just like people our dogs are individuals who will communicate in their own ways and it is up to us humans to learn what the dog is saying.
This is why the easiest way to teach a dog to show you or indicate is for you to watch the dog and learn how they naturally react then use this reaction to your advantage by encouraging the action more with praise.