Family-Disaster-Dog-Lessons

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Area Search Basics : Lesson 24


Air Scenting
Area Search and Detection Dogs


Area search, air scenting and detection dogs all have the same job. The dog smells the air for any trace of the scent they are seeking instead of following the scent foot steps or trail like a tracking or trailing dog.

When a dog is doing an area search for human scent and they are not given a scent article or individual scent to follow they will find every and any human scent in the area.

Air scenting detection dogs work by elimination of the discovery of scent in that area. Most air scenting dogs are trained to find one scent and a few are crossed trained in two or more scents.

Air scenting dogs who find people are detecting any live human scent in the area and not any one individual scent while a cadaver dog finds a person’s body after the person has passed away.

Drug dogs, bomb dogs and bug detection dogs are dogs that are trained to find that specific scent or odor. All these dogs are air scenting or scanning the area with their nose to find the scent they specialize in.

Avalanche dogs are trained to work in snow and harsh conditions. A good avalanche dog is cross trained to find both live and expired human scent. The training is basically the same, only the scent and location changes.

Airport dogs are trained to deal with the noise and activity in an airport while seeking the scent they specialize in while a rural tracking dog trains in a country setting and an urban dog trains in the city.

The family dog does not need to find bombs or drugs and in the event of a disaster, your dog will most likely be working at your house. Therefore, family disaster dog training will be done using live person scent and most lessons can be done at your house or location.

If you wish to cross train your dog to find live and cadaver scent, each on a separate command then you will follow the area search lesson to train both. First train for one scent and after that specialty is mastered, train for the next scent.

Do not train for 2 scents at once or your dog will become confused.


I highly recommend reading the pervious lessons for the best understanding of search dog fundamentals and to learn how to read your dog before you attempt to train a dog as a detection dog or area search dog.

Reading your dog’s indications and clues during a search are vital to finding a person quickly and safely.

When your dog is doing an area search and air scenting, your dog is usually working off a leash and may be a distance away from you in order to cover more ground in less amount of time.

Let’s face it, we humans cannot keep up with our four legged friend off a leash when they are hot on a trail or scent.

A dog can cover more ground and area in minutes then we can in days.

100 men doing a line search equal 1 Bloodhound or area search dog working the same amount of area.

Air scenting and tracking are a whole science of themselves that can be a very interesting study for those who want to learn more.

Certified Search Dog Akiela and her son, Chaos 2005
Bulls Shoals Lake Arkansas


The lessons here at Family Disaster Dogs are tailored for the family dog and owner so they can save themselves in the event that rescuers cannot reach them.

In other words, these online lessons are prepared with the novice in mind. The lessons would be much more technical if I were teaching you to be a call out ready SAR team.

Those of you who would like to learn more can use the contact page to receive more information.

The lessons here are for pets and owners to know how to save themselves and loved ones.

The lessons are simple without being set in stone for perfection because I trust your dog will love to help you in an emergency.

These lessons are effective if used like any other emergency exercise or drill and preparation.

These lessons are similar to learning what to do in an earthquake, fire or tornado but you will be practicing the exercise with your dog by your side.

All you do is incorporate these dog training lessons into the emergency plan you have for home, car and work.


Coming up: Step by Step How to train your dog to air scent.








Monday, January 23, 2012

Lesson 23: Aging Training Courses and Trails


In search dog work the age of the trail is one of the most important aspects of the search. The age of the trail is how old the footprints is in the sand or how long ago the person left the scent at the location.
In other words, if a person is missing 1 hour then the trail or track of scent they left behind is 1 hour old. When a person has been missing 15 minutes the trail has an age of 15 minutes.

As you and your dog gets close to the person the scent becomes fresher or hotter (younger). The further you are away from a person the colder or older the scent.
Your dog will react differently to cold and hot scents. A dog is usually more excited the hotter the scent and a dog is more inclined to slow down to study and work older scents. By watching your dog you can tell the age of a trail or scent.
Dogs are amazing in regard to how old of a scent they can find and follow. The Bloodhound is known as having a cold nose because they can follow cold trails as well as hot trails or tracks.

We might think a hot trail of scent would be easier for our dogs to follow but this is not the case because the scent particles have not settled and are floating around as a person moves. As the scent trail ages the particles settle on surfaces condensing into scent pools or trails that concentrate in one area or line of travel.

For this reason a dog can follow an older scent trail easier then a person who only moments before ran away. In training search dogs we want to make sure the dog is given every chance they can to achieve the goal of finding the lost person. With this in mind, you want to make reliable courses and trails for your dog to follow. The first training courses should always be prepared fairly simple for your dog to follow with the scent trail settled and aged.

Otherwise your dog will become disappointed and discouraged or confused by us asking them to follow a scent that is not reliable or consistent. From a dog’s point of view, a scent that is floating everywhere is difficult to follow.


The dog has to trust you to know what you are asking them to find because they already smell every scent around them and know what each one is. It is up to us to know which scent we want them to follow out of the millions of scents they come across.

As a basic rule, a novice dog that is beginning to work scent trails and area search should not be worked on courses or scent trails less then 5 minutes old but no more then 15 minutes old. This might not sound like much time until you are standing in place counting the minutes while you let the scent settle and your pretend lost person is waiting in hiding. Then 15 minutes can feel like an hour. 

After you dog can consistently make a find of a lost person who has been hidden 15 minutes then you graduate to aging the course to 30 minutes. A dog usually works each time frame a week or two before they can graduate to the next level with confidence and drive to keep looking. By adding 30 minutes to the age of the course or trail you dog will gradually learn the differences they will encounter while on an actual hunt. 

After your dog can find a person who is hidden for 30 minutes then you will age the trail for 1 hour, then 1 and a half hours, then 2 hours up to making a 24 hour old training course or trail.

If your dog becomes confused or unsure on a newly aged course then you know you have graduated from one time limit to the next to quickly. Go back to the pervious time or age of the course where your dog did work well and start from there again. 

Give your dog extra lessons at that time limit and make sure the turns and pattern is not to difficult. You may have to simplify a pattern at first to help your dog discriminate scents that are older and then make a more complex pattern at that age after your dog gets the age of the trail.

Aging the course or trail means the person helper who hides from your dog will leave walking from the starting point of the training course and will hide for that preset time limit. 

Planning must be done for the person who will be hiding to have something to do while they wait, such as taking a book to read or making the training course at a location where the person can walk through a wooded area to another house of a friend and wait there for you to find them later. They can get into a car and return to the finding spot later when you will find them.

This is where teaching search dogs can get complicated or it can be easy if you look for opportunities to work with your family dog. For instance, let’s say your teenager is going to stay the night at a friend’s house a few blocks away. 



You and your child discuss how you will fit the dog training into the visit by planning the way they will walk so you will know your dog is on the right trail. After your child is at the friend’s house then you would give the trail time to age by going about your day at home until the time comes to find your child. Take your dog outside to the front yard and give them your child’s scent article and the command to find. Follow your dog to your child for a successful training session made easy.

When people come to visit, ask them to hide from your dog and help you train. You will be surprised how many friends and children would love to see your dog find them. Even beginning dogs are amazing in finding a person, especially somebody they know and love. All they have to do is go outside and around the house to hide, give the scent time to settle for 10 minutes then send your dog after them for a happy reunion. This training should always be fun.

You can use objects for your dog to find instead of a person by having your helper leave in their place of hiding a jacket, book, shoes or an object that will have only their scent only on it. The person can then go home without walking where they did to get there. Leaving by car is best.
 
The trail from start to object must be connected for your dog to make a find. You allow the object to sit and the trail to age then set out to find the object with your dog.  When your dog finds this object they have completed the lesson .It’s time for play and praise.   


Friday, January 6, 2012

Advancing in Training-Lesson 22

Advancing in Training

After you have reached the point in training where your dog is able to find a person (helper) or trail layer as outlined in lessons 3 and up then you are ready to advance in training by planning courses as outlined in the pervious lessons and aging the course in the next lesson. 

If you can play hide and seek with your dog then it is time to plan a course, either inside or outside and let the course age without interference and then work your dog to learn how your dog acts in the event of a person being missing for hours or in a scene of a lot of contamination after a building collapse. 

At this point of training your dog has been finding a helper who has walked away and hid from you and your dog. You can give your dog the person’s scent and your dog goes looking for them on or off a leash with you following your dog to the person for a happy time.

You are working on learning to read and teach indicating and alerts. You have learned how to read your dog to the point of understanding there is much more to read and learn from your dog.

You know your dog is always right.

Willie is right!


You are working with your dog once to three times a week on how to find a lost person and adding new skills as you go along. You are thinking ahead to when your dog will be doing more skills. You look forward to learning and working with your dog on these skills.

Now you are ready to advance and will do so by making the person harder to find using planning the courses, aging the course as you learn other skills, such as teaching your dog to return to you after making a find or bringing you the first aid kit in case you are trapped. These lessons or skills will be added into your sessions when you work on these courses now that you are ready to advance.

Some of you have been working with your family dogs off leash and others have been working with their dogs on a leash. This is what makes family dogs multi purpose and you can take a look at the standards for search dogs that I am posting next to see which classification or type of search dog your training your family dog to be. 

The main difference between a Tracking Dog in comparison to an Area Search or Air Scenting Dog is that the tracking dog works on a leash and the air scenting area search dog works off a leash. 

If you are working with your dog off leash then you will set up courses indoors or outdoors the same as you do for working a tracking dog. The only difference is you turn one dog loose and not the other dog loose. One dog you have to stay with on the leash while the other dog you can follow further away. 

The size of the area can be a room or fenced yard; you can use boxes, furniture and anything as course to make a puzzle for your dog to work out. Children can hide under blankets in another room while your dog goes out to potty and when your dog comes in you can ask your dog to find your children, make it fun and you just did a lesson in search dog skills. 

Get creative building and planning your course but never make it so difficult you yourself are not safe traveling it.

Now that your dog have the general idea, you can run and hide from your dog any time the opportunity presents itself.  

Make it fun!

Remember most disasters and missing person events happen at home or nearby which makes your family dog the best resource for helping you and your home and neighborhood the best training grounds.



Roadside parks make good training areas
if you make sure your
dog can not reach the highway

Feel free to ask questions by emailing Amber if you need any help.



Monday, January 2, 2012

Lesson 21 Part 2: Planning Training Courses


Lesson 20 
Part 2
Planning Training Courses
2 of 2 parts
(Go to part 1)


Assessing the Scene

Before you set up a training course, first check the location and make a note of each person or thing (cars running, spilled chemical, garbage) that might contaminated the area.

In an actual response this is called doing an assessment of the scene and should be done visually as you approach the location. Findings should be noted on paper for later planning.

Doing a visual assessment helps you to know your dangers before placing your dog and self in a bad situation. Make a mental note of any dangers you might encounter such as a busy roadway or a train track your dog might lead you across.

After checking the area to determine it is safe and noting the containments then check the wind direction and weather conditions (more on these factors in another lesson). In training novice dogs always start the dog into the wind so the scent is blowing towards the dog to give the dog the best chance in picking up the scent.

 

Pay attention to the location and use what may be available for hiding spots and turns, such as buildings, picnic tables in a park or a large tree across the cleared field.

Mapping the Training Course

Group these three factors together on paper when you are planning a training course. Make a hand drawn map of the location and mark on the map the wind direction, buildings or landmarks, size of the search area and time of day you plan to train. Make a note of weather conditions.

If you are training indoors you will modify these factors into the scene, for instance is there a fan or air conditioning system running? What chemical cleaners or odors do you smell or see in the area? What obstacles might be encountered or be in the way, closed doors, furniture or escape routes such as a window?

Make a note of the subject you will be looking for, the person who will help you by hiding from your dog. Their weight, height, age, clothing and any health issues that might come into play during the course.

Once your map is drawn of the location with the contributing factors that will affect the search you are ready to draw the trail you will work.

I’ll tell you how I draw up my training courses so you have a better idea. I use a small dash line to mark where the person who we will be looking for will walk as they hide to draw the route I plan for them to take. I use X to mark the beginning and the end of the route. I draw the turns I plan to work the dog on with the training objectives in mind.

Novice dog’s might only be working on one turn into the wind while an experienced dog can have 3 or 4 turns in different wind directions in the route. Make sure to have the turns flagged with a tissue paper piece. Tissue paper biodegrades so no worries about having to retrieve the flag after the training.

I then decide where the trail layer or person will put the training flags or tissue paper along the route which will help me know my dog is working well. I use tissue or flags even on advanced dogs for my own benefit because these markers build my confidence in reading my dog. I put a small dot on my map for flags.


A map would look something like this.                                                    <<wind
                                                                               X
                                                                             /
                                                     . _ _ _ _ _ _ _.bench 
                                                     /
   X _ _ ._. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. /



These flags are important because I learn how my dog reacts when they reach a turn or building, and as the wind changes I can see how my dog changes the way they work. Does the dog slow down or speed up? Do they circle and smell the spot more? Is the tail high and nose low? Are they stopped and looking at me for direction? (The last question is not a good sign, we missed something and have to go back and look again. :) 

Once I have the training course planned on paper I am ready to have the person help me make the course. I show my helper, the trail layer, the map and we use the map when we are making the trail or course. As they hide, they walk off from the starting point following the map while you wait knowing from the map where they are going. You dog will not see the map because they are usually asleep in the car.

What time I wake my dog up to work the course will depend on the level of training my dog is at and how old the trail has aged. Levels are discussed in the next lesson Standards for Search Dogs.

Aging the Trail

Aging the route is the next important step in training a family disaster dog in order for the dog to find people who have been lost for longer then a few hours. This lesson will be posted next.



Lesson 20 Part 1: Planning Training Courses


Planning Training Courses
1 of 2 parts
The Purpose of a Training Course or Route
This lesson is being posted in 2 parts
(Go to part 2


When you are training your dog there are often times when we have to set a course up that will be similar to what we encounter in real life. Obedience courses and agility courses are two that come to mind most people have heard of.

In training the family disaster dog we want to set up courses and lost person scenarios that we might encounter during an actual emergency. These courses help us and our dogs to know what to expect, consequently, we learn what to do in an actual event.

To set up a training course, we have to think of what we might encounter along the way and put the ideas into the training course. This is prepared ahead of time. After the course is set up then the course has to be aged. Aging the trail or course will be covered in advanced lessons.

How the training course is set up depends upon what level you are training.

Once you and your dog have the general idea down of how to find a person and what evidence to look for, it is time to further your training by using preplanned and prepared courses that include tracks, trails, and scenarios.

It’s time to advance to life like training!



In doing these courses we are playing and pretending this is a real life rescue and the most important thing to remember is your dog will always find its man! (Or woman, child or object)

This most confusing aspect of search dog training is also the down fall of many handlers who fail to follow the golden rule. The dog is always right not the trainer or handler.

When a police dog fails to find a person it is never the dog’s fault but it is the handler’s fault for reading the dog wrong.

To avoid failing in training, never let your dog fail to find what they have been told to find otherwise your dog will not look because this type of training is actually for you to learn to read your dog and follow your dog. The dog knows how to find anybody or anything on their own but the dog does not know how to find somebody with you tagging along telling him what to do.

How these factors come into play when your dog is searching for a lost person and how to use these factors in preparing a training course to work your dog on will help you and your dog to figure out the puzzles you come across on an actual search.

Planning a Training Puzzle

When considering how to set up a training course three factors come into play, the wind including weather, contamination and location.

Wind and weather conditions always affect how you will read your dog working the scent. The wind blows the scent as the wind moves therefore knowing the direction of the wind is vital. Weather such as rain or freezing conditions affect the scent as well therefore these factors should be considered as you follow and read your dog.

Contamination is anything that has been in the area of the training course. I mean everything including car exhaust, chemicals such as spilled gasoline after an accident; other people who have walked in the area contaminate the scene.

Animals who have crossed the location up to 24 hours earlier can lead your dog off course if your dog is inclined to follow the deer or rabbit instead of the person’s scent you are looking for. A known dog walking path is not the best place to train a tracking dog.

Indoors cleaning solutions, tobacco smoke and odors we do not smell can contaminate the scents the dog is following and a novice dog has not learn how to work these odor puzzles out yet.

Location plays a role because different terrain creates different scent action. Such as wooded areas hold the scent closer to the ground while a cleared field allows the scent particles to move and disperse over a larger area. Drainage channels and clear cut areas where power lines run through make wind tunnels that can carry the scent in a different direction then where your dog goes.

During all of these experiences your dog will continue to work the trail by working out the scent puzzle if you allow the dog to do so. The dog may follow the scent as it is blown down a wind tunnel to the point where the scent is so thin the dog turns back and backtracks to a stronger scent point where they began the tunnel.

Then the dog continues on the right trail. The important part of this training and in actual search events is to remember to trust your dog and follow them through the puzzle. If you stop the dog thinking oh the person never went down that steep hill then the dog can not finish the puzzle and chances are you will fail.

The same holds true when your dog is following a animal scent or the wrong scent which puts them off the trail you intended.

Never underestimate your dog or where a person who is afraid might hide or go.

Three groom dogs I once knew and these kids could find their owner in a heart beat!

Never underestimate your dog!

Learn to Read your Dog!

Your dog is always right!

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