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!

Missing Persons

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