Family-Disaster-Dog-Lessons

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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