Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lesson 28: Teaching Refind or Return to Handler

 Teaching Refind or Return to Handler

Teaching your family dog to “refind” or return to handler after they find a person or object is another way your dog can indicate or alert you of the find. 

Area search dogs and air scenting dogs who work off leash to cover large areas of land like in an avalanche are usually taught upon finding a person or evidence to return to their handler and bring the handler back to the person or location. 

Dogs who work on a leash have the handler with them; therefore there is no need to go back to the handler. I teach my Bloodhounds to take me back to my truck or home on command because I seldom know where I am once we trail a person several miles in the woods. 
Back to the truck !

I teach my dogs by simply telling them “let’s go home” or “back to the truck” each time we start back after we are finished with the training session or real search. Then if I am ever lost, I know, I can ask my dog to take me home or to the truck. 

Family Disaster Dogs on and off a leash can use this skill to bring people and items back to you if you are unable to move or wish to stay with another person. If you are sheltering in place then you can send your dog out to get an item and bring the item back to you.

Let it be known that some breeds of dogs will not “backtrack” or return the way they came. Bloodhounds and other hounds especially do not like to go backwards on the same scent trail. Some breeds and bloodlines are bred not to backtrack and when a dog is trailing and tracking we do not want them to backtrack because this defeats the purpose. 

Another reason backtracking is not encouraged or bred for is that if a dog encounters a place where the quarry or person walked in circles the dog will get lost in the scent overlapping on its own trail.  

A good hound will hit a place where a person or animal walked in circles and go right in one side of the circle then out the side the person exited while another dog will smell and smell, going in circles themselves trying to figure this puzzle out. Give time they might figure it out or sit there and look at you to figure it out.

Daisy doesn't want to go back the way we came

With backtracking in mind, if your family dog refuses to go backwards on a course to return to you or the person then you may have a very smart dog on your hands that you have to out smart by taking a different route back.  Just move a little bit to one side of the original trail the dog traveled on, maybe 30-50ft so your dog gets a chance to use a different path to reach you.

We do not want to teach them to backtrack either so moving off of the course is a good idea and changing the locations will help too.

Refind and return to handler can be taught at the same time as all the lessons here at Family Disaster Dogs.  This skill is incorporated into your other lessons as you practice with your dog you will add the instructions below into the end of the lessons.

Always praise your dog for a job well done.


To teach your dog to return to you after finding a person you will send your dog to search or find them as detailed in the other lessons.

When your dog arrives at the person the dog is rewarded by that person then told by the person to “go back” or use your own name, like “Go to Joe”. 

You stay a distance away when your dog finds the person and you call your dog back to you after the other person praises your dog. 

You praise your dog when they come back to you then ask your dog to find the person again, sending the dog back to “refind” the person.  When the dog refinds the person the second time, if you are not there by then, the person should send your dog back to you again until you reach them as a team. 

Repeating this will help your dog learn they are bringing you to what they have found a person. And, they are not only running between two people. Dog’s like to have a purpose for what they are doing otherwise it is play.

You should adjust the distance between you and your dog according to your own dog’s way of working. Some dogs run along at a fast pace while others work slowly. Some find the person long before you get there no matter how hard you try to keep up while others might seem to take their time smelling every bush. Each dog is different. 

The trick is to give your dog space to find the person and return to you. So don’t follow to close at first then later add more distance to the space your dog has to cover to return to you. As you give the dog more distance to cover they will learn to find you as you get out of sight and to bring you back to the person as both of you come back together.

In time and with practice your dog can be sent out to search over a large area of land to scout and pin point locations for you then come back and take you to those locations.

Adding refind or return to handler to area searching and evidence or building searches saves you valuable time because your dog alone can cover much more ground that we can. 

When your dog is searching every item they find that holds the scent of the person they are looking for will be found too. This is evidence of where the person has been.

When your dog takes you to objects you must always believe the item belonged to the person you seek because your dog is showing you a clue. Trust your dog.

In the next lesson we’ll be discussing sending your dog to retrieve first aid kits, food and other emergency supplies by name that you might need if you are trapped or unable to leave people who are injured. 

After 30 years working with dogs, I really do believe any dog, any age, any breed can learn to do some of the lessons here to help their families and loved ones be safe and survive in an emergency situation. 

The smallest or oldest dog can learn to bark or nudge you in an emergency to alert you to danger, every dog is able to help in some way just as they would as a group or pack. Never underestimate your dog. 

Please pass these lessons on so others may benefit. 

There will never be a charge for the lessons posted, feel free to print them off for later use.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Updates for Family Disaster Dogs 

Hey Everybody, 

We've had a busy start to the year and wanted to update everyone to all the great news.

We wanted to let you know of some great websites we recently found and added to Family Disaster Dogs. Be sure and check out the pages for Emergency links and Dog Websites for good sites we recommend. If you would like to be added to the link pages, email us.

As you can see by the changes to the site, we are updating the whole site's looks as well as adding new items that can be helpful during a disaster with your pets. 

More news.......Founding Family Disaster Dog Director and author Amber Higgins is excited to announce she recently became a producer for Barking Bar Productions and Wendy Nan Rees, "Pet Lifestyle Advisor".  

Wendy is well known for her 2 minute pet tips on Wendy's Animal Talk Radio Show and as an author of 6 pet books.

Her Movie "A Dog's Voyage around the World" will be released later this year. 

Wendy’s previous successes have led to numerous television appearances, and newspaper/magazine articles. She was the “Pet Lifestyle Advisor™” on Animal Planet’s Petsburgh, USA and was featured on The Home Shopping Network. Wendy also wrote a monthly column called “In the Kitchen with Wendy” for Your Pet Magazine.

Coming up in the next lesson: 

Teach your dog to "Refind" or return to you after they make a find.

Coming soon the complete lesson package for download.

The full Edition Book which Family Disaster Dogs is based on will be available in print and download this summer.

Thank you everyone for all the great support and encouragement since our beginnings last fall. Feel free to share and pass around our posts so others may live. 

Have a great spring everyone!

Be Safe-Stay Prepared 

Advanced Alert to Danger

Advance or Follow up Lesson
 Teaching your Dog to Alert you to Danger

In Search Dog terms "Alert" and "Indicate" have the same meaning.

Moses finds man in water
This lesson is a follow up to the two previous lessons that teach your dog how to alert you to danger, such as fire or smoke, an earthquake and when the emergency warning sirens sound off. In the previous lessons we went over how to teach your dog to wake you and other family members whether they were sleeping in bed or unconscious under pretend rubble.

In this lesson you'll learn how to teach your dog to "Alert" you when you are awake and how to continue improving these skills and use these lessons with other disaster or survival dog skills.

After you have read lessons 26 - 27 and  followed the instructions you will continue to work with your dog whenever possible and in different settings or locations. With each different setting change the material you use to make the training set-up look like a disaster scene or rubble pile. 

Get creative, bury yourself under cardboard boxes or let your children make forts out boxes when your dog is sleeping or outdoors then let your dog in to find you or the children. Use the garage next time or a friend's house. Each time you play these games it teaches you and your dog new skills and scenarios.

Encourage your dog to paw and wake up the pretending to be unconscious person in different locations and times of the day.  When your dog does respond in a way that attempts to move or nudge the person, praise them to do it again.

Use your dog's toy and treats to get them motivated and looking for the person. After your dog is looking and has the idea then gradually use the toy or treat less and less until your dog no longer uses the toy or treat to find the person or you.

Replace the toy or treat reward with talking and petting your dog when they do this incredible feat. Always trust your dog and guide them without punishment and with praise.

Teaching your dog to alert you to different odors and items is the same as teaching them to find a person, except you use the odor as the scent article and the odor in a container as the hidden item in training.  You can read the lessons here at Family Disaster Dogs about training your dog to trail and track or area search for a lost person for further details.

When you are working with your dog to find the hidden person or odor, you can teach your dog to go ahead of you and look for what you seek then return to you when they find the scent by teaching them "Refind" which will be covered in the next lesson. This is like sending a scout ahead of you.

You can also teach your dog that you will be following them to the missing person on or off a leash by going along with your dog each time. If your dog moves to fast or slow then talk to your dog to slow them down or speed them up and develop a speed of working which is more comfortable for you as a team.

With each lesson you and your dog will find a pace that is comfortable for both of you. When you reach this point in training you will feel a great satisfaction in knowing your communicating with your four legged best friend.

This feeling is the bonding you often hear of search and rescue dogs sharing with their handlers. It's a natural teamwork sense of confidence that comes with practice. Practice makes perfect.

Once your dog is going to a person and pawing them or waking them, then you do the same lesson but you are the person hiding so your dog learns to alert you to danger by waking you up.

After your dog is waking and alerting a sleeping person then your dog is easier to teach how to to alert a person who is awake by simply asking your dog to go to the person and paw or bark or sit at that person to alert you of the person. Again this is similar to your dog finding the person but the dog makes sure to "alert" you with pawing, nudging the person or barking to "Indicate" which search dogs also do.

By using the person's name the dog learns to go and alert on that person only. 

This is helpful in case the person is somebody you know who is buried under rubble or missing.

To teach your dog to alert you when you are awake and not in rubble or a dangerous situation but pending danger you will ask your dog to alert by coming to you and barking,pawing,rubbing on you or however your dog likes to get your attention. Some dogs will come and sit to look at us, this is the dog's "alert" to you.

Learn to "Read" your dog to find how they naturally alert you to what is going on. Many dog's nudge us with a nose to get us to notice something they see. Use this as an indication or an alert by encouraging the behavior when the warning sirens sound or when the weather turns dangerous and whenever you can do a fire drill with your pets and family.

When you feel danger or get the chance to practice this, then you'll include your dog running to you by you calling "come" and say "alert" or "speak" or "give me your paw"..whatever..then praise your dog and go together to do the evacuation plan that is in place. 

By doing this over and over you'll teach your family dog to do this for you when the time comes.

Good Luck and Be Safe!

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