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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Evidence Lesson 19

Evidence Search
with your Family Dog
Lesson 19

Evidence can be a very important clue in finding a lost loved one or friend when you are searching for them with your family dog. Evidence is an item that can be linked directly or indirectly to the person you are looking for. During a disaster or emergency situation, including a person who has wandered away or become lost, evidence can help to tell you the story of their trail or journey.

Evidence can tell you what happened. With this in mind you can learn to associate items your dog finds along the way, that you can, mental and in a log book, organize to help you find the person.

Evidence is any item or mark left behind from the person you seek. As this person travels they have left in their trail foot prints, hand prints, crumbled leafs or items of personal belongings. When people are afraid or running they do not realize what they leave behind, such as a dropped piece of paper or removing their coats when they become overheated and confused.

When people are lost, hurt or trapped and in a crisis state of mind they often become confused. You can learn more about the scenarios of a lost person by reading this file which is used in police and rescue training. (the file may take time to open and will require time to read)

Even puppies search for items and people

Back to the evidence on the trail and your dog. As your dog looks for the missing person the dog will find any item the person has touch or the scent particles have settle on. This item can be anything from cigarette butts to toilet tissue, coats, hats, a piece of fabric or a foot print. Even a hot dog wrapper may be covered by scent particles so we can never assume our dog is only hungry.

 If your dog takes you to any item and shows a lot of interest in the item then you are safer to assume the item is from the missing person then to disregard the item without further investigation.

You should be carrying small bags in your backpack for evidence finds , along with a small not book and pence for a log book and property or survey marking tape in a bright color. More on this in another lesson.

Bag the item and tag it with the location, time and a note about how your dog reacted. If the item is large such as a coat, sleeping bag or unmovable like a footprint then use your marking tape to rope the area around the item off for for later retrieval or investigation. This might keep others from damaging the scene by stepping on the item. More on contamination of the location.

I usually have a team member who is trained do this for me so I can pay attention to my dog and keep tracking the person. One of your family members of friends can learn how to recover evidence and be your team member in the event of an actual search.

Repeat any item your dog finds that they indicate could belong to the missing person should be carefully taken into consideration as a clue to your lost person.

In training search dogs of all types we put together lost person scenarios to learn how our dogs will react in different situations and to prepare ourselves for each type of situation. We train by changing the setting and situation in our planning a trail sessions so we can learn to look for different signs and evidence in each setting or learn how a lost person handles the situation they are in.

This teaches our dogs what to do and what evidence to look for in each situation the dog faces in an actual search experience.

Evidence is in every training session you do with your dog and all you have to do is learn to look for the signs and clues along the way.

You can train your dog to look for a piece of evidence on command by using a scent article from another person who the dog knows. You will need a few pieces of clothing or items with the person's scent on them to begin.

Leave your dog in the car or house when you place the items in a yard or area that does not have that person's scent in the area. Make sure the person who scented the articles have not stepped into this location for at least 24-48 hours. Once your dog learns to look on command for a object instead of only the person then you can do this lesson where the person has been also.

After you have placed items in sight and out of sight in the area, bring your dog into the area. Show your dog a scent article you kept for this purpose, let your dog have a good smell then command, " find" or " seek it", or whatever word you want to use that is different then the word you use for tracking or trailing or area searching. Each command must have its own word or the dog will do what it knows already.

Follow your dog and do try at first to make this easy for your dog. The first items should be placed a short distance from where your dog starts looking. It makes no sense discouraging the dogs by making this harder for them or they may not want to do this for you. Search dog training is not the same type of training as obedience work is. This training for you because the dog is doing a natural talent and we have to learn to follow the dog not the other way around.

You dog should not be following any directions from you to find the item. Let the dog look as long as they want and encourage them by saying, "that's a boy or girl", "good dog seek" ..and when they find the item , praise, praise and more praise.

Incorporate this evidence lesson into your tracking and trailing lessons when the opportunity presents itself and during planning for training sessions.

Practice searching for items and evidence a couple of times a week. Make these lessons fun by doing them in your home. Your dog can learn to find dirty socks, lost clothing  items or your keys with practice. If you loos a item get your dog to help you find it.

Lost Person Scenarios 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lesson 18: The Leash

Leash Knowledge 

Before you put a leash on a dog it's a good idea to learn about how to use the leash and what the equipment is meant to be used for. 

The leash is not simply a rope that tethers your dog to you or a means of control. The leash is a communication tool that makes asking your dog to do things for you a possibility and with the proper and intended use of a leash you will be communicating with your dog instead of being controlled by the leash and the dog's movement or intention.

Therefore, the leash can become either a tool for you to use to communicate to your dog or for your dog to use to control you, such as when your dog drags you down the sidewalk. Who is in charge ? Who is controlling who? In the sidewalk case, the dog is using the leash to control you!

Leashes come in many sizes and types for several different uses, just like a collar has many intended purposes so does a leash. You can learn about collars in lesson 17.

The leash is called a lead in some circles and often attaches to a collar. Some leashes have a collar included, such as many show dog leads or slip leads. 

Deciding on which type of leash or lead you use depends upon what you and your dog will be doing along with how comfortable you wish you and your dog to be. Chain leashes can be quite painful if the slip through your hand when your dog pulls or takes off while a flat leather leash can still burn your hand if the dog pulls away to fast a nylon lead will make a much harsher burn then leather will.

A leather leash will stretch while a nylon leash will not give. I prefer leather because I can get a better grip and the burn is less if the dog takes off. I use a long nylon leash for tracking and trailing because it is difficult to find a leash longer then 6 foot in leather. A leather leash does not tangle as easily as a nylon leash either.

Any leash can become tangled around your or your dog's legs tripping both of you if you are not careful. Never pull constantly on a leash or your dog will pull hard against the pressure created making a game of tug a war with you.

If your dog pulls on the leash to hard, all you have to do is give the dog some more leash or slack and turn around to go the other direction. You keep walking and let your dog go until the dog hits the end of the leash and the leash will work for you bringing the dog around and back to your side. This does take practice. 

Never keep constant pressure on the leash, if you need to correct your dog, give the leash some slack and then pull the slack out of the leash to tighten and release the collar which will give your dog a correction or a cue to stop what it is doing. 

Be aware that when using a leash on a chain collar which has to much chain when the collar is tighten allows the snap of the leash to hit your dog in the face or eye possibly injuring your dog.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lesson 17: Choke Chain Use

How to Use a Choker Collar Correctly

Both of the chain choker style collars mentioned in Lesson 16 are meant to be used during  training sessions only and in a way that is similar to a bit in a horses mouth.


This training equipment works by tightening and then immediately releasing to give the animal only a moment’s correction in a quick and humane way that distracts the animal with a slight pressure.


These types of collars should not be pulled on but slightly and gently pulled then released by movement from your hand and the leash.


This instant pressure on the neck is usually done while the dog is moving and the dog learns to turn and stop similar to a horse. Once you master the way to use the choke chain collar you will do so with a light flick of the lease correct your dog.


All you should do is pull the leash until the collar is closed on your dog’s neck then you should loosen the leash immediately so that the collar slides open. The collar will slide open if you have the collar on correctly as outlined in the Collar lesson.


When used correctly your dog will walk on a loose leash at all times. If you look at AKC obedience dogs in the show ring you will notice the dogs leash is not tight when the handler has the dog sitting at heel.


Only in the confirmation show ring is the leash held tightly when the dog is lead around the ring and that is to keep the dog’s head up and for looks while pacing around. Show dogs are taught to walk like this with the leash tight while obedience dogs are not. 

Obedience dogs should always have a loose leash and choke collar.


Practice pulling the leash up and then release the leash by lowering your hand until you have this action mastered. You dog will appreciate you not pulling on the collar all the time which teaches the dog nothing but to pull on the leash.


A tight collar or leash actually encourages the dog to pull and if a dog is pulling the best thing to do is to loosen the leash or collar then pull up and loosen again to give your dog a signal that you want to slow down.


The hardest thing to learn is loosening the leash which loosens the collar. Most people need a few days of practice with their dog to master using a choke chain correctly. 

Do not get discouraged if you do not seem to get the hang of it, keep practicing until you automatically release the tension on the collar every time you pull the leash. This takes practice. 

Every time you notice the leash and collar are tight, loosen the leash some so your dog is comfortable. This prevents injury to the dog’s neck plus your dog will respond to a slight squeeze and release much better then you tugging on the leash. They do love to play tug a war if you do.


The prong training collar is made to work the same way, tighten then release without hurting your dog. The prong type of collar is made to pinch the dog slightly not stab the dog in pain to get them to behave.


The collars are made to tighten and release for a reason and the reason is they are training equipment not meant to be worn at all times. These collars can seriously hurt your dog if left on without a leash or if used when the leash is tied or held hard.


Both collars should be 3 inches bigger then your dog’s neck so the collar has room to release and tighten.


Never leave these collars on your dog without supervision. If the choker collar is all you have then use a snap to hook the rings together so the collar will not tighten if you turn your dog loose.



Next Lesson

How to use a leash

          More lessons to Come
Evidence Search
          Setting up Training Courses
          Water Searches
 Advanced Search Dog Techniques
Dog Backpacking for Survival
Dog Retrieves First Aid Kit
 Dog Retrieves Items as Directed
 Dog Takes Item to Indicated Person
“Go Get Help” Sending your dog for help
  Sending Dog to a Person
  Rescue Dig on Command
 Dog Alerts Others to your Whereabouts

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lesson 16: Collar on right?

Collar Knowledge

Is the Choker on Right or Wrong?

Choker style collars and the prong training collars are made to be used to correct a dog during training sessions. The collar should be 3 inches larger then your dog’s neck for proper action to happen when you pull the leash.


Before we go any further in training let's discuss the correct way to use chain training collars on dogs. I see more and more dogs wearing the steel prong type training collars everyday. It's a shame because this type of collar was not invented to be worn everyday or every time the dog is walked.


We could go over all of the reasons why this type of collar is not recommended and why in thirty years of working with large strong dogs I have only had to use this type of collar once on a Doberman I rescued from a dog pound in the 70’s. He was old and set in his aggressive ways but after three ten minute sessions using the prong training collar correctly  he never had to wear the collar again.


The dog learned what he needed to be shown and the collar was no longer needed, its purpose done. I still have to collar and not once have used it on another dog.

Instead of telling you the damages that can be done with the use of these collars I'm going to show you how to use this collar and the common Choke Chain style of collars so you will not have to use these collars all the time.


Both collars are made to work on the same principle. I will be showing you as I do in the obedience classes I teach by using a common choke chain and my hand.  


Choke Chain from Amazon

The Prong Training Collar

The Humane Style Choker is safest

These types of collars are not meant to be worn without a leash and handler because the collar can become caught and choke the dog to death. This happens much more often then heard of and this is why the collar is called a choke chain.  Not because you choke the dog to get them to obey.


To use these collars properly you do not choke the dog or pull on the collar forcing the dog to behave. There is a correct way to use these collars for what they are intended for, which is as a training aid.


The choker with the ring on each end is used for demonstration because this collar has a right and wrong way of being placed on your dog while the other type simply slips on or snaps onto your dog’s neck.


The choker is the easiest example to use to show you how these collars work.  If the choker is on wrong then the chain will snag instead of slip correctly.


To get the choker ready to put on your dog, first you should learn the difference of right and wrong. First put the chain in the ring to make a circle that will tighten when you pull the ring. Next, the collar must tighten then release instantly and respond immediately with the leash action.


The Right way is pictured below.

Right way

The collar pictured above is in the proper or right direction for a dog that will be walking or handled on your left side on a leash.


To get the collar in the right direction before placing it on your dog, you turn the collar over after you make a circle until the ring the leash will snap on is up with the chain going down through the other ring then back upwards. (See image)


When the collar is on the dog in the wrong direction the chain will not loosen on its own. The collar will snag or remain tight on the neck when you loosen the leash which gives you no control.


The collar pictured is in the wrong direction,
Wrong way

Place a collar on your arm or your dog in both of these directions and then pull the ring, you will see the difference.


To change directions of the collar when you are holding it up like below, simply flip the collar over to your other hand by holding the top and the collar will be in the other direction. This is easier to show you in person but with practice you will see the importance of learning this when working with your dog. 

Lesson 17  explains why this is important and how to use these training collars correctly.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lesson 15;Indicating

Indicating a Found Person

How your dog tells you they found Someone

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.

A bark is taught by teaching your dog to speak when they make a find. You can learn how to teach your dog to speak here at this Speak lesson link... 

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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How to Live in a Disaster

How to live in a Disaster

Your family dog can help you in a disaster. This page outlines how your dog can help you and what you can ask your dog to do for you.

Action not reaction can save your life as well as your family’s lives in the event of a disaster, such as an earthquake, hurricane, flood or tornado. 

In the event of an emergency

Keep calm so you can calm those around you.

Call your dog to you. 

Willie's Ready

If your dog has not been trained to retrieve a dog backpack upon command then you should have your “Go-bag” with emergency supplies at hand or packed in a dog backpack that you can put on your dog so no matter where you both are you have first aid supplies, food and supplies for 24-72 hours.

Your dog can carry these for you and do not forget to put some dog food in the go-bag. Bottle of water can be tied to your dog and a harness will make tying equipment onto your dog easier. Your dog can be quite the pack animal in an emergency and they will be pleased to help at your time of need, why he is there with you, by your side.

If you are missing a loved one...ask your dog to show you were they are.

Encourage your dog with praise as you follow them to the person.

Read your dog and what for signs of where the people are. 

If your dog stops and looks up or down then pay close attention to why your dog is doing this or that.

If you are in an earthquake or situation where the ground or surface can shift then your dog could hear the shift before it jolts you off your feet while you may not hear any noise. In a collapsed building or unstable environment your dog can alert you to danger. If you are paying attention to your dog then you will see warning signs your dog displays to you which can help you on your way out or over the collapsed building.

Even without training most family dogs do know who lives in the house by name. Be sure and use your dogs’ name when asking and the person’s name who want found. Make it important and your dog will take you serious plus because you are in an actual disaster your dog will not be in its normal mood or mode but also in a survival mode or mind set just like you.

If you have followed any of the lessons on this site then you will be more prepared to respond when an emergency or disaster strikes.

If you have not followed any of the lessons then what do you have to lose in an actual disaster by asking your dog to help? Even reading this one page can help you during a time when you least expect it.

In the event of a disaster; 

Find a safe place for a base camp where supplies can be stored and people gathered.

To avoid further injury or stress to survivors it is best to make camp and wait for rescuers who will bring supplies. Rescuers can not find you if you are moving around. It is much easier to reach a group then people spread everywhere.

Next, treat the injured the best you can.

Wait for rescuers to arrive with supplies.

Once camp is set up then you and your dog can locate who might be missing. Try to take a person or two with you as back up in case you need help digging somebody out or moving an object, or carrying an injured person. 

Do not take more then 2 or 3 volunteers because to many people can make traveling on rough surfaces more dangerous. Plus volunteers who stay at base camp can do another shift later after resting or they can help at base camp.

Be sure and gather any food or supplies you find to take back to base camp.

If you have your “Go-Bag” or 24-72 survival pack, your dog and your loved ones...
You will be fine at base camp until rescuers reach you.

This is the type of Go-Bag or 24-72 hr survival pack in this article.

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Author Amber Higgins

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Welcome UK and worldwide visitors and friends to Family Disaster Dogs online! Although I'm an American author and dog professional the worldwide web has given me the opportunity to connect with some wonderful folks who have contributed pictures for my books. The "Start Mantrailing" book features RRI K9 North Scotland trained Search and Rescue Dog "Amber" on the cover and her teammates training in the book, plus American dogs using my training methods. A portion of sales of the Start Mantrailing book or copies were donated to RRI North Scotland. The children's picture book "My Puppy Can Find Me" has my daughter and bloodhound as illustrations by UK cartoonist Scotty King. You can find the books on Amazon UK or use the contact page to order from me. When you click the links will take you to your own county pages of this site.

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