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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.

Thank you for Visiting

Next lesson will be how to train your dog to indicate where a lost person is...

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Author Amber Higgins

Author Amber Higgins
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Welcome UK and Worldwide Visitors

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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