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Monday, December 17, 2012

Rain and Search Dog Tracking - We're Just Trailing in the Rain

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Rain and Scent
Trailing and Tracking in the Rain

all links are to my other posts on this subject or to recommended items to help support this free site

Rain to a dog is not the same as rain to most people. Even though some dogs learn not to like rain while living in human environments, they were born to thrive in natural surroundings.

Dogs are born to develop into the nature of the outdoors. They have coats of fur to protect them, ears and eyes shaped to withstand foul weather and they can hear long distance warning signs, such as the far off thunder of an approaching storm. Their nose can lead them on miles and miles of trails in the search for food or a safe place to den up during storms.

Many stories have been told about animals that have a keen 6th sense that enables them to predict the weather and know ahead of time when to seek shelter or move to safer ground.

A dog’s keen sense of smell involves the use of the Olfaction cells of the nasal cavity which include the nose, mouth and sinuses. Moisture plays a key role in how the nasal cavity works and a dog’s sense of smell depends on the amount of moisture present in the dog’s surroundings and in the olfaction cells when the nose is put to work. Read my article "A Dog Follows its Nose"

The longer thicker muzzle of the Bloodhound has more cells for collecting odors, moisture and scent to be absorbed and processed by Olfaction Perception then the short nosed Bulldog or thin long muzzle of the sight hound. But, the difference in size does not mean a Bulldog cannot smell.

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All dogs depend upon their nose to led them where to go and the nose should always be damp or as is often said, a dog with a dry nose is a sick dog. This saying is not always true because a sleeping dog has a dry nose until they wake up. What's true is active dogs always have wet noses unless they are on the edge of dehydration.

When you are doing tracking or nose work  (nose work is different than tracking and will be covered in another post-sign up for updates ) with your dog, always check to make sure the dog’s nose is moist before you give them a scent article or send them out on an area search. If your dog’s nose is dry from sleeping, traveling or the heat of the day you should offer the dog water to drink first and if they refuse then wet your palm and place a little wetness on the dog’s nose.

Always carry water for your dog and always offer your dog all the water they want when tracking.

If we think of how the dog’s nose uses moisture to absorb the scent particles and process the odor through the olfactory cells we can understand why a dog’s sense of smell is better during rainy weather then on hot dry days.

The rain absorbs the scent particles and as the dog inhales the moisture they also get the scent which mixes with the moisture present in the nose giving the dog a blast of scent similar to when we chew a flavorful piece of gum.

This reasoning leads us to an understanding of why the best time to do nose work with your dog is during damp conditions.  In comparison, on a hot dry day, the dog's nose has to work harder to find scent condensed to dust and the body also must maintain a moisture level that will process the scent.

Misty foggy nights and early morning when the dew is fresh on the grass is the best time for tracking and trailing with dogs.  Additionally, scenting is great during light rain showers because the scent particles will absorb the moisture and expand making them easier for the dog to follow.

Warm dry days remove the moisture from the scent by evaporation of the moisture which holds the particles together, expanded and in place.  Once enough moisture is removed from the particles the scent particles will float more and move more off of the actual foot steps of the person the dog is seeking.

The scent cloud can swift in the lightest breeze on a dry day but on a wet day the scent cloud will collect in puddles and wet areas where the dog can find the scent more easily.

A hot dry day makes reading your dog more difficult. As does dry locations such as sandy areas and open fields baking in the sun.

In order to save time 

And have a successful search it is often best to wait an hour or two for the weather to change before starting your dog on a trail.  By giving the dog the advantage you will save time.  The advantage often lies in the time of day or weather conditions.

For these reasons, on hot dry days, it’s best to wait to search for a lost person when the sun starts to go down or when the day begins to cool.  This time of day usually begins about 3 pm unless rain comes.

Light misty rain and light to moderate rain showers that do not cause any run off of the water on the ground surface create the best environment for tracking with your dog because the surface particles are freshened and awakened by the rain. The moisture makes the scent expand and the dog can find the particles more quickly.

On the other hand, during heavy amounts of rain and in areas with run-off water flowing on the surface the scent particles will move with the current of the water flow and also be affected by the direction of the wind.

If the water moves so will the scent particles and the foot trail your dog will be following.

Consequently your dog will follow the water current that is carrying the scent and not the actual path or footsteps of the person and lead you in the wrong direction until the water flow changes or ends.

At that point, a dog is often misread and believed to of lost the trail when they do not find a person right away. I believe a mistake is made when we give up on our dog’s ability to soon and take the dog off the work or trail.

 I have learned from watching my dogs when they seem to of lost a scent not to interfere because they will continue to seek the scent until they find where they were misled and they will return to the right path.

Your dog may come to you for direction or ideas when they are working out this puzzle that’s when you encourage them to keep looking and let your dog work out the problem.

The dog will be seeking the scent they were following even when they do not look like they smell anything, they are and eventually they will find it and go back to the person’s path.

Keep in mind, that during rainy and wet weather conditions the amount of water and flow of the current or movement of water counts more than if it is raining or not.

Because the sense of smell is better in the rain compared to hot dry days I prefer to work my dogs on wet days and nights. I've worked German Shepherds and Bloodhounds in Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms with excellent results each time.

The only time the weather should stop you from trying to search for a missing person is when the danger to yourself and dog is life threatening and more dangerous than the person you seek could live through.

One good thing about dangerous rain and extreme weather is that rain will come to pass and give you a clear chance to continue the search. Wait for a safe opportunity during dangerous situations and keep in mind that only a short window of time opens up and you must be prepared to act at that moment.

Dogs actually love to work their nose in rainy conditions, they really seem to enjoy all the scents and fragrances that come to life for them to smell and follow.

Dogs are connected to nature in ways we are not and this connection allows the dogs to know more about weather then we really do. Let your dog decide if the weather is unsafe to work in. They will know better than us.

A cool morning with dew covering the grass excites many dogs because of the odor being released that tickle their senses. On warm afternoons you’ll find your dog would rather lie around and nap. I tend to agree with the dog on which time is the best for them to work.

Dogs are amazing when working scents in water; they have been known to find scent that is hundreds of feet below the surface of lakes, oceans and rivers.

Once your family dog is trailing well you can see how the rain and water carries the scent particles off of the actual path and by having a person make a trail across a slightly sloped hill side so the rain will move the scent downhill across this hill.

Start your dog on the trail in the rain and see how far below the actual path of the flags the scent is found and followed by your dog. The more of a slope a hill has the further and faster the scent could be washed downhill. Your dog will start at the beginning and gradually or quickly move downhill below the flagged trail in his quest to follow the scent as it is carried on the current.

Another good time to practice reading your dog in the rain is to watch how your dog reacts when they come to a puddle of water. If the puddle has a current moving from the wind or is flowing slightly watch to see if your dog goes in the direction of the flow of the current which carries the scent.

If a person stepped in the puddle and then away in the opposite direction of the flow of the water some of the person’s scent will remain as a scent pool in this puddle. Your dog might have to take some time determining which direction the person steps.

This is called a scent pool and dogs are familiar with running into and working out the puzzles they encounter while tracking so let your dog work it out. They may follow the water flow a few feet off the actual trail then turn around to go back as the scent thins because if it is the wrong direction the scent will not be as strong. Once the dog realizes the scent is weakening they will look for where the scent was strongest, often coming back to the scent pool then crossing it to get on the person’s actual trail.

As you can see, rain is another case of where a dog must be allowed to use their natural abilities in order to work the scent puzzles out and find a person. Trust your dog!

You can learn how to teach your dog to do tracking at this link...
Lesson 32: Training a Dog To Do Tracking

You can learn more about reading your dog at this link.. 
Lesson 12:  How to Read a Dog

You can learn how to use Flags and make training courses to practice trailing and tracking with your dog on Lesson 20: Planning Dog Training Courses and Routes   part 1 

Go to the Lesson Links Page for more lessons

Check out my new book for children to learn too! You can listen to it or get a copy!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to All

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
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With all the hoop-a-la going on about the Mayan Apocalypse and how the world might end on 12-21-2012, I want to make it clear to visitors to this site that Family Disaster Dogs are not Doomsayers. 

We do not believe the world will end any time soon, and we are not preparing for Dec 21,2012 any differently then we are for any day when a disaster or chaos may hit. 

This is a dog training site dedicated to posting lessons by trainer Amber Higgins. The lessons tell pet owners how they can train their own family dog a few skills that can come in handy around the house and during emergencies situations.

A tracking lesson will be posted next.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Preparing and Making a Base Camp

Why we need to Prepare for Super Storms and Make a Base Camp

Sandy is another wake-up call to prepare for the worst.  Although local emergency response teams were on the scene assisting and doing what they could during and after the storm the damages and the number of storm survivors was overwhelming which left many people without help.

The beaches along the shoreline were completely wiped-out and many homes are gone, totally destroyed with everything the survivors owned. People were wearing donated clothing because they could not find their homes or belongings. Many people wandered the streets wondering what to do.

Sandy has raised the need for preparing for survival everywhere. More and more television shows are showing us how to prepare and survive. There are several excellent survival training classes available on and offline which can teach you how to survive a disaster in addition to what you can learn here about training your pet dog to help you.

Every skill you learn, even if it is only one skill from any source, may come in handy one day to help you and your family know what to do so your not left wandering the streets wondering what to do.

How to Prepare for Super Storms

The lessons here can be used to teach the family pet vital skills to use while you are awaiting help to arrive during and after an emergency.

Family Disaster Dog lessons can be taught as part of your daily activity with your dog and family.

For instance, it only takes a few minutes to pack a k9 survival bug-out backpack on your dog before you take your dog with you on a drive in the car. If you do this each time you take your dog then your dog will learn to remind you to get the emergency supplies when you go for a drive. And, having those supplies with you may one day come in handy and save a life because you will have lifesaving necessities with you.

It only takes a few hours a month of training for your family to have a greater chance for survival.

There are many ways you can prepare.

You can prepare by yourself or by forming groups in your neighborhood or in your club and circles of friends. Online social networks and schools are good places to find others who would be interested in learn with you how to prepare for disasters.

You can train as often as you like or groups can meet once a month to train with their dogs as a group. The group can use the lessons here in paper form to hand-out for people to practice at home. Survival and rescue information should be gathered from a number of sources on and offline for educational purposes.

The basic idea is for you, your family or the group to learn how to be self sustaining with  survival and rescue skills.

Another thing you can do to prepare in your own home and on your own time is to pack a 72 hour survival Go-Bag, which is also called a Bug-Out Bag, a Ready Pack or in a dog’s case, a Family Disaster Dog Backpack.

Keep these backpacks near the exit to your home or office and one in the car if you do not take the home go-bag with you each time you leave the house. Many people carry their go-bags everywhere, similar to an over sized purse or book bag.

Also feel free to share the information about Family Disaster Dogs with your friends, family and community. Ask us for Free material for groups, workshops and sharing.

Self Sufficient Means Feeding Yourself. 

Prepare for super storms like Sandy by learning more about food storage. Stock your home and office with at least one week’s supply of food you can eat without cooking. Make sure you can easily open the packages. Include medical supplies and first aid kits. Learn CPR and take first aid classes.

Store an excess of water for cleaning and cooking.  Make sure you have a way to purify the water before cooking or drinking. Find an alternative natural source of water near your home or office, wherever you spend most of the day. You'll feel better knowing you can go get water if the need arose.

Make sure to store your survival food and supplies in an easy to reach location, preferable out of your home but on the property or nearby in a hiding spot you can reach if your home is damaged or you must evacuate.

Speaking of evacuating, if you are told to leave your home or office, where do you plan to go?

Base Camp and Evacuation

It is a good idea to set up a meeting spot up before a situation occurs. Any safe, secure and private location a short walk from home can work as a base camp or meet up spot.

Base Camp can be your home away from home. 

If you live where you can plan a base camp or bug-out location and store supplies at the camp then prepare the camp beforehand by stocking it with supplies. This is where your family will meet if you are separated and without a home.

If you live in the city, you can prepare by finding a clear, comfortable spot in a city park or wooded area near your home. The more private the location is the better. The spot should be big enough to house the people in your group, preferably near a water source but away from danger if possible. Seek high ground if flood is possible, low ground if dangerous winds may prevail without floods.

This public spot will turn into your base camp for evacuation purposes. This spot will not be stocked up with supplies because the supplies will be divided up and stored in easy to carry packs kept with each member of the group or family.

Show everyone the meeting spot and explain you will all meet there in an emergency. Every person can bring supplies to help set-up camp using what they can carry, at the time of evacuation. Each person should bring extra items along with their own Go-Bag and each dog should carries supplies.

When the call comes to evacuate, everybody will know where to go and what to bring which will give them a sense of security. Even if a person is not able to carry much, they can do a part to help get a base camp location set up and comfortable.

Your group will stay at this location until rescuers or outside aid from the police, fire department and rescue teams reaches you.

In most disasters you will be cut off from outside aid for hours to days.

Be prepared to be out of electric, heat and water for many days by learning how to use alternative energy methods for cooking and heating. Make sure the methods are safe for indoor use.

Teach your pets and children what to do if they are separated from you. They should learn how to go to the meeting place on their own, how to stay warm and how to remain in one spot when people are looking for them. Teach your children to Hug-a-Tree.

In the event of an emergency or disaster you are advised to prepare and move to a location away from your home for your safety because of the possible dangers and damages to collapsing structures, also the loss of power lines can cause fires and natural gas leaks can cause explosions.

Disasters occur very quickly and in minutes devastation can surround you. Dealing with this fact can be overwhelming to even the strongest individual. Evacuating to a safe spot beforehand can save a person from some of the trauma and emotional impact of being left without knowing what to do or where to go when all is lost.

Survivalist and Rescuers agree the safer and more comfortable option in a disaster is to move or evacuate to a comfortable camp spot where you can wait it out with friends and family instead of overburdening the resources that are overwhelmed during these events.

Churches, hospitals and shelters are full and short on supplies because so few people are prepared to become self-reliant and tend to themselves in these situations. Churches and shelters are there for us yet outside aid is usually cut- off due to roadway damages creating a lack of resources.

The more self-reliant we are then the less of a burden we are. This makes us more able to survive ourselves and gives the way to those who need more help.

Base camps plans can be comforting.  It’s a nice feeling knowing you have someplace to go. Camps can be made quite comfortable and much more like home then a shelter or church hall.

Everybody can have a few personal items at camp or have a few personal items ready to go to camp to decorate with. A special picture or blanket will be a great comfort to you when the city is dark.

If you are caught off guard and without any help or supplies during a disaster, remember every town or city has a park or wooded area where a base camp can be chosen. During a disaster you will be able to camp just about any place you find that feels safe away from damaged structures. Go find a spot as far away as you can walk, make the best camp you can from what you find along the way, then stay put and survive.

If you know what to do then you can Do IT!

Instead of standing there wondering what to do.

Why suffer when you can go camping instead?

Be prepared, be safe and be there tomorrow.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Family Disaster Dog Example

Family Disaster Dog Example

Family Disaster Dogs are everywhere. They are common in homes worldwide in numbers to high to count. These dogs are right under our feet and often found sleeping beside the bed or under the covers. If we look around any public place there is bound to be a family disaster dog nearby, ready to act at a moment's notice to save somebody's life.

These dog's are easy to spot because they are ordinary dogs relaxing with their families, undercover or out of a hero's costume. They wait.

Like Duke in the video link below who without any formal disaster or rescue dog training jumped into action and saved a baby's life.

WFSB Channel 3

And, Boone who jumped in front of a rattlesnake to save a boy.

Then there was a born hero in a newly adopted Chihuahua puppy who saved its new family from a fire that destroyed their mobile home. As smoke and flames spread through the residential trailer, the agitated puppy barked and growled persistently until it woke the home’s owner. When she realized the building was burning she was able to wake her children and two house guests and escort them safely outside.

This story has a sad ending because when the woman returned to grab her puppy it refused to come out from under the bed, where it had been hiding. She was unable to catch it, and was forced to retreat from the home as the fire spread. Several occupants of the residence made attempts to rescue the puppy, but had to flee due to thick, choking smoke.

Tragically, the young dog died in the same fire it had saved its family from. 

You can read the story here

There is another example of a great dog in action, this family credits their dog with saving their lives and sounding the alarm after a carbon monoxide detector goes off in their home.

.Have No Fear ~ A Dog's Nearby!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wind and Scent Behavior

Wind and Scent Behavior

The wind plays an important part in looking for lost loved one with your family dog. 

Every dog already knows how to work the wind and how to use the wind to the advantage when they look for members of their family. 

It's up to us to learn how to read our dog during windy or calm conditions in order to know what our dog's are telling us during a search.  

Handlers often make the mistake of "thinking" the dog has lost the scent when the dog is only working the wind. 

Each time you start to work your dog on a scent and as you enter the location of the search scene,  "feel" the wind and how the breeze drifts to settle on surfaces around you.  Feel the air around you and your dog,  feel the dew, the warmth of the sun and wind on the breeze.

This is what your dog feels and relies on. You must learn to be aware of the natural earth cycles that will affect your dog or you can not make critical judgment calls about your dog’s actions.

This awareness is part of assessing the scene for a K9 handler and dog, to make sure you are aware of everything before you venture into the unknown. Emergency response crews are taught to "assess the incident" before they go into action. This is part of planning that each rescuer should learn that will be included in later assessment and record keeping lessons.

For now, it is important for you to learn how the wind feels and which way the wind is blowing from and to where does the wind go. Learning to feel the way the breeze moves to settle in each and every crack on every surface around you lets you know which way the scent will be coming from and which way you should go.

Stand for a moment before you start your dog working on a trail. Look for any water surface to see if there is movement on the water from the wind. Look for any type of flags, tree branches and your hair or your dog’s hair can become a flag that dances on the movement of the air and take a moment to imagine the scent particles drifting on the wind. 

See where the leaves settle or a piece of litter rolling across the pavement lands. This is the wind in action carrying the scent you seek along its way. See where the scent will settle around you and your dog, feel the direction of the wind blowing from one direction and how fast or gentle she blows.

As you work with your dog understand the scent will travel on the wind and so might your dog’s nose work in following where the scent particles go. Never scold your dog for going off a trail or course because you really do not know if the scent is there or not, do you? 

The dog is always right on a search because we really cannot smell the scent they can smell and follow. We must learn to read the dog who knows what the scent is.

Always remember to trust your dog to follow the scent where the wind takes the particles.

Your dog will naturally work the wind if given the opportunity to do so because the wind will guide your dog to where the scent is originating from. Scent moves in a cone from the object it is originating from. 

As the scent moves away from the source the particles spread out forming the larger end of the cone as illustrated below.

Once you learn to feel the wind and know which direction the breeze will carry the particles you will know to face your dog in the direction of the wind to start the search. Then your dog has the advantage on the trail; and a good starting place.

Learn to pay attention to obstacles that may cause the wind to shift or move in another direction in order to read your dog better.

If your dog suddenly changes direction for no apparent reason and the subject did not or could not go there then there is a good chance the wind moved the scent to the lay where it has. Your dog will work the puzzle out, if given the time and opportunity.

For instance if a lost person jumped up on a landscape wall to a grassy area 3 feet higher and traveled along the wall instead of away from the wall. The scent particles will fall on the lower and upper surface, on the top of the wall and along the bottom.

A dog is most likely to travel and follow the person’s scent along the bottom of the wall without jumping up to the top of the wall like the person did. This is easier for the dog then jumping up. 

When the dog comes to the scent cloud at the wall  not where the person went. The dog will turn and follow the direction the scent is coming from. The dog can follow the scent from either the top of the wall or the bottom with the same ease.

When the person moves away from the wall across the grass the person's scent will follow and so will the dog by jumping up onto the upper level as the scent moves away the dog will follow.

The wind is one of the strongest forces on earth and the plays many roles in how scent is spread for a dog to find.

Another example of how the wind can play on scent is in an open area of a power line cutout of a forest or a sudden opening in a brush covered lot. High grass and other types of crop fields with a sudden open path or road way will make a tunnel effect on the scent trail because the wind or air will move up this tunnel opening to push or pull the scent in one direction or the other. 

If you look around you can see many places that make a tunnel effect on a surface which the wind can travel through.

Underpasses on highways and alleyways between buildings will all make a place for the wind or air to come through to move the scent off the person’s actual path. If you are trailing with your dog and cross a clear cut area in a forest or alleyway in a city your dog may turn into or away from the area when following the scent particle currents on the air.

Follow your dog and they will work the wind and air through the puzzle. Your dog may momentarily be off of the person’s actual foot path by following the scent on the breeze, the dog should be allowed to work this out without interference from their handler even when the handler does not understand why the dog is acting like they are not tracking.

Your dog may stop and look around as they smell the air and see where to go. Give the dog a chance to do as you ask. The wind’s effect on the scent can make a dog hard to read and confuse the handler who can then confuse the dog.

Anytime your dog stops following a scent they are working out a scent puzzle and should be allowed time to work this through without us telling them what to do because they are busy doing what we ask. If the dog stops to think or react we should not interfere. Some reactions take time.

Go easy on how much encouragement you give a dog who is actively working scent or they will feel interrupted. Some dogs do not like to be bothered when they are working and speaking to them can break the focus they have on the scent or job. Other dogs enjoy the companionship and want us to be part of the job. Each dog is an individual who we have to learn how to read.

Each time you start to work your dog on scent work, also called nose work, you should test the direction of the wind and feel how strong the wind is blowing.  

A mild breeze blowing the scent to your dog can have a great advantage on a trail while a day with no wind might make your dog work harder finding scent which is laying still. A day that is dry, hot and still with no breeze at all is the hardest for your dog to work a scent.

The trick for wetting your finger then watching to which side dries first does work for determining the wind direction and you can look around for items blowing in the wind, chimney smoke is a good indicator during winter months. Cigarette smoke and campfire smoke are good to watch and learn how the wind will move the scent on the air.

One important point to always keep in mind is that there is a layer of air at the surface of the earth where our feet land that is not moved or affected by upper wind movement. This layer of air can be worked by a dog in the worst of weather conditions.

This layer of air is between 2 and 4 inches from the ground and a dog who is tracking as close to the ground as they can get their nose is working this scent layer.

Bloodhounds and other hounds are notorious for finding their man because they know where to put their nose and their ears are long to stir up the air uncovering the scent in this bottom layer of surface air.

During the late afternoon and night hours of a day, the expansion or exhale of the earth cycle and moisture from overnight expands and wets this surface air which drifts up during the process making the scent easier for a dog to follow.

Sue working a Scent Cone

Saturday, September 22, 2012

From Your Dog

My Willie G Dawg
From your dog;

The years go so very fast and before you know it that romping pup is old and grey muzzled and they have sat by our sides while we read, watch TV, and work on our computers. Every so often they come and lay their heads in our laps, toss our elbow with their muzzle or gaze into our eyes and wait for us to notice them. Take a moment now to commune.

"I am your dog, and I have a little something I'd like to whisper in your ear. I know that you humans lead busy lives. Some have to work, some have children to raise. It always seems like you are running here and running there, often much too fast, often never noticing the truly grand things in life.

Look down at me now, while you sit there at your computer. See the way my dark brown eyes look at yours? They are slightly cloudy now. That comes with age. The gray hairs are beginning to ring my soft muzzle. You smile at me; I see love in your eyes. What do you see in mine? Do you see a spirit? A soul inside, who loves you as no other could in the world? A spirit that would forgive all trespasses of prior wrong doing for just a simple moment of your time? That is all I ask. To slow down, if even for a few minutes, to be with me.

So many times you have been saddened by the words you read on that screen, of others of my kind, passing. Sometimes we die young and oh so quickly, sometimes so suddenly it wrenches your heart out of your throat. Sometimes, we age so slowly before your eyes that you may not even seem to know until the very end, when we look at you with grizzled muzzles and cataract clouded eyes. Still the love is always there, even when we must take that long sleep, to run free in a distant land. I may not be here tomorrow; I may not be here next week. Someday you will shed the water from your eyes, that humans have when deep grief fills their souls, and you will be angry at yourself that you did not have just "one more day" with me. Because I love you so, your sorrow touches my spirit and grieves me.

Wrinkledpups Daisy Mayham 
We have NOW, together. So come, sit down here next to me on the floor, and look deep into my eyes. What do you see? If you look hard and deep enough we will talk, you and I, heart to heart. Come to me not as "alpha" or as "trainer" or even "Mom or Dad," come to me as a living soul and stroke my fur and let us look deep into one another's eyes and talk. I may tell you something about the fun of chasing a tennis ball, or I may tell you something profound about myself, or even life in general.

You decided to have me in your life because you wanted a soul to share such things with. Someone very different from you, and here I am. I am a dog, but I am alive. I feel emotion, I feel physical senses, and I can revel in the differences of our spirits and souls. I do not think of you as a "Dog on two feet" -- I know what you are and who you are. You are human, in all your quirkiness, and I love you still.

Now, come sit with me, on the floor. Enter my world, and let time slow down if only for 15 minutes. Look deep into my eyes, and whisper into my ears. Speak with your heart, with your joy, and I will know your true self. We may not have tomorrow, but we do have today, and life is oh so very short. So please -- come sit with me now and let us share these precious moments we have together.

Love, on behalf of canines everywhere.

Your Dog."-Author Unknown-

Family Disaster Book is in editing stage !

The Pet Care Downloads are now priced at $1.00- $1.99!

The next lesson will be online soon, have a good day everyone and dog!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Family Disaster Dogs News



Family Disaster Dogs News 

Along with working on the Family Disaster Dog manual which is almost finished, Amber's been putting together and planning for Free Community Family Disaster Dog  Meets here on the Oregon coast. 

9-11 Rescue Dogs and All War Dogs Tribute 

This Month is 

National Disaster Preparedness Month in America

In Memory of Sue

From the CDC;

Preparedness for All Hazards

Emergency preparedness requires attention not just to specific types of hazards but also to steps that increase preparedness for any type of hazard. The resources at CDC site are intended to help people take an all-hazards approach to preparedness.
In Memory of Jed Clampett's Remmington
Thank you Pam Andrews

Sire to many of the author's Wrinkledpups Bloodhound line of Search Dogs

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Being prepared means staying informed. Check all types of media – Web sites, newspapers, radio, TV, mobile and land phones – for global, national and local emergency and survival information. During an emergency, your local Emergency Management or Emergency Services office will give you information on such things as open shelters and evacuation orders. 
Learn how your dog can help you survive during emergencies and disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes,tornadoes and floods. If a family member or loved one is ever lost, your dog can find them if you know how to ask your dog. 

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Temperature and Scent affects Working Dogs

Earth Cycles and Scenting

Temperature and Scent

working a pup
Mantrailing dogs and other scenting dogs do best during certain times of the day due to weather conditions and natural earth cycles. These factors are present in every training exercise and on every actual search incident.

With practice these natural influences can be used to your dog’s advantage or disadvantage depending on the following aspects that are related to how the wind, rain and air temperature transports the scent your dog follows.

The Science of Scent is quite complex and for easier understanding I’m going to stay away from the scientific side of scent and discuss, in layman terms, how scent is affected by the weather. This can be a confusing but interesting topic.

To begin with, Earth cycles influence the air temperature of day and night, the speed of the wind and how rain storms are formed, which in turn, affect the scent particles your dog will follow.

Air temperature affects the work of a search dog in more ways than only the dog’s performance when it is to hot or cold outside. We all know the heat of the day can make us feel less active or and more active. The hotter the temperature the less we want to work. The same is true of our dogs.

Day and Night Temperatures

Wrinkledpups daisy

The earth breaths in a regular cycle each day as the sun heats the day beginning with a cool crisp morning then warms to high temperatures in midafternoon and decreases to cool again at dusk.

This earth cycle is extremely important to a serious mantrailing dog handler or scenting dog because as the earth cycle repeats day after day, the scent particles and surfaces all around us dry up and loose the freshness of dawn heating throughout the day then cooling to re-moisten and expand overnight.

Throughout the increasing heat of the day, water and moisture in the scent particles evaporate. The surfaces and the scent become dry. Similar to how a surface will become dry in the sunshine so does the scent particles on the surface of everything around us.

Moisture and scent particles are absorbed by surfaces and objects during this drying out period of the day then later released or replenished with moisture when the sun begins to go down and the day cools off.

This means during certain times of the day, the particles of scent will be more difficult to detect due to the loss of moisture in everything. Scent particles are still there but shrunk in a sense and can be detected under certain circumstances.

This aspect is naturally adjusted in the dog by increased panting and the production of more saliva and a wetter nose.

This is why search dogs and tracking dogs should be kept hydrated at all times and well watered in order to produce a wet nose. Always carry water and wet your dog’s nose for better scenting ability in hot dry weather.

Mild temperatures will affect the dog’s nose less but more with distance. For instance, when a dog begins to dehydrate after tracking for several miles the nose will dry up and scenting ability begins to drop.

At this point a dog may lose the scent, go off track or stop trailing or tracking the trail or scent not because the trail has disappeared but because their nose is dry.

As the Earth breathes in this natural cycle every day, and scent dries up, the particles are absorbed inward on surfaces. When the temperature cools, the scent particles are released.

This is why wild animals are not as likely to hunt or seek food during the heat of the day; they lay and wait for the cooling cycle to begin in the late afternoon.  When the day starts to cool off moisture is released from the earth and all surfaces expand releasing scent particles giving them help in the hunt.

As the day temperature cool and night falls, you can feel the moisture come out of forest and grasslands, and see it in gardens and lawns as dew in the morning.

The ground outside actually inhales all day in one long breath then exhales overnight in oxygen. Just like we and our dogs breaths so does Mother Earth.

Trees and plants absorb the air around us during the day and release oxygen at night replenishing the earth as part of the earth’s cycle. Scent particles are in the air, trees and plants.

The day’s temperature plays a role in how quickly the scent particles will be released or if they stay dry making them move more easily on the wind. The surface comes into play when the surface changes from grass, dirt, pavement or a table top.

Each surface will absorb or reflect different amounts of scent particles and other microscopic particles, such as bacteria, dust and other contaminates. As the day turns to night and continues to cool more and more surface particles are moistened, expanded and released as the pores everywhere open giving wild animals trails to follow and hunt.

Overnight the earth is refreshed as moisture inhaled during the day is exhaled and condensed again into night dew and fog holding scent particles. This is the best time to work a scenting dog.

Winter temperatures slow the day heat cycle until the moisture in the air reaches the freezing point at which time the scent particles become frozen in place and dogs are able to detect the person’s trail because as the dog breathes on the frozen scent pool and moves through the trail the ice thaws out under the dog releasing scent for the dog to smell.

I use this natural earth cycle to my advantage when working dogs by starting sessions or lost person trails as the day starts to cool off.

If the heat of the day is going to be over 85f degrees it’s best to Wait to work a scenting dog until the afternoon begins to cool, usually between 3 and 4 pm.

I’ll work a Bloodhound all night with lights, taking a rest break every 2 hours for 20 minutes on long trails or difficult incidents.  I stop working the dog on very warm days when the day begins to warm in the morning (10-11am) then wait, rest, sleep until afternoon (3-4pm) when the day starts to cool. We start all over searching again until we finish and make the find.

 If we work all night then we’ll sleep and rest in the heat of the day.

Incredible Sue
There were many days Bloodhound, Sue and I worked in extreme heat of 105f plus, she never lost a scent or trail even on the hottest driest days.  She taught me about wetting the dog’s nose.  She would always find a water source, usually off the trail and out of sight, like a hidden stream or small creek in the brush.

All of a sudden she would turn off the path we would be working and jump into the brush where a creek or spring would be. There she would stick her whole nose and muzzle deep in the water and blow bubbles. She’d pull her head out of the water, shake, splash a little on her belly with her front paws then go back to work on the path we were on.

Bloodhounds love to wet the nose. All of my Bloodhounds would put their whole muzzle into the water up to eyes, nose, lips and all then they blow bubbles. It’s great fun to watch in a lake when the dog goes under water walking on the bottom, ear floating and nose blowing bubbles. They can go quite a long way under water this way.

Sue taught me to always keep your scenting dog’s nose wet on the trail by watering your dog often or wetting your hand then patting the dog's nose with the wet hand. A hot dog will not and should not drink very much water until they cool off or they can colic.

I only give a hot dog a few drinks of water from the palm of my hand until they cool down and are not panting hard. If I have extra water I’ll put handfuls of water under the dog’s front legs and on the stomach to cool them off quicker. Behind the ears and inside the hind legs are other good cooling spots.

I'll be posting soon and about how the wind affects scent on the trail.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Weather and Scent

Now that I have covered the basic scenting dog lessons that show you how your family dog can learn how to find you or a loved one,  it would be helpful for you to learn how the weather affects the scent your dog will be following.

Learning how climate changes affect scent will lead to you reading your dog better which makes this an easier task for both you and your dog.

Tracking, trailing and air scenting all have one common factor that must be taken into consideration at the beginning and during each attempt to locate a missing person.

The weather affects everything on Earth. Especially the way scent is dispersed and scattered by the wind, heated and cooled by day or night temperatures or diluted and spread by rain and storms.

Your dog has a natural ability to understand climate changes and how they affect the scent the dog is following or they would not be able to hunt. Your dog will follow the scent as the weather manipulates and disperses it to settle in places that only a dog can find.

Scent can settle and move through cracks in rocks, under doorways, through overhead vents and auto filter systems or be sucked up and inhaled by the Earth herself during the natural cycle of the day.

In order for us humans to read our dog’s actions that relay what the dog understands about the scent work they are performing we must learn about how the weather affects the scent or our dog knows more then we do.

Once you understand how the weather affects scent then you can use the weather to your advantage when tracking and help your dog to be able to work quicker and smoother in locating a lost person.

This knowledge saves valuable time when people’s lives are in danger.

Here's one of my posts that will teach you a few of the fundamentals of how scent behaves. First will be a discussion about how the Earth takes a breath every day just like we breathe so does the world we live on.

The effects of the wind and scent, then temperature changes, followed by rain and scent; concluding with how different storm situations will affect the trail you and your dog are on.

When you are out with your dog notice how your dog behaves when the weather changes or in different weather conditions and take these actions into consideration while you are training.

Many times when a dog appears to have made a mistake in training we do not take into account how outside influences might affect performance.

Take time to look around and feel the wind, the air temperature and ask yourself; is it humid out? Or which way is the wind blowing from?

Then notice how your dog works in this weather, take notes and if you work in every type of weather as a good search dog should, after a few weeks, the notes will show you different things your dog did at different points along the search.

You will learn how to read your dog in different weather conditions and see in your notes that your dog did indicate or change how they worked when the weather changed.

From there on, when you are working in that weather you will know what to look for in your dog’s behavior and Congratulations, you are reading your dog!

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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