(Go to part 2)
When you are training your dog there are often times when we have to set a course up that will be similar to what we encounter in real life. Obedience courses and agility courses are two that come to mind most people have heard of.
In training the family disaster dog we want to set up courses and lost person scenarios that we might encounter during an actual emergency. These courses help us and our dogs to know what to expect, consequently, we learn what to do in an actual event.
To set up a training course, we have to think of what we might encounter along the way and put the ideas into the training course. This is prepared ahead of time. After the course is set up then the course has to be aged. Aging the trail or course will be covered in advanced lessons.
How the training course is set up depends upon what level you are training.
Once you and your dog have the general idea down of how to find a person and what evidence to look for, it is time to further your training by using well planned and prepared courses that include tracks, trails, and scenarios.
It’s time to advance to life like training!
In doing these courses we are playing and pretending this is a real life rescue and the most important thing to remember is your dog will always find its man! (Or woman, child or object)
This most confusing aspect of search dog training is also the down fall of many handlers who fail to follow the golden rule. The dog is always right not the trainer or handler.
When a police dog fails to find a person it is never the dog’s fault but it is the handler’s fault for reading the dog wrong.
To avoid failing in training, never let your dog fail to find what they have been told to find otherwise your dog will not look because this type of training is actually for you to learn to read your dog and follow your dog. The dog knows how to find anybody or anything on their own but the dog does not know how to find somebody with you tagging along telling him what to do.
How these factors come into play when your dog is searching for a lost person and how to use these factors in preparing a training course to work your dog on will help you and your dog to figure out the puzzles you come across on an actual search.
Planning a Training Puzzle
When considering how to set up a training course three factors come into play, the wind including weather, contamination and location.
Wind and weather conditions always affect how you will read your dog working the scent. The wind blows the scent as the wind moves therefore knowing the direction of the wind is vital. Weather such as rain or freezing conditions affect the scent as well therefore these factors should be considered as you follow and read your dog.
Contamination is anything that has been in the area of the training course. I mean everything including car exhaust, chemicals such as spilled gasoline after an accident; other people who have walked in the area contaminate the scene.
Animals who have crossed the location up to 24 hours earlier can lead your dog off course if your dog is inclined to follow the deer or rabbit instead of the person’s scent you are looking for. A known dog walking path is not the best place to train a tracking dog.
Indoors cleaning solutions, tobacco smoke and odors we do not smell can contaminate the scents the dog is following and a novice dog has not learn how to work these odor puzzles out yet.
Location plays a role because different terrain creates different scent action. Such as wooded areas hold the scent closer to the ground while a cleared field allows the scent particles to move and disperse over a larger area. Drainage channels and clear cut areas where power lines run through make wind tunnels that can carry the scent in a different direction then where your dog goes.
During all of these experiences your dog will continue to work the trail by working out the scent puzzle if you allow the dog to do so. The dog may follow the scent as it is blown down a wind tunnel to the point where the scent is so thin the dog turns back and backtracks to a stronger scent point where they began the tunnel.
Then the dog continues on the right trail. The important part of this training and in actual search events is to remember to trust your dog and follow them through the puzzle. If you stop the dog thinking oh the person never went down that steep hill then the dog can not finish the puzzle and chances are you will fail.
The same holds true when your dog is following a animal scent or the wrong scent which puts them off the trail you intended.
Never underestimate your dog or where a person who is afraid might hide or go.