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Monday, March 19, 2012


Updates for Family Disaster Dogs 

Hey Everybody, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming up in the next lesson: 

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

Coming soon the complete lesson package for download.

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

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

Have a great spring everyone!

Be Safe-Stay Prepared 

Advanced Alert to Danger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Luck and Be Safe!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lesson 27: Alert to Danger-Part 2

Alert to Danger
Dig up or Wake a Person
Part 2 of 2

Teaching your dog to Alert You to danger

The hidden person pretends to be asleep or unconscious which encourages the dog to wake them or get them to move because to the dog, the person is not acting normal either.

Once your dog learns to associate alerting you when the scene looks abnormal or the warning siren sounds your dog will use its natural instincts and love for you as a member of the pack when they feel danger coming or find you and others in a bad position.

To make a mock earthquake or mudslide, house moving situation alert, the surface your dog stands on must move. To make this happen, one person can hide behind a large chair while the other person pretends to sleep on a bed or in the chair, under a blanket with a toy or treat the dog will want.

When the warning systems sounds the person under the blanket makes a noise with the toy to get the dog’s attention and make the dog dig or try to wake them to get at the toy.

At the same time the other person shakes the chair or table like an earthquake would, this might at first scare the dog so be aware of how hard you move the chair until you see how the dog reacts. It is best to startle the dog slightly so they notice the pretend earthquake.

If you have training courses indoors or outside with space, you can hang a piece of 4 x 8 plywood by chains on each corner to make a floating floor a few inches off the ground. The dog stands on this and a person can move it slightly to give the dog motion.

Be careful using a floating floor because by doing this to much the dog learns how to balance and stand on surfaces that move in usual ways. This is meant to teach a dog to balance and shift its weight but we can use it as a mock earthquake with a little planning.

The floating floor is excellent for agility and rubble working dogs to know but in training them to alert to an earthquake or ground shaking we have to make sure it feels like an earthquake or danger instead of something they are accustom to. 

A little suspense and drama added to the session creates urgency like a real life danger but in a safe way. 

Once the training session is set up you will place your dog in another room where you go to act normal for a few minutes.

When the warning system sounds or you are ready then walk out with your dog loose off leash.

As preplanned, when you and the dog walk out together the person who is hidden squeaks the dog’s toy or calls the dog’s name which gets the dog looking for them as soon as the warning system sounds. Or, when the dog hears its toy or name then can not see the person they realize something is different.

At first let your dog find the person who is under the blankets without you telling the dog a command. You can see by the photo below Willie takes off to look for his toy he heard make noise.

  And he finds the Blankets with a person hidden in the photo below.

Willie asking me what to do next?

Your dog will start looking for the toy or where its name came from, encourage your dog to find the person and get the toy or treat when they reach the hidden person under the blanket. Praise your dog but do not have the person speak to your dog, they should be pretending to be unconscious.

Willie gets his Toy

After your dog “wakes” them up and finds them then they can praise your dog.

Daisy crawls under the covers to the person

Repeating this weekly for a month and then practicing monthly would teach your dog to alert you when they feel danger coming. Always go with your dog to the injured person then your dog learns to take you.

To reinforce your dog's actions to get you and wake you can pretend to be sleeping at the start of a few sessions to allow your dog to wake you. 

Open the door of the room and let your dog out, then lay down like you are sleeping or fell. Let your dog go to the noise of its toy or name to the other person.

When your dog realizes you are not with them like before, and the person they find is not giving them the toy or moving, they will come back to get you. 

Depending on the dog, the person might tell the dog to go get you first and then act injured or sleep again. 

Give your dog a reason to wonder what is going on and they will come back to get you to find out. When they come back to you then get up like they saved you and go save the other person, praise your dog for doing such a great job!

Job well Done!  Daisy gets the Blankets!

Remember the person who is playing injured or under cover makes noise to get the dog to investigate to get a toy or treat but hold back on giving the toy or treat until the dog accomplishes rutting under the covers, digging or alerting to the hidden person.

When your dog digs or paws at the person use a command such as, “dig them out” so if you or another is ever buried in real life you can tell your dog to dig them or you out.

Use different material and locations each time to make a rubble scene or disaster area to train in or your dog will get bored with this game. 

When your dog comes to get you or when you walk out to find the person with your dog ask your dog to “Show You”, get them to bark or paw, nudge or get you up out of bed so they alert you to the danger ahead. 

Always use the commands to associate which action you want. Get your dog to alert you by pretending to sleep and making a toy noise or call their name but do not move until the dog makes you by barking or waking you up. Then say “Good dog, Show me” give them a bit of treat or shake the toy as the warning system goes off or the other hidden person makes a noise. 

Using “Show me” as the command and follow your dog to the other person. Once found then ask your dog to “alert or to dig them out”. 

They can alert when you are awake by sitting down when they take you to a buried person but if you are not with the dog then they will return to you as explained above.

Use the person’s name and hide several people or family members at once to find at the same time. Take your dog to each person and repeat the lesson as you get everybody in the house to wake up and get out.

By using each person in the family’s name your dog learns to go between you and them. You can send your dog from one person to another by name and the dog gets rewarded every time motivating them to act if this happens when you are asleep.

Make this a fun game for the whole family, children can hide in great places that often look like a disaster hit. Take advantage of the opportunity to play hide and seek with your dog and children then in a real emergency the whole family knows what to do.

Teaching your dog to alert to fire and other dangerous odors is done by having the dog come to you when a fire or odor is happening. The fire can be in a large tin can on the patio where you show the dog the fire and have the dog go to another family member when you show them the fire.  You can ask your dog to bark or paw, or sit when they see and smell the fire or any other odor you want to be alerted to.

Again, use every opportunity when there is a fire or the odor present to ask your dog to show you or go get another person. Think up safe ways to have the situation present for mock fire drills or tornado type drills so your dog can associate the two incidents and warn you when they feel danger coming.

Get your dog ready to evacuate click here

Always trust your dog. Read 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lesson 27: Alert to Danger-Part 1

Alert to Danger
Fire, Earthquake,Tornado
Dig up or Wake a Person
Part 1 of 2

Teaching your family disaster dog to alert or wake you up in dangerous situations and weather conditions can mean the difference between life and death. Survival might depend on your dog waking you up at the right moment or alerting you when they feel the floor shake.

This lesson will be in 2 parts in order to cover the various alerts that can be taught the same way.

Part 1; Understanding the Alert

Understanding the Alert 

Daisy checks for a Person

Teaching your dog to alert you to possible dangers before and when a danger happens can be lifesaving. Bloodhound Daisy always wakes me if she thinks there is any danger. During storms or if she smells smoke she comes to me and paws me to wake me or get me moving. 

I encourage her behavior but not to the point of her becoming over protective and waking me at the slightest sound.

One thing with dogs we should always keep in mind is that they try very hard to please us and some dogs will go overboard in the attempts to do so if we encourage them to much. There is often a fine line between motivation and encouragement that can be crossed which results in a dog that has issues understanding what we ask. 

For instance, teaching a dog to bark for an alert can make some dogs bark all the time or anytime they want something. Another example is teaching a dog to dig at a certain time then one day he digs the whole yard up for no reason except it was fun and he remembers the day you said it was okay to dig. 

To avoid this problem, always associate what you ask the dog to do with a command, situation or action on your part. Then they learn to do their part and you work as a team. 

Any other time, when they are not under command or in the situation or action with you and they are not suppose to bark or dig, tell them to stop. Don't encourage them to bark or dig.

I like quite dogs and teach mine to sit or paw me for alerts. In this lesson we are going to use our dog's natural instinct about impending weather to save a pack member by alerting us to danger.

Many people have noted how their dog has behaved in unusual ways before an earthquake or serious storm. Dogs, like other animals, often react before a major event by taking cover or grouping up for safety.

Native Americans, farmers and outdoors adventurers know to watch animals for signs of weather changes. When the geese fly north we know a mild day is on the horizon but if they fly south we know to watch out for bad weather.

Our animals know long before we do and it stands to reason if we show our dog what to do when they feel the changes coming then we can be prepared ahead of time.

Teaching your dog to be a family disaster dog or survival dog is similar to learning CPR or becoming a Doomsday Prepper because you will not be able to actually perform these skills in a real situation unless an emergency occurred.

Similar to CPR-we want to have the use of these skills but hope to God we never have to use them.

Your dog can save your life or the life of a loved one.

To teach your dog to alert you to danger, such as smoke and weather conditions you will need to set up a pretend or mock training opportunity where you can practice what to do. 

Here we have a person pretending to be unconscious
 under Blankets and Small Furniture

As you practice, the training becomes like doing a fire drill where your family and dog learns what to do if they smell smoke or hear a tornado coming.

If you have an emergency warning system in your town or location that sounds off on the television or radio regularly that you can hear then you can use this to as a signal to your dog to alert you. 

If not, then we can rely on the dog’s natural ability to know when doom is pending by teaching our dog’s to show us when they get the urge danger is coming.

To use the National Warning System as a clue or command for your dog to wake you or alert you then you would do the training sessions at the time when the warning sounds on your radio or television. You will have to plan ahead to have the session set up and ready when the warning goes off.

If you have a burglar alarm or other alarm on your home or car, your dog can be taught to alert you to these sounds as well. You can make your own alarm with a horn or loud noise maker if you want the extra advantage of a noise alarm that helps to wake everyone.

If you’re in an area of the county that has earthquakes or tornadoes, use these opportunities to work your dog in a drill or session so when the big one comes your dog will alert you first.

Setting  a training session or drill to teach your dogto alert you can be as easy as having a person hide under a blanket or as complex as making a pretend pile of lightweight rubble from cardboard boxes, newspaper or whatever furniture you can think of that makes the scene look like a disaster happened.

This set-up gives your dog a reason to react because the scene or person does not look normal, thus the dog realizes something is wrong.

Setting up Sessions and Instructions are covered in detail 
in Part  

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Come when Called-Sit

Teaching your dog to 
Come when Called and Sit

One of the most asked questions in dog training is;

how do I train my dog to come?

This is one of the most important actions your dog should learn.

Calling your dog to you may save your dog's life if they are running into traffic.

You will never be as fast as your dog on foot so forget about chasing a dog, other then to keep them in sight or out of harm's way by stopping the cars.

If there's no traffic or a harmful situation in the nearby area and your dog will not come to you, turn around with your back to your dog and walk away calling your dog to go "along" with you.

You are not telling the dog to come to you but to go along with you.

If you make this really interesting like "oh let's see this" and stop to pick at something on the ground, throw a leaf or two, toss some gravel in the air, or dance around a little. You can even run a few steps to make your dog wonder what you are doing and come to see.

Gotcha kido! 

Do NOT then lead your dog away like you are mad at them.

Make sure your dog knows how happy you are that they joined you in seeing what was going on and they'll be more excited to come see next time, lots of petting and good dog praise.

When you feed your dog always make sure to incorporate the word "come" with the dog’s name. If they sit near by, take them out of the room before and until you have the food ready then bring the dog back in by saying , "come”,  using their name, ” lets eat".

Another time to reinforce come is when the dog is running around the yard, practice calling them to you in a playful, encouraging way. Squat down at first so you are at the dog’s level and not as threatening.

Praise and pet, praise, praise.

Always make come the most enjoyable experience your dog has with you and they'll look forward to coming to you.

Never ever, ever call a dog to you and punish them.


If a dog is doing something bad, like chewing a sock or getting into the trash, one of the best ways to stop them is to get their toy and say "hey, look what I have."

Play with their toy and see how long they stay with your sock.

Doggie will want the toy you have because you make what you are doing more fun the what they are doing.

Put your sock away, give them their toy instead and play a little with them to show them this makes you happy.

Keep in mind the floor is the dog's world.

You live above them other then your feet, most everything on the floor they may think of as their own until they learn what belongs to you.

Your dog might think you left that sock there just for him and wasn't that nice of you.

He'll wonder how come you came in and all of a sudden yelled at him.

Why did you take his sock away, some friend you are.

Always make come the best thing your dog can do for you and they will come every time when they are called.

To teach your dog to come while using a leash when you are walking by you suddenly stepping backwards quickly with your right leg first if your dog is on your left side.

Continue stepping backwards as you call your dog to come to you. At first your dog will be surprised because you were just walking next to them and now your gone, stepping backwards.

This is good because it helps your dog learn you might move so they should pay attention. As you step backwards and call your dog, you will gently use the leash and praise to call your dog to sit in front of you as you stop about 10 paces back.

When you stop, gently lead your dog to stop in front of you and ask them to sit.

This can be done any time you have space while walking your dog. Do this often and soon your dog will be coming to you when they are called on and off leash to sit in front of you.

Always praise, praise and praise.

Always say your dogs name before you use a command or ask them to do anything except stay or wait.

All other commands should begin with your dog's name so they know you are talking to them and not the other dog or person in the room.

A Trick for a Sit

We have all heard of using pressure points in the body to relieve pain. This dog training trick uses pressure points instead of force to teach a dog to sit.

With your dog standing beside you rub your hand down the top line of his back, all the way from his shoulders to his tail.

Do it again and feel where the dog's hips join the body.

Now rub your dog's back starting before the hips to the tail, feel where the two bones are that stick up from the hips?

These bones will be well before the tail and behind the stomach on the overweight guys and girls.

Look after you feel and you should be able to see the 2 bones at the top of the hips on most dogs.

Using your free hand with your thumb and middle your hand on the bone area with the thumb Behind one bone and the middle finger Behind the other bone.

Then press your fingers gently down and a little bit together then see what happens.

There are 2 pressure points right there behind those two hip bones on the dog's back.

This is actually safer on the kidneys of dogs then pressing or pushing the dog down to a sitting position.

Especially if you are working with an older dog.

With large strong dogs and the well padded dogs you may have to use more pressure for them to respond. On small breeds, do not push them down at all, just pinch gently but firm enough to feel.

Now, if you praise the dog right away for sitting when you pinch the pressure point, the dog will be sitting in no time.

If you do not praise the dog, and get them sitting without having to use the pressure point often they will learn to wiggle out from under you and get away from sitting.

Your fault not your dog’s; do not get mad at them.

Timing is everything in dog training.

Have fun, lots of praise, pet them once they are in the sit position and not unless they are.

Coming after the next Obedience posts; how to teach your family dog to alert you to fire and emergencies at home.

How to Encourage a Dog

Learn to love and watch a dog accomplish what they set out to do. Capture the moment that resides in all of us. The moment of accomplishment of though, focus, action and movement in perfect harmony.

This is what brings into creation the art of being able to put in motion a thought in real life with the joy of the moment. 

Dog love to please us, they have proven time and time again throughout history that they will do for us anything we ask or need with tail wagging joy and total commitment.

They learn early on to come to us and ask us to take them for a walk, to feed them and to love them. They know how to get our attention and we've all heard about how well our dogs train us.

A well trained dog is actually a partnership built on trust and love with its handler.

Dogs that are trained to fear being wrong are not working with their handler as a teammate, as a partner. They are reacting from fear of punishment and have learned that the handler will scare them if they do that behavior again.

They have not learned to think of the performance but of the punishment. Even the slightest punishment puts the dog's attention on what you are doing "to" him and not what he is doing at the moment.

We want your dogs to be thinking of what they can do for you instead of what you might do to them. 

Playing in the water on a hot Ozark day
Wrinkledpups Beauregard "Bo"

Training dogs with food rewards can bring on a similar response where the dog is only working for the food and not with you as a team member. Food therefore, is only recommended as a way to motivate the dog to begin to pay attention and then the food should be replaced with praise that leads to teamwork.

Miss Lilly and Tammi
We're so proud of these 2 !
Tammi, Lilly and Bert (pictured below) are a team we are extremely proud of. 

Lilly, along with Wrinkledpups Bloodhound Bert and Tammi made an incredible 1st Find after only a short time in training. Tammi got Lilly from us when Lilly was 6 yrs old and Bert when he was 6 months old. 

These were Tammi's first Bloodhounds and after training for only a few months with a local law enforcement trainer in their area, they were called on a search for a missing elderly couple.

The couple's car was found after the couple had been missing for quite a long time. Tammi called me to tell me after she scented the dogs on the car, both dogs led her through the woods to a old empty house. Lilly went to the sofa and got on the sofa then the floor and she did not want to move. Bert scratched at the floor and walls. The house was a mess, full of trash and furnishings everywhere. It looked like nobody had been in the house for years.

Tammy could not figure out what was wrong with the dogs. Lilly did not want to do anything but lay there. Bert ? Well he was young and maybe just wanted to play?

Always trust your dog...I told her to go back and do the same as she did before. Watch the dogs, they are trying to tell her something. She did exactly that and with the police, the elderly couple was found buried in the wall and floor of the house. They had been murdered and missing for months. 

Never underestimate your dog.

Bert and Tammi
Thank you Tammi, Bert and Lilly
for making us proud

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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