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Old 12-10-2012, 08:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Okay, last message was long winded. My bad.

I know it will be a long while before I can become a handler, so where should I begin with my training? I live on the Gulf Coast of MS, but I could really go anywhere when I get a job. Preferably somewhere with mountains and real winters, eventually.
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:58 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'd recommend seeing if there is a team in your area that you can start volunteering with. You may not be able to join the team if you're planning on moving, but many teams welcome people who want to learn and are willing to act as subjects or otherwise assist in training. It can give you an idea of whether this is something that you really want to do. I know when I joined my team, I was very surprised at how much of a time, energy and money sink it actually is, even though they tried to warn me! It's something you really have to love, and a lot of people seem to love the idea but not the reality. edit: apparently I wrote that paragraph before I read your other thread...I'd still recommend trying to get involved with your local team to some degree. I don't know how they do water searches but when we do them, we're not actually in the water at all (except maybe ankle deep to push the boat off). Safety is a priority and if you're in danger of being eaten by a gator, something has really gone wrong.

Also, I read your other thread...I can understand wanting to get out of the swamps, but as someone who has lived in the desert and mountains most of her life (mostly CO and NM), you will probably find it grueling. Missions in mountainous terrain are absolutely exhausting. I was just on one where we were having to walk pretty much straight up (and I mean straight up...the incline was so steep we could barely manage) for several hours--and even though I live a mile high, we were high enough that the air was noticeably thin even by our standards. There was no way around it. I guess I'm just trying to say that everywhere has it's drawbacks. Also, if you have a knee problem, you may want to plan on doing a lot of steep hillwork to make sure it can hold up. I have an extremely minor knee injury from years ago that has healed thoroughly for day-to-day life (I run extensively, ride horses, hike in the mountains, rock climb, etc. without problems) but I can still feel it sometimes on that really steep back country terrain that we usually wind up in on searches. And especially with dogs, even when you do a terrain search, you have to be able to follow your dog if he picks up on something. And while you're not afraid of rattlesnakes...ever stumbled across a mama grizzly and her cubs (or even black bear)? Or come face-to-face with a cougar? I've done both, and I'm not really afraid of either (aside from a healthy respect), but a lot of people are. I wasn't nervous about gators in theory until I was kayaking in Florida and one bigger than my kayak swam alongside me. Again, not trying to say another about you (for all I know you do have experience with bears and cougars and aren't bothered by them), just giving you things to consider.

I'd place SAR fairly low on your priorities when it comes to your impending move. Maybe decide on a few areas that you like based on lifestyle, location, cost of living, career opportunities, etc. and then just rule out ones that don't have a SAR team in the area.

I'd also just say that you're just graduating from college, and you have a young child (not to be presumptuous, but are you a single parent? you say you have family that can care for her during callouts, but will they be in whatever area you move to? have you discussed this with them?). You've got a lot of time to get involved with SAR. Getting a dog for a sport like nosework or schutzhund and doing that for a few years as you settle into a new career will only help when you eventually get a SAR dog. I mention that because you don't really mention having a lot of serious dog experience. I have a lot, I'm a professional horse trainer (and operant conditioning is the same in all species) and I competed in herding trials for years with my other dogs, and I still found the learning curve very steep (see my post about my first SAR dog washing out). In fact, just last month a dog on my team was certified to go on missions, and his owner was talking after the fact to a new member about how frustrating the training process is--how many times she left practice and just wanted to cry because her dog seemed to be regressing. That's animal training, and it's something that a lot of people are unprepared for.

Anyway, I'm really not trying to discourage you. I totally fell into SAR for the worst reasons (I wanted to give my GSD a job LOL) and wound up totally loving it--although I also had some previous non-K9 SAR experience, so I guess it wasn't totally uninformed. I just think you may be putting the cart before the horse a little. It's a fun and very rewarding hobby in a lot of ways, but it's also frustrating and exhausting and expensive and sometimes frightening and often sad. Even in the short time I've been involved, I've seen probably 3-4 people show up talking very much like you and dropping out after their first serious training exercise, much less an actual mission. That's why I'm urging you not to base your life decisions on this until you have some actual experience with it.
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Abutiu "Abi"-ACD puppy and hopeful future SAR dog!

Last edited by RowdyDogs; 12-13-2012 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 12-14-2012, 12:10 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I am a single mother, and after talking with jocoyn, I have decided to wait before jumping into this. My moving is a year or so away, first I need to get some experience and save some money. I'm going to get a GSD and work with him in obedience and then agility after I have more experience. Bears and cougars aren't very common in central Oklahoma, where I grew up, but I've come across coyotes and bobcats. I give them a respectful distance and leave them alone. I can't tell you why, but I've never feared land predators. I respect their power and what they could do, but I'm not "scared" of them. Crocs and gators have always creeped me out. Probably because I love swimming, and they take away the security I feel in the water.

As for the knee, the injury happened 8 years ago. I have increased my running over the last few months and I've been working the quads to take the stress off of the joint. There aren't a lot of hills down here on the coast, but we do have a good bridge to run on that has one steep-ish side. However, the air is still thick enough to cut with a knife on some days.

Anyway, I am going to wait but do things that could help me out when the time comes, like exercise and learning more about training. I used to ride horses growing up, but they have all since died of old age. The one other horse we were working with nearly destroyed my dad's knee with a well placed kick. He is living in luxury out in the pasture with his mom and brother. I do want to re-marry and have more children, so I'll probably wait until I've had sometime with whomever God has for me and added to my family. Thank you so much for the advice you've given me. I didn't mean to sound like I was going to jump right into this, I prefer to plan ahead, even if it is by a year or more, so that I am fully prepared before hand. I trained myself for a full year before I joined the military because I wanted to be on par or ahead before getting to Basic. Good thing too, and my Flight finished as most physically fit female flight out of our entire graduating class. Thanks again, it is nice getting advice from actual people instead of just reading from a webpages.
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Old 12-14-2012, 01:16 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I understand planning way in advance, and I truly don't want to discourage you. I think your current plan is really smart, and I hope you do wind up getting involved in SAR. You do seem to have a lot of really good qualities for it.

Keep in mind, too, that a lot of teams really do love volunteers (volunteer volunteers? not sure how to say that LOL--I mean people who aren't actual team members but help out sometimes). I can't speak for all of them because I'm not that experienced (well, and I don't think anyone can speak for all of them), but the several I've run across do. Extra "victims" help training proceed more quickly and especially when you first start people will love you, because it really helps to work the dogs on people they don't know.

If your local team works like mine, a benefit of just helping rather than actually joining the team is that you don't have to meet any attendance requirements, so you can pick and choose which trainings you want to attend. In other words, you can avoid those water ones. Anyway, I don't know if your team wants people in that capacity, but you could always ask.

I think gators are creepy too, and really land predators aren't that bad...but cougars can rival them at times. I think the most scared I've ever been in my life was when I ran into a cougar on a huge vacant lot I was cutting though...one solitary streetlight in this vast dark area in a mountain town (it was separating an outlying subdivision from the town itself, had been slated for development but wasn't there yet), and I'm cutting across it and encountered this huge cougar under said solitary streetlight. He stared at me, I raised my hands and yelled, and he slipped off into the dark...the dark that I had to walk through...I kept telling myself, "At least I'm not a California mountain biker..." It took me 23 minutes to get into civilization again and that was the longest 23 minutes of my life because I had no idea where that cat was, but I doubted he'd gone far. That definitely beat my kayak/gator experience for sheer fear. A couple of other times I've been in canyons and been stalked by cougars, but it's daylight and I know they're there so while it's a bit unnerving, I knew they probably weren't seriously hunting me. I reassure myself by telling myself that if a cougar wants to eat me, I probably won't know until I'm being mauled...that's reassuring, right? LOL Fortunately they do only rarely attack people (aside from said California bikers ). Bears don't really scare me for the same reason, if you're smart when you encounter them and you follow basic rules like not keeping food in your tent, you're pretty safe. So I actually totally understand where you're coming from with the gators, is my point. I just didn't know how much time you'd spent in areas where they lived or where there's serious mountainous terrain, and have seen a lot of people underestimate it.
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The rowdy dogs:
Hector-2 y/o GSD (mix?) rescue
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Bandit-8 y/o ACD
Wooby-14 y/o ACD
Abutiu "Abi"-ACD puppy and hopeful future SAR dog!
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Old 12-14-2012, 02:27 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'll look into volunteering as soon as I have a job and I'm all settled in. I've been job hunting for 3 months now, but only had 2 interviews. One place said they'd hire me when they have an opening, but that it could be months before that happens because of the economy. The other place required me to travel out of town most of the week. I wouldn't do that even if I wasn't a single mom. So, I'm still on the hunt.

I have to get my daughter her schnauzer before I can get my GSD. She's been waiting patiently for months since I had to find a new home for the dog her dad gave her. It was aggressive towards her, even though we'd had it from a pup, it would bite, push, and knock her over. It outweighed her by 20lbs at 8 months old. So I found it new home with a single guy with no kids and it is doing much better. But she knows we can't get her new dog until I have a job and we've moved out of my mother's house. I plan to practice obedience training on her dog too. Part of the reason I chose the schnauzer for her was because of their intelligence and training ability. That and it won't ever outweigh her. LOL That they don't shed is just an added bonus, but I'm used to having dog hair on and in everything. I may see if it could do agility too. Once its older, of course. Although, it would be cute to watch a 2lbs puppy try to do some of those agility tasks. Especially that see-saw. LOL It probably wouldn't weigh enough to tip it. I'm hoping to find a miniature schnauzer that will weigh 15-20lbs when full grown. I've been researching breeders for months. Its next to impossible to find one that isn't advertising "designer puppies" for exorbent amounts of money. So the search continues.

And now I've added GSD breeders to the search. I think a GSD with a low-medium working drive would be best to start off with. I've heard that the German lines are calmer in that way and after I have worked with him and become more proficient at training, I can work with a dog that has higher drives for SAR work when the time comes. Right now, I just have to keep looking since I donít know when Iíll be getting either dog and remind myself that I should get one at a time. Even though I would love to get them both ASAP.
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