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Old 12-07-2013, 12:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Victim in tree.. scared.

So last weekend we had our first scenario of a victim up in a tree. We had 2 finds before that then worked our way to find the 3rd who happened to climb a tree to see what the dog's would do. Titan, who has done other types of above the head searches, was scared or hesitant. He stopped about 50 yards away where he could see a girl in the tree and just froze. He wouldn't move. Wasn't growling.. just wouldn't move. Very alert, tail up, ears forward, etc.. but wouldn't move. I actually startled him when I came up to him and then he wouldn't move closer without me. So we walked and I encouraged to "check it out" which is my "it's ok go ahead" command. He would only go a few feet in front of me then turn and look. When we got about 10 feet from the tree she was in he turned to me, I prompted the alert, and told him to show me, and he went to the tree.. but it was just strange. Has this happened to anyone and what would you have done in my situation?

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Old 12-07-2013, 01:25 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Humans usually don't hang out high over head and in trees, so I can understand his hesitation.

I'd do a bunch of victim in tree scenarios for the next little while and start making it super fun and positive for him, so use whatever motivates him for the victim to engage from the tree. Lots of encouragement and praise on your end, as per usual, but try and build his excitement when he sees someone in a tree.
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Old 12-07-2013, 01:27 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Sounds like great advice to me.
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Old 12-08-2013, 07:47 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Thank you guys. I will definitely be doing more of that. It was just new to me to see him like that so I too didn't know how to respond lol.

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Old 12-08-2013, 08:23 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Good advice. I would note also ask myself if there are "other" things he has had to be worked through. I did have a dog, Toby, who was similar but he had enough "having to work through experiences" that I washed him because the only thing you can expect on a search is the unexpected.

Conversely, Grim was like a bulldozer with everything BUT glossy white floors. I kept it in my mental inventory. Worked it a lot, he could successfully work on them but was uncomfortable with it, and realized that if we ever had such a search scenario I would not deploy him. He had zero issues with anything else.

I think these are both nerve issues at some level. Not desirable. You have to know the dog well enough to know if it is some odd fluke or a sign of other issues.
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Old 12-08-2013, 08:41 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jocoyn View Post
Good advice. I would note also ask myself if there are "other" things he has had to be worked through. I did have a dog, Toby, who was similar but he had enough "having to work through experiences" that I washed him because the only thing you can expect on a search is the unexpected.

Conversely, Grim was like a bulldozer with everything BUT glossy white floors. I kept it in my mental inventory. Worked it a lot, he could successfully work on them but was uncomfortable with it, and realized that if we ever had such a search scenario I would not deploy him. He had zero issues with anything else.

I think these are both nerve issues at some level. Not desirable. You have to know the dog well enough to know if it is some odd fluke or a sign of other issues.
Good to know.. I'll definitely keep that in mind. When we trained in Germany we did some warehouse searches and sometimes we had people hide high on a shelf way out of reach. Titan was the only dog that would dang near climb on our equipment to try to touch the victim. Every single time. So this just surprised me. I'm gonna ask my team lead to do more of those. If he continues to freeze I'll have to go from there but I think he'll work through it.


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Old 12-08-2013, 08:45 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Good points Nancy. Environmental stress creates misses. It's the number one reason I will drop a dog.

To the OP:

I would start with lower high finds and incrementally raise them. Start squatting on a chair, move on top of a low car, into the crotch of a small tree, up from there. The situation may have just been so strange he couldn't comprehend it. I've had it happen to me, and I'm far from environmentally unstable, but it was more than likely fear.

The reward should already be a 10 / 10 for a find, so I doubt you are going to be able to raise the reward value. I would work on DS training using finds and a 1:1 reward schedule.

I wrote up a DS/CC training schedule I used for a dog that was startled when he was searching under a semi truck and the parking brake was pulled. If you are interested, I can dig it up.

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Old 12-08-2013, 08:49 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I'd be interested in seeing it too.
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Old 12-08-2013, 09:14 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Danger Will Robinson... really long post LOL



I have dealt with several detection dogs that developed fearful reactions and avoidance due to noises. They were refusing to work under certain conditions.

I will discuss one particular dog, as we worked out of the same location and I conducted most of the training with him. I will leave out non-pertinent information to protect my brothers working in bad places, so please have patience with any lack of specifics about the situation.

This dog is of solid nerves, and very environmentally sound. He regularly experiences gunfire and mortar round explosions. He rides in aircraft. He confronts all situations with a smile and wag of his tale. He is confident in all he does. I had spent 7 months around this dog before the following incident.

The area the dog was working was very familiar to him, as he worked in that location 3 to 4 times a week for a period of several months before the following incident took place. He was frightened by a loud noise while searching a particular object. He went into avoidance of the object, returned to his handler, tucked his tail, began panting and licking his lips. After a short break and removal from the immediate area, the dog refused to work, and failed to respond to a drop aid that was placed so as to be sure the dog was in the scent cone. He shut down.

Upon returning to the FOB, the dog would not work or leave the handler.

The following day, a training venue was set up in a location the dog was very familiar with to see if he would work at all. One of the objects the dog was exhibiting fear around was placed at the end of the training venue to gauge his reaction. The dog responded successfully during the training exercise, except at the end when the fear object was present. At this time he avoided the object , seeking reassurance from the handler. The dog's reaction was not as fearful as during the initial incident, but he still ignored odor and went into avoidance.

We used a program of desensitization through successive approximation and avoided flooding to keep from pushing the dog into a deeper fearful state.

A fear object was placed in a large open area. The dog was walked into the same area as the object and the distance at which the dog began to exhibit the smallest amount of fear response was noted. This distance was 60 meters. A flag was placed in the ground here for reference. An arc of 5 flags was placed at this distance from the fear object to create a reaction line. Flags were also placed at 10m intervals closer to the object for successive reference points. Picture a dart board with the fear object being the bulls-eye.

The dog was run through OB exercises, and allowed to roam freely outside his reactive zone. Every time he looked at the fear object he was rewarded. It is important to state that the dog must be working outside the range at which he exhibits fear. We were rewarding the lack of fear response. The dog was worked on leash and never allowed inside the reactive arc. The idea was to not allow the dog to experience fear.

The dog was trained in this manner for 4-5 minute sessions, 15 times a day. Concurrent odor training was taking place at another familiar location, where his reward frequency was lowered while the find frequency was raised. He went to 1 in 8 fixed reward schedule in hopes to raise his frustration enough to drive him into the fear object when the time came. Concurrent gunfire training was taking place at the range.

The following day, the dog was tested at the 50m flags to ensure there was no fear response. The outer flags were removed and the training moved 10m closer to the fear object. This same procedure was followed every day until the arc was removed.

Once the arc was removed, games of hide and seek were played with the reward as the hidden object. At no time did the dog exhibit fear towards anything. The rewards were initially placed away from the fear object, with subsequent games moving closer, and finally in contact with the fear object.

Once the dog was successfully operating around and on the fear object without demonstrating avoidance, odor was placed in the same manner as the rewards, moving successively closer, and finally in contact with the fear object.

After the initial desensitization to the object was complete, training moved to the fearful location. The dog was allowed to relax in the environment without any stress added by handler commands to perform any OB or search behaviors. The dog played 2 ball and tug games in the fear location for a full day and then returned home. Slowly, loud noises were included into the training. The following day, simple training exercises were conducted on odor, with a high find frequency and 1 in 8 reward schedule to help build drive.

After 2 days operating in the fear location without seeing any fearful reactions, training venues were set up in the fear location with the fear object in proximity to the training. Hides were moved successively closer to the fear object, until the dog was responding to odor placed directly on the fear object.

The team was then run on several blind training venues at the fear location which included the fear objects. When the team proved it would work in this location with no distraction caused by the location, loud noises in the location, or close contact with the fear object, they returned to duty.

10 days training were spent on the dog before it was returned to duty. Every step of the training was based on the reaction of the dog, not a schedule written on paper.

I do believe the training could have occurred at a faster pace, but chose to take things slowly to avoid any handler issues or set-backs in training.

It is easier to handle situations like this when you are a handler, and it is your sole responsibility to train and operate with your dog. If the dog is not mission capable, you have 24 hours a day to work on the situation until it is fully mission capable. The dog is your life.

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Lucian - Med Alert (Cane Corso)
Pud - the old man (Pit x Lab)
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Old 12-08-2013, 09:28 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I like it. MWD training and handler skill has come a long long way.
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