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yellowroses 12-22-2013 06:38 PM

beginning training for a young SAR prospect?
I do GSD rescue and picked up an 8 month old working lines dog two months ago. His background and pedigree are known. He received basic obedience form a "Petsmart" type class when he was very young. When he grew too large and boisterous for the apartment, his owner drugged and crated him for most of the time. His vet called a halt to the dope and called me because he was getting dangerous and out of his owner's control. When he arrived we thought we might have to put him down-- he was frantic and crazy.

Two months later, he is still energetic and boisterous, alert and wanting a job- intelligent and not crazy. We are repeating his earlier obedience training and he is slated for a level two class at the end of January going for his CGC test. A local SAR group leader says he can join, if he proves to be promising and passes a first level Therapy Dog test. that is months down the road and we have a plan.

However, my other dogs started tracking work at three months of age and he is one year. What should we be doing to prepare him? My dutch shepherd and my older GSD started out in schutzhund tracking which is different from the sport of tracking stateside and both are very different from SAR.

I had considered starting him on short lengths of "variable surface" tracking" to get him used to searching an area not scented by crushed vegetation. Also considered letting him track naturally with raised head, allowing air scenting, instead of making him glue his nose to the ground as in schutzhund.

Would appreciate some direction here. We need a bit of a road map so we don't go off in the wrong direction.

Thank you for your patience, if you got to the end of this post.:)

Mary Beth 12-22-2013 09:39 PM

You may want to contact The National Association for Search & Rescue as this article on their website Canine Fact Sheet - National Association For Search And Rescue does discuss training older dogs (it is in the section titled What are the Requirements).

jocoyn 12-22-2013 10:15 PM

Take the lead of the group. Honestly the dogs can learn the search aspect so quickly and he is a young dog. I would be making him bombproof on social skills, obedience, and confidence.

Many handlers will start a dog on schutzhund style (or AKC style for that matter) tracks even if it is destined to become an airscent dog. For a trailing dog it is good for teaching them to look for odor on the ground. It is hard to go from trailing to footstep or airscent to trailing but foundational footstep tracking is no problem for transitioning to other disciplines and would be fun for the dog. But TALK WITH THE TEAM as they will tell you what THEY want.

I would really not start trailing problems with out one on one help as there is a lot to reading negatives, head pops, scent articles etc. so why risk messing something up in that regard.

ladylaw203 12-23-2013 07:54 AM

Like our police patrol dogs,your dog will not "footstep" track as in sport. Our dogs trail. Variable surface tracking is advanced. We start them in tall grass so they use that to their advantage while learning:) Then the tracks become more difficult

wolfstraum 12-23-2013 09:11 AM

Good for the vet and lucky dog!!!!!!!

Nancy is probably the most experienced SAR person here.....I have had several dogs who were given a foundation of footstep tracking who went on to do SAR and LE, certifying in Wilderness, Urban and Cadaver (SAR) and one LE is a patrol dog on Canadian border doing Narcotics which is rife with drug smuggling, also has been sucessful on SAR situations.


ladylaw203 12-23-2013 02:15 PM

I have been importing titled dogs for 25 years so I have also tweaked the footstep style tracking for police work. HOWEVER, if one is starting a dog with no training, I would start the dog trailing and not the sport style tracking. waste of time:)

jocoyn 12-23-2013 02:41 PM

My suggestion to go ahead and start doing FST or AKC tracking, if the team agrees on it was because the OP already has experience in that realm and there is some finesse in working a trailing dog that is better done with a mentor. Agreed, not needed but it gets the dog working the ground for odor which is a good thing when they loose the trail.

Personally, I would focus on making the dog as well rounded as possible and not worrying about it for the wait time. Bring out the dog's inherent prey and hut drives with ball games. [throwing balls into the brush and making him hunt etc.]. Build up tugging with the dog and getting a good out. Being able to be around other dogs offlead without interacting with them etc.

I am sure there are plenty of people here who have more experience than I with trailing dogs; they just don't post much.

ladylaw203 12-23-2013 03:56 PM

;)FYI we have many techniques we use with trailing dogs so they learn what to do when they lose a trail.

jocoyn 12-23-2013 04:01 PM

Yes, that is why I suggested not going down the road of trailing without a mentor.

David Taggart 12-23-2013 04:24 PM


he is one year. What should we be doing to prepare him?
Your question has a simple answer: make him ball mad. I guess it shouldn't be difficult for you playing every day: his ball must be his best treat. Pretty quickly he would recognise it as his object of preying which doesn't have equivalent for its quality. Ask him to sit, wait whe the ball touches the ground, the ball to go out of vision in the grass, left somewhere in uncertain, and srend him to "Search!" I choose Chuckit Ball ( including glow ball for your night play), because it still has a life circle like production ages ago: 1) it doesn't have any smell of its own; 2) there is a hole openes after a month of play where you can insert a scent you wish him to find. Use cotton buds before then to mark the smell. Make a track by using a cotton bud with a touch of essential oil and hide his ball together with this smelly cotton bud. Come next day together with your dog and let him smell a second bud from somewhere of a plastic bag ( this scent shoudn't be on you). Help him to find the ball. Trained regularly, your dog would learn to associate the given smell with the ball. trained more regularly than just, he will try finding his ball in association with any smell you ask him to start tracking.

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