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I thought I would share this with the SAR community.. Titan is not certified yet but he did such an AMAZING job on Saturday that I needed to share with you guys. If this belongs under the Braggs Thread, then it can be moved, but it was meant for this audience, as I would like feedback too :)

About 14 months ago I started Titan in SAR. We started on a non-certifying team in Germany when we were stationed there. We were part of the team for about 5 months before we moved back to the states. Over there they used the Bark and Hold as an alert. He had gotten that down pretty well but obviously we were still working on it. When we moved in August we weren't able to find a team here until about Dececmber.

We found an awesome one about 45 minutes away from me. They however trained the Refind instead of bark and hold and it was such a challenge retraining Titan to do that. We moved him to a compound and controlled searches for the longest time. Probably about 5 months until he understood the whole concept. Periodically we would change it up to a little less controled to see how he did and he was getting it but I was still having a few problems getting him to come alert me when he found someone. He would find them, they would radio me when he got there.. then he would come back to me and never alert. It was really really frustrating. So we continued on controled searches where I knew where the victim was and could essentially do the refind myself while commanding him at the same time.. (sounds funny, hopefully you know what I mean)

Well our last session we did was his first time in an uncontrolled search area where I had no idea where the victim was. It was also a much larger search area than we had done before so I was kinda nervous and thought he might get burned out quick because it was so hot and humid out. Titan did phenominal! Took a little long with him because the victim apparently went the 50 yards in the wrong direction so we essectially doubled our search because our lead told us where he wanted us to start, assuming she went to the location he told her. Well we kept going and Titan did everything perfectly. Found her, alerted me, showed me where she was and got rewarded... it was such an amazing experience to see it finally click for him and for him to get it down after all this time. I was such a proud mama!

Sorry for the novel, just wanted to share that with you guys. I'm sure you all have experienced that with yours in the beginning, it just made me really really happy to see that all the training was in fact working, I have gotten discouraged sometimes but I am glad I kept on training regardless!! Hopefully with about another 6 months to a year of training I can look at certifying him.

Any suggestions for me still being in the beginning stages and all that???
 

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Thanks guys!! I am so proud of him :eek:)
 

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Good boy! It is great when it all clicks.

My main suggestions is don't loose the motivating short stuff. Mix it up so the dog never knows if he will make an instant find or have to work a few hours. Never underestimate the value of those short drill problems- change up one variable at a time. Steady wind, Front coming in, different types of clouds indicating different atmospheric instabilities, times of day, terrain (hah...Florida...one word FLAT). Play with smoke bombs a lot to understand how odor moves. (If that is restricted due the fires down there use a bubble machine-it is very telling)

Work on increasing nose time-that is negative time searching as well. Don't just train to the test but train to scenarios based on real searches...you are on a good team...I got to work some of the HRD scenarios Brad set up when I went to WCU-very creative.
 

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Good boy! It is great when it all clicks.

My main suggestions is don't loose the motivating short stuff. Mix it up so the dog never knows if he will make an instant find or have to work a few hours. Never underestimate the value of those short drill problems- change up one variable at a time. Steady wind, Front coming in, different types of clouds indicating different atmospheric instabilities, times of day, terrain (hah...Florida...one word FLAT). Play with smoke bombs a lot to understand how odor moves. (If that is restricted due the fires down there use a bubble machine-it is very telling)

Work on increasing nose time-that is negative time searching as well. Don't just train to the test but train to scenarios based on real searches...you are on a good team...I got to work some of the HRD scenarios Brad set up when I went to WCU-very creative.
Brad is pretty awesome, though I have only worked with him once. He moved to a different team and now George Felt is there.. did you ever get to meet him? He is an awesome team lead. He is really good at setting up realistic scenarios. I told him that I wanted to keep doing the short drills in the beginning when we get there then let him rest and do a longer problem after that. Next step is to get myself more knowledgable on the handler side of everything, which George is going to start getting me ready in that area. He wanted to focus on the "game" with Titan until he understood it, then fine tune it once he got it down. It seems to be that time! :) Thank you for the advice. I will definitely keep that up. To be honest, with the location I'm at, I'd like to at some point get him certified to search in a natural disaster area. I think that's different then a "normal" search. Anything you can say about that?
 

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I have not really done anything in the way of disaster work so I would never deploy under those cirucmstances on anything beyond my training. Since I do cadaver, that is a late priority anyway. The extent for me would be simple frame structure (house) collapse. I would not work flood stage water - I am not going to risk my life or a dog's life for a dead person. A live person, that is a different matter.

I would be connecting with disaster responders in your state; I know Miami-Dade has such a team-not sure if there is a state SUSAR team as well.

That said, floodwater since hurricanes would be a likely disaster for you. Learn REAL WELL about decontamination of your dog. I know several dogs that worked Floyd up here (1999) and went to Katrina (2005) who later died an early death of cancer (within a year of service). A lot of nasties get in that water. And snakes and gators which you already have to contend with. Know up front the risks to yourself and your dogs and if you are willing to take them.

Did not know Brad had moved but it sounds like you are in good hands.

We get a good percentage of dementia walkways. Understanding Lost Person Behavior (also do you have a copy of the Koester book?) and setting up scenarios for that is good. One challenge with them is that they often walk around their house a LOT and there is often a huge scent pool for the dog to work out. Plus they wind up in places that make no sense at all. There is a lady who does amazing lectures on Dementia with role playing and acting to "get into their head" but I cant find her info right now. I think she is based in FL.
 

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Teepa Snow
I knew I could find that in my mental databanks - just took some time to pull it out.

She is WAY worth listening to but be prepared to be made a subject; she really wants you to leave looking out the eyes of a dementia patient. It also helped me a lot with understanding my mother, who is a stroke victim.

Because....the reality......missing kids, often with autism spectrum disorder and missing dementia patients will probably comprise the bulk of your searches. Often now, hikdrs, carry cell phones and have coverage and are not the bread and butter of our searches anymore. I certainly doubt that it would be the case in FL as well.


Teepa Snow teepasnow.com
 

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Very nice, it sounds like you are progressing well.

He would find them, they would radio me when he got there.. then he would come back to me and never alert. It was really really frustrating.
What is Titan's trained alert behavior? Whatever it is, make sure that you can get him to do it with a verbal cue. When he comes back to you, cue the alert if needed. With repetition it will become automatic and the cue can be gradually faded. Don't give him a chance to "never alert" by dropping the cue too soon.

So we continued on controled searches where I knew where the victim was and could essentially do the refind myself while commanding him at the same time.. (sounds funny, hopefully you know what I mean)
I'm sorry, I'm not sure exactly what you mean. One interpretation is that you were leading Titan back to the victim. If so, don't do that! Always let him lead the way. Also, don't continually command him. If he is hesitant to return to the victim, have the victim call him back.

Any suggestions for me still being in the beginning stages and all that???
For the alert and refind to be reliable, you need to train in a wide variety of conditions. When conditions are different than your prior trainings, lower your expectations and set your dog up to succeed every time.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
We get a good percentage of dementia walkways. Understanding Lost Person Behavior (also do you have a copy of the Koester book?) and setting up scenarios for that is good. One challenge with them is that they often walk around their house a LOT and there is often a huge scent pool for the dog to work out. Plus they wind up in places that make no sense at all. There is a lady who does amazing lectures on Dementia with role playing and acting to "get into their head" but I cant find her info right now. I think she is based in FL.
Teepa Snow
I knew I could find that in my mental databanks - just took some time to pull it out.

She is WAY worth listening to but be prepared to be made a subject; she really wants you to leave looking out the eyes of a dementia patient. It also helped me a lot with understanding my mother, who is a stroke victim.

Because....the reality......missing kids, often with autism spectrum disorder and missing dementia patients will probably comprise the bulk of your searches. Often now, hikdrs, carry cell phones and have coverage and are not the bread and butter of our searches anymore. I certainly doubt that it would be the case in FL as well.


Teepa Snow teepasnow.com
Thanks for the info!! My team lead has talked a lot about this type of things. He likes to throw in a "walking" victim sometimes. So that it's more realistic. Not always is your victim going to be sitting down waiting for someone to find them.

As for the disaster work, I think the idea is good, but you're right it's a lot of risks I have to think about first. While it's something I think about a lot I'm not sure I would be willing to risk Titan in that situation. I could risk myself but not so sure I could risk him.

Very nice, it sounds like you are progressing well.


What is Titan's trained alert behavior? Whatever it is, make sure that you can get him to do it with a verbal cue. When he comes back to you, cue the alert if needed. With repetition it will become automatic and the cue can be gradually faded. Don't give him a chance to "never alert" by dropping the cue too soon.
His alert, now that we retrained it, is to run back, wait in front of me and bark until I say "show me!" and then I follow him back. His cue for his alert is a hand signal or "speak." I generally stick with the hand signal and say "What?" when he sits in front of me. I generally wait a minute before doing anything to see if he will alert and he has gotten much much better at it.

I'm sorry, I'm not sure exactly what you mean. One interpretation is that you were leading Titan back to the victim. If so, don't do that! Always let him lead the way. Also, don't continually command him. If he is hesitant to return to the victim, have the victim call him back.
Basically it's in those situations, mainly in the beginning of our training or now if he is being a goof ball on occasion, where I know he has found them and he has alerted me but when I say "show me" he just doesn't do it. In the beginning I would wait for a sec and if he didn't run back for me to follow, I would grab his collar and point him in the direction of the victim and say "show me" again then let him take me there. I never thought of having the victim call him back.. that's something I will mention at our next meeting if that happens.

For the alert and refind to be reliable, you need to train in a wide variety of conditions. When conditions are different than your prior trainings, lower your expectations and set your dog up to succeed every time.
Alway always. This is a huge rule of thumb for our team. Alway sto end on a good note. Which is why, for now, I always know where the victim is. So that if he isn't cooperating or is burned out, I can point him in the right direction. Luckily in Florida weather isn't the most reliable. So for training purposes, it's wonderful. We train in a compound and do little controled searches and then go out into the woods and train there. Just depends on the day, who's there, and what we want to work on. For now I am a fan of controlled searches because Titan doesn't have it 100% right now. He has a lot of it. And most of the time he gets it, but not 100% yet.
 

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Alway always. This is a huge rule of thumb for our team. Alway sto end on a good note. Which is why, for now, I always know where the victim is. So that if he isn't cooperating or is burned out, I can point him in the right direction.
When you know the location of the victim, I think it is very important that you don't reveal to your dog that you know it. So you have to be a good actor and pretend that you are clueless about the location. By pointing him in the right direction you are letting on that you know where the victim is. You don't want your dog to think you are omniscient or he may not feel it is urgent to communicate something to you that you both already know.

Acting is a very useful skill for SAR dog handlers to develop. Our dogs are so perceptive that they will see right through a bad performance. Pretend that you are preoccupied, e.g. looking at your compass, as your dog is coming back to alert (but don't let him see you see him coming back!). Act surprised when he interrupts you to tell you he found someone. Convey a sense of real urgency with your "Show me!". Feign ignorance of the victim's location and expect your dog to show you the way. If he hesitates too long on the way back, have the victim make some noise. And finally, during the resulting play session the victim should act genuinely giddy with excitement and fun.
 

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That was something I noticed with him. If I were to incinuate at all that I knew where the victim was.. he wouldn't search as well. However in the same respect there were times where I knew where I didn't know where the victim was and he had found them already and didn't come back to me and when called back he didn't take me back when I said "show me" though that was in the beginning of training.

Now I'm at a point where I know the vacinity of the victim, not exact location, and when he finds the victim, they just key the radio and I essentially turn my back from him so he has to come to me and get my attention. I didn't realize that would make a difference but he was doing this thing where when he would find them, he would come into view of me and just stare at me and if I looked at him he would turn around and go back to the victim. Good technique.. as soon as I started "ignoring" him, he started running to me and alerting. It was awesome to see that finally click too.
 

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It definitely is VERY important to have that alert be rock solid no matter how close, especially with dementia patients who may be right under your foot but "invisible" (like in a briar patch a few feet away) and you would not know it.
 

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Yeah I definitely can see that. We actually did one search where I knew the area the victim was and he was alert where the scent was coming down some polls but he wasn't going to the top where the victim was. That was a little tricky for me because I finally saw her and didn't want Titan to know I knew where she was. I acted dumb and the victim ended up making a small noise so he ran up there and finally "touched" her. I don't reward him until he "shows me" and then I say "go touch" and he has to go physically nose the victim so I know that he knows what he just did. So far so good.
 
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