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Discussion Starter #1
So, I have a weird question for SAR people.

I was working Finn yesterday just doing short distance searches. Nothing crazy. I'm trying to work out the kinks of not doing anything SAR related in over a year and see where we're at. I was using my husband and a friend as 'victims'. Everything was going smoothly and I asked my friend to lay down instead of stand as I could see her in the spot where she hid quite clearly.

Finn went to her...and laid down next to her, licking her face, nuzzling her hand, and just acting funny. The second she sat up, he came right back to me for the 'show me', but he got super weird with her laying down. I had my husband be the victim, had him lay down, same reaction.

Back at home, I found myself just laying on the floor with my feet propped up on a footstool stretching my back out. Finn could've cared less. He came over with one of his toys and I ignored him. He walked away not even three seconds later to chew on a rawhide on the couch. I had the Hubby lay on the floor to gauge his reaction and once again, he could have cared less.

Is this something we can work on? Him being okay with people laying down? This was the very first time he ever 'found' someone laying down.
 

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Yes, you have just discovered you HAVE to mix it up.

Put the victim sitting, laying down, standing, walking, running, up a tree (or deer stand), in a building, under a tarp, in a tent, etc etc. They need enough different experiences to generalize...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I figured. I thought back to all the different trainings I went to and most people were just standing or sitting on a fallen tree or something like that. We've done a bit of building work and he really likes that and crouched down hidden under a camo net, but it dawned on me pretty quickly that laying down has never been a thing we've done.

This morning, he was tugging on my friends' jacket sleeve, but he came back for the 'show me' pretty quick. It was so weird how just a different position could wig him out like that.
 

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Add briar patches and crawlspaces to your search areas. Not uncommon for dementia patients.
 

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Also remember that some victims behave weird. Make sure your dog is ok with people petting or yelling or moving. If you are doing a recall/refind, have the victim move when the dog leaves. Get him used to lots of scenarios. I have known handlers who dogs were screamed at by victims.


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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Add briar patches and crawlspaces to your search areas. Not uncommon for dementia patients.
Yeah. Our backyard has lots of fun little hidey holes and tons of briar patches. He goes through those with no issue and doesn't mind crawling under things.

Also remember that some victims behave weird. Make sure your dog is ok with people petting or yelling or moving. If you are doing a recall/refind, have the victim move when the dog leaves. Get him used to lots of scenarios. I have known handlers who dogs were screamed at by victims.

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Never thought of that. We've been working on him just coming back for the refind; sometimes he will, other times he acts like he's leading the person out: he'll run away about ten feet, then look back at the person like, "Aren't you coming?"

I hope to get back to my old SAR group within the next few months so we can restart training again, but I want to show that he hasn't lost anything and perhaps gained something in the last 18 months.
 

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Yes then start adding to the list from real search experiences - many things we do are based to things we would not believe someone would do but they did or things we have encountered. If the recall is rusty I would go back to drills on just that. There is NOTHING wrong with returning to basic elements during training.

Today Beau (certified in October) had his third real human remains search and his first one in an urban setting. While we found nothing, I was proud that he ignored the cat he surprised in the gully, the free range chickens, dogs on chains and behind fences. He also ignored the plastic soda bottles (very important- because they can contain stuff for meth as well as drano bombs!) - and - he did not drink out of the creeks that he did lay down in to cool off. Lots of bits and peices of training coming together. Sure enough how on earth did that old washer get out in the middle of the woods (well with all our creeks and streams we have lots of urban woods) though all those nasty nasty briars-but he went up to it and stuck his head in the hole just to check...funny some dogs balk when they see things places they should not [one of those pesky nerve issues we have been talking about]
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I haven't had too many issues with that; he seems to ignore weird, out of place things. What he doesn't like are ground holes; huge holes made by trees falling over. He will not go down into one to save his life. He'll alert if someone is hiding in one, but he won't go into it.

That's awesome for Beau! We've not done any urban work yet, but I'd like to start that portion.

Are you Find/Refind or Tracking/Trailing? I'm having trouble solidifying the come back for the refind portion. He recalls just fine off lead and in a short distance search, if he sees me, he comes right back, but if he can't see me, he "leads" the "victim" out. I could be ready to take the SARTECH exam to be search qualified within six months if I could just nail down this portion of the search. Good to know about pop bottles. He has a wubby that has a crushed water bottle in it, but he won't play with a pop bottle for anything. I now won't let him play with an uncovered one, even if he shows interest.
 

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Beau is a single purpose, passive alert cadaver dog but I have trained a relaible recall refind on another dog.

I think the best thing is to have that down solid as a rock before you are doing search problems. It sounds like you may need to do drills with the situation causing the breakdown (not returning when he can't see you) by prompting the correct response with a lot of repetitions. Not search but set up just the drill.

Did you backchain the indication? I am gone all morning but that may be here. I have the article but it is probably online.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The very first thing we trained was the indication, which was a fight in itself. He's not a barker at all, so we couldn't even pretend to work on a sit-n-stay response. Then we tried the hanging tennis ball/Kong with no success. We then noticed he was coming up to me and putting both front paws on my legs. Success! We trained that particular indication pretty quickly.

We went in steps. First step was just to get him to go to someone and we worked on that for a few weeks, then the pop up/call out/run away, which came very quickly. We had trouble on the coming back...not so much on the other person holding and him running back to me coupled with the indication, but trying to combine the first three steps. He was either rock solid or he would stop halfway between the victim and me, looking at me like, "Come on! This way!"

There was some article that I was given. I still have it and I jokingly refered to it as the SAR Dog Bible. He did a full search at one point with no hesitation (not a big distance, just 200ft) and I was so proud of him. The very next time, couldn't get him to come to me to indicate for anything. How did you train the indication from the victim to the handler?
 

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Several ways to skin a cat since you have gone down the road and that is the broken part of the sequence I would have drills and when he gets to the victim call him back to you then do the show me. When he comes to you the first time offer a morsel of food (toys can be too distracting)

Do this first where you can see, then with a radio (he's got me) and call him before he has a chance to think of anything else. Muscle memory. He should not think about the next step in the chain, just do it.

repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat until you have 100% fluency.

You could also start over with backchaining. You start with the show me. Then put the dog with the victim, call-then "show me", then introduce the "go find" and dog gets to victim will automatically return to you.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
That's perfect! We will work on it tomorrow. He had one successful complete find today, but messed up on the show me the other three times. We ended with a very easy call out and a tug session.
 

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One scenario to be sure you train on if you do wilderness search is someone in a tent or shelter. Sounds like you've kind of done that if you've hidden under a camo net, but we had a lot of trouble with dogs on our team knowing what to do when they found the subject in a tent, but it's also something that's come up several times on searches in the past few years. We train HRD in a tent as well...we have an old one that was donated to the team specifically for that purpose. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Yeah. We're fleshing out different search ideas. We tried a tree stand once, but he got weird about that...just circled the tree whining and digging in the dirt a bit.

Here's an idea for SAR people...figure if I'm getting help, I might pass on some as well. Humans in Fire gear can really throw a dog off. Our local FDs go out on searches and I've heard people say that the dogs give the Fire guys a huge berth or it can even startle the dog. Not sure why. Finn grew up around FDs and what not, but the first time he saw someone fully dressed up, he wasn't sure what to do...and it was my Husband in all the gear! He wasn't hesitant, but he didn't have his usual happy-go-lucky demeanor...and he spent a while sniffing around. The minute the helmet came off, he was back to his normal self.

I think it hides human smell a bit behind the crazy scents of burnt things. Well used gear smells very strong to a human, I can only imagine what it smells like to a dog. You also move funny and sound funny. Finn came around pretty quickly, but we worked on it. He was never nervous, but you could see the WTF?! look on his face as he tried to figure out who or what was under the gear.
 

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I think this is all where extremely good nerves come in too. It is not just a GSD issue. Good point though that all this is not something they have been necessarily exposed to.

Tou typically don't train under the common conditions you find at a night command.....helicopters, bright lights, firetrucks idling, noise, lots of people. I had not noticed any issues re turnout gear (same thing with divers) ...nornally down here they are NOT in the woods in it...but it is good to expose dogs to the reality of a night scene long before they actually have to search in it.

We have folks bring ALL dogs to searches to familiarize them with these things even if they are not ready to start searching. Another reason to also require that team dogs can be removed from their vehicles by another for breaking as the handler may be away from the car.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
That's a pretty good idea. The team I was with, you weren't allowed to bring your dogs, nor were you allowed to attend a search unless you were call out qualified. No issue with that, but generally you and your dog were quall'ed at nearly the same time, so the first time you went with your team, your dog was coming along to.

Here, the FD gets out much quicker than the SAR teams...by a lot. They all have 4x4s to help at least start the search and usually they find them before SAR even gets there. If not, they're well into the search area by the time the dogs are deployed, so it's possible for the dogs to run up on a FF and get the suprise of their life.

I was more concerned that all the trucks, loud noises, and what not would throw him, but I think 'growing up' in that enviroment really helped him; he could care less about the trucks idling. I take him to FD trainings constantly just so he's in the atmosphere of clunky gear, idling trucks, spotlights, and what not. Even the noise of the outriggers on the Tower going down doesn't even illict a reaction out of him, which is awesome.
 

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This is THE question of SAR, LOL!

To teach a dog to search human scent and alert can take a couple of weeks. To teach a dog to search human scent and alert under any condition is what takes months of work (and good genetics) :thumbup:

Who, after saying you work with SAR dogs, has not heard "Oh, Fluffy would be a perfect SAR dog, he already finds the children hiding on our backyard"? :D

And then to search with autonomy, yet control... there is the art.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
LoL! I heard that a lot!

It always amazes me when I watch him search. Even though no two patterns look alike, I love how he just dives into the scent cone, then figures out where the edges are, then he quickly zeros in on what he's looking for.

Watching the tail and ears go back and forth, his nose snapping up with the changes in the wind...so awesome! I love my SAR dog, lol.
 

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LoL! I heard that a lot!

It always amazes me when I watch him search. Even though no two patterns look alike, I love how he just dives into the scent cone, then figures out where the edges are, then he quickly zeros in on what he's looking for.

Watching the tail and ears go back and forth, his nose snapping up with the changes in the wind...so awesome! I love my SAR dog, lol.
THAT moment... way before the alert when you know the dog has it... :wub:
 

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It is magical. I had a neat problem a friend set up and used something someone else taught me. Any time I can get someone to set blind problems for me I do and she always sets up doozies because she understands odor.

She had hung a small hide from the rafters of an open barn under a pile of loose lumber. He was working odor working odor but could not pinpoint the source. I actually don't work a lot of high hides because, honestly our main calls are scattered bones, buried, and submerged. It is just that unusual and most training is for what we do. And I had no idea going into it that it was a hanging hide.

I could articulate he was in scent but not pinpointing. She said "what would you do on a real search?" Now she works a trailing dog and did not know this next thing but pulled me back to .....How do you help the dog work it out? Not knowing where it is I can't cue him but I do know where he *had* odor.

But I rememberd......[I just learned this in October, BTW]....I was told to take him out of where he has odor and put him in a down stay and just let him focus. When they are frantic to get to source they can get frustrated. When you release them, they will usually go straight to it. Darned if it did not work. Wish I had a picture of him standing on his back legs on that lumber pile with his nose on the burlap sack that covered the aid.

It is really not that different than what you do with the trailing dog. A good flanker knows where the dog last had odor and keeps a mental map so if the dog looses the trail the handler can go back and re cast the dog to pick it back up. ........Different but in some ways not really.

It really is something that just gets internalized....would work with an airscent dog too I think.
 
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