Sunday, May 3, 2009

We've Been Lost


(sorry these pictures have nothing to do with this post other than they are of my dogs, Tucker is included just because)

Ok so really though, we're not the lost ones. We're the ones finding those that are lost. Chesney and I have been working with a Search and Rescue Team. We are official members now! Training sessions with the team are every Sunday, we've been to 8 since February 7th (Just to give you a time frame). Chesney is progressing extremely quickly, I couldn't be more pleased with him. Our first few times out to training consisted of what are called puppy runaways. They are boring in my opinion and Chesney finds them childish... or well.... puppy-ish. We did runaways for 2 weeks straight training everyday on our own then group training on Sunday. By the second Sunday we went out with the group, Chesney understood what was expected of him as far as completing a runaway.

Ok so let me back track a little. The purpose of a puppy runaway is to hammer home the alert you ask for, from your dog, when they have found the subject. So here's how it plays out.
- Subject runs away while the dog watches them.
- Subject hides while the dog watches were they hide (yes it's supposed to be stupidly easy, especially for a driven/focused dog)
- Dog is released with their search command
- Dog finds subject
- Dog is called back off subject to handler (who is not near the subject)
- Dog "alerts" that they have found someone (Chesney is to turn and stare where the subject is, he will either stand, sit, or lie down, or anything in between just so long as I can tell he is focused and locked in on where the subject is... it's his alert)
- Handler asks dog to "show me"
- Dog and handler return to subject
- Big party for finding subject (Chesney just wants his tug rope at this point!)
- Repeat until dog offers a return and alert on their own or with minimal prompt before moving on

2 weeks is a really short time to get this behavior for most dogs... I have pretty high expectations for Chesney however, and I think it's paying off. Plus the more new things we do, the smarter he gets AND the less we have to deal with a sloppy bored dog in training!



Anyways, the last three group training days we went to Chesney has been doing blind searches (where he doesn't see where the person is hiding or doesn't watch them hid for another dog then gets his turn to find them). Last time we searched it was our first time trying it alone. During these blind searches, I still know where the subject is, just Chesney is the one in the dark (hahaha mean I know) The reason for this is to help him feel like he is the one doing it and he can be successful. I try to keep my directions to a minimum with him and just let him work things out on his own, he is really starting to get it and uses his nose FAR more than he did before! Good Boy.

So today we went out to a group training. We had 2 subjects sent in a 120 acre area. We were directed where they were and went on our way to look for them. Chesney was released and off to work he went. Within 5 minutes of us heading up the train (in the wind, with the scent blowing towards us) he picked up the subject and went in to find her. I could see him on the other ridge across a small gully. He had a look like... you can see me, I can see you... Just come over here so I don't have to come all the way back to you then all the way back here. I, at this point, waited for him to realize that I was not going to move until he alerted. He took a reminder (simply saying his name) to get him to come back and alert. Good boy! Ok now back to work. This was new for him to have to go back to working once he found a subject since all the other searching we've done only included one person. We got off the hillside and back on the trail then he realized we were back to work.

At this point the second subject was going to be down wind from us if we stayed on the fire trail we started on. I decided to detour off a different trail before we got even with the second subject and walked up to the ridge with Chesney in the far lead to put him in the scent cone. Once he hit the ridge he picked her up and she was about 100 yards away down hill. He tried to figure out how to get down to her and lost the scent, so he back tracked and I gave him a little hint as to where he should cut in and he was off like a rocket. Found the subject no problem and since he couldn't see me, came back to alert, only he was 20 yards from me when he alerted hahaha. I had to call him back to me then he alerted without a prompt and off to the subject we went. Phew!

It was a really great day. I think next weekend I'll take a video while we're searching.

Tucker doesn't get to do Search and Rescue because my team wont let me train 2 dogs at once even though they would be in two different search types (Chesney is Area, Tucker would be Trail/Tracking). But here's a picture of him just because he's my handsome guy