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A "dog blog" about all breeds and issues of importance to people who value the dogs in their lives, with a special emphasis on Search and Rescue dogs, in particular the training of my Newfoundland Dogs

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Beginning training for a Search dog

It is best to know the parentage of the puppy since temperament is definitely inherited. good temperament is the basis for a good search dog! If you are fortunate you will be able to meet both parents but meeting the stud dog or sire is not always possible. The parents should be calm, affectionate with people, and active. If you have the good fortune to be able to pick your puppy out of a litter, you will want to look for one that shows those characteristics. For a search dog you will also want a puppy that has a high “play” drive...wants to investigate everything, shows courage and outgoing attitude, and is physically active (doesn't’ appear to be too “laid back” and “lazy”)

The importance of socializing in a Search dog for civilian work cannot be emphasized enough. I always advise people to start with a young puppy, preferably NOT from a rescue or shelter since you do not know what their previous experiences are.

The puppy should be warm and welcoming to all humans and non dog aggressive. Exposure to other animals, such as cats, chickens, and domesticated farm animals will help to adjust the dog to future encounters while on a search without a problem. Exposure to lots of people...people wearing funny outfits, people who laugh loudly, people who act silly or different...this is an important part of your puppy’s socialization. Deliberately “setting up” situations with friends and relatives in wheelchairs, carrying bags, wearing floppy hats...and so on is not only entertaining but exposes your dog to unusual or different encounters in a “controlled” situation so that he will not be aggressive or timid later on when he does encounter such things.

Take your puppy with you everywhere. Riding in vehicles so that it will not become car sick is VERY necesary..going to flea markets, parades, festivals and community events such as softball games and so on will also allow the puppy to be comfortable in noisy situations such as crowds. Such simple noises as flags fluttering, semis going by, bicycles whizzing along, roller skates and skateboards..all these things are important to expose your puppy to.

What to do when your puppy acts timid:

The biggest mistake you can make is to reward your puppy for acting afraid or timid! Do not always be picking the dog up and/or petting it when it appears to be afraid. It is better to let the dog investigate new or strange situations or people on its own, if you praise or pet the dog or reward the dog for being “afraid” or timid then it is going to repeat this behavior. Allowing him to “come to terms” with unusual situations will get him over his fear and he will not be relying on you for support.

Of course obedience and control must also be developed. Taking your dog to one obedience class such as a puppy kindergarten class is a good beginning, and should be followed through with an occasional class all his life, as a refresher course for you and for him! Obedience classes do more than just “train” your dog to be under your control. They provide a lot of the above elements of socialization!

To read about the actual "first steps" in training, stay tuned to this blog! I will write more information in the next few weeks about the actual "first steps" of training a Searchdog puppy.

As you begin to start this training, keep in mind that short sessions, several different times a day, are better than long boring training sessions which will not only tire your puppy out, but burn you out as well. Training should be fun.

The final focus that you will be working towards with your future search dog is that the puppy should have an absolute need to find humans and to WANT to please you. Keep this in mind all the way through your puppy's training. Searching for the dog is not “WORK”. IT SHOULD BE THE THING HE WANTS TO DO more than anything else. This means that no matter what, being WITH PEOPLE should be where he wants to be, and FINDING PEOPLE should be the thing that he wants to do more than anything else in the world! Always keep this final goal in mind as you are socializing your new “future search dog” and you will be on your way!

By Kathy Reed, trainer for ISAR Iowa Search and Rescue

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