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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

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Handler Training Tips

Training an Air Scenting dog is mostly a matter of training yourself. Most Search Dog handlers seem to believe they are training their dog. In actuality, YOU are the one that needs to learn! In the process of training, you should know 80% of the time where your "victim" is hidden. Once your dog is focused on finding a human, he is going to "make the find". That's not the problem, the problem is the handler. The dog learns what to do right off the bat. The handler needs way more "nose time" than the dog! Why? Because the handler needs to learn what happens in certain types of wind, on various types of terrain, in all kinds of weather, and with all kinds of hidden people and/or articles. He needs to learn how to watch the cues or signs of travel, what the dog does when it first hits, what happens when the scent hits a "barrier" ... so many many variables enter into the picture.

This type of learning is for YOU, not your dog, and can be done on a short search as well as a long one. Furthermore, "short and sweet" searches will build up the dog's desisre and drive. Finding people is FUN for the dog, and keeps up the interest. "Nose time" can be built up gradually, interspersing your short searches with a longer one every fourth or fifth search works well, and gradually build up the acreage you are searching until you hit the 80 acre mark and at least a six hour scenario.This can be accomplished without so much strain on your "victim" if you simply begin your search farther away, and radio your "victim" to enter the wind pattern two or three hours after you are into the search.

Trusting your dog is important. Even more important is trusting the person you are hiding out. Kids can be real bad for this activity as far as your training goes. They think it is fun to "fool" you and hide somewhere else. This is NOT GOOD unless you do indeed trust your dog, for you might have the tendency to disbelieve what your dog is telling you and try to call him off scent because you believe your victim is hidden in a different location. So it is important that you tell your "victim" to go exactly where you say, since you are training yourself and you need to watch what the dog does when he hits and you need to learn what is happening with the wind conditions etc. Dogs know what they are doing. Dogs DO find, so in the end, trust your dog!

Watch a great video here about training obedience. It makes you want to get out there and TRAIN, doesn't it?