Disaster search dog training
Why does K-9 UK train dogs for search and rescue work?
Search Dogs are an essential search tool in the disaster environment, because time is precious and a key factor in the survivability of a trapped or missing person, search dogs can cover a lot of ground, very quickly. One search dog can search the same area as 20 or 25 people, and do it quicker. Also a dog can search at night just as well as they can in the day because they are using their noses to search and not their eyes.
Most lost people can call out or shine a torch. If the lost person is not able to do this because they are buried then it's much harder for people searching to find them. It doesn't make any difference to a dog because the lost person is still giving off scent.
There is nothing that has been invented that can do a better or faster search then a trained search dog.
What Breed of Dogs does K-9 UK train?
No particular breed is or isn't suitable. There are however certain characteristics that are required. The physical size is a factor, and the smallest suitable would be a Border collie and the largest would be a German shepherd. Too small, and the rough terrain becomes a problem, and too large and the stamina drops away. The breed we use is the Border Collies, and a German shepherd.
The Border Collies are used for disaster search work. And the German shepherd is used for cadaver work.
How are K-9 UK dogs selected?
All dogs are the personal property of the handler. The handler chooses a breed he or she likes and then chooses the dog from the litter. However K-9 UK will inform the handler that a Border Collies is best for disaster search work. With some dogs, it's clear after short time training that they are not suitable. This is normally obvious to the more experienced handlers, and the dog's handler is advised to get another dog or to be prepared for a long "learning experience" with no guarantee of success.
Which physical and temperamental qualities is K-9 UK looking for in a future search and rescue dog?
Physically, the dog must be sound – that is without any defects or health problems.
Temperamentally, they must be non-aggressive, have a high play drive, and have a desire to go to humans. A dog that is timid or aggressive will not be suitable. And will be removed from K-9 UK training program. They must be quite independent and out going. They will be expected to work for extended periods, with little or no interaction with the handler, so a reasonable level of independence and self-motivation is required
what is the average age for a dog to start the training?
K-9 UK would like to start the dog as young as possible. Training should start as a young puppy at three months of age or so. Starting up to six months of age is feasible, but much older than that and the success rate starts to drop significantly. That is not to say it cannot be done, but the chances of success are much higher when training is started at an early age.
What a dog learns in its first 12 months of training will be learnt for the rest of its life.
(This view is of K-9 UK).
Who trains K-9 UK dogs?
All the dogs belong to the "handler", and training is the responsibility of the handler the handler does all the training. Most of the training has to be done in the handler's own time. K-9 UK will organize regular training sessions and at these sessions, the dog coordinator will guide the dog handler in what too do to train the dog to do something in particular, and how to sort out a training problem. This training is carried out at various locations - (Dogs have better memories then us and will remember where people have hidden in the past, and check that spot out from memory, rather than using scent.) So it is important to use different training locations.
How is the training done?
Well, basic search and rescue dogs are trained almost the same way
however, the dog is at first rewarded for going to people a very short distance away. By doing a short run-away. The required elements (such as barking when the dog as found a person) are added in one at a time, having been taught as separate tasks, and the dog is praised for doing the right thing, and only rarely chastised for doing the wrong thing. The difficulty of the task is very slowly increased as the dog learns what is required, and the handler must always be prepared to revert to something easier. If one extra task is added into the search "sequence", then everything else is reduced in difficulty. The dog needs to want to do this job, so the training must be fun, fun, fun. And Patience, Patience, Patience.
The dog will eventually be expected to work very independently from the handler. And if the dog isn't motivated to do the job, then the dog may not be suitable for the task, or the training as gone wrong.If this happens take a few steps back with the training.
It is in my opinion that most new dog handler will try to run before they can walk with their dog training and this can be a costly mistake, so please slown down and have fun.
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