“What a CUTE puppy! Can I meet him? He’s so sweet!” After training numerous retrievers for SAR work I’m used to hearing this on a daily basis. Yes, it’s hard to find anything cuter than a Golden Retriever puppy. If you follow my personal Facebook page it’s currently filled with photos of a peacefully sleeping Indy, who is 19 weeks old.
A working dog prospect is a challenge no matter what the breed. The memes you see on social media showing crazy Malinois puppies being compared to docile, quiet retrievers is misleading. The realty is most of the photos I share of Indy right now are of him sleeping because he is in motion whenever he’s awake.
He’s pushy, loud and definitely not a pet! These are the qualities that come with selecting a puppy with high hunt and prey drive, nerve strength and agility. It doesn’t matter the breed. It’s my job to shape and mold those qualities into a reliable HR dog while helping him become a dog that can fit into my family when not working.
Last weekend CFTE conducted our first workshop of 2020, HRD Land Introduction and Indy had the chance to participate. On the first day we worked in a bay at the Wayne County Fire Rescue Regional Training Facility.
The Set Up
This workshop was the first time Indy had been asked to work with several people in close proximity observing him. He loves interacting with people so this was a very distracting environment. The added distraction of being asked to work in a location where multiple dogs had worked prior to him, and where treats had been dropped all over the floor was very challenging for a 4 month old puppy.
I brought him into the room and he was presented with two cardboard boxes. One with target odor and one blank. Prior to the workshop, Indy had been working multiple props with a variety of distractions. However, knowing how distracting the environment would be for him, I lowered the criteria.
As expected, Indy was distracted by the food on the floor from the earlier session, and by the people in the room who were all intently watching him from 10 feet away. Although the people were much less distracting to him that they had been during the morning session. He quickly learned that the observers had nothing for him and would not interact with him. I waited him out and tried to provide as little input as possible. I knew I needed to let him work this out without my help.
After a few minutes Indy was able to calm himself and focus on the task. By the end of the session he made great progress in ignoring the observers and correctly identifying target odor.
As I continue to move through these early training sessions, I will need to make sure to work Indy around other people in close proximity when possible. This will be his reality on searches in the future so it is critical to desensitize him now. As he becomes more focused, I will add more props and distraction odors to the line up while people are also moving around and talking during our training sessions.
Are you just getting started training human remains detection? Whether you are working a puppy or an adult dog, we can provide you with personalized training to help you get started on the path to success. We invite you to check out our 1:1 Coaching Program. Get your own dedicated trainer, a custom training plan, and a video training call with your trainer.
Deana Hudgins, CFTE Founder, has been working in Search and Rescue since 2002. She is the Executive Director and a Founding Member of Ohio Search and Recovery Canines. She is also a Canine Search Specialist for FEMA Ohio Task Force 1 working both human remains detection and live find canines.She has traveled the country as an instructor, evaluator, and facilitator for search and rescue classes and workshops. Deana specializes in human remains detection; water, land and disaster, as well as wilderness and disaster live find. She has responded to hundreds of missing person searches for local, state and federal agencies. She frequently consults as a subject matter expert for large scale training exercises and cases, providing guidance in search strategy and planning, resource management, mapping and data collection. During her years as an instructor, Deana repeatedly saw that there was a lack of resources and training opportunities to fully prepare agencies to respond to search and recovery missions. She established the Center for Forensic Training and Education to ensure that any organization involved with the search and recovery of missing persons has access to real world, hands on, custom training opportunities.