All dogs show Body Language Indicators. Our job as the handler is to understand the picture of K-9’s body; decode and interpret the message. Then, relay the message of what the dogs are telling us to the search managers. This assists them in running the search operation insuring that the search is efficient and effective.
In the past we discussed indications or alerts which were the result of finding the victim. Yep, easy enough, but what about the subtleties? They are those little things the dogs do while working; the ones that the handlers learn only though training and time spent with their K-9 partner.
In my case Küster has a subtle tug I feel through the long line when he knows the victim is near. The tension in the long line also helps me to know if Küster is on the trail or just sniffing the daises. I am still learning my partner’s little subtleties and will be until he retires.
Another trailing dog in our group’s body language shows her head down nose almost touching the ground. Another K-9’s Body Language Indicator could be the speed of its tail. Wagging or lack of wagging offers the handler a good picture of whether there is scent in the area and sometimes even how close. Some dogs will take the time to look at the handler; other dogs the hackles will pop up like a porcupine.
One reason I enjoy working with other teams and helping other teams through SDONA and not just only my team is the opportunity to watch other K-9’s work. I believe this type of hands on will only assist me in learning the subtleties on K-9 body language.
It’s been a joy.
I have also used these new skills in 4H dog obedience class while instructing class. Keeping a watchful eye on the class K-9 body language helps to predict when one of the 4H students is not paying attention and his or her dog is getting ready to take advantage of the situation. Even at home I had a great example of K-9 body language. I took Bunny out to the kennel to let her relieve herself. She quickly trotted into the kennel. About halfway down the kennel I noticed her do a extremely fast head snap to the right. But, she kept walking. Then as fast as lighting she turned went back to the spot where her head turned. Bunny started digging, then pulled out a small bunny from outside the kennel run and ate it. I knew something was over in that area when her head turned. I was not expecting that.
For the TalesAndTails.com readers who have dogs, think about the last time you noticed your dogs body language and what did it tell you?