I know that I have mentioned many times before, the Tails and Tales blog readers are the best and they are involved. It’s really something to experience. The Chief Editor is working on getting me to be more interactive with the readers. The professionals, which I am not, call it engagement. We have picked up quite a few new readers over the year. Although, not many readers comment, they are reading the blog and sending either messages through Facebook or Twitter. So grab a coffee and sit back today I’ll answer a few common questions for those inquiring minds.
Do we do Nose Work with Küster or Morgan?
Nose Work was inspired by detection dogs and now is starting to be a pretty popular dog sport. The Cliff Notes version: The dog is trained to search for target odors in different elements. For example, one of the target orders is clove. After the dog is trained to find the scent of clove it could be hidden in a container in a room. The dog is released to find the container with the scent of clove. I believe this process is timed. We do not compete in Nose Work nor have completed any training for it. I have given a lot of thought about trying this with our Morgan (GSD). One local obedience/agility club is just starting to offer classes in Nose Work. I think it would be good for her. As for Küster I would think about it after he retires from his SAR job. Finding people is what he does now.
Are people allowed to pet Küster when he is working?
No, we do not allow anyone to pet our K-9’s. I should clarify somewhat. When the dogs are working we typically say, “He’s working right now” and people will move out of the way. Now, during public relations events that is a different story. We allow hands on and he loves it. Actually, all the dogs in our group are very friendly and enjoy people.
How long is a typical SAR dog’s career?
That depends on the physical and mental health of the individual dog. This could also depend on the K-9’s individual discipline. Küster is five now. The plan in my mind now is to start looking for my next partner when he is closer to seven years old. This will give me time to train the new K-9 for his retirement. Remember, it takes a good two years to get a dog to operational status. Now of course this is all dependent on his health. We could have an injury tomorrow or Lord willing he is in great health just a little slow at the age of ten.
In trailing, what happens if the dog loses the scent?
Great question and one I had to explain during our last training. It comes down to knowing your partner’s body language. First, the training process is to learn. While we train we learn different cues that our dogs give. One of these cues is called a negative. The dog gives a negative when it is off scent or if no scent is there. In our case, Küster stops and looks at me. If I were to describe this look it would be described as if he were looking at me and saying, “What the…” I get this cue when we have run out of scent or it just comes to an end. When this happens we do something called “casting” with our trailing/tracking dogs. We take a few steps back in the direction from where we came and let our dog do a large circle. By doing this circle we are looking for the dog to find the scent again. There’s a chance we could have missed a turn. Now, if he finds no trail off of the sides but starts trailing and stops because he hit the end again the handler needs to remember where your location was when the dog last had good scent. You go back to the area and cast until you find where the turn was made. Also, looking at your surroundings is important. If you are unable to find any turns and the trail just keeps ending, could the person have been picked up by a passer by? Other things that handlers look for is the head position, tail position, and what the tail is doing. Reading Küster’s body language continues to be an educational experience. We are still working this out.
Wow, That’s a ton of information crammed into one little Saturday blog post series. There are many other questions that we will work on getting answered. Stay tuned.