AZK9CON in Flagstaff
by Susan Starr
April 28, 2012
Six of us on the Dog Team attended the
conference: Greg Reed, Herb Grau, Jim McMillion, Co Horgan,
Kelly Somers and myself. We took three of the dogs; Ringo,
Lewis and Toulouse. The first day was a class that
interested all of us because we are back to doing this
training again – “Introduction to Man Tracking”. It was
supposed to be classroom followed by some exercises outside,
but the weather was so nasty; cold, snowy and windy, that we
only got in one track. But the instructor, Chuck Melvin,
asked Greg, Kelly and Herb to run the track and he was
impressed with their knowledge and expertise.
Since outside work wasn’t possible, we
ended the day with a class on understanding and tracking
Alzheimer’s subjects, which was also of great interest to
all of us.
Co and Kelly stayed in the classroom,
taking a class on “Introduction to Scent Theory”. Herb and
Greg took Ringo to the initial disaster response class,
which Jim also took Lewis to. I took Toulouse to Beginner
and Intermediate Trailing.
The instructor, Chuck Morris, had some
new and different ideas that I hadn’t heard before; much had
to do with the correct language for commands. So we worked
on that for awhile, then did fast run aways for motivation
for the dogs. Toulouse did pretty well with these. We then
layed some tracks right before lunch, and left them there to
age for about two hours.
After lunch we came back and each ran
one of the aged tracks. One handler who has a very high
energy Malinois found him getting distracted by all the
squirrels. He is from Maricopa SAR and squirrels are not an
issue, but lizards are. His dog got off track several times
interested in the squirrels.
Toulouse got right on track, nose to
ground, and did a very good track but went to the wrong
person (although later I realized it was the partner of the
person he was looking for, so cross-scent may have been an
issue). He headed in the right direction to the right guy,
but as he approached the tree he got very spooked by a tree
limb above him, which was quite large and very low hanging.
The instructor had me redirect him around the tree and he
found his subject.
The instructor moved us to a new area,
and started out with me as a “DNA” subject. Earlier in the
day he had me brush my teeth with a new, dry toothbrush
which he then sealed in a Ziploc bag. It sat for about four
hours. At this point I went and hid, and two separate dogs
ran the track to come find me, and both did very well.
Then it was Toulouse’s turn again.
This instructor’s method involved harnessing the dog with
his back to the direction of travel , after he smelled the
scent article. The idea is to get a clear indication from
the dog of the direction of travel. Toulouse was wiggling
around so hard I could barely get the harness on him, trying
to get his head turned around the opposite way, which was
the direction of travel. The instructor said to me, “Which
way does he want to go?” and I said “That way”, indicating
back over my shoulder, and Chuck said, “Ya think?!”
Toulouse took off at a fast pace, nose to ground, and made
his way over to a large rock outcrop, about 200 yards away.
As I approached I saw the subject
laying prone on the rock about 15 feet above me, but lowered
my eyes immediately so as not to cue my dog. Toulouse
cleared an area about twenty feet away, then cleared the
area beneath the rock. He stopped and distinctly told me
the person is not here. Then he came back towards me, but
wanted to go back to the area he had just checked. Chuck
had me pull him off, and the moment I brought him back he
headed up the notch in the rock. Toulouse jumped up on the
rock and there was Mike. Toulouse leaped from rock to rock
and sniffed the subject while I praised him. Later I found
out Mike had accidentally dropped his water bottle and it
was under a log in the area Toulouse kept going back to.
Greg and Herb learned a lot too, but
it was not so much Disaster and more fundamentals of dog
training that pertained to disaster training. The trainer
is certified by FEMA so it was a new learning experience. I
decided to take Toulouse to that training the next day.
Both Kelly and Herb had to leave
early, so Greg, Jim, Co and I took the three dogs to the
second day of Disaster training. The first few hours were
spent discussing fundamentals and different types of
certifications, and what FEMA requires from dogs and
handlers. It was very interesting and quite a lot of new
information for us.
The last part of the morning and the
early afternoon were spent training on the “bark barrel”.
Two plastic barrels are laid end-to-end, and a subject
crawls in there and pulls a door shut. This is to practice
refind-recall and get the dog excited to find someone in the
barrel. Lewis is very good at this; his refind-recall
skills are well honed.
Ringo had a problem with the male
subject in the barrel because he had on wrap-around
sunglasses. I’ve noticed this before with Ringo, the
instructor, Robin Haeberger, said that Aussies are not happy
if they cannot see someone’s eyes. She got in the barrel
and Ringo had no problem approaching her and returning to
Greg. His “sit” skills were very good also – sitting is his
alert to Greg that he had found someone. Toulouse took a
little more time because the other dogs had done this
exercise the day before, but as the practice went on
Toulouse got better at it, even returning to me which is
hard for him. Being the hound that he is, he loves to take
off on his own, but on this exercise he began to understand
what was required of him.
After lunch we did some more barrel
training, and then started on obstacles. As you can see in
the photos, all three dogs did very well walking the plank,
but Lewis was the star of the day. He walked across the
ladder rungs and stood up on the rickety pallets. Ringo
jumped up easily on the obstacle, walked the plank and
wanted nothing to do with the unstable pallets – until about
the third time he was up there. Then he did okay, figuring
out how to place his feet. Toulouse did well, walking the
plank and standing on the pallets.
We learned a lot today and all of us
and the dogs are completely worn out. Tomorrow is the last
class which is Field First Aid and snake training for Ringo
Our last day was comprised of just one
class - Field First Aid for Canines. We had already had a
lot of the training, but there were some new techniques and
ideas that were discussed. The instructor had some really
interesting first aid kits he used, and some new types of
bandages. One was an "Israeli" bandage with a large
butterfly on it that could be used to tighten up a bandage,
or twisted to use as a tourniquet.
The photos are of Lewis with a SAM
splint on, and Ringo looking like a trussed up chicken: Co
and Greg practiced a paw bandage, a chest bandage, a tail
bandage, a head bandage and a knee bandage. Ringo took all
this with usual dignified aplomb.
A good time was had by all - we
learned a lot and look forward to going back next year.
Thanks for your support.