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March 24, 2014: Dog and Pony Show: On the Home Front

There are three tiers in the local search and rescue dog training group. Tier I consists of the experienced handlers, tier II consists of the somewhat experienced handlers, and tier III consists of the inexperienced handlers. I am tier III. Pete’s a tier III ground pounder. He doesn’t have a dog to work with, so he sets trails and accompanies handlers on non-searches, and on searches he searches with other ground pounders.

Yesterday, Jim and Kathy, who are tier II, came out to our place and did an informal training session. Upon hearing that they were coming over, Pete went out and set a lengthy trail for Kathy’s dog Tara. This was on one of our riding trails.

Once the pair arrived, we walked up to the Murphy Road trailhead. We first worked Jim’s dog Yukon, a rangy smooth collie mix. Yukon is being trained to do air scent, so he searches out a wide area off-lead. If he locates someone, he returns to the owner, and either by barking or pulling on a tug line attached to the belt, he lets the handler know the person has been found. Then, after the handler says “show me,” the dog takes them to the person. This is exactly what Yukon did. After, we all played with him for some time. Playing being his reward.

Next, Pete hid up trail, and Kathy, Jim, and I took Tara on Pete’s pre-set trail. Tara was at first a bit lackadaisical, but after making several right (and wrong) turns, she found Pete, who was sitting under a birch tree

We next worked with Ryder, up here at the house. I had Jim sit on the porch of the guest cabin, and we sent Ryder in that direction. This set trail was too lengthy – plus the cabin was on the down wind side – so we instead did several short training/trail exercises, having Ryder find Jim when he was in sight, and then when he was not in sight. I (for the first time ever) really saw how training works – the prospect of having a play session is a motivator – and Jim played hard, enthusiastically, and for a sustained period of time with Ryder. And so, not surprisingly, Ryder became increasingly more interested in finding him. I learned two very important lessons here; the first was that young Ryder isn’t yet ready for longer searches. And secondly, that after, it’s very important to spend time playing with the dogs.

After Jim and Kathy left, Pete and turned our attention in the direction of the horses. We didn’t have a whole lot of time, and we still can’t get out onto the trails (driveway and road too icy), so we instead worked with Hrimmi in the pen. We first tied Raudi and Tinni to the trailer, and then set out obstacles, cones in a triangular pattern, and poles in a zig zag pattern, in the paddock. Then, after putting a body wrap on Hrimmi, Pete took her though the course. Hrimmi was a little mouthy, but otherwise cooperative. I also worked with her on back and stand, which she now understands.

Tomorrow I’m going to come up with a week’s plan for our ongoing dog and pony show. My spring goal is to maintain continuity with all the animals.

Next: 84. 3/25/14: Claudia and Frank Sihler’s Visit