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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Interesting comment on Fox News this AM re the search for Jessie Davis in
Ohio. The anchor said, "Cadaver dogs reacting to a mound of dirt late
yesterday; they were right on the scent but it turned out to be freshly planted marijuana plants."

This comment was made on another list, but I think is an interesting question. My thoughts are; someone needs to do some training on freshly dug holes. Other thoughts are; I don't believe a handler would consciously cue a dog (although that has happened) but subconsciously does not want to be the handler that missed it. A handler called to a scene of freshly dug dirt, a high profile case, an emotionally charged case and my understanding, more than one dog responded.

Thoughts anyone?

DFrost
 

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To me, it all boils down to training and certification standards. Dogs should be proofed off these things in training, and certification standards need to include these types of distractions to ensure the training has been adequate. Its also extremely important to do search scenarios where the handler has no idea the location of the victim/HR. Incredibly, some handlers skip this step of the training. And, I'm not saying this is the case in the Ohio search because I know nothing about who responded, but I think experience has a lot to do with avoiding these types of errors too. These days it seems like anybody and everybody can buy a dog, do some minor training and call it an HRD/SAR dog. So many of the SAR people I meet have been doing this for such a short time and then are turned loose on searches with no experienced oversight.

Another possibility is if the dogs really did alert on marijuana (instead of the freshly disturbed dirt). If this is the case, I wonder how many of those dogs (if any) were purchased as older, imported single purpose detection dogs. I know my first Malinois was started on marijuana before I bought him at 18 months of age. Early on in his training he would definitely have alerted on it as previously trained. Maybe unlikely in this case, but its something to think about.
 

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(Quote David) "More then one dog responded".
I've seen a dog alert on a particular spot, then other dogs followed and did the same. Nothing found! I often wondered if a dog indicating could possibly be giving off scent (excitement) that can create a situation of another dog alerting in the same spot.
Not the same thing but freshly turned soil would always drive my working terriers crazy even if It was a hold dug for a rose bush. It didn't need critter scent. I just had to read the dogs correctly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Konnie, I certainly agree with you relative certification standards etc. I also strongly agree on the training scenarios where the handler does not know the location or if even a target is placed. I don't know the dogs either, and can't or at least won't comment on what training they may or may not have had. I just find the scenario interesting, from a training standpoint. As for the marijuana plants, I seriously doubt, even if the dog had recieved considerable training on marijuana, it would be the cause of the response. I lean more toward the freshly dug soil.

Thanks for responding though, your comments are certainly based on considerable expertise.

DFrost
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
(Quote David) "More then one dog responded".
I've seen a dog alert on a particular spot, then other dogs followed and did the same. Nothing found! I often wondered if a dog indicating could possibly be giving off scent (excitement) that can create a situation of another dog alerting in the same spot.
Not the same thing but freshly turned soil would always drive my working terriers crazy even if It was a hold dug for a rose bush. It didn't need critter scent. I just had to read the dogs correctly.
Bob, I don't know this situation, so can't comment. In the past however, I find when one dog hits, more follow. There is certainly dog odor there, from where the first and succeeding dogs have responded, but I'm more inclined to the handler subconsciously cueing the dog. I think it ties in directly to what Konnie eluded to in her post; handlers not conducting enough scenarios without knowing where the targets are. When a handler consistently trains, knowing where the targets are, they don't give the dog an opportunity to sniff all the interesting smells. They know where the odor is, so they tell the dog, move on. when the handler is placed in a situation they don't know if an odor is present, each time the dog "stops to smell the roses" becomes a real gut check. They've not had the opportunity of seeing the dog actually discriminate, and move on. That's my thinking anyway.

DFrost
 

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I think it ties in directly to what Konnie eluded to in her post; handlers not conducting enough scenarios without knowing where the targets are. When a handler consistently trains, knowing where the targets are, they don't give the dog an opportunity to sniff all the interesting smells. They know where the odor is, so they tell the dog, move on. when the handler is placed in a situation they don't know if an odor is present, each time the dog "stops to smell the roses" becomes a real gut check. They've not had the opportunity of seeing the dog actually discriminate, and move on. That's my thinking anyway.

DFrost
This is exactly why we started our IDK9 (International Disaster K9) educational group. By attending various trainings across the country, many of us who founded the IDK9 group became frustrated with the lack of scenario-based training. For most handlers it was an achievement just to pass the certification evaluation, which really is nothing like a real-life search. Most never went beyond this basic training. As a group, we (IDK9) now host workshops a few times a year basically to open handlers' eyes to this type of thing. We try to set up realistic scenarios (and we can be pretty tricky about it too!) so folks get more "gut checks" in training.
 

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In my limited experience I have seen one search that turned up nothing where multiple dogs brought in for "confirmation" alerted on the same spot in sequence and of course with an audience - but some of those "alerts" where pretty weak and not as committed.....the most experienced dog in the bunch blew off the area as a negative.

Definite yes on fresh dirt - I know we use blank digs as routine training problems.

How would you set up a "multiple dogs alerted here but there is nothing here" scenario? carefully set up a problem and remove the source? But how would you ensure there was not too much residual scent? Or is your solution as David said - more unknowns to the handler in training?

I do know from water training that when you know where the source is it is a REAL challenge not to look at the source instead of the dog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
<<<How would you set up a "multiple dogs alerted here but there is nothing here" scenario? carefully set up a problem and remove the source? But how would you ensure there was not too much residual scent? Or is your solution as David said - more unknowns to the handler in training?>>>

I wouldn't put a source there to begin with. In reality, a handler is not going to find something each time they are called to conduct a search. Training shouldn't be any different. I would go into a field, dig a hole, and not put anything there. The handler would only be given the search boundries. Let the handler tell you there is nothing there. The first time I did this would be a test to determine if there is a problem. If a problem doesn't exist, you've had a great training day. If there is a problem, you've identified it, now you can take steps to correct it. Which also turns out to be a great training day. I'm a firm believer that negative tests should be part of any training scenario.

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Thanks I do know we have been incorporating a lot of negative training in all areas of search training not just cadaver. Really saw the need for that in water where Cyra went beyond her "negative time" and started alerting on a tree branch - we had a real learning experience with x-ing out flotsam in the water. .

I think there is more negative searching than positive searching.

Just was wondering about the scenario where there is a bunch of scent from other dogs alerting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Yeah, I've wondered about that myself. I don't have a real answer, just a couple of "wonder ifs". Such as, are the other handler aware a dog had responded to a particular area. Had the other handlers actually witnessed a response from another dog. Has training ever been conducted where other teams may have worked the area with a source and a negative.

DFrost
 

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Has training ever been conducted where other teams may have worked the area with a source and a negative.

DFrost
We do scenarios in disaster training where there is a "victim" in place and several dogs are sent one at a time to alert. Then we remove the victim and send a fresh dog to search that area. Our dogs are not supposed to alert on "residual" scent. Sometimes the fresh dog (especially if it hasn't been exposed to residual scent scenarios before) will alert in the former location of the victim. Whether or not this is due to the residual scent or the scent of the other dogs alerting, I can't say for sure, but I suspect the residual scent of the victim contributes most to the false alert. I do know that dogs young in the training will alert on residual scent (clothing, shoes, locations where victims previously were located) regardless of whether or not dogs have alerted there before.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That makes sense. One could surmise, with a young dog, it's a combination of the residual and the odor of the other dogs. Of course we don't discourage residual odor responses with drug dogs. We don't train for that per se, but we don't discourage it. Looking for the living however, I can see where that would not be encouraged.

DFrost
 

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I see various problems in the seminars that I give. Dogs not being proofed off of freshly turned earth is common. I also notice that many groups who all train together have dogs that will trail the other dogs to an aid. If one dog alerts,the others will also follow suit whether or not the dog falsed or not. Of course the main problem that I see is lack of proper training aids. I had a handler contact me a few days ago whose whole team "fringed" in a deployment which resulted in the remains almost not being located. They are coming here to expose their dogs on realistic amounts. I see many teams having problems because they are unable to set up realistic scenarios because proper training aids are difficult to obtain. Makes it very hard to make recoveries because they cannot read their dogs and understand that their dogs are in fact fringing. Thresholds are too low for working odor to source involving a full set of remains.
 

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) but subconsciously does not want to be the handler that missed it. A handler called to a scene of freshly dug dirt, a high profile case, an emotionally charged case and my understanding, more than one dog responded.

Thoughts anyone?

DFrost

David,I have seen it happen. Area looks like a grave, doggie "shows interest" and handler starts the " whacha got boy" stuff instead of moving back and letting the dog work. I see folks talk their dogs into alerting on animal remains too. Saw it for days during the space shuttle columbia recovery effort. Dog saying no,handler calling dog back and back until dog finally gives them what they want. A lot of this happens because many civilians train in their own groups and get into bad habits :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Renee, I certainly agree with your comments. I do have to add, I wasn't at the Ohio search and I'm sure the people involved are all well meaning. Like you and the others that have responded to this thread have stated, there is a need for dedicated training. Training with objectives so that incidents such as the one being discussed are eliminated. I think we all agree there needs to be a set of standards and dogs have to be trained to those standards.

I had a guy come to training today (it was drug training but the same principle applies). After he missed the first two targets and had false responses on three places, he stated; We just never miss targets. I responded (I really am known as a bit of a prick) "Ya know old buddy, I never missed a target I planted either.

DFrost
 

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David,I have seen it happen. Area looks like a grave, doggie "shows interest" and handler starts the " whacha got boy" stuff instead of moving back and letting the dog work. I see folks talk their dogs into alerting on animal remains too. Saw it for days during the space shuttle columbia recovery effort. Dog saying no,handler calling dog back and back until dog finally gives them what they want. A lot of this happens because many civilians train in their own groups and get into bad habits :)
At our IDK9 seminars, we purposefully push people ("What is your dog doing??? Does your dog have scent or not??? Why is he acting that way???) when we see their dog showing interest on things other than human scent (such as food or dead animals). The purpose of this is to stress the handler and make them think. Consequently, they'll oftentimes push their dog into an alert because they think their dog has human scent or they can't figure out why we're harassing them. They learn really quick not to push their dogs into false alerts. Although some people get defensive and think we're just being mean, these exercises have a purpose. Putting people through this kind of stress in training while forcing them to really think helps prepare them for a real deployment.
 

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I agree with your premise,but do not ever let someone push their dog into a false alert. Stop them before they do :) Never good to allow a dog to false alert as then one has to go back and proof the dog off of whatever it was.
 

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Renee, I certainly agree with your comments. I do have to add, I wasn't at We just never miss targets. I responded (I really am known as a bit of a prick) "Ya know old buddy, I never missed a target I planted either.

DFrost

I agree that most folk's hearts are in the right place. Many folks just have not been exposed to a lot of training and make mistakes.
I am a bit um, of a b yatch myself and I like your comment. :)
I failed a guy at his narcotic cert one day and asked him if he always placed his own aids. yep. I asked him to go into a sterile room and rub several pieces of furniture. Doggie "certified" on his handler's odor. hahahaha
Lesson learned. :) Ya reckon we know so much because we have screwed up so much over the years? hahahha
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Good gawd have I learned the hard way, ha ha.

DFrost
 

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I agree with your premise,but do not ever let someone push their dog into a false alert. Stop them before they do :) Never good to allow a dog to false alert as then one has to go back and proof the dog off of whatever it was.
When this happens, we do not allow the handler to reward the dog's alert. We then do go back and proof the dog off whatever it false alerted on. We only do this with experienced dogs, so the proofing usually is a quick process. To me its worth the shock value (handler opens door and finds stinky boots) to get my point across. I perceive this as being no different than a non-prompted false alert in training. In fact, most live-find disaster dogs will false alert on buried clothing the first time they encounter it. Its just a part of the learning process for both the dog and the handler.
 
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