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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Wanted to post this article, as it is a good explanation of how I feel about they type of dog we need for USAR:

"What We Can, And More Importantly, Cannot Train" - Cpl. Charla Geller, FEMA's NETF-1 and Joplin, MO PD

Most canine handlers will agree the basic principles of canine behavior modifications are the same whether you are training a dog to find ducks, drugs, bombs or people, however, there are some very critical differences in field work vs disaster work. There are just some things you cannot train for, no matter the time length involved.

I grant that one MAY be able to expose a dog to certain circumstances, and one MAY work on modifying their behavior during those circumstances, however, one cannot train "courage" or "work ethic" into an animal. Like people, they either have it or they don't. Stick with me and let me elaborate.
Courage: Where would a retriever, narcotic, or explosive dog ever face a "known" adversary? By known, I mean when would a handler be sending one of those dogs into an area saturated with adrenalin (fear, pain, and intense emotion), blood, urine, cadaver etc... The dogs smell an adversary there. To us as humans, it is the unknown. To the canine olfactory, it is an adversary. Now throw into the mix a handler absolutely overcome with their own emotion, and sending a dog out of sight to do a job on their own, in such a hostile environment, and you have real courage. The closest similarity would be patrol dogs, I mean the real patrol dogs, the ones actually exposed to homicides, robberies, stabbings, and assaults. But that is just a similarity, even some patrol dogs courage pales in comparison to disaster dogs.

Here is where the "work ethic" comes into play, and you may think I am talking about "hunt"/"prey", or just plain ole drive. I am not, however, I do not know how to articulate what I want to say. The ability to work under obscene conditions, heat, terrain, handler error, etc, and continue to work ON THEIR OWN.... not just going where they are sent, doing what they are told, but but actually searching independently, and working on their own..... That's what I mean by work ethic.

Those dogs with the ability to face their adversaries and work on their own fall into an elite category, those are the real "disaster" dogs. That is what the testing is all about. Sorting out those dogs and putting them on the deployable roster.

By the Grace of God, I've not had the responsibility that goes with working a disaster dog at a catastrophic event. If/when that day comes, I pray the partner I've chosen has the courage and work ethic to do this job, not just pass a test in a sterile environment.

My life would be a living hell, if after deployment, I questioned my partner's courage or work ethic. Every day for the remainder of my life, I would question, "Did Fido miss an infant or child because of an inability to search independently, stay committed to his victim(s) scent, and maintain a focused bark alert."

The Task Forces are TEAMs, we as handlers have the responsibility of training and preparing the disaster dog, we cannot be rushed into testing because "The Task Force needs dogs." Lead Handlers, and Canine Coordinators must be knowledgeable enough, and have the integrity to wash dogs showing obvious cowardice, or poor work ethic.

If you're still with me, thanks for the audience.

- Cpl. Charla Geller
 

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I this Cpl Geller is a bit caught up in the moment and has forgotten behavior is behavior. I'm not really sure what she means about a drug or explosives detector:<<<<Where would a retriever, narcotic, or explosive dog ever face a "known" adversary? By known, I mean when would a handler be sending one of those dogs into an area saturated with adrenalin (fear, pain, and intense emotion), blood, urine, cadaver etc... The dogs smell an adversary there.>>>
From my experience, the only major difference between selection of a detector dog and the selection of a SAR, I won't eliminate a dog from detector work for dog aggression. What I'm saying, it's the human that puts the emotion to these situations, not the dog.

DFrost
 

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From my experience, the only major difference between selection of a detector dog and the selection of a SAR, I won't eliminate a dog from detector work for dog aggression. What I'm saying, it's the human that puts the emotion to these situations, not the dog.

DFrost
I agree. And,dogs do not have a "work ethic". Dogs have drive,solid nerve/temperament and proper training. Dogs are self serving and work for a paycheck. The reward. Choose them properly and they will work until they drop
And of course the author states they have never worked a "disaster". I have and the dog works if he is trained properly
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
From my experience, the only major difference between selection of a detector dog and the selection of a SAR, I won't eliminate a dog from detector work for dog aggression. What I'm saying, it's the human that puts the emotion to these situations, not the dog.
DFrost
For USAR, I disagree. I recently sold a young, very high drive Dutch Shepherd because he did not have the nerve strength to do USAR. He is now a working narcotics detection dog in Florida (and doing a nice job at it too). Although I probably could have pushed him through the FEMA USAR certification test with a lot of work, he would never have been reliable in a real disaster.

I believe the author is referring to what we would call "nerve strength." And, it seems to be problem lately that we are seeing USAR dogs in training who have a lot of drive, but weak nerves. When the environment changes or the handler isn't there to support the dog (as in other types of detection work), the dog shuts down.
 

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<<<that we are seeing USAR dogs in training who have a lot of drive, but weak nerves.>>>

If that's the case, someone needs to review their selection criteria.

DFrost
 

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what an interesting discussion. i think david has a good point re: selection criteria.
but it also seems that every SR organization in the country has different tests (good and bad) for certification...just what i've read here and there. and it seems that THAT could possibly result in dogs being selected that aren't suited for the work.
does that even make sense?
remember: i'm a newbie, NOT a lurker:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
what an interesting discussion. i think david has a good point re: selection criteria.
but it also seems that every SR organization in the country has different tests (good and bad) for certification...just what i've read here and there. and it seems that THAT could possibly result in dogs being selected that aren't suited for the work.
does that even make sense?
remember: i'm a newbie, NOT a lurker:)
I think the biggest problem is that people who are selection testing dogs are looking at what is "right" with the dog, rather than what is "wrong." Does that make sense? As David Frost said once before in another thread, if there's any doubt, then you don't take the dog.
 

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what an interesting discussion. i think david has a good point re: selection criteria.
but it also seems that every SR organization in the country has different tests (good and bad) for certification...just what i've read here and there. and it seems that THAT could possibly result in dogs being selected that aren't suited for the work.
does that even make sense?
remember: i'm a newbie, NOT a lurker:)
You actually make a very good point and one that is of concern to SAR and law enforcement alike. There are many SAR outfits that claim proficiency. If r their proficiency standards are built to accomodate the dogs/dog teams they have, then they are unreliable at best. If there is an objective set of standards, and the dogs/dog teams must meet those standards, then there is a measurable and predictable product. The dog's ability to succeed in a program is in direct proportion to it's objective standards.

DFrost
 

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I think the biggest problem is that people who are selection testing dogs are looking at what is "right" with the dog, rather than what is "wrong." Does that make sense? As David Frost said once before in another thread, if there's any doubt, then you don't take the dog.
I'll say it again, I don't take maybe's. That's why, in my opinion anyway, if I select a dog for detector work, it will do the job regardless of what venue I decide to place it. My one caveat, which I have mentioned before, I won't eliminate a dog from drug or explosives detection because of dog aggressiveness.

DFrost
 

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i'm thinking that the "what's right" vs "what's wrong" with potential dogs may be the sticky point--ie, who makes the decision, which goes right back to david's point: the selection criteria.
could we, in the USA, take a lesson from Europe (or at least take advantage of THEIR tests and fit them to our requirements)?
again--i hope i'm makin' a little bit of sense here....

it just seems to me that so much of this is political instead of being what's needed HERE and NOW. (i hate politics/politicians etc., etc.,....)

i'll stop now :)
 

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You're making sense. I'm not so sure Eurpoe trains a better SAR dog than we do however. While the dogs are certainly a significant factor in the equation, I believe it's the standards the team has to achieve that is most important. If the standards are high and any dog is required to achieve those standards, then the selection of dogs will take care of its' self.

DFrost
 

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I'll say it again, I don't take maybe's. That's why, in my opinion anyway, if I select a dog for detector work, it will do the job regardless of what venue I decide to place it. My one caveat, which I have mentioned before, I won't eliminate a dog from drug or explosives detection because of dog aggressiveness.

DFrost

Amen. I dont either. I will say that some Europe they will use a weaker dog than we prefer here especially for explosive detection. Look for the same high drive that we do,but they use a lot of English Springers, Cockers,BCs,etc that are a softer dog
 

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Qoute: "I won't eliminate a dog from drug or explosives detection because of dog aggressiveness."

I wouldnt either but this candidate may need to be de-crittered for SAR has nice solid stare though.

Dan Reiter
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Amen. I dont either. I will say that some Europe they will use a weaker dog than we prefer here especially for explosive detection. Look for the same high drive that we do,but they use a lot of English Springers, Cockers,BCs,etc that are a softer dog
And, this goes back to my original point and reason why I posted the article. People are selecting and using some of these "softer" dogs for USAR. These dogs are the type that pass (or barely pass) the FEMA USAR test (which is basically a rubble search test with minor distractions) and are then considered operational. Some of these softer dogs can't handle the stress of a real deployment, or even realistic training scenarios.

Of course, this all goes back to certification standards. No need to open the FEMA Certification standards can of worms here. I need to keep my blood pressure in check! :)
 

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Dan, I think I'd take my chances with that Lab. He at least looks like he might want to hunt. Don't ya think?

DFrost
 

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Konnie, I know what you mean. Each time I get into a discussion of certification standards, or see some dog teams that claim to be certified, ya just have to shake you head. You know, one of those; now what the hell is that all about" type shakes.

DFrost
 

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Dave Yes this guy looks like a true hunter!!

And on a side note I think one place the US shines in breeding we do have some great labs comming out of hunting stock & field trials. But you still got to sort through them.

Dan
 
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