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