Working dog

Disaster K9 Workshop Summary: March 2018 Tulsa, OK

Disaster K9 Workshop Summary: March 2018 Tulsa, OK

Disaster K9 teams from 9 states joined us for our first Workshop of 2018. Registrants came together on March 20-21, 2018 to challenge their skills and learn from each other this week in Tulsa, OK at the US&R training site of OK TF-1.

US&R K9 Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Course May 2017: Ventura County, CA

US&R K9 Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Course May 2017: Ventura County, CA

Search and Rescue K9 Handlers, and US&R Medical Specialists came together at the Ventura County Fire and Police Regional Training Center in Camarillo, CA to learn skills that may one day save the lives of one of their K9 team members.

Disaster K9 Workshop October 2016: Australia

Disaster K9 Workshop October 2016: Australia

Canine search teams and support members from several agencies joined us for a 4-day Disaster K9 Workshop in Melbourne, Australia October 29th - November 1st 20

It Takes a Village: Raising the Disaster Search Dog

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Eric and I attended our first K9 search and rescue training a few months after September 11, 2001. We both had a lifelong love for dogs, and like so many others, were inspired to action by watching and learning about the rescue and recovery efforts by so many in the days/weeks/months following that tragic day. We would later realize how much this “hobby” of training search dogs would teach us about hard work, dedication, the human-animal bond, and the power of community.

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No one will say that training a disaster search dog to the top federal certification level is easy. It takes thousands of hours of training, thousands of miles of traveling, early mornings, long days, lots of time away from family, and we can’t forget to mention the out-of-pocket expenses. Some dogs make the grade, and some dogs don’t. Some handlers succeed, and others fail. One thing we have learned, is that with disaster search dogs, success cannot be achieved alone. We’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of the journeys of countless dogs over the years and each encounter has been a lesson about community. 

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You see, when you are training disaster dogs, it is all about drive. If the dog doesn’t want to do it they won’t, and it is up to us to build and maintain this drive at every training. Every interaction with a search dog determines its desire to search the next time, so we rely on each other as “victims/decoys/survivors”, to build on the last experience. Getting in “the hole” is equally an incredible opportunity and great privilege, but also a responsibility that comes with tremendous pressure. A successful session can build a dog up, but an unsuccessful session can knock back a dog’s training several weeks. 

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Having a new puppy in training is really bringing this concept to light for us and we are forever grateful for all the folks in the disaster search community who are always so eager to help build drive in each other’s dogs. There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing the anticipation in a dog’s body when he’s demanding the reward to appear. The icing on the cake is the verbal reward that accompanies the toy presentation. The more ridiculous the better, in our opinion. Here’s a great example of a successful alert and reward session:

We’d like to celebrate all of the dedicated folks willing and eager to get in “the hole” to improve the level of training of disaster dogs everywhere. Your perfectly timed enthusiasm may seem ridiculous and over-the-top, but just may save someone’s life someday. Thank you.