TRAINING A COOLIE FOR URBAN
SEARCH & RESCUE!!!
By Lorrie Clemo...
The First 18 Months!!
I have been in Urban Search and Rescue (U S A R) for over 12 years with at least 10 years being canine search specialist with New Jersey Task Force One. I also hold the position as Canine Coordinator for this team. I started with a small Border Collie "Claire" that amazed many with her endless drive to locate human scent - really to get her ball! She is still with me today at the age of 14, she is my golden girl. Blitz a second Border Collie came to me as a pup that needed a home. He was the last one in the litter and the owner gave him to me. Blitz is not your typical Border Collie, a real Type 1 certification, which is the high-test level and one that all USAR Dogs should acheive. With Blitz I achieved certified 3 times - dogs must recertify every 2 years for Type II and every 3 years for Type I. On 2 of his certifications he was the only dog that passed and I believe that is because he can problem solve on his own - the herding breed I feel is far more intelligent and independant than some of the other breeds used in USAR. Blitz will be 10 this year, time for retirement, as this discipline can be hard on a dog, lots of wear and tear climbing rubble piles. It was time to start looking for a replacement for Blitz. Since it takes 2-3 years to train a dog I had to get going. A friend with Australian Shepherds, whom is also a herding instructor, e-mailed me a link on Coolies, and that's where it all started. I would also like to add that Max, my Black Lam, whom was a rescue, is the only certified Disaster Recovery (cadaver) canine on NJ-TF 1. So I have dogs trained in both disciplines live find and recovery.
My first visit to this Coolie website had me hooked on this breed for USAR. I was looking for a medium size dog, short to medium coated with good nerve strength, agility and temprement. When I saw a couple of pictures of Coolies backing sheep I was amazed. To see a dog move with ease over a flock of sheep captured my attention, such a athletic dog and so light on their feet.
Where do I go to get one?
I spent time talking with a few breeders in Australia to learn more about this breed and to find a reputable breeder. Cost of exportation was a big factor as i am a working girl with a family and could not afford the expense. Through the support of a few breeders in Australia they directed me to a breeder in the USA. Yata Hae Coolies, Looking at Ida's dogs I was impressed with the structure of these dogs, especially her bitch Zoo who just happened to be bred and was due to whelp soon. When the litter arrived I chose a male, as i felt it would do better with my crew of 5 dogs. A little more than a year after learning about this breed one was on the way from Texas to New Jersy.
"Huck" after Huckleberry Finn arrived on one of the coldest winter nights. We picked him up from the airpost and immediately drove off to find a suitable parking area with grass (frozen but grass) to let this little fellow out. Finding a safe place we let him out of his crate. He happily came out and investigated his surrounding. It was so cold we did not leave him out long. Back in the crate he went (my husband insisted) and homeward bound we went about 1.5 hours drive to his new home.
Huck joined a family of 2 adults, 1 teenager, 2 Border Collies, 1 ACD, A labrodor Retriever and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Within 3 weeks all had adapted. Huck had to adjust not only to new dogs and surroundings, but also to tempreture change. He really hugged the heat when he came in and slept under the bed covers, we never has a dog do that. Buried himself under layers of blankets, we were afraid he would suffocate, but he liked the warm darkness and probably felt secure.
Well training began about 3 weeks after his arrival. It's not really training to us, just part of the dog's daily routine. Having an agility course or as I call it a confidence course, I began working with Huck on low obstacles, such as a 10 foot plank on 2 cinder blocks. Well he was a monkey and in no time was climbing the A-Frame (of course with a spotter) tackling the see-saw, and strutting over the elevated plank. I took him to a small rubble pile and there I sent him exploring with Blitz and Max. He joined right in with the other two - it was a play ground for him!
Next i began building toy drive with him, tugging and fetching. Being a herding breed Huck liked to retrieve more then the tug, but that is changing. In USAR we like a dog that has good play/toy drive as this can act as a distress in times of deployment and is also used as a reward system in USAR. I would hide his toy, which was usually a soft fuzzy toy, so he would have to search for it. I hid his toys in dark places, like closets with lots of shoes and clothes, in food cabinets, in the barn, everywhere i could think. This was a game he really enjoyed (we still play it today) and also gets the dog hooked on the toy and maked him start to work scent and problem solve. I also use food drive, which is good in the beginning stages of USAR training as a reward. It is ideal to have a dog that has both food and play/toy drive. Both make great rewards in training a dog for USAR.
I took Huck to many new places, making sure all was a positive experience. He always goes to the feed store with me, but I also took him to Laundromates (lots of noise), to the small airport, walks thorugh busy towns, parks and as many new places as I could think of. Exposure is such an importnant factor in the training of USAR dogs. He met many, people: I always carried treats for stranger to feed him. I would have other handlers take him for walks, so he would not become handler dependent and feel comfortable with many new people. When A chain saw, generator, leaf blower or other machines or power tools were operatingI would take him around them making sure he was comfortable being near them. I would play with his toy or feed him treats when these machines were running. A dog that is noise sensitive will not make it as a disaster dog. Exposure to noises, places and people is so importnant in the training of these dogs. They have to stay on task when working a disaster site where there is always so much going on. At 4 months old we began. "Runaways" This is where a person teases the dog with his toy or food and runs a short distance and hides something. The pup is relaeased to go after the person and get his reward (food or toy). When he gets to the runaway subject they reward him. This is started on flat ground. This is a game we play to start dogs scent work training for finding humans. Most dogs start with handler running away, but Huck started with friends that i train with, he is very social and has no fear of going in on anyone and usually insists on lavishing them with kisses. As dogs progress, the distance gets longer and the problems harder, such as hiding in a building or area with many distractions and contamination.
I also worked on the "BARK INDICATION", this is an alert the dog gives when he has located Human Scent. This we start with having him speak for his meals, and then speak for his toys using different people. I then took him on the rubble pile and had him speak for food. I use food on the rubble when they are young as the toy drive is still being built and is usually not the best reward on unsteady surfaces. I then had different people take him on the rubble and get him to preform the back indication on the pile.
The rubble pile was a breeze for Huck. He thought it was the greatest playground he had ever been on. He investigated all the nooks and crannies: navigating over the rubble was easy for Huck. With in no time Huck was doing runaways on the rubble. With in no time we were burying people under the rubble for him. He does better when the subject is not visable, keeps him thinking and searching, he's a problem solver.
When the indication and scent work came together, I then worked on his obedience. He's real easy to train, so in no time I had him heeling, coming, dropping on recall and staying on command. He is a very smart boy - and his training is coming along at a nice pace.
His control work was also very easy to train. We call it directional and control. This is where we send a dog out to a target from a distance and from there we send them to other targets using voice and hand signals. The handler does not move but has to direct the dog to go back, left and right from a distance, a distance of 75 feet. Huck aced this, another trait I believe is strong in the herding breed, the ability to work and follow commands from a distance.
In order to creen a new dog for the NJ-TF 1 they have to be atleast 1 year old. I screened Huck 1 days after his first birthday. Three evaluators screened Huck with the Marsolis Brownell screening method, available on www.disasterdog.org website (look for screening link). His score was 99 out of 100. He did well that day but still has a long way to go. Maturity plays an important part in a reliable USAR dog. Huck possesses all the right traits and loves this game but needs much more training and exposure. A year after the dog passes the screening he has to take an In-House which is a preliminary evaluation for all dogs before they can test for certification. Huck's next evaluation is a NJ-TF1 In-House: they have to be atleast 18 months old to take this. If he passes the In-House then he is able to test for TYPE II certification. TYPE II or FSA (Fundamental Skills Assesment) evaluates the dog for temperament, agility, directional and control, bark indication, obedience and scent work. If the dog passes these then they are able to test on the rubble. If they show any aggression, they are immediately discqualified. They must pass the above segments in the test before they even let a dog go onto rubble. If you do not have a dog that is confident, then most likely it will not make it as a USAR dog.
The rubble part involves 1 rubble pile 3500 to 5000 sqaure feet in size with 2 victims buried. The dog has 15 minutes to search the pile and find both victims. You have limited access to the pile: your dog must search independently and find the first victim out of sight from the handler. This is where bark indication (bark and stay) comes into practise. When a dog passes evaluation, they are able to take the TYPE I. In this evaluation it is only rubble work that is involved. There are 2 piles (this just changed recently it was 3 piles) with 4 to 6 victims to locate and multiple distraction. The distraction are food, clothing and live or dead animals. One pile is a full access to the handler and dog, the other is limited access where the dog has to locate the first victim with out the handler and out of sight from the handler. More can be found out in detail about these tests on www.disasterdog.org
On the screening Huck had to locate 1 victim on the pile. He had 10 minutes, but located the scent and preformed the bark indication in less than 2 minutes. He was climbing ladders when he was 6 months old, agility is natural for him. He has good nerve strength, if a board he is walking on moves it has little affect on him, he has no fear of dark places and is willing to conquer about anything thrown his way. He is very social, loves being with people - very outgoing personality.
I can hide victims in buildings, debris fields as well as on the rubble. Currently I am working him at finding victims at a friend's farm: she has sheep, goats, cows, chickens and ducks. It was a challenge for him to work through all this and it took several visits before he could work through all the distractions, but we got there and he is a young dog with strong herding instincts. I myself have a few sheep and he will move them and hold them (BTW he is a hearder) - but when i get the ball out he goes for that. Eventually he will get some herding training under his belt but i want to get through scent training first. I have to say that with him I can worm and medicate my sheep alone. Usually I meeded a helper to hold the sheep while I administer worming paste. Now Huck holds them while I worm them. He's my hired hand.
The next big step is the In-House. I hope to take one this summer. As I said before the dog has to be 18 months and Huck is shy a couple of months of this. Huck has been amazing so far in this training.
If anyone has any questions or needs more information on this discipline please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I'll be keeping everyone posted on his progress.
Lorrie is hoping to get Huck certified in the USAR field within the next couple of months.
WELL DONE BOTH OF YOU!!!
Thank you to Lorrie and Huck for their wonderful contribution, both to the USA public and for the article for our newsletter/website.