Can you spot when your dog catches scent?
Or are you spending all of your time doing other things?
I spend quite a bit of my time crawling over slippery wet logs, bursting through thick brush, and trying to avoid stepping in treacherous holes. As a clumbsy girl who had eight head injuries before I was eight years old, this is a challenge. A search and rescue dog handler must be able to multitask a plethora of different activities.
- monitor communications over the radio
- keep track of time and check into base periodically
- constantly note exactly where I am on a topographical map
- keep my eyes peeled for clues
- keep notes
- watch my team members who are walking with me
- test the wind
- analyse weather and land for scent conditions
- look for the subject
- watch my footing
- navigate by sight with my compass and land marks
- monitor health of my dog and group
- think of evacuation routes as I go
but, The most important is:
Watching my dog
This list could be expanded with many more things, but I figured you were sick of reading it.
Your dog is the nose of the operation, you are the brains. If you miss your dog alerting or catching scent, you could walk right past the missing person. Scent conditions are complicated and can change on a whim. Your dog could lose scent at any time. It is your job to figure out what the scent might be doing and direct your dog so he may best find the person.
I have seen my dog catch scent and lose it in less than a minute. If I did not stop, think, test the wind, and move my dog into a better place to catch the scent again, my subject may not have been found.
Each dog alerts differently (one of the reasons we cannot work each other’s dogs as an operational team unless we go through all the tests with them and certify with them.) We can only recognize when the dog catches scent through experience and time with that particular dog.
I use my ears and eyes when I am tracking what my dog is doing. So even when I have my eyes on something else, I have learned to hear when my dog has changed his behavior.
Can you catch the instant that this search dog catches scent as the handler is scrambling over the giant log?