Monday, August 18, 2008

*happy dance*


Z got the go ahead to start coming to practice after I updated the powers that be on her last search with a victim! Apparently she's farther ahead than they expected her to be at this stage in the game (the returning to me was indeed the start of an indication/refind!) and thus she needs to start working with the team to maintain her progress. Rockin'!

In other news, she got a clean bill of health from the vet today so we're good to go on that front. The only blip in the exam was that she has a slight heart murmur, likely genetic, but it won't affect her performance in SAR or in daily life. Yay!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I FOUND A GOOD VICTIM!!! A friend of mine and I went hiking with the dogs today and when we got back to the cars I asked if she'd mind being a victim for Z; she said "sure". :) We got three good reps in on runaways!

Rep 1: My friend ran away from Z after showing her that she had cookies. She made lots of noise as she ran, then hid about 60 feet away behind some brush. Z was raring to go at that point, so I released her with her cue "Go Search!". She bolted after my friend at top speed and ran right to her hiding spot, where Z promptly got her cookies and a verbal praise party. When the cookies were gone, Z ran to me (beginnings of an indication?!?!) and then returned to the victim when I asked her to "Show Me". :D Awesome.

Rep 2: I held Z while my friend ran a similar distance away and hid behind one of our cars. Rinse, repeat of the first rep: high speed, accurate find, return to me and then back to the victim. Yay!

Rep 3:
My friend ran behind a rock pile about 20 feet away from Z and I. She wasn't able to hide completely this time, but was about 1/2 behind the pile. Z was just as enthusiastic when released and just as quick "finding" her victim, but we didn't have a return to me because we were already so close.

Great reps in all - a very nice start imo. Of course I may be creating a monster - Z kept circling my friend and I in anticipation of another rep and then refused to get in the car when asked the first time (did on the second cue lol) - that never happens after just a regular hike or practice in agility. Seems like she's taking to this well!

First Saturday practice

Every week we have a practice on Monday evenings for about 2 hours, but two weekends a month there's a long practice (about 6 hours generally). Usually I can't make Saturday practices because they are held while I'm teaching classes at work, but this week practice was in the evening, so I could make most of it. :) I got there at 7:30pm (it started at 6) and didn't get home until just now (midnight)!

Tonight I was on two searches: one longer one (about 45 mins) and one shorter one (about 9 mins and 1/2 mile). I "flanked" for both, which means I walked to the side of the dog team so we could cover more land and help each other out as needed. On the longer search the team had the dog handler and two flankers, the shorter one only had me flanking.

The first search in one direction was through a pretty brushy woods and I spent most of the time walking perpendicular to the slope of a hill, running into cobwebs every few feet, and ducking through overhanging limbs. Going back was through a field of grass, but we got tangled up in brambles several times - yuck! The dog found the victim on the double back and we headed back to base.

The second search was a fast one through grass and after dark vs. sunset. The dog stayed on track nicely for the most part and the search was over super fast. It's much easier to run through grass than woods. ;)

It was fun to see the teams in action, but I also enjoyed hanging out at base while the trails were laid as it gave me a glimpse of all sorts of things that go on to support the teams both in training and in a real search.

I think the most interesting thing was seeing how they use GPS to "see" victims (and thus the track) and the teams following behind (and thus their accuracy on a track). Lots of info is gained with this technology and it ensures that no one gets truly "lost" during practice as you can "see" where everyone is. :)

I'm looking forward to Monday's practice!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Last night was agility practice and I decided to do some SAR exercises before and after class. Despite having tons of dog people around, we really didn't have much opportunity to recruit victims, yet again, so we did a combo of things.

Before Class:

Search 1 - 3: Put Z in a sit stay and hid her tuggy among some miscellaneous agility stuff. I immediately saw the challenge presented by doing this on the agility field when I released her - her focus was on the obstacles, not finding the toy. :\ I redirected her once or twice each time and she was successful in finding the toy, but I think that was mostly sheer luck as it was obviously not her primary focus. (Note to self - stop making huge leaps that leave the dog in the dust!)

One small benefit to this round was an increase in drive with her tuggy. Since we're no longer using the rabbit fur tug (it would work at cross purposes in SAR), I've gone back to a plain fleece tug which is not nearly as interesting. After the first "find" the drive for the tug leaped a lot, and continued to do so after each subsequent "find". :)

After Class:

Search 4 - 6: Put Z in a sit stay and hid myself (no victims, plus I wanted to see what she'd do). I did this in various locations on the field but made it easy. I released her with a "OK! Go Search" cue and then stayed quiet. The first two rounds went very smoothly and she easily found me, on the third I hid under the A-frame and that threw her for a loop - she ran back and forth over the obstacle and I did have to repeat the search cue to help her out in locating me. She had good, sustained interest throughout and we got to reward with both a tug as well as her hedgehog squeaky toy.

I did get one victim to help me for one rep at the end of things. She did better than my other recruits (made a great big deal while running away, hid well, etc.) but her rewarding left a fair amount to be desired (make squealing noises, but forgot to reward with food or the tug I gave her), so I ended up doing the rewarding myself. :\ Less than ideal in that realm, but Z was very speedy at running to the spot where she last saw the victim and then methodically covering the area until she found her. :)

We ended after the victim rep because Z had been working for a good hour and was getting a little bit frustrated/tired. Didn't want to push too hard at this stage, especially given the challenge inherent in working on the agility field.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Where are the good victims?!

So today we were shooting for doing some good runaways while on a hike with a friend and my family - yea they weren't very good victims and thus I don't know how much help the reps we did were. :P I need to find people who understand the whole "stop and get super happy when the dog finds you" bit and I need to be more explicit in what they need to do. *sigh* From now on I'll also be setting "searches" up on their own, not during another activity with extra people and other canines in close proximity. Live and learn.

Search 1:
I held Z while the group of people walked away down the trail. Reved her up myself since they didn't. Released when they were behind some brush about 60 feet away and she was intently watching. She sprinted after them, but turned back when she saw me running behind her. She did return to the people with another "Search" cue.

Search 2: Same pattern as the first but the people were about 50 feet away when she was released and I didn't run behind her. She didn't turn back, but kind of "bounced" off them and returned to me once she had located them.

Search 3: Same pattern as the first 2, but people were about 150 feet away (no good brush until that distance). She started off rocketting away, ran to one of the people in the group, bounced off, returned to me, and then refused to refind them. I used multiple "search" cues. Overall this was obviously too great a jump in criteria for her.

Search 4: I did one more search about 20 mins after the first 3 to make up for the last one that frustrated both of us. This i set up methodically: one person (my DH) walked about 60 feet away and hid behind a bush. When Z was raring to go, I released her and she shot after him. She almost overshot his spot behind the bush, but skidded to a stop and ran up to him. She got a food reward but not a ton of praise (he's not the most enthusiastic victim) before a jogger with a small dog suddenly appeared and I had to recall her to me.

Mixed reviews on this practice, but we have to learn somehow. Lots of things to keep in mind when setting up training reps, that's for sure!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day two, Round two

We did another set of 3 object searches after work this evening, this time indoors in the training building where I teach classes. I tried to make these searches harder and she still seems to be doing well to my novice eye. I hope I'm not accidentally doing something to mess her up...

Search 1:
Z left behind 1/2 wall, hid wubba toy behind trash can after moving and faking a placement in other places. She was more methodical about searching for the toy this time instead of beelining for it. She scanned the open area then moved from left to right across the area investigating hidey spots until she found it. Played a game of fetch as a reward.

Search 2: Z left in a corner behind the half wall again, similar placement strategy. Hid the wubba toy in some miscellaneous toys and training equipment on the other side of the room from the trashcan. Z went to the right side of the room this time and worked over to the left side in a similar fashion to Search 1. She spotted the wubba and maneuvered to pull it out from its spot behind a bike and other obstacles easily. Rewarded with wubba tug game.

Search 3:
Crated Z and hid wubba on training floor instead of entry area. Released Z to "go find it" and she worked the floor from left to right quickly (there are fewer hiding spots on the floor vs. the entry area). Rewarded her find with another game of fetch before heading home.

Down the Rabbit Hole!

Yesterday marked the beginning of a crazy adventure for my young dog, Ziva, and myself. Ziva passed the basic evaluation required by Foothills Search and Rescue to be accepted into training as a wilderness search and rescue dog! Here's a copy of a post I made to one of the dog forums I frequent:

Yup, Z passed her eval today, despite the 101 degree temps (we were outside for about 45 mins).

She's not stellar in terms of toy drive with other people yet, but she works nicely for food and they think she should do well with some work with others using her tuggy and/or a ball. On the "search" test she did nicely, especially given the heat - she looked for her ball for a good 10 mins before she wandered over to get water and flop on the grass, which apparently is a good start.

Our homework is to build drive to the victim using "runaways" and "pop ups"; runaways are just that: the dog is restrained while the victim hides and then is released when they are raring to go, pop ups are similar except the person goes out of sight to hide and then "pops up" every so often so the dog gets glimpses of them.

Z's not to come to the next few practices until we get some more of the above training under our belt at home, but then she'll start training for real with the club.

I'm soooooooo proud of my little girl, especially because she'll be the smallest dog and the only mixed breed on the team!

It was certainly a great day and as soon as I was on my way home, I made calls to all my friends who know Z to give them the great news. Everyone is psyched for us - which is good since we'll need various practice "victims" to do our homework over the next few weeks!


Today is one of my long days at work so we aren't doing much in the way of training, but on my lunch break Z and I went out in the light rain with her ball and did some baby object searches. As instructed, I'm adding the cue for searching already ("Find it" in our case) and only doing 3 reps of any one exercise to keep her in the game.

1st search:
Z sat behind a tree while I hid ball in bushes about 15 feet away. Released to "find it", she sprinted toward the bushes and spotted and retrieved the ball immediately. Playtime and lots of "good girl"s, tugged with the ball.

2nd search:
Z sat behind a tree while I hid the ball in brush about 35 feet away. Exact repeat of 1st search but she overshot the ball initially.

3rd search: Z laid down behind some low bushes while I tossed the ball about 10 feet away. Once released she zeroed in on it's location and retrieved the ball quickly. Praise and tug as a reward and back in the house to chill.

I'm happy with her performance so far: lots of drive to "find it", accurately locating the object even w/o seeing it hidden, and happy and upbeat throughout. She looks like a coiled spring when I leave her on the stay to hide the ball - she seems to really be enjoying this "game"!