The title of this post is to reflect the fact that I am a dummy when it comes to “advanced” dog training! Advanced training includes anything beyond basic obedience. Though I have for years trained my own dogs, and even trained them to do some rather incredible tasks, it all would still fall under the heading of “basic” stuff. Remember, I started this blog because I am a common person–not an expert, “pro”, etc–with some great dogs, attempting to push beyond the unseen boundaries. Into the world of cadaver search. Since my own journey has been long and difficult, I figured others could also use some help! There are many great articles here with all sorts of FREE tips for choosing a pup, basic training and basic needs—Be Pack Leader, DIY, Engage Your Pup, Stop Aggressive Behavior, and more. Dynamics of Dog Pack Structure is a great place to start! Now, we added a new category for those of us whose adventurous appetites wander beyond 😉 Advanced Dog Training for Dummies is more of a journey we’d like to share with you. Hanani and I invite you, one and all!
So I usually end up following the Biblical Method: “Seek and ye shall figure it out!” Along this way, people cross my path in uncanny ways and things seem to pop out of the proverbial bushes at convenient times. Just like, shortly after we brought Hanani home there was a collar I had to return. Funny thing is I ended up going to the wrong store to return it! I bought the collar at Pet Supplies Plus, but went to PetSmart to take it back. Here’s one for paying attention, eh? 🙂 While standing in line behind a nice, young couple with an absolutely beautiful blue Pit in their cart, we were all ogling over this pup, including the cashier! Of course, when the couple went their way I just had to brag about my pups. As soon as I mentioned a shepherd, the cashier teared up a bit and told me about hers. We shared some stories before I finally got to my purpose for being there–or what I thought my purpose was. That’s when we figured out I was at the wrong store! Well, the wrong store for returning the collar, but the right store for what came next.
This awesome woman, Michelle, shared with me about her experience and credentials in (drum roll please) training and handling cadaver and search dogs! When I told her why I bought Hanani, it was like hitting a button with no off switch! She got someone to cover for her at the register and walked me over to the training center in PetSmart. Michelle went on and on about search work, as she ruffled through cloth bags. Finally she pulled out this tiny, see-through bag with something in it. The grin on her face was priceless as she explained to me what it was and how to begin imprinting Hanani at her crucial age (5.5 months). The tiny bag she handed me contained a small piece of human flesh, slightly singed.
Another remarkable thing that needs shared here is the fact that the entire hour or so we chatted about flesh, search and rescue (SAR) and all, one of Michelle’s dogs sat calmly in an umbrella chair at the far end of the training center. Shoppers walked by regularly, as this was a busy day, and the dog did not move from her post. This, for me, reinforced much of what this lady shared with me. That sort of training in a dog shows what a dedicated owner she has.
Going to the wrong store has never been so right for me! Every once in a while I would pop back in, with and without either of my dogs, and we would chat endlessly. She shared more tips and training aids, even put Hanani and I through some drills right there in the store. I haven’t seen her in a while now, but I pray we share some time again soon. There is so much valuable information that can be gained from those with experience.
A Year Later
Now, a full year after that day I met Michelle and many months since I have seen her, Hanani and I are still working through all she told me. Hanani was imprinted first using the singed flesh. Later we added rags smeared with body fluids. About a month after that I was finally able to get a word in 😉 and told Michelle my specific plans for Hanani was to find remains of children from cold cases within suspected burial sites. That’s when she handed me yet another small bag with a piece of bone from a 1980s cadaver. Most folks may think this weird, but my heart skipped a beat 🙂
Though the reading materials are scant for cadaver work, the list is growing in recent years. I have a couple great reads I have been working through. I already shared my review on What the Dog Knows, by Cat Warren. Another great find is Cadaver Dog Handbook 2000. Some of Leerburg’s videos have been helpful as well. There are some wonderful, dedicated groups all over the US. The problem here is the majority are at least a couple hours drive from where I live. And then there are the longer drives and large fees for seminars and other training. No one can appreciate the hours of dedicated work and costs that go into training any sort of search dog until you start to dive in. Hanani and I will get there, of that I am certain. But for now books and what Michelle shared with us must suffice.
From One ‘Dummy’ to Another 😉
So, from one “dummy” to all others I tip my hat! Training dogs for anything is fun, frustrating and remarkable. Even for those who have no desire to train beyond obedience (Pack Leadership) and maybe a few neat tricks, or maybe folks that do not even have dogs, we must all appreciate the dedicated folks and pooches that train purely for the sake of helping others. As I ventured into this depth of training on my own I have gained the utmost respect for those who have been active in SAR & HRD (Human Remains Detection) for years.
C’mon along with us as we press forward! And please share with us any advanced training you may be doing, interested in…anything!