In setting goals we must periodically reevaluate where we are, where we are going, as well as what are the best steps to get us there. The same applies (or ought to!) in training our pooches. Earlier this year we set goals of getting Hanani ready for the CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certification, so that we can go on and become HRD (Human Remains Detection) certified. All that we have gone through since setting the main goal (HRD) and the steps to get there (training and CGC certification) seems to have put things back, even getting us off track. Doggonit! We are no closer now (to CGC) than we were months ago. Time to reevaluate.
A few months ago, in our Update/Changes article, we talked about the standardized requirements that must be met for SAR K9s and their handlers. Lots of stuff there, even more than I listed. Thus far, I have passed and received all certificates on that list (and more) that I need as the handler. Good training, learning, is always beneficial. So, I won’t begrudge the time and money spent on all that. The one thing left, if we are to follow those standards, is for Hanani to pass her CGC.
Folks, after all this time, I can assure you that will not happen anytime soon…if at all. Watching Branden work with my petty pup got me thinking, and of course praying, more specifically on these standards. As mentioned in Color Outside the Lines, we made a clear distinction that we are not a SAR (Search and Rescue) Team. So, why are we bound by those standards? Standards that, in following them, has gotten us off course and put our goals behind. Hanani is going to be three this November and we do have work to get to!
Then I asked myself why I was trying to get my dog to become something I really do not want her to be. This SIK9U (Special Investigations K9 Unit) is *not* to be expected to be friendly, petted by strangers or handled by anyone other than those in her pack. At the same time, we do not want her tearing after anyone that sparks her dander. Her purposes are not only to assist in locating possible remains of victims, but also to protect our home and her handler–me. Granted, she does need to get her dander under control. But we are not going to be out in groups where she will work off leash, surrounded by all sorts of enticements, as a dog is in SAR. That was never our plan.
We went that route only because that is “the” only route for any civilian cadaver team.
Frankly, I find that terribly wrong. As long as my partner is under control, she is not a danger. On top of that, she is damn good at her job!
Police dogs are not expected to be social. They are expected to be under control. The Working Dog world needs to come up with standards for similar civilian handler teams that are achievable for folks who specialize in areas outside of SAR.
Amended Goals Gaining Results
This may sound terrible to most people, but I truly do not care that my dog is anti-social. Again, she does need to get her stuff under control and learn to chill. Ever since it dawned on me that preparing for the CGC was actually a distraction the overall stress evaporated. That, in addition to finding just the right trainer and tools with Offleash K9, contributed immensely to Hanani’s success in dealing with her issues over the past several months.
Now, since we have not been pressed with unrealistic goals that really are not pertinent to our focus, Hanani is finally enabled to again enjoy what it is to simply be a great dog. Sure, she does get worked up here and there. Sure, she will be “that dog” that must always be watched carefully. Sure, but her confidence has grown while her tendency to lash out (fear-reactive aggression) lessens. She does still startle easily at times, but she and I are a team. And I have her back, just as she has mine.
Sifting through the goals we set and the milestones to achieve them, to purge unnecessary stresses was a huge component to help my girl grow. She now sits on our patio with us in the evening without getting riled and trying to bolt after every smell, sound or passerby. Just chills, while those antenna ears scan the night and those keen eyes watchful for any tiny thing, with an occasional sniff of the air. In this she takes great joy!
We still have work to do, but she has come so far already 🙂
At the same time, Hanani is a working dog. She is “that dog” that needs to work! Alongside that, she is really good at cadaver work, problem-solving and a host of things I have only begun to touch on. It would inexcusable to let that go to waste simply for the inability to fit her into a mold that is too broad in the first place.
Now that the stress of unrealistic distractions and demands (CGC) is off our table we have begun the venture to formulate more appropriate standards. Non-SAR, civilian K9 teams should not be held to blanket SAR standards to be certified in specialized areas, such as HRD (Human Remains Detection).
When you grasp the importance of specialized HRD teams, you can see how ridiculous it is to expect to lump them in the same broad basket (Search and Rescue). However, HRD teams do need to be certified so as to not only be credible, but also prevent the perversion of the field by just anyone with a dog. (Such as what is happening with therapy dogs, etc.)
I propose that non-SAR civilian K9 teams be given the opportunity to test in HRD (or other specialized areas) without the prerequisite CGC certification. How well the handler controls her K9 is already a factor in all the training and certifications. Why not simply focus on that while evaluating for the actual job?
After all, we are a Team.