Sunday, March 23, 2014

Career Change Dog

This week AMRG welcomed a new canine teammate to our roster.

Teddy, nee Tad, is a career-change dog. Meticulously purpose-bred* and carefully raised to have the traits of a CCI "program dog," destined for a life serving a disabled master, he had just a bit too much exuberance to keep damped down for that job. Add a touch of possessiveness with objects, and the trainers at CCI knew that they needed to find him different work.

Exuberance and a touch of possessiveness are unalloyed assets in a search dog.

We drove to Long Island last week, toured the lovely training facility and kennels, and ran a brief evaluation; he exceeded our expectations for a prospect in each of the little exercises we asked of him.

So here he is, Rebecca's new partner.

His primary function will be as a Human Remains Detection dog.

Here he is encountering his target odor for the first time, less than a week after coming to live with his new handler.

My aim had been to walk him downwind of it so that we saw a small head shift to the right on the first pass, and then make a second pass during which the sample would be in range. Instead, he caught a whiff and went for the sample just as we started the first grid. The wind was good for long-range finds today. But it was still a surprise to see that he was that motivated to the odor.

The scent sample is a placenta, frozen, and safely encased inside a capped PVC pipe. We never use artificial odors to simulate the real thing in training.**

When he hesitates to approach the container a second time, I think that's because he thought that, since he was rewarded a little ways away from the sample the first time, that maybe he wasn't supposed to go over there. So we'll reward him with his beloved toy right on top of the sample for a while.

* Not purebred. Teddy is a golden retriever x Labrador, a now-common cross for service and guide dogs. An excellent example of the difference between fancy breeding and purposeful breeding. One of the CCI reps mentioned that, while most of their service dogs are Labradors or Labrador crosses that were originally derived from field-line dogs, they have been selected for different traits for so long that one may as well consider them a separate breed.

** And I cannot overemphasize -- all materials that are legal and ethical to possess.


  1. I really enjoyed watching this video as well, and learned some things from the commentary. I agree -- thanks for sharing!


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