Utility Title for working detection or SAR dog - Page 1

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by jillmissal on 24 August 2018 - 00:08

Hi there,

I have been a SAR handler for 20 years and am just getting into competitive obedience and conformation showing, cuz it's fun! SAR training seems very easy compared to some of this stuff :)

I have one dog doing SAR (young dog in training, not validated) and one dog doing detection (narcotics). I am reluctant to seek a Utility title on either dog because of that scent discrimination task in which the dog has to choose the article touched by the handler. This seems counter-indicated to a dog trained to search for any human scent (SAR) and for dog trained for narcotics detection. On one hand I don't have much doubt that the context of the exercise would help avoid any confusion, but on the other hand I don't want to muddy the waters.

Have any SAR or detection handlers taken their dogs through Utility? Did any problems in their actual work result? Do you advise against it? Interested in opinions. I'm inclined to just stop at CDX for these two because of the potential issues, but perhaps I'm making too much of it.

by Koots on 24 August 2018 - 01:08

I have not taken a SAR dog through that, but have found it easy to train my dog to do schutzhund-style tracking and also SAR-style searches using different commands and equipment (collar vs harness for example). Dogs are smart enough to differentiate between the two, and you can make it more obvious when doing initial training by your approach (different commands, languages, etc.).

by astrovan2487 on 24 August 2018 - 04:08

I'm not experienced in SAR either but my IPO trained dog just started Narcotics detection a few months ago and have noticed no issues. Going for Narcotics certification and FH in October if all goes well. As Koots said the commands, equipment, and situations are different enough to be obvious to the dog.

I would not take a beginner dog and try to train Tracking and Detection at the same time, I'm sure it can be done but I personally wouldn't do it. Keep us updated on how it goes whatever direction you take

by jillmissal on 24 August 2018 - 17:08

Thanks for the replies. I agree that the context of the work is probably easy for a dog to delineate. I'm mostly reluctant to work the narc dog on a scent detection task that isn't narc, but she does also do tracking for humans so maybe I'm just being silly about it. I already had one issue in which she found a narc contaminated article in the OB ring (someone had it in their bag with a joint) and chose to indicate on the article rather than complete the OB task. It was funny, but I couldn't get her to do that particular OB task the rest of the weekend - she thought she should be searching that apparatus for narc. Of course she is still a relatively inexperienced dog in both venues at this point so I would think she'd understand context better as time goes on.


by Hundmutter on 25 August 2018 - 06:08

Jill, quite a lot of Police dogs here in the UK track / search properties for narcotics&weapons&money; some of those also do general duties, which include tracking humans (suspects, lost, etc). There is also at least one dog which is currently both a drugs dog and specialist cadaver dog. Some dogs are GSD or similar; some are gundog type (spaniels, labradors etc). I believe the training methods used by various geographical Police Services rely on two things: one, gradually 'layering up' the items searched for; and two, washing out dogs which prove unsuccessful in any of the target areas. Whether they continue using such a failed dog in those areas for which it DOES show aptitude, or just for general duties (crowd control etc in the case of the GSDs) varies from area to area. Hope this info helps some ? At least it shows that SOME dogs have multiple capacities.

by jillmissal on 25 August 2018 - 18:08

I have no doubt that dogs have multiple capabilities as you describe. Issues seem to come up; for instance, here in the USA it is typically frowned upon/not allowed for SAR dogs to have any scent training other than SAR. I think dogs can definitely do it, but I just wondered if there were any reasons for policies like the one I just referenced (other than that SAR handlers in USA tend to be amateurs without a lot of real dog training experience, precluding them from higher-level training endeavors).

by Hundmutter on 26 August 2018 - 06:08

Aside from referring anyone who gives you that BS Rule that SAR dogs must not train in any other scent to the British Police, I don't know how you tackle that one !
Probably you are right, it comes from clubs being run by the inexperienced, making rules to cover their own inadequacies.

The only way I can see to break through that is for someone (you ?) to prove it can be done; and then take over helping to run the club.

I'll try to find out more info about the attitude to this issue among UK SAR people.

by jillmissal on 27 August 2018 - 17:08

Yep, that's pretty much the only way - be so good at what you do that they really can't say no.

I notice that rules/attitudes vary country by country, and even state by state/county by county in the USA. The overseeing agency/authority seems to be key in guiding those rules.

That said, I suppose I would not want a first-time dog handler (as in, first time handling a dog in any working venue) to be doing SAR and another scent-based activity. Too many possibilities for screw ups. Get one dog validated in SAR, then start learning more about other types of work for the dog. Experience handlers are a different story.

by LKB123 on 28 August 2018 - 21:08

Don’t be scared come on in the water is fine. I do both. Currently working on my udx and otch and ipo1. If your dog has a good nose then you are set whether it is air scent or other. You should have no issues.

by ZweiGSD on 29 August 2018 - 00:08

Some things to think about on the narcotics dog:

Will you have to appear in court in regard to narcotics that your dog finds? If so, could training in Utility scent training be used to discredit the dog? If dog is certified, does certifying agency have a view on this?

Many police dogs are narcotics/cadaver/tracking/article search as well as bite trained. Those that I deal with are too busy training in the real world aspects to delve into competition. I'm sure it would be easy to do but I look at the legal/court aspects.

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