We are just back from Dartmoor where I took Scout for a weekend of training with the Search and Rescue Dog Association of England (SARDA).
Dogs and handlers from all over the country come together each month to train for finding people out on the hills, in rural environments and woodlands. There are several stages to training. Puppy, then Stages one, two, three, then Graded when the dog and handler become operational. There is no set time, within reason I guess, as to how long a search team, dog and handler, can take to become operational. Most dogs and handlers train each week as well sometimes, several times a week.
Scout is now at Stage One. Learning to go and hunt for a person out on the moor. This weekend was one of learning, some good stuff and stuff that needs work. Scout can find and bark at a find really well. What he needs to do is break free of the hypothetical elastic band that attaches him to me. He has a tendency to want direction from me once he is a certain distance away. So we spent the weekend gradually increasing the distance. It’s a case of three steps forward, two steps back sometimes.
The really great thing is the help that is available and the training from experienced trainers and other handlers. When things are not going to plan, its great to have people around who can explain and give encouragement.