Princetown on Dartmoor. Dartmoor National Park
A true Border Collie pose with tongue out.
Scout taking a breather from training on Dartmoor
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.
Scout has been with us one month now and has settled in really well. The other two dogs Monty and Olly are gradually accepting him although Olly still remains to be convinced Scout is a keeper. But this does not seem to phase Scout in the slightest. He has a firm personality and a strong character, he refuses to be bullied by the other dogs and is gradually ingratiating himself with them. He is happy to be part of their gang or spend time on his own.
Scout has gradually increased his levels of activity and interest. At first he showed no real interest in toys but now is gathering quite a collection. Still the best toys seem to be toilet rolls and egg boxes, oh and soil, he likes soil. He sleeps through now and is on the way to being house trained, but more work needed on that.
This coming month is a big one for Scout. Tomorrow he will be able to go out for the first time and walk around. So far he has had car journeys and visits to shops and offices and people, all good for him, sights and sounds, smells and touch. He has coped really well and shown no signs of distress. Tomorrow morning he goes for his first walk around the common. Lots of trees and grass and smells. Lots of other dogs too so he can start to join a wider community. Only 15 minutes of walking for him, twice a day to make sure he does not strain his limbs.
Next weekend he attends his first SARDA training camp up in the North Yorkshire Moors. He will attend puppy class, learing obedience, getting ready for his first tests. Walking to heel, staying put and the biggy passing a stock test where he has to ignore a flock of sheep.
Later in the month he takes on his first fund-raising work for his team Woodhead Mountain Rescue. He will be at Sheffield Train Station collecting for team funds. Then a few weeks later he is at Scholes Gala helping raise more funds. A busy time.
Well we are finally on the way to becoming a Search and Rescue Dog Handler with the arrival of this little fella on Friday evening. This is Scout a Border Collie puppy dog from Derek Scrimgeour at Killiebrae Sheepdogs. He is pretty neat and full of energy, which includes jumping over steps, falling down staircases and getting under our feet at every opportunity.
At the moment its just a puppy life for him, the real training starts in a little while, but he already respondes to his new name, the original was Killiebrae Jigg. In the months and years to come we both have a huge amount to learn and hopefully put to good use out in the hills and mountains.
He already has a sponsor, Wapentac will be looking after certain aspects of his health and well being which is really nice. I just have to fend for myself.
If you want to know more about SARDA the Search and Rescue Dog Association have a look at their website here at the SARDA website