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Training: Sending Forward And Shuttle Action

Some say, that the dog trained to follow trainer's commands would never be able to show initiative in searching. The others contend that the dog, which doesn't respond to guide's
commands while searching, can not be called a rescue dog at all. So should a rescue dog be controlled while working, or one must completely rely upon scent and intellect of an animal?
There is no end to this controversy... Supporters of both strategies operate with quite logical arguments. But still, in my opinion, the truth lies in the middle, as it usually happens. Rescue operations are held under various latitudinal, relief and weather conditions. Sometimes it is just impossible to use a controlled shuttle searching. For example, amidst ruins of buildings or stone landslide. In this case a trainer watches only over dog's searching of all the areas of the search zone, and a dog has to choose the most convenient and safe path of motion on its own.


There are situations when search zone is well within view, then  there is no sense in driving a dog with dense zigzag. It would be more reasonable to grant your four-legged partner freedom in
movement and only to accentuate dog's attention on doubtful places (ravines, stone piles, thickets, etc.) with sending a dog to them on command.


Also, there are cases, when search controlled by dog expert, brings the best result. A thorough zigzag-shaped exploration of territory proves its value at avalanche and ground losses, and at thick tangles too. I think, that two methods of searching can coexist in harmony in the arsenal of a rescue dog. Because you know, a talented musician can both improvise and play from music. The main thing is not to lapse into extremity. So, it is more or less clear with a hunting action. There is no need in teaching a dog to show initiative. It runs in its blood. Most importantly is to be able to awaken interest in the dog to search exactly for a man, but not for sticks, hedgehogs, birds, etc. If the dog is well-motivated for a search exactly for a "casualty", then the style of territory search is formed automatically (based on dog's experience and its physical skills).


Any complicated action (dynamical stereotype)is worked out in parts and only then is put together into a single unit. In our case, dynamical stereotype has such a look:
In this article I will touch only upon first link of a cherished behavioral chain. So, how can one train a dog to move in the direction, pointed by a trainer?


At the first stage of training the dog is pressed for accurate realization of "Ahead" command in the direction pointed by the trainer. There exist a lot of ways of practicing "Ahead" command. Some suggest putting a bowl with food or hanging a toy upon a little pole. The others try to use an old approach - run together with the dog. Also, the dog is trained to run towards a certain reference point (a stone, a tree) or send the dog after a thrown toy. All these methods have a right to life, but all of them have their weak spots. Let's give an example. The dog runs to the bowl with food or a pole with toy only if these items are in its field of vision. If there is no visual contact, then the dog either doesn't move and gives a puzzled look to his master, or rushes about, trying to find the missing bowl (toy). Running together with the dog, gradually falling behind it, also is not the best of variants. I can hardly imagine how to train the dog to run forward for 40-50 meters, using such a method. At best, the dog will take the lead over the trainer for ten meters.
The method of sending the dog to a certain reference point is also an unsuccessful solving of a problem. Reaction of the dog to a "loss" of a stump or a bush will be painfully equal to the situation with a missing bowl. It seems, that sending the dog after the toy with "Ahead" command is profitably different from previous methods. But for this method to work, at least one of two conditions must be complied: either ability to throw a toy for fifty meters, or having a quite narrow-minded dog. That is because of the fact, that a clever dog understands very quickly, if its master really throws a toy, or just pretends to do it. All will end in situation, when the dog runs around the trainer and nuzzles up the pocket, where the "thrown" toy is hidden. Let us assume, that the trainer is able to throw a ball for fifty  meters. But sooner or later a favourite toy must be left behind,  pressing the dog for running ahead, obeying only voice and gestures of the trainer. Deadlock again.

I want to tell You about two methods of training a dog, which very likely deserve your attention.
The first one is very dynamical and brings a quick result. Using  this method, one can train the dog at once for a good shuttle action, avoiding the phase of training the single "Ahead" command. For the lessons, You will need at least two assistants (four-six assistants would be better). Lessons should be conducted in a field or light forest, with a rather high grass (a man who lies in such a grass, shouldn't be seen). Each assistant must have a dainty or a toy. They (assistants) are bedded in the grass astride of the corridor. From the very first lesson, a distance to the assistant can be set in the way You want to see it in the upshot (30, 50, 70 meters). Location of the  participants of the training process can be imaged in such diagram form:

The trainer with the dog comes to a section along the central line. As soon as they reach the level of the first assistant, the trainer turns the dog, facing him this side. Holding the dog back with its
collar, he gives an "Ahead" ("Search") command and points the  assistant's area with his hand. At this very moment the assistant stands up above the grass and attracts the dog. As soon as the dog
notices the assistant, the master lets it go. The assistant, being convinced, that the dog runs in his direction, in the turn hides in the grass again. If the dog is already trained to designate a found man, then the assistant praises it only after convincing designation. After that, the trainer calls the dog up to him. If you don't like, that the dog must be recalled from "casualty", you can approach and take it away yourself. Though it can confuse the dog and postpone a final result. I think, that the dog shouldn't move away from the assistant only theretofore, when the assistant or the trainer himself will praise it. After that moment it can move away from the assistant. Being with the dog again at the central line of the section, the trainer turns towards the second assistant. And everything is repeated all over again. If there are only two assistants, then while the second assistant entertains the dog, the first one creeps to the third point. And so on. With time the assistants rise above grass not so obviously. Later they do not show themselves at all. When the dog will start demonstrating a proper shuttle action at the section with "invisible" assistants, you can proceed to the next phase of training. This stage will demand the utmost exactness and consistency. The whole point is that now the assistant will not be located on each loop of the shuttle route. And the goal of the trainer is to call the dog up to him before it starts to panic because of the "missing" assistant. It is clear, that the dog must be trained to obey "To me" command implicitly. If done, the master encourages the dog as actively, as the assistants do.


At first training lessons only one assistant "disappears", and each time he does it on different loops of the shuttle route. All shifts of the assistants shoul be done without any system, for a clever dog not to notice regularity. When the dog starts doing shuttle action with confidence, regardless of the number of assistants at the section, it's the time for a new complication. The work of a rescue dog demands ability to work under various weather and relief conditions. Any complication in training demands some rollback, so you should have a full set of assistants when showing a new relief to the dog, at least in the beginning.

The second way.

Using the second method, you won't attain the goal with the same speed. But this method is good because of absence of need in assistants, and you can train the dog on any piece of ground. I trained my Dobermans to obey "Ahead" command and to do shuttle action with this very method. Before starting lessons, get a bright and rather big toy.

 Such demands to the toy are not accidental, it is made for the dog to notice a sought-for object from a distance in several meters. As a rough approximation, all the process can remind you a method when a toy is tied to a little pole, hammered into the ground. But there is one essential distinction between these two methods. In the case with the pole a dog SEES where to run, and in our case it orientates itself only with the master's gesture. So how can you press the dog for movement ahead "with its eyes closed"? The main task of the trainer is to convince the dog in the fact, that if it moves in the pointed direction, BY ALL MEANS it finds a toy.

In sight of the sitting dog, the master carries the toy away for three meters. Then he returns to the dog and sends it ahead, using voice and gesture. As soon as the dog snaps at the item, the trainer
calls it up to him and finishes the exercise with a cheerful game. If the first sending was a success, the dog wasn't zigzagging and ran at once to the toy, then the next starting can be done from a five-meter long distance. Gradually, from lesson to lesson, the distance covered by the dog is increasing, until it reaches the desirable.
 I'll accentuate it once more - the dog runs ahead not because it SEES an item, but because it is sure, that the toy is there.

All is the same, but now the dog doesn't see the moment when the trainer puts an item. At this stage all lessons again are held on the minimal distance. Despite all this complications take place
much faster, by this time the dog understands well what it is supposed to do. When the dog unmistakably runs as the crow flies in the direction, pointed by the trainer (where naturally the toy awaits for the dog), it is time for the next stage to start.

The dog is sent ahead, but the toy isn't put at all. Uneasy task of the trainer is to call the dog up to him, before it will start rushing about, searching for a toy. Well-practiced "To me" command plus the toy, suddenly "appearing" in the hands of the master, will help the dog to do everything well. Next start - and the dog finds the toy on the ground again, and so on. The dog shouldn't foresee, where an item will be located this time - at the end of the route or in the master's hands. Mastery of a trainer lies in this. Using correct actions, the master must convince his dog, that IT WILL RECEIVE A REWARD IN ANY CASE. If the master makes it clear for his four-legged student, then further training won't be problematic. It will demonstrate with the same zeal both single sending "Ahead" and multiple ones, which eventually merge into a united skill of shuttle action.