A lot has passed since my last post. I introduced a whistle for long-distance recalls, and trained it using high value treats. (Yummy cat food).
Zachary has now passed both his Stage 1 and Stage 2 SAR assessments. Stage 1 just involved him making a find. I had a fever on the day and was dosed up with meds. Fortunately Zachary was not affected in the least and made a nice clean find in good time.
Stage 2 was more difficult because Zachary had to make a clear and readable alert. After much “umming and ahhing” I finally settled on a jump-up alert, although my obedience trainers were not so keen on the idea. (They spend a lot of time and energy teaching dogs that jumping up is bad manners.) However, jumping up is something that comes naturally to Zachary. I spent the first three months of his life with me trying to teach him not to jump up with little effect, so it did not take much training to get him to use a jump-up for his alert. He likes that he is now allowed to jump on me although we still need to work on consistency.
Between the two assessments, Zachary also successfully completed a night search in a forest he had not been to before. His search track covered about 1 mile in distance and during that search he found all four sets of unknown “missing” people. (The “mispers” were young RAF cadets and so hidden out in the forest in pairs.)
I am hoping that we will get to pass our stage 3 assessment in December. I know that Zachary has the ability; it is up to me not to let my assessment stress transmit to him. In the meantime, we also need to work on obedience. His heel work with distractions is getting much better, but we need to work on his “stays”. We attempted the Bronze Canine Good Citizen Award today. He passed everything bar the one minute stay. It was my fault; I had worked on distance but not on duration, so that will be our training focus over the coming weeks.
We have much to do, much to build on, and much to learn, but we have taken those first steps and we are well-and-truly on the journey.