We have changed from a dog shelter into a center for behavior and training. Many people get scared if they have to put away their dog and we see a potential search/detection dog. When we discuss this possibility, people always need time to think it over. When it concerns Belgian Shepherds one seems to be OK with it, but when we are dealing with a Cocker Spaniel, people get really scared. The dog’s well-being is and always will be my first priority.
Our search dogs
I guarantee that the dogs that come to live with us will have a fantastic life. I work together with two great companies that train their dogs to detect specific material. They match the dog with a handler who gives the dog a real home. This seems to be the real problem with a lot of people; they think that the dogs are put away I a kennel and only come out to work and that is it. This seems to be the real problem in people’s mindset.
I have one firm condition: dogs that need to be replaced, dogs coming from a shelter, being from the Netherlands or from abroad will have a good life. So the dogs that we train as search/detection dog will not be kept in kennels but will, next to the professional activities, be part of the family.
This handler bonded literally.
A search dog’s job
At our center the search dog learns the basic techniques. He learns to use his nose and find his toy in more complex environments. At first we start indoors without any other scents and slowly we add more items. A concrete floor definitely smells different from a wooden floor; a carton box has a firm scent of its own which camouflages the smell of the ball. A rubber-edged suitcase will reveal less scent. The dog is not allowed to pick up his toy but has to report he found something. They are not allowed to bark or touch; what if they have to detect a bomb that could explode by these actions. We train them to report by sitting or lying down. When the dog masters this we add more incentives, we will track in a factory, storage, the fishing port, the yacht club, the center of the village. We keep on adding items and the dog must keep just one focus: finding his material.
When ready to deal with this, the dogs will go to the search dog center and will be exposed to a number of new substances. They will learn to recognize and report various bomb parts but also drugs or bed bugs.
They will be trained several times per day in order to master the scent. As always they are rewarded with the toy they have been so desperately looking for.
The next step is to match them with a handler who will continue this training and will take the dog up in his family. After all, one cannot expect that a dog will work for you if you are not bonded. A 3 times a day search training of 10 minutes does not create a bond. It is therefore of paramount importance that the handler is responsible for the dog’s daily care.
Actually I do understand people’s restraint. Also in the world of search dogs, money plays an important role. To put it simply, there are people just driving around to pick up all kind of dogs and offer them to search dog training centers. They pay the owner just a small amount and ask top price from the centers.
In the Netherlands there are also a number of search centers that take on dogs and resell them to the highest bidder. They have no idea what happens to the dog and if the dog will have a good life. They are just not interested in that at all. Every country needs search dogs but not every country treats these dogs as they should be treated. So once more I do understand people’s fear and reluctance.
We changed from being a rescue organization into a training center. This does not imply that we lost our ‘rescue feelings’. We still bring in dogs from abroad, but we now focus on working dogs. We still want the dogs to have a safe home and a fantastic life.
We work with these dogs, day after day and we will not give them to some moron that does not care where these dogs are placed. I prefer to deal with a company that is committed to the animals.