Search dog training in lockdown

We’ve been in lockdown for over a month now and, like most people, we’re learning how to live with it. Thankfully, we’re allowed out once a day for exercise, which means that we get to give the dogs a good run around in the fields near our house. I take them in the morning and Natalie takes them in the evening, so we both get some time (a) playing with the dogs and (b) out in the fresh air.

When it comes to Ozzy’s search dog training, though, we’ve had to make few changes. Clearly, doing our usual training with friends hiding from Ozzy in the woods and other public areas would probably be frowned upon in the current circumstances. So instead of looking for people, I’ve got Ozzy searching for the residual scent on things I’ve dug out of the laundry basket. It’s human scent, after all… Continue reading

Trust your dog

We had a great search dog training session with Ozzy at the weekend. She’s picked up the ‘mechanics’ of the search, so we’re gradually increasing the size of the area to be searched and the time it takes her to locate the person who has kindly agreed to hide from her. It’s great to see her in action. But also a little bit terrifying. Continue reading

Canine communication

Molly and Ozzy are off to stay with some other Labradors this weekend. And so this morning I packed up their stuff and dropped them off at their temporary home. But before I did so, we had a brief discussion about the importance of behaving well and went through our usual ‘see you again soon’ ritual. Continue reading

Everything travels down the lead

There’s a saying among dog trainers and handlers: Everything travels down the lead. Because working with a dog is about much more than the commands that we give them. It’s about the way in which we give them. About our tone of voice. Our body language. Even the mood we’re in. To work effectively with a dog, we need to be in the right frame of mind. And we need to put everything else aside. Continue reading

The control subject

While we had Molly out with us for Ozzy’s training yesterday, we decided to do a bit of an experiment. After we’d finished Ozzy’s searches, Ozzy and I wandered off to hide in a pre-agreed area and Natalie unleashed Molly to come and look for us. Would she find us? Would she find us before it got dark? Would an untrained but energetic and highly enthusiastic Labrador be able to do what Ozzy (with all of her three months of training so far) does seemingly without a second thought? Or would it all go terribly wrong? Continue reading

Training time

It was a lovely sunny day today, and I’d managed to get my various chores done by lunchtime, which left time for a nice lunch and a trip to nearby Leigh Woods for some search dog training with Ozzy. It was the first sunny weekend day for some time, though, so we were far from the only people who had chosen this particular destination. Which made for some odd looks as Ozzy and I charged through the undergrowth. Continue reading

The Labrador-a-saurus

As far as Labradors go, Ozzy can be a bit of a snuggler. All the more so after a busy day of training, running around and generally being a bit of a puppy. And especially as the days – and evenings – get that little bit nippier and the nights draw in. But thanks to Natalie and her crochet talents, we have the answer. And so I’m proud to present… Continue reading

It’s mud-time. Again.

As Ozzy gets older, I’m increasing gradually the distance that she comes running with me. She’s just gone eighteen months now, and we’ve worked our way up slowly to a little over three miles. Well, I run just over three miles, but she races around so much she probably runs about eight. But that’s not the problem. The problem is something a bit less Strava-friendly. The problem, as per usual at this time of year, is mud. Continue reading

Dog tales

As we enter the ‘cold and windy’ part of the rainy season here in Somerset, it’s welly boots all round whenever we leave the house. Especially if we’re walking the dogs, as all of our normal walks are now several inches deep in the boggy stuff.

Pulling on my wellies for this morning’s trundle, I was reminded of a recent visit to one of my consulting clients, an agricultural college with a thriving community of farming and equestrian students. Arriving a little early for a meeting, I popped over to the campus cafe.

I was greeted by a huge pile of welly boots stacked up outside the door. Inside, a horde of students, clearly having just finished their early morning chores around the farm and stables, was drinking gallons of hot chocolate and steaming up the windows with their excited chatter. Continue reading