We search with dogs in all kinds of environments, ranging from rural areas to rubble sites, on water and in the snow. And within almost all search disciplines a distinction is made between searching for the living or the deceased.
By rural we mean searching in forests, fields, open country, moors, mountains and hills. The dog works free and off the lead, while a sort of invisible connection is maintained between the dog and his handler. The dog works independently across an area while the handler keeps a careful check on which area needs to be searched and which places require extra attention.
During training the handlers also learn to work with a GPS. This enables us to see how we need to navigate, where we are, where we have been and where we have to go. By examining the tracks we have followed we can also decide which sections of a specific area still need to be searched. In practice it’s quite a job to keep an eye on your dog and the GPS at the same time!
As soon as the dog has found someone, they will make it clear by indicating in one of the ways mentioned above. In addition to this indication, the handler will also carefully observe the dog’s body language. A dog will show through body language what he is up to. It is therefore of the utmost importance that every handler has studied the body language of dogs in general and its meaning, and most particularly that of his own dog.
By rubble we mean all locations that resemble areas hit by earthquake, tsunami or explosions. Here too the dog will work independently, although much closer to the handler than in rural areas. Both the dog and the handler must be able to manoeuvre over difficult terrain. During training, great care is taken of the dog, and it is expected that the handlers have acquired a certain knowledge of building construction and the possible dangers involved. On rubble there are many more potential dangers and obstacles than in rural areas. Drains, holes and pits of varying depths, wet surfaces, slanting panels, glass, nails, wires, etc.
Experience has taught us that accidents seldom happen. A cut in the paw or a small injury does occasionally happen. However, we remain extremely vigilant and always have the necessary first-aid equipment on hand.
The bringsel is never used on rubble. It is vital that the dog moves around “naked” to avoid getting caught up by a collar. The indication will therefore be in the form of barking, digging or natural. A combination of methods is also possible. During training we strive for a uniform method, but as we have already said, the natural aptitude of the dog is the most important factor.
It is always a welcome gift for us when demolition companies make their sites available to us so that we can train our dogs on them. We are always looking for councils, companies, organisations etc. who will allow us to use their sites. We train a few times a week and one whole day in the weekend. During the weekend we can act as sort of security guards on these sites. We do of course take special care of these locations and the trust that has been put in us, and it goes without saying that we keep them clean and tidy up after ourselves.
September 23, 2017 was the day. The Oger SARdog boat was ready. We waited for almost a year, but there it was. November 17, 2016 we had our first appointment with Aluminumjon from De Kwakel about the construction. It would be a 5 meter long boat (jon518) with a height adjustment. The front deck for the dog had to be spacious and you had to be able to sit with at least 3 people and a dog.
The boat was completely bald and we went to work to make anti-slip mats on it and to make the logo in the Oger SAR Dogs stick to it. We also made extra search lighting on it.
There is now a number of times trained with the boat especially for the dogs to gain experience on the boat. At the start of 2018 we want to start with 4 dogs to prepare for the search on the water. He is now on private land and in 2018 the boat will have a permanent storage facility, where we can pick it up day and night.
Mantrailing is searching for a person by letting the dog smell an object of the person in question. The dog works on a rig and a line of 10 meters together with the handler. This limited workspace ensures that the cooperation between the handler and his dog is very close. Small signals from the dog must be interpreted correctly by the handler without any influence or steering. The dog can be used both in the forest and in the inhabited environment. That makes the use of these dogs very interesting when used quickly enough.
Mantrailing is both mentally and physically a tough part of the different search disciplines for both parties. Before OZH uses a Mantrailing dog, the team must have achieved level III at GAK9. The search with a mantrail dog also has its limitations. Although it is often said that smells can last for months, we believe that this is not possible. Based on scientific research, nothing really has been established that this is possible. It is therefore of great importance to use a mantrail dog as quickly as possible in case of a missing person.
Here they learn to recognize a specific smell and to look for it in nature and to refer the conductor to it. In the case of Oger Search Dogs we are dealing with the smell of a deceased person. Our dogs learn to recognize the specific smell of a deceased person so that they can be used during a search. To teach this to dogs, we do this in very small steps. We start with specific scent on a small field to eventually an object in the forest with the same specific smell. By starting very small, the dogs learn to distinguish odors and to recognize them better. With our training method it is a fun game for the dog.
We regularly organise training weeks in the snow. These training sessions take place in Austria at an altitude of about 2000 meters. Avalanche training is especially valuable for young dogs because scents remain pure for longer in the snow and almost all dogs find the experience of digging in snow very motivating. This lays a solid foundation for working on rubble.