Just over a week ago, K9 Ruger (with me along for the trip) certified as a Wilderness Air Scent Dog with our county’s search and rescue team. He did an awesome job, finding two subjects in 40 acres of very heavy brush in about half the allotted time.
We can now respond to missions anywhere in Washington State. But having met the basic minimums to be a qualified SAR dog doesn’t mean Ruger’s days as a trainee are over. In some ways, he merely now has a “License to Learn.”
Both dogs and humans learn much more at actual searches than at even the best training sessions. Just like humans, dogs file experiences in their memory banks and call on them when future situations dictate. Going on actual searches will give Ruger a wider range of experiences to draw on.
You should also know that Ruger won’t be deployed on every mission just because he’s “certified.” There will be some searches where he stays in the truck, and I go as support for a handler with a more experienced dog. It’ll all depend on the nature of the search, the terrain and other factors. For all the stuff we take on searches, it’s important for handlers to leave their egos at home and play second fiddle when appropriate.
But in the meantime, a big Wahoo! for Ruger who earned his cert on a really difficult test.
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