Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy Mother's Day from Hana


Happy Mother's Day from Boss

New Families, New Chapters

This week has been momentous.  I struggled against saying good-bye to dogs that I have owned but am not working for one reason or another but the time came this week to let them go.  It's a tough decision. There are folks who believe you should keep any dog you obtain forever. Just because.  Because I work my dogs and compete with them, if they are unable or unwilling (by nature) to do that, it is unfair to simply let them exist, to leave them behind as I go out with other dogs each day.  To do otherwise is to become a collector of left-behind dogs.  I am very happy with the new families of each of my dogs, who will cherish them and make them important in a way I could not, as the Most Loved.

Marco left on Sunday.  His new owners, Aimee and Jeff, had heard about him from a friend of mine who lives nearby to them.  They had lost their German Shepherd and heard that Marco was available.  Many of you remember Marco's story, and how he came to me.  I told Sherri's daughter, Dawn, about the situation because it was so important that this was okay.  I had such high hopes for Marco, echoing Sherri's own intentions for his future, but his hip Xrays showed a problem and so his future changed course. I was preparing for his BH at our trial in June and thought I would track him.  However, after taking him with me to training I noticed that he was coming out of the crate already limping and I knew I had a decision to make.   Aimee and Jeff came to visit and fell in love with him (of course!).

and this is how great they are--- by the time they got home they had a new crate for Marco and were inquiring where to get the schutzhund type training equipment I used!  Doesn't Marco look snug?

In the meantime, another family asked about Marco but he was too big and exuberant and not meant to be a fit for them, so I mentioned that I did have a female Dutch Shepherd, Ridley, who would be available.  I hadn't posted her or mentioned that at all.  Lord knows, I dragged my feet on making a decision about Marco!  But in that instant, I knew that if they liked Ridley, she should have her own home, too.  Ridley is a sweet, gentle girl who  I purchased as a puppy with the intention of breeding (her dam had the best PennHip score of all Dutch Shepherds) but unfortunately, her sire's genetics prevailed and hers were not as good as I wanted.  Definitely good, but not as tight as I was hoping.  Still not a deal-breaker but Ridley also did not have interest in protection work.  She was just a quiet, gentle girl.  Along came this wonderful family, and they fell in love with her. Jeannie even cooks eggs for her dogs and I know she will have lots of hugs and petting, and love every minute of it.

That was Sunday.  Today I got a phone call from a gentleman I had corresponded with regarding a Small Munsterlander, Excel.  He wanted to meet Excel on his way to his home in the Yukon Territory.  His previous SM had been a cast off from a professional trainer who had gotten angry at the dog and left her in the woods! Can you imagine?  He rescued the dog and contacted the trainer/owner who said she didn't hunt and he didn't want her.  Jim and the dog became best buddies and he learned to love birds and hunting as a result of all the exposure he was able to give her, in a gentle, accepting way.  He thought he might be able to do the same with Excel, who comes from a great hunting family but just never turned on to hunting.  However, as we walked around the property, Excel did the most perfect quartering, regularly returning to check in or flip to heel position.  He was using his nose and enjoying the scents.  I think they are a wonderful pair and look forward to hearing about their adventures!

It's a little strange to look at the past three days as a before-and-after and consider that so much has changed in such a short period of time.  I have no doubts that the decisions were good and all of the pups will be happy in their new homes.  Happier than watching everyone else go out to work and play and being left behind, which is why it was important to cut those strings and let them go.

The only dog left in the kennel who is not either retired or actively being trained is Chica, who was returned by her previous owner because of anxiety behaviors.  I use her for demos on clicker training and she is super clever.  She has been fine here in the kennel and although the previous owner had her medicated, I do not.  She is spayed.  She knows directionals.....

can jump through hoops for your love!

and bring you a chair.  She is that smart.

Imprinting vs exposure

Definition of imprint (n)

Bing Dictionary
  1. pressed-in shape: a pattern, design, or mark that is made by pressing something down on or into something else
  2. lasting effect: an effect that remains and is recognizable for a long time
  3. special mark: a printed or stamped sign on an object, e.g. to indicate its origin
I am posting this because a friend recently wrote that she had imprinted her pup on cadaver source.  This is something that I have heard before from SAR folk, and have always taken issue with it. I want to take this opportunity to explain why I feel strongly this is both a waste of time, and not advisable

 Some like to place source (Human Remains) and see how a pup responds and call this "imprinting".  Now tell me, if you put something dead and stinky out, what do you think a dog will do?  I venture to say that if a dog shows avoidance it is likely not because they aren't a candidate for HRD work but that they are a dog who lacks the innate curiosity and boldness that is desirable.  I keep chickens.  When the pups investigate the chickens and the inevitable tasty treats left behind, they wiggle with excitement, tails wagging.  Does this mean I am "imprinting" them on chicken shit? Not a chance.  They are exposed to the critters, and to many other new adventures and situations.  But it would be incorrect to define this as "imprinting".

Note that #2 of the definitions above is: an effect that lasts and is recognizable for a long time.  The simple placing of stinky dead stuff and exposing a pup to it once would not be considered "imprinting"  It is only exposure.  However, if a reward system was paired with the odor you would be building that long lasting impression.  This is what we do when we train detection dogs.  We teach them that a particular odor is rewarding by pairing the association with food or toy. I find this smell and I get my reward? wow!  After this, the final response is introduced and it becomes: find odor, give final response and get reward.  The results last and are recognizable.

When we select young adults for police service work, we test their prey and hunt drives in a variety of exercises.  I doubt that any of them were ever imprinted with the odors as puppies.  If they have the correct drives to pass the selection test, they can be trained to detect whatever it is you desire: narcotics, explosives, HRD, and etc. If it doesn't make a difference in the final selection for detection work, why is it important to imprint?  Answer: it is not. 

If not, then why bother to expose the dog to source?  As near as I can figure, it is because someone a hundred years ago carried down a stone tablet to the waiting SAR trainers which said "thou shalt imprint" and this attracts them to potential puppies to purchase.  If someone can explain to me why this makes sense to do with a pup instead of simply enhancing prey and hunt drives through training, I am interested to hear it.  Perhaps because you cannot give a dog drive it isn't born with , but you can expose it to dead things.  While this may, indeed, be a selling point for some, in the case of the pup in question, the exposure is not necessary at all.  I happen to own a littermate and they are incredibly confident and drivey dogs.

True imprinting can actually narrow your potential buyers and create problems.  For example, if you don't know what you are doing and you create a pairing of "I put this in my mouth and get reward" it is going to be a problem for many forms of detection and will leave the new buyer having to fix those early mistakes. For those of us who will not use pseudo source material for law enforcement detection dogs, if you have imprinted pups using pseudo, you have lost us as buyers. So why bother? If it does nothing to improve the pup and can actually pose a problem, don't do it.  Spend your time exposing the pup to things that matter such as new experiences, surfaces, climbing and crawling.  That is what I'll be doing.