I spent the weekend at at water training seminar. What the heck is that? It is a Search and Rescue training for dogs learning to find submerged subjects. We had an IPWDA (International Police Working Dog Association) certified trainer come to visit.( Jonni Joyce), arranged for divers and boats and set up on Canandaigua Lake on the Western shoreline at a town park. The object of the training is to familiarize the dogs with the boats, get them used to having scent coming from the water and to alert on the scent pool as it emerges from the water.
We put a team of divers down in about 12 feet of water ( 2 divers at all times for safety), one of the divers had the dogs toy for a reward. We moved the boat downwind of the divers and swing the boat from side to side while observing the dog’s reactions. Each dog has a different alert when it is in the scent cone. Some will drop their head a bit, some will lick their lips to help bring the scent to their nose, some will get down on the bow and sniff the water. By watching the reactions and their position at the bow of the boat, the direction can be adjusted to identify the edges of the scent cone and the direction of the scent source. When the dog gives its final indication, typically attempting to get their nose down on the water, we signaled the divers by pulling a rope attached to one of the divers. The then came to the surface and rewarded the dog with a bit of tugging on the toy or tossing the toy to the dog for the handler to play with the dog.
On Day Two, we added a scent generator to the mix. The scent generator is essentially a bubbler with a chamber for the scent source and about 200 feet of air line weighted with fishing weights. When working with this unit, the scent comes to the surface and is dissipated by the wind as happens on an actual search. The boat with the dog works up from downwind angling into the scent cone to determine where the edges of the scent occur. The handler drops a marker into the water to determine where these edges happen and to provide a way to verify the scent cone. Once dropped these become a channel that the boat can move into to determine the relative location of the scent source. Of course, this indication is all provided by the dog and the handler must know what the dog does when it detects scent and what attitude change occurs when it leaves scent.