If you train dogs in any capacity you have probably heard the phrase “train the dog you have, not the dog you want” for me it was not until last year did I understand it. If you read my last blog you know now I have Gracie a certified therapy dog ( TDI). Of course you can’t just have one Great Dane… so about a year and half ago along came Ruger. I have everything planned for him to also become a therapy dog too. I made sure his breeder knew what I was looking for in my next dog and I had a plan, for this 10 pound, 8 week old, bundle of sweetness with four adorable pudgy legs…. well as they say life happens while you plan and oh did it.
I never fully understood the critical socialization period with dogs until it was a bit too late. Because of some unfortunate circumstance Ruger had a few bad experiences as a young pup. (I certainly know better now, on how best to protect my dogs, as well as what to find out about the parents, as I beleive genetics play a big role in temperament ). But he gets a little overexcited around small dogs now, although we are still working on it. So TDI is not currently on our radar. So I needed to figure out a way to train the dog I had and not the additional therapy dog I wanted…. Ruger needed a job just like any dog does. He always had his nose to the ground and was always sniffing. I also had always been interested in Search and rescue, mostly likely from a negative childhood experience of getting lost for a short time, more on that perhaps another day. So I did what any researcher does and jumped on google. I search and searched and never found a K9 SAR group in our area. Than last March a friend of mine saw a float in the local St. Patty’s day parade and it was SAR group! I immediately found them on Facebook and contacted them. About two months later, they had us come try out. They liked what they saw so we came back. Less than 6 months later we were on our way to NAPWDA! ( I am skipping quite a bit ahead here as a LOT of time and training was going on in this 6 months, A LOT). The North American Police Working Dog Association Seminar to learn. AND BOY did I learn… I had no idea the strategy that went into successful searches and the tactics you needed to know. Most other people at the seminar were also testing to become certified. Nervous about being a novice in this well versed group of handlers, I didn’t think we should test. Early on our second morning the master trainers had us run a track. Which if you are not familiar we are given a sent article, I let Ruger get whiff and give him the command and he will follow that scent where the terrain/ lost person has brought it. It was an awesome track … little did I know it was a certification track…. WE PASSED!!! The master trainer also said it was the first time he had ever certified a Great Dane in tracking. We were ecstatic. However, we still have a lot to learn. This journey to SAR work has been exciting, challenging and rewarding. Although, we are not yet deployable for our group, we are well on our way to being able to impact our community in a positive way. I felt a great sadness when I discovered TDI may not work for Ruger, but when god closes one door another always opens. I trained the dog I had and amazing things happened. I look forward to the future Ruger and I have together. I am forever grateful for our local team for giving us a shot and pouring the hours in to set us up for success. I am thankful for the master trainers for their honest feedback so we can get better as a team. For the amazing teams we met at NAPWDA that were nothing, but encouraging along our way. If you would have told me a year ago today, my one year Great Dane would become a certified tracking dog I would have laughed.
Our certification track:
More can be found here about cricital socialization period : https://www.puppyculture.com/?a_aid=57ee895db898d