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Hello.

My name is Jean Paul and I am writing from Trento (Northern Italy).

My dog (a Spinone Italiano) and I are part of a local SAR group and since last March we have begun training in mantrailing.

The problem is that mantrailing is not something particularly common in Italy and we do not have many chances to exchange views about best training methods with other peoples. Our two instructors, who I consider as very competent, are mainly self-taught as far as it regards mantrailing. Once in a while an instructor from Germany come to help us in the training of our dogs. Nevertheless, I have many unresolved doubts and I hope we can here have a talk about some of them.

The most pressing doubt that I have now is about motivation - why the dog work with the handler? Few days ago we have met other SAR groups which use exclusively air-scenting dog. Instructors wanted to see us working with our scent discriminating dogs and after seeing us they emphasized one element that is motivation which they say is mainly provided by the "figurante" (I am referring to the person which hides himself, I do not know this word in English) who should act very excited and when found should be very playful. However, I think that from this point of view mantrailer dogs are essentially different from air-scenting dogs. In Germany the use of Spinone Italiano as mantrailer is quite common because of the calm approach of this breed. Good mantrailer dogs that I have seen did not jerk forward but seemed like marathon runners starting slower and finishing faster. I am under the impression that the running person acting a bit as a clown is fine for the first tracks while after is no more useful if the dog does not lack motivation. On the contrary when the two of uf make mistake is because of excessive excitation of the dog... I am not sure I am explaining myself well, also because English is not my mothertongue. Anyway I would dlike to know how you motivate your dogs to work and how the training of breeds as german shepard or border collie differs from the training of pointing breeds.

Thank you very much :)
 

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Note, I do not work my dog in SAR, but I think finding motivation for your dog to perform is pretty much the same across all types of sports/work.

I do compete in agility, though. First, you must find out if your dog is more motivated by food, or more motivated by toys. My particular dog is, hands down, the most motivated by food, so that's what I use. When we started agility, we weren't looking for perfection. My dog was heavily rewarded for simply attempting to take a single obstacle. Every jump earned a reward, every contact earned a reward.

As we learned and started trying to string obstacles together, the dog eventually finds doing the obstacles and working with me rewarding, as well. The frequency of rewards began to decline. Instead of simply attempting an obstacle, rewards were only given when an obstacle was completed correctly (such as in contacts, all four of your dog's feet must touch the bottom colored area to make it "legal", otherwise you get a point docked). You cannot give rewards on the course when at a trial, so the dog must complete the entire thing correctly without rewards! (although they certainly get a nice treat when they get off the course and get back to their area)

If I am reading what you wrote correctly, it sounds like you're dog is new to SAR. Instead of focusing on perfection, work to ensure your dog finds the work itself fun and rewarding. Then, when you know the dog loves to go out and do SAR, you can start refining the skills. So, maybe that's as simple as instead of the decoy being silly and fun, you're silly and fun and give the dog his reward for finding the decoy.

Also, if this is a young dog, foolishness and being silly is kind of normal, haha. I imagine he'll begin to become more level-headed as he matures.
 

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Go on line and check out Jeff Schettler in the US in Georgia (GA K9). He has a website. He has books. The books are likely in English. He has a tracking school for police and the like so that is all about man trailing.

If your dog lacks hunt drive, your success will be limited. There are dogs in all breeds that have higher and lower levels of hunt drive.

I just placed a dog that is going to be tested next week for SAR and man trailing. Honestly? If the new owner is willing to dedicate herself to the training, this dog will ROCK it. She has a LOT of hunt drive.

Good luck!!
 

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If I am reading what you wrote correctly, it sounds like you're dog is new to SAR. Instead of focusing on perfection, work to ensure your dog finds the work itself fun and rewarding. Then, when you know the dog loves to go out and do SAR, you can start refining the skills. So, maybe that's as simple as instead of the decoy being silly and fun, you're silly and fun and give the dog his reward for finding the decoy.
Thank you for your message Lillith. In particular I will take into account what you say here since in order to obtain the "certification" for go into intervention we need to do some agility as well.

Go on line and check out Jeff Schettler in the US in Georgia (GA K9). He has a website. He has books. The books are likely in English. He has a tracking school for police and the like so that is all about man trailing.
I will have a look, thanks!

If your dog lacks hunt drive, your success will be limited
Would you say something more about this? I am a bit puzzled since I would distinguish 'hunt drive' and 'willingness to work' and what seems to me crucial is the latter not the former..
 

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All dogs are born with various drives and various drive levels as well as confidence and confidence levels. These two things work in concert in the dog's behavior. Fight drive, Defense drive, Prey Drive, Food drive and Hunt drive. Some dogs have very low drives. Some have very high drives. Most dogs favor some drives over others. Drive is GENETIC as is Confidence.

VERY briefly, Fight drive is the desire to win. Dogs that have real fight drive will up the ante with a decoy or a prey animal. They will fight to the death rather than give up. They will not back down. High fight drive is desirable in Patrol dogs and dogs that hunt and take down large animals.

Prey Drive is the desire to chase. A dog with high prey and high fight and a lot of confidence is the dog that is used in dangerous patrol work and in taking down large animals such as bear and lion. They high prey drive dog with less fight drive will corner and bark and hold fairly readily. So will the fight drive dog but one may back down the other never will.

Defense drive is where the dog defends itself. Coupled with fight and confidence, this is the dog who lets the fight come to him. Coupled with fear this is the dog that is reactive at various levels.

Food drive is shown in a dog that will learn and respond well to food being the reward. High food drive is wonderful for teaching a dog something new. A dog responding to food is using a different drive than a dog that is responding to a ball thrown as a reward. The former is food drive. The latter is (usually) prey drive.

Last to describe is hunt drive. Hunt drive is the desire to seek and find. A dog with high hunt drive will search tirelessly and finds satisfaction in the search and the find. I just rehomed/retired a dog with a ton of this drive. She has earned a few trophies for her tracking. She never tracked with a score of less than 90 out of 100 and that 90 was earned tracking in 3-4 inches of both standing and moving water in a heavy heavy rain. In IPO where the dog is "obedient to the track" and follows the track footstep to foot step hunt drive can lose you points but it can also save your butt. When the weather is hot, the track is in poor conditions and so forth, the dog will continue to work even if it means opening the mouth and using the roof of the mouth to gather more scent and raising the nose (all point deductions in IPO) but the dog won't lose the track. The dog will use every bit of scent from every source to keep tracking. This sort of dog, when introduced to air scenting will use every last one of its faculties to stay on the scent to to find. Some of these dogs actually find greater drive satisfaction from the search than from the find.
 

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Thank you for your very clear explanation. In fact I realized that I was confusing 'hunt drive' with 'prey drive' and so I could not understand why in your previous post you were saying that hunt drive is so important for SAR dogs.

My impression is exactly that some dogs find gratification, or satisfaction as you say, in the search itself even if of course the overall activity should be pleasant for the dog. I mean if my dog after finding the tracklayer would be beaten with a stick rather than get treated I am sure she would refuse to find anybody else ;)
 

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In a patrol dog with high hunt drive and fight drive and prey drive in balance, the dog will find the "bad guy" and bark and hold.

This bark and hold comes from actual hunting of prey for food. The dog finds the animal which freezes (deer or elk or whatever) and the dog barks and "holds" the prey in that position. The barking is to signal other members of the pack that prey has been found and cornered and they need to come help "harvest" dinner. The prey animal finds the pack too much pressure and then moves, at which point the pack moves in and bites/kills the prey. A different dog may actually do the killing than the dog who hunted the prey and alerted the rest of the dogs to come. Unlike wolves, dogs leadership changes with the situation and the dog best at the current job at hand is the one that leads. You can see this in Cape Hunting Dogs in Africa.

Back to man trailing and the patrol dog.... the minute the "bad guy" moves, the dog will go in for the bite. The bark and hold on the bad guy is to call his Partner (the police handler) for help in apprehending the person. A bite at the end of the hunt and a fight in a good patrol dog can be a great reward. So, we utilize the natural genetic ability of the dog to do police work.

In some cases, a suspect will run and the dog will not grab an arm or leg, but instead will chase and launch at the person, hitting them really HARD in the upper middle of the back and take the person off of their feet. This is also a genetic behavior and comes from Herding lines (the dog will make a full, calm grip of the sheep and push the sheep to the ground to control it.. and does not damage the sheep). Of course, when the dog knocks a bad guy down, the dog may end up in a fight still and need to bite. A truly good patrol dog is a true joy to see work.. and they LOVE the work.

So, for some dogs, finding someone who will give them food is the reward they need to keep working. For other dogs finding someone who will give the dog a bite is more rewarding. The latter is likely not a good choice for SAR. You need to know your dog.
 
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