Success Story: How An Abused, Terrified Dog Became Their County’s First Search And Rescue Dog

Leslie wrote to me with a question about her dog chasing the postman.  But beyond a few dog problems, her story is interesting because of her success with her dog– and how it attracted the attention of a local Search and Rescue dog trainer:

“Joey, who looks like your dog Forbes, is a new dog to our household.  In the two months since I have looked to you for help, he has gone from walking around hunched over–tail between legs– to a confident, head and tail up stride.  He is very athletic and his attitude and eagerness to learn is amazing. He will down, come, heel, whoa, back up, sit, wait, crawl, find [people and things], bring, over and under obstacles, run the poles, and climb. As an aside, I raise beef cattle.  When I ride out {on horseback} he goes,too.  After about three weeks, he started doing what my horse and I do… with no prompting! So now he helps with the cows. He is learning to socialize, with reserved but very good manners with people. He is great with my four cats and older female dog.

All of this is because of you and the DogProblems staff.

I have read, watched, and listened to EVERYTHING in your download library, over and over.

Creative commons license: flickr-Bob-Haarmans
Search and Rescue Dog: Creative commons license: flickr-Bob-Haarmans

All that said, there’s always room to do better.

  1. Sometimes he is slow to ‘down’..starts to turn toward wherever I am, and then goes down {I’m talking like 2 seconds]. Not good??
  2. He does what I want him to do before I give a command. Reading body language?? If he’s near me and starts to do something I don’t want, I don’t need to say ‘no’, just raise an eyebrow. Acceptable??
  3. Bigger problem… The mailman has to drive 1/4 mile down dirt road to my box. All of a sudden Joey has started chasing him. What is the e-collar [I have the Garmin Delta with tone, vib, nick, and constant, which I use to help my handicapped self with recall] procedure to break this habit. He does not chase anyone else.

Adam replies:

Hi, LeslieLu:

Thanks for the feedback. That makes my day!!

1. Give the command and immediately make him go down. Since you’re using the e-collar, you should have it on low-stim and press the button every time you say the command.

2. It’s your dog, so that’s really up to you as to whether it’s acceptable or not. There will always be some anticipation as the dog learns your routines, and that’s okay. The only thing I would practice is giving the commands when your back is turned, and then making sure he does the behavior. That way, he’s really learning and responding to commands rather than simply responding to unconscious “cues” that may not be present when you really need them (like in an emergency!)

3. This is an easy one: Use your, “No!” command. Anticipate the mailman and as you see the dog begin to even start THINKING about giving chase, that’s when you want to tell the dog, “No!” If your, “No!” command is motivational, then he will give up the behavior. If not, then you’re going to want to:
A. Make sure your foundation work is tight and the dog really understands what, “No!” means in all scenarios. He should, since this is one of the most basic of commands that used all the time.
B. Since you’re using the e-collar: Turn it up. As the motivation for the distraction increases, so must the motivation of your correction.

Leslie responds:

Re the 4 problems:

  1. E-collar and simultaneous command cured problem of hesitation.
  2. Turning my back while giving a command also works
  3. My horses will also anticipate commands, in the show ring, this is a no-no. So I decided that when Joey did it I tell him ‘no’ and give a different command, also making sure our training routine is random. It works.
  4. It took two days to stop the mail truck chasing with the e-collar but, while he could see me he ignored truck, if I was not in sight he chased.  So, I hid in the barn and the house with the window open and the second he set out after the truck, I zapped him. Worked very well indeed.

People are so impressed with my smart dog they have asked me to help with theirs. I tell them, that if I know anything, its because of Mr. Katz and Dogproblems and give them your website info.

We don’t have an SAR (Search and Rescue) in Macon County, but the next county over has a big one tied into the Fire dept and Sheriff Department. As a note, everyone in the south knows everything about everybody else. I was visited by two sheriffs, one fire chief and the SAR director.

I know I brag about Joey, but he really is exceptional. The SAR fellow was so amazed by Joey and what you have taught me to teach him, that he begged me to sell him my dog. No. Compromise, he is going to come here once a week and teach me.  I’ll teach Joey, and Macon County will have an SAR dog.

ALL of this, from a terribly abused, terrified dog, because of you guys. You really do what you say.

-Leslie Faircloth