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Amparo Bertram

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02:16 pm: Canine training: Week 3
Field trip!

This week we were taken on an unexpected field trip to a detector dog convention held at Six Flags over Georgia. The rides and vendors were all closed for the winter, of course, but different areas of the park were marked off as training areas for different types of detector dogs. We were escorted around to observe the various canine exercises, and we could ask the trainers and handlers questions about what we saw.

First we watched the drug dogs, who had to find small amounts of different narcotics hidden somewhere inside the various restaurant and gift shop facilities. (Many passengers at the airport think that our agriculture beagles are drug dogs, but they actually use much larger breeds for the task.)

After that we went to see the patrol dogs in action. These dogs don't sniff out contraband. Instead, they are trained to patrol a secure area and attack any lurking intruders.

Our third stop was to watch the search and rescue dogs. These canines are the ones who seek out survivors amid rubble after explosions, earthquakes, or other disasters. This particular dog is being rewarded with a game of tug-of-war using his favorite toy after locating a "victim" hiding behind the silver counter in the left side of the picture. The amazing thing is that the dog knows to ignore the scents of all the bystanders that it can see and only hunt down the scent of the person it can't see.

Next we followed around a cadaver dog that is trained to find dead bodies or body parts. Interestingly, they only alert to human remains, not remains of any other kind of animal.

There were other dogs present that we didn't have time to observe, such as the bomb sniffing dogs and the tracking dogs. It was a shame that we couldn't watch everything. On the other hand, the temperature was in the low 40s, which may not seem so bad to those of you who spent the same day trapped by a blizzard, but we were all freezing after standing outdoors for hours. (My poor classmate from the Cayman Islands had to skip a bathroom break because her fingers were too numb to work a zipper!)

Another area we were sorry to miss was Skull Island, which was the place designated for canine agility exercises. I would have liked to see what challenges they had set up for the dogs to run through.

Aside from that trip, we spent the rest of the week continuing to work with our partners. As time goes on, the training becomes more complicated, with bags arranged in stacks or piles or other configurations. On Thursday we ran through an exercise with the dogs off leash, following only vocal commands. That was tough, since beagles are prone to distraction, but it was also interesting to see how well they listened to us.

Comments

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From:amilyn
Date:February 6th, 2011 10:57 pm (UTC)
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This is REALLY cool to read about. Thank you for sharing.
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 7th, 2011 12:17 pm (UTC)
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Anytime!
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From:megory
Date:February 7th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
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Wow, it sounds as if you had a very interesting week at work.

It really is fascinating how much dogs can be of help.

It must take a lot of patience with all the training that has to happen.


Thanks for adding photos of the different dogs.
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 7th, 2011 12:19 pm (UTC)
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It really is fascinating how much dogs can be of help.

Yeah, isn't it? I kind of knew about the various things that dogs could do, but it is really impressive to see them all in one place.

It must take a lot of patience with all the training that has to happen.

No kidding!
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From:mangaroo
Date:February 7th, 2011 03:05 am (UTC)
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Next we followed around a cadaver dog that is trained to find dead bodies or body parts. Interestingly, they only alert to human remains, not remains of any other kind of animal.

I'm torn between being very impressed by the dogs' discernment and kind of disturbed by what that implies re: the photo.
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 7th, 2011 12:16 pm (UTC)
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I'm torn between being very impressed by the dogs' discernment and kind of disturbed by what that implies re: the photo.

All of the cadaver dogs were searching for target canisters placed there by the trainer. It was mentioned that one contained placenta, which means no one had to die to obtain it. I don't know about the others.
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From:wednesday_10_00
Date:February 7th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for that, because I was similarly disturbed about the dog's training. (I would imagine they can't all be placenta, though.)

I do think the different things the dogs are trained for is really interesting. I'm especially impressed by the dogs who ignore people they can see to look only for people they can't see.
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:February 8th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
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Great icon choice!

I would imagine they can't all be placenta, though.

At the time, I assumed they obtained samples from bodies that had been donated to science, so I didn't bother to ask. I did, however, ask if they used any artificial chemical scents, and they said they only used the real thing.
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From:wednesday_10_00
Date:February 8th, 2011 12:57 pm (UTC)
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I assumed they obtained samples from bodies that had been donated to science

Well, that would be my assumption as well, but that doesn't make them any less dead body parts. It's one of those things that I get why it's necessary, but it's still kinda icky to think about.
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From:megory
Date:February 10th, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
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I was just wondering. When I'm at a hospital or such there are always places where they dispose of "bio hazards." I wonder if any of those parts end up in the canisters. I'm thinking especially things like cosmetic surgeries might have parts to dispose of. Then there are amputations.

You are definitely right, no matter how I think about it, it ends up being icky.
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From:wednesday_10_00
Date:February 10th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
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Oh dear. I never thought about what happens to amputated body parts until now. D:
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