Doug Goodman

Texas Horror Writer. Cadaver Dog Handler.

Doug's Blog

Give The Dog A Bone

Posted by douggoodman on February 24, 2010 at 7:05 PM

A few weeks ago, I got my bones from Skulls, Unlimited.  I was really excited about working with them, but there was a death in the family, so I had to postpone working with the dogs.


When I got home, I took the rib out to a field near my home.  I decided to introduce Mojo to the rib on a "West Texas" search.  Meaning, it is flat, and there is a lot of wind, so finding it should be easy.  There are no distractions, no confederates, nada.  Just the rib.  I also placed a second scent item (a paintbrush with residual scent) farther into the field.  The wind was coming out of the northwest at 13 mph, which is good wind for searching.  I let the rib age while I went home and worked Rider.


For Rider, I brought out some of the usual suspects:  cremation in a pillbox, teeth in a plastic syringe bottle, and the umbilical cord in tupperware.  She loved them all with a passion.  Nosed each one of them, but especially the umbilical cord.  Dogs like the cord.


But when it came to the vertebra, she took a whiff, then turned her nose.  Every time I brought it out, she would start towards it, then walk away.  I was disheartened.  This was not the response I was hoping for when I invested in the bones.  I just hoped Mojo wouldn't react the same way to the rib.


He didn't.


Back at the field, I gave Mojo the command to search.  He stopped briefly to nose a cinder block that was in the scent cone, but otherwise he went into the scent cone with his nose forward and his tail up.  He showed me three or four corners, then went directly to the rib.  He alerted on it, too.  The whole thing took him less than five minutes.  I didn't even take him to the second item.  I was ecstatic.  While I had made it an easy search, he went to the rib faster than any search I have seen him do.  It will be interesting to see how he reacts when the search is made more difficult.


The rib weighs 6 grams.  Believe it or not, this barely qualifies it as a good scent source.  (Human Remains Dog Examiners have told me 5 grams is the minimum to train on.)   Still, the rib is about three times bigger than my previous largest item.  The result was obvious.  The dog had a much more confident approach to the scent item.


By comparison, the vertebra weighs 15 grams.  That is almost three times the scent item of the rib.  I am sure this is what was causing Rider to turn her head.  It was just too much scent material too early in the training.  It overwhelmed her.  Mojo also may have had to get used to the scent item.  Perhaps it was the wind, but perhaps the larger, new scent item was causing him to show me the corners, which he hasn't done in a long while.


Next time, I will switch the bones.  Let Rider take the smaller rib and see if she has a similar reaction, and give Mojo the big bone.

Categories: Search and Rescue, Cadaver Dog Sources/Scent Items

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