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Survival K9 Training

Dogs can make a world of a difference in a survival or SHTF scenario. At the bare minimum they offer a much needed moral booster and companionship. This simple aspect can be the difference between dyeing and making it home.

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They also can offer a skilled partnership provided you put the work in prior to the event happening.

Dogs can bolster your defensive capabilities by acting as an alarm system. Most breeds will do this naturally but some will do better than others. We recommend training your dog to low growl when they alert to something instead of barking. This will alert you while remaining quiet enough that what they are alerting to might not be alerted to your location. You can always train them to bark on command as a deterrent method as well for situations when you are not worried about stealth. This is a common training situation in most protection dog training.

Dogs for protection is not a new thing but despite that many people still believe that their dog will protect them with no training. While this has happened and could be the case you have similar odds to winning the lottery. If you are looking for protection as an aspect of your canine partner, make sure you look for those traits and breeds when you are getting him as well as seek out protection trainers that can help you with the process.

A dog can improve your hunting ability by either alerting to animals such as tracking and pointing or retrieving downed birds. Consider training your dog in these important skills.

Get your dog a good back pack/saddle bags harness to carry their own supplies. This could also allow them to pull a sled with more gear as well. Make sure you ease them into this as slowly increase the weight they carry just as you would yourself.

Dog’s noses are one of their best assets and can be used to find supplies/food, missing party members, and much more. Teach them article search tracking or scent discrimination tracking to improve this skill.

Tracking is another scent discipline that can be of great use in a survival situation. This could be used to track live game or downed game, missing persons etc.

Now our final point is going to sound silly but is a real survival application. Dogs can help prevent hypothermia. Create a shelter large enough for you and your dog. Humans and animals warm their surroundings and if you enclose this heat it will keep you warm and fight off hypothermia.

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Survival K9 Training: Silent Communication

In a survival or SHTF scenario there will more than likely be times that you need to tell your dog to do something with out speaking. This can be done one of two ways. With dedicated hand signals, or situational context. Which you choose will depend on the situation you are preparing for and in all likely hood both are going to be used.

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Dogs are actually more likely to pick up body language and hand signals faster than verbal commands because it is their most natural form of communication. This could be used in a variety of ways but the most useful way would likely be with heeling and obedience. Sit, Stay, Down, Heel, and Here/Come, should all have a hand signal associated with them for your dog. This would allow you to communicate with your dogs under circumstances when you cannot talk or they cannot hear you due to noise.

This will be done the same way you would train or pair a command with their behavior in what ever training system you are using. The only difference is instead of a verbal command you would simply pair the behavior with a hand signal or a specific situation.

Now if you want the dog to do something in certain circumstances on their own, for example say when your dog is heeling and you stop you want them to sit. After they know what sit or their hand gesture for it means you would get them heeling and then stop, give them the command to sit and then reward them when they do so and repeat. Then once you feel they are getting the hang of pattern you will stop and give no command and just wait until they sit. Then you will reward them when they do. If they don’t give them the command again.

Hand signals and silent commands are specifically useful for hunting dogs and have been used under these circumstances longer than most if not all other disciplines as you can communicate silently and have less chance of disturbing the game you are stalking or disturbing them prematurely in the case of birds and other small game.

Hand signals for direction changes and other movement commands such as climb, under, or through, are useful when stalking game as well as bird dogs when they are farther out but can still see you.

Some good uses/ideas of situational context and silent commands that you might consider training with your dog on are….

(When they are heeling)
Sit when you stop
Down when you kneel
Stay when shown the “stop hand gesture” (if you want them to stay and you want to move)
Return to you if they are not heeling and you kneel or stop

Silent/body language/hand signal commands are useful in many situations ranging from obedience, hunting, and on to tactical and combat environments. Their usefulness like many things is only limited to the handler’s imagination and training ability. Your own situation and circumstances will dictate what direction or commands you will need but if you plan on having your dog be an asset and not a liability if you find your self in a SHTF scenario you should definitely consider working this into their training.

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Threshold Safety Training

As with any form of training consistency is key, and threshold training is no different. We are talking the door threshold safety training. This training teaches your dog not to go though doors or at least certain doors without you telling them to or lacking certain situational contexts.

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This is an important step in their training for safety reasons. You don’t want your dog running out doors when you are not ready or before you have checked out side. In our case moose is the main concern but for those in the city, traffic is a major concern.

Now this doesn’t just apply to your house doors, this should also apply to your truck/car doors and kennels. If you open your car door in a parking lot you don’t want your dog jumping out randomly in paring lots and this is the same reasoning for the kennel. This also i necessary if you have multiple dogs in a house that cant always be out at the same time or in the same room. Whether that is for aggression issues or simply because one of them is in season.

This is one of the simpler behaviors to work with your dog on and you want to start by making sure that your dog under stands making and maintaining eye contact with you.

Starting out you want to make sure that you have the dog on a leash. If you have decided to use a trining collar such as a prong collar you will want the leash attached to that.

At this point you need to decide if you want your dog to sit or stand or if you care, just make sure if you decide on one be consistent with it.

First You will crack open the door or approach the threshold you will be training on, As you should be crate training your dog, their crate door is a great place to start. (Keep in mind if you are using a good quality crate you wont be able to use their leash at this point) Now if your dog tries to push their way out or moves toward the door you will close the door not letting them out, if are using a leash and collar at this time pull back on the collar keeping them from exiting as you close the door and then you will reset by getting them back into their position and then oping the door again. Then you repeat this step until they don’t try to go out the door any more.

Once you have them at the point where they dont try to push out you will start opening the door more and more until At some point they will likely try again to go out the door with you telling them too at which point you will close the door again. Continue to open the door more and more a closing it when they try to escape until you get the door open to the point you want them to be able to leave.

Eventually you will get the door all the way open and your dog will not try to go out. At this point you want them to look up at you and make eye contact before getting the command to leave. So you will now give them the command usually their name then once they make eye contact with you give their command to go through. This can be what ever you want but “go ahead” or “okay” are common choices.

Consistency is key and you need to do this every time your dog comes to a threshold you want them to pause at. For most the minimum for this should be any exterior door of your house or building, your apartmentĀ  door if you live in an apartment, your car doors, and their kennel door.

Now some of you will have specific situations you want your dog to go through the door without you telling them too. Whether its for protection or service K9sĀ  or your pet dog, you will want to wait and only start training them on these situations after they are pausing at the door fully opened and waiting for you to let them through.

Some examples of these situations could be….

* K9 Officers wanting their dog to jump out to apprehend a suspect. This can be trained using either a door popper or the officer opening the door. To train this you will want to build the situational context for the dog by incorporating this into your apprehension training scenarios.

* A personal protection K9 who you want to jump out and protect you, in which case the same thing applies as the K9 Officer and you should incorporate this into their protection training scenarios.

* A service or medical alert dog that you want them to go through the door and do their job. You will incorporate this into their training on what ever they are trained. For instance if a person faints and the dog is trained to run over and protect them/alert someone to help you want them to do this even if their human is out side and they are not.

You may have your own situations where you want them to know they can go out with out you telling them to, you just need to build a mock scenario around that situation and allow them to go out during it to build that context for them so they learn that its ok for them to leave under those circumstances and not under others.

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Outfitting Your Adventure Dog Part 1

This is the start of a multi part series of how we out fit our dogs for hikes, or any wilderness type adventure thats not mushing. This first post is going to center around the basic equipment and Non-consumable items.

A high quality Collar: we use K9 Tactical Gear. You want something that is strong and with a good buckle so that it will hold up to the abuse of the trail and stay on your dog.

ID Tags: Simple dog tags with your dog’s name, Your name, and phone number. We use Boomerang tags because they do not dangle. Tags that dangle can get caught up in their collar and at best rub your dog raw and at worst puncture and get lodged in their skin. We also use Road ID collar adaptors to get them to fit on the larger collars.

Microchips work, they cannot be lost like a collar or tag however. they can migrate around under the skin and get lost. Good vets/shelters will scan the whole body of a lost dog looking for the microchip, but not all are good. There is also new evidence that microchips may be causing cancer in dogs but is not conclusive yet. Our experience with Microchips from certain companies is that the number doesn’t show up in search engines like it is supposed to so who ever finds your dog has to look each chip company site looking for the one that number goes with. So this is something that you will need to evaluate on your own case by case basis and weigh the pros and cons.

GPS Tag: Now we do not recommend these at least most of them. This is because most require internet/data/cellular service to operate. This means if you are deep in the woods they wont work, if the power goes out they might not work, if you loose cell service for some reason they wont work. We use and recommend Garmin’s GPS collars as they operate off grid and connect to a hand held GPS unit via radio frequency. This means as long as both have a charge they will be operating the only limiting factor at this point is range. There are many ways to boost range but we also have never had issues. We do use a telescoping extendable antenna on the hand held in the off chance we need to extend range.

A beacon: We attach either a lighted collar or a beacon light to our dogs collars when we are hiking in a time of year when it does get dark. We have used many beacons and there are many good ones to choose from but we are transition all our dogs over to head lites collars as they are far superior to everything else we have used so far.

Good Leash: When we are in the woods we use our long lines that we make and sell. We use long lines for a couple of reasons. It allows a little bit greater range for the dog if the terrain gets complicated and they need to be farther away from us than a standard leash would allow, as well when we make camp if we are concerned we can wrap the long line around a tree and we know they cannot wander to far.

Secondary Leash: 2 is 1 1 is none. All our dogs that we take out individually have our collar mounted emergency lead attached to their collars in case we have them off leash and need a quicker lead then digging out the long line or our other back up leash that we carry in our packs.

Harness/Dog Pack: These two may be different items or the same for you depending on what you buy or you may leave the harness off completely. We train our adventure dogs to rappel so they have rappel rated harnesses. This came from our time in Colorado when we were in the mountains so that we could hoist or lower them if need be if we got hung up some where or needed to go down a steep incline. Remember if you can get stuck so can they and you need to be able to self rescue and rescue your dog as well if you’re going to take them in the woods with you. The rappel rated harnesses we use have saddle bag pouches built in how ever they are not made anymore but there are many rappel rated harness out there to choose from. We also use a separate pack when we dont need rappel rating that comes from nonstop dog wear. They are very roomy and water resistant as well as having many pockets for organization. Your harness or pack is what is going to carry all your other dogs gear that will follow.

  • Keep in mind that your dogs pack should not weight more than 25% their body weight and even still you need to slowly increase the weight they carry starting with an empty pack like you would any fitness plan for your self.

Doggles: These will protect your pups eyes. We use RexSpecs as they offer multiple lens option and offer protection against snow blindness and UV. Doggles will also protect your dogs from sticks and other debris getting in their eyes from high winds or running through the woods. Your dog will need to to get used to wearing them as it is not a usual feeling for them. Have your dog try wearing them several times at home before taking them in the woods. We always start them with the clear lenses as well to give them as clear vision as possible.

Dog Boots: Dogs paws are susceptible to harm from broken glass, jagged metal, sharp rocks and extreme heat and cold as well as hazardous materials. Boots can offer some protection against these issues. Acclimate your dog to the boots so that they are comfortable with the boots like you did the doggles. We use trex model boots from ruff wear.

Reflective: Markers, or Patches are usually built in to most dog gear these days but if what you buy does not have them you can find them to add to it from many suppliers online.

Dog Rain layer: Most dogs that will be capable of being adventure dogs can handle being wet when they are active and running around. but when you bed down for the night or once you make camp and they are not working they will chill just like you. Our dogs carry a thin rain layer incase its needed for this reason, and nonstop dog wear makes multiple great options.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series which will cover some basic supplies and consumable that you should have in your dogs pack before heading off on your adventures.

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Communication and your K9

The first thing that you must do is learn to communicate with your K9. This is the foundation of any dog training. If you are unable to communicate what you want from your dog your training will not go anywhere.

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The communication between man and dog begins to take shape at the pups young age and forms the basis of a bond that will remain constant through out the dogs life.

It is more than just verbal, it extends into your body language. You can interact and communicate with your dog while remaining completely silent and only changing how you stand and the look on your face. This is how they communicate with each other and this is why dogs can be trained by hand gestures, and in reality most dogs pick up body language and hand gestures faster than they do verbal commands.

This means you have to mind your body language and your gestures when you are training your dog. If you want a hand gesture for their command make sure you do it the same every time and how you want it, If you do not want any gestures make sure that you do not make any.

Make sure you stand in a calm but confident manner, stand up straight with relaxed shoulders and an even facial expression. When your first starting out have someone watch you and tell you if you are making any gestures or movements that you might be un aware of.

Communication also extends past body language and into your thoughts. So you also need to mind your thoughts and make sure Think positive thoughts about and toward your dog.

Now before you tune out understand that your thoughts will unconsciously change your body language and your dog will pick up on that. However because I have hopefully managed to keep your attention through that let me ask you this.

Have you ever felt like your dog knew what you were thinking?

You have likely heard the stories of dogs anticipating their handlers return when the handler decides to head home or stories of dogs traveling hundreds of miles to reunite with their family in places they have never been before.

We throughly believe that communication with dogs goes beyond the verbal and body language and into a deeper connection. A connection that has formed over the centuries as dogs have worked side by side with man, a connection that is strengthened through by the bond you get from working with and for your dog.

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Building Bond With Your Dog

There are many thing in dog training and work that people disagree with but one of the biggest disagreements revolves around purely positive vs balanced vs yank and crank.

Purely positive is a reward based training with no punishment or negative sensations.

Yank and crank is purely negative sensations until they comply with little to no rewards.

Balanced is a combination where good behavior is rewarded and negative behaviors are met with a negative sensation of some kind.

Now few people anymore still think that yank and crank is good way to train, but unfortunately because of this method a large portion of the community swung to the opposite extreme where no negative sensations are used for negative behaviors. While this can be done with SOME dogs this method does not work with all dogs.

We use the balanced method with all of our dogs, rewards which can be anything that the dog finds enjoyable when they do good and negative sensations when they exhibit an undesired or unsafe or negative behavior. Now in our philosophy this is manly used in the initial stages of training until we build enough bond with the dogs that they work out of the simple desire to please or work with us. This requires a lot of work but is necessary so that you don’t have a dog that only listens to you if you have treats in your hands or worse listens to who ever has the treats in their hands.

This is why we firmly believe the owner of the dog should be the one training them. If they don’t know how they can work with a trainer, but they should be the one with the contact with the dog.

Building a bond with your dog is also the foundation that any other training especially the more dangerous and stressful kinds, are going to build off of. It will be the source of trust the dog will need in order to take that leap of faith in certain forms of advanced training. This is going to be easier with some dogs than others but how you go about it is pretty much the same.

The key is simple, Its not what you do for your dog but what you do with your dog. So spend time with them. At first you will want to do this at home in a safe area, especially if they are not trained well.

Once they have more training and you start adventuring beyond your house take them with you when ever you can even if its just down the drive way to get the mail.

The more time that you spend with them and the more things that you do with them the more that bond will strengthen as well as the more environments and situations that they are exposed to will improve how they handle stress and new situations in the future. This bond is going to to be key in more stressful training and in more stressful situation should any arise because when that stress starts ramping up for them they will then look to you for guidance and reassurance.

This is where you keeping calm and composed is important. Just like it would be in an emergency with your family if your freaking out they are gonna freak out. So stay as calm and collected as possible. Especially when you are training.

This reassures your dog that what you are asking them to do is not dangerous, and even if it is, that you are there to get them through it.

Now that being said Avoid any where that other people bring their dogs normally, like the damn plague. This means petco, dog parks, dog beaches, anything of that sort as anyone with a dog whether they are trained or not will take them there and it is asking for nothing but trouble.

Now once you have that bond, you will be able to work with your dog on a whole new level, and most importantly your need for treats to get your dog to work will become almost nonexistent. You do not want to be dependent on treats or a toy in order to get your dog to work, especially in an emergency situation. Not to say they should not still be rewarded, or be able to play with their toy but at this level the work it self becomes in a way its own reward as well as the time with you the handler and the praise you bestow upon them.

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Training Day Eye Contact

We tend to start our dogs out with marker training as puppies. This allows us to begin the communication process with the puppies as well as get them started training with a more positive association type of training.
Then once they grow up a little bit and have been training routinely we work to ween them off it for a more bond based (I guess is a good way to put it) way of reward and training. We will cover this in more detail in the future.
We try to limit our corrections out side of emergency situations or situations that are absolutely un acceptable. That being said we still use the least amount of correction required at this stage.
Now we start all our dogs with making eye contact. This is a fairly simple task and it starts building that bond as well as getting the dog used to the clicker/marker and gets the dog paying attention to you as the handler.
This can also be the most frustrating stage as its the puppies first training sessions and it can take a lot of waiting for them to look at you to get that first click or mark for them to start getting the hints.
Now we also keep training session very short(5 Min max) at this stage because they are puppies and they have very short attention spans.
Now I say a lot of waiting because I have found that the more you can have the dog figure it out for them self the stronger the training will be because it is like a light bulb going on in their brain. It equates to that feeling you get when you are trying to learn something new and you finally figure it out for the first time on your own. So if you wait for the puppy to look up at you, unassisted or forced he will pick up on what you want much faster once they do it for the first time.
Now if you go multiple sessions and the pup just doesn’t seem to get it their are some ways that you can usually trick them into doing what you want and they still somewhat think they did it themself.
One of these tricks is called luring. If they like food as their reward or even their toy for reward you can get them paying attention to it and then draw it close to your face.
Then once they look at you/the toy or treat by your face mark it and give them the reward. You will repeat this a few times and then start stoping the toy/treat farther and farther from your face until you are holding it like you normally wood and the puppy is looking at your face for the reward.
The next step in the training process is to lengthen the time that they needs to look into your eyes before he is rewarded. As with everything increase the difficulty slowly!
Now while you are doing this your dog will likely start throwing other desired behaviors such as sitting, lying down, and so on and you should mark and reward those as well when they happen in these early stages to help reenforce the marker as well getting them to know that those behaviors are also good.

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Consistency is Key

Consistency is key when it comes to dog training. Dogs do not communicate and learn like we do and they do not speak english no matter how much we may talk to them. Dogs learn by pattern recognition and association. A+B=C it’s that simple.

They hear you say “A” or see you make gesture “A” They do B and they get reward C. It is your job as the handler to figure out how to communicate what A means or what you want them to do as B when you say or make gesture A.

This is where the consistency comes in. When you are teaching them a behavior or you’re trying to get them to stop doing a behavior you need to reward/correct it every time. You cant correct them one out of every 4 times they pee in the house and expect them to learn that it is not ok.

With that you cant have only one person in your house correcting/rewarding a behavior because they will think it only matters to that person. Depending on the situation you may not necessarily want your dog listening to just anyone but we will cover that in its own post.

This is best handled by when your pup is young or if you rescue an older dog and they are early in their training. Only one person should be doing the training of the dog until the training foundation is firmly set. This should be the primary person that dog belongs to because doing this will bond the dog more to that person than anyone else. For safety sake until the dog has his training foundation solid you want to limit handling by other people so avoid any dangerous situations such as them getting out and not coming when told and so on. We our selves have multiple dogs that can be off lead with one of us and other needs them to be on a long line because they don’t listen near as well to them.

Once the foundation is set then you can introduce other family members and after making sure they are on the same page as what is expected of the dogs behavior they can start to be involved in handling and giving the dog commands and you as the primary handler can make it known to the dog that they are to obey when those people give them commands as well.

To be on the same page, everyone needs to know what the specific command words are for the dog, and know what is expected when the dog is given that command. For instance when you say “Sit” they need to stop and drop their butt completely to the floor not hover it over it.” They will also need to understand that they need to make sure the dog does the expected behavior when they are instructed to or the command will loose its association in the dogs mind and they will not as reliably complete the desired behavior. They cant just say sit and let the dog continue to run around because the dog will learn to think that they don’t have to listen to them.

Another thing to consider is that most dogs when you introduce new people are going to test everyone involved to some degree to see what they can get away with, this will especially be true when you are initially introducing because they are looking to see where they fit in the pack. If they let the dog push them around, then the dog will push them around from there on out and getting them to listen can be a struggle if not impossible after that especially if you have a more alpha male/female type dog.