BOOKS: Dog Detectives: Train Your Dog to Find Lost Pets

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2008:

Dog Detectives: Train Your Dog
to Find Lost Pets by Kat Albrecht
Dogwise Publishing (701-B Poplar, Wenatchee, WA 98807), 2008.
245 pages, $19.95.

Former police detective Kat Albrecht initially trained
sniffing dogs to assist in tracking suspects, finding lost people,
and finding cadavers. In 1997 Albrecht discovered that her dogs
could also help to find lost pets. After an occupationally related
disability prematurely ended Albrecht’s police career, she became a
fulltime pet detective. Of her first 99 searches, 68 discovered the
missing animal or the fate of the animal.
Eventually Albrecht founded an organization called Missing
Pet Partnership to promote and teach the use of dogs to find lost
pets, following the “Missing Animal Response” techniques she has
developed. Her initial template was the protocol for training the
Search And Rescue dogs deployed to find missing persons. Albrecht
then adapated the SAR approach to the peculiarities of finding lost
animals, whose behavior varies considerably from human behavior.


Albrecht trains dogs according to three protocols: Cat
Detection, Trailing, and Dual Purpose. These use two different
approaches, the area search and tracking.
Area searches are typically used either to find an animal who
was last seen near home and is probably still nearby, or to find an
animal who has been tracked to a specific location such as a park or
warehouse, after which the tracking dog can no longer isolate the
scent. Area searches are the primary method used to find cats.
Tracking is used to find animals who are believed to have
taken a specific direction, for example a dog who panicked during a
fireworks display.
Relatively few dogs who excel at area-searching are also good
tracking dogs. Most MAR dog handlers will need to train different
dogs in order to be able to do both kinds of work–and both are often
required as part of a single animal recovery. Some dogs can be
trained to do both jobs, but Albrecht tends to discourage the idea
of trying to produce Dual Purpose dogs unless the dogs themselves
demonstrate dual aptitude, partly because different kinds of
training tend to produce dogs who may be respectable generalists,
but are not as good at either area searching or tracking as
specialists.
A dedicated handler could produce skilled MAR dogs just by
following Albrecht’s directions–but Albrecht’s methods are also
quite rigorous, and require frequent practice. Training and using
MAR dogs is not work done casually. Neither is any dog suited to MAR
training, though Albrecht notes that dogs of the right personality
come in range of breeds and sizes.
Albrecht would like every community to have a trained MAR dog
team on call. How many MAR dogs any given community could support is
open to question, since MAR work is not lucrative, if compensated
at all. However, almost every shelter director and animal control
officer encounters frequent situations in which a MAR team could
help.

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