I was so excited to be invited to attend the first joint detection dog conference between CNCA (California Narcotics Canine Association) and NACSW (National Association of Canine Scent Work) in San Diego, CA! This has been in the planning stages for quite awhile as I recall chatting with a couple of our K9NW Judges about it after a trial about a year and a half ago. They wanted to know if we thought our folks would be interested in a collaboration with their organization’s annual conference. Oh yeah! 🙂
Along with about 170 other NACSW participants we listened to several respected professionals in the field of K9 Detection. We learned about the details of the working K9 selection process (Frank Romano), wildlife conservation (Steve Austin), choosing the right dog for the job (Amy Herot), nutrition for the working dog (Dr. Jill Cline), K9 Olfaction (Mel English) and variable surface tracking (Joe Oberding). What a great combination of presenters! Aside from a few minor modifications what we heard were the same presentations the Law Enforcement attendees heard earlier in the week. I will take what I learned and apply it for my students to reinforce their training. Much of it also resonated with me personally for my own competition sport dogs in many different ways.
Professional Detection Dogs are bred and selected for their genetics and innate talents. They come with characteristics that predispose them to excel in a world where lives matter. Many dogs are tested and only the very best enter a program. Different agencies have different needs, depending on the type of work they do. Each relatively “green dog” who is selected to be a professional must be ready to deploy in a matter of weeks! The training must be well thought out with a systematic and measurable approach with a Handler who must also make the grade. The Dog-Handler team must pass certification in order to remain a team and on the job. That’s a lot of pressure!
If you think of the variety of dogs and handlers we have in our K9 Nose Work programs, it’s truly amazing that our dogs can do the same things these professional dogs do! We just have the luxury of time and patience to learn what our dogs have to teach us. We often start with a blank slate and have to figure out how to get our companions up to the point where those professional “green dogs” start. When our competition judges give their critiques and compliment our Dog-Handler teams for the work that they see, they truly mean it! I heard recently that one of the “big dogs” in the professional world feels that through our NACSW training many of our top handlers could take a working K9 and perform the job as well as the professionals. Now THAT’S a compliment! 🙂
It’s important for us as Instructors and Handlers of our own dogs to understand why we do what we do. To hear professional Detection Trainers speak the same language and embrace the same principles we do is reinforcing for the methodology we employ! I had a fabulous time getting to better understand the professional worlds of K9 Detection Dogs and am reinvigorated in my own training as well as that of my students. I feel honored that we at NACSW were invited to team with the CNCA organization and am anxiously looking forward to next year!