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In addition to the rubble pile we have here at the WDC, we also use an abandoned building near our property to help us to train our dogs.

Building searches provide different scenting conditions then what the dogs encounter on the rubble pile.

We expose our dogs to both types of searches to make sure they are prepared for any situation they may encounter in their career. The building we use is four stories tall which allows us to simulate single-story or multi-story search scenarios. Before the dog enters the building to search, we have a person hide in one of the rooms, somewhere in the building.

As the dog become more skilled in buildings searches, we increase the difficulty by adding more than one hidden person and making the person(s) more concealed. In the most advanced training scenarios, the handler is not told how many people are hiding, or where they are. This allows the dog and handler to simulate a real-world deployment and learn to work together to find the missing person(s).

We also use our building search scenarios to introduce the article search. Some of our puppies, including our dogs going into law enforcement, will have careers that require them to perform article searches as part of their job.

Another difference between the rubble searches and building searches is the type of distractions that the dog encounters. While on the rubble pile, there are often numerous spectators, including a few onlookers from the neighboring walking path. In the buildings however, the dog is often more isolated while they are searching. Buildings however, offer their own unique set of distractions. This includes closed circulation systems which move the scent of the hidden person around differently than in the open air of the rubble pile.

Stay tuned for future installments of our Search & Rescue blog to learn more about these talented dogs and their training.

Photo: John Donges, Penn Vet