Thursday, July 28, 2016

At the End of the Race: Life or Death for Canine Athletes

Greyhound at full speed during a race
When professional athletes get injured during a game they are examined immediately. The clock stops and the fans wait with baited breath until the athlete either gets up and rejoins the game or is escorted off the field. Regardless of whether the injury is minor or major, the player is thoroughly examined and treated with care. This may seem like a normal practice and something to be expected, but when it comes to professional racing greyhounds, the empathy, compassion, and care they receive after being injured isn’t even close to being in the same ballpark.

Christine Johnson and her husband, Chris Procopis, have dedicated their lives to rescuing, rehabilitating, and re-homing racing greyhounds. The idea to form such an organization began 16 years ago soon after the couple had adopted their first greyhound.

Initially Chris was afraid of dogs. They were living in New York, and had just moved to Westchester County in 1998. Chris knew how much Christine loved dogs, and for their one year anniversary gave her a card that held $1 and written inside were the words “and a dog”. The caveat was that the dog couldn’t bark, shed, drool, or smell. And since Chris was more of a cat person, he cleverly figured that there was little possibility that a dog would fit such a description.  

Being a strong woman with endless perseverance, Christine started her search for a canine companion that fell within her husband’s criteria. Not too long afterwards, a friend of Christine’s recommended that she try adopting a retired racing greyhound because these dogs have a reputation of being laid back and easy going pets. Christine started her research and coincidentally the following week while on her way to work, came across a lady walking her greyhound. She took this as a sign that a greyhound was the right choice for their family, and went home to put in her adoption application with a greyhound rescue group.

To her surprise she was promptly rejected due to the fact that she and her husband were both working and were away from the house eight hours per day. Refusing to take “No” for an answer, Christine worked quickly to find a solution.
“I’m not one to take no easily. I put flyers all over the condominium complex asking for someone who would come walk the dog while we were at work.”
It was an 11-year old boy that answered her advertisement and came to introduce himself. Christine hired him for $7 a day, and afterwards resubmitted her application, which was then accepted.

Christine and Chris were aware of the mentality of racing greyhounds, and how after a career of racing the dogs can maintain a strong desire to chase. It was also important that their dog get along with cats. Taking that into consideration when choosing which greyhound would be best suited to join their family, the agency chose Paris. Being someone who was initially afraid of dogs, to say that Chris was a little surprised when Christine walked in with the 90 lbs. male greyhound, was an understatement. But not being able to go back on his word as Paris met all of his other requirements, he confronted his fears and gave it a try. It was Christine who was utterly shocked and humbled as she watched her husband’s fears fade into unconditional love.
Christine said, “Within six weeks my husband, who was afraid of dogs, said to me ‘you know, we should get another one’, and that’s when we got our second one.”
As their family grew, so did their desire to learn more about the previous life of their newly adopted greyhounds. Driven by the fact that she had been initially turned down for adoption, but had also been rejected for fostering, Christine knew that she could do better. That’s when she started doing the research to form her own organization with the initial members as herself, her husband, and their two dogs.
Russ at the beach. Adopted and loved by the Garcia family.
A little over 16 years and 1,500 dogs ago, Christine and her husband formed Greyhound Rescue and Rehabilitation (GRR) in May 2000. Their mission was to educate people about adopting greyhounds as pets, and explain to them what happens to retired racing greyhounds who are injured, or brood females, which are females who were used for reproduction. Together they started to implement “Meet and Greets”.
“We would take our two dogs wherever anyone would allow us to talk about greyhounds. Flea markets, pet stores, trade shows. We would set up a table, on Saturdays and Sundays, and start to educate people in the area about greyhounds as pets.” ~ Christine
Christine explained that when people think of having a dog for a pet, greyhounds do not typically come to mind. While walking their dogs they have received or overhead comments such as "Is that a Great Dane? I didn’t know greyhounds came in that color. Mommy, is that an ant eater?”

All of their rescued greyhounds come from racetracks, breeding farms, or are puppies that cannot race due to illness or injury. A racetrack generally has 8 – 12 kennels, and each kennel holds around 66 dogs. Most of the dogs Christine receives are from the racetrack kennels in West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, and the breeding farms in the Midwest. When a dog is racing and breaks a leg, depending on the severity of the injury, the kennel owners may try to rehabilitate it but it’s not common. Generally this would only be considered if the dog was a champion racer. Otherwise the mentality is that an injured dog is just a dog that’s taking up space and not making money, and rehabilitation is a waste of money.
“Greyhound racing kennels this is their business and the dogs are the product of that business. And if the product isn’t making money it has to go to make room for new product to come in that’s making money. And there is only so long that these kennels can hold the ‘non-producers’.” ~ Christine
Christine spent a lot of time and effort establishing relationships with these businesses. Staying true to herself and her mission, over time she was able to gain their trust and cooperation. When a dog has been injured or cannot breed any more litters, she receives a call from the company asking if she can “help”. This generally means providing funding for surgery, post-op work, and foster care. They send her a list which can sometimes contain between 20 and 30 greyhounds, from which she has to choose how many her organization can take on at that time.

Out of the dogs that have been chosen, the ones that have broken legs are scheduled for surgery the following day. Christine makes all of the arrangements for the dogs to be examined by the veterinarian who then makes the recommendations for piecing the bones back together during the operation. Afterwards the dogs are kept in the homes of the volunteer foster families until they are stable enough to be transported to New York. Once they arrive in New York the dogs are kept by another foster family until such time that they can be adopted out to their forever home.

Each year GRR repairs about 18 – 20 broken legs costing between $2,200 and $2,500 per surgery. In addition to the surgeries performed, prior to being adopted out, each dog is spayed or neutered, receives a dental cleaning, shots, tested for heartworms and tick borne diseases, and given a new leash and collar.
Recuperating after surgery
When asked how many foster families the organization currently has, Christine replied,
“Not enough. 5 to 10 and 10 is on the high side. I need foster homes. Without the foster network we cannot take the dogs. Foster homes need to do nothing other than teach the dog to be a pet. We pay for everything, food, vets, any medical expense. If everyone in our group fostered 1 dog per year, that’s 500 dogs. The racing industry is in decline. The dogs need homes more than ever.”
Over the years Christine and Chris have fostered over 300 dogs, but overall the number of volunteers has dwindled and foster homes have decreased. Some years GRR rescues between 120 and 180 dogs, but if no one steps up to offer foster homes the dogs can be euthanized.  
“The longest time a dog has been with a foster before finding a home is 11 months. Our organization doesn’t put a dog in a home unless we think it’s a good fit, we want it to be a win-win. We want the family to be happy and the dog to be happy. The dog had some fears and we needed to find the right home. It took 11 months but we found it. We go for the quality not the quantity. Our return rate is less than 1%” ~ Christine
Alfie is 4-years old and currently up for adoption
Christine advises adopting parents that the life expectancy of a greyhound is generally between 10 and 12 years. Over the years she has kept track of greyhound deaths and their causes, and one of the more common ones is osteosarcoma.
“I call it the 7th inning stretch. If they don’t get cancer they can usually last until 12.”
The dogs that get fostered out from the racetrack are usually between 2 and 6-years old. Whereas the females that come from the breeding farms are older and can range from 6 to 12.

Part of the education Christine provides to the volunteers and adopting parents is how to properly care for a greyhound. She starts from the basics such as the importance of buying the right collar due to the fact that their necks are smaller than their heads. She explains that the racing greyhound’s instinct is to chase and within taking three strides, a greyhound can hit a speed of 45 mph.
“They have been trained to chase. So when they see a little fuzzy dog walking they think ‘that’s my job, I need to chase.’ They can never be let off leash unless they are in a secure fenced in area.” ~ Christine
Christine also enlightens people about the use of invisible fences, how they are not suitable for this type of pet, and that owners must be committed to walking their dog all year round.
“They remember when their job was to go get the rabbit and by the time they hear the invisible fence sensors they are into the shock and are gone. They are sighthounds and they can be miles away within seconds.” ~ Christine
Christine characterizes greyhounds as indoor dogs who don’t like being home alone ten hours a day, but are extremely loving and very gentle companions. Bruce Levinson and his wife, Nina Malmed, have been foster families of GRR since 2008. Nina had a greyhound before she met Bruce then together they adopted their greyhound, Trever, in 2008. Trever had a broken leg and was wearing a cast when they initially met him. After Trever, Nina and Bruce got another greyhound that was a brood mom, who recently passed away, and now they have two greyhounds, Trever, 11, and Justice, 6, and one Galgos, Bernadett (aka Beenie Baby) who is 2. 
Trever and Bernadette relaxing at home with Nina and Bruce
Nina and Bruce love their dogs and consider them part of the family. Bruce agreed with Christine’s statement that greyhounds don’t like being alone and said,
“It’s like a secret service detail they are your bodyguards always moving with you. Some of them come into the bathroom with you because they think you don’t know how to go by yourself.” 
On one occasion transportation couldn’t be arranged fast enough, so instead, Bruce drove ten hours from New York to West Virginia to pick up a dog that needed to go into surgery. This is one of the many examples of GRR’s endless dedication.
“I’m proud of this group. When there is a call to action for a dog in need, we don’t say no. They step up to the plate.” ~ Christine
In addition to the greyhounds that GRR rescues each year, Christine is also passionate about helping save Galgos, a type of sighthound from Spain. Each year the organization will take on anywhere between 8 – 10 Galgos and spend $3,000 per dog to bring them to the USA. Christine is dedicated to fulfilling their mission to rescue and rehabilitate Greyhounds, but also wants to be part of the ongoing international effort to save the Galgos.

The funding to run GRR does not come easy. Volunteers like Nina have knocked on doors asking for donations; at Meet and Greets people also make donations; and once a year they hold an annual picnic fundraiser. At the fundraiser they hold a silent auction, raffle, costume contests, relay races and more. This year the picnic welcomed 237 people and 167 greyhounds. At the end of the year Christine always writes a year-end accomplishments letter that’s sent around in hopes of generating interest and collecting additional funding.

There are other yearly greyhound events where owners come together to share experiences, socialize, reunite dog family members, recommend services, and more. Greyhounds in Gettysburg is held in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in April. This year Nina and Bruce attended Grapehounds, a wine tasting tour with hundreds of other dogs and owners. The event is held during July and takes place in the Finger Lakes region of New York. And Greyhounds Reach the Beach is always during Columbus Day weekend in Dewey Beach, Delaware.
Christine Johnson enjoying Greyhounds in Gettysburg
Bruce, Nina, and Christine all agree that the Greyhound community is so connected. At the events the community members fellowship sharing information, tips, experiences, stories, and more. Bruce shared his view,
“When you adopt a greyhound you’re not just adopting a dog, you’re adopting a family.”
For the last 15 years Christine has attended Greyhounds Reach the Beach, and this year will be no exception. When asked to share her perception of the event held in previous years she said,
“You can close your eyes and not know that there is a dog on that beach. Standing on the beach and seeing hundreds of greyhounds that used to be racers, it is awe-inspiring.”
16 years ago Christine created GRR with the mission to rehabilitate and rescue as many retired racing greyhounds as they could. Greyhound racers had a job to perform and Christine’s wish for the ones that are saved is that they learn, accept, and understand what it means to be loved. The life of a racing dog is very structured and is mostly spent in a crate, absent from fun and affection. GRR’s goal is to transition the dogs from life as working athletes into life as pets. The organization covers the areas of Fairfield County Connecticut, and Westchester, Putman, Duchess, and Rockland counties in New York.

Christine and Chris have five greyhounds (Freddy, 5, Sugar, 4, Josh, 13, Joy Joy, 8, Rusty, 3), one Spanish Galgo (Fanta, 2), and one foster greyhound (Flirt, 2). As they do not have any children they consider the dogs their kids.
“It’s like eating potato chips, you can’t eat just one.” ~ Christine
Rusty, Freddy, and Sugar watching a squirrel

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Grip the Reins, Hit the Ball: Discovering Polo in Luxembourg

PCL tournament photo by Christian Schaack
Dressed up in high heels and skirts, slacks and polos, or just regular jeans and t-shirts, families and friends gathered together to watch the 4th Luxembourg Polo International Tournament. The tournament events lasted over the course of four days, in which six adult and two kid’s teams competed against each other for the championship cup with players from Luxembourg, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Argentina, and Chile.
Tournament photo by Christian Schaack
 The Game

Polo is a team sport played on horseback. Each team consists of 4 players who try and score goals against the opposing team by hitting a wooden or plastic ball with a long-handled mallet. One game or match lasts approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours and is subsequently divided into periods called chukkers. The game is played on a 300 yard long by 160 yard wide field, and after a goal is scored the team switches ends of the field. 
Tournament photo by Christian Schaack
When teams are formed they are categorized by the level of skill of the individual players. This is known as a handicap, and the sum of the four player’s handicaps becomes the team handicap. Handicaps can range from -2 to 10 and are determined by a formal professional committee or national federation.
Team photo by Val Wagner
Equipment for the players consists of balls, helmets, knee guards, mallets, protective ware like gloves, face-masks, eye wear, elbow pads, or mouth guards. Whereas equipment for the horses consists of leg wraps, which protect the legs from injury as well as provide support, bridles, saddles, saddle pads, and other pieces as preferred by the rider.   
Protective gear and riding equipment photo by Christian Schaack
The Horse

The “Polo Pony”, a term used for polo horses, and rider, are a team and together should be in the best condition in order to perform in the most efficient manner. The horses must be full sized, agile, in good health and stature, and proficiently trained in the game of polo.
Polo horses photo by Christian Schaack
During the game the horses are required to endure a lot of sprinting, turns, abrupt stops, and more which is very taxing on their physique. This is why players change horses throughout the game and sometimes during the same chukker.

The horses must be properly groomed prior to participating in a game. Manes and tails must be kept out of the way so that they do not get caught in the player’s mallets or reins.
Properly groomed horse photo by Christian Schaack

Founded in 2004, Alexander Ludorf, Vice President of the board, explained that the PCL was established for three main reasons. The first was to create an organization where people could play professional polo. The second was to create an inviting atmosphere where friends could gather and network. The third was to show Luxembourg what Polo is all about.
Evening events photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch
Although the club is relatively young, the PCL has been successful in attracting new members and sponsors. The club welcomes beginners, kids, and professionals, and has horses available for use for those who do not yet own their own. The club now has grown to incorporate approximately 150 members, two polo fields, 40+ polo horses, a polo trainer and regular courses.
Tournament event viewing area photo by Val Wagner
Alexander educated us on the four steps required for those interested in joining. Initially the person must engage in a test course which consists of three one hour lessons which allows the club to gage the person’s level of experience. The second step is to proceed to becoming a Stick and Ball” member where individuals can join in the club’s training sessions. The third step is to become a “Playing member”. The final step is becoming eligible for participation in tournaments which requires a minimum handicap level of -2.
Championship cups photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch
The PCL teams are mixed with women and men of varying ages. The horses must be at least three years old, which is the earliest they can start training, and can go until 18. Players are required to have a minimum of two horses for each match and must change horses for each chukker. The club has a trainer that evaluates the player’s level of skill and suggests when they are ready to go before the federation in order to advance to the next handicap.  

In the past, Polo has had the reputation of being an event reserved for the elite, but according to Alexander this is a stereotype that the PCL is trying to overcome. The 4th Polo International Tournament was a vibrant, entertaining, and action packed four day event. General admission was free to the public although the option to purchase VIP packages was available.
Tesla showcasing photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch
Many people came due to their curiosity or love of the sport, while others were attracted by the showcased vehicles courtesy of Honda, Range Rover, Tesla, and more. A barbeque, drink bar, mobile coffee cart, and other refreshments were available on site. Entertainment included a fashion show, wine tasting, parade, charity auction and dinner, garden party, hot air balloon tour for winner of the kid’s cup, party bus for the players, and more. A beach area and picnic tables were set up for the viewers to comfortably enjoy watching the match. Attendees could also enjoy browsing the art stands or getting their picture taken.
Fashion shoot red carpet photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch
Petopia Luxembourg is a newly designed web platform that serves as a one-stop-shop for pet owners in the Luxembourg region. One of the services we provide is to feature upcoming animal related events, and after learning about and promoting the PCL International Tournament, the team decided to attend due to our curiosity of the sport and love for animals. We had a lovely and educational experience. We are appreciative of the hospitality of the club, especially Alexander for taking the time to be interviewed prior to playing in his match, and look forward to learning more and attending future events.
Alexander Ludorf  (right) and friend (left) photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Savings Lives and Having Fun: Teaching Search and Rescue Tactics to Dogs

Nosey Dogs students, Frauke and her German Shepard, Harley, on a search

A few years ago I was reading a mystery novel where a child was lost in the woods, and search and rescue dogs were used to find her. I know that the police and military use dogs on the force, however, this was the first time that I was formally introduced to these practices. It got me thinking about my German Shepard, McKayla, and wondered if she would enjoy this type of training. Even though the book was fiction, I was eager to learn more about the benefits and search for an establishment where McKayla and I could learn together.

I interviewed two entities in Luxembourg that offer this type of expertise. The first is the Luxembourg Red Cross Rescue Dog Team (LRCRDT), an official organization and part of the Red Cross that offers rigorous training to individuals and their dogs to learn how to save lives. The second is Nosey Dogs, which offers the whole pallet of nosework training, and is as enjoyable and educational activity that provides a bonding experience for dogs and owners.
The LRCRDT was founded in April 1996 by Jerry Ast. His goal was to establish a well-trained team of dogs and handlers that would work together to save people’s lives. During the first year they had difficulty overcoming the perception that such a team would not be efficient. It took a lot of hard work, dedication, and consistency by the individuals, the dogs, and their leader, but the group was able to change this mindset and establish the solid reputation that they still have today.

The LRCRDT consists of 28 people and 21 dogs. 12 of the dogs are certified, 11 are questing dogs that search for missing people, and 3 are also certified in searching for living people among debris. One dog is a so called “mantrailer” searching for people based on their individual odor. The remaining people are so-called “potential victims” for the training and do a lot of other work in the team. The dogs vary in breed type and currently consist of Labrador Retriever, Flat Coated Retriever, Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, Belgium Shepherd (Malinois), Dutch Shepherd, Briard, and Mixtures. When I asked Jerry if there are any breeds that typically perform better than another he replied,
“It is clear that even inside one breed, there are better and less good dogs. What is Important for us is that the dog has on one side a long nose (number of olfactory cells is very important), and on the other side the dog must have the necessary motivation to work: a good performed play-instinct and prey-instinct is the “conditio sine qua non”. Breeds that are listed in our national dog laws are not allowed to join the group.”
Typically in a calendar year the team is asked to perform about 15 searches for missing people. Sometimes there are calls for intervention in debris environments, but these are generally the exceptions. The handlers generally have professions of all sorts and are working normal business hours, and since an intervention can occur at any time, the team members must organize themselves to leave work and report to the scene as soon as possible. On average the team provides 12 - 15 handlers plus dogs when called to conduct a search.

Besides searching for missing people, the team is trained to conduct search and rescue after earthquakes or other natural disasters within a 5,000 kilometer range of Luxembourg. The team also assists with searches outside of Luxembourg, and over the years has conducted earthquake interventions in Algeria (2003), Iran (2003), Morocco (2004) and Haiti (2010). When asked “What was the most difficult disaster aftermath to conduct a search in and why”, Jerry replied,
“Every catastrophe is difficult for conducting search and rescue and every catastrophe is specific. The greatest problem in those cases is the time factor. Every hour that passes costs lives. There are a lot of factors that influence such interventions; communication, coordination, transportation are just a few.”
Up to this point, you may be thinking that becoming trained in search and rescue seems exciting and something that you’re ready to go out and do. What many fail to realize is the amount of time, dedication, and loyalty required that tends to deter people and weed out those that are not ready to give up their free time from those who are truly committed.

There are many requirements that the dogs and handlers much achieve and examinations that they must both pass in order to become certified. As Jerry explained,
Dog Handler Requirements:
1. The handler must detain a valid 1st aid certificate to join the team.

2. The handler is trained in radio-communication, orientation inclusive GPS, structure of debris, intervention tactics on debris and in the field, first aid on the dog, paramedic-training, cynologie, transport of the dogs, safety in interventions, organization and intervention tactic man-trailing, knowledge and use of the intervention materials on board of the teams intervention-vehicles.

3. The dog has to present a real interest in working and a good performed play-instinct and prey-instinct, have a good relationship to other dogs and his handler, and must be fully operational that year.

Examinations for the dog
4. A first test of behavior and reactions on different environmental effects (allows the beginning of the training).

5. After about two years training, the dog should be ready to test for the first certification (obedience, agility, questing, search on debris). The dog must be re-certified every two years.

Examinations for the Handler
6. After one year the handler can test for assistant certification (theoretical exam, first aid, orientation and knowledge of the intervention vehicles);

7. The handler is then tested with the dog in the following areas: a) Obedience, b) Agility, c) Questing examination where the handler has to guide his dog, communication with coordination center, GPS information, first aid on the victim found by his dog, d) Search on debris.
Typically it takes about two years to complete the normal basic training until the first certification is achieved. Afterwards, the dog and handler must pass a re-certification every two years. The team has training sessions twice a week lasting between three and five hours each time depending on the number of dogs present that day. It is a mandatory requirement that every member of the team is present during the entire training session and not just during the time that their dog is working. There is no monetary cost to join the team and train, however, the handler is responsible for their own dog and must support all of food, veterinary expenses, and whatever else is needed to maintain healthy and happy pets. The organization only pays veterinary cost in case of an accident during training or intervention, and the dog must always be kept up to date with all required vaccinations.

The LRCRDT is a real life-saving organization. It is not a game and not to be taken lightly. Some people initially want to try it out thinking that attributing minimal time and effort will be accepted, but soon find out that this attitude is not tolerated. With this in mind, I asked Jerry if it is difficult to find loyal and dedicated team members due to the amount of training and time required. He replied,
“Let’s say that first people must have a real interest in rescue and paramedic and love to combine this with the work of the dog. It is not the quantity but the quality of the members that is important. During the last 20 years we did not have too much problems to get new members.”
As the founder of the team and the dedicated force keeping the operation growing and moving forward, I asked Jerry what he loves most about performing search and rescue operations and why.
“It is not a question of love. It is the question of doing as a volunteer a professional job because it doesn’t matter much to our victim if I am a professional or a volunteer. The only important thing is to localize and rescue her till she is alive! Searching and saving people together with a 'four-wheeled' friend and partner is a brilliant combination between doing something important and useful.”
As someone interested in pursuing this training in the future, I was intrigued to hear Jerry’s advice for people who are considering becoming trained in professional search and rescue.
“First of all do not be an egoist! Secondly, have a lot of time for training and missions. Third, like to work in a team and not as an individualist.”
Our German Shepard, McKayla, would have been well suited for search and rescue training, but as she is now almost 9-years old, it is too late for her to start. However, there is an alternative that offers nosework training to dogs of all ages as a fun activity in a less demanding environment.
McKayla and I conducting a search as part of her Nosey Dogs training
Jacqueline and Michaela founded Nosey Dogs together in 2012, first in Germany, and then expanded to Luxembourg in 2015. The school offers the whole pallet of nosework, for example mantrailing, scent discrimination, dummy work. At the moment their main focus is mantrailing (the dog follows a human trail), and scent discrimination. There might be a situation where the owner of the dog is allergic to peanuts, and through sent discrimination training the dog can learn to detect if peanuts are contained in the meal. 

There is no prior experience or training in nosework that is required for the dog or handler to join their classes. If the dog is well trained in general obedience that is a plus, but puppies are also welcome. With regards to breed type they believe that every dog can do his job as long as he can smell. Of course some dogs are predestined, but every breed is capable and the strongest argument is the species-appropriate work since every dog has a hunting instinct that may be more or less developed. The main limiting factor could be the health and physical fitness of the dog.

While conducting their classes their philosophical approach is based on a stressless learning process through positive reinforcement for dog and handler. Both partners in the team should have fun and enjoy “the hunting” they do together which in turn strengthens their relationship. Nosey Dogs' goal is to teach their experience to the teams.
Treats are given at the end of a search as part of the positive reinforcement approach
In order to provide the most optimum experience to their clients, both women have and continue to diligently study and receive training to increase their level of education in this field.

Jacqueline is a certified dog trainer by the Veterinary Surgeon Rhineland Palatinate (D) and member of the TOP Trainer association founded by the well-known animal trainer and book author Viviane Theby. In the mantrailing domain she has gathered experience over more than 12 years with prominent figures like Jack Schuller, Gabriella Trautmann, Michaela Hares, Jörg Weiss and Sabine Ernst. She also has four dogs whom she has taught to do mantrailing quite successfully.

Michaela is a member of the Professional Association of Dog trainers and Behavior Consultants of Germany (BHV) where she will graduate next year as dog trainer. She has the certificate from the Ethology Institute Cambridge for Canine Scent Detection course with Roger Abrantes. Her two dogs are also trained in mantrailing, but also do a lot of other fun and fascinating activities. Eight years ago she began with mantrailing and since then has been working on a regular basis with specialist Sonja Schmitt.
Another Nosey Dogs student on a search
When asked about their first introduction to this activity, and inspiration to create the Nosey Dogs school, the ladies replied,
“Jacqueline: My dog and nose story started about 16 years ago with a wire coat fox terrier called Julie. I could not deal with her and the dog schools we have visited proposed to work with spiked collar and other aversive methods which was an absolutely No Go for me. I discovered the positive reinforcement through books and went to Germany for training with the result that Julie and I started to build a good team. But as I could not work off leash with her, the hunting instinct was too well developed, we started nosework with mantrailing and I discovered a different world full of scent and odors. And I saw a glance in Julie’s eyes, she was happy and she was tired after work. 

“Michaela: Eight years ago I discovered mantrailing for my Leonberger which helped us a lot to overcome her anxiety. Here the dog gathered a lot of good experiences which were also very useful in daily life. I didn’t want to use violence or pressure but my idea was to have a dog which has a lot of fun and who works voluntary with me and not because it is required. All nose work and especially mantrailing are tasks where we cannot force the dog to do something like to smell, but we must think about the right guidance for the dog that he smells what we want him to smell. When I met Sonja Schmitt my dog learned through mantrailing all the positive aspects of life and was getting more and more self-confident. I was emotionally very involved and I was infected by the ‘mantrailing virus’. My dog is now 10-years old and despite many physical limitations she is still working her trails with a lot of calm and experience. Three years ago a second dog joined us and for this small hunting dog mantrailing is a passion. All these positive experiences pushed me to help others to better cope with their dogs or to make them work as a team.”
So far Nosey Dogs has acquired 10 handlers with 14 dogs. Over the new few years the school has plans to expand to include activities like general obedience, solving problem behavior, puppy school and more nosework classes. Since each of the classes takes place in a different location, one of their difficulties is finding new and challenging (for dog and handler) locations and having volunteers who are unknown to the dogs to act as a runner (sometimes the runner is hiding for several hours). Another challenge is adapting the training style to suite the different handler personalities.
Another Nosey Dogs student eager to complete her search
When searching for an educational and fun activity to do with your dog, people generally like to weight the benefits and understand the challenges before joining. As Jacqueline and Michaela explained, nosework is the most species-appropriate work for dogs. When searching, hormones are released in the organism which makes the dog feel happy, and by searching the dog is rewarding himself. Older dogs or dogs with a handicap are also able to search, but the task has to be adapted accordingly. Another example is that a dog who is feeling unsure in their environment can learn to deal with difficult situations in his daily life through mantrailing training. Improving the spirit of the dog also improves the spirit of the owner and adds to the development of a secure bond as the dog and handler grow together to build a strong and confident team. A big challenge in mantrailing for the handler is to read the body language of his dog and to take then the correct decisions to find the runner as a team. Developing and maintaining a strong bond helps the handler to read and understand the body language of their dog which leads to a more successful search.
Harley found "the runner", me, hiding behind a car
The types of environments that the training is conducted in vary. The dogs are taught how to search in crowded markets, industrial areas, forests, residential areas, and more. The mantrailing class on Sundays takes about four - five hours and each dog works twice per class. The way Jacqueline and Michaela introduce a dog to this activity is to start by having the dog hunt for humans and rewarding them with food or games. 
Enticing the dog to conduct a search by letting him first sniff his food reward
Jacqueline commented that,“The dog gets an idea after a very short time (two - three sessions) and then we build up the team step by step. However dog and handler need to gain experience in a lot of situations and we like to say the learning never ends!”
Conducting a search in a residential area
Michaela’s advice to people who are searching for an interactive activity to do with their dogs is this,
The best interactive activity is any kind of nosework. Come and join the Nosey Dogs!”
My husband and I decided to join Nosey Dogs a few months ago, and I must admit it has been a great decision. It is abundantly clear that our McKayla enjoys the work, and waits impatiently by the car every Sunday while we are prepare our sent articles and cook homemade meatballs to give to her as a reward. It’s become an official family activity, bringing us closer together, challenging our minds and bodies, while most of all having fun!
Me, my husband, Giovanni, and McKayla after a search

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