You might be interested in this dog sport but you have many questions before you can decide to start with it. Will my buddy enjoy it? Do I have sufficient physical abilities? When should we start, isn’t it too soon or too late? This article and advice...
Ondřej, you have been with the Mountain Service for over ten years. You’ve had your partner Šuplík by your side for two years. Is he your first rescue dog?
When I was a kid, we had dogs at home. But then I moved to Pilsen and then to Prague for work, there was no room for having a dog. When I started working for the Mountain Service, it had never occurred that I would be a dog handler one day. I got Šuplík as a partner, not a working dog. Back then, me and my wife Klára were expecting our daughter Adélka. To me, it seemed like the perfect timing to get a dog for the growing family. I had no ambitions, though, as I told myself that we would try searching and see what happens.
And it was a good decision. A year and a half later, Šuplík became the first dog rescuer in the Ore Mountains. When did the idea of having an avalanche dog first occur to you?
It was actually a complete coincidence, and it had happened before I even brought Šuplík home as just a little furball. At that time, I was attending a winter training session where dog handlers were training for avalanches. I volunteered to dig a hole where the training assistant would hide. Being a dog handler is actually all about shovelling, as I found out later (editor’s note: he laughs). That day I saw for the first time how it all works. What a miracle it was when the dog, within minutes and with incredible certainty and accuracy, found and marked the spot where the training assistant was thoroughly buried. I was also impressed by the fact that the training is a form of play, that it is not just a drill. That’s when I decided to give it a shot. And the dog I was watching with great admiration was Šuplík’s mother Lucky.
The dog Šuplík of the handler Ondřej Vanko became the first certified dog in the Ore Mountains.
Lucky and Šuplík are short-haired service Border Collies, but when you say avalanche dog, the image of a Bernardine with a barrel on its neck comes to mind...
I’d say it’s a very generational thing. In the past, you’d see mainly shepherd breeds as service dogs. Nowadays we also have Border Collies or various crossbreeds in our canine brigade. The German Shepherd is a hardworking dog, but you have to task him constantly. I like sports and travel, which is easier with a Border Collie than with a German Shepherd. What’s more, like the Malinois, Border Collies are “cannonball” types of dogs, in the good sense. They have a lot of motivation when searching that lasts a long time.
Is it difficult to train a dog to search, whether in avalanches or in the field?
The dog wants to search, he has it in his instincts. We just need to teach him to mark. In the beginning, I practiced with Šuplík up to six hours a day for about one year. The handler needs to observe the dog’s behaviour when not on a leash, with other dogs and among people. And pick up any flaws and adjust the training accordingly. Each dog is a little different, the handler needs to connect with the dog, so each training is individual. Some dogs do not like too close contact with strangers, others are a little too friendly. The handler needs to know his dog very well to know how the dog will work during a rescue operation.
When does the training start? And how long does it take on average?
The search training begins with the dog at about one year of age. Before that, you can teach the dog basic obedience that every rescue dog must master. It’s important to say that we use only positive motivation and play for all training. However, the training takes place the whole time the dog is in service, i.e. before he retires.
Ondřej, thank you for today’s interview and the opportunity to take a peek into the life of a handler and his dog. I’ll be looking forward to another chat next month!
Watch a video from the avalanche assistance course.
Photo credit: Fire Rescue Service of the Czech Republic
A healthy mouth is a very important part of the complex vitality of a cat and we shouldn’t neglect taking care of it. There are many oral diseases our furry friends can suffer from. What can you do to keep your cat’s teeth clean?
Korat is a very rare breed that isn’t very common even in Thailand – the country of its origin. Thanks to its beautiful, soft, silver-tipped hair as well as its special nature, it’s unmistakable. This breed definitely deserves some attention.
Have you ever thought about how the composition of the gut microbiota of your dog companion influences its mood, metabolism or immune system in addition to its digestion? Do you know how bacteria work in guts and how to keep the good ones inside?
Letting furious dogs with only one task – to detain and put you down – bite you is definitely not for everyone. But is it really as horrifying as it may look from the outsider’s point of view? Jan Böhm answers our questions about what it takes to be...
Snakes and scorpions are said to get out on Saint George’s Day. It has been a while since then, so it’s no surprise that we can see a lizard or a snake when on a walk somewhere or in our gardens. They already left their underground shelters designed...
The German Boxer can truly be called a versatile dog. With no doubts, it can be a family dog, a watchdog or a rescuer. It is also good at sports. A long-term boxer breeder, Ing. Michaela Martinů, can confirm that.
Bikejöring doesn’t mean that a dog simply runs next to a bike. The dog pulls the bike when doing this sport, it is similar to dog sledding. A famous Slovak musher, Marcel Dučák, will tell us what equipment you need for it, what dogs it is good for,...
Cat obesity is a serious health problem. Besides a well-balanced diet, exercise is a great way to fight it. However, making a cat do that might not be as easy as it is with a dog.
Wolves are very different from dogs in many aspects. Apart from their more or less different appearance, they did not experience long domestication and breeding. Jiří, a longtime breeder and owner of wolves, will answer our questions about how he...
The tick season is here and if you haven’t done so far, it’s about the time to start protecting your pet. What options do we have, what are the differences between the individual possibilities and what do I see as their advantages and disadvantages?
Mondioring, even though it can seem easy for those who don’t know it, is undoubtedly one of the most difficult cynological sports. A dog has to be able to work focused for up to 45 minutes, be perfectly controllable and and handle everything in an...