Scent Dog News - April 2019 Excellence in K9 SAR since 1989 - Search & Rescue Dog Association of Alberta

SARDAA Team photograph taken September 9/18 - dogs in front (l to r) Twang, Shado, BB, Che, Ivy; front row (l to r) - Maryann and Yoyo, Paula, Steve and Zoeker, Mark, Kim and Remmy, David, Jenna, Jen and Sohke, Pam and Sophie, Meighan and Chase, Elisa and PaCe, Michelle and Parquetta; back row (l tor) - Lucy and Molly, Jennifer and Tango, Ron, Sam, Zara and Cinder. Photo credit - Jim Dobie Photography

Unavailable for the photo that day - Kate and Jenga, Lisa and Zane and Zero, Carlene and Jake and Milo, Mike and Kaya, Kerrie, Dawn, Don, Cara, Anita, Carla and Roo.

Celebrating 30 years of excellence in K9 SAR

…. by founding member, Michelle L. Limoges

SARDAA is a very fortunate organization. Growing from merely six members in 1989, our membership has increased substantially over the last 30 years. This is contrary to what some hoped would happen back in the early days!!! But there are many other reasons why we are fortunate– we typically have 25 to 30 members at any given time. The membership consists of a diverse group of people who bring a variety of valuable talents to us. We pick dog/handler teams carefully, making sure the dogs have the aptitude for the work and that the handlers are a good fit. For the most part, everyone gets along well since we afford each other a high level of respect, cooperation and share a common desire to provide an important SAR resource to authorities and to advocate for civilian SAR dogs. Continuity in an organization is important – SARDAA has several long-term members who have over 12 years of service, one member with 25 years, and another with 30 years. We are fortunate because we have stable financial resources but even more important, we are fortunate to have a solid structure consisting of our Training Standards, SOPs and Personnel Handbook. Our new member process is thorough, giving all new members every opportunity to accomplish the goals laid out for them in our program. Each member has levels of training and time lines to follow, augmented by regular progress reviews. Training is of course at the heart of our activities. We all thoroughly enjoy our training activities and have a great time; the dogs have a blast. SARDAA can boast an accomplished Training Director who has decades of experience with SAR dog training, and with official searches. Mary Ann Warren guides our weekly training sessions for the entire team with alacrity. It’s an accomplishment to effectively plan weekly sessions where everyone is kept busy simultaneously with activities that address all levels of training from the puppy beginner to challenging exercises for the Active Level dog teams. Our Field Techs are also thoroughly trained by another accomplished member who is responsible for that task. SARDAA is very appreciative of our relationship with Edmonton Police Service who has deployed us continuously since 1992. We are fortunate to have had several successful finds for them over the years and to have the EPS K9 Unit staff sergeant evaluate our Active Level dogs. Finally, we are fortunate because our Leadership is strong and dedicated to the mission and values of SARDAA – to provide trained resources to agencies in aid of the missing person.

Clockwise - Shado, Milo and Carlene, Ivy and Jenna, Mark and Shado (photo credit Meighan and Mary Ann)

Two for Tennessee

by MaryAnn Warren, Training Director, Active HRD dog handler + K9 Twang & K9 Yoyo; Jenna Barron , Active HRD dog handler and K9 Ivy

photos by Mary Ann and Jenna

After a very long winter, the SARDAA human remains detection Active dogs were falling behind in training due to the extreme cold that sat on Alberta for much of the winter of 2018/2019. An opportunity presented itself and SARDAA submitted an application to use AGLC funds to send Jenna B and me on a training trip to Tennessee and Kentucky in March. Our goal was to work as much water search as possible and see how the dogs did with “large, real sources”. While most people think flying in cabin with dogs is great, it is not the best. I thank West Jet for allowing extra seats for our dogs thus giving them more room to relax. The dogs did their best flying and even Twang in cargo made it through the long red-eye flights. Once in Toronto, Jenna and I acquired a rental van and loaded up for our long day’s drive to Clarksville, Tennessee. The actual road trip was uneventful, thank goodness, and we arrived late at night at our hosts from Bloodhound SAR, Lois and Carl Alexander.

Jenna and Ivy at work; this will give you some idea of the terrain type.
Scent source in tree.

Day One - still groggy from the trip, we went grocery shopping so we could make our own breakfasts and lunches and save some money. After breakfast, we went across the border to the state of Kentucky. The location was an abandoned trailer park with no trailers but lots of woods and debris to work the dogs around. This also gave the dogs some time to acclimatize. The dogs quickly became accustomed to the new location and the different critters around.

Mary Ann working YoYo at the abandoned trailer park.

Day Two - we headed back to another location in Kentucky. This location was an abandoned campground with a water-filled quarry. We had a special invitation from a member of Commonwealth Canine Search & Recovery (CCSR) and local police so we welcomed the opportunity to train here given the vastness of this location and its unique feel. At the quarry we had an opportunity to work two burials and imprint on sources our dogs rarely, if ever, smell. We were very pleased that not only did our dogs have no problem with the sources but went into alerts right away when locating them. The temperature this day was (and I hate to brag but) 18C up to 24C. It was so nice not to have winter clothing on and to have the dogs work for more than 15 minutes without their feet freezing. I was also pleased that despite limited work back home, their stamina even in the heat was sustained beyond my expectations. Lois gave us a scenario to work that for me was most welcoming. We had a productive day there and while we did not work the water due to wind conditions being completely the wrong way we would return to this spot in a few days.

Water work for Ivy; note the nice green leaves!
Water work for Twang.

Day Three - we stayed in Clarksville, TN close to home base as there were weather and tornado warnings and watches. We traveled to an old boy scout camp and decided to work some distance alerts and water search with the dogs. The creek traveling through this location was moving too fast and was at flood levels so we decided it would not be safe to conduct any water search there. Also this location is in a hollow and when you have a hollow, you have swirling winds that made it difficult to conduct the training we had planned on, so onto plan B. For those of you not knowing what a hollow is, it is a ravine in between hills; hills and hollows as they call them down there. We traveled to another Clarksville Rotary Park that offered a small creek. At this park we placed some sources in the water and worked the dogs from downstream to upstream working on their locating as close as possible before alerting. All three dogs, Ivy, Twang and Yoyo, did very well and it was extremely interesting to watch them work the scent flowing down stream then turn around and work the scent back up stream. Dogs never cease to amaze me about how they can work scent in fast flowing water. The dogs enjoyed working water with the heat of the day up at 26 C and high humidity.

On Day Four - while Jenna and Lois went to the Dickson, Kentucky location to set up a mock exercise, I met with a friend and showed him how my dogs work. I worked the dogs at the Rotary Park giving them some one on one time. When I arrived at Dickson they were working their dogs through the fields and woods. They gave me areas to search with my dogs and they had an opportunity to clear woods, creeks and even a small pond.

Day Five – this was our last training day and we headed back to the abandoned campground in Russellville, Kentucky. This time we set out some of our own scenarios for the other teams with us. We also were able to utilize the water in the quarry for some shoreline searches. The dogs had no problem hitting on the burials and gave great identifying alerts on them. We searched the abandoned campground for human fluid and some other HRD with a high source put out to practice scent voids. We ended the afternoon with water search training and had very happy and tired dogs.

With all of the rain they had in the area during January and February, we were not able to get onto the boat and do some water work; we were disappointed about that. Nevertheless, we accomplished all of our other training objectives. Our thanks to Bloodhound SAR for allowing us to come and train in their great areas and with their scent sources. Thanks to Lois and Carl for billeting us with our three extra dogs; this was a huge savings. Thanks to our SARDAA team and to Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission (AGLC) for making this trip possible. The opportunity to worker large scent sources is an opportunity we cannot get at home and has resulted in significant enhanced expertise for the dogs and handlers alike.

New Members -

Welcome to Davan Russell of Edmonton as a Field Tech in training!

I'm sure this it totally against copy-write law and so I apologize for using this Other Coast cartoon taken from the Edmonton Journal newspaper - but it was just so apropos! ... Editor

Rules of Canine Learning …… from “The Dog’s Mind”, Bruce Fogle, DVM, MRCVS

  • 1. Normal dogs can learn at any age up to the time their mental capacities start to deteriorate in old age.
  • 2. They learn best through patience and with suitable rewards. Rewards must be given with or within less than a second of the desired response from the dogs.
  • 3. Intermittent rewarding of desired activity produces behavior that is more resistant to extinction.
  • 4. The value of the reward should be appropriate for the desired behavior. Dogs value rewards in different ways. Find out what is most valuable to your dog and use the rewards appropriately.
  • 5. Learning should be enjoyable. Spend ten minutes two to three times each day. Sessions should be separated by several hours. Tired dogs do not learn easily. Mental activity is more tiring to the dog than physical activity.
  • 6. Learning should take place in a quiet environment. Once the correct responses have been made in that environment, you can move to more stimulating environments and repeat the processes.
  • 7. Every dog should e trained to come, sit, stay, down and down stay in that order. If a dog fails at any level, do not punish it, simply go back to the previous level. Always finish training sessions on a positive note.
  • 8. Only use your dog’s name to get his attention. Use one word commands in training (not an entire sentence!)
  • 9. Once your dog has learned commands from one person have him/her learn the same commands from other members of the household.
  • 10. Punishment can be counterproductive. Use it with care. Natural punishments using your voice and stare can, however, be effective. Positive reinforcement is often coupled with some level of compulsion in training your dog.
Cinder (left) and Shado - demonstrating the Long Down at the warehouse during a Sunday practice!

Research Review: A Simple Step for Extending Your Dog’s Life By Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN... from Clinical Nutrition Service on line

Shado and Mark starting a search exercise! (photo credit - Meighan)

If you do an internet search on “help my dog life longer”, you’ll be treated to quite a bit of dubious to dangerous advice ranging from avoiding “chemicals” to using various supplements to feeding a raw diet. While there is no evidence that any of these strategies are associated with health benefits, much less life extension (and there are potential concerns with each as well), scientific studies have shown us that one of the more effective strategies is also one of the simplest – keep (or get) your dog lean! A new study recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine compared the lifespans of more than 50,000 neutered or spayed adult dogs seen by a large corporate veterinary practice. The dogs included 12 common breeds – American cocker spaniel, beagle, boxer, Chihuahua, dachshund, German shepherd dog, golden retriever, Labrador retriever, pit bull terrier type, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, and Yorkshire terrier. The dogs were divided into two groups – dogs of normal body condition and overweight dogs – and their lifespan (or expected lifespan based on statistical modeling) was compared between the two groups. The investigators found that the normal weight dogs of each breed had a lower risk of death over time (and thus a longer lifespan) compared to their overweight counterparts. The difference was most dramatic for the smaller breed dogs like the Yorkie. The estimated increased median lifespan of the normal weight dogs over the overweight dogs ranged from 6 months to 2 years and 6 months, which is quite a bit of extra good-quality time with your best friend! In the interests of full disclosure, this study had some flaws, particularly the fact that the lifespans of many of the dogs were estimated using statistical means rather than being based on actual recorded lifespans. Additionally, thousands of different veterinarians were responsible for assessing the dogs as normal or overweight without really strict criteria being used to define each category during the entire 20-year period of data collection. On the plus side, this is one of the largest veterinary studies that has ever been published and the statistical analysis was well done. The results also agree with a number of other studies in dogs and other animals that suggest that being eating fewer calories and remaining lean increases lifespan. One of the best known of these studies in the veterinary world is a more than decade-long study published in 2002. In that study, 48 Labrador retrievers were followed for their entire lives. Those dogs were also divided into two groups – one group was always fed 25% less than their siblings in the other group. This resulted in two groups of dogs – one lean and one mild to moderately overweight. In this study, the lean dogs lived on average 18-24 months longer than their littermates who ate more over their entire lives. Moreover, not only did the lean dogs live longer, they were healthier for longer as well – being lean also postponed the symptoms of many chronic disease processes such as arthritis.

So what is the take home message here? If your dog is lean, keep them that way! Resist the temptation to feed too much food and too many treats. Ask your veterinarian at every visit whether your dog is appropriately lean and learn how to do body condition scoring at home. If you are not sure if your dog is at an appropriate weight or you know he or she is overweight, work with your veterinarian to assess your dog and then develop a weight loss plan to reveal your dog’s lean “inner dog”. Use the knowledge that you are likely extending your dog’s life to keep you motivated during the weight loss period.

Dry Dog Food - Safely Handling and Storing

by Chelsea Kent (herospets.com) reprinted from Working Dog Magazine

First keep in mind that your canine’s food is just as perishable as your own After you purchase your dog’s food, it is important to remember that, like a loaf of bread, just because it comes in a bag and has an expiration date a year or so away, does not mean it lasts on your home shelf for that long. The expiration is how long the food is good for BEFORE it is opened, while it is still in an oxygen barrier bag. As soon as you open the bag, the food is exposed to oxygen and begins to degrade. Natural foods do not contain heavy, toxic chemical preservatives and must be treated how you would treat your own natural foods.


  • • Do not leave the bag open and exposed to air after opening it.
  • • Do not store the food in the sunlight.
  • • Do not let the food get wet and if it does get wet, throw it away.
  • • Do not keep the food past expiration even if you do not open it.
  • • Do not throw the bag away. Even if you store the food in an airtight container, you must keep the batch code.
  • • Do not pour in your new food before the old food is COMPLETELY gone unless you pour out the old food and put it on top if the new food.


  • • Feed the food within 30-45 days of opening the bag.
  • • Throw away what you do not use by that time.
  • • Keep the bag (which includes the barcode, expiration date and batch code).
  • • Store the food in an airtight container (preferably still in the original bag inside the airtight container).
  • • Rinse the container between every use (oils that have perforated your container eventually go rancid and contaminate new food).
  • • In the bag of food you purchase does not fit in your container, then line the food bin with an airtight bag. Pour in what will fit and keep the rest either in its original bag, tightly sealed in a cool, dry place until it will fit in the bin. OR, better yet, put the remainder of the food in a zip lock bags in your freezer; remove them as needed (making sure to cut the barcode, batch code and expiration date off the original bag and tape it onto a storage bag.) OR purchase smaller bags (you may spend more per pound but you spend less at the vet because the health effects of eating rancid food are not good).

Super Power Dogs IMAX Launch

The end of March found several SARDAA members and their dogs at the launch of the Super Power Dogs IMAX movie at the Telus World of Science facility. The film's director Daniel Ferguson with Cosmic Pictures took time to chat with our handlers and do a bit of a photo shoot.

Director Daniel Ferguson with Kim (left) and Jenna plus team dogs (l to r) Remy, Jake, Che and Ivy. (photo credit - SARDAA)
(L to R) Dave, Steve, Che, Carlene, Jake, Jenna, Ivy, Yoyo, Mary Ann, Twang, Remy, Kim, Zara, Cinder and Michelle.
Wonderful picture of the team dogs with SARDAA display and Super Power Dogs poster.
MEAGAN recently received SARDAA's "PERSEVERANCE Award". She's pictured here with Chase and the award.

SARDAA's PERSEVERANCE AWARD is presented annually to a member who has exhibited this particular quality over the past year. Meighan is committed to staying on as member even though Chase cannot continue with training due to eye disease. Congratulations Meighan!

Editors note – Scent Dog News is produced by the Search and Rescue Dog Association of Alberta. Submissions are welcome but are subject to approval and editing. Editor – Michelle Limoges; Email – udcdoberman@shaw.ca

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