Not a pet?

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Not a pet?

This is a discussion on Not a pet? within the Working Dogs forums, part of the Dog Shows and Performance category; At this point I've told a number of people at my job that I'm interested in handling explosives detection dogs at some point in the ...

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Old 03-03-2017, 11:12 AM
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Not a pet?

At this point I've told a number of people at my job that I'm interested in handling explosives detection dogs at some point in the next couple of years. I've been told several times by different people "Oh, you know they're not pets," kind of patronizingly. Like, they think because I'm a young woman I'm not going to train or handle the dog well? What does "not a pet" even mean? From what I've read and heard, it's encouraged that the dogs live in the handler's home, so it's not like they'd be living in a kennel. IMO all dogs have the same basic needs regardless of whether or not they're pets and training, discipline, and exercise are included in that.

Do they mean when they say "not a pet" that the dog needs more training? Because I do a lot of training with my dogs regardless of their status. I've worked with like 4 different trainers by now with Delilah, and if she wasn't so anxious and had bad luxating patellas, we would be training in agility and barn hunt as well. I mean, I guess I could be stricter about her jumping on me and pulling on the leash, but I feel like I would even be stricter about that if she was a big dog. It just doesn't bother me when my 6 lbs dog jumps on me. I can't stand big dogs jumping on me though.

Do those people think I don't train my pets? Or do they think because I'm a female I'll be too "soft" on the dogs? One guy told me he visited a training facility and was told to strike the dogs if they jumped on him. I could never do something like that Maybe that's what those people mean by "not a pet," that abusive training methods are accepted and maybe even encouraged.
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Old 03-03-2017, 02:13 PM
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It's funny, when you say that I hear my mother's voice when it comes time to sell cattle or when I become too attached to any particular cow, "they're not pets, honey".

To me, I think it generally means that the creature has a different purpose and different rules apply. Not knowing much about explosive dogs myself, I'd take it to mean that your dog may be reassigned at some point, you may have to subscribe to different training methods, or something terrible may otherwise happen to the dog during the course of the job.

I agree it sounds patronizing. It's probably harder since this is your career as opposed to a cut calf you've gotten attached to (for the record, I totally managed to obtain a pet steer by the way ). But, if people only think you have "pet" experience they may not believe you're thinking beyond it.

And, you know, everyone always has to get the upper hand and put someone else down.
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Old 03-03-2017, 04:24 PM
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Hmm. Maybe they are thinking the way people think about police dogs? That they're built for a purpose and a job and aren't good pets. Although I would argue that they are treated like "pets" when off the clock, so...

People are jerks.
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Old 03-03-2017, 05:37 PM
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Most of the dog handlers they hire do have experience with military or police K9s. In fact, many of my coworkers have military experience in general. I'm a bit of an outsider in that regard so I wonder if that has something to do with it...
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Old 03-05-2017, 01:40 AM
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I would guess that they mean that that due to them being working dogs, they may not be allowed or encouraged to engage in many "pet" behaviors and activities. I vaguely know someone who handles a detection K9, and I get the impression the dog spends quite a bit of time crated when he's not working. When the dog is free in the house, he climbs onto everything (counters, tables, etc) searching for "toys", and if he can't find an actual toy, any item that fits in his mouth will do (shoes, kids toys, other household items). They do not, per the trainer he is trained under, correct or redirect the dog from these behaviors because they don't want to decrease his search drive in any way, or create any aversion to searching in any scenario. The dog has no off switch, and they want it that way. That seems to make him rather difficult to manage in a "family" household, though he's otherwise a nice dog.

Also, at least at my local level, they use aversives in training even detection dogs (this dog is usually in a pinch collar when I see him), which, if you are firmly in the +R only camp, may be difficult to get on board with.
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Old 03-05-2017, 10:51 PM
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Volunteer search and rescue type groups where you get individually certified are one thing but law enforcement, military and working search dogs are widely trained with alternative methods then purely positive reinforcement techniques.
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Old 03-06-2017, 12:06 PM
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"Really! Here I was thinking I'd not have to put any work into the dog, that I'd just love on him, let him do what he likes, and when needed give him the command to search and he'd do so! Thank you so much for letting me know that's not the case *Smiles sweetly*

That'd likely be my response on a bad day. On a good one I simply ignore the morons. Another thing to do is use them, let them fuel your drive to prove them wrong. If they underestimate you then great! It gives you the advantage, because you know what you can do and they do not even suspect.
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Old 03-07-2017, 08:58 AM
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I tried doing more research on this, and this is all I found. It sounds like they do live relatively normal dog lives when they're off the clock.

Dual-purpose dogs: TSA canines are bomb sniffers by day, family pets by night | NJ.com

If it came down to it, I would be able to train with aversives, but I think there's a difference between a correction and actually hitting a dog, and I wouldn't be able to go that far. I wouldn't want to. :/

@busannie The TSA mainly uses pointers (German short hair, but also a few other breeds) and labs now. I can absolutely imagine the GSHPs not having an off switch. In my other job, I do boarding and pet sitting for pet pointers, and even those guys are always "on." There's one that has a toy that he constantly needs to play with and hold onto when I pet sit and the others that board don't have their toys with them so they start fixating on lights and reflections and looking for those. Pointers just seem pretty high strung in general. The labs at the TSA seem "normal" though haha.
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Old 03-07-2017, 07:47 PM
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You are actually right. Dogs are dogs no matter what. Even if they are home pets or trained tactical pets, they all need the same level of TLC
I salute those who love their pets genuinely regardless of their status.
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