SAR training

Within a month me and Ljúfur started SAR training with a group called Björgunarhundasveit Íslands (BHSÍ). It’s a group who has trained rescue dogs in Iceland for more than twenty years and they train together on a weekly basis all year round.

Within three months we had gone to all training sessions available with the group and learnt all the techniques taugth there. Ljúfur showed in those sessions that is intellect and work attitude is excellent and he was quick to learn. When we had been together for six months he seemed to have recovered completely from his childhood traumas. In fact he is today one of the most accomplished German Shepherd working dogs I have ever met – and I have met quite a few.

Soon we became very frustrated in BHSÍ. There are stagnated training attitudes and opinions prevalent in that group, along with rescue squad politics, which stand in the way of excellence and we wanted to learn more. As it happens there is another group in Iceland named Leitarhundar Slysavarnafélagsins Landsbjargar (LSL) and we deceded to go there and find out what we could learn.

The interesting thing about those two rescue sqads, is that they never speak together and hardly acknowledge each other. The latter is an offspring from the former and of course has different focus in techniques and attitudes.

On a break from snow avalance training


We trained with LSL for almost half a year, absorbing all their techniques and attitudes. We were happy for a while but decided to leave for two reasons. As we had also decided to leave BHSÍ for two reasons, all four should be noted here.

In BHSÍ there is an overwhelming tendency to train dogs as if they are spiritless animals who only respond technically. Much emphasis is put on the use of tools and when dogs fail in anyway it is rarely regarded as the failing on part of the human and therefore progress is often left to chance or is stagnated. Also there is prevalent attitude in members towards new members and the group is more focused towards the club-feeling than the common-interest and training progress. Also the professional skill of instructors leaves something to be desired.

In LSL there is much more interest in the pshycology of the dog. In their training sessions there is more skill used in handling the dogs personally and working with their own species-dependent methods. What LSL lacks is related to the same as in BHSÍ: Their instructors are control oriented and demand to be pack-leaders rather than earning pack-respect. Therefore individuals who need to find their own path towards success often find themselves in opposition to instructors and are often repressed. This leads to the training sessions to often disregard the needs of individual dogs, which can be very bad for their success.

As me and Ljúfur live and train together and we are both very enthusiastic, we soon found ourselves in a dilemma with LSL. We felt the need to change a certain focus in our trainings and we sometimes felt frustrated with given instruction and especially fumbling tests from two instructors. It was as though they proclaimed their professional knowledge, that their tests to find out how Ljúfur needed to be trained where rather fumbling and they had now skill in listening to his owner who knew him best.

One day a fellow trainer in LSL accused me of beating Ljúfur! As absurd the accusation is, it was believed and taken seriously with a leading instructor and I was disciplined. Never were we given any room to defend ourselves. Our voice was not heard, our counter arguments where not listened to.

I have never beaten my dogs, never have and never will.  Anyone who knows my dogs and has observed their behaviour patterns knows this!

All my dogs excel at any given work training which they undergo. Even inexperienced instructors know that dogs cannot excel if their owner beats them!

As it happens, there is a dark stain in my personal past – irrelevant here – which many choose to use as a reasonable excuse to believe that accusation. Be that as it may.

I mention here the experience with those two rescue squads as they are instrumental in Ljúfur’s story. When I began with BHSÍ almost all instructors there claimed that a German Shepherd with his background would never successfully learn SAR skills. At LSL the attitude was much the same. It should be noted that very few BHSÍ members have successfully trained Sheffers and that only a handful at LSL have done so.

A year after Ljúfur had begun training he had successfully learnt spoor tracking, snow avalance rescue, and was repeatedly successful at any search and rescue exercise in hillside. Not only this – he had twice learnt to change tactics in how he infoms me of a found person.

Three years later, his owner (me) was instrumental in a successful re-training of his brother Prímó which BHSÍ failed to train. Both Ljúfur and Prímó use powerful barking at their owners side message a ‘person found’ before they lead.

Ljúfur the babysitter

As said before Ljúfur has taught me much about dogs. Since I left BHSÍ and LSL behind I have continued his training. First I founded a group called Vinnuhundar but as I wasn’t yet ready to be an instructor at the time I gave it up and later formed another group called Hundasport. Hundasport is an active growing training group based on principles learnt at BHSÍ, LSL and foremost: from member-dogs and my own pack.




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About Guy Ellis

Alchemist and a prophet of God, with passion for training dogs. Like a perfect poetry; Doesn't get any better than that.

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