GiDay Poodles at Poodles In Australia
Linda Johnson
Telephone: (+61 3) 5995 7147

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Tia is owned, trained and loved by Maree McCabe, Victoria Australia

Charley, Taz and Rosie

Standard Poodles

Taz and Rosie make a new friend!

Standard Poodles

G'Day Walkabout In Pearls CD OA OAJ
Certified Visiting Therapy Dog

Pretty In Pink at a Hounds In Hats Fundraiser
in New Orleans Louisiana

G'Day Walkabout in Pearls

G'Day Walkabout In Silver UD SAR
American Kennel Club CD CDX UD TDX SAR CT RAE
Certified Cadaver Dog

Sire : Canadian Ch & UKC Hunting Retriever Ch Bibelots Silver Power Play U.D., M.H., W.C.X. & Canadian C.D.
Dam : Aust Dual Ch Neiger Circus Rose U.D., J.D., E.T., A.D. and American U.D., N.A., N.A.J.


Sterling, Lynne Benson-Colbert's Standard Poodle, on 10 April 2002, became the first Standard Poodle to be certified a Human Remains Detection Dog by the California Office of Emergency Services. Benson-Colbert is a volunteer dog handler with a non-profit search group, California Specialized Search Team, which is a resource of the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's Office.

On 3 June 2002, Lynne wrote:

G'Day Walkabout In Silver UD"On April 10, 2002, my dog Sterling made a bit of Poodle history by becoming the first Standard Poodle to become certified as a Human Remains Detection Dog. We started our training 11 months ago and it all culminated in a test that took less than an hour to complete.

"I became interested in search dogs four or five years ago. At the time I only had my female Poodle, Luna. We were doing some tracking and I became fascinated with watching that special magic of a dog using her nose to follow invisible trails. She was so good at it, and it really built up her confidence to be doing something where she was calling the shots and I was following behind.

"I didn't meet up with a team until I got Sterling a year later. I didn't pick Sterling as a search dog. I was looking for a dog who could be a top Obedience competition partner, and maybe do some tracking on the side. One thing led to another and I ended up using Sterling as my working dog.

"I used to wonder what the breed-ring folks meant when they described a show dog as having an attitude that 'demanded the blue ribbon.' Most of the dogs looked the same to me. Well, Sterling demanded to be the working dog. He had a confident attitude and desire to please and to just do more than the next dog. He made this clear to me the day he charged into a room where I was working another search dog candidate and in a matter of seconds had found the scent items I'd hidden in the room which the other dog hadn't found in over 10 minutes of searching. We joined a team called Canine Specialized Search Team and began our long road to certification as a cadaver dog specialist.

"We train with a group of about 15 other handlers, five days a week. Dogs are first taught what the clicker means (click = treat). We imprint the dogs on the cadaver by placing a variety of scent sources in containers out in the open in an enclosed room with no distractions. We allow the dog to simply wander the room. When they investigate a container they get a click and a treat. It takes only a few repetitions before the dog understands that good things happen when s/he finds the source of those odors. We gradually make the problems more difficult by hiding the scent items, placing them up high, burying them, and varying the size and age of the scent items. We also introduce negative items; that is, items which we don't want the dog to bother showing us. That would be things like animal remains, clean clothing, and clean containers similar to the ones we use to store our scent samples.

The dogs learn how to methodically search rooms and vehicles. They also do a great deal of wilderness work as well as learning how to search in the event of a mass casuality incident such as a plane crash, where there are mulitple tiny fragments. Sterling is able to find a single tooth in a garage, strands of hair in a garden or dried blood smears and droplets, even if the surface they are on has been painted over or washed with bleach. We also take great care to teach the dogs not to mouth or dig up items. It is not in a dog's nature to leave remains, any remains, untouched. They naturally want to taste and uncover remains. Our dogs are taught to not disturb what could very well be a crime scene.

"When Sterling finds something, he returns to me and swats me on the knee with his paw. That is called his alert. When I ask him to show me what he's found he returns to the item and points at it with his nose or touches it gently with his paw. Other team dogs perform a down or sit at the item as their alert. One dog has an unmistakable alert: she flies through the air like superdog and cannonballs into her owner's thighs or stomach! Since Standard Poodles are retrievers, their ability to remember where items are is phenomenal. We have several Border Collies on the team and they aren't very good at marking, or memorizing where an item is located once they can no longer see it. They are better suited for a sit at the item alert.

"Sterling had to learn many other things besides searching. He also had to become proficient at agility. We call it 'junkyard agility' because that is where we get the items we train on. It isn't competition-style agility, with a lot of jumping and speed. The dogs are taught how to safely negotiate obstacles you might find while searching a trailer destroyed in a tornado, for instance. They have to learn how to walk on slippery surfaces, wobbly items and how to crawl through tunnels and up and down ladders.

"Obedience is mandatory. The dogs normally search off leash and you must have a good recall and a good 'leave it!' Sometimes we are called to search the homes of people suspected of criminal activity and if they know we are coming it is not unheard of for them to plant rat-poison-laced meatballs in closets and places where the dogs could get to them. We teach the dogs to leave food where they find it. The dogs must also be able to work around a lot of other dogs, strangers and loud machinery. A good search dog must be able to handle other dogs and people 'in their space' while they are working.

"Certification tests vary depending on the state you are in and the agency you are affiliated with. Here in California, the Office of Emergency Services has a standard Cadaver Dog test. The test takes place in one acre of land, with one to two scent sources placed somewhere in that acre. One is buried at a depth of 15 inches and the other is somewhere above ground, no higher than 3 feet off the ground. You have an hour to search and the handler does not know where the items are. I realized when we took our test that an acre of land looks tiny when you are thinking of buying it as property, and it is huge when you have to cover it in an hour to pass a test! In spite of my fears we did pass and now we are an official team.

"However, nothing has really changed. We still train five days a week. We are still learning a ton. We are now starting our water cadaver search training. By the way, Sterling is also an obedience competition dog. He has his CDX and we will be hitting the trials in Utility A sometime in the fall of 2002."

"Sterling was bred by Linda Johnson of Australia. His registered name is G'Day Walkabout In Silver, CDX, CGC, TT, Certified Cadaver Dog. His dam is Australian Dual Champion Neiger Circus Rose ('Rosie'), Aust. UD ET, Am. UD NA NAJ His sire is UKC HR Ch. & Can. Ch. Bibelot's Silver Power Play ('Pie') UD Can. CD WCX MH. Sterling is four years old now. His favorite things are females of all species, sleeping on the bed, pizza and stealing the foam off the top of my cafe mochas."

-- Lynne Benson-Colbert, June 2002


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