A day of training with our akitas at the rescue squad in Wessel


Zuma (3 years old) in a blazing hoop during a demonstration at the dog show in Dortmund in 1997.
© 2000 by H.&M. Schulte


Sunday - 6.30 am - the alarm goes off. I growl and turn on the other side. My husband came out of the bathroom ready to go..

"I'll let the dogs out, so they can run a bit. Hurry up so that we won't be late at Wessel.'

I look out the window carefully. The sun is shining and that makes getting up a bit easier. Through the open window I can hear the dogs barking. They are running happily along the pasture for the horses and greeting the "prisoners" with a dig. The deer that seek breakfast in our meadow will be noticed, but not chased. Already as puppies they have learned that this is forbidden. When I finally come out of the house ready, the dogs are already waiting in the car for the departure. They know exactly what today's aim is, since for them our orange coloured clothes are connected precisely with the training grounds in Wesel.

The highway is quiet on sunday. Again my eyes almost close.

"Have you set yourself some special goal with one of our dogs for today?"

My husband asks and my eyes open again.

"Last time Aki had trouble with the new, deep hide-out. But it could have resulted from the unfavourable wind. We will see how he handles it today. Maybe we should work a little more with Jinny on barking at the hide-out. She still has problems with signaling loudly. I can’t think of anything specific that requires practice with Majo and Zuma.”

And so we are getting nearer to the training grounds of the division of rescue dogs in Wessel. We aren’t the first ones there. A few canines are already having fun in the field.

Once are dogs took care of there most urgent needs we went to the office of the association in order to have a cup of “greeting-wake up” coffee. After our instructors gave us todays schedule, our favourite early-morning and after-dinner command was given: “Four people into the hide-out”. As the person who is hiding you can rest for a while waiting to be found by dogs of your friends from the brigade.

 rescue dog: Zuma

pies-ratownik: Zuma

Zuma (2 years) in her favourite pose in the training ring

© 2000 by H.&M. Schulte

Zuma (6 months) practicing droping on a line from 30 meteres
© 2000 by H.&M. Schulte


Training searching for people

When let out of his stall, Aki jumps at me like a goat. His each move makes his friends pull away from their appointed job. When it is our turn to search I free him from leash and collar and send him into the ruins with the command “search and help”. With the assistance of his nose, Aki searches through ruins arranged systematically on an  area of 21.000 square meteres. I have to wait for a while for the first reaction. Suddenly he stiffens. He proceeds on sniffening and consequently move towards the goal – a 4m. high canal pipe. He briefly makes sure that there is a human inside.

Hau, Hau!! He uses body language to show me exactly where the lost person is. Of course he is rewarded for this with cuddling and treats. Not even half a minute later he finds another person.

The third was in a new, deep hide-out. Here was a canal pipe inserted 5 m. into the ground and tightly secured with a concrete plate. Aki had the human scent in his nose and found and signaled without difficulty.  

"The reason for his latest problems with catching wind must have been bad weather conditions”

I call to my husband.

The fourth person was also found quickly in the so called “mexican house”. I hug my Aki to show him that I’m very happy with his work.  Once he has a drink, I take him to his stall so that he can rest.  

rescue dog: Majo

Majo (2 years) during practice in the school of protection from catastrophes in Ahrweiler
© 2000 by M.&H. Schulte  


Maja is next in row. She deals with her job in the usual, independent way. We can always depend on her 100 %.  Even though she is almost 10 years old, she walks over rails as before,  routine helps her even out all the disadvantages of her age. Of course we use her much more purposely now that she is older. We want to preserve her strenghth and health for as long as possible. Yet even when she retires she will accompany us at the training ring for as long, as long she will want to.

 With calmness typical for him, lead by my husband, our Juma performs his task. He doesn’t do one step too much, he is never too fast and rarely needs to be corrected by the guide. 

Jini however, is as fast as lightning over the grounds. She overcomes the difficulties of the terrain like a cat. Whenever she finds a person she shivers with excitement, she still has problems only with signaling. But with the help of my husband Harry, who gives her the command "voice, voice" again and again, she is encouraged to announce the ending accordingly to the rules.

 pies-ratownik: Majo

Majo (1 year) 1989 in the tunnel for crawling
© 2000 by M.&H. Schulte 


Working with equipement

The morning passes by on constant tasks of searching and when dinner is served our dogs deserve a break. Due to the fact that in consideration for the neighbours we should not make noise between the hour 13:00 to 15:00, we have scheduled work with equipment during this period.  Majo doesn't need to prove himself here regularly. Aki and Zuma perform a short programme here since presently we don't have any problems with them. And so we can concentrate on jini, who still makes some mistakes because of her speed - e.x. when going over ladders. In order to encourage her to more concentrated work we practice with frequent breaks during one task. By doing this we want to make her think through her results. If she finishes the exercise better than the previous time, we don't repeat it the same day. Too frequent repeats would only weaken her eagerness to work.

Searching the surface

After a coffee break we go with our dogs to open grounds so that we can practice searching the surface. Two helpers hide in the most densley overgrown part of our field. One climbs onto a tree because the dogs also have to learn to catch wind above in order to chase and announce. Our four akitas search through the dense shrubs very eagerly together with their canine friends. Those, who found, signal there success in a loud manner. Majo is standing under the tree on which the helper is sitting, barking and trying to climb up the smooth trunk. the treat which falls from the tree as a reward is caught with skill. As I watch the enthusiasm with which our dogs do their job, I ask myself why it is often said that akitas are lazy, stupid and bad. Every day our four contradict these declarations, which lately I heard again at the dog show in Dortmund.

To finish up this training day, each guide does an exercise that his dog likes most. Zuma climbs up his beloved ladder onto a tower where we practice droping a dog and human on a line. Majo - together with his daughter Jini on a towing line - can search for my husband, who has hidden somewhere in the ruins, and Aki with a loud thud and lots of barking, slides four metres down a thick, tin air-conditioning pipe straight into my arms.

Around 19:00 we all  say good-bye and drive towards our homes. Another exciting day, full of work and learning for us and our akitas has passed.

Once again our dogs proved to be trustworthy partners when searching for lost people.

 Marita Schulte

rescue dog: Going up a fire ladder  

Going up a 30 m. Fire Station ladder in 1997 during practice at the fire station in Soest
© 2000 by M.&H. Schulte  


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