Some of the people I remembered from previous visits including in Geneva last year so it was nice to be able to talk about shared experiences and not feel like a stranger. Although, having said that, I have not really felt like a stranger with any of the groups.
At least, there was no archery practice over the weekend and the hunters were nowhere in sight or sound either, just a lot of the public walking, some with dogs, or cycling by as we were working our dogs! This a thing I don't think I will ever come to grips with as it is so very different in Australia. How did the Australian bureaucracy ever get to be so hidebound?
Three groups were formed and Jochen and I were part of the top group of handlers either already operational or going for the test in October. Two young guys, Severin and Marco ran the workshop and did an excellent job. Almost all the members of this group are highly trained or are instructors themselves yet a really good and respectful atmosphere prevailed.
Both Marco and Severin concentrated on specific but also complex challenges such as placing two figurant very close with only a concrete wall separating them, placing people very deep within the rubble or placing them up high well above ground level. They also had handlers believe that three people were placed out when in fact I had to wander off and hide elsewhere. This was to see if handlers were able to recognise that the whole pile had been searched and it was time to stop. This sort of thing messes with people's heads and is good stuff.
It is so great to be able to report that Jochen and I are back to where we were as a team before we came to Switzerland. I have myself sorted and the learning curve I have been on is paying off. As a result, Jochen is much more comfortable and doing really good stuff. Of all the dogs, he was the only one who, whilst alerting the first figurant, suddenly got the scent of the second one close by, stopped, briefly checked that out and then returned to the first figurant, finished that alert and then sorted out the second one by jumping up on the pile and trying to get into the gap at the culvert. But he was just too big for that and alerted there instead. This was super work.
One thing that has emerged in respect to Jochen's work that has to do with that awful lack of facilities in Australia.
Firstly, right from the word go Jochen has had a very strong penetration drive and will often work very hard to get as close as possible to the figurant before starting to alert - this is just him and has nothing to do with the facilities.
Secondly, we simply do not have anywhere near the availability of deep to very deep holes where scent can come out anywhere and where dogs just cannot reach the figurant. This means that Jochen works and works and works trying to get to the figurant before convincing himself that he simply can't get any closer. At the same time, as he is trying to find a gap anywhere, he discovers ever more holes where the scent is escaping from. So then he tries all over again to find a way down. This is very frustrating and energy sapping for him and is a result of not having come across this type of work to anywhere near this complexity before.
By the second day, Sunday, Jochen was already much better although he did surprise Marco on that final search. Marco assured me that there is no way Jochen can get down to this figurant. Well, that was true, but he did find a gap he almost disappeared into and Marco's eyes widened in surprise.
These guys were really good with all manner of tips on how to do the test, what traps to avoid, how to make it easier for the dog and so on. One of the things they discussed was first aid for humans and dogs. It was new to me that at the test, each candidate has to produce a fully kitted first aid kit for dogs and humans. There must be a list of contents and/or each item must be named and easily read. Particular attention is paid to use by date.
First Aid scenarios are simulated for both dogs and humans. If the candidate does not pass either of these two subjects, they are still operational (providing they have passed the search test of course) but they must repeat that subject again at the next available test and must volunteer to be figurant at the next operational test.
This was a super training weekend and as a great way to finish as we had to wait about 40 minutes for the bus to take us back to Chur, I took Jochen to his favourite place - the mountain stream. He happily splashed and paddled about in the shallow stream whilst I took photos of beautifully marked stones and rocks.