21.01.2022Norka, a stubborn dog with a big heart

The Bloodhound Norka is a gentle, friendly, and persistent dog, but she is also somewhat stubborn. Marta Gutowska, a search and rescue dog handler and trainer at the Polish search and rescue dog organisation STORAT, respects her four-legged friend's occasional wilfulness. The two share a special relationship.


"Norka came to me when she was a ten-week-old puppy. She was a gift from my daughter Anna," Marta says joyfully. She has been training search and rescue dogs in various disciplines since 1974, from Avalanche Search to Rubble Search to Area Search. With Norka, she ventured into new territory - Mantrailing. In this form of nose work, the dogs learn to pick up the scent of a missing person and find him or her using a specific scent carrier (e.g., t-shirt, glove).


When Norka was three months old, Marta started the first training attempts in a playful way. The experienced trainer was aware that in training a Bloodhound she could not rely solely on her previous knowledge. "I have worked with dogs of different breeds and prepared them for the mission. However, the learning behaviour of a Bloodhound cannot be compared to that of a Golden Retriever or German Shepherd. It is crucial to develop a certain sensitivity for your dog's needs and willingness to perform," explains Marta.


Bloodhounds have a particular ability to solve problems and a strong will to search and find. At the same time, they have a certain aversion to obedience and get bored easily. With Norka, it's not much different. "It took me a whole year to teach her how to retrieve. But I can also see that Norka is really trying hard," says Marta. In 2021, the two managed to become the first and so far, only search and rescue dog team to pass the IRO International Mantrailing Test at the second highest level A (MT-A) with a good score of 240 points (of which 88 out of 100 points were for obedience). "We are all very proud of our Norka," Marta says happily about the great achievement. The next goal for the pair is to successfully complete a level B test, which is considered a prerequisite for the mission-readiness test.


Responsible and qualified mantrailing training requires time, patience and empathy. Norka and Marta try to train at least twice a week. They always set themselves new challenges and work on scent trails of different lengths or ages. The trails run through forests, parks, residential areas or even crowded urban areas. Once Norka has picked up the scent, she takes up the chase determinedly and does not allow herself to be distracted by anything.


Norka loves to relax from the mentally demanding work by playing with other dogs. She enjoys roaming through forests or dashing across wide fields. Despite her independent character, she can be recalled by Marta at any time. "I trained the recall with her very early on and so I can let her off the leash without any problems," Marta explains. When there are no other dogs around to play with, Norka also likes to swim and retrieve toys from the water. And she is very fond of cuddly toys.


We look forward to following them through their further training.


Marta Gutowska is the co-founder of the Polish search and rescue dog organisation STORAT, a long-standing member organisation of the IRO. In her work as a volunteer search and rescue dog handler, she has taken part in around 300 national rescue operations. She passes on her profound knowledge as a trainer.




















Photos: STORAT / Marta Gutowska

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