As the reported nationwide shortage of canine search and rescue teams looms, well-known local canine obedience trainer Stephen Kinder, a PetCo staffer, has plans under way for establishing a canine search and rescue training program in Cleveland.
Search and rescue dogs are amazing experts in helping find lost hikers, missing children and disaster survivors.
Stephen’s prized young German-bred German shepherd, Max, adopted from Germany as a puppy, is already getting training for this life-saving new pursuit by learning to feel comfortable in such situations as flooding. Max accompanied Kinder to recent, local flooding sites, and learned to wade calmly with his master through knee-deep water as just one of his many training steps.
For two years the enterprising obedience trainer has been studying in his off-hours for certification in search and rescue with the American Rescue Dog Association.
“A typical search and rescue team consists of four dogs with each team being led by a certified human trainer. As they track to find a missing person they are sent in four different directions of the missing person’s possible location,” he explained. They are directed by a radio coordinator whose operations are conducted from a tent.”
He is also working on the planned project with Debbie Triplett of Belgian Malinois rescue and “constantly upgrading my knowledge via the Internet and stacks and stacks of books.” During a period when he was working and traveling as a land surveyor he “spent every evening away from home studying everything available on search and rescue.”
Describing the differences between German-bred German shepherds and American-bred shepherds, Kinder pointed to handsome Max’s larger size — even though he is still growing and won’t be an adult until November — along with his blunt nose and larger head, unlike American shepherds’ longer noses and smaller size.
“German-born shepherds are raised to be working dogs, which is what I wanted. American-bred shepherds are bred to be show dogs,” he said. The origin of this breed actually began in Germany just 110 years ago, he added. Max’s main motivating force in learning new skills “is a tennis ball. I teach others to discover what their dog’s motivating force is. For some it may be a food treat but for others it can be something else. A tennis ball is definitely Max’s major interest in completing what he is requested to do during training assignments.”
Another new program, along with the PetCo and private obedience classes Stephen teaches, and puppy socialization sessions he holds at PetCo, will be a training course designed primarily for working and herding dogs. To schedule any of his classes, he can be reached by calling 284-8496 or during his work hours at PetCo.
Kinder, 34, comes from a family long associated with pet and wildlife rescue and foster organizations.
When his parents, Richard and Kathy Kinder, widely known throughout the local area pet scene, “lived in Connecticut and Maryland when I was a child, before we moved to Cleveland, they were doing pet and wildlife rescue. It has always been a part of our family life,” he said.
Now Stephen Kinder’s own four children also play a vital role in the family mission. “Andrea, l7, who will graduate from Cleveland High School next month, especially likes cats. Christopher, 15, a CHS sophomore, likes snakes. Emily, a CHS freshman, likes rabbits and Marian, a Cleveland Middle School seventh-grader, likes chickens, and recently participated in a dramatic rescue of a sweet little chicken in great need with help from her grandmother.”
Of the dogs who have always played a major role in their lives through the years, Kinder emphasized how important it has been to raise an easygoing dog who is a joy to live with.
Early training, “which turns puppies into people-friendly dogs who behave, listen and get along happily in their forever homes,” is important, he says. “I do and will continue doing all I can to achieve this goal for every single puppy and dog I teach,” the personable trainer concluded.