Experiences of visitors during a trainingsday at the RHH.

6 juni 2010
Trainingsday in Austerlitz by Ron Leffers. (more...)

De eerste kennismaking met de reddingshonden vereniging.

Na enig speurwerk van mezelf op internet ben ik terecht gekomen bij RHH te Hellevoetsluis. Omdat ik wil gaan trainen met mijn Duitse herdershond Max. Na eerst telefonisch contact te hebben gehad ben ik uitgenodigd voor een eerste kennismaking bij de reddingshonden vereniging op 6 Juni 2010. Ik heb voor die dag nog nooit gezien hoe reddingshonden getraind worden. Ze hadden me gevraagd eerst zonder de hond te komen om te zien hoe het er aan toe ging. Ik ben gegaan met een open instelling over wat er ging komen.

Om 09,30 uur verzamelden we ons bij Zeist in de bossen voor een zoektraining. De kennismaking met de andere leden heb ik als erg prettig ervaren. Na eerst even te hebben toegekeken werd ik betrokken bij de oefeningen door mee te doen als slachtoffer. Ook legden ze me uit hoe en waarom ik bepaalde dingen moest doen en de reden daarvan, zodat ik kon begrijpen waar ik mee bezig was. Dit vond ik erg leuk omdat ik meteen kon ervaren hoe men gezamenlijk de honden traint en men liet zien wat er voor nodig is om een inzetbare hond te krijgen. Ook leerde ik daardoor dat de honden echt allemaal verschillend zijn in hun manier van werken. Tussen de middag gingen we allemaal wat eten bij de auto's waarna we 's middags verder gingen met de oefeningen .

Een van de dingen die ik begrepen heb, is dat je een doorzetter moet zijn, want ondanks dat we goed weer hadden die dag komt er ook een dag dat het kan gieten van de regen en daar moet je dan wel tegen kunnen. Bij een inzet is het ook niet altijd mooi weer en de honden moeten dan ook kunnen presteren net als je zelf. Het was voor mij dan ook een leerzame dag waar ik van genoten heb en kijk uit naar de volgende training, waar ik dan wel met Max kom en kan zien of hij het ook leuk vind want je moet het alle twee leuk vinden. Ik hoop van wel! Dan gaan we een leuke tijd tegemoet.

Ron Leffers

17 december 2006
Trainingsday in Amstelveen by René Reimerink. (more...)

Sunday December 17th,

Some years ago I learned about the RHH by the attention in the media covering the work being done, I grew enthusiastic myself. My interest was growing, as recently we have a dog in our family, as well because you can safe lives with a dog. After several conversations by phone with Mrs. van Doorn, I was invited to visit a training day.

The day was Sunday December 17th. We gathered in Amstelveen with the RHH members. On this location, a former office building was being demolished. After getting acquainted, some assessed the terrain for safety. The rest started changing their clothes for their safety clothes. The dogs were very well aware what was coming. After assessing the terrain, a briefing was held. An inventory of what exercises the dog handlers wished for was being made. After the briefing, the tasks got divided and it began. My first impression was, things are very professional organized within the RHH.
After some time, the exercises were discussed, proper feedback was given to bring each other to a higher level. I have been a practise victim several times that day, and was surprised how the dog handlers and their dog found me. During lunch in the afternoon, new techniques concerning the equipment, necessary during a deployment abroad, were discussed. After lunch we started again to continue till the end of that afternoon. At the end of the training, the day was talked through followed by the packing of the materials. Everything was left behind in good order.

A beautiful day, I’m working in the police force and knows what extra value dogs have on certain areas. Knowing you can mean something with your dog and help. My vision I have about the RHH is that they work very professionally and are a tight club of people, they are eager to show what they and their dogs can do. Now we have added a Labrador to our family, it sounds great to me to see whether I could do the same job with my dog as the RHH does. This day had made me even more enthusiastic, as I was very positive about the RHH. I would like to make use of this opportunity to thank all members for there attention and their patience to explain everything, something they did very enthusiastically.

Thanks again,

René Reimerink

13 juni 2004
Trainingsday in Rotterdam by Marianne Hudepohl. (more...)


On the past 13th of June I was allowed to follow the RHH with the training in Rotterdam. In case you had romantic idea's about tracking work with a dog, than this day took that away. It is stone hard work for the handler and the dog. Full of admiration I saw the dogs at work. Not a rubbish heap was too big to concur and to keep on tracking. Everything standing they ignore but they track people who are sitting or laying.

As handler you are especially busy with motivating the dog and you have to keep a sharp eye on the signals of the dog. As one dog starts waging its tail an other dog starts to peep when it smells something. Therefore it is important to react in time and not to motivate the dog too early otherwise they will search on a wrong spot ! I also was allowed to experience how it is to be a victim hidden in the rubble. The dogs are very happy when they find you and they get their reward on the body of the victim.

During the whole day questions get to be answered patiently and you get to hear all kind of stories. I acquired a lot of admiration for this group of people and dogs, who on voluntary basis invest a lot of time and energy in rescue work. I was eager to go on to find out if I can go that far with my dog,>but this day made it clear to me that I will have to spend a lot of time but alas this is not to combine with my family. Perhaps a later day..........

Marianne Hudepohl

7 maart 2004
Trainingsday in Lage Vuursche by Arjan Kroonen. (more...)

Laying down in the woods on a nice Sunday, early March...
a dog comes over, takes a look and runs of again.
Returning just a bit later, followed by his enthusiastic owner.

For many people this would be a strange experience, not for those who specially came to the woods, to experience a training.
This was the beginning of a very interesting day, full of happy dogs, enthusiastic owners and some curious people.
The first time I was hidden at quite distance. I had the opportunity to walk along on a second search. Funny that even though I knew where the victim was hidden, I could have sworn, we passed the victim on our way. However, the dog knows best, as the victim was in the next lot. Not to steer a dog is obviously important, as the human is the weak link if it comes to a search

After lunch, I joined for some shorter exercises, time enough for all my questions regarding training.
It struck me, everyone was telling enthusiastically how everything functioned, even though everyone visiting will have the same question. From my experience at dog training and animal protection (nominee trainer in the group of Haarlem) I mainly paid attention to the interrelation of dogs and their handlers, most striking was to see how every handler new exactly how to motivate his or her dog. In day to day matters I see very often that most owners don’t know how to make contact with their own dog, not knowing what their dog likes. Main consequence of that is a dog just following his owner and thinks everything is okay without being motivated. Here it was a really different situation. Horses, bikers, pedestrians and other dogs, almost nothing was interesting enough not to focus on the search for the victim. Well, almost nothing, a pool of mud might hide another victim of course, it had to be inspected thoroughly

For me, it was a day to remember and to reflect upon, most certainly in connection with my own dogs and the dogs visiting the course. It is easy to forget, every dog is equipped with a fantastic nose, it is a shame when this is being ignored by its owner, as a dog being unable to use his nose once in a while is missing a part of the fun in his life

Thank you for the friendly reception, and the explanation to another search novice.

Arjan Kroonen

15 februari 2004
Trainingsday in Harderwijk by Lilian & Gertjan. (more...)

Ouderkerk a/d Amstel,

A soup factory is being torn down in the middle of Harderwijk.
A good location for the RHH to practise, we had no problem at all to find it.
At arrival, several vans were there, next to a piece of waste land, a large fence had to take care of the privacy required.
To us, as "visiting victims" fortunately the fence opened and managed to park our cars between the other ones. There were many more people there, as we had expected. The people of the rescue dog teams were already busy to put on there protective clothing. They were in the possession of radio as well, it proved to be very useful during the training. When you were hidden as a practise victim, you were issued one as well, to keep in contact with the rest of the group. At the same time, you could hear when the search started.

At the terrain there still were two, rather large, halls for production, they were not yet demolished. At some places they were very dark, the lights on the helmets proved to be very useful.
As a visitor, it was fun to see how difficult it could be to track down missing persons. When you were hidden as a practise victim, you were not supposed to make sounds, especially when the more experienced dogs were involved. You had to wait until the dog handler gave a sign, you were supposed to do something. This wasn’t a simple thing to do, due a wet nose and a licking tongue. Eventually the dog got a toy as a reward.

The training was very intensive and it was obvious how dog and dog handler functioned as a very good team. The dogs had no problem being carried via a ladder to a higher level, to be able to search a victim on the first floor.
At the search for a victim in a closed toilet room, the effect of a "chimney" was clearly visible. Almost all the dogs had the tendency to pick out the first door, though it was the place where the scent came down. Only after some persuasion of the dog handler, the dog continued to search to pin point the correct door. At moments like these you understand how difficult it can be to "read" your dog. Even the more experiences dog handlers get there doubts. Understandable, as working with dogs at this level might be a game to the dog, the dog handler has to be able during a real situation to declare an area for safe, during a disaster, definitely not a game.

On the terrain, scattered with soup pots and the additional herbs, we had a fun, exceptional and learning experience.

Lilian & Gertjan

2 november 2003
Trainingsday in Den Haag by Nicolette van Duursen. (more...)

Rubble and wet noses.
As a quest at the Rescue Dogs Help Organization of the Netherlands.

There I was on the property of the famous squatter premises "De Blauwe Aanslag" in The Haque. There was not much left of the almost total demolished building than a heap of broken bricks, glass, plastic, pipes, nails, turds and other non defined junk. If my mom could have seen me in borrowed mountain shoes, at least 2 size too big, a bright orange helmet and work gloves, in the middle of this mess, she would have burst in a fit of laughter. And all this on Sunday morning at 10.00 am. Yes, I was a quest at the once in 2 weeks training exercise of the RHH ("De Reddingshonden Hulpdienst Holland").

Because my dog Zappa from the Humane Society was identified as "A work-dog candidate" by several dog experts and I would love to start with a training, I contacted the RHH.
After marjoleine van Doorn patiently had listened to my twiddling about Zappa, she gave me a bunch of information about the training and the work involved.
I was well informed and curious.

I got a Hartley welcome from the members of the training group. Without noticing I was already checked out for safety. My tattered Dr. Martens did not pass the inspection and I was offered replacement shoes. Two groups, de medium experience group and the advanced group, went to work at different part on the location. Right away I was coupled with someone who did not mind to be ask the ears of her head. First was a search place (verstek) determined a fictive victim was hidden in a container under wood. The purpose was a motivation training in which training the dogs learn to remove everything in the way to the victim in order to be able to indicate the exact location of the victim to the handler. The dog and the handler walk in front followed by a supervisor who pays strict attention to the behavior of dog and handler and gives advise if necessary. The detailed way in which this happens is unbelievable and I was stunned how everyone is capable of not only to watch the dog and the handler but in the same time to answer my questions. The celebration that follows the finding of the victim is exuberant. There is use of toys and for extra reward snacks as home made meatballs, pieces of pens, cheese or sausage, etc. It is nice to see how much attention is given to the rewarding of the dogs.

In the afternoon I was allowed to attend the advanced group. Here the victims had to be lay "dead" which means in no way stimulating the dog by movements or sounds. The interaction between dog, handler and supervisor is fascinating. I too was allowed to play victim and I was laying on a thermo-mat between broken concrete pieces. After I got a message through the walky talky that the first dog was on its way it became exciting to hear what was happening. In short time I heard the dog panting and walk above my head. I had to keep myself from laughing when I heard the handler say: "Yes Lotte, lays someone nicely pinched here? Where is she? Oh, what funny that someone is laying here." Image it that you will be happy to hear this as you are stuck in the rubble for real, including getting the sandy snout and paws in your face. I did much enjoy observing the dogs. The great differences in how they search or give alert of having the "scent" and specially the interaction between dog and handler.

But perhaps I got the most enjoyment out of the communication between the members of the group: direct, lots of humor, self ridicule and in the same time dead serious and with great knowledge about safety, dogs and humans.

I'm already looking forwards to the next time.

With greeting, Nicolette van Duursen.

24 augustus 2003
Trainingsday in Veldhoven by Heike Korfmann and Andreas Lutz. (more...)

Dears friends of RHH,

First, we want to thank you for the friendly reception and your readiness to answer our questions.

After some small problems in finding the barracks which serves as our training grounds, we were split into two groups. In one group we worked with the dogs which were older and more advanced; in the second group, were the younger dogs and the ones just beginning their training.

It was very interesting to see how the dogs in many different ways can be helpful in searches, and that the search instinct in a playful way can even be refined through training so that eventually victims who are buried can be located and saved.

We are amazed that the training can begin while the dogs are still puppies, and how friendly it is and to which extent dog and man bond to work in unity as a team to find victims.

Still more exciting was the test at the end of day which was the conclusion of an area search. The dogs and the team leaders were supposed to find us, the "buried ones" and this understandably took a little more time. Eventually we were all found which probably wasn't always easy for the teams.


Heike Korfmann and Andreas Lutz

1 december 2001
Trainingsday in Tilburg by Jan Struys. (more...)

Here is the report of the visit I made at your organization. Sunday, December 1st was going to be a boring day, I planned bringing my wife to the railroad station, together with a friend of her, so they could go to Eindhoven to visit a fair. On my way to the station I suddenly noticed orange suits on a site where a building was being demolished. They have dogs too, my wife shouts. As I only noticed this in a very brief moment, I took up the idea to check it out later on my way back, as I had the suspicion a rescue team was training over there.
We are the proud owners of two dogs, Ashley (3 years) and Katja of 7 months. We were already considering the idea to do something more with Katja, as her bread is known as a rescue dog. Till December 1st, the idea never past the stage of looking at pictures on the internet.
When I returned from bringing my wife to the station, I visited the site, the orange suits where found easily. After parking the car I entered the sit with caution, worst case would have been that they would send me away.
However, the reception was excellent, we shook hands, I did my story and asked some questions. As a result I was invited to experience a trainings day of the RHH.

When you are orientating via the internet, you don’t get a really good view of how things work and at what level this work has to be done. From the beginning, you can see that nothing is left for coincidence, safety first. I was equipped with a helmet, flash light and safety gloves, and I was requested to sign a visitor form as well to take in regard the safety and liability.

I am experienced in alpine climbing and I’m a radio transmitter at amateur level, so noticed immediately, nothing was left for coincidence. When I saw the trade names of the used equipment, I saw a lot of quality materials, Safety and communication was a well thought subject, this is not just another club, but a well prepared one.

Then the real game starts, a victim is hidden in a basement underneath the rubble and the search is started. I’m being explained the "rules of engagement", the dog handler with his dog go first, followed by deployment leader and finally the instructor and the guest.
As this is al happening on the terrain of a demolished building, there are some points of attention, the instructor points out the safety issues, be careful for parts hanging loose, be careful entering and leaving a building, don’t grab hold of anything. The reality of a disaster struck area must be a lot like this. The dog is searching the rubble for a human scent, noticing some left over French fries by the builders, but immediately continuing.
The dogs are supposed to ignore food as well as clothes to prevent time going lot on the search of dead victims and refrigerators, there goal is life victims!!
You are really softened up, seeing the dogs behaviour change when arriving 5 or 6 meters from the victim. The real party starts now for him, clearly shown by body language, and the tail wagging. When the dog handler encourage the dog to continue searching, the result is getting better, the victim is found in no time and this means party time for the dog. The dog is broadly rewarded and hugged.
The biggest reward for the dog is given upon the victim, a clear motivation for next time.
An important job for the dog handler is to recognize the body language of the dog, it really is teamwork.
What made the biggest impression to me was the interrelation, the dogs and their handlers have. I thought it to be very pleasant, as I have seen otherwise at the training of police dogs for example. Iém questioning myself whether the dog enjoys it more, or the dog handler. I noticed as well, no dog works the same, they all have their unique approach and signals.

After some searches, I was being asked to function as a victim. Here as well, the emphasis was put on safety. I was being hidden in a cellar, underneath the rubble in a safe way, equipped with a radio to have the possibility to make myself heard in case of a emergency.
After the dog started, he was in my surrounding within 2 minutes, and after another minute I saw his nose, really excellent, to experience something like that. Just after playing with his nose, the handler gives me the dogs toy to reward the dog with this. Some of the dogs managed to do this in a very quickly, and went barking to collect their handler.
I have underestimated the dogs capabilities, clearly shown throughout this day. For the dogs its all play but in case of a disaster, this is one of the most pleasant tools to have.

During lunch I went home to feed my own dogs, to collect on of my kids (the entire family is dog minded), and armed with a digital camera and some of my own materials the day continued.
In another search, outside the building, the dog already shows the first signs, for the handler to use as cross check, as the dog continues systematically until the victim is found. The drive these dogs have is incredible, you must have seen and experienced that.

All this fun was ended by a phone call from my wife, as they were heading for the station by train, whether I wanted to collect them. Well, not really, as I had rather stayed at the site.
After thanking the RHH I returned the equipment and returned only at the last moment to the rail road station. My wife got curious as well, and inquires a lot. She wants to experience this as well. I have learned a lot this day, I enjoyed the interrelation with the dogs, the knowledge there is within the RHH, their frankness, hospitality and their appearance.

Thank you very much.
Best regards,
Jan Struys