Introduction to the Arcon Method

Method Canine Catastrophe Rescue consists of using dogs to find people that have been accidentally buried for whatever reason (explosions, earthquakes, structural flaws, hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches, landslides, etc.).

Arcon is a system to train and intervene in catastrophes with canine rescue teams. It was created by Jaime Parejo after twelve years of study and research. The method was deemed finished in October 1994, and he chose the name Arcn in honour of his pet and pioneering student. The Arcn Methods proven success in rescue operations has led it to win numerous major official awards both nationally and internationally, such as the First Prize for Research granted by the Spanish Royal Canine Society and the Sasakawa Certificate of Distinction from the United Nations.

The first canine rescue unit that Jaime Parejo officially assembled using this system was for the firefighters of Seville (Spain) back in 1996, where he is currently chief of this unit. Since then, official guides, instructors and rescue dogs have been trained and certified for important firefighting squads and police corps in a number of countries where there is a heightened risk of disasters (Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Chile).

The Arcon Method is primarily based on a set of seven innovative behavioural techniques which complement each other and have an effective impact on three fundamental, interrelated parameters in search operations: autonomy, motivation and concentration. The moulding processes (reinforcement of successive approximations to the desired response) that characterise traditional canine search training methods and which are still currently used, are excessively limited to basic or primary learning processes (classical conditioning, operant conditioning, avoidance, extinction, generalisation, discrimination, cognitive perspectives, etc.).

However, the same does not hold true with the Arcon Method. After twelve years of persistent, intense and complex endeavours entailing observation, study, measurement and analysis of variables and responses, verification of multiple hypotheses and field experimentation, in short, scientific research, Jaime Parejo, a tireless, rigorous scholar and researcher into animal behaviour and learning, was able to painstakingly develop a series of techniques that are minutely interrelated and ultimately manage to positively optimise the possible levels of autonomy, motivation and concentration of the animals when performing operations involving searches for buried people, either outdoors or in confined spaces with no visibility and a living space reduced to the minimum feasible displacement values.

With the aforementioned enhancement of the levels of motivation, working autonomy, and concentration, fulfilment of the objective set from the start, namely better speed and efficacy when locating buried persons, was repeatedly verified (with a substantial, noticeable operative difference). This revolutionary, transcendent scientific method has enriched and expended especially the field of animal learning. For several years now, this has also in parallel led to the rescue of buried people in several countries. It has also led the Arcn Method to be chosen and approved by governments as the official training and intervention system, and this method has also been officially adopted by the leading emergency squads and security forces and corps in countries with a high risk of earthquakes. The Arcn Method is regarded as a major step forward for humanity, and it is currently the sole rescue system with official status, due to its exceptional efficacy in searching for and localising buried people. Following are several examples.

Since 1999, many living people buried in extreme difficult search conditions have been localised by the Canine Rescue Unit of firefighters. In 2005, the Intervention and Rescue Group of Ecuadors National Police Force demonstrated the unique effectiveness of the system for detecting explosives by winning first prize in the International K-9 Competition in Indiana, United States for Police and Military Corps, after vying for the prize with leading units from the United States, Canada and Latin America. Since 2006, the number of anti-personnel mines detected by the Mobile Customs Squads of Colombias National Police Force has increased. The number of endangered animals detected by the Environmental Protection Unit of Ecuadors National Police Force has also risen, thus stanching the illegal trafficking of these animals in the Galapagos National Park. Finally, the Canine Brigade of the Caracas Police Corps has stepped up its detection of narcotics.

The basic instruments used when applying the Arcon techniques include:

The guides bodily comportment. A methodical process of analysing and observing canine behaviours and work environments.

Individualised and constant technical dosage of the behavioural resources.

Painstakingly-designed procedure of interaction amongst all the behavioural techniques.

The animal trained using this method tends to more intensely exploit its physical and psychological resources during the search process in a way that is particularly natural, voluntary and fruitful. Below is a very basic, schematic assessment of the incidence of the Arcon Method on the three main parameters: autonomy, motivation and concentration.

Autonomy There is repeated proof that when a dog experiences a higher degree of work autonomy, its degree of concentration on the job increases in a parallel fashion.

This system allows this level of autonomy associated with a solid focus on the search behaviour to be optimised. The animal dissociates from the guide without any harmful interruptions in its line of search, such as sporadic returns to the guide or bodily actions with the goal of catching sight of the guide. We stress the fact that excessive participation by the guide (a very common mistake), either verbal or physical, during the canine work behaviour generates the consequent negative expectation of support in the dogs memory storage, which only becomes more pronounced and meddlesome during the search as time goes by without the animal having managed to perceive the desired scent stimulus of a potential buried person. There are three main Arcn techniques that taken together largely enable the goals on the expected working autonomy to be achieved:

Technique to block the yo-yo effect by return control (applied preventatively).

Gradual autonomy technique by the action of the mannequin effect (applied in the phases of education, training and occasionally in intervention).

Technique of innocuous re-establishment by sound insertion (applied occasionally in the initial education phase).

Motivation Applying this system generates in the animal a motivational drive that is especially strong for this type of work, thus fostering the dogs levels of intensity, perseverance and concentration during the search operation, as well as shielding it from possible deviating stimuli. There are four Arcn techniques aimed at preserving or nurturing this level of specific motivation: Calibrated reinforcement technique by triple control (applied in education and training phases).

Feasible localisation technique by compensation of negative factors (a technique that helps to keep the dog motivated in the search by eliminating some items in the field that may adversely affect its search, such as passing animals, food, etc- this technique is applied only in educational phases, and occasionally during training).

Chained search technique by mimicked dissuasion of the buried person (a technique used to dissuade the dog from stagnating at the first buried person and to encourage it to go and find the next buried person. It is applied in the phases of education, training and during interventions). Non-requested support technique by restrained approximation (a technique based on providing moderate support to the dog to help it find the buried person. the support is only given when not requested and is applied occasionally only during the initial stages of education to keep motivation high).

It is important to bear in mind that in the education or learning phase, the animals experience of not successfully achieving the goals, that is, of failure, will lower the expectation evoked by the training activity and the respective setting, thus seriously jeopardising the degree of motivation required to face the learning process and for the future performance of the search work. This negative circumstance can be avoided by applying the aforementioned techniques, while they also contribute to the fact that the mere search and the environment of rubble in themselves generate a powerful reinforcement effect for the animals. The search activity provokes in dogs a positive rise in their excitation level, which is added to the motivation spurred by the incentive.

Concentration In this case, the animals degree of voluntary attention in the search will be primarily associated with the two previous parameters (autonomy and motivation), and will not be dependent on a possible application of specific techniques. The dog trained using this system shows a visible and continuous high degree of concentration in the search, experiencing a solid line of attention.

Concentration could be defined as the organisation of the animals attention in order to perform a given task. In the case at hand this entails the olfactory process of sniffing with the goal of capturing human scent molecules in the air that allow the animal to head towards the source, namely, the person buried among rubble, earth, snow, clay, etc. A higher level of concentration will enhance the application of the dogs olfactory reception and elaboration devices, thus limiting its field of awareness and in consequence fostering its ability to capture the scent of persons who may be buried. The 250 hours in the official basic Arcn courses specialisation are devoted virtually in their entirety to the introductory theoretical-practical transmission of the complex dynamics of application, interaction and performance of the Arcn techniques, in both training and in accident interventions.

Based on the significant technical, operative, professional and scientific value of the Arcon method, below, as supplementary information, is an excerpt from an official technical report written by Patricio Galiano Borja, a prominent international expert and instructor in different canine fields, psychology scholar, lieutenant and head of the Canine Unit in Ecuadors National Police Forces Intervention and Rescue Group.


1) Background – Official invitation extended by our unit for Jaime Parejo Garca to teach four official courses of the Arcn Method in our country. – Request made by the General Commandant of the National Police Force, General Jorge Poveda Ziga, addressed to the Ministry of Government and Police in 2004, with the purpose of making the Arcn Method official in our country in order to ensure a common language and maximum efficacy when performing real rescue tasks in the event of a catastrophe. – Ministerial Agreement whereby in 2004 the Arcn Method became Ecuadors official governmental canine team system to prepare, implement and intervene in the event of a catastrophe.

2) Gathering Knowledge Our country has received a total of four official international courses in the Arcn Method, in which students were from both Ecuador and abroad, coming from a total of 13 countries in Latin America and Spain, belonging to a variety of different official firefighting, police and army groups.

3) Proof and Verification – In recent years, through the participation of canine teams from the different countries attending the official courses taught in our country, the efficacy and efficiency of localising buried persons by the animals certified via this method has been amply proven. – The increase in the dogs levels of autonomy, motivation and concentration could clearly be seen, not only in rescue operations but also in all the areas in which our institution uses dogs for police work. – Simulations have been conducted with the assistance of authorities and the public at large in which the victims have decided where to be buried, thus demonstrating the transparency of the process of localising possible living victims in the event of a real catastrophe.

4) Application of Arcn Method techniques in other working areas with dogs: As a practical, scientific method, the results are easy to measure and verify. Our unit has applied the techniques of the Arcn Method in all areas of detection, specifically the detection of explosives, drugs and even the trafficking of shark fin, sea cucumber and wild animals. We are the only country in the world that has dogs trained for these purposes, and the results are outstanding in real operations in which trafficked explosives and endangered animal species have been confiscated in the eastern part of our country and the Galapagos Islands, respectively.

5) Conclusions – One can call a training method scientific when it is not sustained merely on (empirical) experience or field observation, rather in the handling of a process through which its hypotheses may be fully verified, and the application and consequent measurement of the results is possible. – Based on the work performed with our canine teams, we can certify their efficacy and efficiency in real jobs whose results are known publicly in our country. – With regard to the complex Arcn Techniques, which are methodically interrelated, some of them affect the level of working autonomy (without any decline in the type of control that may be needed), while others affect the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation when carrying out the search. At the same time, the levels of motivation and working autonomy, which are especially fostered by these techniques, interact in an extremely positive way to increase the level of concentration in the animal, which then exploits its respective olfactory sense receptors exceptionally effectively, yielding a fruitful search operation. –

To conclude this report, I would like to state that in our judgement, the Arcn Method is a technical and scientific system for the training and intervention of canine teams not just in the event of catastrophes but also in all the areas of detection that might arise all over the world, as for all of these areas it is crucial to have the utmost efficacy and efficiency possible. This method is thus an extraordinary tool for improving the levels of autonomy, motivation and concentration which are so indispensable in any type of work with detection dogs.

Approved by Legal Resolution No. 1998/41/12727 on 5 May 1998 by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Spain, in compliance with Royal Decree (1/1996, 12 April), that the Arcon Method, (including among other content, the set of innovative behavioural techniques, training phases and corresponding denominations), whose author is Jaime Parejo Garca, is duly registered and legally protected as scientific copyright in the General Registry of Intellectual Property under No. 23474.

Source by Jaime Parejo Garcia

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