TRACKING, TRAILING, AREA, AND Evidence SEARCH DOGS
One must first understand the complex disciplines involved in any of the above mentioned titles. It should also be noted that a dog can possess and learn all these skills and combining them all will change the way a dog and handler work. But it is a good thing in almost every situation. Here we are not talking about sport dogs that need to perform certain tasks and get a score judged upon their performance. We will talk about working dogs that can make a difference between a life or death outcome for an individual. Being the missing 4 year old or the Cop on the job finding the armed felon that just murdered his family.
Tracking, trailing and area search dogs will often be allowed to sniff an article of clothing car seat, pillow case, or item known to have the person’s skin cells, perspiration, and scent, on it if available. A human sheds approximately 40,000 skin cells per minute. At Consummate K-9 we always use a scent article in the beginning of training. We also breed and choose dogs that have a natural ability to do the work. Very simple tests can be performed to assess a dog for this type of work. You won’t find us using hot dog slices or food in the track layers prints. If the dog is not naturally inclined to do the work why waste the time.
TRACKING- In the true sense of the discipline the dog will not lift its nose from the ground. A good tracking dog watched in slow motion will practically go from foot step to foot step and you will see the head go from left to right as it methodically leads the handler to the subject that it is tracking. Hence the Bloodhound has an instinctive drive to track and its head, ears, nose, and skin folds are particularly designed to catch odor. Watch a Schutzhund tracking trial or two if you would like to see tracking dogs in action.
TRAILING- I like to call trailing loose tracking. The dog does not need to keep its nose to the ground but needs to follow what scent it can and will often catch the scent cone of a subject and leave the trail depending on conditions and the dog will lead you right to the subject. In all the disciplines many dogs will pick up on ground disturbances as well as crushed vegetation.
AREA- Send the dog free. Absolute off leash control. Up, Down, Left, Right, Over, Under, Through, Forward, and so on. The dog trained properly will learn to quarter quickly and can clear up to a hundred acres or more acres in a short period of time. A good dog can do the man work of 50 trained searchers. Generally used in a large area that needs to be cleared of humans that may or may not want to be found. Often in Police work a building search or secure area where the subject needs to give up or get bit and apprehended. In lost or missing persons cases it is not a find and bite or bark and hold that we train our dogs to perform. We at Consummate K-9 teach (FIR) Find, Indicate to handler “usually a bang indication” and Re-find in which the dog leads the handler to the subject.
EVIDENCE- At Consummate K-9 we like to train the dog on evidence first by teaching a passive down on the article. When the dog is proficient at locating evidence then we can also incorporate trailing. Early on the dog will indicate on evidence as it is trailing a subject. If you are doing trailing and evidence we will train a dog to indicate on a items of all sorts, for instance a Juicy Fruit wrapper, cigarette but, shell casing, weapon, leather, fabric, wood, metal and the list goes on. All of these items will carry the scent of the subject being located. Remember this is still training. There are so many types of evidence that may need to be recovered so it is paramount to train on what your position, discipline, and profession dictate.
CROSS TRACKS, WATER CROSSINGS, HIGH FINDS, AND HARD SURFACE
All of the above mentioned also need to be incorporated into the training program. Humans do weird and or clever things when evading the law or are disoriented and lost. Cross tracks are a common occurrence in real world situations. A cross track is nothing more than an individual that is not being searched for has crossed the trail of a subject being searched for. This is why we always try to use a scent article. The dog will stay on track and not lead you down the wrong path. Often if a subject comes upon a stream they may walk up or down stream and exit in the direction they were heading or back track in the direction they came from to try to elude from being found. High finds need to be taught as well. People will climb trees and suicide subjects often hang themselves. That will be discussed in more detail in Human Remains Detection dogs. Hard surface trailing can be difficult for some dogs. Simply because the skin rafts can not get as much of a hold on a hard surface and there is no crushed vegetation. You may find that dogs may track a good distance from where the subject has actually been. In all cases one must be aware of wind direction. Often the dog may trail at the edge of the hard surface where more scent has collected.