Tracking Dogs Articles
There are two different training styles being practiced in North America to train police tracking dogs. The first is called "Foot Step Tracking" (FST), and the second is called "Tracking Through Drive" (TTD). The vast majority of American police service dogs (99.9%) are trained in FST. This article will explain to the reader why I believe TTD is more productive. It will also explain why FST is so widely used in America.
There has been discussions on the PD-L about my training articles and videos that I did with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). Some people think it's nothing new (they are wrong), some people think you should do foot step tracking and tracking through drive (they are also wrong).
I am often asked how to train sport dogs to not overshoot corners. The fact is that teaching a dog a perfect 90 degree turn without overshooting is a simple obedience exercise and every dog can learn it. In fact it is not a difficult thing to train.
Before this work is started though the dog must first understand the "STAND STAY" (I will not go into the training for the Stand Stay in this article).
Using dogs to help find wounded animals is an old technique that has its origin in Europe. But in North America also, dogs were used by the early white inhabitants to find wounded big game. The basis for this was the realization that dogs are superior to man in following faint trails with little or no visible blood. At first there were probably no ethical motivations and specialized dogs were used to recover wounded game simply because this produced more meat and hides.
In September of this year I went back to the Police Dog Training Center in Rotterdam Holland with my friend Kevin Scheldahl. We went there with the expressed purpose of getting as much information as possible on hard surface tracking. In earlier visits with Lt. Jan de Bruin (in 1988 and 1996) I learned that Rotterdam had between 45 and 50 police dogs of which 3 or 4 were tracking specialists. I had heard about the skills of their specialty dogs and I wanted to find out how they trained them to follow hour old tracks on busy sidewalks of concrete, brick and asphalt.
S.A.R. dogs are not the only answer to a missing person search situation. Some police, the media, and the general public all too often pin their hopes for a successful rescue on the arrival of a dog handler and his/her dog. This is far to great of a responsibility to pin on any one individual.
I can't tell you how many times I have seen dog handlers snap their long line to their dogs harness and go along for the ride. They fail to realize that the line is a physical link between the dog and their hand. Other than the length of the line it is no different than rubbing your dogs ear while doing obedience.
Do you have a problem with your departments tracking program? Have you ever heard this statement "A friend or training partner has a Police Service Dog or a Search & Rescue Dog that never finds anyone when called out." If the truth were known most American police departments do have problems with their tracking performance, but the supervisors (and in most cases the handlers) don't know where to start to correct this problem.
It should be pointed out that the state attorney tossed out over 2800 criminal cases in Holland because of sloppy work by the dog handlers. While I dont know the details I suspect they involved handler and/or trainers being present in the rooms where the scent ID were taking place.
As dog handlers we all have handled dogs that seem to hit a point in their training that to us appears to be the limit of their abilities "the wall." Sometimes that is true but a greater percentage of the time it is not. Being the thinking end of the leash it is our responsibility to try and figure out just what the problem is. To break it down to its smallest component and adjust our training so we can train through the wall and progress with our training even further or except the fact that we as a team have indeed reached our limits.
Why do we train for articles on tracks? Competition handlers train for articles because it is a required portion of a tracking evaluation. Working handlers train for articles for two reasons. One, most working dog standards require it and two, a dog has to be able to locate scent related evidence on a track.
We have set standards for our dogs for years. Test upon test, all of them judged, timed and critiqued by judges and evaluators. The results of these tests can be seen by the certificates, titles and all the initials behind our animals names.
It's time we look at the other end of the leash. You know, the end that takes all the credit when the team is successful and dishes out all the reasons for the dogs mistakes when they fail.
Combine all the wet ingredients in a blender or food processor and liquefy. Add dry ingredients and blend well. Pour into a greased cookie sheet, bake at 400 degrees until a knife comes out clean or bake a little longer to produce a somewhat jerky texture. Cut into 3/8 or 1/2 inch cubes.
When the average civilian thinks of a tracking dog they picture a bloodhound for one reason, the media. Just as people think of German Shepherds as police dogs the same people think of bloodhounds as trackers. I disagree with the credit this breed is given for its scenting ability, especially when compared to other working dogs. I am not a fan of undeserved repudiations or bad police work, which is why I also don't agree with the claims that many bloodhound handlers (not all) make concerning the scenting ability of this breed of dogs.
On last night's national news (8-05-02) there was yet another segment on the fictitious abilities of bloodhounds that can smell ghosts and track gremlins. It seems that a few bloodhound handlers have convinced unknowing government officials that their bloodhounds can get odor from the envelope of the letters that were mailed with anthrax.