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DVDs & CDs Tracking Search & Rescue Hard Surface Tracking
Hard Surface Tracking
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Hard Surface Tracking

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Hard Surface Tracking Cover Art
  • 1 hours, 12 minutes long
  • Released 2004
  • Instructor: Ed Frawley
  • Immediate streaming access when purchased with Leerburg account
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This video deals with hard surface tracking (HST). In this video, you are going be able to see what can be accomplished with the right dog and the right training. The dogs in this video were filmed at the Nunspeet and Rotterdam Police Dog Schools in Holland. The instructors in these two schools are some of the best trainers in the world at hard surface tracking.

Handlers that have never trained or never seen a good hard surface tracking dog are going to see some excellent tracking dogs in this tape. Not all of the dogs are fully trained dogs so you will be able to see the work of partially trained dogs. These dogs can be used as the standard to compare your own dog to.

I hesitate to call this a training video. The reason I say that is because I almost feel that hard surface tracking is an art form and not a science that can be easily learned. The dogs that do this work are the best of the best. I feel I can point out the basics of how the Dutch Police do this work but the essence of the training lies in selecting the right dog for the work and developing the bond and experience to work together as a team.

One point that I will make in this tape is that the Dutch police do not have dual purpose narcotics patrol tracking dogs. The dogs I saw that were used for hard surface work were all specialty tracking dogs. These are dogs that only track - they do not do bite work, or area searches, or drug work.

The American police do not have the luxury of only having specialty tracking dogs. The amount of work that it takes to get a dog to the level that is expected in Holland is nothing short of amazing. After the dog goes through the normal tracking training (the level 1, 2, and 3 type of work), they then spend 6 to 8 months on hard surface work. American law enforcement agencies are simply not going to allow this kind of time for training - so in my opinion, if a good hard surface tracking dog ends up being trained in the States it's going to be because the best of the best K9 trainers took it upon himself to go out and do it on his own.


By the time a dog is ready for hard surface work, he should already be an accomplished tracking dog. By this I mean that he should have been taken through Level One, Two, and Three police tracking. He should have had approximately 60 training tracks in the country and another 60 training tracks in urban and suburban tracking.

In my many trips to Holland I have had a number of conversations with instructors from both schools of thought concerning how to selection test a dog for this work. They all agree that for a dog to do this level of tracking it must possess a natural ability to track, and he must have strong prey drive without being hectic.

A natural ability to track in a day is almost an impossible thing to describe to people who do not have a lot of experience. One of the noticeable characteristics of these dogs is they use their nose ALL THE TIME. When these dogs are let out of a squad car they always have their nose on the ground. When they are let loose to run on their own, they are constantly searching with their nose and not their eyes. They don't run around in a field with their head up - they run around with their nose an inch or two off the ground.

Some dogs have extreme prey drive and hunt drive. They are excellent narcotics dogs or patrol dogs but they lack the drive to track. These dogs do not make good hard surface trackers. Some of the real hyper prey dogs make excellent narcotics dogs, but because these dogs are so active they lack the ability to settle down and focus on the small amount of scent that is available on a hard surface track. These dogs lose focus and then lose the track.

Another point that needs to be determined in a potential hard surface tracker, is the dog's ability to ignore distractions and focus on the work. This is a very important point for city trackers. Some dogs have real distraction problems with people or other animals (cats, dogs, and even people). This results in them not being suitable for the work. Some dogs initially have small distraction problems with other animals, but can be taught to ignore them.

This does not mean that these dogs are immune to all distractions - what you will see in this video is that when a dog loses focus, the instructors will "down" the dog until the dog calm's down and refocuses. When the instructor sees that the dog has stopped focusing on whatever it was that distracted him, he will tell the dog to track again. You will see examples of this in the tape.

There is a fine line that needs to be recognized between a dog that has the drive to track and enough prey drive to want to search for a track, and not be so hectic that it cannot focus. Once you have seen a dog with this ability you will be able to recognize it in other dogs.

Where To Start

As you probably already know, there are as many opinions on dog training as there are trainers to talk to. This is certainly true with HST. The ideas I will show you in this video are proven concepts from Holland. I have not seen or heard of anyone that does a better job of training HST.

The fact is that very few people understand the work, and no one can be called an expert in it. This is especially evident in the States. One only need to look at the AKC and what they did when they set the rules for their variable surface tracking test (VTT). Whoever designed the VTT did not have a clue about a dog's scenting ability. This has been proven by the simple fact that so few people have ever passed this exam.

Even in Holland there are small differences of opinions about how to start this work. This is less a controversy then it is a subtle difference of opinion. I do not take sides on this issue; I think both methods used have merit.

The instructors in the Nunspeet Police Dog School have recently experimented with starting HST with new 12 month old dogs with no tracking experience. They take these dogs through 6 weeks of very short 30 meter tracks, 2 twice a day. They want dogs that have a very, very strong search drive, one that will hunt for his toy which is at the end of these tracks.

This tape will show you Nico Ram laying a track in the short grass of a local soccer field. Nico is a civilian instructor in the Rotterdamn Police Dog School. He is a KNPV judge and has been a judge in the KNPV nationals. Nico now specializes in training the scent ID dogs at Rotterdamn.

I have included footage of laying a track in short grass for those police officers that have never seen the proper way to lay a track for foot step trackin.

HST more closely relates to FTS than it does TTD. If you would like to learn more about FST, I would recommend that you look at my tape titled Training a Competition Tracking Dog.

These trainers do the short hard surface tracks. They then start their dog on the country tracking. Once a dog has the understanding that he can find and play with his toy by following these short tracks, he is moved on to very short grass. It's on grass that the dog really learns the techniques of tracking. By that I mean that it's on grass that the dog learns to work out the problem of corners.

These beginning tracks are laid with the track layer only wearing socks. The idea here is to get as much scent down as possible and - then to allow the dog to track it right away, without letting it age.

You want the dog to realize that if he searches on hard surface he will find enough scent to get to his drive source - or toy.

They have found that when these dogs start tracking in the country, the dogs will find this so easy that they excel.

How to Start

There are different ideas on how to start a track. Some handlers like to allow a dog to smell an item before giving the track command.

Other trainers will "down" the dog at the point where they know the track started. They rely on the dog following the hot track for several meters before he locks in on the exact track that he is to follow. Once this has happened a good tracking dog is going to be able to discriminate between the track layer or suspect and other peoples' tracks.

Very, very few dogs can become scent discrimination dogs and HST dogs. In my option if a dog can smell an object and then pick this track out to follow, that dog should be able to do scent discrimination without a problem. Not many dogs have proven that they have this ability.


I would like to thank all of the people at the Nunseept and Rotterdam Police Dog Schools in Holland for their help in providing me with the information for this video. They were generous with their hospitality and 100% open with sharing information on police tracking techniques. Without this help we would not be able to learn from their experience.

I would especially like to thank Jan De Vruin, Nico Ram, Simon Prins, and Hans Evers.

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