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Leerburg's Q&A database has 3343 entries from multiple categories.


Categories: Search & Rescue

Q. My sheriff will not allow us to use our dogs for S&R unless it is certified. Where or how can get this done?
I am writing from the north woods of Minnesota where there are less than 5000
residents in a county that is more than 90% public lands. There is not a lot of activity here for Search & Rescue, but when there is, it is naturally traumatic. We have found that when dogs could be of use that it is many hours before a trained and certified professional can arrive. The closest certified unit is 5 hours away. So for over a year now I have been training my Chesapeake for SAR work. We started with air scent training with articles, and human hair samples when people were not available to hide. Air scenting is a valuable skill but after watching the dog for a number of months I came to believe that in our environment that trailing/tracking is more efficient. The wind shifts often in a matter of minutes. The dog would get mixed signals and being strong headed he would look for a trail and go in that way if it was more reliable. So now we are trailing with one of your good harnesses though he will still work high if the scent is right. This is a fascinating activity learning each day about scent and the way the dog works it. He is learning too. I know I have a lot more to learn and am saving up for your video on tracking. Books and MinnSARDA are my sources for guidance now.

Here is my frustration that I am hoping you can offer some perspective on: I need to be certified to satisfy the liability and political needs of our sheriff. I can join a down state group like MinnSARDA (if they will have me) and work under their wing, but that means I must answer to them first. I believe that I should respond directly to my sheriff so that the dog can be utilized quickly if a child is lost or a hunter is out in the dark. I want to be certified but in a reputable way. Do you know of ways to get tested and certified? Also do you know of any trailing/tracking seminars?

Thank you for your time,

A. Your sheriff is not very up to speed on dogs and he is in a "cover you ass mode". Its stupid to require a dog to be certified - who certifies them? Just because these people 5 hour's away say they certify dogs - who says they are qualified to do so. If they are teaching air scenting before tracking then they are not qualified to certify S&R dogs. That is ass backward in training. Once a dog learns to run around with his nose in the air looking for a person they can almost never be trained to track with their nose on the ground.

When a tracking dog gets track loss we want the nose to go to the ground. When these S&R groups train air scenting first and their dogs are then asked to track - if they lose the track their dogs noses go up in the air to air scent. They don't put their nose on the ground and look for a track.

This is one of the main reasons most American S&R groups would or could never be certified if they were in Canada (where they know how to find lost people with dogs). Dogs up there track first before they are trained to air scent.

Print this out and give it to your sheriff. Print the TTD articles and let him read them. Keep detailed training logs. If I were your sheriff I would set up a level 1 track and make you work it before I allowed you to work your dog:

An unknown track laid by a stranger -
1 hour old
1 1/2 miles long in the country
4 corners
3 or 4 articles left
1 or two road crossings
1 or 2 cross tracks
1 back track.

Keep detailed daily training records to work from.

If your dog can do this then he is ready to be called out to find missing people.
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This tracking dog DVD was filmed over a 3 year period in Germany and America back in the 1990s. It is one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on sport tracking (foot step tracking). This video only uses motivational methods to teach a dog to track. While we discuss the difference between motivational tracking and forced tracking, we do not teach any force in this video.


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