Recently we have received several enquiries from overseas sources regarding our tracking dog training regimes for search and rescue and law enforcement. These enquiries were aimed at being able to train better tracking dogs to deal with more contamination successfully and to deal with environmental differences and to better the use of the canine’s awesome olfactory ability. The most evident factor of these enquiries was that the training methods that have been utilized for such a long time were not able to produce sound results in the majority of situations, and the people enquiring were now hoping to gain new or different skills that may offer a wider array of operational uses with increased success rates. Let us look at a couple of different tracking principles and evaluate what use they would be in search and rescue or law enforcement.
First let us look at the non specific crushed vegetation or ground disturbance method which is probably the most widely used method employed throughout the world at the moment. This method utilizes the theory that where ever a person walks, they cause an effect on the ground environment of crushing vegetation or disturbing the soil or ground surface or squashing, crushing, damaging any type of ground dwelling organism; all of the aforementioned causing a path of disturbances that cause some sort of odour for the trained dog to follow, hence allowing the dog to track. Whilst the ground disturbance method of tracking is fine for short purposes which are usually set out in very controlled environments which possess little other sources of ground disturbance, sport tracking is just that – although very important to participating parties, should a dog be unsuccessful it would only mean failure in a sporting event, but should someone’s life be placed as the end result, this situation takes on a very serious side. With ground disturbance tracking, we have to take into account anything that traverses over the environment physically will also produce the same effect as a human, which means that other animals will produce ground disturbance, any object dragged, driven, pulled or pushed will also produce ground disturbance and there have been scientific tests done in Europe this century that have proven this fact and that also pointed out that with ground disturbance tracking it was definitely not particulate and could only produce at best, limited success when other ground disturbances were present. When the ground disturbance method was first utilized, the population was only a fraction of what it is at present so the method would have produced a much better success rate than would be feasible in our bustling communities. When we evaluate the ground disturbance method we have also to consider that if only one person or thing traverses over an area the chances of a successful outcome are likely to be around 100% so long as the dog and handler are both competent and the environmental effects such as heat, weather and atmospheric conditions are favourable. Should two things traverse over the area and cross paths it is probable that if they are similar in weight and size, that the success rate would most likely be around 50%. Should three things of similar size and weight cross paths in the tracking area, the probable success rate would most likely be 33.333% and as the number of additional disturbances rise, then the success rate will sharply decrease. The ground disturbance method has problems straight from the very beginning as when you ask the dog to take scent, how can you be truly sure it is starting on the scent needed to make a correct conclusion to the track let alone be able to travel through urban or busy rural environments that have hundreds of other ground disturbances and prove the track is in fact the correct one needed. In conclusion, the ground disturbance method of tracking whilst very popular, is really very vulnerable to contamination problems and the use of this method would have to be considered of extremely limited value unless in pristine environment free from any other ground disturbance source.
Individual specifics scent selective tracking or trailing, this method is designed to utilize the set individual’s scent fingerprint which is totally different to any other person’s scent. The basics of this principle are that we humans are constantly dispersing body fluids and chemical secretions that are individual to us. We are also constantly shedding minute particles of skin and hair matter and whilst we traverse along any route we take, these discarded individual body matter are leaving a path of our particular scent that is left behind us for the correctly trained dog to follow. Anything that we have physical contact with of any type is impregnated with our own individual scent and that scent can be utilized to start the individual specific scent selective tracking and trailing dog on. It is also possible to teach the scent selective dog to take scent from almost any object and with the techniques that are being utilized by some well versed trainers and handlers, it is quite possible to lift an individual’s scent of almost any object without disturbing its other forensic properties and the scent can be cloned or stored for many years so that identification by the individual’s scent is very possible. The scent selective method also allows you to pick an individual out of a group that you want the dog to track. It is also possible to use this method to confirm that an individual has in fact been at a certain location or in the case of several people in a room or vehicle where each individual actually was positioned. In conclusion, the individual specific scent selective method can deal with particular individuals, it is far more precise and does not suffer from contamination problems to the severe extent of ground disturbance. Scent selective has dozens of advantages over the other methods and its probable operational success rate must be extremely superior to any ground disturbance rates. Unfortunately there are very few trainers who are properly versed in this method and it must be trained in a structural manner to ensure correct foundation and reliability. This takes much time and ground work but the benefits far outweigh the hard work.
GOOD LUCK = Labour Under Correct Knowledge=