Training a Tracking Search Dog

When training a dog for a true tracking dog to be used in the search and rescue field, there must be a firm understanding that you are not training for an AKC title. Often times obtaining an AKC title has nothing to do with following human scent as much as it has to do with following the requirements the handler has set for the dog. Also, the motivation is often the hot dog pieces laid out on the track by the person who “sets” or “places” it.

A person who trains a dog for tracking must first learn the theory of smell and skin shakes; He said that a person would constantly drop skin cells, and these cells would form a “raft” and that these cells would drift with the wind and fall to the ground as the person moved. It is this trace of skin cells that the following dog must be trained to follow. How and where the skin cells land on the surrounding vegetation or surface will determine how and where the dog finds the scent. The length of time the scent can be picked up by the dog will depend on the quality of the training and the dog’s natural abilities and the effects of weather conditions on the trail. The other requirement for successfully training a dog is for the handler to motivate the dog to not stray from the path under any circumstances.

A person who trains a dog for a tracking title is not interested in the life-and-death scenario of an actual search “mission”, but rather in acquiring a title that can only be earned by following a predetermined “path”. It is specially furnished for the dog. Training for this title often involves using hot dog pieces laid out in the human’s path, thus encouraging the dog to follow their exact footsteps on the ground.

Anyone who trains a dog to certify as a “track dog” in the search and rescue field agrees that the dog MUST be motivated to follow the trail of the leather rafts to the source. Use of food should be limited to a reward, if used, after the trail has been accurately followed. The greatest emphasis on training a follower dog should be to create many different scenarios and use many different “victims”; meanwhile, he agrees that the handler’s job is to learn to recognize how the dog reads the trail. Train the dog to accurately identify the trail through scent discrimination.

The best motivation is undoubtedly the desire to find a human, and the old wait for this type of motivation from the very beginning is the “dog-run”, which has been the basis of the training of search dogs for many years. The difference between training a field wild search dog and training a dog that follows scent discrimination is simply that the dog’s exposure to air scent during early training is as limited as possible. The man’s task is to learn to “read” the dog, and also to discover how the wind carries and disperses the skin cells, and last but not least, motivate the dog to follow its trace throughout the training to its source.

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