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Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking
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Old 05-20-2015, 04:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

Okay...this old dog wants to learn a new trick. Scent discrimination and target identification for tracking.

Here's the deal. I primarily track utilizing freshest human odor, ie: acquiring an unknown track of a suspect based on witness statement or officer information. Many many times my dogs have gone into completely different directions from where the suspect allegedly ran after speaking to witnesses. Many many times I have come out smelling like a rose with a bad guy in custody because I trust my dog and not the humans. As long as I have a legitimate starting point I go with the dog and ignore witness info. So far this method has served me well.

So here's the deal. For the last few years I've done a pre track ritual ah la Jeff Schettler wherein I will allow the dog to sniff individuals and backup officers on the scene prior to the track to allow the dog to basically build a "missing man" picture in his mind. I then circle the intended tracking start area and allow the dog to go from there. Now, I don't see much point in doing this as it is just a waste of time in my mind, not to mention the chance of a civilian getting bit. Most times I just go back to my original tracking style and try to locate the track and go with it as long as there has been no major contamination. two nights ago I tracked from the rear of an apartment where the suspect exited. Using my old tracking style we tracked past at least a dozen pedestrian looky loo's and the dog stayed on task. A resident confirmed that we were in fact on correct odor as he saw the suspect running from the scene. So, that style of tracking works for me but I want more.

In the last couple of years there has been a trend among officers at my department who somehow believe that our K9 teams can take a scent article and locate the track that way, much like you see on TV with jail bloodhounds. Now, I know it can be done but we don't train that way. Last week we had a scenario where that training would have come in handy so I'm here to pick the brains of anyone who can point me in the direction of how to get started.

My initial thought is to teach the dog to scent discriminate on multiple targets/articles like they do in dog sports, then move on to correctly identifying a wanted track among other contaminant tracks in the area. I would start the tracks with an article for the target decoy track, and a contaminant track, each going 180 degrees in opposite directions. Seems like the place to start once the discrimination foundation is done. So, I'm just spitballing here but if anyone has a fairly simple training protocol for teaching a dog to locate a specific track using an article of clothing etc I'd like to hear from you. Lately I've had many situations where this would come in handy. How training this is going to affect the dog's performance in other areas, I don't know. Hopefully it just makes him better and doesn't cause confusion.
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Old 05-20-2015, 05:58 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

Kevin Kocher "how to train a police bloodhound" book has a very solid and well written out training regime for teaching a dog to scent discriminate. Although the book has "bloodhound" in the title it works for all breeds of dogs and he has conducted multiple seminars where he has taken hot scent dogs and taught them to discriminate successfully.

His method is pretty similar to most of the methods used. He just has it in an easy-to-use book form.

If my dog didn't scent discriminate there woulda been no way he woulda been able to track the escapee from last week and find the evidence of what he used in the escape.

He will hot scent track too but I prefer scent article starts.
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Old 05-20-2015, 10:36 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

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Originally Posted by Howard Knauf View Post
Okay...this old dog wants to learn a new trick. Scent discrimination and target identification for tracking.

Here's the deal. I primarily track utilizing freshest human odor, ie: acquiring an unknown track of a suspect based on witness statement or officer information. Many many times my dogs have gone into completely different directions from where the suspect allegedly ran after speaking to witnesses. Many many times I have come out smelling like a rose with a bad guy in custody because I trust my dog and not the humans. As long as I have a legitimate starting point I go with the dog and ignore witness info. So far this method has served me well.

So here's the deal. For the last few years I've done a pre track ritual ah la Jeff Schettler wherein I will allow the dog to sniff individuals and backup officers on the scene prior to the track to allow the dog to basically build a "missing man" picture in his mind. I then circle the intended tracking start area and allow the dog to go from there. Now, I don't see much point in doing this as it is just a waste of time in my mind, not to mention the chance of a civilian getting bit. Most times I just go back to my original tracking style and try to locate the track and go with it as long as there has been no major contamination. two nights ago I tracked from the rear of an apartment where the suspect exited. Using my old tracking style we tracked past at least a dozen pedestrian looky loo's and the dog stayed on task. A resident confirmed that we were in fact on correct odor as he saw the suspect running from the scene. So, that style of tracking works for me but I want more.

In the last couple of years there has been a trend among officers at my department who somehow believe that our K9 teams can take a scent article and locate the track that way, much like you see on TV with jail bloodhounds. Now, I know it can be done but we don't train that way. Last week we had a scenario where that training would have come in handy so I'm here to pick the brains of anyone who can point me in the direction of how to get started.

My initial thought is to teach the dog to scent discriminate on multiple targets/articles like they do in dog sports, then move on to correctly identifying a wanted track among other contaminant tracks in the area. I would start the tracks with an article for the target decoy track, and a contaminant track, each going 180 degrees in opposite directions. Seems like the place to start once the discrimination foundation is done. So, I'm just spitballing here but if anyone has a fairly simple training protocol for teaching a dog to locate a specific track using an article of clothing etc I'd like to hear from you. Lately I've had many situations where this would come in handy. How training this is going to affect the dog's performance in other areas, I don't know. Hopefully it just makes him better and doesn't cause confusion.
Actually, that “pre-track” ritual was started and used long before Jeff showed up on the scene. At least among all the oldtime mantrailing folks. What you are proposing is entirely possible. One concern that the LE handlers I have interacted with is that they fear their dog losing their ability in the “last” or “freshest” fear/ground disturbance track in favor of a known or scent discrimination situation. Aka the dog taking the track of a familiar odor – maybe an officer you have done this type of scent trailing work with in training- or getting hung up unless you give them a scent article.

First every track is contaminated. By something. People, wild animals, vegetation odors (fragrance, moldy rotting leaves), fertilizers, car exhaust, etc. What matters is the dog’s dedication to work through those odors and remain true to the selected odor and not get sidetracked.

I showed some stuff to an officer who was interested the scent work I was doing. His dog was a very good police tracking dog. If you wish to keep the dog able to do the freshest or ground disturbance tracking then I would recommend training that first before tacking on scent discrimination work. We started out doing clean starts with my dropping a scent article at the start. The dog came across the item during the cast and you would see the dog head turn toward the track (much like making the scuffed earth scent pad at the start of a sport track. We started off doing fresh tracks and have gradually elongated out the start time to a realistic response time for a dog. We also started making less clean starts and added in fresh cross tracks, parking lots, vehicle and roadway crossings, and such. I would recommend variable training between using a scent article and not. More non scent article tracks than scent article tracks. How much other additional work this officer has done on his own I don’t know. But he’s happy with what his dog is doing and the scent work is working for him in the field.

I’ve done the missing man much like the way you have written. The only suggestion I have is (if the potential for a bite is a concern) then work the scent inventory build-up like a scent line-up. Have them line up and then walk the dog along the down wind side so the dog can catch their odor while keeping the dog away from the individuals.

How I start a blind start is different than how I see the K9 cops do a start. In their starts, the dog is already harness and on the long line or lead. They then scent and cast for the track. I don’t know if this is how you do it or not. I believe that scent discrimination work is very possible for the typical police patrol dog but, for me, it really comes down to the officer and his dedication to thinking beyond the minimal job requirements and trying something new.
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Old 05-20-2015, 11:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

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Originally Posted by Sarah Platts View Post


I showed some stuff to an officer who was interested the scent work I was doing. His dog was a very good police tracking dog. If you wish to keep the dog able to do the freshest or ground disturbance tracking then I would recommend training that first before tacking on scent discrimination work. We started out doing clean starts with my dropping a scent article at the start. The dog came across the item during the cast and you would see the dog head turn toward the track (much like making the scuffed earth scent pad at the start of a sport track. We started off doing fresh tracks and have gradually elongated out the start time to a realistic response time for a dog. We also started making less clean starts and added in fresh cross tracks, parking lots, vehicle and roadway crossings, and such. I would recommend variable training between using a scent article and not. More non scent article tracks than scent article tracks. How much other additional work this officer has done on his own I donít know. But heís happy with what his dog is doing and the scent work is working for him in the field.


This is how I've trained mine to a "T".

Quote:
Iíve done the missing man much like the way you have written. The only suggestion I have is (if the potential for a bite is a concern) then work the scent inventory build-up like a scent line-up. Have them line up and then walk the dog along the down wind side so the dog can catch their odor while keeping the dog away from the individuals.
I do this as well but people still do stupid shit around police dogs even when there's a buffer.

Quote:
How I start a blind start is different than how I see the K9 cops do a start. In their starts, the dog is already harness and on the long line or lead. They then scent and cast for the track. I donít know if this is how you do it or not. I believe that scent discrimination work is very possible for the typical police patrol dog but, for me, it really comes down to the officer and his dedication to thinking beyond the minimal job requirements and trying something new.
Personally, I approach the tracking area from a 90 degree so that I can easily identify when the dog hits the track. I can't reliably bring the dog in and present the track if I don't know where it is. Casting blind really tests your confidence in your dog. 90% of my training tracks are blind. Only when I throw in new variables do I actually know where the track is.

His PSD tracking foundation is done. I just don't want to screw anything up by introducing another method. I think I'll get the book Mel spoke of and at least give it a go. There's nothing to lose and lots to gain. Anything that I might screw up can be fixed.
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Old 05-21-2015, 12:20 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

What I did.

When I started tracking in SAR I would have the "victim" drop an item (old sock/t-shirt) and actively let the dog smell the article and go from there. The dog was already tracking well form a given starting point.

Later I would send two "victims" and they would split up at a designated spot and the one I wanted to track would drop the article at that location.

When the dog was solid on working off the article I told the two people I didn't want to know who dropped the article or where it was dropped other then a general location. The other person would also split off at the article drop point.

In time the dog could work off of wallets, etc that the "victim" had come in contact with.

I've talked to K9 LEOs that sometimes start off of a car seat from where the victim started.
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Old 05-21-2015, 12:44 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

His PSD tracking foundation is done. I just don't want to screw anything up by introducing another method. I think I'll get the book Mel spoke of and at least give it a go. There's nothing to lose and lots to gain. Anything that I might screw up can be fixed.

** Howard, I agree. Unless you are influencing the dog I am not sure that in this case you could screw anything up here. The recommended book is good. Worst case scenario you abandon the plan. I wasn't originally going to comment on this thread but Bob's story is a lot like my own. One of my dogs was started via FST, that moved along to a myriad of other things over the years, which included 100s of hours of time spent figuring things out on her own to me setting up various problems for her.

Last summer, out of curiosity I wanted to see if the dog would transition to doing what you want to attempt. It required no effort on my part to get the dog to associate the article with a track and a find. She notices everything seemingly out of place so as soon as she reached the article I gave the search command. She located the track and walked right up to the person hiding. Then she juked off and walked right up to the other person hiding in the field.

I didn't even know there was someone else out there. When I say walked right up to them, I think that sounds a little like they were near by, they weren't. I just meant that the typical behaviors I saw from the other dogs to locate the track for example, she didn't do.

She just sniffed the article, located the track and walked right up to them in the same way she walked right up to the HR sources (buried, water, whatever). Eventually, I had people throw the cadaver material and then take me to a location where HR that had been buried for a year because I was convinced she was just following the trail to the planted source. Turns out she wasn't.

If you didn't know it, you'd think she was just walking along with no real purpose but it never failed. It was like a direct line was attached from the dog direct to the source. As we were walking along, periodically the trainer would look over at me and mouth WTF? Initially I didn't get it, then I realized whatever she was doing was maybe a little unusual for a dog with so little formal training.

Is it this easy for most dogs with a solid tracking/trailing foundation? I imagine the answer is largely dependent upon the individual dog more so than the methods used. Obviously, all I did was encourage the dog to explore the world through her nose. The rest seemed to come together on its own.

Regardless, good luck and I hope you post an update.
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Old 05-21-2015, 07:30 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

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Obviously, all I did was encourage the dog to explore the world through her nose. The rest seemed to come together on its own.
this seems to be the biggest factor in whether or not you can/will be successful in this venture. Its the handler taking the extra time or trying something new. During one of my recerts with NAPWDA the MT told me it was a nice to see dogs that got better each year. I was like 'of course why wouldn't they'. He explained further that, traveling all over the country, how many dogs don't improve. The handler does the minimum to pass the cert to get by and no more. Once they pass the cert, they are done. Said it was a real shame because he saw alot of dogs that had the potential to be alot more but kept at a basic level because the handler didn't see the need for more because he only needed to do enough to pass this test. So if ABC is all the dog needs to do, why take the time for XYZ?
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Old 05-21-2015, 07:37 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

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His PSD tracking foundation is done. I just don't want to screw anything up by introducing another method. I think I'll get the book Mel spoke of and at least give it a go. There's nothing to lose and lots to gain. Anything that I might screw up can be fixed.
The book is o.k. but remember its geared toward bloodhound tracking. Not saying there aren't things in there that can help you but have to keep in sight what YOU need for the end goal based on how you use your dog.
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Old 05-21-2015, 03:30 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

Thanks everyone. So far what my boy can do is start at an article and follow a single track to the decoy. Or start at an article and follow the correct track with up to 3 decoys walking together and then splitting off in different locations. I've done this on an asphalt parking lot as well as soft surface. He will ignore cross tracks and animal distractors. We even did a 3/4 mile track wherein a jogger ran along about 1/4 mile of the beginning of the track after it was laid. The dog could actually see the jogger about 100 yards ahead of us but when the track split off at the half mile mark the dog was bang on it with no hesitation. I've also tracked from car seats as Bob has said. We do lay articles on the track now and then but my boy doesn't always down on it, mostly he will investigate it so I can identify its location and confirm whether we are still on the track and/or notify backup officers of potential evidence.

I'm thinking of using the cloth squares lineup in the field as stated before to set the foundation to discriminate on command, then move to identifying tracks from an article. The reason I stated that the initial disc tracks with 2 people will go 180 degrees in opposite directions is to give the dog plenty of room to figure it out as well as me knowing where the track is exactly so that I can give him the correct praise timing in the beginning. Personally, I believe it shouldn't cause any problems for my boy. I equate it to something similar to a dog transferring from FST to trailing. Just a step up in his abilities.

The majority of people who see our dogs deployed have no idea how much work is involved. Just the other day my friend had to clear a vehicle from 30 feet away after a high risk stop. It was done on a long line from behind the cover of a patrol SUV. We had just done this training last week and this brand new dog on the road for 2 weeks looked like a pro. Fellow officers were astounded at how well the dog obeyed. "It was nothing" my friend told them. He admitted to me last night that he was sort of shi**ing himself though. When the dog performed great he was a happy camper.
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Old 05-21-2015, 08:47 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Scent Discrimination Training Protocol in Tracking

When I first started teaching my dog discrimination I followed the steps Tracy Bowling laid out is his book. Pretty easy and from my experience when the dog learns it the have it. It is really only a matter of your imagination limiting the training. It starts similarly to what you described, a two person track, walking 50 yds then splitting. The dog is scented off to the side of the track with the target odor, given the track command and the brought to the track. At the split the dog must decide which one to take. A simple verbal correction is given for the wrong choice and the dog is only allowed to investigate the incorrect track a leash length. Then we added more people and progressed to 5 or so tracks started next to each other. Scent the dog and walk him across each track until he finds and follows the right one.
I disagree with the opinion that Kocher's book is for bloodhound handlers only or mostly. I have been using it for about a year now and have experienced great results. We have recently decided to convert our entire unit to this style of training based on my dog. We actually lucked out and found that a former handler for a neighboring agency worked with Kocher while he wrote the book. She had been training it for 20+ years to bloodhounds and patrol dogs. For me, the method is about errorless training that requires no corrections because it puts the dog in a mindset to only track. I would hate for this resource not to be available to someone because they thought it was only for bloodhounds.
Anyway, my 2 cents from my experience. Hope this helps.
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