With SAR, I've always started with myself as the victim, with both the runaway and the method you've described on the forum.
My thought would be that the dog would be more apt to respond to finding it's owner/handler then a stranger.
That's just an opinion based on little expierience training with a stranger.
Same thing with FST. Have you seen any differences between using yourself and a stranger?
Phil, I'm inclined to agree with Bob on this one. IMO I wouldn't start with a stranger until the dog has learned the basics. Meaning when you give your command to start the track, he knows what you want. And I think they pick that up faster by looking for something they really want. Be it the owner or food dropings.
With the small amount of tracking I've done, I'd say it depends on the dog and the bond you have w/the dog. Both mine tracked me extremely well and eagerly their first time out. After just a few, I tracked someone else w/ Caleb, and he did very well. I think it helped that we were tracking a handler/dog team, as he was probably more interested in finding the dog than the guy. Caleb genuinely seems to enjoy it, and is very easy to get to track. He's good, too. It shouldn't take much for a dog who enjoys it to switch to a stranger, as long as he understands that's what you want. Using yourself is just easiest, because (hopefully) they're going to have a natural inclination to seek you out.
I have always started with a stranger. As my dogs will receive a bite at the end of most of their training tracks I find they track hard for the stranger. I am very particular about a prospect for tracking. The initial tracking test I give is with a stranger holding the dog's toy teasing him and running a short distance into the woods.
I have trained 2 of my own dogs utilizing myself from start to finish and then switching over to a stranger and saw no difference in their hunting abilities however. I am interested if anybody who has utilized both styles may have noticed a difference.
Phil, my own uneducated guess is if the dog has the drive for the work, it's just a matter of the dog understanding what you want.
It is an interesting thought though. Hope you get a few more responses.
Generally I prefer someone other than the handler laying the track. That said, I have used the handler on rare occasions. If that happens, I get away from the handler doing it as quickly as possible. Whether it's a bite at the end of the track, or the tracklayer throwing a ball, some for of reinforcement is important. Our Bloodhound gets peanut butter sammich at the end of the track.