Working With the Scent Discrimination Trailing Dog

tracking dog

Handling a Scent Discrimination Trailing Dog can be Both Challenging and Rewarding

It’s 3:21 a.m. and you arrive on-scene with your dog. It’s muggy and damp outside and they have a 45 minute head start. The eyewitness tells you that they were last seen heading south past the tree line. You harness your partner and prepare to track. Your dog gives you every indication that they headed north….What Now? This question often arises among handlers….If an eyewitness indicates that the victim/suspect ran south, but my dog says that he went north, which way do I go?

Eyewitnesses can provide very valuable information and detail. Unfortunately, eyewitnesses often give incorrect information. In most cases, eyewitnesses do not intentionally give wrong information. Often they remember things that didn’t happen or see things in a perspective other than what actually occurred. People often remember events in a manner that fits with their own expectations for a situation.

If you work a police tracking dog or are a search and rescue dog handler, you could feasibly be presented with similar circumstances. If this situation ever happens to you there are several questions that you should ask yourself before you proceed.

Follow along with a Scent Discrimination Bloodhound Conducting a Trail over various surfaces.

The first question is “Do I trust my dog?” This question should always be answered honestly. If you lack confidence in your dog, you will likely make costly mistakes. Even a highly skilled tracking dog can be very ineffective with a doubtful handler following. If you don’t have the confidence that you should in your dogs’ ability to successfully negotiate the track ahead of you, more training should be in your future. Only productive training will build your confidence in the abilities of you and your dog as a team. If you are an inexperienced handler or are unsure of your dogs’ capabilities, you should refer the task to a more experienced team, if possible.

The second question is, “Based on previous experience and training is my dog capable of handling this?” If you have handled the dog for any length of time you should be able to quickly determine the answer to this question. For instance, if the suspect/victim has been gone for four hours, you should consider whether or not your dog is capable of successfully following a trail that is four hours old. If your dog is in fact capable of following trails of this age, then you should consider whether or not your dog is able to effectively pursue an aged track through the contamination that you are presented with in this circumstance. You should also consider other factors that may present themselves during the track. If you know that you will likely be required to track across asphalt or other hard surfaces, ask yourself; “Will my dog track efficiently on hard surfaces?”

If you answer all of the questions presented affirmatively, follow your dog and keep up the good work. If not, more productive training in tracking should be on your agenda.

If you would like to discuss training problems or schedule a tracking / trailing dog seminar, please call 866.200.2207 or email