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Before Hiring Tracking Dogs...

What You Should Know About Scent.



The Tracking Dog Triad

Suggested Questions & Answers - Hiring Tracking Dogs



There are many factors that affect scent and a scent dog's ability to easily find and follow an animals scent trail. Time, weather, heat, strong winds, heavy rains, ice, snow, nicotine from cigarette smoke, or heavy contamination by chemical, auto fumes, diesel or gasoline can all contribute to a poor or difficult scent trail.

Contrary to popular belief, rain does not wash scent away but actually refreshes it and makes it easier for most dogs to detect and follow.
It is also important to note that pets, especially dogs can travel great distances depending on how long they have been missing. The best scent dogs are trained to follow the most recent scent trail they can find but if  a pet has been out in the escape area for a length of time, this can make detecting the correct track difficult and time consuming for the scent detection team. Also you need to know if prior to his disappearance, the subject spent time in the escape area, (besides inside his own home, car, yard, etc).

How long does scent last

This is a highly controversial and much discussed subject with many purported experts weighing in on what they know or feel. After 19 years in this work, this is what I have learned.

There is only one answer to this question: Viable Scent is different from dog to dog.

In this work you will hear many different opinions on the viability and detection of scent. There will be learned experts that will spout a 14 day limit while others will swear scent is gone by 5 days and then there will others that contend that scent lasts for years. In truth they are all right and they are all wrong because viable scent is different from dog to dog. Some dogs will be able to detect and follow scent months after the original trail was laid while other dogs may not be able to detect the scent after 24 hours. Much of the confusion about scent comes from the way in which handlers train. If they believe that scent somehow magically disappears on the 15th day then they will train this way and their dogs will only be exposed to aged trails less than that. In our work, we know that most of the dogs that we select for this work, will be able to detect and follow a scent trail at least 30 days after it was laid and in most cases it will be at least 60 days.

Cade working with the FBISome dogs like our lead dog, Cade will be able to correctly follow a trail several months old as he did when we worked a case with the FBI where the young woman had been missing for 11 months. Cade ran to the house the young woman had been to last from a block away, proceeded to the front door and tracked for two blocks down the street where he stopped and alerted in the street. The FBI agent at that point told me that his had been the girls last known sighting and they believe she had been picked up in a car where Cade alerted. The FBI agent was surprised and frankly... so was I. Eleven months is a long time!

So... keep in mind it is more about exposing the scent dogs to old scent; there is not a time table by which scent disappears. After two decades working scent detection dogs and training over 110 dogs, I know this to be the truth.



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