Scent Articles – How to Use Them in Training Tracking & Trailing Dogs
Utilizing scent articles is an integral part of training tracking and trailing dogs for search and rescue and police dog training. Understanding how and when to use them is important to the overall success of the tracking or trailing dog team.
In order for dogs to successfully discriminate odors, we know that they must be presented with the odor of the person that we expect them to follow. However, this does not always mean that they must be presented with a scent article prior to beginning the trail. Many handlers and trainers ALWAYS present the dog with a scent article prior to beginning a trail by either leaving it on the ground or placing it over the dogs nose in a plastic bag. These methods are okay for teaching the dog to use the scent or information on the scent article to follow only the person that left the scent. However, there will be many real-life scenarios where we will not have a viable scent article, from the victim or suspect, to use.
We suggest that trailing dogs be trained to utilize “scent pads” as well as scent articles to follow trails. The ratio should mimic what is done in the field and should be varied to ensure reliability, regardless of the situation. Unfortunately, you will not always have a viable scent article and in criminal cases, the chances of having a scent article is generally less than 10 percent. Therefore, the dog should understand some context other than the presentation of scent articles as a cue to trail.
We often begin training trailing dogs without the use of a scent article. The dog is taught to use a “scent pad” where the tracklayer was last seen to follow the trail to the end. The “scent pad” is simply an uncontaminated area where the tracklayer begins the trail. This method is used to introduce scent discrimination through a pattern of well planned training trails before the scent article is introduced.
Whether you decide to present the scent article to the dog with a bag or other item over their nose (as pictured at the top) or by simply laying it on the ground at the beginning of the trail, you should always ensure that the article is not contaminated. Contaminating scent articles is easy to do and great care should be taken to ensure that it is both collected and presented properly to ensure the dog has the best opportunity to be successful.
Our School for Dog Trainers offers trailing modules during our Police K9 Instructor, Search and Rescue and Service Dog Courses. If you would like more information on training trailing dogs or would like to learn to train dogs professionally, call us at 866.200.2207 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org