Book Review: K-9 Trailing-The straightest Path by Jeff Schettler
Now, on to the meat of this review: I could begin and end this review with these words: “Follow this link, and buy this book. If you have an interest in Law enforcement, Competitive Trailing, or Search and Rescue, buy this book and read it.” http://www.elitek9.com/K-9-Trailing-The-Straightest-Path/productinfo/BK84/
Yes, it’s that good. Jeff Schettler has literally, been there, done that. He’s made the mistakes, learned the lessons, made the changes, and thought Trailing with a canine thru too its most logical methodology. He’s challenged some of the sacred cows of tracking, and given solid evidence of why those methods fail to produce.
On page 9, a discussion begins about our abilities (or lack thereof) to “Read” our dogs when on a trail. Several indicators of behavior are provided in the text, with the understanding that each and every dog may have differences. The guidance given is broad enough to provide a guide, and narrow enough to provide very specific behavior.
“Distraction Behavior”( is another subject with too little written about it from the Handlers point of view. The question is posed in the text, “So, how does a handler correct a distraction?” I’ll let you read the answer, but suffice it to say that Schettler answers it confidently and clearly. (Chapter Ten in its entirety) This chapter also addresses “Line Handling” for handlers, an often neglected skill that we all need to study, practice, and improve. It may well be the cornerstone for training for many, many years.
Chapter 7 is replete with the reasons most of us lay such lousy trails for our dogs in training. Again, the author has tried everything that we all have, and failed. But he never gave in to those mistakes and accepted them. Thinking well beyond, he discusses the importance of diversity in our training helpers, including those with alzheimers symptoms. Chapter 8 follows this up with the subject of Fire trails for puppies, which puts young dogs in situations that build and encourage tracking ability. Unlike other disciplines, trailing work training can and should start at a very early age, and Schettler tells us how to do it properly.
The price of the book is entirely covered in Chapter 11, “Scent Discrimination”. The Double-Blind method of testing a dogs ability is described thoroughly, and becomes the Gold Standard for proofing ourselves and our dogs. On page 134 of the chapter, the subject of dogs failures on a trail, and why this occurs is discussed. Thisquote is head and shoulders above the rest: “…The real reason why dogs are not as reliable…is not because of the dog, but because of the handler’s training paradigm and his belief system.” The discussion lays the problem squarely where it belongs, on preconceived ideas of handlers.
Split Trails in training are also described in clear logical steps of preparation and execution, which will greatly enhance our dogs ability to discriminate different human scents, rather than just pursuing the newest, strongest scent. The accompanying photo’s and diagrams explain these methods thoroughly and clearly.
Chapters on streams and rivers, and hard surfaces also provide instruction that will aid those who really study what is being suggested. Again, to really benefit, you must get this book in front of you, (and your team) and put it to the test. Schettler is writing from the field of long experience, and he writes in the voice of a very knowledgable teacher, without telling you that he knows better than you. He admits in the preface that he is not a professional writer, but was influenced at an early age by comic books, graphic novels, and the art work of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo! That sounds like my kind of writer. Schettler credits Dianne Nelson as his editor, and I credit her with allowing the voice of a Dog Handler to remain true to the tone I would expect. He writes what he knows, and says it in his own style without a heavy handed english major beating up his words. Wonderful job Dianne!
The final reason that you need this 192 page treasure chest, is this: Book Two is already underway, and the two are intimately connected as Schettler forewarns. Buy them, have them ringbound for easier use, and soak up 25 years and hundreds of trail miles in this book. I have already picked up a copy of Schettlers first book “Red Dog Rising”, a chronicle of his training with a beloved bloodhound “Ronin”, a book I had overlooked previously.
Schettler has recently been given several writers awards for his books, and those accolades are certainly earned. But don’t buy these books because writers say they’re worthy. Buy them because they are chock-full of the very finest training available today.
Best Trailing K9 Book So Far
I own a business that amongst other things, involves tracking with and without a dog. I also evaluate products and services for potential clients. I have reviewed every book of this type I can find and I was amazed at this book. It was the first time I have read a K9 trailing book and not been confused and sometimes upset by what I was reading. Jeff has taken the science of trailing, combined it with common sense and weeded out the questionable techniques of those that have come before him. Too many people in the tracking field seem to blindly follow what has been etched in stone by past authorities and authors. He is humble enough to validate the wisdom of past research, but is brave enough to challenge accepted methods that simply do not work. I usually read a book over two or three times to form an opinion. In this case it took me about 10 minutes of speed reading. The book is well illustrated and relaxing to read.There are many fine books and experts out there I can highly recommend, but so far this is the best book yet and I am looking forward to his future book or books. I strongly suggest you order a copy of this book. Also, while you wait for it to arrive read some other books about K9 trailing so as to appreciate how good this book is in comparison.
This is life saving stuff
\"The beauty of attending so many different Canine Man Trailing Schools is that you get to hear from varying subject matter experts and glean from them what you can to improve your own handling skills and training programs. The danger of such multiplicity is you can become frustrated with all your untested, new found knowledge. Jeff Schettler has the ability to break down those complex canine
issues in his books and lectures. He makes easy sense of it all and is more passionate about understanding scent and reading your dog than any one else I\'ve ever known. Scent is the entire reason why we chase after these dogs any way, right? When scent dog handlers are unable to read their dog, they begin to rationalize things and don\'t allow
the dog to be a dog. As Jeff has eluded to in class, \"If it were not for the handler on the other end of the lead, the dog could do it all alone and probably do it faster and more efficiently.\" However, the handler must indeed be there.
This leads me to Jeff\'\'s renowned and growing specialty of detecting, \"Scent Proximity\". I have heard him talk about this for years and until recently with my own police Bloodhound, I have not been very good at processing my hound\'s alert indicators while detecting distant hidden subjects. In his book and classes, Jeff stresses how important of a skill this is to develop and how it could...will...save your life someday as a scent dog handler. Sure, most handlers know it when their dog indicates on a subject down the hall, across the yard or
somewhere else fairly close. How would you like to accurately read your dog when he tells you the bad guy is out 50, 70 or more yards away? Yes, this is tried and proven tactics! This is life saving stuff and I appreciate instructors like Jeff Schettler sharing his knowledge.
Placerville Police Sgt, John W. Kunkle
Training/Bloodhound Handler/K9 Supervisor
California Peace Officer since1985
A book written by a manhunter for manhunters
A book written by a manhunter for manhunters. The aptly titled Straightest Path is superb, and Jeff Schettler has done K-9 handlers a great service. In this must read book, Schettler gives a compelling, comprehensive account of reality-based K-9 training. He lays out the foundation for creating a solid K-9 team while addressing head-on many of the controversial issues associated with working dogs. Read this book and save lives, maybe even your own life.
Director of Search Operations
Search Center for Missing & Trafficked Children
Foreword for K9 trailing: The Straightest Path
Jeff Schettler’s “K9 trailing: The Straightest Path” is a must-have for both novice and senior K9 handlers and trailers. Each chapter is masterfully grounded in lessons learned by Mr. Schettler’s tenure as a police K9 handler attached to the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Teams. Throughout this book, both the art and science of canine trailing are integrated and presented through real-life examples and experiences of actual events Jeff experienced while trailing missing or hiding persons. His vivid descriptions left me checking my boots for mud, and my hair for burrs, even though I never left my armchair!
Much like he followed his canine companion through untrodden forests, readers of “K9 trailing: The Straightest Path” will follow Jeff through a series of exercises designed to enhance both theirs and their canine’s skills. For example, Chapter 6, “The Three P’s” provides unique insight and training examples focused upon locating scent evidence, collecting and preserving that evidence, and then presenting scent evidence to the dog. This chapter builds upon knowledge imparted through Chapter 4 “Trailing Scent Forms.” Here, Jeff highlights how a canine’s exquisite olfactory capabilities enable it to detect, isolate, and trail a scent from its origin to a distant location. However, as he describes, that innate capability which is genetically conferred through generations of selective breeding, can be severely hampered by handler who is not attuned to the dog’s subtle body language cues that are displayed while hot on the trail.
Jeff’s gritty and graphic descriptions of his experiences and hard-learned lessons provide compelling stories highlighting the exciting career of a canine handler. He also points out that handlers must become one with their canine partner in order to interpret subtle body language cues; failure to do so has led to deadly consequences. Jeff’s stories of excitement and dangers inherent to canine trailers, which are interwoven with descriptions of cutting-edge trailing exercises and techniques, makes his book as exciting as action-packed drama yet as educational as a college textbook.
Michael J. Decker PhD RN RRT, D.ABSM
Associate Professor & Byrdine F. Lewis Chair in Nursing
Member, Neuroscience Institute
Georgia State University
Atlanta, GA 30303
K9 Handler ALPHA Team, Georgia
The Straightest Path is a must read for any scent detection K9 handler. Jeff Schettler has written an honest and informative book about working a trailing canine; a book that every K9 handler will find insightful.
Canine behavior and the scent picture are clearly and thought provokingly discussed in Jeff’s newest book. It is also a great story of canines and their capabilities.
This book stresses the importance of K9 handler’s understanding their partner’s behavior, being honest and making no excuses.
I highly recommend The Straightest Path to anyone.
Thank you Jeff.
“beyond one`s own nose”
For me part of K9 Trailing; The Straightest Path was like seeing “beyond one`s own nose” – if we want to trail in the real world, there is so much more we desperately need to understand.
Search & Rescue groups really need this kind of information, Information that will work, with no fairytales or fantasy that so often makes up the K9 Trailing world.
Honestly, trailing is the most important component of K9 work for me and every dog handler on our team. Thanks, Jeff for sharing your experiences with us.
Anja Lausberg/Mantrailer Rhein-Ruhr, Germany, June 20th, 2011
Continuing on the trail of his first book Red Dog Rising
Continuing on the trail of his first book Red Dog Rising, Jeff Schettler returns to the hunt with his newest book The Straightest Path. Simply said, if you currently work with police dogs that trail (or you want to) and you are a K9 handler, cover officer or supervisor, you should read The Straightest Path. If you work with police dogs that search but don’t trail, you can also benefit from reading this book.
I have not been a handler of a trailing dog, but I’ve been working with police dogs and handlers for the past 30 years as a decoy, K9 handler, supervisor, SWAT operator, tactical instructor and expert witness. After reading Red Dog Rising, I gained a new appreciation of trailing dogs and their handlers (and Jeff Schettler). Based on my background, I finished Red Dog Rising with a desire to learn more about training a police dog and officers for the hunt as well as preparing for the “potentially dangerous” end of the trail. After reading The Straightest Path, I’ve learned much more. Of particular interest to me, from a tactical perspective, was “proximity alerts and scents” relating to the pending conclusion of the search trail that included the line; “If you can read proximity alerts and you become a good handler with a good dog, proximity will save your life, your dog’s, or that of another person one day.”
The Straightest Path is about “reading a dog” and it is a straightforward approach to police dog trailing. Jeff does a commendable job in simplifying and explaining his training, methodology, and terminology regardless of the reader’s level of experience. He shares his successes, his failures and his lessons learned. It became rather obvious to me as I read this book that he is extremely passionate about the art of trailing. Let’s go hunting!
Knowledge in the book:
"Jeff takes on the highly controversial theories of scent and the scenting dog and provides real world practicality that all handlers can learn from."
"I started mentoring under Jeff in 1998 training my 8 week old bloodhound puppy to become one of the first Bay Area Police bloodhounds. Jeff helped me understand how my dog used it's natural talents to hunt people using scent discrimination. Most importantly Jeff helped me learn how to read my dog which provided the clues to locating the prey. Ultimately this led me to testify on my dogs work before a court of law in the most tragic and serious situations of all where, a Police Officer paid the ultimate price.. his life. All the evidence in this case led to the conviction of the killer to life in prision without the possiblity of parole."
How to train the dog and properly instruct
“Some current trailing/tracking dog handlers have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to accomplish their mission, or the basics of that mission. Their K9s are inadequately trained and utilized. There is little comprehension of how to “read” the dog. The handler’s responsibility is to simply release his K9 and hope the animal will find and bite the correct target. There is too much emphasis on using the K9 as a weapon and as an intimidator – the handler is nothing more than a trigger puller.
Jeff has written a definitive work that addresses these issues and much more. He draws on his lifelong work with canines, his extensive background as a canine trainer, a handler, a K9 law enforcement officer and his work with the FBI. From selection of the right dog to the handler’s relationship with his partner, to what the dog does and why, to proper gear and much more is discussed. Environmental affects on the dog’s performance both positive and negative are here. How to train the dog and properly instruct the handler is addressed with specific training exercises and aids. K9 motivation, certification, trail/track layers, all subjects you should know. Scent, scent articles and collection, starting point, forensic and tactical considerations are discussed. And just what it takes to do the job safely. A complete methodology, The Straightest Path is a must read if you are beginner or a veteran handler that wants to be the best K9 man hunter.”
Frank Merritt was trained by the RAVC (Royal Army Veterinary Corps), #2 WDTU (War Dog Training Unit) and the NZ SAS (New Zealand Special Air Service) in Malaysia and deployed with one of the first CTTs (Combat Tracker Team) to Vietnam. He subsequently has trained law enforcement officers in canine and tactical considerations. In 2005-06 he was a SME (Subject Matter Expert) for the first two CTT pilot courses contracted for DoD. He has trained both Marine and Army personnel.