Trailing, though a relatively modern term, actually has it’s roots in English and early American history when bloodhounds were used to hunt criminals, and in the case of our original colonies, marauding native American tribes in conflict with early settlers. The hounds were “scented” on a particular human odor and allowed the freedom to follow that scent wherever it might have led. The history for this can actually be found in original want ads for the period of colonists looking for bloodhounds.
Trailing is a descriptive word for the art of allowing a dog to follow human scent wherever human scent might be, on the ground or in the air. It can also be taken one step further by adding scent discrimination to the equation. Each and every animal, human or otherwise, produces a distinctive odor based on species and other sub-determining factors such as infirmity, relative age, sex, and certain individual identifying traits. The amount of odor produced is dependant upon several primary factors, mental condition such as fear or anger, exertion, and relative health issues
GA K9 Trainers have set the standard for modern trailing training. Our instructors are considered expert witnesses in the areas of trailing and scent evidence. For more details on this exciting program please see our Police K9 Training, Tactical Tracker Teams.
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!
Sergeant Bill Lewis II (Retired)
Oxnard (CA) Police Department
Training and Consulting [TAC] Team, LLC
Facilitator for and TacticalDebriefs.com
Board Member & Region 1A Representative for California Association of Tactical Officers (CATO)
News Article Snapshots
Tactical Tracker Teams
Canine Trailing Tracking Handler Certification Program
Georgia K9 NTC’s TTT Canine Trailing Certification Program is truly the most realistic and comprehensive training and testing standard in the industry. Our standards are based on many years of actual K9 trailing deployment in rural and urban environments.
Georgia K9 NTC Provides Certification for law enforcement and Search & Rescue organizations on a quarterly, bi-yearly, or yearly basis.
Levels of Certification
Certification Training Process:
The complete TTT training process for certification and degree in all three levels is normally completed over the course of approximately one year dependent upon handler and K9 proficiency. In order to pass the testing standards above, the average handler must be proficient in the TTT K9 Trailing Handling Techniques and have and exceptional understanding of human scent theory and how it applies to the job of trailing.
The TTT training process is step-by-step and conducted in a manner that ensures that K9 and handler have the skills required to pass the standards for every level of degree. Training is complete with classes and testing on:
* Trailing scent theory
* Proper equipment
* K9 and handler conditioning
* K9 grooming and first aid
* Scent crime scene protection
* Scent evidence processing and preservation
* K9 scent presentation
* Trailing case history
* Scent evidence courtroom admissibility
* Trailing record keeping
* Trailing testimony
* Reading K9 trailing behavior
* Search management
* Rural to urban trailing methods
* True scent discrimination
* Working aged trails
* Coverman responsibility
* Officer safety and trailing
* Tactical applications
* Visual tracking
* Apprenticeship Program: This method is normally reserved for our local students who can train with us on a regular basis. Training is conducted in a small group fashion with no more than three handlers at a time on a bi-monthly basis.
* Quarterly Training: This is a training solution for those students who reside out of the area. We provide private handlers quarters complete with bedroom, TV room with WiFi, bathroom, and kennel facility for your K9. The Quarterly Training Program is completed in four, five-day training sessions spaced over one year.
* Seminar Training: may be conducted at a location of the student’s choosing. We currently offer trailing handler’s courses throughout the country. Please see our seminar and events page for details.
The Certification Process:
Our testing differs from the norm in that every test is truly double blind. In other words, nobody on the certification trail knows where the actual trail might be to include the evaluator. This ensures there are no subtle clues given that might guide the dog or handler.
This evaluation is designed to effectively evaluate a particular K-9 team’s ability to track or trail a person through scent discrimination practices. The evaluation only tests a K-9 team’s ability to identify and utilize a particular human scent to find that unique individual. The evaluation does not test any other form of K-9 work to include obedience, or area search techniques.
The tests are in three separate levels to encourage more training and achievement in the areas of scent discrimination tracking/ trailing. Level 1 must be passed before continuing to the next level of testing. Each level is result oriented and does not evaluate a dog’s behaviors or mannerisms while tracking/ trailing. It is simply a test of the dog’s ability to get from point A to point B and find the correct person.
K-9 teams are not required to stay directly on the path or trail or the “suspect” as scent patterns may change depending upon conditions. However, the team must run in a generally parallel direction to that of the trail. Area search patterns are not permitted.
The age and distance of the trails are not exact as it is difficult if not impossible for a “suspect” to travel an exact distance in realistic conditions. The distances and ages are guidelines and will be adhered to as conditions dictate.
Trailing is generally a K9 search method employing harness and long leads, (10-20’), however, it is clear that it is not the harness and the long lead that make the trail a success. Handlers may employ whatever tack or lack thereof necessary to work their own individual K9. Handlers may also employ whatever methodology, (other than area search), they choose to engage the K9 on the trail. Force techniques such as running the lead under the dog’s leg to force the nose to the ground are highly discouraged.
In each of the trailing certifications the evaluator charged with administering these tests will not be allowed to see the laying of the trail. GPS with “bread crumb” capabilities will be employed by the trail layer subject should the trail or subject need to be found if the K9 fails. The evaluator may carry a mated GPS to the subject’s and the handler will not be able to see the GPS until after the test.
One observer of the K9 teams’ choosing may accompany the K9 team at the approval of the evaluator. The observer may act as a “cover man” and assist the K9 handler with obstacles, distractions, and dangerous situations. The observer may not communicate with the handler in regards to search strategy. Though the cover man may at times be needed to strategize with the handler and handle the K9 in real world situations, he or she will not be allowed to do so for the purposes of these tests.
The Georgia K9 NTC K9 Trailing Certification Process is governed by officers of this company in Master Trainer posistions. These standards are reviewed regularly for quality, new training protocols, and agency requirements. Please call or write for our certification test standards.
Become a Trainer
Tactical Tracker Teams
Trailing Trainer Program
We are constantly striving to provide the absolute best trailing training available. Part of that process is to build our trainer base by including exceptionally gifted handlers into our cadre. This is not an easy process and is by invitation only.
Our TTT Training Program is administered by a governing body of officers in Master Trainer positions. Master Trainers are responsible for:
- Training program development
- New handler training
- New trainer apprenticeships
TTT Trainer Positions
This position is by invitation only. To become a K9 Trainer, the handler must first pass our level III certification and have Master Handler status. The Trailing K9 Trainer is in an apprenticeship program and may teach levels 1 to 3 Trailing K9 Standards under the supervision of a Trailing Trainer. This position is not typically a paid position unless payroll is handled by the hiring agency. However, all room, board, travel, and per diem expenses will be covered during the course of any TTT training program the trainer is involved in.
This position is by invitation only. This position is also considered a TTT officer position giving the trainer voting rights for the standards and policies of our TTT Trailing k9 Program. In order for a Trailing K9 Trainer to be considered for this position, the trainer must have passed a trailing examination with an appointed GAK9 Official. The trainer must have also completed two years in our Trailing K9 Trainer Apprenticeship Program. A K9 Trailing Master Trainer is a paid position. The pay rate is variable based on school location, size, etc.
Please contact us for more details on this exciting program.