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.
Georgia K9 NTC Trailing/ Tracking Trainer Levels
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 GAK9 Trailing Training Program is administered by a governing body of officers in Current Trainer positions.
Trainers are responsible for:
- Training program development
- New handler training
- New trainer internships and apprenticeships
Trainer positions are granted by GAK9 Board of Trainers invitation only. The board is made up of appointed trainers in the geographical area of interest governed by a Training Coordinator. Invitation comes from a board majority vote. GAK9 Chief Executive Officer casts decision the final vote in the case of a board split decision.
The trailing trainer position is also considered a GAK9 Trailing Officer position giving the trainer voting rights for the standards and policies of our GAK9 Trailing K9 Program in a given geographical area. 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.
Structure of Ranking System For Trainer Position
Trailing Intern: Is the first ranking in the GAK9 Trailing ranking system and conducted during entry-level training. It signifies the basic understanding of the mental, physical, and character disciplines. It is the minimum requirement for all GAK9 Students and requires a minimum of 20 hours of training in the areas of scent article use and basic handling under the supervision of a GAK9 qualified Trainer.
Trailing Apprentice: Is the second rank in the GAK9 trainers system. The requirement for this rank is the recommendation of a GAK9 Trailing Trainer after a minimum of 40 hours of trailing training under the supervision of a GAK9 qualified trainer
Trailing Handler: Is the third rank in the GAK9 Trainers System. The requirement for this rank is the recommendation of a GAK9 Trailing trainer after 80 hours of supervised training by said Trainer and a Level 1 Certification.
Trailing Handler/ Instructor Qualified: All the requirements of Trailing Handler must be achieved prior to this appointment to include: An additional 40 hours of trailing training instruction as an assistant under the supervision of GAK9 Trailing Trainer and one year of trailing experience. This position is by GAK9 Board of Trainer vote only after submission by a GAK9 trainer responsible for the student. The board votes by majority rule and in the case of a split decision the CEO casts decision the deciding vote. An instructor qualified Trailing Handler can teach and test students to the Trailing Handler level.
Trailing Specialist: Is the fourth rank in the GAK9 Trainers System. The requirement for this rank is the recommendation of a GAK9 Trailing trainer after 120 hours of supervised training by said Trainer and a Level 2 Certification.
Trailing Specialist/ Instructor Qualified: All the requirements of Trailing Specialist must be achieved prior to this appointment to include: An additional 40 hours of trailing training instruction as an assistant under the supervision of GAK9 Trailing Trainer and two years of trailing experience. This position is by GAK9 Board of Trainer vote only after submission by a GAK9 trainer responsible for the student. The board votes by majority rule and in the case of a split decision the CEO casts decision the deciding vote. An instructor qualified Trailing Specialist can teach and test students to the Trailing Specialist level.
Trailing Expert: Is the fifth rank in the GAK9 Trainers System. The requirement for this rank is the recommendation of a GAK9 Trailing trainer after 160 hours of supervised training by said Trainer and a Level 2 Certification.
Trailing Expert/ Instructor Qualified: All the requirements of Trailing Expert must be achieved prior to this appointment to include: An additional 40 hours of trailing training instruction as an assistant under the supervision of GAK9 Trailing Trainer and three years of trailing experience. This position is by GAK9 Board of Trainer vote only after submission by a GAK9 trainer responsible for the student. The board votes by majority rule and in the case of a split decision the CEO casts decision the deciding vote. An instructor qualified Trailing Expert can teach and test students to the Trailing Expert level.
Police K9 Trainer: All the requirements of Trailing Specialist/ Instructor Qualified must be achieved prior to this appointment to include: This position is by GAK9 CEO appointment only and made after at least 80 hours of police K9 instruction training. A Police K9 Trainer may train and test all levels except at the military level.
Military K9 Trainer: All the requirements of Trailing Specialist/ Instructor Qualified must be achieved prior to this appointment to include: This position is by GAK9 CEO appointment only and made after at least 80 hours of military K9 Instruction. A military trainer can train and test all levels.
It is the responsibility of any interested party to maintain their own records of GAK9 trailing training to provide to the board when being considered for an instructor position. GAK9 does not maintain student training hours, training notes, or logs. GAK9 will maintain certifications indefinitely. When considering total time in training a GAK9 seminar day may be considered as 10 hours of training.
The testing process is based on the GAK9 Trailing standards as outlined on the GAK9 and TTTK9 web sites: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4.
Trainers may certify their own students up to level 1. Another trainer not affiliated with the student’s school should conduct certification Levels 2, 3, and 4. This process is in place to avoid the appearance of nepotism. All certifications with non-affiliated trainers must be made by appointment and are subject to testing fees paid by the student. The testing trainer creates the fee structure. The fee is a minimum of $25 paid directly to the testing trainer. In some cases GAK9 will allow the host school to certify their own students over level 1. A request must be made to GAK9 for this process to begin. The request should include the reasons why a non-affiliated trainer is not available for the test.
All certifications over level 1 must include a GPS record of the trail layer and K9 handler. A map overlay is the preferred record of certification including the times/ dates both the trail layer and K9 handler started and finished their trails. This record must be provided to GAK9 prior to the award of the certificate. In some cases it is understood that there will be errors in the GPS record or devices that fail. GAK9 will review each one of these cases individually. The award of the certificate is ultimately the decision of the GAK9 corporate office when GPS records fail or are corrupted.