Training a K-9, whether a Explosive Detector, Narcotic, Tracker, or a Scouting Dog, you should train for every possible mission. This means if you are a patrol/narc. dog team, most of your training is conducted around vehicles, buildings, schools, and houses. Your main focus is on narcotic detection and handler protection. If you have this training method in your mind, you are wrong. If your dog is good at scouting or tracking, you should be training in all possible locations of your beat. This means getting into the woods, on the beach, in and around homes, ship yards, trailer parks, movie theaters and everywhere else.
If you're on a training mission for detection work, well then you must stay focus on detection. But if you are conducting patrol work, this is your focus.
I've seen several dog teams that could find a person in a school building, or in a built up area, quicker than I had time to think about it. A few of these teams walked around in circles when confronted with a woodline search. It was not the dogs fault, however it was the handler's. They never trained in this type of an area. Their focus was on Building searches, truck yards, and the such.
One particular team, I will not mention names, made me confused during their search. The dog was a great scouting dog. The handler was 3 years experienced. There was a wanted suspect on the run. The terrain was full of wild life to include many deer. The dog wasn't given a break prior to the search, and allowed to sniff around the Area to get a sense for his new surroundings. The handler was anxious to get started and find the suspect. They began with the handler commanding his dog to find 'em. The dog started out at full leash. His head never left a tracking scent. He turned his head as to show that he was on to something. The handler, trusted his dog, but didn't read his dog. The dog took the handler on a wild goose chase. Well should I say, took the handler on a wild deer chase.
This poor dog team walked almost a half of mile in the wrong direction. The handler was on a real scouting mission for a Hunting Dog team. When the call on the radio came out that the suspect was apprehended, the handler just couldn't understand why his dog was so screwed up. He cussed his dog out, and showed an upset attitude toward his four legged partner.
I had the chance to give him my insight of the mission. I explained to him, that he started out wrong. Even though my teams train in different terrain all of the time, I ensure that each handler gives his dog a break. Not a long one, but just enough so that the dog can sniff around and relieve himself. Then it is time to work. Since my dogs have been trained in the woods, masking odors(Scents), foreign scents and the such, are normal to the dog. I had this problem in training. The dog responded on a cow. Well, I conducted alot of training around cows since then. There are no more problems finding humans, if the human is in the area of a search.
This is called exposure training. Without exposure, your dog won't work at his peak. This is not the dog's fault. He is interested in his surroundings, and there is a foreign odor for him to explore. Now, in the story above, the dog isn't track trained. He is a scouting dog. The difference is where the dog detects the scent. Tracking Dogs, detects the scent of a introduced odor on ground level. Ground level is from 0" up to a foot off the ground. + or - a few inches, depending on the K-9. A Scouting Dog is one that detects the scent from the air currents. They will usually hold their heads into the breeze to detect an odor. Depending on the Dog's response the handler will read his dog, encourage his dog, then follow his dog. Scout Dogs don't usually work off a known scent. The concept is much like doing a building search. The dog detects the scent on a closed door in a school building, then gives a response by doing one of the following: scratching at the door, growling, stopping and showing alot of interest in the door, barking, or jumping at the door. It all depends on the training introduced to the dog, and what his drive is. It is up to the handler to find this out. If your dog is a more people friendly dog, then he may just bark excitedly at the door. Well back to the scout. The handler in this story, didn't read his dog. He conducted many scouting exercises with him, but didn't see that his dog was tracking (Maybe) or just sniffing around and leading the handler on the wild goose chase. If the handler detected his dog pulling his chain earlier, the team may have made the arrest, or at least not have walked as far off the path.
The excitement, fear, or whatever you feel during a real mission, may impede you to do what was taught, learned or what you trained on a few times. The key is to conduct training in many different areas, be it during detections, scouting, tracking or whatever may be the case. Exposure training, conditions your dog to focus on the human scent, and conditions you to have more attention to detail.
Good Luck on your training, stay focus, and remember, what you do, goes down the leash.
any questions concerning this topic, please send me an email at the below address. It will be address in one to three days.