When I was growing up my father bred, raised, trained and field trial showed bird dogs, both setters and pointers. I remember many a summer evening holding a long pole with a bit of fabric tied to the end with a long string, teaching the young pups to hold a point. Then as they grew we would fasten a quail in a harness to the same pole, always making sure it could fly away or if needed we would lift the pole to keep it away from an over zealous young pup. We never had a bird injured and they were always released to the wild at the end of the training season. Daddy won many a trial with his dogs and he loved them all. But I never remember him having to actually train them to track the birds, just to hold the point until they were given the command to flush the birds.
Last year I was doing a communication for a family and their many animals and they were asking if one of their dogs enjoyed the tracking classes. They said they were absolutely amazed at how well he could track for being so young and inexperienced and that they practiced with him each evening. One of them would keep him at the house while the other one would wander around in the woods and finally hide. Then they would use their cell phone to call and let the the other one know to release the dog and he would never miss a beat but run right to them – it was amazing. I really hated to burst the bubble by telling them that they were sending him pictures as to where they were, that he was not actually tracking their scent but was tracking their pictures. The next day they changed their technique by blanking their minds while they were doing the hiding procedure and although he really was very talented and he still found them, it did take him longer and he actually did “track them” as he was suppose to. It was a much more enjoyable experience for all concerned.
After reading both of these ladies web sites I became very interested in the differences in tracking dogs. Apparently there are trailing dogs, scent dogs, sight dogs, cadaver dogs, and search dogs. To answer my many questions I went to the source who trained both of these ladies, Kathy “Kat” Albrecht is a former police officer, field training officer, police detective, and K9 (police bloodhounds and cadaver dogs) trainer turned pet detective. During her ten-year career as a search dog handler, Albrecht and her dogs located physical evidence, missing people, and criminals. In 1996, Albrecht’s bloodhound A.J. escaped from his yard and was missing. In her panic, Albrecht brought in another search dog that she used to successfully track down A.J. This is what sparked the idea, “Why not train dogs to track lost pets?” In their first four searches, Albrecht and her search dog Rachel physically located two lost cats and one lost dog. Since 1997, Albrecht has effectively utilized law enforcement techniques and technologies to recover lost pets and has trained several other search dogs and human pet detectives. In 2001, Albrecht founded Missing Pet Partnership, a national nonprofit organization that is working to research the behavioral patterns of lost pets, educate pet owners in how to properly search for a lost pet, and educate animal shelter staff and volunteers in the science of lost pet behavior. In 2004, Albrecht founded Pet Hunters International, a pet detective academy that will train and certify Missing Animal Response Technicians, Investigators, and MAR search dogs trained to locate lost pets.
At this time, we are no longer offering a MAR K9 training seminar. Instead, Kat Albrecht will publish a book “HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DOG TO LOCATE LOST PETS” (available March 2006). Kat Albrecht will be available for private MAR K9 training evaluations/lessons (held in Fresno, California), private K9 training phone consultations, and for occasional MAR K9 clinics hosted by established dog training centers.
When we did, we trained three types of MAR search dogs: MAR Cat Detection K9, MAR Specific Scent K9, and MAR Trailing K9. MAR Cat Detection K9s are trained to detect the scent of live and deceased cats and are used to search high probability search areas where missing cats are most likely to be found. MAR Specific Scent K9s are trained to “smell this smell, find this smell” and can be used one day to search for a lost cat and the next day to search for a lost ferret, turtle, or other missing animal that would likely be within a confined search area. And MAR Trailing K9s are trained to discriminate the scent of a lost dog and follow the scent trail in order to establish a direction of travel and hopefully find the missing dog. The scent discrimination trailing training method that we use to train MAR Trailing K9’s to “track” the scent trail of lost dogs is very different from the AKC and Schutzhund tracking methods that are used to teach dogs to follow human footsteps.
While that told me how to train them, it did not really tell me the difference in how the dogs worked, so I went to Captain Arthur J. Haggerty who has been teaching dogs to find good and bad people for over 45 years. His current book “How To Teach Your Dog To Talk” has a chapter on the subject called “The Knowing Nose” (Captain Haggerty, claims to be an expert pooch trainer and the man dubbed “The King of Stupid Pet Tricks” has appeared with his menagerie on David Letterman’s late-night talk feast more than two dozen times. His book includes oodles of tongue-in-canine-cheek humor. While I do not agree with his training style in any manner as they border on cruel and are certainly obsolete, I found his explanation which listed below to be interesting and informative).