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Monday, December 31, 2018

Assessing the Scene for Scent Dog Training

Assessing the Scene

Before you set up a training course, first check the location and make a note of each person or thing (cars running, spilled chemical, garbage) that might contaminated the area.

In an actual response this is called doing an assessment of the scene and should be done visually as you approach the location. Findings should be noted on paper for later planning.

Doing a visual assessment helps you to know your dangers before placing your dog and self in a bad situation. Make a mental note of any dangers you might encounter such as a busy roadway or a train track your dog might lead you across.

After checking the area to determine it is safe and noting the contaminants then check the wind direction and weather conditions (more on these factors in another lesson). In training novice dogs always start the dog into the wind so the scent is blowing towards the dog to give the dog the best chance in picking up the scent.

Pay attention to the location and use what may be available for hiding spots and turns, such as buildings, picnic tables in a park or a large tree across the cleared field.

Be safe and prepare!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Training Your Family Dog to Look for a Lost Person

Teach a dog to look for lost or missing persons

Family Disaster Dogs Daisy and Willie

This dog training lesson is easy to do at home and teaches a dog to use an article belonging to the missing or lost person to find that person. 

In dog work this is considered and often called scent discrimination because the dog learns to smell the "scent article" and look only for that scent or person. 

It is very Important to not contaminate the article with your own and other scents. 

Read More (click) and go to the free lesson page for many posts about scent and how-to teach working dogs tracking or pets to help its family locate missing family after a disaster. 

To get Started

Training your family dog to look for a Lost Person

You will need:

  1. Your dog
  2. 1 person who will hide from the dog
  3. 1 sock, or hat or glove the "scent article" from the person who will hide

You can do this lesson indoors or outside with or without a leash, depending on the dog.

Start with a person your dog knows and hold your dog by its collar as the person slowly runs and waves at the dog to a hiding place that is easy to find and with only one turn away right now.

As soon as the person is out of sight,,, 

Hold the scent article, the person's sock, to your dog's nose, say "Smell" and then turn your dog loose and say "Find so and so" use the person’s name, follow your dog to the person.

Your dog, no matter what age will attempt to find them.

If the dog has a hard time at first it is okay for the person who is hiding to call the dog or encourage the dog to find them so the dog gets the idea. Later the person will not speak or move but hide.

You will learn as we get further in training to read your dog's clues, in the meantime, learn to watch your dog's moves and body language for indications and reactions that lead to the trail or person.

If the dog does not go fairly quickly to the person then encourage the dog to go with you and show the dog with excitement how fun it is to find the person. 

When they find the person, praise, praise, praise by you and the person shower this dog with attention and they will be so happy to do this again, you'll hardly be able to hold him. 

Here is Bo taking scent from the scent article in a plastic bag before we start on a wooded trail looking for a person who is hiding. Bloodhounds often put their whole nose in the scent bag.

A leash is not needed at first with your pet dog if you train in a fenced yard or with a dog who is use to free roaming.

Check out the Family Disaster Dog book for all the lessons in paperback and kindle!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Family Disaster Dogs-Your Dog Can Rescue You!

What is a Family Disaster Dog?  

It is Your Dog trained to Find and Rescue You! 

The Family Disaster Dog Book shows you how easy a pet dog of any age, size or breed can be your very own Search and Rescue Dog!

Dogs do these skills every day without us noticing. Teaching your family dog to come to your aid during an emergency is not as difficult as one might think.

This site and book shows you how Any size dog from the little Chihuahua to the Great Dane can help its owner survive..and they find you every day already when they want to play or eat so why not learn what else they can do to help you ! 

Photo by A. Higgins

One of our biggest fears and chores during a disaster is losing or finding a loved one and every dog has the ability to find its family members or friends. We, as dog owners, only need to learn how to use the natural ability of the dog to the full advantage during emergencies. 

These fun and easy lessons are tailored for the family to learn rescue skills in the comfort of the home during daily activities by former Search Dog Instructor Amber Higgins who spent over a decade breeding and training AKC Bloodhounds for nationwide Search and Rescue FEMA volunteer work along with German Shepherd Dogs. 

These fun dog games are for the whole family to learn how-to:

Ask any dog to find family members and friends who are lost or missing !

Learn how your dog can be a messenger dog !

How any size dog can carry extra supplies if you have to evacuate.

Learn how to pack and use a Dog Bug-out Bag with 3 days of survival supplies for you and your dog.

Teach your dog to alert you to danger and warning sirens with these easy at home lessons.

If you are trapped in an earthquake,your dog can find you, dig you out or bring you first aid until rescuers arrive !

Send your dog for help or to your partner or child on command, it's easy to do with these lessons. 

Teach your dog to bring you items by name and much more !

Teach the whole family how to use the family dog as their own search and rescue dog in tornado, floods, earthquakes and to find lost loved ones !

Don't have a dog then this book is a great gift for a friend or neighbor who has a dog and they can come to your rescue too !

Use this book and the site or ask for help from me to Form a neighborhood Family Disaster Dog group at church or clubs to help neighbors until emergency response arrives !

Coming soon "My Puppy Can Find Me" children's picture books by Amber Higgins for young children to learn what to do if they are every lost. With illustrations from UK Cartoonist Helen "Scotty" King ! Click and see how she can make your dog as a cartoon for gift ideas!

Books to teach your own dog to rescue you by Amber Higgins

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Reasons It's Possibly Not The Worst Idea To Get Your Kids A Dog

Dogs are a real blessing to a family and bring so much joy and happiness, so it’s no wonder that most children will at some point bring up the question of when they’re getting a dog. As much as dogs are cute, loyal and lots of fun, they’re also a huge responsibility, and this is obviously something that children don’t understand, so it’s important that this is something you don’t allow yourself to be pressured into if a dog is not something your lifestyle or circumstances are suited to.

For example, if you’re someone who has to travel a lot for work, or just who likes to travel a lot in general, then even if you’re someone who completely loves animals and has the space for a dog, it’s simply not going to be a suitable lifestyle because pets - dogs especially require a good routine and stability, plus it’s also not fair to them if you’re constantly gone or they have to go and stay with your friends and family since they need to feel secure that they have a home.

In this post, we’re going to share with you some tips on what to do when your kids are pressuring you to get a dog, and some reasons why you may want to consider hearing them out.

A dog can teach responsibility:

One of the most common reactions among parents who are faced with the “can we get a dog?” question is that they’ll be left to take care of it and walk it, which is often the case. However, this doesn’t have to be the case for you, and can actually be a prime opportunity for you to teach your children about responsibility, which will serve them very well later in life.

Of course it’s not going to be as simple as just telling them that they will have to care for the dog or at least play a big role in helping, but how you approach the issue with your children before getting a dog will be up to you and how you know your children to be.

For example, telling them about the consequences of what might happen should they not keep their end of the deal and that the dog may have to go away and could end up with a not so good owner or even in a shelter are good ways to teach them their actions are important and they have consequences. It’s not something you’re lying about either, since this is actually one of the heartbreaking things that happen when families get dogs without being ready or properly prepared to look after them.

A dog can boost their immunity:

Many parents are afraid of bringing a dog into the house because they fear that their children will pick up germs and get sick. However, the opposite is actually true, and exposure to dogs can actually boost their immunity. Of course, it’s always crucial to practice good hygiene and use common sense when dealing with dogs, such as washing hands, etc. But keeping your kids totally shielded from any germs or bacteria can actually cause them to get more things like colds and flu since their immune system won’t have built up natural resistance to it.

A dog can help with loneliness:

Dogs are well-known to be some of the best companions around. They may not speak, but it’s somehow as if they just know the right things to do to make us feel better. This can be especially great for kids who deal with loneliness, or even an only child. Dogs are often brought in as companions to places like retirement homes for this very reason, so if your child seems to be isolated or you worry about them spending too much alone, then a dog could be just the thing to bring them out of their shell.

A dog can help your child get exercise:

Between the multiple daily walks, playing fetch in the garden and simply chasing each other around the living room, your dog will certainly keep your child active, which is never a bad thing for children - especially these days where they all seem more interested in starting at an iPad for hours on end instead of experiencing real life.


A dog will protect your child:
Dogs are notoriously protective of their owners and families, so if you want to feel like your child is that little bit more safe, especially when walking somewhere on their own, then a dog could be a perfect way to create some security since they will do anything to protect your child and especially if it’s a larger dog such as a German Shepherd, then they can also be quite intimidating, so people are less likely to try and come near a child with a dog like that.

A dog can help ward off depression and anxiety:

Many studies have shown that dogs and cats can rapidly and drastically boost the mood of someone who’s feeling low or who is suffering from depression or anxiety. They are very intuitive animals and just always seem to know what’s wrong and what to do, so if you worry about your child in any of these ways, then a dog could be the ideal companion to help them feel better.

A dog can teach children about love and selflessness:

If dogs are known to be anything it’s that they’re completely selfless and show unconditional love in all situations, so if these are things you want your child to learn about and exhibit as they grow up, then a dog through its actions will teach them this better than any book or talks ever will.

A dog can teach children about loyalty:

Another thing that dogs are notorious for is their complete loyalty to their owners, and loyalty is something that’s a very important trait for your children to learn as they grow up, so if you want to show them how important this is and how to display it, then getting a dog could actually be an ideal way to teach them this very useful life skill.

A dog can build confidence:

Since dogs teach children a great deal of responsibility and so many other important life skills, then it’s only natural that they will boost their confidence as they see their actions with the dog having an impact. From things like teaching the dog how to sit and fetch and stopping a puppy pulling everything in sight apart and other aspects of being in charge of training them and looking after them and seeing how rewarding that is, their confidence will soar, which is a great thing for a child because there are so many things out there ready to knock their confidence, so the earlier it’s instilled in them, the more it’s likely to stick and hopefully grow as they get older.

A dog can help improve social skills and speech:

Although a dog won’t talk back- at least not in a way a human talks, your child will spend a lot of time communicating with and learning from your dog, so they’ll be working on improving their speech, their vocabulary and overall social skills, such as empathy, listening for clues from the dog, and things like patience and being able to discipline the dog without violence - all of which are great social and life skills to have that will serve a bigger purpose as your child becomes an adult.

As you can see, there are definitely a lot of ways that having a dog will benefit your child, but that doesn’t mean you should feel pressured into it if you know that your lifestyle simply won’t accommodate. You have to do what’s best for your family and for the dog, so don’t be tempted just to bring one into the house because you love animals and your child wants one.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas !!!

Have a Wonderful Holiday Season 


Visit my dog book author page to learn more 

Peace on Earth 

Give a Dog Owners Gift that Saves Lives

Give a Gift that Saves Lives 

Easy to send online or through the mail ! 

The Family Disaster Dog book

The perfect gift for dog owners and families.

These books show you how any pet dog can help in disasters and emergencies!
This is a revised edition just released with over 50 more pages and available in paperback too!
Dogs do these skills every day without us noticing. Teaching your family dog to come to your aid during an emergency is not as difficult as one might think.
This book shows you how Any size dog from the little Chihuahua to the Great Dane can help its owner survive..and they find you every day already when they want to play or eat so why not learn what else they can do to help you ! 

click for the Kindle Edition only $4.99 
click for the Paperback Edition $14.99 147 pages
Free Previews are on the book pages

Evacuate with Your Dog's Help book

click for Kindle Edition  Free on Kindle Unlimited or $4.49 

click for Paperback Edition  $7.99 
47 pages teach you how your dog can help the family during evacuation
This book explains how-to evacuate with pets and 
how-to make a bug-out (survival) bag for owners and dogs. 
A detailed expanded list of survival items for pets and owners is included with step-by step instructions to teach your dog to carry a saddlebag to hold items to evacuate and "bug-out" with. 

Plus Pet CPR instructions 
What to do if your dog is lost 
How to calm a frightened pet 
How to make a shelter with 3 items 
Expanded List of Survival items to pack 
What Shelters recommend for pets 
Evacuation Law for pets 
Learn how Every dog any age or size can help its family evacuate. 
Be prepared for disasters with your pets. 
Learn what to expect at disaster shelters and from pet rescue during disasters.
Print books ship in 1-2 days and gift wrapping is available!
Free Shipping for the holidays !

See all the books there

UK Visitors click to go to UK Book Page for all the books 

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Coming Next Year from Waldorf Publishing

My Puppy Can Find Me 

Children's picture book with Illustrator and UK Dog Cartoonist 

Helen "Scotty" King

Happy Holidays Everyone !!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Why Adopt A Senior Dog?

Thinking of adopting a dog from your local shelter? Most people tend to choose younger dogs over older dogs, but this can lead to many older dogs never get rehomed. Here are a few reasons to consider an older dog to adopt.

No training required

An advantage of adopting an older dog is that they’re generally already well trained. Most senior dogs are toilet trained, so you won’t have to go through the painstaking process of teaching your dog not to do its business indoors. A lot of senior dogs will also know basic commands such as sit, stay and come, so you don’t have to go through this teaching process either. As a result, senior songs can save you a lot of time and patience if you don’t want to go through the whole rigmarole of training.

There’s a false belief that older dogs in shelters are only there because they’re ‘problem animals’, but this is completely untrue. Whilst there will be some dogs that were given up for adoption for being a little too wild, you’ll generally be able to gage which ones these are from the descriptions. The majority of older dogs in shelters are likely to be there because an owner passed away or simply neglected them – it’s rarely to do with the dog’s behaviour. Besides, dog shelter staff will generally invest some time into training for those that were untrained, so it’s rare you’ll ever find a completely unruly dog.

Calmer temperament

Senior dogs also tend to have a calmer temperament. They’ve passed the naughty stage of puppyhood, which means you generally don’t have to deal with destructive behaviour and excessive yapping. Senior dogs tend to also have less energy – this means that you don’t have to deal with jumping and may not have to go on such extensive walks.

Many senior dogs are great around children because of their calmer temperament. They can also be great if you’re an older owner yourself who may not have the energy to deal with a more excitable young dog. Obviously temperament also has a lot to do with breed as well as the conditions they may have.

They’re not necessarily more expensive

There’s a belief that older dogs are more expensive for owners as the wear and tear of old age can often mean more health problems and hence more trips to the vets. Whilst it’s true that older dogs can be more at risk of health issues, this doesn’t always mean you’ll visit the vet more – after all, owners of young dogs often end up having to spend money on vaccinations and neutering, which an older dog is likely to have already received. Besides, if you get a young dog, they’ll eventually be an older dog and you’ll still have to deal with this greater risk of health problems one day.

Pet insurance is harder to find for older dogs, but it does exist. Whilst some insurers are unwilling to take on older dogs due to pre-existing problems, there are other special insurers out there that offer pet insurance for pre existing conditions. Whilst your rates may be higher than a younger dog, you’ll still be able to cover yourself for an out of pocket treatment costs.

It’s worth noting that older dogs also tend to cost less when it comes to food and toys. Whilst younger dogs tend to have a more voracious appetite and an ability to chew their way through toys fast, older dogs tend to have slower metabolism and a less destructive urge.   

Greater choice

The fact that there’s less demand for older dogs means that there’s often more choice for owners. When choosing a younger dog, you may restricted to only a handful of options at your local shelter. With so many senior dogs to choose from, there’s more variety when it comes to breeds and you can find a dog more suited to your personal preferences, whether you’re looking for a large breed or a small breed. If you had your heart set on a certain type of dog, you may have more luck of finding it by also extending your search to older dogs.

Too many older dogs die in shelters

Whilst younger dogs are likely to get snapped up by other owners, many older dogs never get chosen and can end up living out their last years in a shelter. Whilst shelters do the best they can to give dogs a good quality of life, nothing can replace the quality of life they’d get with an owner. By adopting a senior dog, you could help to give it a much more comfortable last few years on this earth by giving it that sense of belonging that every dog needs.

In some cases, you could even extend a dog’s life by adopting it. Many dog shelters are on a tight budget and are overcrowded – once older dogs start to develop health problems, many shelters have to put these animals down in order to prioritize space and funds for healthier animals. Such dogs may have gone on to live for many more years had they got the treatment they needed. In other words, you could be saving an animal’s life by adopting a senior dog!

You may not get as many years with an older dog – which is what puts off many owners – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be rewarding. Many senior dogs can live on for years and years in a happy home.

Monday, November 26, 2018

What If Another Dog Attacks Your Pooch?

You’re out walking in the park, the sun is out, the grass is green as can be and suddenly you hear a fracas between two dogs. You find out that it's your dog and another dog engaged in a fight but it's clear that your dog is losing. The other dog is biting at the legs and head of your dog and your dog is trying to get away. You try to break them up but the other dog ends up biting you on the arm, causing a wound that is bleeding. The other owner comes rushing over and separates the dogs. 

Who is to blame here? Many would say the owner of the other dog.

However what if the other owner says that it was your dog that came up to their dog and that’s how the fight began?

Now the lines a blurred and you don’t know whether to press charges or not because even though you are injured it seems like your dog was the aggressor. It's a horrible place to be in because you’re in great pain and now you will need to pay for costly medical bills. You’re scared that if you do try to get compensation, it might be your dog that gets put to sleep.

So what do you do?

Witnesses or footage

If you’re ever in this scenario you have to figure out if there are any witnesses that can help you. It might be the fact that the people who are coming to your aid to stop the bleeding or call an ambulance saw the whole thing. 

Speak to them and see if you can get the full story from them. You never know the other dog owner might be lying and blaming your dog for the fight. The other dog might have a reputation of fighting other dogs too and the owner might have a record of being negligent. 

If you don’t have witnesses you can always ask the local authorities to give your footage from the CCTV in the park.

The damages left with you

A dog bite is a very painful injury to have. The force of the bite could easily puncture your skin and severe veins which can cause a lot of bleeding. Not only that, your bones can be crushed under the pressure that a dog can deliver. So the healing is going to be a long process and you could unfortunately have permanent damage.

Contact a dog bite attorney that can build a case for you and fight in the courts on your behalf to give you the compensation you deserve. They will also inform you of who is to blame in the case that the other owner was telling the truth and it was your dog that approached the other dog first.

Dogs that are trained and cared for will trust humans and thus never try to attack you.

Dogs that are aggressive shouldn’t be let off the leash in public, regardless of whether or not they are approached by other dogs.

Can witnesses to give you support and form a case with footage of the incident.? Be sure to ask the attorney this and follow their advice.

Good Luck!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Planning Dog Training Courses for Nose Work, Search Dogs and Pets

Part 2
Planning Training Courses
2 of 2 parts
(Go to part 1)

Assessing the Scene

Before you set up a training course, first check the location and make a note of each person or thing (cars running, spilled chemical, garbage) that might contaminated the area.

In an actual response this is called doing an assessment of the scene and should be done visually as you approach the location. Findings should be noted on paper for later planning.

Doing a visual assessment helps you to know your dangers before placing your dog and self in a bad situation. Make a mental note of any dangers you might encounter such as a busy roadway or a train track your dog might lead you across.

After checking the area to determine it is safe and noting the contaminants then check the wind direction and weather conditions (more on these factors in another lesson). In training novice dogs always start the dog into the wind so the scent is blowing towards the dog to give the dog the best chance in picking up the scent.


Pay attention to the location and use what may be available for hiding spots and turns, such as buildings, picnic tables in a park or a large tree across the cleared field.

Mapping the Training Course

Group these three factors together on paper when you are planning a training course. Make a hand drawn map of the location and mark on the map the wind direction, buildings or landmarks, size of the search area and time of day you plan to train. Make a note of weather conditions.

If you are training indoors you will modify these factors into the scene, for instance is there a fan or air conditioning system running? What chemical cleaners or odors do you smell or see in the area? What obstacles might be encountered or be in the way, closed doors, furniture or escape routes such as a window?

Make a note of the subject you will be looking for, the person who will help you by hiding from your dog. Their weight, height, age, clothing and any health issues that might come into play during the course.

Once your map is drawn of the location with the contributing factors that will affect the search you are ready to draw the trail you will work.

I’ll tell you how I draw up my training courses so you have a better idea. I use a small dash line to mark where the person who we will be looking for will walk as they hide to draw the route I plan for them to take. I use X to mark the beginning and the end of the route. I draw the turns I plan to work the dog on with the training objectives in mind.

Novice dog’s might only be working on one turn into the wind while an experienced dog can have 3 or 4 turns in different wind directions in the route. Make sure to have the turns flagged with a tissue paper piece. Tissue paper biodegrades so no worries about having to retrieve the flag after the training.

I then decide where the trail layer or person will put the training flags or tissue paper along the route which will help me know my dog is working well. I use tissue or flags even on advanced dogs for my own benefit because these markers build my confidence in reading my dog. I put a small dot on my map for flags.

A map would look something like this.                                                    <<wind
                                                     . _ _ _ _ _ _ _.bench 
   X _ _ ._. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. /

These flags are important because I learn how my dog reacts when they reach a turn or building, and as the wind changes I can see how my dog changes the way they work. Does the dog slow down or speed up? Do they circle and smell the spot more? Is the tail high and nose low? Are they stopped and looking at me for direction? (The last question is not a good sign, we missed something and have to go back and look again. :) 

Once I have the training course planned on paper I am ready to have the person help me make the course. I show my helper, the trail layer, the map and we use the map when we are making the trail or course. As they hide, they walk off from the starting point following the map while you wait knowing from the map where they are going. You dog will not see the map because they are usually asleep in the car.

What time I wake my dog up to work the course will depend on the level of training my dog is at and how old the trail has aged. Levels are discussed in the next lesson Standards for Search Dogs.

Aging the Trail

Aging the route is the next important step in training a family disaster dog in order for the dog to find people who have been lost for longer then a few hours. This lesson will be posted next.

Go to part 1 of Planning Dog Tracking Course

Get all the Lessons and More in the Family Disaster Dogs book

Visit the home page for more information

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lesson 1 of 2: Planning Dog Training and Mapping Tracking Courses

Planning Training Courses
1 of 2 parts
The Purpose of a Training Course or Route
This lesson is being posted in 2 parts
(Go to part 2

When you are training your dog there are often times when we have to set a course up that will be similar to what we encounter in real life. Obedience courses and agility courses are two that come to mind most people have heard of.

In training the family disaster dog we want to set up courses and lost person scenarios that we might encounter during an actual emergency. These courses help us and our dogs to know what to expect, consequently, we learn what to do in an actual event.

To set up a training course, we have to think of what we might encounter along the way and put the ideas into the training course. This is prepared ahead of time. After the course is set up then the course has to be aged. Aging the trail or course will be covered in advanced lessons.

How the training course is set up depends upon what level you are training.

Once you and your dog have the general idea down of how to find a person and what evidence to look for, it is time to further your training by using well planned and prepared courses that include tracks, trails, and scenarios.

It’s time to advance to life like training!

In doing these courses we are playing and pretending this is a real life rescue and the most important thing to remember is your dog will always find its man! (Or woman, child or object)

This most confusing aspect of search dog training is also the down fall of many handlers who fail to follow the golden rule. The dog is always right not the trainer or handler.

When a police dog fails to find a person it is never the dog’s fault but it is the handler’s fault for reading the dog wrong.

To avoid failing in training, never let your dog fail to find what they have been told to find otherwise your dog will not look because this type of training is actually for you to learn to read your dog and follow your dog. The dog knows how to find anybody or anything on their own but the dog does not know how to find somebody with you tagging along telling him what to do.

How these factors come into play when your dog is searching for a lost person and how to use these factors in preparing a training course to work your dog on will help you and your dog to figure out the puzzles you come across on an actual search.

Planning a Training Puzzle

When considering how to set up a training course three factors come into play, the wind including weather, contamination and location.

Wind and weather conditions always affect how you will read your dog working the scent. The wind blows the scent as the wind moves therefore knowing the direction of the wind is vital. Weather such as rain or freezing conditions affect the scent as well therefore these factors should be considered as you follow and read your dog.

Contamination is anything that has been in the area of the training course. I mean everything including car exhaust, chemicals such as spilled gasoline after an accident; other people who have walked in the area contaminate the scene.

Animals who have crossed the location up to 24 hours earlier can lead your dog off course if your dog is inclined to follow the deer or rabbit instead of the person’s scent you are looking for. A known dog walking path is not the best place to train a tracking dog.

Here's my book for children to learn too!

Indoors cleaning solutions, tobacco smoke and odors we do not smell can contaminate the scents the dog is following and a novice dog has not learn how to work these odor puzzles out yet.

Location plays a role because different terrain creates different scent action. Such as wooded areas hold the scent closer to the ground while a cleared field allows the scent particles to move and disperse over a larger area. Drainage channels and clear cut areas where power lines run through make wind tunnels that can carry the scent in a different direction then where your dog goes.

During all of these experiences your dog will continue to work the trail by working out the scent puzzle if you allow the dog to do so. The dog may follow the scent as it is blown down a wind tunnel to the point where the scent is so thin the dog turns back and backtracks to a stronger scent point where they began the tunnel.

Then the dog continues on the right trail. The important part of this training and in actual search events is to remember to trust your dog and follow them through the puzzle. If you stop the dog thinking oh the person never went down that steep hill then the dog can not finish the puzzle and chances are you will fail.

The same holds true when your dog is following a animal scent or the wrong scent which puts them off the trail you intended.

Never underestimate your dog or where a person who is afraid might hide or go.

Three groom dogs I once knew and these kids could find their owner in a heart beat!

Never underestimate your dog!

Learn to Read your Dog!

Your dog is always right!

Click Continue to Part 2

Read all the lessons in the Family Disaster Dog book below

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

How to Train a Tracking Dog Lesson

How to Train a Tracking Dog

Most of the lessons at Family Disaster Dogs, so far, have focused on teaching your dog on how to find a missing person by air scenting or trailing not “tracking.”  This lesson will explain to you how to teach your dog to be a tracking dog that follows each step of a person or the exact path the person traveled.

This lesson can be used to start any dog on tracking for any reason, including AKC tracking titles and other dog club tracking events, law enforcement and SAR.

This lesson is fun for Family Disaster Dogs and other service dogs to do with their family members at the park or playground, and then in the event of a lost family member your dog will be able to track them down without any other training.

First, let’s go over the differences between a tracking and trailing or air scenting detection dog.

A tracking dog follows the exact footprint scent on the ground that is left behind as a person walks while a trailing or air scenting dog follows the scent as it drifts on the wind.

Watch my dog find my she tracking or air scenting? answer at bottom of page

You can tell the difference when you watch your dog work by noticing if your dog is air scenting by lifting its head above the ground, smelling high for a scent or carrying their head over 6 inches off the ground. They will seek the scent on the wind and in the air while a tracking dog keeps its nose to the ground and concentrates their focus within about 6 inches of the ground.

 You can hear a tracking dog huffing on the ground; a bloodhound will blow the dust away when they are getting into the scent but when they are air scenting they hold their heads high, nose up seeking. When the scent is found, they are off, nose and head about body height with tail wagging.

When they put that nose into the ground and snort, seek and run with the nose as close to the ground as it seems they can they have switched to tracking for air scenting.

In dog club events, the difference can cost your dog points towards a title. In search dog work, it only matters that you learn to read your dog and find the person in the swiftest safest manner.

Many people find training a dog to do air scenting or trailing easier then training a tracking dog. For this reason, I covered air scenting and trailing dog training first to give you a better understanding of the fundamentals of detection dogs in order for this lesson to be easier for you and your dog or the novice tracking dog trainer.

I’ve been training tracking dogs since the 70’s and worked at K9 of Hawaii in 1978 to further my education of security dog work. This method is well proven to work with any breed of dog.

Equipment needed:

1 Dog

A person to hide from the dog, known as the “Trail or Track Layer”

20 ft Tracking Leash and Harness

Several pieces of tissue papers or 12 small plastic flags that are used at building sites and available at hardware stores

Small bite size dog treats

A large outdoor mowed grassy area; for instance, a quite corner of a city park away from distractions, a school ground or open grassy mowed field.


Read these lessons

What to do First

Discuss with the Trail Layer how they will make the footprint track for your dog to learn on. Tell them they will be starting at the spot you choose in the grass and they will be placing one tissue paper or flag with a dog treat at this spot, then they will scruff and slide their feet on the ground to shuffle as they walk the first 3 or 4 steps of the trail. 

They will drop a few dog treats exactly where they scruff their feet as they walk away from you.

Your dog can watch this part of the lesson either sitting next to you or tied close by.

This scuffing the ground will help to disperse more scent at the starting point and the trail layer will do this shuffle scuff walk on each corner for the first few lessons until your dog understands they are looking for human scent. Once your dog starts tracking without hesitation you can have the trail layer walk normally when they make a course for your dog to follow.

After the starting point, the trail layer will walk in a straight line into the direction of the wind blowing, if there is a breeze you can feel. The person will bend over to place a piece of tissue with a dog treat or a flag and treat every 10 steps or so for the length of the course. The person should keep a treat to give the dog when they welcome them at the end of the course.

 After 50 ft (steps) or so, the person will either sit behind a tree or the corner of a building, or lay down flat on the grass. We don’t want the dog to have sight of the person but we do want the person in an easy to find spot where they can step out and welcome the dog.

Do not add a corner to the course until your dog is tracking the person successfully on a straight line course. When you add a corner, only add one turn at a time per lesson per day to avoid confusing the dog. Tracking is a gradual training process that should not be rushed.

Once the person has laid the course and trail your dog will follow you get your dog and point to the starting flag. Tap the ground at the dog treat, foot print spot to show your dog the exact scent you want them to follow. Ask your dog to “Smell” or “Take Scent”.

Give your dog all the time they need to smell and when their head raises up from the ground be ready to command “Track” or “Find them” and step off with your dog on the path the person took.

As your dog moves ahead in the direction of the person repeat the “find” command and allow your dog time to do what you ask. If they do not move ahead on the course then prompt them with praise and encouragement as you slowly walk and point down on the path. You may have to point and tap the ground a few times to keep your dog on the scent until they realize what you are doing.

As you follow the person’s trail your dog will find the dog treats covered in the person’s sent along with the flags and scuff marks or pool scent areas. This will encourage your dog to seek the scent and person. 

When you reach the person, praise your dog and have the person welcome them with petting and give them a dog treat.

Repeat the same exact course again. Do not change anything.

Amber working Sam

As you repeat this the dog learns to follow the scent of the foot prints. As your dog learns you will use less treats and more praise until eventually and gradually you replace the food treats with praise only. from then on your dog only gets a food treat when they find the person otherwise you will be teaching your dog to find food. Which we do not want.

Do this same exact lesson and course 3 or 4 times each day for 3 days then give your dog a day or 2 off to think about this new game they have learned. Read the lesson about Burning out your dog to familiarize yourself with this aspect of training a working dog.

Repeat this lesson for a couple of weeks then add a corner and be sure the trail layer scruffs their feet, drops a dog treat and flags the corner.  

The flags are placed on the course for you to see the corners and lay of the trail before your dog reaches them in order for you to know your dog is on the right course.

These flags or tissue paper will also give you confidence to trust your dog because as you work with your dog on tracking you will see how amazing the nose can be.

After a couple of weeks with one corner then add another turn so there are 2 corners or turns on the course. Keep the course about 100 ft long until your dog has the hang of tracking. 

Train on nice, mild not breezy days when the weather is not to hot. If the weather is hot, train in the early morning or evening when the day cools down for better performance.

There will be more discussion about weather and performance in the coming lessons about variables of a search scene.

In a few weeks and once your dog is tracking the person’s trail as outlined successfully, and only then, you can use a different person and change people every couple of days. 

You do not want to change people the same day or use more then one person a day while training a novice tracking dog until the dog totally understands what you want them to do. 

You will know by watching your dog when this happens. You will feel a great deal of accomplishment when you realize your dog is doing this! 

You will be like, “oh wow, look what my dog can do!”.

At this point, which can take a month or so, and only after this point is when you can add other people, and you can start aging the trail too.

When you age the trail the dog learns to find a person who has been missing longer lengths of time, such as somebody who is missing 8 hours. 

The dog first has to learn what the scent smells like 15 minutes later then when the person walked there, then 30 minutes, then 1 hour and up to 48 hours later.

Therefore, when you are training dogs that will be looking for people and not doing tracking events for titles, the dog has to learn how to tell the time and age of the trail in order to work a scene where the person has been missing for several hours or a day. 

Dogs do tell time very well when we pay attention.

Whereas, if your dog is not going to be looking for lost people then you can skip the part about aging a trail or adding extra people. You can use an object, like a toy for your dog to find and you can use yourself as the trail layer.

Go to the Lessons page to learn how to train your dog to track you and much more !Including how to get a reluctant tracker to work.

Have fun and happy trails with your dog! 

answer: My dog is video above is tracking and trailing, she is working the foot scents of the person 

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Author Amber Higgins

Author Amber Higgins
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Welcome UK and worldwide visitors and friends to Family Disaster Dogs online! Although I'm an American author and dog professional the worldwide web has given me the opportunity to connect with some wonderful folks who have contributed pictures for my books. The "Start Mantrailing" book features RRI K9 North Scotland trained Search and Rescue Dog "Amber" on the cover and her teammates training in the book, plus American dogs using my training methods. A portion of sales of the Start Mantrailing book or copies were donated to RRI North Scotland. The children's picture book "My Puppy Can Find Me" has my daughter and bloodhound as illustrations by UK cartoonist Scotty King. You can find the books on Amazon UK or use the contact page to order from me. When you click the links will take you to your own county pages of this site.

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