Scent Capabilities of K9's by Gert Sullivan Retyped & Edited
The following article was written by Gert Sullivan, NAPWDA Master Trainer and founding member a number of years ago. She has since passed away but her knowledge, dedication to law enforcement K9 teams and expertise will never be forgotten. It is retyped as it appeared due to the original document fading and edited to show what a specific piece of equipment spoken about is. This article pertains to Tracking, Building Searches and Safety. %% ??.THINKING ABOUT IT----- %% Several recent occurrences have prompted me to ponder the various methods used when buildings are being searched with the use of police dogs. %% While working with the teams at a recent workshop, at times I observed officers placing their dogs, consequently themselves, in jeopardy. Some handlers over-relied on their animals. Others left the decision making up to the dog. Frequently dogs and men were unnecessarily vulnerable. We were playing games. If we train unrealistically, officers and animals will die realistically. %% We must admit that the dog has a limited scenting ability. A dog can?t detect the scent of a man from his shadow on a rock a week after he ran by the rock. %% In the May, 1988 issue of the Animal Health Newsletter from Cornell University, recent work by Dr. Stephen Mackenzie (whom we all know and love) was of great interest. %% Steven and an associate tested 22 experienced tracking dogs, mostly GSD?s. The purpose of the test was to determine whether the dogs are physiologically capable of detecting the proper direction of a track. Do they have a natural ?sixth? sense that guides them in choosing the direction a murderer takes without any false starts or backtracking? %% Each dog ran three straight tracks, each 200 paces long, laid in grass with either an article or a man at the end of the track. A flag was placed midpoint. The dogs were brought individually to the flag and allowed to pick both the direction and the track to follow, right or left. A total of 66 tracks were completed with 40 of them being followed by the dogs in the correct direction. 26 tracks were followed by backtracking first. Records showed that 6 dogs went in the correct direction on all 3 tracks, seven were correct on 2 tracks, 8 correct on 1 and 1 was wrong every time. %% According to Steve, the results were not significantly different from what would be expected from random choice. The test gave no indication that the dogs were guided by some physiologic ability that gave them the power to pick the right direction. Even worse, the results indicate that with standard training methods, many dogs do not follow the track in the correct direction. In summary, he suggests the need for new training techniques teaching the dog to follow a track without backtracking. %% If a similar test were conducted regarding building searches, would similar results occur? We need to examine our training for greater efficiency. We need to study the innate methods a pack animal employs and let the dog teach the human what searching is all about. They may not have the stealth nor the olfactory of a cat, but they are good hunters and they are social. %% The dictionary definition of the word ?altruism? is ?concern for the welfare of other, as opposed to egoism, selflessness.? A worker bee will sting an intruder and die, killing itself in defense of the hive. This suicidal behavior is a classic example of altruistic behavior. A bird dragging her wing to entice away from the nest, the warnings of a rabbit thumping the ground with its back leg all are cooperative altruistic actions. %% The predisposition toward the social trait is established genetically by relationship. It is familial, the worker bee will defend only his own queen?s hive, and a hen won?t wing drag to protect another?s young. When Kitty Genovese was attacked, she could have used a sister. How many soldiers injured in combat call for their Mother instead of a medic? When threatening the actor in the building, your dog isn?t just barking or growling to warn you, he is altruistically drawing attention away from you. You are family. Take immediate advantage of this momentary distraction. %% ?Symbiosis? ? (dicdef) the living together of two dissimilar organisms especially when this association is mutually beneficial.? The dog should indicate the location of the actor. In the wild state, it is the pack leader that is the most aggressive when hunting, herding or searching. The leader makes the first strike and brings down the quarry, then the rest of the pack move in to assist. Handlers are supposed to be the alpha members of the team. During the few brief seconds required by the dog to ?bring down? the actor, he is head honcho but he expects your immediate cooperation. %% When searching a building, we are dependant upon the fact that the dog is unaware that he is in mortal danger. If he understood the formidable power of his opponent?s weapons and his own immortality his natural behavior would be to pursue another course. He would exhibit threat displays but he would avoid attacking to escape serious injury. The hawk would judiciously become a dove and the confrontation would not escalate. When training we delude the dog into believing that he is invincible. %% I have mixed emotions about the philosophy that the dog should always win in the building. It may be hazardous to his health. He is unprepared. Perhaps we should, occasionally, use a startle can or a peashooter or a sling shot on the overly confident dog. If he learns that he can experience pain in the operational environment, he may become more cunning. This wariness may pay off in slower, more methodical searches. If this action frightens the dog in the building, he?ll make a better pet than police dog. %% I wonder about the wisdom of encouraging the dog to bark during the announcement. It may frighten the timid juvenile. It may enable the terrorist or hardened criminal to prepare to quickly dispatch the dog at the first opportunity. It is unnatural for a dog to vocalize while searching, hunting, herding, etc. He has the innate commonsense not to place himself in peril by alerting his adversary. Why waste a good dog? %% I understand the Jimmy Vincent is using a silent whistle during building searches. Neat idea. Clever use of flashlights, parabolic mirrors, a crouched wrapped around entry, all good ideas. Why not avoid the ?fatal funnel? entirely? Make the announcement at the indicated point of entry, secure the position with a uniform and enter at the opposite side of the building. This would be analogous to entering the track midway and as in an area search, his nose must find the direction of flight. Leaving the jingling change from your pocket in the squad car, covering shiny badges and buttons, all are simple practices that you should consider. %% Another consideration is to train for a silent search. When the dog locates the first suspect, he furtively returns, indicates in some fashion to his handler and leads the officer back to the area, dropping facing the point of concealment. I don?t like the idea of Bringsel because it could be used to strangle the dog (see the last page for what a Bringsel is). After the apprehension and search, a backup could escort the prisoner while the dog is sent to silently search for additional actors. You are still pack leader and he is the assist. %% At the age of 60 a human?s sense of smell begins to diminish. At 80 years of age, humans lose the sense of smell almost entirely. Any field trial trainer will tell you that scenting dogs are not efficient hunters after a certain age. This fact should be remembered when working some of our older dogs in any form of scent discrimination. An 8 ? year old is suspect. Be very observant of an older dog. %% In spite of the hornets, wasps and spiders, we need to stress the box search skills. All other forms of scent discrimination should be honed until the dog can select a scented pebble from a ton of gravel or zero in on one odorous man/woman from a fragrant group of twenty others. A dog should be encouraged to find the ?hot spot? in buildings at least twice a week for the duration of his working life. Use intent corridor searching for area searches instead of the random searching of some dogs that strongly resemble a Springer Spaniel, springing in the field. %% You may or may not agree with some of my theories, but think about them. We need to reduce the risk factor at every level of searching. We must determine the optimum strategy to use in building searches to enhance safety of both officers and dog yet efficiently apprehend the actor. %% What with high tech electron microscopes, infrared spectrometers and lasers, the day is rapidly approaching when a man will scan a building with a 2? x 4? hand held heat sensor and pinpoint the human?s location. Until that day comes -------- you?re it! %% Gert Sullivan M.T. NAPWDA %% Do not copy without permission %% Bringsel%% The following two photos show what a basic Bringsel is. You can see how the second version which does not appear to be of a break away style (on the GSD) could be used against a police work dog in some instances? %% 1.) Photograph - The Norwegian Bringsel The Norwegian Bringsel THE WORLDS BEST BRINGSEL, the original BI-2 The bringsel has a very good visibility at distance. It's made of soft and very durable material and stainless steel. The bringsel has an automatic breakaway mechanism. One end of the reel drops when the pressure exceeds 10 kilograms. (20 pounds) The trigger point is adjustable. The material in the reel and the collar is very well tested. The Norwegian Bringsel will give you several decades of service-life. **************************************************************************** %% 2.) Photograph - A "Stick" Version of the Bringsel %% The NAPWDA Members Only section version has the actual above photographs within the article.