Tracking dogs

7 Feb

The olfactory senses in dogs can be used to detect and located odours from the surrounding environment. Although training the dog to track is very important, it is also important that the right dog is chosen for the right task. The instincts and natural behaviours the dog’s poses will influence their trainability and therefore their suitability to the role of a tracking dog.

There are three phases in the process of tracking. The search phase is when the dogs make an attempt to find a track; they will move very quickly taking short quick sniffs along the ground and other objects. Once the track has been found, they will enter the deciding phase, moving slowly and taking longer sniffs in order to determine the direction. The final phase is the tracking itself where the dogs follow the track and move at a uniform pace[1].

Tracking dogs are often used to find criminals and lost persons, both on land and in water. While German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois and other working breeds are used extensively for this job today, certain hounds can also be used to effectively track. Bloodhounds were the first breed to be used for human tracking and are still commonly used today through the United States. Here too, this type of working dog is not actually searching for humans per say, but his toy reward that magically pops up in front of him when he finds them[2]. Stories of search and rescue dogs saving the lives of lost and stranded humans in need of help are common stories. These dogs are used extensively in countries with cold climates, particularly in the mountainous areas.


[1]  Thesen, A., Steen, J. B., & Døving, K. B. (1993). Behaviour of dogs during olfactory tracking. Journal of Experimental Biology, 180, 247-251.

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