With a dog trained on vegetation first, how do you teach hard surface?
We use two methods to transition dogs to hard surface tracking / trailing that have been started on grass. Ideally, we start with a variation of the HITT and begin on asphalt. With dogs already acclimated to tracking on grass the transition takes some time and work. IME, Patrol dogs started and trained on grass have a difficult time initially tracking on hard surfaces. When doing real street tracks they will track well across a vegetated area and when they hit asphalt or concrete their head comes up and they look for the next patch of "green." The dog will then sprint across the road, parking lot, etc to get to that comfort zone and may miss a turn in the street or parking lot.
A very good way to settle the dog in and teach it to track on hard surface is to take a step back in training and utilize the HITT method. The only variation we do is to add a scent article to the water as we do primarily scent discriminating tracks.
The other method we utilize is putting the dog in drive, the track layer agitates the dog and gives a bite on a T-shirt the track layer has worn and not washed. The shirt has the odor of the track layer and the bite on the shirt transmits the track layers scent directly to the olfactory system via the Vomeronasal organ or "Jacobson's organ" where the odor is stored. The handler takes the dog out of sight and the track layer takes off running, rounds a corner and waits. Initially, the distances are short, 100 to 200 yards. The dog finds the track layer and reward is given. We compartmentalize these tracks and do several with a find after each leg, then the process starts again. This way we can build into long tracks with intermittent rewards. The method with the tshirt starts the scent discrimination tracking and the dog will track through groups of people searching for the track layer. All of this is done on hard surface and the dog begins to trail rather than "foot step" track which is more advantageous for a K-9.
Once the dog is in drive for the tracks, the progression is to leave a scent article when the track layer starts the track. Next, we go to taking scent from something the track layer has touched, a steering wheel for example. The track layer can occasionally wipe his hand across the asphalt to leave scent for the dog on the asphalt. Scent is like "wet paint" and will transfer from the track layer / suspect to anything they have touched. Spitting on the surface helps as well to keep odor on the track for the dog. I find this method works well and have good results in transitioning dogs from FST on grass to trailing on hard surfaces for suspects. It also increases the sped of the dog and when the dog gets the picture it will often move at a fairly fast pace. The handler must be in good enough shape to keep up with the dog. Going too slowly often causes the dog to become bored and will lose focus.
That is two of the ways that have worked for us and we normally do a combination of both depending on the level of the dog and the training it has had. We will start out with the HITT and then go to the track layer with the T shirt. Reading the dog is critical, learning the loss of track indication, behavior changes on the track. I have found that the behavior on the track will change once you move away from vegetated tracks and start the scent discrimination tracking. We often have the track layer at the end of the track, but tracks rarely end in a bite. One thing I prefer is that the track layer never accompanies the handler on the track, a third person who knows where the track is, goes along on the track. I generally prefer the handler runs the track "blind" and is forced to rely and read his dog.
This is roughly what has worked for us, I'm sure you do something similar.
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