You bring up some good points Nancy and I am enjoying our conversation
Because I do everything off my phone, I will just make points on comments rather than trying to copy and paste, answer, copy and paste, answer, etc...
FRINGE SCENT: yes, it definitely seems like some dogs, often those that come from air scent, or are natural air scent erst tend to ride the 'fringe', or what we consider to be fringe.. But, and this is the key, imho, how do we know that it is fringe? Maybe at that point in time it is the strongest source of scent.. Wind currents run low too, terrain features might 'bump' the scent up, over, down, however.. We have no way of knowing for sure.. I guess if 10 dogs were run over same trail at same time of day, same day, and their trails recorded so one could see the variants between dogs an average might be gathered... IF we know the dogs are following the human scent and not the dogs trail before... Really hard to know for sure..
For me, the proof is in the find and subsequent debrief.. If my dog(s) are finding the subjects and running mostly parallel to the trail, I know they aren't 'air scenting' in the typical grid or zigzag, figure 8,etc pattern, they are following the trail using the strongest source of scent for them... Most of the time, they are pretty close to the track, but Hills, ravines, rivers, dense forest and open plains, blogs, cars, homes, asphalt and concrete all make a huge difference how scent blows and lands..
For most K9 handler's, the visual of a smoke bomb is used to show how scent blows and to use the wind to our advantage.. So how can that demonstration be used and then someone be dogmatic about how scent stays in one place?? Yes, there are more dense layers and more sticky components in the volatile mixture we call scent, but no one is certain what part the dogs are 'locking' onto for scent discrimination... We assume, we study, we test and we use anecdotal evidence to conclude but we really don't know.. Or there wouldn't be such debate (just reminding that this is all being said in a friendly and conversational tone.. Text can sound harsh when not intended
-TOO FAR OFF TRACK DING: honestly, that bothers me immensely! Why? Well, your friend did their job and recovered the track and finished the test.. That is more real world conditions (losing the trail) then a dog staying glued to a track the whole way... I take issue with the fact that we test and train for real life scenarios... To be dinged or failed because one was 'too far' off a trail when they are still working and their dog is in odor, or, they are recovering the trail but still within their allotted time is wrong.. In a real life scenario you don't know where the person is and if your dog finds the person that is all that matters (or get correct DOT)
I have a good friend who was testing on a 12hr aged trail. The night before and all night, they had 30mph winds.. When she got there to test, her dog cast, got correct DOT and trailed a few yards with head pops to the left and towards the road. He suddenly turned left and headed about 30m to his left and up the road about 10m and to a car where he put his paws up and wagged and tried to get in... My friend noticed SAR gear in the back. The evaluators asked what she was going to do and she said she would cast him from here.. She did and the dog caught the exit trail from car to hiding place.. In my mind, a successful test; dog got correct DOT, was working trail but strongest scent pulled dog to fresher trail and a find.. She was failed.. The previous nights conditions were not factored in, nor the fact it was a horse shoe track and one end of the track blended with the other.. Nope, it was a fail..
In my mind, this is one of the biggest problems SAR face: forgetting why we are here, to save lives.. Not be IPO tracking.. Certainly rules should be in place but let the dog work... If correct DOT us gotten, the dog is working trail and not obviously air scenting and griding, and the dog makes the find... That is real world when double blind.. Using all resources to your advantage to save lives... Just my thoughts...
METHODS OF TRAINING : you mentioned RCMP or ttd, kocher, Schettler... TTD and Schettler are my main source of knowledge... They mix well enough (although Schettler doesn't advise running, and I did in the beginning and jog still) and I voraciously read and study scent and others success and failures in trailing... While there are different ways to get same results the results are what we are after: success in finding the lost... If the success and consistency in that success is had, then sweet!
I am all for it. There will always be 'new' ways to do something and until we fully understand the mechanics of scent/odor and what the dog follows, debate will always be present (probably even after haha)...