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Wow, there is a boatload of information in this article on the science and law of scent discrimination and trailing/tracking dogs. Also a lot of referenced material. I didn't get through it all and the writing has some issues but interesting case references and information to chew on. Here is the article.

http://dinazaphiris.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Ensminger-Jezierski-McCulloch_2010_SSRN_canine-scent-detection-in-the-law.pdf

I guess this is all going in a book that is to come out in March

[ame]http://www.amazon.com/Canine-Olfaction-Science-Law-Environmental/dp/1482260239[/ame]

P.S. First turned on to this from another forum. Just thought some here might be interested.
 

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Some of the case studies are really interesting. I found a blog by one of the authors that talked about a study where something like 15 police k9 teams were sent into a church to look for drugs. Almost all of the teams alerted. All the human officers were told there were likely drugs there. But there were not. The problem of cuing the dog for false alerts is well documented. Some interesting case law in this study where handlers are shown a line up of a suspect with a bunch of police. The suspect is handcuffed. The police are not but holding hands behind them. The handler knows all the officers. Knowing how sensitive our dogs are this to me was a bit laughable.

In the article I like the scent line up... where people, including suspects, are given pebbles to hold. Then the pebbles are deposited on the ground. The dog is given a scent article, then allowed access to the pebbles with no people around. Good success for the dogs here if they are well trained.

Anyway, I liked all the info in the article.
 

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Nice collection of information. Terry Fleck, I think, recently retired but I know he has been the go to guy for many years on K9 case law.

K-9 Case Law
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Morning Nancy! What are you doing today? Are you feeling better?
We are off to train for avalanche searches today. ;-)
Wishing you well. Karin
 

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Have a great time. I had a nice long training with both dogs yesterday and am connecting with teammates a few times a week. Doing much better. I was able to keep up on airscent problems both as a flanker and a handler but was not the only one who said they were going home to take a nap yesterday and today I hurt all over.

Having to get used to Tilly ranging out so far. She gets the job done but I always hate a dog ranging out of sight while scanning for odor but she does work a pattern with me, so she is aware of where I am.....

Beau doing well also .
 

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Thanks Dutch! Live reading this sort of stuff!

Good to hear you are feeling better Nancy.. Also nice to hear your new dog is doing well and you are learning her behavior and inclinations...

Had a nice aged trail laid for me yesterday in the snow storm... My girl did great until she suddenly jumped track... Not sure why, or when,iobviously past the turn... I had my gopro on and hope to see where or if her indication is for jumping track (a human track no less).. She is usually extremely loyal to scent, so, I'm curious what happened... Hate it when this happens... I know it does, but in a real setting I have had great success... Until I didn't, lol... She was dead on until she suddenly wasn't... Even with a snow plow scrapping our start twice, she had a strong start and a solid half mile... Huh... Will read this material and see if an answer is there, besides my gopro and see what I missed....
 

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That is a interesting piece. While, we do not do "Scent lineups" and I do not know of any US Police Agencies doing them, they have been done in Europe. There is no doubt in my mind that a dog can do it. I train with a SAR person that does this and it is very impressive. Working a dog in several disciplines limits what we can do, but I can always aspire to be better. Training with SAR folks that put so much time, effort and emphasis on trailing has made me and my dogs better. Not as good as them, but better than we were. I often like to train with people that raise the bar on my training. I train scent discrimination tracking / trailing with our K-9's. We will take scent from a car's steering wheel or driver's seat after a pursuit and bail. Or from a place that I know a suspect touched after a burglary or robbery. I have been pretty fortunate at tracking suspects through neighborhoods, in high winds and rain or snow to the house or apartment that they were in. My dog has a whole bunch of apprehensions after scent discrimination tracking. I can attribute a lot of this success to the training that I have done with my SAR friends.

This is also interesting and I have seen this study:
I found a blog by one of the authors that talked about a study where something like 15 police k9 teams were sent into a church to look for drugs. Almost all of the teams alerted. All the human officers were told there were likely drugs there. But there were not. The problem of cuing the dog for false alerts is well documented.

Since I train narcotics detection dogs for my dept and other agencies, "false alerts" are an issue. It is certainly a question that gets raised in Court from time to time. I really do not like the term "false alert." The way we train and the way we work, "false alerts" are really not an issue.

The alert is not the trained response of sitting, downing or as I train nose to source and focused stare at the source of odor for a passive dog. Nor is the "alert" the scratching or biting at source for an active or aggressive alerting dog. In either case, passive or aggressive, the alert is the behavioral changes and the physiological changes the dog exhibits before alerting. With every dog doing detection work, the handler must look for the breathing change, the "head snap", the ear and tail set changes, body languages changes and the increased respiration that shows the dog is in odor. These are the things that the alert is based on, not the sit, stare or scratch. A "sit" or "scratch" with out the breathing change, behavioral changes and body language changes is not an alert.

A handler can "cue" a dog to sit or scratch, but you can not "cue" a behavioral change, a "head snap" or an increase in respiration from about 30 bpm to 100 - 150 bpm. This is what handlers need to be trained to realize, look for and base alerts on. When this is done there are zero "false alerts."

I set up training scenarios regularly like the one described, pressure the handler to call an alert, when he/she doesn't call an alert in a blank room for example and goes to walk out I say "are you sure that you don't want to check the room again?" "Maybe, you should check the desk?" Out handlers know to trust the dog, the dog has the nose and the super senses, and not fall victim to the added pressure and stress we put on. Running aids blind is the best way, that way the handler has to rely on the dog. Same as running blind tracks are the only way to really learn to read a tracking dog.
 

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It has been hammered into my head. You don't call it without both the body language AND the final trained response.
 

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It has been hammered into my head. You don't call it without both the body language AND the final trained response.
Well, you can't always get the final trained response. That is why the behavioral changes, body language and physiological changes are the alert that the dog is in "odor." There are times when the dog can not go to it's trained response. My dog is an aggressive alerting narcotics dog, he is trained to scratch at the source of odor. If the aid is in the ceiling, or a high find he will not be able to scratch. Just as a passive dog may not be able to sit and stare to alert. If the ground is too hot, asphalt on a 100 degree day, a dog will not sit. If the target odor is moving, like a vehicle at a check point or a box on a conveyor belt the dog will not be able to go to it's trained response. The alert can easily and sometimes should be called before the trained response. For example, when running motel or hotel hallways, I need to call the alert before my dog hits the metal room door like a grizzly bear scratching and goes to his trained response. I may not want my dog to notiify the individuals inside that a Police K-9 just alerted to their hotel room door.

When it comes to courtroom testimony, the key is to describe the behavioral changes as the alert. When going off those and not the final response there are no false alerts, that usually shuts down defense attorneys as well. :)
 

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Ok. Yes. Sometimes you cannot physically get it because of complicating factors, and I see where in your situation, you may want to prevent it. I was told to write down everything my dog does -both body language and trained response in the training records under as wide a variety of circumstances as possible.
 

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Ok. Yes. Sometimes you cannot physically get it because of complicating factors, and I see where in your situation, you may want to prevent it. I was told to write down everything my dog does -both body language and trained response in the training records under as wide a variety of circumstances as possible.
You are absolutely correct and spot on. When I testify to my dog's alert I go into detail, my reports are detailed as well. I go through the "head snap", the breathing changes, how my dog's ears went flat, how his tail dropped and he moved forward on his on his front legs driving and pushing his nose towards the source, how he scanned back and forth trying to locate the source. How his breathing increased and his nostrils began to flutter as he inhaled fresh and exhaled stale air. How I observed his rib cage move back and forth with the increased breathing. Then "Boomer" began to scratch at the rear passenger's door, or as often happens, Boomer then bit the door handle and opened the rear passenger's door.

Being detailed is awesome. Since I am in court several times a month, sometimes several times a week, I find being detailed limits questions and cross examination. As soon as I get the "false alert" question, I ask the defense attorney to define what he means and what exactly is he asking? After a long pause and confused look, I respond with, oh you mean "unsubstantiated alerts?" Shortly thereafter is usually the phrase, "No further questions!"
 

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I'm dealing with a situation now where a handler missed calling an alert because the dog didn't go to it's trained response of scratching. Other Officers then saw a Heroin needle in plain view in the car and developed their own PC to search, recovering Heroin. The dog had all the behavioral changes, head snap, breathing, and even licked the door handle and sat (dog was previously trained passive) and the handler did not call the alert because the dog didn't scratch. I was informed of this by the other Patrol Officers, trying to understand what happened.

I am trying to find a diplomatic way of addressing this situation. I have put together a power point on scent, air flow, and factors affecting scent and the alert. The next team training day this will be covered in the classroom along with a review of new case law and court room testimony. I don't want to call this guy out in front of the unit and I haven't seen him to address it in person, yet.
 

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Bummer if everyone around read the alert and body changes and the handler missed it... I know how easy it can be to miss and alert though, at least trailing.. My dog moves fast and is usually very easy to read... Looking back to see if my flanker is within visual range and then waiting until he was, I missed her alert.. I called it later and noted that her behavior had changed but she had jumped track at that point, and we had footprints in snow that were similar to the high traffic area footprints we had seemed to be following.. Anyhow, my bad for missing the call.. Easy to do, thankfully it was training and not a real call out..
 

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It is common for HRD handlers to call in a second dog if we get behavior but no final trained response or a final trained response on a relatively young dog. When we have done that, handler two is asked to search the area completely blind and without the first handler. We are not, however, EVER used for probable cause like drug dogs. Big difference. We are only used for reasonable suspicion meaning they can use the alert as part of the body of info needed to secure a warrant.

That said HRD is a bit different in that there are about 400 chemicals of varying concentration (based on stage and type of decomp) that make up human decomp odor and they are still narrowing it down to figure out the target molecules (getting much closer) because it is so complex with many similar odors. I believe drug odors are generally much purer. So sometimes having different dogs who have trained on different sources or have different levels of experience may help put together the "picture" for the handler.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Boy am I realizing (and living it) how much training goes into the handler reading the dog. I'm doing area wilderness SAR. So if my dog is 20, 30, 50 meters from me sometimes hard to read the more micro changes. I can see head pops and changes in speed... usually... but not always. I do very much rely on the trained alert response. I have friends whose dogs range at huge distances. They have to rely on the trained response. nevertheless there is a lot to read of the dog.
 

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I have found that handlers that go from a Patrol / tracking or trailing dog to a detection dog become far better tracking / trailing handlers. The alert or indication for a detection dog for narcotics or explosives is much more subtle than reading a trailing dog. Once the handlers become cued to the behavioral changes, their dogs become better trackers, mostly because they can read the dog better.

IME, there is a lot to read with a trailing dog. When the dog is on scent, when the dog is crittering, when the dog gives a negative on the track and the last known location the dog was on it. It is constant, reading the dog, taking inventory and mentally marking the spots the dog was in odor. That is the key to bringing the dog back to the last place that you knew he was in odor to restart a lost track or missed turn. Sometimes a glance to the left or right signals a turn, reading these subtle cues makes us better. It is team work after all.

For trailing dogs, the breathing and body language is key. Since I primarily do high risk tracks for felony suspects, who are possibly and usually armed, I pay attention to body language. The snort, the change in breathing, the swelling or puffing up of the chest are huge indicators to me, along with a change is speed, head up and change of intensity. Those are all signals that I am close.

I do not track missing persons off lead, but still watch for the same behaviors. I really do not want the alzheimers patient getting bit.
 

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The case in Gaithersburg (where the police officer used his patrol dog on a lead to find a missing person) is one reason one force we know is averse to using a bite trained dog on a missing person SAR search. In this case the police officer saved the boy's life (winter, drunk teenager under a bush going hypothermic) but was sued because he bit the boy and the boy "won".

I have seen trailing dogs take someone on a wild goose chase and the handler was oblivious to the fact the dog had missed a turn and was now just staying on an established trail. My last dog (Grim) had very expressive body language and I could differentiate him smelling predator vs game vs cadaver. We have not really encountered predators with Beau (that I know of) - neither dog had an interest in chasing game - just a change in body language.
 

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I just had my first wild goose chase this past weekend... My girl did it.. I factor in the heavy snow, the flanker lagging waaay behind and my constant stops and waiting for him in and believe that I missed her cues somewhere in those pauses... She has been very loyal to scent and to jump track on me was a surprise... And a very good learning experience... I would definitely have wished it weren't with our deputy sheriff in charge of SAR,but alas, it was...

Those subtle changes can happen in an instant, and if you aren't tuned in and focusednon your doeythey get missed... Unfortunately, few on my team realize this as an air scent dog ranges far off and allows the handler the opportunity to scan the terrain and use their own senses to aid in the search... They of course have to read body language as well, just usually not as consistently as the dog may be out of site.. Cadaver dogs perhaps not as much (out of site),they are perhaps a mix of detection dogs, trail dogs and air scent.. Constant reads at one point and perhaps less in another..

One thing is certain, reading a dog correctly is invaluable.. A missed cue, or misinterpreted cue can be the difference between life and death... I know I endeavor to be better... I don't like ghost runs, lol
 
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