A Word is Just A Word.

Just a little rant this fine morning.  I really get tired of hearing handlers in one part of this Country, or World, judge and trash talk a handler in another part of the Country, or World, simply for choosing to use different terminology.

When talking dogs, training, and working them, do not get so tied up in the different terminology that a handler or trainer chooses to use.  Many of us use terminology that may be different from what you use.  That does not make it wrong, it simply makes it different.  If you are confused by their choice of words, maybe it’s better to ASK for clarification, nicely, rather than attempting to judge and condemn them, simply for using different terminology.

A great example of this are the words “tracking” and “trailing.”  All of us experienced handlers and trainers, we do know there is a difference.  We simply use the term “tracking” as a commonly known word to get our point across to those non-dog people who are not quite as knowledgeable as we are.

Tracking is the art of a dog following the actual footsteps of a subject.  The dog’s nose will not deviate from those footprints, or very little at all.  The dog is smelling the subject’s odor, in combination with the odor of crushed ground vegetation.

Trailing on the other hand, is the art of the dog following the human subject’s odor.  The dog will follow the path that the subject has walked, though he may deviate off the actual footsteps, by as much as 20-30 feet in either direction.  When he does that, he is following the blown odor, where the wind, time, temperature, and even the terrain, have moved that odor.  We humans cannot see odor.  But the dog sees it with his nose.  So it’s absolutely crucial, that we as handlers learn to read our dog, and just let him work.

Another example of terminology differences are the terms cadaver dog and human remains (HR) detection dog.  The two are the same.  Most SAR dog teams who train in this discipline train the majority of their time on remains, or parts.  Most rarely have the opportunity to train or work with a whole cadaver.  So one may ask, are they different? The answer is No, they are not different.  The dogs and handlers do the same thing.  The difference is the amount of source material that they are able to acquire for training purposes; more source material, a higher concentration of odor.

To help combat these terminology differences, is through the use of classroom time, in any training or seminars that you may attend. Pay attention to when the instructors explain the use of terminology, and ASK questions if you find yourself confused. That classroom time is important when learning how dog’s work and how we need to learn to work them. Fieldwork is to apply that classroom knowledge, so that we are able to see it in action.

Terminology can also impact your work if ever a case has legal implications that will find YOU testifying in court. If you learn to use terminology in the proper context, you will not go wrong!

So in conclusion, when we get tied up in terminology, we lose sight of what we are really doing.  I know my dog is a trailing dog, but I use the term tracking synonymously.  That does not mean that I am wrong, it simply means I am trying to explain something quickly, without getting tied up in semantics.  Different areas of our Country, and the World, may use different terminology.  It’s not wrong, it’s just different!