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Trailing vs Detection

You’ve heard these words, but what do they really mean, as far as dogs are concerned?  What’s the difference between trailing and detection?  In a nutshell, not much really!  Trailing is detection, and detection is simply the dog using his olfactory abilities to locate his target odor.  It doesn’t really matter what that odor is; human, drug, explosive, mushrooms, cancer, etc.  It’s simply a matter of HOW the dog will work the problem.

You’ve probably seen detection dogs working and most are shown working off leash.  Does that mean that they all must work off leash in order to be an effective search dog?  Most certainly not!  I prefer to work my detection dog on lead, unless I am working inside buildings or in cramped quarters.  Working on lead just gives me added control over my dog and peace of mind about her safety.

Trailing or tracking involves the dog taking scent from an object and tracking that scent to the matching owner of that scent.   Tracking and trailing are normally done with the dog’s nose to the ground, though occasionally they will lift their nose into the air, and ‘air scent’ or ‘scout’ the area for their target odor.

Detection is the dog learning, or being imprinted on a specific scent, and searching an area for the location of that odor.  In detection, the dog is working an area by scenting for the target odor.  He will normally do this by scenting/scouting the air, or by checking individual objects for the scent.  Detection appears to be more detailed in how the dog works, however in reality, trailing and detection work are both very much detailed.

For the average companion dog and owner, detection is ideally suited if you want to train your dog to locate your missing keys, phone, or that pesky remote that we all tend to lose.  Trailing on the other hand, is better suited to find your child who went for a walk down to the neighbor’s house, and he failed to let you know, or ask permission.



This is a one day introduction to the sport of tracking/trailing. This is NOT 'footstep' tracking, but rather Trailing. The class will give the student a little bit of scent theory, as well as how to start a trailing dog. Class size limited to 6 dogs. Nov 16, 2019 9am-1pm. Beginning Jan 5, 2020, this one day seminar will be offered on alternate Sundays of each month, 9am-1pm.. When registering, please specify which date you prefer.



Next tracking classes to start January & March 2020. Final dates to be announced soon. This is a Basic 8 week course. Tentative time is 0900--1130 am. Location TBD. Class size is limited to 6 dog teams. This course will concentrate on teaching you the foundations of trailing; lead control, reading your dog, some distractions, and ensuring that the dog is working scent specific. Trail distances should only be from 150 yards up to a quarter mile. It's not about the distance, as it is more about reading your dog, and the dog working through distractions, and surface changes. Obedience is NOT required to start a tracking dog.



Intro to Detection

This is a one day class to give the student a little bit of scent theory as well as how to start a dog in the sport of detection work. The class will run from 9am--1130, beginning Jan 12, and then on alternate Sundays of each month. When registering, please specify which date you prefer.



Next detection course will begin Spring 2020, dates to be announced soon. This is a 6 week course with each class to run for approximately 75 minutes. This course is for the novice or hobby handler to gain an introduction to canine scent detection work. The class will start with an introduction to Scent Theory. Your dog will be imprinted on the target odor(s) over 2-3 class meetings. We will work with different areas that are routinely encountered by search dogs; buildings, open areas, vehicles, and luggage/containers.



Next class will begin in Spring 2020, with dates to be announced soon. This is a 3 week course, with each class to run approximately 75 minutes.. Working detection requires a certain amount of drive in the dog, to make an effective search dog. Not all dogs have those necessary drives. A dog’s drive is his intensity and motivation to seek out and locate a specific target. The goal of each of these sessions is to work on building the drive of those dogs who have shown that they have the drive, but for some reason, the drive is just stifled. With most dogs, we should be able to build that drive up, to start detection training, in about 3 sessions. .