Tracking (dog)

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Male Weimeraner Following a Scent Trail in the Snow

Tracking is a technique in which dogs are trained to locate certain objects by using the object's scent, for a variety of purposes. Tracking has always been an essential skill for dogs to survive in the wild, through hunting and tracking down potential prey.[1]

Physiological Mechanisms of Tracking[edit]

Primarily, dogs use their sense of smell, to find and follow a track.[2] Dogs have a highly sensitive olfactory system superior to humans,[3] and are able to discriminate between different human’s scents.[4] Moreover, dogs are also able to use visual cues to follow a track.[5]

Phases of tracking[edit]

There are three phases,[1] which complete the process of tracking:

1. Searching Phase

This is the phase in which dogs attempt to find a track. They move quickly, and take short, quick sniffs.

2. Deciding Phase

Once the dog has found the track, they move more slowly and take longer sniffs to determine the direction of the track. This is usually the most difficult phase for the dog.

3. Tracking phase

After determining the direction, dogs follow the track by sniffing at a uniform pace, and moving at a speed similar to that of the searching.

Factors influencing a dog’s tracking ability[edit]

There are several factors which influences a dog’s ability to track: Physiological features of the dog are a factor. Some instances include with age, sex are influences. As a dog ages, their olfactory acuity decreases and decreases their ability to track.[2] Furthermore, male dogs have found to be better at tracking than females, possibly due to sex differences in olfaction.[2] Sniffing behaviour also influences olfaction, and therefore a dog’s ability to track. For example, a dog’s ability to sniff is higher when it is not panting due to fatigue – it is physically impossible for a dog to both pant and sniff at the same time and the mouth must be open or closed respectively[6] . However, dogs trained to track during physically demanding activities may have adapted their behaviour by increasing sniffing frequency to maximize olfaction, and tracking.[6] Also, different dog breeds have varying suitability to different tasks of tracking.[3] For example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives use Labrador Retrievers for their tracking purposes.

Besides the dog itself, there are other effectors influencing tracking ability. A track’s age[5] and cross-contamination of scents,[7] the range of the dog from the trail,[3] as well as the handler’s relationship with the tracking dog[7] can all have an impact on a dog’s tracking ability.

Uses of Tracking[edit]

There are several uses for tracking. Several examples include:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Thesen, A., Steen, J. B., & Døving, K. B. (1993). Behaviour of dogs during olfactory tracking. Journal of Experimental Biology, 180, 247-251.
  2. ^ a b c Wells, D. L., & Hepper, P. G. (2003). Directional tracking in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 84(4), 297-305.
  3. ^ a b c d e Weakley-Jones, B., & Rebmann, A. J. (2005). DOGS, USE IN POLICE INVESTIGATIONS. In Editor-in-Chief: Jason Payne-James (Ed.), Encyclopedia of forensic and legal medicine (pp. 221-223). Oxford: Elsevier.
  4. ^ Settle, R. H., Sommerville, B. A., McCormick, J., & Broom, D. M. (1994). Human scent matching using specially trained dogs. Animal Behaviour, 48(6), 1443-1448.
  5. ^ a b c Steen, J. B., & Wilsson, E. (1990). How do dogs determine the direction of tracks? Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 139, 531-534.
  6. ^ a b Gazit, I., & Terkel, J. (2003). Explosives detection by sniffer dogs following strenuous physical activity. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 81(2), 149-161.
  7. ^ a b c d e Furton, K. G., & Myers, L. J. (2001). The scientific foundation and efficacy of the use of canines as chemical detectors for explosives. Talanta, 54(3), 487-500.
  8. ^ Baldwin, H. B., & Puskarich May, C. (2000). CRIME-SCENE INVESTIGATION AND EXAMINATION | recovery of human remains. In Editor-in-Chief: Jay A. Siegel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of forensic sciences (pp. 447-457). Oxford: Elsevier.
  9. ^ Gialamas, D. M. (1996). Enhancement of fire scene investigations using accelerant detection canines. Science & Justice, 36(1), 51-54.