Deputies said parents and neighbors had been searching the woods for two missing 8 year olds for 45 minutes -- as daylight faded -- before they called the Powhatan Sheriff's Office.More deets at the link.
Shepherds, Malinois and the like are fairly good as any breed, but they're sheepdogs, not hound dogs. The best breeds are designed for this. Literally.
I convinced my older brother to help me train my German shepherd in tracking. What the heck. Why not? We joined a group of like-minded people amounting to about ten vehicles. We'd get up early on weekends and meet up at odd places all parked in a row with our own area of open field before a cluster of trees. Heres' how you train your dog to track.
This is your aim: Dogs other than hounds naturally sniff the air. Your job is get the dog to sniff the ground.
Trackers like early mornings because they're most like an erased blackboard. Best of all times to do this is after a rain. There will be less animal tracks.
To begin with the secondary partner holds back the dog while you depart in a straight line and hide behind something. The dog sees this and can go straight to you. The dog finds you and you and you make a big f'k'n deal out of the dog's tremendous ability. Game over.
The next time, same set up except the dog does not see you. The dog sniffs the air for you. The secondary handler holds back the dog hoping to notice the dog putting their nose to the ground to get a handle on your direction of departure. The dog finds you and you make a big deal out of your joyous reunion.
Third time same setup. Except this time you make a 90° turn and hide. Shuffle off and really rake through the grass. Leave a good strong scent trail. That is, don't leap over the grass, rather, take more footsteps than necessary. Leave a good trail. The secondary handler with the dog on a leash lingers at the spot where you made your turn and this is the critical point that the dog must sniff the ground. The dog finds you and you repeat your overly joyous reunion routine. It's all a great game where the dog does what comes naturally.
You repeat these exercises adding 90° turns and by then your dog is using its nose quite well.
Then you change it up to find the toy.
You get a toy and jazz it up in front of the dog's face. "This is the thing we're playing with." Back and forth between hands. Then give it to the dog. Then take it. Then hide it. Roll the toy on the ground, or kick through the grass to a hiding place. Repeat the pattern of straight line to a hiding spot in the dog's sight. "Go get it!"
Remember to make a huge f'k'n deal about the dog's success. Oh, the joy of finding the toy. It's the only thing on earth that counts.
Increase the difficulty with 90° turns as you did with dog tracking you.
Depending on how fun-loving your dog, this whole series of lessons goes fairly quickly.
Now your dog is ace at finding its toys. Or anything that you make a big deal about finding.
Because the dog wants the joy of your joy.
There are dozens of people out there doing this with their pets every weekend. No kidding. No exaggeration. These classes are running continuously. It's a thing they do with their dogs to have fun and keep their pets mentally challenged and provide them an opportunity to do something great and receive earned praise.
So there is really no reason to wait for a police dog.
This article assumes police dogs are the only qualified animals to do this. Not so. There will be trained dogs in the immediate area, certified or not. And they should be called in first before the whole neighborhood starts looking around.
Search groups should contact their local dog tracking groups immediately, not as last resort. The dogs work best when the ground is mostly clean slate. Doing it backward as they do increases the challenge for the dogs greatly. They have to sniff through a million additional scents, all the soaps the people used, all the shampoos, all the laundry detergents, all the various body odors and perfumes, all the food they've had on their laps and crumbs fallen on their clothes, all the car scents, garbling the scene.
The reason the dog could do it so easily through the scent-clutter of all the other humans is because little kids are often so stinky. To dogs.
Okay, detour right here.
Tonight I was watching an episode in the first season of "The Sniffer" on Netflix. An excellent show. You must watch it.
The guy with the great nose and scientific mind is a jerk. He knows he's a jerk and he owns it. His heightened ability sets him apart and makes him difficult of association.
The show makes a point of emphasizing how lousy everyone's diet is. The police colonel is always eating a takeout hamburger or a delivered pizza. All the people around the Sniffer eat terrible food. Fast food. Convenience food. Chips, coffee from machines. Crap.
The Sniffer is called to a crime scene on the street. It's a Mafia murder. There's going to be a Mafia war. The crime scene is cordoned off with police tape. The Sniffer steps over the tape. Policemen are standing around drinking terrible coffee and everyone's having their terrible breakfast pastries, sweets and snacks. The Sniffer snaps at his police friend about there being so many people mulling around not contributing anything to solving the crime but messing up the scene with their outrageous scents interfering with his work. To him, everyone else is a slob. They do everything wrong just being there, criss-crossing and passing food to each other. He tells the Colonel, "Either him, or me," referring to another useless policeman stinking up the scene.
The writers have it exactly right.
Apparently they know about tracking dogs.
Because that's exactly the tracker's perspective.
Below is the first episode. I saw it again last night and marveled at its excellence. If you choose to watch only the first few minutes, you must agree, now here is how to open a show and captivate the audience's interest right off. I urge you to watch until he talks to the pilot. That's at the beginning. Then having landed and in his American muscle car driving off he hears on the radio the reporting of his own incident. All that is just intro. After that they get into their story. The actress playing his wife is written and cast perfectly for the Russian bitch-wife.
Oh bummer. The subtitles are poor. They miss the best part. The Sniffer tells the pilot:
There is a man with a plastered arm in 32C.
But under his bandage is a plastid instead of cast.
The detonator is in one of the fixing units.
How do you know this information?
(Impatient look) The smell of acetone peroxide plasticized in celluloid can't be confused with anything else.
(Expression of disbelief)
Are you trying to say that you smelled this?
Correct. Just like the scent of the fact that 35-40 minutes ago you had sex with this pretty lady. In the cockpit. Twice.