Training the tracker - The Negative
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By Chris R. Aycock

Greetings again. Last time we met, we talked about how to teach negatives to our canine partners. Now it’s time to put the negatives training to use.

Once a dog is taught the correct ways to let his handler know when he is scenting a scent-band change, then it’s time for the handler to take over and get the dog back into a position to best scent the subjects correct track. This handler action is called processing the negative.

Processing the negative is not at all difficult in theory and actually, it’s relatively easy in practice so long as the handler has a good grip on the factors and methods that involve the processing. In other words, if the handler doesn’t practice processing enough then he will not make correct decisions on a live track.

So let’s process a negative…

STEP ONE. The dog has behaved in such a way that the handler feels the scent has definitely changed and if he remains on the same path - the dog will lose the track.

STEP TWO. Check the dog. The handler should slow his speed and gently pull back on the tracking line as to almost hold the dog back. Indeed, if the dog is still on the correct track, he should dig into the track and want to move ahead. Therefore, the handler should relax and move with the dog. However, if the dog should react to the gentle pull of the line by stopping, looking back, or otherwise giving a solid negative, the handler should immediately go to step three.

STEP THREE. Walk the dog back to the last CERTAIN location where the dog was on the correct track.

STEP FOUR. Chances are, it was here that the dog noted a scent change. Therefore, this may be the place where the track broke off in a different direction. The handler should cast the dog in DIFFERENT directions from the original. If the dog alerts to a new direction, the handler should comply. If the dog does not give alerts to the new directions, the handler should proceed to step five.

STEP FIVE. The handler should take a bearing as to the surroundings. Next, he should walk the dog to a point of about thirty yards beyond where the first negative was given. That’s correct! Walk the dog to that place where he originally gave the negative and walk ahead thirty yards - then cast again in all directions. This process will come in handy should the subjects scent have simply broken such as on a hill or crest where the scent separated and rolled down the hills, leaving little scent at the top.

STEP SIX. If the process of step five didn’t produce positive results, the handler should again take an observation of the surroundings and begin to spot-check the area. Spot-checking, to be done correctly and with success, must be made in a 360° pattern. Basically, the handler should walk the dog in a complete circle - around the original negative - starting at a distance of about fifty yards and continuing to about half mile…or more.

See diagram for a description.

Processing negatives takes practice. The best for of getting the required repetitions is to set up training tracks whereby unknown tracks are placed by a helper. The training tracks should be realistic. Radio communication will help the handler recognize where the original negative occurred and the next step to take in the processing.

Once a handler has practiced processing negatives, he will have a solid foundation for precisely what action to take when the dog losses scent on a live track. Processing takes the guessing game out of the picture and replaces it with a firm foundation of decisiveness.

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