of a viable scent trail is one of the most commonly asked questions. It is also one of the most controversial and
There are many theories
and purported expert opinions. I have found that after 18 years working with and training scent specific dogs that the
ability to detect and follow scent is different for each individual dog. Two of my dogs have successfully followed the scent
of a dog missing 10 months after the subject walked through the area. (This was verified by a witness and the FBI.. fact).
By comparison, I know of a dog on the east coast that cannot follow a trail if it is older than 24 hours.
The ability to follow a trail for most dogs will be a month or less. One former handler and author claims that scent is not
viable after 14 days and I believe this was very true for her dogs as well as those dogs trained by her students.
Quite simply, inexperienced and novice handlers should not work a trail or case where the dog has been missing
five days or more.
This skill must be trained
and practiced by expert handlers who work with scent specific dogs on a daily basis. Theory and guess-stimates work in
some pursuits but not when it comes to a missing family member... we must be able to trust the K9 pros that will help
to find her.
NOTE: We regularly train on trails that are aged three and four months... my personal preference is to
get to a trail within 8 weeks or earlier. There is never a guarantee that the dog team will be able to decipher and follow any
trail... but in ten years and hundreds of cases, they have been unable to find a viable trail... only once. They are
incredible dogs who are selected and trained for this aspect of their work.