K9 School: Evidence Search

ArrayAugust 28, 2020 at 1:17 pm

The last discipline we introduced to K9 Luna and K9 Gordon were evidence searches or “article searches.” Evidence searches are used to locate anything from a hat to a firearm and everything in between. The K9s have been trained to indicate on anything with human scent. This is an extremely useful tool for fish and wildlife enforcement. The more common articles that we search for are shell casings, shotgun shells and wads, knives, and other outdoor equipment.

K9 Luna searching for evidence in a field

The transition from tracking to evidence searches was relatively simple. The way our canines were trained to track was under a concept known as article-based or evidence-based tracking. This means that while we were training the K9s how to track, we were also training them how to search for evidence. The K9s indicate on evidence the same way they do with the washers we have used for tracking. They lay down with the evidence framed between their legs and they put their nose on the evidence, so it is easier for us to find as handlers.

K9 Luna indicating a cell phone

Just like the other disciplines we introduced to the K9s, this one took hundreds and hundreds of repetitions. As handlers, we try to think of every possible scenario we would see in the field and introduce it to the K9 in training. As creative as we think we are, there is no way we will be able to predict every scenario. That is why it is so important the dogs have a solid base, so they can make their own decision in the field and not rely on the handler.

Another treat for K9 Luna!

Luna has done well with Evidence searches and continues to improve with them. As a handler, I try to make each search more challenging for her. I also introduce a multiple of evidence to her. It is important to understand that I want Luna to rely on her nose to find the evidence and not her eyes. Dogs like to cheat and will take the easiest route to get a reward. Many times, this means using their eyes before using their nose. To avoid this behavior, I place the evidence in areas where it is difficult to see or covered.

K9 Gordon getting treats from handler Maine Game Warden Preston Pomerleau for indicating a shotgun shell casing

As we come to the end of training, I can’t help and look back at where we were ten weeks ago. When Luna was introduced to me, all she knew how to do was be a dog. In the span of a few long months she has been trained in obedience, how to track and locate humans, and how to find evidence that could have been used in the commission of a crime. These dogs are an invaluable resource to the people of the State of Maine. Luna and I look forward to bringing people back home to their families and holding those who violate our natural resources accountable. Thank you for following the blog over the past few months. Luna and I look forward to seeing you in the field! 

Read more from the Following Maine’s Newest K9 Handlers series:

Hasty Air Scent Search 

Advanced Tracking 

The Start of Tracking 

Basic Obedience 

Selecting the most promising K9s for the Maine Warden Service