Water Search Dog Training Pyramid
A. Imprinting the Scent
The most difficult search for a dog to conduct is water search. The reason is relatively simple.
“If the paws ain’t moving, the mind ain’t working.”
In almost every other form of search, the canine controls his own search pattern. In a water search, the canine cannot control the search pattern because he is a passenger in a boat. It is an unnatural feeling for the dog. He is used to directing his own search by following his nose into the scent source. In water search, the canine must rely on the driver of the boat to “follow his nose.” If the driver and handler miss the cues, then the dog becomes confused as to what his purpose is. This is why it is imperative with a young dog to follow the basic building blocks for scent imprinting so the dog has little time to become confused.
Also, this process teaches the canine that there is something under the water to look for. A canine who is trained on human scent may well understand when he goes into the field that he is looking for scent, but put that same canine in a boat and he must be taught there is something out there to look for. Once the dog understands there is something out there to look for, then his natural instinct of using his nose to locate his quarry will take over.
There are several different ways to imprint drowned victim scent upon a canine. We begin the process with divers. The reason we start our training with divers is that on the very first day of a search for a drowning victim, that victim will smell more like a diver than the aged land cadaver material that is also used in water training.
I like to find the victim on the first day, if possible. So, I train my dogs on divers. A diver puts off a large quantity of scent, just as a drowning victim will do. Pseudo scents and cadaver material do not put off as much scent. I use them during the training process, but during imprinting I use divers.