Detector Dogs and Scent Movement

Detector Dogs and Scent Movement: How Weather, Terrain, and Vegetation Influence Search Strategies by Tom Osterkamp, published by CRC Press: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

ISBN:13: 978-0-367-07429-6, 236 pgs. $64.95 USA, £47.99 (GBP), $101.00 (AUS), $113.00 (NZD)

When Mr. Osterkamp asked me to review his book, based on the title I thought it would be just another run-of-the-mill book about scent for SAR dog handlers. I was very wrong. This book is by far the most meticulously researched book that I have read in a long time. It is a collection of scientific material that covers in depth, all search situations regarding scent detection dogs. Each chapter has sub chapters making it easy to find the exact information you need. There is a detailed index, and three appendices, Abbreviations, Acronyms and Questions and Needs for SD (Scent Detection) Training and Deployment.

In his Preface, Mr. Osterkamp says, “This book reviews the scientific literature on scent and scent movement with emphasis on scent movement in outdoor environments. . . . Throughout the book, comments and suggestions are made to show how handlers can use the information in training and deploying search dogs. Several new hypotheses are made about scent and scent movement.”

Although no book can explain how to handle every situation that a SAR dog handler will encounter, Detector Dogs and Scent Movement gives the handler in-depth details that will help the handler make decisions in the field. Mr. Osterkamp has lived up to his statements in the Preface.   

I liked the fact that he included cause and effect situations, for example: “When a dog or handler works harder and longer during a search than during training, the dog is more likely to give a false alert and the handler is more likely to make mistakes.” (pg.46)

Mr. Osterkamp’s writing style is direct and unbiased, presenting scientific studies in a manner that is easy to read and understand. However, this book is not a how to train your dog guide. The material in this book will help the handler understand how scent affects his dog on a search, in training and how to better utilize his dog for the maximum results. The chapters outline potential problems and a summary of the chapter.

There are seven major chapters:

1. Introduction

2. The Dog’s Nose and Scent

3. Scent and Wind

4. Above Ground Searches

5. Buried Sources

6. Water Searches

7. Trails and Trailing

I have to strongly recommend that every scent dog handler and trainer, SAR or other working scent detection K9’s as well as those who use dogs in sports that involve scent work, study this book.